The term Time Warp refers to an anomaly, discontinuity, or distortion of Space that is believed to occur in relation to the flow of Time. In SCI-FI, it is often used to describe a phenomenon where people from one time period travel to another. These stories can enlighten us about Historical Events, open a door to possibly Change the Future, or teach us about the Futility of trying to do so. Some of our favorite examples include:
The Terminator — (1984)
The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a relentless, unemotional killer cyborg sent back in time from 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose unborn son will one day save mankind from extinction by Skynet, a hostile artificial intelligence in a post-apocalyptic future. Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) is a soldier sent back in time to protect her.
After systematically killing women of the same name found in a telephone directory, the Terminator finds Sarah Connor in a nightclub, but Reese rescues her. The pair steal a car and escape, with the Terminator in pursuit, while Reese explains why Sarah’s survival is important to the future of humanity. When Reese is killed, Sarah must face off against the Terminator in a factory showdown, where she lures it into a hydraulic press, crushing and finally destroying it.
Months later, Sarah, visibly pregnant, travels through Mexico, recording audio tapes to pass on to her son. At a gas station, a boy takes a polaroid picture of her, and she buys it. It is the exact photograph that John will one day give to Reese. The gas station owner comments that there is a storm coming, and Sarah replies that she knows, alluding to humanity’s future war against Skynet.
The film’s success led to a franchise consisting of sequels, a television series, comic books, novels and video games. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) — widely considered by fans to be the best of the series — is the only film to garner attention at the Academy Awards, with six nominations and four wins.
Back to the Future — (1984)
In Back to the Future, teenager Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) lives in California with an alcoholic mother and meek father in 1985, and fears he will be like them. That night, Marty’s eccentric scientist friend, Emmett “Doc” Brown, (Christopher Lloyd) unveils a time machine built from a modified DeLorean, powered by stolen terrorist plutonium. After Doc inputs a destination time of November 5, 1955 (the day he first conceived his time travel invention), terrorists arrive to gun him down. Marty flees in the DeLorean, inadvertently activating time travel when he reaches 88 miles per hour.
Arriving in 1955 with no plutonium, Marty convinces a younger Doc that he’s from the future, but the only source available in 1955 capable of generating enough power for time travel is a lightning bolt. Fortunately a flyer from the future documents an upcoming lightning strike at the courthouse. As Marty’s siblings begin to fade from a photo he is carrying, Doc realizes Marty’s actions are altering the future, jeopardizing his existence. With time running out, Marty must find a way to set things right with his parents at a high school dance, join Doc at the courthouse, and reach precisely 88 miles per hour in the De Lorean to make contact with electricity from the lightning strike — to get back home.
Back to the Future is now considered by critics and audiences to be one of the greatest SCI-FI films and among the best films ever made. In 2007, the United States Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home — (1986)
In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Admiral Kirk and the former crew of the USS Enterprise return to Earth in 2286 to face trial for their actions (to rescue Spock’s resurrected body from the Genesis planet and restore his consciousness in Star Trek III). They find the planet in grave danger from an Alien probe wreaking havoc with Earth’s oceans, attempting to contact now-extinct humpback whales. The crew must travel back in time (via a slingshot maneuver around the Sun), hoping to find whales who can answer the probe’s call.
Arriving on Earth in 1986, the crew finds their ship’s power drained and must hide it (a Klingon Bird of Prey) in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park using its cloaking device, splitting up. Kirk and Spock attempt to locate humpback whales, while Scott, McCoy, and Sulu construct a tank to hold the whales for a return to the 23rd century. Uhura and Chekov must find a nuclear reactor, whose energy leakage can be collected and used to re-power the Klingon vessel.
Returning to Earth’s future, their ship loses power due to the Alien probe and crash-lands into the waters of San Francisco Bay. Once released, the whales respond to the probe’s signal, causing it to reverse its effects on Earth and return to the depths of space. As the crew later faces judgement before the Federation Council, Kirk is demoted to the rank of captain and returned to the command of a starship: the newly christened USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-A).
Well received by critics, fans, and the general audience, the film was dedicated to the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which broke up 73 seconds after takeoff on the morning of January 28, 1986.
