Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
Since the beginning of the HG Wells adaptations by Big Finish; although there are so many greats, the one I have been waiting for is the Time Machine. Anyone like me who is a fan of Doctor Who has to recognise the ideas and the character of the traveller as antecedents to the Doctor, the Tardis and so much more in that show.
As this one is the most known of Wells’ works Marc Platt had the most difficult job in dramatising this in a way that does justice to the original but gives us something that feels fresh too. I think he did a great job.
This is one that I have read, but not in such a long time that I cannot remember what is adaptation and what is original. I certainly remember for any film or TV version I have seen there are certain times that the Traveller visits. Usually something a little closer to our own time that speaks of a scare of the age. Either Nuclear war or global warming. Whether or not such a passage exists in the original it’s not present here.
Instead this version is set in the present (for the book) and flashes back to the story the Traveller tells of his adventures. This gives the story of his exploits in the future a lot of breathing room and you feel like you delve into this a lot better than other film versions have. The scenes in the present are fantastic. The old boys club meeting to tell tales over dinner & plenty of brandy and the Traveller having a story like none they have heard before. It’s also interesting to hear how this group of friends individually react to such a fantastical tale.
In the future the way that the Traveller is first trying to teach what he sees to a less advanced society learning how to live better, then seeing the way they enjoy life starting and see life their way. Through it all though he still wants to get home; this time taking someone with him.
Wells also seems to have a lot to say about his society and how it could digress into 2 peoples; one feeding off the other, but also dependant on their ‘would be’ killers in some ways too. The side of the story I have seen on TV of the Traveller trying to educate the simple Eloi into being less prey to the Morlocks is toned down here too, but you can see why this is done for narrative reasons. I actually wonder hearing some of the lines now how much some parts are a product of the time the story is written in or how much Wells is poking fun at his own time; either way it leads to some eerie parallels to our own time.
This telling also takes the Morlocks as grunting ape like creatures and the Eloi as giggling children barely coherent, back to the routes of these characters. Many other tellings try to put their own spin on it, but this feels somehow more authentic.
Ben Miles is pitch perfect as the Time Traveller and leads a great cast. He befriends a stalwart who journals his story’s played by Nicholas Rowe which makes for a great team in the present. Whilst in the future Uweena is given a lot of heart with few words by Anjella Mackintosh. But basically every performance is great.
I will have to go back to the source material as it’s been so long, but it feels like this is a version of the story that is both true to the original book, but also make choices in how it tells the story that work for the parts of the tale they want to concentrate on. It’s a gripping listen that anyone can enjoy. 9/10.
Available now on CD or download here https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-time-machine-1602
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