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"You're not thinking fourth dimensionally!" [Time Travel]

LarsLars Registered User regular
Please do not post the "straw diagrams" quote from Looper.

I like time travel stories. At least, I like them when they stick to their own rules. Since time travel is a fictional concept, writers are free to make up their own rules (just like with magic, or vampires, or faster-than-light travel) and as long as they remain internally consistent then I don't have a problem with it. It often annoys me when I see people complaining about a plot hole or problem with a time travel story, only for it to be because the person is imposing their own rules of time travel onto the story instead of using the rules which the writer established (Granted, tons of stories do in fact screw up their own rules, but not all of them).

Of course, time travel isn't for everyone, and isn't always the easiest thing to understand, but hopefully this thread can exist for those who would like to talk about it's uses in fiction.

Time travel can come in many forms in fiction. Narratively, it can simply be the means by which the character gets to the setting which the writer wants to tell a story in (generally some form of "fish out of water" story), or it can be a core part of the story itself.

Quantum Leap uses the former method. The Quantum Accelerator is what sent him leaping through the past, but the vast majority of the stories aren't about that, they're about what Sam does in the setting he finds himself in.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Journey uses the latter method, where the story is explicitly about time travel and what they can do with it.

Doctor Who uses a mixture of both, depending on the episode. In most cases, time travel is merely the manner at which the Doctor and his companions arrive at the setting of the story, but there are still some episodes that rely on time travel as an essential component of the story. Unfortunately, due to the extreme amount of episodes of Doctor Who they have not remained internally consistent about their rules, but they (usually) at least can remain consistent during individual episodes.

Mechanically, there are all kinds of ways time travel can work, some of which can get rather interesting and detailed, while others keep it vague so that people will focus on other elements of the story.

Please do not post the "straw diagrams" quote from Looper.

The chief point that many of these rulesets revolve around is: how do you handle paradoxes? There are a lot of ways to go about it.

One way is the bifurcation theory. In this ruleset, any time travel automatically creates a new alternate timeline and your original timeline remains completely unchanged. I first saw this in a book by William Sleator called Strange Attractors, but it is also considered the main function of time travel in the Marvel universe (though, like Doctor Who, they have often broken their own rules due to the large amount of stories and writers involved). There is never a paradox because anything you do only effects this new timeline.

Another way is basically "fate." Anything you do in the past doesn't change anything, because you always did that. If you went back in time to try and prevent something, it will likely turn out that this action is in fact what causes it. The first Terminator actually uses this model before the later movies change the mechanics of time travel. Bill & Ted also essentially uses this version, where they're only able to succeed because they already succeeded and then came back in time and set up all the necessary events for them to succeed.

Or, for an alternate interpretation of the "fate" model, you are already on the "final" timeline that occurs after all time travel that will ever happen has already happened, so any time traveling you may do in your own personal future won't change anything from how you remember it because everything that will happen already has.

Some other methods employ lesser versions of the "fate" model where you can make minor changes but the big events always have to happen one way or another. By Terminator 3 the franchise is basically using this model (haven't seen the most recent one though).

Yet another version essentially grants time travelers immunity to any changes they cause. So their timeline may get altered to the point that they were never born, but they remain unaffected and retain their memories of the original timeline. Essentially this makes the time traveler into a walking paradox, but it's generally not regarded as the "you broke time, the universe now ends" kind of event, and more of a "hey, nobody remembers you anymore."

Or maybe you can only travel forwards, never backwards. Especially if your story is tied to faster-than-light travel and time dilation.

Other variations allow paradoxes to occur, but have various safe guards in place to protect against them. Maybe it's something like time police who protect the timeline from such changes or maybe it's a higher power (seen or unseen) that guides events or prevents them from occurring. Or it could just be a set of rules that stops you from traveling to when/where you might cause a paradox in the first place.

Or maybe you just do what Back to the Future did and make up "the ripple effect." In Back to the Future, changes in the past essentially send out "ripples" throughout the timeline that slowly changes things to the newer version, giving the time traveler time to try and undo their mistakes before being erased from existence. Though we don't get to see what would happen had Marty failed (and thus created a paradox due to him not existing to go back in time in the first place), so we don't get the complete picture.

