Go Meme Venture!

Okay…we all know how many time-travel based movies and TV shows there have been, and we can probably each compose a short list of five that’ve worked and failed, and a long list of twenty that haven’t worked, and failed. I’m talking about time-travel as the thing, here, understand…not Star Trek or Man From Atlantis (although that was a little weird, wasn’t it? What were they going for there?), but Doctor Who and Quantum Leap. You know?

So…my challenge to you…!

Your own brilliant time-travel based TV series. I’m not saying it would have to succeed…although that would be nice, too. But, it’s gotta be brilliant. And, it’s gotta have a little depth to it. And, there may be a prize. Now, I’m not guaranteeing anything, I’ll have to look around, and I’m a starving artist type, so seriously no guarantees. But for this meme, since the subject’s so thankless in the first place, it seems like there oughtta be a prize, and therefore I’ll work to dig one up, and update you as soon as I possibly can on said prize’s readiness…okay, screw it, there will be a prize. In fact, there’ll be two! Because my own humble time-travel TV show offering will appear mysteriously at some point, either anonymously or under an assumed name, and at the close of the contest the first person to correctly guess which entry was mine will win the second-place prize. Hah! I think it’s a good idea. Unless one of you bastards steals it from me before I get the chance to put it out there, in which case that person (RAB, I bet) will be punished! PUNISHED!


More later on prize details, and other stuff. But, the race is officially started! You may begin!

70 responses to “Go Meme Venture!

  1. Can it be an existing character?

    Rip Hunter: Time Master

    I’d do it in a Flash Gordon old movie type style. Kind of like Skycaptain. It would feature Rip going to different moments in history that at first thought aren’t that important but intersect with big events in strange and revealing ways. It would also feature Rip as several different ages so I would need several different actors for the part. There would be a love interest in there somewhere too. Maybe he rescuses a woman who is fated to die and later in a season finale learns that it ends up destroying the time machine unless he leaves her to her fate. Ya gotta have the drama in there. Plus it would feature Dinosaurs, Pirates, Ape Civilizations, and Robots at some point in addition to the real history stuff.

  2. Pingback: Near-Mint Heroes » Archive » My Time Travel Series·

  3. Hmmm.. time travel on television? Tricky. Especially if you don’t want to ape Dr. Who or Voyagers! or Time Squad or “Peabody’s Improbable History” or any other time travel series with a cult following. How about…

    Idea #1: The Doctor. Who?
    This is totally a spin-off expressly for fans of the original series. First, take all the existing Dr. Who episodes that occur on Earth. Rearrange them in order of Earth’s history, instead of the Doctor’s. Then re-tell the same stories in that order, but from the point of view of your average man on the street. Someone relatively close to the events of the original story, but not so close that they would’ve had more than a passing glance or two of the Doctor himself.

    Depending on how much the Doctor himself might appear, it might make sense to animate this for consistency. (It would also eliminate trying to reconcile some cheap costumes with current technology.) Might be fun, too, to include the Big Finish audio stories and various comic book tales as well.

    Idea #2: In A Pinch
    Sometime in a dystopian future — maybe the 23rd century — a thief breaks into the national archives and manages to steal U.S. Constitution. The original has actually been hidden away for years allegedly to preserve it, but the government has been secretly changing the versions that are propogated throughout the planet. A word here, a turn of phrase there. They’ve been at it long enough that they’ve effectively re-written the whole thing setting up the U.S. as a plutocratic empire. The thief is a former historian (who’s ideas have already gotten him into serious political/social trouble before the series even starts) who’s uncovered the changes and seeks to obtain the original to prove his theories and eventually overthrow the current regime.

    He successfully breaks in and steals the document, but sets off an alarm on his exit. He’s chased by the police and he stumbles into a government lab where they’ve been conducting secret experiments in time travel. He dives into the prototype and vanishes. A policeman dives into the second prototype and heads into the time stream.

    That’s episode one. The rest of the series is essentially a cat and mouse game through time. The thief, while running, tries to enlighten people about things that have been/are going astray, and tries to encite them into action. Generally, the police just about catches up with him before he can see the results of his attempts.

    As he hops forward in time from the past, though, he sees what he might consider discrepencies from what he knows as history. At first, they’re small and innocuous things that he writes off as history being recorded incorrectly. As the series progresses, though, he begins to think that his actions are not helping, that the government is winning and they’ve actively changed recorded history just as they’d modified the Constitution.

    In the last episode, the police actually catches the thief and the two return to their present. They find, though, that nothing is as they remember it. The U.S. is a model for democracy which everyone heralds as an age of peace and enlightenment. The thief’s actions had a cumulative effect after all, and we see a series of flashbacks/vid-clips (some of which would actually be new) showing how his actions did actually get any number of people to do various small things that prevented the downward slide of the country.

  4. So far so good!

    Shane: It sounds like you’ve got a bit of James Burke’s Connections mixed up in there, what an idea! Rip Hunter, Time Master! (Sorry, I just have to say that every chance I get.) But now where are you getting the ape civilizations from…?

    On second thought, never mind! I want it to be a surprise!

    Sean: I think I really like the idea that it looks like In A Pinch’s protagonist hasn’t been successful in changing the past, but then it turns out he has…I’m spontaneously picturing flashbacks to the people he’d tried to influence but depressingly blown it with, picking up about a minute after he’s departed as they think “hey…yeah…”, and we get to see how his good deeds get rewarded. Haven’t seen that before in quite that way.

    RAB: hey look, a beatiful and time-honoured time-travel story that no one’s ever translated to the screen before! Hmm, that’s kind of suspicious, actually, if you think about it…

    This is all very interesting!

  5. Oh, boy, Matthew…it didn’t post for me, either. What have you done? You’ve broken WordPress…

    I’ll try again in a little while, this room is heating up like an oven…

  6. Maybe I’ll try it in two parts. Here’s the second part of what I tried to post:

    How’s this: the working title is ‘Time Travel Agency’. I actually like it as a title because it’s got everything in it that I want. The disadvantage is that it sounds cheesy.

    It’s set in the near future–say, the year 2021 or thereabouts—in a large university. This university is home to a few experimental physics labs, some of which are sponsored by the military. And one such lab is trying to do time travel, something the military is extremely interested in because there’s a war on and it isn’t going well.

    So we’ve got several conflicts, or possible conflicts, on the show. One, scientists versus nature, as our heroes try to figure out how time travel works. Two, pure science versus military expediency. Three, the spies and saboteurs of the other side in the war versus the people in our lab. Four, our experimental chrononauts versus the random dangers (cowboys, saber-toothed tigers, Atlanteans, banditti, etc.) one might face in time-traveling. Five, internal conflicts about various technical and philosophical issues relating to time travel.

    I sort of see this as the ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’ of time-travel shows. In most other time-travel shows and movies and books, time travel has basically been perfected. In this one, the characters start off not knowing if it can be done at all, and probably won’t get it to work reliably for a couple of seasons at least.

    The main theme of the show is: science. There are already shows that pay lip service to science, like ‘CSI’ and ‘Numbers’, but that don’t do a great job of showing what it’s actually like. In this show, the characters are wrestling with some very basic ideas relating to the scientific method, and they have to, because they’re kind of screwing with the nature of causality itself, and they have to be clear on what science even means in such a situation. On the one hand, I don’t want to sacrifice any drama just to make room for experimental procedure. On the other hand, I want actual scientists to be able to recognize themselves in what’s going on here.

    Cast of characters:

    Julian Callendar – our protagonist, if we’re determined to have one. He’s a young physics genius, like Ray Palmer or Ryan Choi or Reed Richards, and he came up with the key principle (I’ll call it the Flux Capacitor, but obviously we’d need a more original name) that makes time travel theoretically possible. But he came up with it by accident and really isn’t interested in this branch of physics; he’s only here because the military/money people demanded him for the project because of his discovery. Julian also has some philosophical objections to time travel in the first place.

    Justine Case – grad student, ex-firefighter and chrononaut. She doesn’t have her Ph.D [i]yet[/i], but she’s the one who gets all the dangerous work, like riding the time machine back to the Triassic period just to see if they can get her back home safely from there.

    Yvonne Ling – lab security. Yvonne is a compromise between the military and the university. She’s a private security consultant who was brought in (after being thoroughly vetted) by both entities after a long argument about who would be in charge of security on this project. So far so good, as far as anyone can tell, but Yvonne suspects that she’s the only one who’s worried, not just about who gets into the lab, but about what comes out of the time machine…

    Professor Lauren Wheeler – Prof. Wheeler has been the leading theorist on time travel for four decades now, and it’s this that got her on this project. Problem is, the Flux Capacitor seems to be completely contradicting everything she ever predicted about how time travel might actually work. So she has to cope with that, revising everything she’s based her professional life on on the fly, while trying to lead a project team containing Julian, the guy who refuted it all and who continues to disagree with her about everything. But she’s still the most practiced intellectual in the room, the most accomplished scientist, and the one who’s most at home [i]thinking about[/i] time travel and its implications.

    Colonel Race Despard – Military liaison. Col. Despard needs results. He was picked for this job because of his scientific background, and is therefore somewhat sympathetic to the needs of the scientists, but he’s getting a lot of pressure from his superiors to come up with something useful. Plus, he has the quite understandable mindset that the lab and the project exist for the sake of their military uses. Another complication he didn’t see coming: he’s falling in love with Justine.

    Rolando Mejia – grad student, athlete and chrononaut. Rolando’s a biology guy, not a physics guy, and he thinks time travel is a load of horse-hockey. He’s only here for the money, to cover his tuition and textbooks and living expenses, while he studies stuff that actually make sense, like botany. He doesn’t really think they’re ever going to get it to work.

    Sara Hassan – scientist. Sara’s done some good work in chronology (well, what else can we call it?), although she isn’t as celebrated as Julian or Prof. Wheeler. She has the idea that something like time travel can’t be conquered from a strictly linear, by-the-numbers approach, that by its nature some intuitive leaps will be necessary. This leads to a lot of situations in which she is flat-out wrong, but also a few where she’s the only one who has any idea of how to address a problem… and is right about it.

