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"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually -- from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint -- it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly... timey-wimey... stuff."
The Tenth Doctor, Doctor Who, "Blink"

Excepting mundane travel from the past to the future at a rate of one second per second[1], no human has ever experienced Time Travel first hand. Indeed, we don't know if it's even possible[2]. So debating which time travel theory is right is much like trying to find the best flavor of Kool-Aid. Fans are aware and accepting of this, just like no one minds when Our Monsters Are Different, or two different series have different rules for magic, so long as the series' own internal rules are consistent.

Of course, sometimes they aren't. The Timey-Wimey Ball is the result of a series or movie where the writers are a wee bit confused or forgetful about exactly which kind of time travel can happen, sometimes within the span of one episode! One day You Can't Fight Fate (or at least not without the Butterfly of Doom coming along), but the next you can Screw Destiny and Set Right What Once Went Wrong by killing Hitler and changing the past for the better. Especially headachy because there's no Temporal Paradox, or if there is it's totally arbitrary.

The standard Hand Wave, if one is given, is that time is very complicated, and the particulars of the situation affect how the rules apply in ways that a layperson wouldn't understand. Which is one of the many reasons why some people absolutely frickin' HATE time travel...

Despite the similar images the name might conjure, this is unrelated to Swirly Energy Thingy (although a Swirly Energy Thingy might very well have Timey Wimey effects). Likewise, a Continuity Snarl is not necessarily related, though the presence of Time Travel induced retcons can certainly make a character's past seem like a tangled up ball of yarn.

Compare "Close Enough" Timeline. Occasionally, anything involving this may decide to pull out the Temporal Paradox card. A Time Crash is what happens when this isn't in play. See also Narnia Time. Totally unrelated to ball-shaped behavior tropes and possibly The Multiverse. You had better hope it is unrelated to Happy Fun Ball.

Warning: High chance of spoilers.

Examples of Timey-Wimey Ball include:


Anime and Manga Edit

  • Mahou Sensei Negima: Time travel watches pop up during the Mahora Festival arcs, creating Stable Time Loops, multiple copies of Negi running into each other, a Set Right What Once Went Wrong or two, and some Rule of Cool duels that exploit the effects of short-range Time Travel.
  • Mahou no Iroha: Time travel is apparently very possible with the help of magic, and the Magical Girl main character somehow changes some things but not others that leaves readers scratching their head.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya. Stable Time Loops are a matter of course for much of the novels when Mikuru is involved (she is her own boss, and I don't mean that in an empowerment way). The three-years-ago loop in particular gets even loopier as the series goes on. Even the incidents in Disappearance and Endless Eight can be explained without altering the time loops if you think about it too much. However, starting in Novel 9, the timeline splits-- not diverges, splits-- and later fuses back together, and what is revealed in the following novels about the way Time Travel works strongly implies that the timeline can be changed after all, it's just a very bad idea. The mechanics of time travel in The Verse are pretty much incoherent now.
  • Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle: Feather. Reservoir. The fucking up of the entire time-space continuum. Time travel duplicates. Clones? Parents? Putting what is confusing about the time travel involved into words is, in itself, extremely confusing.
  • Natsu no Arashi! enjoys playing foosball with its Timey-Wimey Ball as characters jump back and forth across the hours, leading to a series of Stable Time Loops.
  • When time travel is introduced to Dragonball Z it is assumed that Trunks travel backward from his Bad Future and warning the heroes about the Androids means that they will be able to defeat them and change his own timeline. Eventually, he travels back again, and finds that things are not playing out as they did in his own history. This is further complicated by the appearance of Cell, who travelled back from a timeline in which Trunks disabled the Androids before being killed by Cell and having his time capsule stolen. Trunks eventually concludes that nothing that happens in one timeline has any bearing whatsoever on another (meaning that killing the fetal Cell in the "present" won't retroactively destroy the Cell they are fighting, and there is a third Cell waiting for him back in his own timeline, which won't be affected by the Androids being stopped in the "present").
  • The Manga Doraemon explains that changes in the past can still result in the present outcome. The analogue given was that there are many routes to get from point A to point B in time, and the journey through each routes are different, but yet still results in the traveller getting to point B in the end. So it is possible to get to the same outcome, even if the events played out differently.


Boardgames Edit

  • In Time Agent, your objective is not to win. Your objective is to have already won... without Time Travel being invented. This is probably the least confusing part of the game.
  • In US Patent #1 by Cheapass Games, each player has invented a time machine and hopes to profit from it, but the only one who will be able to profit is the one who holds a patent. Given that patents can be invalidated by proof of earlier work, the only patent that matters for a time machine is the chronologically first one. So the entire game consists of a race through time to be the first in line on the first day the Patent Office opens.
  • In Chrononauts, players are competing time travelers from alternate futures sent on missions into the past to recover various historical artifacts. Each player is playing tug-of-war with the timeline so that they can return home, which results in a very fluid history. If enough paradoxes pile up, they can even destroy the universe.
  • There's a Back to The Future card game based on the film, where again each player is someone from an alternate timeline trying to manipulate the universe into one where they exist. However, one big difference is that after doing so, the time travelers have to stop Emmett Brown from inventing time travel so that nobody else can mess with it and their timeline becomes the only timeline. Paradox much?


Comic Books Edit

  • In the 1980s Marvel Transformers comic, one can alter the past to suit the present. However, there is also the possibility that one travels to a different universe that is simply the same as your own. So thus, any attempt to travel back in time to, say, build a giant cannon to destroy the dark god who created you when he turns his attention to Earth in order to free yourself from his control as Galvatron tried to, can potentially end in failure as it is not your own universe. As it turned out, it WAS Galvatron's own universe.
  • The DCU has all sorts of fun here, especially when Booster Gold is involved, but it's been proven time and again that trying to Screw Destiny usually ends badly. Aside from that, the Timey-Wimey Ball hurts Booster's head as much as it hurts ours.
  • The Legion of Super Heroes. Let's start with there's three of them.
  • An issue of Impulse had a mad scientist invent a time machine, and attempt to change the past so that he would rule the world. Impulse and Max Mercury go back in time to stop him, but wind up stuck in the far distant past. Max lectures Bart on the Butterfly of Doom, and how even eating a fish might cause irreparable harm to the future. But then they discover that the mad scientist is now trapped in the past as well. The three of them decide that the best way to get home is to cause as much damage and destruction as possible. Their logic is that if they completely change the past, it will alter the future so much that the scientist will never exist, which means he will never invent his time machine, which means they won't have travelled to the past in the first place, which means they won't actually cause any damage at all and find themselves back home. Confused?
  • While we're talking about The Flash, Professor Zoom has (retroactively) had his hands on the Timey-Wimey Ball from day one. In a single issue we see him edit his brother, parents, scholarly rival, and lover out of his own history, apparently to make sure he'll actually become the supervillain he is. It Makes Sense in Context.
    • And then the Professor started in on Barry's history, and we ended up with Flashpoint. Nice job breaking it, psycho.
    • The Flash himself historically averted this trope when at all possible. Barry and Wally repeatedly refused to even try holding the Timey-Wimey Ball. Until Flashpoint. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
    • The second Zoom came into being because he tried to grab the Timey-Wimey Ball and blew himself up. Unfortunately for him, his powers (unlike every other speedster) avert the trope.
  • Say the word "Kang" to a fan of The Avengers and they'll often shudder. His time-travel schemes are so complex that his future self, Immortus, is another major Avengers enemy, and the two can often be seen fighting each other. To give a sense of scale: most Marvel Handbook profiles are one to three pages long except for major characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man or Wolverine. Kang's gets six pages, and the bottom half of each page is devoted to Kang's timeline, which is chronological in years but requires jumping around from page to page to get Kang's chronological story.
  • Limbo in the Marvel Universe (mainly shows up in association with X-Men) is an entire dimension of timey-wimeyness. When the X-Men entered and got separated, both Wolverine and Colossus encountered long-dead versions of each other, and managed to escape just fine in the end.
    • Also Storm was stopped at one point by her older self, who had remained in Limbo for decades studying magic. And Nightcrawler killed his older self.
  • Marvel Comics' "Adam Warlock", specifically his evil futureself The Magus embodies this trope. Adam Warlock met his futureself and immediately The Magus set about trying to ensure Adam would turn into him. This did not work when "Thanos" and the In-Betweener interfered and Adam was given a choice of timelines, wherein he chose the shortest. The Magus appeared again when Adam Warlock attained the Infinity Guantlet and divested himself of his good self (The Goddess) and his evil self (The Magus). The Magus initiated the Infinity War, but was defeated. Most recently, to seal the Fault in space caused, in part by the Annihilation Wave, The Phalanx Invation, and the War of Kings, Adam Warlock who, as he expanded magical energy slowly started turning into The Magus, used an "unused" timeline to repair the fault. That particular "unused" timeline was the one in which he became The Magus.


Fanfiction Edit

  • Kyon: Big Damn Hero has much more Time Travel going on than the original -- to the point that at any point of story there is at least one open loop. Amusingly, Kyon once quoted the Doctor when trying to explain his understanding of Time Travel.
  • In My Immortal, the main character Ebony travels back in time to teach a young Voldemort about love. But when she does, the plot really starts to get strange. A few examples are that characters in the past know what will happen in the present, that items will not work in time-periods where its not invented yet and that people can't die outside their native time-period.
  • In Harry Potter and The Methods of Rationality, the time turners are used much more frequently, which leads to this when two or more are involved. Dumbledore and Snape have to resort to charts.

 McGonagall: Tell me your conclusions, but please, don't tell me how you figured it out.

    • This is actually an inversion, or something. The writer doesn't appear to be confused about what kind of time travel is possible, rather, he works very hard to make sure that it follows consistent rules. And the characters know about these rules. But trying to work out the logical implications of these rules results in confused characters and confused readers.
  • Used to great effect in The 10 Doctors. It's even mentioned by name as to how all ten Doctors can be in one place at the same time.
    • The sequel fic Forever Janette intentionally invokes the Timey Wimey Ball by subverting the show's use of San Dimas Time--by letting the Fifth Doctor meet the Master from the Seventh Doctor's time. It doesn't say how this is possible, other than a passing mention that the two Time Lords are "off-phase" from a common Gallifreyan synchronicity.


