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From Here to There and Back: TV Time Travel Devices. (Jerome A. Holst © 2002)

Al Holst, Owner of TV ACRES

At the theaters this spring is a fun time travel flick called Clockstoppers. The film follows the antics of a teenager who gets hold of a high-tech wristwatch that has one "way cool" feature. It can stop time. Not completely, but slow it down so much that it appears to stop time. The payoff is that whoever holds the watch is protected in a temporal barrier so they can move about while everyone else seems to stay frozen. The potential for all sorts of teenage pranks and sexual fantasies are mind boggling. Anyway, as I watched the promo for the movie I realized that this plot was awfully familiar. Where had I seen this before?

Flipping through my mind's rolodex of TV shows, I recalled other similar time travel stories like The Twilight Zone episode "A Kind of Stop Watch" about a loudmouth con man who tried to exploit a pocket watch that stops time. And then it occurred to me that Clockstoppers was a remake of The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything Else, an ABC TV movie that aired in the 1970s starring Pam Dawber. Of course, Clockstoppers is filled with more hip teenagers, flashier cloths and dialogue to accompany the times, but, all in all, its the same film. With the focus on "Timepieces" in both these film, it got me thinking about other types of vehicles and devices that have been used to travel through time.

So, for the sake of categorization, let's take a look at what kind of vehicles or mechanisms have been used to achieve time travel on the old boob tube.

The Hand Held Devices

Omni, The - Time traveling device used on the science fiction adventure VOYAGERS/NBC/1982-83. The Omni is a gold, hand-held device similar in size to a pocket watch. It was used by travelers knows as Voyagers when they patrolled the corridors of time. A normally functioning Omni glowed red when history was out of sync; and green if history was taking its proper course. One day, an Omni belonging to a Voyager called Phineas Bogg (Jon-Erik Hexum) malfunctioned, causing him to crash-land into the bedroom of Jeffrey Jones (Meeno Peluce), a young boy living in New York City. When Jeffrey's dog ate the Omni's instruction manual, Phineas (more brawn that brain) recruited Jeffrey, an historical whiz kid, to aid him on his assignments until he could get a new instruction manual.

Close-up of the Omni Device

The Portals & Complexes

The Time Tunnel - Fantastic time travel device featured on the science fiction adventure THE TIME TUNNEL/ABC/1966-67. Located under the Arizona desert in a secret headquarters called Tic Toc Base, the Time Tunnel was designed to transport men or objects through time. The device was the ultimate invention and potentially the most dangerous weapon in the arsenal of the United States government. Dr. Douglas "Doug" Phillips (Robert Colbert) and Dr. Anthony "Tony" Newman (James Darren) were the chief research scientists on the project. The Time Tunnel project is a large conical shaped tunnel with alternating bands of black and white ringing its interior. Anyone entering the tunnel is bathed in a cloud of blue radioactive particles. These particles enabled the Time Tunnel computer to lock onto travelers and located them in time. Once a traveler had been pinpointed in time, the front of the time tunnel acted as an oval view-screen into the past. This gave the Time Tunnel the ability to record actual events in history and use them for further study.

 Ziggy - An unseen computer intelligence on the sci-fi series QUANTUM LEAP/NBC/1989-93. Ziggy was part of a time travel experiment called "Quantum Leap" developed by Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula). Forced to prove his theories of time travel or lose his funding, Dr. Beckett entered a time machine and vanished. He found himself transported some thirty years in the past occupying the bodies of strangers. Ziggy was revealed to be a large sphere filled with a bluish liquid. Its voice was female and Sam at one point said he regretted programming Ziggy with the "ego of Barbara Streisand." Ziggy had a memory storage capacity of one billion gigabytes and was programmed not to feel guilt. When Sam said "Gimme what I want, baby," Ziggy responded "Euuu, If you weren't my father."

WABAC Machine - Time traveling machine on the animated cartoon PEABODY'S IMPROBABLE HISTORY and first seen on THE ROCKY AND HIS FRIENDS/ABC/1959-61. The WABAC Machine was created by a bespectacled, white dog with a bow-tie named Mr. Peabody (voice of Bill Scott) who with the assistance of his boy, Sherman (voice of June Foray), traveled back into an "improbable past" to help move along history. The machine was a large cluster of blinking lights and funny sounds with a central time portal entry/exit. Each episode began with Mr. Peabody asking Sherman to "set the WABAC for the year..." and ended with Mr. Peabody telling some awful pun like Sir Isaac Newton's brother, Fig being responsible for the Fig Newton.

Mr. Peabody, Sherman & the WABAC

The Sleds & Spheres

Time Cop's Time Sled - The science fiction series TIMECOP/ABC/1997 featured the adventures of cocky Timecop Jack Logan (T. W. King) who worked for the Time Enforcement Commission in the year 2007. His mission: to hunt down rogue time travelers and bring them to justice before they can alter the past and thus change history. To accomplish his mission Logan traveled back into time on a time sled. Mounted on rails much like an amusement park ride, the time sled would accelerate towards a wall and just as it appears the sled would crash through it, the time sled time warped into another reality. As Jack Logan once said " "In the past, things were simpler ...There's black and white, right and wrong...There's good and evil...But, that's history...We're not allowed to change history" The TV series is based on the 1994 movie Timecop starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as Max Walker a police officer in the year 2004 whose job was to go into the past and stop other time travelers from changing history.

Back-Step Time Sphere - Time travel vehicle powered by 100% alien technology featured on the sci-fi series SEVEN DAYS/UPN/1998-2001. Based in the deserts of southern Nevada in an area called Never Never Land, the top-secret Back-Step project credits its existence to alien technology retrieved by the US Government after a crash of a UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) in Roswell, New Mexico in 1954. Using fuel found in the alien spacecraft, members of the Back-Step project routinely send a large blue geodesic-shaped sphere back in time seven days to change the course of history. The Back-step project was headed by Project Head Dr. Bradley Talmadge (Alan Scarfe), who reports to the NSA, and mobilizes his troops into action. His staff included Lt. Frank Parker (Jonathan La Paglia), the chief Back-Step Chrononaut (time traveler), a former Navy SEAL and CIA black ops operative with a photographic memory and an extreme threshold for pain. As he travels back in time, his cockpit shakes violently while images of the past seven days are seen in reverse. When Parker arrives in the past he quickly reports in by using the password code "Conundrum." When asked about the rigors of time travel, Frank explained traveling through time was like riding inside of a food blender.  

Back Step Time Sphere- SEVEN DAYS
Back Step Time Sphere

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