The science fiction drama series Timeless on NBC, while fun and fascinating to watch, is proving the historical world was likely more complicated and challenging than most of us 21st century people ever really understood as we relax in comfortable rooms seated in front of our computer screens, television sets or glancing at our smartphones.
Viewers have labeled the show “addicting,” per some of the commentary from Instagram.
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With the concept of dropping strangers — an historian, a soldier, and a scientist– into the past and watching them each try to blend into the uncertain realities of daily life while chasing the “bad guys” who seem intent upon changing the historical past and thus also disrupting the future they know in the 21st century, the series has peaked some curiosity and interest.
As mentioned in one Timeless review in The Hollywood Reporter, the series pilot episode should be credited for not belaboring things.
“We quickly establish that Mason Industries, a company fronted by Paterson Joseph’s Connor Mason, has built a time machine and a former NSA asset and wanted fugitive Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic) has stolen it with plans to go back and alter time in ways we’re told will be bad. Fortunately, there was an original prototype time machine that still works, has room for three and Homeland Security has rounded up the only team capable of stopping Flynn.”
And, as for the sci-fi drama’s Timeless team, it is also well-explained.
“[The] team includes a historian (Abigail Spencer) who knows absolutely everything about every moment in history…, a Delta Force soldier [Matt Lanter]… and the Mason Industries engineer (Malcolm Barrett) who knows how to pilot the darned machine.”
From The Guardian’s Timeless reviewer, the series is described as a ” smart time travel drama set to have long future.” Add to that the characters, available to advance the plot and present themselves available for the writers to drop-kick into each unpredictable episode, and it just works.
“Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) is a historian and anthropologist who is called in by the Department of Homeland Security when ‘terrorist’ Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic) steals a billionaire tech genius’s time machine with a band of thugs and goes back into the past to start monkeying around with history. She’s teamed up with Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter), a special ops military guy as her muscle, and Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett), a computer programmer who works for the Elon Musk-esque mogul (Paterson Joseph).”
About the sci-fi drama’s character Rufus, however, a serious point is made in one episode.
“I’m black. There’s no time in American history that will be fun for me.”
Setting the science fiction stuff aside for a moment, NBC’s Timeless seems well-researched. And the educational aspect to the show is another positive for some folks. While not addressing the series specifically, there is one historian otherwise concerned about helping people to understand the past.
Historian William H. McNeill, in his essay posted on the American Historical Association website, offers some answers as to why history should be more important to us all.
“When teachers of history admit that their best efforts at understanding the past are only tentative and sure to be altered in time to come, skeptics are likely to conclude that history has no right to take student time from other subjects,” he writes. “If what is taught today is not really true, how can it claim space in a crowded school curriculum?”
McNeill’s got more to ponder, however.
“But what if the world is more complicated and diverse than words can ever tell? What if human minds are incapable of finding’ neat pigeon holes into which everything that happens will fit? What if we have to learn to live with uncertainty and probabilities, and act on the basis of the best guesswork we are capable of?”
“Then, surely, the changing perspectives of historical understanding are the very best introduction we can have to the practical problems of real life. Then, surely, a serious effort to understand the interplay of change and continuity in human affairs is the only adequate introduction human beings can have to the confusing flow of events that constitutes the actual, adult world.”
The sci-fi drama Timeless is good television, period. Imagine what your own ancestors had to go through in the time periods they found themselves existing in, and then if the show inspires you further, start an adventure of your own by digging through the relevant family history which documents and details your own heroic ancestors.
[Featured Image by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP Images]