In Watchmen, towards the end, Dr. Manhattan talks about his joy of being blind to time because of the tachyon emissions, and how exciting it is for him because he had forgotten the joy of not knowing something.

But, we also know that he already knows everything that he will say and do, what will happen, etc. I mean, we can clearly see him seemingly getting fuzzy with the whole "I'm talking to Rorschach 2 minutes ago" thing, and the artwork depicting him doing the exact same thing a page later.

So, presumably he would have been able to see this blind spot from far away time-wise. So, it shouldn't be an actual shock. As we saw with Laurie, who admits to sleeping with Dan, he has to go through the motions of being shocked, because he knows that this is what he will do.

So, did Dr. Manhattan actually not know what was happening the whole time, or was he playacting like always?

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    Getting confused about which point in time he's currently in is not the same as knowing his complete timeline in neat order. He may have seen the blind spot itself, but not the details of what was happening in it until he reached it, and even then his perception of his own timeline in the region might have been fuzzy and/or confused.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jun 27, 2015 at 2:16
  • He wasn't confused about where he was in time, he was explaining that from his perspective, time is meaningless. Hence the "I am talking to Rorshach 2 minutes ago" stuff. He is describing how he has transcended time itself.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jun 27, 2015 at 2:40
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    @Wad Cheber - He seems to be simultaneously aware of his entire timeline throughout the story (though perhaps he is somehow more concentrated on the time he's in and his awareness of other times is more 'peripheral'), so in that sense time is always meaningless for him, but only in the presence of tachyons does he "stutter" in this way, repeating the same comment at two different times as if he no longer has the ability to give responses at the appropriate moment on his timeline, or as if two different points on his timeline are overlapping for him.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jun 27, 2015 at 23:00
  • @Hypnosifl - Agreed. You said it better than I could have.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jun 27, 2015 at 23:08
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    Related: literature.stackexchange.com/questions/1676/… Feb 19, 2017 at 15:54

1 Answer 1


The comic series is a little clearer on the issue. Manhattan sees the future and the past but he hasn't quite transcended time yet. He's still sufficiently human to need for events to play out in the correct order.

Ozymandias' transdimensional device (in the film, portrayed as a bunch of great big tachyon bombs) plays merry hell with this time-perception, preventing him from seeing anything beyond the point that it's activated. He attributes this to a nuclear explosion, little suspecting that it's actually a consequence of a weapon intended primarily for the purpose of stopping him from seeing the future.

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It then becomes apparent that the tachyons generated by Veidt are messing with his perception of time. He literally becomes unstuck at one point, speaking to both Rorschach and Laurie. He seems confused and increasingly groggy as he reaches the epicentre of the tachyon surge:

enter image description here

  • I'm not sure if I'm being clear here. I understand that it is required for him to play out events in the correct order; this is clear when he acts shocked about Laurie sleeping with Dan, for example. But the question is whether he is saying that he can't see anything because he actually can't, or if he is only saying that because that is what he is supposed to say at that given moment. Or both.
    – Broklynite
    Jun 27, 2015 at 16:02
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    @Broklynite - His ability to see the future (up to the point of the explosion) is complete. Beyond that point, he's blocked. He switches between seeing the future and playing out the part that he's ordained to play out. Interestingly, he seems genuinely hurt by Laurie's revelation, despite having told her a few minutes ago that he was already aware. This is clearly down to the tachyon generators messing with his perception.
    – Valorum
    Jun 27, 2015 at 16:06
  • @Broklynite - Dr. Manhattan being blind to future events is a crucial part of Adrian's plan. Adrian is the smartest man in the world, so he is smart enough to make sure that Dr. Manhattan really didn't know it was going to happen.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jun 27, 2015 at 21:21
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    Right, but even before all of this, he is in a government lab doing research. He already knows the answers, but does the research anyway because he must. Whether he knows what will happen or not ultimately doesn't matter because he does what he has to anyway.
    – Broklynite
    Jun 28, 2015 at 13:02
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    Going through the morons? Or going through the motions? That's either a Freudian slip, or the tachyons are affecting you as well, @Richard...
    – CigarDoug
    Feb 27, 2016 at 12:56

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