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Time Capsule

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By the time you get this note
We'll no longer be alive
We'll have all gone up in smoke
There'll be no way to reply
You'll be wondering about the world that vanished long ago
And the words that reach you now
That were buried underground
They Might Be Giants, "By The Time You Get This"

Human beings are obsessed with leaving a record of ourselves so that future generations have some idea of what we were like.

Enter the Time Capsule, an object specifically designed to withstand the elements and hopefully be dug up and opened some number of years (usually pre-determined) after its burial. "Specifically designed" is the key word here; anything from the past is obviously going to be of interest to an archeologist, but it only counts as a time capsule if the one burying it intended it to be as such.

Can be used to Fling a Light into the Future. Compare Write Back to the Future, which is essentially this trope meets Stable Time Loop. See also Dead Man Writing, Video Wills.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Doraemon:
    • One of Nobita's ancestors buried in his yard what he thought was a valuable treasure that could help his descendants the next time Haley's Comet passed by. It turned out to be an inflatable pool toy that a time-travelling Nobita anonymously gave said ancestor to help ease fears that the comet would temporarily strip the Earth of its atmosphere.
    • The American English-dubbed episode "Doraemon's Time Capsule" is about Noby borrowing the eponymous futuristic time capsule and accidentally sending the contents within 100 years into the past. Then he sends it to the future on the day Doraemon was born and has to go find it again before it causes a change in the timeline from just-born Doraemon seeing the items it contains.
  • Love Hina: As a youth, Keitaro buried one with Naru and Mitsumi stating his wish to go to Todai.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Near the end, Asuna and Ayaka dig up a time capsule from when they were younger. Due to the fact that Asuna will be sealed up for 100 years starting the next day, Ayaka plans on burying it again with new pictures so Asuna will have something when she finally wakes up. When Asuna digs it up 130 years later (she overslept), she discovers that the entire class added pictures and recordings over the course of their lives.
  • Tamagotchi! Yume Kira Dream: Episode 33 is about Mametchi and his gang finding out that Pianitchi once buried a time capsule with a childhood friend she can't remember clearly and going out to find that time capsule. The childhood friend was Nandetchi.

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: In Ultimate Battle: The Next Generation episode 1, the goats bury some of their memories, as well as some of those of Wolffy and his family, into a time capsule to commemorate the old days before the Green Green Grassland is renovated into a high-tech city.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman:
    • The Supergirl-Batgirl Plot, a time capsule filled with Superman, Batman and Robin memorabilia is launched into space, where it will remain into orbit around the Earth for five hundred years so future people know about the world's greatest heroes.
    • The Living Legends of Superman: Variant. Between the year 2,199 and the year 2,491, an asteroid-shaped time-capsule, launched by people from other universe, is discovered by the Earth people. Its contents help reveal Superman's secret identity, long after he is gone.

    Comic Strips 
  • Conchy: The characters accidentally dug up a time capsule marked "Do Not Open Till 1984". When they opened it, it was full of 1984 calendars.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • My Sassy Girl: Gyeon-woo and the girl plant a time capsule under a tree and agree to meet again there some time later. It contains the story of the girl and her previous boyfriend.
  • Knowing: A group of kids are told to draw what the future looked like; a creepy girl puts in a random string of numbers that Nicholas Cage finds after the school digs the capsule back fifty years later. The only problem: said paper predicts the end of the world.
  • Tenet. The use of inversion to make objects move backwards in time enables people in the future to sends messages and funds to people in the past; the recipient buries his own time capsule as per normal to send messages back. The villain Andrei Sator digs up such an inverted capsule while a lowly Soviet worker cleaning up after a radiation accident, finding a message inside addressed specifically to him. He's also shown receiving inverted gold in time capsules sent from the future.

