Continuum: 6 Literary References You May Have Missed

Continuum is a literate, philosophical show about time travel. We check out some of the show's crucial literary references.

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With all of its time travel twists and turns, Continuum can at times be a bit cerebral, and the hardcore fans love it! Part of the appeal may come in the form of some literary allusions the directors and writers snuck into the visual and narrative elements of the show. Lost fans may remember the ironic or symbolic use of book titles in the ABC hit as well, and Continuum carries on this sci-fi tradition. It’s the thinking fan’s Easter egg! Here are the literary references, starting with the most recent and working back through season 2 and season 1.

continuum 1984

George Orwell’s 1984Season 3 Episode 3 “Minute To Win It.”

While Lucas was building his remote control lock pick, he had tiny circuitry components on clear decals hidden inside a copy of 1984.

SIGNIFICANCE: The classic dystopia of “Big Brother” mirrors the world of 2077 in Continuum. Constant surveillance and mandatory obeisance to the Inner Party is very similar to the compliance the Corporate Congress expects of its citizens. Orwell’s main character was in charge of historical revision, a practice that Sonya Valentine refers to in a discussion with Kagame in season 1. Although the “thought-crimes” of 1984 weren’t quite evident in 2077, perhaps they weren’t far off.

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Continuum howard's end

E. M. Forster’s Howards EndSeason 2 Episode 4: “Second Skin”

Kiera’s CPS partner, Elena, in her final days asks her son to give her copy of Howards End to Kiera as a message about “ending isolation.”

SIGNIFICANCE: By mentioning isolation, Elena clearly wants Kiera to make her own social connections in 2013 rather than focusing on returning to 2077. However, this novel also speaks to the idea that intellectuals have a responsibility to help those poorer and make the rich less prejudiced: a very Liber8-like idea. Forster was famous for saying, “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country,” which sounds like some advice Kiera should follow.

Continuum the white guard

Mikhail Bulgakov’s The White GuardSeason 2 Episode 2: “Split Second”

While Julian is in prison, he is approached by a white supremacist who admires the fact that he’s reading Bulgakov. Travis shoos the thug away and later takes on his whole gang.

SIGNIFICANCE: The White Guard, a title which the neo-Nazi may have interpreted from a racist perspective, is a novel set during the Russian Revolution when many different factions were fighting over the city of Kiev. Julian made an appropriate choice by reading this historical novel considering the rest of the second seasonwas spent with Travis, Sonya, Dillon, and perhaps Julian himself fighting for supremacy over Vancouver. The choice of novel could also reference the many gangs, including the West Coast Syndicate and the Coalition Kings, which Travis united when he presented them with the heads of their bosses in a duffel bag.

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A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two CitiesSeason 1 Episode 10: “Endtimes”

Sonya presents Kagame with a copy of this Victorian classic on his birthday: that is, the actual day his younger self is born into the world and the day Kagame sacrifices himself in the season finale.

SIGNIFICANCE: Besides its famous opening line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” which describes 2077 to a tee while cleverly incorporating the word “time,” Dickens’ novel takes place during the French Revolution, when commoners were regularly suffering the consequences of inequality at the hands of the aristocracy. The situation in the novel is a perfect mirror for the society of 2077. It might also be said that the story of Continuum is a tale of two cities itself: Vancouver of our time, and Vancouver of the future.

The Brothers Karamazov

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers KaramazovSeason 1 Episode 9: “Family Time”

Kellog is seen reading this book when Kiera arrives on his boat at the end of the episode. She may or may not have allowed him to seduce her – the verdict is still out.

SIGNIFICANCE: Aside from adding an air of culture to our favorite snake, Kellog, this novel has some philosophical similarities to Continuum. Aside from the religious discussions which are notably (and perhaps suspiciously) absent from the themes of Continuum, The Brothers Karamazov deals with issues of morality and free will, both of which are central to the show. Who are the good guys? And what are the rules of time travel with regard to personal choice? A philosophical novel for a philosophical show!

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mark twain

Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court Season 1 Episode 5: “A Test of Time”

After having left Liber8, Kellog returns at the newly-arrived Kagame’s request. He mentions this novel in jest, but no one’s in a joking mood.

SIGNIFICANCE: Upon Kellog’s return, Lucas remarks that he can’t believe the weasel is still alive. Kellog replies, “It seems reports of my death were exaggerated. That’s Twain – great writer! He’s got this one about a Connecticut Yankee…” Twain’s novel, of course, was one of the first great time travel stories, even predating H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine. Its protagonist, like Liber8 and Kiera, travels back in time from Victorian America to Camelot. Kellog, as I mentioned before, is apparently quite cultured.

Keep your eye out for more literary references in Continuum this season and in the future (pun intended). I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of them!

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