The Dramatic Devices of the Time Tale

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The day will come when the man at the telephone will be able to see the distant person to whom he is speaking.”

Alexander Graham Bell

Message in a Time Bottle – Communication Across Time

For plot reasons it is sometimes necessary to allow characters in one time period to communicate with those in another. BACK TO THE FUTURE came up with a brilliant wheeze, if somewhat complicated, as to how this could be done:

DOC BROWN: This can’t be happening! You can’t be here! It doesn’t make sense for you to be here! I refuse to even believe it that you are here!

MARTY: Doc, I am here, and it doesn’t make sense. Look, I came back to 1955 again with you, the you from 1985, ‘cause we had to get a book from Biff. So once I got the book back, you – that is, the you from 1985 – were in the DeLorean and it got struck by lightning, and got sent back to 1885!

DOC BROWN: 1885? It’s a very interesting story, future boy, but there’s just one little thing that doesn’t make sense. If the me of the future is now in the past, how could you possible know about it?

MARTY: (HOLDING IT UP) You sent me a letter.

Using Western Union proved to be such a brilliantly inventive method in the BACK TO THE FUTURE series that it was later borrowed for the television series TIMELESS, only for Wyatt Logan that telegram was less successful. Jiya fared better when she got stranded in the past and used photographs of her herself in history books to communicate with the team in the present day.

Using Western Union proved to be such a brilliantly inventive method in the BACK TO THE FUTURE series that it was later borrowed for the television series TIMELESS, only for Wyatt Logan that telegram was less successful. Jiya fared better when she got stranded in the past and used photographs of her herself in history books to communicate with the team in the present day.

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Weirdly in TRAVELERS (using the American spelling of the series), messages are dispatched from the future and delivered to the present by temporally taking over the consciousness of children (adults, it is explained, could not survive the process). These children are then sent to wherever the Travelers are. “Where is my mom?” is often what they say when they are released from being what is essentially incarnated talking telegram. Yet how this bizarre communication is actually achieved is never fully explained. Doubtless there is an explanation, and it may be a very reasonable one, but sometimes too much explaining for what is an impossibility anyway, simply slows things down. Better perhaps just to get on with the story.

Those clever people back at Project Tic-Toc in the 1960s TIME TUNNEL series use the radiation left on their time travellers after their ‘radiation bath’ to locate them in time. There is also a means of sending messages to the Travellers via a location probe, the F-5, but frustratingly this doesn’t always work. Still, it’s all very useful in constructing the plot.

In the Korean time travel series ALICE (AELLISEU), there’s a scene where two time travellers are in the same space but different time dimensions. But there’s no need to worry, not when you have Post-it Pads you can simply put on the wall. Sometimes solving the problem of a dislocation in the space-time continuum is that easy.

Communication between different time periods via a radio is a key feature in the crime movie FREQUENCY and the romantic Japanese drama DITTO (2000). Contact between the young people in YOUR NAME (2016) is achieved not surprisingly via their smart phones. In THE LAKE HOUSE, a remake of the South Korean film IL MARE, it is an old fashioned mailbox that allows an architect living in 2004 and a doctor living in 2006 to communicate. In the movie, with Keanu Reeves as the architect and Sandra Bullock as the doctor, letters are left in the mailbox in real time two years apart, but somehow the red arrow pops up immediately in the other time period and when Keanu and Sandra open the box, there they are. The best postal service that has ever existed in any era. Well, perhaps it’s because THE LAKE HOUSE is a Romantic Time Drama which of course has a huge advantage over any other type of Time Drama for, as will all know, Love will always find a way.

“If the phone doesn’t ring, it’s me.”

Jimmy Buffet

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“Life is a little like a message in a bottle, to be carried by the winds and the tides.”

Gene Tierney

Message in a Time Bottle – DOCTOR WHO’S Blink Episode

There are usually no such problems communicating across the centuries (or indeed millenniums) in the revamped DOCTOR WHO series. Often mobile phones seem able to get a signal no matter which time zone or era characters are in. Which isn’t exactly what you’d call real life, for clearly DOCTOR WHO writers have never spent a weekend in Norfolk. However, in one famous episode of DOCTOR WHO writer Steven Moffat had a bit of a challenge.