Films -- Live-Action Edit

  • The whole messy issue of Time Travel is lampshaded in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me when, after Austin starts to get bewildered by all the possible paradoxes his traveling into The Sixties involves, Basil jumps in with "I suggest you don't worry about that sort of thing and just enjoy yourself", and then turns pointedly toward the camera and remarks "and that goes for you all as well". Much self-contradictory timey-wimeyness ensues since, as Mike Myers puts it in his DVD comments, "our theory of Time Travel is that Time Travel works however we need it to work for each particular scene's joke."
  • Back to The Future has different things happening to the hero as the past is changed. Read the timeline for the trilogy at this page if you have any questions about how it works. There isn't a single concern here that isn't covered there one way or another.
  • Hot Tub Time Machine steadily makes less sense as the film goes on, as Rule of Funny takes over.
  • Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure establishes that "the clock is always running in San Dimas" -- that is, that however long Bill and Ted are in another time, that much time will have passed when they return to their "home time". This is held up for the first film and most of the second... and then utterly discarded for the ending of Bogus Journey, where they zap away for 18 months and return seconds after they left. Of course, the first film kludges it a bit as well -- when initially going back to their own time, they actually end up at the same point they left, and have to be told by Rufus that they need to dial 1 digit higher for the next day.
    • Even more odd, Rufus never tells the two of them his name. They hear it from their future selves, who presumably heard it from their future selves who...
  • The Butterfly Effect has the events of roughly half of Evan's blackouts caused by his older self going back to them, while the other half were normal initially, but could be changed by his older self. One blackout even has examples of both. Also, it is established early on that Evan is the only who has any memory of the old timelines, but at one point another character notices a change in the timeline for no apparent reason.
  • Deja Vu starts out well enough, but implies that the detective has already gone back in time and failed. What's more, the ending finishes without a Stable Time Loop of any kind, so either the changes made will reset or they've created one alternate timeline where everything is hunky dory and one where everyone's dead.
    • In the original timeline, the love interest dies, and the hero's blood is all over her apartment. So apparently, in the original timeline, he went back and failed. But then in the new timeline, he gets his wounds saving the love interest. He doesn't bleed all over the love interest's place until after he saves her. So how did there end up being blood in the original timeline, but the love interests dies?
  • In Femme Fatale... y'know what, screw it. You watch it and tell me what the hell that movie was about. Was it Time Travel? Or Was It a Dream??
  • Frequency is one big Timey-Wimey Ball. You've got the son talking to the dad on the same ham radio, and even the whole "changes happen in sync with each other deal" mentioned in the Kamen Rider Den-O note above.
    • Not to mention that the first time John changes history and saves his father, he suddenly has memories of both timelines, which is promptly dropped for the rest of the film as from then on he only has memories of how things originally happened.
    • In Johnny and the Bomb Pratchett explains that most time travellers forget the original timeline when they return to the new one because of the human tendency to accept what's around them as normal; but if you really try (or are reminded of it by some useful clue) you can remember how things used to be.
  • The Lake House was a horrible mixture of Time Travel ideologies. In some ways the timeline is constant - the guy she kissed at the party turns out to be the guy she's communicating with in the past. Yet in other ways the timeline is variable - she tells him how she misses the trees, so he plants one at the place she's going to live at - which she magically doesn't notice having grown until after she sent him that letter. And then there's the grandfather paradox involving the (lack of a) car accident at the end/beginning of the film, causing her to go/not go to the lake house and end up communicating/not communicating with the guy in the first place.
    • And let's not forget the dog in the past timeline who responded to the name given to it in the future timeline.
  • The movie Lost in Space contains a plot where the father walks into the future by an energy field just to find his son creating that energy field as a result to build a machine to travel into the past, because the entire family was wiped out as a result of the father disappearing by walking into the future...
  • The Time Travel in Meet the Robinsons. At first it is altered by the fact that Doris went back in time and turned to the future into a apocalyptic Bad Future where everybody is under the control of bowler hats. Lewis goes back in time and alters it, by announcing to Doris that he will never invent her, killing her in the process so she doesn't get the chance to launch her plan. By the end of it all, it may or may not be a Stable Time Loop. A couple coincidences happen at the very end, he meets his future adoptive parents, he says the name they give him, and he meets his future wife. However, it might be that his parents would've given him that name anyway, and he might have ended up falling in love with the frog woman regardless of the fact he might know he marries her in the future. Also, his memory machine would've worked the first time around if the Bowler Hat Guy hadn't sabotaged it. So, it's open to interpretation, most people would choose the one that makes sense, but some don't, for some reason.
    • Observant viewers will also note that no one mentions that the time machine stolen by Bowler Hat Guy was left behind in the present.
  • Each Terminator movie uses a different theory of Time Travel, though it's at least consistent within each movie.
    • Though one persistent law of Time Travel is that things can only Time Travel is they are made of meat (so people, but not the organic fibers of clothing), wrapped in meat (i.e., Cyborg Terminators), can do a reasonably good imitation of meat (i.e., "Liquid Metal" Terminators) or sneak in when nobody's looking (Cromartie's head). Which is to say, the mechanism here appears to be exactly analogous to airport security. The jury still is out on what would happen if you tried to bring a Ham and Fusion Grenade Sandwich with you.
    • This actually gets answered in the comic book continuity. A group of skinned-up Terminators gets sent back, but bring along an extremely fat human they captured because he's literally a meat bag. Full of guns. Whom the others have to kill to open.
    • The theory they use is that only living tissue can travel back in time. a deleted scene from the 2nd film (or was it from the book) indicates that the T1000 traveled back in a sack of living flesh and cut it's way free before killing the cop. one inconsistancy is a scene originally in the script for the first film indicates that kyle reese's partner who travels back with him gets fused into a fire escape and instantly killed. though as this is removed from the film it doesn't much affect the whole time portal energy cutting through things in the 2nd film
  • In The Film of the Book The Time Machine (2002), the Time Traveler discovers that he cannot change the past since it would create a Temporal Paradox. Then he goes even further into the future only to see the Morlocks victorious over the Eloi and afterward returns to the year 802701 to successfully defeat the Morlocks.
  • James P Hogan had a solution in Thrice Upon a Time. The prospective time traveller induces a grandfather paradox. The universe doesn't abhor it or disallow it or anything, but simply plays out the umpteen zillion iterations of the events in question. A leads to B leads to Not-A leads to Not-B leads to A leads to B... It should go on forever, but on each run-through, quantum randomness causes things to be very, very slightly different (an atom decays or not, a pair of colliding air particle zig instead of zag) totally regardless of anything the time traveller does. Normally they won't make any difference whatsoever, but after a few million or trillion iterations, the randomness happens to align in such a way that it breaks the paradox (i.e., kills his wife in a new way) and lets the timeline continue past it. What we the audience see is merely the "final cut" version of history, the one that didn't get stuck in an endless loop.
  • Ben10 Race Against Time includes a bit of this. Eon seeks to use the Hands Of Armageddon to bring his Dying Race to Earth to repopulate, but traveling through time so much has weakened him to the point where he's unable to use the Hands. His plan is to use the Omnitrix to turn Ben into himself (a second Eon), so that he can activate the device and end the reign of humans on Earth. The movie is pretty vague about how it works, but at first glance, it seems as though Eon may actually be Ben, corrupted by himself in his own past.
    • On top of that, when Eon succeeds in implanting himself in the Omnitrix, he declares that "two cannot exist at once", disappearing into a different point in the time stream.
  • Primer uses an interesting time travel method that begins to make sense.
  • The film version of A Sound of Thunder (if not the book) uses hilariously inconsistent rules of time travel (and those rules don't make much sense before they start breaking them). It's a crucial plot point that the characters keep returning to the exact same point in time, but never run into previous versions of themselves (no explanation for that is given) ... until the time they do (no explanation for that either). Plants smash through the walls of a building because the past was changed in such a way as to cause plants to grow larger and more aggressively (no explanation is given as to why someone decided to build the building in the spot where, in the new timeline, a giant tree has been growing for ages - not to mention why the tree that's always been there smashes through the floor while people watch instead of just appearing as it if had always been there). At one point, the characters are unable to travel back to the point in time they want to reach because there's a time disturbance between the present and their destination in the past; the solution? Travel back to an even earlier point and then go forward (if you guessed that no explanation is given as to why the time disturbance is somehow not blocking that too, you've been paying attention).
    • There were explanations - that the changes come in waves, changing things in fits and starts, not all as a whole. As for having to travel further back, that's easy to explain. Think of it as trying to get into a house, but the front door has something pressed against it stopping you from opening it. What do you do? Go in through the back door and then walk through the house to the front door to remove the blockage. Simples!


Literature Edit

  • Robert Heinlein wrote a short story called By His Bootstraps, in which the protagonist exploits a time machine to move himself forward in time. Simple enough. The Mind Screw comes in when he does this by his future self sending back his intermediate self to persuade his past self to enter the machine's portal. When the past self becomes the intermediate self, he attempts to double cross the future self, but that double cross naturally results in him becoming the future self. Follow all that?
    • For a real, double whammy version of mind screw, read "All You Zombies" which chronicles a young man (later revealed to be post-real-sex change) taken back in time and tricked into impregnating his younger, female self (before s/he underwent said sex change); then he turns out to be the offspring of that union (time-relocated yet again), with the paradoxical result that he is both his own mother and father. As the story unfolds, all the major characters -- the young single mother, her seducer, the alcoholic writer, the bartender who recruits him into the time-travel corps, and even the baby -- are revealed to be the same person, at different stages of her/his life. How's your mind doing now?
  • Poul Anderson's Time Patrol stories are historically well-researched and confusing as hell. Among other things, the future is "uptime" and the past is "downtime," which makes it sound counterintuitively like time is a river that flows uphill.
  • Same thing in The End of Eternity, where use words like "downwhen", "upwhen", "anywhen" and "everywhen".
  • Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox does not actually feature any paradoxes. The prequel on the other hand... Specifically, an island was magically removed from normal time for 10,000 years, but the magic is breaking up and time starts running alternately forward and backward at varying speeds. Holly dies, but Artemis fires a shot backwards in time thus killing the demon who killed her and bringing her back to life. Furthermore, Artemis goes back in time and causes a mosaic of himself to be created hundreds of years in the past, a fact which is only noticed in the present day after he gets back.
    • He questions the first paradox, but eventually gives up trying to figure it out.
  • In the Philip K. Dick short story "Meddler" those in the present are able to see into the future and discover the world completely devoid of human life, - so they send a guy forward to figure out what happened. He winds up bringing back horrible, fast-reproducing, stinging, poisonous "butterflies" that go on to kill everyone, thus the doomsday future is brought about by the decisions people made in the present to prevent it. One can only hope they would just look at the future again to figure out a way to kill the things.
  • The Bookof All Hours duology by Hal Duncan doesn't even try to claim to be otherwise. It's such a mishmash of pocket universes, alternate universes, and paradox that causality can't even be seen with a telescope on a good day. Essentially: think of the universe as a huge piece of vellum on which reality has been written. Then crumple it up. Most characters make such a habit of going not just back and forth in time but sideways that one goes back to the day where he, as a child, met his elder self, and that elder self committed suicide... only now, as the elder self, shoots his younger self instead. Nothing happens to the elder.
  • In Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels, not only do the rules of Time Travel make no sense whatsoever, the main character (whose father is a time-traveller) realises this, and often lampshades it. In one book, the rules actually seem to change over the course of a conversation with her dad, but she realizes there's no point in even asking.
    • In First Among Sequels, there is a subplot revolving around the fact that the time-travellers have mapped almost the entire future and found that Time Travel has not yet been invented. By the end of the book, Thursday and co. have managed to ensure that Time Travel is never invented, and thus, could never have been used earlier in the series. This means that several events from the previous four books including the plays of William Shakespeare and the beginning of all life on earth logically could not have happened. Since many of these events were the results of Stable Time Loops anyway, this is a case of Ascended Time Paradox. Or Mind Screw turned Up to Eleven. Either way, it's probably best just to apply the MST3K Mantra and enjoy the series.
  • David Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself features a time-travel belt, which has the traveller completely paranoid about the possibility of a Temporal Paradox destroying him. It turns out that Temporal Paradoxes are impossible; Time Travel rewrites history except for the guy who travelled through time. Various Mind Screw moments: the protagonist has orgies with himself of different ages, writes himself out of history, has a family with himself as a female, eventually has that written out of history (but his son still exists) and culminates in finally giving himself (as the son, so he's his own father) the time travel device. On the last, the idea of where it came from is explored a couple of times and eventually it's hit upon that it's impossible to know where it came from, the creators must have been written out of history. Oh, and he kills Jesus at an early age. It's okay, he goes back and stops himself after finding out how much it screws with history.
  • Harry Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World features two overlapping timelines (one of which only has a temporary existence) and a loop. The lead character travels back in time to stop the Special Corps being removed from history, and manages to disrupt the enemy's plan. He then follows them further back in time, landing in an alternate history where Napoleon conquered Britain. He messes up the controls on the enemy time machine, and (after being rescued shortly before the alternate history disappears) follows them forward (but still long before his own time). He finds the villains (after a long time for them -- so long they've forgotten everything except that he's the Enemy), but is unable to stop them; they travel back in time, and he's only saved by a time machine -- allowing him to return to his own time -- which he then sends back with the instructions for what he just did. Finally, he's told not to worry that he didn't stop the villains; they've just travelled to the first place he met them, where they will then travel back and create an alternate history where Napoleon conquered Britain, before...
  • In A Tale Of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones, the titular city exists outside of the flow of history on the rest of the world. From this vantage point, the citizens see that history works like weather patterns -- it shifts back and forth with minute details thanks to the butterfly effect and time loops. Basically, a more detailed explanation of the Timey Wimey Ball, where shifts in the time travel theories are explained away as the changing "weather patterns" of time. For instance, on one day in Time City the inhabitants may observe that World War II begins in 1939, but on another day they may notice that it has changed to 1938. Perhaps time in the book is two-dimensional, with Time City time orthogonal to time everywhere else. Except it turns out that the history of Time City can shift back and forth too...
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, the History Monks are originally presented in Small Gods as ensuring everything happens the way it's supposed to (although, even then, the monk Lu-Tze decides to Screw Destiny). In Thief of Time, it's revealed that, following various alterations to the Disc's temporal dimensions, the "true history" barely exists, and their main job is to prevent the Timey-Wimey Ball from imploding. And in Night Watch, when Vimes travels thirty years into the past to become his own mentor, even the monks aren't sure what's happening.

