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I know of only a few uses of teleportation prior to Star Trek's (TOS) transporter that appeared in movies or TV shows.

What is the earliest example of teleportation by a machine, shown in a movie or on TV??


Those that I know of are:

  1. Movie: The Fly (1958)
  2. TV: Outer Limits, season 1, Episode 1: The Galaxy Being (1963)
  3. TV: Outer Limits, Season 1, episode 28: The Special One (1964)

I think there are others but do not know of any. Technically, it does not have to be a Sci-Fi movie or TV show but if it has teleportation it seems to come under that category.

There is another Outer Limits episode in the original series where several residential blocks (homes and home residents) were teleported from Earth to another planet but that was an incident merely to set up the story and it could have been executed by any other means, including space magic. In fact, even in item (3) of my list, the teleportation of Mr. Zeno as shown is incidental to the story and not existing as an actual machine like the movie The Fly and episode 1 of Outer Limits.

Anything that appears after the advent of Star Trek (TOS) is not of any interest to me.

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  • Curious as to why I was marked down. Since this is my first post here, could I have violated policy or are you just unhappy with the question?
    – K7PEH
    Nov 3, 2016 at 3:16
  • Not my vote but "List" questions aren't generally encouraged...as they temd to be tood broad.
    – Paulie_D
    Nov 3, 2016 at 9:55
  • What you could do, is asking for the first example of teleportation in movies or on TV. We have more questions like that here.
    – SQB
    Nov 3, 2016 at 12:01
  • Are you only interested in cases with a 'scientific' explanation or for example would magical transportation be interesting? This site includes fantasy as well as sci fi Nov 3, 2016 at 12:09
  • @JeremyFrench Well, I was primarily interested in cases where an actual machine used for teleportation was part of the story. I noted in my question that the Outer Limits Episode "The Special One" portrayed a kind of teleportation but no actual machine or device was used or mentioned so it skirted on the periphery of my main interest.
    – K7PEH
    Nov 3, 2016 at 19:51

7 Answers 7

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This article indicates that both Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Flash Gordon, in their serial formats, included some occurrences of matter transmission. I couldn't find specifics from Flash Gordon, but this article includes an actual frame capture of the teleportation machine used in the Buck Rogers serial of 1939, almost twenty years earlier than the Vincent Price version of The Fly. And, thanks to @WinchellChung, here's a video clip of that machine in action.

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  • Nice find! -- beats mine by almost 2 decades... :)
    – K-H-W
    Nov 3, 2017 at 23:20
  • Thanks. Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon were the first thoughts in my mind when I read the question, it was just a matter of finding actual proof.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Nov 6, 2017 at 12:10
  • Here is a video clip of the Buck Rogers teleportation machine in action youtube.com/watch?v=Dv5BCGSea14 Sep 24, 2019 at 17:34
  • I think that first linked article is wrong about the Flash Gordon film serials, having watched them all recently--the only teleportation I saw was Queen Azura in the serial "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars", but that was thanks to a magical sapphire she wore, not a technological "matter transmitter". So Buck Rogers may well be the earliest example.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jul 26, 2021 at 2:14
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    Rewatching the rest of that first episode I think it is fairly clear that the beam that materializes the Martians on Earth is technological rather than magical--we later see an identical looking beam traveling from Mars to Earth, and it's said to be extracting "Nitron" from Earth's atmosphere (maybe by teleporting it to Mars?) We also see a big telescope-like device the beam is emanating from on Mars.
    – Hypnosifl
    Aug 21, 2021 at 19:24
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There is an very good article here, about the origins of the teleportation in sci-fi.

Perhaps the earliest recorded story a matter transmitter was Edward Page Mitchell's "The Man Without a Body" in 1877. In this story, a scientist invents a machine that breaks down the atoms of a cat and sends them by wire to a receiver, where the animal is reassembled alive and well.

The story can be found on this page.

There are a few cases over the next few decades, perhaps most notibly The Disintegration Machine 1927, by Arthur Conan Doyle

However teleportation seems to become quite popular in the 1950s appearing in several novels and short stories:

(This list is not intended to be exhaustive)

So certainly by the time Star Trek was created (1966), the idea of a transporter was well known in sci-fi.

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  • With the exception of "The Fly" as a movie that I mentioned in my question, the above references are all to written works, not movies or TV. I specifically wanted answers focused as productions in movie or TV. I am not interested in short stories, novels, and other written material. In fact, I assumed that teleportation stories would even be somewhat numerous in written work but since I am not a SciFi reader, I actually don't know. This is my first and probably last post here trying to find an answer to a discussion a few of us had at a recent party. It may be the wrong forum.
    – K7PEH
    Nov 3, 2016 at 19:02
  • My bad. Missed the 'in movies or tv' in the question. Nov 3, 2016 at 19:23
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The first known use of the word Teleport in a fiction story was published in the Hawaiian Gazette on October 23, 1878.

Hawaiian Gazette

In movies the 1939 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century serial film adaptations of the comic books of the same name used teleportation instead of elevators.

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The May 3rd, 1957 episode "The Phony Alibi" from "The Adventures of Superman" seems to have predated The Fly slightly, with a teleportation system that sends people over the telephone.

Stealing from the TvTropes Description:

Bungling Inventor Professor Pepperwinkle creates a system for transporting people through telephone wires. As usual with Pepperwinkle, a gang of crooks befriends the naive professor, then uses his invention for evil; they commit crimes in Metropolis, then phone themselves to distant cities and make sure plenty of people see them to set themselves up with a (seemingly) perfect alibi.

1
  • Actually, I remember that Superman episode!
    – K7PEH
    Nov 4, 2017 at 3:10
0

Disregarding the ones that you already have listed (As you say, the Outer Limits ones are semi questionable, and The Fly is probably the earliest appearance anyway), there are a couple of other candidates:

There are others around the same time frame, but all post date ST:TOS by at least a year or two.

0

The 1956 movie "Forbidden Planet" (at 4 minutes into the movie) has a teleport system used for 5 men. This was before The Fly or Star Trek.

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    Of course this isn’t as early as the 1939 answer of Buck Rogers mentioned in another answer though. Also if you could edit in some evidence, screenshot, video clip) if possible showing this that would be great.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Sep 24, 2019 at 16:37
  • ummmm, are you sure? I was under the impression those were decelerator platforms, to allow the crew to survive transition from faster-than-light travel into normal space travel. Not teleportation devices. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C-57D#Forbidden_Planet_production Sep 24, 2019 at 17:30
  • That is not a teleport system but it was for protection from rapid and quick de-acceleration from FTL speed.
    – K7PEH
    Sep 24, 2019 at 18:26
-1

Doctor Who featured a number of teleportation devices over the years. The first occurrence is in a 1964 story, "The Keys of Marinus"

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  • 1
    This answer does not even predate the example given in the question.
    – amflare
    Nov 13, 2017 at 19:22
  • When it comes to Dr. Who, the TARDIS is itself a teleportation device, is it not?
    – JWT
    Jul 6, 2021 at 22:32
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    @JWT while a tardis may technically teleport in a broad dictionary sense - a star trek or fly style transporter in the spirit of this discussion should be something analogous to radio or television for sound and picture transmission but for matter. Plus now that I think about it - a TARDIS does travel from one destination to another so it doesn't teleport any more than a car does - its just traveling in a time vortex continuum until it shifts back into regular space. Jul 20, 2021 at 5:14
  • @lucasbachmann Fair enuf. In that respect the TARDIS' Time-Vortex is like Star Wars' Hyperspace. There is a (relative) transit time that the travelers experience. When the travelers emerge they are notably older, regardless of the time they arrive relative to when they left. Whereas with a teleporter the traveler does not experience a transit time. Right? Time Travel, eh?
    – JWT
    Jul 28, 2021 at 17:15

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