The mechanism of time travel in sci-fi movies gets a lot more scrutiny today due to the public becoming more cognizant of details. You can even say the same about time travel paradoxes and how commonly they’re discussed and understood around mainstream water coolers now compared to years ago. That gives more of a challenge to filmmakers who keep on making time travel movies and making them more complex to please fans. But are we getting away from the time travel devices we used to see?
Some of the more recent time travel movies that integrate romance into the plot don’t necessarily show a direct machine or mechanism of how the protagonist travels through time. Perhaps it’s because the machine itself can sometimes get in the way of the plot and become more popular than the actors.
As an example, you can arguably say more people talk about the DeLorean in the “Back to the Future” trilogy than they do the characters. Even the original time machine in 1960’s “The Time Machine” is still a classic piece of engineering that still has people talking today.
What about the WABAC Machine in “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” or the TARDIS in “Dr. Who?” These originated in the earliest days of time travel in entertainment and prove how time travel devices seemed to start large and gradually went smaller. Let’s take a look at those and see why the WABAC Machine and TARDIS may not necessarily be the greatest time travel devices ever created.
The WABAC Machine
If you know any of the history on the original “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” TV series, you know that the WABAC Machine was a play on words for the early computers of the day. Back in the late ’50s and early ’60s, the UNIVAC became big news in how computers were starting to crudely calculate information. That and computers like it were also as big as half a room, which explains why the WABAC Machine looks like a giant laboratory.
Now in the updated movie version of “Mr. Peabody & Sherman”, we see the machine brought back again after years of time travel going as small as through the mind or devices as lightweight as an iPad. Regardless, because the WABAC Machine is as comfortable as traveling in a motorhome, will it make the WABAC Machine as classic as the more complicated time machines we’ve seen in decades past?
You might have to ask the same question about Dr. Who’s TARDIS, despite perhaps being one of the most famous time travel devices of them all.
The TARDIS as Overly Comfortable Time Travel Device
You could say that the TARDIS is the most comfortable time travel device ever created considering the space inside the police box is 10 times the size of the exterior. Dr. Who and his guests also aren’t exposed to sometimes ravaging effects of time travel, or even see it take place until they actually land somewhere. Does that place it in a separate category that only fans will venerate into the future?
Comfortable time traveling devices may be having a renaissance based on how “Mr. Peabody” and “Dr. Who” are both still having success. Fans of time travel movies may prefer to see a more comfy environment for time travel as form of wish fulfillment in how we’d time travel if given the chance. We wouldn’t want to be nearly ripped in half while time traveling in a crude device any more than we want to vicariously experience it through a time traveling character.
The TARDIS, though, may be stuck in a special category as much as it’s stuck in time. Considering the TARDIS is also thought to be a sentient being, the comfort level may be deceiving and give more rude surprises in the future as the “Dr. Who” TV series continues. Add the lack of free will in time travel, and Dr. Who may someday be in for a bumpy time travel night.