The Time Machine is a novella by H. G. Wells, first published in 1895 and later directly adapted into at least two feature films of the same name, as well as two television versions, and a large number of comic book adaptations. It indirectly inspired many more works of fiction in all media. This 38,000 word novella is generally credited with the popularization of the concept of time travel using a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposefully and selectively. The term "time machine", coined by Wells, is now universally used to refer to such a vehicle. It was also inspired by Charles Darwin and On the Origin of Species, which theorizes that humans have evolved from different species. Wells introduces an early example of the Dying Earth subgenre as well.
The story reflects Wells's own socialist political views and the contemporary angst about industrial relations. Other science fiction works of the period, including Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward and Thea von Harbou's Metropolis, dealt with similar themes.
The Time Machine is in the public domain in the United States, Canada, and Australia, but does not enter the public domain in the European Union until January 1, 2017 (1946 death of author + 70 years + end of calendar year).
The Time Traveller details the experience of time travel and the evolution of his surroundings as he moves through time. While travelling through time, his machine allows him to observe the changes of the outside world in fast motion. He observes the sun and moon traversing the sky and the changes to the buildings and landscape around him as he travels through time. His machine produces a sense of disorientation to its occupant, and a blurring or faintness of the surroundings outside the machine.
His journey takes him to the year A.D. 802,701, where he finds an apparently peaceful, pastoral, communist, future filled with happy, simple humans who call themselves the Eloi. The Eloi are about four feet tall (~122 cm), pink-skinned and frail-looking, with curly hair, small ears and mouths and large eyes. Males and females seem to be quite similar in build and appearance. They have high-pitched, soft voices and speak an unknown language. They appear to be quite unintelligent and child-like and live without quarrels or conflict.
Soon after his arrival he rescues Weena, a female Eloi he finds drowning in a river. Much to his surprise she is grateful to him and insists on following him.
The Eloi live in small communities within large and futuristic yet dilapidated buildings, doing no work and eating a frugivorous diet. The land around London has become a sort of untended garden filled with unusual fruiting and flowering plants, and similarly strange yet collapsing buildings and other structures, all clearly no longer used, dotted around. There is no evidence of the implementation of agriculture or technology, of which the Eloi seem incapable.
The Time Traveller is greeted with curiosity and without fear by the Eloi, who seem only vaguely surprised and curious by his appearance and lose interest rapidly. He disables the time machine and follows them to their commune and consumes a meal of fruit while trying to communicate with them. This proves somewhat ineffectual, as their unknown language and low intelligence hinders the Time Traveller from gaining any useful information. With a slight sense of disdain for his hosts' lack of curiosity and attention to him, the Time Traveller decides to explore the local area.
As he explores this landscape, the Time Traveller comments on the factors that have resulted in the Eloi's physical condition and society. He supposes that the lack of intelligence and vitality of the Eloi are the logical result of humankind's past struggle to transform and subjugate nature through technology, politics, art and creativity. With the realisation of this goal, the Eloi had devolved.
With no further need for technology, agriculture, or innovations to improve life, they became unimaginative and incurious about the world. With no work to do, they became physically weak and small in stature. Males, generally being breadwinners and workers in former times, have particularly degenerated in physique, explaining the lack of dimorphism between the sexes. The Time Traveller supposes that preventive medicine has been achieved, as he saw no sign of disease amongst his hosts. With no work to do and no hardships to overcome, society became non-hierarchical and non-cooperative, with no defined leaders or social classes.
The fact that there was no hardship or inequalities in societies meant there was no war and crime. Art and sophisticated culture, often driven by problems and aspirations or a catalyst for solutions and new developments, had waned, as no problems existed and there were no conceivable improvements for humanity. He accounted for their relatively small numbers as being due to the implementation of some form of birth control to eliminate the problems of overpopulation. The abandoned structures around him would suggest that prior to these achievements, the population had been larger and more productive, toiling to find the solution that would make the new utopia a reality.
As the sun sets, the Time Traveller muses on where he will sleep. Retracing his steps back to the building where he had eaten with the Eloi, he suddenly realizes that the time machine is missing. He panics and desperately searches for the vehicle. At first, he suspects that the Eloi have moved it to their shelter. He doubts the Eloi would be capable or inclined to do this, but nonetheless rushes back to the shelter and demands to know where his machine is. The Eloi are confused and a little frightened by this. Realising the Eloi don't understand him and he is damaging his position with them, he continues his search in desperation during the night before relenting and falling into an uneasy sleep.
The Utopian existence of the Eloi turns out to be deceptive. The Traveller soon discovers that the class structure of his own time has in fact persisted, and the human race has diverged into two branches. The wealthy, leisured classes appear to have devolved into the ineffectual, not very bright Eloi he has already seen; but the downtrodden working classes have evolved into the bestial Morlocks, cannibal hominids resembling human spiders, who toil underground maintaining the machinery that keep the Eloi — their flocks — docile and plentiful. Both species, having adapted to their routines, are of distinctly sub-human intelligence.
