An unlikely trio traveling through time to battle unknown criminals in order to protect history as we know it. – IMDB
The show opens with the death of the Hindenburg, showing one hypothesis about how it met its gruesome fate.
Now we cut to the present day with Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) teaching a lecture at some University. She tells a story how once when questioned about the Vietnam War LBJ unzipped his pants and displayed his member “this is why!” As her lecture ends she meets up with some guy who tells her she won’t be receiving tenure. She is really angry, but she also appears to be a history teacher who spends her time talking about former president’s junk. So maybe it isn’t totally out of line. She goes home to her sad life where her sister and her both live in her mother’s house because her mother is on the brink of death.
Meanwhile, somewhere else, a group of men bust into a large warehouse, shoot up a few people (mostly guards) and kidnap a few more and jump into a large machine centered in the middle of the space. The machine spins up (literally) and then disappears.
Back to Lucy, she’s complaining to her sister about not getting tenure when the doorbell rings. Someone identifies themselves as Homeland Security and Lucy says “I don’t know what you are selling but I’m not interested.” I guess in her neighborhood sales people pose as Homeland Security all the time. Despite this, she ends up going with this person and ends up at the facility where the machine disappeared.
She is introduced to Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic) a Sergeant Major who is also a member of Delta Force. They are then shepherded into a room to meet the Homeland Security agent in charge (Sakina Jaffrey) and the CEO of the company (Paterson Joseph), who gives them a ten second crash course in time travel, pairs them up with his employee Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett) and tells them they have to use the backup time-machine to go to May 6, 1937 to stop the bad guy who stole the primary time-machine.
I like this character Rufus, he’s realistic. He recognizes the United States’ past is not an ideal place for a black man like himself. His boss (also black) doesn’t seem to care though, and makes him go anyways. They all three jump in the machine and travel back in time to 1937. There is a lot of urgency, they have to leave as soon as possible before this other guy (Goran Visnjic) screws up the timeline. Which of course is the problem with time-travel shows.
I think these people went to the school of Bill and Ted’s Not So Excellent School of How Time-Travel Works (this makes sense considering they have a character named Rufus). They seem to operate under this theory that because the villain left about an hour ago, he’s only had an hour to screw up the time-line. Too bad in reality, the instant the bad guy vanished, he’d won. He hasn’t had an hour to do his dirty work, he’s had an infinite amount of time. Everything he sought to accomplish already happened, 79 years ago, completely unhindered by this team. And any details they had about the original events should have disappeared from everyone’s mind, because those details no longer exist.
Despite this flaw the team does go back in time to attempt to thwart the bad guy. Lucy complains her outfit is wrong (the skirt is from the 1940s, the blouse is made from a material that didn’t exist, and her undergarments are also wrong). The other people don’t seem to care about these details, and rightfully so, because who the crap is going to take the time to examine the material her blouse is made out of? That being said, Lucy does have extremely precise details about the Hindenburg incident, including the names of everyone who died. Either this was a one off thing, or Lucy has an encyclopedic knowledge of all US history. So now I’m thinking maybe that university should have given her tenure.
They go back in time and things kind of don’t work out the way they figure. Garcia, whose whole job as the elite army guy is to be able to win any fight, manages to win very few, and also turns out to be a poor decision maker. Rufus is subjected to 1930s racism, just like he knew he would be, and Lucy just does her “I know everything about everything” bit. Eventually the crisis plays out differently than they (meaning Lucy) remembers, and they return to the present.
Now, there is no logical reason that these three should remember the original Hindenburg incident differently from people in the present, because that story no longer exists, and yet they do. I’m thinking the longer this show goes on, the less this team is going to be in touch with the new reality, and won’t be a good group to send to the past. Garcia asks “why can’t we go back and do it again” to which Rufus says “you can’t encounter yourself in the past, or bad things happen.”
And here in lies the problem with nearly all time-travel stories. Even if you couldn’t go back yourselves to see yourselves again, you could send someone else back. You know the villain’s plan, you know exactly when, where, and how. The first team is probably never going to stop the bad guy, but they can always learn what changed. So now you send a second team back to correct the mistake. But of course, people believe that even with a time-machine, you only get one shot at anything.
The team returns, and all appears relatively normal, until Lucy goes home and realizes that somehow her life has changed significantly because of the difference in the time-line. The episode ends with Lucy getting a call saying that the time bandit has just jumped again, and they have to follow him (no matter how futile that it).
Despite all the time-travel mumbo jumbo, I actually enjoyed the pilot. It had good costume and set design. You felt transported back to the 1930s. Given the trailers for the show, we should see a lot of great time periods.