The World Spinning ‘Round- Time Loops and Regret

Do you ever stay up late at night, lying in the dark, with some event or conversation from the day playing over and over in your head? Each time, you think of some alternate way it could have happened, some other word you could have used, some detour you could have taken, some tip you should have remembered. And each time, you feel sicker and sicker with yourself because it’s too late for that now. It’s finished. It happened. It’s done.

Maybe you’ve wished, in those dark, weak moments, that you would go back and change things. I know I have. There’s something agonizing about the hindsight we’ve been given as humans- tied up in time, trapped moving forward. We can see how things could- should, even- have gone differently, but we can do nothing about it other than remember and regret.

It’s always been a tantalizing concept for fiction (especially speculative fiction). What if you had a chance to do that thing over again? What if you had infinite chances? Probably the first film that comes to many people’s minds when this subject is brought up is Groundhog Day. While it’s more of a romantic, inspirational comedy than hard science fiction, it has strong speculative themes.

Interestingly enough, Bill Murray’s protagonist doesn’t have much regret at the end of his day at the beginning. Not until he’s repeated the same day over and over again does he realize that something needs to change. Unlike most of us, though, he has the ability to change them. It’s an interesting look at how one day can cause us to rethink our entire lives.

Stargate SG-1 episode, “Window of Opportunity,” parodies the film in a more traditional science fiction setting. When radioactive interference from a strange alien device sends a network of stargates into a time loop, Jack O’Neill and Teal’c are the only people with memories of previous loops. Through a hilarious series of missteps, they figure out the source of the interference. The story ends with a touching twist that revolves around a bere

aved scientist. The episode poses the question: if you had to go through the pain of losing a loved one all over again, would it be worth it to go back and be with them?

The ability to repeat days- to loop time- would bring with it all sorts of questions: is time fixed, or fluid? Is there such a thing as destiny or fate? But perhaps the closest and most personal question would be: if you could go back and change the things that caused you pain and regret, would you? Would it be right?

For now, though, I suppose that all we can do on those long, dark nights, are accept, forget, and maybe even fall asleep.