By Velvet Belle Tree

Flashforward was a 2009-10 TV show based on a 1999 book of the same name by Robert J. Sawyer.

Both the novel and show begin in 2009.  In the novel, Lloyd Simcoe is lead scientist at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN when they run the first experiment where the energy of the collision is equal to that which occurred right after the Big Bang.  At the exact start of the experiment, everyone in the world loses consciousness for a little over two minutes and they have visions of themselves a little more than 21 years in the future.  Except those who wonÕt be alive then.  And millions of people are killed: those that are in vehicles during the blackout, in planes that are landing or taking off, those hit by vehicles.

When permission is obtained from the U.N. to repeat the experiment after giving ample warning (called Operation Klaatu), nothing happens.  The explanation is that right before the flashforward, there was a huge neutrino burst.  There is a explanation for this involving an event in a distant galaxy.

Besides the discovery of the explanation for the flashforward, the novel is concerned with the effect of the visions on various people, those who want their flashforward to happen and those that donÕt, and whether the visions will inevitably take place.  One man, a struggling writer had a vision that heÕll be working a menial job, and winds up committing suicide.  One of the researchers didnÕt have a vision and learned from others that heÕd be murdered right before the day of the visions.  He spends the next 21 years trying to solve, and prevent, his murder instead of truly living his life, although he does win the hoped for Nobel Prize along with Lloyd.

I read the version of the book published in 2009 after the start of the TV show.  Strangely, the only thing that Sawyer updated was the name of the pope.  He left in other things that didnÕt occur by 2009.  One especially seemed odd: he had bookstores with display books and the customer waiting about 15 minutes in the coffee shop for his book to be printed.  Obviously not happening.  It doesnÕt make much sense.  Say there are ten people in line in front of me and they all have bought two books.  Unless they have ten printers, IÕll be waiting a long time for my book.

The TV show kept only the general idea.  The only character they kept is Lloyd Simcoe.  Instead of a 21 year flashforward, the show had a much more accessible 6 month flashforward.  Instead of the Large Hadron Collider, the experiment took place using a Linear Accelerator in California.  The show also explored the effect on people.  The best was when an FBI Agent (more about them soon) killed himself by jumping off a building because his vision entailed him being responsible for a womanÕs death.  He wanted to show that the future could be changed.  But then the woman is killed anyway, even though that agent was not responsible.

The other part of the show involved the FBI trying for find out the cause of the flashforward.  The scientific reasons given in the novel wouldnÕt make for an exciting, or even comprehensible, TV show.  So, of course, there had to be a conspiracy.  And that is what much of the show involved, the uncovering of the conspiracy.  Every time someone or something is found, itÕs discovered that thereÕs another layer behind that.  More and more people are part of the conspiracy.

ItÕs found that there have been many small blackouts in the past.  One of the masterminds has had many and they show many possible futures.  He, and others involved, have probably gained financially from their visions.  There was also an experiment using savants, autistics with eidetic memory.  They were subjected to flashforwards and then had to relate what they saw.  But the fallacy here is that the subjects led rather involuted lives, whatever visions they would have had about their own futures couldnÕt have had much to do with what was going on in the world.  Surely they wouldnÕt be reading the financial section of the New York Times and be able to give stock tips.  They would probably have no interest in politics and be unable to tell who would win a future election.

At the end of the show (cancelled after one season) the biggest disappointment was in the nature of the conspiracy.  There was never any reason given for it.  And it seems to be a very large conspiracy with a huge amount of money behind it.  And then it struck me that there could be no reason behind it.  What possible advantage could anyone,  any group, gain from having the whole world unconscious for approximately two minutes?  Nothing of world shaking importance took place during the blackout.  (In the novel, everyone blacked out and recording instruments didnÕt record.) The few people who had special rings (some quantum gobbledygook was used to explain them) were able to stay awake.  But they didnÕt seem to do anything but observe other people unconscious.  There was no time to rob banks, to overturn governments etc etc.  And another blackout occurs about ten minutes after the time of the world-wide visions.  Why?!!!!!!!

In the novel, another blackout does occur at the time of the visions, but itÕs done on purpose with full warning and co-operation from all, to give people desired visions.  Here Sawyer brings in a vision of the far-future and eschatological issues which were better left out of the novel.