by Ramon Hurtado
I want to tell you a story.
Once upon a time,
There was a time traveler.
This time traveler lived in the year 2020.
One day, the time traveler traveled back to the year 2000.
When the time traveler arrived in the year 2000, they met a scientist and presented the scientist with a gift.
The gift: an old tattered book with instructions for building a time machine.
The scientist builds the time machine over the next 20 years. Completing it in the year 2020.
When the machine is complete, the scientist uses it to travel back in time 20 years…to the year 2000, bringing the book along as well.[You see where this is going]
The scientist meets their younger self and presents them with the book.
Thus, the cycle begins again.
So where did the book come from?
In time travel lore, this is what’s known as The Bootstrap Paradox – a theoretical time travel paradox that occurs when an object or piece of information is sent back in time and becomes trapped within an infinite cause-effect loop in which the item’s point of origin can only be explained as “uncaused” or “self-created.” The term bootstrap paradox refers to an impossible task, hence, a paradox. The bootstrap portion of the name comes from an 18th century tale, The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchhausen, in which the protagonist is stuck in a swamp, and manages to escape the situation by pulling himself up by his own hair. Kind of makes sense, right? But, not really.
In recent times, paradoxical stories have made the jump to our screens in the form of time travel films and TV shows. These adventures through time range from fun classics like the Back to the Future (1985), to more complex tales like that of the Netflix Original Series Dark. Tales of time travel always come with their own set of rules and logic by which they operate, and this component can make or break a good time travel story.
Some stories take us on a straight and narrow path from Point A to Point B, but avoid addressing the slew of complex problems and plot holes that arise when dealing with time travel. Others stories use these problems to go deep, to really explore the complex nature of a story that will inevitably become tangled within itself. For these types of stories, the straight and narrow path isn’t even an option. These stories grab at our imagination and run off into a dark and twisted labyrinth of space and time and dare us to try and keep up.
Dark takes the latter path. The show feels very much like being inside a labyrinth.
The story is set in an isolated German town and follows the lives of the local townsfolk across multiple generations and the dramatic events that have shaped the town, including—you guessed it—time travel. The story is a well-crafted narrative that requires attention to detail but it is a very fun ride. The show plays on the idea that the past, present, and future all exist concurrently in a direct relationship; and it is one of the best examples of time travel on screen at the moment. I won’t give away more details as I don’t want to spoil the show for any future viewers. I’ve encountered more people that have not seen the show than those who have, but I highly recommend Dark to all fans of darker science fiction stories as I believe it is the best time travel show that no one has seen.
Look up at that first line again, time traveler.
PLASMA-Recommended Time Travel Films For Your Consideration:
Edge of Tomorrow
Midnight in Paris (though it’s not science fiction, it counts as a time travel film)
full article in PLASMA 6