In the 1960 movie version of 1895's H.G. Wells story The Time Machine, we see the device occupy a single footprint (it travels through time and arrives earlier or later, but in the same footprint). When the device gets moved by the Morlocks, it travels time from its last physical location. It appeared in the film that the Time Machine travels through solid rock before it arrived in the future. I haven't seen any other movie versions of the tale. Is there a book or movie canon answer to

Could the Time Machine safely travel to an obstructed destination?

  • Don't find the book at the moment, but if I remember correctly, it can not. If it materializes in a place with another material, the atoms of the time machine materials mix densely with the atoms of the matter that obstructs the destination and have an immediate and strong chemical reaction. However I think it could travel trough matter, i.e. when something was moved to the space where the time machine is standing, while it is in "transit", nothing happens. But again, I cannot really confirm without the book.
    – Till B
    Sep 14, 2012 at 23:51
  • Extremely related to: scifi.stackexchange.com/q/8029/1109 Sep 15, 2012 at 2:36

1 Answer 1


No, it could not safely travel into unobstructed matter, at least the time traveler himself didn't think so.

'The peculiar risk lay in the possibility of my finding some substance in the space which I, or the machine, occupied. So long as I travelled at a high velocity through time, this scarcely mattered; I was, so to speak, attenuated—was slipping like a vapour through the interstices of intervening substances! But to come to a stop involved the jamming of myself, molecule by molecule, into whatever lay in my way; meant bringing my atoms into such intimate contact with those of the obstacle that a profound chemical reaction—possibly a far-reaching explosion—would result, and blow myself and my apparatus out of all possible dimensions—into the Unknown. This possibility had occurred to me again and again while I was making the machine; but then I had cheerfully accepted it as an unavoidable risk—one of the risks a man has got to take! Now the risk was inevitable, I no longer saw it in the same cheerful light. The fact is that, insensibly, the absolute strangeness of everything, the sickly jarring and swaying of the machine, above all, the feeling of prolonged falling, had absolutely upset my nerve. I told myself that I could never stop, and with a gust of petulance I resolved to stop forthwith. Like an impatient fool, I lugged over the lever, and incontinently the thing went reeling over, and I was flung headlong through the air.

http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/35/pg35.html (The Time Machine, by H. G. Wells [1898])

  • Since he can see the world he is time travelling to, he seems to use this as a way to avoid materializing until he sees open space.
    – zipquincy
    Sep 15, 2012 at 0:32
  • 2
    Also It is worth noting that if he wanted to travel to a time period where he was obstructed, he need only travel to time where he is NOT obstructed, move the time machine to a different location, then slip time again to the wanted destination. Oct 22, 2012 at 13:05

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