Obvious spoilers. Don't read this question unless you've read the book.

At the end of The Time Ships, our protagonist, is taken to the beginning of his current universe's time by the Universal Constructors.

When they break the T=0 barrier, they end up in a super-universe apparently created by the Watchers. Whom we have seen glimpses of throughout the story.

The Constructors aren't mentioned again.

One of Baxter's hallmarks is detailed explanation, but this little section before the end is a little light on his typical detail.

Perhaps this is meant to be an unimportant detail, secondary to the protagonist's goal of finally being reunited with Weena and attempting to, erm, fix the whole Morlock/Eloi situation.

Do the Constructors become the Watchers? If so, why do the Watchers resemble humans (in some bizarre twisted way), while the Constructors are basically rectangles of yocto-cilia.

  • 1
    Is this question about H. G. Wells' The Time Machines and Stephen Baxter's The Time Ships? (Just trying to clarify) Also can you remove the [SPOILERS] part in the title?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 12:17
  • @TheLethalCarrot I'll remove my "the-time-machine" tag, because the question isn't about it. However, my question clearly is asking about "The Time Ships", hence beginning the question with "At the end of The Time Ships". Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 13:46

1 Answer 1


It is hardly surprising Baxter is light on detail. He is trying to convey concepts far beyond anything we can fully imagine or understand. This is, of course, the business of a science-fiction (SF) writer. This is being done poetically. That is to say, through imagery, allusions and hints while leaving it up to the imagination of the reader.

A brief look at what was hopefully the right section of the novel, there is an indication that the Watchers and Constructors are different. At least, that seems reasonably clear. This does suggest they it is unlikely the Constructors eventually become the Watchers. Although that could be a hypothetical path of their future development.

The definitive indication is that the Constructors only go as far as the "barrier of time", while the Watchers of Optimal History (as they are called) go far beyond that into the Multiplicity. This seems to be a Victorian equivalent of what we would call the multiverse.

This answer can offer one person's reading of The Time Ships, which is my own, that I believe that it was baxter's intention that the Constructors and the Watchers are not only different, but they are following different histories and are conducting different projects. Each represents alternative ways of dealing with the universe of The Time Ships. In which case, it is doubtful the Constructors do become the Watchers.

  • My interpretation was that the Constructors needed a universe without the constraint of time, so they broke the time barrier to enter another universe, however, this universe is the multiverse. It's not entirely clear if the multi-verse is the optimal history itself. And if they are the same thing, then the constructors appear to be whatever the watchers are. Maybe I'm just confused. Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 14:02
  • Your interpretation is as plausible as any other. I based mine on a quick refresher look at Baxter's novel. So I could be wrong. With time travel the Constructors might become the Watchers. It's possible. Baxter seems to be offering alternatives in dealing long-term with his fictional universe. TTS deserves to be re-read, Your Q encourages me to do so. I'm grateful for being nudged to do so.
    – a4android
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 7:02
  • I'll leave this open for a bit, TTS was a great read, I'm hoping to attract a few more readers to offer their interpretations. Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 15:19
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    @GorchestopherH Good idea. I'd like to see other interpretations too. The more the merrier. Also, I don't think my opinion is definitive. It's just my personal view of the book.
    – a4android
    Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 5:22
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    @GorchestopherH What a pity. I was hoping for an interesting exchange. Baxter did good & interesting books in the early part of his career. This was definitely one of them.
    – a4android
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 12:41

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