FanExpo 2016: Exclusive First Look at Timeless

Time travel. Political satire. Explosions. Intrigue. In Timeless, NBC’s up and coming original series, there’s something for everyone.

One of the most exciting things about FanExpo is being able to watch debuts of shows. There’s a fun and mystery to seeing new things come to the screen. Will this be the next thing to capture the hearts of internet-dwellers? Are we watching not just a new show, but the birth of a fandom?

If the pilot we were treated to was any indication, Timeless has a lot of potential.

Based around the rich and complex history of the United States, the show is about a criminal whom steals a time machine and attempts to dismantle America as a nation by tampering with major events. A task force is then hired by the government to follow him through time and stop him, but the show’s heroine seems to have a mysterious relationship with her new nemesis, the nature of which she doesn’t yet understand.

The first thing that jumped out to me about this show was the cast and how diverse they were, not just in terms of race and gender, but also their skill sets. We have Matt Lanter (of Star Wars: The Clone Wars fame as Anakin) playing the archetypal dashing soldier, but he’s given co-stars that make for a well-balanced and unique cast. The aforementioned female lead is a history professor, which makes her ideal for the time-travelling task force. Rounding out the main trio is the time machine’s operator, a tech genius whom has opinions on going back in time as a black man. It’s a nice change from action-packed science fiction to see heroes whom rely more on their brain power.

The pilot focuses on the crashing of the Hindenberg. The story didn’t waste time by having a hard open on a scene that shows a detailed account of the crash. Immediately, we get a sense of terror and the desire to reach back and try to stop something that caused so much pain. But the show also doesn’t talk down to its audience, and it explains very quickly how tampering with events will have unknown consequences. It’s why the heroes are there, after all.

What we’ve seen of the show it also doesn’t pull its punches. The risks that downtrodden people have historically faced are genuine threats, and very much part of the story. There’s no sweeping racism under the carpet, no innocently ignoring what were commonplace attitudes, and no romanticizing the past with “retro” aesthetics. History can be ugly, but trying to fix it can make for an uglier future.

If I have any gripes with the show, it’s that when I did further research, I found that the marketing materials looked disingenuous, and inaccurately portrayed its heroes. Despite having the backbone to discuss racism so frankly in its pilot, the same character is posed in promo photos wearing a hoodie, his fists visibly clenched and looking like he’s about to run somewhere. The female lead, despite being the show’s protagonist, is lingering in the back looking like a pining housewife. Meanwhile, the hunky Caucasian man with a gun gets front and center. It sells the show short, and makes it look more generic than it actually is.

Overall, it’s clear that the writing room wasn’t asleep when this show was pitched. The use of the Hindenberg is a unique choice as it doesn’t employ an over-played part of history, and gives audiences the chance to learn some new things through their entertainment. There’s suspense, lots of mystery and some clever uses of modern technology, like picking a lock with underwire from a modern bra!

Timeless premieres on NBC (and Global for Canadians) on October 3 and 10pm EST.

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