We at Idiomanic have been told by our future selves that time travel will one day become possible and that we’ll regret not writing about it sooner to climb up the Google ranks. By recommending some of their favourite time-travel works, our contributors are setting in motion either a more successful future for the site or a universe-destroying paradox.
Spanning four seasons (and a Christmas special) between 2009 and 2011, Being Erica has surprised me episode after episode, proving that good Canadian television doesn’t stop at the original Degrassi High. When her life hits rock bottom, Erica Strange (Erin Karpluk) undergoes time-travel therapy, reliving her greatest regrets armed with hindsight, wisdom, and the guidance of Doctor Tom (Michael Riley), who, for some reason, gives me the creeps. Something about him reminds me of this guy I knew who always smelt like roast chicken (not in a good way). Maybe it’s his hair, which has got the slightest hint of a mullet.
Anyway, created by Jana Sinyor, who cut her teeth writing for Degrassi High: The Next Generation, the series feels decidedly Canadian, what with its slow pacing, ambiguously happy endings, and continued resistance to gimmicky plotting. Though Erica’s sessions into the past sometimes change history (the second time she loses her virginity doesn’t end up on tape, for example), none of her issues get resolved à la Marty McFly. Like the aforementioned Degrassi High (the original), Being Erica shows the messy side of morality tales, where problems don’t neatly disappear just because you’ve learnt your lesson.
Though the Outlander series is, at its heart, a historical romance, Diana Gabaldon’s novels have so much more to offer than political posturing and sexy situations. I don’t know that I can adequately express my love for them. The books are funny, spiritual, heathen, morally ambiguous, and sometimes downright dirty. They’ve also got characters for whom you can’t help but care and turns of phrase that will work their way into your vernacular: “I didn’t laugh, but I felt my ribs creak under the strain.”
The plot of Outlander centers on Jamie Fraser, an eighteenth century Scottish Highlander, and his time-traveling wife, Claire Beauchamp, who was once a military nurse during World War II. In the first book, Claire travels to the past only once, largely avoiding the paradoxes that plague the time-travel genre, but subsequent entries feature more time-jumping as well as the inevitable conversations about the morality of trying to change things. Each time, I got sucked in so that, even after seven novels, I find myself waiting with baited breath for the next one.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009)
There exist two schools of thoughts in regard to the Terminator franchise. One views it as an ass-kicking thrill-ride about killer robots, and the other, as a time-travel allegory about cycles of violence. James Cameron’s initial two movies had a bit of both, of course, but, with McG’s Terminator: Salvation (2009), it seems obvious the current producers favour the former take on the series. This came as a bit of a surprise at the time, given the approach taken by executive producer Josh Friedman in my recommendation: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
The short-lived TV drama tells of a divergent timeline in which the Connors, future saviors of the human race, escape to the present day and discover that the machines have infiltrated our world not to ensure Judgement Day but to fight over its outcome. Leena Headey gives a brilliant performance as the increasingly unhinged Sarah, who cannot make up her mind whether their rescue by the cybernetic Cameron (Summer Glau) serves as proof of their set fate or represents a second chance at writing their own destiny. Cancelled mere days before the release of Terminator Salvation in theatres, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles doesn’t resolve all of its mysteries, but it provides a thoughtful answer to Sarah’s existential question, one that made me smile and tear up in the same timeline.
Chrono Trigger (1995)
Time travel is a popular theme in video games. However, most use it as a mere plot device. Released for the Super Nintendo in 1995, Chrono Trigger is one of the first games to genuinely integrate time travel into its mechanics. The story begins with our hero, Chrono, witnessing a teleporter malfunction at a local fair. He soon finds himself at odds with a giant extraterrestrial parasite named Lavos and must travel through time to find allies, weapons, and information that can help him save the world.
Chrono Trigger introduced many features we now take for granted when loading up a video game RPG, including a quick, dynamic fight engine and multiple endings for good replay value. Also, the supporting characters are given their own storylines, which allows them to develop into far more than comic reliefs, love interests, or foils for Chrono. Incidentally, this classic game is now available on the Nintendo DS and Virtual Console, so you can drop that eBay bid for a DeLorean with a flux capacitor!