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"There are two worlds, Mr. Sorry; a world of things that exist, like pain, and nitrogen, and the shops. And a world of things that do not, like God, and numbers, and love. Who’s to say which world is more real?"
— The Angel addressing the protagonist

Time Spanner is a BBC Radio 4 Science Fantasy sitcom about Time Travel, written by Simon Kane. The pilot was broadcast in January 2017, followed by a special in December 2018.

Martin Gay's 40th birthday is disrupted by two very important moments: one is meeting Gabbie, the girl of his dreams who he might possibly have just said totally the wrong thing to; and the other is being forced at gunpoint through a supernatural mirror into a world of angels, robots and the most powerful tool in the universe, the Time Spanner, which gives the holder the power to span time. [1]

This radio show contains examples of the following tropes:

    # — H 

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Martin fast forwarding to six o’clock in The Dan in the High Castle. Arguably, even Martin and Gabbie’s decision to travel a mere two years into the future falls into this category:
    Martin: Yeah. What? Oh! I’m a time traveller! Gabbie, do you want to come to the future with me and see if I regret –
    Gabbie: Yes, please!
    Martin: Right. 2017.
    Gabbie: Or further!
    Martin: 2018?
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: The entirety of the pilot episode takes place on Martin Gay’s 40th birthday. On that day, he is forced at gunpoint into Heaven, is tasked with the unlikely mission of saving the world, and ends up being chased by a giant robot. Happy birthday, yeah?
  • Accidentally Broke the MacGuffin: In The Dan in the High Castle, when Gabbie punches Martin in the face, breaking the Time Spanner and effectively stranding them in 2018.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Upon their first meeting, the Angel seems to have a little trouble with getting Martin’s name. After a somewhat awkward exchange, he gives up on correcting her.
    Angel: Identify yourself, please.
    Martin: Sorry, Martin Gay.
    Angel: Your name is Sorry Martin Gay?
    Martin: No. Just –
    Angel: Just Gay?
    Martin: No.
    Angel: Sorry.
    Martin: That’s okay.
    Angel: Your name is just Sorry?
    Martin: No.
    Angel: Mr. Sorry?
    Martin: [Beat] Sure.
  • Afterlife Antechamber: By stepping into Mr. Kraken’s magic mirror, a very much alive Martin Gay is able to access Heaven.
    Angel: Welcome to Heaven, Mr. Sorry.
    Martin: Have I died?
    Angel: No.
    Martin: But this is Heaven?
    Angel: The next world. The dreaming. The Fons et Origo has many names, Mr. Sorry.
  • All-Knowing Singing Narrator: Subverted:
    Laika: So sit tight, and keep cool, as I sing to you now – as I just tell you now, tell you now, of one giddy human’s adventures in this world, and the next!
  • Angelic Beauty: The Angel, obviously.
    Laika: And in front of him, her fiery reef dimmed to a cool shimmer, a female figure possessed of all the measured grace and studied elegance of – a watch made of swan.
  • Betty and Veronica: Played with:
    Angel: Think of me then as your muse.
    Martin: Okay.
    Angel: Me, not Gabbie.
    Martin: What?
    Angel: She’s half your age, I mean, she’s twenty. Seriously, next to her, Martin, you look like a bald bear.
  • Crosscast Role: Laika, played by John Finnemore. Lampshaded in The Dan in the High Castle:
    Laika: Yes, I’m Russian. And female, actually. And dead, although I still don’t know why.
  • Dark World: Played with in The Dan in the High Castle, when Martin and Gabbie think the future is rubbish and Mr. Kraken is the one responsible for it. As it turns out, that’s just what Vauxhall normally looks like.
    Martin: Yeah, me too. If you didn’t take over the world, then why is everything now so rubbish?
    Lord Kraken: What? Oh, thanks a bunch.
    Martin: The Cat in the Bag all boarded up.
    Lord Kraken: The new Kraken site, yeah. Pubs close down, Marty.
    Martin: The deserted streets?
    Lord Kraken: It’s hailing.
  • Death Ray: In The Dan in the High Castle it’s revealed that the Angel’s plan to save the world involves Martin stealing a superweapon from the future.
    Martin: Okay, it will be a cool mission. Oh, what are we bringing back?
    Angel: Hm?
    Martin: This technology, is it something energy? To do with food?
    Angel: Uh, it’s a bit of both.
    Martin: Oh, cool.
    Angel: It’s qualmian needle beam.
    Martin: Qualmian needle beam?
    Angel: It’s basically a flesh eating death laser.
    Martin: What?
    Angel: Which is to be used only for good.
  • Deus est Machina: Unclear, but given how it’s explicitly stated that the robots did in fact built God, it should be at least a possibility.
  • Faceless Goons: Daniel Kraken’s Yellowcoats, in The Dan in the High Castle.
  • Fantastic Religious Weirdness: The magic space Heaven Martin is forced into, complete with Egyptian-themed buildings and flying robots.
    Angel: Excuse me, you’re an atheist? You’ve been to Heaven.
    Martin: It had robots.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: In The Dan in the High Castle, when it’s revealed that Gabbie told the police Mr. Kraken kidnapped Martin back in 2016, and held him prisoner for two years; while Mr. Kraken did in fact kidnap them, that only happened after they time-travelled to 2018.
  • Geometric Magic:
    Angel: The Time Spanner also lets us communicate through any mirror. But you need to make a sigil. So, do you have a pen?
    Martin: Here.
    Angel: Hmm. Okay, draw a line on the mirror, right to left.
    Martin: Oh, you’re teaching me magic? Right.
  • Greek Chorus: Laika, the dead space dog, who acts as the narrator for Martin Gay’s adventures.
  • Hidden Weapons:
    Mr. Kraken: Marty, this mirror belonged to Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, and Walt Disney. Since its acquisition I go armed at all times.
    Martin: But I mean, you’re naked, where did you – ?

