Moebius is headache inducing

I love time travel and alternate realities, I am a complete sucker for those. I find it really interesting about how different the future can be if an event plays out differently. It’s always so fun watching it on the TV, people are the same yet different. However, I’m pretty big on logic. I know it’s ridiculous to try and apply logic to sci-fi, as it isn’t real, but I try anyway. Basically I just like things to make sense.

I watched the Stargate season 8 finale Moebius last night and I’m still trying to work it out. Stargate has had a couple of alternate universe and time travel episodes. ‘1.21 – There but for the grace of god’ where Daniel goes through the mirror, ‘2.21 – 1969’ with the solar flare, ‘3.06 – Point of View’ where an alternate reality comes through the mirror for help, ‘4.06 – Window of Opportunity’ had the groundhog day time loop, ‘4.16 – 2010’ where they send a note back, ‘8.13 – It’s Good to be King’ has prophecies written on the wall by a time travelling ancient, Moebius of course and finally the Atlantis episode ‘1.15 – Before I Sleep’. There may be others in the remaining episodes that I’ve not seen.

So how to make sense of it?

Closed Loop time travel
I’ve always had what is perhaps a simplistic view of time travel. It avoids all the headaches of paradoxes and multiple versions of things, it’s clean and it makes sense. It’s called a closed loop and the episode 1969 is a good example of this. Looking at events chronologically it plays out like this:

– Young Lt. Hammond is securing some prisoners belongings. He finds a note asking him to help them, along with two dates and times.
– He’s confused as the note suggests it’s from himself. He does help them escape.
– SG1 travel to New York and speak with Catherine Langford about the location of the Stargate. This rekindles her interest in the project, leading to the birth of the program.
– Using the date/time on the note SG1 go through the Stargate, hitting the solar flare.
– In 1997 General Hammond meets Colonel Jack O’Neill, is probably inwardly very surprised and confused that O’Neill looks just like someone he saw in 1969.
– The rest of SG1 are recruited. Perhaps this is why Hammond trusted Teal’c so easily, he recognised him from the past and knew that he was part of the team.
– Hammond sees the cut on Carter’s hand and realises that this is the mission where they went back. He plants the note for himself to find in the past.
– SG1 return through the gate, having been sent to the right time by Cassandra.
– Many unknown events happen.
– The point in the future after SG1 dove through the gate in 1969 too early and traveled too far into the future. Cassandra sends them back.

Everything that happened in the past, happened because it was supposed to, it had already happened. There was no first timeline, they had always gone back. Hammond could have told them the first time they met, that he’d seen them in 1969. It was a continuous loop, they went back because they had already gone back. They didn’t change the past by going back, they always had gone back so they were already part of the past. A closed loop, what was will be etc.

Right now the important part, closed loop time travel is the only kind of time travel. If you go back and change history, then you haven’t travelled back to your own time, or if you did you have then created a new time stream, a separate reality. Your timeline, which you left will carry on without you, the future of that timeline will not be changed by any actions in the past, it is a separate reality from the past you went back to.

The time stream splits
The episode 2010 is a sad example of this in a way. This episode was made in 2000, so it was looking 10 years into the future from where the previous episode had left off. Earth had found some seemingly amazing allies in the Aschen, the Goa’uld had been defeated, Earth was safe and benefiting from the Aschen’s advanced technology. SG1 had been disbanded, the SGC was no more and the Stargate was open to the public just like an airport. However, it’s discovered that the Aschen have sterilized the Earth’s population, they have won the war and taken Earth over without firing a single shot. Even if the people of Earth fought against them and drove them away, all the Aschen would have to do is wait for the world’s population to die off, as they will be no more children, no next generation.

Now obviously this is a horrific future, Earth’s civilization being destroyed, all our culture and history and technology just being wiped out. You can’t blame anyone for wanting to change it, for wanting it to never have happened. SG1 reunited to save the day one last time. It was Carter’s plan, they’d send a note back telling their past selves to not go to the Aschen planet. In Carter’s own words, their current timeline would cease to exist, it would be like pressing reset. However, that was false hope, perhaps that’s what she had to believe as the alternative was just too depressing. The simple fact is that there is nothing they could do for Earth, they were too late to save the day.

All of SG1 died sending that note back through the Stargate. If they had lived then they would have discovered for themselves that their timeline didn’t disappear. Yes they successfully sent the note back, which yes changed the events of what happened but it didn’t change it for them. How could it? It would be a paradox, if that future never happened then the note would have never been sent back. However, if the note wasn’t sent back then that future might well have occurred. As soon as the note went back the time stream split and a new reality began. That version of reality, the version we follow from then on in the show, didn’t have the horrific Aschen future. However, the reality we see in 2010, which did have the horrific Aschen future, well nothing changed it.

This kind of alternate reality changes our future is also shown in the Atlantis episode Before I Sleep. An old Dr Weir is found in stasis, she had traveled back in time 10,000 years to when the Ancients were still at Atlantis. Her expedition had all died when the shield failed and the city flooded. There was nothing she could do to save the people she had known but she could save an alternate version of them. She ensured that the shield wouldn’t fail as soon as they stepped through the gate, she had the fail safe put in place so the city emerged from the water when it did begin to fail. The reality that we follow on the show, is alive thanks to this alternate reality version of Weir’s actions. She split their time streams, and created a new reality, the one in the show. If she’d remained in her original reality, or fast forwarded some time, if the Prometheus had been sent then they would have found that the Atlantis expedition had failed, they were dead and the city destroyed.

