Forward to the Past

A sketch from A Bit of Fry & Laurie

Stephen answers the door to Hugh who is dressed in incredible futuristic gear.

Stephen Yes?

Hugh Hello, I come from the future.

Stephen (Annoyed) What?

Hugh I come from the future.

Stephen Do you? Do you, indeed?

Hugh That's substantially correct, yes. I come from a time in advance of your own.

Stephen Really?

Hugh Yes, really.

Stephen And what century exactly would you be from, I wonder?

Hugh I come from the twentieth century.

Stephen So not significantly far advanced then?

Hugh Well, no. I come from a time five minutes ahead.

Stephen Five minutes.

Hugh Yes. Five of your primitive minutes. Goodbye.

Stephen What. You're going now?

Hugh Yes.

Stephen No message from the future?

Hugh There are laws, time laws we dare not interfere with, lest we meddle with our own destinies. Farewell. I may say I'm sorry that I can't return it. Please accept my apologies.

Stephen Return what?

Hugh What you lent me. It was burnt up in the time- jump. Still, as you rightly said, it was only Habitat anyway. Exit Hugh.

Stephen (Still standing in doorway) Well, frankly. Enter Hugh wearing deerstalker and cape, looking very late Victorian.

Hugh Good morning. If it is morning.

Stephen You again.

Hugh I don't think we've met.

Stephen What?

Hugh This is my first time in this neighbourhood.

Stephen Oh don't be ridiculous, I was talking to you just five ... minutes (Voice trails off) ... ago.

Hugh Something wrong?

Stephen No, no. Probably just a day dream. How can I help you?

Hugh Well the thing is, I'm a bit lost. I know this'll sound like the ravings of a complete imbecile, but you must believe me. I'm a time traveller.

Stephen Yes, yes. From the future.

Hugh (Puzzled) No, from the past. Five minutes ago I projected myself five minutes into the future, into your time and I was wondering who is Prime Minister now?

Stephen Margaret Thatcher. Look ...

Hugh Ah, really? Still? Some things never change. Has anyone invented a way of opening a packet of "Hob Nob" biscuits without tearing their nails yet?

Stephen No, look just what exactly -

Hugh Is Noel Edmonds still alive?

Stephen (Surprised) Not that I'm aware of. Look, is this some kind of practical joke?

Hugh Well I must go before I catch up with myself. I think next time I shall try going forward a bit. Farewell. Exit Hugh.

Stephen Bye then. This is getting very difficult to follow. Enter Hugh dressed as normally as he ever is.

Hugh Hello.

Stephen And where are you from?

Hugh This is going to sound quite unbelievable but I come from ...

Stephen .. the funny farm.

Hugh I'm sorry?

Stephen Never mind, what time are you from then?

Hugh North Finchley.

Stephen What?

Hugh North Finchley, call it Barnet.

Stephen When?

Hugh I'm sorry?

Stephen When are you from?

Hugh Are you alright?

Stephen I - I think so, yes.

Hugh I'm collecting.

Stephen What?

Hugh Collecting.

Stephen What for?

Hugh This blinkered, hidebound, reactionary government has no vision. I plan to build a machine. A machine that will enable man to travel ...

Stephen Through time, yes, yes, very clever.

Hugh No. To travel to central London without getting caught in the traffic. The principle is simple: using ruthenium and polonium as energisers, I intend to build a prototype machine which will leap over traffic queues as if they weren't there. Simply key in the coordinates of the street you want and hey presto. Can I get a grant from the morons in government? No sir.

Stephen You don't think there might be any unfortunate side-effects?

Hugh What do you mean?

Stephen Such as time-travel for instance.

Hugh (Laughing) Oh I don't think so, you've been watching too many TV sketches. Stephen looks into camera puzzled for the briefest of brief seconds.

Stephen (Tired) Alright then, how much do you want?

Hugh Oh, it's not money. It's just that the transducer needs a lampshade.

Stephen What?

Hugh I knew you'd think me crackpotted, but it's true. Just a simple common or garden lampshade, so that the gallium plate can reach P state in a picosecond and then instanly revert to an N state which ...

Stephen Yes, yes alright. I'll get you a lampshade. (Goes in)

Hugh (Calling after him) Thank you! Thank you so much! You're a friend of science.

Stephen (Coming out with lampshade) There you are.

Hugh Marvellous. Bless you. I have the machine round the corner. It will take only five minutes to fit and then - London's traffic problem solved in a stroke.

Stephen Right.

Hugh I shall return your lampshade.

Stephen Don't worry, it's only Habitat anyway ... (Voice trails away) Exit Hugh. Stephen pauses for a while and looks into camera. I'm sure, logically, something weird should happen now, but I can't work out what.

Vox Pop

Hugh (Smelling a bottle) Oh I say, that's rather good. Oh yes. Where did you get it?

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