You're Not Really Going to Step onto That Transporter Platform, Are Ya?
I've been having this discussion...well, kind of an argument, with a colleague at work. His name is Geoff. He's
big into sci-fi, like me, and we've talked a lot about time travel theories like the grandfather paradox,
time travel technology, black holes, movies, books, etc.
The argument we're having is about the transporter technology on Star Trek. Have you ever thought about how the transporters work? I mean, really work? It seems simple enough: The computer scans you, breaks you down, then sends your information through a data stream so you can be rebuilt at a new location...
There's a theory about time travel, it's often used in debates in an attempt to prove that a
journey through time simply isn't possible. It's called "The Grandfather Paradox". The theory is this - if I could travel back in
time, and I traveled to a year where my grandfather was a young man, and say, I got into an argument and killed him - how could my father be born? How could I then be born...and
then go back in time?
Marty McFly faced a similar time travel paradox in Back to the Future. Only his situation was a bit different - a chance encounter with his mother prevented her from falling in love with his father at the right time. You know the rest.
Problem is I think time is a lot less flexible than time travel movies, tv shows and books make it out to be. I can't prove it...but consider this. We have a time traveler, his name is Glenn. From the moment his time travel machine deposits him in the past, he's already changing things. He's bumped into someone, he's bought a drink at a corner store, he's taken a break on a park bench. All of these things don't seem like very much, do they? But I believe they are. I believe every one of Glenn's actions would snowball out of control.
Maybe It Was Their 'Manifest Destiny' to Time Travel...
Imagine this. You are separated from your family at the airport due to overbooking, and when your plane touches down a few hours later, everything has changed. You discover five years have passed, and although the family members that accompanied you on the flight are still the same (maybe...), the ones that went on ahead of you on a different flight are not. That's because their flight landed like it was supposed to. You, on the other hand, have literally transported through time, and now you've step out onto the tarmac into a new world.
Well, here it is. My top 10 list of Time Travel Stories! It was tough to put together. It's hard to measure one against the
other, not because of the different mediums (books, tv or movies), but because each of them are so very good individually. But weigh in. Tell me if there's one in here you feel strongly about, or
one you felt should have been included on my list.
10. Somewhere in Time. Movie (1980). Shot on a miniscule budget on Mackinac island in Michigan, I've always felt this Christopher Reeve/Jane Seymour movie was underrated. A tragic love story, based on the excellent novel "Bid Time Return" by Richard Matheson.
9. The Final Countdown. Movie (1980). An aircraft carrier accidentally gets sent back in time and its stunned crew has the opportunity to prevent Pearl Harbor from ever happening. Terrific star power with Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, Charles Durning. As a kid, I must have seen this at the Drive-in 50 times.
8. Predestination. Movie (2014). Starring Ethan Hawke, this movie left me speechless. I don't want to spoil it so the less said, the better. Better to go in cold.
I Would Not Go Back to Save JFK in My Time Machine, but I Would Do Some Sightseeing!
Are you aware that nobody really knows what Abraham Lincoln’s voice sounds like? There exist no recordings of the 16th President of the United States talking. He died at the age of 54, in 1865, and the phonograph was not patented by Thomas Edison until 1877. So the deep, gravelly voice we often hear by actors playing Lincoln in TV shows and movies, although seemingly very dignified and presidential, may not be an accurate portrayal. I, for one, would like to journey back in time to that day in November 1863, to Gettysburg, and hear the now infamous speech starting with “Four Score and Seven years ago…” and hear what the man really sounded like. The Gettysburg Address was only just over two minutes in length, but it inspired a nation.
And yet…I hesitate. Something tells me that if a journey through time suddenly became possible, a simple costume change would not cut it for me back there. Something tells me that a war weary population might sense somehow that I simply didn't belong there, at that place and time. Sometimes you don't need to do or say anything, people just know.
Imagine Waking up a Century in the Future. Or Not...
