In Series VI, the main Time Drive resembled a brownish-green metallic electrical box, with backlit controls and glowing plasma-like energy inside. It could also be remotely controlled with a small hand-held device of the same material as the box.
When reacquired in Series VII, the Time Drive had been altered, possibility due to the same paradox and dimensional anomalies resulting from the battle with the vastly upgraded Starbug of their future selves, and which had altered and enlarged the present Starbug. Here the remote is bigger with a white handle, with the remote itself being about a foot long, cylinder in shape and coated in a black finish. The end of the remote has a glowing plasma ball similar to the one in the original.
The Time Drive was created aboard Gemini 12, an exploratory vessel from the 28th century. After a reconnaissance mission to the 20th century, the crew unfortunately contracted influenza for which they had no immunity, and they all perished. Before the crew all died, the ship was sent on autopilot into Deep Space to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Knowing how dangerous manipulation of the past could be, a safety measure was automatically implemented by Gemini 12 to surround it with a vast cloud of interstellar fog containing unreality pockets to ward off potential looters.
Three million years later, the boys from the Dwarf encountered this fog in Starbug. After experiencing the effects of the unreality pockets for a time, they decided to into stasis so that they would not be affected by them. The crew eventually came to Gemini 12, salvaged the Time Drive and installed it inside the rear section of Starbug. With Kryten controlling the Time Drive using a handheld remote from the cockpit of Starbug, he beamed Starbug into the year 1421 with a brilliant flash or red light. However they were still in Deep Space, and Rimmer sarcastically quipped that although it was fun drinking in the heady medieval atmosphere of pre-renaissance Deep Space, the drive was next to useless.
Soon after, they came into a conflict with their selves from fifteen years into the future, who had also acquired a faster-than-light drive and a greatly upgraded Starbug. Their future selves had grown incredibly decadent and amoral through abusing the Time Drive, rubbing shoulders with some of the worst figures in history for the opulence they could provide. Their own Time Drive had developed a fault, allowing them to only travel forward, and so they jumped forward to when they had just acquired the Time Drive since they needed to copy some data from the older Time Drive to recalibrate the mass compactor on their own drive. When the present Dwarfers saw how corrupt they had become, they were horrified and refused to help their future selves.
A laser cannon battle erupted which concluded with their future selves killing them. Rimmer was able to explode the Time Drive with a bazookoid before the final blast tore Starbug apart. ("Out of Time")
The battle with their future selves caused time to reset to before they discovered Gemini 12. However the time paradox of the battle with their future selves caused severe dimensional anomalies, which in turn caused the appearance, size and properties of Starbug, Gemini 12, and the Time Drive to alter greatly. Also, the Dwarfers retained all memory of the meeting and subsequent battle with their future selves, which should have been enough deterrent to leave Gemini 12 alone.
The Dwarfers once again went and retrieved the Time Drive afterwards on Lister's insistence, so they could go back in time to Earth and replenish their curry supplies, which had been lost in a flood in the supply area. To get the rest of the crew in on it, Lister swapped Kryten's normal head with Spare Head 2, which was less morally upstanding than Kryten's normal head (combined with Lister removing his guilt chip).
Although 'Kryten' convinced the rest of the crew to go along with Lister's planned jump to the past, Spare Head 2's inexperience with the drive resulted in them accidentally travelling back to Dallas, Texas, USA in 1963 (presumably the same jaunt that the creators of the Time Drive had gone on) and get caught up in the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy when they accidentally pushed Lee Harvey Oswald out of the window before he could fire the fatal shot. The crew then jumped forward three years trying to escape the police, but this led to the discovery that they had created a new timeline where Kennedy was impeached and the Mafia gained a foothold in the White House that escalated the Cuban Missile Crisis.
For a time, the Time Drive was inoperable. Rimmer asked Kryten if the 'sub-space conduits have locked with the transponder calibrations and caused a major tachyon surge that has overloaded the time matrix', but Kryten replied that, no, he had just been jabbing it too hard. The Dwarfers were forced to make camp for the night, and Kryten made them a very regrettable barbecue. However, the Timer Drive started working again, and Lister came up with an idea to retrieve the John F. Kennedy who had survived and been imprisoned in this alternate timeline and request his assistance in killing his own past self to redeem his role in history.
After the Dwarfers had rectified the timeline, the crew finally decide to no longer use the Time Drive as it proves too much trouble, or perhaps it was faulty or broken, which is implied during the episode. The extended edition of the episode includes the Dwarfers resolving not to use it again due to the inherent dangers. However, Lister did use it to retrieve the curry supplies from before the flood on B Deck, after realising that a time jump was the only explanation for the complete lack of remains. ("Tikka to Ride")
The red flash of light and sound effect of the Time Drive is used in the background of a later episode when Lister places the child of himself and Kochanski under the gravity pool table in the Aigburth Arms where Lister was originally "found" as an orphan. ("Ouroboros")
- The original version of the Time Drive could only travel through time, but not space (hence the "1421" gag in "Out of Time"). However, the Time Drive of Series VII is vastly upgraded by the time paradox instilled at the end of that episode. Like Starbug itself, it possibly included components of the Time Drive in the future 'Bug. This meant that the Time Drive of Series VII could also travel through space, and was a much more mobile device.
- Alternatively, it may have always been able to travel through both time and space, but the Dwarfers had learned how to use the Time Drive to its full potential from their future selves.
- In the extended ending "Tikka to Ride", it is shown that they kept the Time Drive (perhaps in case of an emergency where they could warn themselves of a disaster) and Lister used it to bring the curry supplies and lager forward in time to prevent them from being destroyed in the flood.
Behind the Scenes
- The prop for the handheld device in Series VII was sold on Prop Store for an undisclosed sum.