Bodies - How time travels work's in Netflix's adaptation of Si Spencer's Graphic Novel

27 November 2023
The Netflix series "Bodies," adapted from the 2015 DC Vertigo graphic novel, employs time travel as a central narrative element, intricately weaving it into a complex storyline that spans across multiple timelines. Unlike the graphic novel, which presents a series of murders across different eras without delving deeply into time travel, the Netflix series focuses on the concept more explicitly. 

The story in the series unfolds in four different timelines – 1890, 1941, 2023, and 2053. Each timeline is marked by the appearance of a dead body in Longharvest Lane, London, sparking detective investigations that are peculiarly interconnected. 

The detectives in each era encounter variations of the same mysterious events, including repeated phrases like "know you are loved," hinting at a deeper connection across time. These investigations, while separate, are tied together by a common thread, suggesting that actions in one era could have ripple effects in another. The recurring discovery of the body in different times sets the stage for a narrative that questions the nature of time and reality.

Shira Haas as DS Maplewood in Bodies
Shira Haas as DS Maplewood in Bodies

In the series, the concept of time travel is made tangible through "The Throat," a time machine invented by the character Gabriel Defoe. The narrative's paradoxical nature centers around Elias Mannix (Stephen Graham), a character whose manipulation of time creates a complex web of cause and effect. 

After a cataclysmic event in 2023, Mannix gains power and learns about The Throat. Using this device, he travels back to 1889, initiating a time loop. This loop is crucial to his rise to power and the establishment of the dystopian society he eventually rules. His journey through time is not just a physical one but also a manipulation of historical events, effectively altering the course of history. Mannix's actions in the past, particularly in 1890, set in motion events that echo through the subsequent timelines, illustrating the fragility and malleability of time. 

This manipulation creates a domino effect, with each action in one timeline precipitating events in another. The interplay of these timelines showcases the intricate and often unforeseen consequences of tampering with the past.

Mannix’s machinations in 1890 are particularly pivotal. Assuming the identity of Julian Harker, he establishes a cult and manipulates events to lead to the 2023 bombing, the event that catalyzes his ascent to power. 

His marriage to Detective Inspector Hillinghead's daughter in 1890 plays a significant role in shaping the future of the Harker family and the eventual placement of the bomb in 2023. This act exemplifies how Mannix's interventions in the past have direct implications for the future, underscoring the interconnectedness of different time periods. 

The series delves into the consequences of these actions, showing how they ripple through time to affect the lives of the detectives in other eras. The decisions made by Mannix in the past create a trajectory that leads to a future he meticulously designs, demonstrating the far-reaching impact of individual actions across time. This narrative thread is a poignant exploration of the power of influence across generations, with each choice made by Mannix casting a long shadow over the future.

The unraveling of Mannix's time loop is achieved through the intervention of Detective Sergeant Hasan, who travels back in time from the future. Her actions are a direct challenge to the paradox created by Mannix. By exposing his younger self to the truth of his manipulations, she prevents the bombing and rewrites history, effectively disrupting the timeline that Mannix had so carefully constructed. 

This act of intervention highlights the series' exploration of time as a malleable entity, susceptible to change and manipulation. Hasan's journey through time is not just a physical traversal but a moral and ethical quest to rectify the wrongs of the past. 

Her actions underscore the theme that the course of history is not predetermined but can be altered by conscious choices, especially when those choices are aimed at preventing catastrophe. The series thus delves into the moral implications of time travel, questioning the ethics of changing the past to alter the future. This narrative arc illustrates the complexities and dangers of tampering with time, revealing that every action, every decision, can have profound implications, altering the course of history in ways that are often unpredictable and far-reaching.

In contrast to the series, the original graphic novel "Bodies" by Si Spencer presents a narrative spanning four time periods with detective characters encountering a similar murder case in each era. The novel's structure suggests a complex narrative potentially involving temporal manipulation but does not explicitly delve into the mechanics of time travel. The focus is more on the interconnected murder cases across different eras, leaving the element of time travel more ambiguous. This approach differs from the Netflix adaptation, which places a stronger emphasis on the explicit use of time travel as a plot device.

The novel's narrative, while complex and layered, does not provide a clear framework for understanding the time travel mechanics that are central to the Netflix series' plot. This lack of explicit time travel mechanics in the graphic novel highlights the creative liberties taken in the adaptation, showcasing how a narrative can be expanded and reinterpreted across different mediums.

In summary, "Bodies" on Netflix effectively utilizes time travel to construct a multi-layered narrative that spans across different eras, each connected by a series of mysterious events. Through the character of Elias Mannix and the time machine "The Throat," the series explores the profound effects of manipulating time, underscoring the interconnectedness of actions across different periods. 

The series contrasts with its source material by delving more deeply into the concept of time travel, offering a complex exploration of the consequences of altering the past. This narrative approach provides a compelling examination of the ethical and moral questions inherent in time travel, while also presenting a riveting story of power, manipulation, and the potential to change the course of history.


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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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