Robert Asprin is one of my favorite authors. I know I say that about a lot of writers but I would easily put him in my top five. Probably best known for his Myth series (books which got my dyslexic son to actually enjoy reading), he also wrote a four volume series with Linda Evans (not that Linda Evans, this Linda Evans).
Time Scout, Wagers of Sin, Ripping Time and The House That Jack Built are the (sadly only) four books that make up the Time Scout series. The premise is this. In the future there is an unnamed catastrophe that fractures time and space sending rips backwards in time that lead to different eras and locations. These portals open and close either randomly, or on predictable schedules. Sometimes clumps of them can be found in one area and stations are built around them called Time Terminals. What do you do with portals in time? Time Tourism!
The portals on a regular schedule allow companies to offer tours to the past, this in turn gives series regulars jobs and a reason to be around that isn’t military, or shadowy government organization. The station works like a small tourist town and has everything that comes with tourism. Hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, independent guides, researchers, criminals and cops. Giving you a wide variety of characters to choose from and allowing new characters to come and go all the time. So stories can be created for any character they want, and time travel means the stories can be set just about anywhere. It gives amazing freedom for storytelling.
What I appreciated most about the series (aside from the characters, which are great) are the rules that the authors defined for handling time travel in their novels. Time travel can be a knotty problem and very few movies or TV shows fail to run into paradox problems with it (Twelve Monkeys being one of the few I think did it right) so Robert Asprin and Linda Evans created boundaries to deal with it. The past is immutable. You can’t change it. Try and go back in time and kill Hitler and the gun will jam, the bomb fail to go off, or you’ll be killed before you get close. Basically look but don’t touch, or you risk getting yourself hurt, like trying to stop a steam roller with your hands, history just has way more mass and momentum than you.
The other rule is you cannot have two of yourself occupy the same time. If you step through a portal to a time where you already exist, the second you just goes ‘poof’ out of existence. Within those two rules though there is a wealth of story potential.
Stories of adventurous time scouts going through uncharted portals to the past, researchers solving historic puzzles that have confounded historians for ages, con-men (and women) scamming haples tourists and the trouble that tourists get into in a foreign place. The books are wonderful and a TV series would be just as great… providing they keep it simple and not give in to the temptation of having sinister cabals and conspiracy theories all over the place.