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And yet Superboy never warned Bruce about going to that movie...

Vicki: That meant that you could just tune in and see any event in history.
Barbara: Do you mean... a sort of... "Time television"?
The Doctor: Yes, that's exactly what this is.

A chronoscope or time viewer is a device that uses images that show past or future events like a television. They can sometimes also cause time travel. They are common in sci-fi, and often take different forms.

Some act like cameras recording past and future events and showing what an object would look like in a different time period. Others are more like TVs and show videos and visions of the past and future. Chronoscopes are often used as plot devices, as they can often reveal various details that are necessary for the plot.

Compare Magic Mirror or Crystal Ball, which may have the ability to show these events as well. Intangible Time Travel is, essentially, a more immersive variant of this — analogous to virtual reality versus videotape.


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  • A lottery commercial shows an old man watching his younger self on a television-like device; yelling at him to get a ticket while he instead messes around with a toy sculpture that goes limp when the base is pressed. When he finally does get a ticket, the old man sighs and comments "I scared me", and potters off in his levitating chair.
  • Another lottery commercial has an equally old lady watching herself on the same device get a ticket because someone grabbed the last of the candy bars she wanted. She comments to her robot butler she never thanked him properly, to which the butler replies "I'll-send-him-a-chocolate-bar. Ha-ha-ha."

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Superman:
    • In a Superboy (1949) comic story (based on a script from the Superboy live-action TV series that wasn't, apparently), Superboy flies out into space in order to make a home movie to show his friend that the friend's father was a hero during the war. Superboy goes faster than light so he can film the light coming from Earth, which shows what happened in the past.
    • In the cover of Adventure Comics #275, teen Clark Kent is using a "Time Telescope" to show his friend Bruce that their adult selves will become super-heroes and fight crime together.
    • Supergirl uses her cousin's Chronoscope in Action Comics #309: The Untold Story of Argo City to see her father's past and discover what happened to her parents after she left their hometown.
      Supergirl: This chronoscope can overtake light rays which left Krypton years ago! By watching the screen we can view the past!
    • In Krypton No More, Supergirl uses one to show her cousin visions of their fathers' lives before they were born.
    • In The Krypton Chronicles, Zor-El whips up a device which lets anybody relive someone else's memories by holding something belonging to that person. Later on, Superman designs some kind of camera-like device which displays scenes of the past.
    • In The Supergirl Saga, Pocket Universe Lex Luthor discovers this device in Superboy's secret lab, which he uses to try viewing the future in search of Superboy. However, in his search, he ends up encountering the Phantom Zone criminals who communicate to him through the device.
    • In the Valor book, Rip Hunter and co. are tracking and trying to shore up the cracks and alterations to the timeline using one.
    • In The Unknown Supergirl, Lesla-Lar's Time-Viewer lets her see into the past, but it cannot show images of the future.
    • The Girl with the X-Ray Mind: As a battle is raging between Supergirl and the Phantom Zoners in the present day, the 31st century super-team the Legion of Super-Heroes are using some sort of time-viewer device to watch their teammate's actions. Unfortunately, they cannot go back in time to back her up.
