Saturday, June 10, 2017

Timeless Could Use More Time In The Typewriter

A while ago a friend mentioned a television series that she came across. Being that I like science fiction, I gave Timeless a try. I don't have cable TV, or in range of a over-the-air NBC station, however it is on the streaming service. But what I found was quite surprising for a well seasoned main-stream network. To put simply, it should have spent more time in the typewriter.

For starters, why don't they carry history data with them? With all the technology available these days, you could carry entire libraries inside the 'life boat' with ease. Then compare to see what has changed after each mission. It would also offer proof of what had changed, and make it easy to compare before and after. There could be so many changes that without such a real data comparison you would have NO IDEA what all had changed. To not have such a tool and to rely only on ones memory is absolute foolishness.  I can't imagine anyone making such a mistake. Certainly not after the FIRST trip and they see how things changed (that they knew of) when they failed to stop Flynn.

They talk about never being able to trod on their own time-line, yet Flynn seems to not have much trouble with it. He changes his history at will, while everyone else is left scratching their head. And being that one of the main characters is supposed to be some sort of history master, why can't she figure this out? She also vehemently refuses to change the time-line, until she doesn't and is willing to throw everything to the wind. Then she is back to not changing the time-line again.

Another thing, when you travel though time, it is instantaneous for those outside of the ship. Yet in the show they have several times where those outside of the ship are able to 'see' the time ship moving though time. That is a plot hole the size of a planet. You simply could not be watching the ship move though time and able to guide it home. That would work in ANYTHING other than time travel. Being able to send a message to your people in the future? Sure that is possible, but to have them guide you home while you are en route? Nope. Now if you could find a way to send them a beacon they can home in on, or find a way to transmit data to them. Sure that could work. But live, on-the-fly-guidance? Nope, not possible. What they should have done was have the note give something they can track, but didn't think of before. They figure it out in the future and activate the beacon signal. A micro second later POOF the time ship arrives. That is the only way it could work.

Also the people in the 'current' time period always seem to be aware of the passage of time during a mission. In reality, the 'life boat' would be POOF gone and POOF back a second later every time except the one episode where they got stranded due to sabotage. Sure they could set their destination to return a little later, but why would you? Even if they were doing it to match the 'mothership', why would Flynn not come back a few seconds from when he left rather than hours or days difference? There isn't any reason to, unless the machine is not that accurate, and we see time and time again they are very accurate in landing where and when they want. Not to mention even if they could see Flynn go back in time, wouldn't the mission be irrelevant at that moment? If he does go back and change history, those changes should be instant. No one in the current time period should even be able to tell what he did, it should all now true history as far as they know. Yet they get hours to prepare before going back to try to stop him? But when the 'life boat' does come back to the future, then the changes are instant? Talk about a huge plot hole.

Here's another problem: why don't they make another ship? Let's face it, at first the operation was a secret project owned by a business man with limited (although still very large) resources. But once the government is involved (and we assume that not all of said government is dirty as implied in the show) wouldn't they be building a new ship really really fast if the whole world is at stake? If nothing else, the 'life boat' fails then their team is stranded. Not to mention the 'life boat' wasn't built for continuous use, just to prove a theory, then later for rescue. The whole ship like it is about to fly apart every time they fire it up. Also you would want to send more people back to stop this mad man, a trained military team or such. Sure they can get clothes of every time and location, yet they won't build a new 'mothership' time machine and train a crew to assist them when they run into problems? Yeah, right.

Not to mention if they can track the time machines, why in the world can't they communicate with their team? If you know when they traveled back in time (and know roughly where the 'mothership' is), it stands to reason you are getting telemetry from the ships. And if you are getting that, why can't you also communicate though it? Granted it could be that they only know the most basic of information and nothing else. But still if something is being transmitted, then more should be able to as well. Or tell why it can't.

Another problem: the characters are not endearing. Forgive me, but I don't like any of them (well except for Anthony, but he isn't on very much). They all seem like a crazy batch of misfits that you don't care if they ever make it back. They also seem stiff to the point that you don't believe them at all. They are also constantly at odds with each other (lying again and again for example). Perhaps that changed later on in the series (I only watched about 7 episodes), but as a writer I know that you have to hook your reader/watcher from the start or they will go somewhere else. In my case, I only watched past the first episode because I have a great love of science fiction, and as a writer I wondered if they were going to make the mess any better. I'm sure that most people wouldn't have Well, unless you don't have Netflix or something similar that caries decent science fiction to watch.

One final odd aspect: the good guys are doing almost as much damage as the bad guys. Maybe it is me, but I think there should be able to do a better job. Especially for someone that is supposedly a history expert. Granted not everything is going to go according to plan (humans are often unpredictable), but still they should be able to do a better job than they are. And with the kind of changes that are being made, I tend to think the ripples would be far larger than what they are leading one to believe. For example, one person can make a huge difference, yes I agree. But sometimes that all has to do with the circumstances around that person at the time. Have them miss that one appointment, and they end up in a car wreck instead, which makes their son refrain from going into the space program causing the program to never occur. And if that never happens, guess what, no time machine. Events are so interwoven throughout our lives, you can't drive a huge truck though the time line and think that it won't all unravel.

Perhaps being a author of time travel stories makes me a harsher critic, but it would seem to me all of the points I have mentioned are 101's of writing time travel. Or at least logical conclusions. Most people can forgive small plot holes, but ones that resemble Swiss cheese and are large enough to drive a truck though is another matter.

Don DeBon is the author of Red Warp, Time Rock, Soulmates, and The Husband. Currently available on Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, and other retailers.