Tales of a Time Traveler
E&S Digital Theater Produtions, USA
Film review by Monika Staesche, Berlin
Time. Literally an “everyday phenomenon”, but still hard to grasp. Many planetarium shows deal with that subject. The approach here is somehow different and unusual, though: Our host and guide is a “time traveler”, manifested not in a real human form, but rather as a voice – a very special and characteristic one, since it is the voice of the tenth doctor of “Dr. Who”, David Tennant. The “Doctor” is a “Time Lord” and hence – you can assume – an authority as regards this slippery subject. And he takes us on various trips through time and space, but not from Adam (or the Big Bang) to our present time, but trying to shed some light on different aspects of time and how they are evident for us: from the biological clock in your brain or the changing shadows on a sundial, from the history of life on Earth to the life of stars and the history of the cosmos itself. Even the distortion of time by gravity is a topic.
The eternal question of other civilizations in space is posed as well, but rather as a “when” and not as a “where”, it touches gently the problem of the lifespan of civilizations in general – but without emphasizing it much. It would have been interesting to learn a little more at this point, but the narrative pace is rather quick. To quote our guide: “As humans, your time is limited, but your perception of it isn’t. You can experience a million years in a minute, a billion years in the blink of an eye”. The show makes good use of this possibility. Sometimes it would have been interesting to deepen a subject. On the other hand, for a 23-minute show, it is a lot of content already.
As the show starts, you find yourself inside a giant clockwork that fills the dome, while the title appears in a “steampunk” font style – a nice touch that let you associate the subject immediately: Time. Than the scene crossfades into a time-tunnel, a kind of temporal rollercoaster, while the introduction is given. Finally, we end up in a dome, a room that picks up the architecture of the Pantheon in Rome – with an open ceiling that shows space from outside our Milky Way. Inside it looks rather Victorian, with a gigantic dinosaur skeleton as a bonus and a Dr. Who TARDIS-equipment in the center of the room. So this is our time machine. The Dr. Who approach is quite original and makes sense, given the popularity of the TV series and what it stands for. It also provides an outsider perspective and narration.
The show is a co-production of the Houston Museum of Natural Science and Evans & Sutherland and does not only use a rendered universe, but some real world footage as well (landscape timelapses, footage of fossils/bones/models of prehistoric creatures of the museum). Sometimes, some walls (at the dinosaur skeleton sequences in the museum especially) make you lose the immersion somehow, but apart from that, the artificial landscapes of ancient monuments fit quite well with the real world footage.
Apart from the aforementioned, ESO and Hubble imagery is included or modelled – sometimes a little too much and too many at the same time as regard to my personal taste, and sometimes – at least it seems – not to scale, so it doesn’t look realistic.
The show created in 8K – that provides a sharp imaging, even in 4K. The score is composed by Chance Thomas and performed by the Utah Film Orchestra – this makes for a vivid, compact sound that supports the travels quite well.
David Tennant’s diction is quite precise, the Scottish accent (although it is not a heavy one) sometimes a little unusual for a “non-native” speaker, but on the other hand, you need to listen carefully. I don’t know if this special “touch” would be transferable if the show is dubbed.
I would recommend the show for adults and children of age 10 and up – although younger viewers may understand the explanations of most subjects, since the language itself is not complicated.
It is a rather unusual show about time, as regards the approach, although the subjects and explanations can be found in many other shows as well. Given the number of topics, maybe a live part afterwards and or a discussion would be valuable, and some didactic material would be a nice asset, too?
12th FullDome Festival, May 24, 2018