One thing I love is the theory of time travel. I love discussing different theories and debating which is more likely (especially after a few glasses of wine). So it makes sense that two of the three shows I cover for The Game of Nerds deal heavily with time travel, though in very different ways.
When I saw the previews for Timeless, I got really excited. A new show from Eric Kripke, who created one of my favorite shows, and it’s about my favorite drunk debate topic?! Sign me up. Now, before I get into Timeless’s pilot and all that jazz, I thought I’d throw out three common theories of time travel, because I’m a huge dork:
Chaos Theory/Butterfly Effect:
Probably the most widely used and known theory about times travel, Chaos Theory and more specifically the Butterfly Effect is basically about small actions having major consequences. If you go back in time and change even the smallest detail, the effect on the present and future is huge. This is the theory that Timeless seems to be following, and is what Jeff Goldblum was talking about in Jurassic Park. The timeline is fragile and any tiny alteration can and will have massive ramifications.
Somewhat similar to Butterfly Effect is that of the Multiverse. That, going into the past and changing something creates a whole new, alternate and parallel timeline. The timeline you came from still exists, but every choice you make in the past causes another universe to shoot off. You basically can act with impunity, since it will just create a new timeline.
The Flash has begun to dip into this theory. Barry can use his speed to create portals to other dimensions and visit alternate earths where things in the past occurred differently. His actions in the alternate earth have no consequence on his original version of earth. The movie Sliding Doors deals with this theory more in the present-tense of “one small decision can change your whole life” way, rather than the time travel way.
The idea of the fixed timeline is that, no matter what you do in the past, nothing will change the future or the present that you live in, because it already happened in the past as you always knew it. It’s like destiny or fate. The idea is that there isn’t really any choice. Your own personal history means the past was fated to happen as it did the way you knew it. You can’t go back in time and kill Hitler, because Hitler lived in the timeline you were in. Your own actions are what created history as you know it and therefore you can’t change it. Doctor Who deals with a combination of the Butterfly Effect and Fixed Timeline. There is a lot of wiggle room for the past and changes, but there are certain “fixed times” that cannot be changed without dire consequences.
I could go on about this forever but I’m really here to talk about the series premiere of Eric Kripke’s new show Timeless:
Timeless opens on the day of the Hindenburg disaster in 1936. The iconic footage is recreated as if it were happening live, and the famous line “Oh the humanity!” is cried out while thirty-six people perish. We shift to the present day and meet Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer), a young college professor who just found out she is not getting tenure for a position she doesn’t really want, but had felt compelled to stay for, as it was her mother’s legacy. She and her sister Amy are living with and caring for their terminally ill mother.
Next we pop into a very clandestine-looking warehouse where we meet Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett), a coder with a crush on his co-worker, Jiya. Rufus isn’t having a great night either since a bunch of guys with guns (and a very important-seeming book) shoot up his workplace, then hop into what looks like a giant eyeball before vanishing.
This is where the main plot of Timeless begins. Homeland security picks up Lucy and takes her to the mysterious warehouse, where she meets Master Sergeant Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter) from Delta Force. The two have a cute chemistry and they banter a bit before learning that they have been brought to the warehouse because they are needed to stop Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic), the terrorist who stole a time machine and traveled back in time to the Hindenburg disaster.
What follows is a fun and interesting chase through 1930s New Jersey as Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus try to puzzle out Flynn’s plan, and to stop him without changing anything that happens in the past. There are no do-overs in Timeless. The result of running into any previous versions of yourself is, as Rufus puts it “Bad… very very bad.”
I’m not going to dig too deeply into the plot of this episode because, spoilers. Suffice it to say that when you have a very assiduous history professor, a soldier with a “throw something out there and hope for the best” attitude towards history, and a very nervous scientist things get sticky, very quickly.
Overall I really enjoyed watching the premiere of Timeless. The script is a little corny, the message can get a little hammy, but the premise of chasing someone through time and the results of both the chase and the time travel itself can be a really exciting story. There is a fun rapport between the leads, and a good deal of ethical and moral questions to delve into further. Kripke and showrunner Shawn Ryan have said that they have no intention of “sugarcoating” the past, and while I think it’s good and important to view the past as it was (we get a taste of that when Rufus, a black man, goes to the 1930s), I hope Timeless doesn’t take itself so seriously that we can’t laugh at some of the absurdities that come with people in the present day traveling to a time before say, indoor plumbing, or Google, were things. There is a lot of commentary on social issues that can be explored here, but there is room to have fun, too.
I’ll also be here every week to review and recap each episode, and I hope that Timeless gets off the ground. Tune in and tell me what you thought of NBC’s new time travel adventure!