Timeless: The Importance of Lucy Preston

Timeless is the kind of show that sneaks up on you. When season 1 first started, I had already heard about how amazing the pilot was from a few friends who had already screened the episode, so I knew I was in for a treat. But I had no idea how incredible this journey I was embarking on was going to be — that this show would be this wonderful miracle that it is.

Because here’s the thing about television: A strong pilot does not necessarily make a successful show.

In order for a show to be a hit, it needs several things: a strong cast, great writing, characters that have the chance to grow and evolve organically through a season and a good story to tell, among other aspects. Timeless hit all of those marks, but the one that really made it a hit was consistency.

Because, see, Timeless wasn’t just good in the first couple of episodes and then got a little dull during the middle of the season, only to pick up the pace towards the season finale — as happens a lot on television. No, Timeless was fantastic from start to finish. Every single one of those sixteen episodes hit all the marks of what makes TV great, and the fact that the series had an amazing core group that had out-of-this-world chemistry together made it the wonder that this show is today.

It had been a while since I was last this invested in a TV show. I love every single aspect of it, but I especially love the characters. Specifically, there’s this one character in particular that really struck a chord with me; and that’s Lucy Preston, played beautifully by Abigail Spencer.

TIMELESS — “The Kennedy Curse” — Pictured: Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston — (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

Do you know why? Because we have yet to see someone on TV like her. I took to Twitter this past week to ask the Timeless fans if they could remember a character in recent TV years that was like Lucy — a strong, kickass female historian, who loved her craft and was completely unapologetic about it.

I got a few names that kinda, sorta reminded people of Lucy Preston — the most prominent being forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan from Bones — but none of them quite fit with what makes Lucy so different to me.

Television has been filled with so many incredible female roles in the past few years that young girls today have so many powerful, fantastic women to look up to. The thing about female leads on adventure/mythology TV shows is that they are usually depicted as a badass cop, a superhero, a scientist or a tech genius, or some combination of all of the above. And that’s fantastic — don’t get me wrong. I have heard so many great stories about how Dana Scully from The X-Files inspired so many women to pursue science as a career, or how characters like Arrow’s Felicity Smoak are opening a whole new world in technology for young girls, and that’s amazing.

But Lucy Preston is none of those things. Lucy is a historian, a teacher — and she’s most definitely not a superhero. However, the way Lucy was created and developed — and the beautiful way Abigail Spencer brings her to life — is such that we get to experience history through her eyes. She has made history cool; and for people like me, who have always loved history and got teased about it — I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “why do you care so much about people that are long gone?” — she is such an incredible character to look up to.

That brings us to why a character like Lucy Preston and a show like Timeless are both so incredibly important today. I love the adventure aspect of the show, I really do; but that’s not why I stayed — that’s not why I’m so loyal. What Timeless is doing in today’s television is a phenomenon that should not be overlooked.

Of course, it’s a show about time travel with an element of sci-fi, but it’s so well done that each episode is a history lesson in itself. I can’t begin to tell you how much I have learned from this show in the twenty episodes I have watched. But what’s really interesting about this is that Timeless has become so important and relevant that teachers are bringing the show to their classrooms; the freaking Smithsonian Magazine is reviewing the show every week, to expand on the time period we visit in each episode, enriching our experience even more.

TIMELESS — “Hollywoodland” Episode 203 — Pictured: (l-r) Malcolm Barrett as Rufus Carlin, Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston, Matt Lanter as Wyatt Logan — (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

We get to experience all that history through Lucy’s eyes, and that’s amazing. But that’s not all that makes her so special. Lucy Preston is such a relatable character on the most fundamentally human levels. She is a teacher, who loves and thrives in her field; and she is so very good at it. Lucy’s love for history is what drives her character through Timeless‘ first season, and she acts as our guide to this brand new world we get to learn about in every episode. Recently, I saw two stories on Twitter that really sum up why Lucy Preston is such an important figure in this day and age:

I think that the effect that Timeless, especially through Lucy’s character, is having on viewers across the world is absolutely fantastic. When you see stories like these, you realize just how important history is and the kind of responsibility the cast and crew have on their shoulders when it comes to creating this series.

But here’s where it gets interesting: What really sets Lucy apart is that she is not a superhero. She is not a cop or someone who is really good with guns or martial arts.

Lucy Preston is a historian; and, while she is amazing at what she does, she is also a complex human being. She has major issues with her mother — Rittenhouse affiliation notwithstanding — she used to be in a band and is major klutz; even though she is fantastic at what she does, she can also be really insecure when it comes to her feelings and relationships, but she’s also an amazing friend and has a huge heart. I could go on and on, but the cool thing about Lucy is that she is a history nerd and so completely unapologetic about it.

Lucy gets super excited when she meets a historical figure, and she is not afraid to show it. And I’ll be honest here: I started writing this trying to prove a point that Lucy was really important because she could set herself apart as a role model for girls who enjoyed history or academically-related fields in the Humanities — much like myself. I would have loved to have a character like Lucy when I was growing up, and I am so excited for the little history nerds out there who get to be inspired by her.

But here’s what it comes down to: Lucy Preston is real. Of course, she’s part of a time travel show, but she is as real as you and me. And what really makes her special is that she is so passionate about the things she loves, like history and her debate team, her friends and her sister. She doesn’t hide her passions. On the contrary, she is not afraid to show them to the world and tell whoever wants to hear all about them.

And isn’t that such a wonderful message to everyone watching this show? Whatever it is you like, whatever you’re passionate about, be proud of it. Whether it’s history or science or technology or sports — whatever the case may be — don’t be ashamed of it. Embrace it because that’s part of who you are, that’s what makes you special, and Lucy encapsulates that wonderfully. Abigail Spencer built this amazingly relatable character, and we are all so grateful to her for doing her story justice. And maybe Lucy is so popular with everyone because Spencer is the one bringing her to life. Can you even imagine anyone else playing Lucy Preston? I know I can’t.

If anything, Lucy has taught me to be true to myself, no matter what. And if along the way, she also gets to inspire future historians, then that’s just bonus.

Timeless airs Sundays at 10/9C on NBC.

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