Category Archives: Reviews

#227: Toward Better Subtitles

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #227, on the subject of Toward Better Subtitles.

Decades ago I saw a joke birthday card.  On the face it raved about how it was the first perfect birthday card, designed and printed entirely by a computer so nothing could possibly go wrong.  Inside, it said in Courier Block lettering, MERRY CHRISTMAS.

It came to mind recently because I have come to watch television with the subtitles activated so that if somehow I miss what someone says I can read it and keep up, and sometimes they can be rather silly.  In a recent time travel movie I analyzed, Paradox, one of the characters at one point asks what it is they are seeing, and another reasonably clearly says, “Quark gluon,” but the person writing the subtitles apparently had insufficient education in advanced particle physics to recognize those as words, and so subtitled it “[Speaks Indistinct]”.  My wife recently reported watching a British mystery series and seeing the name “Wetherington Perish Church” as the local parish church.

Image captured by Gwydion M. Williams

The reason I thought of the birthday card is upon reading some of these I began to wonder whether someone was experimenting with speech-to-text software, feeding the soundtrack into a computer and getting it to figure out what everyone is saying.  I somehow doubt it–speech-to-text software has its limitations, but some of the mistakes I’ve seen could only be made by a human.  The kind of mistakes I see strongly suggest that someone is sitting at a keyboard listening to the soundtrack and typing what they hear, and that no one is proofreading the finished product.  Yet it strikes me that the people who do these subtitles are missing an obvious aid in their efforts.

I once watched an excellent Spanish-language time travel move, Los Cronocrimines a.k.a. TimeCrimes, which was both subtitled and dubbed in English, and it was intriguing to me to notice that the subtitles did not always match the dubbing.  My conclusion was that the subtitles were probably the more accurate rendering of the original Spanish.  My reasoning was that the dubbed text had to be adjusted so that the words we heard in the audience credibly matched the movement of the lips of the speakers, but the subtitles would be a direct English translation of the original Spanish dialogue.  Therein lies my solution:  use the script.

It wouldn’t work for a lot of programs–news, reality shows, talk shows–but the majority of the television I watch is scripted.  The people on the screen aren’t making up their lines; they’ve memorized them (or sometimes are reading them from a teleprompter).  The script is available, and given the ubiquity of computers it’s almost certainly available in an electronic file format.  So the obvious fix is for those who write the subtitles to start with the script, copy/paste the text into the subtitle program, and then simply adjust it whenever the actor got the line wrong–or not.  I often see subtitles in which the actor actually said about twice as many words as the subtitle, but didn’t really change the sense.

This solution seems so obvious to me that I find myself swithering between two conclusions.  It may be that the people responsible for the subtitling just aren’t bright enough to realize that they have an available resource for any text of which they are not certain, or to recognize that what they typed can’t possibly be right.  On the other hand, maybe the attitude is based on that corollary to the familiar law, Anything not worth doing is not worth doing well.  After all, how many of us out here really rely on subtitles?  Why spend a bit more time, a bit more money, a bit more effort on getting them right?  I’m constantly reading and reviewing books which are poorly edited; should I expect better of television and movies?  Does the subtitle audience really matter?

Maybe we don’t–but we aren’t all hard of hearing.  Some of us use subtitles because we watch late at night and don’t want the television to be so loud that it disturbs the sleep of others in the house.  Some use subtitles because we’re watching at work, such as night security, and we don’t want the noise of the television.  Some use subtitles to get past character accents that are sometimes challenging to understand (oh, that’s what she said!).  They’re a convenience–but an annoying one when they make stupid mistakes.

I don’t have much influence in the film industry.  I write a few articles about time travel in movies, and I’m aware that a few independent film producers have read them, but in the main I’ll probably be ignored.  However, it would be nice to have the subtitles match the dialogue, or at least accurately represent it, especially if the people typing them can’t understand what the actors are saying–that, after all, is when many of us most need to have the written form.  So here’s hoping that those who provide the subtitles can do a bit better for those of us who use them.

#223: In re: Full Moon Rising, by T. M. Becker

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #223, on the subject of In re:  Full Moon Rising, by T. M. Becker.


Although I did a number of book reviews in the previous Blogless Lepolt web log a decade ago, I have done none in the mark Joseph “young” web log but one that was time travel related.  Part of that is because I write my book reviews at Goodreads, and have been reading enough lately that I did not want either to overload the web log with reviews or play favorites with inclusions and exclusions here.  However, this is a special case.

That requires full disclosure.  The author, T. M. Becker, is my first cousin once removed–my mother’s brother’s son’s daughter.  Yet I cannot say we know each other very well.  I can pronounce her given name (or at least, I believe I pronounce it correctly) but am not going to embarrass either of us by pretending I’m completely certain how it is spelled.  We have been in the same room three times in our lives, all at family gatherings (although with her nine children I imagine it always seems she is at a family gathering), the first when she was perhaps five years old, plus or minus a couple years, and the other two within the past couple years.  I did not immediately recognize her when she came up to me at that last one.  She connected with me via social media shortly before this book was published, and I offered to write a review in exchange for a copy.

That is the kind of offer a writer immediately regrets, as the fear arises that you won’t be able to say anything good about it and don’t want to damage a relationship by saying something bad.  Fortunately, that is not a problem in this instance.  Thus I offer

Full Moon Rising
by T. M. Becker

I have high praise for Becker’s first published novel.  It is excellent in many ways.

Let’s begin with the little stuff.  I read a lot of books in which I cringe at editing mistakes, typos, grammatical errors, spelling errors, misused words, punctuation problems, and the like.  Here the editing was immaculate.  I think there were perhaps two sentences in the entire book which I thought I might phrase differently, one place where I had to pause and figure out who made one statement in a three-way conversation.  There is no editor credit other than thanks to a writer’s workshop group; I am guessing that it is her own linguistic skill that is responsible for this.

She somewhere has acknowledged the influences of J. R. R. Tolkien and J. K. Rowling, and her story fits comfortably between Hobbits and Hogwarts but never blatantly borrows anything significant from either.  She demonstrates familiarity with subject matter, such as proper medieval architectural terms, common medicinal herbs, fashion and textiles and jewelry, and equestrian matters.  It at least feels as if she knows what she’s describing.  Her characters and creatures and settings while familiar are all original, or at least sufficiently distinct from any I have encountered elsewhere to say I don’t feel as if they were borrowed.

I struggle with titles.  I’m not sure that this book is well named, as the rising of the moon while significant in the main character’s life was less prominent in the story.  However, I would be hard-pressed to find a better title, and titles after all are essentially handles by which to identify stories.

