Victorian Time Travel: The Tales of Sage and Savant

Assassin’s Creed and Mechanics of Time Travel

A time travel story with a frame narrative set in the Victorian era tackles the overdone sub-genre of time travel in speculative fiction and gives it a unique spin akin to the video game franchise. In fact, the concept for which the two titular characters travel through time is almost identical to that of Assassin’s Creed. The only difference is that the technology is 19th century steampunk while Assassin’s Creed is set closer to modern day.

Season one is episodic and serial in nature. Each episode is self-contained to a single adventure (aside from the two part season finale). The overarching storyline is the frame narrative of the two main characters, in which they deal with trying to keep their discovery a secret from the college. It’s because of this that the framing feels more interesting than the actual time traveling portions.

Dreams and Philosophy, Time Travel and History

Sage and Savant deals with time travel the way the film Inception deals with philosophy. The book Inception and Philosophy is a fascinating read and the Google Talk video on YouTube is a great introduction to why the movie is so much more complex than the average person gives it credit for. Like Inception and its reality versus dreams theme present through the movie, The Tales of Sage and Savant tackles philosophical schools of thought dealing with death. Is it murder to inhabit the body of somebody already dead? One of the main questions of the first season is whether suicide would return a traveller safely to their body. The writer’s keep coming back to this and throughout the season more and more data is collected, but nothing is definitively concluded in the first season regarding this moral conundrum.

In fact, not fulfilling on promises is perhaps the biggest sin this season commits. To be fair, most television operates the same way with their season finales and The Tales of Sage and Savant is clearly trying to emulate that style of storytelling while mixing in old time radio tropes from the golden age of radio. After all, where would show runners be if the main character defeated the “big bad” before the midseason finale?

Assuming this is an ongoing adventure, meaning the ending is unknown in some capacity, the creators of Sage and Savant do a marvelous job at weaving in serial storytelling tropes and episodic fiction elements. And while it doesn’t answer some of the more illuminated questions of the season, it does act as a nice gateway into the world of steampunk and time travel fiction.

4/5 Stars

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