Fringe - 'White Tulip'


White Tulip tells a story supposedly about time-travel. To those familiar with the chapter it may come as a surprise that I think it is not genuine time-travel. The reason is that it is a very clever way of disguising as time travel what really is not.


Let us look closely at the events of the story: an astrophysicist called Peck tries desperately to invent a mechanism that would allow him to go back to the day in which he could avoid that his fiancée dies in a car accident. The Fringe division team is called in when his first attempts only take him back as far as a few hours to a train coach where his “arrival” drains all energy from everything in it –living or technological, with fatal consequences. When the FBI apprehends him he jumps back in time again and the story repeats itself in the train coach, although he now knows how to avoid being caught by the authorities. When the FBI eventually catches up with him again in another way, the process is repeated, and the story implies this happens several times until he finally succeeds in not being caught before he manages to jump further back, to the day in which he can save his fiancée.


If we look closely, however, we can see that each time he jumps back in time, the whole universe jumps back as well, him being the only one conscious of it, and the rest of the world just re-living the same period with events unfolding in a slightly different way. Peck is not travelling back in time, he is rewinding time and letting it “play” in a slightly different way each time, until his desired outcome takes place. This is not time-travel, but “time-rewinding” and that is why the time-travel paradox seems to be circumvented. It is very much like going back to an earlier stage in a computer game to try and overcome a specific challenge again and again until it is achieved.

At first sight White Tulip seems to succeed in not incurring in the paradox in a genuine time travel story, and initially it looks like the reason is that Peck changes the past but dies there, so there is no problem in him reaching the present without a reason to go back in time to fix the past. But even behind such a clever disguise, we must conclude that White Tulip failed to genuinely address time-travel and that is the real reason why there is no time-travel paradox. This is rather like what we could see in Groundhog Day, Un día sin fin, [etc…] although these movies never really claimed to be about time-travel.


So for the first digit I´d give White Tulip a 0.


Regarding the science behind the time-rewinding, White Tulip attempts to give it a scientific look, and even includes energy usage issues to explain the deaths of the people affected. The time-rewinder is a physicist and equations can be seen. As there are no real theories that speculate with time-rewinding in Physics, I'd give this a score of 1 for the second digit.

The third one becomes a 0, because the paradox of the time-rewinder being conscious of the other versions of the past while the rest of the universe isn't is just ignored.


As the process of rewinding time requires a contraption and involves some sort of mechanism, we can give White Tulip a 1 for its fourth digit.


In total, then, White Tulip gets a 010.1

What do you think?

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