The Inception of the Time Travel Tale

By | October 24, 2018

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Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as “Doc” Brown in Back to the Future (1985)

Time travel is a recurring theme in both literature and film, transcending the genre of science fiction and finding its way into romantic comedies like About Time and Kate and Leopold; psychological thrillers like The Butterfly Effect and Donnie Darko; superhero movies (which may arguably be considered science fiction) like X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dr. Strange, and Avengers: Infinity War; and even comedies like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and its sequel, as well as Hot Tub Time Machine. Time travel - whether going back to right a wrong (or perhaps to just write a research paper) or going forward for a sneak peek at what happens next – is a concept which may just be as old as time itself.

Possibly one of the most well-known and well-executed movies featuring time travel, the 1985 film, Back to the Future, and its sequels follow the adventures of a teenaged boy and his crazy inventor friend as they travel back and forth through time. The film series covers all the do’s and don'ts of time travel and is responsible for inspiring many attempts to invent the hoverboards featured in the second and third movies. Sadly, the only hoverboards currently available to the average consumer are the self-balancing scooters, which don’t actually hover and have a reputation for exploding. Perhaps they should have focused on inventing time machines instead. But Doc Brown wasn’t the first fictional character to use a vehicle for time travel.

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Rod Taylor as H. George Wells in The Time Machine (1960)

In his 1895 novel, The Time Machine, H.G. Wells introduced the phrase “time machine” and popularized the idea of a vehicle as a means to travel through time. The novel tells the story of an inventor, from the Victorian Age, who travels to the distant future and discovers a seemingly Utopian society with a dark secret. It was responsible for inspiring the iconic 1960 movie, The Time Machine, and its 2002 remake as well as the 1979 movie, Time After Time, and the 2017 television series of the same name, in which Jack the Ripper steals the time machine and the time traveler must follow him to the future.