Continuum's Simon Barry answers our deepest time-travel questions

In the past year, Continuum has become a must-watch television show. This time-traveling cop show has been blowing our minds with twisty storytelling and a complex mythology. We were excited to ask creator Simon Barry what's coming next on the show, and here's what he told us.

We corresponded with Barry via email, and here are the responses to our questions that he sent back.

You told us back in January 2012 that you conceived of Continuum as a blend of science fiction and police procedural. Was there a conscious decision to de-emphasize the "police procedural" aspects and the case-of-the-week stuff in season two? Are those aspects basically gone now?

Not at all. The Police elements were always connected to the percieved Liber8 threat and this allowed Kiera to be involved with a larger group of characters in her cause, rather than going at it alone. The series was not sold as a 100% serialized show, and we have always tried to use the procedural structure to embed a closed ended story every week, that was entertaining first, and moved the serialized and mythological elements forward a little at a time.

Naturally as the show developed and the core fan base remained solid and growing, it was easier to bring the procedural and serial elements into more of a 50/50 balance.

The core of the show's storytelling has always seemed to be the struggle between corporate dominance and the anarchy of Liber8. How do the Freelancers fit into that theme?

You will find out in the first episode of Season 3.

When did you guys decide that the show needed another group of time travelers in the mix?

The notion of Freelancers was introduced early in the writing room of season 1. We were going to bring it in then, but decided to hold back until Season 2.

My favorite episode this season was probably the one where Julian and Alec hang out and play pool, because their relationship felt very real. Now that Julian has made his choice, are the stepbrothers going to keep getting pushed further apart? Or will we get to see them interacting like that again? Do you think we'll keep being offered the possibility that the two of them could become friends?

I always liked the Shakespearian feel of brothers (step-brothers if you want to be specific) who end up on opposing sides of the equation 60 years from now.

The time travel mythology we are building has an incestuous quality to it, which is not by accident. I believe that family connections should play a key role in the way things play out if we are to believe that this technology was developed by a person, not a corporation or government. Because Alec Sadler made a decision to develop and use this tech, it would naturally impact him and his family directly, and this would have a ripple effect through time.

The connection between Alec and Julian will always play a part in the show, but it will shift into unexpected places.

We keep getting hints that some kind of social collapse is on the horizon, and things get really bad between now and the horrible dystopia we witness in 2035. Are we going to see more of that happening in season three?

Our 'writer's room bible' includes a complete history from today through 2077 and even a little beyond then. We saw the collapse in the 30's as a precursor for the corporations to make their defining move and replace civilian government. There may be more snippets of that era when it's thematically relevant to the story we are telling in the present.

In one episode, someone shoots Kellog's grandmother and he's unharmed. In another episode, Kiera solves a serial killer case that was never solved in her original timeline — and she still remembers seeing it as an unsolved case, back in 2077. Also, in one episode Old Alec tells Young Alec that he's not Young Alec's future self, but just a version of Alec that shares some experiences. So is it basically confirmed that you can change the past, but you'll just create a brand new alternate timeline? Is that definite now?

The final episode of season 2 certainly points to that, but 'definite' is a dangerous word. Don't get too hung up on the defining "multiverse versus closed loop" debate just yet.

We like to think of time in the context of our story: two points, 65 years apart. The belief that one can make small changes to the timeline now and that will upset 100% of the events in 65 years, is too simplistic. We've used the Tsunami metaphor in the show and I think it's an appropriate one in this case. Small changes to that wave are certainly going to have an impact on the damage it does, but that doesn't mean the wave doesn't do what it's supposed to do.

I think because the stories are Kiera-centric, we are tempted to believe that the changes to the timeline will affect her life more than others, but there's no reason to think this way. Unless Kiera or Liber8 makes changes that are directly related to her family and Greg's family, then there is still a good chance that she will be born and Greg will be born and they will meet.

The idea of multiple timelines in itself opens the door to connected timelines that could split like tree branches but then wrap around each other like vines, eventually merging again. That's one of the amazing things about time travel; because it's not a pure science, there is room for interpretation and the introduction of larger forces at work, be they natural or un-natural.