    Badri Chaudhury – grad student and lab assistant. He’s actually a spy for the other side in the war, but what the other side doesn’t know is that Badri’s more of a scientist than a patriot. So he gives his foreign masters enough information to keep them happy, and he’d probably sabotage things if it looked like the military sponsors were going to get any significant use out of the project, but what he really wants is for the project to succeed from a pure-science point of view, and he sincerely wants to be a part of that.

    The first episode would probably have them firing up the machine for the first time, just to see if it’ll do anything at all. By the fifth episode, they might try to send one of the chrononauts five minutes into the future. (But something goes horribly wrong, and only Rolando’s left side arrives at its destination! Grief, recriminations, more safety procedures…) Once they’ve got that sorted out, maybe there could be an episode where they try sending Justine to the past, but she arrives in a version of (say) 1972 in which history is obviously completely wrong! How’d that happen?! Or maybe they’ll try sending her to 1950 but she ends up in 1275 instead. Still a few bugs in the system! Or what if they send her to 1905 and it turns out that her fail-safe take-me-home mechanism just doesn’t work? Of course, there’ll need to be an episode where they try to test out the grandfather paradox (in some way that doesn’t involve murdering anyone)… but how can you do that with scientific rigour? And, of course, the season finale involves the other half of Rolando, now augmented with evil cyborg parts, returning from 700 years in the future, looking for revenge…

  7. Plok:

    These aren’t the Linear men. Rip knows time doesn’t always flow in a straight line. It’s a river with many tributaries that split and flow back into each other. That leaves a lot of room for stuff like Ape Civilizations and other crazy ideas. You also have to remember that Rip operates in the DC Universe. It’s based on our universe, but a bit more peculiar.

  8. Matthew_E:

    Why not just go for a simple name like “Portal” or “Threshold”. Threshold would work because it has the literal translation of a doorway or passage into something else, but it could also signify a passage for both humanity as a whole and each character on the show as working on the project brings them into a new area or understanding in their lives.

    I really like this idea.

    It kind of reminds me of the idea behind Stargate before the Sci-Fi network got ahold of it. That’s a good thing.

  9. I think I’m gonna have to opt out of this one because I’ve already got a time travel thing going. But damn am I pissed I can’t do this, Plok.

  10. Sean! Say it ain’t so!

    Shane: no way, you mean this Rip Hunter (Time Master!) show would be set in the DCU? Wow, that’d be awesome. Especially if it’s not immediately apparent to the average viewer that it’s set in the DCU! Just imagine…slowly the weirdness mounts up…explained at first, but then suddenly…Superman, or something. Shocking!

    What an interesting challenge that would be. I love it!

    And Matthew: I have to say, I love the idea of a theory-in-progress and a sputtering time machine, and science science science. Only a couple of notes:

    One, I’d go with “quantum chronodynamics”, or just “chronodynamics” for short. This’d be a nice way to hide the nature of the research from prying eyes, too, since quantum chromodynamics is a known physical theory.

    Two, if I may be so bold, I think with the philosophical open-endedness of the still-being-built time-travel theory, perhaps the military’s initial interest could be better played as having to do with quantum cryptography and computing? The theoretical breakthrough that your protagonist makes (can’t bring myself to say Flux Capacitor — oh, whoops, I did anyway) could have initially appeared to be really valuable for that field alone, and only later on could the researchers and their military liaison have started to realize that, waitaminute, this research is dveloping along some pretty strange lines, and taking us into some pretty freaky places…I humbly submit this could supply an extra level of internal conflict for your military liaison guy, as well as for your spy, who realizes there’s something much more important going on in this lab than the minor military secrets he was sent to winkle out…like, something important to humanity…I dunno, to me it seems like an automatic straight line from the kind of quantum computing folks are messing with right now, to a quantum computing that directly depends on playing tricks with time (instead of indirectly as the current QC models do)…and from there to human beings translocating in the old time-honoured fashion is just a short SF step. To my mind, anyway.

    Love this idea!

  11. La Jetée avec Jean Négroni et Hélène Chatelain? Oh, mais oui, mon frere!

    (And I don’t speak a word of French. Amazing, isn’t it?)

  12. Curiously, on the very night you posted your challenge, I found this report on my favorite space speculations blog:

    Cramer’s Time Experiment Funded
    June 15th, 2007

    It doesn’t look like I’ll be going for the Prize this year. I sort of had something, but it fell apart in my hands. Talked it over with a friend who knows her way around fanfic and specializes in Dr Who, but we couldn’t resolve it, not really. Still, I think there might be something there. It derives from the most sappily satisfying of all time-travel stories, Jack Williamson’s The Legion of Time [1938], plus imagery from Keith Laumer…

    There are two alternative futures say a couple of centuries on, dystopias both, but acceptable to their inhabitants. Bob comes from Gattaca, Alice comes from Mad Max. They discover one another on the same errand in 2007, a shock for them both, since they both believed their worlds to be the one and only present. Irresistably they fall in love. But things that come from a future are special – umbilically connected to their origins – they may morph, dissipate, reappear, as events in the present make that future more or less likely. If one of these agents succeeds in preserving their world, the other one will no longer exist. At any moment, their actions may tip the balance.

    But their little problems don’t amount to a hill of beans. They reason they’ve been sent back, is that both their futures are under attack – sporadically the environment transmutes into poison jungles and luminous fog which leave death behind them. The cause is something unknown, quite inhuman; but the metamorphosis firmly indicates that time travel is part of it. Each future society has been keeping the technology secret, as a last resort, and it seems the time is here.

    The most likely trouble spot is the invention of the Quantum McGuffin in, say Princeton, just about now; the agents therefore intrude on Charley and Don, the grad students who are about to invent it. With great reluctance, they agree to falsify their results. Alice and Bobs’ time gizmos promptly morph into inert lumps, but they remain, and maybe just maybe they can have a future of their own. That is, until Princeton starts to turn into fog and triffids! The lads re-publish, in the middle of the chaos; gizmos re-enabled, the hunt continues.

    Paradox is a crucial plot driver. For instance, when Bob is recalled by force to Gattaca, Alice vanishes, to Charley and Don’s dismay. But shortly they encounter versions of themselves with two weeks of beard and bruises, who hand them a gizmo and direct them to go back to a specific moment, grab Alice and take her forward to Maxville. There are enough perms and coms to keep things unpredictable, I think.

    So far we’ve got adventure, romance, tragic responsibility and man-eating venus flytraps. I want to avoid ideology as a theme – society may break down or manage itself to stultification, but the problems that matter are the ones that only our gang can solve, or the ones directly at hand. I would like to show most people rising to the occasion – the infestation is not an occasion for lampooning the Katrina disaster or anyting, rather everyone from the CDCs to the SAC is responding intelligently. (The future societies, not so much.) It’s just that our gang have to play a lone hand.

    The name of the game is scientific detection. As I say, I don’t have a logical structure worked out, but the kind of thing the culprit is, is someone striving to preserve vegetation from climate change by making it more adaptable, and someone else sowing the past with hyperevolving plants and microorganisms, to give them a head start. But through all of this, we keep hammering on the question of whether we can possibly give Bob and Alice what they need. Of course we can, but I haven’t the faintest idea how.

    There’s a scene I’d really like to include, but probably couldn’t justify. In their panicked, ham-fisted way, one of the futures dispatches their agent to the 1927 Solvay Conference in Brussels, where the seminal debate on quantum entanglement took place. Our heroes prepare carefully, hoping to Zelig themselves around the event without altering things. Instead they are met by Niels Bohr, Erwin Schroedinger, Albert Einstein and Marie Curie, who are expecting them – evidently they have been round the loop at least once already. They are invited to a discreet dinner, where their hosts consider the purely hypothetical consequences of time travel, concluding that in any case each era would mostly have to solve its own problems with its own resources. They are genuinely wise. But consistently, they wind up saying, if in a purely hypothetical sense time-travel did exist, wouldn’t it have to satisfy these equations here? And a piece of our heroes’ solution falls into place.

    Any of four or five concepts in the comments here would make a good show. Rather you assign the prize than me! However, I hereby undertake to web-research any one question within reason, to anyone who can set out a complete time-line for Primer.

  13. You know, Jonathan, this reminds me of something, kind of, sort of…


    It’s “The Questor Tapes”. Well, not really, but Bob and Alice falling in love makes me think a little bit of one of the proposed episodes for that show. So far I like where this is going, but I’ve gotta sleep…I’ll attack it tomoroow! I do think there’s something potentially rather interesting in there…

  14. I came up with another semi-idea… what if a group of people in, mmm, the 1600s sometime form a tontine? But then a couple of them independently get the idea to cheat–not by killing the others, the way tontines usually work, but by using Isaac Newton’s time machine to jump ahead of the others and outlive them that way? It’s tricky, because if you jump too far or without taking certain precautions, you’re liable to end up declared dead anyway. But you could have these two guys leapfrogging each other through time into the far future, while the bewildered legal firm who’s safeguarding the treasure keeps passing instructions down to their new employees, century after century… But I don’t know if it’s a TV show.

  15. Okay, I can’t stand it anymore. Here’s mine, a straight-up Japanese vampire hunter story thrown into a blender with Star Wars, Heroes, Time After Time, Highlander, The Invisibles, Face/Off, and goddamn All About Eve (I know, I’ve lost it), then poured over a bed of crisp Malice Mizer and served with subtitles. Translated into English, it’d be called “Velvet Curtain of Night”.

