I first thought of this question when rewatching the part where Abe shows Aaron the mold growth on the weeble--based on the technician saying "it is a joke" etc, we know that Aaron planted the mold to prod Abe into realizing the time-travelling properties of the machine more quickly. Aaron has already time-travelled and in this timeline, wants Abe to more quickly set things in motion than before.

In this timeline, where Aaron induces Abe to time-travel at an earlier point compared to "previous" timelines, how does this affect subsequent timelines that Aaron travels to? So:

Timeline A

Aaron plants the mold | Abe enters his box->Time T in Timeline B | Aaron enters his box

     X                                Y                           Z

Timeline B

Aaron plants the mold | | Abe enters his box->Timeline B | Aaron enters his box

     X                T                   Y                           Z

Where does Aaron, from Timeline A, arrive? The issue isn't at what point in a given timeline he arrives (that would depend on how he configured the box), but what the timeline that he arrives in looks like. I thought that any time traveller in Primer arrives at a timeline that is an exact replicate of the one that the time traveller just left. So, Timeline A Aaron shouldn't ever encounter any version of the Timeline A Abe that has time travelled, correct? Since, in Timeline A, Abe only entered the box for the first time, and never exited.

Then, the only way that time-travel-inducing Aaron can encounter the time-travel-induced Abe, is if a COPY of the time-travel-inducing Aaron, ie an Aaron from a subsequent timeline that time-travel-induced Abe travelled to, then time-travels.

Is that correct?

  • Ok, I've thought about this a bit more and my opinion is that yes, a time-travel-inducing person that induces a time-travel-induced person to time-travel for the "first" time in any timeline will not see that time-traveller reemerge in any subsequent timeline.
    – Flash
    Feb 2, 2015 at 19:54
  • That's not so important though in this case. Aaron may simply be trying to ensure his own survival (an independent timeline theory has been discussed, but while that concept can be useful to visualize what happens, the Granger incident illustrates that paradoxes do happen and do have effects). Remember, towards the end of the movie, airport-Abe tells airport-Aaron that he will try to prevent their copies from time-travelling. This may erase time-travelled Aaron, so he's trying to prevent that.
    – Flash
    Feb 2, 2015 at 19:59
  • After further thinking: I do believe that a traveller undertaking a "unique" trip will encounter another traveller who also undertakes a "unique" trip from that timeline, provided that the timing is correct. We see this happen repeatedly in the film when Abe and Aaron travel together. Their mutual trips also have another implication: two timelines are created if a traveller gets out sooner than his partner. We see Aaron get out too hastily on Tuesday, and that Abe has already arrived. But, there should be another timeline where Aaron gets out and lands in a timeline that Abe has not reached.
    – Flash
    Jan 4, 2016 at 22:21


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