I will confess that I LOVE time travel movies, right up there with shark movies and plane crash movies. Call it my guilty pleasure. I've always been attracted to sci-fi stories, and the beautiful headache that you get when you watch time travel movies and shows is glorious. All the talk of paradoxes and unintended consequences really gets your brain working overtime — I love it! There are many time travel theories based on Einstein's special relativity premise, like the Einstein-Rosen Bridge (a wormhole), and many other far-out ideas like "Project Pegasus." Project Pegasus was an alleged government experiment involving time traveling children that was derived from the notes of the mysterious inventor Nikola Tesla. Who knows if Pegasus was ever real, but it does sound very interesting, right?
Can Time Really Be Manipulated?
Maybe, maybe not. But I like the way the good Doctor explains it:
So, since we all agree that we really do want to believe that time can be changed, let's look at TV and time travel, shall we?
The History Of Time Travel On TV
The granddaddy of TV time travel shows is of course the legendary Doctor Who, which I will talk about in just a bit. However, the first show I remember was the great Irwin Allen cheese-fest The Time Tunnel.
The series aired on ABC for a couple of seasons in the '60s, and I remembered it as pretty fun as a child, with lots of machines with flashing lights and scientists urgently working. The government called it "Project Tic-Toc" (I kid you not), and our heroes Tony Newman and Doug Phillips hurtled through the time tunnel from one time to another, hitting the high points throughout history you would expect: the Titanic, Pearl Harbor, the eruption of Krakatoa, the Battle of the Alamo. You get it. The problem is that all the smarty pants scientists could never actually retrieve Tony and Doug and bring them home. Instead, they could only send them from one time disaster to another. Remind me to NEVER volunteer for that deal.
That opened the floodgates, and since then we've seen dozens of such shows. Here's just a partial list:
Quantum Leap, Sliders, Tru Calling, Lost, The 4400, Heroes, Life on Mars, Journeyman, Primeval, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Fringe, Flash-Forward, Terra Nova, Alcatraz, Continuum, Outlander, and 12 Monkeys. Whew!
2016: The Year Of Time Travel On TV
To my count, we have EIGHT new and returning time travel shows this TV season: I smell a trend, no? Let's run them down, shall we?
1. Doctor Who
The Big Kahuna, Doctor Who, begins its 10th season since the latest reboot, with Peter Capaldi reprising his role as the venerable Doctor, this time with Pearl Mackie as his new companion, Bill.
A Christmas special precedes the 12-episode 10th season that begins in the spring of 2017 on BBC America. Rumors abound that this may be the last season for Capaldi as the Doctor, so stay tuned.
2. The Flash
Season 3 of The Flash is a few episodes in now, with the Flashpoint story arc that had Barry Allen screw up the timeline of not only his show, but potentially changing the companion CW shows Supergirl, Arrow, and DC's Legends of Tomorrow.
Now that's a hot mess, folks!
3. DC's Legends Of Tomorrow
Season 2 of Legends starts with Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Captain Cold gonzo, Rip Hunter missing, and the introduction of The Justice Society of America and The Legion of Doom into the proceedings.
Expect a wild, crazy ride through time with lots of fun.
Timeless has a kind of boiler plate time travel scenario. It follows the adventures of an unusual trio — a history professor (Lucy Preston), a scientist (Rufus Carlin), and a soldier (Wyatt Logan) as they attempt to stop Garcia Flynn, a time-traveling criminal, from changing the course of American history. Much like The Time Tunnel, the usual suspect time events are in play here: the Hindenburg, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, The Alamo, the Watergate scandal, etc. However, unlike The Time Tunnel, our heroes do come back after every mission. That's the good news. The bad news is that even if they think they save the timeline, things are always messed up (especially for poor Lucy) every time they return to present day. Now that sucks!
I know it sounds pretty juvenile, but I actually like it so far; it's fun, the show effects look big budget good, and the cast is very watchable. I'd advise you giving it a shot.
