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Our Time Machine Is Different

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Marty McFly: Wait a minute, Doc. Ah... Are you telling me that you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?
Dr. Emmett Brown: The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?

Sure, we may have a device that causes us to travel through time as if it were a VHS, or maybe it opens up a wormhole, but that isn't the important part. What really matters is the MacGyver factor, and well, we have that. We aren't cool with just travelling through time in a device that is explicitly meant for time travel, we need to make something that is already cool into a time machine, which makes it better.

This page is merely the vehicle. Compare Our Time Travel Is Different, for the different visual effects that can result, and Temporal Mutability, for the differing results of changing the past.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Steins;Gate: Features a time-travelling microwave. Useful for sending texts back in time to your cell-phone or turning bananas (and other organic material) into bright green mush.

    Comic Books 
  • Mortadelo y Filemón: Professor Bacterio's shabby time machine looks mostly like a phone booth. Justified, as it is a prototype he just jury-rigged in his lab.
  • The Flash can travel in time using the Cosmic Treadmill, which is only usable for people with superspeed, or in some incarnations, people with powers gained from the Speed Force.
  • Zipi y Zape: The story El tonel del tiempo (The Barrel of Time) is about the protagonist twins time-traveling on a machine they jury-rigged out of a barrel and a clock.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin makes a time machine of a cardboard box, the same box that serves as his duplicator and transmogrifier. It's function depends on what position it's in; upright for time machine (so you can sit in it), on the side for duplication, and upside down for transformation.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Back to the Future
    • The first film's DeLorean, which is the inspiration for this trope. The film's creators justify this by saying that it makes more sense to have a time machine that you can take with you, rather than one that just sits at your destination. Plus the stainless steel construction makes the flux dispersal work that much better.
    • In an early draft of the script, it was actually a fridge.
    • The time-traveling steam locomotive at the end of Back to the Future Part III. It can fly!
  • The phone booth from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. And it's smaller on the inside! Nyaah!
  • The Hot Tub in Hot Tub Time Machine. Seems obvious, right?
  • Timecop has a pod that accelerates on rails through a tunnel and jumps right before hitting the wall. Strangely, the time traveler shows up at the destination without the pod. When they come back (using a wrist device), they come back in the same pod.
  • The... thing from The Science of Sleep... maybe.
  • In Les Visiteurs, it's a potion made by a wizard accompanied by a Magical Incantation. To send someone who drank the potion back or forward in time, the following words must be pronounced: "Per Horus et per Ra et per Solem Invictus duceres". It turns time travellers into something that represents their true self then sends them to another era. Godefroy de Montmirail gets turned into crystal, presumably because he's pure of heart, then shatters. His smelly, rascally and moronic squire Jacquouille gets turned into a big pile of dung. Jacquouille's descendant, Jacquart, gets turn into... a small pile of dung, presumably because he's a petty jerk. And Jean-Pierre Goulard gets turned into golf balls because he loves golf.

