Time Machine

Hey everybody,

Like most of you I have read H.G. Wells’ book ‘The Time Machine’ and enjoyed it thouroughly. So naturally when the movie came out I was looking forward to seeing how it would transalate over from book to movie. But my post is not regarding the comparison between the two (I actually did enjoy the movie just as much as the book). My question is (For those of you who have seen it) about the part towards the end of movie where he is with the head Morlock and gets his ‘question’ answered. I was quite confused about what the Morlock said. Something along teh lines of “You (the professor) were the cause of me” and where he said something about if she hadnt died he would have never built the time machine, etc. etc.
Can anyone clear that up for me?


Are you talking about the 1960 movie version by George Pal, or the more recent movie version?

Sorry, the recent one with Guy Pearce

Sounds like he’s talking about the recent version. Don’t think too hard about that movie. Just don’t. You can puzzle sense out of it, but you won’t feel better for the effort. :slight_smile:

hahaha…what makes you say that?
it’s just that one part that has me puzzled

Sorry to answer so late. I only recently saw the movie (on tape) for the first time. I had the same questions you asked, and had to watch it a couple of more times and discuss it with a friend. I also did a search of old threads to see if I could come up with anything more, and that’s how I came across this thread.

As to your first question: Morloch-boss says to Alex, “You made the Time Machine because Emma died; if she hadn’t been killed, you wouldn’t have made it. Therefore, you can’t use the Time Machine to go back and save her.”

He’s saying that to go back and save Emma would create a temporal paradox. If he goes back in time with his time machine and saves her, then with her alive there would have been no reason for him to make the machine. If the machine hadn’t then been made, he couldn’t have gone back to save her. It’s a real head-scratcher.

Maybe it will help to think of it in terms of all the possible time lines. There are many various paths that could have been taken if she had never been killed, and there are many others that could have been taken in which she was killed. Since the Time Machine was built as a direct result of Emma’s death, then it could only be used to go to other time lines in which she died, but could never be used to go to any of the time lines in which she stayed alive. (All the time lines in which she is alive have no Time Machine in them; so the Time Machine can’t be used to get there.)

Alex went four years down the time line where Emma was killed by a mugger in the park. After he completed his machine, he went back to the night of her death and changed the scenario. Unfortunately, this time she was killed by a runaway car. As we saw, he only changed the method of her death, not the death itself.

He then continued 800,000 years into the future, traveling down the “car death” time line rather than the “mugger death” time line, hoping to find the answer “Why?”. Morloch-boss then explained to him about the temporal paradox.

As to your second question: I haven’t found a satisfactory answer yet. I can only speculate about it; but it may not be what the writer had in mind. (The screenwriter, that is; since the movie diverges from H.G. Wells’ story.)

Morloch-boss says, “You are the inevitable result of your tragedy; just as I am the inevitable result of you.”

I think this means the Tragedy made Alex a reclusive and obsessed (mad) scientist in search of a means of time travel. (That’s what the Tragedy inevitably made him.) As a result of Alex’s work and writings (remember the photonic librarian’s reference to Alex’s published articles?), other scientists were inspired to initiate the series of events that led to the destruction of the moon. Thus Alex indirectly brought about the eventual rise of the Morlochs.

But as I said, this is only speculation, and not very satisfying in the absence of confirmation.

hey thanks for clearing that up, it makes much more sense now


How do you come to this conclusion? The idea of multiple time lines generally implies and infinite number of time lines, so it’s quite possible that one of those timelines includes a time machine and a living Emma.

Also, the mere fact that he shoes up prior to her “second” death means that his time machine took him there. So there was a time machine in existence prior to that second death. Granted, it was created “after” her first death, but even in the context of the movie, you have a time machine that “exists” prior to her death simply because he looped back in it. The Grandfather Paradox doesn’t prevent her death, but in the context of the movie, it doesn’t prevent the existence of the time machine either.

Okay, I’m being petty here, but what second question?

Milquetoast, I can’t explain many of the films assertions in a logical way because the story (in the film version) was chock FULL of plot holes so large you could drive a truck through them. Many of the incongruities just had to be overlooked if one was to get any enjoyment out of the film.

Also, I can’t defend the movie’s positions when they defy the laws of physics. I can only say that when one watches a science fiction or fantasy movie, one suspends one’s disbelief and accepts whatever rules the storyteller has set for the universe the tale is set in.

Within the universe of “The Time Machine” (film version), the statement by Alex that, “I could come back a thousand times and watch her die a thousand ways”, and the statement by Morloch-boss that, “You built the time machine because of Emma’s death so you can’t use it to go back and save her”, both establish the limitations of time travel available to Alex.

So to answer your question, I came to my conclusion based on the logic presented within the story. Of course, I don’t hold that these boundaries carry over into the real world, or even that the logic presented within the film is flawless.

Further, the point you made about using the time machine to go back to a point before the invention of the machine itself is one of those plot holes I referred to. The film establishes rules for time travel, then proceeds to break its own rules. If Alex can make a machine able to go back before its own creation, then he should have been able to save Emma; likewise, if he is not allowed to go back and save Emma because her death is the precipitating factor in the creation of the time machine, then Alex should not have been able to go back before her death. … The film does not obey its own rules. So one can’t analyze it too closely. I was merely trying to answer Methos’ question as I understood the film.

(As a side note, I don’t think that “multiple” time lines necessarily requires an “infinite” number of time lines. But that doesn’t affect the movie points we’re discussing.)

What is more, even if it IS possible to go back and save Emma if one comes back to the “right” time line, Alex came to the conclusion (erroneously or not) that it couldn’t be done, and so stopped trying after the first attempt.

Finally, consider what Alex’s life would likely have been like if Emma hadn’t died. During the four years after their marriage he would have had a honeymoon, had a couple of kids, and more firmly establish his position at the university in order to support his new family. He would hardly have had the opportunity to become obsessed with time travel and devote four solid years of work to developing a time machine.

As to Methos’ “second question”, the OP also asked about the meaning of the head Morloch saying, “You were the cause of me…”; which in the film was phrased more nearly as, “You are the inevitable result of your tragedy; just as I am the inevitable result of you.” I didn’t see any explanation of this in the film, and so I speculated about its meaning in the paragraph below that statement.

Do you have any insight as to what Morloch-boss may have meant by that?

I think the Morloch’s statement was only about how his species was the evolutionary result of humans.

The time paradox thing is a version of the famous “Grandfather Paradox”. That is, if you have a time machine and go back and kill your grandfather as a young man, how are you ever to be born to go back in time in the first place?

Science fiction writers have come up with various ways of resolving this paradox. One of the more contrived ones is that some cosmic overseer will see to it that you are unable to kill your grandfather. Either you’ll get killed yourself trying, or you’ll find out that the person you killed wasn’t really the man who fathered your parent, or something along those lines. In the film, something always happens to kill Emma, and thus the paradox is resolved.

Not really, because Emma’s death is presented as having a causal relationship with the creation the time machine. Just because there are an infinite number of possibilities doesn’t mean that there’s a universe in which you existed but your grandfather never did.

I thought there were only 127 different timelines.