The story revolves around Arabella.  It took me a while to learn her name, because it is written in the first person (and on this, kudos to Becker for never noticeably breaking perspective) and her name is rarely spoken–but I admit I often have problems with names of people, whether fictional or real.  There are quite a few conflicts and mysteries surrounding her, such as the disappearance of her mother, the oppressive regime that has conquered her country, the strange dreams she has when the moon approaches full, the magical trunk in her bedroom, the nature of the horse she rescues, and the threat of the evil wizard.  Some of these are not resolved within the book, and some are resolved too easily, such as the downfall of the oppressive regime after Arabella has fled the country.  However, the book is not about those stories.  It is very much about Arabella’s self-perception, the person she sees when she looks in the mirror and why she does not believe when others tell her she is beautiful.  It is a good story, and perhaps very meaningful for the target young adult audience; I recognized what was happening before the reveal, but I think we were supposed to be wondering why everyone saw her as beautiful but herself, and Becker accomplishes this layered into a story laced with adventure and excitement.

If I have a disappointment, it’s that I don’t know what Becker will write next.  Arabella has lived through her teen years and is about to marry her prince (unclear in the epilogue whether the wedding had occurred, but if not it is imminent); she would not be a suitable central character for the next book unless the villain kidnaps her before the wedding.  Speaking of the villain, we think he is dead, but he might have survived, but continuing Arabella’s story beyond a few weeks would not fit the target audience of the first book.  There is much that could be explored in this world, but difficult to set so good a plot to it as the one about Arabella in this book.  I fear my curiosities about the other fortresses, the secrets of Aramis, and so many other questions about what is just beyond what we were told will go unanswered.

Yet perhaps that is as it should be.  There is room in her world for another story, and room on the shelves should she decide to create another world.

I am giving the book five stars on Goodreads.  I think it one of the best books I have read in several years.

#206: Temporal Thoughts on Colkatay Columbus

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #206, on the subject of Temporal Thoughts on Colkatay Columbus.

I realized that the premise of this movie was absurd enough that it was probably not going to be a serious time travel film.  Found on Netflix, the blurb simply said that Christopher Columbus arrives in Kolkata, India in the present, where two young men seek his advice in their own searches for success.

What was not evident, though, was that the movie itself was not intended to be absurd nor even comedic, and it might not involve time travel at all.  It is an Indian movie, viewed with subtitles.

Apart from the intrepid explorer himself, who plays a significant role in the story, our primary characters are called Sam and Ray.

Sam has a longer more ethnic name, but he shortened it and cut all ties with his family eight years before the story opens.  He is reasonably successful as a radio disk jockey (an “RJ” in the parlance of the film), but wants to be a musical recording artist.  To this end, he has begun dating an entirely self-absorbed girl solely because her father is wealthy enough to finance the production of an album for him–despite the fact that he has a very close relationship with a girl who adores him.

Ray is a corporate office worker who writes short stories in what little spare time he has, and wants to succeed as a writer, but with mixed objectives he also wants a promotion up the corporate ladder.  His complication is that he is clearly attracted to a girl who is his superior, perhaps supervisor, in the company, and she to him, but although he would like to pursue a relationship he is too concerned about persuading her to pull some strings to get him promoted.

One day the two young men are riding in the back seat of a car driven by one of their friends when they almost hit a man, maybe sixty or so from appearance, dressed in Italian Renaissance clothing.  They are curious and engage him in conversation, and he claims to be Christopher Columbus, the discoverer of America, or at least of quite a few islands off its coast.  Then when he swoons (and hey, wearing all that heavy warm clothing in India, it’s surprising he lasted as long as he did) they catch him, bundle him into their car, and then debate whether to take him to a hospital or take him to their home to see if he can help them find success.

That is certainly the theme of the film, that everyone is exploring, searching for something.  Columbus believes himself to be the greatest explorer, and wants to help people find what they seek, so he becomes involved in advising the boys on reaching their goals.  It is genuinely interesting, if you aren’t stymied by the slow pace, but it is not the point of our investigation.

At this point we have three plausible understandings of who this person might be.  He might, of course, be some crazy person who believes himself to be Christopher Columbus, memorized much of his history from available sources such as Wikipedia, and dresses and acts the part.  He might be the real Christopher Columbus, rumors of his death having been greatly exaggerated, still alive half a millennium later.  He might be the real Christopher Columbus leaping across time to the present.

When the film is rising to its climax the first of those is knocked out of consideration, as fifteenth century Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diaz (first man to navigate around the southern tip of Africa to reach India by water) shows up at the apartment looking for Columbus, saying that the latter gave him the address and asked him to bring a hammock so he could sleep better.  It appears that they are genuinely who they claim to be, despite the weak explanations for their fluency in the local language and somewhat native appearance.

However, Diaz explains that he has been living in South Africa in recent years, along with Gandhi, and that suggests that they are not time travelers at all.  They simply are the continuations of their original selves from years before, still alive after their deaths.

That may be the significance here.  In the closing scene, two other young men are asked for help by someone in a military uniform who claims his motorcycle broke down and gives his name as Che Guevara.  In some way, these famous people are still around.

There might be a clue to the author’s intent in the fact that a couple times characters engage in tossing quotations from famous people at each other.  One even comments that if you become famous, silly little things you said become famous quotes.  There is thus a sense in which those famous people are still with us, still influencing us, still in some sense alive in our midst, having a sort of immortality that is manifest within the movie by their corporeal presence.

I had some concern that at some point Columbus might return to the past.  Indeed, there is pressure on him to “go back”.  However, he only returns to his ship, and we can reasonably conclude that he does not travel through time in any way different from the rest of us, he only has continued to do so for five centuries beyond when we thought he died.

So despite the notion of Christopher Columbus appearing in the early twenty-first century, there is no time travel in this one.

I appear to have access to copies of Paradox, Synchronicity, The Man from the Future, and Abby Sen, all of which have strong claims to containing time travel elements.  Watch for posts, either here on the web log or as full page analyses in the Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies section of the site.

MJY Blog Entry #199: Time Travel Movies that Work

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #199, on the subject of Time Travel Movies that Work.

A few weeks ago, one of my readers specifically asked what time travel movies I thought actually worked, temporally.  My musings on this were interrupted by an extended hospitalization, but I have felt for a while that I ought to be writing something about time travel and for various reasons have not been able to obtain copies of any new time travel movies, so here’s a review of some of the old ones.

Paul Nigh’s ‘’ Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine

Let’s clear out a few issues first.  The first two Terminator films, and the third, were all “workable”, but they required a tremendous number of less than probable events.  That is, if we were in the world where the onscreen stories were occurring, we would know that we were in a statistically unlikely world, but if we were in the world from which those events might have arisen we would be very foolish to trust that things were going to work that way.  A lot of our movies are like that, and I’m not going to include a lot of movies which “work provided a lot of improbable events occur”.