If you're looking for an interesting take on those willing to literally give up everything for a "fresh start", the Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt movie Passengers should be at the top of your list. The movie takes place entirely on the starship Avalon, the story revolving around one passenger who is accidentally awoken too soon from his hibernation pod. Engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) finds himself surrounded by people – 5000 of them, but he is all alone. The other passengers are asleep, and will be for almost a century more, until they reach their destination: a colony on a planet called Homestead II. His only companion is a robot bartender, played by Michael Sheen.
The theatrical release was given poor reviews. Glenn Kenny of RogerEbert.com only awarded it 1.5 stars, and the Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes gives it a mere 31% approval rating. But this is a mystery to me, as the concept was quite original, the story very well written and the visual effects as spectacular as any other science fiction movie today.
"If I was going to relive the same day over and over again, I'd want it to be a day that can make a difference," Says Time Traveler Samantha Kingston in Before I Fall Trailer.
Finishing high school can be a painful period in one's life. Just when you feel you've got it all together, the routine is suddenly over, and good friends are moving away. Sure, there's social media to keep in touch, but it's not quite the same as being there, is it?
Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) has these typical teenage worries, and is trying to enjoy her last days as a senior. And then the remarkable happens - after a terrifying car accident, she wakes up back in her bed and gets to experience the same Friday all over again. And again...
Much like Tom Cruise's character in Edge of Tomorrow, this time she is armed with the knowledge of what is to come, although it seems she can't avoid the car accident. Maybe it's fate? As for the rest of the day, she now sees things she failed to notice before: the way she and her friends treated an outsider at a party, her mom's opinion of her, her little sister's feelings. Maybe you think I'm giving away too much? But no, I have not seen the movie. The trailer, weighing in at 2:32 seconds, shows us all of this.
Time Travel as a concept for TV shows seems red hot right now. As of this writing, there's Timeless, Travelers and Frequency on air - with Time After Time on the way for the new year. Not to mention third seasons of both 12 Monkeys and Outlander have already been greenlit. And Doctor Who has been around forever with no end in sight. Wow, that's a lot of time travel stories and a lot of PVR recordings to set up, or streaming services to search through.
What all time travel tv shows (and movies) have in common is some sort of machine that will send the traveler(s) back. Yes, there are exceptions like The Time Traveler's Wife, or About Time (both incidentally, Rachel McAdams movies), where the act of time traveling just sort of 'happens'. Usually however, there is a physical device responsible for the journey through time. But as you're probably finding out - especially if you're watching these new shows, once that's determined, there's little else in the way of explanation...
The 'Body Snatchers' Are Back and This Time They're Polite.
In the first episode of Travelers, we meet up with five strangers who we are told, via on screen text, are about to die. Do they die? We're not sure, because at the last moment their bodies are taken over by time travelers. Who exactly are these people? What is their mission? If they're here, where are their real bodies?
Five episodes in and we're no less the wiser. We know they're here to change the future, with missions from "the Director" but little else. We know that FBI Agent Grant MacLaren (played by Eric McCormack) and abused housewife/mother Carly Shannon (Nesta Cooper) were an item back in the future, and are continuing the relationship here in present day. That's bound to cause a problem with MacLaren's wife, but the series hasn't gotten there yet. We also know that high school student Trevor Holden (Jared Abrahamson) is very, very old. And that drug addict Philip Pearson (Reilly Dolman) has a heart of gold, demonstrated by the fact that he (and he alone) is willing to break the rules and try to save people he knows are about to die.
Master Storyteller's Time Travel Novel Perfectly Blends Adventure with Cutting Edge Technology.
In December of 1999, I read Michael Crichton's Timeline. Crichton, who died in 2008, was one of the few authors whose novels I always purchased in hardcover. I simply could not wait the extra months for the paperback versions to be released. In fact, I still have that first edition hardcover of Timeline.
As with Crichton's other works, the novel weaved a fascinating tale - this time about time travelers - that was not short on technical details. I liked it. A lot.
The story revolves around a group of history students who journey back in time 600 years to save their professor, whose trapped in the Dordogne region of France. It was a very violent period in France's history.