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The Time Traveler’s Wife Inspired An Early Steven Moffat Doctor Who Episode


Steven Moffat, the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, says that an early Doctor Who episode was based on Audrey Niffenegger’s original novel. Moffat’s new HBO Original series The Time Traveler’s Wife follows Clare (Rose Leslie) and Henry (Theo James), two lovers whose relationship is challenged by Henry’s uncontrollable ability to travel across time. On May 22, HBO Max will begin streaming the series.

Because The Time Traveler’s Wife is based on a novel, and a film adaptation starring Rachel McAdams was released in 2009, the property has a fanbase with high expectations for Moffat.

He is, after all, no stranger to dealing with fervent fans. Moffat rose to prominence as a writer on the hit British sci-fi program Doctor Who before becoming the brains behind the BBC dramas Sherlock and Dracula. Moffat began writing for the Doctor Who reboot series during season 2, and by season 5, he had taken over as showrunner.

Now, in an interview with Radio Times, he confesses that the Doctor Who episode “The Girl in the Fireplace” was influenced by Niffenegger’s novel. While the episode does incorporate some of the time travel themes from the book, Moffat described it as “quite comparable in tone if not in substance.”

When Niffenegger published her second novel, she featured a character who watches a Doctor Who episode, which inspired Moffat to delve deeper into the show’s themes and develop River Song, the Doctor’s wife. See the rest of his quote below:

Of course, now that Moffat has pointed out the parallels, it’s clear how The Time Traveler’s Wife influenced his Doctor Who writings, particularly the episodes from the seasons in which he served as showrunner. River Song (Alex Kingston) is the titular Doctor’s wife, and she must deal with the knowledge that she will constantly be meeting the Doctor out of order because of his incessant time travel.

Of course, this is nearly identical to what Clare must come to grips with in Niffenegger’s work regarding her connection with Henry.

While Moffat has never revealed the author’s reaction to River Song’s Doctor Who tale, it can’t have been too negative, given she granted Moffat permission to adapt her book for the screen. Moffat has shown he has a passion for the material and the creative chops to handle a challenging plotline at the very least. While Moffat has high expectations for his adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife, perhaps no one’s expectations are higher than his after all these years of being inspired by the material.

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