“But, you’re dead!”
What would you think if a person you don’t know came up to you, telling you that. You would think they were your best friend, right? No. Scriptwriters all over the planet, please learn some common sense. People living in a world equipped with magic, aliens or super powers are not as stunned as we would be when they suddenly drop into an alternate reality.
Seriously, whenever a character in a series happens to flick the switch, they take a lot longer to grasp what’s happening than humanly plausible. I know that melodrama demands a certain outspokenness about the circumstances – which is one of the reasons most series don’t need visual attention 50% of the time – but please, stop turning into drugged morons! “Why are you wearing these clothes? What happened to your hair?” Instead, why the hell don’t you just say what’s wrong, and leave stupid remarks in your head. And this is the harmless stuff. How about “I’m in power here?!” or “Wait, I did what?” Sure! Drop lots of hints to alert your enemies about your confused state of mind. They’ll understand and return to kill you later, when you feel up to it.
And it’s not for the audience’s sake either! We know what happened, right? We saw, for example, the evil plan to change the past, or the device that changed reality, the beamout that dropped you in another fragment of time. We get that! So stop talking about it like you don’t! Good acting can convey a subtle understanding. If you do it right, we can tell that you’re thinking “wait, why is everything different – oh right, alternate reality. Okay, I’ll just play along.”
There is also an annoying repetitiveness about alternate realities – in every series, it’s pretty much the same layout for every episode! One character gets transported into this different world or is the only one to remember the old one. They first make a complete fool of themselves, then storm off, annoyed that noone understands them. Thus follows the moment of contemplation, and the acquisition of an ally, the one person who believes them and sometimes sacrifices their lives to help them. (Dying words: “Promise you’ll make it right again!”) Either this death convinces others to help, or the hero will go on and finish his quest to restore every plane of existence to how it was. In the aftermath the character will repeat the moronic behaviour from before and hug all friends and relatives, saying stuff like “I’m SO glad to see you normal again!” and confuse everyone again.
So to make for better alternate realities you need to stop
- commenting on everything that’s different. That’s not only redundant after the first few times, it gets boring and annoying, because we got the hint. Yes, everything is wrong, totally wrong. Get over it, do something about it, but stop talking about it
- giving yourself away. Think first, talk later – or not at all.
- trying to “talk some sense” into people you think you know. They’re different people in this reality, they don’t want anything to do with you, and are, in fact, usually the people who’ll turn you in.
- pretending that this is all soo weird. Yes, it is, but seeing that your world is really weird all the time, why are you so surprised?!
(Star Trek’s mirror universe episodes are always great, I think, and they are the only ones I’ve seen so far that can pull this off properly. Why is everyone else incapable of copying that?)