Based on the 2000 flick of the same name, Frequency concerns NYPD Detective Raimy Sullivan, who discovers in 2016 that she is able to speak to her deceased father Frank Sullivan, also an NYPD detective, in 1996 via his old ham radio. Her attempts to save his life from an assassination attempt trigger the dreaded "butterfly effect," changing the present in many nasty ways. To fix the damage, she must work with her father across time to solve the decades-old "Nightingale" serial murder case. Rather than actually physically sending people back in time, Frequency involves magical communication only — a nice little twist.
I particularly like the lead actress, Peyton List; she makes the hokey premise almost believable. The rest of the cast? Meh.
Travelers is a new, 12-episode series created and written by Brad Wright, who was one of the co-creators of Stargate:SG 1 and Stargate: Atlantis. It is set hundreds of years in the future, where the last surviving humans discover how to time travel — using just their consciousness — back into people in the 21st century. The time travelers take on the lives of random people, while performing missions in secret to attempt to save humanity from its terrible future. Once they travel back to the 21st century, they realize that juggling their lives and relationships are as much of a challenge as the missions they’re trying to complete. Again, this one is a slightly new take on the well worn trope, with just their consciousness going back, X-Men: Days of Future Past style. The Canadian channel Showcase gets first crack at the episodes, then they land on Netflix.
Travelers is more akin to Timeless plot-wise, but they up the geek factor considerably. Recommended.
7. Time After Time
If you think this sounds familiar, you're right. It's a TV reboot of the 1979 movie of the same named that starred Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange). Creator Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries, Scream) promises his new show isn’t all just time travel; though, the device from H.G. Wells’s 1895 book The Time Machine is what brings the writer to 2017 New York City, and teams up with a museum curator to stop Jack the Ripper. In addition to wrestling “with this disappointment of what the new world is,” Wells tussles with the conundrum of whether to read his iconic writings in the future as the show explores causal loop theory. Williamson says, “He’s not quite sure: Is everything happening because of destiny and fate, or is everything random?”
The trailer is basically a note for note replay of the film, so it's hard to tell where they will take this going forward. I loved the movie, so I'm more than willing to give the series a try. One note on what you just saw in the trailer: Regina Taylor (The Unit) appeared as Vanessa Anders, an art museum bigwig who harbors a special connection to Wells (as was revealed at the end of the trailer). However, according to sources, the character did not test well with focus groups and is being reworked, with Nicole Ari Parker (Soul Food, Rosewood) now filling the role. Time After Time is scheduled to debut mid-season 2017 on ABC.
8. Making History
A buddy time travel comedy? WTF? Yep, leave it to Fox to throw three genres into a blender and hit puree. Making History revolves around three unlikely friends who find an even less likely way to travel through time, irreversibly complicating their personal lives in 2016. It centers on Dan, a nerdy computer science professor at a small college and the “failure” of an otherwise accomplished family. He is unpopular with both students and colleagues on campus, where his extreme intelligence comes off as strange.
Dan invented time travel, hoping to get a fresh start and meet less shallow people. We see two Dans – the “nerd rage” guy having a hard time in the present, and the cooler, more carefree guy in the past. To help him in his quest, Dan enlists the help of Chris, a 30-year-old history professor and the most popular teacher on campus — with good reason. He has a gift of inspiring people by making his encyclopedic knowledge of history accessible. Women love him and guys want to be his buddy, but when he goes to the past, everything quickly unravels. Back in 1775, Dan dates Leighton Meester, who plays Deborah Revere (yes, Paul Revere's daughter), a colonial woman, self-educated and incredibly motivated with modern ideals, trapped in a regressive time. She has contemporary beliefs of gender and racial equality that everyone scoffs at in 1775. Check it out:
Batsh*t crazy, right? Might be worth a sampling, but it's my fear that it will get really stale after a few episodes. Making History is also scheduled as a mid-season 2017 release.
The time travel genre is just as popular in film as it is in TV. Check out the list below for more time travel adventures:
Your Turn: Tell Me What Time Travel Shows You Like Or Want To See In The Comments Section.