    We open up in prologue, late at night in a country inn where a boy of about 16 is serving the usual bunch of customers. He notices the dark figure of an older man in a booth in the corner, richly-clothed, carrying a cane with a green handle. The man asks the boy to carry his bags out to a carriage that’s waiting for him in the street. After the bags are loaded, the man calls the boy aside (might as well call him Hiro for now, all the cool kids are doing it) and starts delivering a big soliloquy about how the night sky is like a curtain, that everyone waits to see drawn aside each morning. But really it’s the daytime that’s the curtain, and the night is what’s real, etc. As he’s talking, we see him fingering a long silver knife of unusual design. Tension builds, as he prepares to stab Hiro, but then suddenly the man breaks down. “They told me it would be hard,” he says. “But not this hard. I can’t do it.” And he jumps into the carriage and takes off. Later on, when Hiro goes home to the family farm, he finds everything in flames, and his family dead. Without really knowing why, he blames the green-handled man, and swears revenge.

    Three years later, we see Hiro in a larger town, and through his v/o get the idea that he’s been close to catching up with the green-handled man several times, but he’s always just missed him. Somehow the man always melts away into the air like smoke before Hiro can force a confrontation. Next we see Hiro in a local library, going through old pictures and newspapers. He finds a picture of his quarry at what looks like the premiere of an opera, surrounded by wealthy-looking friends, but is told by the librarian that the paper the picture was clipped from has been shut down for almost 80 years. Hiro goes into shock. He steals the picture, leaves the library, and soon ends up evicted from his lodgings and living on the street, eating out of garbage cans, filthy as a rat, and always looking at that picture. That impossible picture. Until one day he’s found by an old woman who tells him she can help him. She reveals that she knows the man in the picture personally. Hiro says that’s impossible, the man can’t be alive anymore. She says, yes he can.

    The old woman takes him home, to a rambling old house filled to the rafters with weird objects and curios, and also many different portraits from many different times in history, all of the same people that he saw surrounding the green-handled man in the newspaper clipping. The old woman cleans him up, and dresses him in velvet finery, until he looks almost dandy-ish. Then she calls him into her inner sanctum and reveals that she’s a witch. He recoils in horror, but is soothed when she tells him that witches aren’t that bad. At least witches, even wicked witches, are content to live their time on this earth and then die. Not like those other ones. Other ones? Immortal ones, to whom time is just a layer of cloth to be put on or taken off at will. The stealers of mortal lives. The vampires. She gives him a large square locket to be hung around his neck, and tells him that if he goes to where she tells him, and opens the locket, it will bring him within striking distance of his enemy. But…can a vampire be killed? No, not in the present. When danger threatens, the vampire always flees into the stronghold of the past, where he considers himself safe. He only comes to the present to feed. But if Hiro uses the locket, he can track the vampire down, and kill him in his lair. The old lady hands Hiro a knife identical to the silver one we saw the green-handled man toying with earlier, and tells him to keep it and the locket carefully hidden until he needs them. But when he gets his chance, he must strike. And then open the locket again and return to her, because he’ll owe her a favor in return.

    Hiro goes to an old abandoned theatre and pushes through the stage curtain, closing his eyes and opening the locket as he does so. A strangely haunting melody is heard, and then suddenly he finds he has been transported back to the theatre’s heyday, and is backstage with all the actors after a successful performance, and that he himself is being mistaken for one of the extras. He snaps the locket shut, and hides it. The green-handled man is not there, but many of the other people from the house portraits are, and one of them is the lead actress from the play. As she removes her makeup, he realizes that she’s caucasian. Green eyes, red hair, cloud-white skin. She notices him staring at her, and laughs. She calls him over to introduce himself, and tells him her name is Velouria, and not to be shocked at her appearance. He says he’s heard stories of people who look like she does, but never expected to see one. “And except for me, you never will,” she tells him. “I will always be one of a kind…”

    And here’s where we realize something about what’s gone on up to now, which is that this isn’t “our” Japan, it’s an alternate/anachronistic Japan in more of a sci-fi/fantasy/horror mode. Also, “vampires” is just what the old witch calls these immortal people, since she doesn’t have a better word for what they do. What they really are is a bunch of time-travellers who have been jumping around from time to time Quantum Leap style for subjective hundreds of years, and they’ve changed whatever they’ve felt like changing, until the world has finally turned into this sci-fi/horror thing just because they prefer it. Who knows, it may have started out as a far-future version of “our” Japan, that they used the time-travel to edit out. Now they go to the present to see what new thing is coming, decide if they like it, and then if they don’t they nip back to the past and make whatever changes are necessary to prevent it happening. But they’ve got a couple of rules. After you become an immortal time-traveller (usually, first you have to become a “Magician” by reinventing/rediscovering whatever weird time-tech it is that’s at the bottom of all this, and then use it to go back into the past and kill a “vampire”) and make your first history-change, you become free in time, not from anywhere in the new timeline. But the niche that you came from will still exist in some form or other, and you have to track down the person who “would have” become you, and trim the top of his family’s tree. So that you can prevent him or anyone like him from doing the same things that you did to become an Immortal yourself. This is just what the green-handled man couldn’t bring himself to do: Hiro is the new “old him”, and he’s broken the rules by not killing him.

    What happens next is that Velouria begins an affair with Hiro, and gradually he begins to figure out some of the secrets of the vampire “coven” that she belongs to, although nobody goes so far as to spell anything out in so many words to him. Then the green-handled man arrives in town, and Hiro has to stalk him carefully, because he doesn’t know if he’s been recognized. The other members of the coven are suspicious of the GHM, nervous about whether or not Velouria may decide to make her lover an Immortal (this never turns out well, but Velouria’s the oldest of them all and they can’t be too bold about criticizing her) and in general there’s a lot of inter-Immortal politics. Hiro gets to know quite a few of the supporting characters fairly well and acquires a youngish friend as well as an oldish rival. Eventually Velouria tells Hiro she wants him to stab the GHM so he can take his place, and she gives him another one of those silver knives. He goes for it, but at the last second the GHM recognizes who he is. and grabs Velouria to use her as a shield, and she gets stabbed instead of him. Then Hiro’s oldish rival enters the room unexpectedly, and the GHM quickly pulls the knife from V’s chest and presses it to the rival’s neck. He tells Hiro that he really has no idea, Hiro never became a Magician, so he doesn’t know the knives are more than just weapons. The GHM is maneuvering his hand over the older rival’s heart as he says this, and abruptly he takes the knife from the rival’s jugular and plunges it through his own hand and into the rival’s heart. There’s some Highlander fireworks, and the GHM turns into a double of the rival, as the rival’s body turns into dust. The GHM tells Hiro that Immortals don’t kill other Immortals, they use them as power-ups. Hiro may have used some kind of one-jump time-travel to come back to the theatre, but now the GHM can go even farther back, and out of his reach again. And when Hiro’s discovered by the coven standing over V.’s dead body, they’ll take care of him permanently. The GHM then disappears into time. The next person into the room is Hiro’s youngish friend, who believes Hiro’s desperate explanation of things, and says he’ll square it with the coven. Hiro should wait right there until he comes back, and not let anybody in. But as he turns away, Hiro slips out the other silver knife that the witch gave him, and pulls the same power-up trick on his friend that the GHM pulled on the older rival. Then he opens up the locket again, squeezes his eyes shut, and he, too, vanishes into time.

    The rest of it goes something like this. When you meet an Immortal that you know, it’s usually not the “present” version of them, though if you wait long enough the present version will eventually show up behind their eyes, as they Quantum Leap into and out of their own time-travelling bodies. The power-up thing is a different version of that, but basically it’s a one time only difference so it doesn’t really matter. So the GHM will be travelling through time pretending to be the older rival, and Hiro will be travelling through time pretending to be the younger friend. Only problem is, the GHM now has a greater range back through time than he did before, so it’ll be real easy to escape Hiro if he suspects something’s up when he meets him in his new “disguise”. But he doesn’t know Hiro is in the “lifeline” of the friend, does he? Just like nobody else in the coven, anywhere throughout time, knows either of them are any different from who they look like. Except Velouria, who’s still “alive”…because what the GHM doesn’t know is that once the knife got pulled out of her chest, she recovered, but she’s a little bit traumatized so she doesn’t quite remember what happened. She remembers Hiro stabbed her, that’s it. Later in the series, as Hiro hunts the GHM through different fantasy/horror Japanese timelines and genres, he meets up with an “old” version of Velouria in the past and romances her in the guise of the friend, but then it all goes horribly wrong when the “present” Velouria arrives back behind her eyes and gets pissed with the friend, because another of the Immortals’ rules is that they don’t hook up with out-of-synch versions of their friends. And that sets the whole coven after Hiro, which leads to our season finale, as they finally catch him and put him on trial…but then the GHM is there too, masquerading as the “rival”, and Hiro gets his chance to have his revenge…


    Then in the next season we find out what the old witch’s devious plan was in setting all this up, but I’m already afraid this’ll be too long to post so it’ll just have to be a cliffhanger in more ways

  16. Matthew: I think you’re describing a sitcom! Could be brilliant! “Tontine”.

    Jonathan: The more I think about it, the more I think what’s interesting about your idea is the stuff that doesn’t quite fit…borrowing a page from Matthew’s “Time Travel Agency” (although I must say, Shane, for all that it’s nondescript, “Threshold” is a great name — on the threshold of a discovery, right?), it seems that an important issue for Bob and Alice, for “the lads” (love that!), for the folks in Brussels, and even for the mysterious villainous force is that the nature of time and the operation and consequences of time-travel are not fully understood. It’s not as simple as little changes, alternate timelines, temporal tic-tac-toe, and Bob and Alice’s different origins and romantic entanglement (“Entanglement” as a title??) seem to me to be a symbol of this. As you point out, the worlds of the future are being menaced by changes made in the past, they haven’t been simply saddled with a fait accompli fully-formed disaster…so what’s going on, there? I actually think there’s an enormous amount of room to move in this idea, and the more I think about it, the better I like it.

    Finally, Sean: oh my God, I didn’t expect anyone to propose a TV show from another country, that’s brilliant! And possibly insane…I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a fantasy-based time-travel TV show that didn’t have something to do with King Arthur or Robin Hood, or that wasn’t aimed at kids, and so what can I say? Refreshing approach! To me this seems to have a little bit of a Twin Peaks vibe to it as well, although I’m still just a bit muddy about the procedural technicalities of your magic/not-magic time travel…but that seems like quibbling, when I can practically see the scenes playing out in my head, so strongly dream-flavoured. Wonderful stuff! I’m fascinated! And I’m afraid I’m going to have to know what the old witch’s plan is for Season Two, so…get typing!