 Lu-Tze: For a perfectly logical chain of reasons, Vimes ended back in time even looking rather like Keel! Eyepatch and scar! Is that Narrative Causality, or Historical Imperative, or Just Plain Weird?

    • Which is why if you try to place the times and events of some books, they take place a couple years before a different book, and at the same time, hundreds of years before the IMMEDIATE SEQUEL of that different book.
    • sir Terry himself at one point explained that "There are no inconsistencies in the Discworld books; occasionally, however, there are alternate pasts."
  • Animorphs made use of Time Travel occasionally, and each time it apparently worked differently. Though, perhaps in fairness, different techniques of Time Travel were involved, at least one of which was by use of a thingy created by the closest thing to a God in the series, and another (a Bad Future-esque thing) was just flat-out never explained.
    • The bad future was apparently a dream caused by an advanced being for some reason. Maybe.
  • Dean Koontz averted some time travel issues in Lightning by virtue of having the Nazis invent time travel, the limitation being that it can only send you forward (and then you snap back to your point of origin when you make the return trip). While this has its own problems, it at least eliminates the ability to murder your mother before she gave birth to you. You cannot change your own past, but you can change the past of anyone born after you so long as the changes you try to make are not contradictory, and you can bring objects back. Played straight in that if a contradiction is demanded, the portal will refuse the forward transfer (this gets the heroine killed in one timeline). "Destiny struggles to reassert the pattern that was meant to be." Sometimes happily, and sometimes not so happily, it succeeds.
  • The Never Again series starts out simple enough. It seems to follow the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics so that time travelers can do anything they want, but will create a new timeline that never intersects with the old. Then comes the third book, where that is thrown out the window, and the author's attempts to explain what is happening (with a lot of Techno Babble about "intersecting universes" and the like) just raises further questions.


Live Action TV Edit

  • Black Hole High: "Fate": When Vaughn, having traveled back in time to meet his mother, steals her hairclip as a memento, all of history is rewritten so that his parents never meet, his father becomes a familyless loser instead of creating the wormhole, and Professor Z doesn't get a scholarship from his company to go to college. Which is all well and good. What no one attempts to explain is why, in this new history, Josie never attended Blake Holsey High (Though later events suggest that her presence there may have been engineered to keep her close to the wormhole).
    • To complicate matters further, it eventually turns out that both Vaughn's mother and Josie's father are time travelers, so without Pearson's wormhole (the basis for Time Travel), Josie shouldn't exist either.
  • Charmed has some rather interesting ideas of how time travel works:
    • In one episode, Chris is taken 20 years into the future as a prisoner by a bunch of evil dudes. Before he leaves, he manages to slip in a comment about the "creaky floorboard". The witches take the hint and brew a potion for him to use as a weapon, which they hide under said floorboard. The camera goes back and forth, showing what is happening in the future (Chris facing the bad guys) and the present (the girls hurrying to finish the potion). It's strongly implied that, had they not gotten the potion ready in time (i.e. before Chris in the future is shown looking under the floorboard), Chris would have found nothing. In actual fact though, the girls could have relaxed and spent hours making the potion, it would still have been there 20 years into the future, provided it was never removed from under the floorboard at a later time. Speaking of which, I'm quite sure the writers assumed the potion would be gone after the episode, rather than continually being under that floorboard for the next 20 years.
    • In another episode, a demon steals little 3-year-old Wyatt's magic powers. Next thing, 20-year-old Wyatt and his brother come time-travelling from the future, saying "We were fighting demons when Wyatt suddenly lost his powers, so we thought we'd come to the point in time where the change occurred and see what happened". This makes no sense in any form of time travel. If 3-year-old Wyatt lost his powers, then 4-year-old and 5-year-old Wyatt wouldn't have had any powers either, all the way up to 20-year-old Wyatt. It would make no sense for him to loose his powers only suddenly at the age of twenty. Not to mention, once they fixed the problem in the present, 20-year-old Wyatt should have never lost his powers in his time at all.
  • Doctor Who, again and again, to the point that they named this trope in the course of lampshading it. Over the course of the show, nearly every theory of Time Travel has been used. How about "The Aztecs", where they explain that you can't really change history? Or "Day of the Daleks", where they find out the Daleks have conquered Earth in the future, and prevent it (using someone from the now-gone future, in fact)? Or in "Father's Day", where they create a Temporal Paradox and Clock Roaches start eating affected people? Let's not even get into all the Wayback Trips. Usually, the theory of Time Travel is consistent within a single story, but there are exceptions even to that. As the Doctor himself says, "I told you it was complicated." The trope name even comes from one of the Doctor's many attempts to try to explain why Time Travel didn't always seem to work the way it should.
    • When the 10th and 5th Doctors meet up during a Children in Need Special "Time Crash" the 10th is in shocked disbelief to be seeing his former self, then goes on to use memories he picked up as the 5th meeting his future self to defuse the situation. When the illogic of this is brought up (not to mention the violation of multi-doctor meet up Canon established from the other 3 times this has happened), both Doctors mumble something about "Timey Wimey" and move on.
    • It's actually mentioned in the old series of Doctor Who that the Time Lords deliberately took Gallifrey out of its own time to prevent any potential rogue Time Lord from ever altering Gallifrey's history. Then again it's also stated time and time again in the old series that Gallifrey can't be destroyed, and look what they did in the NA and the new series.
    • In "The Fires of Pompeii", a companion asks why the Doctor will thwart aliens but not stop a particular historical catastrophe, and the Doctor replies that some points in time are fixed, while others are in flux. His being a Time Lord allows him to perceive which is which, and act accordingly; even against his nobler instincts.
      • The Doctor has also stated in the past that his knowledge of history is "perfect"; this may mean that he knows exactly what he may or may not change.
      • More about Fixed points in time in "Sarah Jane Adventures". Sarah Jane's parents dying is a fixed point in time because she has seen it, remembers it, and knows it happened. Changing that would be bad.
      • The Doctor tried to mess with a fixed point in "The Waters of Mars." It doesn't end well.
      • In "The Wedding of River Song" we finally get to see what happens if you alter a fixed point too much. All of time collapses, happening at once. You'll have Winston Churchill riding around on his personal mammoth while they discuss the political pressures caused by the War of the Roses, greet a Roman Centurion, and see a Silurian doctor for a check up. Only some people will be able to hang onto their memories of 'correct' time. If allowed to continue, time itself will break, causing the destruction of reality.
    • The novels have an equally insane version, in which the 8th Doctor (infected by Faction Paradox biodata) ends up interfering slightly in the life of the 3rd Doctor, leading to him regenerating on the wrong planet and being infected by Faction Paradox biodata. Of course, Faction Paradox live and breathe this trope (as well as Temporal Paradox) at the best of times. It's their hat.
    • The New Adventures had the concept that Time itself was a sentient entity who consciously fixed various timeline hiccups resulting from time travel with the Doctor as her champion.
    • In the first season finale of the NS, the Doctor says that the TARDIS protects itself from paradox. Whenever and Wherever the TARDIS lands, the events that led it to go there, and led to the world it's in once it's there, become unalterable.
    • In the "Waters of Mars" special the 10th Doctor explicitly states that there are fixed points in history which cannot be changed. Those points in history greatly effect the future and allow for time to follow a more or less consistent path. Anything he does to try and change history will simply cause the event to occur regardless. Even the Daleks are shown to respect this. The Doctor, feeling frisky, tries to alter one. Events remind him even a Time Lord has limits.
    • In "The End of Time" the Doctor attempted to explain a Time Lock to Wilfred.

  Doctor: They're sealed inside of a bubble. It's not a bubble, but just think of a bubble.