Even if Kiera is on an alternate timeline, she could theoretically return to a version of 2077 where her life played out 99% as it did. Now it's true she would run into a version of herself that never went back in time and that would be complicated… But it would be deliciously complicated.

If so, then what does Old Alec have to gain by sending Kiera and the Liber8 gang back in time? Won't he just create a different timeline that he can't ever visit? From his viewpoint, how can Old Alec even know what changes happen as a result of that time travel?

Perhaps Old Alec understands more about what's at stake than we've revealed to date. The final episode of season 2 will introduce the first threads of this larger storyline.

Here's something that still bugs me a bit from season one — why does Kagame have to blow up that building? Kiera remembers it being blown up, which means someone already blew it up in the "original" timeline, before Kagame traveled back in time. Who blew it up in the original timeline, and what happened to that person? Also, why couldn't Kagame just set a timer and get out before the explosion?

If I told you to go back in time and change things, I would know which events had long term impact and which events were simply unimportant in the long run. Your job then would be to ensure certain events took place in order for my recipe to work out the way I hope it will. Others could be changed or even left alone. It wouldn't be 100% reliable, but it might preserve certain things the way I needed them to be preserved based on my personal plan.

Old Alec and Kagame clearly had an understanding of this formula. Kagame would have never gone along with this plan otherwise. I don't want to get into too much of how this works, but suffice to say, sacrifice is part of every War, but sacrifice is ultimately redefined in a universe where time travel exists.

One of the big shifts in season two was the Vancouver Police Department coming under the control of Piron, or at least a big part of it. Do the police basically just become another gang in the city's gang war at some point, and lose their legitimacy as cops? Have the police already crossed too many lines to be able to claim they're upholding the law?

Well the Piron deal is really only with Dillon's Liber8 task force so it was never meant to be a complete take-over (yet!) - What we are setting up is the very small moves that might lead towards an eventual corporate controlled police department a-la Robo-cop OCP scenario.

It seems as though the driving force behind the corporate takeover of the police was the arrival of Liber8. Are the Liber8 terrorists basically causing the corporate-controlled future they were trying to prevent, only ahead of schedule?

There's a timely irony in that, and it's not an accident.

And finally, it's seemed as though Kiera isn't sure what her goal is any more. At times she wants to preserve the timeline she comes from, but at other times, she's willing to make some pretty big changes. (For example, being willing to shoot Julian, which would cause a pretty big change.) Are we going to see her regaining more of a clear sense of purpose in season three? Is her evolution as a character taking her someplace? And will we be learning more about Alec's "purpose" for her?

It's interesting that many comments pop up from time to time about Kiera not doing the 'right' thing or the 'smart' thing regarding time travel. This suggests she has the knowledge the audience has.

One of the unique aspects of Kiera Cameron in the Time Travel tradition is that she is one of the few characters in the genre who are not travelling by choice. Most Time Travel is driven by a character who understands the stakes and science of Time Travel, therefore their actions are determined based on their self aware role within the time continuum. They are willing adventurers who know the rules and usually have a goal and understanding of how to achieve it in context of their situation.

That is not the story of Continuum.

Kiera is an average person in 2077. She's not a scientist or engineer. She's not a theoretical physicist or even a fan of Science Fiction (unlike many of our fans who I believe would know what to do, and what not to do, if they found themselves in her shoes). Kiera is an unwilling victim of another person's designs... She is us.

Kiera is fumbling her way through this experience using her humanity and experience as a guide, not a set of time travel rules or knowledge of paradoxes and wormholes. On occasion Alec will remind her of the possibilities and pitfalls, but without proof of anything, who's to say what's right or wrong. As Kiera evolves, so will her decisions.

For Kiera, this entire adventure is also a learning experience, and the lessons will form a critical path towards her becoming the person she needs to become in this mythology, and illuminate the "purpose" Alec had in mind for her.