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Victoria remarks to Jack early on in Oblivion that they just have "2 more weeks left" before they could leave and "join the others". Did they really have 2 more weeks until the Tet was done collecting or were they being

Groundhog Day'ed in a sense by being replaced by their clones on some sort of schedule? That is to say; were they always 'almost done'?

In any event, what would have happened in 2 weeks?

  • I can't recall the line but doesn't Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman) say something about how long they've been waiting? That might not tell us how long "this" Jack and Victoria have been around but it might help here... – AidanO May 2 '13 at 8:14
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    @Himarm you didn't do a very good job reviewing the edit, IMHO. Please do better in the future. – Nick T Dec 3 '14 at 21:17
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    @JoeL you didn't do a very good job reviewing the edit, IMHO. Please do better in the future. – Nick T Dec 3 '14 at 21:18
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How long were the clones on Earth?

While debatable, the clones where first deployed between 2017 and 2027. My personal guess goes to the latter. We know the current year is 2077 and the war started 50 years ago (mentioned in the introduction). We also know the last Super Bowl occurred in 2017, and can assume earth civilization was interrupted thereafter. We also know the Odyssey reached Saturn in 2017 (flight recorder). I postulate that shortly thereafter, via some advanced propulsion, the Tet reached Earth and destroyed the moon. After a 10 year hiatus (2027), the clones were deployed to annihilate any remaining organized resistance.

How long were the particular couple manning tower 49?

Let's start by ruling out possibilities. The clones age naturally, and from the flashback scenes to the Odyssey mission do not appear noticeably older. Their memories had been wiped approximately five years prior. This we assume to be either an irreducible side-effect of the cloning, or a required form of indoctrination. In either case, there is no guarantee that any individual clone is limited to a five-year service period. We also know that while there are a considerable quantity of clones in cold-storage aboard the Tet, there are certainly not enough to constitute an army. Assuming that indoctrination is not required, Occam's Razor suggests that it would be simpler to discard each pair after a five-year stint rather than invest in mind-wiping techniques. While it is possible that each team is employed for simply a matter of weeks and memories for the previous five years of the assignment fabricated, reasoning along similar lines shows it to be highly spurious. The alien presence would obtain no discernible advantage, and furthermore there is reason to suggest it does not in fact possess the capability to implant memories. It would be reasonable to assume mind-wiping is a much less advanced procedure than memory manipulation. In fact current electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is able to destroy memory, whereas memory manipulation remains firmly science-fiction. It would also be reasonable to assume that memory implantation implies memory-extraction, and throughout the film the only proof Vika and Jack have of their outside existence could easily have been obtained by scouring the physical remains of the Odyssey command capsule. Why would the Tet employ such subterfuge with only a romantic picture and the voice of an obscure "Sally" as evidence if it could manipulate memories to such a fine degree?

What would have happened after the final two weeks concluded the five-year stint?

XKCD goes into quite an involved What-If ... Drain the Oceans. In short, it would require thousands of years to drain the oceans. The density of hydro-rigs, the vast expanses of water pictured throughout the film, and simple geography (Chicago bedrock, limited plate movement, flat land, Empire state building below ground level), suggest the Tet was nowhere near even making a dent in the Earth's water supply.

Nonetheless, as mentioned above, Jack and Vika would clearly have returned to the Tet for either indoctrination or recycling - destruction and replacement with another clone pair.

So what was the Tet actually doing. Would it have been finished in two weeks?

We have no way of knowing. Malcolm Beach quotes, "What a brilliant machine. Feeding of one planet after another for energy.", but there is no way to ascertain the veracity of this quote. Quite possibly it would have stayed with the Earth until all its natural resources had been depleted, its host "killed". Seemingly the Tet is only interested in energy - possibly being able to synthesize matter from energy - and at its level of technology I assume it could more easily obtain energy from suns rather than planets. Yet if the Earth was simply a gas-station, a recharge point between two interstellar hops, why focus specifically on it? Europa, Ganymede and Callisto also contain copious amounts of water, and would be nearer Titan than Earth. The Oort cloud is theorized to be five times more massive than the Earth in aggregate, and to be composed mainly of ice. Possibly the Tet was sent specifically to terraform Titan, with the mandate to destroy any interfering life-forms. It may have viewed the "war" as simply a territorial dispute, and contact with Odyssey as the unfortunate spark. On the other hand, the Tet may have been a rogue machine gone psychopathic, roaming the galaxy from planet to planet with the sole purpose of exterminating organic life. Its final words, "I am your god", may suggest a megalomaniacal ego, or could simply have been a final attempt to stay its execution through the application of reason (versus emotion).

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    Actually, I find that Oblivion makes a lot more sense if you assume that Sally is actually Glados from Portal, having evolved significantly. Draining earth's water for the purposes of gathering energy is obviously pointless if you have the level of tech displayed by the Tet. It only makes sense if its true purpose is based on turning the entire planet into a testing facility. – Jherico Aug 20 '15 at 5:49
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Jack and Victoria were on Earth since the end of the war, when the human race was defeated, likely after the catastrophes from the breaking of the moon had ended... No time period is mentioned between the shifts before replacement.

Jack and Victoria would return to the Tet.

After returning to the Tet the new replacements would go to the planet and do their job just as the previous set was doing. The "older" ones would likely be replaced and recycled back into whatever biomatter/organic matter is being used to create the workers in the first place. Since there were multiple units whose boundaries were artificially created, there were multiple units on the ground at all times.

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How long were they on Earth? Between a few weeks and five years.

There was still a lot of water remaining to be collected, and if it took them five years to move barely half a mile into the sea, it would take hundreds of years to completely drain Earth's hydrosphere. My understanding: As soon as they got too curious, the pair would promptly be replaced by another. There is also another thing to consider: How long do they expect to remain devoted to the project? If the reward is expected soon, they will be very devoted to finishing the project quickly. Final matter: What about children? Jack wasn't sterile, we can make the same assumption about Vika. If she ever got pregnant, this would be a problem for the alien intelligence, and it would want to replace them asap.

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Given the ruthless way Vika was "retired" after she reported that she and Jack were no longer an effective team, it seems clear that her body would have been recycled at best once her mission was completed. To keep her around and alive only invited uncomfortable questions as the Tet continued sifting Earth's oceans; the mop-up crew cover story would wear thin.

While Tet's supergoal was unclear, it seems likely that its first priority was to mine Earth's oceans for deuterium to fuel fusion reactions. That is the only way the ocean makes sense as a fuel source for a spacefaring entity.

Without knowing the Tet's long term objective there's no way to know how long it would have continued mining operations on Earth. Assuming a basic objective of life is to reproduce, the Tet would be collecting enough energy and other material to build more Tets. Presumably these Tets would be dispatched on new interstellar missions of plunder. There's no obvious reason why the Tet wouldn't continue reproducing virus-like until Earth's resources were exhausted.

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