A Media Entry – Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

It’s Astounding…
I once mentioned that science fiction as a genre intimidated me, and that I probably wouldn’t dabble in it.   I’ve also mentioned that I work in the STEM fields.  I understand science and some math, and perhaps this is why science fiction intimidates me.  Making science fiction sound plausible is really difficult.  Besides plausibility, it’s hard to write science fiction that doesn’t seem cliché.  I’ve also seen and read a lot of science fiction that’s quite good, and I’d be afraid anything I wrote would end up being derivative of those better works.  My favorite science fiction subject is probably the hardest to write well – time travel.  Oooo, I would love to write me some science fiction concerning time travel (I did actually write a story in Paranormal is Relative that at least references time travel, although I used magic as a basis instead of science so I cheated a bit with it really).  So here, in no particular order, are some of my disjointed hamster brain ramblings on time travel in various media.

Time is fleeting…
I think I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter some good time travel movies, although the movie Timeline was pretty awful.  I could see that twist ending from a mile away.  Actually, there have been some decent time travel movies, and some even from the ’80s, which isn’t known as a peak decade for movies…or fashion…or music…or anything really.  Except neon.  If you like wearing neon, that was your decade.  And for me, time travel movies.  Anyway, Back to the Future is a classic although I can’t help but notice we’re rapidly approaching 2015 and I see no flying cars on the horizon.  Back to the Future II while not as good did present the concept of a parallel universe.  The third was better and pointed out that sometimes trying to change your future is not a bad thing.
However, Back to the Future is only my second favorite ’80s time travel movie.  My first is actually Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  Seriously, that really is my favorite ’80s time travel movie.  I know it was silly, but it did have George Carlin, and Keanu Reeves has never been in a better role.  For all the goofiness, the time travel aspect of it was actually fairly well done, including the part about the keys.  I also liked Groundhog Day, which is about a Bill Murray being caught in an endless time loop until he figures out how to break the cycle (while being Bill Murray of course).

Madness Takes its Toll…
A lot of time travel media hinge on time paradoxes, which are really hard to pull off.  Time paradoxes are so ubiquitous it’s hard to keep them from being parodies of time travel.  I distinctly remember an episode of “Star Trek: Voyager” in which the crew found themselves in a time paradox and as Janeway was trying to work through it she said something to the effect of, “I knew I didn’t want to get involved in a time paradox when I learned about them at the Academy.  The past is the future and the future is the past.  It just gives me a headache.”  “Star Trek” has some good time travel episodes.  There’s of course the famous “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode in TOS.  TNG had more than a few time travel episodes, including the one where Picard shoots himself and of course the Data’s Head two-parter (yes, I know it’s called “Time’s Arrow” but no one calls it that).  Heck, the series finale centered around a time paradox of sorts.  ST:DS9 explored the very concept of linear time with Sisko as the alien Emissary (before it turned into a war-time space opera).  I liked how the aliens perception of linear time was skewed by Sisko’s emotional attachment to the past.  Not all the time travel episodes in the “Star Trek” series were good, but those bad ones don’t stick in my mind.  “Babylon 5” had an awesome time travel set of episodes, and the set-up in the first season didn’t pay off until the third.

So listen closely…
And of course the show “Doctor Who” is dedicated to time travel, although the show “Red Dwarf” had some episodes concerning time travel that were pretty funny.  And yes, I already bought my tickets to see “Day of the Doctor.”  My theory for the success of Doctor Who is that because the show was cheaply made British sci-fi the stories had to be compelling enough to overcome the obvious cheapness (Daleks originally had plungers for arms).  Of course my favorite Doctor is #4 (Tom Baker), although I have certain fondness for #3 (John Pertwee), whom I think of as “Judo Action ’60s Doctor.”  I have also liked all the modern-era Doctors.  This show handles time paradoxes very well.  In fact, the modern era arcs all seem to be time paradox related.  I think the show also highlights a problem with living so long and seeing so much – eventually insanity.

