Timeless is determined not to break viewers’ brains with confusing time travel.
“It’s important to [co-creator] Eric [Kripke] and I, and NBC as well, that this not be the kind of show that falls down some serialized rabbit hole and loses itself and turns on itself,” co-creator Shawn Ryan said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Tuesday. “This show is much more like Back to the Future and Quantum Leap than it is like 12 Monkeys.”
To that end, the series will “be about 80 percent story-of-the-week,” with its time-hopping leads — played by Suits‘ Abigail Spencer, 90210′s Matt Lanter and Better Off Ted‘s Malcolm Barrett — being sent to a different period in every episode for “an epic adventure.”
Among the historic landmarks they will visit in the first half of Season 1, following the Hindenburg-centric pilot: Watergate, World War II Germany, Rat Pack-era Las Vegas, the Alamo and Abraham Lincoln’s assassination (in Episode 2). However, the trio won’t travel too far back and encounter, like, dinosaurs. “I don’t think we’re going to see the building of the pyramids,” Ryan said. “Right now, the farthest we go back to is the 1750s, during the French-Indian War. I don’t think we want to end up in medieval castles [or] the Colosseum – yet.”
To keep all the action simplified, the producers have set a few hard and fast rules. “You cannot go to any point that you exist,” Kripke shared. The characters also can’t revisit a previous time trip and redo their actions. “It forces you to keep moving forward,” the EP explained, adding that the decree results in the kind of “fun and self-enclosed storytelling of something like Quantum Leap.”
But there will be serious notes, as well. In addition to suffering meaningful repercussions of their setting foot in the past, as evidenced at the close of the pilot, Barrett and Spencer’s characters encounter racism and sexism, respectively.
“It’s a really visceral, grounded attack on history, and we don’t sugarcoat it,” Kripke said. “The reality is [Barrett’s alter ego is] going to face all sorts of racism in the different periods.”
The show will also look for avenues to explore “untold history from a minority perspective, from a female perspective,” rather than just retreading the well-known story of rich, white men, he added.
“We’re really looking for a door into not just the iconic history that everyone’s heard before, but to tell a really exciting and fresh history that isn’t dusty and isn’t a school lesson,” Kripke previewed, “but is violent and exciting and very current and allows us to make commentary on issues that are really happening today.”
NBC’s Timeless premieres Monday, Oct. 3 at 10/9c (with Blindspot now airing Wednesdays at 8 pm).