Ah, Time Travel! That magical staple of science fiction. As I ponder my own path through the science fiction landscape, one recurring plot device would have to be time travel. The following is a list of the formative time travel plots, not comprehensive at all and not necessarily in order of quality, but more chronologically that I encountered growing up.
I think my earliest encounter with anything resembling time travel had to be Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” and of course, I am not referring to the novel, but the 1962 Mr. Magoo version that haunted the television airwaves in the early sixties. Being my first exposure to Dicken’s work, Mr. Magoo still feels like the authoritative version of the story to me. Watching Ebeneezer Scrooge break the bonds of the present to travel back to Christmas past, present and future truly messed with my young developing mind. Of course we could argue whether Eb visited his Chrismas Past in a vision, but I like to think the Ghost of Christmas Past actually transported him there.
I can still remember my formative experience of the time travel paradigm seeing “Time Machine,” the 1960 flick based on H.G. Wells book of the same title. Do you remember that really cool time machine that looked a bit like Santa Claus and the Elves doing a bit of mescaline?
The first TV show I can remember that revolved around time travel has to be “Time Tunnel.” I always liked the cool spiraling infinity visual effect used to “transport” James Darren repeatedly into the time-space continuum.
“Bewitched.” True confession. As a boy, and I don’t think I was alone in this, I was madly in love with Elizabeth Montgomery. What a babe! (Hey, it’s the 60’s and I’m a little kid, so I think I can be a little anachronistically sexist.) She had a way with her cute little nose and with time, conjuring up Benjamin Franklin, Sigmund Freud and Leonardo DaVinci, to name only a few. And I seem to recall she visited Salem during a rather awkward moment for witches during the 1600’s in that part of the world.
Certainly I’ve got to add in the Star Trek episode, “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” when USAF Captain Christopher finds himself on the USS Enterprise after the star ship, in attempting to break the grasp of a black star, sent itself plummeting through time and space to be conveniently in the vicinity of planet Earth in 1969. The moral here is not to use a tractor beam from a Starfleet vessel on a 1960’s vintage USAF fighter. Duh!
“Back to the Future.” The big plot advance for this cinematic franchise was the substitution of a DeLorean for that old Model A of a contraption in The Time Machine. I understand the DeLorean is a much better time machine than sportscar.
So what are your formative time travel plots? Just to prime the pump, here are a few more come to mind as memorable and more recent additions to the time travel lexicon:
- Time Bandits
- The Terminator flicks
- Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
- 12 Monkeys
- Dr. Who
- Life on Mars