The Words on the Page

Timeless

March 7, 2017

 

Timeless

Written by Eric Kripke & Shawn Ryan

Network 3rd Draft - January 2016

Drama/Sci-Fi Pilot, 63 pages

 

"Ever hear of a Closed Timelike Curve?" - Mason

 

Venturing into sci-fi dramas, I had the opportunity to read the Timeless pilot earlier this week. It conforms to what I've found are two of the common rules of time travel - things that are changed in the past have an immediate impact on the present/future, and you cannot revisit a time where you've already existed, so there is only one shot at any given time. (Hello, stakes.)

 

Right off the bat this show reminded me of The Infinity Ring, a scholastic series aimed at early middle schoolers. There's a big bad trying to change the past (in order to change the present/future), and a trio is sent back to stop them. Amusingly, the trios had the same set up - two "outsiders" who are new to the world/concept (great exposition hider - since things have to be explained to them, they can also be explained to us, the audience) and a black man who knows the "rules" of time travel but becomes an outsider in the past due to his skin tone. As far as I can tell, that's where the overlap ends.

 

Timeless has a rather complex plot. It is quickly evident that there is more than meets the eye and that everyone has a secret. Other than the core team of three, I am not quite certain, from the pilot, which characters will wind up being important and which will not. The pilot was also successful in having me question, early on, which group is the "good guys" and which is the "bad guys," a conceit I rather enjoy. While a few things were a bit obvious, like Lucy breaking the rule of returning to a time where she already existed, the premise for the series is quite interesting and something I'd like to see more of. I also think it was smart for Kripke and Ryan to include this rule breaking in the pilot as it shows us Lucy "as she is now." It is traditional in TV shows (just look at Breaking Bad if you don't believe me) for characters to already be the characters we come to know and love, and seeing both versions of Lucy practically side-by-side definitely had me wondering how she got there.

 

From a words-on-the-page perspective, this script utilized direct address to the reader more than many I've seen. Some are sort of sexist - "She actually looks pretty hot - in a retro way." - and, overall, I'm not sure that the humor sprinkled in - "they're awesome, btw" about a 1930s pinball machine - really helped the tone or overall narrative. They do give the impression that this script is just a dude telling a story. It's conversational, and I can tell he's excited about it and thinks its great, but the constant editorializing pulls me out a bit. I think this was because it wasn't a match for the tone overall - as there are a lot of high stakes and action sequences in this. People literally die. Overall, however, the pilot had me wanting to know more. It did its job.

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Writing for film, television, and the stage is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult - and most rewarding - art forms. The language needs to be visual and evocative as each script must achieve two important tasks...
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