Time, is a depressing predicament when you think about it. The entropy that pushes us forward towards death is an unmerciful mistress. Is it any wonder why mankind had always dream of escaping her grasp?
Since the dawn of civilization, human beings have been captivated by tales of time travel from the legendary folklore of Urashima Tarō, the fisherman who travel 300 years in the future after spending 3 days in the palace of the Dragon God, Ryūjin to the present day where bunch of American men facing mid-life crisis slipping back in time due to a hot tub malfunction.
All these time-traveling stories from all facets of the creative mediums have their own methods of punching through the layer of time but there have been many flaws in the design of their time machine such as appearing naked on the streets of 1980’s LA because apparently Skynet find the molecular codings of clothes a more complex task than a human DNA.
Understandably some these defects are for the purposes of introducing mandatory obstacles in the hero’s journey such as getting stuck in a mental institution with Brad Pitt in 1990 but as someone who is obssesed with such impossible feats, I’ve kept a list of the best ways to time travel using fictional machines with the minimal fault from both movies and TV shows.
A Delorean powered by plutonium may be cool but finding the open space to reach the speed necessary isn’t always that easy if you’re stuck in the prehistoric jungles of Malaysia, and good luck finding the blueprints to harvest the meteorite’s energy for a ‘time warp’ in the Golden Age of Melaka.
Unless you can run at the speed of light and enter the speed-force required to travel through time, the list below would be a better solution for they are solely based on the practicality of their design and the idiot-friendly user interface.
5. The Wyld Stallyns’ phone booth
Before Keanu Reeves was the Chosen One, he was wannabe rockstar Ted Logan and together with his best mate, Bill S. Preston (Alex Winter), they had been assigned the most important task by Rufus the Future Dude (George Carlin). Their mission was to pass their history exam so that they can graduate high school and become the most influential rock band ever: the Wyld Stallyns.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is the classic time-traveling comedy movie that has the simplest of time machines – a phone booth. You might say it is a shameless rip-off of Tardis from Doctor Who except their machine is actually easier to use. All you need to do is dial in the date you wish to travel and *whoosh*, you’re on your way. If two highschool slackers can use it, anyone can. It is also easy to fix, with just a ball of chewing gum to fasten the antenna. In fact, there is no other complex mechanism to take care of unless you find keeping a pay phone clean to be a difficult task.
The only downside to their phone booth is the limited interior space. Sure, you can cramp a whole load of historical figures in it but it is not very comfortable for long trips. Their time machine is adequate for beginners since there is no terrible consequences of paradoxical meetings which actually meant that there is an auto-correcting system which is beyond anything else in science fiction…even those on this list.
4. Temporal Agent’s Violin Case
Predestination, the amazing 2014’s science fiction film based on the legendary writings of Robert A. Heinlein‘s short story ‘—All You Zombies—’ is perhaps the best movie to ever represent the paradoxical challenges of time travel.
It is tough to describe the plot without giving away the twists but basically it is a story of a Temporal Agent, someone who travels through time to stop criminals before the crime is committed; chasing after a terrorist named Fizzle Bomber. This story deals with the grandfather paradox and is widely accepted as the best representation of the ‘eternal recurrence‘ which every time traveler faces when dealing with time paradoxes. This movie also plays with the idea that a pure time traveler has to be an Ouroboros himself in order to solve the paradox that he has created with his travel.
Paradox complications aside, this movie has a unique time machine in the form of a violin case. The mechanism inside wasn’t explained in detail but on the surface it seems easy enough to use. Dial in the date in the case, hold on tight, and you’re off. The compact size of the machine and its disguise make it easier to carry around without drawing too much attention to your sudden apparitions. It has also been used as both a weapon and a shield during the combat scenes in the movie, proving it to be a durable machine.
The only downside of this time-traveling violin case is perhaps the inner workings of the machine, which needs round-the-clock maintenance attention by the scientists and engineers over at the Temporal Bureau, and the only way to get their assistance is to be one of the Agents.
The amount of jumps you’re allowed to take with this violin case is also limited to the missions assigned, though in the movie there is a possibility of reprogramming the machine but that requires a knowledge beyond the average Joe. Such a design is a necessary measure by the Agency to ensure people like me for example, do not cause more damage to the Space-Time Continuum under their supervision.
3. The Timelord’s Tardis
Does this need an introduction? How can anyone make a list of legit time machines without having the Tardis. It would be impossible and a sacrilege.
The famous blue box, the T.A.R.D.I.S (short for ‘Time And Relative Dimension In Space’) is a space-time vehicle stolen by the last living Timelord who goes only by the name of The Doctor (who? we’re not allowed to write it down) with the exception of The Master or Missy, since he regenerated to a she. And of course, the speculative survival of the entire planet of time travelers, Gallifrey being in a state of superposition in the crack of the Universe.
Too much to digest? Well that’s the BBC’s Doctor Who for you. (That’s right, kids are watching complex theoretical concepts while you’re watching the drama of rich house wives). It has been running (literally, the main protaganist prefer to runaway whenever possible) for more than 50 years and it has become an icon of time travel. Many even consider it to be the ultimate time machine in fiction since it can move both in space and time and sometimes into a parallel universe.
