There’s a lot of time travel in fiction and many times, it makes no sense. Sometimes, the nonsensity is a strength, other times a weakness. Examples of media that use this trope (not necessarily have to be used) are Steins;Gate, Harry Potter and the PoA and of course, Avengers: Engame and Back to the Future. This topic should explore when time travel is done right, what constitutes it being done right in the writer’s opinion, and of course, delve into the types of time travel (multiverse, paradox and time loop), and whether it’s a good idea for fiction to use it.
Perhaps a good idea would be to examine how differently this trope is used in different medias, whether TV or film.
Lovely topic, but perhaps too broad. Maybe just focus on one or two examples of time travel, or contrast a successful and unsuccessful example? – Stephanie M.2 years ago
The film 'The Butterfly Effect' is a great experience, essentially saying that you can't change the past to end up with the happy ending that you want. It says some other things, but just watch the film. I also like the way the film '12 Monkeys' does it. If someone wrote this article, they they have to decide what is 'correct'. I suppose I lean towards what does current theoretical physics allow/say is correct? – heath2 years ago
Assuming that the "nonsensity" is perceived from a physics perspective, it is understandable, and it is also the reason spectators have so many problems understanding time travel in fiction. It hasn't even been understood in real life through science. Would it be a more useful approach to see time travel in fiction through the lens of philosophy rather than physics? – T. Palomino2 years ago
While time travel works are entertaining and interesting, one would still wonder what the audience can learn from these kinds of shows. The idea of going back in time or travelling to the future is appealing to humans because they know they can control time with this power, i.e. the forced events brought upon by the universe. Yet, we know that time travel is practically impossible and even if it were, it would be extremely dangerous as it messes with the forces of nature. Thus, what is the purpose of creating stories that portray the possibility of such a phenomenon? works including "The Time Machine," "Doctor Who," "Back to the Future," "Steins;Gate," "Life Is Strange," etc. can be mentioned to illustrate with examples.
It is no surprise that time travel has been used in so many films. The use of time travel in film, as well as in television and books, has allowed for interesting scenarios for characters. It is also a means for the protagonist to gain a second chance or prevent a horrific event from happening.For example, X-Men: Days of Future Past uses time travel in this way. The writers used time travel not only for the benefit of the characters, but also for the writers themselves. They were able to change everything from the previous films just by this one plot device. While the film was a hit, and many fans welcomed the changes caused by the film, others argued that it could lower the stakes in other films in the franchise. If something horrible happens in a film, and time travel is force existing in the film’s universe, then the protagonist can go back in time as a means to prevent the event from happening. But does this create more complications?
I think this question is actually super interesting. Can stakes possibly exist in a world with time travel? I'd say a good reference against this theory is the show/game; Stein's Gate. This is a story with a lot of time travel, and a lot of "undoing" or "redoing" horrible events to make things better. However, this show keeps the stakes by always having a balance. In one reality, a character may have their dead father back - but as a result their friend dies in this new timeline. The characters have to choose between the two realities, and ultimately go back to the "original reality." Reliving trauma and ideas of equivalent exchange are excellent ways to balance stories about time travel. Having a drawback or repercussion of time travel is a great way to have the characters question whether altering time and reality is for the best. ... however, the X-Men movies haven't really touched on this much. It ends up being more of a plot device to keep the franchise going rather to explore characters and time travel in a meaningful way. As an x-men fan, I appreciated the way they "fixed" the mistakes of the past movies, but also it does detract from the overall meaning and stakes of the movies. If they want to keep exploring/using time travel as a plot device, I would really want them to learn from stories like Steins; Gate that explore it meaningfully. – Dimitri6 years ago
Time travel does seem to take away existing stakes in the ways you mentioned. However, remember that it comes with it's own stakes as well! "X Men" did not touch on this much, but if you look at "Back to the Future," time travel created all of the stakes Marty had to face for the duration of the first movie. Because he went back in time, he messed up the sequence of events that would erase his siblings and himself from existence, and those screw ups could only be fixed if he recreated the timeline himself and went back to his own timeline by way of a freak storm with one shot of getting it right - which is a lot at stake. Yes, time travel in "X Men" really did seem to eliminate the stakes in a lot of regards, but there is more to time travel than just righting a wrong. – Sara L.6 years ago
Great topic! I certainly didn't feel the pathos I think I was supposed to feel toward the end of Avengers: Infinity War. (SPOILER ALERT, probably wholly unnecessary at this point----->) The one-by-one dissolution of our beloved heroes didn't move me much at all. After all, we saw the time stone used just a bit earlier in the film to rewind time and essentially undo an act of extreme sacrifice. – JamesBKelley6 years ago
In Days of Future Past, time travel was portrayed as a complicated process, which helps with the stakes. Time passes synchronously in the present and past, so if the robots kill Time Travel Girl before Wolverine can change things, the mission fails. Also, only Wolverine can survive the trip; next time, if Wolverine is unavailable, everyone else is out of luck.
