Tag Archive: time travel


Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’ve been watching Michael Apted’s ground-breaking Up Series from its first installments, you know each new chapter in the real-life time travel journey makes the viewer feel like he or she has also reached some kind of achievement with the arrival of the new episode.  But the series of documentaries is not for the faint-hearted, filled with gut-wrenching views into participants’ lives, participants who feel like family after watching them over 56 years since their first appearance.  So compelling and personal is Apted’s look at this select group of fourteen English boys and girls turned men and women, revisiting them every seven years of their lives since 1964, the documentary series is practically an interactive experience.  With Apted passing away since the UK premiere last year, and the U.S. arrival of the latest installment–the eagerly awaited 63 Up arriving on BritBox via Amazon Prime this weekend–the question is whether this ninth installment is the last.  Key members of the crew since 28 Up have expressed an interest in continuing the series in 2027, but until then expect this to be a bittersweet end for the series, which Roger Ebert called the noblest project in cinema history and among the ten best films ever made.

At last Apted addresses the thesis of the show to each participant, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man,” and asks whether they agree after decades participating in this unique social experiment.  Apted was a researcher when working on director Paul Almond’s Seven Up! in 1964.  Seven years later the well-known director of Gorillas in the Mist, The World is Not Enough, Coal Miner’s Daughter and Gorky Park, was just out of university, and at 22 he revisited the original Seven Up! project.  He would go on to direct the subsequent eight episodes over 56 years.  The idea was to get a glimpse of England in the future year 2000 when these kids, the future leaders of England, were only seven years old.  It is difficult to surpass the jolts and surprises of 42 Up, but 63 Up holds its own, although sadly viewers will say goodbye to one participant who has died, another is seriously ill, and another decided not to participate.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Most people know Daphne du Maurier as a suspense writer, creator of psychological and gothic thrillers like Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and My Cousin Rachel.  But what often gets overlooked is her great science fiction, exploring the boundaries between the known and familiar, and the disturbing edges of twentieth century scientific progress.  Her classic post-war story “The Birds” was transformed into a Hitchcock horror film that bears only superficial similarity to the isolation, drama, and sheer apocalyptic gloom of the original, in which residents of an English coastal village watch their doom coming ever closer, thanks to terrifying radio news updates, and is well worth a read (perhaps not now… or perhaps particularly now, depending on your predilections!).

Her 1969 novel The House on the Strand explores the psychological effects of time travel, through the lens of unlikeable characters doing uninteresting things.  The time machine in du Maurier’s novel is a drug (or “concoction,” as she calls it), or a series of drugs, whose differing effects are never fully (or even partially) explained.  Dick Young is an out-of-work publisher housesitting for an old college chum for the summer, in an old house on the Cornish coast (setting of so many of du Maurier’s stories).  The old college chum, Magnus, has been experimenting with a time-travel drug, and urges Dick to make his own “trips” into the past.

 

What follows is a dense tapestry of Cornish landscape and history, although the details and characters take some considerable time to sort out, and Dick never interacts with any of the figures he observes.  His instant attachment to the characters of the past is only slightly explained in contrast to his wife (whom he dislikes).  A midpoint plot twist introduces a potential murder plotline, and du Maurier definitely keeps the reader guessing (or perhaps hoping) what might happen next.  None of my expectations were ultimately borne out, to my disappointment, and the main character never grew any more sympathetic.  There is a comeuppance, of a sort, at the very end, satisfying in its own way.  It’s easy to read this as an inspiration or forebear for later time travel stories to come, especially Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book, set in the same time period, or Michael Crichton’s Timeline. 

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The latest novel re-issue from the Marvel universe is an adaptation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s original story arc from the pages of 1981’s series The Uncanny X-Men: X-Men: Days of Future Past You may have read the original classic comics, you may have seen the ground-breaking 2014 team-up movie, and now author Alex Irvine digs deeper into the original story that remains among comic book readers’ most acclaimed stories.  A recurring trope–the banning of individuals with superpowers–is the background for this story of a former member of the X-Men, Kate Pryde, who is sent back to the past from the dark, not-so-distant future on the brink of Armageddon.

