SciFi Weekend: Timeless, Doctor Who, Rainn Wilson’s Short Trek

Timeless ended too soon, but at least in the streaming television age it now exists as a more complete story which will remain available, and possibly lead to yet another revival. The finale had to compress many ideas into the space of two episodes, but did manage to tie up many of the loose ends of the series. As expected, it saved Rufus, and did so quite quickly by taking advantage of a change in the timeline. Lucy’s diary provided a means to speed up the story, and to give a sense of coherency to the entire two seasons. Flynn had a major role, completing his redemption arc. While this was expected after the second season, there was also an unexpected redemption for Lucy’s father, Benjamin Cahill.

Not all loose ends could be tied up in this short a time. While it worked to have Rufus be brought back so easily, it would have been less realistic for Lucy’s sister Amy to be suddenly brought back to life. Rather than attempting to deal with this in this short a time, there was a sensible argument for no longer playing with time. Of course, should the show return, this could also be a good plot line.

Deadline spoke with Shawn Ryan about the finale:

DEADLINE: From being canceled twice and then resurrected for a big movie finale, Timeless has been on quite a journey. Were the emotions high while shooting the finale?

SHAWN RYAN: I’m the kind of producer that’s not upset about it when we film. Our two writers, in this case, Arika Mittman, who is a co-showrunner with me, and Eric Kripke last season really carry the burden for this two-hour event. (laughs) She and Lauren Greer, the other writer, were the ones that were on set and I was getting reports back from them that it was very emotional. I stopped by a couple of times, but not at the end. But yeah, I was talking to Abigail (Spencer) this past weekend, and she was talking about the various goodbyes and how hard it was, especially since there are no immediate plans to do the show. And we’ve opened the possibility that maybe the show will be resurrected in one form or another somewhere down the line, but you never know for sure so this could be the end. It was always a very difficult show to make, and this two-hour event was similar, but there was a lot of joy that went into making it. This was the most pleasant shooting experience that the cast and crew had at any point along the journey. So it was a really good experience for everyone, and so, as a result, it was kind of hard to end and to leave.

DEADLINE: That’s good to hear. You mention how this may not be the ending, but we’ll get to that later. The fate of the show was always up in the air and it was canceled after season 2 and then it was announced that you guys were doing this two-hour movie. Would you say that this movie finale is a compact version of what you wanted to happen in season 3?

RYAN: I would say that’s partly true. We had some ideas for things we wanted to pursue in season three and we definitely put them into this movie — some had to be in a compressed way. There are certain aspects, I think, that if we had had a 10,13 or 16-episode season three, we would have taken some more time with. We did have to adapt a little bit more of a movie mentality than an ongoing TV-show mentality because we knew that we had to get a lot of story in the hour and 25 minutes or so, and so you look for inspiration. Back to the Future told an amazing, full story in two hours, and other movies have as well. So we just had to change things, but yes, there were definitely ideas and aspects of the show that we had in mind for season three, and even beyond, that we sort of put into this ending.

DEADLINE: In the finale, the gang travels back to the California gold rush era in 1848 and then North Korea in the ’50s during the Korean War. What was it about those two eras that spoke to you for the movie?

RYAN: One of the mandates that we got from NBC when they picked up the movie was they said, “We think this is going to air right around Christmas time, and we love it to be Christmas-themed if you can make that work.” So we started looking for historical events and time periods that had something to do around Christmas time. We looked at George Washington crossing the Delaware on Christmas Eve — but we’d already done a George Washington episode, so I was reluctant to do another George Washington thing. And Arika and Lauren, and Logan, our writer’s assistant, came upon this miracle-of-Christmas story from the Korean War that none of us had ever heard of. And the more we dug into it, the more we realized it was sort of perfect. So that was actually the first time period that we agreed to do, but we soon realized that they’re probably wasn’t enough story to fill all two hours, and we thought that we’d need something different for the first hour, especially as it related to saving Rufus.  When we get into the second time period, if Rittenhouse was low on funds, they might want to gold rush, but really it was more the character of Joaquin Murrieta that interests us the most and made us want to go back to that time period, because there were such parallels to his journey and to Flynn’s journey about men who had violence committed against their families, and their search for vengeance, and what it does to a person. That’s the way we always approach finding the time period…there’s a character that allows us to really learn something about one of our main characters. It took us a while to come up with those two time periods. That was not the easiest thing to come up with.

