An unusually-structured episode starts with present-day Gabriel Flynn visiting Wayne Ellis, an elderly man who was part of the NASA team which landed Apollo 11 on the moon. The BTM then heads to Houston in July 1969, where Flynn shoots and kills the younger Ellis, in order that his credentials can be used by Anthony to enter the Mission Control Center. Anthony, in turn, attempts to sabotage the moon landing by introducing a computer virus into the Center’s computer system. The LTM is close behind, of course, although Rufus can’t even begin to work out how to get a 2016 virus out of a 1969 system which has, as he puts it, less computing power than his toaster. And the stakes are high: the failure of the Apollo programme would have unhelpful consequences, according to Lucy, for the Cold War with the USSR. (And, also, more immediately, for Messrs Armstrong and Aldrin.)
Fortunately there’s someone already in the Center who can assist: African American mathematician Katherine Johnson, until recently very much an unsung heroine of the space programme. (Mrs Johnson is not only a real person; she is, joyously, still alive at 98, and is one of the subjects of the movie Hidden Figures, about to be released in the UK, in which she is played by Taraji P. Henson.) It won’t be plain sailing, though: communication with the astronauts is restored, but Rufus will be obliged to kill someone himself, and is troubled by just how untroubled he is in the aftermath.
Meantime, rather than trying to blow up Houston, or whatever, Flynn is off doing something else entirely: he befriends a single mother, Maria, and her young son. As Maria works at Lockman Aerospace, a company connected to the Apollo missions, the initial assumption is that this must have something to do with the main plot. As it happens, though, it doesn’t at all, and once again Timeless gives its characters a little more complexity than it needs to: just as Rufus is something other than a straight up-and-down hero, Flynn, not for the first time, reveals himself to be more than a villain.
As I prefer the episodes which are set in the last 50 years or so, I wasn’t surprised that this one pushed most of my buttons. This might be the last Timeless review for a while, though: with Homeland and Scandal back, and The Blacklist, Legion, Designated Survivor, and the 24 reboot on the way, there probably won’t be the time. But I’ll be watching this show until the end, I think.