“Time in a Bottle:” Vintage Soap Meets Vintage SF


By Brantley Thompson Elkins


“In Time in a Bottle” (2001), second in a series of “books” for Port Charles that more or less adopt the format of the Spanish telenovela as opposed to the more open-ended stories traditional to soap opera, head writers James Harmon Brown and Barbara Esenstein build on the plot complications of the science fiction time travel story by having Frank Scanlon (Jay Pickett) inadvertently erase his lover Karen Wexler (Marie Wilson) from existence.

Frank has been communicating with a troubled teenager of 1973, using a strange old computer he and Karen picked up at a charity auction. What he doesn’t realize is that the teenager who calls herself “Cookie” is actually Karen’s mother Rhonda Wexler. Frank becomes obsessed with helping Cookie, and Karen is increasingly jealous of that obsession. Despite promising more than once to break off contact, he continues their exchanges.

At a crucial moment Frank advises Cookie to stay away from the Spring Fling – a dance that led to a one-night stand with Scott Baldwin and the birth of Karen. Not only does Karen vanish, but Frank is the only one who remembers there ever was a Karen. How can he get her back, if everyone who might help him thinks he must be crazy? Marty McFly in Back to the Future (1985) had “Doc” Brown and that magical Delorean to get his fat out of the fire, after almost erasing himself from existence. But Frank is all alone. Or is he?

The idea of a mutable past would once have been hard for a general audience to accept, but movies like The Terminator (1984) and Back to the Future have made it familiar to millions of viewers who have never read genre science fiction. Even so, there are special challenges and opportunities involved in adapting an sf story to the soap opera medium. For the story of Frank is part of an ongoing story that involves a complex web of relationships stretching back for decades – not only on Port Charles itself but on its parent soap General Hospital.

Even in the immediate present of Port Charles, Karen’s existence is essential not only to the happiness of Frank, but to the survival of Arianna Shapur – who will soon die if she can’t get a liver transplant that only Karen can provide. Arianna is the wife of Dr. Ian Thornhart, who went through a sham marriage in a vain effort to protect her from her brother Ben – sent by their Middle Eastern family to carry out an “honor killing” because she had been raped back home. Ian is actually in love with fellow doctor Eve Lambert, but he feels responsible for Arianna, especially after Ben sees through his ruse and stabs her nearly to death. Eve is pregnant with Ian’s child but, feeling abandoned, chooses not to tell him and even considers a proposal from another colleague, Chris Ramsey: they aren’t in love, but they might be able to make a good life together for the sake of the child. 

Whereas “Time in a Bottle” addressed all these issues, there were many others that it could not address –- because to do so would have left the soap audience in the same position as George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), surrounded by an utterly strange world. When Port Charles debuted in 1997, for example, Karen saved the lives of her fellow interns from Greg Cooper, who had taken them hostage. But Cooper had been bumped from the intern program to make room for her – that was what set him off. Would he have gone mad if Karen had never existed, or would have become a doctor? In what we can call Time Line #1, Cooper went on to commit the General Homicide Murders; if he hadn’t, John Kanelos (whose widow Courtney later married Frank; they broke up in 2000) and others killed in Time Line #1 would be alive in Time Line #2 – the one inadvertently created by Frank.

Yet in what science fiction fans would regard as a classic time paradox, Frank himself wouldn’t be alive in 2001: he was nearly killed in a fall in Time Line #1, and was saved only by DL-56, a drug invented by Karen. If Frank had died, he could never have fathered Julie Devlin’s daughter Christina, who – abandoned at birth and later taken in by Lucy Coe – became the focus of a bitter feud between Lucy and her then-husband Scott on one hand and Julie and her then-husband Chris on the other (Julie eventually fled town with Christina, but the aftereffects were still felt.). Frank’s brother Joe probably wouldn’t be a doctor today but for Karen, who stood up for him before a review board after he performed a risky operation during the hostage situation to save a nurse’s life. 

Observant fans took note of all these problem, and still others related to Karen’s life on General Hospital before Port Charles was spun off. The lives of major characters like Sonny Corinthos, “Jagger” Cates and Brenda Barrett would also have been impacted by Karen’s erasure from existence. So would Scott’s: he has it in for Sonny because the local mob boss once had Karen working in his strip club, and that antipathy has its own consequences in the present. In any case, however, General Hospital has its own continuing story lines, which rarely intersect with those of its lower-rated daughter soap – to have interrupted or altered those story lines to conform to Time Line #2 on Port Charles would have been impractical and irresponsible – it would surely have confused and outraged General Hospital fans. 

