We meant to repost this article by Mindy Newell a month ago, when everything in it was bright, shiny, and new, but somehow it got lost in the proverbial editorial shuffle and didn’t re-surface on the TVWriter™ to-do list till now.
The good news is that although the shows Ms.Newell writes about here have now been around for several weeks, her insights are still very bright, very shiny, and delightfully new. So here are some of the most informative reviews this TVWriter™ minion has read in a long time:
by Mindy Newell
Well, the fall television season has begun, which means I’ve been watching the return of my favorite series and the premiere of new shows that have tickled my interest. Here’s a rundown.
Timeless (Mondays, 10 P.M., NBC)
Everyone who reads this column regularly knows that I’m a nut for alternate history and time-travel stories, so of course I was going to check out Timeless, which premiered last week, October 3… and, of course, I missed it. So on Saturday I logged onto Hulu and caught up.
The premise is a familiar one to science fiction geeks like me – what happens to our present if someone goes back and either deliberately or accidentally changes the history we know? This is best illustrated, at least for me, by Ray Bradbury’s classic and beautifully written “A Sound of Thunder,”in which a big game hunter travels back to the Jurassic era to stalk a Tyrannosaurus Rex, accidentally kills a butterfly, and returns to his present to find the world he knew has changed, both in subtle and overt ways. Although the term was not coined by physicists and other scientists until the 1960s by chaos theory pioneer Edward Norton Lorenz – when he noted that small changes in the initial conditions of hurricane formation would change the outcome of that hurricane, i.e., time of formation, wind speed, path – this has become known as the butterfly effect, which essentially states that even an infinitesimal alteration in primary conditions will change the outcome. (This leads me to believe that Lorenz read “A Sound of Thunder” at some time in his life; if he hadn’t – one small change – the phenomenon might be called something else.)
When a secret government-funded time travel machine is stolen by a “bad guy,” a misaligned team is assigned to follow him and stop his nefarious plans to alter the time line: a historian, a Delta Force soldier, and a computer coder. But how can they follow him? Turns out that there is an earlier, less sophisticated time machine, an alpha model, that has been kept in mothballs “just in case” [a rescue was needed]. This more primitive device can take the team to the same time period, but can’t lock on to the exact coordinates of the newer version.
Yes, it’s a big “coincidence.” But what the hell – without this, uh, contrivance, there would be no show, right?
There is a lot in Timeless that we have seen before. The facility where the time machine is kept looks like every secret government facility ever seen on The X-Files; the machine itself sits isolated in front of a bank of monitors and computers manned by technicians as in Stargate (and Stargate-SG1); and the gears of the apparatus turn and spin around the command pod as it warms up for its leap, reminding me of the “worm-hole opener” in Contact. Oh, and speaking of leaps, I kept thinking of Quantum Leap, too. But by now, if you’re any sort of fan of science fiction, it’s not so much the ingredients. To misquote another time traveler by the name of Clara Osborne, the soufflé is the soufflé.
The first jump is to May 6, 1937, the day of the Hindenburg explosion. ‘Nuff said, for those of you who haven’t seen Timeless, yet; although I will add a little spice by saying that the “bad guy” may not be so bad after all.
Also, Timeless plays with butterflies.
All in all, I enjoyed it, but like I said, I’m an easy mark for time-travel stories.
Designated Survivor (Wednesdays, 10 P.M., ABC)
From Wikipedia: “In the United States, a designated survivor (or designated successor) is an individual in the presidential line of succession, usually a member of the United States Cabinet, who is arranged to be at a physically distant, secure, and undisclosed location when the President and the country’s other top leaders (e.g., Vice President and Cabinet members) are gathered at a single location, such as during State of the Union and presidential inaugurations. This is intended to guarantee continuity of government in the event of a catastrophic occurrence that kills the President and many officials in the presidential line of succession. If such an event occurred, killing both the President and Vice President, the surviving official highest in the line, possibly the designated survivor, would become the Acting President of the United States under the Presidential Succession Act.”
Tom Kirkland, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is watching the President deliver the State of the Union on television when an explosion rips through the Capitol building, destroying it and killing everyone inside it. Tom Kirkland, the designated survivor, is now the President of the United States….