Series three of the reboot, with the Tenth Doctor David Tennant, was running out of cash and so Moffat had to come up with budget-aliens. And he came up with Weeping Angels, who are only ever seen as stone statues. No expensive CGI there, then. Another issue was that there’s usually an episode in each DOCTOR WHO series which doesn’t feature the time travelling Doctor that much. This is in order to allow the actor a break of sorts during the arduous shooting schedule. And so, in the plot of Blink, Moffat had the Doctor stranded in 1969 by the Weeping Angles, and in 1969 we only ever see him and his companion on a TV screen. So far, so good. But then you have the problems of how to communicate with the present day from 1969 and how to get the TARDIS in 2007 back to 1969? Well, to solve both issues, enter Sally Sparrow.

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Carey Mulligan’s Sally Sparrow is arguably the true hero of the classic Blink in the DOCTOR WHO series. She acts as both receiver and courier of messages across Time and is crucial in getting the TARDIS back to its owner.

In Blink it is established that Sally enjoys taking photographs in abandoned buildings (cheap to hire) and while exploring once such building, Wester Drumlins, Sally finds a strange message written directly to her under peeling wallpaper which appears to have been left by someone called ‘The Doctor’. That same night Sally meets a Larry Nightingale, brother of her friend Kathy Nightingale who is staying with Kathy. Larry has on display numerous screens playing ‘Easter Eggs’, hidden messages encoded into DVDs, that feature a man talking to camera in a weird one-sided conversation.

On her second visit to Wester Drumlins, Sally takes Kathy to look at that odd message under the wallpaper. Whilst in the house, Sally and Kathy notice peculiar looking stone statues, which turn out to be the time-stranding Weeping Angels. There’s then an unexpected visitor at the door and Sally goes downstairs, leaving Kathy behind. The visitor says he is called Malcolm and claims to be Kathy’s grandson. Baffled by such an impossibility Sally returns to ask Kathy for an explanation, only to find that she has vanished. In a nod to BACK TO THE FUTURE, Larry then delivers a message from Kathy from 1987 – “This letter. This exact day. And at this exact time” – and it tells of the long life Kathy led. Kathy, it seems, vanished back in time to 1920 as a result of encountering one of the Weeping Angels. These aliens, it is later revealed, feast on time of lost day, as the Doctor reveals:

Fascinating race, the Weeping Angels. The only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely. No mess, no fuss, they just zap you into the past and let you live to death. The rest of your life used up and blown away in the blink of an eye. You die in the past, and in the present they consume the energy of all the days you might have had, all your stolen moments. They’re creatures of the abstract. They live off potential energy… The Lonely Assassins, that’s what they used to be called. No one quite knows where they came from, but they’re as old as the Universe, or very nearly. And they have survived this long because they have the most perfect defence system ever evolved. They are Quantum Locked. They don’t exist when they are being observed. The moment they are seen by any other living creature they freeze into rock. No choice, it’s a fact of their biology. In the sight of any living thing, they literally turn into stone. And you can’t kill a stone. Of course, a stone can’t kill you either, but then you turn your head away. Then you blink. Then, oh yes, it can.

Before leaving the derelict house, Sally spots a Yale key hanging from the hand of one of the statue and decides to takes it. Sally then visits Kathy’s brother Larry at work in his DVD shop and passes on a message in the 1987 letter telling Larry that Kathy loves him and has ‘gone on a trip’. But that’s all that’s said at this stage.

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Larry then shows Sally that he has been documenting various mysterious ‘Easter Eggs’ in DVDs that feature this very odd man in this very odd one-way conversation. For a brief moment, Sally seems inexplicably able to interact with the man on this pre-recorded video. Prompted by a worker in the DVD shop where Larry works, Sally goes to the police with her story about the missing Kathy and the potential dangers of Wester Drumlins. At the police station she meets a young and handsome officer called DI Billy Shipton who takes Sally to what he believes is a fake police box that has been impounded after being abandoned near the derelict house.