    Wow, this is really working out extraordinarily well. I’m really enjoying the mishmash of influences in these time-travel stories, which I guess is the whole thing about the whole thing, in a way…I mean, in what other sub-genre is it so completely clear that drama is built up out of deciding the manner in which you’re going to string pre-established storytelling conventions together in an homage-laden routine? I always say that thinking about the physical possibility of time-travel is a mug’s game for scientists, since the origin of the idea is as a literary conceit, and a device for talking about how character strives with fate…and all these ideas bring a beautiful self-consciousness to the employment of that device, which I’m finding very engaging. It’s very gratifying. So…


  17. Well I’m thinking that Shane’s got it beat with Rip Hunter, but anyways…

    I was trying to do something that was the diametric opposite to the time travel thing I’m working on now. Which is why I went for the magic/not-magic thing. Yeah, it needs some clarifying but it wasn’t Primer– or 12 Monkeys– or Terminator-styled time travel. Or Rock of Ages for that matter.

    –not coincidentally when I had to write a paper on a specific film genre for my Film101 class, I picked “Time Travel Films”, so yeah, sorry. Then again when we had to talk about westerns I brought up King of New York so I’m not a reputable source–

    Time travel as a genre is wide open – why aren’t there more comedies involving it? Red Drawf lived and died on it for god’s sake!

    But yeah, its so different from While My Time Machine Gently Weeps it’s scary.

  18. Oh, Rip Hunter (Time Master!) is in the running, for sure…although I think it may have some stiff competition if Matthew comes back and turns “Tontine” into a more fleshed-out sitcom idea…

    Actually, the only one of these that isn’t in the running is Sean K.’s first proposal, “The Doctor. Who?”, and that’s only because I’m making an executive decision that it comes rather too close to actual Doctor Who episodes and spinoffs to stand on its own. “In A Pinch” is definitely growing on me, though…I kind of see it as having a comedic element, too, only one that’s very dark and very dry, as our hero keeps on trying to makie positive changes in the past and keeps failing, because his enemies’ idea of human nature is in fact more “realistic”…ah, but then who wins out in the end, eh? This kind of thing appeals to me on a philosophical level too, because it’s not enough to manipulate events and rely on the idea that if A, then B, and then subsequently C and D just like dominoes…in a way the time-travellers don’t change the past at all, the people living in time just decide what they’re going to do, and theories about contingency and human nature are just theories, after all. More immediately, at the end we get a nice George Bailey moment out of it all, and frankly I think that’s one of the things I always want to get out of a filmed time-travel story…

    Plus it reminds me of 1602!

    Tempted to go on here about thinking Back To The Future a very intelligent movie when it came out, because it so obviously paid homage to It’s A Wonderful Life at just the time that my generation was rediscovering it…ah, the Eighties, there was so much wrong with it…

    Anyway, it’s definitely a six-way race. Probably seven, if Matthew comes back…

    Oh no, I just remembered I forgot to detail why Jonathan’s story reminded me of “The Questor Tapes”…oh well, maybe later…

  19. I’m noticing a surplus of science-fiction themes here and a dearth of other means of time travel (magic, psychic, etc).

    I have something mulling about in my head involving the Wyrd Sisters, but while I have character, means, and motive, I’m still lacking an overall plot.

    The theme I’m going for, however, is that of Timestream = Tapestry, and all the time-travel that’s occurred throughout sci-fi history is really mucking the place up, so the Wyrd Three have to go fix it by resolving paradoxes.

    It could easily become a satirization of sloppy time-travel stories.

  20. Like there’s any other kind…

    Get crackin’, Erin! I wanna know what that TV show looks like, holy cow! Could be very nice indeed…in line with the “tapestry” thing, might I suggest that time-travellers keep trying to fix one or more things in the timestream that are classically “wrong”, but don’t understand that time needs certain things to be wrong…little dropped stitches or non-rationalizable seeds for events, that drive scientists crazy, but then again Big Mama Universe isn’t a scientist, is she? So the Sisters are always having to go back and “un-fix” things, restore chicken-and-egg paradoxes or something, to keep time as it’s supposed to be…which is, a thing that doesn’t always conform to human logic.

    Just a thought!

  21. I have an idea forming involving a little bit of Wrinkle in Time and a little bit of Hiro’s space/time style teleportation, but I don’t know if it will solidify or not.

  22. Pingback: Near-Mint Heroes » Archive » Just the Links: Meanwhile…·

  23. [i]if Matthew comes back and turns “Tontine” into a more fleshed-out sitcom idea…[/i]

    I don’t know if I will. To me, it isn’t really a good core idea for a show; it’s more like half an idea.

    Which is not to say that I’m necessarily finished thinking up stuff…

  24. Pingback: Blog@Newsarama » I go boldly through space and time, the sky’s the limit but they’re limiting the sky·

  25. This is too much fun.

    I’ve got a couple, which I sketched out back in college in the early 80s, and haven’t thought about in years. They were conceived as print novels rather than television, and I’m not sure they’d make the leap to TV. But I’ll share anyway.

    The first is music fanfic, to answer the question of why, when jazz legend Charlie Parker died, the coroner thought he was between 50 and 60 years old, even though he was only 34. It begins when two music historians from the future pick up a current day rock critic (=sigh= my mary sue character) to aid with their quest: locate all of the great musicians who died tragically young, pick them up just before their demise, and bring them to the future to live and create more music. The critic is needed to help them navigate culturally. With his help, Parker, Buddy Holly, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Patsy Cline, Janis Joplin, etc. are encountered and rescued, and brought together so they can jam and be recorded for the rest of their lifespans. Cloned corpses are left in their place.

    All goes well, until one of the future guys screws up: on his own, he has scooped up Bob Dylan from just before the motorcycle accident in 19666 that led to rumors of his death and kept him out of sight for over a year. The historical record is incomplete (and I was writing before the recent resurgence of Bob’s career), and the time traveler thought Bob had really died. This, of course screws up history. At the time of his accident, Dylan was playing raucous rocknroll, popping speed like candy, and delivering bitter diatribes to the press and to his old folkie fanbase who didn’t like his move away from “Blowin’ in the Wind” strumming. When he recovered, he was making quieter music in Woodstock with The Band and in Nashville, the bellwether of the whole back-to-the-land country rock movement that fed the Grateful Dead, the Byrds, ect. and led directly to the later success of people like John Denver.

    But with the time-travel intervention, he is dead at the height of his fame, and James Deaned into an icon of angry rebellion, just as the anti-war protests are heating up. The result is that the counterculture is an angrier milieu: much more punk than love, peace, flowers and “back to the garden.” (anyone here old enough to know what I’m talking about?)

    In this new milieu, there’s never a market for a John Denver: Instead, a bitter, failed songwriter named Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. goes off the rails and, years later, assassinates Leonid Brezhnev, causing WW III.
    Our heroes, including the musicians, need to undo the damage. In the end, all is as it was before, except:

    – Charlie Parker gets 20 actual years of living in before returning to the recorded day of his death.

    – No one remembers one of the great heroes of popular music anymore. Now he makes a meager living playing in bars. His name is Steve Nardella—a real Midwest-based rocker who, I still believe, should have been famous. (http://www.answers.com/topic/steve-nardella?cat=entertainment)

    – Our rock critic has a priceless recording of the greatest jam session of all time…which he can’t access (yet) because it is recorded using future technology.

    Time travel and music is featured in Douglas Adams Dirk Gently novels and in Stephen Fry’s novel, “Making History.” Once the wonderful “Bill & Ted” came out, I set my own pair of less-than-brilliant young time-travelers aside for good.

    Youth, music and marijuana are a dangerous combination. I’m just saying.

  26. I would love nothing more than to bring back “Quantum Leap.” I kind of like the idea that’s been rumored, where Sam is lost (after the events of the series finale) and the show is about his daughter leaping and trying to track him down. The leaps would have to have some kind of logic to them this time around, though; it wouldn’t make sense to have her leaping into random people if she’s trying to follow a path. Instead, maybe Ziggy (the computer) is able to lock onto Sam’s chronological signature, and leaps her into someplace where he has only recently been. Knowing that he has some control over his leaps now, and that they’re happening independently of Ziggy and the control center, she begins piecing together the logic of his travels. But in the meantime, she ends up in someone either genetically or geographically close to the last person Sam leaped into, though she may be in a time significantly before or after Sam’s arrival. Eventually she figures out that she’s oscillating around his path, arriving before, then after, then before, then after, and decreasing the time interval in between, and she’s able to predict when she and Sam will leap into the same place at the same time.

    Of course, in the meantime she has to deal with the problems left behind in Sam’s wake, or that precede his arrival, putting right what once went wrong. And there’s a third Leaper in the system, with sinister origins, tracking Sam along the same path.

    Add in some kind of ticking clock, the reason that it was so important for daughter Beckett to go after her father now, and it sounds like the makings of a decent (if cheesy) follow-up. QL has long been one of my favorite series, and I’d love to see a competently done sequel.

    Of course, this is just me rambling for ten minutes or so; I have a couple of other ideas bubbling about now, which should make for a blog post or two in…THE FUTURE!

  27. You’re mad, the pair of you.

    Mikesensei: Like “Here Comes Mr. Jordan”, only with Bob Dylan? Like Heroes, only with Charlie Parker? Would it surprise you to hear that I consider that a makeable show? One must dtrive to follow the example of Pepsi, here: did Pepsi give up on rotting teenagers’ teeth just because Coke got there first? NO THEY DID NOT! So God bless youth, music, and marijuana!

    Tom: I hereby pronounce a sequel series to Quantum Leap to be an eligible concept for this meme…but I must have an example (just an example) of the “leftovers” that our heroine has to clean up, I must have a suggestion of what happens when she finally catches up with Sam (and may I suggest that Ziggy desperately wants to ask Sam some questions, like how the hell he started operating “off the grid”?), and most importantly I must be given a clue to the identity of the Third Leaper!