Or you can just go with the "insignificance" approach. Earth is a tiny planet in an incomprehensibly large (and old) universe. One could easily say that changes to the relatively short human history would be pretty much insignificant, and humans would never be able to cause a paradox big enough to "break time."

Regardless of the ruleset used, dealing with paradoxes is usually the backbone of it. Other rules usually rely on setting when and where someone can travel (generally just for narrative reasons). Maybe you can only travel back in time seven days, maybe the radio signals can only travel to the past during the solar storm, or maybe you can only pick the year of your destination but not the hour/day/month.

Of course, sometimes the story explicitly asks you not to delve into the workings of it's time travel, either because it's just a comedy and doesn't care (like Austin Powers 2), or because it wants you to focus more on the story at hand instead of devoting time to the explanation of the mechanics (like Looper, despite having an internally consistent mechanic set up).

Please do not post the "straw diagrams" quote from Looper.

Time travel stories (that use time travel as a plot element, not merely as a way to reach the setting of a story) also frequently involve a twist or shock reveal. Maybe that old man and that kid are actually the same person, maybe you set yourself up to rob that bank, or maybe Bill & Ted went back in time and planted the key and the fake gun because only the winners get to come back to set things up. Sometimes you didn't even know you were in a time travel story until the reveal at the end when you find the destroyed Statue of Liberty. Or maybe you thought you were fated to do one thing in the past, only for it to turn out it was something else entirely ("Oooh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. I'm-my-own-grandpa. Let's get the hell out of here already! Screw history!").

Much like with magic, writers can do some amazing things with time travel. It allows writers to mix and match all kinds of characters and settings and pull off some interesting tricks utilizing the rules they have set. I also think it can be very fun to discuss. It can also be very frustrating to discuss, but I'm hoping this thread will be on the fun side.

Please do not post the "straw diagrams" quote from Looper.

I'm also hoping I'm not the only one who wants to talk about time travel in fiction. Hopefully a good discussion, or at least an entertaining one.

(Lost Spoilers)
Hurley: Let me get this straight. All this already happened.
Miles: Yes.
Hurley: So, this conversation were having right now, we already had it.
Miles: Yes!
Hurley: Then what am I gonna say next?
Miles: I don't know.
Hurley: Ha! Then your theory is wrong.
Miles: For the thousandth time, you dingbat, the conversation already happened. But not for you and me. For you and me, it's happening right now.
Hurley: OK. Answer me this. If all this already happened to me, then why don't I remember any of it?
Miles: Because once Ben turned that wheel, time isn't a straight line for us anymore. Our experiences in the past and the future occurred before these experiences right now.
Hurley: (Pause) Say that again.
(Miles draws on a gun and tries to give it to Hurley.)
Miles: Shoot me. Please. Please.
Hurley: Aha! I can't shoot you, because if you die in 1977, then you'll never come back to the island on the freighter 30 years from now.
Miles: I can die, because I've already come to the island on the freighter. Any of us can die, because this is our present.
Hurley: They say Ben couldn't die, because he still has to grow, and become the leader of the others.
Miles: Because this is his past.
Hurley: But when we first captured Ben, and Sayid, like, tortured him, then why wouldn't he remember getting shot by that same guy when he was a kid?
Miles: (Starts to answer, then hesitates) Huh. Hadn't thought of that.
Hurley: Huh.

So...
What are some of your favorite time travel stories (in movies, tv shows, books, comics, whatever)?
What are some of your favorite uses of time travel?
Favorite rulesets?
Rulesets or uses that you would like to see more of?
Rulesets you dislike?
Do you prefer stories where time travel just gets you to the setting of the story, or stories that are actually about time travel?
Does how well the writer sticks to their own rules effect your enjoyment?

(Am I the only one who's ever sat around with their friends drawing timelines and theories on a whiteboard?)

Heck, if you want to talk about time travel beyond the scope of stories, where/when would you like to go? What would you do?
I wonder how long before someone posts the quote from Looper, either because they didn't read the OP, or because they thought it would be funny to post a quote designed to shut down time travel discussion in a thread that exists to talk about time travel.