    • The Trope Naming episode, Blink, actually involves a mostly-internally-consistent Stable Time Loop. It's the show as a whole that fulfills the trope by being inconsistent.
    • The whole of The Big Bang is built on this trope -- The Doctor saving the day and escaping from the Pandorica is built on an ontological paradox -- he shows up already escaped to enlist Auton!Rory in effecting his escape. The Doctor even explains that this would normally cause drastic side effects for the universe, but luckily the universe had already been destroyed.
    • A Christmas Carol also features this heavily. It starts with the Doctor showing a video Karzan made as a boy to the older him - and traveling back in time to when he made it, leaving Karzan watching a video of the Doctor interfering in his past as his own memories change to reflect that this had happened. It ends with the Doctor showing the younger Karzan the man he turns into, leading to the older one having a change of heart partly brought on by realizing he's turned into his father, and partly by him being retroactively altered by the experience of being horrified at seeing his older self as a boy. Ow. It's implied this method is far from perfect, as Karzan's own mind-reading controls no longer recognizes him, despite the fact that it should logically have been programmed for the Karzan that existed in the current timeline. I think it's that the Doctor changed the boy as well as the man. Hypothetically, Boy Karzan went through all the stuff that Scrooge Karzan did, but had the additional factor of seeing Scrooge Karzan and never wanted to become like he was. Presto Change-O and immediate echoes into the future... his brain waves change - creating a new Karzan who both experienced Abigail and Scrooge Karzan and also maybe even at one point of the new history we didn't see rejected his father (so no actual mind control for him was made . Who knows? It is a Timey-Wimey Ball after all
    • River Song. Her encounters with the Doctor are not synchronized at all, and it's not even clear how events follow in canon. The journal checking seen in "Silence in the Library" and "The Impossible Astronaut," as well as the "spotter's guide" from "The Time of Angels" seem to indicate that she meets the Doctor in a random order, but when River's past/future with the Doctor is brought up in Series 6, it's implied that they're traveling in practically reverse order - the kiss at the end of "Day of the Moon" is implied to be River's last because it is the Doctor's first. Despite the fact they clearly aren't meeting in reverse order since the Doctor meets her months after she was born four times after he 'first' meets her. And she doesn't recognize Rory in "The Big Bang" despite seeming to know him already in "The Impossible Astronaut," which is earlier in her timeline.
      • Simple enough: Their meetings are mostly random, and any given time the two meet up may be synchronized, but -overall- they're moving in opposite directions.
    • To add to the weirdness that is time-travel in Doctor Who, look at its opinion on the Blinoctich Limitation Effect. In some cases it seems to suggest that Never the Selves Shall Meet, lest they cause reality to shatter. Or maybe that's only if there's another paradox nearby. Sometimes it causes memory loss if the two touch, like what happened to The Brigadier. Maybe the same object touching will just cause sparks. Or maybe nothing will happen at all except flirting. It's just whatever happens to work for the plot.
      • Father's Day summed it up pretty well. Pete Tyler being alive created a paradox, and anything else would make it worse. So yeah, interacting with one's past self makes sparks, and a paradox fills the air with gas fumes(sort of. Not really at all, but if that helps just think of it like that).
    • And just because the DW section for this trope needs to be larger, used extensively in the episode "The Girl Who Waited". The TARDIS crew happens upon the 'Two Streams' health centre. They take people who have contracted fatal illnesses, and place them in the 'fast' stream, symbolised by a red water-fall. They can live their whole life and age normally in only a day. Meanwhile, their loved ones are in the slow stream, symbolised by a green anchor, and can watch their lover/family/friend have a fruitful life. Unfortunately, it all goes wrong when Amy gets trapped in the fast stream. Eventually Rory manages to break in to save her, but 39 years have passed, leaving his wife old and bitter. He can jump back in time to save younger Amy, but can only do so with older!Amy's help. Except she doesn't want to be re-written and stop existing. Eventually they decide to save both of them by breaking the laws of causality; at the last minute the Doctor reveals this is actually a paradox and leaves Old!Amy behind to die.
  • Dark Shadows:
    • Barnabas Collins travels back in time to save Collinwood from the ghost of Quentin. When he returns, Amy and David still remember being tormented by Quentin's ghost, despite the fact that with the change in history, Quentin never died and is still alive.
    • Despite the times Barnabas is released from his coffin when he travels back to 1897, and then to 1840, he still has a history with the Collins family in the present era.
    • The fact that Quentin, Tad, and Desmond Collins survived in 1840, thanks to Barnabas and Julia, changing the line of inheritance, does not seem to have any impact on the Collins family in the present day.
  • The Ghosts Of Motley Hall a series told from the point of view of the ghosts from various eras who haunt a derelict stately home in England discover one Christmas that, for no reason ever explained, the house has slipped through time to the Victorian era. The ghost of Sir George meets and talks to a young boy who is excited about his presents. Sir George realizes the boy is himself, and only then recalls a vague memory of having met an elderly man on Christmas Eve, who he had assumed to be some distant relative whom he never saw again.
  • The Girl From Tomorrow has a very large one: Tulista travels back through time and retrieves Silverthorn. Taking him out of the timeline should screw with the future, but doesn't, thanks to one very Delayed Ripple Effect. Silverthorn then takes Alana back to 1990, and their presence in the timeline again fails to interfere with the future properly. It's only after Alana takes them both back to the year 3000 that people begin to notice the Delayed Ripple Effect, despite the fact that if anything, it should have interfered with two time periods. They then attempt to resolve this by returning Silverthorn and Jenny to their respective time periods, only to have the capsule somehow U-turn and return to 2500, meaning there are (briefly) duplicates of Alana and Lorien. This is further compounded when Silverthorn builds a Portal to the Past to get some nuclear bombs. This is only resolved when Petey resets the Portal to send Silverthorn and Draco to 70,000,000 BC.
    • Given what Petey says at the end of the series and the events during Tomorrow's End, it looks like the entire series is actually a Stable Time Loop
  • Heroes can't decide if they are going for Static Time Travelling or a Dynamic Time Travelling. And that's the least problematic thing.
    • Strangely, it seems the farther into the future they see, the more pliable time becomes. For example, if Hiro tries to fix something close to the present, for example, saving Charlie's life, or capturing Usutsu, it's impossible. Can't change it no matter how hard they try. However, the apocalyptic future they inevitably go to in every single season so far, they always find a way to avert that. Well, usually, that seems to be changing for season three, and even before that, some things were constant across all the alternate futures. Peter's scar, and Hiro being Badass with a sword.
      • Listen carefully, this is both Fridge Logic and Awesome but Practical; in the Heroes-verse, time has torsion! This means that one can Set Right What Once Went Wrong only with "leverage"; only the passage of sufficient time permits time to be altered, thus preventing Seers and Time Travel from being a Deus Ex Machina!
      • The Charlie issue was kind of resolved in a "she's already dying" way rather than "time travel won't let me save her" way; this is more or less repeated with his father in the next season (only "it's his time" this time, instead of the already dying thing). As for the random jumps through time... he spends the rest of the season learning to control his ability; it turns out he just needed to get back the self-confidence which he had lost since he realized he couldn't save Charlie. The time jumps are a bit convenient, and that Hiro's explanation makes no sense doesn't help. Not to mention that nothing else they've done with time travel has made any sense. They don't even try to be consistent, it seems. Very comic booky... which is probably the point. Still makes for bad headaches, point or no.
      • However, The Heroes novel Saving Charlie took the opposite tactic, implying that Time/God wouldn't let Hiro save Charlie because You Can't Fight Fate. Over the course of the story, Hiro lost control of his powers several times in the past while he was trying to romance Charlie and wound up "jumping" to key locations relating to his quest to save Claire Bennet. Eventually, Charlie figures out what is going on, tells Hiro he must face his destiny even if it doesn't involve her and the two lose their virginity together the evening before Charlie goes into work, meets Hiro for the first time and then gets killed by Sylar.
      • THEN HE SAVED CHARLIE. No, really. Seasons later, Hiro goes back in time, and gets none other than Sylar (the season one Sylar who'd never toyed with the idea of a Heel Face Turn) to repair Charlie's aneurysm telekinetically and leave her brains on the inside in exchange for non-Time Crash-inducing information about his own future. However, she's kidnapped by the Big Bad of that season, and Hiro doesn't see her again until she's an old woman who's lived a happy life that Hiro wasn't going to undo so he could have her. Still, it was pretty awesome to see Hiro turn "You Can't Fight Fate" into "Up yours, fate!"
  • Kamen Rider Den-O spikes the Timey-Wimey Ball like no other: when an Imagin wreaks havoc in the past, it's translated into the present oddly. For example, if you were standing next to a bridge support, and an Imagin went to last year and broke it, you would see it vanish into thin air now. (As opposed to, say, remembering that time a year ago when they had to fix the bridge 'cause a monster trashed it. But since it was trashed in the past, it had to have been rebuilt at some point, right? Apparently, when an Imagin breaks something, the fix's Ontological Inertia fails shortly after the time the Imagin went back.) Now that's the Timey-Wimey Ball at its wibbly-wobbliest.
    • When the Imagin is killed, the Timey-Wimey Ball then uses the original memories of people in the future to repair the damage to the past. However, anything or anyone who is not remembered is not restored. So now no-one remembers the bridge getting repaired because as far as the great unwashed masses know, it was never broken in the first place.
    • At one point, Ryotarou's memory rebuilding the entire timeline after his sister and her husband deliberately break it in order to force their unborn daughter out of the timeline (long story). But wait, what about when Yuuto disappeared and Hana stated that Ryotarou's memory wouldn't be enough to bring him back because Ryotarou didn't know him as a young teen? Then... what about all the people Ryotarou didn't know or remember in the present time? What happened to them?!
      • It was explained in the "Piano man" story arc that they get displaced from time and ride the den-liner until they're remembered IF they're remembered.
    • In the crossover movie "OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let's Go Kamen Riders" An elaborate Temporal Paradox was revealed when we learned Naoki is Mitsuru's father. They didn't even try to explain it. This is a paradox because Naoki was stranded in the past after time had already been changed. The version of 1973 that led to the 2010 we know did not have Naoki in it. Therefore, Mitsuru should not exist in the 2010 we know.
      • The original Kamen Rider has two friends of Goro's by the names of... Naoki and Mitsuru. We meet them in the latter third of the series. Whether Let's Go Kamen Riders is trying to say that they are the same ones and we didn't know they were time travellers is hard to tell, but if that's what it means, it's certainly interesting. However, this adds another level to the timey-wimey: a 1973 with Let's Go Kamen Riders having happened led to the Kamen Rider universe proceeding in the manner we saw in the older shows, even though the whole movie is that the Den-Liner gang's trip leads to a Bad Future which got a happy ending in the present, but can't ever be erased.
    • In the same film, Kotaro explained that the only reason that OOO was unaffected by the changes in history is that he had been in close contact with a singularity point. That completely doesn't match how things have worked before (Ryotaro is a Singularity Point, hence being able to be Den-O, and it sure didn't protect his supporting cast from the Timey Wimey Ball.) Of course, by this point, Den-O's movies are not unused to plot holes. When it comes to how time works in Den-O, the MST3K Mantra would seem to apply.
  • The Stargate SG-1 episode "1969" dealt with a Stable Time Loop. Following that, however, all the Stargate series have just treated time travel as only affecting things after the initial entry point. Time is changed in both "2010" and "Moebius" without creating a stable loop. Same with "Unending". The DVD movie Continuum is a bit more complex, since it added a new element to the mix, but ultimately results in the same thing.
    • Stargate Atlantis had two episodes in the vein of "2010" and "Moebius", following pretty much the exact same conventions in both.
    • Stargate Universe also sticks to the formula, first with the episode "Time". A Kino is found, which has a recording of horrible death. This recording shows a way to avert it, but they fail to do so and send a second Kino back. That one, along with the first, does the job. Then comes "Twin Destinies". In this one, a wormhole connected to Earth from inside a star somehow catapults the entire ship back in time. Telford (In the time shifted ship) goes through the gate and makes it back to Earth, while the rest of the crew (except Rush) go through when the gate is unstable and get transported to a local stargate hundreds of years in the past while leaving behind Rush, who stays on the ship. The current timeline crew stripped the time-displaced copy for parts, while the extra Rush and the original Telford on Destiny died. Meanwhile the version of the crew sent into the past establishes the civilization of Novus, leading to the present day crew eventually meeting their own decendents in the following two parter.
  • Star Trek Deep Space Nine has the relation between Benjamin Sisko and The Prophets. While it appears to be a Stable Time Loop, there just enough wrong with it that it fits here. In the first episode, Sisko meets The Prophets, who live outside of time, and have great difficulty even conceiving of a 'linear' existence. They and Sisko have a nice chat, and Sisko tells them that the Bajorans revere them as gods, it seems that The Prophets weren't really aware of this. It gets tricky from here... As the Prophets seem to 'get' their position, they then (not that the flow of time should mean anything here...) start doing all the things that they are revered as gods for. Okay, one loop, fairly simple Ontological Paradox. Later on, we actually find out that Sisko was born from a relationship his father had with a woman possessed by a Prophet with the explicit purpose of conceiving Sisko. So, Sisko visiting the Prophets made it possible for him to be born in the first place, so that he could visit the Prophets and tell them that they were gods. Keep in mind that if Sisko didn't tell them they were gods, they wouldn't need Sisko, they would have just kept on being non-linear, not to mention the enormous effect the resulting lack of religion would have on Bajor. Now what really twists the boat is that The Prophets are supposed to exist outside time, yet they clearly change after Sisko's first meeting. So they possess both timelessness (from being able to interact with anytime freely) and their own timeline (Which is clearly affected by Siskos visit) These paradoxes and timey-wimey balls are not really explored in the series (though more 'common' forms of time travel are) and the series can be enjoyed without worrying about the timeline of timeless entities. Still, there's rather a lack of coherency.
    • It's possible the Prophets never changed, though. The viewers see Sisko changing them, but since the Prophets have no concept of time, they're kind of impossible to change (except when the plot requires, of course). To everyone else they have always acted like gods. It's like a massive Reset Button, only we never see what happened before the reset. The events of the series cause the prophets to act the way they do... which cause the events of the series. Stable Time Loop.
      • The whole thing gets kind of lampshaded, when two versions of O'Brien try to figure out the paradoxes and give it up, simultaneously saying, "I hate temporal mechanics!"
    • The enormous effect the resulting lack of religion would have on Bajor would have been good or Bajor. No Cardassian invasion, no holocaust. Alternate Bareil says his Bajor has no religion. Alt-Bajor is a high ranking member of the Empire.
  • Star Trek Enterprise: The whole Xindi arc is a big Timey-Wimey Ball. So the Sphere Builders tell the Xindi to go nuke Earth, because they know (through their semi-time-travel) that in the 26th century, Earth will come kick their ass. So the Xindi go do a preliminary Earth nuking, which causes the Humans to come over and kick their ass, now.
    • The Sphere Builders misled the Xindi into believing that humanity destroyed ”or rather, will destroy” the new Xindi homeworld, because the Sphere Builders knew that, in the 26th Century, the Federation (which by then will include the Xindi) will decisively defeat the Sphere Builders at Procyon V.
  • Star Trek Voyager has shown that in the 29th century, The Federation has become a sort of Time Police, making sure no one messes with history. The fact that the previous (chronologically) series have never had a problem with timecops showing up is not addressed. They were even admonished that they ought to have been held to account before. Not to mention, if they did, we'd never know about it...[3]
    • The episode contained the morally questionable practice of arresting and trying a man for a crime he had yet to commit. The rather profound implications of this are casually Handwaved with an assurance that he'll be combined with his future selves somehow before the trial, never mind that said future selves are already part of a Temporal Paradox since it would presumably be impossible for him to carry out the crime once he'd been arrested for it. This might not be so troubling if it weren't clear that his future selves were suffering from some kind of severe psychological breakdown, the present self would not decide to commit the crime for many years and thus could not be said to have intent, and being removed from command at this early point would have prevented said psychological breakdown from occurring in the first place. Given equal apparent opportunity to prevent someone from becoming a criminal before it was too late, or punishing him for merely being capable, under the right circumstances, of going through with it, which would you choose? Apparently The Federation, at least according to Voyager's writers, prefers the latter.
      • And even worse, the guy's future self was only mentally unstable because said Time Police had already "somehow combined" him with yet another version from an alternate timeline, who had been stranded for decades as a homeless guy on 20th century Earth. One would think they'd get the hint that "combining" people from different timelines is a bad idea...
    • Deep Space Nine's Sisko and his companions are visited by the Department of Temporal Investigations in Trials and Tribble-ations. The agents mention that they have an extensive file on captain James T. Kirk. They also hate Predestination Paradoxes and jokes.
      • This episode also involves a literal Timey-Wimey Ball, the "Orb of Time"
    • Star Trek Voyager also had one of the most illogical time travel plots. They're passing a planet and detect a massive explosion. They investigate the planet and find no life. Janeway and Paris are transported back to before the explosion. It turns out that Voyager's attempts to reclaim them caused the explosion. They stop trying which pushes the Reset Button and they pass the planet without incident. The entire episode ignores that they never intended to go to the planet in the first place, so the whole thing never should have gotten started, since there never would have been an explosion to cause them to investigate.
      • They didn't just stop trying; Janeway stopped their attempt by firing her phaser into the time-portal technobabble thingy. So time reverted to normal. Or something.
    • Also, no list of Star Trek timey-whatever-things... is complete without mentioning Yesterday's Enterprise. The fact that it brought back Tasha and had Klingons fighting the Ent-C aside, it made absolutely no sense.
      • A quote from Jonathan Frakes re: Yesterday's Enterprise: "To this day I do not understand Yesterday's Enterprise. I do not know what the fuck happened in that episode. I'm still trying to understand it ... but I liked the look."
      • This one isn't all that hard as far as paradoxes go. During the Battle of Khitomer, the Enterprise-C made a Heroic Sacrifice against the Romulans attacking the Klingon outpost. This selfless act by a Federation ship on behalf of the Klingon Empire eventually led to a peace treaty between the Klingons and the Federation. However, during the battle, a massive explosion caused a Negative Space Wedgie to form, sending the Enterprise-C to the present. But without the Enterprise-C's presence at the battle, the peace treaty would have never formed, so once the Enterprise-C arrives in the present, the present almost immediately becomes a Bad Future where the Federation and Klingon Empire have been at war for decades. The Enterprise-D helps repair the -C enough to send it back through so it can be destroyed as it should have. But Tasha Yar, who in the Bad Future survived when she died in the "normal" timeline, volunteers to go back with the -C after being told by Guinan that she would not live when things go back to normal. So the Enterprise-C goes back to the Battle of Khitomer and is destroyed, but the results of the battle are changed just enough that captives are taken by the Romulans, including Tasha. So all in all, a bit more difficult to follow, but not all that hard to understand.
    • Star Trek is even more disturbing: since it erased the later series from continuity, every time cast from the later series travelled back in time is a huge paradox on its own. Mostly First Contact, since if Enterprise is still Canon, its events have happened, which is quite a Mind Screw...
      • Word of God has it that instead of erasing the later series, it just split off a new timeline, so that the later series still happened in the original timeline but have not in the new timeline. Either way, Enterprise is still canon.
      • Alternately, the events of Star Trek First Contact created an alternate universe in which Enterprise (and possibly Star Trek as well) occur, but the later series all occur only in the prime timeline. For the earlier series however, Enterprise never happened.
      • The problem with that interpretation is that the 2063 events from First Contact are established as taking place in the prime timeline (Seven mentions the Borg being present during the flight of the Phoenix in "Year of Hell".)
  • While each Terminator movie managed to be internally consistent, The Sarah Connor Chronicles combined the continuities of the first two movies and then added some of its own time travel plotlines. Predictably, it's getting a little weird. The episode "Complications" is particularly troublesome. It introduces a new stable time loop and strongly implies that Derek and Jesse don't come from the same version of the future.
    • Later in the series, there's so much timeline alteration going on the human time travelers start using the ever-shifting date of Judgment Day to determine which timeline they came from.
  • Quantum Leap: When a Mad Scientist/Children's TV host proposes that everyone's lives are strings and if you could tie the ends together you should be able to travel along that string, Sam agrees that he is basically right, but that it is important that you ball up that string first so that all the days of your life touch. Which makes sense.
    • As revealed in the finale, all time travel is monitored by God to create the best possible timeline and presumably keeps Leapers and good people from being erased by paradox and such.
  • Timeslip, a 1970s British series, presented a form of time travel where the past, not "really" being able to "happen again" is "fixed" -- by which we mean that you can interact with the people there, but not alter events, and can be hurt, but not "seriously". In the first serial, a time traveler is shot dead, and collapses, unconscious, leaving blood, but no wound. She wakes up, but still feels the pain of having been shot. We get the first minute of a muddled explanation about it being a sort of shared hallucination before it's dismissed as too complicated to explain.
  • Many descriptions of Sapphire and Steel imply it's a Time Police show. Instead, it uses time travel - and the rules thereto - like a Cop Show uses criminal procedure: arbitrarily.
  • Seven Days. It is a rather harsh ground here, since the time machine is alien technology that was badly fixed by humans and due to possibly some screw up (or just plot convenience) it has all kinds of weird side effects. Anyway, when it works like it is supposed to do, it sends you back seven days and your old self and the time machine vanish, either erasing the 'bad' timeline or creating an alternate. It is consistent in that (And yes, people notice the machine and him vanishing, the episodes are just mostly centered on Parker and until he makes his call they don't know what happened.)
    • There was an episode where an accident during time travel splits Parker into a good and an evil version. The good version is killed, so the evil version is sent back in time again, creating another good version.
  • Red Dwarf. Just about any time travel episode, but most especially the Season 6 cliffhanger in which the Dwarfers' scary future selves blow up Starbug, apparently killing everyone on board. Season 7 opens with Lister explaining direct to camera that, because they'd been killed, their future selves never existed to come back, therefore they hadn't been killed, and this is also why Starbug is suddenly bigger. The intelligent video camera suffers a nervous explosive breakdown trying to understand this.
    • And later in that same episode, The Boys From the Dwarf violate the same laws that allowed them to survive after they take John F Kennedy back in time to assassinate his past self!
    • In "Future Echoes", Rimmer tries to explain Timey Wimey to Lister:

