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martes, 21 de septiembre de 2010

Sci-Fi Visionary H.G. Wells Travels Through Time

Herbert George Wells arrived on our verdant Earth exactly 144 years ago. But the sci-fi visionary's creative and analytical treatises on an alien future are still unfurling.

For nearly a century and a half, the output of H.G. Wells' incessantly probing mind has been reflected in modern technological wonders like mass transit, futuristic weapons, fringe science and nuclear chain reactions.

To respectfully bow to that august accomplishment, collated some of Wells' viral replications in the gallery above. They slipstream across well-known works like The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, as well as some clever efforts you may have yet to experience.H.G. Wells' first novel, The Time Machine, touched down in 1895. It didn't take long for the ideas in the book to sequence the genes for most slipstreaming sci-fi that came after it in print, on screen and elsewhere. So tremendous was Wells' impact on the futuristic concept of time travel that he ultimately became its synonym: When film, television or comics want to riff on the subject, they often insert Wells himself as a character.

It's a cultural pattern that paid cool dividends in Nicholas Meyer's 1979 film Time After Time (pictured above), in which Wells (played by Malcolm McDowell) chases Jack the Ripper (David Warner) into the future. Meyer gets bonus points for showing Wells fumbling with his fast food.

Although the first feature film based on The Time Machine arrived in 1960, the 2002 remake was arguably more legitimate. Why? It was directed by the legendary author's great-grandson Simon Wells.

Not that the director's lineage made for a better film; it didn't, even with the respectable Guy Pearce in the protagonist's time-traveling chair. It certainly didn't endow Simon Wells with a fail-safe director's chair: He hasn't helmed a feature film since. But his directorial comeback is destined for 2011, when Disney's adaptation of Berkeley Breathed's Mars Needs Moms! blasts off, starring Robot Chicken's Seth Green.
Although it doesn't boast the lineage cred of the 2002 remake directed by H.G. Wells' great-grandson Simon, director George Pal's original 1960 The Time Machine movie is ironically more of a hoot, now that there's been some temporal separation from its era. The passage of time simply works wonders on late-night viewing.

From its not-scary Morlocks (above) to its Cold War paranoia, Pal's The Time Machine pales in comparison to Wells' book. But it did score a Hugo nomination and an Oscar for special effects, while its time-machine prop traveled into future classic films and programs like Carl Sagan's Cosmos and Joe Dante's Gremlins.Next to Wells, perhaps the most iconic time traveler in media history is the great Doctor Who himself. Launched in 1963 and still running to this day, the record-breaking sci-fi series has amassed a critical rap sheet almost as bulletproof as its authorial inspiration.

But Wells himself didn't enter Doctor Who's literal picture until the 1985 two-part serial Timelash, when the TV spacefarer's own time machine, called the Tardis — Time and Relative Dimensions In Space, don't you know? — lands in Wells' milieu and ensnares him in galactic intrigue.
A virtual H.G. Wells teams up with a powerful alien in '90s TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

Watching Wells fumble in the episode "Tempus Fugitive" — in which the time-traveling villain Tempus calls Lois Lane the "most galactically stupid woman on Earth" for being unable to recognize Clark Kent as the Man of Steel — is priceless.

Other time travelers may not have been directly inspired by Wells' The Time Machine, but that doesn't mean they don't owe the visionary writer back pay. Take Lost's Daniel Faraday (please).

Although show honchos Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse admit he was conceived as "an obvious shout-out to Michael Faraday, scientist and physicist," and the character's mother is named for Stephen Hawking, his resemblance to the real and virtual Wells is more obvious than his resemblance to Faraday. Plus, the real Faraday was known more for his electromagnetic advances than for his clock-hopping.

Perhaps it has something to do with Faraday being a deeply religious person, while Wells was a noted socialist. It's just another mystery to add to Lost's impenetrable allegory.

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