Monday, March 6, 2017

Time after Time: H. G. Wells Back in Action

With Frequency and Timeless concluded - the first seasons, I hope, not the series - I figured what better time to watch Time After Time, which debuted tonight on ABC with a two-hour episode.

The story is an adaptation of the 1979 movie of the same name, in which H. G. Wells, who in real life published The Time Machine in 1895 and went on to have an illustrious career as one of the grandfathers (along with Jules Verne) of science fiction, uses his machine to travel to our present day.  The 1979 movie creatively has Wells in pursuit of Jack the Ripper, who has absconded with Wells' time machine (which the story imagines Wells not only wrote about but actually built) into 1979, to save the future from the Ripper's depredations and get back sole control of the time machine.  The TV series does the same for the two main characters, except their terminus point is our present, 2017.

The series mines all sorts of opportunities for Wells to be amazed by Google and smartphones, just as the movie did for Wells and MacDonald's.  But the movie was far more serious than the series, which is maybe 70/30 drama and humor, in comparison to 90/10 for the movie.

The first two episodes have some cool time-travel wrinkles, including H. G. Wells and his great-great-grand-daughter in 2017, motivated to meet and help Wells because an older version of himself met a younger version of her years earlier, introduced himself, and gave her a brief letter and a request to give the letter to Wells when they met in 2017.   Wells, though young and at the beginning of his career, already understands the complexities and dangers of time travel and its paradoxes, including why it's perilous to travel too many times to the same time in the past (it could create "a hole in time," as Wells puts it),  which neatly explains why Wells doesn't just travel back to a little before the Ripper ripped off the machine, and nip that in the bud.  And there are some nice dabs of young Wells in 2017 seeing a library with his books, yet to be written.

Those kinds of touches happen all the time in time travel stories about real writers who travel through history, but they're good to see anyway, and the same can be said for Time After Time, which I'll definitely keep an eye on.

not only H. G. Wells but Orson Welles in this tale
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