By John Bernardy
Time has always been a bit loose in Twin Peaks. Most theories I’ve read trying to explain this lean on Dream Logic, but after I read how Mark Frost dealt with this in The Secret History of Twin Peaks, I thought I’d take a moment to lean into science for a moment:
The BBC Science Hour played a segment within weeks of Secret History’s release with Geologist Ross Stein, who was explaining the system of fault lines that were creating the large number of earthquakes suddenly wreaking havoc across towns in Italy.
In the specific situation Stein spoke of, he said the tectonic plate Italy called home was being compressed until about a million years ago. Now it’s being stretched so its faults are trying to figure out how to do something different than it was born to do and they’re reorganizing.
He said the lines were “little broken shards of faults that haven’t been organized by repeated earthquakes into a long continuous smooth fault, so that means if you jostle one faultline, you tend to move the others around it, and no one fault is able to rupture for a very long distance and produce a very large earthquake, so we get these little groups or families of moderate sized events.”
He also explained that aftershocks happen randomly over time, but the magnitude of release does not strengthen or weaken over time. It’s more likely to have earthquakes hours apart than years apart but there’s still that possibility. All these earthquakes are part of a conversation between faults.
The continued danger after an earthquake are aftershocks, and there will be aftershocks. They are generally smaller than the first shock but sometimes aftershocks are bigger. When this happens, the semantical trick the scientists use for their terminology is that the largest shock is considered a Main Shock, while smaller quakes that contribute to the main shock are now called foreshocks. Faultlines that have been loaded by any shock at all are closer to fail than they were before these events began.
Looking specifically at Secret History, reread everything Stein just said but instead of “faultline”, substitute with the name of someone who’s had an interaction with the lodge. And every time you hear “earthquake” substitute with “timequake.”
Every time one of us meets a lodge denizen, or we reach into one another’s worlds, our realities scrape against each other at a proverbial faultline and it becomes charged. Enough meetings like that, and the line between our realities will slip and a reality quake shakes up time.
I’d have to say the original main shock in Twin Peaks, and the reason I’m so keen on this earthquake metaphor in the first place, occurred when volcanic (fire-based) activity in the Twin Peaks area formed Blue Pine and White Tail mountains. Deer Meadow Radio’s Mark Givens is fond of mentioning the Michner-style book Frost wanted to write as early as 1990 that would begin with the formation of the mountains and focus on the weird electrical energy that settled between them, so I feel good saying this was on Frost’s mind the entire time he was writing Secret History.
So what do the shocks do? They cause ripples through time that, if you could see them, would look like a lake after a rock skips across it. It would look like the rings of a tree in a cross-cut.
The points of time captured on the crests of the shockwaves, on the rings of the trees, would be Ed and Norma’s distance from each other when Laura died. The points between the ripples, or between the tree rings, are the less solid details of Norma’s family and how Ed actually met Nadine. The most important details (the details closest to the moment of the shocks) rise to the top, are indelible, while the less important details can be re-remembered. Just like our own memories.
This matches up with Joel Bocko’s observation on Twin Peaks Unwrapped: character cores are the same in Secret History. Alternate universe stories usually change characters entirely, but here different beginnings come to the same outcomes rather than the same beginnings coming to different outcomes in usual parallel universe situations. Which is why I think it’s more about metaphysical geologic events rather than parallel universes.
If you make it about timequakes and shocks to our reality, that can credibly explain how one dossier can contain blatantly inconsistent documents from seeming parallel universes. If we were dealing with multiple realities, the dossier would be internally consistent within one alternate reality only, and there’d be at least fifteen similar-but-inexact dossiers in play. In this model time is overwritten, but not before documents are written and immortalized. Think how there are copies of rough drafts out and about, earlier moments than the “final” products (the Star Wars Trilogy and then the Special Editions let’s say) and you can put them both in a dossier next to each other if you want to. They all exist, but one is the more official version according to history.
Reality timequakes allow for canon changes to fit within the same canon. It doesn’t require multiple worlds, but it does make multiple realities exist within one world without needing to find a way to travel between the realities. This allows for a certain kind of dream logic, allows it to work intuitively rather than explicitly, which should be right in Lynch’s wheelhouse. It doesn’t require time travel but it sure allows for it. It’s science-leaning and magick-leaning, and finally allows for the different versions of Twin Peaks to coexist peacefully in their solar system. And even if I’m somehow exactly right about this, it’s just a framework: there’s plenty of room for so many more possibilities and surprises to come.
Read here for a continued exploration of this theory.