After further adventures, the Traveller manages to get to his machine, reactivate it as the Morlocks battle him for it, and escape them. He then travels into the far future, roughly 30 million years from his own time.
There he sees the last few living things on a dying Earth, the rotation of which has ceased with the site of London viewing a baleful, red sun stuck at the setting position. In his trip forward, he had seen the red sun flare up brightly twice, as if Mercury and then Venus had fallen into it. Menacing reddish crab-like creatures slowly wander the blood-red beaches, and the world is covered in "intensely green vegetation." He continues to make short jumps through time, seeing the red giant of a sun grow redder and dimmer. Finally, the world begins to go dark as snowflakes begin to fall, and all silence falls upon Earth. In the very end of the Earth, all life has ceased, other than the lichens that still grow on rocks, and a kraken-like creature, roughly the size of a football, that slowly moves onto shore.
Feeling giddy and nauseated about the return journey before him, he nevertheless boards his machine and puts it into reverse, arriving back in his laboratory just three hours after he originally left. Entering the dining room, he begins recounting what has just happened to his disbelieving friends and associates, bringing the story back full circle to his entrance in chapter 2. The following day, the unnamed narrator returns to the Time Traveller's house. There, he finds the Time Traveller ready to leave again, this time taking a small knapsack and a camera. Although he promises the narrator he will return in half an hour, three years pass and the Time Traveller still remains missing. What happened to him, and where he ultimately ventured, remains a mystery.
The censored text begins with the Traveller waking up in his Time Machine after escaping the Morlocks. He finds himself in the distant future of an Earth that is unrecognizable, seeing rabbit-like hopping herbivores near him. He stuns or kills one with a rock, and upon closer examination realizes they are probably the descendants of humans/Eloi. A gigantic, centipede-like arthropod approaches and the traveller advances ahead in time a day to flee, finding the creature to have apparently eaten the tiny humanoid. This dark ending of humanity was thought too shocking to be published.
This is more of an adventure tale than the book was; The story begins with the Time Traveller returning from his trip, unkempt & in disarray. He relates to his friends of what he has witnessed: war's horrors first-hand in June, 1940 over London and a nuclear bomb in August, 1966. Travelling to 802,701 A.D., he finds world has settled into a vast garden. He meets the pacifist Eloi, who speak broken English, and have little interest in technology or the past. Their brethren from long ago, the Morlocks, however, have devolved into cannibalistic underground workers. He deduces the division of mankind resulted from mutations induced by nuclear war.
After relating his story, the Time Traveller leaves for a second journey, but Filby and Mrs Watchett note that he had taken three books from the shelves in his drawing room. Filby comments that George must've had a plan for a new Eloi civilization. "Which three books would you have taken?" Filby inquires to Mrs Watchett, adding " ... he has all the time in the world."
The film is noted for its then-novel use of time lapse photographic effects to show the world around the Time Traveller changing at breakneck speed as he travels through time. (Pal's earliest films had been works of stop-motion animation.)
Thirty-three years later, a combination sequel/documentary Time Machine: The Journey Back (1993 film), directed by Clyde Lucas, was produced. Rod Taylor hosted, with Bob Burns (also Ex Producer), Gene Warren Sr. and Wah Chang as guests. Michael J. Fox (who had himself portrayed a time traveller in the Back to the Future trilogy) spoke about time travelling in general. In the second half, written by original screenwriter David Duncan, the movie's original actors Rod Taylor, Alan Young and Whit Bissell reprised their roles. The Time Traveller returns to his laboratory in 1916, finding Filby there, and encourages his friend to join him in the far future — but Filby has doubts. (Time Machine: The Journey Back is featured as an extra on the DVD release of the 1960 film).
The film was directed by Wells's great-grandson Simon Wells, with an even more revised plot that incorporated the ideas of paradoxes and changing the past, before the Time Traveller moves on to find answers in 2030 New York, witness an orbital lunar catastrophe 2037, before moving on to 802,701 for the main plot. He later briefly finds himself in 635,427,810, with toxic clouds & a world laid waste to the horizon.
It was met with generally mixed reviews and earned $56M before VHS/DVD sales. The Time Machine used a design that was very reminiscent of the one in the Pál film, but was much larger and employed brass construction, along with quartz/glass (In Wells's original book, the Time Traveller mentioned his 'scientific papers on optics'). Weena makes no appearance; Hartdegen instead becomes involved with a female Eloi named Mara, played by Samantha Mumba. In this film, the Eloi have, as a tradition, preserved a "stone language" that is identical to English. The Morlocks are much more fierce and agile, and the Time Traveller has a direct impact on the plot.
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