Almost all of TV is the imagined universe of an autistic child.
When surfing the net, you come across a lot of geeky theories… such as an analysis of time travel movies… . Well, I’ve become aware of an interesting theory about a lot of the TV shows out there being in the same universe.
I’ve known about this theory for quite some time… I just never thought that so many shows were connected with each other. Probably the first time I even thought about it was when I saw an episode of Happy Days which featured Laverne and Shirley. I didn’t know that the shows were connected until I saw this episode.
Well it turns out that Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley crossed over with other shows, which had characters show up on other shows, which had more characters showing up on other shows… to the point that Star Trek, LOST, Leave it to Beaver, and Dennis he Menace all took place in the same universe.
Here’s a graphic which shows all of the TV shows connected.
Well, it also turns out that all of this universe is the imagined dream of an autistic boy named Tommy Westphall.
He was a character on some hospital related TV show called St. Elsewhere. In the finale of the show, it is revealed that the entire show didn’t really happen. It was all a fantasy that he had cooked up in his mind. This now brings up further problems. If he had dreamed St. Elsewhere, then by extension, any show that those characters from St. Elsewhere ever showed up on, or any shows who’s characters appeared on St. Elsewhere are also part of the dream. But it doesn’t stop there, all these shows in the graphic above are connected and in the same universe.. therefore it means ALL of those shows are in Tommy’s head. This is known as the Tommy Westphall Universe theory, and there are about 280 shows within this universe.
(Edit: it appears the original creator of this theory, Dwayne McDuffie has never been credited, while his theory has become immensely popular. None of my sources for this article credited Dwayne, but after a reader pointed it out that I didn’t credit him either, and provided me with a link to Dwayne, I should add the link here. I’m sorry, Dwayne, I didn’t know you created the theory.)
This theory is interesting, because there are several complications and quirks to this universe that make the theory really mess with your mind… Kind of like inception.
For example, in the 1980’s there was a show called Newhart about an old guy named Dick who ran an inn starring Bob Newhart. The final episode of that show revealed that the entire series had been the dream of a previous character, Bob Hartley, that Newhart had played in the ’70s on the Bob Newhart Show.
The Bob Newhart Show is connected with St. Elsewhere through a crossover, meaning that Bob Hartley is a figment of Tommy Westphall’s imagination. This means that Dick the innkeeper exists only in the dream of Bob Hartley, who only exists within the dream of Tommy Westphall.
But it doesn’t stop there. If you look at the chart, any show that is connected with Newhart is part of Bob Hartley’s dream, and not at all in the same universe as the other shows connected to St. Elsewhere, as they are one step downward. Happy Days (for example) is not in the same universe as St. Elsewhere, as Happy Days is part of Bob Hartley’s imagined universe, making it a part of a second layer within Tommy Westphall’s mind. This makes it so that the Star Ship Enterprise cannot possibly find Mork’s home planet of Ork, because Ork is part of Bob Hartley’s imagined universe. They should be able to go and find ALF’s home planet of Melmac though.
Now that we’ve established that there are different layers of this universe, we come into a much larger problem. One of the shows connected to this universe, Star Trek Deep Space Nine, had an episode which hinted that Star Trek DS9 (and by extension ALL of Star Trek… and by extension every show connected with it) was all part of a science fiction story written by an author named Benny Russell who lived in the 1950’s.
We never resolve whether Benjamin Sisko (the captain on DS9) is a character that Benny Russell is writing about, or if Benny Russell is part of some hallucination that Benjamin Sisko has.
If in fact the former were true, then you have Benny Russell’s reality as the top layer, followed by Tommy Westphall’s reality, followed by Bob Hartley’s reality, followed by Dick the Innkeeper’s reality. Tommy’s reality cannot be the top layer if Star Trek is a layer down from Benny Russell’s reality, because it would mean that Tommy’s own reality is two layers down and one layer up from his own reality (explanation Tommy–>Benny—>Sisko = St. Elsewhere<—-Tommy). It would make Tommy’s reality a part of the first layer Tommy’s imagined universe, which is impossible.
Here’s another problem. Sometimes shows within this universe are referenced as nothing more than TV shows on other shows. For example… Different Strokes and Knight Rider are both in this universe, yet there is one episode where Gary Coleman’s character goes to the set of Knight Rider.
This means that in the reality of Different Strokes, Knight Rider is a TV show… but the events of the actual TV show Knight Rider is a part of the reality of Different Strokes. So, that would mean that Knight Rider is real and there is a TV show based on it, OR it means that Knight Rider exists one level down from Different Strokes, and only seems to be on the same level because we have not yet discovered where this step down occurs between the other shows that are connected between Knight Rider and Different Strokes.
Further complications made by this hypothesis are that Star Trek and Battle Star Galactica should be in the same universe, when clearly they are not. The 1960’s Batman show and the 1950’s Adventures of Superman are also “real” according to the theory even though the characters are acknowledged as fictitious in other shows that should be in the same reality. (Example, if the hypothesis is true, then Heroes and The Adventures of Superman should both be real and in the same universe, even though they clearly are not.)
And what of all the pocket universes and time travel that goes on in those science fiction shows? What does this do to the theory?
I have not actually analyzed the entire crossover grid, so there may actually be several layers within it that I am not aware of. (Afterall, I haven’t seen most of the shows in the grid.) Anyhow, I go to work on tuesday and geeky posts like this will be few and far between once I have actual work to do.
(Edit: I’d like to thank all the users of reddit who have flocked here in droves on April 20th and 21st, 2011, making this post, by far, the most popular post on this blog. And no, I didn’t link myself on reddit. I am not a reddit user)