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    OmnipotentBagelOmnipotentBagel floof Registered User regular
    01251.gif
    I do not, actually, hate time travel. I think it's pretty neat.

    cdci44qazyo3.gif

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    LarsLars Registered User regular
    I have no idea what I'm looking at, but I might be having a seizure.

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    OmnipotentBagelOmnipotentBagel floof Registered User regular
    I could tell you what you're looking at, Lars. I could tell you about
    Homestuck

    cdci44qazyo3.gif

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    The GeekThe Geek Oh-Two Crew, Omeganaut Registered User, ClubPA regular
    I'm personally a fan of the alternate/branching timelines stuff. It makes the most sense to me.

    Though I do also enjoy the predetermined fate stuff when used for comic effect like in Bill and Ted.

    BLM - ACAB
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    JavenJaven Registered User regular
    You watched the Back to the Future marathon this week too, haven't you

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    UrielUriel Registered User regular
    edited September 2015
    Time's arrow was a pretty fun two part episode of star trek.

    Uriel on
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    The GeekThe Geek Oh-Two Crew, Omeganaut Registered User, ClubPA regular
    latest?cb=20051204194037&path-prefix=en

    I hate temporal mechanics.

    BLM - ACAB
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    OmnipotentBagelOmnipotentBagel floof Registered User regular
    edited September 2015
    I don't personally mind what form of time travel you go with for your story, so long as the "science" 1) makes internal sense for the purposes of the story and 2) directly benefits the story. If your time travel theory doesn't make sense within the confines of the narrative, it's a detriment to the story. If your story would work perfectly fine WITHOUT complicated time-travel mechanics, then they shouldn't be there.

    Like, you wanna tell a cool story that involves predeterminism and the futility of trying to defy fate? I'm down for that. You want to tell a story that uses time travel as a way to fix problems and break out of a negative pattern? Also cool.

    OmnipotentBagel on
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    JebusUDJebusUD Adventure! Candy IslandRegistered User regular
    The Geek wrote: »
    I'm personally a fan of the alternate/branching timelines stuff. It makes the most sense to me.

    Though I do also enjoy the predetermined fate stuff when used for comic effect like in Bill and Ted.

    We should totally hide the keys behind here! WHOA! We totally did!

    and I wonder about my neighbors even though I don't have them
    but they're listening to every word I say
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    The GeekThe Geek Oh-Two Crew, Omeganaut Registered User, ClubPA regular
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    LarsLars Registered User regular
    I could tell you what you're looking at, Lars. I could tell you about
    Homestuck

    I have seen such a wide range of things identified as "Homestuck" that I'm beginning to suspect that it's actually some sort of codeword that encompasses basically everything on the internet that I'm not currently paying attention to.
    The Geek wrote: »
    I'm personally a fan of the alternate/branching timelines stuff. It makes the most sense to me.

    Though I do also enjoy the predetermined fate stuff when used for comic effect like in Bill and Ted.

    The reveal at the end of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey is one of my favorite uses of the fate version, since as soon as the villain tries it I instantly went "Wait, that's not how that works here..." only for Bill & Ted to triumphantly reveal that exact thing.

    If played more serious, the fate version can lose a lot of traction if you think about it too much because it basically means every decision in your entire life is pre-determined and you're acting out the motions. I assume that's why most uses of it are either for comedic effect, or just for the last minute reveal of "You caused the thing you were trying to avoid!" and then ending the story before dwelling on those implications.

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    The GeekThe Geek Oh-Two Crew, Omeganaut Registered User, ClubPA regular
    BLM - ACAB
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    jothkijothki Registered User regular
    Is this the place to complain about how shitty of a time travel story Chrono Trigger is? Because seriously, just look at it.

    What I want to see is a time travel story where someone travels between their present and thousands of years in the past, and every time they go back to the present, everything ends up being completely different.

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    ToxTox I kill threads he/himRegistered User regular
    Stargate SG-1 has almost all the best time travel episodes of any sci-fi show (excepting shows dedicated to time travel, at least).

