Philip Reeve’s Top 10 Time Travellers!

Philip Reeve doctor who

We asked Philip Reeve, author of the fourth Doctor Who anniversary eshort, to list his Top 10 Time Travellers and boy does he know what he's talking about. In fact we're even beginning to wonder if he is trying to share some greater, bigger, clock-watching, cog busting secret (see number 10* for more!)

*number 10 of this blog post, not the Prime Minister!




1. ‘The Time Traveller’ in The Time Machine by HG Wells 

The Time Machine was
written in 1895 and is still one of the best time-travel stories ever. HG
Wells’s traveler (whose name we never learn) uses his machine to travel into
the distant future (the year 802,701 AD to be precise) where he discovers that
human beings have split into two separate races – the pretty, child-like Eloi
and the brutish cave-dwelling Morlocks. Later in the book he goes still further,
to the very end of time, where
Hg wells the last living things grope about on a bleak
beach beneath a darkling sky.  I first
read this as a child, and I remember being struck by the brilliant description
as the time machine starts its journey: as time speeds up around it, ‘night
followed day like the flapping of a black wing.’  (The 1950s movie version, directed by George
Pal, adds a nice touch of its own: as the traveller zooms through the 20th
Century, he can see the fashions changing on the mannequins in the shop window
across the street.)


2. Doctor Who

Of course! I wonder if
the programme would have been so popular, or lasted so long, if the Doctor’s
time machine looked like a time machine, or changed its appearance to fit in
with whatever time or place it landed in (which was the original idea)?  I’m just old enough to remember those blue
police telephone boxes
Tardis– there was one at the top of the road where I grew up –
and there was something strangely eerie and compelling about seeing such an
everyday object standing on the surface of an alien world.  Of course, nowadays, police phone boxes
aren’t everyday objects at all, so that jarring mixture of the ordinary and the
strange is lost – maybe it would be better if the modern TARDIS looked like a


3. Tom in Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

This is a brilliant
book! Tom is sent to stay with relatives who live in a flat at the top of a big
old house, and have no garden. But each night when the clock in the hall
strikes thirteen he finds that the new buildings behind the house have vanished
and he can step out into the huge old garden which lay there many years
before.  There he meets Hatty, the girl
who lived in the house before it was divided up into
Tomsmidnightgarden flats. But he doesn’t
always arrive in the same time; sometimes it is spring in the garden; sometimes
winter; one night Hatty is his own age; the next she’s a young woman. It’s a
brilliant, beautiful book, and the bittersweet ending still makes me cry.
(Actually I’m getting a bit teary just thinking about it!)


4. Merlin from The Sword in the Stone by TH White

TH White’s Merlin
doesn’t time-travel in the usual way; he is just ageing backwards, so that when
the boy called Wart meets him in the Middle Ages he has memories of cars, steam
engines and all sorts of other unlikely things. What would it be like to be
born in the future and age in reverse? I kept trying to imagine it, but it made
my brain go funny.

Catweazle5. Catweazle by Richard Carpenter

Another time travelling
wizards – I suspect Catweazle was partly inspired by TH White’s Merlin, but I
may be wrong. His adventures started out as a TV series, but that was a bit
before my time; I just remember reading Catweazle books in the school library.
He wasn’t a very good wizard, but somehow or other he had managed to magic
himself into the present day, where he was constantly amazed by our magic
powers – things like TV and ‘electrickery’.

6. The Time Bandits

The young hero of Terry
Gilliam’s 1981 film is woken up one night by an armored knight riding out of
his wardrobe, shortly followed by the Time Bandits themselves – seven anarchic
time-travelling dwarves. Having helped ‘the Supreme Being’ create the universe,
they’ve made off with a map which shows where all the holes are, and they use
this to leap from one period to another, stealing things. Among the people they
try to rob are Robin Hood, Napoleon, and the brilliant David Warner as the
incarnation of Evil.

7. The time tourists in Pawley’s Peepholes by John

The British Science
Fiction writer John Wyndham was best known for chilling visions of the future
Day of the Triffids
and The Chrysalids. Pawley’s Peepholes is one
of his more light-hearted stories, about a small English town which starts to
be plagued by mysterious apparitions – oddly dressed people who suddenly walk
through the wall to peer at you while you’re eating your breakfast or having a
bath. Before long whole busloads of them are materialising. It turns out that
they are tourists from the future, taking day-trips through time to see how
their ancestors lived, and laugh at our funny clothes and hairstyles.

The hunters in A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury


I quite like the idea
that, if time machines existed, people would just use them for tourism and
entertainment. In this brilliant Ray Bradbury short story a group of rich
big-game hunters travel back in time hoping to kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex. And
do – but time travel is a tricky business, and they end up altering the
world in unexpected ways…

Rosemary Sutcliffe

A well-written
historical story is about the closest thing we have to a time machine. Rosemary
Sutcliffe never actually travelled in time (so far as I know) but her
imagination did, and came back with vivid tales of life in Bronze Age, Roman,
Saxon, Viking and Norman Britain. Thanks to her, I spent a large chunk of my
childhood in the past, and these long gone eras seemed very real to me.

10. You

And me. And everybody
we know. We shouldn’t forget that we are all time travelers, hurtling into the
future at the rate of one second per second

I wonder what we’ll find when we get there?


A massive thank you to Philip Reeve for this incredible post. We've certainly learnt something. If you're planning an adventure into the future (which let's face it, we all are) then why not send a postcard? Simply enter our prize draw to win 100 Doctor Who Postcards, a signed copy of Eoin Colfer's new book W.A.R.P and all seven TimeRiders – one lucky winner is going to need to get a bigger timemachine! 

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