Stephen Moffat Makes the Drastic Leap From a Time-Traveling Doctor to The Time Traveler’s Wife

Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana in the 2009 film adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana in the 2009 film adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Image: New Line Cinema

Steven Moffat apparently can’t stop making TV shows about time travelers. The former Doctor Who showrunner is heading to HBO with a series based on the novel The Time Traveler’s Wife, about a wife and husband whose relationship is crisscrossed throughout time. Now, where have I heard that before...


According to The Wrap, HBO has handed a series order to Moffat’s adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s bestselling novel, which also got a 2009 movie adaptation starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. It’s about a woman named Clare whose husband is afflicted with a genetic disorder called Chrono-Impairment, which causes him to time travel unpredictably. Niffenegger wrote it as a metaphor for her failed relationships, and she used time travel to explore love, abandonment issues, and the nature of free will.

“The chance to adapt the novel itself is a dream come true,” Moffat said. “The brave new world of long-form television is now ready for this kind of depth and complexity. It’s a story of happy ever after—but not necessarily in that order.”

The novel has a lot of similarities to Moffat’s previous show, Doctor Who, primarily in the relationship between the Doctor and his wife, River Song. For example, when Clare meets her husband Henry for the first time, he has no idea who she is, but she’s met him countless times in the past through his time travel. This bears a striking resemblance to how River Song’s timeline is reversed from her husband’s—her first time meeting the Doctor was his last, and vice versa.

This is not a coincidence. In a statement, Moffat shared how much he loved The Time Traveler’s Wife and was inspired by it. He even shaped an episode of Doctor Who around it, the Hugo-winning “The Girl In The Fireplace,” and suspects that Niffenegger was aware of this. “When, in her next novel, Audrey had a character watching that very episode, I realized she was probably on to me,” Moffat said.

Last year, Chris Chibnall replaced Moffat as Doctor Who’s showrunner, and the next season of Doctor Who (which premieres this fall) sees the arrival of Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor. Moffat will write and executive produce The Time Traveler’s Wife adaptation, alongside executive producers Sue Vertue and Brian Minchin. No production schedule or suggested release date has been announced.


Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.


So conflicted.

A lot of what I hate about the Moffat-era is the River/Doctor relationship, and not just cos I find River intensely annoying. The timey-wimey stuff just... never worked for me, I guess. It always came across as Moffat trying to be clever first and foremost, even though it stopped making sense and kind of got away from him. And even then it somehow came across as super smug.

But my god I love The Girl in the Fireplace. So we’ll see.