"Strong. Female. Character."
At one point, it was an incredible compliment. For too many of the earliest decades in cinema and television, women existed as love interests, victims, and background characters useful only for furthering the story of the main male character. When we first started seeing badass, ballsy ladies on screen, it made us cheer.
Now, however, "strong female character" has become a stereotype unto itself, and just as problematic as the others. These women may have a larger part to play and the ability to handle themselves, but they often become two-dimensional. Just another chick with a weapon who is emotionally closed off (but often sexually liberated). It's just as shallow as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, or the blonde bimbo, or the femme fatale.
But There Is Another Way To Represent Women On Screen
We want more Buffy — a girl who could kick some undead butt, but who was often vulnerable, deeply flawed, and bright and chirpy in equal measure. We want more Captain Janeway, whose strength isn't necessarily physical, and whose history and emotional life are well-explored and complex. More Tulip O'Hare, whose talents in a brawl are matched by more domestic desires. More Daenerys Targaryen, Joan Holloway, Jane Doe, Sara Lance...and basically everyone in Orange is the New Black. In short, we want characters who are complicated. We want characters who are real. Who can save the day, sure, but who are so much more than just kicking ass and taking names.
Enter: Lucy Preston And 'Timeless'
The star of NBC's upcoming time-travel adventure, Timeless, Lucy Preston is a far cry from the two dimensional "badass" women that we are getting so very bored of. Just as Timeless is going to be more complex than the usual time-travel sci-fi or period drama, Lucy is a multi-layered lead who doesn't fit into any mold.
The series itself starts off in the present day, as a government agency's secret time-travel project is hijacked. A mysterious criminal has stolen the machine, intending to re-write history, and it's up to an unlikely trio to head after him and save the past. The show will be taking us through various periods in history, all re-created in gorgeous detail, as a scientist, a soldier and a history professor hunt their target. A fascinating blend of drama and action/adventure, the characters are going to be the key to placing Timeless head and shoulders above the rest.
Lucy (Abigail Spencer) is a history professor. It's her great love; she is passionate about the details and successful in her field. Still, she wonders (like so many women in their late twenties and early thirties), if this is really her calling, or if she should be doing something more with her life.
Still, she probably wasn't envisioning this. Homeland Security shows up on her doorstep, and Lucy is recruited to travel back in time — to live out the periods of history that she has studied her whole life. Her job is to keep her partners (Rufus, played by Malcolm Barrett, and Wyatt, played by Matt Lanter) from making any major historical mistakes, and to keep them on track in whatever time they end up in.
But there's more to her story than just a desire to visit the past. Lucy is aware that travelling in time isn't tourism, and that the changes she makes, however small, might change the world that she comes home to. She struggles with her mission and her morals, especially as the effects of the team's actions in the past ripple through into the present, and the criminal that she is hunting starts to sow the seeds of doubt in her mind.
Smart, sharp, passionate, and caring, Lucy promises to set Timeless apart, giving us the kind of three-dimensional female lead that we would like to see gracing every new series. There are so many reasons to make sure that Timeless gets a spot on your viewing calendar: the stunning period costumes, the sci-fi fun, the twists and turns as we discover who the criminal is (and what he's doing), and the drama that is at the core of it all. Lucy is just one of the things we are looking forward to in this promising new series, but we're already sure that she's going to become a big fan-favorite for fall 2016.
Timeless premieres on NBC Oct 3rd, 2016.