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Lords of Time #6: Doctor Who Vs Steins;Gate

Gustaff Behr continues the series pitting Doctor Who against some of the biggest time travel fiction.

doctor-who-steinsgate

“It’s safe to say String Theory doesn’t jive with the notion of bouncing around through time in a blue police box, however charming that sounds.” — Kurisu Makise

What would happen if Steven Moffat and Russell T. Davies decided to co-write Doctor Who? What if they agreed to use RTD’s mastery of in-depth character-driven stories with the Moff’s penchant for making time travel so important to the plot, placing clues right in front of us and making us ignore them until the last moment. What if they decided to add RTD’s capacity to bring an audience to tears at the end of every episode without it feeling forced AND give us Moffat styled timey-wimey alphabet soup in every episode? I’ll tell you what would happen: Steins;Gate

About the Challenger!

Country of Origin: Japan

Okabe Rintarou is a self-proclaimed mad scientist who invents gadgets and likes to use the alias Hououin Kyouma. He also likes to imagine that he is fighting a secret evil government conspiracy called The Organization. On the morning of July 28, 2010, Okabe attends the lecture of world renowned physicist Makise Kurisu, only to find her body dead on the floor in a pool of blood. He flees the scene and messages his hacker companion Daru when everyone around Okabe suddenly vanishes, only to reappear a moment later. Afterwards, Okabe meets Kurisu – alive again – shortly before Daru mentions the message Okabe sent him, now in a spam-like format, but the details state that it’s from a WEEK ago. The investigation leads to the invention of a gadget (in the shape of a microwave) that can send text messages back into the past and change history if the reader is convinced to act upon the information. Okabe is the only person able to retain knowledge about what happened on the other world lines and he soon finds himself fighting desperately to keep his reality and the lives of his friends from dying at the hands of SERN.

The Lure!

The connection you make with Okabe and Makise determines whether you love or hate this tale. These two are the driving force behind Steins;Gate. Admittedly, I found both characters instantly likable (some of my favorites of all time) and fell into the emotional spider web that this show weaves afterwards if you decide to love it. If you, like me, manage to fall into this web, then you will cry when they cry, you will hate when they hate and you will find yourself sucked completely into this mystery from start to finish and enjoy every second of it.

Another thing that makes this series so enticing is the inclusion of John Titor who is based off a legend in our world. The series borrows from John Titor and imagines what if his story was true. For those of you who don’t know John Titor: Back in 2000-2001 (in the real world) when the Internet was much smaller than it is now, a poster calling himself John Titor appeared, claiming to be from the year 2036. According to posts he made, Titor was an American soldier who’d been assigned to a top secret time-travel project. His reason for travelling back in time was to locate and take back an IBM 5100 computer which he claimed was needed to help solve the UNIX year 2038 problem. Titor also made numerous future predictions about a war and the United States breaking into five regions. He also claimed that the multiple world-line interpretation of time travel was indeed correct and that travelling back from his future might have caused history to alter, thereby rendering all his predictions unfalsifiable (meaning you can’t prove he’s lying). You can read the full story here or the short version here.

Dynamics and Differences

Like Emmett Brown, Rintarou can be seen as an expy of the Doctor. He’s very eccentric and ridiculous like the Fourth Doctor, but speaks with the confidence (and the large vocabulary) of the Sixth Doctor, which is an unusual, but an enticing combination. His antics are quite entertaining and his verbal jousts with Makise reminds one of the Doctor and Donna’s relationship. Another Doctor Who-ish occurrence is that the time machine in this story is – a microwave! We’ve had police boxes, cars, 19th travel vehicles running on who-knows-what, why shouldn’t we have microwaves? Tick the ridiculous looking time machine off the list of time travel clichés. It is played straight in this series though as the machine is only capable of transporting information back in time, not living things.

While Doctor Who primarily follows the grandfather paradox theory of time travel, Steins;Gate follows the parallel world theory. Shared traits involve time travelers remembering previous histories in Doctor Who, unless it pertains to extraordinary rewriting of personal timelines, whereas Okabe remembers regardless of what alternation has been made. He is also the only one capable of remembering. It is implied that if the change is significant enough, as with Doctor Who, he might erase himself. Another difference that should seem familiar is that like Future Diary, text in Steins;Gate doesn’t create fixed moments, quite the opposite. They cause history to shift to a new world line and opposite to Back to the Future, the characters are writing back to the past, not to the future.

