SF elements: time travel; changing history; conspiracies

  1. season 1. 2016
  2. season 2. 2018
  3. finale: The Miracle of Christmas. 2018

2016 / DVD

16 × 45 min episodes

season 1 review

Historian Lucy Preston is brought in to a strange case: terrorist Garcia Flynn has kidnapped a scientist, stolen a time machine, and taken him back in time to change the timeline. Lucy, along with soldier Wyatt Logan (the brawn) and time machine pilot Rufus Carlin (the engineering brains) need to take the backup time machine and stop him before he wipes out the future.

One the one hand, this is great, with an exploration of multiple historical vignettes as the team bounce through time trying to stop Flynn, and as the reason for Flynn’s actions is gradually revealed. Also, the racism and sexism in the past are highlighted: Rufus notes that there is nowhere in history where it was a good time to be a black man; Lucy doesn’t fare that well sexism-wise either, but does manage to get away with several snappy comebacks. (There is an implicit assumption that racism and sexism are no longer a problem in the present, but where else did Lucy get those comebacks?)

On the other hand, it is totally bonkers, with the results of changes in the past having essentially only single effects on the future. For example, the first episode has the conflicting efforts of Flynn and the team meaning that the Hindenburg passengers didn’t die. The only visible effect once they get home is that Lucy’s beloved sister Amy disappears from the timeline and her mother is no longer dying of lung cancer; Amy’s father (who turns out not to be Lucy’s father, to her great surprise, and of subsequent plot importance) married a descendent of a Hindenburg survivor in the changed timeline. So Lucy’s mother never married, and never started smoking. But she still lives in the same house, with the same furnishings, as before… In fact, there’s a bit of a running joke of finding out what change to history resulted from their actions each time, like an extra James Bond film, or a different person being the recognised hero of the event. Also, Lucy, apparently involved because of her encyclopaedic knowledge of history, should become steadily more useless as the past moves away from her knowledge of it.

So, don’t think too carefully about the logic of the timelines. Instead, sit back and enjoy the interesting views of historical events.

Rating: 3
[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 2 June 2021

2018 / DVD

10 × 45 min episodes

season 2 review

During season 1, Flynn was perceived as the bad guy, but it slowly became clear that he was indeed fighting a dangerous enemy, and the team start working with him, against the Rittenhouse conspiracy. We get more of the same historical vignettes, with changes to the ever-more mangled timeline that still have surprisingly little consequence, and some nice new hissable villains.

One thing I really like about this is how many of the pivotal historical figures in each episode are black, or women, or both. These are real historical characters, not some fictional ‘politically correct’ additions, and it does have the side effect of a lot of post-episode Googling and discovery.

However, I’m not too keen of the fact that the founding member of the conspiracy, David Rittenhouse, portrayed as a totalitarian wanting to rule over the common people, is based on a real historical figure who appears undeserving of this portrayal. Moreover, because the character is played by Armin Shimerman (who will forever be the wonderful Ferengi Quark in my mind), there is an uncomfortable anti-Semitic note added to the conspiracy.

Each of the episodes is of the same high production quality as the first season, and we end on a shattering cliffhanger.

Rating: 3
[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 29 June 2021

2018 / DVD

2 × 60 min episodes

finale review

Save Rufus; save the world

Timeless was cancelled, but they managed to get a two-parter to finish off the story. The twisty timeline gets even more convoluted, as the rule against travelling to a time where you already exist is relaxed, and future events that are the cause of past events no longer occur once those past events have been set in motion. Very wibbly wobbly timey wimey.

Everything is safely resolved, and the good guys live happily ever after. Lucy goes back to teaching history at university, with a deep personal knowledge now. There’s a lovely zinger when one bewildered male student asks: “This was supposed to be a regular American history class. How come we’re only studying women?” and Lucy breezily replies “I meant to get to the men, but we just didn’t have time.”

There is a faint layer of saccharine and soft focus over the resolution, but I’m glad they found a way to resolve most of the loose ends.

Rating: 3.5
[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 1 July 2021