[Spoilers] Is it just me, or is Star Trek-like time travel the new thing for TV? Just a few years ago dealing with hard sci-fi topics was taboo in TV, but these days you can’t throw a rock in prime time, without it jumping into a parallel universe. The latest example came last night in FlashForward, a show co-created by TNG era vet Brannon Braga that also includes Star Trek’s John Cho in the cast.
[even more spoilers about lots of TV shows]
Flash Forward goes MWI
Any regular TrekMovie reader will know that Star Trek co-writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman did their homework when they set up the alternate timeline in their new film, using time travel to create a point of divergence (the destruction of the Kelvin) and then relying on the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics to set up a parallel timeline/universe. Orci spoke about this at length in an interview here last year, and it was also covered in a follow-up article.
ABC’s FlashForward is one of of the hottest genre show’s of the year. The premise set up in the pilot was that everyone on Earth blacked out had their consciousnesses ‘flashed forward’ a few months, glimpsing the future. The mystery for the season so far has revolved around the causes of the Flash Forward, and if it is possible to change the future everyone has seen. In the Fall finale (the show comes back in March) last night, the show dipped its toe into the MWI, as this clip shows.
And the show also made its first hint that time travel may also be going on, as shown in this clip from last night.
Time Travel & parallel universes – all over the tube
But FlashForward is just part of a new growing trend. The last season of Lost (created by Trek producers Damon Lindelof and JJ Abrams) had the cast jumping around all season long, here is a clip showing a time travel ‘flash’ and also Sawyer giving his assessment of what is is like moving through time.
And the Abrams gang isn’t done. Abrams other show Fringe (co-created with Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman), has set up an entire parallel Earth (where they are keeping Leonard Nimoy and his character William Bell). Here we see the first season ender with Agent Dunham (Anna Torv) meeting William Bell on the parallel Earth.
And of course NBC’s Heroes is still limping along, and that show has dabbled in time travel and alternative timelines for a couple years. Even with the current season, it seems every other week the Star Trek-loving character Hiro (Masi Oka) travels back in time to try and fix something. Here is a scene from last season with Hiro jumping all over the place.
And of course there Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the FOX show that came to an end last season. As part of the Terminator universe, time travel and alternative timelines were key components of that show. Here is the time-travel-astic finale of that series.
Of course the new show Stargate Universe is a ‘hard scifi’ show on SyFy, but it took them only 8 episodes until they dove into time travel this season, with "Time". Here is a the "Kino" web extra from that episode, discussing time travel.
Star Trek: the king of time travel
Of course time travel has been a component of the Star Trek franchise since the first season of Star Trek in 1966 ("The Naked Time"). Since then there have been dozens of time-travel episodes (and four of 11 movies also played with time). In a way, Star Trek has set the standard for time travel on TV, which now seems to be becoming a sub-genre or at least an accepted sci-fi theme. Some of the greatest moments in Star Trek (and TV) history, were in time travel/alt timeline episodes, like this one (from "Yesterday’s Enterprise)…
Perhaps the new Star Trek movie is helping, as just the latest blockbuster that traveled in time (with Back to the Future and Terminator also being classics of the sub-genre). Maybe we will see more and more shows dealing with time travel and other ‘hard sci-fi concepts. As Damon Lindelof says in the video below (from Comic Con 2008), it would be a good thing if, with all the cop shows and legal shows and doctor shows, there could actually be a "critical mass" of shows dealing with time travel.