Donnie Darko Wiki

Donnie Darko is a Living Receiver

"The Living Receiver is the one chosen to guide the Artifact into position for its journey to the Primary Universe. No one knows how or why a Receiver is chosen. The Living Receiver is often tormented by terrifying dreams, visions and auditory hallucinations during his time within the Tangent Universe. Those surrounding the Living Receiver known as the Manipulated, will fear him and try to destroy him."

- Living Receivers as described by The Philosophy of Time Travel.

Living Receivers are humans who have been "selected" by yet unknown means and an unknown higher power, presumably god, to achieve a destiny. So far, the only goal living receivers are known to be tasked with is saving the universe during the rare occurrences of Tangent Universes, highly unstable duplicates of the original universe that are formed for unknown reasons, which only last for a few weeks. When a Tangent Universe is created, The original universe is put on "hold", and the next days of the original universe unfold within the Tangent Universe instead. According to The Philosophy of Time Travel, Tangent universes are extremely "unstable". The reason for this instability and it's effects are unconfirmed, but the most plausible explanation is that during their creation, as they're apparently exact copies of the original universe, an error in this copying process occurs, duplicating a certain metallic object that existed somewhere in the original universe, creating two of that exact object within the Tangent Universe, an anomaly which for unexplained reasons, makes the Tangent Universe very unstable. This object is referred to as the "Artifact" in Roberta Sparrow's book. As mentioned before, Tangent Universes presumably only last for a few weeks, and once their lifespan ends, can collapse in one of two ways. A tangent universe can either collapse "unsafely", possibly creating a black hole capable of destroying everything in existence, including the original universe. Or, it can collapse "safely", harmlessly closing off and leaving the original universe unharmed. This is a very plausible theory as to why living receivers are chosen, as everything in existence is put in jeopardy when a Tangent Universe is formed. Thus far, the only known way for a living receiver to do what they are chosen to do and force the tangent universe to collapse safely is via returning the aforementioned duplicate object to the original universe, via whatever means possible and even supernatural powers that these receivers are often given. It is thought that because of a tangent universe's short lifespan, the anomaly of a duplicate object is what causes the risk of a black hole forming, while in the original universe, which is stable and doesn't have a short lifespan, can sustain the anomaly of this duplicate object without creating a black hole.

In Donnie's case, a Tangent Universe forms on the night of October 2nd. The duplicate object in this case happens to be the jet engine which falls upon his room, this jet engine would have crushed and killed Donnie had Frank, a member of the Manipulated Dead, not intervened by guiding Donnie out of his house. At the end of the movie, as the Tangent Universe collapses, Donnie uses the unexplained supernatural abilities that Living Receivers are thought to be given to return the jet engine to the primary universe. Coincidentally, the jet engine is returned to the original universe right above Donnie's house. After the Tangent Universe closes off, the Original Universe is "unpaused" and time continues as normal from the moment it was paused when the Tangent was created, which in this case was the night of October 2nd. The jet engine, which has now been returned to the original universe, coincidentally appears in said universe right above Donnie's house, landing in his room and killing him in his sleep.

As with most factors at play during the events of Donnie Darko, living receivers, the reason for their selection, and their abilities are poorly understood, and the only explanation given is that of The Philosophy of Time Travel, the fictional book written by Roberta Sparrow, who was likely also a living receiver as well at some point in time.


According to The Philosophy of Time Travel, and the events of the film, living receivers are given supernatural abilities. While these abilities are not fully known, and they may even vary from receiver to receiver, the book labels some of these abilities as "increased strength, telekinesis, mind control, and the ability to conjure fire and water.". They are also known to be able to transport artifacts to other universes, as seen when Donnie creates a portal and sends one of said artifacts through it. The last ability is presumably a requisite as this is the only known duty of a living receiver.

Justin Sparrow, the chosen Living Receiver in S. Darko

Known Living Receivers[]

  • Roberta Sparrow / Grandma Death (Possibly)
  • Donnie Darko 
  • Justin Sparrow
  • Corey Corn