One of the tropes of science fiction is time travel and it has spanned the works of H.G. Wells to this year’s blockbuster Doctor Strange. But to get from now to then or from now to before (I just completely confused myself) our heroes usually need some type of device. And among these devices there are a few which stand out for being quirky, interesting or just plain cool.
And so today we will be counting down 10 of these devices from both television and film. We are excluding devices that can time travel as a secondary function or do so by accident so do not expect to see the Enterprise and its slingshot around the sun, or the wormhole from ‘Stargate SG1’ with a sunspot here. With those ground rules in place let’s do this thang:
#10 Jacuzzi, Hot Tub Time Machine
This has to be one of the strangest devices on the list. I mean, it’s a hot tub that’s a time machine. And while I was not a fan of this raunchy comedy this time traveling Jacuzzi makes this list for its odd factor alone.
#9 Diary, The Butterfly Effect
In this film the protagonist was able to time travel into his younger self by reading his adolescent diaries. While not a lot of whizz and bang in the visual department, it is definitely one of those most unique time travel devices on our list and it was featured in an intriguing and underrated film.
#8 Timecop Capsule, Timecop
Back in the mid 90s Jean-Claude Van Damme was cracking splits and kicking heads. In this action/sci fi tale he plays a officer for an agency that polices time travel. And that time travel is achieved through this capsule on rail thing with a cool puncture effect at the end. But if your calculations are off instead of traveling to the past you go splat on the wall leaving a bloody smear. I wouldn’t want to be their janitor.
#7 Time Tunnel, ‘Time Tunnel’
Okay, the Time Tunnel from the titular show was cheesy as hell and consisted of a swirly pattern and the characters swaying around like they had too much to drink. But there was just something about it that resonated so well and made it stick with you. The tunnel would later be parodied in the Austin Powers franchise, providing evidence of its semi-iconic status.
#6 Quantum Leap Device, ‘Quantum Leap’
Boy did I love me some ‘Quantum Leap’. This early 90s gem featured scientist Dr Samuel Beckett (Scott Bakula) leaping into people through time and trying to set the wrong things right. Granted you do not see much of the machine aside from some smoke effects in the pilot but the stories that sprung from the narrative device more than made up for it. The guy even leaped into a chimpanzee once and spent the entire episode in a diaper. Now that is quality television!
#5 Time Displacement Equipment or Time Door, Terminator franchise
Time travel and killer cyborgs is what the Terminator movies are all about. For the first three movies, though, we only saw the effects of the machine upon the present time and would have to wait until the uneven reboot/sequel Genisys before seeing the actual apparatus. Nevertheless the electrical blasts, hollowed out infrastructure and naked cyborgs had a strong impact and really stuck with viewers.
#4 Time Machine, The Time Machine
You gotta love the classics. This large, ornate chair looking device was outstanding and was an entry way into an enthralling 1960 science fiction tale based on the eponymous H.G. Wells novel. Sure looking back at it now it does look a bit ridiculous from a practical standpoint, but boy did it have flair and style. The Time Machine (the device not the film) even featured in an episode of the comedy ‘The Big Bang Theory’. Now that is geek cred right there.
#3 Phone Booth, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Traveling through time in a phone booth. Where have I heard that before? ‘Doctor Who’ similarities aside this nondescript telephone booth was just so cool. And it fit with the tone of this weird comedy featuring two slackers traveling through time and meeting historical figures. And with talk that a third movie is still on the table we may be seeing more of this retro phone booth. Wild Stallyns forever!
#2 DeLorean, Back to the Future trilogy
“You built a time machine out of a DeLorean?” Yes Marty, he did. From the vertically opening doors to the fire streaks to the flying capabilities this time traveling car was 12 flavours of awesome sauce and kept us thoroughly entertained through three films. It is definitely the best time travel device in all of film but just falls short of the top spot.
#1 TARDIS, ‘Doctor Who’ franchise
All time travel devices throughout film and television please step aside for our winner – the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space) from ‘Doctor Who’. This ship, modeled on a long defunct police public call box and owned by a more than two thousand year-old alien called “The Doctor”, can travel anywhere in space and time. It has gone from the start of the universe to its very end and many, many times in between. For it’s more than 50 years of wonderful time travel stories the TARDIS is our number one time travel device of all time.
Well you have seen my list. Now it is time for you to vote for your favourite:
So are there any time travel devices you think should have made the list? Why not mention them in the comments?
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