Almost Doctor Who:
Happy Accidents

Film Barely seen by anyone on initial release a decade ago but recently gifted a dvd release (and good lord is now watchable perfectly leagally on Netflix) Brad Anderson's film Happy Accidents is an urban Starman-like romance. Marisa Tormei’s serial dating failure Ruby meets Vincent D’Onofrio’s hipster Sam in the park and although he’s kind of eccentric, he’s no worse than most of the mouth breathers she’s previously had to deal with and they begin dating.

At which point he decides to dump a mass of exposition on her about his past, that he’s a time traveller, from the future, that he’s been searching for her because of photograph he found in a junk shop and to describe any more would be to spoil the rest of what is an entertaining piece of Sundance indie which is worth seeing even if you're not entirely convinced by anything else I'm about to write. Just don't look at anything else I've seen online. It all gives the game away.

The most immediate similarity is with the tv movie and the moment when the newly regenerated Eighth Doctor is also babbling about Gallifrey and the Master, Tormei’s blasé reaction mirroring Grace’s acceptance that her world is changing so she’d best just go with it. Arguably Rose too, through in the first couple of episodes of nu-Who the Doctor is rather more reticent about his past thanks to Russell T Davies only writing in enough to gain a new audience's attention.

At first this seems like coincidence; these are the kinds of relationship tropes or emotional beats that are typical to this kind of story and the central question of whether Sam’s lying or not reflect’s similar posers in everything from K-Pax, to The Man From Earth to Starman to the surreal Starry Night featuring a man who looks like and thinks he may well be Vincent Van Gogh.

Then about an hour in to Happy Accidents, there’s a line of dialogue which literally made me spill tea on my lap because it was in my mouth when I started laughing. It’s in one of the long expositional scenes when Sam’s attempting to convince Ruby of his sincerity and she’s looking at him as though he’s as nuts as she’s slowly becoming convinced he is.

He’s describing the kinds of time travel which are possible and says that “Blinovitch's Second Law of Temporal Inertia – blah blah blah”. The blahs are were I was looking for a towel to mop up the beverage. On rewinding and listening again, though he doesn’t use “limitation effect”, he’s making up new Blinovitch laws about what is and isn’t possible which someone has helpful jotted down on the (oh yes) wikipedia page:
"Blinovitch's Second Law of Temporal Inertia" apparently states that is impossible to time travel in your own lifetime. One can only time travel to the distant past, and only small changes in history are possible, which will "dampen out" by the time they reach the relative present.

"Blinovitch's Fifth Law of Causal Determination" resolves (in an unspecified manner) all paradoxes involved with time travel.
In the midst of this most American of indie sci-fi adventures, Vincent D’Onofrio uses one of the stone cold canonical names from Doctor Who and in such a way that for a brief moment (well not that brief probably), I wondered if I’d been oblivious to something all these years and it was an actual scientific law. I even headed straight to Google to check, hence knowing that a wikipedia page exists on the subject, which proved very handy come the Christmas special and the malarchy surrounding the finale.

Originally created by Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts to explain why Day of the Daleks doesn’t make any sense it is pure fiction and writer/director Anderson is simply tipping his hat to one of his inspirations, which suggeststhe similarities with the tv movie might not be so coincidental. But by the end of the film, since there’s nothing else in the story that Lance Parkin could pinch his nose over, I pretty much decided I was watching something set in the Doctor Who universe. The dvd now sits on the same shelf as Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

1 comment:

  1. I love that movie. And I noticed the Dr. Who connection as well, when I first saw it. It's a lot of fun, and I really like Brad Anderson, who seems to pick random genres for each film he does.