Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Idiot's Guide to Time Travel in The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Derek2 and Jesse1

Don't be insulted, we're all idiots when it comes to time travel and its paradoxes - that's what makes it so much fun.

But there was a great Sarah Connor Chronicles - Episode 2.9 - tonight, which had one of the best time travel dances of the series, and, for that matter, of time travel on television.

Jesse captures a Charles Fischer, back in 2008, from the future. He's a "gray" - a human who cooperated with Skynet in the future - and Jesse wants Derek to get Fischer (good to see Richard Schiff of The West Wing in this role) to tell them what he's doing in 2008. Fischer denies that he's Fischer. Jesse expects Derek to know exactly who Fischer is; Derek does not. Jesse captures then the young Fischer in 2008, and brings him into the room with the older Fischer. She tells Derek that Fischer in the future tortured Derek ... he has no recollection of this. Derek does eventually break the older Fischer in 2008, who admits that he's Fischer. Jesse kills him. She wonders how Derek could have had no recollection of what Fischer did to him in the future. Maybe it never happened, Derek realizes, and maybe we come from two different futures....

But how could that be? Why would Jesse remember Derek telling her that Fischer tortured him, if it never happened to Derek, because the younger 2008 Fischer was traumatized by what happened in that room?

Here's my explanation:

a. Derek1 is tortured by Fischer in the future. Derek1 tells Jesse1 about this.

b. Jesse1 travels back to 2008. She soon runs into the older Fischer in 2008 ... and all the events described in the paragraph above happen. The younger Fischer, because of what he saw in the room, does not go on to torture Derek1.

c. Therefore, in the future, at the instant the younger Fischer goes on that better path, Derek1 flips into Derek2. The two are identical in all ways, except that Derek2 has never been tortured. In this future2, Derek still loves Jesse.

d. Derek2 at some point after that travels back to late 2007 - before Jesse1 arrived. Jesse1 contacts Derek2 a few weeks ago, and what happened in the first paragraph - the action tonight - happened.

The key to this is that since Jesse1 traveled to the past, she retains memories of future1, and does not change when future1 becomes future2. But because Derek is still in the future at this point, he changes from Derek1 to Derek2 when the future changes from future1 to future2.

Ain't time travel grand? I think so, and I think The Sarah Connor Chronicles is doing a fine job of it.

See also 2.1 Cameron's Back ... 2.2 Firing on All Cylinders ... 2.3 Who, Truly, Is Agent Ellison? ... 2.4: Meet Allison ... 2.5: Unpacking the Future ... 2.6: Terminator Mom, Human Daughter ... 2.7: The Saving Robbery and Cromartie ... 2.8 Perspectives and Death

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