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The Phoenix Gate

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Time Travel

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Axem Gold writes...

I know where the Phoenix Gate really came from. It came from the writer's of the Gargoyle Animated Series.

Greg responds...


Response recorded on April 09, 2001

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Anonymous writes...

Were you inspired in someway by Quantum Leap while making Timedancer?

Greg responds...

Not really. Plenty of time travel stuff pre-dates QL.

And I'm much stricter about time-travel rules than that show.

Response recorded on February 26, 2001

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Bruno writes...

Hi Greg,

There is some kind of 'End of Time' place in the Gargoyles Universe? A place that is out of the timestream.

Greg responds...

Sort of. Not really. But sort of.

Response recorded on February 15, 2001

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Bruno writes...

Hi Greg,

Thoughts about time travel:

There is a little controversy about time travel vs. free will. If the past is unchangeable -and also the future, for consequence- then there is _no_ free will?

On the contrary; The events in the past can't be changed, but they WERE and ARE done by us. That's easy to guilt the others or the timestream, but, quoting Rorschach, from Watchmen:

"That's not God who kill the children, nor the chance who shred they, nor the destine who feed the dogs with they. They're us. Only us". (I'm translating to english from a translation to the portuguese. :-)

Plus, on the contrary of the common sense, change the past is not use free will, but kill it: Demona betrayed Wyvern. If she came back and change this, she should be obstructing her OWN free will. And her responsability, to boot. And responsability is one of the series' themes.

This is a paradox, but, with time travel, what else did you want? The unchangeable past universe IS the free will universe. :-)

Oh, well, now back to my time travel questions:

1- Roughly, when was the Phoenix Gate "created"? Meaning when it droped in Avalon, starting the time loop.

2- If the Phoenix Gate is a "steam valve" and it exists among two time points (??? or before and 2198 or after), what was the steam valve before the Gate? And after?

Ps. I just wanted to say that I fully understood the time loops in Vows, Avalon II and M.I.A. and I loved then. Vows and Avalon were amazing and smart, and M.I.A. was just too fun: Goliath couldn't change the history, but he was so smart that he could trick it! Great work.

Greg responds...

Before we get to your questions, Bruno, let me just say that I agree with you on your time travel/free will thing.

1. I don't want to reveal that yet. It's intrinsic to the whole TimeDancer story.

2. Stories for another day.


Response recorded on February 15, 2001

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Jim R. writes...

I'm no physicist but your theories of time-travel are different than others that i've heard. I bet you've seen the "Back to the Future" trilogy, so why is it, that things Marty and the Doc did back in the past change the outcome of the future for them, because it was obvious that the past couldn't be altered until the Doc invented the time machine in the present so they could go back to the past. So the future they were familiar with when they were in the past was different when they finally came back into the future (present). (Say that ten times over...)

So, my point is, in Gargoyles, Goliath says "Time is like a river, unchanging in its course." Basically that says anything they did in the past using the Phoenix Gate did not effect the future at all? Which is confusing, because if I were to go back and save JFK, that would certainly alter the future for me and anyone else that came back with me...

On Star Trek they believe in infinite possibilies for every outcome and decision.
I know, I know...Just answer my question about the Gargoyles part. We would need Einstein to explain this quantum stuff. Hey, maybe I'll jump in my time machine and go get him. :)

Greg responds...

<Sigh> I thought the first Back to the Future movie was very entertaining. I thought the second was masturbatory (excuse my language) and I thought the third was mildly amusing.

But I thought the time travel logic was fairly loose (at best). Look, I'm no physicist either. This is all make-believe. But I wanted STRICT, STRICT rules in the garg universe to eliminate the kinds of abuses that Star Trek writers (for example) are prone to doing. Cheats that start as time-travel cheats, but wind up being story cheats, character cheats, etc.

And in the garg universe, if you went back in time to save JFK, you'd fail. Or you'd succeed. But he'd decide to go into deep hiding or travel to Avalon or to the year 2002 or something, so that history as we know it would still be exactly the same.

Response recorded on February 01, 2001

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matt writes...

Jim R., i think that Greg explained time travel pretty well and it makes sense to me. if you were to go back in time to save JFK one way or another you failed cuz JFK was assasinated! its like Xanatos said, "You won't, because you didn't. Time travels funny, that way." you wouldn,t succeed it saving JFK because you obviously didn't save him, he was killed despite what you would do. another example is "M.I.A." Goliath knew from meeting Leo and Una that Griff didn't come home that night so when he went back in time even if he did everything to keep Griff in his time something else would have happened. Griff would have been killed etc. time is like a river and any attempt to change it will end in failure because if history had been changed you would never had wanted to try and change it in the first place! does all this make sense?

Greg responds...


Response recorded on February 01, 2001

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DrFaust writes...

Re: Working time paradoxes.

I must confess, I've always liked "changing the past" time travel stories. I was indoctrinated by "Back to the Future" at a young age. <shrug>

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a book with Heinlein's "All You Zombies." All the libraries around seem to focus on his monumental novels that hammer home the same points over and over. (Annoying nit I feel obligated to mention: all his characters have the same vocabulary and speech mannerisms. Drives me nuts.)

