Future Tense

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"Future Tense" is the fifty-sixth televised episode of the series Gargoyles, and the forty-third episode of Season 2. It originally aired on April 25, 1996.

Contents

Summary

Main Plot

Goliath and the other Avalon Travellers arrive back in Manhattan only to learn that they have been gone for forty years and that it has become a very bleak place in the intervening time. (See World of "Future Tense" below.)

Angela and Elisa are captured. Goliath meets the underground resistance, and with their help launches an attack on Xanatos' Eyrie Pyramid in order to save his companions. Many of the fighters, including Bronx and Angela, are killed during the attack. In cyberspace, Goliath manages to defeat the Xanatos Program (all that is left of Xanatos since the real one had died years before) and escape with Elisa. He discovers that the Xanatos Program had been created by the "Future Tense" version of Lexington, a power-hungry cyborg, and that he is powerless to stop the Program from spreading across the whole planet. In rage he kills Lexington and destroys the Eyrie Pyramid, but it is too late.

Elisa suggests using the Phoenix Gate to try and change history, even though they know from experience that history cannot be changed. She demands that Goliath must hand her the Gate himself, and Goliath becomes suspicious and refuses. It is revealed that the whole incident had been an illusion created by Puck, who wanted the Phoenix Gate as a bribe for Oberon. Thwarted, Puck leaves.

Goliath wakes up aboard the skiff. He speaks the incantation to activate the Phoenix Gate and throws it into the timestream, hoping that it will be lost forever. Then he and his companions (all of them alive and well) set off for home again.

First Appearances

Quotes

  • "They are not afraid of us."
"They've got better things to be afraid of." - Goliath and Matt Bluestone (Illusion)
  • "The age of Xanatopia is at hand." - Xanatos Program
  • "Yeah, but Thailog was killed in the Clone Wars." - Brooklyn (Illusion)
  • "Hiding is never a solution." - Goliath
  • "Yes, the sun. Can you see it Goliath? It's beautiful." - Broadway (Illusion)
  • "You will not win."
"What are you going to do? Bite my kneecaps off?" - Goliath and Xanatos Program
  • "Oh, was is it a dream, or a prophecy?"
"I must know!"
"Uh-huh, like I'd tell you." - Puck and Goliath

World of "Future Tense"

The world of "Future Tense" is a dark and bleak alternate future set in the year 2036, which only existed in a vision that Puck conjured up to dupe Goliath into giving him the Phoenix Gate.

In Puck's nightmarish illusion, Xanatos took advantage of Goliath and Elisa's absence from New York to grow increasingly stronger, until, by 2004, he seized control of Manhattan, breaking it away from the rest of the United States and turning it into his private domain. The gargoyles fought desperately to stop him from doing so, but failed; Hudson attacked Xanatos in single combat, and was slain. However, Xanatos was also slain in the battle. Only Lexington knew this, however, and he chose to keep it secret. By this time, Lexington had somehow become corrupt and power-hungry, and decided to step into the void left by Xanatos upon his death; he created a "Xanatos Program" to masquerade as Xanatos. This program not only duplicated Xanatos' style perfectly (if even more cold-bloodedly ruthless than its original), but, by preserving the illusion that Xanatos was still alive (for the program produced holographic images of Xanatos giving public broadcasts to the city), it also allowed "Xanatos" to serve as a "front man" for Lexington, who was thus able to remain a member of the resistance and track and/or impede its progress.

During the time leading up to 2036, numerous disasters befell the clan, their allies, and Manhattan, although we do not know where they took place on the timeline, nor which of them took place before Xanatos and Hudson's deaths and Lexington's takeover, and which took place afterwards. The clock tower was destroyed and the gargoyles forced to take refuge in the Labyrinth. Xanatos (or Lexington masquerading as Xanatos) set up a fresh Mutate program under Sevarius, turning the humans of New York into Mutate soldiers in vast numbers; Broadway, Talon, Maggie, and Coldstone finally went up against Sevarius and the Ultra-Pack (presumably a freshly upgraded version of the Pack) to put a stop to this, but all of them except for Broadway were slain, and he himself was blinded. Thailog was slain in the "Clone Wars", but Xanatos or Lexington masquerading as Xanatos produced a number of subservient clones of his as Thailog Shock Troops, to guard Castle Wyvern. After Thailog's death, Demona joined forces with the clan, presumably with the realization that they would have to put aside their quarrel in order to survive against the tyrant who had usurped the government of Manhattan. She eventually became Brooklyn's mate. Claw lost his wings in an unspecified battle, and Lexington became cybernetized (perhaps in battle and/or perhaps to assist him in his secret rule over the city).

