Steven Moffatt to Adapt ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ for HBO

Matthew Loffhagen
New Line Cinema
(Photo: New Line Cinema)

Let’s get this out of the way right up top: I love Steven Moffatt.

I know that a lot of Whovians are tired of Moffatt by this point. The former showrunner for “Doctor Who” stayed in the job for far too long. Although admittedly this does seem to be purely because the BBC had a difficult time finding someone who was willing to replace him.

I’m also aware that his tenure as the writer for “Doctor Who” was not exactly as inclusive and diverse as that of Russel T Davies.

Davies made a point of showing same sex relationships and empowered, capable women and people of color without the need for greater commentary. Moffatt’s era was decidedly more white. His episodes also fail the Bechdel test an awful lot more often.

Nevertheless, I love a lot of what Moffatt achieved. Yes, things get a bit lost in the middle of his run. Clara lacks character development (having a boyfriend does not count as character growth, nor does his death). But Amy and Bill are both great companions, and I have a soft spot for Rory.

So when I hear that Moffatt is adapting “The Time Traveler’s Wife” for HBO, I can’t help but be excited.

The Time Traveler’s Adaptations

Audrey Niffenegger’s novel of the same name has already been adapted for live action once. 2009 saw the release of a movie starring Eric Bana and poor old Rachel McAdams, who seems doomed to be forever cast in time travel movies without ever getting to travel through time herself.

Moffatt’s show will premiere over a decade after the release of the movie, which will probably make you feel very old if you, like me, remember when the film was new.

I do genuinely feel that Moffatt has the talent necessary to do the novel justice on the small screen. Not least because he’s already written pretty much the exact same story for “Doctor Who”.

Let me make something clear: in all of time and space, across the entire fifty-year history of “Doctor Who”, there is no episode I love quite as much as “The Girl in the Fireplace”.

Girl in the Fireplace
Source: BBC

The episode, which (according to Wikipedia at least) is inspired by “The Time Traveler’s Wife”, sees The Doctor popping in periodically during the life of Madame de Pompadour.

Perhaps I’m just particularly taken with Sophia Myles’ performance in the episode. Maybe I like seeing David Tennant as a gallant hero; a knight on horseback who rides to the rescue in order to save a waiting damsel in distress.

Maybe I just really love the clockwork robots. This was my first exposure to steampunk, and I’ve been enamored of the genre’s entire aesthetic ever since.

Plus, there’s this scene. What do monsters under the bed have nightmares about?

Regardless, “The Girl in the Fireplace” is perfection, and I want to see Steven Moffatt take the same basic principle and run with it for a full big budget HBO series.

Books are Better on TV

I feel like this is a story that deserves room to breathe. We’re increasingly seeing novels being turned into TV shows rather than feature films, in large part because audiences and creators alike are realizing that a good book adaptation needs to be more than two hours long.

I imagine that HBO is hoping to capitalize on the popularity of another time travel romance book-cum-television series. “Outlander” seems to be working a treat as a TV show, so maybe “The Time Traveler’s Wife” can speak to that same niche.

(It’s worth noting that “Outlander” is a rare case of a story that’s built around a time travelling woman.)

I have high hopes of “The Time Traveler’s Wife”. It would be nice if this show were orchestrated by a female creator, but you can’t always have everything.

Steven Moffatt has proven himself very capable at time travel romance stories, and even specifically at adapting this particular story. The man does his best work when he’s working from someone else’s playbook, and there are far worse stories that he could be adapting.

I just hope that if I’m wrong, a version of myself from the future will figure out how to travel back in time and warn me.