There are also a couple of movies that land on the time travel desk which “work” because either there is no time travel within the film (although time travel issues are raised) or we don’t know any details about it.  Terminator Genisys [edit] Salvation is noteworthy in this regard, as there is a lot of concern over what happens if Kyle Reese is killed before traveling back to become John Conner’s father.  Also in this category is the very enjoyable Safety Not Guaranteed, in which we are never entirely certain whether the machine actually does travel in time until the end.  These are good movies and technically time travel movies that work, but do so because the time travel is outside the frame of the film.

The first movie that genuinely impressed me as near perfect was Twelve Monkeys.  It still is impressive, although there are problems with it that I missed because I had not yet recognized them.  Perhaps the biggest is that it appears they are using a time travel projector/collector, and as we saw in Timeline they are seriously problematic.  That problem is resolved if, as we suggest in the beginning of our Twelve Monkeys analysis, the return trip is not initiated from the future but based on a timer that determines when he returns.  So although there are more caveats than there once were, this is still on the list of the better films.

Source Code genuinely blew me away, because it works brilliantly–but not as a time travel story.  Explaining what it actually is would be a major spoiler, but if you have not seen it, do so, and then read the analysis.

I genuinely love Eleven Minutes Ago.  It is a quirky independent film in which a time traveler accidentally crashes a wedding party, falls in love with one of the bridesmaids, and woos her by returning to the party in eleven minute segments out of sequence.  The most difficult part of this film is the card trick, but even that has a better than even chance of working.

Also on the list of films that work is Los Cronocrimines a.k.a. TimeCrimes.  It is certainly temporally convoluted, but with a few not entirely unreasonable assumptions we obtain a working story.  The time machine itself in this instance suffers from the same problems as that devised by H. G. Wells:  once someone is using it, why are they not inside it if someone else tries to use it to travel the same temporal path?  However, since no one knows a way to travel through time, we tend to avoid looking too closely at the methods suggested.

That is also the main problem with Time After Time, in which H. G. Wells pursues Jack the Ripper into the twentieth century.  The end of the movie might create some genetic problem issues, but that is beyond what we know from the film.  Of course, this works largely because the time travel is only at the beginning and not part of the larger story.  There are a few temporal hiccoughs in the beginning, though.

I should mention Back to the Future, the first part.  It has some nonsense in it concerning what happens to the photo and to Marty when it appears that his history is being undone, and in the end it should not be the Marty we know but the affluent Marty who grew up in that affluent home whom we see in the future, but otherwise this does a reasonable job of producing a replacement theory story.  The sequels are fraught with impossibilities and problems, but I saw the original at its twenty-fifth anniversary showing and thought it stood the test of time, even though this was the second analysis (the third film) I had written.

The Star Trek movies deserve mention, particularly Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home.  There are some problems with it, but in the main it holds together.  The other three time-travel-based films in the series are all over the map, from the disastrous Generations to the slightly problematic First Contact to the challenging Star Trek (2009).

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was a surprise because I knew that the time travel in the book did not work, but discovered that because of one small change that in the movie did.  It’s not perfect, but its functional.

I also need to mention Flight of the Navigator, which lands on the list because we are provided with the A-B timeline only, with Davey being delivered to the beginning of the altered C-D timeline at the end of the film.  That of course changes everything, and we don’t see how, but we can envision a solution to the time travel problems (indeed, more than one), and so reasonably can include it in movies that work.

There are other time travel movies I like and would recommend, not because they work easily but because they’re funny (Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel, Blackadder Back & Forth) or engaging (Happy Accidents, The Time Traveler’s Wife) or intriquing in their ideas (The Jacket, Next), but you can read my analyses of those and many other films, along with theory discussions, correspondence, and other articles, indexed from the main Temporal Anomalies in Popular Time Travel Movies page.

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#189: An AnimeNEXT 2017 Experience

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #189, on the subject of An AnimeNEXT 2017 Experience.

This should be prefaced with the admission that I was quite trepidatious about attending the AnimeNEXT convention as a “guest” this year, for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the convention itself.  To provide a brief background, I was invited to attend AnimeNEXT in 2014, when it was still in Somerset, New Jersey, at the now defunct Garden State Exhibit Center (it is now in the Atlantic City Convention Center), and I accepted and went and had a good time, running Multiverser for quite a few people most of whom had no experience with it, and seeing a couple of people I knew from Ubercon (a convention which I attended as guest for all but the first).  I was invited to return, and planned to do so despite the fact that it falls on the weekend of my birthday.

One week before the 2015 convention we lost our electric, and were without it up to the Friday the convention was to start–leaving me with refrigerators and freezers filled with garbage that had to be cleaned and taken to the dump on Saturday.  I did not make it to the convention, regretably.  Then in 2016, the night I was supposed to be driving to the con I was instead driven to the emergency room, where I was admitted to emergency surgery and kept in house for a week.  I joked that for my birthday I was given a hernioraphy and bowel resection, gifts I would use for many years to come.  (The joke was on me, because in March I was back to have the hernia repair repaired, and I’m not entirely certain that the repair is holding.)

Thus with the 2017 convention looming I was superstitiously worried about what sort of disaster would befall us preventing my attendance yet again.  Mercifully none did, but I was still on edge as on the Thursday night on which I was supposed to check into the hotel the person who was to drive me got sick.  I was as much concerned that I would get there as that I would not, not having run any live Multiverser games since the previous con and not having run any online since Gaming Outpost crashed, and hoping that the materials still packed in the box of books and papers from the last time were going to include everything I needed this time, without ever having a moment of preparation time to check them.  Fortuitously everything on that count worked.  I arrived Friday, too late for breakfast but in time for lunch.

I was immediately in the game room, and soon entertaining players.  Regan and Kaseeb (I hope I got those spellings right) dove right into my Tropical Island setting–the one all convention players know because I start everyone there and then blow the volcano and kill them all (that is, their characters) so I can scatter them to other worlds in the multiverse.  Both players saved me that trouble.  When Michael di Vars was explaining what had happened to them, and that whenever they were killed they would awaken in another universe, Kaseeb called him “crazy”, which as a clear expression of disbelief demands proof, and the proof is that di Vars shoots him with a gun big enough to be instantly fatal.  Regan thereafter was not so skeptical, but chose to explore a cave into which a stream poured and from which steam arose, and when he fell on the slick wet polished volcanic glass streambed he decided to attempt to crawl deeper into the cave, resulting in an abrupt slide into the boiling pool at the bottom.

Both players returned on Saturday, and I’m not certain exactly where the break was in their games.  Kaseeb landed on the bridge of the Starship Destiny, where after being beligerent and getting locked in the brig, he became cooperative, started requesting equipment he recognized would be valuable in the long term (such as a water purification system), and made himself part of the crew.  He went on a raid of a Federation listening post under construction, but got killed by security when things went wrong.  I’m afraid he tended to roll particularly bad general effects rolls, so when he needed things to go well for him the dice said they went badly.  He awoke in a forest, but I’m not going to say more about that in case he does contact me to continue play, other than to record for my own sake that he is in the same world in which Derek Jacob Brown started in the fourth novel–so those who follow the novels will probably know what world that is in a few months, if all goes well.