    And you will comply with my demands! You will provide me with more “Stingray”!

    These are fun ideas, guys; thanks for participating!

  28. Ah…“strive”, obviously. One must strive. Not “dtrive”. Although on the other hand, I suppose one’s dreach must dexceed one’s dgrasp, or what’s a dheaven for? Dyou know?

    Ooooh, dterrible jokes…

  29. mikesensei: That’s awesome! I hope Sam Cooke is on your list too. And Otis Redding.

    By the way, there’s a novel called ‘Glimpses’, by Lewis Shiner, that might be to your taste, if that’s the kind of thing you like…

  30. Another miserable midwinter day. Great masses of humidity and cold that keep you close to the gas heater. The CD burner program which I swear was working on this system now yields four different error conditions. All I want to do is back up my arduously catalogued files. If you can’t even back up, what kind of luser are you? For this you did the Linux From Scratch exercise and sat two certification exams?

    Blow it. What’s on the telly?

    Ah. For a start here’s Tourists, from RAB. I didn’t think I’d like this one, but it’s grown. It sounds like a complete downer – here and now is as good as it gets, and there’s nothing for visitors from the future to do except gawk and come to bittersweet realizations.

    But that’s until you see how goddam seductive he’s making the people and manners of the here and now. With our ignorance, our superstitions, our egotism – above all our assurance of free will – we’re actually running rings around the fatalistic tourists, and we’re sucking the youngsters in. Of course we’re wrong, we’re heedlessly bringing the roof down; but we’re also making it clear that our archaic cussedness is ineradicable; and you can bet that it will persist as a kind of demi-monde, inadmissable to future orthodoxy, but secretly part of them as well.

    It’s a bit too much for me, because in my current state I really need to believe that the future is redeemed by the modest actions of six billion people working toward their own ends, but to greater ends as well, and all of us in the same boat.

    Time travel is about not being in the same boat.

    So it keeps me watching.

    Pardon, I’ll just record Rip Hunter on para//e/.

    Now I can switch over to Matthew’s Tontine. It’s another one with more than meets the eye. Really, it’s about the rise of the modern economy. We’re probably not supposed to think about it too hard, we bourgeois children, but to a person of the 18th and 19th Centuries, it’s a breathtaking achievement that Property and Contract can extend one man’s power across oceans, or generations.

    Matthew’s art here is how he makes us aware that exactly this – Business Ethics – is such a big deal to the banking dynasties who are managing these investments. All those starched wingtip collars and the lackeys polishing the brasswork, are making a statement: On these foundations, new worlds may safely be established. And of course this really comes home when the pressure comes on and the Second Assistant to the Vice-President has to decide just how much the principle of confidentiality in respect of will and testament really means. Which is only half the story, even. When a man had made a fortune from rapine, slavery and exploitation, is he going to be able to adapt to a more enlightened and far more complicated set of business rules?

    Through all of it, the subtext is building up. The time-hoppers are the ultimate bourgeoisie, really. Their money gives them the leverage, it’s the unknown masses on the rubber plantation and Edison’s factory who do the work. We don’t get to dwell on it, because of the astounding risks the rivals keep taking. Risk being the capitalistic counterpart to that brassbound assurance.

    Time travel is about getting someone else to do all the work.

    I’m enthralled by this one. I’m really looking forward to seeing how our Residual Accounts Manager and his hacker girlfriend cope with three centuries of ruthless guile.

    Shaping up to be a good evening. Is there more?

    Yay! It’s Sean Witzke’s Velvet Curtain of Night. A guilty pleasure.

    I used to binge on anime a lot, because it never failed to surprise me. A blogger said one time, in thinking about how America’s relationship with Japan was almost as dense as with Britain, that the (former) two countries were fascinated by each others’ popular culture: their respective postures of disciplined self-control, their respective descents into delicious licence. In imitating one another, East and West were each liable to put a gauche foot wrong – but they were also able to give renewed power to ideals which had become stale to their native literatures.

    Well, it’s like that. With the combination of auto-possession and time travel, the plotting is so thick it’s like watching Serial Experiments Lain and wondering if they can possibly mean what they seem to be implying. But at the same time we have this Tales of the Vienna Woods theatrical opulence, and you know that however perplexing things are for these characters, they’d all die before they could say goodbye to the enchantment.

    And there’s also the whole thing about being able to alter the past. It is particularly screwy that time travel enters literature with Wells, the world’s most earnest rationalist. It looks like t := t – dt, it looks as neutral as a rewind button; but it means you’re not in the same boat as everyone you care for, and someone else gets to do all the work, and you can go back and undo your mistakes unlike the rest of us poor mooks. It’s pure existential transgression. Well, here we get fair warning first, because time travel is revealed to us as the ticket to a very glamorous, very unsettling fairy tale, the domain of a privileged few, immune from common morality.

    Time travel enlists you into an order of supernatural terror.

    Okay, ‘scuse. Just putting In a Pinch on para//e/. I want to catch up with it later – basically it’s The Time Tunnel done with decent characterization. But I have to say that for now, Tontine is the one that’s delivering on its promise.

    Wish I could say as much for the next one up, that’s Entangled, by Burns. Whoever came up with the name is a genius, it captures the star-crossed love affair, the creepy connectivity, the contorted timelines, the scientific rationale for it all, and the nightmare vibe of the metamorphic forest. Consummate.

    I think what’s holding this series back, is that Burns is clearly a sometime acidhead who’s frustrated that acid trips are deemed inferior to all that “meaningful in human terms” stuff. It’s really the fluorescent jungle that he wants – fathomless mystery – and he’s only catering to the rest of us with his conventional plot. His scripts are all for the moment of inversion, as in “But if time travel was possible, wouldn’t nature be making use of it already? oh my god”

    Quantum mechanics is as close to fathomless mystery as we’re likely to get, and inasfar as he wants to make QM palpable, not just explain it, his narrative has potential. But he hasn’t worked out how to fuse that with saving the world and living happily ever after, and it drives him nuts that Jack Williamson did. Still, he’s started on the wrong foot by making the mystery be the menace.

    What he needs to go for is a solution that uses paradox against itself. Like, we know from our experience that we’re probably not virgin continuity, but our own second chance: the past that we’ll return to to make things better. Well, we’ve learnt to trust each other, so we’ve already done our best on whatever loop, and we don’t have to do any worse, so let’s go for it!

    And the prize to be won would be, There’s room enough now for us to make futures, together or freely as the case may be. But there’s another world out there too, just outside the shell of the egg, where you see the cat alive and dead, and looking in the mirror you see yourself dividing into the selves who see each of them, and the square root of minus one is just a direction on the compass you’re holding in your hand. Good luck.

    Time travel opens the door to mystery.

    I’ve been hearing about mikesensei’s new series, it would be amazing if he could bring it off. I do believe there are musicians who could pastiche the masters, just well enough. The key is respect for the material: once that shows, we’ll eke out your imperfections with our thoughts. As Greil Marcus said about the Afro-American experience, police and drugs politics in the ’80s, “only the music got away clean”.

    Well, it’s getting late, but it’s been a good night thanks to you all. Just time enough to finish up with Rip Hunter, Time Master!

    What can I say? Respect for the material wins again, and so does your confidence that you’ve done everything it was possible to do with your special effects. Do people really believe we Gerry Anderson fans revisit the old shows in a spirit of self-mockery? Hell no! He was going all out to show us what had never been shown before, and that’s eternal.

    Time travel is about death rays and dinosaurs. I have never heard dissent from this.

  31. Thanks, Pillock! I think the biggest issue would be the lawsuits from the families of the musicians portrayed. And have another beer!

    MatthewE, thank you! Of course Sam and Otis are there: they’d duet on “Bring It On Home To Me!” I will definately check out Shiner’s “Glimpses.” Another book after my own heart is Bradley Denton’s “Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede.” Rock on!

  32. Okay, a couple more thoughts…one, this is a great parsing of Tontine Jonathan’s done for us, and it’s made me start thinking about it even more, and as a result I’m liking it more and more…Matthew, so often it’s the tossed-off ideas that end up being the most compelling!

    Two, the bit about “if time-travel were possible, it would exist, and Nature would already be using it”, I see this as the riveting feature of both Entangled (you’re right; it is a good name!) and (if you’ll pardon me giving it the name) Threshold — finding out how it works, which is not the same way you thought it worked, perhaps, is the real detective story. Just that Bob and Alice don’t vanish along with their future histories is suggestive, even as their equipment turns to inoperative junk…hmm. There’s something there. A mystery. It’s neat!

    Finally, three, so here we have our first (if preliminary) vote: Jonathan’s expressed a preference for Tontine. And maybe that’s the way the winner should be decided on? After I close the contest, I could ask each of the participants to give me their top three favourites, and then I’ll give my own vote a weight equivalent to, say, half of all of yours…so if there are ten contestants, each of you would get to cast a single vote for each of your top three, and I would cast a single vote worth five for my top pick overall. Sound reasonable?


    But let’s just let this run for a couple more days. Say we’ll stop on Monday night — and if anyone wants an extension before then, just say so — and then Tuesday we’ll begin making selections.


  33. Actually, we’ve got eleven so far: Tom B. has imagined something akin to Star Trek fan-fic which just fits into the parameters, and I’m going to count it even though he hasn’t come in and linked to it here.

  34. Whoops, you just nipped in there…

    Registered! But until the contest ends, you’ll have time to change your mind. Usually a thing like this would already have run its course (why do people give up on things so quickly?), but I suspect we might see one or two more entries before the Monday midnight deadline…

    Funny, ordinarily I’d ask for reasons why, but you’ve already described them so well I think I could’ve picked yours for you!

  35. And, before I forget…Mikesensei, how ’bout a title for yours? Because of your subject, you’ve got so much to pick from that you better get it right, I think…

  36. Also, for the record, here’s a partial list of little things that charge up my curiosity out of all proportion:

    Ape civilizations.

