The first time travel story I ever saw was when I was about 8 and watching Classic Trek re-runs (of course, back then, it was called Star Trek and not “Classic”). I’d never seen anything like The City on the Edge of Forever before, and I was hooked. The Star Trek franchise has always done time travel well, which is high praise, given the other memorable movies and series incorporating the time-worn trope since.
The last book I released, I Was, Am, Will Be Alice, is a time travel fiction (largely inspired by The Time Traveler’s Wife), as is my as of yet unfinished manuscript, tentatively entitled Cat and Mouse: A Love Story, largely inspired
This recent television season has seen an explosion of time travel television shows and it doesn’t disappoint, for the most part. In a medium in which good science fiction (and sometimes, any science fiction) is hard to find, you might ask why this particular genre has exploded at this moment in time. A recent CBC broadcast proposed that the phenomenon is due to the current political climate and how people seemed to view the past as a simpler time. With what is happening in the world today, the influx of time travel television reflects people’s desire to turn the clock back to that simpler time. Glamour suggests this may be because we, as a society, have acknowledged the error of our ways and long for a way to fix our future by going back and fixing our past.
To honour the current television season, here’s a list of 4 new time travel shows (in no particular order) worth watching (and 1 not so much).
The future is a dystopia, largely due to the fact that a meteor will hit Earth with devastating consequences. They have figured out how to transfer consciousness back in time with the help of a large supercomputer. A team of scientists have their consciousnesses sent back in time to change the past and make the world a better place. To do this, the supercomputer–known as the Director–pinpoints the moment of a host’s death and transfers the future consciousness in the seconds before the host dies. This show is made interesting by the characters of the hosts, which include an FBI agent with a failing marriage, a mentally impaired woman and her social worker, an addict, a teenaged football player, and a woman who is fighting for custody of her son with her abusive, police officer husband. Eric McCormack, a long time favourite of mine since Will and Grace, stars.
When a seemingly bad guy steals a time machine from a top secret think tank, a historian, a soldier, and a pilot chase him through time in an effort to preserve the timeline. In the first episode, misunderstood Garcia Flynn (expertly played Goran Visnjic) introduces the Rittenhouse Corporation, a Mafia-like group of people who have infiltrated every aspect of government and power corporations for centuries. Through the course of the season, we learn that Flynn is only out to stop Rittenhouse to save his family (whom he believes was murdered by members of Rittenhouse) and make the world a better place. Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, and Malcolm Barrett have such incredible chemistry as the team of heroes out to stop Flynn, that by the time they realize they’re fighting for the wrong team, they can do no wrong in the viewers’ eyes.
Based on the movie by the same name, Frequency supposes that a ham radio can connect the present to the past. In Frequency, police officer Raimy Sullivan learns she can talk to her father over his old radio. The only problem is her father died 20 years ago. Raimy gives her father advice which saves him from the accident that took his life. She goes into work the next morning only to learn that her mother–safe before Raimy had saved her father’s life–went missing twenty years ago and her bones are on the coroner’s table. Her mother, it seems, was a victim of the Nightingale Killer. As if to make matters worse, she is a stranger to her fiancee. Raimy and her father, Frank, spend the season as partners as they try to catch the Nightingale Killer on both ends of the time continuum.
4. Time After Time
I remember seeing Time After Time, the movie, as a young adult. I loved the fact that H. G. Wells was portrayed as a time traveller. The Time Machine reads more like a journal, after all, documenting the travels of a scientist into the past and incredibly distant future to check in on the evolution of mankind. It’s not hard to imagine that the novel was Wells’s actual journal. In Time After Time, H.G. Wells invents a time machine that is immediately appropriated by Jack the Ripper who goes forward in time to escape capture and continues his murderous ways. The show is more cat and mouse thriller than time travel epic as Dr. John Stephenson (Jack the Ripper) taunts Wells, daring him to follow through with his threat to capture him before his next kill.
*As an aside, is Flash’s H.R. Wells somehow an homage to H.G. Wells? Why else would the character–who hops Earths a la Sliders and who is known to have time travelled in the comic world–have been given a name so similar to the author?
5. Making History
A time travelling duffle bag is absurd on the face of it. Even so, I could accept it provided the show did something smart with it. In the first two episodes, Dan goes back to make sure the American Revolution happens, only to find that the founding fathers are even dumber than he is, and though they love their guns and will only be riled when the British threaten to take them away (cue the political satire), they refuse to do anything more than threaten to take the guns and aver their love for guns. There’s a love affair (as in Time After Time), false identities with modern names, and claiming of song lyrics that won’t be written for centuries (as in Back to the Future). Though there may be a few moments that made me smile, this was even more groan-worthy than Legends of Tomorrow at it’s campy best.
Whether the surge in time travel tales is due to a longing to return to a simpler time, or the desire to turn back the clock, given the number of celebrity deaths and the politics of the previous year, time travel television is a worthy, sentimental diversion.
Are you a fan of time travel fiction? Weigh in with what you think in the comments below.