Meanwhile, Regan landed in Ruritania’s royal game preserve, where he was discovered by Colonel Sapt and Fritz Tarlenheim–Prisoner of Zenda, where he was as near the exact duplicate of King Rudolf as one could ask.  He pulled the rug out from under me, though–when in the morning the king had been drugged or poisoned and could not be awakened, Regan tapped his medical and herbalism background to purge the drug and revive the victim.  The king thus made it to the coronation, very sickly but adequately, and Regan was smuggled into the royal suite in the Castle at Strelsau after dark, to attend to the continued treatment of the problem.

I also started a game for Glen on Saturday afternoon.  Oddly, all three of us working in the game room–Ahmetia, Kevin, and I–felt ill after lunch.  I excused myself for a while when Regan and Kaseeb had left, but when I returned Glenn had also departed.  He did stay on the island until it exploded, although he was trying to build a raft to escape it when it happened.  He drowned, but I was still trying to decide where he would awaken when I took my break.

I had no players on Sunday, but sat in on half a game of something called Fiasco that Kevin was running–an excellent story-driven game that I would probably recommend but that at just about the halfway point two of our players had to leave and the game could not be continued once players had left the table, so I don’t really know how it plays out to the end.

Outside the RPG room, I made one run to the dealer and artist showcase room–combined in one large area with little distinction between the two.  It was larger than I could even bring myself to run through, but apart from the rather pricey and common dice (all the standard polyhedrals, but no d30s and nothing unusual like the tiny dice or the d24 I got at the last Ubercon) I saw nothing that interested me much.  That’s not really the fault of the con–it’s that I’m not the best target audience for it.  Kevin is an expert on the paranormal, frequent lecturer on the subject, but his expertise is focused on Western phenomena.  At AnimeNEXT panels address either anime or Japan, and outside our game rooms nearly everything at the convention is about one or both of those subjects.  As Chaplain of the Christian Gamers Guild I have several years attempted to connect with someone about hosting a non-denominational Christian worship service on Sunday morning, but have never been able to figure out who that would be, and suspect it is partly because Christian worship services are not really thought to fit into their overall program.  There is also an extremely high level of cosplay here.  The few other cons I’ve attended were mostly people in plain clothes with occasional costumed characters.  Here the plainclothes attendees are more the exception, and many of the cosplayers look like cartoon characters peeled from the celuloid.  I am very impressed by their skills in this regard, and they clearly impress each other–it is typical to find a crowd of photographers surrounding a well-costumed individual.  I even saw someone I thought would make an excellent image for my Lauren Hastings character, but she was down the escalator before I could react, and I was rushing late to dinner, and I never saw her again.

I have a couple times mentioned food, and I reluctantly have to say it was disappointing.  I say I am a guest of the convention, but I’m technically listed as staff in the tabletop games section.  I don’t attend staff meetings because they’re generally held (seems like every week) more than two hours away from where I live, and although in theory one can attend via online video conferencing I have no microphone or camera on my computer.  I consider myself more a special guest, like the professional wrestlers they had performing some exhibition on Saturday afternoon.  As “staff” I get free room and meals.

It is difficult to assess the Sheraton.  Upon my arrival, there was a freak incident in which the bellhop, who was apparently required to bring my luggage to my room, spilled my coffee on the rug and promised to get housekeeping to clean it.  I never saw housekeeping, and the stain remained through our entire stay, but it was mocha so it probably stains pretty well.  A moment later I noticed that the drain cock on the bathroom sink did not open.  He promised he would have maintenance fix that as well, and it was fixed by the time I returned to the room that evening.  However, at six in the morning when one of my roommates, Paul, tried to take a shower, the tub drain was clogged.  He called the desk, and we had someone there by six thirty waking the rest of us but getting the drain cleared.  Obviously there are going to be such problems, and the response was swift, but it is passing strange that we had two bad drains in the same room.  It causes me to wonder about the plumbing and other maintenance of other rooms in the hotel, but it might be simply that we had a bad general effects roll.

I hate to say that the meals were a disappointment.  Three years ago the food was wonderful, breakfast and dinner buffets worth good money.  This year, breakfast was continental, and while the donuts, bagels, loaf cakes, and other basic bread products were good quality, and the coffee excellent, I had been eagerly anticipating eggs and meat and hot cereal.  Friday’s dinner included one entree, chicken parmesan, which was passable.  I was ill Saturday and lay down over dinner time, but others at the convention described the meal of pizza and pasta salads rather derisively.  Lunch all three days was hoagies and wraps, and I was fairly happy with the roast beef on Friday and the tuna on Sunday, but on Saturday I forced myself to eat half an Italian hoagie and half a roast chicken sandwich with the roasted peppers pulled off (I do not do well with spicy foods), and probably made myself ill trying to eat it.  (Kevin and Ahmetia ultimately decided that their infirmity arose from lack of sleep, having stayed up too late Friday night and arisen too early Saturday morning.)  Of course, it was food, and it was free.  The cookies were good, the homemade potato chips got mixed reviews.  Coffee, tea, and orange juice were available with breakfast, but lunches and dinners were served with Nestle’s Pure Life bottled water in tiny bottles (eight ounces each).  The coffee was swept away very quickly at the end of breakfast, but Kat and I were able to prevail upon the polite and helpful catering staff to provide us with cups to go from the kitchen mid-morning Saturday.

I approach the food issue with mixed feelings.  I am reminded of a Mad Magazine mock of a movie entitled Marooned (which perhaps presciently told the story of three astronauts stranded in space before the Apollo 13 fiasco), in which at one point Ground Control replies to the stranded astronauts, “Hey, we had to cut the budget somewhere–we couldn’t have wall-to-wall carpet and a back-up life support system.”  There are a lot of expenses involved in running a convention, and the people at the top want to see it turn enough of a profit that they have money ready to do it again the next year.  I think it unfortunate that some of my fondest memories of 2014 were about the food, which was the basis of my worst memories of 2017.  On the other hand, I had money in my pocket and there were places to eat in the neighborhood, so the fact that I did not eat well proves ultimately to be my own fault.

Ahmetia is already expecting me to return next year, so although I have not been formally invited I’m guessing at this point that’s a formality.  Hopefully this year will go well enough that I will be in better shape in every way in twelve months, so I’ll start planning for that.  I understand that there were about two thousand people (give or take a couple hundred) through the gates, and that there were some there that I know who never came by to see me, but there were some who remembered me from three years ago who know me from nowhere else, and that was an encouragement.  So perhaps I will see you there in 2018.