    “Randomized” appearances of different Doctors, and flashbacks to unexpected victory.

    Native bearers.

    All the character interactions implicit in Matthew’s Time Travel Agency.

    Bob and Alice standing in the boys’ lab, their time-travel gizmos suddenly turned to worthless junk.

    What Jonathan said about the Tontine idea.

    The scene with the Velouria girl taking off her makeup. “I will always be one of a kind.”

    I only need write the title: Bill and Ted’s Excellent TV Show.

    Irascible witches, plumbers of the timestream.

    The promise of anything that takes Wrinkle In Time as an influence: long-range and wide-screen time-teleportation! You could see some very strange stuff, in that…

    Bob Dylan in “heaven”…pissed-off…

    An intelligent computer’s perplexity at whatever happened to Sam Beckett.

    It’s always the little flourishes that draw you in…

  37. I’ve been going back and forth on whether to expand the tontine thing or not. I mean, I like the idea. I’m just having a hard time seeing how it would work as an ongoing show.

    (That’s one thing about this blog. People will give you the benefit of the doubt and make you seem a lot smarter and more profound than you really are. First there was plok in that crossover thing assuming I intended the DC heroes to reshape the collective unconscious of the DCU by trekking through the Dreaming. Great idea; wish I’d thought of it. Now there’s Jonathan and his take on the tontine thing; great idea, wish I’d thought of it, if I was Neal Stephenson I could totally go somewhere with that.)

    Now I’m worried that whatever I do come up with won’t be as good as what people are imagining for it.

    First, the problems. Who are our characters? Obviously, the members of the tontine. But now we have a choice to make. Either we have no other recurring characters, or we use time travel as a part of the premise but not as an ongoing part of the show. I mean, I’d like to have the people at the law firm, and maybe even some other people too, as regular characters, but if these tontine guys keep jumping ahead through time, they’ll leave everybody else behind. And if they don’t, then why not? So that’s tricky.

    I can think of one solution: keep the same actors to play the law firm employees in every era: the lawyers and clerks are always descendants of the original ones. It’s the Blackadder law firm. Not sure I like that, though, but it does suggest the ‘sitcom’ idea that plok mentioned.

    So start somewhere else: what do we need? We need the tontine, and we need two members of it, and we need a couple of time machines. We also need an answer to the question, why don’t these two use the time-honoured (so to speak) method of killing each other to claim the tontine treasure? Possible answers: they have a weird sort of honour, they kinda like each other… or one other that I just thought of. I’ve got an idea here all of a sudden…

    Must go check some chronology; back later!

  38. Jonathan, your excellent description of your night of time travel TV viewing is muuch appreciated. It must have posted while I was writing my earlier reply–I didn’t see it until this morning. Anyway, a great overview.

    Matthew E said “That’s one thing about this blog. People will give you the benefit of the doubt and make you seem a lot smarter and more profound than you really are.” That’s for sure. Nice place you’ve got here, Pillock. By the way, Matthew, I just picked up “Glimpses” at the local library. I’ll crack it open tonight.

    Pillock, re a title for my proposal…I suppose “The Times, They Are A-Changing” is too cute and obvious…as is “That’ll Be the Day.” And “A Change Is Gonna Come,” for that matter. Hmmm. “Rock of Ages” is taken. “Keeping Time” would work, or something utilitarian, like “The Archivists.” I’m flummoxed. I welcome suggestions while I go seek a cup of coffee.

    I’ve been having a blast contemplating all of the other proposed series. So much madness and potential.

  39. Begging your indulgence, and just to unburden myself, here’s the other of my two time-travel proposals from my misspent youth in the early 80s. I never got farther than the first chapter, but it might make a decent pilot episode. I called it “Ghosts in the Machine.” Here goes:

    Time travel is, of course, impossible, even in the 200-years-future era where we begin. But what they do have seems almost as good: Through a wide-beam, controlled tachyon burst (=ahem=), our future denizens are able to project a, say, half a mile-diameter beam back though time and space. At a particular point along the continuum, the beam “reflects” and comes forward in time, where it is recaptured by the senders, who can then decode information about the point in the past where the beam is reflecting. The experiment takes decades to set up, but the result is this: in a half-mile-diameter laboratory, a holographic projection of events that took place 1200 years earlier unfolds in “real time.”

    As I was reading Fantagraphic reprints of Prince Valiant at the time I was writing, what the scientists are observing, one day at a time, is the area around one castle and village in England, in the months prior to the Norman Conquest. Think “time-scope” crossed with ST:TNG’s holodeck. Historians who enter the projection can passively observe every detail, every fall of a sparrow, as if they were really there, but they can’t interact: they’re like ghosts—immaterial and invisible—from the future, walking through days of the past.

    One historian is sympathetic to, and eventually, reluctantly, smitten by, a young lady of the nobility, whose life is much harder and drearier than a Disney princess’s would be. He’s assigned the task of observing her, but he feels like a stalker, and wishes he could be Prince Charming. But she’s just a projection from 1200 years ago, and time travel is, of course, impossible. Away from work, he tries to research her life, but the records are incomplete. As she’s in the path of an impending invasion, he knows her end probably won’t be pretty. This first “chapter” alternates between the historian’s angst and the court intrigue that bodes ill for the woman, whose story draws us in.

    The climax of the episode has the woman in immediate danger: the historian can’t bear to watch, even though it’s what he’s assigned to do. Instead he wanders away from the scene, in anguish, to somewhere outside the castle. There he sees a handful of the castle’s soldiers conversing in their old dialect. All but one soldier move on. As the historian invisibly watches, the remaining soldier makes sure the coast is clear, removes his gauntlets, reaches into his tunic and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. Humming a Sinatra tune, he lights up: on his wrist is a 1950s-era wristwatch. The historian’s shocked expression is the last thing we see, as he realizes: not only must time travel be possible, but the past has already been visited by people from the 20th century. =gulp!=

    That’s all I got. Thanks again, Pillock and everyone. Now I can move on with my life!

  40. Offtopic, but strange: I just discovered there is a guy who blogs under the name “Mikesensei” at “mytwoyenworth.blogspot.com.” For the record, I ain’t him. I’ll have to come up with another alias, which will be fun.

    The other Mikesensei apparently teaches at a women’s high school in Sendai, Japan. 15 years ago, I taught at a women’s college in Fukushima, Japan–about 30 minutes away from Sendai by bullet train. Small world! As he not only bothers to blog on a site of his own, and is apparently still a “sensei” (I’m an editor at a trade magazine now), I relinquish the name.

  41. Hah! Well, I guess you saw that I had linked to the other Mike Sensei…what the hell, I’m leaving it up. I did think it was a bit surprising, though…

    But don’t think you can distract us with that, Formerly Mike! Except for the name (I personally think that the world has reached its quota of titles having to do with ghosts and machines), that is damn good stuff, and like Matthew I’m hooked! So get to work, damn you!

    On the musician show…well, it isn’t like Dylan doesn’t have a myriad of lyrics that can be pulled out and applied. I was going to suggest “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”, but now that I think about it that’s just not trying hard enough…so, let’s have suggestions!

    And: thanks for the compliment — of course if I were an alien in Star Trek I’d be the kind that feeds on compliments

    Furthermore: yes, Jonathan’s little essay! It’s great, isn’t it?

    Finally: Matthew, have you finished checking your chronology yet? I’m holding the door for both you guys now, just so you know…

  42. The chronology’s fine; everything lines up as well as I could have hoped for, if not better. I know the premise and I know who the characters are. The only thing I don’t have yet is anything to make the characters interesting, more than names on a page. I may be able to have it finished for tonight; maybe not. So if I can have a provisional extension, that’d be most welcome.

    In the meantime, a couple of points I’d like to clear away:

    I do want to mention that the time travel show I would most want to have exist is already on the air. It’s called ‘Legion of Super Heroes’ and WBKids shows it on Saturday mornings. I could probably come up with my own Legion-related TV show, but I wouldn’t be able to improve on the genuine article by enough to make it an interesting exercise to anyone but me.

    And I realized something about Jonathan’s take on the whole tontine thing. He got something a little bit wrong. He says, “three centuries of ruthless guile”, but these tontine guys wouldn’t have three centuries of experience. Because they’re not immortal, right? They aren’t Vandal Savage. They just skipped over a lot of history.

    More as soon as I can come up with it.

  43. Matthew: I hear you. LLL!

    Pillock: re your linking to the other guy: accept no substitutes!

    Re the music plot: Barring better suggestions, I’ll go with the title of a more recent Dylan album: Time Out of Mind.

    Re the second plot: How about “Distant Mirror,” in honor of Barbera Tuchman’s classic nonfiction book, “A Distant Mirror,” and because the setup hinges on this business of “reflecting” info from the past. I agree that Ghosts, Machines, and variations on them have been done to death.

    RE what happens next: Hey, it’s a pilot! The object is to make you ask, and imply that the answer well could be *spectacular!*–if only the networks would greenlight it.

    All I can tell you is that as the mystery unfolds, subsequent events take place (took place?) in 1066 and the cold-war, big defense budget 1950s as well as the historian’s own time, and I wouldn’t rule out other eras. Oh, the places you’ll go!

    (In other words, other than some half-formed notions, I haven’t a clue as to what happens next.) (But that’s okay!)

  44. Extension not necessary. It’s done. Be kind to it.

    Okay, the tontine. I finally figured out how to do this. But I had to shift the focus a little in order to do so. Because here’s the problem: what do the characters do every episode? They try to resolve the tontine difficulty. If they do, the story’s over; if they never do, it’s Gilligan’s Island. So: the tontine thing is the Season One arc; surely we can keep this storyline extended over 22 episodes. Season Two will be about something else entirely. Maybe time-travel-related, maybe not, who cares, not my problem. So instead I’ve got a setup a little like that show, Murder One. (Remember that?)

