When the main character from H.G. Wells‘ novel “The Time Machine” finally stops his rapid-forward race into the future, he lands in a time where human civilization is irrevocably altered. He soon learns that human evolution has branched into two paths: the sweet, intellectually stunted Eloi and the fearsome Morlocks. The Eloi are light and delicate and spend their days dancing in the sunshine, eating fruit, and doing whatever they want.
But the Eloi do not stay out at night.
Because at night, that is when the Morlocks creep out from their underground caverns and feast upon stray Eloi. During the day, the Eloi live hedonistic lives of simple bliss, but at night, the poor beings tremble in fear of the dark, huddling together for warmth because that is when the Morlocks come. Especially on moonless nights, when there is no light to be found in the sky, save for the cold, dim glitter of distant stars.
I think the Teletubbies are the Eloi.
Now you may ask – what evidence do I have? Did I secretly do the accounting for the show and know the trade secrets? Am I distantly related to an actor from the show? Did H.G. Wells himself travel to the future and tell me this?
No, of course not. I have no evidence, save for what I’ve gleaned from H.G. Wells’ original book and from what I’ve witnessed in that weird fever-dream of a show.
The Teletubbies are a race of childlike humanoid beings from the 1997 British television series “Teletubbies.” They are soft, colorful beings with strange head antennas and tummies that can display videos. There were four Teletubbies: Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa, and Po. They spent their days frolicking in the sunshine, playing with their silly toys, and occasionally retreating to their domicile to be tended to by their robot servant, Noo-Noo. From all appearances, they are incapable of taking care of themselves. Their most difficult challenges tend to range from garbage like “Laa-Laa has lost her orange ball” to “the Teletubbies need to go from one location to a slightly different location.”
The Teletubbies have haunted me since I first witnessed their escapades years ago. I remember it clear as day: Tinky Winky, the largest and most controversial Teletubby, danced up to the screen. His large, dead eyes and pale waxen face filled my vision, and I was briefly paralyzed with terror. I started screaming and ran away to another room. My sister, Bean, was a fan of the show, because she was young and stupid, and I grilled her for details about these strange monsters.
“What are they?” I asked her.
“I don’t know,” she said because four-year-olds are not renowned for their ability to recall narrative details.
“Are they the only ones?” I asked, terrified at the thought that these four grotesque creatures only had each other for company. I don’t know if I wanted there to be more or less.
“Yeah, it’s only them.” I remember her saying. This made me sad.
The Teletubbies seem to only have each other for company. Well, that and the large bunnies that hop around on set indicate that this show takes place on earth. Then, of course, there’s also the terrifying sun baby and the children they occasionally see on their tummy screens, but I don’t know how much quality interaction they get.
Then came the 2015 revival of the show, with the addition of new characters: the Tiddlytubbies. These are baby Teletubbies, which means that the original four Teletubbies are adults. So did the Teletubbies create the Tiddlytubbies? To my great shame, I researched this question, and it seems that the Tiddlytubbies are not the unholy offspring of the Teletubbies. I don’t know how I feel about this because now I wonder where the Tiddlytubbies, and the Teletubbies, first came from.
There are so many things I would rather do than hypothesize about the reproductive cycle of the average Teletubby. Still, if I had to put my money on it, I would guess that their Tubbytronic Superdome probably aids in the process of begetting new tubbies. Much like “THX 1138” or “Logan’s Run,” the citizens of the dome provide the DNA, and the advanced technology weaves that DNA into new citizens.
Anyway, I can forgive H.G. Wells for not including this in his work because his book was released about 80 years before the advent of most fertility science and the before the notion of a “test tube” baby ever existed.
However, other than this little detail about procreation, I think the similarities between the Teletubbies and the Eloi are too great to ignore. When the Time Traveler arrives in the distant future of A.D. 802,701, his heart is broken when he sees the remains of a great and beautiful society that is now beginning to crumble from neglect.
At first, there seem to be no great challenges facing the Eloi, who live in a garden-like paradise. However, as the Time Traveler explores the society, he eventually encounters the Morlocks, a terrifying race of troglodytes who live below in mechanized society. These machines within the Morlock’s dwelling are what allow the Eloi to live in relative harmony. The Time Traveler proposes that humanity has branched off into two species: the Morlocks are the descendants of the working class, whereas the Eloi are the descendants of the wealthy upper class who would live out their days in luxurious bliss while the peasant folk toiled beneath them.
Now, in a perverse twist of fate, the Morlocks hunt and consume the Eloi, who are now little more than the Morlock’s cattle. And if I’m being honest, when I first read this book, my reaction was, “sweet, good for you, eat the rich.” Though I think H.G. Wells wanted us to be terrified by the Morlocks.
The Morlocks steal the Time Travelers machine, and he must use his superior intellect to construct a weapon to deter them: Fire. The Morlocks are terrified of light, and the weapon of fire proves to be strong enough to defeat them.
When I see the Teletubbies engage in their blithe stupidity, bouncing around lush green hills and mechanic flowers in their futuristic paradise, I find myself thinking, “Who has made this possible for you?”
When the mechanic trumpet rises from the ground and says “Time for Tubby Bye-Bye,” as the sun just barely begins its descent, and the Teletubbies all race to follow the order, I wonder to myself, “what’s the rush?”
Each Teletubby takes its turn saying good-bye and then descending into the dome, only to emerge again in the morning when that terrifying sun baby is high in the sky, I think,
“What are you running away from?”