Executive producers Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke promised a different kind of time-traveling drama during NBC day at the Television Critics Association summer tour. Speaking onstage with stars Malcolm Barrett, Matt Lanter, and Abigail Spencer, the EPs teased elements of the first eight episodes of “Timeless,” which will debut this fall after “The Voice.”
The time-traveling mystery procedural follows a trio of unlikely comrades who are trying to track down history-hopping bandits with an unknown, nefarious purpose. As they chase the thieves with their own, less sophisticated time machine, the world keeps subtly altering around them.
Following a pilot that focuses on the Hindenburg disaster of 1937, the panelists revealed that “Timeless”‘ heroes will journey to President Lincoln’s assassination, Nazi Germany, and even the Alamo. Other iconic eras include Watergate, the Space Race, and an undisclosed location in the 1750s. The characters will never go back to a period of time they already visited, because in the rules of the show, they can’t go back to somewhere (somewhen) they’ve already been. Both EPs cited the “fun self-enclosed storytelling” of “Quantum Leap” as inspiration for “Timeless”‘ forward momentum.
The producers added that because one of the lead characters is a black man (Barrett) and another is a woman (Spencer), the experiences that the trio has in different eras will often be unpleasant journeys into prejudice and discrimination. Kripke described the show as a “visceral, grounded attack on history.”
“The reality is that he will face all sorts of racism specific to those particular periods,” Kripke said. “So much of history as we know it is the history of rich white dudes — and yet there’s so much untold history from a minority perspective, and from a female perspective.”
He added his hope that rather than resembling a “dusty school lesson,” “Timeless” instead would be able to “comment on issues happening today.”
Ryan revealed that the show’s episodes would break to about 80 percent story of the week and 20 percent, serialized “epic adventure.” “More ‘Back To The Future’… than ’12 Monkeys.'”
Kripke added that most of the changes to the characters’ universe would be personal, not broadly political. “It’s always better to go deep than to go big, and to make things personal and painful to your heroes. It’s not going to be T-Rexes with swastika armbands marching down 5th Avenue — it’s more about who wasn’t born who should’ve been,” he said. “We want this to be a very accessible and not brain-twisty show.”
He added, joking, “My six year old asks me daily, ‘When are you going to have dinosaurs?’ Not yet!”