Adventures in QC #2

Balance

We’ve established that Timeranger is Super Sentai as science fiction. This means the first few episodes are pretty heavy with exposition and technobabble. One of the most important bits of exposition in the entire series occurs in episode 2, when Tac starts explaining the rules of time-travel and talking about balance.

For awhile we were fairly baffled at what exactly Tac meant during the entire sequence, especially when he used the term ‘balance’. You can’t really refine dialog you don’t entirely understand to begin with, either. Since Timeranger’s technobabble last episode was rooted in reality, it seemed most logical to assume that Tac’s time-travel explanation had a similar basis. In this case, QC’s job was to figure out what it was.

Sometimes the easiest way to figure out what’s going on with a show is to look at other shows the same creators worked on and see if any patterns emerge. In Timeranger’s case, its head writer Yasuko Kobayashi worked on another major tokusatsu time-travel series in 2007, Kamen Rider Den-O. The time-travel system in Den-O is based loosely on real world quantum mechanics, especially ideas about singularity.

Ordinarily quantum mechanics would seem much too complicated to show up in a kid’s show, but if Kobayashi did it Den-O then there was reason for us to think she might’ve done the same in Timeranger. Some research turned up three principles of quantum mechanics that seemed to fit Timeranger’s time-travel rules and Tac’s expository dialog: quantum entanglement, quantum superposition, and the Copenhagen Interpretation.

Real world quantum entanglement occurs when two objects, typically subatomic particles, are connected such that any force that affects one of the paired particles will have an immediate effect on the other, no matter how far apart they are in space-time. Quantum superposition is the idea that any system which can be in more than one configuration can exist in both configurations simultaneously. The Copenhagen Interpretation is a theory of quantum mechanics which states that a system stops being in superposition when it is observed by an outsider.

Timeranger turns these ideas about the behavior of waves and particles into ideas about how time-travelers interact with the universe, much the same way Kobayashi did in Den-O. Quantum entanglement becomes the idea that through time-travel, historical eras become entangled with each other in a system that behaves according to the rules of quantum mechanics rather than more classical ideas of linearity. So in Timeranger, the years 2000 and 3000 became entangled during the initial time-travel event that sent the Londarz and the Timerangers back in time.

Because of the entanglement of the two eras, the years 2000 and 3000 now exist in a state of quantum superposition. It is certainly possible for both years to be changed, but those changes right now are merely potential changes. Tac’s dialog makes it clear that as long as the time-travelers remain in the past, this state of superposition will continue to exist. The possible changes that the time-travelers could be making to the years 2000 and 3000 won’t become actual changes.

The Copenhagen Interpretation explains why Tac’s time-travel rules exist. If the Time Protection Bureau sent additional time-travelers back to the year 2000, the second group would observe the first group. Anything that group had changed in the year 2000 would become a permanent change with consequences that would affect the year 3000 in a linear way. If only part of the original time-travel group returned to the year 3000, it would have similar consequences.

If the Timerangers can take all of the Londarz into custody and return with them in one trip, though, then the principle behind the Copenhagen Interpretation would indicate that the years 2000 and 3000 shouldn’t change. No one outside the initial time-travel system would be able to observe it, leaving the time-travel itself in a state of superposition that could have no effect on the timeline’s history. This has to be the desired balance Tac is talking about.

We made the edits to Tac’s exposition in this episode by working from this basic theory of how Timeranger’s time-travel should work. Checks made against future episodes have indicated that it’s a solid theory in terms of describing the show’s events. While the audience clearly doesn’t need to understand the science involved just to make sense of Timeranger’s plot, it helped us to understand how Tac’s explanation should be worded.

~Lynxara