The Effect that Choices Have On The Future
Joseph Michael Straczynski’s Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan introduces Jonathan Osterman, a research physicist who was molecularly disassembled when going back into a closing intrinsic test chamber to grab his coat. Osterman’s accident causes him to return as a powerful being by the name of Dr. Manhattan that can bend the universe, matter, and time to his will allowing him to witness and manipulate multiple perspectives of time. These perspectives of time are revealed as new universes that have different outcomes than originally experienced. Dr. Manhattan approaches the actions of individuals as a catalyst that starts a ripple in time that creates new realities expressing that each decision and action has a consequence.
Growing up with the mentality that there is nothing that is broken so bad that it cannot be put back together again, Dr. Manhattan has the power to do anything he puts his will into. With his extraordinary powers, his involvement with the Watchmen started from the beginning. At the point of establishment, the heros in the Watchmen had to be paired in teams “ to learn about each other’s ideas, goals, and what” they hope to achieve as “crimebusters.” In one reality, Dr. Manhattan was paired with Rorschach, the masked vigilante that focuses on the absolute morality, and in another reality Dr. Manhattan alters the pick of Rorschach into the Silk Spectre, the beautiful and talented crimefighter that catches his eye and draws it away from his girlfriend, Janey. These two decisions represent the choices that fracture reality and actions that splinter both past and future and rupture the course of time. Though, by a quantum perspective, theoretically those two realities were always supposed to happen. Dr. Manhattan recognized that changing his decision would cause a consequence in both directions of time and this represents that every decision made will have a reaction to it that will be equally real despite perspective.
One prevailing theory arises within this work which is introduced when there is discussion of Schrodinger's cat. It is understood that a cat is put into a box with poison gas that has a 50/50 chance of breaking when it is closed. Once the box is closed, according to quantum physics, the cat is concluded as both dead and alive. The longer the observer observes the box, the quantum possibilities begin to multiply and all of these possibilities collapse when the observer opens the box. This idea that a living thing is both dead and alive expresses how this being, Dr. Manhattan, though technically pronounced dead is still a living man. He is in a box of his own, being the only of his kind and the result of a freak accident. Being both alive and dead, both Jon Osterman and Dr. Manhattan, man and god-like being, shows how in different timelines of the universe he was trapped in that intrinsic test chamber and was disassembled but he also walked out with his coat in one piece. It also shows that his actions in different realities caused a different life after that. This includes a life that consisted of Janey in which they grew old together and life where he became “Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.” Two contrasting outcomes sprouting from the same individual but were products of different decisions.
The notion that fluctuating decisions can cause rippling and multiplying realities is related to this idea that a box can have quantum possibilities until it is open. “Quantum physics says that as long as the box is closed, it could contain anything, in any state of existence.” A gift to someone could have anything inside. For example, a box, being used for a gift, could contain a pet in one universe but a baseball mitt in another, or construction blocks in another. This highlights how all boxes could contain those realities, universes, timelines, and possibilities until they are opened. Once a box of “mysteries” is opened, all the possibilities of the universe collapse into one reality. Having the power to bend time and space, Dr. Manhattan at one time tried to catch up with all the realities he created but left one remaining reality left where the Earth ended in a nuclear doomsday. Dr. Manhattan sought help from Ozymandias, the costumed genius vigilante, the only man close enough to Dr. Manhattan’s intellect. This is just another example of a decision that caused a ripple in reality. Ozymandias lied to Dr. Manhattan when he told him that he would use the power embedded in Dr. Manhattan in order to replace nuclear power and cease war but instead use it to kill millions of people for what he “intended to accomplish.”
Joseph Michael Straczynski’s Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan depicts an all-knowing, god-like being created from a test lab accident that represents the consequences that a decision or idea can cause. The theory that anything in existence can be within a closed box and that possibilities and universes can be created, fractured, and multiplied by the actions of an individual allows for the notion that outcomes in a timeline are fragile. The outcome in the future is easily affected and these delicate futures are susceptible to the actions, ideas, and decisions made by an individual.
(J.G. 2015)