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Do you remember when Sam leaped into himself as a teenager? And he played "Imagine" and it made his sister cry? THAT WAS SO
SAD!

And then he leaped into his brother's platoon in Vietnam and Al was in the photo and IT WAS EVEN SADDER!

Man, I loved "Quantum Leap." This high-school plotline is chock full of things I loved in high school.

In the first panel I drew a little heart for Andrew.

People are always exploiting Dave for his car ownership. I've never owned a car, so this is basically the way I live my life.

I wrote a lot of material for this storyline that didn't make it into the final version. My original idea for "Unstuck in Time" was that I would keep dragging it out as long as humanly possible to see how long people would put up with it. But "Doppelganger Gambit" ended up inadvertently filling that function. So I cut a lot of strips to shorten "Unstuck in Time" to a less annoying length.

I mention this in a later Sunday feature, but earlier drafts of this storyline included two fairly long sequences in Dave's high-school life that I cut. One involved Dave's first encounter with the Dave Conspiracy and explained how he was recruited into that organization (besides being named Dave). The other had Dave calling the teenage Helen for help. I liked a lot of things about the latter idea, including that it gave me a chance to draw pimply teenage Helen, but in the end I dropped it, mainly because I couldn't figure out how Dave would get Helen's high-school-era phone number.

Oh, man, that first panel sucks. I am so bad at drawing cars. I forget what horrible model this one is supposed to be. Also, the strip is
pretty lame andfiller-y overall. Bah. Fie on this strip.

Although "screw causality" is a pretty good thing for Dave to think.

Oh, Majel, you minx. Some people in the comments have asked whether Majel is supposed to be spectacularly attractive. I think what matters is that Dave finds her attractive. Majel probably reflects a lot of the things he likes in a woman, including a touch of evil.

The sign in the first panel advertises "E's Fuzzy Brown Bear" and "Cory-Ellen's Witches' Brew," drinks named after friends of mine at a coffeehouse called the Cubby Hole outside Vassar. Many members of the college geek contingent were regulars at the Cubby Hole. The Cubby Hole was still around when I visited the campus last year, but it no longer has the old drinks, alas.

Dave does not trust people to put things in his coffee. Would you?

The drawings of the coffeeshop were based on my memories of Brady's Cafe near Kent State, where I spent a lot of Friday nights
when I was in high school. I just looked it up online and learned that Brady's closed in 2002. Now I'm sad. I had my 16th birthday party
there and my mother brought a cake shaped like an elephant.

Ha! How is this the future? My laptop RIGHT NOW is thinner than that!

I do like the future versions of the characters, though. I always drew this pinstripe business suit when I needed to draw a woman's
suit. It's based on the only suit I own, which I can't even wear anymore because I lost a ton of weight a few years ago and now it's all
baggy. Which is too bad, because I looked totally hot in it.

39 comments:
Justin Grubbs (jjgrubbs) says:

That's adorable

Alexander Danner (danner) says:

And Sam played her the song because he didn't want to tell her that John Lennon was going to die, but he had already told her that their brother was going to die, but that wasn't the thing he was there to fix, so all he managed to do was bring everyone down?  It WAS sad!

After the show was cancelled, I read a list of planned episode premises for what would have been the following season.  The premises included Sam jumping into:

1. An infant.

2. A cartoon character.

3. Magnum P.i.

In retrospect, it might be for the best that the show was cancelled when it was.  OR NOT FOR THE BEST AT ALL!!!

Leon Arnott (l) says: Monday:

Dave really should have made Todd say "Oh great and mighty Oracle" before dispensing the forbidden knowledge.

Silent penultimate panels: 21.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Jump", Van Halen)

I'm unstuck!  Go back and forth in time!
One day old ... the next I'm in my prime!
There's my friend ... wants to know the scoop ...
Freshman year ... the first in our group!

Can't you see, there's Majel Mappelthorpe
She's standing there, a-waiting for me ...
I'll alter my destiny ...
Just like Sam on TV!

Quantum LEAP!
Make a Quantum Leap!
Get no sleep!
Al's a creep!

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Ah.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Tuesday:

I don't know if I should be disconcerted by your apparant lust for prolonguing the undignified suffering of your comedy characters far beyond that required by the plot.

