This interview contains mild spoilers from the first few episodes of The Crossing.
Many time travel stories on television are told from the perspective of those who come to the past wishing to change the apocalyptic future from which they come, but what if the travelers just want to escape to a better place and time to live out their lives? Such is the case with ABC’s The Crossing, which springs from the minds of Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie, who introduced their series to viewers through the eyes of 47 survivors, refugees if you will, who were mistakenly dropped deep in the Pacific Ocean by their rushed trip through time.
In essence, The Crossing has 47 potential stories to tell, although Dworkin assures fans that only a few of the refugees will have their tales heard in this first outing. “For season one, you’re going to get a couple more people fading prominently into the story from the pool of refugees that you haven’t met yet,” he admits, “but we’re not going to be casting a much wider net than that just because we only have 11 episodes this season. But in future episodes, certainly we could dip a little bit more into the pool of travelers.”
The initial episodes of this time travel story introduced the concept of a future in which genetically engineered humans with heightened abilities called Apex seek to take over as the next evolution of mankind, exterminating the inferior commons by means of a virus called Mantle’s disease. “We thought it’d be the clean way of waging war against people because they genetically engineered themselves to be immune to a lot whereas common people just unfortunately don’t have as healthy an immune system,” explains Beattie. “That’s where it started, and then the idea that an emigree would come back with a deadly disease kind of plays into some fears… and the potential of that story appealed to us.”
The Crossing does not rely heavily on depicting the future from which the time travelers fled, a storytelling strategy that was applauded on our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast here at Den of Geek. “I listened to the last podcast that you did about The Crossing,” says Dworkin, “and you had theorized after the pilot that we most likely were not going to show much if any of the future because Reece clearly asserts herself as someone with powers who’s an Apex, and we’ve proven that the future is real and we don’t need to show it. And interestingly, that was our original idea, too. When this came out of the box, we thought we were going to tell this whole story from the point of view of this time and just sell the future through what people were saying.”
Once they introduced the Apex and specifically Reece (played by Natalie Martinez of Under the Dome) who fled to the past with a common child in her care, some glimpses of her past — in the future — were needed. “In deciding how much of the future to show, that really revolves around character because Reece had this rich back story, and her back story was the future,” says Beattie. “But we wanted to explore her character because the audience investment in your character is really important, especially in a show that’s so expansive like our show and has such as a huge cast of characters in many arenas of story to explore. So it was out of a desire to explore her character that we got into the future.”
Reece is unique among Apex because of her love for Leah, a common child who has Mantle’s disease and who can only be kept alive through regular infusions of her adoptive mother’s Apex blood. “We’re operating on this notion that you can engineer people to do certain things and you can acculturate them to think certain ways, but on some level in some people there’s still going to be things you can’t engineer out of them,” explains Dworkin. “And in the case of Reece it’s the love for a child.”
Not everyone has come back to the “long peace” to escape, however, and one of the key mysteries of The Crossing surrounds an earlier migration by travelers with a secret mission that is yet to be revealed. “You’ll definitely be finding out more about the agenda of the earlier migration in the next episode,” promises Dworkin. “They’re looking to change something, but the second migration — the people in the camp — those people for the most part are just here to seek peace and a more hopeful way of life… most of them.”
Since the earlier migration presumably is made up only of normal humans, the question arises: don’t the Apex have access to time travel? “Without spoiling what’s to come, I don’t think we can talk too much about the time travel itself and how it was invented and how many people have access to it, but I would just say that the answer is no, the Apex can’t time travel as easily as the normal humans,” answers Beattie, teasing a reveal to come.
Dworkin elaborates, reminding us, “During that big interview montage in the tent in the pilot, the refugees are talking about how they’d heard a rumor how someone had invented a mechanism to bend time, so that idea we’ve set up there which we’ll get into in later episodes a little bit more intently is that this was a fledgling technology that was not widely available to anyone, including Apex.”
Luckily, the time travel is only the catalyst, and viewers don’t have to worry about navigating complex twists and turns of causality as they might in other similar dramas. “We are really trying to limit the amount of time travel that has happened on the show,” Dworkin says. “So we have a time travel event in the pilot, and then we have this nod to the earlier migration. Beyond that, we’re not going to have much back and forth or anything. So we tried to avoid too many paradoxes and too many conversations in the writers room… I’m sure there’s still going to be plenty of what-ifs once we start getting into the earlier migration, but we tried to keep it pretty simple.”
For those hoping to dive into The Crossing, which stars Steve Zahn as Sheriff Jude Ellis and Sandrine Holt as Homeland Security Agent Emma Ren, both of whom are investigating the nature of this mass emigration from the future, be sure to check out episodes 1 through 4 on ABC’s website or on most on-demand services. The Crossing airs each Monday night at 10pm ET. For the full audio of this interview, subscribe to Sci Fi Fidelity or simply listen below. Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Soundcloud