I also promised Regan and Kaseeb, and maybe Glen, that if they contacted me I would find a way to continue their games online.  I am contemplating adding a forum to this site for that purpose, but have not yet heard from any of them–although I expect that if I decide to do this, I will be innundated with players from previous games wanting to continue online, who are probably already thinking that I should do this.  I am considering it.  No decision has been reached at this point.

#185: Notes on Time Travel in The Flash

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #185, on the subject of Notes on Time Travel in The Flash.

Let me first say that I do like the current television incarnation of The Flash–not as much as I enjoyed the 1990 version, but more than some superhero efforts I’ve seen.  I have small complaints, such as that this Barry Allen seems a lot younger, and a lot less capable at his day job, than the one I remember from comics in the nineteen sixties, but a lot of what is different from what I remember is good–and hey, it’s been half a century since I was reading comic books, so I have no idea what it’s like now.  It’s an entertaining show, and I look forward to more episodes appearing.


It’s the time travel elements that irk me.

I really hope that doesn’t surprise anyone.

Let me also say that the totally bogus notion of how to travel through time, by traveling fast enough, does not particularly bother me either.  Maybe it’s because I remember Superman doing it when I was in grade school, and I remember realizing that it didn’t really make sense that flying around the earth fast enough in one direction would take you to the past, and doing it in the other direction would bring you back to the present, but it made for a good story.  Peter Davison’s Doctor (Who?) once said not to trust anyone who thought he was going to go back in time by exceeding the speed of light, because it really didn’t work that way, but since no one knows how it works I usually give a pass on method.  This speed trick is popular–even Star Trek used it in the original series and in Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home.  You can’t do it that way, but it’s only a story, and in that world apparently you can.

At this point I have seen all the episodes in what is, I think, the first two seasons, and there has been an inordinate amount of time travel.  I have elsewhere explained why I do not do detailed analyses of time travel television shows, and a lot of those reasons apply here–Barry frequently travels to the same point in the past, and so do his enemies, and thus we are faced with the fact that what happens in later episodes is going to alter what happened in earlier ones.  So I am not dealing with those kinds of details here; I am just looking at two concepts that can be abstracted from the story, and the problems I have with these.

The big one is the time remnant.

The concept here is that you can duplicate yourself by traveling to the past–and that much is certainly true.  It is a kind of a joke skill in Multiverser, that a character who can time travel to the past fights for one minute, then in the next minute uses his time travel skill to go back two minutes to the beginning of the fight so that there are two of him, and does this at the end of every minute until he manages, by sheer numbers, to win the fight in one minute.  Then, since every duplicate version of himself has to travel back to become the next duplicate version of himself, a minute later all vanish but the last, who does not make the trip to the past but continues living into the future.

The problem with the skill is that you absolutely have to survive those first two minutes without any assistance, because until you get to the point in the future where you can travel to the past, you have not yet arrived in the past.  Your arrival in the past changes history, but in order to change history there must have been an original history to change, a history in which you did not arrive.

The problem with the time remnant is that he becomes disconnected from his own linear history, and thus he cannot exist.

Let us create a hypothetical.  Barry is supposed to meet his boss to discuss a case over lattes at that coffee shop, but as he is on his way he learns that Killer Frost is robbing a jewelry store downtown.  He quickly dresses as The Flash, manages to nab her and deliver her to holding back at the collider, and then realizes that he has missed his meeting with his boss, who is going to be unhappy and does not know that his not entirely competent lab technician is secretly The Flash.  The boss has been fuming over this incompetence, pays for his latte, and heads back to the office.  Barry decides this is important, so he travels fast enough to go back in time.  Now as his one-hour-younger self is headed downtown to stop Killer Frost, he dresses as Barry and meets his boss, who has no memory of the original history and so does not know that Barry did not show.  They have their meeting while Killer Frost is being captured and taken to holding, and at this moment there are two Barry Allens in the world–one of whom just captured Killer Frost, the other of whom did that an hour ago and has since had a meeting with his boss.

However, the Barry Allen who just captured Killer Frost still has to travel to the past to become the Barry Allen who meets with his boss.  If he does not do so, that Barry Allen will never come into existence.  However, when he does so, he ceases to exist in the future–because for him, he lives through that hour twice, but there is only one of him before that hour, and there is only one of him after that hour.

If the first Barry is killed before he travels to the past, then he never makes the trip and there is no duplicate–no “time remnant”.  However, if the second Barry is killed, then it becomes inevitable that the first Barry will travel to the past and be killed–or if not, that time will become caught in an infinity loop, in which two different histories are vying for reality.

This also means you cannot create a temporal duplicate of yourself “before the fact”–that is, Barry can’t say, “I have to stop Killer Frost, but I have to meet with my boss, so I’m going to travel back in time a minute so that there are two of me, and then one of me will go stop Killer Frost while the other meets with my boss.”  He can create two of himself for that minute, but at the end of that minute either the one of him that did not just arrive from the future a minute ago has to go back and become the other, or the other will cease ever to have existed and no one will ever do anything again.

So Barry could create a temporal duplicate of himself, but it would not work the way we see it in the show.  His duplicate self would be dependent on him making that trip back at the moment in the future when he did so, at which point the “original” becomes the “duplicate” in the past, and the “duplicate” continues into the future.

Of course, the show allows that there are consequences to playing with time:  if you duplicate yourself, you become the target of time wraiths.

What the heck?

I’m afraid that D. C. Comics, or at least their television production affiliate, has now stepped into the realm of theology.

They probably want us to think that the Speed Force exists in, or as, some para-natural parallel dimension, but it does not act like a parallel dimension.  It acts like a supernatural being.  It might not be God, but it certainly has the qualities of a god.  Those Speed Wraiths are its minions, its “angels”, if you will.  Sure, they look more demonic than angelic–but it’s no accident that they recall scenes from Ghost, taking the spirits of the wicked departed wherever it is that they go.  They really have nothing to do with time travel itself, except that since they work as supernatural enforcers for a supernatural being involved with time and temporal distortion, they punish those who cause severe temporal problems by grossly violating the rules.

The part I don’t like about them is that they are a poor replacement for what really happens when you mess with time.  There’s no particular reason why such supernatural beings could not exist in the service of a temporal god connected to the power of super speed.  They are not, however, a logical consequence of breaking the rules of time.  They are a supernatural intervention.

I am sometimes asked whether I think God would intervene to prevent a temporal disaster.  I do not know, but this is not that.  Grabbing the time traveler and removing him for punishment after he has caused the damage does not undo the damage.  Of course, in theory temporal agents could, as in Minority Report, capture the time traveler before he causes the disaster–but then, he would not know for what he is being punished, and has a reasonable justice-based defense to the effect that he cannot be punished for what he was going to do but never did.  God might know that he would have done it, but he himself does not know that he would not have changed his mind.  It is certainly not impossible for God to prevent the effects of a time traveler’s stupidity, even to prevent an intentionally-created grandfather paradox–but His intervention would be unseen, because the cause of the problem would be prevented (in exactly the way fixed time theorists would expect) rather than the effect undone.

