Episodes: 6 x episodes (50-60 minutes each)
Time travel is one of those concepts that’s just straight-up fun to think about. After all, it’s an attractive idea. You could go back and change events that went horribly wrong, take advantage of opportunities you missed or just give Hitler a swift kick to the goolies - all positive things.
However, in the world of The Time Traveler’s Wife, temporal relocation isn’t some kind of superpower. Point of fact, it’s a pretty massive pain in the bum.
Based on the wildly popular novel by Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Travelers’ Wife is the second adaptation of the material (the first being the Rachel McAdams/Eric Bana flick from 2009) and it’s an oddly compelling, if wildly uneven, little show.
The Time Traveler’s Wife is essentially the story of a couple - Clare Abshire (Rose Leslie) and Henry DeTamble (Theo James) - who meet one another and fall in love in the wrong order.
See, poor old Henry has a genetic condition that causes him to skip around in time. He’ll be there one second and gone the next, shooting through the universe sans clobber, and ending up at seemingly random time periods, starkers and hungry.
Like some kind of temporal bucks party.
In practical terms, this means Henry meets Clare in her backyard when she’s six and he’s in his thirties. He’s also naked. It’s an odd moment and although the potential grooming aspects are addressed, you may find yourself getting a little uncomfortable with some of the implications.
The thing is, this is the sort of show where you’ll need to embrace the fantasy, the inherent silliness, of the time travel premise otherwise you’re going to have no fun at all.
And the show, when it works, is fun. The way Clare and Henry fall in love is quite sweet, if occasionally eye-rolling, and the script plays cleverly with the order of events, recontextualising incidents when seen at different ages.
The cast, also, is great. Theo James - a man so absurdly beautiful it’s a little bit insulting, frankly - does a great job conveying the weight of his “gift”. In his twenties he’s brash and angry, in his thirties he’s gentle and contemplative and by the time he’s in his forties - he’s a tragic figure.
However, Rose Leslie owns the show, imbuing what could have been a frustratingly passive character with nuance and depth, and giving genuine pathos to an absurd situation that risked coming off as mawkish in the extreme.
Showrunner Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Dracula) is at his best and worst here. He does a good job of selling the central concept (which heavily informed The Doctor/Amy Pond arc in Doctor Who, FYI), but stumbles a little in the details.
Some of the dialogue is terribly on the nose and a few scenes would have benefited from less zappy banter and more introspection. Plus, a gag about what two sixteen-year-old Henrys get up to feels like a sequence nicked off a particularly spicy episode of South Park!
Still, you might scoff, you might roll your eyes, but there’s a better than average chance that you’ll decide to watch the next episode. It has that compulsive quality, like a bag of salty chips you find in the back of the pantry.
The Time Traveler’s Wife isn’t prestige telly, it’s no The Staircase or anything like it. But it’s an effective and affecting romance with a time travel twist and a great pair of leads, who do strong work with challenging material.
The Time Traveler’s Wife won’t change your life, but you probably won’t feel the need to travel back to before you pressed play and slap the remote of your hand. So that’s nice.
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