Time travel in fiction

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Poster for Back to the Future (1985).
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Cover of Hour of the Olympics, part of Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series.
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Poster for the 1989 time-travel movie Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.
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Theatrical poster and DVD cover for Groundhog Day (1993).
Time travel is a common theme in fiction (and particularly science fiction), depicted in a variety of media.


Time travel can form the central theme of a book, or can be a plot device. Time travel in fiction can ignore the possible effects of the time-traveler's actions, as in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, or it can use one resolution or another of the Grandfather paradox.

Early stories featuring time travel without time machines

Although The Time Machine by H. G. Wells was instrumental in causing the idea of time travel to enter the public imagination, non-technological forms of time travel had appeared in a number of earlier stories, and some even earlier stories featured elements suggestive of time travel, but remain somewhat ambiguous.
  • Memoirs of the Twentieth Century (1733) by Samuel Madden is mainly a series of letters from English ambassadors in various countries to the British "Lord High Treasurer", along with a few replies from the British foreign office, all purportedly written in 1997 and 1998 and describing the conditions of that era. However, the framing story is that these letters were actual documents given to the narrator by his guardian angel one night in 1728; for this reason, Paul Alkon suggests in his book Origins of Futuristic Fiction that "the first time-traveler in English literature is a guardian angel who returns with state documents from 1998 to the year 1728", although the book does not explicitly show how the angel obtained these documents. Alkon later qualifies this by writing "It would be stretching our generosity to praise Madden for being the first to show a traveler arriving from the future", but also says that Madden "deserves recognition as the first to toy with the rich idea of time-travel in the form of an artifact sent backwards from the future to be discovered in the present."
  • In the science fiction anthology Far Boundaries (1951), the editor August Derleth identifies the short story "Missing One's Coach: An Anachronism", written for the Dublin Literary Magazine by an anonymous author in 1838, as a very early time travel story. In this story, the narrator is waiting under a tree to be picked up by a coach which will take him out of Newcastle, when he suddenly finds himself transported back over a thousand years, where he encounters the Venerable Bede in a monastery, and gives him somewhat ironic explanations of the developments of the coming centuries. It is never entirely clear whether these events actually occurred or were merely a dream—the narrator says that when he initially found a comfortable-looking spot in the roots of the tree, he sat down, "and as my sceptical reader will tell me, nodded and slept", but then says that he is "resolved not to admit" this explanation. A number of dreamlike elements of the story may suggest otherwise to the reader, such as the fact that none of the members of the monastery seem to be able to see him at first, and the abrupt ending where Bede has been delayed talking to the narrator and so the other monks burst in thinking that some harm has come to him, and suddenly the narrator finds himself back under the tree in the present (August 1837), with his coach having just passed his spot on the road, leaving him stranded in Newcastle for another night.
  • In A Christmas Carol (1843), the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, is transported to Christmases past, present and yet to come. These might be considered mere visions rather than actual time travel, though, since Scrooge only viewed each time period passively, unable to interact with them.
  • The book Paris avant les hommes (Paris before Men) by the French botanist and geologist Pierre Boitard, published poshumously in 1861, in which the main character is transported to various prehistoric settings by the magic of a "lame demon", and is able to actively interact with prehistoric life.
  • The short story "The Clock That Went Backward", written by editor Edward Page Mitchell appeared in the New York Sun in 1881, another very early example of time travel in fiction.
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) by Mark Twain.
  • Tourmalin's Time Cheques (1891) by Thomas Anstey Guthrie (written under the pseudonym F. Anstey) was the first story to play with the paradoxes that time travel could cause.
  • Golf in the Year 2000 (1892) by J. McCullough tells the story of an Englishman who fell asleep in 1892 and awakens in the year 2000. The focus of the book is how the game of golf would have changed by then, but many social and technological themes are also discussed along the way, including a device similar to television and women's equality.