Billy then asks Sally on a date and before Sally leaves she gives him her phone number. However, it’s revealed the Weeping Angels have followed Sally to the police impound and they send the young DI Billy Shipton back to 1969 and somehow take the police box, that is the Doctor’s TARDIS. The Doctor, also in 1969, says on one of the DVDs that he asked Billy to relay a message to Sally decades later. In 2007, the now much older Billy, phones Sally and asks her to visit him on his deathbed in the hospital. Before he dies, Billy tells Sally that it was him who put all the Easter Egg messages on the DVDs – in his new life in 1969 Billy became a publisher and later a producer of DVDs – and he then tells Sally to “look at the list”. The list it turns out is Sally’s own DVD collection.

Sally persuades Larry to come with her to Wester Drumlins and here they play the pre-recorded Easter Eggs on a portable DVD player. As they watch, Sally discovers she can converse with the one-way conversation of the Doctor’s in 1969, as he, the Doctor, somehow possesses a copy of the complete transcript that Larry is at that very moment compiling. The Doctor explains all about the Weeping Angels and how they now want the time energy in the police box, meaning his police box time machine, the TARDIS.

A Weeping Angel pursues Sally and Larry to the basement of the derelict house where the Weeping Angels have taken the TARDIS. Sally and Larry use the Yale key to hide inside and as they do the Weeping Angels link hands and surround the police box. Larry inserts a now-glowing DVD into the TARDIS’s console and the TARDIS dematerialises leaving Sally and Larry behind, but of course as it does the Gorgon-like aliens turn each other to stone. The Weeping Angels standing around the TARDIS have been tricked into looking at each other and so are all now permanently frozen. A year later, Sally and Larry meet the Doctor prior to his being stuck in 1969. Sally hands the Doctor Larry’s transcript, and warns him that one day he will need it. This becomes, in a sense, part of a Causal Loop of sorts.

Essentially then the whole episode is plotted around how to communicate across time and so get a stranded time traveller his time machine back. It’s convoluted certainly and feels at times more like a puzzle built for a problem than a problem that needs a solution. Plus there are plot holes, various coincidences and lots and lots of exposition. For example, how is it that Sally has a key to Kathy’s flat, yet she has never before met Kathy’s brother Larry? And on the subject of keys, why would a Weeping Angel have the Yale key to the TARDIS so prominently in their hand? Indeed, how would they even have got hold of it in the first place? And once the Doctor does have his TARDIS back (via the unexplained but very convenient deus ex machina of ‘Security Protocol 712’) why doesn’t he just return everyone to where they should be? As for the decision to go to the police, well, that is seemingly motivated by one line from Larry’s co-worker in the DVD shop who hardly features otherwise in the story. It’s worth noting too that the Kathy vanishing plot is pretty much independent of the vanishing DC Billy Shipton plot. They only connection between the two the DVD obsessed brother. The whole Easter Egg ruse is arguably a little bit too elaborate for it’s one good and raises the question of what exactly the 1969 recordings were recorded on and how did that glowing DVD lead to ‘Security Protocol 712’ in a sealed TARDIS?

Of course, this being DOCTOR WHO, there are many fans out there who will create scenarios that answer many of these questions. For example, taking Billy from 1969 back to 2007 would create a Time Paradox, which is to say it would be an action that would remove the need for that action. However, all in all, Blink is a favourite of DOCTOR WHO fans and rightly so. It has truly frightening alien, an intricate and inventive time plot, plus a great performance by Carey Mulligan as Sally Sparrow.

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start from where you are and change the ending.”

C.S. Lewis

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“Here’s something to think about: How come you never see a headline like ‘Psychic Wins Lottery’?”

