I love time travel stories. There is something about the philosophical challenges that usually arise that I find exciting. If you go back in time and kill your grandfather, do you disappear from existence? While the laws of physics do not exclusively rule out time travel to the past, it does not mean there are not problems with it taking place.
I admit, I was both excited and afraid when it was announced that Stephen King's novel 11.22.63 would be made into a miniseries. Yes, J.J. Abrams would be producing but there is a major problem with Stephen King; the TV shows and movies based on his books have either been great or horrible. There is no in-between.
With that said, I love the novel. The key to a good time travel story is simple and consistent rules. You do not have to tell the audience what those rules are but they should be able to figure out how a show's time travel works. In that case, both the book and the TV miniseries get it right.
You do not have to figure what the show's time travel rules are because Al Templeton (Chris Cooper) tells Jake Epping (James Franco) what they are:
- Every journey through the portal transports the traveler to September 9, 1958, at precisely 11:58 a.m to a specific spot.
- No matter how long someone stays in the past—hours, days, weeks, or years—only two minutes elapse in the present.
- Past events can be changed but subsequent use "resets" the timeline and nullifies all changes made on the previous journey.
- Time does not like to be changed and will do anything to prevent a traveler from doing so. The bigger the change, the bigger the obstacle time throws in the traveler's way.
We can already tell that going back to stop Kennedy's assassination is going to be a bad idea. Al believes that so many of the things that are wrong in the United States of America stem from Kennedy's assassination so natutrally he tries to fix this. Unfortunately, time conspires against Al (remember that last rule?), and now Jake must take his place. Sure, "time" may be stubborn and resistant to change but humans love challenges.
The first episode, The Rabbit Hole, sets the story up nicely and Jake seems sold on Al's pitch that the 1960s were a better time to live. According to Al, even the food tastes better. However, let's not forget the negative aspects, such as racial discrimination. In that way, the series captures the essence of many of Stephen King's stories by addressing the politics and culture of a decade long past; we see the world of the 60s through the modern lens of Jake's eyes.
Our hero's mission is not going to be an easy one, something I am sure we expect, and will discover during the series's run. While Jake's trip lasts only two minutes in the present, he must stay three full years in the past to prevent Kennedy's assassination. Even if he succeeds, no one can use the time portal ever again or everything resets; his work will be for naught.
Based on the pilot, the series looks like it will deliver a great story, with its complex storyline in a fun and compelling way. This should find wide appeal, especially to King's fans. Definitely worth the watch.