Time-travel, can they make it work?

Time-travel has long been a popular premise for SciFi, but the whole concept just seems ripe for disaster. Not the good kind of disaster – the kind that takes the shape of plot holes big enough for a semi truck to drive through. On the other hand, some of my favorite movies have been built around time-travel (the Terminator franchise) and I’ve even written a time-travel short story (though my time bending was pure fantasy via divine will).  Obviously, there is a huge appeal to this premise.

The new Fox drama, Terra Nova is the latest TV series to be built around time-travel. A future generation is going back in time to escape the wrecked world they’ve created. Tim D. Moon’s blog has my review of the pilot episode up (please go there and read it!) but I wanted to take a moment to look more deeply at the time-travel aspects here.

The notion of going back in time to start the human civilization, long before we know it to have evolved, has some pretty big paradox problems. I’ve even heard some people cry fowl before giving the show a chance (you know who you are *grin*). In the Terra Nova pilot one of the characters explains that paradox isn’t a problem for them because they are actually crossing into another time line–not their own past. Okaaay. Setting aside the moral issues (clearly it would have been someone’s past they’re screwing with) I can buy this explanation and move on. Then they offered further proof that all was safe by relating how they had sent a probe back through the space/time fissure and when it never showed up in their time line they had the proof they needed that this is not their past. Okaaay. I can buy this too, again setting aside those pesky moral issues.

Conclusion…Terra Nova’s time paradox problems are solved. But not really, one character implies that all is not as it seems. There is a secret plot, afoot. Something about ~the way to control the future is to control the past. So…what’s my verdict on the pilot episode? You’ll have to go over to Tim’s blog to find out! Or watch the show yourself and come up with your own opinion. If you missed it, the Terra Nova pilot is available on hulu.com.

In the mean time, why do you think time-travel is such an appealing premise?

14 thoughts on “Time-travel, can they make it work?

  1. I quite enjoy ‘time traveller’ stories (The Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court comes to mind – and a few others like far too many Doctor Who episodes) the rational part of me just doesn’t buy it. The reason, I think, is that while I can almost get my brain around the idea that spacetime is a continuum and we ‘could’ go back my limited brain has to totally suspend disbelief. Which is fine for entertainment – you have to do that a *lot* for things like Star Wars. As you say, the show’s use of the multiverse concept adds a bit of credibility.

    I think the whole concept of time travel appeals because the writer is able to compare and contrast two knowns and play with ‘what ifs’ at the same time. Best to just to go along for the ride and not think too much.

    • Hi Greta! I think sometimes it is used as a device to tell a “fish out of water” story. And often it works best with a bit of humor thrown in, as if to reassure that we don’t have to think too hard about the how of it. Movies like The Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Courtand Back to the Future are just pure fun and that is what makes them work.

    • I love the way you think! In my unpubbed SciFi Romance I have aliens that can phase shift and not falling through floors is a real concern for them. 😉

    • *laughs* Good point, Steph! I also wonder, if we can stand , say, on the ceiling and walk through walls, and shift through parallel universes, does fear of heights exist?

  2. Yep, ‘what if’ is the big appeal. Along with the desire to right wrongs, redeem unsavory pasts, get revenge…it feeds into all the deep and sometimes dark motivations of humanity.

    I never let the pseudo science get in the way either (to whit, my own books) because the ‘what if’ eclipses everything else.

  3. I love the notion of time travel – plus it’s a great plot device if well-done. Terminator captured the concepts the best, at least the first Terminator movie did, and it will remain my all-time favorite time travel movie. I don’t plan to watch Terra Nova, too much like the kiddie show Land of the Lost.

  4. The paradoxes of it just give me a headache. I do like that it’s a parallel universe though, so it’ll be interesting to see what they do with the show from here on.

    • LOL – Sometimes I think it is best if the time-travel is kept minimal. I really liked that they have a narrow set of time-travel rules for this show. Talked about that in my review over at Timmbot.

  5. I’ve always felt that time travel is all about second chances.

    I’m still watching Terra Nova, but I have my doubts I’ll last the season with it. I think it’s trying too hard to please the widest audience it can.

    • Hi madame borg! hope you are taking good care of that knee.

      I missed TN tonight. Had promised my sis I’d do dinner with her before she heads back across the big pond. I’ll have to hope it is on hulu tomorrow.

      Unfortunately, the budget it will take to keep up the cg dinos probably demands they go for a broad audience.

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