Jay Leno

Gifts from the Future

Several stories use the knowledge of time travellers from the future to offer some sort or help or gift to those in the present. Including themselves. Which is basically the plot of BACK TO THE FUTURE II. Winning the pools or the lottery can also be found in of THE FLIPSIDE OF DOMINICK HIDE and THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE. In SIJIPEUSEU: THE MYTH (also known as SISYPHUS) written by Lee Je-in and Jeon Chan-ho, there’s a neat twist on the lottery scenario. In fact in the story, the lottery is said to have been created specifically to fund the Control Bureau, an organisation that polices illegal time immigrants from the future. Not only that, in a rather clever way the lottery becomes one of the main methods of tracking down such illegals as many try and use the lottery as an easy route to making money. Find the big winners and they’re likely to be your illegal time travellers. The mysterious Sigma character however, avoids this trap by putting on small sure bets at the race track and then taking that cash to buy and sell stocks and shares. This is way of creating the mammoth wealth that, somewhat indirectly, leads to the creation of the time machine itself.

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Medical cures from the future, notably cures for cancer, are key plot elements in both SIJIPEUSEU: THE MYTH and the American television series TRAVELERS. There’s more of a comedy moment in STAR TREK IV: THE VOAYGE HOME when McCoy cures a patient who then starts running round the hospital shouting about it.

Time travellers occasionally allow themselves a gift of sorts that helps them in their adventure. Bill and Ted in BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE discovery a set of keys behind as bush that they themselves apparently put there in the future knowing that they would be needed. A neat gag on this Time Tale trope. And in SIJIPEUSEU: THE MYTH characters leave a message on the wall that allows for a rescue from the future. A deux ex machina unique to Time Tales.

“I figure you have the same chance of winning the lottery whether you play or not.”

Fran Lebowitz

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“It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.”

Jerry Seinfeld

‘Read all About it! Tomorrow’s News Today! Read all About it!’

Several stories use privileged information from the future as the central plot device. And often that knowledge comes in the form of a newspaper from the future telling of events yet to happen. An early example of this is the one-act play THE JEST OF HAHALABA (1928) by the Irish author Lord Dunsany (or Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett). The drama is set in the final hours of 1928. Sir Arthur Strangways enlists an alchemist to summon the unpredictable and mischievous spirit of Laughter. Though the alchemist warns of possible dire consequences, Sir Arthur’s greed leads him to invoke the spirit, but when he does he receives a shocking surprise. Sir Arthur is given a copy of the next day’s newspaper and in it he reads his own obituary. As a result, Sir Arthur drops dead with the shock, resulting in the very obituary he just read. Undoubted the dark spirit of Laughter found his joke very funny.

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A few years later, H.G. Wells wrote a short story called THE QUEER STORY OF BROWNLOW’S NEWSPAPER, which first appeared in the February 1932 issue of the Ladies’ Home Journal. The tale takes place on 10 November 1931 and opens with the protagonist, Mr Brownlow, accidentally being delivered a newspaper dated 10 November 1971. This intriguing arrival of a newspaper forty years hence allows Wells to speculate on what he thought the future might hold. As he reads, Mr Brownlow notices that there is no mention of the British Empire, the Soviet Union or even France or Germany. The narrator of the short story then observes:

‘Now to me this is a very wonderful thing indeed. It means, I take it, that in only forty years from now the great game of sovereign states will be over. It looks also as if the parliamentary game will be over, and as if some quite new method of handling human affairs will have been adopted. Not a word of patriotism or nationalism; not a word of party, not an allusion. But in only forty years!’

The newspaper edition from 1971 has colour photos throughout, which didn’t prove exactly correct for the real 1970s, and we’re not quite there yet even present era, except of course, online newspapers. Wells’ more accurate predictions based on news items and articles in Brownlow’s paper include a world with a lower birth rate, the use of geothermal energy and concerns over endangered species (in his 1971 world gorillas are already extinct). The newspaper itself unfortunately gets put “down the chute” by the cleaner, but a couple of small pieces are later found confirming its existence:

‘I said at the beginning that it was a queer story and queer to my mind it remains, fantastically queer. I return to it at intervals, and it refuses to settle down in my mind as anything but an incongruity with all my experience and beliefs. If it were not for the two little bits of paper, one might dispose of it quite easily. One might say that Brownlow had had a vision, a dream of unparalleled vividness and consistency. Or that he had been hoaxed and his head turned by some elaborate mystification. Or, again, one might suppose he had really seen into the future with a sort of exaggeration of those previsions cited by Mr. J.W. Dunne in his remarkable EXPERIMENT WITH TIME. But nothing Mr Dunne has to advance can account for an actual evening paper being slapped through a letter-slit forty years in advance of its date.’

