Continuum hasn’t defined its rules for time travel. On the one hand, no set rules means that the show can put things into place as needed and as the story progresses. But on the other hand, the audience doesn’t know what is at stake for the characters if we aren’t sure how their actions affect the future (or the past).
What we can do is look at possible time travel theories based on what happened in the show so far. My go-to process with new time travel stories is to figure them out by using older stories where we know how time travel works.
Spoilers below through episode 2.08 “Second Listen.”
Theory 1 – The future already happened
In season one of Heroes, Peter Petrelli has visions of the future, and he knows those events are going to happen. He isn’t able to change them. The only thing he can do is figure out how he is going to react.
If the same is true for Continuum, then all the scenes in the future will happen (have already happened). Everything we see Alec do in the future is already in place, such as making sure Kiera is the CPS officer sent back with the Liber8 group and sending back Garza as his judge and jury. (We see the scenes from the future as they are relevant to what is happening in the present.) The characters in the present cannot affect the future we’ve already seen in 2077, and so Future Alec’s intervention with the past is pointless. Maybe he hasn’t realized that yet.
Theory 2 – Nothing is set in stone
In the Terminator movies, John Connor’s ultimate goal is to prevent the machines from taking over humanity. Future John sends Kyle Reese (in the first movie) and a terminator (in the second movie) back in time to help his mother and his younger self. John alters events in the past and keeps delaying the machines’ rise to power in the future. The changes oscillate back and forth. Future John sends someone back in time. The characters in the present time make changes, which affect things in the future. Then Future John sends someone (or something) else back to make more changes.
If the same flexibility works in Continuum, then Kiera and Alec make changes in the present that will change the future, and Future Alec is responding to those changes and sending back messages or people to keep altering things to the way he wants them to be. This means that the scenes we see in the future are actually happening in alternate futures. Future Alec sends Liber8 back in time. They make changes. He responds by making sure that Kiera is sent back with them. She makes changes. He makes sure that his younger self doesn’t make bad decisions by sending Garza. The characters can make changes and respond to effects all the time, back and forth, in both the present and the future.
Theory 3 – The timeline split
In Back to the Future II, Biff creates an alternate timeline when he visits his younger self in 1955 and gives him a sports almanac to bet on winning teams and raise a fortune in Hill Valley. By 1985 (the movie’s present time), Hill Valley is completely altered from the original timeline that we saw in Back to the Future I. The only way to return to the original timeline is for Marty to travel to 1955 and stop Biff from meeting his younger self.
An alternate timeline in Continuum means that Kiera, Alec, and Liber8 have made enough changes that the future changes. Kiera cannot go back to the 2077 she knew unless she can travel back to the day she arrived in 2012 and stop her past self and Liber8 from making any changes. (She would probably have to kill them, including her past self.) As for the show’s scenes in the future, there are two possibilities: 1) The future we see is from the original 2077 or, 2) The future we see is from the alternate timeline and Alec is still trying to make changes to the past.
Any of these theories could help explain how time travel works in Continuum, but I have a feeling the show is going to leave the rules undefined. If the characters don’t know what they can change, then maybe the audience shouldn’t know either.
What do you think? Can the characters in Continuum change the future or is everything predetermined?
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