The stakes were treated in similar ways in Back to the Future. Even if Marty McFly changes history, he requires 2.21 gigawatts of electricity and 88 mph speeds to get back to his present to enjoy the changes.
Now in, say, Doctor Who, time travel is portrayed as pretty easy, so problems can be fixed without much pathos. Indeed, whenever something can't be fixed by time travel, many fans cry "plot convenience." – noahspud6 years ago
Not much more than any other plot element would. The power of time travel to move and shape (or reshape) events is probably no different than the death of a pivotal character, the effect of a natural disaster on story outcome, or a protagonist triumphant foil as an uncompromising twist to the ending, seems to me. Time travel is just mayhem and haywire to the extreme. – L:Freire5 years ago
Time Travel is a common plot device in fiction. But when it is introduced often the consequences it allows for or the plot twists become redundant or reversed. Are there examples of fiction that does time travel well, such that the impacts aren’t made redundant or that it effectively creates isn’t there to offer neat ways to resolve unsolvable plot contrivances. In this regard, is there such a thing as ‘good’ time travel?
The visual novel and anime called Steins;Gate is always my go-to reference for time travel being done well. It creates it's own rules around time travel and shows the power even small changes in a timeline can realistically make to change the wider world around them. Every use of time travel has deep and meaningful consequences that shakes the story to it's core. However, the show only succeeds because time travel is the major plotpoint of the show. I'd say this is the only way time travel can be done well in fiction - if the story isn't explicitly about time travel, chucking it in to resolve plot contrivances is always bad. – Dimitri Adoniou6 years ago
I think this applies mainly to movies or TV shows, but literature not much. Limit and define the concept of "fiction" here. – T. Palomino2 years ago
Time travel is a frequently revisited topic in both popular and literary fiction. What is the philosophical appeal of time travel? Does it simply speak to our personal regrets or to large global/political/social issues that we wish to undo? Is it egotistical to think that ‘hight sight is twenty-twenty’; that to know the negative outcome of one event/one decision would allow us to course correct and thereby find success? Can humanity (globally or personally) only learn or develop compassion through disaster?
I personally think that the appeal of time travel stories lies in our flawed nature as humans. The possibility of reversing/changing the outcome of our own mistakes and/or the wider worlds' is very appealing, as well as egotistical (we get to play the hero). However, the appeal also lies in the unknown i.e., what will the alternative outcome be if I go back in time and ensure Hitler wasn't born? Will there be a better outcome or a worse one? That's just my opinion on the topic though! – Ness7 years ago
I think it is a case of regret. Everyone has defining moments in their lives that determined the course of their life trajectory. In those vulnerable moments of self-doubt, it is only human to wonder about the road less travelled. A few suggestions for revisions: Perhaps "hightsight" could be fixed to read "hindsight." I think this is a great topic but would narrow the focus to an individual's life. Most people may not have the clout to decide world events, with all due respect to our readership. Also, examples like the Arrow and Flash and even Quantico have employed the flashback sequence. Would you want to include the examples you have in mind so the writer of this topic can understand your meaning more clearly? – Munjeera7 years ago
I've always loved time-travel stories. The appeal for me is the idea of not being tied down to any one place and not missing out. The ability to travel anywhere, during any time is the superpower that I've always wanted. There are moments in history that I would love to be apart of. And I have this unquenchable thirst to see space, and other planets and their civilisations. Not to mention, time travel means shirking responsibilities. Not being tied down to anything or anyone. For me, it's simple wanderlust to the extreme extent. – KintaW7 years ago
The underlying message within many time travel stories is to live in the moment and places extreme value in the present. I believe this is what draws us to these stories. We cannot time travel, and the spectacle that is time travel is enticing, but the resolution of the story is most commonly a reminder to cherish time that we have, not to wish back the past or anticipate the future. It is a message that is simple to grasp and easy to promise; I will enjoy every day with no regrets.