    I loved that the two-part series finale was almost "oops we used time travel and broke everything now we have to fix it!"

    Seriously, SG-1's time travel stuff is really, really great. All of them.

    Twitter! | Dilige, et quod vis fac
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    OmnipotentBagelOmnipotentBagel floof Registered User regular
    jothki wrote: »
    Is this the place to complain about how shitty of a time travel story Chrono Trigger is? Because seriously, just look at it.

    What I want to see is a time travel story where someone travels between their present and thousands of years in the past, and every time they go back to the present, everything ends up being completely different.

    Let me tell you about Time Traveler's Immunity.

    cdci44qazyo3.gif

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    UrielUriel Registered User regular
    Speaking of amusing time travel stories.

    Dirk gently's holistic detective agency is a really good book.

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    ChincymcchillaChincymcchilla Registered User regular
    Let me tell you about a time traveler who's stuck in a time warp

    zordon.jpg

    I have a podcast about Power Rangers:Teenagers With Attitude | TWA Facebook Group
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    JayKaosJayKaos Registered User regular
    Tox wrote: »
    Stargate SG-1 has almost all the best time travel episodes of any sci-fi show (excepting shows dedicated to time travel, at least).

    I loved that the two-part series finale was almost "oops we used time travel and broke everything now we have to fix it!"

    Seriously, SG-1's time travel stuff is really, really great. All of them.

    That one season finale that ends with "Okay, I'm confused. So does this mean we're going back in time?"

    "No, the other us went back in time and broke stuff, but they wanted to leave a message so someone else could go back in time and fix it."

    "Okay so what do we have to do to fix it?"

    "If everything on the tape was accurate, I think we ...already fixed it?"

    "So... we're good? Let's go fishing."

    Steam | SW-0844-0908-6004 and my Switch code
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    BahamutZEROBahamutZERO Registered User, Moderator mod
    Lars wrote: »
    I could tell you what you're looking at, Lars. I could tell you about
    Homestuck

    I have seen such a wide range of things identified as "Homestuck" that I'm beginning to suspect that it's actually some sort of codeword that encompasses basically everything on the internet that I'm not currently paying attention to.

    here you go

    http://www.mspaintadventures.com/?s=6&p=003151

    one of my favorite pages

    BahamutZERO.gif
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    OmnipotentBagelOmnipotentBagel floof Registered User regular
    Let me tell you about a time traveler who's stuck in a time warp

    zordon.jpg

    Although, to be fair, the writers of this show have given no indication they understand what a "time warp" really is. Time doesn't actually seem to be a factor.

    cdci44qazyo3.gif

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    TrippyJingTrippyJing Moses supposes his toeses are roses. But Moses supposes erroneously.Registered User regular
    I thought Doctor Who was supposed to be consistent in its inconsistency.

    b1ehrMM.gif
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    LarsLars Registered User regular
    Javen wrote: »
    You watched the Back to the Future marathon this week too, haven't you

    Actually the idea for this thread came from a post I was going to make in the movie thread. Some people were posting their controversial movie opinions, and I was going to say my controversial movie opinion was that I actually liked talking about time travel mechanics from movies. But then I thought maybe that wouldn't be that controversial and other people would want to talk about it to so I made a thread.
    jothki wrote: »
    Is this the place to complain about how shitty of a time travel story Chrono Trigger is? Because seriously, just look at it.

    What I want to see is a time travel story where someone travels between their present and thousands of years in the past, and every time they go back to the present, everything ends up being completely different.

    I've never actually played Chrono Trigger, which is kind of bizarre since my favorite game is Final Fantasy VI. I do own the PS1 version, I just haven't ever gotten around to playing it.
    Uriel wrote: »
    Speaking of amusing time travel stories.

    Dirk gently's holistic detective agency is a really good book.

    I read that in high school, but sadly can't remember much from it anymore. I should track it down again.
    Let me tell you about a time traveler who's stuck in a time warp

    (Zordon)

    With the mention of time cops in the OP, I kind of expected...
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OHh2wZ26Ns

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    EnlongEnlong Registered User regular
    jothki wrote: »
    Is this the place to complain about how shitty of a time travel story Chrono Trigger is? Because seriously, just look at it.

