By Milan Perera, Second Year, English Literature
It goes without saying that there is an irresistible allure surrounding the 2003 bestselling novel The Time Traveller’s Wife by the American author Audrey Niffenegger. It prompted a 2009 Hollywood rendition starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana though it fell foul of the critics. The latest HBO production is adapted for an eight-part series by the celebrated showrunner, Steven Moffat, whose credits include television classics such as Sherlock (2010-17) and Doctor Who (2005-).
Despite Moffat’s glowing credentials, viewers may ask themselves, ‘Why another adaptation?’ But why not? After all, the Time Traveller’s Wife is a curious melange of a rom-com, sci-fi and a mockumentary.
The story revolves around Clare and her time travelling husband, Henry. It is unsurprising that Moffat decided to get involved in this creative venture, as drawing parallels between Doctor Who and Time Traveller’s Wife is inevitable. But the latter poses its own set of challenges as it is not a mere sci-fi thriller but a story that pertains to day-to-day people.
Aiming to provide the series with a sense of credibility and relatability, the showrunners introduce an element of mockumentary with a red ‘REC’ blinking on the corner of the screen at times. In addition, the David Brent type monologues of Henry are full of wit and humour where he comments on his time travelling and exploits.
The British actors, Theo James and Rose Leslie, shine as the titular characters of Henry and Clare. Like their many compatriots who crossed the pond, James and Leslie execute their American accents effortlessly.
The Time Traveler’s Wife can make it an uneasy and queasy viewing, especially when a grown man visits his lover during her childhood years. From the outset, it may sound like a Lolita-esque sexual manipulation of a minor, but the creators tackle this issue head-on to shed some light on the actual dynamics of this relationship. Henry’s conversations with Clare impacted her greatly, to the point that she waited for years to be his partner.
The ability to time travel is not considered a rare gift, but a disability; by which Henry leaves a pile of clothes and suddenly appears stark naked in the most unexpected places where he is compelled to steal clothes, not to be chased down as a sex offender. The idea of free will is lost and knowing the future left Clare with a one-track mindset. She simply waited for Henry all her life. Complicated and strange, the relationship between Henry and Clare is one of a kind.
The first episode proved to be a slow burner with a confusing amount of information. It felt clunky and cumbersome, which lacked the pace to grip the audience's attention. The second episode has redeeming qualities where the context of Henry’s gift or disability is provided. There is a reference to his mother, who was a famous opera singer, and her untimely and harrowing death when she was decapitated in a road accident.
The missing pieces of the jigsaw slowly seem to fall into place. With the second episode, the story has finally is set in motion. I can only urge you to watch the rest as it is a heartfelt and tender story.
Featured Image: IMDB
Will you be tuning in to HBO's adaptation of The Time Traveller's Wife?