Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I like Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, so get over it (Or, a light discussion about time travel theories)

Earlier I had mentioned to someone that I was going to post about my attempts to write a computer program is part of a school assignment many years ago. Well, I didn't actually promise to post that today. I think it can wait.

I am going to put in my two cents about the new Terminator series. I had just assumed that everyone else was liking it as much as I am. I've been told otherwise. Apparently, there are a lot of people complaining that the series doesn't stick to the movies.

In my opinion, the movies didn't stick to the movies, so what is the big deal?

I'm going to make a few comments. I'm going to make a few comments just from my own memories of the movies, and I'm not going to look up anything. And I'm not going to get into the possibility of different dates being mentioned in different movies and the possibility that some of the math doesn't work.

Okay, so there's all kinds of theories about time travel. They probably all have names and have been talked to death by people who are a lot smarter than me. I don't know what the names are. Maybe if you do, you can send me a list. Not having such a list, I make up my own names once in a while.

There is the Grandfather Theory, which says something like time travel is impossible because you might then go back in time and kill your grandfather before he actually becomes your grandfather. If you kill off one of your ancestors and you cannot be born, then you never existed, and therefore you can't have gone back in time to kill the ancestor.

In Back to the Future, they try to get around the Grandfather Theory by having a sort of delayed reaction. Marty changed the time-line in such a way that his mother did not fall in love with his father when she should have. So the time-line is being erased, and Marty is being erased with it. But Marty isn't being erased all at once, so he has time to try and fix things. Also in Back to the Future we have a theory that something very bad with happen if you meet a past or future version of yourself.

There is what I call the Bill and Ted Theory, which says that if you have a time machine that you can do just about anything, as long as you eventually use the time machine to make it all work later. You can go and buy an expensive car that you shouldn't be able to afford, because there will be money in your account, because after you buy the car you can go back to last week and give yourself yesterday's winning lottery numbers. Now that theory is a bit silly, but it works in a movie, as long as you pick the one theory and stick to it.

The movie version of Lost in Space did not follow this rule. The movie was really good until the part where Will and Dr. Smith walk into the future. At that point, the movie seems to switch to a different theory than was used five minutes before that, so it just didn't work.

Okay, so in the first Terminator movie, we have a time-loop story. Sarah Connors is living her life and minding her own business, and then out of nowhere a robot is trying to kill her and a nutcase named Reese is trying to save her. She is told a completely insane story about time travel and her being the mother of the savior of mankind. There are a lot of explosions and people getting shot and a lot of chase scenes. Eventually, she decides that maybe the insane story is true, but she really doesn't get it through her head what it all means. She decides that it's okay to call her mom even though she's told not to. And she decides that she has time to have sex with Reese. There really isn't time for that, but Reese doesn't know that, because he doesn't realize that Sarah would be stupid enough to call her mother after he told her not to. So then there are more chase scenes and explosions, and Reese dies trying to save Sarah. Sarah has a few broken bones and such, but she does live. Then she finds out that she's pregnant and figures that Reese has to be the baby's father.

Kind of the opposite of the Grandfather Theory that says time travel is impossible because you might change something that has already happened, which would then alter the present, which would then prevent you from going back in the first place. In the time-loop story, time travel has to happen because someone from the future already did make something happen in the past. You can't change the future, or the past won't happen the way it did, and then your present won't exist the way it does.

The time loop story doesn't quite make sense, unless you bring in God or another higher being or something like that. Sarah is going along minding her own business, and then God creates Reese out of nothing just cause God wants there to be a time-loop. Or God created all of time all at once, with the time-loop already in place, and there really isn't a past or a future except in the way that we perceive things. There's no changing anything that God put in the time-line, including this time-loop. It is the way it is, you can't mess with it, so don't even try. Sarah gets a gun and a dog and heads south, where she's going to find a safe place to hide and train her son while the rest of the world destroys itself.

But then comes Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Sarah didn't stay south in her safe place. She decided to make trouble for computer companies and blow up factories and such. Maybe if she blows up the right building judgment day won't happen. And there is now a second time-loop in the time-line. This doesn't totally screw up things as far as time-loop stories go, cause God can make a second time-loop in the time-line if he wants to, and God can also send Sarah running around blowing up buildings if he wants to. Sarah can run around trying to change things as long as nothing actually gets changed.

But then in T2, someone does change things. Dyson destroys his research and blows up a building. And just to be on the safe side, nice guy terminator has to be destroyed too. The time-line is changed. Skynet does not come about because of Dyson's research based on technology discovered because of the first time-loop.

