Steven Moffat is one of the Executive Producers behind The Time Traveler’s Wife Season 1, a romantic fantasy series based on Audrey Niffenegger’s 2003 novel about a life-long love complicated by time travel. He worked on the show with his own life-long love, his wife of 20 years, Sue Vertue, whose projects include the Sherlock series, romantic comedy series Coupling, and Mr. Bean.
Steven is an old hand at mucking about with time – which was his job as a writer on long-running BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who. Audrey’s book even inspired one of his Doctor Who storylines. “I read the book and loved it. But all I'd done in Doctor Who was use the wonderful, fantastical element of an out-of-sequence relationship (in The Girl In The Fireplace episode during the 2010 Amy Pond/Eleventh Doctor storyline),” he says. What attracted him to the story again was not so much the time twists, as the opportunity to write about a happy relationship. “Audrey was taking the details of a happy, successful, absolutely monogamous, absolutely mutually nourishing relationship and made it interesting by just adding time travel. It's extraordinary how seldom anyone writes about that,” he explains.
With the story being told out of sequence, it helps to know where in time our love birds, Clare Abshire and her love, time traveler Henry DeTamble, might meet. We took a peek inside the book…
The time warp
The series is likely to juggle the timeline of events, and round-together ages at which things happen just to limit the number of performers needed to play Henry and Clare. Most importantly, Rose Lesie (aged 35) plays Clare at ages 16-35 while Theo James (aged 37) plays Henry at ages 26-43.
“I’m 37, and I play Henry as an impulsive, young, full-of-himself, mid-20s and late-20s man. And then I play an early-40s, mid-40s version of him. It’s great that I’m in between, because I’m young enough to remember my stupid self, and the mistakes I made, and the cockiness, and the dumb, impulsive decisions. And I’m old enough to imagine a more settled sense of self, hopefully a little bit longer in the tooth, and a little more thoughtful with my actions,” says Theo
- Henry time travels at ages: 5, 6, 8, 15, 19, 24, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 41, and 43.
- Henry and Clare meet each other at the following ages before officially getting together: Clare 6-Henry 36; Clare 6-Henry 35; Clare 10-Henry 41; Clare 12-Henry 36; Clare 13-Henry 35; Clare 15-Henry 38; Clare 16-Henry 32; Clare 17-Henry 36; Clare 17-Henry 40; Clare 18-Henry 41.
- Clare and Henry’s timelines converge: when he is 26 years old and she is 20.
PS: In stable time Clare is 7 years, 11 months, and 9 days younger than Henry.
Meet “the kids”
Henry, 5-9 years old
Henry De Tamble first travels through time on his 5th birthday. During that trip he unknowingly meets his 24-year-old self for the first time. He is 9 years old when meets the 27-year-old version of himself. For the first time, the older Henry introduces himself properly and admits who he is.
Jason David plays Henry aged around 8
Henry, 15-19 years old
A 15-year-old Henry travels back a few months to tell his slightly younger (but still 15-year-old) self that they cannot change time.19-year-old Henry is nearly caught housebreaking. He needs to develop criminal skills because while he can travel through time physically, he cannot take anything with him that’s not part of his body.
Brian Altemus plays Henry around age 15-24
Clare, 6 years old
Clare is 6 years old when she meets Henry (then aged 36 and 35) for the first time in her favourite meadow and he proves that he can travel through time.
Everleigh McDonnell plays Clare around age 6-8
Clare, 10-13 years old
10-year-old Clare has a fun day at the beach with 41-year-old Henry. 12-year-old Clare meets 36-year-old Henry in her meadow and he explains that multiple versions of himself are inhabiting the same timeline. 13-year-old Clare and 35-year-old Henry enjoy a philosophical discussion about free will. And the year she is 13, Clare unwittingly witnesses a tragic event in Henry’s life
Caitlin Shorey plays Clare around ages 9-14
Clare, 16-18 years old
32-year-old Henry tells 16-year-old Clare that he loves her and that they are married in the future. 32-year-old Henry helps 16-year-old Clare to deal with a boy who tried to assault her. 40-year-old Henry tells 17-year-old Clare that he has revisited his mother’s death many different times. On her 18th birthday, Clare meets 41-year-old Henry for the final time and they share a moment.
Clare & Henry: together
Clare, 20-24 years old; Henry, 25-32 years old
- At age 26, Henry gets a message from a stranger that Clare says hello. He does not recognise the name.
- The real-time 28-year-old Henry and 20-year-old Clare meet for the first time within their shared timeline.
- 36-year-old Henry wakes up 28-year-year old Henry to warn him to stop being such a dirtbag and become the Henry that Clare loves.
- 28-year-old Henry proposes to Clare.
- 30-year-old Henry tries to get hold of pills to prevent him from time travelling. He accidentally time travels on his and Clare’s wedding day, but 38-year-old Henry shows up in his place.
- 31-year-old Henry finds himself bleeding on the kitchen floor (also aged 31).
- Being visited by 8-year-old Henry starts Clare (aged 24) thinking about having kids. And maybe they can, with help from 33-year-old time-hopping Henry.
- 32-year-old Henry’s doctor reveals a possible cause and cure for his time travelling.
Clare, 34-35 years old; Henry, 41-43 years old
We see into the future, when it turns out that time travel really is genetic. People like Henry are referred to as CDPs, Chrono-Displaced People. And while there’s tragic news that has to do with why we never see Henry aged past 43, with so many Henrys hopping about the timeline, things are not as bleak as they might have been.