I watch time travel shows. From my first and longest fandom, Doctor Who, up to the latest I may be falling out with, Legends of Tomorrow, I have watched a whole bunch of time travel shows. And a thing that bothers me is that somewhere in their decisions about the physics they make a whole lot of ethical decisions, often without meaning to, and the ethics of time travel is then held up as an entirely distinct thing from everyday ethics.
Time travel is the ultimate in the ends justifying the means.
Someone who knows The Future from a particular point, someone who knows who lives and dies, who by the conceit of this fiction is absolutely sure of the outcome because they've walked around in it, has two distinct categories of choice ahead of them.
Compliance and defiance.
They can either go along with what is, or say fuck it and try for what should be.( Read more... )
I'm with Terry Pratchett and Sam Vimes on this one. You do the job that's in front of you. Doesn't matter if you time travelled to get there, you save lives and stop bad guys.
But that leaves a writer in a shared universe an insoluble problem where they'd logically be changing history out from under their peers every single week. Or, of course, the choice to make good endlessly futile, and hope someone still wants to watch that.
And it leaves someone who can deliberately chose their destination in time with an infinite task, somehow choosing the best of all possible worlds, attempting to build heaven right here.
Heaven, or the afterlife and souls and so forth, is the other ignored and entirely writer dependent variable here. ( Read more... )
It's tempting to solve it by keeping theology out of one's science fiction, but DC very clearly does not do so. I mean they're using the Spear of Destiny, they're being religious, but I haven't seen it to know if they're doing so with clear theological underpinnings.
But a theological lens brings one set of consequences into sharp focus. It doesn't just matter who lives and how long, but how, right down to the details of their state of mind. And granted, many people are not religious, but if this whole being alive thing matters, if this thinking thing matters beyond its survival utility, if we are the universe seeking to understand itself? I choose to believe every last drop of understanding matters. Every last thought.
So a time traveller changing someone's understanding is also huge.( Read more... )
The time travel shows I stick with are the ones that choose life and freedom, the ones where you can make a difference, and the writers actually let it be a good difference when you do a good thing. Sure it can take you on a dance through consequences, but if the story tries to argue for choosing death and compliance with destiny, it loses me. We have to look at the world as it is right now in front of us and choose the best thing we can think of. We can't know the consequences, so we do the best we can with ethical rules we have, the ones that say free will and the time to use it are what really matters in life.
Yes that leaves time travellers in a never ending battle, but how does that differ from your average superhero?
So I want the show where the heroes are shown the book of destiny and say
There's always a way out
There are no strings on me.
And then somehow when they act out of kindness and love and protect others, they work their way through the consequences to a better world.
Because the other thing, the one that says you've got to give up and let it happen?
A tragic hero gets ground down when they stand in the way of fate, but we don't have to only write tragedies.
A hero defies destiny to make things better.