In theory, it would have been possible to paper over the problem with by invoking the Law of Conservation of Reality, invented by science fiction writer Fritz Leiber for his Change War series. “Change the past and you start a wave of changes moving futurewards, but it damps out mighty fast,” one of Leiber’s warriors explains, because the inertia of the space-time continuum works to make it adjust to minimize the impact of any change. In the universe of Port Charles, that would mean somebody else invented DL-56 to save Frank’s life, someone still committed the General Homicide murders, and so on. But even if Brown and Esensten had been aware of Leiber’s “law,” they couldn’t have exploited for their story because, unlike Back to the Future, the Change War series isn’t familiar to the mass audience. To play fair with soap viewers, they had to work within the knowledge and expectations of those viewers.

That was exactly what they accomplished with “Time in a Bottle.” Working within the constraints that bound them, they were able to fashion a story that followed the rules of time travel in genre science fiction but also took advantage of the milieu of soap opera: the same web of relationships that created so many difficulties. Their immediate model was the movie Frequency (2000), which both had seen shortly before they drafted their own story line. Brown also cited Jack Finney’s novel Time And Again (1970), although he got the title mixed up with that of another time travel movie, Time After Time (1979). Pickett, playing Frank, also saw the obvious parallels to Back to the Future and It’s a Wonderful Life. 

In Frequency, police officer John Sullivan finds an old ham radio in a trunk at the family home and starts playing with it. Through some freak atmospheric effect, he comes into contact with a man who turns out to be his father Frank, a fireman who was killed in 1969 – but whom he can now save with a timely warning. Only John inadvertently changes the past in other ways: Frank’s wife Julia, a nurse, who in the original time line was away from work because of his death, saves the life of a man who, unknown to her, is a serial killer – with her as one of his next victims. Now John and Frank must work together in 1999 and 1969 to save Julia, catch the killer and set things right.

A number of reviewers, including Roger Ebert, were confused by Frequency, failing to appreciate its internal logic. Yet the movie was a breakout success with the audience. That was largely because novice screenwriter Toby Emmerich knew what he was doing and how he was approaching the audience on both a conscious and a subsconcious level. He set forth that approach in an interview for the Writers Guild of America on-line newsletter:

"Because it was a time-travel movie--where nobody travels through time, but where information from the future went to the past, changing the past and therefore changing the future--it was like a house of cards in terms of the rules and logic and the ripple effect of the past changing and impacting the future. That was very challenging, because it wasn't just about having an internal logic, it was about having a logic that somehow felt intuitively correct to the audience, that the audience would accept and therefore stay with the story."

Brown and Esensten followed Emmerich’s lead in details of the internal logic for  “Time in a Bottle.” The computer Frank Scanlon calls “Nellie” plays the same part as the Sullivans’ ham radio – and the fact that it can send messages through time is again a freak effect that has to be taken on faith. Just as in Frequency, Frank doesn’t realize at first that he’s talking with someone from his past. But just as Frank Sullivan can prove it with an accidental cigarette burn on the radio table in 1969 that instantly appears in 1999, Cookie can prove it by making a carving of her name on a windowsill at Kelly’s Diner in 1973 that instantly appears in 2001. Cookie also leaves a message hidden behind a loose brick, just as Frank Sullivan leaves a wallet with the killer’s fingerprints under a loose board in a window seat so that John can retrieve it 30 years later and identify the killer.

But “Time in a Bottle” wasn’t just a clone of Frequency. For one thing, Brown and Esensten gave their story an entirely different structure. Whereas Frank and John Sullivan figure out what the situation is within a day, Frank Scanlon and Cookie “talk” back and forth for weeks without having a clue that they are living in different years – until they arrange to meet at Kelly’s and each thinks the other has stood them up. It is only then that Cookie carves her name on the windowsill – in part from boredom over having had to listen to the news about Watergate, she later explains over the computer. “Everybody goes to jail and Nixon resigns,” Frank quips. “What year are you living in?” He won’t believe her at first – but then he has the windowsill carving tested for age, and when he asks her to leave that message behind the loose brick, it proves to be the clincher,

Brown and Esensten also cleverly exploited the movie parallels to misdirect viewers. Because Frequency centered on saving the life of a loved one who had died in the original time line, it was natural to assume that the same would be true of “Time in a Bottle.” And there was an obvious candidate for saving: Rhonda’s older daughter Carolyn, who was a dead ringer for Karen and was killed in a traffic accident in 1973. When “Cookie” first appeared on screen, she was seen only from behind – and while she had light hair as opposed to dark like Carolyn (in an old photo), it was still possible to believe that she was Carolyn with a dye job, especially since Carolyn’s gravestone reveals that her middle name was “Cooke” – Rhonda’s maiden name. The very night Frank and Karen are supposed to meet Cookie at Kelly’s, Rhonda shows up there – having hit the bottle because of renewed guilt feelings over Carolyn’s death (She was supposed to have been with her that day, but was off trying to snag Scott instead.).

