Timeless Recap: Pilot

Warning: mild spoilers follow! 

It only takes four minutes into the pilot for NBC's time travel drama Timeless for a character to utter the words, "Make your own future!" And things don't really improve from there. 

Out of all of the great fall shows coming out this year, Timeless caught my eye. I'm always a sucker for a good time travel story, and the production value in particular for Timeless looked very high-end. The plot didn't look all that different from the Time Warp Trio books, in which three friends have a lot of wacky adventures experiencing famous historical events. 

For its part, Timeless starts modestly enough, with the infamous crash of the Hindenburg on May 6, 1937, in which 36 people died. Flash forward to the present, where a "terrorist" by the name of Garcia Flynn hijacks a top-secret time machine at a not-very-secure facility (one security guard? Really?) and takes it back to that fateful day. The machine is the property and brainchild of inventor Connor Mason, who was working on the project unbeknownst to US government. 

Enter history professor Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer), who is asked by Homeland Security to escort Master Sergeant Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter) and programmer Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett) in an earlier prototype of the machine to stop whatever it is Flynn may be up to. At first Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus think he may be trying to kill more people during the crash, but are soon proved incorrect when the Hindenburg actually lands safely. Lucy then thinks that Flynn may be trying to blow up the Hindenburg on its return journey, when many more luminaries are supposed to be aboard. 

I know that this is a pilot, and pilots are notoriously known to be awful, but Timeless, at least at the outset, doesn't offer anything new or different in the time travel genre. In fact, very little time is spent on any "theory" outside of the usual "don't be seen, don't change anything," Butterfly Effect concept. Which would all be well and good, if this was pre-1985 before Back to the Future. 

There are some ridiculous subplots in the pilot as well: Wyatt, who apparently has never seen a time travel move in his life, tries to change everything, including saving a reporter from dying in the crash because she "looks like his wife." What? Where did this guy come from? Maybe Mason should have spent a little more time on theory with this guy before he just sends him back into the past. 

There are a few obligatory mysteries here that will probably keep an intrigued viewer back for the second time, and I plan to at least finish out the season to see where it goes. Most notably, when Lucy returns to her present, quite a few things about her life have changed and she isn't sure what the connection to the Hindenburg is. There also seems to be some connection between Lucy and Flynn (of course) which will obviously be mercilessly teased out until the last possible moment. 

If the preview for the rest of the season is any indication, the creators behind Timeless don't seem to be much more interested than the basic rote plot of "See how exciting events in history are!" In what's to come, Lucy and the boys visit Abraham Lincoln's assassination, a concert by the Rat Pack, and Nazi Germany. The Rat Pack may be a new one, but the other two eras have been done to death. Why can't anyone ever travel to, like, the invention of the KitchenAid or something? 

Timeless' next episode will be next Monday at 10pm on NBC.