  • Green Lantern: Krona uses one to see the beginning of the universe (unknowingly altering it in the process).
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: One such device kickstarts the plot of an Italian Disney Ducks saga, the Paperolimpiadi written in occasion of the 1988 Olympics. Scrooge comes in possession of a camera that can shows the near future (a few days). He realizes the camera's potential for making money, but of course so do plenty of other parties that try to take possession of it. The story's climax has Scrooge offer worldwide coverage of the Olympics days before they happen, but a minor character destroys the camera, realizing its potential for abuse.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Hippolyte's "Magic Sphere" is a disk shaped mirror that can show different points in time and space, though it is normally limited to showing earth based locals. Paula's Space Transformer is also treated as a chronoscope sometimes, though it's one that creates hard light interactive versions of the past/future on a platform rather than being a disk to look into.
    • Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman: Hippolyta gives in and uses her Magic Sphere to see what her daughter has been up do during a festival held in the Queen's honor, saying she usually doesn't to afford Diana some privacy. It turns out to be a good thing since Cheetah is fighting Diana and gets the upper hand, which the queen's time seeing device gave her enough insight on in order for her to aid her daughter.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Meaning of Harmony, the temporally locked equilibrium in the Forge of Kindness allows the ponies to see the event which led to the Forge getting damaged.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The scroll in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) that showed the history of Underland and then prophesied Alice's return and her slaying the Jabberwocky.
  • Buck Rogers: In episode 9 Dr. Huer is revealed to have a device called the "Past-i-scope", which can replay scenes from the past that happened recently. The good guys are able to pull up a scene of Buck and Wilma getting captured on Saturn but not the one they need, the one that would determine whether or not Buck and Wilma survived their crash-landing.
  • In the Denzel Washington movie Déjà Vu (2006), it's claimed that the "Snow White" technology is just an incredible complicated surveillance system. Turns out that its actually a chronoscope. And when pushed, it even works as a limited time machine.
  • In the Bollywood film Krrish, it is revealed that Rohitnote  was hired to build a computer that can see the future and show it on a screen. He tested it by seeing the birth of his son Krishna, where he learned that he will be killed by his employer so that he can use it to his own benefit.
  • In The Invisible Ray, Janos Rukh has invented a telescope that can photograph light rays that will show the Earth's past. He uses it to watch a meteorite fall on Africa, thus starting the plot.
  • In Paycheck, the mysterious device employs the curvature of the universe and special lenses to look a short distance into the future, allowing the protagonist to build his escape plan before the beginning of the main action.
  • Lampshaded (with a healthy helping of Breaking the Fourth Wall) in Spaceballs with the "instant cassettes" technology: films that are released for home viewing before the movie is even done being shot. Thus, after they have lost the trail of the protagonists, the comically ineffective villains Dark Helmet and Colonel Sanders pop a tape of Spaceballs into the VCR, and fast-forward to next scene featuring their quarry in order track them. But not before first wandering into a high-strung Who's on First? skit.
  • In Tomorrowland the protagonists use a device to look into the past and future using Tachyons