But who is this Mr Dunne? And what is his remarkable EXPERIMENT WITH TIME?

Mr Dunne’s full name was John William Dunne, but he was known in the publishing world as simply J.W. Dunn. He was a soldier, an engineer and a philosopher. His seminal book AN EXPERIMENT WITH TIME (1927) develops a theory around the idea that the moment of ‘The Now’ cannot be described and pinned down by science. Dunne’s way of thinking about Time led to the notion of an endless sequence of higher dimensions of time or ‘Serial Time’. In some way these speculative theories are similar to the philosophical explorations of the nineteenth century philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel where Hegel talks about our passageway through and along various dimensional flows of Time. Hegel’s philosophical writing is not always that easy to comprehend but he does seem to suggest that if we, human beings, were capable of some sort of higher form of thinking then that would allow us to rise, as it were, above the singular nature of the ‘Now’ and so witness and experience the fullness of Time itself. And Dunne’s thinking is not in principle that different. For Dunne though, it’s our wakeful world that prevents us from seeing beyond the present moment, but, he argues, when we are dreaming, needful attention fades and we gain the ability to see along our timeline, allowing fragments of our future to appear in the form of pre-cognitive dreams. However, for Dunne anyway, pre-cognitive visions can only foresee future personal experiences of the dreamer and not more general events. Dreams, Dunne says, are personal and so it is only what is personal that can be foretold.

Dunne’s book AN EXPERIMENT WITH TIME became very influential in the 1920s and 1930s and led the novelist John Buchan, a writer not exactly know for science fiction and fantasy, to pen THE GAP IN THE CURTAIN (1932), a Time Tale which explores the theories of ‘serial time’ put forward by J.W. Dunn. And, like Wells’ THE QUEER STORY OF BROWNLOW’S NEWSPAPER, it uses the device of a newspaper of the future.

In the novel THE GAP IN THE CURTAIN, the narrator, Sir Edward Leithen, is introduced at a house party to the brilliant physicist and mathematician Professor Moe, who, like Dunne, has been working on a new speculative theory of Time. Moe believes that he has found a way to enable people to see, as if through a ‘gap in the curtain’ – hence the title of the novel – future events. Several house party guests are persuaded into an experiment where they concentrate, with the aid of an unspecified drug, in order that they may see a chosen page in The Times newspaper a year from hence. The guests are then asked to “turn their eyes inwardly” and indeed images do appear, but the effort in bringing all this about proves too much for Professor Moe, who promptly dies on the spot. The novel then follows the various fortunes of the guests over the next twelve months. And in each case, what they saw and what was predicted comes true, though often in unexpected ways.

Time is not what you think

IT HAPPENED TOMORROW is a 1944 American movie loosely based on Lords Dunsany’s theatre play THE JEST OF HAHALABA (1928), but it develops the bare bones of that tale considerably. And more towards the supernatural. In IT HAPPENED TOMORROW, set in the mid-1890s, Lawrence Stevens (Dick Powell) is a journalist and obituary writer who becomes fascinated by the musings of an elderly newspaper man called ‘Pop’ Benson, who keeps talking about the possibility of seeing right then and there in the present newspapers of the future. Lawrence Stevens says that as a journalist he wishes such a thing were really possible, but ‘Pop’ Benson warns Lawrence Stevens to be careful what one wishes for as “it’s no good to know the future.” However, the wish comes true when the old-timer ‘Pop’ Benson somehow does give Stevens the next day’s newspaper, a full twenty-four hours ahead of its publication. Ever the journalist, Lawrence Stevens uses the information he reads in the headline (a robbery the next day at a theatre’s box office) to get a scoop on his rivals, but that brings him under considerable suspicion from the police as to how he knew about the crime ahead of its taking place. But Stevens is wily character and manages to talk his way out of trouble. At least for now.

