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How Timeless Changed My Perspective of What History Means

Editor’s Note: This article contains some minor episode spoilers for Season One and Two of Timeless.

Ever since I was a young child I have always been fascinated by the idea of time travel. I dreamed of experiencing the Victorian era where my favourite period dramas were set to living in the decade of vibrant change known as the ‘swinging sixties’. However, in reality, I know I would have experienced extreme ableist discrimination in the past.  So when I first saw the advertisement for NBC’s Timeless on E4, I was very intrigued and decided to watch it with my Dad (who is a bit of a history nerd). The historical time travel drama follows historian Lucy Preston (played by Abigail Spencer) and Delta Force soldier Wyatt Logan (played by Matt Lanter) after they are recruited by Agent Christopher (played by Sakina Jaffrey) who works for Mason Industries to work with scientist Rufus Carlin (played by Malcolm Barret) because she thinks they have the skillset to protect the timeline of  history from a secret society names Rittenhouse.

Throughout the two seasons, Rittenhouse aims to alter key events figures in history so the effects change in their favour and their organisation can become significantly more prominent in the present day.

The time travel aspect of Timeless is so engaging because of the variety of periods and people the show focuses on- from the vital release of Citizen Kane in “Hollywoodland” to the importance of William B. Travis’ immense letter in “The Alamo” episode. From giants of the history books such as U.S President John F. Kennedy (played by Grant Jordan) and pioneering physicist Marie Curie, played by Kim Bubbs to lesser-known important figures like Grace Humiston (played by Sarah Sokolovic) the first female Special Assistant United States Attorney who became a symbol of the fight for female equality and suffrage in the early twentieth century.

Although the giants of history are called giants for a reason, they often overshadow great figures who deserve more recognition for their work and notable impact on society. History is a popular subject taught in classrooms around the world, where students often learn about how negative and positive social change is mainly caused by how governments and the wars that changed the world forever. Yet teachers often happen to neglect those that made a social change for their community or a minority and proved that ordinary citizens can spark a gradual transformation in social attitudes.

Robert Johnson’s significant influence on music after his record “Crossroad Blues” was released in 1936 is shown in the episode “King of the Delta Blues”. The old myth that Johnson (played by Kamahl Naiqui) sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads to get better guitar skills and finally earn the musical respect he desired is also explored. Most importantly, Connor Mason (played by Paterson Joseph) educates the time team on how influential Johnson’s counterculture record was on iconic artists such as Elvis and The Beatles explaining why Rittenhouse wanted to sabotage the recording because they know music is a powerful medium that directly impacts developing social attitudes. Johnson’s record perfectly demonstrates how individuals can make history by inspiring and connecting with others in the future- an idea that should never be underestimated.


Screenshot courtesy of Timeless (@NBCTimeless) on Twitter

Like Johnson, another highlighted individual that really struck a chord with me was in “The General” episode due to her determination despite much adversity. American abolitionist Harriet Tubman (played by Christine Horn)  who reached the epitome of fame despite her disability and being born into slavery. She had an illness- one we would call narcolepsy today. She developed narcolepsy as an adolescent when she tried to protect a fellow slave and was severely hit on the head with a two-pound iron weight. As a disabled person, I find her very inspiring because she tirelessly strove for freedom. In spite of the immense hardships that she faced, she remains a great reminder to all of us to aim to make a social impact and fight for our beliefs, regardless of the barriers against us.  She is a well-known person in American history, but I am British and was largely unaware of her ascendancy on the abolition movement. For a few years, she has been in the process of being deservingly featured on the twenty dollar bill, which has been unfortunately impeded by Trump’s treasury.

Sadly it was recently announced that Timeless was not renewed for a third season by NBC, as a consolation to fans left on a gripping cliffhanger, a two-part wrap-up series finale exploring two periods will air at some point in December 2018 in the U.S. The historical drama taught many viewers that history is not only about chronology and mere events but also about common people who tirelessly worked together to ensure that they felt heard and represented by the society.

Screenshot courtesy of Malcolm Barrett (@Verbalberappin)

Although Timeless will have only have aired for thirty episodes by December, the show will forever be remembered for showcasing ordinary individuals like Grace, Robert and Harriet who each slowly contributed to an extraordinary ongoing battle in which activists are still trying to transform the way society views women, non-mainstream music and racial equality. Narratives focusing on perseverant people like them should be a major part of the school curriculum because they are the true beacons of change. They remind us all that we can be the change we want to see in the world and make history if we work hard enough. History is about impactful individuals and not just memorable events.

Season one of Timeless is currently available to watch on Netflix in selected countries. Season two is available to watch on NBC in the US. Unfortunately, both seasons of Timeless are currently unavailable to watch on ALL 4 in the U.K.

Featured Image Via Flickr Creative Commons

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Francesca is a disabled sixteen-year-old writer, bookwork and filmbuff from the UK.

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