The Time Traveler’s Wife that never was
If I had a time-traveling mailbox, I’d put this letter in:
Dear Future Executives at HBO,
How could you cancel The Time Traveler’s Wife? Someone (Steven Moffat, in fact. Is anyone surprised?) finally adapted this amazing book properly, and you’re not even going to let him finish the story?
I’ve never been so excited about a new show, loved it so much and then been so disappointed to be cut off.
The show only got through about 20% of the book, and it handled the complicated (and sometimes problematic) subject matter expertly. I mean, really?
Sure, the show wasn’t perfect, but neither was the novel it was based on. Though I saw no issue with it when I first read it in 2003, now that I’m married and older, I found some of it creepy, but thought the show did a good job sidestepping those issues while also acknowledging them.
In the show, when Henry meets his future wife at age six, she asks if he and his wife fell in love at first sight and he quipped, “God, I hope not.” She also asked why she liked brushing her toy horse’s hair to which she responded, “I’m not brushing him. I’m grooming him.” At this point Henry got uncomfortable, as he should. It was a nice nod to the audience that said, “Yep. We know some of the source material is icky, but we’re going to mitigate it as much as possible while staying true to the book.” And I thought Moffat did an amazing job toeing that creepy line.
So why no more?
All you’ve left us with to get the whole story is the horrible 2009 adaptation with Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, which missed the mark so badly I launched this whole blog, so I could complain about it. (The casting was good, but the screenplay put the novel in a blender and only kept the bland parts.) Moffat was not afraid of the story, and it showed.
Now we’ll never know what Moffat could’ve done with the concept in its entirety.
He had already surpassed the book in some ways in the first season (like the meeting-the-mother-recording scene and the wedding video scene). Also, Theo James was a downright perfect Henry. I just reread the book and found I mostly liked the new show better, though I do agree that Moffat inserting a rape that wasn’t in the book was gratuitous, and I didn’t love the casting of Clare, but she was good enough.
Despite those missteps, I thought it was a solid adaptation. Yet we have no choice but to wonder what could’ve been.