Time Travel In Popular Media edited by Matthew Jones and Joan Ormrod (book review).

With time travel getting a strong Delorean reminder this month, I brought forward reading ‘Time Travel In Popular Media’ edited by Matthew Jones and Joan Ormrod. It’s sub-title, ‘Essays On Film, Television, Literature And Video Games’ would suggest that it hits on all the time travel stories although its editors say they had problems finding people for some sections. Granted it does cover new material stories but it also significantly misses the likes of ‘Babylon 5’ and even the likes of ‘The Final Countdown’. Somehow, they think ‘Watchmen’ is a time travel story and yet has none at all in graphic novel or film in the introduction started making me suspicious. It isn’t thought there aren’t some good examples of time travel in comics. Do I have to say ‘Days Of Future Past’?


Nikk Effingham in ‘Contemporary Philosophy’ examines the ‘grandfather paradox’ but, from my expertise, doesn’t cover all the options like the grandfather may not actually have fathered any children or someone filled the same role which would have a different effect on the grandson or where his genes came from. Saying that, one of the latter writer does briefly mention these choices. Essentially, in the first instance, nothing would change for the time traveller and the second, would change his DNA a little. Even so, he does cover the other options adequately discussing their options. I do think his hypertime level is more akin to creating a baseline which could go either way with options but this would be forever be recreated with every change.

There are some unusual choices for time travel stories. David Blanke in ‘Experiments In Time’ places Cecile B. DeMille’s 1917 film ‘Joan The Woman’ as one simply because there is some sort of time travel at the opening. Whether that’s true depends on whether anyone saw the movie. Choosing something obscure to make a point isn’t good writing. It makes more sense to have something familiar and point out things they might not have noticed.

It’s only several essays in that Dolly Jorgensen with ‘Remembering The Past Into The Future’ hits on ‘Doctor Who’ and his perchance for visiting museums from time to time, although four is hardly habitual. The choices are there for learning a planet’s history and as a means for people like River Song to leave a message for him. Maybe he should visit them more often.

Victoria Byard looks at two children’s more obscure British TV series ‘The Georgian House’ and ‘A Traveller In Time’ and even points out she had to use the BFI archive to see the latter. So essentially she is looking at something none of the rest of us are going to have ready access to. I did check the Internet and the second series is finally coming out this November. Considering the number of times she uses the word ‘timeslip’ in her essay ‘I Belong To The Future’, why didn’t she look at the TV series ‘Timeslip’ which had similar information.

Perhaps a bit more recognised is Matthew Freeman’s ‘Who Knows About The Future? Perhaps Only The Dead’ which looks at the original ‘Planet Of The Apes’ films time travel aspect. I thought it could have done with a bit more depth. I mean, in the third film, Doctor Otto Hasslein’s actions brought forward the rise of the talking apes to near the beginning than at least a century down the line. If that wasn’t a demonstration of knowing the future in the past and making a wrong decision is, then you had one there. When Cornelius, Zira and Milo got Taylor’s spaceship into space and saw the Earth’s destruction, none of them could have anticipated being projected into the past when they took off.

Pete Falconer’s ‘Time Travel And The “Afterlife” Of The Western’ looks at ‘Back To The Future III’ and ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’, making for strange bedfellows although more for borrowing western film apparel than how we adapt to it. One thing he does forget is the old film westerns had the cleanest town streets which both films showed different for horse poo and how easy it was to walk into it.

The odd error comes up. Although ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’ was the third of ‘The Man With No Name’ films, it was actually the prequel to the first and second films but filmed last. When you consider its length and detail, I doubt if director Sergio Leone would have gotten the budget any earlier.

An odd essay ‘A Stitch In Time’ by Elena Trencheva and Sofia Pantouvaki looking at film costumes is also pushing it a little. With the 1960 ‘The Time Machine’ film, when you are showing a whole tribe like the Eloi, it’s just economic to have them all dressed alike than individual costumes. One might well ask who supplied their clothes as they were pretty much not that bright. Mind you, they do make a valid point that clothes that fit into any era is a lot harder to do and picking up native dress should be done as soon as possible.

Another essay that makes me wonder why it was included in Charles Burnetts’ ‘Downwards Is The Only Way Forwards’ as he uses ‘Inception’ as a time travel film. It’s clearly not because you’re entering people’s dreams in a similar way to the 1984 film ‘Dreamscape’. This would have been fine if this book was about getting into people’s heads and mind games but not here.

There is a mish-mash of subjects included here and reading the appendixes, I didn’t need reminding that the editors were groping to find people on some subjects. Oddly, none of the essayists are actually SF writers and I would have thought that perspective would been important to have tracked down. It isn’t as though there aren’t people out there with the right expertise.

None of them debate the violations to the Conservation of Energy/Matter being violated when creating alternative time-lines. Looking at the brief bios of these writers at the back of the book and they are mostly film buffs but no true scientists. What is significant is that they aren’t all from the USA anymore which is a good sign. I do think future (sic) books on similar subjects really needs any editors involved to look beyond university campuses for the type of expertise they need on our genre subjects.

GF Willmetts

October 2015

(pub: McFarland. 325 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: £35.50 (UK), $40.00 (US). ISBN: 978-0-78647-807-1)

check out websites: www.mcfarlandpub.com and www.eurospanbookstore.com

2 thoughts on “Time Travel In Popular Media edited by Matthew Jones and Joan Ormrod (book review).

  • You don’t seem to mention the ‘Literature’ part of the sub-title – I presume that is a reflection of the book’s content. Having said that ‘A Traveller in Time’ was originally a book (reread it last year),as of course was ‘The Time Machine’…

  • Hello Julian
    I can’t speak for your version but there was barely one essay dealing with literature. Most of the writers focused on films and TV.


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