By 2036, New York was a city in ruins, only a shadow of its former self. Mutate soldiers and Steel Clan robots (the latter redesigned to sport Xanatos' goatee on their faces) patrolled it constantly, while the remaining citizens lived a miserable life on the streets, reduced to eating rats. Brooklyn had become the leader of a resistance movement in the Labyrinth, consisting of, besides himself, Lexington, Broadway, Demona, Matt Bluestone, Claw, and a grown-up Alexander Xanatos who had become thoroughly horrified and disgusted with his father's actions. Lexington continued to run the Xanatos Program in secret, planning now for the final coup; he would release it over the Internet, seizing control of every computer on the planet, and thus become dictator over the whole Earth. He had already advanced the defenses of Castle Wyvern, including the raising of the enormous Eyrie Pyramid above it.

It was at this point in 2036 that Goliath and his companions returned to the island. The skiff was destroyed and sunk by the city's defenses, and Elisa and Angela were captured by Steel Clan robots and taken to the castle. Goliath and Bronx were rescued by Matt and Claw, however, and taken to the Labyrinth. There they met the other members of the resistance, and learned of the horrible events that had befallen Manhattan.

In the meantime, Alexander had penetrated the Eyrie Building to battle the Xanatos Program in cyberspace, only to be destroyed by it; in so doing, the computer program learned the whereabouts of the resistance's headquarters (though clearly since Lexington was playing both sides of the conflict, he already knew the location, so perhaps he revealed that the location was leaked to the Xanatos Program to encourage the resistance to leave the Labyrinth and attack the Eyrie Pyramid). However, before Alexander died, he was able to transmit his location back to the resistance, which used the information to launch a desperate attack on the Eyrie Building. Matt, Bronx, and Claw assaulted the building on the ground level, while the gargoyles swooped in from above. But Matt, Bronx, and Claw were disintegrated by the Mutate ground troops, while the gargoyles were attacked by the Thailog Shock Troops in Castle Wyvern's courtyard; Lexington was "captured" (actually, he had arranged this to happen so that he could quietly get to the computer to launch the Xanatos Program globally), and Broadway was killed. Goliath, Brooklyn, and Demona entered the great hall of the castle, only to be transported into cyberspace, where Elisa and Angela were already being held captive. There, they came face to face with the Xanatos Program, learning its true nature. The Program created a cybernetic sun, turning the gargoyles to stone, shattered Brooklyn and Angela to fragments, and then disintegrated Demona (who, even in cyberspace, still became a human when the sun rose). Goliath, however, broke free from his stone prison to save himself and Elisa and flee cyberspace, only to discover that Lexington had launched the Xanatos Program all over the world, and that it was too late to abort this procedure. Goliath, in his ensuing fury, slew Lexington and set off an explosion which destroyed the Eyrie Building, then fled from it with Elisa. However, with the Xanatos Program continuing to spread across the world even after Lexington's death, there seemed no way to avert it, except, according to Elisa, by time travel with the Phoenix Gate.

Goliath had been badly wounded in the escape from the Eyrie Building, and even if he had been in any condition to use the Gate, he knew that it would do no good: history is immutable. Still, he was willing to let Elisa try. But when Elisa insisted that he place the Gate in her hand, he became suspicious. And the more suspicious he became the more desperate Elisa's pleas were, and the more strength Goliath regained -- until the whole illusion unraveled around Puck. And so at last, Goliath learned the truth from Puck, that it had all been an illusion, created to obtain the Phoenix Gate. (In fact, throughout the illusion, Puck had used one or another of the principals in his dark drama to urge Goliath to turn over the Phoenix Gate to somebody, Elisa's demand being only the last of these.) Puck left, his scheme having been foiled, though not before asking Goliath "Was it a dream, or a prophecy?" - and refusing to answer his own question.

A Dream or a Prophecy?

So which was it? On the surface level: definitely a dream. Goliath and his companions returned to New York shortly afterwards to indeed find that it was still 1996 there, and their arrival forty years earlier than 2036 would be enough to show that the "Future Tense prophecy" will not be literally fulfilled. But on other levels, parts of the vision have been achieved, hinted at, or otherwise come true in one form or another. Below is a rundown of the links between the World of "Future Tense" and the real Gargoyles Universe:

