Timeless: Wanting to Change the Past

Timeless is a beloved science fiction show about time travel that goes into some aspects of time jumping that many others have ignored.
Timeless: Wanting to Change the Past
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Camila Thomas

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Timeless is a science fiction show about time travel. It premiered in 2016 and told the story of protagonists Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus, who must travel to the past to foil the plans of the evil Flynn.

When a time machine is robbed, a history professor, soldier, and engineer need to capture the culprit. They soon discover that the thief’s plan is to change the course of the history of the United States. They also discover that a secret society plans to take over the world by changing the past.

Timeless aired for two seasons until NBC cancelled it. Even so, Timeless developed a passionate fan base. After putting together a petition, Timeless‘ fans were able to get the network to make them a sequel. In 2018, NBC decided that the series would end with a full-length movie to premiere at the end of that year.

Timeless, going back to the past

The public finds time travel, both into the future and into the past, to be a fascinating subject. Going to the past gives you the possibility of reliving it and the future is full of new possibilities. H.G. Wells wrote the first great story about time travel, which was his novella The Time Machine. This story principally dealt with imagining the future.

Yet going to the past is also a tantalizing prospect. Time travel to the past gives you the possibility of changing the present. In his essay “The Theory and Practice of Time Travel”, Larry Niven points out a very important aspect to consider. Niven observes that we’re always traveling to the future. That’s life itself – going from the present to the future. Nevertheless, the main purpose of time travel is to travel to the past. At the same time, Niven says that the biggest danger that such traveling presents is the possibility of changing the past.

The rules of time travel in Timeless

The creators of Timeless thought about the nature of time very deeply. They did so not only in the existential sense of the concept, but also in terms of the manner in which it appears in science fiction. Timeless has managed to analyze the nature of time from the point of view of a television show.

How can you keep an audience interested when the characters have to travel to the past? How can you combine police chases with historical mysteries in an interesting way? At the same time, the Timeless team always had to stay loyal to their own logic. They had to follow the rules that they had set for themselves regarding time travel. That would allow the series to keep making sense within the world they created.

In the first episode of Timeless, Rufus lays down the rules that the team needs to adhere to to travel in time. He explains that they can’t return to any time when they already exist. That’s because meeting versions of themselves would be very bad for the fabric of time. This would also mean that the time traveler wouldn’t be able to return twice to the same time period because they might run into themselves.

The consequences of time travel

When the villain Flynn robs the time machine to change the course of history, the heroes have to travel to stop him. Flynn plans to change the past in order to change the present. Nevertheless, the first time the team goes back, they aren’t able to capture Flynn. The events of the past, subsequently, don’t happen exactly according to history.

When they return to the present, the three travelers discover they’ve changed. Upon altering the past, things didn’t turn out the same way. Even so, no one in the new present knows the previous version of their history. Thus, they cease to really belong to the present they’ve come back to. This particularity is what makes this show unique.

Timeless delves deeper into some of the aspects usually ignored by time travel stories. Every change that someone makes in the past has unpredictable ramifications. Marty McFly, for example, comes back home and discovers that his siblings are successful and his parents have improved drastically. But what happened to the people of the town? Each eventuality, as small as it may be, has immense effects in time.

Characters from the Timeless tv show.

Fan service

Despite the fact that NBC cancelled it, the show got the green light for a two-hour movie. This means that the series got a proper ending. Its fans got to know how the story of Lucy, Wyatt, Rufus, and Flynn ends. This movie premiered at the end of 2018.

Timeless‘ producer, the NBC network, confirmed that Abigail Spencer and Matt Lenter would return to play their corresponding characters. Added to that, many of the producers and writers of the series participated in the new production. For anyone who’s interested, the production of the sequel to Timeless began October 2018. It was set to premiere at the end of December of that year.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.