Science fiction and fantasy have many tropes, and time travel is one of our favourites. From the works of H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, and J.K. Rowling in literature to movies like Looper, Donnie Darko, and Back to the Future, it’s a plot device we encounter time and time again (see what we did there).
Television is no exception, and with Outlander returning to our screens this month, now is as perfect a time as ever to reflect on time-travelling TV shows.
This time-travelling story started its tale in 1962 with a French short film called La Jetée. In 1995, an American film inspired by the French short was released, starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, and Brad Pitt, and titled 12 Monkeys. The TV series shared many elements with the 1995 version, including its title. Starting in 2043, the series leaps back to 2015 where James Cole (played by Aaron Stanford in the show, and Willis in the movie) must stop the release of a deadly virus. The first season aired in 2015 (present day at the time of airing, but the past as far as the story was concerned) and ended in 2018, after four seasons.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
Time-travelling stories often revolve around a threat from the future – just think of 1984’s The Terminator (and the time-travelling franchise that ensued). In Legends of Tomorrow, based on characters from DC comic books, the threat comes from 2166. The fun thing about this show is that you’ll be flung back to all kinds of eras. Season 4 (which just wrapped up on M-Net City) had us following our favourite characters to 1933, 1961, 1972, the ‘90s, the 19th century, and the Ice Age. To add to the fun, it’s also part of the Arrowverse. Carry on reading for more on that!
The Arrowverse is DC’s comic book universe made up of four TV shows. It started with Arrow in 2012, and expanded with The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow. Black Lightning, which first aired last year, was initially separate, but is set to become part of the universe – as is the upcoming series, Batwoman. Time travel plays a big role in The Flash, altering storylines and creating new ones, making for an entertaining and thought-provoking show.
The Flash season 5 currently airs every Monday at 18:20 on M-Net City.
Check out the show page here.
Before there was Game of Thrones, there was Lost: a TV show with an epic opening, a sprawling story, and a large cast of characters it didn’t think twice about killing off. And they both had time travel. Game of Thrones is a fantasy show, so it wasn't out of place, but it was almost surprising to have it pop up in Lost. Almost. Given the enigmatic mysteriousness of the island, it wasn’t such a shock. Seemingly a contemporary story about a massive plane crash on a remote island, Lost soon let its audience know it wasn’t a typical drama when it introduced polar bears and smoke monsters…and then, in season 3: time travel. Considering how convoluted the plot already was at this stage, it just added to the depth of mystery and bewilderment, sending it – after six complex seasons – towards a series finale that left fans divided.
Based on the books by Diana Gabaldon, Outlander moves it action, drama, and romance to a different time and place every season. We’ve travelled from Scotland to France to the U.S over the course of three seasons. It gives the show something of an anthology feel without actually being an anthology show, because we stick with the same characters: Claire, Jamie, and Frank. Season 4 will keep us in the U.S. but will move through different locations.
Starting on 19 September, Outlander season 4 airs Thursdays from 22:00 on M-Net channel 101.