So now enter the Alternate Time-line Theory. Possibly with that comes the Alternate Universe Theory. Still, this is mostly okay.

God can make alternate time-lines if he wants to. And he can make alternate universes if he want to. He's God. He can do that kind of thing. Cool.

There's some alternate endings and deleted scenes from T2. We won't get into that.

Next we have Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. We are now firmly in Alternate Time-line Theory. Dyson did not invent Skynet. Judgment Day did not come on whatever date Sarah has spent most of her adult life worrying about. Sarah gets cancer and dies, but she dies happy thinking that she finally defeated Skynet. But she leaves John a bunch of guns and such, just in case. And John goes off the grid and becomes totally lonely drifter guy who no longer has a purpose in life. He doesn't really think that anymore robots are going to show up, but you can't be too careful about such things. Besides, the police might still want to talk to him about some blown up buildings and such.

In T3 we have a third time-loop and hints at an original time-line that happened before the events of the original Terminator movie. John meets Kate. Only they have met before, and they liked each other in eighth grade. Kate's father is an important military guy working on a secret project that involves computers. When Kate's dad realizes that there's a serious problem with Skynet, he sends John and Kate to hide in a bunker that no one has really cared about since the seventies. Maybe that was the closest one that they could get to. Or maybe the newer ones already would have been filled with more "important" people. It makes sense that Kate would survive Judgment Day, because her father was able to save her. John survived just because he happened to be the guy with her at the time, or he would have died along with most of the other people.

Maybe in another time-line, someone named John Conner is saved because he has a relationship with Kate. Maybe in the original time-line Sarah doesn't meet Reese. The jerk she was dating really did try to make it up to her the day after he broke their date. Sarah got pregnant and had a son named John Connor. Maybe he is a different John Conner than the one we know. Or maybe Reese was never John's father. Maybe Sarah was already pregnant when she met Reese, but she just thought that Reese was the father because they neglected to go to the drugstore.

In the original time-line, Sarah was a good mom. She and John had a normal life. They did not worry about robots and blow up buildings. John met Kate, and they became close. Kate's father sends John and Kate on a little trip to see the old bunker, just cause he has a bad feeling that something might go wrong with Skynet. Maybe he'd already had the place stocked with Spam and Ensure, just in case.

Now we can have all kinds of alternate time-lines happen. Now the time-loops and such can all happen without direct intervention from God. Don't worry, God isn't gone, but he has better things to do than make sure that Sarah and Reese get laid.

So now in the original time-line, Kate and John get married, and John leads the fight against the machines. Or, at least, John is the one that gets Skynet's attention. If Skynet just didn't have to deal with John, Skynet could deal with these other people. So a terminator was sent back in time to kill Sarah before she has John. And then someone had to be sent back in time to help Sarah deal with the terminator. Perhaps that someone just happens to be Reese.

What follows after that is not what we saw in the first Terminator movie. The John Conner who grew up with a normal life and got involved with Kate did not fight the Skynet that Sarah was warned about by Reese in the first movie. That John Conner had a regular mom, and he was not raised by the legendary Sarah Connor who moved south and learned how to blow up buildings. When that first someone goes back in time to save Sarah Connor, there is no reason to believe that there is anything special about Sarah or that she will lead the fight against the machines or blow up buildings or anything like that. She's just John's mom. Maybe she just goes south and hides, and maybe someone from the future hides with her. Maybe they get away from the terminator at the club and run and keep running and spend years running and never see it again. Maybe this sort of thing happens several times before we get to the events of the first Terminator movie. But at some point in one of these time-loops, Sarah destroys the terminator and then teaches her son to fight, and parts of the terminator are given to Dyson so he can invent that version of Skynet, and John sends Reese back to save his mother. And all of that has to happen at least once before what we see in the first movie. The Reese that we see in the Terminator grew up in a world destroyed by a Dyson version of Skynet, and he heard stories of the legendary Sarah Connor, and possibly John was trying to do a bit of match-making by giving Reese a picture of Sarah.

And now we have so many alternate time-lines that it doesn't matter if the new series exactly matches anything in any of the movies. So we can all quite worrying about that too much. We can just sit back and watch the show and then decide if we like it or not.


Wavemancali said...

I'm liking he new Terminator series.

I've got a time travel book running around in my head too. I think my time travel method is pretty solid. We will have to see if others agree when I get it written by about 2036

laughingattheslut said...

Lovely. I'll be like seventy by then. But maybe by then they'll have a cure for being a total blind bat.

Budd said...

Good post. The grand father theory is the time loop theory. The alternate universe one is called multiple worlds theory.

T:TSCC was a great show, I am sorry it got cancelled.