DEADLINE: There is one particular scene which is game changer for the whole finale — it’s the scene where Flynn goes back to 2012 and has a no-holds-barred fight with Jessica. What was the conversation that led to Flynn sacrificing himself and then him being the one to take out Jessica?

RYAN: Well, I think it was a result of our conversation of where do we want the arc of Garcia Flynn to go? He was somebody who was seemingly a straight-up villain early in season one. Then he became a little bit more of a complicated villain in the middle of season one. Then he became a misunderstood, slightly sympathetic villain at the end of season one. And then he became a reluctant, cautious ally at the beginning of season two, and then someone who loosely began to see the good sides of him to the point that there was almost a little romantic triangle between her and Wyatt and Flynn.

Having said that, we never forgot that he really did some bad stuff in season one — and how do you “redeem” someone like that? Their actions of penance have to be almost as large in scale as their misdeeds, and so the conversation that he has with Joaquin Murrieta, just prior to the campfire discussion, where he tells him that a quest for vengeance ultimately leads nowhere, and Joaquin asks him why he does it…he looks over at Lucy and you get the sense that he really is kind of in love with Lucy and yet knows from the journal that it’s not something that’s going to end well. He decides to make a choice to essentially pay penance for all his actions — that he sees a way where he can do something that will make the lives of these other people better and will help stop Rittenhouse, the group that killed his family. It will allow him to actually witness and look at his family one last time. It just seems very poetic to us to do that. It’s a very difficult, selfless choice on his part, and it’s a choice that really brings his character full circle to the point that Lucy, at the end of the movie, in Brazil, says, “You may be the greatest hero of us all.” There’s just something beautiful in that.

He spoke more with TV Guide, including about the relationship between Flynn and Lucy:

My eyes popped out when Flynn revealed that he and Lucy were having an affair in the future. A potential relationship was hinted at in Season 2, and fans have been curious about it. Why did you decide to give them that relationship now?
Ryan: I always thought there was really great chemistry between Abby [Spencer] and Goran [Visnjic] on our show. Even in Season 1 when they were adversaries, there was always something electric about them. In the story we chose to tell in Season where Wyatt’s (Matt Lanter) wife Jessica comes back from the dead, and he feels obligated to try to make that work, Flynn being the sort of lonely island in the storm for Lucy, you felt moments there where something might happen. Really this finale talks about two different paths that could have been taken, one in which Lucy and Flynn have their romance and relationship and it goes bad and five years later everyone is still fighting Rittenhouse and future Wyatt and Lucy come back, but there seems to be some pain and coldness there. And there’s the ending we show in the end.

We certainly know that there are fan bases supportive of both different relationships, there are Lucy-Wyatt fans and Lucy-Flynn fans. This was a way to explore both those, and pay homage to both. Storywise, it felt like it worked well for us.

If Timeless had been given a Season 3, would you have shown that relationship?
Ryan: I think it’s possible, it was something we talked about, that we didn’t really feel like we earned to get there in Season 2. I don’t know if we would have felt like we had earned the right to get there in Season 3, but it was something we were moving closer to. We didn’t have too many sessions where we sat down and mapped out Season 3, so it would be hard to say without sitting down and going through that exercise with all the writers. But it was something we wanted to make more understandable and more palatable with each and every episode.

There is more at The Hollywood Reporter:

The endings you gave to Wyatt and Lucy (and their twins) and Rufus and Jiya were very happy, but they were also very feminist — Lucy is a tenured professor who teaches her students about female historical figures, and Jiya is a famous scientist. Was that on purpose?