    What I want to see is a time travel story where someone travels between their present and thousands of years in the past, and every time they go back to the present, everything ends up being completely different.

    Let me tell you about Time Traveler's Immunity.

    Tell me about it.

    And include Marle vanishing in 600 AD due to a grandfather paradox.

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    OmnipotentBagelOmnipotentBagel floof Registered User regular
    Enlong wrote: »
    jothki wrote: »
    Is this the place to complain about how shitty of a time travel story Chrono Trigger is? Because seriously, just look at it.

    What I want to see is a time travel story where someone travels between their present and thousands of years in the past, and every time they go back to the present, everything ends up being completely different.

    Let me tell you about Time Traveler's Immunity.

    Tell me about it.

    And include Marle vanishing in 600 AD due to a grandfather paradox.


    Well, you see, "once an entity travels through time, he or she is disconnected from the original timeline by changing history (past or future), and causality and consequences are resultingly broken, which confers a sort of Time Traveler's Immunity."

    And Marle? Well, according to one leading theory, "for all time travelers passing through a gate, the receiving era is synced to their experience, creating a tangent worldline that only grants them Time Traveler Immunity and discards Time Traveler Immunity previously granted to all time travelers on the parent worldline. If another time traveler enters the same era AFTER the arrival of the time traveler who created the tangent worldline, TTI is granted to them as well, from the perspective of the tangent catalyst."

    I got super deep into Chrono Trigger fanwankery back in the day.

    cdci44qazyo3.gif

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    GustavGustav Friend of Goats Somewhere in the OzarksRegistered User regular
    edited September 2015
    I do like the explanation that Doctor Who writers have on inconsistent histories/continuity.

    Which by having multitudes of time-traveling species everything is constantly shifting at all times. So there is not really a constant true continuity. I think that's kinda the best way to handle it in a series with more than 50 years of history.

    Gustav on
    aGPmIBD.jpg
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    NeoTomaNeoToma Registered User regular
    The best things about chrono cross;
    Visiting the bad Alternate timeline you averted in CT slowly dissolving into unexsistence

    Shit was dark

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    EnlongEnlong Registered User regular
    Which is weird since future descendent dude shows up in one of CT's endings.

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    OmnipotentBagelOmnipotentBagel floof Registered User regular
    edited September 2015
    Enlong wrote: »
    Which is weird since future descendent dude shows up in one of CT's endings.

    You mean the one they added to CT DS that kind of muddles things up? That really peeved me because Chrono Cross is an utter mess of a game that has no business linking itself to Chrono Trigger and I was happy to be able to ignore it.

    OmnipotentBagel on
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    LorahaloLorahalo Registered User regular
    I always liked time loop stories, where stuff slowly gets revealed throughout the story as to how time travel affected things that already happened. Time Crimes comes to mind as a perfect example.

    I have a podcast about Digimon called the Digital Moncast, on Audio Entropy.
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    OmnipotentBagelOmnipotentBagel floof Registered User regular
    Time travel stories that don't take themselves the least bit seriously are pretty great too. Like Roswell That Ends Well.

    cdci44qazyo3.gif

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    EnlongEnlong Registered User regular
    edited September 2015
    Enlong wrote: »
    Which is weird since future descendent dude shows up in one of CT's endings.

    You mean the one they added to CT DS that kind of muddles things up? That really peeved me because Chrono Cross is an utter mess of a game that has no business linking itself to Chrono Trigger and I was happy to be able to ignore it.

    Nah. You're thinking of the war cutscene you see after beating the Dream Devourer.

    I mean the one where the King plays a silly prank on Chrono where he thinks he's going to be executed, only to be congratulated, and it turns out a bunch of ancestors and descendants of the royal line are visiting 1000 AD, including Kino (which is a whole other can of worms), and future dude from the future dome.

    Oh, and personally, I believe that Chrono Cross is a sequel to Chrono Trigger, but not to Chrono Trigger DS.

    Enlong on
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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    So .... If you guys are really us, what number are we thinking of?

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    EnlongEnlong Registered User regular
    Xaquin wrote: »
    So .... If you guys are really us, what number are we thinking of?