  • Alexander Fox Xanatos - Alex was referred to as both Alexander and Fox in the episode and Alex was indeed born to David Xanatos and Fox shortly after the episode took place. In his function as Owen Burnett, Puck would be well aware of what name Xanatos and Fox were intending to give their son, and so would most likely have been drawing from that source when he added Alexander to the weave. In the true Gargoyles Universe, it seems that Alex's future will be very different from that shown in "Future Tense".
  • The Clock Tower - Only months after Goliath had his vision, his life in the Clock Tower would end when it was destroyed, just as it had been in the vision. More interestingly, the building was damaged in the exact same manner (only the Clan's home in the upper region of the building and the clocks themselves were completely destroyed, and most of the rest of the building remained intact). The destruction of the clock tower is a logical element of any "doom-and-gloom" scenario for the gargoyles, although since Puck may not have known about the clock tower beforehand, its destruction may have been intended to move events to a location that would be easier to replicate. Within the "Future Tense" world, the method of the tower's destruction and the parties responsible were never revealed.
  • The Eyrie Pyramid - In Puck's vision, the Eyrie Building has been shown to be hugely expanded in size and technological sophistication and is now known as the Eyrie Pyramid. In the real Gargoyles Universe, the Eyrie Pyramid will exist in the same way by 2198 though whether it will look like it did in Puck's vision is not known.
  • The Xanatos Program - Though there is nothing known as the Xanatos Program in Gargoyles reality, Puck's vision of this entity is very similar to the Coyote line of robots and computer program used in "Legion". Both feature Xanatos's facial appearances and voice, and both have been used to impersonate Xanatos himself, if darker and more vengeful and cruel. Puck is certainly aware of the Coyote robots before he creates the vision. However, Coyote's aspirations in the future have been hinted at as nothing less than total world (or even galactic) domination, something Coyote has shown no desire for when Puck created this illusion and is another prophetic link between the robot and the computer program.
  • Brooklyn - In "Future Tense" Brooklyn was shown as a confident and capable leader. While he was well on his way to this capacity ("Upgrade", "Kingdom", et al.) it seems that in the real Gargoyles Universe he will achieve this after forty years of separation from Goliath as well. Soon after returning to live at the Eyrie Building in 1996, Brooklyn began his TimeDancer adventures, bouncing around time and space with the help of the Phoenix Gate for forty years before returning to where he started forty seconds after he had left. This is mirrored by Goliath and Brooklyn in "Future Tense"; Brooklyn does indeed have a forty year separation from Goliath, though it is Goliath who jumped through time, not Brooklyn. When Brooklyn returned from his TimeDancing, he bore some resemblance to his "Future Tense" counterpart, including the futuristic breastplate - but also sported an eyepatch, which the Brooklyn of "Future Tense" lacked. Puck's powers of prediction can here again be called into question. The forty years that Brooklyn spent TimeDancing could well have only a coincidental similarity to Goliath's forty years of absence from New York, particularly given the traditional mystical significance of the number forty (the rain that caused Noah's Flood lasted for forty days and forty nights, the Israelites under Moses spent forty years wandering in the wilderness on the journey from Egypt to Israel, etc.); it is also worth noting that the differences between the two events are as strong as (if not stronger than) the similarities.
  • Demona - In Puck's illusion, Demona had joined the side of the Manhattan Clan and its allies in a resistance movement. All of this would eventually be seen to come true in the Gargoyles: 2198 spin-off. And just as in the vision, there may be some doubt about whether she is indeed an ally or an enemy. Demona's love for her daughter Angela is also mentioned in the vision, something she had not yet shown. Her working with Goliath to save Angela's life would again be seen in "The Reckoning".
  • Brooklyn and Demona's relationship - Puck showed Brooklyn and Demona to have become mates at some point during Goliath's forty year absence. Though this will never actually occur, it does have a parallel in the couple's clones. Brooklyn's clone, Malibu, and Demona's pseudo-clone, Delilah, seem to have formed the beginnings of a relationship in "Bash", though more information is unavailable at this time. Furthermore, Brooklyn and Demona will work together in the resistance movement in the Gargoyles: 2198 spinoff similarly to Puck's vision.
  • Thailog - When Puck created the vision he did not realize Demona and Thailog were together, so it probably does not count as a confirmed prediction that they are no longer together. That said, the Thailog Shock Troops and mention of the Clone Wars does cause one to wonder if these were a prophecy themselves. Certainly, Thailog's actions and motivations in "Bash" point to something terrible coming of the DNA samples stolen from the Manhattan Clan, though there is only speculation at this point.
  • The Ultra-Pack - At the time of Puck's vision to Goliath, the remaining members of the Pack (Coyote, Hyena, Jackal, and Wolf) had split apart and gone their own separate ways. The reformation of the (probably upgraded) Ultra-Pack was guessed or prophesied by Puck very closely. Indeed, these four members and a new member will be formed in the future and upgraded, making them more dangerous than ever. The exact details of this event are unknown. Puck could certainly have predicted that the Pack would be upgraded again, since it had already been upgraded once.
  • Sevarius - In Puck's vision, Brooklyn briefly mentioned that Dr. Sevarius had continued to create mutates and had fought in a battle to keep the remaining humans of New York from being turned into mutates. Moreover, armies of mutate soldiers patrolled the streets of the city in the vision. Indeed, Sevarius would go on to make more mutates in "Louse" as predicted. Furthermore, his scheme at that time was to mutate large numbers of Manhattan citizens to experiment with the makings of an army of mutate soldiers. The similarities here cannot be ignored.
  • Lexington - Lexington represented one of the darkest aspects of Puck's vision. Fortunately, it does not seem that the real Lexington will become what his dark counterpart was. However, here again are many interesting links. Just a few months after Goliath had this vision, Lexington wore a cyborg costume to a Halloween party, and it was strikingly similar to his look in "Future Tense" (one must wonder what Goliath's reaction to the costume was, but, alas, none was shown). Furthermore, in the future Lexington will work closely with the Xanatos family and eventually go into business for himself and assist in forming the Lexington-Xanatos Corporation which has its headquarters in the Eyrie Pyramid, with the similarities to Puck's vision being obvious. In the future this company will also produce the LXM robots, which look and sound like Lexington, only having metallic chrome bodies. This too echos Lexington's appearance in "Future Tense". One must also mention Brentwood, Lexington's clone. In "Bash" Brentwood chose to join forces with Thailog over his clan-mates and has thus joined into Thailog's world of manipulation and scheming, all too similar to the Lexington of "Future Tense" and his joining the Machiavellian world of Xanatos. Indeed, Greg Weisman has stated that "one only has to look at "Future Tense" to see the direction that Brentwood is heading."

