TV writers Shawn Ryan (The Unit, The Shield) and Eric Kripke (Supernatural, Revolution) are brave men. They’ve just sold a drama pilot to NBC for Time, a crime action drama involving one of entertainment’s toughest constructs, time travel. The show centers on a trio who travel through the ages in pursuit of a criminal who is set on altering history. Kripke is also currently developing the series Amped for USA.
Time travel is a tough sell to modern US audiences thanks to fancy issues like parallel timelines and the grandfather paradox. We readily accept it in comedy and comedic dramas like Doctor Who and Back to the Future, where it’s an incidental device to drive the plot. And we’re OK when characters make one big time jump that places them in a different age – think Sleepy Hollow or Outlander. But when a show starts jumping people all over history without reconciling those timeline problems we grow cynical. Mike Price, writer for Vice, had the fantastic idea that we should just start labeling time travel stories as fantasy rather than sci-fi, which would spare us the overwrought attempts at scientific explanation (talking to you Interstellar.)
But Neil deGrasse Tyson actually cut Interstellar some slack so, you know, you should believe him:
In China, on the other hand, time travel is a beloved movie trope which increased in popularity throughout the 2000s. So much so that in 2011 the General Bureau of Radio, Film and Television (yes, that’s a real agency) banned time travel films and TV shows, effectively saying they insulted history. “Many stories are totally made-up and are made to strain for an effect of novelty,” said the committee statement. “The producers and writers are treating the serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore.”
In the US we have no such qualms. According to Deadline, in addition to Time there are two other time travel pilots in contention this year. We’re all suckers for a good story (which is how zombies have become so popular) so if Kripke and Ryan can create great characters and a strong story they stand a good chance. The new show is described as a “high-octane” version of Back to the Future meets Mission: Impossible, so they may have just the right recipe up their sleeve for comedy, action, and some vaguely interesting method by which our heroes are able to vault through history. Variety reported that during development the show actually set off a bidding war between the Big Four networks.
Until then go ahead and fry your brain with this infographic from the World Science Festival: Time Travel Made Simple.