Reality Vs Fiction: Watchmen’s Alternate Reality Timeline

Leigh Singer

The US President is a former Hollywood actor with the initials ‘RR’… but it’s Robert Redford, not Ronald Reagan. That’s a concept teased at the very end of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s landmark 1986 graphic novel Watchmen, and now taken up by showrunner Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers) for his new HBO series.

Lindelof’s Watchmen continues the story past Moore and Gibbons’s Cold War-infused alternative history. But it takes events in the graphic novel as canon – the emergence of real-life super-being Dr. Manhattan, Richard Nixon’s extended presidency and the attack on New York launched by Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias – and builds on them.

In the show’s present-day of September 2019, Redford, sarcastically referred to on a right-wing radio show as “Sundancer-in-Chief”, has been in the Oval Office for close to thirty years, on a presumably liberal agenda including what are referred to as “Redfordations” – financial recompense to victims of racial violence. Which in turn may have led to the re-emergence of Rorschach-inspired white supremacist terrorist group the Seventh Kavalry.

Lindelof and his team have clearly spent a great deal of thought expanding on Moore and Gibbons’s original for their extrapolated alt-history. But to retrace where the divergences between our reality and the Watchmen universe occurred, here’s a visual comparison of how Moore twisted the timeline of the twentieth century, and planted the seeds for Lindelof’s brave new world…

Watchmen Season 1 is currently airing.

Leigh Singer
UK-based film journalist, programmer and video essayist. VR avatar probably a combination of Roger Rabbit and Llewyn Davis. But hey, enough of my yakkin'; whaddaya say? Let's boogie!