Kate is sent back in time to try to change an event in the past, the murder of Senator Kelly by Raven aka Mystique, and the deaths of several others including Charles Xavier and Moira MacTaggert.  The deaths are the impetus to the creation and domination of Sentinels, giant robots that can track and destroy mutants–or anyone else–with ease.  X-Men stories tend to include so many characters that readers only get to view a few character arcs.  Writer Alex Irvine keeps his story crisp and constantly moving forward.  Here we see Kate Pryde returned to the past and in doing so she swaps consciences with her 13-year-old self–new X-Men recruit Kitty Pryde, begrudgingly taking the name of Sprite, who will one day embrace the code name Shadowcat.  She is sent to the past by the telepathic Rachel Summers, the future daughter of Scott Summers and Jean Grey aka Phoenix.

Irvine keeps his story to a core band of players.  In the future, it’s Logan aka Wolverine, Magneto, Ororo aka Storm, and Kate’s husband Peter Rasputin aka Colossus.  In the past, Kate in the form of Kitty must convince Storm, Logan, Colossus, Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, Moira and Charles to prevent Mystique, the Blob, and others from the Brotherhood of the Hellfire Club headed up by Emma Frost from wreaking havoc on Senator Kelly’s congressional hearing.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In all the flurry of late spring and early summer movie releases, don’t forget to see that X-Men movie sequel that drifted into theaters with less fanfare than the original two years ago.  That’s Deadpool 2, still in theaters nationwide in its fourth week, but probably phasing out soon.  So get to the theater before it’s gone.  More Ryan Reynolds sass and wisecracking, less of the supporting cast from the original, but more new characters fans of Marvel Comics and Marvel Comics-at-the-movies will want to see more of, Deadpool 2 has one big surprise you won’t glean from the trailers:  It’s a classic X-Men comic book story.

Take away the R-Rated humor and the jokes and you’ll find the backbone is a plot bringing the entirety of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise full circle.  The themes of that very first story from the first film in 2000, the movie called X-Men, return.  In X-Men we met young teenager Rogue (Anna Paquin), struggling with her abilities and the burden they place on her.  Despite the superhero vs. superhero storyline, the real villain was Senator Kelly, trying to pass a federal Mutant Registration Act (similar in plot development as the legislation that divides the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War).  Here we meet an out-of-control and mistreated mutant from New Zealand called Firefist (Julian Dennison), and the villain is another Senator Kelly-type trying to do-away with the mutants, played by familiar British actor Eddie Marsan.  Coming back to this theme 18 years later is a smart move–even in a flurry of humor we’re reminded that the stories were sourced in an effort to address teen readers trying to fit into the world.

New characters Cable (Josh Brolin) and Domino (Zazie Beetz) are perfect transformations from comic to screen.  Cable is an expertly realized cyborg, not just a fill-in character but a fully developed new player in Marvel Studios’ arsenal.  Domino is a reminder that members of Marvel’s B-team line-up can steal the show (like Evan Peters’ Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past) when written well.  Any kid or kid at heart will appreciate a battle scene between Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Juggernaut (Ryan Reynolds) complete with its own humorous operatic accompaniment.  Time travel plays a key element in the story and Brolin’s cyborg is every bit as compelling as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s from the Terminator series, and the writers and director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, John Wick) tap into that with dropped references every chance they get.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Betrayal.  Duplicity.  Deception.  Intrigue.

Godfrey’s debut novel, New Pompeii, was one of last year’s most entertaining reads (reviewed here at borg.com).  Empire of Time, Godfrey’s sequel, is equal to the first, and brilliantly enough it’s completely readable as a standalone work not requiring the reader to have read his New Pompeii.  Godfrey, who is not a professor of ancient history, has written a narrative about life in Pompeii at the time Vesuvius erupted in AD 79 that would swiftly pass muster with historians.  And his knowledge of history is matched by his science fiction storytelling skill to provide a rousing next chapter for one of the decade’s most nuanced time travel stories.

