The philosophy, time travel, and physics of Netflix’s Dark- spoiler-free primer to get started.
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What you are about to read is a spoiler-free piece on Netflix’s original show — Dark. I finished 2 seasons in 36 hours, at the end of it, I was breathing heavily with excitement. I hope the show ends in season 3 or the script’s complexity will lead to a narrative collapse. I speak from experience, I invested 80+ hours with HBO’s Heroes and boy did they disappoint. If they don’t end the show in season 3, I will end my relationship with the show. (Postscript: I finished the third season, and it was amazing!)
Intellectual masturbation is my jam. And Dark is so good that I spread it over a piece of toast and consumed it with carnal delight. But, before we get into physics, time travel, and philosophy, here’s a summary on what the show is like:
- Duration: A person would take 20 hours to finish 2 seasons comfortably
- Theories: Time travel, Gothe’s dualism, Higgs-Boson theory (God particle), String Theory (parallel universe & world), Schwarzschild wormholes (Einstein-Rosen bridges), bootstrap paradox, the theory of causation (Butterfly effect), the concept of free will, Marshall McLuhan on ethics, Fermi’s paradox.
- Mythical reference: Ariadne, Adam & Eve, Biblical idea of apocalypse/rapture
- Pop culture references: Back to the future, A clockwork orange, Heroes, Stranger Things, The Simpsons, Chernobyl,
Philosophy of Dark
The show looks to challenge the duality that we, as a culture, take for granted. Be it Gothe or Marx, we always look at dualism as a way of existence. The series, slowly yet deliberately opens up new avenues of questioning the dual nature of things. This radical thought that there is more than meets the eye was introduced with Einstein’s gravity*. Through this gravity, we achieved the concept of space-time. It is as fundamental as speed = distance/time in the cosmic sense of things.
Let me visually show what I mean,
String theory suggests that everything is interconnected; this is the theory that I feel is at the crux of the show.
What we know is a drop in an ocean.
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Yes, Schrodingers Cat is the major spoiler for the show. But, it literally does not spoil anything for you. Because,
- Most don’t know more about this experiment after the cat hypothesis,
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Introduction to time travel
Introduction of Einstein-Rosen bridges helps us with time travel. Here’s a thought experiment, if you have identical twin sisters with one living on earth and the other on International Space Station (ISS). The one from ISS would be a few hours/minutes/seconds younger than the one from the earth. This is the 2-dimensional explanation when you need to imagine a 3-dimensional sphere of existence. It’s complicated.
Recommended reading: Scott Kelly: ‘I came back from space younger than my twin.’
On Time Travel
The time travel that we see in movies and show deals with causality as the central plot. A few rules of time travel that writers generally follow:
- If a person does ‘x’ then ‘y’ would occur if you do ‘p’ then ‘q’ will happen. This means that everything that we do in the past will have to affect the future. A theory that was used extensively in the movie series-> back to the future.
- At a point of time, only one instance of the human can exist on a plain. If two or more instances live & interact in the same plain, then that would mean imminent disaster. A theory that The Flash fans are very aware of.
- Origin is essential or like epidemiologists say -> patient zero in all settings, where and how are always answered but not here.
How Dark deals with time travel
- What is to happen will happen. The end is determined by the past, changing that will not affect the defined future even if you make small changes to your being. This is different because, in most other usages of time travel, you see that only one instance of the person exists in that plain. “The beginning is the end, the end is the beginning.” How the writers can solve, this is what I am keen to watch or read.
- They have done away with bootstrap paradox. The book on time travel exists that is it! You are not allowed to question that. It exists, and we don’t know how, where, when and why.
- Travelling to the past is a valid option and most times necessary for future events to make sense. Ordinary people get stuck in a specific time and age it out there. However, Sic Mundus (travellers) have the option to scoot from one time to another.
- Location, location, location. Like in H.G. Wells Time machine, a person enters and exits period at the same place. In this case, the sites are the caves, nuclear reactor and the church.
Philosophy of Dark
The show, however, is not purely about time-travel but about morality and mortality. Dark by Netflix makes the viewer deal with the concept of free will, the emotions that drive our decision making, and the pain we try to escape. At the end of it all, you are left dealing with the consequence and origination argument. While we deal with the philosophical discussion -> is what the character doing correct? We realise that the characters have moved past that when they say, “the paradoxical knot is more significant than the protagonist.” This is not the only situation where viewers morality is questioned. We further are left in an ethical dilemma when we discover the truth of the family tree.
The incestuous nature of being
Like all series based on time travel, in Dark, we are shown a future where things have gone horribly wrong. The town of Winden at first feels like a progressive town but ends up being the German hill-billy version of The Simpsons. Yes, we get to see a version of Mr Burns.
Time traveller’s tech
The economy of the town of Winden is based around the nuclear power plant. It provides employment for the majority of the city. For a series based in 2019–20, they are using iPhone 7 and unknown Android phones. Only once does a character question the tech used by a time traveller from the future. In the larger scheme of things, I want to let go of this because it is immaterial, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. A logical thing for travellers (Sic Mundus or not) would be taking pictures of places they visit.
This will not be the last piece that I am writing on the series. It has blown my mind to smithereens so I thought I’d start with the philosophy before we take a journey through time -> together!
We are perfect for each other,
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
*What does one mean by Einstein’s gravity?
While it is general knowledge that Newton discovered gravity. It is a misnomer. In reality, the gravity model that we follow today is Einstein’s.