Lords of Time #2: Doctor Who Vs The Time Machine

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Guest contributor Troy McDougal continues the series pitting Doctor Who against some of the biggest time travel fiction.


It’s time! Time to take a look at what a lot of people call the godfather of Doctor Who. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is partly what inspired Sydney Newman, Donald Wilson, C. E. Webber, Anthony Coburn, David Whitaker and initial producer Verity Lambert to create Doctor Who all those many years ago. The curious tale about an eccentric man’s curiosity to explore the future not only stands as the building block to the genre that is time travel, but also inspired countless writers (myself included) to pursue a career in literacy.

About the Challenger!

Country of Origin: United Kingdom

For the purpose of this article, all trailers and clips will be from the movie adaptations while the article itself will focus on the original story by H.G. Wells. The Time Machine deals with the rapturous adventure of a man who is only ever referred to by the moniker ‘The Time Traveller’. He invites a few of his friends and other influential parties to his house to recount a tale about how he broke through the boundaries of space and time and observed what the world will look like more than 800 000 years in the future. While in the future, the Time Traveller discovers that humanity has regressed in intelligence and that the humans of the future are being terrorized by nocturnal creatures call Morlocks. With his time machine confiscated, the Time Traveller must adapt to this new world and defeat the Morlocks in order to get back to his time.

The Lure!

Obviously if you’re a fan of time travel, you’ll want to go out and read this story, but also if you’re interested in seeing what elements led to the creation of Doctor Who as they manage to reveal themselves to the reader with every page turned. Keep in mind that this story is quite old (1895), so the reading style might be challenging to follow and the plot elements might not be what you are traditionally used to in 21st century literature. If reading is not one of your strong suits – I’m not talking about you being illiterate – I’m referring to you being too lethargic to actually turn the page – then you’re welcome to go out and buy one of the film adaptations. The Time Machine has three including a TV movie in 1978, a film produced in 1960 and another in 2002. There are also numerous audiobooks available.

Dynamics and Differences

If it’s not yet occurred to you, then you are in serious trouble my readers. Obviously one of the key elements shared between The Time Machine and Doctor Who is the fact that the protagonist is never given a name, only a moniker. (Please tell me you’ve spotted this!) In both cases also, the reason is never stated, nor does it affect the entertainment value of the narrative. One element that is not shared by The Time Machine is the level of excitement and action we’re used to in Doctor Who. Not just in Doctor Who though, the Time Machine, for the most part, is more of an expedition than an adventure. Both are visible, but throughout the book, it becomes apparent from the Time Traveller thoughts that we are clearly on an expedition through time – an educational journey into the legacy that humanity will leave behind. This is wrapped up in a fantastical tale that is both imaginative and touches readers on a metaphysical level. This is similar to how Doctor Who started out when it first aired in 1963.

utopia-cast-tennantOne of the most pertinent links between The Time Machine and Doctor Who is the story Utopia. This particular story borrows almost everything from The Time Machine (apart from the title). A trip in time takes a turn for the worst and our heroes end up in the very distant future where humans have regressed into savages, terrorizing innocent people. In this case, Morlocks become Futurekind. The mode of transport through time, in both cases, becomes inaccessible for the majority of the story being told. The difference though, in Utopia, the people are searching for a new home to start again – some place they can be safe. Cue dramatic irony!

As I’ve mentioned, pace is something that differs quite a bit between the two. Even the Classic Era of Doctor Who managed to move the story along faster than the Time Traveller does when recounting his story. The Time Machine is extremely well detailed, almost to the point where people who aren’t fond of these kinds of descriptive narratives will become irritated by it.

The Time Machine also plays important (and sometimes not-so-important) in-universe role in Doctor Who. The Sixth Doctor helped inspire H.G. Wells to write the tale in Timelash, one of the most despised stories in the Doctor Who catalogue. The Seventh Doctor is also seen reading it in his TARDIS just before it goes wonky. H.G. Wells, as well as The Time Machine have featured numerous times in the comic book media of Doctor Who, which is not considered canon by most fans.

In-universe and out, The Time Machine is a vibrant member of the genre of time travel. It’s old. It might not read to your liking. It doesn’t feature things blowing up every five seconds. It may not be as exciting or fun as some of the paraphernalia on our screens right now, but without this story – this short tale involving a man with no name – there would be no Doctor Who. No one can take that away or argue it. This is a metaphysical fact people! It just is. This series depicts the most inventive and successful usages of time travel in fiction, so even though some media might not rate as high as you’d like, it still in the top-ten of whatever else exists out there that doesn’t make this list. So in conclusion, when you think of The Time Machine, whatever your preference involving storytelling or time travel, think of it as one of the Heroes of Who.


  • Plot – 4/5
  • Characters – 3/5
  • Character Development – 2.5/5
  • Tearjerkers – 2/5
  • Plot Point – 3.5/5
  • Timey-Wimey ball – 1.5/5

Based on these criteria, The Time Machine scored…

16.5 out of a possible 30.

This means that the rankings look like this now:

  1. Back to the Future24/30
  2. The Time Machine16.5/30

Join us next time when we rake up another challenger. Clue for next article: Dead End!