William Shatner ought to know a thing or two about the future – so it’s fitting he is our guide to the ancient art of precognition in "Dark Prophesies", part of the new season of his quirky series The Unxplained.
The Unxplained is a fun romp through the interstitial spaces between science and superstition, fact, and folklore, with a simultaneously po-faced but somehow winking William Shatner as our guide to the fringes of fringe science. As such, I confidently predicted previously that they’d get around to looking at precognition, the phenomena of foreseeing the future, soon enough. The episode “Dark Prophecies” does exactly that, taking in everyone from modern day seer Craig Hamilton-Parker, who claims to have predicted both Brexit and the Trump presidential win, to Nostradamus, history’s most famous oracle (or clever conman – you be the judge).
See the new season of The Unxplained 7.40pm Sundays on SBS VICELAND, with the "Dark Prophesies" episode screening Sunday 12 September. Both seasons are also streaming now at SBS On Demand.
The Fifth Element
Of course, accurately predicting what lies for us further up the timeline is a mug’s game, life, the universe and everything being a very complex system. Still, we are fascinated by the possibility - if you knew what was coming, could you change it? Would the knowledge change you? The notion recurs again and again in our pop culture artifacts.
The Fifth Element, for example, might be a high-flying sci-fi actioner about Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich saving the whole dang universe, but its narrative is prophecy-driven. Specifically, it’s the prophecy that an ancient evil will return to threaten the universe that drives the action, eventually dumping Milla’s perfect superbeing into the back of Bruce’s flying taxi and setting us up for a madcap tear through Luc Besson’s vividly realised SF universe.
The Fifth Element is streaming at SBS On Demand until 26 September.
Predestination, as the title suggests, grapples more directly with our relationship to the future. Directed by the Spierig brothers and based on Harlan Ellison’s classic short story “All You Zombies”, the film sees Sarah Snook recruited by Ethan Hawke to join the Temporal Agency, a kind of shady police force that keeps the timeline straight. To reveal more would do the film and anyone who has yet to see it – a massive disturbance, as the twisty plot digs deep into time travel paradoxes, destiny, and the notion of free will, culminating in a final reveal that throws everything that has gone before into a whole new context.
Predestination is streaming at SBS On Demand.
Run Lola Run
Still, we needn’t stay in the sci-fi realm for some fun pontificating on possible futures. Tom Tykwer’s breakthrough film, Run Lola Run, offers us three possible futures branching off from one point. Franka Potente is the titular Lola, who must somehow get a large chunk of cash to drug dealers who will kill her boyfriend in 20 minutes. We see three different attempts at the mission, with the timeline resetting at every failure. Whether these are possible paths or Lola is reliving the events is kept ambiguous – Tykwer keeps the film galloping along to a pumping techno soundtrack instead of stopping to navel gaze, but there’s plenty of grist for post-viewing debate.
Run Lola Run is streaming at SBS On Demand.
But prophecy is tricky – even when it’s accurate you don’t always get what you expect. The comedy SF series Future Man sees Josh Hutcherson as John Futturman, who by defeating an extremely difficult videogame is earmarked to save a far future ravaged by war. Unfortunately for future warriors Wolf (Derek Wilson) and Tiger (Eliza Coupe), he’s an underachieving janitor who lives with his parents, and the fun comes from seeing how he manages to fulfill his destiny without being a military prodigy that the two expected.
The three seasons of Future Man are streaming at SBS On Demand:
Continuum flips the tone but retains a similar premise, offering a modern day crime drama with one foot in a possible future. Like Tiger and Wolf, Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) is from the future, travelling from 2077 to 2021 in pursuit of a group of terrorists/freedom fighters (delete as applicable) who are fleeing execution. In the present day, she has to stop them from charging their “home” future by changing the past, even though it’s pretty apparent that 2077 is a hardline surveillance state that brooks no dissention in the ranks. Continuum asks not just whether the future can be changed, but should it be?
The full four seasons of Continuum are streaming at SBS On Demand: