The Science Fiction Gadgets That Make You Go... Wha?!

Illustration for article titled The Science Fiction Gadgets That Make You Go... Wha?!

We have a serious love affair with the cool gadgets of science fiction, but every now and then one will come along that will make you scratch your head and say "What!?" Yes, even in the world of scifi, you can sometimes go a bit too far. Check out our list of beyond-the-pale gadgets.

  • The Masks from Mission Impossible: The latex masks which could apparently turn a thin Tom Cruise into a chunky Philip Seymour Hoffman weren't exclusive to the movies. They used a fair share of these disguises throughout the television show, and the best part was when they'd cut from the live person to the dead looking fake mask being peeled away to reveal the operative underneath. At least MI:3 showed us a bit of how the machine that makes them works, but it still doesn't explain how they fit so well. The company that makes those could have made a fortune at Halloween every year.
  • The Science Fiction Gadgets That Make You Go... Wha?!The Translator Microbes in Farscape: Science fiction properties have tried for years to get around the problem of everyone speaking English on new worlds lightyears away from Earth, and this has led to everything from The Universal Translator in Star Trek, to the Babel Fish in Hitchhiker's Guide, and the telepathic translating done by the TARDIS in Doctor Who. So, by the time Farscape came around, the writers decided to make them injectable translator microbes that let you understand whatever languange was hurled at you. Other people could understand you as well, but only if they were likewise injected. They didn't work perfectly, and often failed to translate slang like "dren" and "frell."
  • Almost Everything in the 1960s Batman TV Show: Batman has had a slew of his own wacky gadgets, both in the comic books where he has an outfit for every possible encounter, and in the television show which really took the cake in creating bizarre items for Batman. Almost everything he used was a "Bat" something. In this clip from the show, you've got probably the lamest Batman gadget ever invented: The Bat Ladder. What exactly makes this a Bat Ladder, and why did he need to label it? In case he lost it somehow? Que ridiculo. Then there's the Bat-copter, the "Bat Auto Mode," and the Shark Repellent Bat Spray, which apparently makes sharks explode. He even has Barracuda, Whale, and Manta Ray repellent in there too.
  • The Science Fiction Gadgets That Make You Go... Wha?!The Psychic Paper from Doctor Who: While this seems cool at first, eventually you start thinking it was an easy stopgap by the writers to get around the Doctor showing identification. In the old Tom Baker episode "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" (featuring the Doctor as a sleuth in Victorian London) the Doctor is asked to turn out his pockets, and he has everything in there from jelly babies to a toy Batmobile. We sure would have loved to see what Christopher Eccleston or David Tennant has crammed in there. Maybe a junior g-man badge would have worked just as well.
  • The Giant Amplifier from Back to the Future: Doc Brown was an eccentric inventor, to be sure, but why on Earth would he create a massive speaker? Watching this movie again, it seems like it was just created for comic effect, and surely it would have blown out both of Marty's eardrums, scrambled his brain, and broken a bone or two in the process. Slight chance of overload my ass. Maybe the terrorists had asked him to build this thing too.
  • The Science Fiction Gadgets That Make You Go... Wha?!Reed Richards and his Unstable Molecules: Unstable molecules sound like they'd be, well... unstable. Seems like just an easy way to explain why the Human Torch's clothes don't burn up, or why Sue Storm doesn't have to strip naked every time she turns invisible. Were the Thing's blue shorts made out of unstable molecules too? No idea what he needed them for. Reed supposedly made a fortune for the Fantastic Four by selling the patents to all of his inventions, but were most of them stolen? One thing is for sure, while he could seemingly invent a teleportation device out of a wristwatch and sticks of gum, he sure couldn't invent anything to turn Ben Grimm human again. So, how did Reed invent these things? In the movie the cosmic rays did it, but in the comics, it was just pure Reed Richards pseudogenius. It's also the name of an awesome graphic novel about the "real life" Fantastic Four by James Sturm.
  • The Jetpack from The Rocketeer: Now, don't get me wrong, I wanted one of these things so bad that I could taste it. Who wouldn't want to slap on a funky helmet that makes you look like a hood ornament, a cool leather jacket, and just take to the skies? The problem was that later I realized this thing would totally burn your ass off. I mean, the flames shot out mere millimeters from his butt... how on Earth did he not scorch himself? Asbestos pants? Even one little throwaway line could have someone explained this, but now I just imagine Cliff Secord in a hospital bed with third-degree burns covering his backside. Plus, how could he even bend his legs upwards without melting those boots?
  • The Science Fiction Gadgets That Make You Go... Wha?!Dick Tracy's Magnetic Space Coupe: Dick Tracy is probably best known for his two-way wristwatch radio, which later became a two-way television and eventually housed a computer to help him solve crimes. However, in the 1960s things got a lot more ludicrous when Tracy and Co. traveled to the moon via his Magnetic Space Coupe. While they were there, Tracy met "The Governor of the Moon" and his daughter, "Moon Maid." She eventually married Tracy's adopted son Junior, and they had a daughter together who... sorry, my brain just exploded.
  • The Antigravity Belt Buckle in Ultraviolet: Or "Ultraviolent" as I like to call it. Milla Jovovich's badass vampire, er... "hemophage" with a conscience used this round little belt buckle to change her personal gravity, meaning she could walk on the ceiling, climb up walls, and it could even make her motorcycle drive up the sides of buildings. While we could (barely) buy the nanotech/portable hole technology in her wristbands and in that white plastic backpack, this thing just sent it over the top. What would keep her from flying off into the sky?

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The real problem with rocket packs like Commando Cody/Rocketeer/Minority Report is that the exhaust is at the base of the pack, so the pilot's weight is going to send it cartwheeling forwards uncontrollably.

Real jetpacks extend the exhaust nozzles out to the sides and forward, inline with the center of mass of the pilot & pack.