Could Puck have been perhaps tapping into the real future of the Gargoyles Universe when he created the vision?

With all these similarities, one must note that it is also worth pointing out that we already know that some of the predictions in "Future Tense" will not come true. Not only did Goliath return safely to New York in 1996 rather than 2036, but Xanatos called off his war upon the clan the same night, because Goliath had helped save Alexander from Oberon. It is therefore extremely unlikely that he will undertake the proceedings that led to the conquest and enslavement of Manhattan. Aside from that, Xanatos's actions during "Future Tense" seem very melodramatic and out of character for him. Perhaps this was Puck's way of poking fun at his human form's boss, or perhaps he was playing into Goliath's poor opinions of Xanatos. According to what we know of the distant future of the Gargoyles Universe, furthermore, many of the principals involved in the events in "Future Tense" will lead very different lives. Alexander, far from being killed in 2036, will still be alive by 2198. So will Demona (her death in Puck's vision is impossible, in any case, since only Macbeth can slay her). Broadway and Angela, at least, will survive to the middle of the 21st century and possibly beyond, given the birth-dates of their three biological children.

So the dark future in the nightmare that Puck gave Goliath will almost certainly not come to pass in full, although it is likely that further ingredients of it may surface over the years. It is most likely that Puck's comment was nothing more than a teasing taunt to annoy and alarm Goliath. Most likely.

Tidbits

One of the chief inspirations for "Future Tense" was the Marvel Comics X-Men story "Days of Future Past". This story, widely regarded as a classic among X-Men fans, was partly set in a bleak future in which the Sentinels had first killed or enslaved both the X-Men and the rest of the mutant population, then proceeded to enslave the human race as well; Greg Weisman has freely admitted that it was an influence for the depiction of a Xanatos-ruled Manhattan.

One of the downtrodden citizens in the dystopian New York is identified as Captain Chavez's daughter (a picture of her as a baby with her mother is crushed underfoot by a Mutate patrol).

When Goliath question's "Brooklyn"'s relationship with "Demona" by mentioning Demona's relationship with Thailog, it takes Brooklyn a few moments to respond. This is likely due to Puck not knowing about Demona and Thailog's relationship, which Goliath had only found out about because Avalon had sent him to Paris in "Sanctuary". This may also be the reason for Brooklyn's response simply mentioning "Thailog"'s death in the "Clone Wars", a Star Wars reference, and for "Lexington" appearing at that moment to distract from the unusual lack of detail (which at the time of this episode was the status of the "Clone Wars" in Star Wars as well).

During its duel with Goliath in Act III, the Xanatos Program misquotes the "Alas, poor Yorick" line from Hamlet (as "Alas, poor Goliath; I knew him well") and also combines two lines from a scene in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when it asks Goliath's head "What are you going to do, bite my kneecaps off?"

Goliath tosses the Phoenix Gate through the flames at the end of the episode, causing Angela to remark, "Without a mind to direct the Gate, it'll be forever lost in time." To which Goliath responds, "Yes, and beyond the reach of all who desire it." The Phoenix Gate is not gone forever, however, as Brooklyn will learn in "The Gate".

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