  • Older Than Television: The Martians in Kurd Laßwitz' Auf zwei Planeten ("On Two Planets", 1897) have a device called the Retrospektiv which allows them to determine what actually caused an armed incident between a British warship and a Martian vessel. It sends out gravitation rays to retrieve light rays sent off into space from the event in question.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • "The Dead Past": This story has a Chronoscope that was developed fifty years ago. The world government has been suppressing use of the device because "the past" can be as recent as one-hundredth of a second ago. Unfortunately, our protagonists invented a cheap and simple way to duplicate the technology, and shared it with others.
    • "The Ugly Little Boy": Dr Hopkins and Stasis Incorporated use mesonic intertemporal detection to "see" the past. It works by sending meson particles backwards into time and analyzing the way they're reflected. It doesn't create clear pictures, but it's a necessary component to their Time Machine.
  • Arthur C. Clarke's The Light of Other Days: The chronoscope, a machine to create and look through wormholes in this setting, immediately becomes public and the novel explores how society would change as a result of the complete lack of privacy and ability to know the real events that modern myths and religions are based on.
    • Childhood's End has such a device given to humans to look into their past. It causes the collapse of the world's religions.
  • The first half of Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus is about two such devices. The first one was of limited use and wasn't precise enough to show people (they were seen as fast-moving shadows), but it did allow the researchers to see architecture and the like. Later, a more focused device was created, allowing very detailed images and sound to be shown. Fashions of the past became all the rage throughout the recovering world. Researchers had to learn ancient languages in order to understand what the people on the screen were saying. One case even had a Poke in the Third Eye moment. When viewing the life of a long-dead tribal woman, the researcher is startled to hear a description of a dream she had about people from afar watching her. The researcher shows it to several colleagues, "rewinding" the event twice before continuing. The tribal woman continues that they watched her three times and even gives the correct number of researchers. The researchers are a little freaked out. While the government has told everyone that the machines can't see anything as recent as 100 years ago, in reality it can see as recently as 15 minutes ago.
  • The Time Machine stories by Donald and Keith Monroe. The eponymous time machine had a viewing device that allows its users to see scenes of the future and past before traveling to them.
  • Discworld
    • On the Discworld, there are the Omni-scopes which have the power to do this, although true to form the wizards spend a great deal of time and effort trying to eliminate that capacity, treating it as a bug instead of a feature. It seems all they wanted was an expensive version of a webcam. (Omniscopes are also quite hard to focus, and since most times and places are "empty space at a time when nothing happens", that's mostly what they show. Also, using it to see the future is unwise, because it might not be the future you want, and then you're stuck with it.)
    • Also from The Science of Discworld books, Hex is able to treat our entire universe as one of these. Fast fowarding, or rewinding to see specific spots in human history (our universe canonically exists in a snowglobe on a shelf in the Unseen University, a wobbly shelf).
  • Such a device is invented in Noon: 22nd Century, but it can only look into the past. The pictures it shows... aren't pretty.
  • In the science fiction novella E for Effort, a man invents a time viewer which can see any past occurrence. It doesn't have audio, so they employ lipreaders to find out exactly what people are saying. Initially they use it to make films about the past.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring. The Mirror of Galadriel can show visions of the past and the future. Sam sees events that will occur in The Two Towers during his and Frodo's entry into Mordor, as well as events in the Shire after Saruman takes over. Frodo sees the fall of Númenor and the founding of Gondor, which occurred in the distant past.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's short story "By His Bootstraps". The Time Gate can be used to look backward and forward in time as well as to travel to the time shown.
  • The Pensieve from the Harry Potter novels, which records and plays back memories, is a version of this. (Powerful wizards like Voldemort can falsify memories, but other powerful wizards like Dumbledore can usually tell.)
  • Mirrors that work like this are mentioned in Septimus Heap.
  • In L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth, the heroes want to find out what happened to a planet they bombed a year earlier, and so teleport a probe a light year away from the target to effectively look into the past with a ridiculously powerful telescope. They're also somehow able to manipulate the images and zoom in on particular cities after the probe has returned and they're watching the recording.
  • In Mission Earth, also by Hubbard, the Voltarian Confederation uses "time-sights" to peer into the future in order to avoid oncoming obstacles when aboard spaceships using time-based "Will-be Was" engines (don't even ask). A character later has the bright idea to make millions on the stock market by looking at tomorrow's figures and investing accordingly.
  • Phillip K. Dick's short story, Paycheck, employs one of these as a centerpiece of the conflict.
  • The short story "Who's Cribbing?" is about a tinkerer named Todd Thromberry who invents a way of viewing the future, which he uses to steal works of fiction from after his lifetime, pass them off as his own, and leave the real author to be accused of plagiarism. At least, so claims the guy who is accused of ripping off Thromberry's stories.
  • A chronoscope, which "does to time what a telescope does to space", is the central device of the unfinished Space Trilogy novel The Dark Tower (no relation to Stephen King's series). The twist is that rather than showing the past or future, it shows an Alternate Universe.
  • A Quantum Murder: The victim is a scientist who was working on neurohormones that could be used to see through time, so the investigators use a sample he's left behind to do so. They see him being killed by one of his own students who has gone insane, but it's later revealed that the murderer was brainwashed to do so by the real culprit, who was worried that the neurohormone could be used to see a murder he had committed eleven years previously. Alarmed by the implications of looking back in time, Julia Evans, the idealistic but powerful CEO of Event Horizon, arranges for the destruction of the neurohormone and all records, and gives a generous job offer (of the accept-or-else kind) to the student so she can keep an eye on him.