I think that’s on purpose. Listen, we had two women who wrote this finale. But I’d like to think that Eric and I supported this vision. One of the things we stumbled upon on this show [was that] all of our earlier episodes were about famous people like Abraham Lincoln and JFK, these powerful, iconic male characters. As the series went on we got more and more interested in telling the lesser-known people of history: Women, people of color, people that historically were pushed back to the margins but actually had a big impact. That comes full circle, really, when the last half of the movie focuses on this pregnant Korean woman who is not famous at all. But that doesn’t mean she’s not important. We consider ourselves a show that certainly doesn’t ignore or downplay the famous historical figures that everyone has heard of, but there’s definite a sense to this show that we wanted Lucy to be a true heroine. Not a sidekick to a hero, a true heroine. Wanted Jiya to have her own license to be a successful woman in 2023, et cetera.

And in the final scene of the little girl coming up plans for her own time machine, was that you leaving the door open for a potential sequel or spinoff or continuation of some sort?

There’s definitely a door open if someone is interested in opening it further, absolutely.

Entertainment Weekly has more on the question of whether Timeless might return:

When Ryan thinks of Timeless‘ possible future, he thinks of a different sci-fi franchise. “I keep thinking about how Star Trek was a TV show in the ’60s, and then became movies in the ’80s, and became a TV show again in the ’90s, and then became movies again,” he says. “I don’t know what form [Timeless] might take [if it were to continue], but…we’ve been killed twice, and we’ve come back both times, so we’ll see.” In the meantime, fans can always turn back the clock and rewatch the series.

Of course the Timeless finale isn’t the only time travel show this time of year. The third season of Travelers is now available on Netflix, having to handle a major cliff hanger from the second season (no spoilers here). The Doctor Who New Year’s Day Special is coming up with a lot of hype from Chris Chibnall via Radio Times:

“You want the Special to feel like an event. It always performs a slightly different function to the rest of the series – you want it to be like an opener and a finale all rolled into one.

“You want it to be accessible to those who’ve missed the series, but you also want to reward the audiences and fans who’ve been there for the whole ride.

“Most of all, you want it to feel like a treat: a big, thrilling, explosive, moving, cheeky, surprising treat,” he concluded.

“Basically, you want the Special to be epic. And I promise, it’s going to be epic.”

That’s a LOT of exciting adjectives to throw around – though as it turns out, Chibnall still missed a few out, with episode guest star Nikesh Patel revealing that we could also expect some seriously scary parts in the festive story.

“The script read like a really tense thriller, with elements of horror,” Patel said.

“I had an awareness that Doctor Who was a show where episodes can be tonally very different to each other. This felt like a psychological thriller in some ways, and that was on the page when we got into it. Then obviously it lightens up with all the wit that the four regulars bring to it.”

“What I hope is that everyone enjoys the Special for what it is because it’s incredibly fun,” added episode director Wayne Yip.

“And I hope that new fans have a great time because it’s such a popcorn, blockbuster version of Doctor Who.”

Bleeding Cool has a detailed analysis of the trailer for the episode.

A trailer for the final Short Trek was released. The official synopsis of The Escape Artist:  “Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson), back to his old tricks of stealing and double-dealing, finds himself in a precarious position aboard a hostile ship – just in time to try out his latest con.” Rainn Wilson previously had this to say about the short:

“There’s going to be that 10-15 percent of fans that go, ‘Oh, no way. I’m not going to watch a short film about Star Trek. This isn’t how it works.’ But I love that they’re breaking molds and breaking new ground, and it’s a terrific mini Harry Mudd adventure,” Wilson teased. “It goes to a lot of different places, from different aliens, lot of fun situations, some great twists and turns, and I get to direct it and star in it. It’s like a dream come true. It’s like, ‘Write me a dream job.’”

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