Suetonius’s Twelve Caesars is one of the more exciting of the primary history texts of the ancient world.  In New Pompeii, Godfrey transported most of the population of Pompeii in AD 79 to a rebuilt facsimile in the present day world, saving their lives from Vesuvius’s lava, fire, and heat.  More fleshed out this time around, the characters who live in the world of New Pompeii in Empire of Time all live, fight, and die in accordance with the politics, literature, art, social, and scientific elements of Suetonius’s world.  Godfrey even hands the classic book to a character for that character’s own twisted inspiration.  Godfrey crisscrosses time with his lead character, former research assistant Nick Houghton as he traverses modern Italy, and follows Houghton in the city of New Pompeii in his Roman persona, Decimus Horatius Pullus–the legendary “man who cannot be killed.”  In a third and parallel story Godfrey presents the exploits of a slave turned gladiator named Achillia, a ruthless, bloodthirsty survivor who establishes even more of the detailed feel for the mindset of people in the real Roman Empire.  A hardened warrior, Achillia will appeal to fans of Robin Wright’s General Antiope from the opening scenes of Wonder Woman.

The same political intrigue that seeped into stories of Italy’s modern-day Cosa Nostra is present among the manipulators, magistrates, and political machinations of New Pompeii.  Readers will travel through most of the novel with Houghton as he sleuths out lost technical data in the normal world that may allow the “Novus Particles” device to repeat the time travel used to transport the ancients to the present day.  He is also charged–in his Pullus persona–with the same mission only under the control of Calpurnia, the “Empress of Time” of New Pompeii.  But is there truly a device to reactivate time travel?  When archaeologists suddenly begin to encounter messages in English in ancient ruins, does that provide evidence that someone in the future can not only pull matter forward in time, but also transport messages backward in a parallel timeline?  And who is sending the messages?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is one of the all-time best fantasy movies, in the same league as Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films.  Rarely has any classic book been adapted so well to the big screen.  This year’s sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, is even better.  Nothing is better than being surprised by an extraordinary new fantasy film.  Looking Glass features the original top-notch class plus new characters, an exciting time travel tale, more of Academy Award winning costume designer Colleen Atwood’s lavish costumes, and brilliant visual effects.  This time The Muppets and The Muppets Most Wanted’s James Bobin has taken over directing reins for Burton.  Changing from Burton’s signature look and feel of creepy darkness for an almost bright and shiny Doctor Who-inspired universe makes for a movie that truly stands apart from the original and on its own footing.

Mia Wasikowska’s Alice was a girl when we last left her, making the adult decision to leave behind an arranged marriage.  Now she is a mature young woman, a sea captain leading her father’s ship.  The girl who doesn’t like the word “impossible” is confronted with an unfortunate decision to live the life she has chosen or give it all up for her mother.  Thankfully, Absolem, voiced by Alan Rickman in his final performance, leads her into a mirror where she returns to Underland.  Unanswered mysteries from the first film are revealed as Alice begins a new quest to help her old friend the Mad-Hatter, even no more mad than ever before.  Her journey is a classic fantasy quest, where she confronts a fantastic new character: Time itself, expertly played by Sasha Baren Cohen.

sasha-baron-cohen

If you’re looking for an escape from reality this week, this is for you.  Alice is an oppressed woman of the past who pulls herself up by her own bootstraps to eliminate those around her who would keep her down.  Wasikowska, superb as the girl in the original and as the lead in Guillermo del Toro’s haunting Crimson Peak, is still the perfect Alice.  And Johnny Depp, the greatest actor of his generation, continues to dazzle as the enormously likeable and sympathetic Hatter.

