Imagine my surprise when several of my various email lists, on-line discussion groups, and blogs in the SF, conspiracy, and paranormal realms all lit up at once this last week with a common subject: news of a time traveler, caught on film in an old Charlie Chaplin movie.
Of course there is a YouTube video involved ( LINK - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiIrpEMbQ2M).
The basic story seems to be that a documentary film maker, George Clarke, spotted a suspicious woman in the background of some “making of” out-take video segments included in a rerelease of Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 film, The Circus. The woman in the film appears to be holding to her ear what looks to some of us present day observers like a cell phone. Maybe it was just a slow news week, because even ABC and Fox News picked up the story. But I think it was the subject matter itself, time travel, which caught everyone’s attention. We are all apparently extremely fascinated by the possibility. Even folks who would not consider the idea of UFO’s, ghosts, or a second gunman seem willing to embrace the potential reality of time travelers visiting us in the here and now, or in the yesteryear.
If you are not already buried under viral remnants of this ‘event’, I invite you to check out the story for yourself, and to draw your own conclusions. While the concept intrigues me, the public’s willingness to suspend disbelief, for even a few moments, is even more interesting. The sheer magnitude of the response suggests that the public is eager for any kind of strange story that does not have some potential end-of-days payload attached.
One of my favorite responses to this news outbreak was a list of top ten time travelers, put together by Eoin O’Carroll at the Christian Science Monitor website (LINK - http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2010/1028/Top-10-time-travelers/Donnie-Darko ). That list is of movie and TV time travelers. The list is a very good one, but like any top ten list of anything, the list manages to leave out a couple of my favorites.
Before long, I had my own top ten list of favorite video time travelers:
- Tony Newman (James Darren) and Doug Randall (Robert Colbert) of The Time Tunnel (LINK - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060036/ ) . These are the guys who first got me hooked on SF TV.
- H. G. Wells, starring Rod Taylor in arguably one of the best versions of the H. G. Wells classic, The Time Machine (LINK - http://www.themoviedb.org/movie/2134 ).
- Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits (LINK - http://www.themoviedb.org/movie/36819 ) - just a whole lot of dark fun, with a lovely sprinkle of Shelley Duvall, John Cleese, and even Sean Connery thrown into the mix.
- Nearly the entire crew of every Star Trek series every made (OK, so this one is derivative since Spock does show up in Eoin’s list, too.)
- H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell in a Good Guy role) and Amy Robbins (Mary Steenburgen) in Time After Time (LINK - http://www.themoviedb.org/movie/24750 ), a love story with a time traveling serial killer (David Warner).
- Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve), finding love Somewhere in Time with Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour).
- Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), aboard the mysteriously missing Queen Anne in an X-Files episode that may or may not have occurred in 1939 (LINK - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_(The_X-Files) ).
- Jack, Hurley, Kate, Sawyer, and the entire awesome crew of Lost, a show with time travel antics that quite frankly lost some of the audience, but not me (LINK - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0411008/ ).
- Ben Wilson (Jeff Daniels) and various rubbernecking disaster groupies from the future in Grand Tour: Disaster in Time, also known as Timescape (LINK - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104362/ )
- Bill Smith’s (Kris Kristofferson) girlfriend from the future, Louise Baltimore (Cheryl Ladd) in Millennium (LINK - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097883/ ), perhaps one of the most paradox-ridden time travel movies ever.
There are a couple of movies about time travel that are not on my faves list, The Time Traveler’s Wife among them. Then there are some time travel movies I have yet to see, including the 2009 movies Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (LINK - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0910554/ ) and The Trouble with Time Travel (LINK - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1514077/).
And then there are a couple of movies that should have been about time travel, but were not, most notably Starship Troopers (LINK - http://www.themoviedb.org/movie/563 ), a movie from a Heinlein book I loved where space travel at relativistic speeds severely impacted the elapsed time and the life of future soldiers. Time was a huge part of that storyline which never made it to celluloid.
Alas, the temptation to throw in more time-related puns is nearly overwhelming. But I think that Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) said it best in Star Trek: First Contact, with the help of abundant spirits, when she said:
“Timeline? This is no time to argue about time. We don’t have the time!”
- D. E. Helbling