But not for very much longer…
I love comic books, but I have to say that I don’t like most of the time travel stories in comic books.  Mostly this is because the shared nature of the universe and not infrequent soft retcons/reboots almost guarantees continuity snarls.  Trying to figure out which past is the correct past for the current present and then determining if that was always the past can be quite confusing (“Was that shop always there?” “Oh, yes.  Been there for ages.”  “Yes, but has it been there for ages yesterday?”).  Time travel and parallel universes almost go hand-in-hand in comics, so that further complicates matters.  The best example of this is the tangled timeline of Cyclops and Phoenix, who have met three of their children and only one was from Universe-616 and they have been sent both into the future to raise Cable but also into the past to stop Sinister.  I would say that makes sense in context, except it really doesn’t; this is the sort of thing Janeway was lamenting about.

I have to keep control…
The ubiquity of time travel makes it a common story to parody.  As mentioned, “Red Dwarf” had some funny episodes concerning time ripples as the ship approached light speed and parallel universes.  Also, Lister is his own father.  Fry from “Futurama” is a man out of time, and actually has a damaged brain because of a time travel adventure in which he “did the nasty in the pasty” and became his own grandfather.  This is probably a parody of Lazarus Long, and I’m not too fond of those stories because they got kind of weird and also squicky.  And of course the twist in time paradoxes (see the above mentioned Timeline) can be so obvious and cliché that pulling off a genuine twist is really hard (wow, really, the main character is the king whose tomb they were digging up in the beginning; what a shock).  “Darkwing Duck” even parodies common time travel clichés.  Although I have to say I’d be happy if I could effectively even parody time travel stories.  I fear that’s a level of skill I do not have, but sure wish did.

So that’s your lot of random thoughts for today.  By the way, for a movie with a song called “Time Warp,” there’s no time travel involved.  But the song’s got a beat and you can dance to it.

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S. J. Drew is an aspiring writer who finally entered the blogosphere to shamelessly promote that writing (as evidenced by the title of the blog). Whether or not this works remains to be seen, but S. J. hopes you are at least entertained. And if you're actually reading this, that's probably a good sign.

3 thoughts on “A Media Entry – Let’s Do the Time Warp Again”

  1. “The ’80s […] isn’t known as a peak decade for movies…or fashion…or music…or anything really.”

    As a kid of the 80s, I can safely say that you’re COMPLETELY WRONG with that statement. 😛 Not only were the second and third “Star Wars” movies released in the 80s, but so were the last good “Indiana Jones” movies and the original “Ghostbusters” and “The Terminator”. Moreover, this was also the decade that also revitalized the “Star Trek” franchise with the releases of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” and the launching of the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” television series. Add to that several toy and cartoon franchises that persist to this day – such as “Transformers”, “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe”, “Thundercats”, and “My Little Pony” – the rise of Nintendo as a giant of the video game world, the last time Michael Jackson actually looked like a black man…and I can safely say that the nerds and geeks of today owe a lot to the 80s. Sure, it brought us a lot of other horrible crap, such as Jane Fonda workout videos and big poofy hair, but that’s true of any decade.

    As for time travel and sci-fi movies, as a fellow big fan of the genre, you should try watching “The Returner”. It’s not going to win any Best Picture awards, but it’s big stupid fun all the same:

    1. I wouldn’t make sarcastic remarks about the ’80s if hadn’t been part of it 🙂 I’m serious when I say “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” is one of my favorite time travel movies. “Mr. Billy the Kid, you are dealing with the oddity of time travel with the greatest of ease.” I’ll check out those other movies when I can make some time. I think I remember trailers for “Frequency” but the ones I saw didn’t really make it clear what the movie was about.

      “Bring back Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, way before Nirvana/there was U2 and Blondie and music still on MTV…”

  2. Oh, and here’s another one for you: “Frequency”. I’m not going to spoil anything, but I will say this: the climax of the movie doesn’t make much sense if you think about it, but it remains one of my favorite movie climaxes ever because you really don’t know what will happen next due to the way it’s set up.

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