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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.

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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 keyword 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.

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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Examples:

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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.
  • Near the end of Mahou Sensei Negima!, 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.
  • Episode 33 of Tamagotchi! Yume Kira Dream 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.

    Comics 
  • In the Conchy newspaper strip, the characters accidentally dug up a time capsule marked "Do Not Open Till 1984". When they opened it, it was full of 1984 calendars.

    Film 
  • 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 moves From Nobody to Nightmare when he digs up such an inverted capsule while a lowly Soviet worker cleaning up after a radiation accident and finds a message addressed specifically to him. He's also shown receiving inverted gold in time capsules sent from the future.
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    Literature 
  • In the Grandma's 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 kids put one together in an episode of Salute Your Shorts.
  • 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.
  • 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. Oh, the irony.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • In The Smurfs 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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