  • In Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man the time traveler floats in a spherical, fluid-filled capsule, which rolls to a bumpy stop on arrival. It's apparently a one-way trip.
  • The Space/Time Nexus of Bill the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Ten Thousand Bars is a sentient toilet that speaks with a British accent. It is also the earliest known example of a time-travelling toilet, pre-dating Day of the Tentacle by several years.
  • The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov has "kettles", which are elevator-like pods, allowing Eternals (people who have been taken outside of Time) to travel "upwhen" and "downwhen" along the timestream. Similar to elevators, the kettles can't travel before and after the existence of Eternity, as massive temporal field was created in the 27th century. However, a special one-way kettle is created that can used to send a person to a century prior to that.
  • Isaac Asimov and Janet Asimov's The Norby Chronicles: One of Norby's talents is to travel in time. Somehow, this is part of the same device that allows him to travel into hyperspace, so he can extend his "bubble" to take passengers that are in physical contact with him. This includes unwanted passengers, as established in Norby's Other Secret.
  • The titular stairwell in The Impossible Stairwell looks like an ordinary stairwell, but going up- or downstairs takes you forward or backward in time.
  • The time machine in The Time Machine has a good deal of quartz in it and just a touch of alien geometry.
    • Other time machines are built on the same principles in The Time Ships. They are much less sophisticated and elegant, making the original a sort-of Super Prototype.
  • Sergey Lukyanenko's novel Today, Mom! has the Sibling Team protagonists discover a time pod inside an Ancient Egyptian artifact. When they start pressing buttons, they find themselves in the future (supposedly, where the pod originally came from). However, the future humans refuse to let them go back, as they fear time travel. A cat-like alien named Shidla helps the boys travel back in time. However, they jump too far and end up in Ancient Egypt. Eventually, Shidla drops them off at home and jumps into his own time.
  • Will of Heaven has the "pheasant god," a moon-powered alien device shaped like a rock. It gets its name from the pheasant-like noises it makes when it distorts time, and also causes meteor-like streaks of light to appear in the sky.
  • In Cylinder Van Troffa by Janusz Zajdel the titular device manipulates space-time using gravity and is essentially a glorified stasis chamber until you figure out the fineries of how to use it - it's implied the device can take you both ways in time.
  • The Licanius Trilogy features the Jha'vett, a city-sized device that opens a rift through time that will spit the user out at any point they choose. The catch is the rift instantly kills anyone who tries to use it — unless they've already died.
  • Time Warp Trio uses a book, simply called "The Book" as its time machine. It has other time based powers in it as well such stopping time. The animated series takes it a step further by having The Book literally be time itself, meaning if it gets destroyed, everything goes with it.
  • Played with in the Nightside series, in which one recurring character collects time machines and has a particular fondness for the weirder designs.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Double the Fist season 2 had the Timesaw, a chainsaw which saws holes in spacetime.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor's own TARDIS itself is hardly what one expects a time machine to look like, its exterior camouflage being stuck in the form of an early 1960s British police box for most of the show's history. The Doctor's resistance to fixing the chameleon circuit comes from his fondness for the iconic nature of the exterior, since he knows a TARDIS in the guise of a police box will most probably be his own. (As revealed in a 2013 episode, his "Type 40, Mk 3" TARDIS's default exterior was originally a sleek, silvery, unadorned cylinder of roughly the same size.) The association between the Doctor and his particular TARDIS is so strong that her characteristic outside appearance has become a symbol of hope to some (usually those in need of saving), and a symbol of dread to others (usually his adversaries). Ironically, though the vast interiors of his ship are filled with all sorts of super-advanced technological wonders that frequently astonish other people, the Doctor himself admits on occasion that his TARDIS would be considered an outdated, almost quaint model of timeship by his fellow Time Lords. He still loves his jalopy of a time machine regardless, and even considers her a friend on par with his companions.
    • The series has also used Time Rings to travel through time, and in the revival, also introduced the vortex manipulator, a time-travelling wrist strap. Neither device is a comfortable way to travel (which is something of a verbal running gag for the vortex manipulator, often getting called a "cheap and nasty" way to travel).
