Date: Mon, 25 May 1998 12:45:16 EDT
WARNING: THIS LETTER IS PRETTY LONG, SO DON'T START TO READ IT UNLESS YOU'VE GOT A FEW MINUTES...
I finally had a chance to visit you page and I liked reading what you wrote about the various time-travel aspects of all those movies. Sometimes I felt myself questioning what you were saying, but then I thought twice and told myself 'Well, it IS possible...
Like in the Terminator series... Here is a scenario which I remember you have written...
You mentioned that in the original time-line, Skynet was constructed by another company other than Cyberdyne (TimeLine A), let's say in 2010. Then there's the war, the resistence, and the first Terminator is sent back to kill the mother of the soon-to-be rebel leader. Of course, the Terminator's existence here alters time, creating a Time-Line B. His arm and other pieces of the Terminator are taken to Cyberdyne where they are studied and hence, Miles Dyson creates Skynet from the technology from these pieces, only at an earlier time, say 1997 (as said in the movie). Skynet becomes self-aware, the war starts, and everything repeats.
Okay, it all makes sense and IS possible, but highly unlikely that 'another company' created Skynet in Time-Line A. I believe that this is a classic 'time loop', and the way James Cameron wrote the script, Cyberdyne did create Skynet in the original time-line, using pieces from the Terminator from the future. You see, it depends on the author's particular views on time-travel how the write the script. In Cameron's view, the time-loop was always there, just like how Kyle Reese was sent back by 40-yearold John protect his mother, who gets her pregnant and in turn, young John is born. It's a time-loop which has no beginning or end; it just is.
Also, when the second Arnold came back in time, he explained to Sarah and John that indeed, it was Dyson and Cyberdyne who created Skynet in his past (their 'future').
Moving on, I agree with what you said on Star Trek: Generations. The time-travel there was extremely poor, and I don't know what they were thinking. Picard and Soran are on the mountain, let's say, at noon. They both enter the nexus. The nexus allows Picard to go anywhere anytime, so he goes back to the mountain at like 11:30 with Kirk. Hence, there should be two Picards here, but I guess they just forgot about this or figured the viewing audience wouldn't be intellegent enough to realize it, and would be dumbfoundedly questioning 'Why are there 2 picards?'
Anyway, check this: Soran realizes that Picard has arrived with Kirk, who was in the nexus. Therefore, Picard must've been in the nexus. Therefor, Soran's probe must've launched successfully, sweeping he and Picard into the nexus allowing him to get Kirk. So Picard, kirk, and Soran were all in the nexus, and then Kirk and Picard exited to go back and stop Soran from lauching the probe. But they can't, 'cause if they stop Soran's probe, they'll never get into the nexus, and Picard can never get kirk to help him stop the probe, so the probe is launched, and the next sweeps them up, and Picard gets Kirk, and it goes on and on.
But of course, the writers forget about this. Anyway, after the movie is over, there still should be a Kirk, Picard, and Soran in the nexus. At LEAST a Soran. It could be argued that Picard and kirk LEFT the nexus (however, preventing the probe would be preventing their entry into the nexus, which would prevent their escape from the nexus.....blah blah blah). However, there still is a Soran in the nexus. He never left.
Remember when Picard was in the nexus and was having Christmas with his family? Soran was also in the nexus at that time, doing his thing. And he could've very well used the nexus to go back and stop Picard from even getting to Veridian 3.
Anyway MJ, I too analyse time-travel movies and stories and enjoy the concept of it. I write about it frequently in my stories, pondering the countless scenarios of the results of time-travel. paradoxes, time-loops, and all that cool stuff.
I have a lot more to talk to you about, but I don't want ot make this letter longer than it already is, so I'll write to you again as soon as I get a reply from you from this one, okay?
Talk to ya soon.
Thanks for your note. Don't worry--I appreciate the opportunity to confront these issues, and will be glad to hear your ideas.
I realize that many writers take the view that time is fixed, and that time loops are intrinsically woven into them. I don't. I find that concept much too deterministic for human purposes; it's the kind of thing that can only happen if the author of the story knows the end from the beginning--or more than that, has decided how the story ends before it starts. It requires a God who is so much more potent in terms of his level of interference than the one in whom I believe--and I have a strong Calvinist strain in my theology as it is, so I believe that God interferes. But more than that, I believe that the fixed time concept is unnecessary: time travel anomalies and paradoxes can be explained in a manner which preserves the free will of man, and in which all actions a man can do are possible.
You mention that John Conner sends Kyle Reese back to become his father, and suggest that that is part of the time loop included in all of time. But that's exactly the kind of paradox that causes many to say that time travel must be intrinsically impossible--and I would be the last to say that there is anything we will never be able to do. In this paradox, John Conner cannot be born unless he is born. We experience time in a linear manner--events follow each other in sequence--but that is more than merely our experience: it is part of the nature of time itself. If John Conner cannot be born unless as an adult he causes his own birth, then he cannot be born, he will never be born, and the entire story is an absurd fantasy. You might just as well suggest that John Conner having been born could come back in time and kill his mother before he was conceived!
