No Right Explanation

No Right Explanation
Michael Jackson Is Still Black

Firefilm | 21 May 2012 12:00
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Late week, the boys wrapped up their discussion of what the best time machine in popular culture - with some help from their friends. Here's what they have to say for themselves.

Chris: By now you've seen the second half of our Best Time Machine episode of No Right Answer and have taken offense to the fact that the T.A.R.D.I.S. didn't come in as our "best." It's all in good fun of course, and we're not done with The Doctor (I have at least one good troll left), but for now we're happy with the Hot Tub Time Machine both because it was an answer that made a fair deal of sense and was wholly unexpected from the viewers (and because obviously I wouldn't get to ride in the T.A.R.D.I.S. anyway since I don't have female genitalia or a spare heart).

What it got me thinking about was not so much which time machine is necessarily best, but rather which is most fun (I stand by the Phone Booth in that regard), as well as which time travel stories are the most enjoyable. See, writing about time travel seems to be near impossible from an intellectual level, and too many episodes of Doctor Who are either about wacky space adventures or wacky old-timey adventures, but very, very rarely about using time travel ("Blink" not withstanding of course).

I've found that I enjoyed Chrono Trigger a lot for this, which some of you noticed was sitting in the background on purpose. In that game's plot, you travel back and forth through time, futzing with the timelines here and there and really causing major changes to landmarks, characters, and history as we know it. The time travel aspect was integral to the game's plot and discovering how everything played together was fantastic to learn.

In contrast, Ocarina of Time, despite being my favorite video game, doesn't really use time travel in any meaningful way beyond a puzzle here and there. More than anything the game just has a time skip and then a means of traveling back before the time skip, and that's hardly enough to really classify it as "time travel." It's essentially just the Light world/Dark World gimmick from A Link to the Past reused, something that Miyamoto openly admitted. Even Majora's Mask, a game that really pushed the reversing time aspect, doesn't quite do a lot with time travel to make it feel just right.

To me, I feel that to truly "do" time travel, you need some aspect of timelines crossing. Dragon Ball Z, for how utterly moronic it handled the entire Cell plot arc, at least attempted to cross timelines here and there and play with the idea of knowing events before they've happened, witnessing events going awry, and ultimately failing to understand time in general.

That's a lot of why I loved Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure so much since they were simpletons who had access to a time machine and used it to just go visit random time periods and create nice convenient plot points, such as needing to remember to steal keys a week earlier and hide them so they can be found when they're really needed. Simple timeline crossing, but entirely fun.

Back to the Future Part II was another fantastic movie for this as it showed the previous movie and then played with it immensely by witnessing previous events from a different point of view. Such fun! Bender's Big Score, the first Futurama movie, did a ton to show time travel and timelines messing with one another, and I for one was utterly pleased with the results there.

Maybe all I'm really doing is saying that I don't absolutely love Doctor Who. I'll take my public beatings now, thank you.

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