'In Search Of' episode 5 review: 'Time Travel' is the series' best episode so far
'Time Travel' addresses the divisive subject from different perspectives, coming up with intelligible and understandable answers.
Four episodes in, History's much-vaunted reboot of 'In Search Of' with Zachary Quinto as the host has proven to be quite disappointing in comparison to its predecessor. Under Leonard Nimoy's stewardship, the show had garnered quite a following in the 1980s, exploring some of the more divisive issues at the time from a strictly scientific point of view. An ill-fated reboot in the early 2000s failed to kick off and the hope was that Quinto would give the series the much-needed boost of star-power that Mitch Pileggi could not. And while the 41-year-old has proven himself to be an excellent host, 'In Search Of' has been let down by poor production, overly-dramatic premises, and a proclivity to entertain fluff.
Episode 4 broached the topic of Artificial Intelligence, which has been quite the controversial topic over the past decade. Some of humanity's greatest minds — be it Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, or Elon Musk — have come out to express their concerns about our rapid advancements in the field, and Quinto took to answering why this was so by looking to answer some of the burning questions.
'Artificial Intelligence' was divided into segments that asked these questions: What risks will these machines pose to humans in the future? At what point will they turn on their human masters? What will happen if the destructive technology currently being deployed in drones (which, to an extent, is AI) falls into the hands of radicals and terrorists?
Amongst other things, Quinto visits Facebook to talk to Yann Lecun, the Chief of A.I. research at the company, to talk about their chatbot program that went viral for all the wrong reasons; visits a company that makes life-sized, artificially intelligent dolls; visits AI laboratories at universities working on their own advancements in the field; checks out a new-age recreation of 'Robot Wars'; and visits Uber's self-driving facility.
While the episode was an improvement on its predecessor, 'Monsters of the Deep,' it too was accompanied by its fair share of negatives. Production and editing felt amateurish, and at times, it felt as though Quinto had run of out questions to ask. It also continued the series' trend of creating this fake tension where there was none, with the bootlegger 'Terminator' feel not helping its case.
Review of episode 5, 'Time Travel'
'Time Travel' would be the second successive episode where 'In Search Of' would attempt to tackle a topic that has found itself at the crux of science fiction for the past century. In all fairness, 'Artificial Intelligence' was surprisingly informative, and the hope remained that the series would eventually redeem itself as it proceeded through the season. With the opening of episode 5, it felt as though that hope had all but evaporated only for the rest of the 35-odd minutes to make up for a frankly appalling beginning.
Time Travel has been something that has intrigued scientists for well over a century, with some dismissing the possibility outright and others such as Stephen Hawking — he famously threw a party for a time-traveling version of himself from the future but was left disappointed — welcoming the possibility. That being said, one can argue that 'In Search Of' could have presented audiences with a better introduction than an interview with Andrew D. Basiago, a man who claimed that he had time traveled multiple times.
With Quinto offering an attentive ear as ever, Basiago goes on to explain in great detail about how his father, a scientist at DARPA, was a part of a secret project that experimented and succeeded in time travel. Conspiracy theories claiming the same are not uncommon, though Basiago's tale makes you want to roll your eyes so hard they get stuck at the back of your head. Credit where it's due, however, as Quinto himself comes out of the talk expressing his skepticism about the story, though he characteristically ensures he's never too unkind in his dismissal.
But it was all upwards from that point on, with the episode taking a meticulous and methodical approach to addressing such a perplexing subject matter. We later find Quinto talking to mathematician Tom Van Baak about the effects of gravity on time, a theory that was first proposed by Albert Einstein and later proven through significant research. An experiment involving atomic clocks proves the hypothesis, with the one left at a higher height moving faster in comparison to the one at sea level because of the minute differences in gravity. Nanoseconds it may have been, but the implications are quite significant.
From California, Quinto finds himself across the Atlantic Ocean in Liverpool, England, looking into the bizarre phenomenon of time slips in a particular street in the city. The phenomenon sees a person suddenly transported into the past for a brief period of time, only to later find themselves back in the present and disoriented. While this segment could easily have devolved into the ones from previous episodes that entertained over-the-top, non-sensical stories, it instead delves into the topic with a level-headedness that befits it well. And out came possible explanations in the form of interference of our brain waves because of electromagnetic waves from the nearby underground metro system, as well as the infrasound being emitted from a mysterious underground crypt located beneath a church.
A short trip to Switzerland follows, with 'Time Travel' taking audiences inside the Mecca for physicists across the world: the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Geneva. Here, Quinto is taken around by one of the scientists who explains the basic workings of arguably humanity's greatest invention. It's here that you can appreciate how good a host the 41-year-old is. Aware that he is painfully out of his depth, he only listens, offering up the odd conversation to let his host know that she has his interest and that her talk is not falling on deaf ears. Quinto even asks about one of the questions that critics often throw around concerning the collider: will these experiments create a black hole that will destroy the Earth as we know it? I won't spoil too much here, so it's best you watch for yourself.
In the last segment, episode 5 asks a question that has crossed almost everybody's mind at some point in time: why does it feel as though time moves slower on certain days or during times of disaster? While one would expect a load of scientific mumbo-jumbo and jargon that could go over the audience's head, we get a pleasantly intelligible and understandable answer. Furthermore, the fact that Quinto decides to face his fear and jumps 13,000 feet from a plane in the name of science shows his commitment to the cause.
'Time Travel' is undoubtedly the best episode in the series so far, and if the producers can keep up the same level of quality through the rest of the season, they could have a compelling and entertaining show yet.