    I — Q 

  • Love at First Sight: Martin with Gabbie:
    Laika: Martin only met Gabbie this morning, but he’s already decided she – is the light bulb in his lampshade, the food in his fridge.
  • MacGuffin Title: The show is named after the Time Spanner, the most powerful tool in the universe, which gives the holder the power to span time.
  • Magic Mirror: Daniel Kraken’s scrying mirror.
    Mr. Kraken: That black thing on the floor, between the coils.
    Martin: Why is it black?
    Mr. Kraken: It’s a scrying glass.
    Martin: Scrying?
    Mr. Kraken: It means, you know, to communicate with the angels through a reflective surface.
  • Magic Versus Science:
    Mr. Kraken: Magic is just science that – can’t be asked.
  • More than Three Dimensions: Throughout the show, time is treated effectively as the fourth dimension of spacetime. In addition to that, in The Dan in the High Castle the Angel implies there are further dimensions, other than space and time:
    Angel: Reality is hard. Now, in addition to granting you the power to travel through all time and space – it is just time and space you have, isn’t it?
    Martin: Uh, yeah.
  • Mundane Utility: Martin repeatedly uses the all-powerful Time Spanner for trivial reasons: first he travels less than an hour into the past (via the Big Bang) in order to find out whether Gabbie heard his declaration of sorts, then in The Dan in the High Castle he skips eight hours of his life just because he doesn’t know what to do with himself until his rendezvous with Gabbie.
  • My Eyes Are Up Here:
    Angel: There. Is this form more pleasing to you? Ah, my eyes are up here.
  • Ominous Message from the Future: The one Martin is supposed to deliver, at least according to the Angel’s plan:
    Angel: Your world is ending.
    Martin: Oh.
    Angel: But suppose, a herald from the future were to appear, bearing brilliant ideas that might save it. Interplanetary travel, unlimited energy, the transmutation of matter, hover-hammocks.
    Martin: Brilliant ideas? Oh, from here, you mean?
    Angel: Not from here, from your own world’s future.
    Martin: Future? But you said my world was ending.
    Angel: Not if you save it.
    Martin: Me? I’m the herald from the future?
  • Ominous Opera Cape: Played with in The Dan in the High Castle:
    Martin: How have you done all this?
    Gabbie: Yeah!
    Lord Kraken: All what?
    Gabbie: Taken over the world?
    Lord Kraken: What are you talking about?
    Martin: You’re wearing a cape!
    Lord Kraken: It’s a free country.
  • Ouroboros: Possibly a visual representation of the fact (repeatedly stated throughout the show) that everything is a circle.
    Angel: Here.
    Martin: This door?
    Angel: Place your finger on its seal.
    Martin: A snake, swallowing its own tail. Ugh!
  • Our Time Machine Is Different / Our Time Travel Is Different:
    Angel: Behold. In this simple bell jar atop Heaven’s highest peak; the answer to this riddle, and to humanity itself: The Time Spanner.
    Martin: Time Spanner. What’s it do?
    Angel: It spans time.
    Martin: Of course. Wait, you mean – this means will let me –
    Angel: Yes.
    Martin: Travel backwards in time?
    Angel: No.
    Martin: Oh.
    Angel: You cannot travel backwards in time, Mr. Sorry, only forwards. Or, more accurately, since you are in fact falling through time, downwards.
  • Place Beyond Time: Heaven is described (or, as it happens, not described) as a place beyond time and space:
    Laika: How best to describe a place beyond time and space? [...] Probably by shutting up, actually.
  • The Poorly Chosen One: The Angel absolutely did not give the Time Spanner to the worst possible candidate ever, why do you ask?
    Angel: Tried that. Hm.
    Martin: You tried that?
    Angel: Yes. It went a bit – in fact, it went terribly – in fact, forget I said – it wasn’t Hitler.
    Martin: You gave this – you gave this to Hitler? Hitler wasn’t an artist!
    Angel: He dabbled.
  • Portal to the Past: In The Dan in the High Castle, when in spite of what she previously stated about the impossibility of travelling back in time, the Angel opens a portal back to 2016:
    Laika: And there, in the mirror, a shortcut through Heaven back to 2016, looking more inviting than it ever had before.
  • Previously on…: Right at the beginning of The Dan in the High Castle, Laika summarises everything that happened in the pilot episode. (After all, it had been two years in the real world, too.)
  • Pun-Based Title: The Dan in the High Castle is clearly a play on The Man in the High Castle.