 Lister: Hey, it hasn't happened, has it? It has "will have going to have happened" happened, but it hasn't actually happened happened yet, hactually.

Rimmer: Poppycock! It will be happened; it shall be going to be happening; it will be was an event that could will have been taken place in the future. Simple as that. Your bucket's been kicked, baby.

  • Smallville had a situation in the episode "Homecoming" that was similar to the Doctor Who "Time Crash" short mentioned above; Clark, briefly stuck seven years or so into the future courtesy of Brainiac 5, slips into the Daily Planet's elevator, where his older self is waiting for him. Older Clark orders younger Clark to go to the Planet building's roof to prevent Lois' helicopter from crashing while he(the older Clark) prevents a nuclear reactor from melting down as Superman. When younger Clark asks his older self how he knew to wait for him, older Clark simply answers, "Time travel. Work it through." He knew because he had lived the same situation seven years ago.
  • Supernatural: "In The Beginning," established that while time travelers can make small changes, they will ultimately lead to the same result because destiny cannot be changed. This is ultimately proven true when Dean's attempt to protect his family from the Yellow-Eyed Demon ends up causing his mother to make the deal with him that eventually kills her. "My Heart Will Go On" blatantly contradicts this by having an angel go back in time and stop the Titanic from ever sinking, preventing anyone on board from dying and leading to hundreds of their descendents who originally never existed appearing in the present. "Frontierland" circles back to no major changes, but it's a little unclear whether Sam and Dean's actions are a Stable Time Loop or You Already Changed the Past.