Yet if anyone can come back in time at all, and if man has the ability to control his actions, then John Conner could send Kyle Reese back, and Reese could fall in love with Sarah Conner and could ultimately become the father of John Conner--and just as surely John Conner could come back in time and prevent his own birth. Your theory--and the theory you attribute to Cameron--collapses under the weight of these paradoxes.
What I have done is create a new theory of time travel--not a way to do it, which is far beyond our present conceptions of science, but a way to understand the consequences. I maintain that whenever anyone for any reason moves backward in time, he ends the sequence of time from which he has departed, and creates a new alternate timeline. This may bear a bit of explanation.
If I appear in the past, the past is changed. It doesn't matter that I have not changed any historic events which we regard as "significant". I may have been seen, leaving memories of my presence which were not there. I have breathed, sweated, moved, changed the inertial and gravitic energies around me--all minor things, certainly, but real changes in the past. History is different in ways unknown and unmeasured by us. And since the past has changed, the future for which that was the past is now erased. Everyone forgets it, except for the person who has left that future and entered the past. Time does not continue beyond that moment.
There was an episode of Quantum Leap which drove this home. Sam was with a young woman as her husband on her honeymoon while she was cramming for her bar exam. Al was attending Senate hearings related to funding for the project, facing a Senator who wanted proof that the project could do anything worthwhile. Efforts to get Sam to scuttle the Bay of Pigs fiasco failed; but he did manage to catch a mistake the young bride had made in understanding a critical case. The result of this was that she passed her bar exam, eventually ran for her father's seat in the Senate, and became chairman of that committee. In the midst of the meeting, the chairman of the committee vanished, replaced by the now middle-aged woman who was the chairman in the altered history. That is very much how time changes: the other history is forgotten, replaced by the altered history, and the future continues from that altered history only.
But in order for that to happen, time must repeat itself. Remember, when in Back to the Future Marty McFly goes from 1985 to 1955, he changes time. When he returns to 1985, he finds that his father is a famous author, and his family lives at a slightly higher economic and social level. But for his parents and siblings and girlfriend, and everyone else in that world, all of the events between that 1955 and that 1985 happened. Therefore time must have gone back to 1955 and moved forward through all of those events to reach 1985.
And once we reach 1985--or whatever point in time from which our time traveler left--we have to determine whether the new time line supports itself. That is, if events are such that the same person will make the same trip back in time and cause the same events, then history is stabilized and the future continues; however, if for any reason this is not so, the time line must repeat again--and again, and again, and again, as many times as it takes--until it does stabilize. And some timelines can't stabilize, because the traveler from the future has altered the past in such a way that he cannot do so on the next time line. There are several examples of this on the pages--but the one in Generations is such a blunder, as Picard has prevented himself from making the time trip which is necessary for him to succeed.
I realize that it is possible for Cyberdyne to have developed Skynet originally. It was not possible for them to have done so based on the pieces of the terminator found in their factory, because those pieces have to have been invented originally by someone. It is unlikely therefore that Cyberdyne created the original Skynet--they don't appear to have been in that line of business prior to finding the parts, therefore it is more likely that someone else was doing the research which led to the development of Skynet in the first place.
And the way James Cameron wrote the script, we never see the original timeline of anything--we only see the timelines in which people from the future have come to the past. In fact, off the top of my head I'd say we usually see the last time line. Thus anything we know about what happened is only what happened after the time line was corrupted by someone from the future coming into the past. So we can't really know from Cameron's script who invented the thing in the original timeline, because no one in the story has that information. Note that when Arnold comes back the second time, he has already been back the first time, already changed all of history and given Cyberdyne the technology to build Skynet on his first trip. For him, as for Sarah, that visit is the only history of which he is aware; but it is not the original history, because he destroyed that original history in his first trip to the past.
Anyway, the theories most people are bantering around about time travel leave many impossibilities. My approach makes these things possible--and I think that a theory which preserves the freedom of men to do what they seem able to choose to do should be preferred over one which prevents them from having such choices and such freedom. Until I see a theory in which all of these paradoxes, anomalies, and impossibilities are explained at least as well as they are by my theory, I'll stick with mine.
Of course the StarTrek Generations film was created primarily to bring Kirk and Picard into the same story, so they could pass the torch and try to get the old hard-line original series fans hooked into the new crew. It's a bad bet anyway--those fans will never accept that anyone could replace Kirk, least of all Picard. It doesn't matter that Kirk is an unlikely choice for captain of a star ship, and probably would have been court-martialed for some of those stunts, or that Picard is much more what we would expect of a career officer in an organized fleet. (Don't get me wrong--the original crew was wonderful; they were just improbable.) Time travel was a trick to get the two together. It was mostly schlock, thrown together to sell tickets. I'm glad the work they did on First Contact was better; another film like Generations could have finished them.
I look forward to hearing from you on these or the other films. It's just possible that you've got such a theory tucked away somewhere, and may be able to force me to reconsider mine--but even if not, anyone who's giving thought to the effects of time travel is going to find the holes for me to patch.
Thanks for your note.