Eventually, the head writers revealed enough clues for the audience to catch on to who “Cookie” really was. But Frank never did. All he knew was that the girl was desperate – distraught over the loss of her “best friend” (Carolyn, but Frank didn’t know that.), scorned by the boy she had a crush on (Scott, but Frank didn’t know that, either.), made fun of by fellow high school students because nobody wanted to take her to the dance. She was being abused by her drunken inventor father, and turning to drink herself. And here she was telling Frank about wanting to go to the dance anyway and pick up some boy. What was he to do? Karen, who had had trouble believing Cookie is real, warned him that if he was really  in touch with the past, he might cause unforeseen consequences by interfering – but his concern for Cookie overcame any caution. 

As bad luck would have it, Frank’s tampering with the past takes effect at the worst possible moment. Karen, who knows that she is a match for Arianna but has a past history of drug addiction and fears that she might suffer a relapse from the effects of the anesthetic if she goes through with the liver transplant operation, has decided to take that risk. But as she walks towards a phone at General Hospital to inform Frank of her decision, she fades and disappears.

When Frank arrives at the hospital later and asks for Dr. Wexler, a nurse tells him there’s no such person. He figures it’s just because she’s a new hire. But then he gets the same reaction from his brother, who was once engaged to Karen. At first he thinks Joe must be joking, and Joe thinks the same about him. When he asks about Rhonda, Joe remembers her only as “a drunk lady we used to do chores for when we were kids.” Frank, wary of the impression he is making, backs off his story, claiming it was a practical joke – but Joe is still worried about him.

For a while, he keeps trying to find Karen. But somebody else answers to “her” phone, and there is a stranger living in “her” apart,ment. Eventually, he tracks down Rhonda at Jake’s Tavern in the middle of a bender. A daughter? “You think if I had a daughter, I’d end up like this?” she asks him. She seems to have only hazy recollections of the past, but she remembers the computer – and that “somebody” stopped her from going to that dance. Too late, Frank knows that she was “Cookie” – and that he was that “somebody.”

Through sheer persistence, Frank jogs Rhonda’s memory. Oh yes, she remembers her invisible friend, and their conversations and the note behind the brick and that last night when he told her not to go to the dance. But that’s just what she doesn’t want to remember. “Your stupid computer and you ruined my life,” she cries. When she told father she’d been talking with a man from the future, he had her locked up in a mental hospital, where she was given shock treatments. And now here’s Frank, trying to dredge it all up again: “Not only did you ruin my life, but now you want to come and finish the job.” (note, May 1)

Frank later breaks into the now boarded-up den in the Wexler basement to find the computer, which in Time Line #2 never left there – and which no longer works. But Rhonda calls Joe, who has just been talking with psychiatrist Kevin Collins (Jon Lindstrom) about Frank’s condition. Joe and Kevin come to take Frank away; it’s either them or the cops, Kevin warns him. In a counseling session, Kevin tries to humor Frank – going so far as to do a sketch of Karen based on his description. He even suggests that his father Victor, an ex-CIA man with international contacts, try to locate Karen. 

One might have expected Victor Collins (Nicholas Pryor) to play a crucial role in Frank’s quest to bring back Karen, Although his son Kevin Collins is a hard-headed realist, Victor is an eccentric with a colorful past in espionage who is open to off-trail ideas and has access to CIA data and technology. When Port Charles fan TammyR first realized that Frank was getting into the Twilight Zone with that computer, she posted: “I think it’s time to call in Victor. This is right up his alley."

In what was plainly intended as a joke at the time, but could later have been taken as a teaser, Victor had kidded his son about “CIA-issue time machines. Kevin was in distress at the time, blaming himself as usual for all his troubles and wondering what he had done wrong and whether he could have changed his fate by going back in time. Forget about it, Victor advised him; those CIA time machines aren’t reliable anyway.  In the context of Port Charles, it was an unreliable idea in any case, For Victor to have had access to a time machine would have raised questions beyond the scope of the immediate story. 