Moebius gives me a headache
It gave the writers a headache too and it’s not hard to see why. We start off with what should have been a closed loop time travel, like 1969, where they went back and grabbed the ZPM and came home again. Nothing would have changed, as they’d always done that. This was what they had planned and this is what would have happened had it been a successful trip. It would have played out chronologically like this:

– 3000 BC SG1 appear in the past and obtain the ZPM.
– 2004 or whenever Moebius happens, SG1 get the idea of going back for the ZPM and they travel back.
– Soon after they reappear back in the future, with the ZPM.

If they left the video camera in the past then it would have always been there. It could have been discovered at any point in the interim 5000 years. It was a closed loop, they went back because they already had.

However, it didn’t play out like that as SG1 changed history. They decided to start the uprising early and weren’t patient about it. Carter, Teal’c and Jack were all killed in the attempt, only leaving Daniel alive. Daniel led another rebellion a few years later and Ra was driven off, however he took the gate with him which is what changed history. If he had left the gate, then the fact that SG1 had been in the uprising would have been fine, that would have been what had always happened. The only problem is that would have killed them off, as they would have never returned to the future. If they hadn’t changed history, if it had stayed a closed loop, then chronologically it would have played out like:

– 3000 BC SG1 arrive in the past, steal the ZPM but the puddle jumper is captured by Ra’s forces.
– Start the uprising but it fails and Jack, Carter and Teal’c are all killed.
– Daniel leads another uprising a few years later which is successful. Ra leaves Earth and the gate is buried.
– The events of the show all happen, SG1 get the idea of stealing the ZPM.
– SG1 either never return to the future in which case Ra has to get the ZPM back as it wasn’t detected by any scans (hence their trip to the past in the first place), or Daniel alone returns to the future, with the ZPM, and explains the other three are dead.

However, obviously we can’t kill off SG1 and history is changed as Ra takes the stargate with him. This creates a time stream split of a new reality. They are no longer travelling in time, or at least not within their own timeline. It’s not a closed loop anymore. In essence there are three realities which have intersected creating the final result. Just like in 2010 or Before I Sleep, where the version of reality which the show follows is as a result of intervention from other realities. As there’s multiple interventions, it does get a little confusing.

Initial alternate reality
– SG1 get the idea of stealing the ZPM from the past.
– They travel back in time.
– They are never heard from again. They just vanished and that time steam continues on without them.
– As they never got the ZPM Atlantis wouldn’t have received the reinforcements that it did in ‘The Siege’ and they would have self destructed and gone to the alpha site.

Alternate Moebius reality
– 3000 BC SG1 from the initial reality arrive in the past, steal the ZPM but the puddle jumper is captured by Ra’s forces.
– SG1 record the video message saying what their future is like.
– Start the uprising but it fails and Jack, Carter and Teal’c are all killed.
– Daniel leads another uprising a few years later which is successful. Ra leaves Earth and takes the Stargate with him.
– This is when the time stream splits.
– Daniel writes the tablet which says that there is another Stargate on Earth and then lives out the rest of his life in ancient Egypt.
– The video message is discovered and the events of Moebius happen. They also find the puddle jumper that the previous realities SG1 used to travel and the ZPM they stole.
– Alternate Sam, Daniel and Jack go to Chulak for Teal’c, that Daniel is killed and they travel back in time.
– This reality continues. Apophis sends ships to Earth and either destroys the planet or enslaves everyone there.

The show’s reality
– 3000 BC SG1 from the initial reality arrive in the past, steal the ZPM but the puddle jumper is captured by Ra’s forces.
– SG1 record the video message saying what their future is like.
– Start the uprising but it fails and Jack, Carter and Teal’c are all killed.
– A few years later alternate versions of Jack, Sam and Teal’c appear in the past.
– Note that there are now two puddle jumpers in this reality in ancient Egypt. The one that the initial SG1 team used, and the one that the alternate SG1 team used.
– There is a second uprising and this one is successful. Ra is driven from Earth and the gate is buried.
– This is another time stream split, as these events are different from the reality the alternate SG1 team came from. It was their trip to the past which changed it into another reality.
– The two puddle jumpers are destroyed and presumably the second video camera.
– Initial Daniel and alternate Jack and Sam live out the rest of their lives in ancient Egypt. Alternate Teal’c would likely only have a couple of years until his symbiote matured and obviously he wouldn’t be able to get another, or have any tretonin to replace it. So the rest of his life would have been short.
– The events of the show happen
– The video message and ZPM are found.
– Note that this reality still has the puddle jumper found on Maybourne’s planet, it was never used.
– Then the show continues on. The ZPM is used for Atlantis etc.

The Conclusion
In another words why am I typing all this out? Well the events of Moebius were confusing and I had to think about it carefully. The writers called it time travel, when really they should have called it alternate realities caused by time stream splits due to time travel. However, I can understand them wanting to gloss over the fact that those alternate realities which were wrong, and which had horrible consequences, didn’t just cease to exist. It’s much nicer to say that SG1 saved the day, made everything how it was supposed to be, and alternate futures where Apophis annihilates the Earth, never came to be. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. Just like in 2010 they didn’t save their own future, they just made a better alternate one.

Anyway I have now successfully managed to apply logic to a time travel scenario which on first glance didn’t make sense. I know it’s strange but having worked all this out, I will now enjoy Moebius a lot more in the future when I rewatch it. I won’t be rolling my eyes thinking that it doesn’t make sense, as it does, it’s just a horrible kind of sense.

Time travel and alternate reality episodes are interesting and fun. However, the implications are disturbing which is why the writers ignore them. Anyway, I have another third Stargate post in mind, which occurred to me after I posted the last one. Even without the SGC how many Goa’uld are already on Earth? You have Seth/Setesh who is active, Hathor who is hibernating in the sarcophagus, Osiris (Setesh’s brother) and his Queen Isis who are in the stasis jars. So many possibilities of sequels from the original Stargate film, to use the show’s lore but go in a different direction with it. Anyway, more on that in the next post.