As mentioned, this series borrows just the right amount form RTD and Steven Moffat to be considered a masterpiece. The series follows a standard pace; the episodes are both emotionally driven, as well as fantastically imaginative like most of Steven’s scripts. The characters are diverse, something Doctor Who excels at, but probably borrowing from the longest running science fiction TV show, Steins;Gate manages to balance humor and serious perfectly.

Keep in mind though: If you don’t get time travel (paradoxes confuse you) or if you’re one of those people who needs every little thing happening in front of you to be explained, then don’t bother watching this show. This story may be animated, but it assumes that the audience it’s pleasing understands what’s going on, why things are happening the way they are and that its audience is intelligent enough when it comes to temporal storytelling. Don’t interpret this as me calling you intellectually challenged. You know what I’m talking about. Most of what’s happening in the show follows a reasonable trail of logic, but if you’re one of those people that complains about how people were talking in space in The Rings of Akhaten even though ‘air bubbles’ and ‘air shields’ have made numerous appearances on Doctor Who in the past, but can’t put two and two together unless it’s mentioned by word of mouth, then this show will disappoint you.

Lastly, I need to mention the best aspect of this show – the Rewatch Bonus. Steins;Gate features the biggest Rewatch Bonus of any show I have ever watched (even Sherlock and Moffat and Gatiss put a lot of them in there scripts). The bonus is when creators proceed to show off just how much work they’ve put into writing the story by making you notice new things every time you watch a rerun of the episode. Imagine The Big Bang Doctor making an appearance in Flesh and Stone. Now if the Doctor somehow lost his jacket in The Big Bang and then came back, looking exactly like the Flesh and Stone Doctor, then that would stand as a Rewatch Bonus. Steins;Gate is chalk full of these. In fact, I’m not even spoiling it for you when I tell you that basically everything in episode one from start to finish is a rewatch bonus. Even with this foreknowledge, you won’t be able to spot a single thing until the very end of the series. That’s how good Steins;Gate is!

Score!

  • Plot – 4/5
  • Characters – 4/5
  • Character Development – 3/5
  • Tearjerkers – 5/5
  • Timey-Wimey ball – 4/5
  • Plot Point – 5/5

Based on this criteria, Steins;Gate scored…

25 out of a possible 30. This means that the rankings look like this now:

  1. Steins;Gate25/30
  2. Back to the Future24/30
  3. Future Diary 22/30
  4. Quantum Leap20/30
  5. Shadow of Destiny19.5/30
  6. The Time Machine16.5/30

Join me next time when we rake up another challenger. Clue for next article: Stardust.

Step back in time...

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55 comments
Big_Bad_Wolf
Big_Bad_Wolf

My little cousin was watching Power Rangers Time Force earlier.. Should totally do that hahaha! XD


RoweMatthew
RoweMatthew

Steins Gate is the only anime I truly like and an absolute masterpiece. I don't like that you imply the writers used Doctor Who as a model. Steins Gate is far more complex than Doctor Who. Not just in the time travel, but the science, and the complexity of characters. I love the atmosphere of the show most of all. It really is brilliant. Uggh, but the dubbed version of Steins Gate is horrible. Completely alters the tone. Watch the subtitled version everyone!



BobGDU
BobGDU

You should do Chrono Trigger

Judge Claude Frollo
Judge Claude Frollo

Well, I'm interested in this show now.

Unfortunately, I have 16 other shows to watch this summer D:

Ninjauthor
Ninjauthor

it's interesting that you've gone for so many smaller unknown projects, I've never heard of future diary steins gate or shadow of destiny. I was expecting more bigger films like the terminator franchise or looper

OnceTheDoctor
OnceTheDoctor

Steins;Gate - Sorry I've NEVER heard of that one! And what's with the colon?

LoganWilliams
LoganWilliams

Stardust?... My "expect the unexpectable gland" is actually telling me to expect YuGiOh 5D's.


Ash Smith
Ash Smith

Big fan of DW as well as Steins Gate. Great, well written article.  :-D

Kylephantom4
Kylephantom4

Hmmm, might give this a watch....the hint though...okay this one is...pretty hard actually. Stardust....well my guess is there is a romance novel called "Stardust Time" which does involve time travel...or maybe its just a reference to Neil Gaiman as an author (he wrote the novel Stardust) as he wrote a couple time travel novels I'm pretty sure. Ah well, guess I'll find out next Sunday

Nightmarish
Nightmarish

This sounds good! Do you know where I can watch it? Also, are you going to score Doctor Who at the end of the series?

