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16 Tragic Science Fiction Calendar Miscalculations

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THE phrase “Where’s my jetpack?” has become something of a collective outcry in recent years.  Since the 1950s, we’ve been indoctrinated with visions of the future full of spaceships, time travel, instant food, laser guns, and best of all, dazzling sci-fi duds.

Instead, here we are in 2014 and things haven’t shaped up to that Utopian model at all.  Sure, communication technologies have exceeded our expectations, but the “Jetsons” lifestyle still hasn’t arrived.  Thanks to pop culture’s broken promises of delivering robot maids and whooshing Star Trek doors in a timely manner, we are all a little disappointed.

Here’s a list of sci-fi TV shows and movies and the dates they were supposed to take place.   Some are reasonable… some way, way off the mark.





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Land of the Giants is set in 1983. This is one of the more blatant errors in calculation. Fancy tourist spaceships are still nowhere in sight, and we’re 31 years past the show’s setting.


2. UFO


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The TV series UFO. was actually set in 1980.   As you will recall,  the SHADO facility was one of the grooviest places on earth. Everything was painted mod colors with babes in mini-skirts or unitards strolling the hallways… and there was Moonbase.  Well, it’s 34 years past due, and still no purple haired Moonmaidens.



3. SPACE:1999


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Anyone who watched Space:1999 knows the show should’ve been called Space:1976. Evidently, earth-toned velour track suits were in vogue on Moonbase Alpha.





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Logan’s Run is set in 2274.  Even though it features teleportation devices,  I guess it’s far enough away in time that I can go along with it.





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Blade Runner is set in 2019. We officially have five years to go before we have to start worrying about those pesky replicants.





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The year is 2084 in Total Recall.  I was kind of hoping that virtual reality thing would come around a bit sooner.  Although, the three-breasted mutant women and cars driven by Howdy Doody robots can wait.





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Forbidden Planet is set in the early 2200s.  Can we reasonably expect interplanetary travel and Robbie the Robot in a couple hundred years?  The “plastic educator”, a device capable of measuring and enhancing intellectual capacity, seems doable.





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The original Jetsons was supposed to take place in 2062.  If I could pick any science fiction universe to live in, it would be The Jetsons, without hesitation.  Sure, you still had to work and deal with overbearing bosses (Mr. Spacely was a dick!), but it was more than compensated by the Utopian awesomeness of it all.





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The crew in Planet of the Apes left earth in 2006 in their spaceship traveling at near light speed. Spoiler alert: They crash landed on Earth in the year 3978.





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The tag line for Escape from New York:

The year is 1997. The Big Apple is the world’s largest penitentiary. Breaking out is impossible. Breaking IN is INSANE.





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The 1927 film Metropolis is set in 2026.





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2001: A Space Odyssey was right on the money for a lot of things, but it overshot its wad on artificial intelligence and suspended animation.





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Alien is set in 2122. Again, filmmakers have a tendency to underestimate the time it will take to develop this suspended animation thing.  It’s the only feasible way to have interstellar space travel, so I understand their motives.





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The Buck Rogers TV series is set in 2491.  This show was overflowing with sci-fi tropes: lasers, spaceships, groovy fashions, and wisecracking robots.   Since it’s still 477 years away, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.





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Back to the Future II is set in 2015. Only one more year until the hoverboard!





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The best method to avoid having your film or TV show woefully outdated may be to set it far beyond the present date like Dune, which is set thousands of years ahead. Or, opt for the Star Wars plan and have it set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  But the best plan of all may have been Star Trek which used “Star Dates”, which kept the timeline purposefully ambiguous.

Sadly, that was all ruined by Star Trek: The Next Generation which was set in 2364, which allows us to extrapolate that the original series was about 100 years prior.  This really blows the mystique and pisses me off…. what say you, Dr. Bones?


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  • Cliff Walk

    How about the 2000-2001 TV series “Dark Angel” with Jessica Alba. It was set in 2019, 10 years after an electromagnetic pulse weapon was used against the US. Besides, Alba, my favorite part was that the good guy drove a 2001 Pontiac Aztek.

  • Jake Turk

    Per #14… Yes, but Buck’s shuttle left Earth in 1987. And according to the second season, a fanatical cabal of U.S. military officers launched nuclear Armageddon months after he left (and framed him for it in absentia). Even more outrageous than that, he was still into butterfly collars, disco medallions, and Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” in flashbacks to the week of his departure. By an amazing coincidence, 1987 was eight years in the future at production time.

    • Ha! Great point… that is hilarious. You’re right, Gil Gerard’s ultra-tight polyester blend pants and wide collared shirt (always unbuttoned) was neither 1987 or 2491, but squarely in the late Seventies disco era.

  • T.j. Thomas

    On the other hand, Star Trek predicted WWIII and Eugenics Wars for the 1990s, so maybe being a bit off isn’t all that bad.

  • OddJobMan

    In Star Trek NG it was stated that the voyages of Captain Kirk and crew had happened 70-75 years prior. Remember the episode they brought Scottie back?

    As far as Forbidden Planet all *we* need to develop is the interstellar space ship. The “plastic educator” and the device capable of measuring and
    enhancing intellectual capacity were created by an alien race that had previously inhabited that world. Robbie the Robot was only possible after a man from Earth had used previously mentioned devices to enhance his own intelligence and study the alien technology.

    Back to the Future is sunk. If a flying car was going to be available next year we would have seen prototypes of it at all the major auto shows by now.

  • Jeff Blanks

    I’ve certainly seen my share of purple-haired maidens on the dance floor on punk/Goth/industrial night.

    *The Baffler* ran a story not too long ago on how our sense of disappointment has forged the pop culture and sensibility we’ve had for the past few decades. We could at least be taking some steps into that way of life that don’t depend on flying cars, but instead we keep trying to re-invent the early post-war era (up to, say, 1965) over and over again.
    (Sony used to have “Aibo”, their line of robot pets, but apparently robot pets are something cooler to think about than to actually want. Who would really prefer a robot dog to a real one?) Maybe we can’t have the Jetsons future, but could we at least start looking forward again?? (Of course, that in itself might involve a bit of looking back to the ’70s, the last time when we were looking mostly forward.)

  • USMF

    Don’t forget Demolition Man. If I remember, LA was a war zone in the mid 90’s and California grew into one giant Metropolis and the “Big One” should have happened about now.