  • Played with in The Librarians 2014, where we see a room in the Library that contains dozens of different time machines (including a DeLorean and a blue police box), each of which works on a different principle, which means that, if you use one to go back in time, you can't use another to return. Later on, a special type of time machine, known as the Toaster of Albuquerque, is revealed, which tracks people instead of years. Flynn uses it to time-jump to Nicole just prior to her Start of Darkness and convince her to stay on the good side. This ends up undoing the events of Season 4.
  • Spanish sci-fi show The Ministry of Time uses time catacombs: under the Ministry's headquarters there is an indeterminate number of underground galleries connected by a giant spiral stairwell, each containing a set of Portal Doors.
  • Odisea Burbujas has El Tobogán del Tiempo (the time slide) and yes, is a literal slide.
  • Red Dwarf: The episode "Timeslides" had the cast travel back in time using photographs developed by mutated developing fluid.
    • "Lemons" also had them travel back in time using an improperly built rejuvenation shower. The shower itself ends up working as the Time Cop type, staying in the future while the time travellers have a remote that gets them back to the present.
  • The show Seven Days has the Sphere, a device built by the government based on the Roswell crash that can allow a person to go back seven days in the past, no more no less. In the show, it's used to prevent bad things from happening, which occur almost weekly. It's not entirely clear how the Sphere moves through time. Sometimes, it appears exactly where it was. Other times, it appears in space and falls to Earth (which would actually make more sense, given that Earth wasn't in the same position seven days ago. As explained in the pilot episodes, the chrononaut must compensate for the movement of Earth through manual controls, which Frank rarely manages to do perfectly). The time limitation is caused by the fact that the scientists still don't know much about the technology, only using it out of necessity and the fact that the alien fuel (which is in short supply) takes exactly 7 days to recharge. Several other Spheres are shown throughout the show, including the previous Sphere which was lost in the jungle after a failed "backstep" and a Sphere from a few centuries in the future with an enlarged fuel tank.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • An Ancient named Janus has managed to create a working time machine out of a Puddle Jumper. While his superiors forced him not to create one after Elizabeth Weir travels to the past, he does it anyway, just in another galaxy. Conveniently, both devices are lost in the past.
    • The Stargate has been used several times as an impromptu time machine — opening a wormhole during a solar flare results in it folding on itself but in a different time. The film Stargate: Continuum has Ba'al create a time machine of sorts using the solar flare method. He has put up monitoring satellites in hundreds (if not thousands) of star systems, looking for solar flares with the instantaneous data being fed into a powerful computer that calculates how far into the past he will go if he gates to the star.
  • Timeless has two spherical time machines, developed by Mason Industries. The original prototype (later nicknamed "Lifeboat") is an industrial-looking cramped pod with enough room for only three travelers (including the pilot). It has two cris-crossing bands of treads that start spinning, presumably warping space/time, until it vanishes in a rush of displaced air and appears about a minute later in another time and space. The second version (nicknamed "Mothership") is a sleek white sphere of a much larger diameter, capable of carrying almost a dozen travelers. The spinning bands look like stripes of black and are much more aesthetically pleasing than the original ones. The computers of both time machines are in sync across space/time, which means each always knows when the other is, although not where. Since time travel here operates on San Dimas Time (as indicated by the mission clock above the control center). Interestingly, only the inside of the pod is ever shown during a time jump (presumably, to save on special effects), so we have no idea how the wormhole itself looks, although one computer diagram uses the standard "tunnel through folded space" visualization. One episode also makes it a plot point that spacial navigation is just as crucial as temporal navigation. As Rufus puts it, Earth is 70% water. Without proper navigation, the Lifeboat could easily end up in water, in a mountain, or 600 feet in the air. As it is, both time machines usually pop in exactly where intended.
  • Legends of Tomorrow uses timeships for this. The first timeships we're shown belong to the Time Masters. Each of them is equipped with an AI derived from Gideon, which is supposed to be created by Barry Allen at some point. Timeships also come equipped with a jump ship, a shuttle equally capable of space/time travel. Later on, we're shown a Time Bureau timeship, which is much larger in size and power. The Dominators also have their own timeships, and Abra Kadabra builds one that looks like a jump ship at one point. Notably, speedsters have no need of such vehicles, as they use the Speed Force to travel through time, although that has the potential of attracting Time Wraiths.