So, er, about the paradox thingy. Wish I had more to comment on it. There is a certain sense of balance and rightness to a self-fulfilling paradox. Makes for a neater and cleaner story. The first time I came across it was a short story by someone I can't remember called "Up By His Bootstraps" (or something similar). The idea blew me away.

It's almost a kind of aethestic, I think. While there is the appeal of a neat paradox, some people like the messy timeloops. Take Lawrence Miles' Faction Paradox ("Alien Bodies" and "Interference"). One of their forms of punishment is for a member to kill his or her's younger self.

Of course, Simon Bucher-Jones suggested in "Ghost Devices" that a self-cancelling paradox would loop over and over, variating slightly each time until some sequence of events occurred that allowed the universe to go on. Sort of like that mythical first time around that Vashkoda suggested.

Aesthetically pleasing as it may be, I always thought this kind of history was somewhat depressing. How do you *know* it was free will? If there never was a first time, and you've always been doing a particular action, then there's nothing to you say you could change. Which you can't.

Anyhoo, just a thought or two buried in all that.

"...full of sound and fury, signifying nothing..."

Greg responds...

Again, if you're going to look at things that way, one might argue how do you know if you have free will here in the real world.

The answer is, I suppose, that you can't be 100% sure that you do.

But I'm fairly confident that within the realm of things that my will can effect, I have free will.

Nothing's any different in the time-travel stories I've presented. You're simply looking at them from a unique angle.

Response recorded on December 21, 2000

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The Mighty Thor writes...

That was an instereting explanition.

But what then is to distinguish between the world of choice and the world of fate

Say I go back in time and tell said driver to turn left instead of right, what then happens to the video of the right turn? Or does he still turn right?

What I really don't get is, Gargoyles "appears" to be a world of free choice. But the whole phinoex gate thing has shown that there is a predetermined way of things.
Call me crazy but doesn't it seem kinda pointless when no matter what you do the outcome will be the same?

Greg responds...

You're reasoning escapes me.

At least in part, probably, because I don't remember exactly what you're referring to.

You go back in time and tell the guy to turn left. Nothing stopped you from doing that. You exercised free will. He decides to ignore you and he turns right. Nothing forced him to turn right. He just didn't trust your advice. He exercised free will.

The Garg Universe is a world of free choice. But that doesn't mean its occupants control all events anymore than we do in the real world. I may decide to jump off a building and fly. But guess what? I have no wings. I plunge to my death. You want to save me. But you can't go back in time and change it because you don't have a time machine. Does that mean that neither of us had free choice? We just don't have total control over our environment. We're not GODS.

So what is it that you don't get here?

Get past semantic questions like "what then is to distinguish between the world of choice and the world of fate?". And just look at the facts. Certain things happened. THEY HAPPENED. Even with a time machine like the gate you can't change them. It's beyond your power. But that doesn't mean everyone involved didn't have free will. Planes crash. Floods happen. Good stuff. Bad stuff. Not everything is even ABOUT free will. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Response recorded on December 01, 2000

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Todd Jensen writes...

One thought of my own about the "fate/free will" argument. Somebody cited Demona in "Vows" as an example of this, arguing that because her future self who visits her in 975 is evil, Demona's doomed to become evil herself regardless of what she does.

Actually, my own thoughts on this was that the seeds of Demona's future character are already present even before Demona-1995 meets her. After all, she's already working for the Archmage, and stealing for him, suggesting that she'd started down that path already.

Greg responds...


I'm not saying Demona didn't influence Demona. But Demona had a choice. And so did Demona. She chose to do certain things despite Goliath's warnings and so did Demona. :)

Response recorded on December 01, 2000

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Aris Katsaris writes...

Time travel yet again!

Vashkoda> Ah, I think I get better now what you are talking about... I think I had a couple similar ideas when (pre-Gargoyles) I was trying to explain to myself the "working-paradox" of the Star Trek episode Time's Arrow. It's the episode where Data's head is discovered (among other things) in an archaeological dig, which leads Enterprise back in time to discover what happened, which causes Data to lose his head, etc, etc. I had then thought that perhaps once upon a meta-time (or "cycle" of time) , the Enterprise went for a different reasons in the past, there Data lost his head, etc. That's similar to your "missing origin" scenario, I think, right?

But the thing is that the butterfly effect still tears this down. In a sense there can be *no* small adjustments in the timestream, because there's no scientific distinction between "small" or "great" - the tiniest change in the combination of my parent's genes (a literally microscopical change) creates a individual which looks more like my brother, rather than like me. I really feel that a universe which has Xanatos in poor clothing go back in 975 couldn't possibly create a Napoleon (or Xanatos himself) the same way that a universe with Xanatos going back with rich clothing would... *Any* change means *huge* change...

(The Earth without Data's head buried in it couldn't have realistically spawned the same Picard/Riker/Data/Enterprise as the Earth *with* Data's head... Therefore the former idea of a "missing origin" must be disproven...)

Greg responds...

The thing about "Time's Arrow" that stunned me was that they actually DID a working paradox episode. Normally, Star Trek shuns that. In fact, I've gotten so used to them shunning it, that I no longer make that a criteria of enjoyment.

Response recorded on November 21, 2000

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