    Live-Action TV 

  • In the fictional narrative surrounding the Weezer album Everything Will Be Alright In The End, protagonist Joe Laffoley creates "The Futurescope," a device that lets him see video transmissions relating to his future, as a way of answering three questions about his life (The albums’s main themes). The device also gives its name to the album’s closing tracks, “The Futurescope Trilogy.”

    Tabletop Games 
  • A malfunctioning "time-scanner" was what brought the dinosaurs to the present day in Dinosaurs Attack!.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has an organic, magical example in the chronolily. These gargantuan pitcher plants are filled with a golden nectar that displays random, soundless images of distant events - violet chronolilies display images of the present, but orange chronolilies give visions of the past, and yellow chronolilies show the future. Some sages master an esoteric method of plucking leaves from the plant's base in a particular order to conjure up specific visions, but a faster if less effective method is to dip one's hand in the nectar, concentrate on what you want to see, and hope you get results.
  • GURPS Ultra-tech describes the "timescanner". It has very limited abilities: it can only display things in a two-yard radius, it needs days to focus on the specified moment in time, and it is only available in soft science fiction settings anyway. And until a portable version is invented, the timescanner machinery occupies an entire room.

  • In The Golden Apple, Mother Hare gives Ulysses and Penelope a glimpse of a verdant valley turned into future wasteland, and presents them with a kaleidoscopic vision, projected in the form of woodcuts and lithographs, of the spectacular scientific achievements forthcoming in the twentieth century.

    Video Games 
  • Yeesha's necklace in Myst IV: Revelation.
  • The Oracle Drives in Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.
  • In Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver Raziel explores the Oracle's Cave, which was the hideout of Moebius the Time-Streamer, and comes across a series of "windows" that show him visions of the past and future.
  • The Ghost-Hunting Goggles in Dark Fall: The Journal does this sometimes, showing how portions of the Dowerton Hotel looked in the past, or occasional messages on the walls. Other times it's mostly used to see and talk to the ghosts haunting the place. The sequel Lights Out ups this by letting Benjamin Parker use it to travel through time by touching certain objects.
  • This is ultimately what the visions provided by the Monado in Xenoblade Chronicles 1 are. The Monado can manipulate ether, which makes up all things in the world of the Bionis and Mechonis. All ether is calculable in its changes, so the Monado can see where every ether particle was, is, and will be, providing visions to those who can use it.

  • The clouds on Skaia in Homestuck are natural versions of this.
    • The Trollian chat client is also one of these.
  • It's heavily implied that a device like this will show up in Girl Genius at some point... though so far we've only seen it from the "other side", as it were. At several points in the comic, strange "windows" suddenly appear hovering in mid-air, with doubles of some of the comic's characters standing on the other side, seemingly discussing what they're seeing as if they were watching events happening in their past.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In Amphibia, Leif's vision consisted of seeing events that have already be seen in the series like The Core's mural and Newtopia being destroyed a turned into a polluted wasteland.
  • One of the villains in The Impossibles is shown using this to observe 20th-century events from the 40th century.
  • One episode of the Plastic Man cartoon involved Plas thwarting a crime boss from stealing a device that can show the future.
  • The various time-windows in Clockwork's lair in Danny Phantom.
  • In Ben 10, one of Ben's alien forms, Clockwork, can do this on a massive scale.
  • In the My Life as a Teenage Robot episode "Future Shock," Tuck looks into Dr. Wakeman's "future scope" and sees events in which Jenny appears to have turned evil and killed Brad.
  • The chrono-arch in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius is this.
  • A Pinky and the Brain episode sees Brain invent one of these. He sees an image of himself as a very old mouse still trying and failing to take over the world and has a bit of a breakdown, until he realizes that what he's seeing is only one possible future rather than a guarantee.

    Real Life 
  • The virtual reality app Google Earth VR allows anyone using it to view 360-degree points in time and can show you places almost anywhere in the world. However, you can only see as far back as 2007.
  • Wormholes in theory could be used as this. You could move one exit of a wormhole near a strong gravitational field like a black hole, and the gravitational effect will cause time to go slower in said wormhole exit than in the other; then when moving the wormhole's exit away from the gravitational field, it will retain the "time delay" and effectively become a window/portal to the past, the only caveat being that it cannot show anything before the wormhole's creation.
  • Given that the speed of light is peanuts next to the size of the Universe, when we observe it, we're using a natural chronoscope. We see Proxima Centauri as it was a bit more than four years ago, the center of our Galaxy as it was 28,000 years ago, Andromeda as 2.56 million years ago, etc., and besides more or less educated guesses, we do not know what they are like now and what happened there in the interim.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Time Viewer


Leif's Vision

After coming into contact with the Gems of the Calamity Box, Leif sees a vision of Amphibia being destroyed by a meteor as a result of the Calamity Box's power.

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