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timeless-hindenburg

Time travel.  It’s a fun sub-genre of science fiction when it’s done right.  NBC and the CW have dueling sci-fi series entering the Primetime line-up beginning this month.  On Mondays, NBC airs Timeless, a story about a historian, a computer expert and a soldier acting as timecops as they try to correct changes in history via a time machine in pursuit of another–stolen–time machine.  On Wednesdays the CW airs Frequency, based on the 2000 sci-fi sleeper and cult movie starring Dennis Quaid.  Both are from the creative minds of Supernatural showrunners, and both series began this week with powerful openers.  We think both are worth adding to your weekly watch list.  The challenge will be maintaining their respective concepts for a full season.

Timeless hails from Supernatural creator Eric Kripke and The Shield creator Shawn Ryan. Abigail Spencer leads the cast as a historian much like you’d find in a Connie Willis novel, pulled into a secret time travel project.  Someone (Goran Visnjic) kidnapped a scientist played by genre favorite Matt Frewer, and Homeland Security, including a smartly cast agent played by Sakina Jaffrey (Sleepy Hollow, Mr. Robot), enlists Spencer’s character, an insider IT guy (Malcolm Barrett) and soldier/protector (Matt Lanter) to find them–in the past.  Compared to Star Trek and Doctor Who this show is Time Travel Lite–no complex knowledge or thought required.  The time travel prime directive seems to be that the timecops cannot travel into a time in which they previously existed.  So no do-overs.

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You can’t beat a nicely done re-creation of the Hindenburg disaster.  Even better, a re-imagining revealing the disaster never occurred.  Timeless didn’t waste any time, starting off with a single episode story focused on a historic event and it appears that will be the draw of each episode.  We saw elements of TimeCop, Timeline, Continuum, Quantum Leap, Doctor Who, Terminator, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow in the first episode alone.  It works and it’s fun.  There’s something adventuresome about Timeless in a Young Indiana Jones vein. Timeless did miss one opportunity here:  Why not begin with the Hindenburg crashing on a false historic date and then land on the real date of the disaster for the ending?  That would have been a heck of a trick, but it shows much more can be threaded into this series.  We know from Star Trek and Doctor Who that time travel is twisty and full of possibilities. Timeless needs to embrace what its savvy audience already knows–and keep the focus on the fun.

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New Pompeii cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

In a thick 459 pages, British author Daniel Godfrey begins a new time travel series full of twists and turns in New Pompeii, his first novel from a major publisher (Titan Books).  Billed as a novel in the tradition of Michael Crichton, New Pompeii is evocative of Crichton’s early novels, but more closely follows the plotting and style of the time travel science fiction novels of Connie Willis (Lincoln’s Dreams, To Say Nothing of the Dog) and the pacing of a Tom Clancy thriller.  Fans of Crichton’s Timeline and Westworld, Philip K. Dick’s short stories and his novels Time Out of Joint and Man in the High Castle, Doctor Who’s “timey wimey” stories and films like TimeCop will appreciate this new entry in the time travel and parallel universe sub-genres.

Despite a daunting 75 chapters, New Pompeii is a quick read.  Godfrey follows Nick Houghton, a history scholar who has yet to earn his doctorate as he is inexplicably courted into joining a venture with a corporation that promises the impossible–Novus Particles plucks people from just before the point of death and brings them into the present, cheating the timeline manipulation restrictions like the field trips in Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder.”  Think Philip K. Dick’s Paycheck meets Final Destination.  The company is not a secret–it is well documented that it saved a flight of passengers from a plane crash.  But why are all the survivors now committing suicide?  Who is the ghost student that has been emerging from a bathtub at a college campus over the course of thirty years?  And how do you hide an ancient civilization in the modern world?

Told in short, alternating chapters from the perspective of Nick as he walks among ancient Romans in a secluded Eastern European town in the present day, and college student Kirsten Chapman as she appears unstuck in time across a span of time periods like Jennifer Jones in Portrait of Jennie or Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Slaughterhouse Five, the truth behind the corporation’s purpose is slowly revealed.  You won’t find a lot of complexity in the time travel elements here, which makes this appealing for the most casual sci-fi reader.  Fans of any Star Trek or Doctor Who time travel story will be familiar with the rules here.

