Big Finish tells the story of that other unnamed adventurer in time. The original, you might say!
H.G. Wells published ‘The Time Machine’ in 1895 and it went on to become one of this best known works. At dinner with friends one evening, the host (known to us only as The Time Traveller) expounds his theories of time travel. The following week he appears before his friends dishevelled, bloodied and with such stories to tell. He has seen the future and can prophesy only misery and barbarism for mankind’s descendants.
Dinner and a Show
Marc Platt pens this adaptation of Wells’ novella, replacing the framing device with a tight two-hander that better suits audio. In the original, the Time Traveller tells his tale to all his dinner guests. Here, however, he tells the story only to his closest friend – Bertie, played by Nicholas Rowe. It’s a minor change but it serves the play really well. For one thing, it means fewer characters we have to believe sit listening to this unbelievable tale in silence.
Survival of the Theorist
It also means that Platt can break off the narration to expand on ideas Wells could only hint at. Bertie interrupts the Traveller and invites him to speculate on how the Eloi and Morlocks came to be that way. Personally, I found it made the character more believable. Even someone as curious as the Time Traveller would probably be more focused on surviving his eight day ordeal. Ruminating on how modern social trends could lead to such a future seems a low priority. So having these discussions occur more naturally worked really well.
Miles to Travel
Since we learn so little about the Time Traveller in the story, how the character is played always invites interpretation. Ben Miles takes up the challenge and has drawn on the text carefully to build his character. Though flashes of the Traveller’s good humour and wit is still there, he’s a scientist first. In many ways, Miles’ version is the quintessential scientist. He freely admits his mistakes in his assumptions on the Eloi and how he corrected his theories accordingly. How he persevered in his investigations even against his audible fear. He’s the Victorian ideal of a gentleman scientist that Wells created the character as.
Sitting in a Tree
Miles is at his best, however, when interacting with his Eloi companion (renamed Uweena in this version). Anjella Mackintosh plays Uweena with a sweetness and innocence that perfectly suits the character. The relationship between the two is expanded on slightly with greater focus on Uweena. In the novella, we never directly hear Weena speak and the Eloi language is described rather than heard. Of course, this won’t work for an audio play. Platt has created dialogue for Uweena and, interestingly, she assigns the Time Traveller a name. Uweena’s audible reactions adds tension to scenes where they come across something unfamiliar which she knows (or thinks) is dangerous. It was an excellent use of a character who is often the first to be changed beyond recognition in other versions.
With one story left in Big Finish’s year of Wells adaptations, ‘The Time Machine’ shows a bright future. Though the use of sound effects could have been more imaginative, the writing makes this a very strong adaptation. Platt and director Ken Bentley have carefully thought out how to make this story work in audio while enhancing themes and characters.
Blogtor Rating – 8/10
Imagine a man who defies convention. A man prepared to risk everything to push science to its limits.
Imagine a far distant future where humanity has changed beyond recognition. Where peace may come at a terrible cost, and where violent creatures lurk beneath the surface of the Earth.
Imagine a leap into the unknown, into discovery and adventure.
Imagine a journey in… The Time Machine.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Nicholas Briggs
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: HG Wells, dramatised by Marc Platt
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Ben Miles (The Time Traveller), Nicholas Rowe (Mr Wells), Anjella Mackintosh(Uweena), Nicholas Asbury (Mr Filby), James Joyce (Mr Pollock), Hywel Morgan(Morlock Leader), Christopher Naylor (Mr Naylor). Other parts played by members of the cast.