So I’ll accept time wraiths as supernatural minions of a god overseeing time and velocity, while recognizing that they have never done anything to protect time except punish those who have done the damage.  There are still major problems with time travel in the series, but they would require so much more work to address even at this point, and are likely to be altered significantly as the series continues, so we will ignore them.

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#56: Temporal Observations on the book Outlander

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #56, on the subject of Temporal Observations on the book Outlander.

Yesterday I finished reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon; my Goodreads review of the book is here for those who want to know something more than my temporal anomalies considerations of it.

I am often asked whether I would consider doing a temporal analysis of a book (although television shows are the more common question), and I have elsewhere explained why not.  This is only a brief look, based on a single read-through.  I should also caveat that it is the reading of the first book in a series of at least three (I have a copy of the third but not the second, and am contemplating whether to obtain the second somehow), and it is evident that our time traveler has not finished mucking about with history.  This is not a thorough analysis; it is simply a brief overview of some of my observations.

Also, I am informed that the book (possibly books) has (have) been turned into some sort of video presentation, although I am not clear whether it is a movie or a cable television series (or one of each?).  This is not that; I have only incidental knowledge of that.


The story begins really just before World War II, when Claire marries Frank Randall and they visit the Scottish Highlands for an interrupted honeymoon as the war begins and both of them become involved, he as a soldier, she as a nurse in field hospitals.  This beginning is simply given as background to explain how they happen to be in the Scottish Highlands within days of the end of the war, finishing their disrupted nuptials.  Frank is a history professor, and Claire is thus exposed to much about his ancestors and the events of the area of which she is not particularly interested.  She is collecting plants and learning about herbology to some degree, and when one of the residents shows her a stone circle–well, we have a number of events the culmination of which is that she is up there alone, apparently touches the wrong stone, and is hurled two centuries into the past.  Here she encounters the people and events who had previously been dull history lessons.  One of those is Jonathan Randall, identified as Frank’s six-times great grandfather, a British officer of notorious reputation who died during a war still a few years ahead shortly before his son was born.  This Randall proves to be a horrible person, a rapist and homosexual rapist and sadist, and a murderer who has managed to pin his murder on a young Scottish prisoner who escaped between his first and second flogging, Jaime Fraser.  In order to escape Randall’s efforts to arrest Claire, who escaped being raped by Randall shortly after her arrival (before she knew what was happening), Claire marries Jaime.  She uses her nursing skills to work as a doctor (knowing far more than most doctors of the era, but hampered by the lack of modern medicines and so relying on the local herbalism), saving numerous lives including Jaime’s more than once, escapes being burned as a witch alongside another woman who is burned but whom she realizes is also a traveler from the future (by virtue of the smallpox vaccination scar which becomes visible when the woman pulls down her clothes while on trial).

She is concerned about whether she has severely altered the future.  She killed a young British soldier to save her husband, and in a later effort to rescue him she caused the death of Jonathan Randall, her husband’s ancestor, before the conception of his first child.  Yet as a Jesuit priest to whom she confesses observes, she will have had as much impact on the future in the many lives she has saved through her medical efforts.  From a moral perspective, the possibility that this would change the future should not figure into the question of whether she should help people; the fact that it became necessary to cause the deaths of two people in defense of her family should equally not be a moral concern for her, as God does not condemn us for doing out of such necessities that which would otherwise be wrong.  Those, though, are the moral and religious concerns.  The temporal concerns are a much greater worry.

The particular one is of course that having caused the death of Jonathan Randall she must logically have prevented the birth of Frank Randall, her future husband.  That does not prevent her birth–but it does mean she did not have a honeymoon in a place where he could explore his family history, and did not visit that particular stone circle at that particular time to be thrown back to this century.  It gives us effectively a grandfather paradox, in which she has undone the causes that brought her here, probably creating an infinity loop.  Yet we have a complication here:  the witch, the woman she befriends only to discover too late that she is also from the future, sends her the message “one-nine-six-seven”, which means that that woman comes from a future twenty years past that from which Claire came, and therefore future history must continue beyond the disappearance of Claire Randall.

The more difficult way to resolve this is to suggest that somehow the events of the future bring Claire to the same place at the same time; that is, she did not marry Frank but immediately after the war for some other reason completely obscure to us she came to the same part of Scotland, met many of the same people, wandered into the same stone circle and was sent back from the same moment in the future to the same moment in the past.  It is obvious that the probabilities are immensely against this–and it does not fully resolve our situation.  The complication that arises is that once in the past she recognizes both Jonathan Randall’s name and his face precisely because she was married to his similar descendant Frank Randall.  Take that out, and Claire’s reactions will be entirely different.  She is also likely to have different knowledge and different experiences, although there is still good reason to believe she would have been a nurse in field hospitals during the war, so in the main issues she would be the same.

The easier solution is that this is not time travel at all, but some kind of multiple dimension theory.  As we have elsewhere noted, in such cases the traveler duplicates himself but no one at the point of departure ever determines that time travel has occurred–the traveler has simply vanished without a trace.  However, in this situation that is moot:  we apparently have rifts to another dimension, and sometimes people fall through.  There are still problems involved if history is altered (the witch must have come from some universe to reach this one, so this probably is not divergent dimensions) because the two universes are put out of synch with each other, but for this story it might work.

The more general problem is of course the number of lives she has saved.  We have discussed the genetic problem, the fact that one change in who marries whom will ripple through a population and alter thousands of lives in the next generation.  Although the Fraser clan in Scotland is some distance from Claire’s ancestors (and perhaps her trip to France removes them farther), it only takes one Scot marrying one Brit, or failing to marry one Brit, within the next century or so potentially to undo Claire’s entire family such that she would never have been born.

Since the book ends with the subtle announcement that Claire is carrying Jaime’s child, we know that they have impacted the gene pool.

Again, the better solution is that this is not time travel, but a hop to another dimension.  It is not impossible that the changes she has made to history will not undo her own life or her trip to those stones, but the improbabilities have reached incredible levels.  Someone call Douglas Adams; we need something one of his characters invented.

Of course, Claire’s interactions with people also change the future, and so do Jaime’s, since the life he is living is very different thanks to Claire.  We can only guess what lies ahead, but we know that the couple is bound for the court of Charles the Pretender, son of a former King James of England who has supporters in Scotland wanting to restore his line to the throne.  Claire knows that this is a future disaster, bringing about the destruction of many of the Scottish clans and failing in its objective.  She is seriously considering attempting to prevent it.  It is not clear that she could, but in attempting to do so she might again impact who lives and who dies, who is part of Charles’ revolt and who survives.  So she is not finished changing the world, even if she does not accomplish her goal.  However, again if we take this as a parallel dimension, she can do this with impunity.  The only problem she would create is that the next person who stumbles through the stone circle into this world will probably realize that this is not the past, because its history will have changed enough that the details of its present are noticeably altered.

