There are decisions we must all make that will alter the course of our lives. Some are simple, which require very little attention, such as ‘should I go to college?’ Others, including what mode of transportation would be best for a time traveling vessel, are much more significant and require an existential approach.
For Bill & Ted of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, prior to embarking on their time traveling quest from the suburbs of San Dimas, the decision was made for them and philosophical thinking was not required (or possible). Bill & Ted’s adventure was the result of a high school history report, and in some regards, a desperate attempt to avoid having Ted’s dad send him to military school in Alaska. Since history was never Bill & Ted’s forte, unless you think Van Halen was a key figure in the Renaissance or Baroque period, they needed something ‘other worldly’ to intervene and spare them from a failing grade. Their prayers were answered by the saxophone playing wizard (notice the word ‘wizard,’ this will come up later), Rufus, who was sent by the space-time continuum gods to help the ‘great ones’ write their oral history report. Their mode of transportation, which was a byproduct of over-the-top ‘80s cinema, happened to be a phone booth equipped with an antenna and enchanted Yellow Pages. Unlike time traveling devices from films like Back to the Future and The Time Machine, Bill & Ted’s phone booth had magic powers and ignored the existence of science. Controlled by space gods represented by Rufus (which means it never required fuel), the phone booth hurled the founding members of ‘Wyld Stallyns’ through radiant wormholes in the sky into some of the most epic moments in history. Apparently, the people in San Dimas never noticed the clouds parting for a flying phone booth carrying two teenagers and some of history’s most famous people. So strange!
Doctor Emmett “Doc” Brown had a different approach. The mad scientist, hailing from Hill Valley, spent decades inventing a flux capacitor in order to travel through time and pay tribute to his hero, the great Albert Einstein. ‘Doc,’ as he’s so affectionately known, made the scientific decision and used a DeLorean DMC-12, with it’s stainless steel construction, as his time travel vessel of choice. The DeLorean, unlike Bill & Ted’s magical mode of transport, was an engineered automobile designed to withstand (don’t ask me how) a nuclear reaction in order to generate 1.21 gigawatts of electricity and travel ‘Back to the Future.’ The DeLorean burned rubber as it sliced through time and took Doc’s friend, Marty McFly, on an adventure to repair the altered history of Hill Valley. Unlike the phone booth from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the DeLorean was a stylish piece of ‘80s decadence that had both scientific components (flux capacitor and stainless steel shell) and some flare (it was a DeLorean, after all) . Then again, the DeLorean wasn’t controlled by space-time continuum gods and never managed to give Marty two beautiful princesses from space. So I ask you, is it science or magic that captures your imagination?
Let me pose an example that provides some background relating to my question. Star Wars fans love the epic space journey of Luke Skywalker. His Jedi powers, which include telepathy and mind control, are the essence of what makes a Jedi something more than just a Padawan learner. But if you call these powers ‘magical,’ you will not only offend a Star Wars geek, you might just get him or her to cut you in half with a lightsaber. Trust me, as a Star Wars geek myself, I have never heard the word ‘magical’ associated with anything from the universe created by George Lucas. Everything from Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon to the spiritual powers of the Jedi are explainable (to some degree) by a combination of science, politics, and military strategy. For example, in the Star Wars universe, a cloaked being that shoots ligthening from his fingertips is referred to as an ‘Emperor.’ In Harry Potter, for example, he is Voldemort the Dark Wizard. See the difference? It’s a matter of ingenuity and science for Star Wars, while in the world of Harry Potter, it is a matter of magic and birthright. The worshipping teens that adore Harry Potter revel in the magical elements that make the story of the boy wizard so special. Generally, these same individuals don’t really ‘dig’ the science-fiction and military elements (the ‘Rebels’ waging a clandestine war against the ‘Empire’) in Star Wars. ‘Potter Heads’ worship spells and wizardry – they have no need for walking robots, mechanical swords, and the fighter pilots from the Star Wars universe.
My example above was just a roundabout way of asking a simple question: Do you prefer the magical time traveling phone booth of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure? Or are you a gearhead who can’t get enough of the scientifically constructed stainless steel DeLorean from Back to the Future? Believe it or not, this isn’t very different from asking, “Stars Wars or Harry Potter?”
So which is it? Will science of magic determine your preferred mode of time travel? The GREATEST QUESTION EVER ASKED doesn’t require logic to be answered. It only requires imagination.