Seaborn W Deadman
Seaborn W Deadman

Kinda glad Steins;Gate scored higher than Back to the Future...no offense intended to the Back to the Future franchise, it just isn't really my thing :) Although I really liked the Time Machine, it's a classic, shame it scored relatively low :)

the_ponds_forever
the_ponds_forever

Ohh that sounds good! Where can I find this and is it dubbed (is that the right word???) In english?

YgorVale
YgorVale

Great article, really enjoyed reading this series, keep 'em coming.

Gustaff
Gustaff

Sorry guys, I can't come out and play today for very long. Bit busy with family stuff. Enjoy the article. Bye!

MikeGreenhalgh
MikeGreenhalgh

you need to stahp :P haven't finished watching future diary yet, which is now one of my favorite anime's :D

The Finn
The Finn

"Clue for next article: Stardust." Surely it can't be that easy?



Temporal Tomato
Temporal Tomato

Ah, you got me this time, Gustaff, I was wrong. You win... again. ;)

Arvis
Arvis

@RoweMatthew The dub was amazing, greatest anime dub of all time.  Even surpasses the Cowboy Bebop dub.

Gustaff
Gustaff

@Nightmarish Yes, I am scoring Doctor Who at the end of this series. As for where you can watch it, hold your mouse over my avatar and it'll direct you to a site.

thunderrhapsody
thunderrhapsody

@TheDoctor_is_in  why did he compare Doctor Who to a book?  why did he compare Doctor Who to a game?  why did he compare Doctor Who to a movie trilogy?  




Gustaff
Gustaff

@MikeGreenhalgh

Glad to be of service. Where are you in the series? On a scale of 1-10, where is Yuno's craziness at by now?

RoweMatthew
RoweMatthew

No... The dub actors made a mockery of it. As the one anime story that isn't too melancholy or crazy to be taken seriously it needed the voices of people who could actually act. The Japanese voices are spot on.

Judge Claude Frollo
Judge Claude Frollo

...you're asking me to dump Buffy the Vampire Slayer, All Creatures Great and Small, Call the Midwife and The Sarah Jane Adventures?

RoweMatthew
RoweMatthew

I agree with you for the most part and I can see how it is nice to be able to get references but I'm a bit of a purist. I would rather try to understand the original joke and dialogue, because that's what the creator intended as part of his vision and it is his vision I am interested in, not some random joke made up to appeal to my culture because that's some sad edition by the localisation crew. However, I was originally considering the official translation on the DVD set (well worth the money) and not crappy fan subs. I'll watch fan subs of something I'm mildly interested in but if it's something in serious about I want as close to the original as I can.

Yeah people will always argue dubs vs subs. My view is that dubs are not only limited by the translation but the amount of speaking time (which is often longer in Japanese, anime at least, not real life). So it's like the story has been run through two filters. At least with subs they MAY have cut some information to fit them on the screen in one go but you can actually hear the tone and implications applied by the original actors which adds a lot to understanding - way more than dubbers will ever understand. Being a purest this appeals to me.

But yes I happy to agree to disagree. Ee both like Steins Gate. Yay! But let us never speak of the accursed fan service ova

Arvis
Arvis

@RoweMatthew LOL, we both said "Okaba."  My bad.

Anyways, none of the points you just made are unreasonable, or even something I can or want to argue with.

But i will say that I think a large part of this entire discussion (and, indeed, the entire dubs vs. subs argument that will never end) all really boils down to the "which came first" phenomenon.  Whichever version you experienced ORIGINALLY is the one that will embed itself into your heart.  Ergo, any alteration from that version is automatically going to be taken as "worse" at best.  This is natural and happens to everybody.


Honestly, this partly the reason why I prefer to go with dubs, when available.  If I spoke Japanese, that would be best.  But relying on what are often poorly-written subtitles that sometimes are just rushed translations by fans (or, if I'm lucky, one or two guys in an office with a ridiculous deadline) makes me feel like I'm really missing the heart of the story, so to speak.  Whereas a true localization with an entirely English script is often a better experience: effort has been made to recapture the depth and nuance of the dialogue, but for an English-speaking audience.  Steins;Gate did this wonderfully.  Jokes that would have flown right over my head in the sub became some of my favorite moments in the entire series in the dub.  I felt included, because I actually got the references and knew what they were talking about.  It was nice.

And as for the acting itself, if you were to sit down and force yourself to watch the dub in its entirety, you would admit it's not the travesty you make it out to be.  Sure, you'd still probably not like it, but you would at least see all the really good bits that I got to see.