  • In the Grandmas Attic series of books, a repair of the schoolhouse reveals a pioneer-style one of these, which dredges up old rumors about one of the townsfolk burning down the schoolhouse in the past.
  • The True Meaning of Smekday begins with an essay written by the protagonist to go in a time capsule.
  • The novel We Are Tam is split between two time zones: the 20th century, when a time capsule is buried, and the 25th century, when it is uncovered and opened.
  • The unexpected chance to recover a time capsule sets off the plot of Zombies of the Gene Pool.
  • In Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw, Greg and Rowley bury a time capsule in Rowley's yard to be opened "when time travel is possible." Greg puts in five dollars, hoping it'll be worth a lot in the future, and convinces Rowley to put in more of his expensive objects. After a few days, Greg digs up the time capsule for himself.
  • Gold In The Sky, the 1958 sci-fi thriller by Alan E. Nourse, has the protagonists racing to find the Big Strike apparently discovered by their father before his fatal "accident" arranged by an evil Asteroid Miner corporation. No-one can figure out how he managed to hide this strike, until they discover it's not a vein of ore but an alien time capsule left from when the Asteroid Belt was a planet. It includes plans for the stardrive they used to escape the disaster.
  • The Last Day Of Creation by Wolfgang Jeschke. The expedition stranded five million years in the past leave these either as records or an attempt to Write Back to the Future, but have no evidence that any of them were ever found. Ironically they end up leaving other traces of their existence that prove time travel can work and cause the expedition to be launched in the first place.
  • In The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester, Sam's dad finds a time capsule in the backyard that was buried in 1987 by Billy Clement and his girlfriend Margarie Frankel, who is now the principal. It includes two cassette tapes, Hot Space and Fame and Fashion, as well as a letter written by both of them talking about their love of Queen and David Bowie.
  • The time capsule in Harvard Yard is installed during the last of the episodes in the "past" plotline, not to be opened until decades after the time of the "present" events. And since the lost Shakespeare play is sealed within it, that makes the whole novel a "Shaggy Dog" Story.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The inciting incident of Black Snow (2022) is the opening of a time capsule which unexpectedly yields clues about the murder of Isabel Baker, one of the students who put the time capsule together, 25 years earlier.
  • In one episode of Bones the Victim of the Week was found in a time capsule that some high school students had made 25 years previously, when those same students opened it up.
  • Corner Gas episode "Mosquito Time" has the town organizing the creation of one. It turns out to be a parodied trope when Lacey learns it's an annual event, having originally started as a straighter example before the town turned it into an excuse to have a party and go drinking.
  • In an episode of CSI: Miami the fact that a graduating class' time capsule was being opened for their reunion was a plot point. The murder weapon was a bottle of booze that could only have been obtained by opening it early.
  • Degrassi did something interesting with this very recently, having High School sophomores dig up a time capsule with letters to their future selves written in seventh grade. This led to Wesley having a mid- quarter- one-sixth-life crisis and vowing to set a pogo-jumping record before his 16th birthday.
  • The penultimate episode of Fresh Off the Boat, "Family Van", has Eddie, Emery, and Evan drive to Washington D.C. to reclaim a time capsule Eddie had left when the Huang family lived there, as the titular van had recently broken down and it made Eddie feel nostalgic.
  • Head of the Class: the class put together a time capsule featuring a Music Video of them lip-synching to Timbuk 3's "The Future's So Bright I Got to Wear Shades."
  • In the Kamen Rider Den-O story arc that introduced Zeronos, the Victim of the Week was a retired boxer who wanted to find the time capsule he buried with his recently deceased girlfriend. The Imagin started digging up any time capsule it could find to satisfy his contract, then started beating the man when he refused to go along with it. In the end of the arc, he found the right time capsule, which contained his old boxing gloves and a farewell letter from his girlfriend.
  • The penultimate episode of M*A*S*H involves the 4077th putting one of these together.
    • Incidentally, the show's cast also buried one of these in Real Life...but it was dug up by a construction worker shortly afterward.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers has an episode where one of the classes the team attends prepares and buries a time capsule. It includes them stating their hopes for a bright future.
  • In Monk, the burial of a time capsule ends up being the reason why the world's oldest man was killed. The killer put a confession to a previous murder inside, knowing it wouldn't be read for a hundred years. Then, the mayor told the world's oldest man that if he was still alive in five years, they would dig the capsule up and add to it.
  • In The Orville episode "Lasting Impressions", the crew finds a time capsule from 2015 (400 years ago for the crew). Gordon becomes obsessed with a young woman, who put her iPhone into the capsule, creating a holographic simulation of her. Meanwhile, Bortus and Klyden try cigarettes and become chainsmokers (apparently, nicotine is even more addictive to Moclans). Ed and Kelly read a newspaper from 2015 and complain about its Worst News Judgement Ever (dedicating a page to teeth whitening, when the global climate is on the verge of collapse).
  • Parks and Recreation: Plans for a Pawnee time capsule are derailed when someone demands to put in Twilight. Leslie calls for a town meeting to debate the matter, and everyone in town wants to put something in the capsule as well. In the end, Leslie just puts a video of the meeting, to show future generations how passionate the people of Pawnee were in 2010.
  • The Partridge Family: Danny creates one in "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex.. but Couldn't Pronounce." He fills it with publicity photos, autographs, and clippings from fanzine articles about himself.
    Danny: I figure future historians are gonna want to know what Danny Partridge was really like.
  • The kids put one together in an episode of Salute Your Shorts.
  • One episode of the BBC Scotland comedy Scot Squad involves a police officer digging up a time capsule from the 1970s. Unfortunately, nearly every item contained within has aged horribly - namely, they are a Gollywog doll, a Gary Glitter LP, a Jim Fixed It lanyard, an ''It’s a Knockout'' annual, and a Stylophone, advertised by Rolf Harris. Desperately searching for something wholesome, the officer rejoices at finding a can of Creamola Foamnote .
  • So Awkward: In "Bug Brooch", Mr Malone is in charge of putting together and burying a school time capsule. He happily palms off the responsibility onto Ollie and Martha, who are keen to ensure their legacy lives on for generations to come. There is competition, though, from Cassie and Maxwell.
  • In Summer Heights High the teacher, Mr. 'G', buries a time capsule in which he discards some of the students' items in order to make room for pictures of himself.
  • In the Wishbone episode "Digging Up The Past", the Talbots meet an elderly woman who lived in their house when she was a little girl. She reveals that she buried a time capsule in the front yard back in 1929 and helps them find it.
  • Done in the titular second season episode in Zoey 101.