The next day, Stevens is given yet another newspaper from the next day by ‘Pop’ Benson. Stevens though this time sees a different sort of benefit in knowing the future, for he intends to use the racing results to win at the racetrack, as Biff does in BACK TO THE FUTURE III. But there’s a problem, for our journalist Stevens, as in THE JEST OF HAHALABA and also one of the characters in THE GAP IN THE CURTAIN, reads a story in the newspaper about his own death that night. In the supernatural plot twist, Stevens is told by the other newspaper men that his benefactor ‘Pop’ Benson actually died the night he was musing about newspapers from the future, and so the ‘Pop’ Benson who gave Stevens the two newspapers must have been some sort of ghostly spirit. As it turns out, although the newspaper headline which told of Stevens’ death was real, it was in fact an erroneous story, for someone got their facts wrong. Stevens hadn’t – and wouldn’t – be killed at all. An early example, perhaps, of that which we now call ‘fake news’.

EARLY EDITION is an American fantasy drama television series which ran between 1996 and 2000. And as with IT HAPPENED TOMORROW, the action was set in a newspaper office. The location this time was Chicago, Illinois, and here EARLY EDITION followed the adventures of Gary Hobson who every day mysteriously receives a copy of the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper a full twenty-four hours before it is actually appears on the streets. Each episode then had Gary Hobson taking advantage of this knowledge to prevent whatever terrible event was there in the headlines. In an odd twist of life imitating art, the series was only commissioned after a mock-up newspaper presented as the real thing sparked a fiery conversation in the pitch meeting itself. Only at the end of the pitch was it revealed to the television executives that the edition, dated the next day, wasn’t actually real.

EARLY EDITION has been compared to IT HAPPENED TOMORROW, but it’s creators, Ian Abrams, Patrick Q. Page and Vik Rubenfeld, have argued that their series is in no way based on that film. And in a way that is fair because for anyone dealing in Time Fantasy, tomorrow’s newspaper is now hardly a new idea hot off the press.

Another prophetic newspaper tale is Robert Silverberg’s WHAT WE LEARNED FROM THIS MORNING’S NEWSPAPER (1972) which features neighbours in a suburban block in New York who are at first mystified and then excited at the realisation that next week’s newspaper has just landed on their doorsteps. But perhaps they should have watched IT HAPPENED TOMORROW and heeded ‘Pop’ Benson’s wise words that “it’s no good to know the future.” In fact, in Silverberg’s story trying to take advantage of news from the future is no good for anyone, for in their attempt to play the stock market and change the future, Space-Time is somehow how corrupted and an ‘entropic creep’ begins to blur out the paper. And not only the newspaper, but eventually everyday life itself.

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Newspapers from the future continue to be a standard device for time fantasy writers. Newspaper headlines past, present and future featured throughout the Back to the Future series, both for key plot reasons and expositional purposes. In book two of the SWIDGERS the Time Adventure books series, THE TIME THEY SAVED TOMORROW, William discovers the terrible nature of the oppressive and tyrannous time world he has found himself by looking through newspapers that he finds that are lining a sock drawer. Oddly enough, it isn’t the front page headlines that reveal the horrible truth of this wicked world but rather the photographs of crowds at a football match.

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“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”

Mark Twain

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“Dreams about the future are always filled with gadgets.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Time Gadgets (Patents Pending)

Very conveniently, the TARDIS, the means by which the Doctor in DOCTOR WHO travels through space and time, has a ‘translation circuit’, which is a gift of the TARDIS. In simple terms the translation circuit is a telepathic field stretching from the TARDIS that gets inside your brain and translates what the aliens are saying. But, as with many things relating to the TARDIS, the system isn’t infallible. On some occasions, the telepathic field is limited to a certain radius around the TARDIS. Also the translation circuit is one hundred per cent accurate for it has a swear filter, which means that if an alien or even a speaker of ancient Greece uses a rude phrase, all potentially impressionable young viewers would only ever hear is something like “You’re all a bunch of naughty melon pluckers!” There have been occasions when the translation circuits have failed to work or even hacked. The Master’s odd humour came into play when he disrupted what the Doctor was saying by altering the telepathic circuits of the TARDIS with the bizarre result that when the Doctor’s own words were fed back to him they came out backwards. The TARDIS does however seem able to deal quite cleverly with accents, as when Donna arrived in Pompeii and met one Latin speaker who thought she was Celtic. But maybe the bigger clue was in the hair.