Anyways, the funniest thing about these dumb subs vs dubs arguments is that they occur between people who LIKE THE SAME DANG ANIME.  People will argue about anything.


-Arvis

RoweMatthew
RoweMatthew

@Arvis Thanks for the intelligent response, though I could do with out the venom it was laced in. Don't take things so personally. Of course I am expressing my opinion. What else am I going to say? You are expressing yours but don't make so many assumptions.
As it happens I have lived in Japan for the past 5 years, but understanding the nuance of the word's meaning was not what I was getting at. Just the tone of the voice. Every English dub of an anime I have seen comes off very cartoony and over the top. Steins Gate, I can see from the videos posted here, is no different. I find it very hard to get emotionally invested in something so exaggeratedly comic. However, the Japanese voices were more balanced and realistic. 


I often say that anime and JDrama is steeped too much in melancholy, but at least they don’t swing the other way and make everything so cartoony. English dubs always do that because there is still the stigma that cartoons are for kids only. So they give them the kinds of voices you would get on a Saturday morning cartoon. Nevermind if the subject matter is deeper than most adult US Sci-fi.


Also, I just like the sounds of them. Okaba actually sounded like someone pretending to be crazy rather than just a cocky American git. I actually believed that could be real. As for Kurisu, if you think her Japanese voice lacked depth I think you've been watching a different anime. The acting in her part is very subtle. Something which cannot compete with the comic book stylings of the English version where she comes off like a typical US college girl. Such a voice doesn’t fit her character at all. She is a very introverted girl. I love Daru's Japanese voice though. It’s so warm and slightly dopy. The english one doesn’t even sound like an overweight person.


The problem is that anime in the west is always completely miscast. They don’t take into account all these subtleties to the character because they have a very limited stock of actors for the parts. I’m sure they are good actors. But put any actor in the wrong role and it won’t turn out for the best. 
If you enjoy the English dub then great, but I don’t and naturally, because I like this anime so much, I want to recommend other people see it in what I think is the best form. As such a serious and complex story I think it deserves some believable and serious acting. Not the kind you get on kids cartoons.


Arvis
Arvis

@RoweMatthew Here's the thing: I don't speak or understand the Japanese language.  And unless you do, don't pretend you understand its nuance or tonal subtleties.  And if you don't, then you have no way of knowing if "the Japanese voices are spot on" or not.  You just prefer them based on whatever bias (you heard them first, you're an elitist snob, etc) you happen to be beholden to at the moment.   And your preference is based entirely on personal opinion.


Because I DO understand English and I frequently watch anime in both languages, I can say, free from bias, that the English voice actors did an incredible job.  Whether they did better than the Japanese voice actors, I really have no idea.


But just trying to be as objective as possible, can you really say that someone like, say, Daru, was really better in Japanese then in English?  Dubious at best.

J. Michael Tatum as Okaba was also fantastic (although opinions are split on whether he was "better" or not), and the unbiased majority in the anime community concede that Trina Nishimura gave Kurisu more depth and maturity than Asami Imai, which was appropriate for the character.


Your wholesale dismissal of the dub in its entirety discredits your opinion.  You come off sounding like a fanboy with an agenda rather than a legitimate critic.


But I guess that's what comments sections are for...


-Arvis

RoweMatthew
RoweMatthew

You could try, but I didn't forget it, so you would fail.

Pepp
Pepp

@RoweMatthew  All Creatures Great and Small is a great show. Might I remind you that 'the best' is an opinion?

RoweMatthew
RoweMatthew

Ah well. Can't help some people. I wish I could get by watching mediocrity but I only enjoy watching the best

Judge Claude Frollo
Judge Claude Frollo

I'm sorry, but I think I'll stick to my original plan first. My favourite Doctor (Peter Davison) is in All Creatures Great and Small, many of my friends are recommending Call the Midwife and I've been wanting to see SJA for some time now.

(Not to mention my other shows *coughFuturamacough*)

RoweMatthew
RoweMatthew

Don't dump Buffy but you can dump the rest. Watch Steins Gate first though. It's shorter than Buffy. Tho both are fantastic. Steins Gate is perfect

Nightmarish
Nightmarish

It doesn't really matter that it's anime because there is still all the aspects it's being scored on in anime. If part of the criteria was acting, then it wouldn't make sense.

Gustaff
Gustaff

@AlexArmstrong

I’m not much of a movie person. I only go when there is something exceptionally good showing. Sitting down for 2 hours is a challenge for me.