When I noted an interesting point-of-view dynamic in the latest episode of Castle, I was reminded that the world of television is under-utilized as a source for illustrating dynamics at work in written narratives. During the investigation of a gruesome murder, suspect Simon Doyle blurts out he’s from the future. . .which prompts Castle to say, “This just became my favourite case.” And it prompted me to think, “This just became my favourite Castle episode,” because I love anything involving time travel.
I’ve always found story lines involving time travel intriguing, due especially to the “changing the course of history” possibilities. And the time travel component of this episode of Castle has this component in spades, as the reason for Doyle’s journey back in time is to prevent something that would cause the deaths of billions of people. The police, on the other hand, chalk up Doyle’s rants to his being mentally ill, and are convinced he is the murderer.
What interests me about this episode is the point-of-view dynamics. Initially, the viewers see Doyle as a crackpot as they are led to experience the events through the point of view of the police. However, as the episode progresses, pieces of evidence begin to emerge suggesting he is actually innocent of the crime. . .and he might very well be a time traveller. The police are finally forced to admit his innocence, but they are not willing to accept he is a visitor from the future. Castle, on the other hand, becomes more and more intrigued at the prospect he might possibly have met an actual time traveller. . .and so are the viewers. Clearly, point of view has been crafted to have the viewers experience the events from the perspective of some one from the destination of the alleged time travel.
Compare that with what happens in the TV series Continuum. This series begins in the year 2077 where a group of terrorists are about to be executed. However, they manage to escape the execution through the use of a time travel device that takes them back to the year 2012, but accidentally also transports a police officer back with them. And the series follows the exploits of this police officer as she works to thwart the group’s attempts to change history.
While this story has some very distinct similarities to the story line of the Castle episode, its point-of-view crafting is totally different. Here, the viewers are not led to experience the action through the point of view of someone from the destination of the time travel, someone who is not sure if time travel has even occurred. Rather, the viewers experience the action through the point of view of the time travellers themselves, completely eliminating from the equation the question of “did time travel actually occur?” that plays such a prominent role in the Castle episode.
Imagine if the Castle episode had been produced such that the viewers were led to experience the events through the point of view of Doyle. They would be witnessing the exact same events, yet their experience of these events would be totally different. Such is the power of point of view.