If such a device were available to help Frank bring back Karen, why couldn’t it have been used for other missions – such as preventing the General Homicide murders, which impacted Kevin himself because they mimicked those in a novel he had published and cast him under suspicion? Even if the time machine had just been invented, and had been destroyed at the end of “Time in a Bottle,” the CIA would still have the design, and the device could be reproduced. In the end, Victor’s role was thus limited to the scientific test confirming that the “Cookie” inscription at Kelly’s was indeed about 25-30 years old in Time Line #1 – and failing to find a trace of Karen Wexler in Time Line #2..

Brown and Esensten’s solution to the problem of finding someone to believe Frank turned instead on the soap opera web of relationships. During the previous book/telenovela, “Fate,” Ian (Thorsten Kaye) and Eve (Julie Pinson) had been kidnapped by a mad billionaire who wanted them to develop a cure for his fatal disease. Already attracted to each other as comrades-in-arms during the investigation of a Robin Cook-like medical mystery, they acknowledged their love during and after their captivity. But Ian, noble to a fault, stopped short of consummating that love, telling Eve that he wanted her “Not just for tonight. For Always.

Frank would never have known about that vow, except that Eve had later related it to Karen, who in turn related it to him. Ian doesn’t remember Karen, any more than anyone else. Yet when Frank reveals that he knows about that vow to Eve, his skepticism is shaken. He wants to help, especially since Arianna’s life is at stake and Frank insists that Karen can save her – and as it happens, he has the means: a drug called morca that had already enabled him and Eve to explore their past lives and discover that they are destined to love each other through all eternity.

Conceptually, morca was the weakest link in “Time in a Bottle.” It was supplied by a native chief from a tropical island where Ian once worked as part of Doctors Without Limits and where he and Eve had recently shared their past lives idyll. The Chief was such an embarrassing stereotype that one wonders how Willie C. Carpenter, the black actor who played him, got through his scenes without reaching for the Pepto Bismol. But, quite apart from that, a drug that had induced past-life regression was now being touted as the means to literally travel in time – sort of. Frank would somehow be physically present in both 2001 and 1973, only in 2001 he would appear to be in a coma.

What made it work on the intuitive level was that, unlike a time machine, morca was a special dispensation, available only because Ian was in the chief’s good graces – and which in any case could function only through the power of love. Once the story was over, the Chief would never be seen again and neither would morca – indeed, one of the paradoxes of Time Line #3 resulting from his journey was that Frank had never gone to Ian, and that the chief had never given him the drug. All the potential complications of time travel beyond the needs of the story were thus erased, just as Karen was erased in Time Line #2. Even in a mystical New Age variation of time travel, Brown and Esensten played by the rules.

They also played by the rules in the focus of Frank’s journey into the past: “I have to go back in time and pull that computer apart so Rhonda can go to the dance,” he told Ian and the Chief. What could he have done if had arrived in 1973 on, say, the very night of the Spring Fling? Told Cookie that the future depended on her going to the dance anyway and having a one-night stand? To bring Karen back, he must recreate the original chain of events as closely as possible – and that means disabling the computer before Cookie has a chance to use it in the first place.

Once Frank arrives in 1973, his story plays on some of the familiar tropes of time travel from Back to the Future. Just as Marty McFly confused people in the past by asking for a Tab, Frank gets funny looks when he mentions latte, bottled water and cel phones. The very first people he meets are his mother (pregnant with his brother Joe) and himself as a child. But from there on, the story is dead serious: he has arrived on March 7, the day Carolyn was killed. The Chief had warned him not to try to change anything else in the past, but Frank is clearly tempted to save Carolyn anyway – only by failing to realize in time that the traffic accident is about to happen does he escape that temptation. Had Carolyn lived, she might have talked Cookie out of going to the dance, or else Cookie would have been in a better frame of mind and decided against it anyway.

Frank has his work cut out for him in any case. In a brief meeting with Carolyn at Kelly’s, he asks her to introduce him to Cookie – only she thinks he’s some kind of nut. When Cookie and her father Harry encounter him holding the body of Carolyn, whom he has comforted in her dying moments, they don’t know what to make of him – and when he keeps after Cookie, Harry figures him for some creep on the make for an underage girl. Mary Scanlon suspects he isn’t who or what he says he is, but what can he tell her? He tells Cookie he’s looking for his lost love, and that it has something to do with the computer in her basement – only Harry’s invention hasn’t arrived yet. And when it does, and he breaks into the basement to wreck it, Harry knocks him out, ties him up and calls the cops. 

