Written by Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett (Terra Nova), produced by Natalie Chaidez (V (2009), The Sarah Connor Chronicles), directed by Jeffrey Reiner (The Event). The pilot "follows the journey of a time traveler from the post-apocalyptic future who appears in present day on a mission to locate and eradicate the source of a deadly plague that will eventually decimate the human race."[1][2] The idea of eradicating the source of the plague in the past contradicts the ideas and themes set in the film the series is based on.

Time travel paradoxes

The television series outright states that it is beyond paradoxes in the first episode, with Dr Jones telling Cole "not even a paradox can hold you back." By allowing paradoxes, the writers allow themselves to write a story that simply contradicts itself. A paradox is immediately presented in the next scene, and more paradoxes follow throughout the series. A visual example is given with the watch-scratching paradox. This sort of self-contradiction can be forgiven in comedies and action films where the plot is merely a backdrop to hang upon funny characters or impressive action sequences, but 12 Monkeys purports to be a drama.

The watch-scratching paradox
An easy-to-follow example of a paradox in the series is the watch-scratching paradox. Cole possesses a watch he collected in the future, and Railly possesses the same watch from the past; as Cole embeds a deep scratch in the "past" watch, it slowly appears on the "future" watch. Logically, if the watch was scratched in the past, it should have been scratched when Cole found it in the future, it would have been scratched all along, and the scratch wouldn't suddenly appear, it would have always been there from the moment it was created in the past.

Thematic differences from the film

  • Time is malleable. If the universe is free of logical contradictions, if exhaustive mutually exclusive events cannot take place, then changing the past is impossible, since any change in past events is mutually exclusive with "unchanged" past events.
    • The unchangeable past is one of the tenets of the film 12 Monkeys, and it enables it to be free of contradictions; in combination with the protagonist's apparent mental instability, it creates tension and leads the audience and the characters to question whether the protagonist is actually traveling through time or whether he is merely insane.
    • The TV series 12 Monkeys allows for changing the past and opens itself to contradictions; the death of a character in the "past" changes the future, which is later restored to the "original" future. Despite the protagonist's assurance that creating an alternate future will cause him to cease to exist or "be erased", this does not happen; perhaps he is mistaken. The protagonist does not dwell on this fact, nor does he question his sanity. There is no tension about the protagonist's sanity, not internally with himself and not with other characters, because he easily demonstrate the effects of time travel to nearly everyone around him.
  • Everybody is sane.
    • The TV series has a token "insane" character, but even that token insane character is very sane, very deliberate, and very capable. No character in the TV series questions their own motives or fears for their sanity, despite the seemingly perplexing nature of time travel. One of the characters admits, "we have achieved temporal displacement, and found a way to make it incredibly boring." Since everything is very neat and tidy, the characters' internal conflicts are easily overcome, and exchanging lifelong allegiances is easily performed - from government bureaucrat to terrorist, from doctor to murderer, the characters' path is always clear and quick.
    • The film uses the theme of insanity to create tension and suspense, make the audience question what is real and what isn't, and burden the characters' decision-making. The film's characters live in fear of a coming plague, but their greater fear is that they may be insane, their actions are haphazard and impulsive, and exchanging their allegiance is a long and painful process.
  • People are immune to the virus.
    • Humanity in the series suffers a catastrophic loss of billions of lives. Some survivors are immune, and while humanity is in chaos, the immediate threat of extinction is lifted. Humanity lives above ground.
    • Humanity lives underground in the film. Literally underground, they breathe recycled air, go on excursions to the surface in hazmat suits having to pass through airlocks, and perform decontamination upon return. They "live like worms", and without a cure for the virus they cannot populate the surface.
  • The plague is spread by a rich powerful manipulative secret cabal.
    • The TV series pits the protagonists against competing militias, against the US government, and against a rich, powerful, manipulative, secret cabal with very specific plans that are very meticulously executed. The plague is one plan among many for this nearly omnipotent organization. Perhaps this frames the protagonists of the TV series as underdogs, but this organized and calculated "Evil Incorporated" takes away perhaps the most frightening idea present in the film.
    • The film lays the world's destruction on one man working alone, an "apocalypse nut" - the film's three protagonists are all deemed apocalypse nuts themselves - and in place of secret armies, government agencies, or terrorist militias, humanity is felled by a single man.


  1. Chris Gautz (December 10, 2013), "Sci-fi pilot '12 Monkeys' filming in Detroit, will get $1.5M in state incentives", Crain's Detroit Business 
  2. Rudie Obias (Dec 12, 2013), "12 Monkeys TV Series Reveals New Plot Details", Giant Freakin Robot 

12 Monkeys TV series wiki

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