    When the credits open, the first thing we see is a sign, a very classy metal engraved sign on the oaken door of a brownstone in Manhattan. It says:

    Ten Veen & Wanderley
    Commission Agents
    London – New York – Trieste – Buenos Aires – Singapore – Cairo
    Est. 1656

    (I love the idea of commission agents. As I understand it, a commission agent is someone to whom you can go and say, “I need to arrange the following complicated and exotic task somewhere far away. If I give you money, can you handle it?” And it turns out to be one of the many kinds of things they do all the time. I think I first ran across the notion in some book I was reading where a 19th-century British soldier was transferring from India to Africa, or something, and he needed his stuff shipped home to England and could someone please make sure the budgerigar was being fed. And the commission agents handled it as a matter of routine. What a useful storytelling notion. I guess I’m fascinated by versatility.)

    Ten Veen and Wanderley are the ne plus ultra of commission agents. They’ve been around forever, their integrity is unimpeachable, their clientele includes the highest names in the land (and the lowest!) and they can handle anything. Even the really weird stuff.

    So. In 1714, Isaac Newton, at the time the master of the Royal Mint, addressed the House of Commons on the subject of the longitude problem. The longitude problem was, simply, how does a ship at sea tell where it is in terms of longitude? Latitude is easy; you can tell that by various kinds of navigation that sailors had gotten good at. But for longitude, you needed something better, and Parliament arranged to reward handsomely anyone who cracked the problem. (This is the part where the historical facts stop and the stuff I made up starts.) Newton, of course, was the bridge between the old art of alchemy and the new world of science (in much the same way that Bo Diddley was a bridge between the blues and rock’n’roll), and he figured that maybe he’d take a crack at the longitude problem himself.

    And he invented what he called, modestly, the Longitudinal Helm. He built better than he thought he did, though, because what he got was a device that could not only measure time and space around the ship it was in, but actually control it to the point where the ship could sail through time. He built a couple of versions of this and was ready to start testing them out in 1719.

    But when he did, the ship carrying these helms was attacked by pirates. Newton survived and was taken captive, but the helms were taken and distributed among the pirate ships. The pirates were quick to discover the properties of these and found them very useful in plundering other ships (including some that they ventured into the past to attack), and they were able to pile up a huge fortune in this way. The pirate fleet that accumulated around the ships with these two helms was getting richer and richer, and decided to stow their surplus money safely someplace just for now. You know, like pirates do.

    So they got Newton to set up a safe repository for their loot in exchange for his freedom. He did so, engineering an elaborate, ultra-secure vault deep under Oak Island, just off the coast of Nova Scotia. And the pirate captains, on behalf of their crews, formed a tontine to see who’d get to retrieve all this money someday, and they turned the key to the vault over to Ten Veen and Wanderley.

    Of course, the two captains of the time-traveling ships clued into the notion that they had an advantage when it came to picking up the key, and wasted no time in skipping across the centuries. It soon became obvious to them that they were rivals in this, and managed to keep Ten Veen and Wanderley from disbursing the key to each other. By the same token, Ten Veen and Wanderley figured out that something was up pretty quickly and decided that this mess was simply never going to be resolved normally, so they put a note in the file to the effect that, the next time one of these crazy pirates showed up looking for the key, they’d try to get everyone around a table to settle it in some sensible way rather than keep on with all this time-jumping.

    But then they didn’t show up for a century and a half. Both pirates decided, screw this, let’s go as far as we can into the future and get the key that way. As the Longitudinal Helm had a range of 150 years for a single jump, that put both ships back in the Atlantic in 2007. And the pirates show up at the TV&W office, to find that the people staffing the place now have no idea what’s going on, had never heard of the case before this, and don’t have the first notion what to do about it. Oh, the information is all there in the files, so it doesn’t take long for them to get up to speed, but now how to solve this conundrum? It wouldn’t do to tell the pirates to just keep sailing into the future, after all…

    Cast of Characters:

    Calico Jack Rackham: captain of the Treasure. Not the bravest pirate captain around; he was somewhat more noted for his womanizing. In fact, he eventually included two women among his crew. Handsome and dashing; willing to cheat Bart Roberts, but not to kill him. But here’s the question: why did he secretly take the Treasure even further into the future, and come back to 2007 without visiting Ten Veen & Wanderley?

    Anne Bonny: disguised herself as a man to join Calico Jack’s crew; the two of them became lovers. She’s a firecracker and really likes being a pirate; she’s not looking forward to her retirement with any real enthusiasm. And the relationship with Calico Jack isn’t going that well either.

    Mary Read: disguised herself as a man to join Calico Jack’s crew. She’s been disguising herself as a man most of her life, actually, for one reason or another, but that’s not the only thing she’s hiding. There are hints that she’s pregnant, that she’s having an affair with… someone… but the truth may be a little different from either of those.

    Dr. Michael Radcliff: ship’s doctor and former victim of one of Calico Jack’s raids. Radcliff resents the pirate life, resents being torn out of his proper time and place, and is rebelling by feeding information about what Calico Jack is up to to his rival, Bart Roberts.

    Bart Roberts: captain of the Fortune. A straight-arrow who kept a tight ship and wasn’t particularly brutal to his captives. He’s not a pushover, mind you… but he’s not willing to kill Calico Jack either. Why not? And who’s he having secret meetings with here in New York?

    Thomas Sutton, Montigny la Palisse: Roberts’ most trusted men.

    James Skyrme: another of Roberts’ men, and equally trusted. He’s moonlighting, though… he doesn’t really believe that this tontine is ever going to pay off, so he and a few of the boys from both ships are planning to sneak off and do some piracy of their own here in the 21st century. They’re trying to recruit Mary Read to go along, but she’s torn…

    Alexei Lostcutoff: TV&W’s New York Commission Agent. He’s the head guy in New York, and his territory includes all of North America. He has staff, of course, but he’s the guy on the spot, the one who all of a sudden has to deal with real live pirates who want their damn money right now. He doesn’t really care how it gets resolved either way, of course, but he does have the reputation of the firm to uphold, and one of the senior partners in London is taking an unusual interest. There’s always been something weird about the senior partners…

    Celia Sobridge: Alexei’s hacker girlfriend (thanks, Jonathan!). Not a TV&W employee, but sometimes does contract stuff for them. One thing he doesn’t know about her, though, is that she’s a member of an Isaac Newton Society, and they have some very definite ideas about the proper disposition of the Oak Island treasure and the Longitudinal Helms.

    Nathaniel Highnighter: ex-CIA field agent for TV&W. One of their best men. Currently, he’s tasked with covertly making sure that none of these pirates does anything to compromise TV&W while they’re here in 2007. But what Alexei doesn’t know is that Nat also wants a few minutes alone with one of those time-traveling ships…

    Angel de los Santos: another top field agent for TV&W. He’s the lead guy on this whole tontine thing, reporting to Alexei, and it’s his first big assignment. His job has been complicated by some extra instructions he’s received from London, unbeknownst to Alexei… he’s to secretly meet with Bart Roberts, as Roberts arranged centuries ago. Roberts thinks he can bribe TV&W into ruling in his favour, and Angel is to string him along in return for information that may help them in resolving this. Angel’s job is also being complicated by his attraction to Anne Bonny. Fortunately that doesn’t seem to be reciprocated, although it’s just possible he’ll fall for it if she pretends to be into him in return for some advantage.

    Gemma Way: Angel’s assistant. She’s been keeping her eyes and ears open during Angel’s meetings with Roberts and Calico Jack, and she thinks she knows what’s making them tick. But surely she’s not foolhardy enough to sneak off and investigate on her own. That’d be dangerous!

    (You wouldn’t believe how many little bits of things there are in the abovewritten that I didn’t make up at all.)

    I do know how this ends. I don’t really know how we get there, but that’s what I have a writing staff for. There’ll be action, intrigue, time-travel, romance, everything. In some combination. But here’s the destination:

    See, one of the things that strikes the pirates about 2007 is how open and tolerant, relatively speaking, it is as a society. And then when Calico Jack visits the future, he finds that it isn’t all that open. Some pendulums have swung back, and the future isn’t much fun at all. So Calico Jack starts angling to rig the outcome of this dispute so that, one way or the other, the two shipsful of pirates end up permanently in 2007. Because, as Gemma was able to discover, that way Calico Jack and Bart Roberts could finally admit their attraction to each other and live happily ever after, with the treasure. Similarly Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Now, retirement may not agree with Anne, but TV&W’s Cairo office does a lot of work in the Middle East, and they can always use another pair of hands… Meanwhile, the Isaac Newton society gets control of the helms, and the most troublesome of the pirates are deftly funneled by Nat Highnighter into the penal system.

    As Alexei’s wrapping up the case and preparing the final report, though, he comes across another file. It’s a mysterious assignment given to TV&W in 1898, for some work to be done in Kenya, and was never completed or even attempted. Has TV&W been asleep at the switch for over a century? Why did it come to New York instead of Cairo? How is it that the envelope was sealed in 1898 but the papers inside signed in 2007? And how can Alexei and his merry band uphold TV&W’s reputation more than a hundred years after a blown deadline?

  45. Thanks everybody!


    “That’s one thing about this blog. People will give you the benefit of the doubt and make you seem a lot smarter and more profound than you really are.” And if that method were more generally applied on the ‘net, we’d all be a lot happier and a fraction smarter than we are, by Toutatis!

    Yeah, I was riffing with the three centuries but I stand by the ruthless guile. I was trying to imagine what I’d see if I was watching it, and it wasn’t going to be just a quiet little arrangement with a legal firm and a dusty document. If the rivals are leapfrogging each other down the years, the obvious thing for them to try is simply to grab the treasure while the other one is out of the picture. The arrangement must be that they can’t do that, because they’ve agreed to safeguards that can’t be passed unless there’s proof positive that the other party won’t be coming back. They both have to be tricky customers, and though heaven knows how, they both have to be able to emerge in a new era and immediately parley their assets into a position of power. I’m glad you’re reinventing it, there’s such potential.