Because he knew about the computer, Cookie has come to trust him enough to free him. But now he’s on the run, without any chance of fulfilling his quest. In the end, all depends on Cookie herself. The only way to convince her to help him get back to the computer is to come clean with her – to confess that he is from the future, and that finding his lost love depends on the computer. Convinced by his knowledge of her favorite songs, and her crush on Scott, she asks about her own future. Only he can’t tell the troubled girl, because that in itself would change the future, “It all happens for a reason, Cookie. We can’t mess with fate,” he tells her. “I can promise that you won’t be alone. I give you my word on that.” 

With Cookie running interference for him after her father arrives home, Frank struggles to destroy the computer. But that computer is remarkably resistant in 1973, just as it was in 2001 when he and Karen had tried repeatedly to disable it. As Harry Wexler breaks into the basement, Frank – still trying to remove a tube from the assembly – faints from exhaustion and finds himself in a sort of netherworld – a vast white room. Despairing, he is convinced that his quest has failed. But then the blank white background dissolves into that of a familiar corridor at General Hospital – and Karen is standing there before him. She can’t quite fathom his joy; in Time Line #3, they have never been apart. No matter; his quest has succeeded. The story is over, Or is it?

While Brown and Esensten have been faithful to the rules of time travel, they have also been faithful to the rules of soap opera. That begins with the role of Ian and the Chief, but it doesn’t end there. Kevin Collins, although he considers Frank certifiable, has done a new sketch of “Karen” from memory after Frank made off with the first. When he comes to counsel Rhonda at the hospital, where she is laid up after another binge, he notices that “Karen” looks just like Rhonda’s sister Carolyn in the old photo. But when he asks her about that and Frank’s story, she becomes hysterical and won’t tell him anything – still, his skepticism about Karen’s reality begins to waver.

Lucy Coe (Lynn Herring), Kevin’s true love, is a New Age type who’ll believe in practically anything. She argues that Karen must be real – perhaps she was given up for adoption at birth. Kevin thinks that Frank may have seen Carolyn when he was a child, or even witnessed the accident (which they learn about by searching old hospital records), and gotten the image of “Karen” that way. But Mary Scanlon insists that Frank never saw the accident and would not remember Carolyn. As for Rhonda, she tells them there’s no way booze could have so damaged her memory that she wouldn’t remember having a child. Yet they find that computer in the Wexler basement – and an old high school yearbook in which Rhonda had cut and pasted Scott’s picture next to hers and drawn a heart around them,

Tantalized by these clues supporting Frank’s story, Kevin and Lucy head over to see Scott. Kevin tries to play it cagey, but true to her wacky self Lucy lets the cat out of the bag -- blurting that Frank had told them Scott and Rhonda had a daughter named Karen. That just proves Frank is crazy, Scott tells them; he barely remembers Rhonda because they didn’t run in the same crowd, and he certainly never slept with her, although she does think that she may have had a crush on him. She’d asked him to the dance, but he shot her down, and later felt a little guilty about how her life went downhill. But then he comes up with a stunner: “About a week after her sister died, she was saying she was talking to some guy from the future.” (note, May 18)

In 1973, we have seen Cookie on the phone with Scott, telling him exactly that. Her conversation with him is part of Time Line #2, so of course Scott remembers it in 2001. But Kevin and Lucy would never have learned about it except for being part of that complex web of relationships that is the essence of soap opera storytelling. Kevin, who had earlier seen through Frank’s cover story about a fishing trip to Alaska but let him go do whatever he was going to do, now realizes that Frank must indeed be trying to reach the past – and that Ian must have something to do with it. When he and Lucy confront Ian, he tries at first to stonewall them, but Lucy soon finds Frank lying comatose in a back room – and also clearly in a state of extreme agitation; his body convulsing.

“He did it. He’s time tripping!” Lucy exclaims. But all Kevin can see is that Frank is at death’s door. What in a straight science fiction time travel story would have been a single climax – the success or failure of Frank’s mission in the past – becomes instead a double climax, as Kevin and Ian and Lucy and the Chief argue about the crisis in the present. Kevin suggests waiting no more than 24 hours before taking Frank to the hospital, and the rest go along. But the next afternoon, Frank is so far gone that he insists on an immediate injection to bring him around. At that very moment, in 1973, Frank is struggling to kill the computer, even though Karen herself appears to him in a vision: “Let go, Frank. It’s killing you.” The last we see of 2001 in Time Line #2, Frank’s injection doesn’t seem to be working, and Kevin is giving him oxygen.