Unfortunately to many outrage and cries of Whovians, the Tardis is not on our number one spot due to many flaws making it difficult for beginners of time travel. Sure, there is an infinite amount of interior space with fans speculating that our entire reality is just a room in there (yes, there is a cult) but that only complicates things ever further.
There was already a few episodes where the Doctor’s companions are trapped and lost in the maze of the time machine.
Secondly, the “Sexy”‘s (The Tardis’ nickname as given by The Doctor) control console is not user-friendly. Even if you trained at the Time Lord Academy, chances are you’d never end up where you want to be since it has a mind/soul of it’s own. This could be argued as what makes it the greatest time machine in fiction, and with the introduction of the telepathic circuits in the console, it is easier to focus the probability of your destination. Now the greatest flaw of the machine is the fact that the owner is currently in its most grumpy reincarnation ever (Peter ‘Fuckity’ Capaldi) and the chances of you getting a ride with him without force is as slim as Donna Noble’s returns.
Nevertheless if this blue box ever appears in front of you, do what is necassary to get in and stay alive ’cause you know there will be trouble.
2. Captain Jack Harkness’s Vortex Manipulator
Yes, another Doctor Who gadget. The show has played with so many different aspects of science fiction, one could say it is the nursery for great sci-fi concepts, such as playing with the idea of the virtual micro-universe named “the Matrix” back in 1977 when the Wachowskis were still in school.
Machines which bend the law of physics are abundant in this great British series but the one that caught my attention is the vortex manipulator owned by the immortal (and also omnisexual, and promiscuous) Time Agent and con-man from the 51st Century named (Captain) Jack Harkness. The vortex manipulator is a time-traveling teleportation device issued by the Time Agency and it is housed in leather wrist-straps with a covering flap, making it the most convenient thus hardest to misplace gadget on this list.
The Vortex Manipulator is also one of the easier ones to use, as can be seen in the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who episode, “The Day of the Doctor”, when Clara Oswin Oswald easily keyed in the intended coordinates even when she was being attacked by shapeshifting aliens known as the Zygons. Sure, The Doctor himself dismisses this gadget by calling it a “space hopper” and, seeing it as an inferior machine compared to his glorious Tardis, he has been known to use the vortex manipulator when in dire need. Like the time he was trapped in the Pandorica underneath the Stonehenge. Plus, the gadget was important in his plan to reboot the Universe with a second Big Bang. No matter what his view on the “space hopper”, he can’t deny its usefulness.
Unlike the Tardis, the vortex manipulator is an extremely precise form of time travel when properly used. It also has many other functions such as communications, remote control, life signs tracking and many more; making it the Swiss Army Knife of the true Time Traveler. The only drawback of using a vortex manipulator is firstly, you gotta woo the flirtatious Jack or any other Time Agent and then be very careful to keep your head attached – for there are many hunters on the look out for this expensive gadget. Secondly, the gadget can be burnt out and the technical skills to revive it only exists in the future.
1. Rick’s Portal Gun
Crashing into our number one spot (and on The Simpsons’ latest couch gag) is Adult Swim‘s nasty, drunk mad scientist Rick and his grandson Morty. With only one season aired, this show has jumped through space, dimensions, parallel universes and has even stopped time, all thanks to Rick Sanchez‘s Portal Gun.
Adult Swim’s Rick & Morty is the animated television series aimed for adults and is created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon. The show follows the misadventures of the alcoholic sociopath Rick dragging along his naive young grandson Morty as they deal with outlandish and dangerous weekly crises.
These not being limited to: Battling stupid aliens who keep trying to steal Rick’s invention; stopping the uprising of ultra-intelligent dogs; Inception-ing Morty’s math teacher’s sexy dreams in order to give him good grades; running away from the Council of Ricks in the parallel universe; using Morty as an inter-dimensional drug mule, and many more mad exploits. It’s a smart sci-fi show with very bad manners and the best gadgets seen onscreen since The Lightsaber.
Technically Rick’s portal gun is more of an inter-dimensional gun but it can also be used for time travel since all he had to do was change the setting to travel through the parallel universes. The machine is so easy to use – just point and shoot the green gooey portal and walk through it – even the easily influenced Morty could use it. Sure the settings can be tricky and it could lead you to places you don’t want to be in like the Land of Farting Butts. But(t), you just can’t resist the awesome opportunity to jump through other universes and play some GTA with your otherselves while grabbing boxes of pizza during your lunch break.
Does time travel really matter anymore if you could jump to a reality where Justin Bieber didn’t exist, or one where Adolf Hitler is a critically-acclaimed artist? And if The Flash season finale tonight (if you’re streaming from the USA) doesn’t live up to your standards, you could always travel to another universe where you can fulfill your nerdgasms. The best part of this particular gun is that you don’t have to worry about consequences since you can just continue running across the infinite possibilities of reality.
First Published on : The Daily Seni.