Time travel on TV is all the rage right now. Don’t believe us? Just look at the slate of new and returning shows airing this year that all revolve around going backwards (or sometimes forwards) in time. From returning series like The Flash, Outlander, and 12 Monkeys to new shows like Time After Time, Frequency, and Making History, it can be a daunting task figuring out which ones you’ll have time to add to your DVR season pass list.
But if you can only watch one, the Timeless cast makes a great case for why it should be their series, which premieres tonight on NBC.
“Here’s the thing,” Abigail Spencer, who plays historian Lucy Preston, told Nerdist on set in Vancouver when asked about the sudden surge in the amount of time travel shows this TV season. “We’re the only true time travel show.”
Her co-star Malcolm Barrett, who plays scientist Rufus Carlin, agreed, and then went on to further explain what she meant. “There’s one that’s like a comedy, half-hour [Making History],” he told Nerdist. “There’s one where they bring a guy from the past and he’s like a detective, that’s a thing [Time After Time]. And then there’s Frequency, where they talk to the past. We’re the only ones outside of that half-hour comedy that actually travel through time continuously all throughout and have a machine and do the thing.”
Matt Lanter, who plays soldier Wyatt Logan, echoed his co-stars and added that Timeless is more of a fun look at the classic time travel trope than the other series offer.
“I have not seen the other ones. But I don’t think it’s similar to any of them,” Lanter told Nerdist. “Frequency is based on the movie where they communicate through a ham radio or something. Time After Time, they’re actually in present day. They come to the present day and they stay there, so I don’t think they’re time traveling really, either. What I’m saying is we are actually traveling on weekly adventures, back and forth.”
He continued, “That’s the key thing for us, we’re doing episodic adventures. It’s fun, in a way, that anyone can tune in week-to-week and go on an adventure with us. We’ve been having a blast going to every time period possible. The writing is so smart. We’re going to do something different in every episode, every single week. The chances of something getting stale is just not possible. It’s a time travel adventure.”
Goran Visnjic, who plays the villainous and mysterious Garcia Flynn, had a more personal answer when asked why viewers should choose to watch Timeless instead of the other time travel shows.
“Being a huge sci-fi and fantasy fan, reading all my life and watching everything on TV and films, I have never seen a show like this,” Visnjic told Nerdist. “I would like to watch it. So many other shows out there, I’m just like, ‘Eh. Okay.’ And I’m just being bluntly honest. I’ve been on some shows that I didn’t like. [Laughs] And this one, I would actually like more work to do.”
For the uninformed, Lanter broke down Timeless to its simplest explanation. “We follow a team of three people as they try to bring a criminal to justice who has stolen a time machine,” he said. “It’s sort of Mission: Impossible meets Quantum Leap. Very Spielberg-esque, peppered with comedy. It keeps things light, tongue-in-cheek.”
All of the cast members are grateful that executive producers Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan kept the rules of time travel as simple and easy-to-understand as possible so they can instead focus on the fun adventures and the different historical events they travel to.
“I’ve heard the showrunners say this: they are establishing their rules and they want it to be a fun show that’s not too headspace-y,” Lanter said. “Because that’s when people get lost and it becomes work to keep up with it, as opposed to just having fun with it. That’s their main goal right not, to have fun with this adventure. They’re establishing solid rules right now that defines it, puts it in a bit of a box, if you will, so we can all just play.”
According to Barrett, there are a few strict rules of time travel that Timeless will follow, at least in its first season.
“There are basic rules where we have the time machine and it allows us to go to the past, but we are not allowed to go to any period where we already exist,” Barrett said. “And we can’t go to any period where we’ve already traveled to before. That would lead to ramifications that are disastrous.”
But those rules may not be as set in stone as the time travel trio first believes. “What’s good about [Kripke and Ryan] is that they’re very good about establishing certain rules and establishing certain expectations and then defying it when the moment feels right,” Barrett said with a laugh.
Are you excited to jump into the world of Timeless when it premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on NBC? Tweet me your thoughts at @SydneyBucksbaum!