In a coda to “Time in a Bottle,” Frank tells Karen a fairy tale version of his story, which she comes to suspect is the truth. For in Time Line #3, both Rhonda and Mary remember Frank’s visit to the past, even though they don’t recognize him in the present. Rhonda credits Frank’s friendship with having convinced her to go to the dance, which led to motherhood – something she has never regretted despite the circumstances. And Mary, all unknowing, supplies the proof: a box of old photos, one of them taken in 1973 by the child Frank that shows Mary and the adult Frank together. Seeing that picture, Karen knows at last what Frank has done for her. But no one else must know, and they decide to burn it.

All neat and tidy – or is it? Frank has created Time Line #3 by destroying the computer in 1973 – or has he? Everything Kevin and Lucy did in Time Line #2 has been erased – or has it? In the elliptical world of soap opera, things are never necessarily what they seem, and there are some obvious anomalies here. The last we see of the computer in 1973, its monitor is still lit – suggesting that Frank hasn’t destroyed it after all. Not only that, but it’s back in his garage in 2001 – complete with the new monitor he installed in Time Line #1 to replace the original. Clearly he must have been working with Nellie in Time Line #3, or it would still have the old monitor, which was used in 1973 scenes shot no more than a few days earlier. But that’s only a minor element in the remaining mystery.

All along, the greater mystery in “Time in a Bottle” has been what has given Nellie its odd capability and (unlike the ham radio in Frequency) seeming indestructibility. When Kevin and Lucy visit Rhonda’s basement in Time Line #2, Lucy – who has shown psychic talents before – senses a strange energy about the computer. Moreover, some of the messages Frank receives though Nellie don’t seem to have come from Cookie. Just after having found proof that she lives in 1973, Frank is angry with her because she has come between him and Karen. At that very moment a new message appears that can’t have come from Cookie: “You’re the only friend she has.”

That message can’t have been a script error in light of the other anomalies. The clear implication is that the computer is haunted – by Carolyn, who in the afterlife just as in life has been trying to look out for her kid sister. Only, Carolyn/Nellie can’t foresee the future any more than Frank -- and that leads her to make the same mistake as he does, leading to the erasure of her niece. What had seemed a straightforward story with a straightforward resolution thus becomes more complicated. Perhaps it was Carolyn herself who, finally realizing the object of Frank’s journey to 1973, shut off communication between 1973 and 2001 even after Frank himself failed. Perhaps Kevin actually did save Frank’s life, although he cannot remember it now and never will.

Carolyn Wexler, remember, was created for “Time in a Bottle.” Rhonda and Karen and Scott are long-established characters, but they had never before so much as mentioned Carolyn. And while her death weighs on Rhonda during the course of the story, she seems to be a red herring in the actual plot – we see her in only a few scenes (with Marie Wilson doubling for the role in a wig) that lead to her fatal encounter with a car. Why create Carolyn in the first place? Why make such a fuss about her if she has so little to do with the story?

Because she had more to do with the story than Brown and Esensten let on, that’s why. Because she played a vital part in saving her mother, and Karen, and reconciling them with Frank at the last. And while that chapter of Port Charles seems closed, Nellie is still there. Perhaps Carolyn too is still there. Soaps are always revisiting stories, especially when they have to do with family relationships – functional or dysfunctional. 

What prognosis now?


NOTE (updated Oct. 6, 2016): This was originally written for a Port Charles fan site in 2001, soon after the “Time in a Bottle” story arc concluded. But as with so many teasers in soap opera, there was never a follow-up to Nellie. Later in 2001, Port Charles began a series of story arcs based on vampires and other supernatural manifestations. As also often happens in soap opera, relationships – including that of Frank and Karen – were destroyed in the process (Karen was cynically killed off.). Ratings, always poor, continued to decline, and the show was canceled in late 2003. Soap operas generally have faded since 2001, due both to poor writing and being overshadowed by real-life versions like Keeping Up with the Kardashians. As for Frequency, it was rebooted as a TV series Oct. 5, 2016 to mixed reviews. Another time travel series, Timeless, had debuted two days earlier.