It goes without saying that pretty much every work of fiction begins with the “what if” question. “What if I knew the world was ending tomorrow?” “What if my wife was secretly plotting to kill me?” “What if this article wins me the Pulitzer?” What separates the great (or simply enjoyable) work from that which cannot be accepted is a second level of consideration: actually thinking about the “what if” and seeing if it has any real value, any weight, beyond that first fleeting thrill that comes with the High Concept. FlashForward, the ABC TV series or the 1999 novel by Robert J. Sawyer upon which it is loosely, loosely based, is a perfect example of exactly that: the cool but ultimately unsatisfying idea that really can’t stand the stress of storytelling. Because hiding behind the spotty acting and cliché characters—on screen or in print—the whole concept has a serious problem: it just doesn’t make a lick of sense. Under the “continue reading” jump, an analysis of the logic and science flaws of FlashForward.
Same Name, Different Game
A quick reading of the novel by Robert J. Sawyer (which is all it warrants) won’t provide you with any background or spoilers on the TV series. In fact, it will only confuse you even more. The two have almost nothing in common:
• Everybody on Earth in 2009 blacks out for a little over two minutes, and everyone experiences two minutes of their own lives at a fixed point in the future
• The world suffers badly during their two-minute absence
• Many characters experience nothing — a void — during the blackout, and assume they are dead
• One character learns he is murdered shortly before the future-point of the “flashforward”
• There’s a lead character named Lloyd Simcoe
The differences, on the other hand, are literally too numerous to mention, but a few stand out. In the book, the moment the whole world glimpses is twenty years in the future, which makes for some interesting speculations about the financial stability of insurance companies and intellectual property (i.e., inventors developing technology they didn’t actually think of, but saw in action in 2030 and reverse-engineered. Whose idea is that, then?). In the TV series, the moment everyone glimpses is just a few weeks away—March of 2010, seen by the whole world in October of 2009. The cast of characters in the book is entirely different than the series; even the character with the same name—Lloyd Simcoe—is entirely different, right down to his job and his nationality. And where the characters, dialogue, and subplots in the TV series are horribly over-familiar to any savvy viewer of Lifetime Movies of the Week (“Why did you cheat on me?” “Why did you start drinking again?” “How can I, a single lesbian, be pregnant and happy about it?”), the book’s characters are as thin as the paper they’re printed on. They do very little except talk, offering a gaggle of thought-experiments about quantum physics, the universe, and everything, and engaging you on a personal level…not at all. However, the book and series do share one other thing: a central idea that’s so weak and illogical it can’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny.
There is more to the article – but I think you get the just. The original is at http://www.scriptphd.com/the-boob-tube/2010/01/09/why-i-hate-flashforward-a-dissenters-opinion/