Author : Ian Rennie

It’s not really time travel. Not how that expression is traditionally meant, anyway.

It has long been a maxim of those involved in my kind of research that you can look back and travel forward, but never the other way round. In a way, everything we know about forensic science is a way of looking into the past with slowly increasing resolution. My work is just another step down that road. A bloody big step, but a step nonetheless.

Every movement leaves a trace. Some leave more of a trace than others, most leave a trace so small as to be beyond invisibility. Theoretically, if you had a completely closed environment, you could infer everything that happened within that environment from an accurate enough look at its current state. In practice, that’s nonsense. The world is much too complex, too many variables need to be accounted for. Plus, once you look at things closely enough, you can’t be entirely sure of exactly where everything is, let alone where it was.

Electromagnetic signals are a lot simpler, comparatively speaking. With enough computing power and enough time, it becomes only really really difficult to figure out what a signal was, rather than impossible.

The Hartnell Array has made it even less difficult than that. I won’t go into details about how it works: every time I try to explain it to the chiefs of staff I can see their eyes glaze over. Instead, I try to talk about what it can do.

With enough time, and enough energy, any signal that was ever broadcast can be recovered.

Obviously, the implications are considerable. I’ve had scientists from every field asking for time on the Hartnell Array once its up and running. Even before it was finished it was booked up for the next decade. However, the British Army paid for it, so the British Army get first use.

Well, second use. Officially we’re testing its capabilities for another two months. Unofficially I’m enjoying the major reason why I agreed to build the thing.

“Everything in order?” I ask Dr Patel. She doesn’t understand my enthusiasm, but she humours me.
“Signal reconstruction is complete. Playback is ready whenever you want.”

I settle into my chair, and hit play. The music starts at once, as does the image, blurrier than I remember from my childhood yet no less magical. In awed silence I become the first person in more than half a century to see these images.

Recovering television isn’t difficult compared to some things. There were so many broadcasts at such a strength that you can pick and choose. The only real decision was what to recover first, and for me there was no question.

106 lost episodes, of which I was now watching the nineteenth. We were getting them at a rate of four a day. We’d have every one within the month. I sent the pristine recordings to the BBC within the day, but that first viewing was mine alone.

Dr Patel walks in as the episode finishes and smiles indulgently. She never liked the show, but I think she’s happy that I’m happy.

“Everything in order?” she says, handing my words back to me.

“Perfect.” I say “I think we should go after The Daleks’ Master Plan next.”


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