BBC America is asking what viewers would do if they had a time machine. Heck, I've been refining my mental checklist of destinations since high school, over 35 years ago. I wrote about a few of them in my first blog, Musings from Mâvarin, back in 2004. I think that list is overdue for an update, don't you?
Destination One is, and pretty much always has been, a whistle stop tour of Beatles prehistory. We'd start off at the Woolton Parish Church Garden Fete, in a field behind St. Peter's Parish Church Hall, Woolton, Liverpool on 6th July 1957. This is where John Lennon first met Paul McCartney, and was impressed that Paul could play the Eddie Cochran song Twenty Flight Rock. Paul was soon invited to join John's band, the Quarry Men, and eventually accepted. A reel to reel recording of the Woolton Fete gig actually exists, but how much better it would be to have a state-of-the-art digital recording. Of course, when I first had this dream, "state-of-the-art" for portable recording was a cassette tape recorder!
From the Woolton gig we'd move on to some Silver Beatles era gigs in the Cavern Club and elsewhere. Then it would be on to Hamburg, to record the Beatles in their five-man line-up with Pete and Stu, as well as a Ringo gig with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, before finishing up with the very day at the Cavern in Liverpool when Brian Epstein went to check out the band that recorded My Bonnie for Polydor.
My other time travel destinations, most of them, are a bit less iconic, except for the really obvious one. Yes, I'd want to visit first century Galilee and Judea. If I go there, my time machine had better be the TARDIS, because I'll need those translation circuits.
But never mind all that, because there is fun to be had closer to home. Did you know that James Thurber played himself in 88 performances of A Thurber Carnival on Broadway in 1960? Well, he did. That's pretty remarkable considering the man was blind by then, and died the following year. File and Forget is one of my very favorite Thurber pieces, and I'd love to see it performed by the great man himself.
And who could resist a few dozen visits to Disneyland throughout its history? I want to ride the phantom boats and the flying saucers, take a rocket to the moon, and be shrunk inside a giant microscope, singing Miracles From Molecules. And I wouldn't be done there until I had Walt's autograph!
Aside from checking in on historic and cultural events, a time machine would be handy for shopping, particularly in the 1960s. John and I would undoubtedly buy some Eames and Miller furniture, a few copies of Amazing Fantasy #15, and every toy, game or china animal figurine we ever owned as kids, or wanted to own. We'd bring back stock certificates, exotic clocks, original Disney art from The Art Corner, and rare Tiki mugs.
But perhaps the most important thing to do with a time machine, assuming that something like the death of JFK is a fixed point in time that should not be messed with, is to visit the BBC in the early to mid 1970s. Faced with a storage problem, and unaware that such home video formats as VHS, DVD and Blu-ray would soon make many of their old recordings commercially viable, the BBC junked many early Doctor Who episodes, along with Jame Burke's coverage of the Apollo space program and other important programmes. My plan would be to sneak in just before the junkings started, digitally reproduce every Doctor Who tape I could find, and make multiple return trips to retrieve things from the trash and preserve spare copies of everything. The first lost Doctor Who serial I would watch would probably be Marco Polo (1964), but there's tons more beyond that. One I'm particularly looking forward to is Power of the Daleks, which is both the first Second Doctor story and the one that helped to inspire Mark Gatiss to write "Victory of the Daleks."
Look at me, saying I'm looking forward to the results of a time travel trip, just as if I thought it would actually happen. But the time is, silly thing that my brain is, I kind of do.
And yeah, eventually I would get around to checking out the future. And, if I could, go sideways in time as well to check out alternate realities. That's the only way to meet face to face with certain people who loom large in the imagination: Zorro, Doc Brown, and, if we allow for realities with completely different laws of physics and biology, Mary Poppins, Gandalf and, of course, The Doctor!
Karen and Dalek at Gallifrey One. Photo by John Blocher, February 2004.