Dark - the time travel paradoxes explained

04 March 2023

Dark is a Netflix original series that explores the concept of time travel and its consequences. The show is set in the fictional town of Winden, Germany, and follows the lives of several families whose connections span multiple generations.

The show begins with the disappearance of a young boy, which sets off a series of events that expose the complex and interconnected relationships between the show's characters. As the investigation into the boy's disappearance unfolds, it becomes clear that there are many secrets buried in the town's past, and that the families' lives are more intertwined than anyone realized.

As the series progresses, the show explores the concept of time travel, and viewers are taken on a journey through multiple timelines and alternate realities. 

The show's characters are forced to grapple with the consequences of their actions and the realization that their past, present, and future selves are all connected. As the show progresses, the characters become more entangled in a web of cause and effect, and they must make difficult choices to try and break the cycle of pain and suffering that seems to be an inescapable part of their lives.

dark time travel paradox

Overall, the show Dark presents a complex and intricate portrayal of time travel and its associated paradoxes. It highlights the idea that altering events in the past can have unexpected consequences in the future and that time is not linear, but rather a complex web of cause and effect.

The ending of season three of Dark was pretty epic!  The plot details were quite complex and open to interpretation...

In the final episodes, it is revealed that the multiple timelines and alternate realities are all part of a larger loop that must be broken to prevent an endless cycle of pain and suffering.

The main characters, Jonas and Martha, both versions of them from different timelines and realities, join forces to try and break the cycle. They travel back to the moment of the apocalypse and manage to prevent the accident that caused it from happening.

As a result, a new reality is created where several events are altered, and characters who died in previous realities are alive. However, it is unclear if this new reality is truly the end of the cycle or if it is just another loop that will lead to the same events eventually.

In the final moments of the show, we see a montage of scenes from throughout the series, with the characters seemingly living their lives in this new reality. However, in the last shot, we see a new character, seemingly a version of Jonas, in a world that is similar but not quite the same as the one we've seen before, suggesting that there are still alternate realities and timelines that exist.

Overall, the ending of Dark is left open to interpretation, and it invites the audience to ponder the nature of time and the possibility of breaking free from the cycle of cause and effect.

The paradoxes of Dark

While the season three ending was a fair resolution to a convoluted plot, Dark does feature several instances of time travel paradoxes, including the bootstrap paradox, which is a type of paradox where an object or piece of information is sent back in time and becomes its own origin.

The bootstrap paradox occurs when a future event causes a past event, which then causes the same future event, creating an endless loop. The show portrays several examples of the bootstrap paradox, such as when Jonas receives a letter from his father, Michael, instructing him to travel back in time to save Michael's younger self, who is also Jonas' friend, Mikkel.

In this example, Michael's suicide, which happens in the future, triggers Jonas' journey back in time, where he becomes the cause of Michael's suicide, ultimately leading to his own existence. This paradox creates a closed loop where the cause and effect are indistinguishable.

The show also explores the grandfather paradox, where a time traveler alters events in the past that ultimately prevent their own existence in the future. This paradox is depicted in Dark when Jonas travels back to 1921 and meets his own grandmother, Erna. By killing Erna, Jonas prevents his own existence and alters the course of events in the future, creating a paradox.

One of the most notable paradoxes in Dark is the character of Charlotte Doppler, who is revealed to be her own grandmother. This occurs because Charlotte's daughter, Elisabeth, becomes pregnant with Charlotte in the future and then sends her back in time to be raised by her own parents.

This creates a bootstrap paradox where Charlotte's existence is both her own origin and her own result. This type of paradox can be difficult to wrap one's head around, as it seems to create a never-ending loop of cause and effect.

Another notable instance of a time travel paradox in Dark is the grandfather paradox, where a person travels back in time and alters events in such a way that they prevent their own existence. This paradox is explored in the show through the characters of Jonas and Martha, who both travel back in time and alter events in such a way that they prevent their own births.

However, despite their efforts, both characters continue to exist due to the show's use of alternate realities and multiple timelines. This highlights the complex and often confusing nature of time travel paradoxes, and the difficulty in fully understanding their implications.

Furthermore, the show explores the concept of the multiverse theory, where different versions of reality exist in parallel universes. In this theory, the actions of a time traveler in one universe have no effect on other universes.

How many timelines are in play in Dark?

Dark features several timelines and alternate realities that are explored throughout the series. The exact number of timelines in the show can be difficult to determine, as there are multiple versions of each character and various events occur differently in each timeline.

However, broadly speaking, there are three main timelines that are explored in Dark:

  1. The 2019 Timeline: This is the "present" timeline where the show begins, and where the majority of the events in the show take place.
  2. The 1986 Timeline: This timeline is explored through flashbacks and time travel, and features events that occurred in Winden in 1986.
  3. The 2052 Timeline: This timeline is introduced later in the series and is set in a post-apocalyptic future where Winden has been destroyed.

Additionally, the show also explores several alternate realities that are created through the characters' actions and the use of time travel. These realities often have slight variations from the main timeline and feature alternate versions of the characters.

If you're looking for television shows with time travel and complicated plots, here are some recommendations:

  1. Lost - This iconic show from the mid-2000s features a complex narrative that jumps back and forth in time and explores themes of fate, free will, and the nature of reality.
  2. Doctor Who - This classic sci-fi show has been on the air since the 1960s and follows the adventures of a time-traveling alien called The Doctor. The show features a wide range of complex plots and characters, as well as an endless array of time periods and historical event
  3. Fringe - This show, created by J.J. Abrams, combines elements of science fiction, horror, and police procedural to create a complex narrative that explores alternate realities, time travel, and the nature of the universe.
  4. 12 Monkeys - This show, based on the classic movie of the same name, features a complex plot that jumps back and forth in time as the main character tries to prevent a deadly virus from wiping out humanity.
  5. Travelers - This show follows a group of time travelers who come from a bleak future in order to try to prevent it from ever happening. The show explores themes of fate, free will, and the nature of time.

These shows offer a variety of complex and thought-provoking narratives that explore the mysteries of the universe and the nature of time. Each offers a unique take on the genre and is sure to keep viewers engaged and intrigued.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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