  • In one of the Bottom stage shows Eddie invents a time-travelling toilet (naturally the old-fashioned kind, with an overhead cistern and chain). It's called the TURDIS, after Doctor Who's TARDIS.

    Video Games 
  • The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages uses a lyre.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the time machine is not the titular ocarina, but the Master Sword, combined with its pedestal in the Temple of Time. The ocarina's only role in the process is to open the door in the temple that leads to the Master Sword. It's only in the sequel that the Ocarina of Time serves as your time machine, allowing you to reset the game's "Groundhog Day" Loop via the Song of Time.
  • Day of the Tentacle has the "Chron-O-John", a contraption that includes a car, a huge diamond, traffic lights and three portable toilet cubicles.
  • LAst WEEK has a calender-operated time controlling machine, which normally used to regulate the flow of time that is distorted thanks to the ritual, but it can be used as a Time Machine by changing the date on the calender into the desired date.
  • There are two types of time machines in The Journeyman Project games. The first game features the Pegasus device, the original time machine invented by Dr. Sinclair, which is fairly large and static. The time travelers' suits are fitted with recall biochips, which signal the Pegasus to pull them back. The second game has miniaturized versions placed in Powered Armor suits. This allows time travelers to jump to any time period from any time period without the need to constantly return to the "present". In the third game, the miniaturized device is also installed in a chameleon suit, which creates a holographic image of any scanned person in order to be able to interact with people in the past.
  • In the "Timegate Traveler" movie series in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, the time machine can be stored in a capsule that fits in the palm of your hand—in other words, a Poke Ball.
  • Red Alert 3: The Soviet time machine has a space capsule-esque design with the onion-bulb shape of St. Basil's Cathedral roofs (the building that's always mistaken for the Kremlin).
  • In Timelapse, Time Gates are placed in four ancient civilizations, and the player has to follow Professor Alxander Nichols' trail through them, in search of locating Atlantis. Time Gates aren't foolproof, though, as Atlantean metals can break them, and a hostile Guardian robot imprisoned Nichols in one without setting the destination, leaving him stranded in a void between time periods.
  • In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the Prince uses a dagger to rewind time.
  • Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and The Time Rippers has time pods used by the Sequel Police of Space Quest XII and a hairdryer-looking device used by La Résistance.
  • TimeShift has Timesuits that transport you through time and space and prevent you from causing paradoxes.

    Web Comics 
  • Breakpoint City has given us two cars, a Stargate-esque portal, and a brain swapper, so far.
  • As noted by Irregular Webcomic!, time machines appear in all sorts of weird forms... mainly because, while we have some sort of general understanding about how other vehicles' shapes affect how useful they are (aircraft need wings or rotors or envelopes, boats need hulls, etc), no-one has the slightest idea what shape makes a more efficient time machine. (They use the Doctor Who model.)
  • Times Like This packs all the time-machine schematics into a small package, made out of a stylish medallion-style pendant and a tiny cell phone.

    Web Original 
  • In The Annoying Orange episode "The Microwave Effect", apparently putting a burrito wrapped in tinfoil in a microwave results in time travel.

    Western Animation 
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Chipmunks Go to the Movies season episode "Back to Alvin's Future" saw Professor Crashcup build a teacup-shaped time vehicle in the DeLorean mode from, of all things, a blender.
    "It started out as a blender, but when I hit 'puree,' I traveled back in time to 1957."
  • An episode of Babar shows Jules Verne traveling on a phone booth-like Time Machine.
  • Danger Mouse and Penfold travel through time in a grandfather clock in "The Hickory Dickory Dock Dilemma." Contains a rather obvious Doctor Who reference.
  • In one episode of the The Fairly Oddparents, Timmy wishes up a time scooter to change history and eliminate a chore he doesn't like in the present. To travel backwards in time he needs to actually drive it backwards.
    • A later episode has him wishing up a watch that rewinds time so he could redo failed tasks. The first model is s transformed Cosmo, which can't be used often because rewinding time takes a lot of magical power. When that model is stolen by Vicky, he wishes Wanda into a second one that only works for him and is nuclear powered so he can redo as often as he wants.
  • In one episode of Futurama, putting metal into a microwave during a super nova resulted in time travel.
  • Gravity Falls has the Time Machine Tape Measure. Apparently it's a standard issue for all time travelers, atleast the ones sanctioned by the Time Police.
  • One Halloween episode of The Simpsons had Homer accidentally create a time-travelling toaster while trying to repair one he smashed to bits after getting his hand stuck in it.
  • Stewie from Family Guy has the Timecop type. He steps into a cubicle that stays where it is and uses a collapsible return pad to get back to the present though some episodes just show him using the return pad and foregoing the rest of the machine.
    • In Mind Over Murder he built one that rewound time to the start of the episode. This time machine didn't come back with him and we never seen again.
  • Professor Wottaschnozzle has a time machine with which he sends Popeye to take the role of historical figures.