    Trick question. You're thinking of the Prince symbol.

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    OmnipotentBagelOmnipotentBagel floof Registered User regular
    Enlong wrote: »
    Enlong wrote: »
    Which is weird since future descendent dude shows up in one of CT's endings.

    You mean the one they added to CT DS that kind of muddles things up? That really peeved me because Chrono Cross is an utter mess of a game that has no business linking itself to Chrono Trigger and I was happy to be able to ignore it.

    Nah. You're thinking of the war cutscene you see after beating the Dream Devourer.

    I mean the one where the King plays a silly prank on Chrono where he thinks he's going to be executed, only to be congratulated, and it turns out a bunch of ancestors and descendants of the royal line are visiting 1000 AD, including Kino (which is a whole other can of worms), and future dude from the future dome.

    Oh, and personally, I believe that Chrono Cross is a sequel to Chrono Trigger, but not to Chrono Trigger DS.

    Oh yeah. Eh, I prefer to believe the balloon or cat ending as the canonical one.

    cdci44qazyo3.gif

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    SyphonBlueSyphonBlue The studying beaver That beaver sure loves studying!Registered User regular
    edited September 2015
    Man I love that Lost conversation. (That was basically me trying to explain Lost's time travel to my wife)

    SyphonBlue on
    LxX6eco.jpg
    PSN/Steam/NNID: SyphonBlue | BNet: SyphonBlue#1126
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    The GeekThe Geek Oh-Two Crew, Omeganaut Registered User, ClubPA regular
    Gustav wrote: »
    I do like the explanation that Doctor Who writers have on inconsistent histories/continuity.

    Which by having multitudes of time-traveling species everything is constantly shifting at all times. So there is not really a constant true continuity. I think that's kinda the best way to handle it in a series with more than 50 years of history.

    wibbly wobbly

    BLM - ACAB
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    #pipe#pipe Cocky Stride, Musky odours Pope of Chili TownRegistered User regular
    I prefer my explanations of the tech in sci-fi movies to be pretty curt. "We don't know how it works and it's not really important"

    Basically "Oh a magic door!"

    https://youtu.be/3r5Ynz-a7Io?t=1m46s

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    MrMonroeMrMonroe passed out on the floor nowRegistered User regular
    best time travel movie:

    twelve_monkeys_ver1.jpg

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    EnlongEnlong Registered User regular
    Enlong wrote: »
    Enlong wrote: »
    Which is weird since future descendent dude shows up in one of CT's endings.

    You mean the one they added to CT DS that kind of muddles things up? That really peeved me because Chrono Cross is an utter mess of a game that has no business linking itself to Chrono Trigger and I was happy to be able to ignore it.

    Nah. You're thinking of the war cutscene you see after beating the Dream Devourer.

    I mean the one where the King plays a silly prank on Chrono where he thinks he's going to be executed, only to be congratulated, and it turns out a bunch of ancestors and descendants of the royal line are visiting 1000 AD, including Kino (which is a whole other can of worms), and future dude from the future dome.

    Oh, and personally, I believe that Chrono Cross is a sequel to Chrono Trigger, but not to Chrono Trigger DS.

    Oh yeah. Eh, I prefer to believe the balloon or cat ending as the canonical one.

    Fair enough.

    Re: overriding Time Traveller's Immunity:

    I don't see how Chrono and then Lucca coming through could have caused Marle to be Granfather'd out of existence. It was Marle's actions that caused Leene to potentially not be saved, yeah? She came down out of the mountains and everyone called off the search. Chrono did nothing to cause that. And wouldn't Chrono then be effected by the changes after Lucca came through?

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    DarmakDarmak RAGE vympyvvhyc vyctyvyRegistered User regular
    #pipe wrote: »
    I prefer my explanations of the tech in sci-fi movies to be pretty curt. "We don't know how it works and it's not really important"

    Basically "Oh a magic door!"

    https://youtu.be/3r5Ynz-a7Io?t=1m46s

    I love detailed explanations of sci-fi shit! I don't care if it makes sense, just give me more of it!

    JtgVX0H.png
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