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“Who knows about the future? Perhaps only the dead”: configuring the trans-temporal timespan of Planet of the Apes as a transmedia saga

Freeman, M (2015) '“Who knows about the future? Perhaps only the dead”: configuring the trans-temporal timespan of Planet of the Apes as a transmedia saga.' In: Jones, M and Ormrod, J, eds. Time travel in popular media : essays on film, television, literature and video games. McFarland & Company, North Carolina, pp. 165-177. ISBN 9780786478071

Abstract

The original Planet of the Apes saga is structured as a time loop, the first film’s narrative events existing both as the effect and as the cause of its sequels, taking place both before and after these sequels. Its principle utilisation of time travel thus invokes philosophical concepts such as the predestination paradox (sometimes known as the time loop), itself a narratological device functioning to create paradoxes that arise from time travel. In this case, the predestination paradox occurs because if Taylor had never gone forward in time in Planet of the Apes (1968), the apes of this future Earth would not have found his spaceship in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), an event that enabled the apes to go back in time in Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) and, in turn, cause a rebellion in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) that gave rise to a nuclear war in Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), which altogether led to the apes becoming the dominant species on Earth as lived first-hand by Taylor in Planet of the Apes (1968). However, such complex storytelling transcended the medium of cinema and extended across to a range of other media including television and comic books. The Planet of the Apes was thus a transmedia saga founded upon science fictional conceptions of time travel. Defined more recently by Henry Jenkins, transmedia storytelling is the telling of ‘stories that unfold across multiple platforms, with each medium making distinctive contributions to our understanding of the storyworld; a more integrated approach to franchise development’ (2006: 334). The principle of transmedia storytelling involves fragmenting segments of a narrative, dispersing interconnected story events across a range of disparate media. With these transmedia texts taking place in-between the story gaps of the others, the role of the audience is thus akin to that of the time-traveler: the audience must jump back and forth from one point in the story to another, perceiving the storyworld non-linearly from cross-media, cross-temporal perspectives. How, then, does the construction of a transmedia narrative saga function in the context of a story that is actually about time travel? How does a circular, paradox-orientated application of time-travel storytelling – itself serving to obliterate linear understandings of past and future – operate across both multiple films and across multiple media? This chapter will examine how the original Planet of the Apes saga (comprising five films, two television series and a comic book series, all produced between 1968-1977) utilised transmedia storytelling – expanding the events of the storyworld across multiple media with each respective text feeding into the circular story arc – as a narrative strategy for communicating philosophical concepts about time travel. The chapter investigates how such transmedia extensions provided audiences with an enhanced narrative experience that invited the consumption of each text – be it on film, on television, or on paper – in order to complete this circular, trans-temporal timespan of the Planet of the Apes saga; the productions of television and comic books themselves serving as time-travelling vehicles for making sense of story events left untold in the productions of cinema.

Item Type: Book Chapter or Section
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2015 13:43
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2016 13:27
URI: http://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/6293
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