    Formerly mikesensei:

    Why do I so want to call it The Reincarnation of Paul Revere’s Horse? Maybe the sense that the folk stories and folk songs we think are so tame they can safely be taught to schoolchildren would just unseat our reason if their contents popped up out of the past and confronted us. It’s Dylan at his most punkish – demanding we take urgent notice of things we’d never remotely begin to think of. Like, we’re five years past the Cuban missile crisis and we just accept that the social consensus is being manufactured in secret sessions of the John Birch Society? Or else, or maybe even simultaneously, it’s the counterculture consensus that prevails, and we really are coming together somehow, when all at once a fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a mighty “Take that, you commie bastard!”


    Thanks, it means a lot.

  46. Captain Rackham, eh?

    Okay, this is really awesome, Matthew! So much interesting detail, and so much storytelling potential once the pirate story is dealt with, even while (I think) maintaining the significance of the title. Which in itself is kinda brilliant. But I’m going to have to consider this a bit before commenting at greater length, because there’s so much to work with there it’s giving me all sorts of ideas, and not even straight-line developmental ideas necessarily, but a whole basket of things that could be done with TV&W in the wake of this first storyline. Because I think this is our first entry that doesn’t have a built-in countdown to Series Finale or some other sort of designated end-point running in it on some level, and that’s…well, that’s really very cool!

    I’m gonna go cogitate over it a bit, I think!

    As for you, Formerly Mike: “Distant Mirrors”, perfect name! And I’ll just say, if I were our historian hero (I’m just gonna call him Hockenberry, I think — that’s a compliment, by the way), my ultimate dream would be to find a way to refocus the time-beam on whatever point in history the 50’s time-traveller came from. Of course I wouldn’t know where he came from, so I’d have to find out. And also I’d be aware that a) refocussing the beam is supposed to be impossible, and b) that even if I could figure out how to do it, it’d instantly blow about a trillion dollars’ worth of set-up as it did so. And, maybe even the beam can never focus twice on the same area?

    I spitball. Or, no, not even that. But man, is this a good idea.

    Okay, coffee time! I’ll be back soon, and unless there are late qualifiers we’ll end this at midnight my time. It’s 5:30 p.m. right now, so that’s six and a half hours…plenty of time for someone to scream “wait!”

  47. Because I think this is our first entry that doesn’t have a built-in countdown to Series Finale or some other sort of designated end-point running in it on some level

    Well, Threshold, or Time Travel Agency that was, doesn’t have an endpoint. After all, there’s no limit to how long you can study time travel.

  48. Okay, it’s 5:30 p.m. now, my time…we’ll keep it going ’til midnight, unless somebody hollers “wait!” Right now I have to go for coffee, but when I come back I’ll be singing praises, because wow! Matthew, I saw none of that coming, that was fantastic! And now we have our first entry that isn’t running some kind of a countdown clock in the background, but which is completely open for all kinds of storytelling possibilities, many of which I can’t stop myself from puzzling over even as we speak! Bravo. I’d want to write for this show, it’s a beauty. You could really do anything with it, all while at the same time easily maintaining the relevance of the title, which to my mind acquires not just a double meaning, but a bit of a philosophical heft, too, once the pirates are dealt with.

    And Formerly Mike: echoes of Troy and The Ugly Little Boy are in this for me (“Distant Mirrors”: perfect name!), and I hope to blather about it in an hour or two…but man, what an idea this is! It’s great.

    Okay, take this, WordPress…!

  49. Okay, but that one didn’t. Unless it did, but I don’t see it. Oh my God this is frustrating, I’ve already repeated myself once, when I thought it didn’t go through but then it did…

    But, at least it isn’t as frustrating as dealing with Blogger!

  50. Well, I’m pretty sure this gag’s been done, but…if it was Hendrix, you could call it Crosstime Traffic.

    Oh. Oh no. That’s no good at all, is it?

    Back to Tontine, and its “openness”…and I suppose you’re right, Matthew, in that you could easily call Threshold an even more open-ended concept…I mean, we’ve been here before, in all the “explorational” SF TV shows, from Star Trek to Seaquest (boy, that show really shoulda been better, what happened there?) to Stargate, and indeed from comics like Fantastic Four…and there’s no doubt there are plots aplenty out there for a show about a theory of time-travel that’s being assembled on the fly…but I guess what makes me think of Tontine as a freer concept is that in Threshold you’ve embedded multiple overlapping conflicts — almost a system of checks and balances! — that all promise to come to a head one day, and in so doing mirror each other…and permanently change the status quo of the show. This is just a very superficial reading, of course, but…Rolando’s accident cleverly prepares some chickens to come home to roost, dramatically, unexpectedly, sometime later in the series, and when it all goes down I see it as neatly bracketing the other crises big and small that characters are often trying to defer, but probably find they can’t. Choudhury’s internal conflict that comes from serving two masters, Despard’s conflict in having to produce something like results from the lab, complicated by his attraction to Justine, Sara’s (we could call it) conflict with orthodoxy, Callendar’s conflict with the whole idea of time travel that he himself has made possible (great touch), Prof. Wheeler’s (I assume) resultant professional conflict with Julian, and even Yvonne Ling’s suspicion about whether her security skill-set is needed more to guard the world from the lab than the lab from the world, which suspicion eventually gets horrifyingly confirmed…all I’m saying is: much tension and conflict, here (wonderful!), that seems designed to pay off somewhere down the road. But what happens after it all pays off, I’ve got no particular clear idea about, just from reading the synopsis. Because my belief is that they’ll pay each other off as well as themselves, so after they’re done…yes, it’s open, but what (besides “we have a time machine”) will it then be built on?

    Now, this is no knock; it’d be fascinating to see what, indeed, it got built on. Hey, just like Buffy, another apparently “open” concept that contained within it some seeds of ultimate resolution! But there’s a plot where the military yanks its funding, for example, which is a good plot…and there’s a plot where (similarly) Choudhury’s spymasters demand to know why he isn’t sending more info their way…and there’s a plot where we wonder if Race and Justine are going to get together…and there’s a plot where Callender (our Dr. Thirteen?) stops kicking against the impossible implications of his unwanted brainchild…

    And, oh my, it’s really great. Like, I want to watch it now

    But at some point, those embedded plots would all have been addressed, wouldn’t they?

    On the other hand (and again, just a superficial reading here), though Tontine also begins with some interlocking problems that need solving, they’re inherited problems, problems already in progress. And TV&W didn’t create the problem, so although they bring their own internal conflicts to it, it isn’t the source of those conflicts, and their character bits are to an extent decoupled from the McGuffin…can’t believe I just wrote that, I sound like Grant Morrison…which means that as the pirates, and their actual concrete non-metaphorical tontine, are subjected to resolution, the TV&W personnel can incorporate all the outcomes of the first season (or whatever) into a good basis for an ongoing “explorational” show, only instead of a ship or a time machine it’s this wonderful company you’ve invented that’s being “sailed”…and the idea, to me anyway, is that that first story arc was the origin story, and now TV&W is free to go and save humanity from Galactus or explore the Negative Zone, if you take my meaning. So it’s a true pilot, even if it is a season or more long; you could miss recording it, and still watch the show, having missed nothing. In the first season, TV&W has expanded its knowledge and experience and capabilities, just as Alexei has, and “Tontine” as a title has changed to mean: we are always inheriting from the past, inheriting duty, conflict, danger, enlightenment…we are the past, and the past is us, even if the people outside TV&W in 2007 don’t understand that. But Alexei does; in a way, every further plot (one imagines) features him as the “winner” of the tontine, a tontine, any tontine, every tontine, inasmuch as he’s the one who has to finally, after perhaps hundreds of years, try to grab onto whatever the “prize” is. The Pyrrhic prize, if you will. And for that, I do see how it goes forward, but openly, in an unfixed way…because it seems to me that it never needs to come to the closing of a cycle. Well, but of course neither does the past, really! Nothing ever ends, Adrian…

    Whereas in Threshold, it seems to me it’s all about getting out of the sticky, tangled present, and into the future. Just getting across that doorway. And then what? We don’t know, but it’s gonna happen, because that’s what I’m tuning in for! I’m on pins and needles for it in a way I’m not on pins and needles for what happens after the two Captains retire to their island love-nest.

    If you see what I mean. Anyway that’s how I see these ideas breaking different ways, that in one thing the fun is that you’ve got this tremendous surface tension waiting to break, and then all bets will be off once it does, and things may move pretty fast! And therefore you dare not miss a moment… Whereas in the other, you could almost start it up in the second season and only refer obliquely or as plot demanded to the actual historical tontine that made it all happen and gave it momentum, and it’d still be the same show.

    Does that make sense?

  51. Pardon me, folks, I have to take the voting to a new post!

    The contest is over. However, if anyone has a brilliant idea…put it here. I’ll be watching.

  52. Another title for the music one: ‘Time Has Been a-Changin”?

    Mostly kidding. ‘How Many Roads’? ‘You Don’t Know What It Is’? ‘Vandals Took the Handle’?

    I think you’ve got a good take on both Threshold and Tontine and how they would develop past the first season (or further). And it’s true that a lot of the initial-setup ideas of Threshold would get resolved in some way. But that’s okay: you just come up with more stuff to replace them. One thing I believe is that you can’t think about ideas from a viewpoint of scarcity. Especially for a time-travel show, of all things!

    As for Tontine, I knew you were going to say that about the title and how it applies to the whole show and not just the first season. And I won’t say you’re wrong. But I will say that that would not be my preferred take on it. Because whoever gets the treasure of a tontine is the last survivor of those who started it up, and whatever Alexei and his crew are up to, it’s not like Highlander. I’d much rather just come up with a new title that applies more directly to TV&W.

  53. Hmmm…

    But it’s so perfect! The employees of TV&W constantly inherit a rotten “winning” they never wanted! Constant survivors of tontines they would have preferred not to enter, and didn’t even know they were in!

    Of course, it’s your baby, and therefore you’re the boss. But I like it. It’s like “Night Stalker” to me. In a way.

  54. Pingback: Are Y’Ready For The Vote? « A Trout In The Milk·

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