The German science fiction TV series Dark is in its third and final season. This thriller was judged as the best Netflix series by the prestigious web portal Rotten Tomatoes. This recognition doesn’t surprise us at all, as this series is packed with great content.
It leads us to fantasize about the idea of time from a scientific and, at the same time, metaphysical point of view; something that no film production has done so far, with the exception of Interstellar .
The conception of time presented in the series is cyclical, based on the idea of the eternal return taken from the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science and Thus Spoke Zarathustra . But more than a philosophical speculation, Dark proposes the real possibility of the functioning of time as an eternal cycle, with the absence of the classic conception of past, present and future. Characters can then move in time and influence events, before or after they happen.
Dark: the plot
Dark was created in 2017 by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese. How time travel has influenced the imaginary German town of Widen is the plot around which the events presented revolve. The first season begins with the disappearance, in 2019, of a child named Mikkel in a cave in a wood that resembles the Black Forest.
The forest is full of underground caves, as well as hosting a nuclear power plant that hides some mysteries, including a scientific discovery that could change the fate of humanity.
Jonas, one of the teenagers involved in the accident, decides to investigate what happened. Early research led him to discover a correlation of facts. First the suicide of Mikkel’s father, which occurred a few months earlier, then the ability of the cave in question to alter the temporal dimension.
But besides the time gap in the cave, there are other methods of time travel ; some involve the nuclear power plant, while others will be revealed in the course of the exciting storyline.
Four families, one mystery
The story revolves around four families residing in the town : Kahnwald, Nielsen, Doppler and Tiedemann, in three different timelines: 1953, 1986 and 2019. The year 2019 is the starting point of the narrative action and the time frame main, that is, the present of the series.
Between one timeline and another there are 33 years of difference and the characters interact with each other by moving between them. They do this through a wormhole caused by a leak at the Widen nuclear power plant.
The conception of time in the history of mankind
Dark presents the cyclic theory of time, but there are many other theories regarding the concept of time. Here are some currents of thought:
- The theory of eternal return or eternal recurrence is an idea found in various ancient civilizations such as the Aztec, Indian, Greek or Egyptian one for which the events of objective reality are repeated cyclically. It is the theory that most reflects what was explained in Dark .
- Linear time. It is the conception of time linked to the Jewish and Christian religions, and it is the one considered correct by the majority.
- Thinkers like Louis Auguste Blanqui and Friedrich Nietzsche supported the idea of the eternal return: circumstances and events that repeat themselves in a cyclical way.
- Aristotle denied the existence of past and future because of the impossibility of ascertaining past events and knowing future ones.
- In the modern age we find two currents of thought concerning the conception of time:
- the objectivist theory that originates from Isaac Newton’s physics studies and is considered valid until the development of Einstein’s theory of relativity.
- The subjectivist theory, proposed by Immanuel Kant, states that time is linked to individual experiences. It is therefore defined as a personal construct. This idea transfers the temporal conception to the field of psychology.
- The contributions of Einstein’s theory of relativity, string theory and Stephen Hawking ‘s research on black holes, also mentioned in Dark , have not yet been fully demonstrated in practice.
The concept of time in Dark
In Dark the journeys between the three time dimensions are explained with the concept of wormhole. The loss of energy from the nuclear power plant may have activated the wormhole in the labyrinth of caves that runs through the town.
The series proposes an idea of time that does not have a linear dimension, but is an infinite cycle based on Nietzsche’s concept of the eternal return. This same conception of time was shared by the Mayan, Indian, Chinese and Egyptian civilizations.
Although in the series it is not clarified whether it is possible to travel beyond the eras represented, there are two characters (Jonas Kahnwald and Claudia Tiedemann) who return to the past. Their goal is to change events and destroy the mechanism that allows the different protagonists of the series to travel through time.
This ties back to one of the most important concepts in the series: the past influences the future and the future influences the past. Everything is interconnected. There is no beginning or end, time is like a circle in which all events coexist and all temporal realities are joined together.