    Video Games 
  • Animal Crossing
    • In Animal Crossing: Wild World, a special series of conversations with Blathers can occur in October where he attempts to try digging up fossils himself, and in one of these, he’ll reveal he ended up finding a time capsule instead. He says he found two letters inside, which are heavily implied to have been written by Tom Nook and Sable before the Noodle Incident that gave Tom his Jade-Coloured Glasses.
    • In Animal Crossing: New Leaf, villagers will occasionally give you a time capsule and ask you to bury it for them. If you comply, they may later come back and ask you to dig up and return the capsule to them... or they may move away from your town and leave the capsule behind, allowing you to claim the contents for yourself.
  • Similarly, in Day of the Tentacle, a wine bottle placed into a time capsule results in a bottle of vinegar hundreds of years later.
  • In Fallout 4, the quest "The Treasure of Jamaica Plain" has you exploring a ruined town that's overrun with ghouls and covered with the corpses of adventurers drawn to the rumored prize within the fortified vault beneath the town. As you might guess from the trope page, the "treasure" is nothing but a room-sized time capsule that the mayor decided to spend $38 million defending with automated security systems right before the apocalypse. Happily, Diamond City's baseball enthusiast will pay a reward should you bring him the 2076 World Series bat among the preserved junk.
  • In one of the Harry Quantum games you have to manipulate a time machine to get a time capsule open to get one of the things you need in order to advance the plot.
  • The Jackbox Party Pack: In The Devils and the Details from Party Pack 7, the challenge tasks from "Time Makes Ghouls of Us All" involve the family making a time capsule.
  • Mass Effect 3 has Liara leaving time capsules scattered around to Fling a Light into the Future in case this cycle is unable to defeat the Reapers. The "Refuse" ending added in the Extended Cut reveals that a race of the next cycle was able to get the jump on the Reapers this way, using the Crucible before they even arrived.
  • Mega Man X: Dr. Light put X in a capsule because he felt the world wasn't ready for a non-Three Laws-Compliant robot. He also left a number of upgrade capsules for X that contain a sentient hologram of himself.
  • In Nancy Drew: Alibi In Ashes, a clue to a long-ago crime turns up in a time capsule that was hidden in the building Nancy is suspected of burning down.
  • The Talos Principle: Alexandra left several recordings in the Archive, hoping somebody would find them after humanity has gone extinct. These recording can be heard in-game by approaching glowing, floating blue figures that appear throughout the game.
  • The Walt Disney World Explorer application is itself an unintentional example. Only two editions of the application were ever released, the original in 1996 and a Second Edition in 1998. Today, it's one of the few official ways to relive long-gone Walt Disney World attractions such as The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, Take Flight (Delta Dreamflight), Mickey's Toontown Fair, the Wonders of Life pavilion, the pre-Frozen version of Epcot's Norway pavilion, and The Great Movie Ride, among several others. It even has 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage covered, even though that ride closed in 1994.
  • In City of Heroes, the mission where heroes earn their capes involves tracking down the members of the Lost who have stolen a time capsule from the Omega Team memorial.