Video Games Edit

  • Arguably any game with a New Game+. The adventurers go through their quest, save the world, and then... do the same thing again, without remembering last time, even though they have all the stuff they earned last time.
    • Also Endgame Plus. If you try to play again, the storyline is rewound to the point before the confrontation with the Final Boss, but the adventurers still have the reward for beating him.
    • Deconstructed in Bastion. The narrator gets several serious cases of deja vu retelling the story of The Kid to his audience, and one of the game's endings directly lead into the beginning of New Game+.
  • Completely averted in the upcoming indie RTS Achron. The time travel is completely consistent, despite the game handing the players tools to: change the rate time flows around them, give orders to units in the past, send units into the past using time travel, and create time paradoxes... in competitive multiplayer. Bonus points for the system still managing to be fairly easy to learn.
  • While Chrono Trigger was generally consistent about how its time travel worked, there were a few odd instances. Like how Marle paradoxed herself out of existence, despite time travelers not being directly affected by any other changes they'd made during the game. For instance, you can save Lucca's mom, but Lucca still remembers when she was crippled instead of having all her memories changed. Or when the future Robo came from was erased from existence without affecting him.
    • The Timey-Wimey Ball also applies to game mechanics: One can open a chest in the future, return to the past and open the chest again to get two items from the same chest.
      • This also means that it is possible to beat the optional dungeon at the end of the game 3 times. However, if you start by beating the earliest version of it the newer versions will also be empty.
    • According to the staff members, they never quite got a consistent set of rules down for time travel until they had already written themselves into a corner, so they just went with what they had.
    • Chrono Cross tries to patch things up by using parallel realities as the ultimate outcome of fiddling about with temporal mechanics, and then showing the physical effect of a catastrophic temporal paradox via the Time Crash (wherein a time experiment pulled a city borne from the "good" future into the "bad" future, thereby destroying it, after which it froze and was pulled back to the game's present when the laboratory conducting the experiment, and its opposite number from another alternate reality, were ripped from their native timelines.)
  • Legacy of Kain. Time-travel, paradoxes, Decoy Getaways, and so much more! It would take an entire page on its own to list everything... but you can always see for yourself at the other wiki.
  • The ending of The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time created three timelines (not, the previously guessed, two): Link is defeated, the timeline when Link is sent back to his childhood and Ganon never takes over, and when Ganon takes over but is then defeated by Link as an adult.
    • Then there's the Song Of Storms. Link learns to play it on his ocarina from the Windmill Guy, who's ticked because "some Ocarina kid" came 7 years ago and played it, messing up the windmill. Guessed who the Ocarina kid is? And how he learned the song? That's right, from Windmill Guy, 7 years in the future. Gah!
      • The "creation" of the Song Of Storms out of thin void is what The Other Wiki describes as an Ontological Paradox. A very common hazard of Stable Time Loops.
    • The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask is even worse about this. Link is stuck in a Groundhog Day Loop that lasts for three days. Whenever the loop starts over, his actions in the previous loop are erased. There are no time travel duplicates, which erases the possibility of another Link running around doing things you've previously done. Instead, they simply don't occur unless you go and do them again. Despite this, once you defeat the final boss, all the cycles you've completed are somehow merged together without explanation and everyone is saved, rather than just the people you helped in the final cycle. Even if you speedrun this doesn't make any sense since the game cannot be fully completed in a single cycle (one sidequest in particular has to be done at least twice in two different cycles with slight variations for One Hundred Percent Completion). This was probably just done so that the game could have a happy ending, but it seems to break the game's own rules about how Time Travel works. Maybe the Goddess of Time did it.
    • Oracle Of Ages has Stable Time Loops and Temporal Paradoxes, to say nothing of things like the Black Tower, which grows in the present while being built in the past.
In four games, the precise nature of time has never remained constant. Ocarina of Time contains at least two very different mechanics, which theorists often find irreconcilable (and downright strange). Ages mechanics only begin to make sense when one sacrifices logic to storyline completely, and Majora's Mask Goddess of Time takes the whole thing to hell by drawing questions of omnipotence into the debate.
The Internet, Trying to solve the mess that is the Zelda Timeline.
    • The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword continues the tradition with Timeshift Stones. When hit, they revert the area around them to several hundred years in the past. Oddly, however, any change you make in the present near one of these stones will still be there in the past. And then, near the end of the game, Link uses the Triforce to kill Bigger Bad Demise in the present. However, Ghirahim kidnaps Zelda and uses her to free Demise several centuries in the past. Link follows him back and seals the past Demise within the Master Sword, which he leaves in the past Sealed Temple. None of this is shown to have had any effect on the timeline when Link, Groose and Zelda return to the present in the ending. The funny thing is this could have worked as a Stable Time Loop had they trapped Demise in the Sealed Temple again instead of in the Master Sword.
  • Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. This was lampshaded at one point, where doing something in the past gives E. Gadd an idea in the present, and he notes how paradoxical it is.
  • Original War.
  • The recent Prince of Persia trilogy is one massive example of timey-wimey craziness. At the end of The Sands of Time, the Prince entirely reverses the events that just took place, making it so the events of the first game don't happen. This creates a paradox, and in Warrior Within the Prince is being chased by the Dahaka, a timeline guardian who is trying to ensure that the timeline proceeds as it was meant to. The Prince inadvertently creates a Stable Time Loop when he kills Kaileena and creates the Sands of Time, the very thing that he was traveling back in time to prevent. Then, he discovers a way to co-exist with himself in the same timeline, which he uses until his normal self in the past timeline is killed, allowing him to remove the Mask of the Wraith. At the end of the second game, he has killed the Dahaka and successfully prevented the Sands of Time from ever being created, causing another disruption of the true timeline. In The Two Thrones, the Prince discovers that his paradoxical actions in Sands of Time mean that the Vizier was never killed and war has been unleashed on his homeland. The Vizier captures and kills Kaileena, once again unleashing the Sands of Time and effectively repeating the events of the first game in a different setting. The Prince eventually kills the Vizier seals away the Sands again and seems to have learned from a all his futile time-travel, as he leaves the end of the game be with no further meddling.
    • The opening line of the game:

 The Prince: Most people think time is like a river that flows swift and sure in one direction. But I have seen the face of time, and I can tell you, they are wrong. Time is an ocean in a storm.

  • Episode 204 of Sam and Max, Chariot of the Dogs, focuses on Time Travel. Within it, several stable time loops are created, including one that is required for getting Sam and Max to the time machine in the first place and another that comes into play in episode 205. However, as if completely ignoring the idea of stable time loops, much of the puzzle solving revolves around completely altering the time stream just so that you can fix a problem created by Max's personality the moment you start time travelling. One section even has Sam and Max accidentally letting themselves from the first season take their time machine, effectively rewriting everything the player had done in the past year, AFTER a needed macguffin to advance the plot was taken out of the time stream.
    • But then, this is Sam and Max, and it stands to reason that any time travel plot WILL bring in to play every time travel concept as fast as it can for the parody, since it only has a few hours before the episode is over.
  • Episode 204 is merely the Spiritual Successor to Day of the Tentacle, which is also extremely wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey. The game runs on San Dimas Time to allow the characters to flush small, inanimate objects to each other through time via their time machines, when the time stream is altered, any changes are visible to the characters and happen with a "magic" effect and sound, and at the end of the game, the characters travel back in time to yesterday to turn off the machine that caused the Big Bad to become evil, thus causing a huge paradox and defeating the point of them even disembarking on their adventure in the first place. But that's okay.
    • Doctor Edison's original plan (not taking into account the diamond breaking and the trio ending up in different eras) was for them to simply go back in time and turn off the aforementioned machine. Obviously, he didn't care about any potential paradoxes, since the plan would create a big one. Then again, he IS a mad scientist.
  • The game Second Sight seems to be this. When John Vattic finds his way to the records room to find Jayne dead, he seems to flash back to the point when she is supposed to have died to save her, eliminating the reason he flashed back at all. This happens a few times in the game, to the point of Mind Screw. However, what's really happening is that the "past" the player is experiencing is, in fact, the present, and the "present" is a premonition caused by the protagonist's latent psychic powers emerging. It's pulled off extremely well.
  • The recent DS point-and-click adventure game Time Hollow suffers from this trope at times. At one point, you rescue a mother and son from dying in a bus crash. Immediately afterwards, time refuses to change. So you try again. And again, nothing happens. Turns out the mother deliberately RE-changed events to cause her and her son's death. This is handwaved with an explanation that objects and people pulled or otherwise sent through a time warp become 'detached' in time.
    • Although it may make your head hurt a bit more when you are able to talk to the mother, older, in the timeline in which you saved her, even though that timeline, from your perspective, DOES NOT EXIST because she keeps changing the past to prevent it.
  • Timesplitters on the Gamecube and whatnot relied on Stable Time Loops for plot progression. For example, early on in the game Cortez receives a key after holding a conversation with himself through a grate in the ceiling...then later, holds a conversation with himself through a grate in the floor and drops himself the key.
    • And then in the games conclusion, Cortez Changes the past, stopping the Time Splitters from ever being created, complete with his Present being changed from a ruined battlefield to a beautiful landscape, with no real effect on him, or anyone else from his time.
    • This utter disregard for consistency is all worth it for the scene where Cortez is stuck in a vault with security systems trying to kill him, which the player plays through several times, thanks to the Stable Time Loops, and Even gives himself the password, seemingly picking it out of thin air.
  • Tactics Ogre, despite its Chariot and Wheel of Fortune Tarots, averts this entirely. Although the World Tarot lets you relive the other chapter paths, thus opening up the possibility for a Timey Wimey Ball, the final events in Coda suggest that this is not time travel, but merely Denam's imagination.
  • World of Warcraft got a big scoop of this when the Caverns of Time were introduced. Ingame, this is the home of the Bronze Dragonflight, Guardians of Time, which need the players help against the Infinite Dragonflight which are trying to mess up the timeline. But really, it's just an excuse to let players reexperience some of the key moments in Warcraft history, although in a different way (instead of Thrall escaping captivity with the help of a human girl causing distractions, the players need to bail him out by force). If you screw up, the Bronze Dragons just hit the Reset Button until you get it right. The Doctor may have used the TARDIS for sightseeing, but the Bronze Dragonflight runs a travel agency.
    • And then there is the novel trilogy War of the Ancients. Despite some dramatic changes (such as saving an entire race that originally went extinct), its apparently okay to mess with time as long as the end result is roughly the same. Of course, it also helps explaining why said race appears rather plentiful in World of Warcraft after having been said to be extinct in an earlier novel...
    • And in patch 4.3, players get to travel back again, via the Caverns of Time, to the events in the War of the Ancients, to retrieve a magical artifact. However, the events of another novel are centered around said artifact, meaning they logically would be Ret Conned. Given that the events of that novel are what indirectly led to the rise of Deathwing, who is the main reason for recovering the artifact in the first place...confusing doesn't even begin to describe it.
  • Command & Conquer - Red Alert series - seriously, the series by now has something in the range of 2 seperate timelines from the first game, two from the second, two from that game's expansion, and then three from the third game, with a further three path's from THAT game's expansion. Even more brain-busting, Red Alert led to Tiberian Dawn by way of Allies winning both Red Alert 1 and 2 - Red Alert 3 is made by way as a divergence at the end of Red Alert 2.
    • Add to that the events of Yuri's Revenge when is its own separate divergence and has the nice consequence of there being two "commanders" (the player) in different places at the same point in the timeline. Also two Tanyas and two Lieutenant Evas.
  • One puzzle in Escape from Monkey Island involves a time-travel maze where, at one point, you encounter your future self (and, later on, your past self, in exactly the same situation only controlling the other Guybrush). Taking an incorrect course of action (usually saying something wrong as the future self) creates a "paradox" that throws you back to the start of the maze. The puzzle goes a long way towards demonstrating the problems with a Stable Time Loop.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. Shadow's story depends on a You Already Changed the Past Stable Time Loop (Mephiles breaking out of the Scepter of Darkness in the present is the direct cause of Shadow traveling to the past and sealing Mephiles in the first place). Meanwhile in the Future, Sonic directly contradicts this by traveling from the Bad Future to the present and successfully Setting Right What Once Went Wrong (by preventing the death that was a direct cause of the Bad Future). And due to his interactions with both Shadow and Sonic, Silver's story uses both sets of time-travel rules, depending on the scene. If there hadn't been a Reset Button Ending, the temporal paradoxes probably would have caused the whole plot to erase itself anyway.
  • A Timey Wimey Ball in the good ending of Shadow Hearts: Covenant sends the main character back to the beggining of the first game with the implication that both of the first game's endings are canon. It also sent Karin back in time to meet Yuri's father and become Yuri's mother.
    • Some people believe that the proper play-through is first game: bad ending, second game: good ending, first game: good ending. It helps if you prefer the many-worlds explanation of time travel. This has a benefit of explaining Anne's Cross. Yes, it goes through a time loop, but it's only a single (open-ended) one. Others wonder why Anne's Cross doesn't get more battered with every loop, apparently thinking there's a stable time loop going on.
  • The activation of the god-golem Numidium in the conclusion of The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall allowed for several mutually-exclusive endings. The story-writers decided the simplest answer to this situation was for all of them to be true; the lore-writers followed suit. Cue the Dragonbreak, a moment in history where the Numidium's activation was so powerful it broke time. Time followed every possible path the player could follow, each time ending with Numidium's destruction... and then time snapped back together and every event became part of the new reality.
    • This has resulted in interesting paradoxes, including the existence of both the Worm God and Worm King, when they are both Mannimarco and should only be one or the other.
  • Dragon Quest V has a literal Timey-Wimey Ball. As a child, your character finds a golden orb which doesn't seem too important. A bit later, you meet a stranger who asks you if he can have a look at it. At one point, the leader of an evil cult destroys the orb for no apparent reason at the time. After a timeskip and many hours of gameplay, your character, now an adult, finds out that the golden orb was really the power source of a floating castle. You then receive a fake golden orb, go back to the time of your childhood through a magic painting and secretly exchange the orbs with your younger self and return to the present with the real one, meaning that the cult leader only destroyed the fake.
    • Dragon Quest VII takes it Up to Eleven by centering the entire game around traveling to different times and places in order to restore the world... Good luck with keeping the different time lines straight.
  • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney manages the difficult trick of pulling this off in a game that doesn't feature time travel. In the last episode, Phoenix's investigation as shown would not be possible unless he could actually travel through time, rather than being able to select different times just being a tool for the convenience of the Jury. He uses evidence he gathers in the present in the past, as well as evidence he gathers later in the same portion of the timeline in earlier incidents.
    • Justified in that the Investagion we see is a simulated version being played out by the Jurists. In Phoenix's proper investiagtion he probably he probably figured it out in other ways. For example, Phoenix using Kristoph's nail polish from the present in the past was probably the simulated version of Phoenix noticing Vera's nail polish on the table and taking a guess that said polish is her "lucky charm". In other words, the investigation we play is slightly alterted from what acually happened, probably due to the fact they were trying to show the fact that it was a simulation.
  • Okami manages this. First of all, you travel back in time to defeat Orochi with the help of Shiranui, your past self at full power, your grandfather, or yourself later in the game depending on your view of the Space Time Continuum. Next, Shiranui comes forward in time to help you beat the first part of the boss fight, only to get mortally injured in the present, then going back in time to die. Then, Chibiterasu, a son of Ammy, goes back in time to help his mom beat Orochi from nine months ago, thawing out his grandfather/mother at full power then going back in time 100 years in the past and... Yeah.
  • Back to The Future: The Game confuses the series' time travel mechanics even further, when Marty and Doc inadvertently create a timeline where Emmett Brown never creates the time machine in the first place (and in fact never becomes "Doc" Brown). While Marty is unaffected by the changes in the timeline (so long as it doesn't result in his erasure from existence, as usual), Doc actually disappears from the De Lorean once they land in 1985. To make matters even more confusing, the De Lorean doesn't disappear even though the time machine was never created.
    • That particular De Lorean actually did start to disappear once Marty managed to get the 1931 timeline mostly straightened out, but only after another Doc Brown travelled back from 1986 to pick up Marty, and it took days for the thing to finally vanish.
  • Radiant Historia is all about using this trope, Tricked-Out Time, and most other Time Travel Tropes in a quest to ensure the Golden Ending.

