The Time Dilation Accelerator: Secret Origins - The Intrepid

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Time Dilation Accelerator: Secret Origins

Spider-Man the Animated Series

Occasionally, the Time Dilation Accelerator defies the laws of space and time by going back to review the best (or the weirdest) aspects of the early 90s.

Here at the Intrepid we’re often asked the question: "Where does the term 'Time Dilation Accelerator' come from?" No, just kidding, nobody ever asks that question. But we’re going to answer it anyway. The term comes from the mid 1990s Fox cartoon show, Spider-Man the Animated Series. The Time Dilation Accelerator was a portable teleportation device that several of the show’s villains fought over in the latter part of the third season.

Spider-Man the Animated Series Green Goblin
The Green Goblin being sucked into an unstable TDA portal.

The TDA (yeah, that acronym sucks) was also an important plot device, that allowed Spider-Man’s writers to bypass mid 1990s censorship rules about death and kill off characters, without actually killing them. The show occasionally discussed death, as long as it was off scene (like Uncle Ben’s murder). But when someone needed to die, the TDA was a convenient option; if a character fell into an unstable portal it carried the weight of a death—as they would be lost forever—without the gruesomeness. In total, six characters were killed off in unstable TDA portals.

Spider-Man the Animated Series Hobgoblin
The Hobgoblin always looks grumpy.

Death wasn’t the only thing Spider-Man wasn’t allowed to discuss, here’s a few of the other rules the show had to follow.

No punching: For an action show, this is kind of a big problem. If Spider-Man can’t use his fists, how is he supposed to fight bad guys? Well, to get around this, the creators had Spider-Man use a variety of leaping kick attacks. Occasionally, Spider-Man threw a punch, but it was pretty rare, and the scene usually cut before his fist actually connected.

No realistic guns: Instead of guns, almost all of the characters, including police officers, carried laser stun pistols. Realistic-looking guns were occasionally shown, but rarely fired.

When Spider-Man landed on a roof, he was not allowed to hurt pigeons: What!!?? Were the censors really that worried about violence against pigeons?

Spider-Man the Animated Series
"I'm Spider-Man, I'm going to kill me some fucking pigeons!"

Characters were not allowed to say the words, "die," "death," or "kill": Instead of the banned words, writers often used the word “destroy,” and when that option wasn’t available, they would have characters cut each other off. For instance, at the end of the episode, "Night of the Lizard," Dr. Kurt Connors is lying unconscious and his wife asks, "Is he..." to which Spider-Man replies, cutting her off, "...He’ll be okay."

While the show was hampered by these rules, it’s still entertaining, and despite what internet fan boys might say, it’s one of the best Spider-Man adaptations out there.

So, why does the Intrepid use “Time Dilation Accelerator” in its title? Well, honestly, it just sounded cool. We were looking for a title that suggested time travel; and although the Time Dilation Accelerator has nothing to do with that, we were too lazy to come up with something else.

All screenshots are from Spider-Man the Animated Series.