It's kind of hard to tell the difference between pimples and freckles at this distance. I guess I'll take Dave as an authority on Miss Majel's fairness of face.
Pete Bleackley (petethemadscientist) says:

So, how did Dave join the conspiracy?

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "You Give Love A Bad Name", Bon Jovi)

Jerking me 'round!  You're such a tease!
You just want my car keys!

To lead me on ... you've got the means,
Those damn low-cut t-shirts and tight-fitting jeans!
I'm doing things ... I can't explain,
Those damn teen-age hormones short-circuit my brain!

Oh, you're a solid ten!
Oh, I remember when
I did this before, and I'll do it again!

Got sweaty palms ... and shaky knees!
You just want my car keys!
I'm gonna do ... just as you please!
You just want my car keys!

fluffy <3 (fluffy) says: Shaenon, now that you live in Berkeley you'll have to get a car so that you can be righteously indignant about ONLY using it to drive to BART. It's the Berkeley way!
Rachel S. (masamage) says:

Poor Dave looks so sad.

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Mystery solved.
John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

I assumed that part of the joke from today and the other day was that Majel was a pimply teenager, but Dave is seeing her through the double lens of nostalgia and teenage hormones.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Screw cars! I'm next to a BART station!
Bill Livingston (billfl) says:

I'm trynig to imagine life without a car.  How do you get around if you need to leave town?

Cat Bascle (mage_cat) says:

You bum a ride from a friend who does have a car.

Edwin Quantrall (reynard) says:

Or, worse, you ask your mom.

(If you value your life, you *WILL NOT* ask me how I know this...)

Cat Bascle (mage_cat) says:

Of course, if you don't want to feel like a shulb for doing so, you pay for gas.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Wednesday:

This strip is quite good at instilling a false sense of security in the reader, who at this point is wondering what Dave's purpose or goal in this temporally detached misadventure is going to be.

I don't know why, but at first I thought panel 3 was invoking the unmistakable stylised titles of the hit '80s American TV series "Honk Scree Honk", which I evidently haven't seen and, upon several seconds further thought, doesn't actually exist.
Elaine Corvidae (elaine_corvidae) says:

I dunno, I always liked this strip. We really see how much Majel still means to him, in that he imagines scoring with her will make him over into the person he's always wanted to be. Which ultimately makes his interaction via email with her at the end of the story mean more in terms of his character development.

Also, the expression on Dave's face in the last panel is hilarious.

John Campbell (jcampbel) says:

Hmm. So if Dave were to have died here, just how screwed would causality be?

If I understand the Narbonic time model (which I freely admit that I don't), Dave getting his past self killed here would create a timeline in which he died at 16, and thus never went to work for Narbonics Labs, and thus never became unstuck in time and accidentally killed his past self. His failure to go back in time and kill himself would then create a timeline in which he lived to be hired by Helen and sent back in time, where he'd kill himself, thus creating a timeline in which he died at 16 and was never hired by Helen and so didn't go back in time and so on.

How bad this is depends on a couple of variables that I don't think we have enough information to determine. Firstly, there's the question of whether events are absolutely deterministic, or if there's enough chaotic variation that Dave could break out of the infinite cycle of killing and not killing himself by doing something else instead. The other is whether changing a timeline creates an alternate one, or overwrites the original.

In the former case, Dave will spawn an infinite number of alternate universes, in half of which he died at 16 in a car crash while possessed by his 26-year-old self, and in the other half of which he died at 26 in his 16-year-old body and left a mindless shell in Helen's keeping. This, while depressing for Dave, doesn't much affect anyone else, and coincidentally generates an endless supply of fuel for future time-travel shenanigans - except that that technology won't be invented.

In the latter case, we fall into an infinite cycle of the universe being repeatedly overwritten by a different history. This is probably bad, though my brain keeps throwing its metaphorical hands up in despair every time I try to figure out just how it would affect everyone else beyond the point where the timeline changes.

Rockphed (rockphed) says:

If they don't have bacon shakes, they are a second class establishment.  That is all.  That is ALL!

Crystal Jacobs (plane) says: In response to John Campbell: I've always enjoyed the thought that rather than spawning an infinite number of universes, half of which are like A and half of which are like B, A and B merely spawn each other, and coexist in a happy equilibrium.
Leon Arnott (l) says: Thursday:

For some reason this week of Narbonic: Director's Cut is getting me a little bit tense. Could it be... that it's hitting a weensy bit closer to home than usual?!
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

@Leon: I know exactly how you feel.  The girl that I had a crush on, but barely spoke to ... and given another chance, I'd probably do the same as Dave.  Glrbsk.

