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Rewriting the Classics
on 17 September 2009
H G Well's `The Time Machine' is a well deserved science fiction classic. It was a forward thinking book for its time that introduced ideas on socialism and democracy within a science fiction setting. I have read the book and I loved it, therefore a radio play on the book should have suited me. The BBC are excellent at producing radio plays and the quality shines through once more. The voice acting is strong, especially Robert Glenister as the Traveller. I also really liked the ambient sounds that paint an aural picture of you of a far off future. The use of language for the Eloi is a little strange, but is in keeping with the time the novel was written.
So what was the problem with the CD? One issue is with the book itself. `The Time Machine' is a book of its time and it does feel very dated and a little strange when the Traveller s falls for the child like woman - I have always been a little uncomfortable about this. The biggest issue is with this particular adaptation. The BBC have added an additional layer of the older Wells narrating the book. This causes two problems; he claims that his book was real and that he was there, he then dictates the entire tale once again to a woman who has already read the book - why, if she already knows what happens? Secondly, the CD ends up being about an old man talking about himself as a younger man, who in turn is talking about another man, who in turn is using a recording device - 4 layers of narration, when 2 would have done!
For someone who has not read the original text this may not prove an issue, but for me it made this adaptation overly complex. The quality of drama and recording is exceptionally high, the CD cover art is nostalgic and fun, and the accompanying notes are informative. However, none of these can make up for someone trying to rewrite something that was already good enough in its original form.