It has been over five years since I last wrote about time-travel. So with that in mind I’m going to travel all the way back to 1991 when I was still at school…
This is pretty hazy, but I do know that I actually saw the films the wrong way around. Whilst I think I went see Bogus Journey on a date at the cinema, I definitely know that a few weeks later I saw Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure on VHS at home with my sister Gillian. She had seen it before, and had come to Bill & Ted way before I had. I think though that her interest in it was more to do with actors in it rather than the subject matter. The reason that I want to start back here, and with this film, is that time-travel is inherently nonsense, and this film is nonsense at its best.
When I first watched it, I definitely didn’t notice the paradoxes that they use, I took it as a fun trip through the past with Bill S. Preston Esquire & Ted “Theodore” Logan collecting figures from history to help them with their final history report. It was pretty funny, and it didn’t really appear to take its time-travel too seriously. They even time-travel in a phone box… but unlike the Tardis it was just a phone box, so they are all squashed in there. It is however when we (and they) first see the phone box, and we first meet Rufus who sends them on the adventure in the first place, that we come across the paradoxes that are being used. Although, it’s not until much later on that you realise that that’s what’s going on. On seeing the now past versions of themselves looking at them from the car park of the Circle K. the now present versions of Bill & Ted decide to head out of the phone box and go and talk to themselves. They’ve already had this conversation from the other way around, but can’t quite remember what it was;
“What’ll we say anyway.”
“I dunno… lets find out.”
They then, of course, proceed to have the exact same conversation as before. Whatever happened, happened. Even later when Bill points out that Ted forgot to wind his watch,
“Even though you reminded yourself not to.”
Ted’s response is to remind himself again, even though this will be the first time he’s done it. So whilst Bill & Ted, maybe are not quite there with how this works, we are. Later they go on to mount a jail break by having a conversation about something that they will have to go on to do. And in doing so then seem to get it for themselves… just.
“Ted, good thinking dude. After the report we’ll time travel back to two days ago, steal your dad’s keys, and leave them here.”
“I don’t know. How about behind that sign? That way when we get here now, they’ll be waiting for us.” (bends down and picks up the keys) “See?”
“Whoa! Yeah! So after the report we can’t forget to do this, or else it won’t happen. But it did happen.”
And with that it would appear that the film uses the exact same paradoxes as The Time Travellers Wife. The Predestination, and the Ontological paradox*. Two more different stories you could not get, and yet they both have exactly the same grounding. Time-travel only works as a story device when the story-tellers pick the mechanics as to how it’s going to work, and then stick with it. No matter what. I started off by saying that it was inherently nonsense, which it is, but you do need those mechanics (rules) in place to help you suspend your disbelief just the right amount to be carried along with the story.
To be continued…
*The Ontological paradox is probably better known now as the Bootstrap paradox. A casual loop involving information or objects with no point of origin. And some of examples of which I’ll have coming up.