No Right Explanation

No Right Explanation
Gonna Go Back In Time

Firefilm | 14 May 2012 16:00
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Dan: Everyone loves a two-part debate. You don't? Well, I just went back in time and placed subtle suggestions throughout your past and now you do like two-part debates. Yea, take that.

Time travel has always been a strong plot point in science fiction, even before machines really took hold as the cause of it. Back in the days of pulp comics, time travel was found here or there, but rarely was there a machine behind the quantum jumping. People just woke up in the past, or slept until they were in the future (I'm looking at you, Twain). Twilight Zone episodes treated time travel akin to a gust of wind: Stand in the wrong area of the house and you might just feel a chill and find yourself in the old west. It is very interesting to me that only relatively recently have machines ingrained themselves as the McGuffin for time travel in popular culture.

The Time Machine, Back to the Future, Calvin and Hobbes, Time Cop, Bill and Ted, Doctor Who .. .my goodness, the list could go on forever. Some time machines are built by crazy inventers, some are run by agencies, but the one thing they have in common is they are means by which we explore the choices not taken. There has never been a time travel media where the traveler goes back or forward to observe and successfully does just that. There is always this temptation to change something, to right a wrong or find out some secret long lost. I suppose the thought is that if time travel is just used for looking and not touching, what's the point?

So if all time machines are used to fix, break, or discover, all time machines are built to make changes to the timeline. Does that mean the better time machine is the one that creates the least harmful ripples in making said changes, or is that simply user skill? Should the measurement of greatness be the machine that can make the greatest change? Again, perhaps this is more a description of the best time traveler, not time machine.

Since time travel has moved from simply finding yourself in the past or future at random to using a device to get there, what purpose does that device really serve? I put forth that it is the thrill of danger. Being whisked away in time by some force suggests that the force has a plan. A guiding reason for this jump, that will right itself in time. At the very least, it means that someone or something is watching and making sure that things don't get too bad.

Discounting Quantum Leap, time machines are a separation from that God force, hinting at even more danger and possibility of space-time destruction. Time traveling machines are always breaking down, taking people to the wrong time, and generally hindering travel as often as they facilitate. Maybe much like a roller coaster, people want to travel somewhere, but don't want to be too safe in the journey. Maybe the idea that God wants us to time travel isn't as appealing to a modern audience as the idea that time travel is going against nature. The danger makes the rewards all the more sweet.

After all, going against the flow is how Goldie Wilson became mayor.

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