Time Travel Interrupts A Marriage

The time travel premise is well trod territory in science fiction. The favorite problem is that a person goes back in time, does something in the past that changes the world. The Army of Northern Virginia gets a key bit of information that allows it to take Washington DC in 1862. Hitler focuses on Britain instead of the Soviets and thus wins WWII. Or the classic paradox: a person goes back and kills a direct ancestor. Try to get your head around that last one.

One of my wife’s favorite summer tv shows is Eureka. I don’t share her regard for the show. A little too fluffy for me. But this season’s premiere caught my eye. And much to my surprise, the producers are going with a premise that really shakes things up. Blowing up a franchise and starting from scratch worked for Batman and Star Trek. So what Eureka‘s braintrust has done is set off a small landmine. A handful of lead characters travel back in time for a day in 1947. At show’s end, they return to the present. But with a significant twist: 2010 is not quite the same as what they left at the beginning of the episode. Jobs and relationships are significantly altered.

While the Eureka cast found itself in 1947 they did some fiddling around. A soldier from the past is revived from heart stoppage using CPR and jumper cables. About a half-dozen 1947 soldiers get their butts kicked by a 2010 policewoman. And most telling, a 1947 scientist sneaks back to the 21st century, and finds his whole past body of work “erased” from a history of which he was never a part. But the most fascinating change in my mind is that Henry, a bachelor, now has a wife.

For a few episodes, the stories have danced around this situation, but they addressed it more fully this past week. His wife wants his affections, but Henry from the “alternate universe” barely knows the woman.

So a time traveler returns home and finds himself in a world in which his other self was married. Is he really married? Is marriage determined by a person’s location or time? Henry is the legal person in his “new” present, and entirely unique, so isn’t he married to the woman who sees him as her husband?

My wife was disappointed with the revelation this week: Henry tells his “wife” he’s not the same man who returned from time travel. So they separate. The moral thing to do, I suppose. And far more interesting than killing off one’s own grandparent. Anybody else watching this show? What’s your take on the unresolved time travel? To my knowledge no other sf/fantasy tv show has ever gone and done this. I confess it has my attention–which is probably what the network wanted.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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3 Responses to Time Travel Interrupts A Marriage

  1. Disconnects in relationships and marriages is by no means a unique theme. Just watch Dr. Who – this whole time-travel thing always gets worked out and explained somehow, however improbably. Interrupted marriages seems to have been a theme of the “new” series.

    One season a couple years ago even began with an episode called “The Runaway Bride”… and season that just ended began with a bride becoming the traveling companion of the Doctor the night before her wedding.

    At the end of last season, there was the wedding of this young couple who finally got married after jumping around in their time-stream. At one point, he died and was “resurrected” as sort of his own clone in the form of a Roman soldier, who, quite romantically and devotedly, waits 2000 years guarding his fiance as he waits for her to be regenerated by contact with her own self in her normal 21st century time-stream.

    Another interestingly disconnected relationship is that a character has been appearing intermittently for two seasons now who, it is inferred, will be the Doctor’s wife (or at least significant other) in the future, but they keep meeting each other out of phase, so she knows more than he does. She carries a diary in which his future with her is written, but refuses to tell him how it all comes about. Her tag line is “Spoilers!”

    Although time-travel fiction has been popular for a long time, apparently the authors have no real engagement with the moral issues regarding marriage. I think, in the end, that we are just supposed to accept it as fiction and move on.

  2. Patti says:

    Joyce – good examples! Also the entire Tyler family mash-up: who’s alive in what time line/ dimension is yet another story line form Dr. Who that deals with going back on your own timeline and making changes.

  3. Jim McK says:

    The revelation on Eureka this week was when Henry said “I think I am falling in love with my wife.” What is the loving response to a woman who knows you intimately because of all the history you share with her previous husband?

    The time paradox is an interesting way to explore some of the issues on Caprica, the Matrix, Inception et al. What is real? What is imagination? Can a married couple grow apart? etc.

    Of course, the grandfather of all this is Heinlein’s “All you zombies.”

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