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Frequency series

If you had the chance to travel back in time and change just one event in your life, what would it be?

Following the path of genre movies adapted to television shows like Alien Nation, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Dead Zone, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Bates Motel, Fargo, Hannibal, Limitless, and Twelve Monkeys an awesome 2000 sci-fi sleeper is coming to the CW Network.  CW’s Frequency will star Peyton List (The Flash, Tomorrow People, Mad Men, Monk, Smallville, Without a Trace), who plays a cop who is able to communicate with her dead father via a ham radio that reaches into the past.

The new series is a twist on the original film, which starred James Caviezel as the son who can reach his dead father in the past via a similar radio.  His father was played by Dennis Quaid.  Frequency wasn’t a blockbuster, but it’s a great sci-fi movie in the vein of Timecop, Somewhere in Time, and Time After Time.  The Butterfly Effect–the ripples that occur when you alter the past–was explored in the original and appears to be the focus of the series.

Frequency series CW

Check out this promising extended trailer and a new TV spot for Frequency:

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Before Flood Fisher King Doctor Who

For fans of time travel, look no further than the past two-part episode of Doctor Who for one of the most complex and bloody brilliant time travel stories yet to make it to the screen.  Steven Moffat, after a year of getting us accustomed to Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor, has now delivered four superb episodes.  It’s enough to convince us Capaldi is the real deal and fans of not only the Doctor Who of Christopher Eccleston/David Tennant/Matt Smith series but the classic series as well should be able to embrace the current series as the real thing.

Take the first two-parter of this second season of the 12th Doctor, beginning with “The Magician’s Apprentice,” the creator of all Daleks, Davros, continuity-wise looking very much as he looked back to Tom Baker days, sets up the beginning of a clever trap for the Doctor, relying on the Doctor’s compassion as his ultimate weakness.  Then Michelle Gomez’s Missy–the Doctor’s “brother” Time-Lord also known as The Master now in its current female or “evolved” form–must partner with Jenna Coleman’s Clara to both save the Doctor and themselves, sort of.  It is my own favorite motif–the forced partnering of a franchise’s good guy with its villain against a common foe.  The chemistry between Missy and Clara was simply superb.  And of course, the finale in “The Witch’s Familiar” successfully ties up all the loose ends, but not without wrestling in some good conflicts like an emotional struggle with the Self as the Doctor deciding whether to leave a little boy to die in the middle of an alien mine field.

Before the Flood

This season is about Capaldi’s Doctor letting loose and freely occupying the role as his own.  The electric guitar show he performs in the season opener with his new sonic sunglasses replacing the retired sonic screwdriver–a brilliant and probably long-overdue maneuver by Moffat–came full circled last night in “Before the Flood,” with an updated version of the Doctor Who introduction music in the wrap-up of the two-parter begun on October 3, 2015, “Under the Lake”.  The Doctor’s Finest–a recap show highlighting the best of the reboot Doctor Who episodes shown this summer as a lead-in to Capaldi’s Season 2 (also reboot Season 9)–needs completely redone now that we have the story arc in “Under the Lake”/”Before the Flood”.

Is time linear or “twisty” as the Doctor has asserted before?

Before the Flood Fisher King

Beginning with a parable about Beethoven and showing a bust of the composer that looks strikingly like Capaldi, Moffat takes us on a magical mystery tour full of adventure, emotion, fear, self-reflection, heroism, and all-out fun.  Only this Doctor would get away with talking directly to the audience.  In fact, this two-parter may be a good entry point for those unfamiliar with the series.  It has everything Doctor Who is known for, including the best-in-class scenes of crew life aboard a spaceship, the world’s finest creature costumes and make-up work with the new villain The Fisher King (part Predator, part Xenomorph, part Mimic creature), a look at the complex and vital relationship between Doctor and companion, subplots making you care about the everymen he encounters along the way, further study of the Doctor’s singular aloneness in the universe, and his willingness to do anything to protect humanity.

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