Webcomics Edit

  • In Bob and George most of the characters can never find out what kind of rule Time Travel goes by, and one person once said it can be changed by the setting on the time machine. However, it appears that they follow Stable Time Loop rules, as no time period is ever affected by what happens in another. Indeed, the only way time travel is different than going to a different dimesion is that people think it may change history.
    • Dr. Light's lab is clearly shown being pre-destroyed by a time ripple tearing through it and enforcing events from the new past. So yes, the past can be changed if you use the time machine right.
    • The ending however, suggest a stable time-loop, as it ends with a suggestion from a time-travelling ghost of Zero telling Wily to not activate him so he won't kill everyone. Then they all fake their death and move to Acapulco to prevent a temporal paradox.
    • There is a very good reason why "I hate Time Travel," is one of the more common Catch Phrases of the comic.
    • At another point, Protoman adds a fresh level of murk due to a) lacking Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory and b) being paranoid enough to know he lacks Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory, by remarking that a time-travel story is exactly how he remembered the events in question...well, it's how he remembers it now.
  • LookingForGroup has a big fat temporal loop in the Kethenecia arc in Book 3, but really the arc underlies the whole story so far. It's still uncertain if the protagonists can actually change the timeline should they chose to, since so far they did their best to fulfill the prophecies.
  • Three words: Dresden fucking Codak. This is what happens when Dada Comics undergo Cerebus Syndrome; leave your sanity at the door.
    • The basic mechanics of the wimey-ball are pretty clearly laid out at the bottom of this page, though as always some inconsistencies appear if you think about it too much (somehow, the artificial wormhole doesn't split the timeline, but the natural one does).
  • Melonpool used copious amounts of time travel and past-self and future-self meetings and going back in time to solve problems caused by previous time travel excursions. Eventually their universe began falling apart from all the time travel problems.
  • Earthsong has a bit of timey-wimey-ball action, since character are pulled together to one time, and then returned back to the moment they left after an indeterminate amount of time.
  • Trying to track the timeline changes in Misfile may lead to you repeating this trope name over and over and over again. Just Take Our Word for It.
  • Narbonic features an extended time-travel subplot which establishes that it is difficult, but not impossible, to change your own history. Physical time-travel takes all the energy that exists in the Universe or, as it turns out, in some other universe that's just out of luck, but it's possible to transfer your consciousness back or forward in time into your own body, and you can undergo changes as a result of altered behavior. For instance, Dave never smoked. At several points, the question of paradoxes comes up, and it is immediately dismissed by pointing out that thinking about it could cause it to happen, so it's better not to.
    • The same storyline provides an example of inconsistent time travel effects within a single sub-plot. Dave didn't cease to have ever smoked until after the time travel; however, Caliban's demotion, though also caused by the time travel, was established backstory before the time travel occured.
  • Minions At Work: Pretend it never happened.
  • There don't seem to be any concrete rules to Sluggy Freelance Time Travel. Possibly justified by the presence of beings like Father Time, Uncle Time, and the Fate Spiders who have an interest in making sure time runs smoothly and/or in a fun way.
    • In a more recent strip, Old-Riff says that Time Travel follows the branching timeline rules, and therefore you can't change the past, you're just abandoning the Bad Future in favor of a different universe. But really, the way it works, this revelation doesn't actually contradict anything, since from the characters' perspective, they would have no way of knowing.
  • Time travel in Irregular Webcomic at first appears to work in a Stable Time Loop fashion, but then it's revealed that It's possible to "break" a Stable Time Loop, an action capable of destroying the entire universe. Several time loops have already been broken.
    • And now Every universe, save the "espionage" theme universe, has been destroyed. They got better.
      • And now apparently the timeline is too broken to go back pre-1933 (specifically the date of the Reichstag Fire). Complete with a link to this very article.
  • This page of the Midnight Crew intermission in Homestuck typifies the response. Though most of the time travel shenanigans seem fairly self-consistent, it's still hella complex.
    • In the main continuity of the series, it gets worse when Future!Dave starts incorporating Time Travel shenanigans. And even he doesn't understand all the mechanisms behind it, his advice to the other characters (and the audience) is just basically "Don't overthink it."

Dave: see the thing with time travel is

Dave: you cant overthink it

Dave: you just got to roll with it and see what happens

Dave: and above all try not to do anything retarded

    • However, Magic A Is Magic A applies heavily and every form of time travel is internally consistent. The problem arises when there are at least four different forms of time travel, and possibly even more, all of which abide different rules
      • Heroes of Time have two options. Either A) They change destiny and cause a branch timeline, or B) You Already Changed the Past. They naturally have some intuition about what changes cause what. Time magic practiced by the Felt is more loose, and can be used for pretty much any form of Time Travel. And then there's the weird stuff, like the Furthest Ring distorting space and time, potentially causing someone to meet their past selves by traveling in a straight line and Skaian portals.
    • The Doctor's Trope Naming soundbite is used in Arisen Anew from the Alternia Bound album.
  • Done hilariously badly in the abandoned indy RPG Zybourne Clock:

  Imagine four balls on the edge of a cliff. Say a direct copy of the ball nearest the cliff is sent to the back of the line of balls and takes the place of the first ball. The formerly first ball becomes the second, the second becomes the third, and the fourth falls off the cliff. Time works the same way.

  • The characters of Melonpool handled time travel pretty responsibly the first two times. After they disable a mechanism that forbade them from being able to interact with things they had already done, including their past selves who were the time travelers, the whole affair became a convoluted mess and every new revelation had to be resolved by going back in time to stop themselves from going back in time to stop themselves from going back in time. The moral of the story is: don't mess with time travel or your universe will implode.
  • This is probably gonna be the only way to understand the whole time traveling bit in Sonichu. To wit, Author Avatar Chris is launched into the future where he is able to help those in the future make the vaccine for homosexuality (even if that's not how it works) before being able to convince his future wife Lovely Weather he is is future self (despite the fact that he'd be ten or so years older) and do the nasty. He comes back, gives Magi-Chan Sonichu a Sonichu Ball and tells him to go back and get some of the vaccine to bring back to the past so they can cure everyone years earlier. And while he does talk to the past version of Lovely Weather, there's the case of the vaccine - if he brought the vaccine back from the past to cure everyone, why would there be a need for it in the future and oh, going crosseyed.
    • Hilarously, those who read it surmised that Chris actually created a Bad Future because of it. Well, a Bad Future for himself, as his virginity would be restored as he never met future Lovely Weather.


