Alternate Timelines and Yesterday (Spoilers)

As I mentioned in another post, I loved the Yesterday movie. It left a lot of questions and speculations, if you care to ask or entertain them. I’ll try not to be entirely specific, but the spoiler warning is in case I drift into spoilage or you consider some of the roundabout chatter to spoil things even though it’s more about storytelling mechanics and such.

Alternate timelines are a science fiction staple. It is common to ask “what if thing didn’t happen” or “…happened this other way” and tell a story from there. However, you can find yourself in an alternate¬† reality and you know – if not instantly – things are different. However, you might not know the full suite of things that are different. You might not know the point of departure that led to those things. Finding out some of that can be part of a story. Leaving things open to conjecture can be fun, too.

In a story idea I started writing and didn’t finish but am still working on and improving in my head, the thing was not only a different timeline, but in the past relative to the timeline of the travelers. The mechanism was a portal of unknown origin. Things being different becomes a big part of the story, even as some things are familiar.

As I came up with things that would be different, in a local area to local people, I came up with a series of how could that be, and eventually I looked at what might be the point of departure. Even though that may never be known to the people involved, I wanted to know. But once I knew, it made me think of all the other things that could be different, which helped give me my theory of timeline inelasticity.

Well, Yesterday is nothing less than a story of crossed timelines as entered unceremoniously by the star of the film, but never explained. It would hardly surprise those who haven’t seen the movie yet to know that no Beatles isn’t the only thing we learn is different. The nature of things that are different sets the expectation of how far back the point of departure goes. In the case of the movie, possibly farther back than the one I came up with for my story fuel. Possibly hundreds of years. At least to the 1800s. It doesn’t explore to any real degree the knock on effects of the Beatles themselves having been eliminated as a cultural and social influence. It’s highly focused on being the story it is, and there might be a lesson in that.

That it’s an alternate timeline begs some questions. How did Jack get there? Presumably the other timeline exists. Did that Jack die and his consciousness and memories went to this Jack? Does that Jack remember no Beatles and find himself surprised to be in a timeline with them? How related to all this was the global power flicker?

If they are playing it as not an alternate timeline, but one that was miraculously altered, it’s not just a memory wipe of sorts. There are physical effects. Jack’s Beatles albums are simply absent from his collection. One would expect anything like memorabilia, toys, posters, anything inspired by them to be gone. That’s easy and even mandatory in an alternate timeline that is physically different. I just can’t see it being the same timeline and same people. Easier the other way, for a given person to transfer over and replace the existing analogue, or for the consciousness of the two to swap between otherwise extremely close timelines.

From there, thinking about a different timeline, you can think about how any given life might have been different. You could go crazy doing that. Fun!

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