Physics and I have never got on. It’s a lot to do with the maths. But also because the laws of physics say time-travel isn’t possible – at least not in the way I’ve always wanted it to be. But I decided early on that it wouldn’t stop me from trying. If you’ve got a few spare minutes, why not hop on board my trusty time-machine and let me take you back to where my adventures in time-travel first began ...
First up there were all those brilliant time-travelling TV programmes I used to watch. Doctor Who was the first, though I probably saw more of the back of our sofa than what was happening on the small screen, especially when the dreaded daleks arrived on the scene. Of course, The Doctor is the ultimate time-traveller – a Time Lord who uses an amazing police-box tardis to travel through space and time.
But other intrepid explorers who also flirted with a spot of time-travel were Star Trek’s Captain Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. In the original series, they did a lot of travelling back to the 1960s – no prizes for guessing why! But the episode called ‘The City On The Edge Of Forever', where a temporarily insane Dr. McCoy beams down to a planet and accidentally changes history by travelling back in time through a mysterious archway called The Guardian of Forever, is a bit of a classic. It even has its own Wiki page!
And then there were was The Time Tunnel, the story of the top secret Project Tic-Toc, a time-travelling experiment gone disastrously wrong. I thrilled as brave scientists Doctors Tony Newman and Doug Phillips were pitched into a new time, place and set of perils each episode, while the team back at base battled to snatch them back from the spiralling vortex that was the Time Tunnel of the title.
Their itinerary was a history-fest of seminal moments in the past – the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the eruption of the Indonesian island of Krakatoa in 1883 and a fictitious Viking-infested Cornwall of 544 where they meet a young man called Arthur Pendragon and a magician by the name of Merlin. Sometimes characters from history got caught up in the Time-Tunnel too – the Renaissance writer and scholar Machiavelli joined Tony and Doug at the American Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg. And there were cliff-hanger endings aplenty. For a young Time-Tunneller in the making, what was not to love?
And of course, as an author, how can I not talk about the books? A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley about a young girl called Penelope Taberner who travels back to Tudor England and gets caught up in the infamous Babington Plot to rescue Mary, Queen of Scots from imprisonment by her great rival and cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England. The Ghost of Thomas Kempe by Penelope Lively (who also wrote the classic A Stitch in Time). Not a time-travel story in the traditional sense – but it features a 17th century apothecary poltergeist, the Thomas Kempe of the title, who haunts a young boy, James in a bid to make him his apprentice. And The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by the superlative Joan Aiken, which transports the reader to an ‘alternate history’ and the time of King James III of England, when courageous young cousins Bonnie and Sylvie must do battle with their wicked new governess, Miss Slighcarp in a country prowled by packs of ravenous, wild wolves.
With all those brilliant time-travelling tales to feed my imagination, it was only a matter of time before I took the plunge and began digging back into the past to create my own stories. So far I’ve travelled to London in 1605 and the events surrounding the infamous Gunpowder Plot in Black Powder; wartime Suffolk in 1940, a year after the discovery of the famous Sutton Hoo Ship Burial in The Buried Crown, and 1520 and the court of King Henry VIII and his first queen, Katherine of Aragon, in The Queen’s Fool. As for my next stop? Well, I can’t say too much about that right now! But if you’re planning to join me, you might need to bring one of these with you to help light the way ...
Build your own time-machine
Calling all Time-Tunnellers big and small! You’ve been invited by a top secret research project to design and build a time-machine for the 21st century. What materials will you use? Maybe you’ll decide to repurpose it from an existing object like Dr Who’s police-box tardis? Or will you assemble it from recycled or ‘found’ bits and pieces? Or you could build it using revolutionary new materials that have yet to be invented. When you’re ready, put your design down on paper, using labels and a description to explain how it all works. Then give it a name and let your time-travelling adventures begin!
Ally Sherrick is the author of books full of history, mystery and adventure including Black Powder, winner of the Historical Association’s Young Quills Award 2017. She is published by Chicken House Books.