    Web Original 
  • Homestar Runner: One Strong Bad Email was about Strong Bad making a time capsule out of a giant medicinal pill, deciding to put in a #1 jam and some other assorted items inside, while Homestar makes his own "time box" with a gross old wig in it. Hilarity ensues when Stinkoman and 1-Up find them in the future of 20X6: Stinkoman mistakes the #1 jam for a power crunch and immediately eats it (after apparently eating four hundred bites of dirt) and 1-Up accidentally finds Homestar's wig, and all the while Strong Bad is still waiting for "groupies and royalties" to arrive from the future.
  • The MSPA fan adventure Tales Of Visseria: The White Depths has a literal example in the ship fridges, that actually stop time inside when closed. The meat is still fresh after eight millennia. And so is the cook, shoved in there during a mutiny, who emerges alive and well when the fridge is open.

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur: "Brain and the Time Capsule" has Brain set out to make one as an accurate depiction of what life is like at the time. However, all of his friends want to put their own objects in the time capsule, leaving Brain unsure if he should allow donations or not.
  • The Camp Lazlo episode "Dead Bean Drop" shows an area of Camp Kidney where time capsules are kept buried for 20 years. The Jelly Beans dig one of them up early and find out that Slinkman was a daredevil in the past.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: "The Good Ol' Ed" opens with Edd making a time capsule, which leads to a mock Clip Show as the Eds begin reminiscing on their previous misadventures, including never-before seen ones involving a fake time machine, Edd getting the hiccups, and the Eds making the world's biggest pancake.
  • The Fairly OddParents! movie Channel Chasers ends with Timmy burying one of these in his backyard to be opened when he's an adult, so he'd have a photo to remember his fairy godparents by and not make the same mistake his parents did. Twenty years later, he looks back at the photo and doesn't recognize them as his godparents, since Da Rules state they have to go away when he grows up.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In "Pre-Hysterical Hare", Bugs Bunny finds one in an underground cave but doesn't realize it's a time capsule, as he is unable to read the prehistoric writing on it. The writing changes briefly to English for the benefit of the viewer: "Time Capsule, Circa 10,000 B.C., to be opened 1960 A.D." The capsule contains a roll of projector film—a documentary about Elmer Fuddstone and his hunt for the saber-tooth rabbit, who bears a striking resemblance to Bugs.
  • The final episode of Pepper Ann features a now-adult P.A. trying to take a nasty letter she wrote as a kid out of the time capsule at her school reunion before anyone else sees it.
  • The Recess episode "Buried Treasure" as the gang searching for a treasure on the playground, which turned out to be a cardboard box with objects that past students put in the box for the kids of the future to find. Inspired, they decide to put some of their stuff in the box and rebury it.
  • An episode of Rocket Power was centered around one. After spending the episode deciding what should be put in it, the kids decide to put a trophy in the time capsule.
  • In The Smurfs (1981) episode "The Smurfs' Time Capsule", Papa Smurf's former mentor Palladore leaves him a time capsule of items, one of which is meant to be used to stop the druids from escaping the tree that they have been imprisoned in.

    Real Life 
  • Nickelodeon famously buried one on April 30, 1992note  which is scheduled to be opened 50 years later in 2042. Contents include a Game Boy, Twinkies, a piece of the Berlin wall, VHS movies and CDs, a tape of the capsule's burial and the camera used.
  • Blue Peter has placed six time capsules so far throughout its long run. Typically the capsules contain not only several artifacts of the time, but also memorabilia from the show, including its famous badges, and photographs of the presenters, crew and mascots, along with videotapes/clips and scripts of recent or upcoming episodes and issues of the annual magazine. The first was buried in June 1971 in front of the BBC Television Centre in White City, London and intended for opening in January 2000. That was successfully carried out, though it had to be relocated twice, the first time some yards away a week later due to nearby tree root growth and the second instance to the show’s garden in 1984 when the original site was due to be developed. A second time capsule would be entombed in concrete in a multi-storey car park near the Television Centre in March 1981 with no recovery date in mind (it was found in 2022), while a third time capsule was buried in 1984 alongside the relocated 1971-2000 capsule. A fourth capsule, built for the show’s 40th anniversary, was buried beneath the Millennium Dome in East London in 1998 for opening in 2050, but it was accidentally uncovered and damaged in 2017, with the contents going on tour the following year. A fifth was buried in January 2000 in the same place as the 1971 and 1984 capsules that had been recovered three days earlier, and intended for opening in 2029, though it was relocated when the programme moved from London to Salford in 2011. The sixth, created in 2018 to commemorate the show’s 60th anniversary, is not buried, but contained in The National Archives for safekeeping, not to be opened until 2038.


Video Example(s):


Dr. Brown's Time Capsule

Wishbone unearths the time capsule that Dr. Brown buried when she was a child in the 1920s.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / TimeCapsule

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