– GeorgiaParry7 years ago
I think this depends largely on the story in question. There are a lot of different takes on time-travel. It would be interesting to try and find certain themes that seem to pop up within the subject most often, and analyze those, rather than the concept of time travel in general. – Ben Woollard7 years ago
I believe it is our conciseness of being stuck in a moving chronological belt of time, fixated is what makes much of the 21st century so interested in time travelling. The ability to escape this chain and break its control on us is not only embedded in the liberal thoughts of our society, but in human emotion itself. – chackz7 years ago
Time travel. It is always something that everyone knows that should not be messed with, but people tend to go with the flow and try to do something about it anyways whether it is leading to the past, present or future. But the one thing, everyone know is once you do it, there is no going back. In characters we have seen throughout films or television, such as Back to the Future, a memorable trilogy well-known for its flying Dolorean that can travel throughout any time with one Doc and McFly changing their own fates as well to those they care for or in the Flash, about a determined superhero who’s more than fast abilities can lead him to travel throughout time with the use of the speed force, but by doing that can lead to massive consequences. How important is knowing time travel? Do we already know what consequences can lead to them? Or what becomes of by using it? Or is it something we end up learning can never change on our own?
Amazing topic! I obviously will speak for many, the idea of time travelling has been fascinating me since I don't remember when :) I'm even crazy/naive/not-always-thinking-of-the-consequences enough to believe that it will come true within some 50-100 years from now if it hasn't yet (conspiracy theories and all that jazz)). But it is pretty scary also. There's so much to say about it. And it's a truly relevant issue because there really are many time travel plots among movies and literary works (no TV series come to my mind so far, but I'm sure there are many). Various genres, various contexts, different purposes and causes for travelling through time... There are tender and dramatic "The Time Traveler's Wife" and heartwarming and sentimental "About Time" with Rachel McAdams, there is weedy quirky "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" of 1989, there is a French comedy "Les Visiteurs" with Jean Reno; the good old "Groundhog Day" and the incredible love story in "The Lake House" are built around some time shifts, even though it's not like the 'traditional' time travelling. And of course the classic book and all the ecranisations of Herbert Wells's "The Time Machine". And so on... But even "Back to the Future" alone can be a grand playground to swing all this topic on. To me, this trilogy is kind of like classics of the whole time travel idea in movies :)
This will surely end up in something great! – funkyfay7 years ago
Why are we so fascinated with time travel? Time travel movies offer film makers unique possibilities, yet they also inevitably create confusing and contradictory plot malfunctions. Someone should consider the role of time-travel in such films as Back to the Future, Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, Project Almanac, Groundhog’s Day, Interstellar, Primer, Star Trek, Predestination, The Butterfly Project, Men in Black 3, and About Time. Which films simply use time-travel as a convenient plot device and which actually make it integral to the story? Why do some directors fail to account for obvious plot holes introduced by time-travel?
On the anime front The Girl who Leapt through Time, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya and also Steins Gate also talk about time travel. I'm happy to add my own thoughts to the discussion as well. – Jordan8 years ago
A simple answer is that time-travel, and the nature of relatively, is an ever advancing series of theories and understandings. We may never truly know how it all works, why it works, or what it's full limitations are. The two prevailing theories in regards to time-travel plot holes are that either 1: if you go back and change the past which changes the future, this new future is a fractured timeline that is separate from the original, meaning a different universe. Or 2: if you change the past, that past directly affects the future, and there's only one linear timeline. "Back to the Future" actually considers both of these theories to be one and the same. But who's to say that the timeline Marty found himself in after the events of the first film is actually the same universe he left from? A few other theories to consider are that A. if you go back and try to change the past, you are not actually messing with time, but are a direct participant in it, because the universe "wants" you to change the past. And B. Anything that you attempt to do in order to stop something from happening, no matter what point in time you are, the universe will conspire to stop you, or will conspire to cause you to do something, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Yes, there are obvious plot holes in some cases, but you'd have to get pretty creative and perhaps even technical in a discussion on this in order to really cover all of the possibilities regarding the logic and methodology behind creating a time-travel concept, and how it applies to a linear story. – Jonathan Leiter8 years ago
Of course time travel as we like to think of it is entirely impossible at this point in our history. Time is relative all over the universe, and time is always going forwards. There are ways to speed up time: to speed up the flow of it relative to another location. But we have yet to fully discover a direct way in which something or anything can travel backwards in time, let along a phone-booth, a police-box, or a Delorean. So all time-travel plots are completely fictional to begin with. The only logic we can really give them is logic that is likely archaic by this point, but only makes sense because we are naturally taught to understand things by a "cause & effect" relationship. – Jonathan Leiter8 years ago
I think people are so obsessed with time travel because we as human are so full of regret. I'm willing to bet most of us don't easily "move on" so to speak. What if scenario's plague us, and therefore, it's pretty natural that we obsess over the idea of going into the past and undoing all the things we regret or messed up. – Tatijana8 years ago
I believe time travel has continued to be a popular motif in contemporary film because it is one of the notable science fiction concepts that remains an impossibility in today's high-tech world. – mcmarkowitz8 years ago
Interesting...one might say that the story-telling potential for time travel outweighs the need to correct plot holes. – Candice Evenson8 years ago