We’ve previously posted about Timeless, the new time-travel, vast-government-conspiracy TV show from NBC — Sarah posted when the preview came out. Now I’ve had a chance to binge-watch a bunch of episodes, and you know what? I’m surprisingly entertained! If you enjoy conspiracy TV series like Lost, Orphan Black, or Fringe, or if you just like the idea of a TV show that is doing a decently serious stab at different time periods, I’d recommend you give it a whirl!
Lucy is a professional historian at an unnamed university who gets pulled into a secret government mission: terrorists have stolen a time machine and is using it to disrupt American history (to what end, we don’t know). Luckily, there are two time machines, and the one still in government hands can track the one in the terrorists’ hands. The government pulls together a three-person team that they send into the past to try to stop the terrorists: Lucy is there to help the team blend into the period (and to figure out why the terrorists have chosen that particular date in the first place), engineer Rufus is there to pilot the time machine and provide the humor, and military operative Wyatt is there to be badass and hot (and theoretically to take out the terrorists).
There are a few problems, of course, with the logic — for example, historians tend to focus on particular eras/topics, so I’m confused how Lucy is an expert in every subsection of American history. And while Rufus’s commentary — particularly on being a black man going back in time — is pretty funny, he’s also very obviously there for the wry comic relief.
But who cares, because they’re actually trying to do a decent, non-cheesy job at presenting the history! Each episode begins with a scene showing how the key event went down in “real” history, then we see it play out again with the terrorists and our heroes mucking things up. I particularly like how they’re not actually keeping the history as-is — while, so far, our heroes have mostly saved the day, when they get back, they find that the history has been rewritten to accommodate the subtle changes that have occurred.
I’m also entertained by some of the costume-related bits, like the giant warehouse of period costumes the government puts together; Lucy complaining that the fabric of her blouse didn’t exist yet and that her skirt is from the following decade; watching Lucy get dressed in 1860s gear, including a cage crinoline; and Wyatt mocking the Civil War reenactors from whom uniforms were borrowed.
The costumes were designed by Mari-An Ceo (although Wendy Partridge also gets credited for one episode on IMDB), and while not everything is 100% perfect, I have been very pleased with how much they are trying to make things look seriously accurate. This is no small issue on a TV budget, when each episode calls for an entirely new wardrobe: “You’re talking about corsets and hoopskirts, suspenders and ascots, and it’s just very elaborate. It’s a tall order to ask a crew to be an expert in every time period, to know what jewelry to pick, how to tie a corset and what kind of corset goes with what outfit” (Time-traveling series Timeless a tough task for costume designer).
And, some of the more egregious costumes — Rufus’s weird jacket, Lucy’s clonky brown and white dress — that Sarah rightly pointed out as being suspect don’t actually make it to screen! So that was a relief.
That’s how far I’ve gotten — in two more episodes, yassss, we hit the 18th century! Although it’s the 1750s (French and Indian War), so I question Lucy’s very 1780s robe à l’anglaise. I’ll be back to praise/snark no doubt.
Have you checked out Timeless yet? What’s your verdict?