    R — Z 

  • Reveal Shot: In the pilot episode:
    Mr. Kraken: Who sent you?
    Martin: Nobody!
    Mr. Kraken: Then why, Gay, why have you yet to register surprise, or even comment upon the fact that you’ve discovered me stark naked?
    Martin: Oooh, I thought I was imagining it.
  • Reverse Psychology Backfire: In The Dan in the High Castle:
    Angel: Well, perhaps I should have entrusted this mission then to your master, Daniel Kraken.
    Martin: Uh, well, he does work in security.
    Angel: Okay, so that’s supposed to be reverse psychology.
    Martin: Oh, yeah. No, that doesn’t really work on me.
  • Robot Buddy: Mr. Mergatroid, once he’s assigned as Martin’s companion.
    Mr Mergatroid: I’ve – missed you, buddy.
    Martin: Oh, right, I mean – we didn’t really know each other.
    Mr Mergatroid: No, but the moment I was made your companion I recalibrated my emotions.
    Gabbie: Companion?
    Mr Mergatroid: And now, I love you.
    Martin: Oh.
  • The Slow Path: In The Dan in the High Castle, when Gabbie goes back to 2016 via the shortcut through Heaven, and is only reunited with Martin after two years, while it’s a mere handful of minutes for him.
  • Spirit Advisor: The Angel, who can only be perceived by Martin, thanks to the Time Spanner in his brain.
  • Stable Time Loop:
    • In the pilot episode, one of the reasons why Martin Gay decides to travel an hour back into the past is Gabbie hanging up on him, after declaring “Okay. That is weird.” As it turns out, she did just that because she found him standing right there in front of her after travelling back in time.
    • In The Dan in the High Castle, Martin arguably changes his mind about giving the Time Spanner to Mr. Kraken after finding out that – he didn’t. (Not to mention the fact that he finds himself stranded in 2018 with a broken Time Spanner shortly after.
  • Stumbled Into the Plot: Martin Gay barging into unit 257 just as Mr. Kraken is about to step into his scrying mirror.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In The Dan in the High Castle, when Gabbie storms in to save the day in a Yellowcoats uniform.
  • Trauma Button: Whenever startled, Martin will exclaim “Ah, guys!”, which is implied to be a consequence of him being bullied as a kid.
    Martin: Ah, guys!
    Gabbie: Guys?
    Martin: Oh. Sorry, just jumping out of me. It can trigger some –
    Gabbie: Trigger?
    Martin: Oh, nothing, it’s just school stuff.
    Gabbie: The guys?
    Martin: Yeah.
  • Unfortunate Names: Martin Gay, mainly for its assonance with his far more famous counterpart Marvin Gaye. (Ironically enough, even the BBC seems to have a little trouble with spelling his name correctly.)
    Gabbie: Aww. Thanks for stopping. What’s your name?
    Martin: Martin – Gay.
    Gabbie: That name’s not weird.
    Martin: Thanks. I’m actually walking to work, though –
    Gabbie: Because, like, Martin is not as weird a name as Marvin, and no one says, [together] Marvin Gaye’s a weird name.
  • Which Me?: When the phone call cuts off, Gabbie finds a second, time-travelling version of Martin Gay right in front of her. (And the other Martin calls her back, too.)
  • You Already Changed the Past: Unclear, but the reason why the phone call cuts off in the first place could be Martin travelling back to the past. If nothing else, the same phone suddenly being in two different places at the same time might cause some issues with reception. (Though it must be noted that immediately after, the non-time travelling version of Martin manages to put through a second call just fine.)