This, though, raises another problem.

Claire says that in the stories it is always two hundred years.  Of course, it isn’t–the witch came from 1967 and was already well established in her identity by the time Claire arrived.  However, the combination of “this explains the stories” with the confirmation of the other time traveler tells us that Claire is not the first person to tamper with the history of this dimension.  If it were a replacement theory story, that would not be so much of a problem:  Claire would have left from whatever version of history was created by all previous time travelers.  However, the point of making it a parallel dimension theory is that the changes made in this universe do not change events in the other–and if even several persons have done this before, that means history has been changed in some ways.  That Claire does not know what is different is simply a flaw in her own knowledge and the fact that nothing major has changed–so far.  However, the seeds of change create increasing ripples over time.  She believes that the uprising in support of King Charles the Pretender will fail because it failed in her world; yet she does not know whether something she has done, or something her friend has done, or something one of the possibly thousands of other dimension travelers has done, has altered some piece of the puzzle such that the British side will fall.  After all, already England has lost one soldier who might have been there and one officer who would have been there, would have died there.  We do not know whether persons in leadership positions have been replaced by different persons who will make different decisions.  She predicted the date of death of Jonathan Randall, and then her actions changed it.  She wants to change history such that the uprising will not occur because she knows that in her world it was a disaster for Scotland, but she does not know that events have not already been altered in a way that has set in motion a Scottish victory.  She simply cannot know with certainty that the history of her world is the future of this one.  She can only bet that it is, and hope she is right.  She has a better basis for her predictions than most, but this is not her world and the changes already made might rather abruptly move it in a completely different direction.  That happens when you tamper with parallel dimensions; it must already be happening in some ways, and the trick is having enough information to know what those are.  It does not mean the story doesn’t work; it only means that Claire doesn’t know as much as she thinks she does.

So Outlander works as a parallel dimension theory story, but is very doubtful as a time travel story.

In fairness to the author, I am not certain she cares.  The original H. G. Wells time travel book The Time Machine was not really about time travel but about letting the author comment on the current state of the world by extrapolating a future world and bringing a then-modern traveler there to observe it.  There are stories in which time travel itself is part of the plot, but that one and this one are examples of time travel used to bring a modern observer into a story set in another age.  As such, it works quite well.

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#17: Interstellar Quick Temporal Survey

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #17, on the subject of Interstellar Quick Temporal Survey.

As we did with Termintor Genisys, we are giving a quick one-shot look at the temporal issues in Interstellar–a star-studded science fiction epic film well worth seeing, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Ellen Burstyn, and Matt Damon in supporting roles behind a lead of Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway in completely serious (not romantic or comedy) roles.  I must thank Lamont for providing the opportunity to view a digital copy.  I am not certain this time whether there will be a followup full analysis, because there probably is not that much that won’t be covered in this short piece, and the digital copy is not so good, with occasional garbled dialogue.  Still, the essence of it came through.


For most of the movie, time travel is not an issue.  It does an excellent job of presenting the time dilation effects of relativity–how gravity and motion cause time to run at different rates for persons in different frames of reference.  As a result, The main characters, McConaughey’s Cooper and Hathaway’s Brand sent on a spaceflight through a wormhole to another galaxy then spending a few hours on a planet orbiting a black hole where every hour on the surface is seven years back on the ship and back on earth, are still young when his children are grown.  I was a bit uncertain about their experience of passing through the wormhole.  My understanding is that there is no time, and thus no temporal experience, of such a trip, but movies have usually treated it otherwise because it is a difficult experience even to imagine, nevermind to show.

This story almost made it, with only two minor problems that might be fatal.  Our time travel elements appear when Cooper sacrifices himself, falling into a black hole with the booster rocket that propels Brand toward the safety of her destination.  There is a bit of a flaw in that:  the only ways dropping the booster gives the ship more momentum are if the ship is pushing against the booster as it releases (the “kick” of recoil on a gun) or if the ship has other engines and wants to reduce mass (the reason launch rockets drop spent stages).  Either of those might have been so, but that was not the explanation given.  In any case, Cooper and the robot TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) both cross the event horizon and find themselves in what seems to be an engineered Escheresque three-dimensional space, by means of which Cooper discovers that he can get behind the bookcase in his daughter Murphy’s room before he left for this flight and become the “ghost” she always said was in there, knocking books off her bookcase and tampering with things in the room to some small degree.  He gives her the coordinates he needs to find the secret NASA installation at which he will become the pilot of this trip–our first problem, an obvious predestination paradox–and also gives her the data the robot recorded on crossing the event horizon of the black hole in a form she will unravel decades later when she is at NASA working with Brand’s father on a formula to crack gravity and so move huge numbers of people into space and on toward new colonies.  He and the robot are then somehow dumped out of the black hole into open space not far from the colonies his now ancient and dying daughter Murphy made possible near Saturn, and is last seen in a stolen ship rocketing toward the wormhole to go find Brand at the new colony she is establishing (with zygote stockpile technology) on the one planet that proved potentially successful as a colony world.

The way to see it is to begin with an original history.

Earth is dying, but there is a secret NASA project working on a way to move humanity into space.  Some unidentified “they” with scientific and engineering skills far superior to our own abruptly drops a wormhole near Saturn, connected to a distant galaxy with a dozen planets having the potential to support life, and a dozen survey teams are sent.  Three of these on planets fairly near each other are still sending regular beacon signals, so NASA sends a crew, equipped with stasis chambers that slow aging, through the wormhole to determine which, if any, will be the best place for the new human colony.

The complication is that somehow Cooper and Murphy have to discover, or be discovered by, NASA.  There is no obvious simple solution for this.  NASA at this point is a top secret clandestine organization which had been disbanded by the government because it cost too much to maintain, and then restarted covertly because even though no one could politically defend spending money on it, it became obvious that the earth was dying and humanity’s one hope was to go elsewhere.  Cooper does not know NASA exists.  Meanwhile, they know who he is, and would love to have someone with his piloting skills at the helm of this flight, but with so many deaths and such poor records they do not believe he is alive.  Somehow, though, one of them has to do something that catches the attention of the other.  Perhaps NASA launches some kind of test rocket that Cooper observes, and he backtracks the trajectory.  Perhaps Cooper’s self-driving farm machinery comes to the attention of someone at NASA, and they discover who he is.  These are unlikely scenarios, but something must have happened that connected Cooper to NASA.

Making it worse, Cooper must believe that it was unreliable:  when he gets the chance to send a message to himself in the past, he sends the location of NASA, which means that however he got that location in the original history he wanted himself to have it sooner, or more precisely, or in some way that meant sending it to himself was better than relying on however he found it in the original history.  He thus erases the original cause, and thereafter believes that he would not have found NASA had he not sent himself the coordinates.

