1943-01 The Time Terror

“The Time Terror” first appeared in the January 1943. Upon reconsideration, that statement is not entirely accurate. The basis for this story goes back a scant 36 months to “The Other World” which debuted in the January 1940 issue of Doc Savage Magazine.

“The Time Terror” also owes some of its pedigree to a much earlier story featuring Professor Challenger. A pterodactyl appears early in “The Time Terror.” Calvin Western, along with the native woman Ga, are trying to reach Doc Savage. Western brings a pterodactyl along with them in the plane. This is a direct nod at Arthur Conan Doyle’s story “The Lost World” which was first published in 1912. That story concluded with Professor Challenger bringing a pterodactyl to London as living proof of his claims. Likewise, Calvin Western was bringing a pterodactyl to Doc Savage as living proof of his claims.

Looking back three years to “The Other World,” we can see many parallels between that story and “The Time Terror.”

  • The lost world is in the same general geographical location as that in the prior story.
  • Dinosaurs are abundant.
  • Doc Savage and his men have never previously seen living dinosaurs.
  • There are two distinct races of cavemen.
  • Doc Savage awes the more primitive race of cavemen by using some simple modern tools.
  • There is a beautiful cave girl.
  • A prehistoric skunk appears in both stories.
  • One of the expedition members forms a romantic attachment to the cave girl and elects to remain in the lost world.
  • The existence of this lost world is kept secret from the  rest of the world.

However, that is not the end of it. This story also borrows some ideas from an early Edgar Rice Burroughs set of stories called the Caspak Trilogy. These appeared in 1918 in Blue Book in serial form. The trilogy consists of “The Land that Time Forgot,” “The People that Time Forgot,” and “Out of Time’s Abyss.” The stories were published as a book in 1924.

Burroughs’ stories take place on the remote island of Caspak in the south Atlantic near Antarctica. This island is populated by a wide variety of prehistoric animals who never coexisted outside the island’s environment. There are dinosaurs, mammals, and people all present in the current time. Burroughs uses this as a thematic mystery through the series and eventually explains that on this island, evolution transpires on an individual basis as a metamorphic process rather than through eons of time.

The February 1927 issue of Amazing Stories revisited Caspak.

Lester Dent took the basic idea of Caspak and reversed it. First, he moved his island to the remoteness of the Arctic Circle. His island is also populated by a variety of beasts from dinosaurs to wooly mammoths with two distinct prehistoric human races. Dent takes a completely different approach to explain this menagerie of creatures. It is revealed that they have migrated into the remote area throughout the ages. There is a chemical in the water that prevents evolution. This means that the creatures on the island never change.

In Burroughs’ story, the most advance human race on the island is the Galu. Dent introduces an indigenous female character named Ga.

The Caspak stories transpire during World War I and pit the British against the Germans. “The Time Terror” takes place during World War II and pits the Americans against the Japanese.

Sadly, Series Continuity suffers greatly.  

  • Doc and his men encounter prehistoric animals for the first time. Despite the fact that they have encountered dinosaurs in two prior adventures, “The Other World” along with the “Land of Terror,” they all appear astounded to find living examples.
  • Doc makes a mistake and wrecks their plane.
  • Doc is weak. Ga proceeds to physically overcome two men. Doc observes that he could not physically do the same.