The Korean time travel series ALICE (AELLISEU), written by Kim Kyu-Won, stays firmly on Earth and so doesn’t have any alien languages to worry about. That said, those clever people at Alice did come up with a one brilliant gadget that surprisingly hasn’t yet been fully exploited on the commercial market. Older looking time travellers when they travel back in time to see a loved one simply put in their ear some sort of device that allows their older selves to look thirty years younger. For some people, this would undoubtedly be an invention far more important than time travelling itself, yet in the series it is never fully explained or even developed that much. Ah well, back to Botox.

The wormhole timepiece carried around by travellers in DARK is about the size of a cricket ball, but trust Korean technology from Alice to come up with something even smaller. You see, travellers in ALICE (AELLISEU) carry a Time Card, no bigger than a credit card, which, when pressed, allows them to travel in time. Detective Park Jin-gyeom’s mother Yoon Tae-yi did have one, but hers was damaged. Jin-gyeom asks her doppelganger, Professor Yoon Tae-yi, to examine it and she finds inside various mathematical equations that are similar to those she has been working on. There are hints here of a Causal Loop, that is something that itself is not invented but rather comes from the future to the past where it becomes the cause of that which it will become. Put simply, if you take the technology of a time machine back in time, you can then use that wizardry to put together the very time machine that took you. Causal loops save you lots of hard work in the lab.

“When I was a kid, I never wanted to be James Bond. I wanted to be Q, because he was the guy who made all the gadgets. I guess you could say that engineering came naturally.”

Grant Imahara

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“The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.”

Roald Dahl

Time Buried Treasure

There’s a plot point in BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE where Bill and Ted need to release from the jail cells the historical figures they have collected from across time, but the problems is they don’t have the keys to the cell, which anyway, it has already been established, have been missing from the very beginning of the movie. But Bill has a thought:

BILL: If only we could go back to two days ago before your dad lost his keys, and steal them.

TED: Well, why don’t we?

BILL: Cuz we don’t have the time, dude.

TED: We could do it after the report.

BILL: Oh yeah! Where should we put ‘em?

TED: How ‘bout behind this sign?


BILL: Whao! It worked!

TED: Right, so when we’re done with the report, we have to remember to do this or else it won’t happen… but it did happened! Wow, it was me who stole my dad’s keys.

Need something, dude? Whoa! Simply leave that something in the past and let ourselves find it when it’s wanted. Excellent!

Discovering something hidden that has been especially placed there to be found at a later date, is a popular plot device in Time Tales. The DeLorean left in the mine shaft in BACK TO THE FUTURE III, for example. In Stranded, episode seven of Season One of TIMELESS, Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus are left high and dry in 1754. However, Rufus leaves a literal message in a bottle inside the damaged Lifeboat for Mason Industries to find in 2016 buried underground in what is now a suburb of Pennsylvania. Rufus manages some repairs in 1754 but is more worried about the cryptic message for it is a clue to help the base get then home. However, this is eventually understood by Jiya in 2016 to be a reference to STAR WARS and she is ultimately able to guide the team and the Lifeboat back to base.

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In DARK, the younger Claudia Tiedemann in 1987, uses a map given by her older self to find the exact spot behind her house where the time machine was buried by the older Claudia Tiedemann in 1954. This allows the 1987 Claudia to travel in time to 2000. Be careful then where you dig in your garden with your shovel. You never know what a time traveller might have left back there in 1883.

“Something deeply hidden had to be behind things.”

Albert Einstein

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