From there everything works, as long as we accept the premise that there is some alien life form which has taken an interest in the preservation and advancement of humanity, the “they” which builds the wormhole and which creates the three-dimensional space inside the black hole to enable Cooper and TARS to communicate to the past.  At the moment Cooper decides that “they” are actually a future version of “we”, that the wormhole and dimensional engineering inside the black hole were created by humans from the future, the story collapses.  Before humanity can travel through the wormhole to the distant galaxy and establish colonies in space that will enable us to survive someone must create the wormhole, and if we are dependent upon our future selves to do this and cannot survive without it being done, we die here on earth and never become those future selves.  The only way such a scenario works is under fixed time theory–a bleak fatalistic conception of time under which the story works, but which in its essence undermines the hopeful future the film presents.  It also requires acceptance of the uncaused cause of multiple events which only happen because they cause themselves.

Of course, the solution to this is simple:  Cooper is wrong.  The wormhole and the dimensional space were built by an alien race with an interest in preserving humanity.  They never introduce themselves because the dimensional differences between them and us are overwhelming, but they did this in part so that we would know they exist.  Leave it to humans to conclude that the help that saved us came from ourselves, and miss the point entirely.

So that’s the story.

Meanwhile, a DVD copy of Terminator Genisys has arrived, and I am going to return to work on that analysis, although apparently I am going to have to do a bit of review of the previous movies in the series to get a few points right.  For other work on time travel and time travel movies, see the site section Temporal Anomalies in Popular Time Travel Movies and other articles in the time travel and time travel movies sections of this blog.

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MJY Blog Entry #0006: Terminator Genisys Quick Temporal Survey

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #0006, on the subject of Terminator Genisys Quick Temporal Survey.

For years I have been producing complex analyses of time travel movies, and I expect to continue to do so as the Patreon campaign continues to grow and provide support for all of this (hint-hint).  Such an analysis requires that I obtain a recorded copy of the movie and watch it several times with pen and paper in hand, then carefully unravel it, going back to the recording to check details.  On the other hand, in recent years I have also taken the opportunity to watch movies during their theatrical runs and then given a short synopsis of the time travel problems pending a fuller analysis when the video would become available.  When I left The Examiner and brought all that material back here, those “quick temporal surveys” became the first parts of their respective articles, first with Men in Black III, followed later by Free Birds, About Time, X-Men:  Days of Future Past, and Edge of Tomorrow.  That was then driven in part by the various needs, one, to publish something every week, two, to be a solid source of current information on time travel movies, and three, to keep articles short for the format there.  Only one of those reasons is still applicable, but under the present circumstance, it seems appropriate to do something of the same thing:  to publish a Quick Temporal Survey of Terminator Genisys.


Those circumstances, for what it’s worth, include that I have seen the movie; I must thank Bryan for buying a ticket for me so I could catch it in the theatre.  As often mentioned, it is not possible to take notes during a theatrical viewing, and even less possible to pause the film and back it up to check something that was unclear.  However, it was possible for me to make an audio recording of the film, and I was working on notes from that audio recording in beginning an analysis.  That was put on hold by the move:  I was not going to publish again at The Examiner, and I needed time to move all of that material here.  Before that task was completed, one of my readers dropped a note promising to ship me a copy of the DVD as soon as it is released, and so the work has been put on hold pending receipt of that DVD.  Meanwhile, there is much that I could say–I had already drafted ten parts and had many more problems to address–and I have access to two other time travel films which I might be able to analyze in the interim, so in view of that I’m going to take this opportunity to give you first impressions of the latest entry in the classic series.

I am terribly disappointed.

Oh, it was a wonderfully entertaining film, with high marks for action, decent marks for plot and character.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.  Further, I am accustomed to saying of a time travel film that it was a temporal disaster.  The problem here, though, is that it is repeated temporal disasters, completely inexplicable events leading to insoluble problems.  As a time travel story, it does not, cannot, work under any known theory of time.

When I first watched Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines, John Cross (who did the analysis of The Final Countdown) very nearly begged me to keep at it until I found a solution–and I did.  I would like to say that there is hope that a solution might be found for this movie, but there is none.  Some of the problems can be solved by assuming certain sets of events, but these very events make solutions to other problems impossible.  Meanwhile, there are two major glaring errors that destroy it entirely.

The second of those was undoubtedly the result of an effort to move the franchise into the twenty teens:  Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese have traveled forward to 2017 to stop the launch of SkyNet at this new later date, and so now they will give birth to John Conner in this new timeframe, and the battle will continue in our present instead of in the past.  That, though, means that John Conner was not conceived in 1984, and all of those histories in which SkyNet sent Terminators back to kill him (or anyone else connected to him) have been undone.  Yet at least one of those histories is essential for the story as we know it, in which John Conner has sent Kyle Reese back to protect Sarah in 1984 because that is the destination of the first Terminator.  Without that, the entire franchise collapses.  It does not matter if John Conner is born thirty some years later; that’s too late to make any difference whatsoever.

The first is bigger, but it’s a bit more difficult to see.  However, if you have been following our series from the beginning you know that we always said that Cyberdyne was not the original creator of SkyNet, that someone else originally launched it at a later date, and the fact that the T-800 was destroyed in Cyberdyne’s facility gave them the parts that gave them the edge to replace the original SkyNet with their own earlier version.  Terminator 3 confirmed that analysis, as the United States Air Force Autonomous Weapons Division launched a SkyNet that was not a Cyberdyne-type hardware mainframe but a software solution that turned the Internet into a hostile artificial intelligence.  Thus we know that when Sarah Conner prevented Cyberdyne from launching SkyNet in Terminator 2 she restored the original launch date.

The problem should be obvious at this point.  Sarah, working with Pops, has prevented Cyberdyne from obtaining parts from a Terminator, and so prevented the early launch date; that means that SkyNet comes online at the later date, the date of Terminator 3.  Nothing Sarah does, nothing Kyle does, nothing Pops does, and nothing SkyNet does, will prevent that launch.  Note, too, that (as we observed) the T-X sent back in Terminator 3 does nothing to cause the launch of SkyNet; it only helps activate and control the other autonomous weapons.

That means by the time Sarah and Kyle arrive in 2017, SkyNet will have been functional for a decade, Kyle’s home will have long been destroyed, and nothing they find in that time can exist then.

They could have scrapped the entire story and started over with new dates, new machines, new people; they wanted Kyle Reese and Sarah and John Conner (although now I expect he will be John Reese).  To get there, they needed to find a way to intervene in the lives of General Brewster and the Autonomous Weapons Division so that that version of SkyNet would never launch.  They failed.

There is so much more wrong with this story, but this is already longer than I intended, so hopefully it is enough to whet your appetite for a fuller analysis once that DVD arrives.

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