Time travel is a popular trope in a lot of stories nowadays, and each story seemingly has its own way of using time travel to propel the story forward. As far as I can tell, there are three types of time travel. The first is where everything is on a continuous loop, like what happens in the movie 12 Monkeys or what happens in the third book of Harry Potter. The second is where nothing really makes a whole lot of sense and you can have “time paradoxes” and catch yourself in a time loop. I am just going to call this the Doctor Who approach to time travel. And the third is where there are different timelines, like in the final season of Lost.
The Canadian show, Continuum, uses the second approach, which is the only one of the three that, I believe, recognizes the free will that God granted each and every one of us.
The first approach, the continuous loop approach, within the context of its stories, does not recognize the autonomous individual. For instance, if anything had worked out slightly different, the person or persons going back in time would have decided not to go. For instance, if Harry Potter in the third book had seen that Buck Beak and Sirius had gotten away, he would have not been so easily convinced to go back in time. This is even demonstrated with his thinking his father had saved him from the dementors. He was waiting for his father, but eventually had to step up.
So, too, in 12 Monkeys, if Bruce Willis’ character, James Cole, had gone back in time and told his younger self not to go back in time, would he still go back in time? If everything is on a continuous loop, then everything we do has already happened. This is essentially Calvinism. Either you are destined for heaven or for hell, and it is not really up to you, as an autonomous person. That is just how things are. But the Catholic Church has been condemning that type of thinking since its conception.
The second approach is the Doctor Who approach where, if you go back in time to change something, you will then not have to go back in time to change it, and then you will have to go back in time, and you will be stuck in a never-ending loop. The issue with this is that the rules appear to be arbitrary. While this can be an interesting part of a superficial narrative, it cannot sustain our disbelief for long, as that is not the way any reasonable system works. There is one true God. His rules are not arbitrary. And they are clearly defined in the revealed truth.
The third approach is the multiple timelines approach, where the various decisions a person makes causes there to be many universes where things are different. This happened in Lost, in the final season, when the main characters set off a bomb. They made a reality where the island they were trapped on was destroyed, and so we see what happens when they fly over the island without crashing on it.
This is the only approach that recognizes the free will of the individual. Because of your decisions, you have various outcomes, some positive and some negative, but you do have decisions to make. Your decisions have consequences and you have to live with them, whatever they might be.
The Canadian show, Continuum, deals with the significance of decisions. The basic story of this show is that a female police officer accidentally goes back in time with a group of terrorists who devised a plan to change their future from the corporate-run government to one that allows for more freedom.
This show demonstrates the second approach to time travel. Various people come from varying futures depending on the decisions that are made.
The show also shows the two sides of the argument about whether it is better to have complete corporate control over everyone’s movements. The show presents both sides and then lets the audience decide. On the one hand we have the Corporate Congress, which monitors everyone non-stop, and on the other hand we have Liber8, which is a terrorist organization that is fighting for more rights, while, in the process, they kill thousands of people.
The protagonist believes in the Corporate Congress, but it is clear that she realizes the sacrifice of complete safety, which is privacy.
These are the things that make Continuum interesting to watch. Rather than shoving the beliefs of the writers down the audience’s throat, which is the norm in mainstream media programming, it shows the differences that people can make and the differences in viewpoints that people can have.