Web Original Edit

  • Red vs. Blue starts out with a Stable Time Loop when Church keeps going back in time and ends up causing almost every problem that happened to the Blue Team. Then in season five, Wyoming uses his time travel ability (which Church was originally using without knowing it) to try and win the battle. Tucker has Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory thanks to his sword and they end up doing things, and then undoing them. For example, Caboose is killed by the tank, and Tex gets knocked out/killed by Wyoming. In the "final draft" of the timeline, Tucker yells at Caboose to stay away, and warns Tex that Wyoming knows that she's there. Then it turns back into Stable Time Loop when Caboose's mental image of Sister, who is a guy, gets pulled into the real world. S/he ends up materializing next to a dead Wyoming, who's suit malfunctions, sending him all the way back to Sidewinder. Turns out, he was the mysterious "Yellow Church" that fans speculated about for years.
    • Since the "Yellow Church" claimed his plan to solve the Sidewinder crisis "seemed like such a good idea at the time", it could be safe to speculate Sister/Yellow Church is there due to a further loop leading back to Sidewinder.
    • The series later attempts to explain all this earlier time-travel nonsense during the "Recollections" trilogy of seasons by explaining that the Red and Blue soldiers are actually simulation troopers meant to test Freelancer troops against a myriad of mad situations and everything they were subjected to in Blood Gulch was in fact a controlled situation they weren't meant to understand.
  • The Terminator variety is spoofed in the Atop the Fourth Wall, where time travel doesn't work on pants.


Western Animation Edit

  • There's a gigantic lampshade in Tripping the Rift. The crew saves the day by turning back time Superham-style: by flying the ship around a star counterclockwise really fast. While they're setting up, they discuss the inconsistency of the rules of time travel and the problems with changing the past.
  • In the double-episode "Two futures" of Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Wheeler uses a time pool to go back and prevent himself from receiving the fire ring. This results in a crapsack future because the Planeteers never became a team and saved the environment (though why they didn't just find another guy to accept it is never explained). He then goes back and prevents himself from preventing himself from getting the ring. Then they both escape into the time pool again and merge for some reason. Never understood that bit, myself. To make sure the viewers knew things were restored to normal, a scene from the utopian future is shown at the very end.
  • The Kim Possible movie A Sitch in Time begins with Kim and Ron splitting up, causing Kim to become worthless in fighting evil thus the Supervillains got hold of the Time Monkey, that Shego eventually stole and created a Bad Future with her as the ruler. But in the end, it's revealed that Shego was the one that caused Kim and Ron to split up in the first place. So basically, Shego only got the Time Monkey because Kim and Ron split up, but Kim and Ron split up because Shego used the Time Monkey...

 "Time travel, it's a cornucopia of disturbing concepts."

  • The plot of a Pinky and The Brain episode, in which the mice try to obtain a "World Domination Kit" from the future. It doesn't even try to make sense, but suffice to say it ended with the lab full of hundreds of Pinkys and Brains, and the ending tune changed to "They're Pinkys, they're Pinkys and the Brain Brain Brain Brain Brain Brain Brain Brain Brain Brain."
  • This episode of Tek Jansen, a series of shorts originally created for Stephen Colbert's show, illustrates how bad (or awesome) this trope can get.
  • In Transformers Armada, after Thrust shoots Starscream with the Requiem Blaster, we see a shot of Rad as an eight year old waking up in his parents' car and asking tiredly where the Mini-Cons are (implying his "present" mind was momentarily in his past body). Then cut to all the kids - possibly in an alternate future - being told by a slowly dying Hot Shot that the Transformers have all been eaten by Unicron because they didn't know that the Mini-Cons were servants of Unicron and were led to their doom. After this, cut to the kids now being at the moment of the Mini-Cons' creation millions of years ago inside Unicron. Rad then touches High Wire's hand and frees him (and by assocation all the other Mini-Cons) from Unicron's control by reminding them of their past/future happiness together. The Mini-Cons then know to go to Earth after they leave Cybertron to meet Rad and the other humans. Cut back to the humans returning mere moments before Thrust shoots Starscream, whereupon High Wire and his teammates combine into Perceptor and knocks the gun away, causing Thrust to miss Starscream completely. And none of this is EVER EXPLAINED.
    • Not to mention, the Mini-cons who prevented Starscream from being blasted weren't taken along with the kids' inexplicable time-jump, and there is no reason for them to have done anything differently in the present. It can't even be due to the kids' actions in the past - the Mini-cons would never have gone to Earth to kick off the events of the series if not for the kids, so it's not a case of the "old" High Wire wanting Starscream to die but the "new" one saving him.
  • One of the first episodes of Sealab 2021 shows Stormy and Quinn trying to steal cable for Captain Murphy and inadvertently cause a rift that sends them back in time to just before they left Sealab (about 15 minutes). They try to prevent themselves from causing the rift, but past Stormy and Quinn capture future Stormy and Quinn and lock them up in the gym while they're gone, where they remain when the next pair causes the rift. Since the time difference is only 15 minutes, each successive Stormy and Quinn react in the same way, and since each pair is unable to stop the next pair, the number of Stormies and Quinns keeps growing until the gym is filled with them, each pair a slightly malformed copy of the previous pair. Eventually, it takes all the Quinns working together to figure out a solution to the growing problem, and all the Stormies play dodgeball. Also, Stormy having a communicator watch.
  • Danny Phantom has Clockwork and then the Infinite Map for time travel.
  • In Futurama, time travel results in the creation of Stable Time Loops... except when it doesn't. In "Roswell That Ends Well", You Already Changed the Past is in effect, and everything makes sense. Then "The Why of Fry" contradicts this, and Fry succeeds in altering his own past (he doesn't prevent himself from getting cryogenically frozen, as he originally intended, but he does convince the Nibblonians to give him a better getaway scooter). Then, Bender's Big Score throws sense out the window: Bender's rampant time travel is revealed as the cause of some events from previous episodes (such as the fossilization of Seymour, and the first destruction of Old New York by flying saucers), while completely altering some other events (the final scene of "Jurassic Bark" gets retconned out of existence). Both stable time loops (like the tattoo on Fry's butt) and utter nonsense (like Hermes Conrad stealing his own body from the past) work equally well. Rather appropriately, Bender's time travel is carried out by a literal timey wimey ball.
    • Then there's Professor Farnsworth's time machine in "The Late Philip J. Fry", which could only go forward in time. When Farnsworth, Fry and Bender returned to a new, identical universe (making the Big Bounce theory true) It's impossible to know if the killing of the fish or Hitler did anything to Universe Two because they didn't get to stop in the 31st century to find out. They had to go around again to finally make a stop at Universe 3. This leads to all sorts of crazy implications as to what happened to the time traveling crew in the 2nd universe...do they kill their Universe 4 selves?
  • Time travel in The Fairly Odd Parents is... confusing. The first time Time Travel is used as a plot device, and in most subsequent appearances, history is very malleable and can easily be changed... with serious consequences. However, the episode "The Secret Origin of Denzel Crocker" appears to utilize a straight Stable Time Loop... however Timmy's time traveling, in addition to causing Crocker to lose his fairies as a kid, also gave him a much more sophisticated fairy-tracker which he didn't originally have as an adult, meaning that Crocker must have lost his fairies a slightly different way the "first time around". However, in a much later episode when Timmy wishes he were never born, a la It's a Wonderful Life, Jorgen reveals that Crocker's childhood would never have been ruined had Timmy never existed, which means that there was no "first time around" [4]. In other words, the writers wanted to use both Stable Time Loops and Temporal Paradoxes at the same time, resulting in a confusing mess.
    • The problem with the "Crocker wouldn't have become obsessed with Fairies" outcome rings hollow when, watching the Secret Origin episode again, the viewer sees that Cosmo was the one who wound up getting Crocker's childhood screwed up...
      • Then again, if Timmy wasn't present to wish what had caused Crocker such misery, Cosmo likely wouldn't have had the opportunity to travel back in time and screw up Crocker's childhood.
    • The first time they time-travel also brings up a lot of questions. The Time Scooter and Laser Eyes still frequently make an appearance whenever Timmy needs wishes that he never unwished. But that entire episode contradicts everything else, such as Cosmo and Wanda being Bill Gates's Godparents (at the time, they should have been Crocker's parents) and the appearance of Timmy's Dad. Depending on the version, Mr Turner either met Dinkleberg when they were children, or didn't even know about the couple until they moved next door.
  • Time Squad, for a show about Time Police, has some of the worst time travel logic ever. The premise itself of how the past "unravels" as time moves on would make The Doctor tear his hair out.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar has Kowalski try to stop two paradoxes that he created at the same time. While it's eventually resolved with a stable time loop, the second/third Kowalski couldn't have existed without having it's own paradox. It's... confusing. And the paradoxes effect time is only a few hours.
  • In an episode of South Park, Cartman freezes himself and is thawed out 500 years in the future. He then makes repeated calls to Kyle via a phone that reaches back through time, which makes changes to his time. He and everyone else 500 years from now only know the world the way it is after the changes. However, when he makes one more change at the end that hugely impacts history, he only remembers what the world was like before the change, while from everyone else's point of view it's always been that way.


Real Life Edit

  • There are a few people hanging around who've travelled into the future at a little over one second (external frame) per second (Personal Frame). Special Relativity demonstrates how objects in different frames of reference experience time differently. Giving any astronaut (or someone who spends a lot of time in aircraft) with a twin a very mild example of The Twin Paradox.
    • The Kelly brothers have this literally, since they are both astronauts. Captain Mark Kelly is slightly older than his brother Captain Scott Kelly, since he has spent 54 days in space as compared to 180 days. But the difference in their ages is only about a ten-thousandth of a second.
    • General Relativity adds a whole new layer of complexity to the whole spacetime thing. For example spacetime gets really warped close to extremely compact objects. It becomes several orders of magnitude more complex when there is more than one such object. Put two black holes in close proximity and even top astrophysicists will struggle. (And the math shows that spacetime does indeed behave in strange ways in such situations, such as loops forming around the black holes such that you could travel to your own past.)
      • I'm pretty sure the closed loop trick only works inside the black hole.
        • If only! The Gödel metric manages to have closed timelike loops in a universe that has no singularities and is even topologically simply connected. No, I cannot visualize that either.
  • The Higgs-Boson, according to some people.
  • Git. Git is a version control system. Like all version control systems, Git allows you to store files in time: essentially, taking a snapshot of a directory at a particular point and allowing you to roll back to it. Like any VCS, it can store many such snapshots. And, as with many VCS schemes, you can go backwards in time and start a new branch of changes relative to that particular time. With most VCS schemes, history can be branched, and created, but never modified or destroyed. Not so in Git, which allows you to go back in time and change what used to be there, rewriting past changes. What happens in the future, when changes have been made based on those previous changes? You get the Timey Whimey Ball in your source code, and now have to go through and figure out how to undo the horror you may have created.
    • Fortunately, Git preserves even changes to history (perhaps in a form of San Dimas Time), so you can revert your edits to history.
      • Unfortunately, unlike saner DVC Ses, it then voluntarily discards some parts of the history just before you want to look it up (if you merge two branches and later split them again, you have little chances to know what was originally where after a month or so)

Notes

  1. For all you physics buffs out there, yes, this does imply that Time Travel is unitless.
  2. Albert Einstein's mathematics show it is achievable by Time Dilation through accelerating to high speeds, but only towards the future and without a way back. We also know that gravity slows down time, meaning that you if you are in space your one second per second would be negligibly faster than on earth. Possibly exempting astronauts who, having been whirling around the earth at high speeds, have travelled a few seconds or minutes into the future depending on how long they have been in space.
  3. Mind you, if 29th century The Federation were to start messing with events that happened in their past, that would itself create a time paradox, and thus their own rules prohibit them from policing any temporal incursions that occurred prior to their becoming the Time Police.
  4. if there were, one would expect that Timmy negating his own existence would have undone all his changes to the past and history would be restored to the way it originally proceeded, sans Timmy of course

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