The Time Machine — (2002)
In The Time Machine (adapted from the H.G. Wells 1895 novel), Dr. Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce), is an inventor teaching at Columbia University in 1899 New York. After a mugger kills his fiancee Emma (Sienna Guillory), Alex devotes himself to building a time machine that will allow him to travel back in time to save her. In 1903, he travels in the completed machine back to 1899 and prevents her murder, only to see her die again, killed by frightened horses from a street carriage.
Alex begins to realize that any attempt to save Emma will result in her death through other circumstances. He travels to the New York Public Library in 2030 seeking answers, then again to 2037 where he is knocked unconscious, traveling forward 800,000 years before reawakening. Nursed back to health by Mara (Samantha Mumba) a primitive human survivor (known as Eloi), he tries to rescue her when she is taken underground by primitive cannibals (known as Morlocks). In the end, Alex decides to sacrifice his Machine, destroying it to save Mara and defeat the Morlocks, ensuring a brighter future for the Eloi, finally accepting his own fate.
Set in New York City instead of London, the film contains new story elements not present in the original novel (nor the 1960 film adaptation), including a romantic subplot, a new scenario about how civilization was destroyed, and new characters such as an artificially intelligent hologram (Orlando Jones) and an intelligent Morlock leader (Jeremy Irons).
Looper — (2012)
In Looper, 25-year-old Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works for a Kansas City crime syndicate in 2044 as a “looper” assassin, managed by a man from the future known as Abe (Jeff Daniels). Since future tracking systems in 2074 make it impossible to dispose of bodies undetected, the syndicate sends enemies back in time to be executed. To hide connections to the syndicate, loopers who survive until 2074 are sent back and killed by their own younger selves, referred to as “closing the loop.”
Joe’s friend Seth (Paul Dano) comes to see him after failing to kill his future self. Old Seth escaped after warning Young Seth that a person called the “Rainmaker” with lethal powers would overthrow the five major bosses and close all loops. Joe’s next target arrives as his older self, but with his face uncovered and hands unbound. Old Joe (Bruce Willis) knocks him out and escapes. Trying to protect his future life, Old Joe hopes to track down and kill the “Rainmaker” as a child.
Young Joe locates Sara (Emily Blunt) the boy’s mother on a farm and, when Old Joe’s attempt to kill the boy is blocked by Sara, Young Joe makes a fateful choice. He realizes that orphaned and traumatized with lethal powers, the boy will grow up to become the “Rainmaker”. Young Joe commits suicide, erasing Old Joe’s existence, saving Sara and hopefully preventing future disaster.
THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY
As authors, we created The Survival Trilogy (inspired by real events) to explore our connection to Alien Life throughout Human history, and what it means for the future of Humanity.
Book 1 A GLEAM OF LIGHT explores Native American Mythology as UNA, half-Hopi bureaucrat from D.C., is summoned to Hopiland. Her connection to the white man’s world makes her uniquely qualified to help solve a mystery linked to an ancient discovery, as she tries to reconnect with her roots and cultural identity.
Book 2 THE DRAGON’S GLARE explores Asian American Mythology with UNA on special assignment to investigate unexplained violence in Chinatown, New York City. She discovers a deep-seated cultural connection with Tibetan immigrants as Ancient Chinese wisdom battles a threat from Ancient Evil.
Book 3 BEYOND THE WORLD explores African American Mythology as UNA, stranded on her honeymoon adventure in Yosemite, uncovers a UFO mystery that leads to an Alien Conspiracy. Together with Explorer’s Club teens from the Kikuyu Tribe, she tracks down the source of strange events and fights to save humanity.
By linking Ancient Mythology from diverse cultures with present day Reality, the TRILOGY reminds us that our Past, Present, and Future are all connected — with Life elsewhere in the universe.
Time Warped SCI-FI reminds us that any attempt to distort the flow of Time — even with good intentions — can potentially lead to disaster. Of course, the very act of Changing the Past, if it ever happens (or has already) would alter the historical record — including all Present living memory.
So … we might never know.