As mentioned in my introductory blog, science fiction does not predict the future but rather it seeks to explain a past future. So what can our favourite time travel film & television shows tell us about our past? Whilst in my previous blog I explained time travel as a form of narrative, in this blog I’d like to take a look at the mode of transportation our favourite travellers used to transcend time.
In this blog I’d also like to see what observable patterns and historical trends the technology in these time travel texts present to us. Using this we can take a guess at what technology future time travel texts might include.
To begin let’s take a look at the most popularly requested text by you in my previous blogs, Netflix’s “Dark”. Dark is interesting because it actually shows multiple methods of time travel within the series from machines to the century shifting temporal caves of Winden. In the later episodes of season 2, the audience comes to realise some of the different “machines” used by travellers are in fact just different prototype of the same time travelling machine! The “time box” used by the characters and made by H.G. Tannhaus, a clockmaker and engineer in 1953 is conceptually one of the most mind-blowing inventions of the series. More about this device and its creation can be found here, but in simple terms: everything Tannhaus would use to make this Box work in the past was based on material brought to him from the future.
The “time box” used in Dark acts as a “Novum”. Darko Suvin explains the futurism of science fiction to typically involve a Novum. A novum is the Latin term for “a new thing” and Suvin uses it to describe a “scientifically plausible innovation”. Classic examples of science fiction novum include “the DeLorean” from Back to the Future or Doctor Who’s Tardis which travels in space and time. Just as I stated in my previous blog on narrative, time travel or a novum allows for much flexibility and room for creativity in storytelling.
Keeping with the theme of Netflix’s Dark where characters using the “temporal caves” can jump back and forward, let’s jump 30years into the future. What does time travel look like? How is it presented in television and film?
Paraphrasing, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Csicsery-Ronay suggests we can explain the future by what is most powerful in the present. Whilst some may turn to websites like “Future Timeline” to find predictions and others may turn to episodes of The Simpsons, we must instead look at the present to guess what time travel film and television may look like.
Concerns and anxieties about the future are very much relevant in our present time. The top global catastrophic risks at the moment seem to involve:
-Artificial general intelligence
Taking a look at these “risks and concerns” and using one of the most relevant examples at the moment Covid 19, we can take a guess that future time travel narratives may involve the prevention of the virus. Of course this is just a possibility, but I am sure Covid 19 will largely influence a lot of our future media texts in years to come.
Comment below what you think the future of time travel in television and film will look like!
- Csicsery-Ronay, Istvan (2008), “The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction”
- Matadeen, R (2019), “Dark: How Time Travel Works in the Netflix Series”
- Moore, C (2020), “BCM 325 Future Cultures Lectures”
- Suvin, D (1979), “Metamorphoses of science fiction”