(TUNE: "My Way", written by Paul Anka, performed by Frank Sinatra)

I'm Dave; I'm feeling well!
If you can't tell, I'm back in high school!
And now, here comes Majel!
Puts me through hell, 'cause I'm a nice fool!
I've lived!  I've seen the world!
I'm not a kid; I've got experience!
But when ... it comes to girls ...
It makes no diff'rence!

For even with years
Under my belt,
I feel the fears
I've always felt!
I can't escape
The way I feel!
I stare and gape
Like some schlemiel!
I'm such a fool!
I can't be cool!
It makes no diff'rence!

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Ah, tertiary sexual characteristics!
Leon Arnott (l) says: Friday:

Dave is wordlessly deciding to disregard the t-word that says that only the most naïve, enfeebled, insane or uselessly wacky people will believe your completely plausible story about having been sent to the future or mind-swapped with your best friend.

I approve of the use of bold italics for that most weighty of conversation subjects.
Pete Bleackley (petethemadscientist) says:

On the contrary, Dave does trust Helen to put things in his coffee. If she ever game him a coffee that was safe to drink, he'd know she was up to something really evil.

Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Somethin' Stupid", written by C. Carson Parks, peformed by Frank & Nancy Sinatra)

We found a table in the back,
I'm ordering a coffee, black,
For you, chai tea ...
We're ditching school; the coolest girl
In all the world
Is sitting here and talking to me!
Then all at once, with heavy sighs,
You roll your eyes,
I feel my chance unravelling!
Because I opened up my big fat stupid mouth
And talked about time-travelling!

There's dejection in your gaze!
You clearly think that I am crazy!
Eyes are glazing o'er!
But I'm telling you it's real!
My dear, I never could reveal
The way I feel before!

My sci-fi expertise,
It doesn't matter in the least,
I simply can't get through!
I see from your disdainful glance,
I'm gonna blow my only chance
To score with you!
I'm feeling trepidation
Now, because my explanation
Seems to baffle her!
I had to open up my big fat stupid mouth
And say I'm a time-traveller!

Mike Leung (leungm) says:

No "It was a very good year?"

 

Again I'm sixteen
It's still a very bad year
It's a very bad year to interest girls
And of soft summer nights
Aglow from the monitor lights
Eating something dyed green
Again I'm sixteen  

 

So far I've reached twenty-six
It is a very bad year
It is a very bad year of blood-thirsty girls
Rewriting gerbils with my genes
Locking me in experimental machines
In which my mind time unsticks
Don't be fooled I'm only twenty-six

Jon Stout (brasswatchman) says: Wow. Kent's a long way to drive for coffee from Elyria.
William Saunders (scholaroffortune) says:

I love Majel's eyes in the last panel, you can just see the roll.

Joyce Melton (halfelven) says: Majel has that Betty Boop thing going, doesn't she? :)
Justin Kane (avatarjk137) says:

What a twist!

You know, for people who have been ignoring the spoilers, and who got here from a spoiler-free source.  Which is NOBODY.

Leon Arnott (l) says: Saturday:

This is definitely one of the more memorable exchanges in this webcomic. Those two have surely had an unjustly rocky professional relationship over these long, cold, lonely years.
Ed Gedeon (eddurd) says:

(TUNE: "Only The Good Die Young", Billy Joel)

Well, I'm steeling my nerves and I'm seizing the day!
Saying the things that I wanted to say!
Too many chances I let slip away,
Watching my life unfold ...

Now I'm zipping and slipping, and what do I see?
Mell says she won't go out with me!
I know that my past was just misery ...
But what will the future hold?
See, only the bad get old!

Joshua Macy (jamused) says:

The most disturbing thing about the future is that apparently Dave has asked Mell out.  More than once.

 

Creeepy

Elaine Corvidae (elaine_corvidae) says:

I'm with you, Joshua. Dave asking Mell out even once is mind boggling. What's even more puzzling is that he apparently survived the experience.

Shaenon Garrity (shaenongarrity) says:

Well, future Dave is SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER evil and insane.
So It Begins (soitbegins) says: Mell?!
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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile