I’ve sent out a very short story, The Scream Behind the Throbbing Heart, about the impulse to touch, travel between dimensions, and the reason we see familiar patterns in everyday objects. If nothing else, it gave my wife a nightmare. Score!
While I was formatting it, I had one of those A-Ha moments, when I realized that Steve Barron had set the gold standard for tales of interdimensional travel with his music video for the song, Take on Me. It is the story of a rotoscoped race car driver who meets a nice young woman and ends his day in her bedroom — after traveling between dimensions and fighting two men with a pipe wrench!
It doesn’t get better than that.
Okay, maybe it does, but not by much. Although some might see it as a low bar for entry, Take on Me lays out the formula for a here and back again journey between parallel worlds in a scant 3 minutes and 47 seconds. In fact, fans of the popular television show, Stranger Things, are bound to see parallels. Then again, as fantastic as the show is, it is about as original as decoupage, so finding commonalities isn’t exactly a stretch. How so? *spoiler alert*
The Magic Pane is the window between the normal and the abnormal. The protagonist lives in our world but is pulled across to a parallel one by an extradimensional force. In the music video, the magic pane is a comic book. The frames come alive, and a hand reaches through to accept the heroine into an alternate world of rotoscope animation. Much like Take on Me, everything in Stranger Things is super ’80s, but Will Byers transitions into the Upside-Down by way of a far more sinister entity. The story becomes a rescue arc.
The Rift demonstrates that the magic pane can be both created and destroyed. While one rift consumes the character’s initial point of entry, the opening of another rift generates a new, often temporary, means of escape. In Take on Me, the antagonists shatter the magic pane that exists in the rotoscope world. The hero manages to open a temporary rift that allows the heroine to return home, and she in turn flattens out the crumpled and discarded comic that allows him to follow her. In Stranger Things, the scientists done gone and messed up again, just like they did in The Mist and opened a gateway to the opening credits for Tales from the Darkside. There are many rifts in the show, but this gateway ultimately provides the avenue for Will’s rescue.
The Pipe Wrench Fight is when an otherworldly power is turned against itself, resulting in the destruction of the antagonist. It’s not unlike fighting fire with fire, or chainsaw with chainsaw. The music video’s antagonists are a couple of competing race car drivers armed with pipe wrenches. When it comes time for the hero to face them — surprise! He has a pipe wrench of his own. In Stranger Things, the protagonists ally with a preteen Sinead O’Connor version of Charlie from Firestarter, who possess tremendous psychokinetic abilities that link her to the Upside-Down. She is the pipe wrench, the tool that the true companions use to rescue their friend and that is also unleashed against the antagonist in the final confrontation.
And hey, if you want to see how Take on Me ends, A-ha wraps up the story at the beginning of their video for The Sun Always Shines on Tv.