Science fiction

Any story involving time travel may be considered to include an element of science fiction. However, novels and short stories from the science fiction genre usually feature time travel via technology (a 'time machine') rather than time travel by supernatural means, and often play with the possibility of time paradoxes such as the grandfather paradox.
  • Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau's El Anacronópete (1887) is the first to introduce a machine for time travel.
  • The Chronic Argonauts (1888) by H. G. Wells is a very close second, and the precursor to Wells' The Time Machine (1895), considered the defining literary masterpiece of the genre. As in Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (1888), in which the protagonist falls into a slumber and wakes up in the future, the time travelers here are observers whose interactions at different points of time have no impact on altering history.
  • The short stories "By His Bootstraps" (1941) and “All You Zombies—” (1959) by Robert A. Heinlein include elaborate demonstrations of causal loops, sometimes referred to as predestination paradoxes. Heinlein also uses time travel in some of his other books, such as Time Enough for Love and To Sail Beyond the Sunset.
  • The short story "A Sound of Thunder" (1952) by Ray Bradbury deals with tiny changes in the distant past producing larger cumulative effects in the present (a.k.a. the Butterfly effect).
  • The End of Eternity (1955) by Isaac Asimov includes the 'time police' of Eternity which uses time machines to transfer goods between centuries and make constant minor adjustments to 'improve' the future.
  • Behold the Man (1966), a novella by Michael Moorcock and later expanded into a novel (1969). It is an existentialist tale about a man who uses a time machine to travel back in time from the year 1970 to 28 A.D., hoping to meet the historical Jesus of Nazareth.
  • "Up the Line" (1969), a novella by Robert Silverberg, centers on time tourists, their guides, and the resultant paradoxes. Time police are charged with preventing travellers from tampering with history as well as with punishing those who do. The time travel devices are powered by phlogiston.
  • Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), a novel by Kurt Vonnegut, tells the story of a man who has become "unstuck in time", shifting between various points in his life, including the present living with his family, the past during the bombing of Dresden in World War II, and the future living on the planet Tralfamadore as a zoo specimen studied by aliens. The aliens exist in all times simultaneously, and are capable of perceiving all events in the past, present, and future.
  • Chronocules (1970) by David G. Compton tells the story of Penheniot Experimental Research Village, established to develop time travel to escape the crumbling of society into a "better" future.
  • In Time and Again (1970), From Time to Time (1995), and The Third Level by Jack Finney, the characters use hypnosis as a means of time travel.
  • A highly detailed treatment of time travel is to be found in The Man Who Folded Himself (1973) by David Gerrold.
  • "The Very Slow Time Machine" (1978) is a short story by Ian Watson advancing the notion of quantized time. To be transported into the future you must travel backward through time by an equal amount to 'accumulate hindward potential'.
  • Time After Time (1979), a novel by Karl Alexander made into a film of the same title by Nicholas Meyer, features the author H. G. Wells, who builds a time machine that is used by Jack the Ripper to continue his killing spree in a future San Francisco.
  • Timescape, a 1980 novel by Gregory Benford, tells the story of a group of scientists in the future who use tachyons to try to warn scientists in the past about an ecological disaster.
  • In Thrice Upon a Time (1980) by James P. Hogan, messages can be sent backward in time causing the timeline from which the message was sent to cease to exist.
  • In A Rebel In Time (1983) by Harry Harrison, a US government installation based time machine is misused with the intention of enabling the Confederacy to manufacture Sten submachine guns.
  • In "Ripples in the Dirac Sea" (1988) by Geoffrey A. Landis (Nebula Award, 1989), a physicist creates a means of time travel using concepts from Dirac's theory of the quantum field. In this version of the time travel paradox, all changes made by the time traveller are erased when the time traveller returns to the present.
  • In the novella "The Langoliers" — from the collection Four Past Midnight by Stephen King — a group of people travels back in time aboard an airplane.
  • In The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, a 20th century millionaire has discovered the existence of gates that allow people to travel through time, but are only open at certain places and times. The protagonist accompanies him on an expedition to 17th century London to meet Coleridge, but becomes emeshed in a wildly tangled and comical plot.
  • Connie Willis won Hugo and Nebula Awards for Doomsday Book (1992). The plot features a time traveler from 2048 who travels back to the 14th century. Time travel in the novel is limited by a law of physics that prevents the traveller from landing in a place or time in which they could encounter a "grandfather" paradox and so travelers often find themselves quite far from the place or time they aimed for. The same universe of time travelling historians is featured in To Say Nothing of the Dog (1997).
  • The Guns of the South (1992) by Harry Turtledove takes place in an alternate history of North America during and after the American Civil War, caused by South African white supremacists who travel back in time to supply the Confederacy with AK-47 assault rifles.
  • The Time Ships (1995), by Stephen Baxter is considered to be the sequel to The Time Machine (1895) by H. G. Wells and is officially authorized by the Wells estate to mark the centenary of the original publication. In its wide-ranging narrative, the Traveller's desire to return and rescue Weena is thwarted by the fact that he has changed history (by telling his tale to his friends, one of whom published the account). With a Morlock (in the new history, the Morlocks are intelligent and cultured) he travels through the multiverse as increasingly complicated timelines unravel around him, eventually meeting mankind's far future descendants, whose ambition is to travel into the multiverse of multiverses. Like much of Baxter's work, this is definitely hard science fiction; it also includes many nods to the prehistory of Wells' story in the names of characters and chapters.
  • Timequake (1996) by Kurt Vonnegut contains a theme of free will versus determinism.
  • Paratime by H. Beam Piper. A series of short stories dealing with the concept of lateral time travel and alternate realities.
  • Timeline (1999) by Michael Crichton describes time travel in great detail, explaining the science of exactly how the time machine works. The book was made into a movie in 2004, with much of the science explanation (as well as most of the plot) missing.
  • Thief of Time (2001) by Terry Pratchett involves a freezing and unfreezing of time, a small mechanism that allows the user to travel backwards in time a few minutes, and time itself becoming personified and giving birth, then accidentally going backward in time and giving birth again, to the same child. This causes the split-up child in later life to believe himself to be twins, when he is actually just one person split into two bodies. Also, in Night Watch (2002) by the same author, a character interacts with a younger version of himself as an indirect relation to the events of Thief of Time.
  • The Counting Up, Counting Down (2002) collection by Harry Turtledove includes "Counting Up" and "Counting Down" which are paired short stories of time travel from the twin perspectives of a man who travels back in time to make sure his relationship with his girlfriend at the time lasts, and his younger self.
  • John Birmingham's Axis of Time trilogy (2004-present) begins when a futuristic military task-force is accidentally transported from 2021 to 1942. The novels deal with a rapidly altered version of World War II, and to a lesser extent the social changes that result amongst the Allied powers.
  • Romain Sardou's novel The Spark of God (2004 - Original French title: L'Eclat de Dieu) describes the First crusade and the beginning of the Knights Templar set in the future. The book is also a compelling analysis of the concept of time through ages and civilizations. It includes Uchronie, and time travel with Knights Templar legends.
  • "Pen Pal" (2004) by Lou Antonelli demonstrates causal loops within one man's life in a narrative told in reverse chronological order from the future to the past. Published by Revolution Science Fiction in July 2004, the short story was recognized with an honorable mention in The Year's Best Science Fiction (2005) published by St. Martin's Press, New York, N.Y.
  • The Didymus Contingency (2006) by Jeremy Robinson tells the tale of an atheist who travels back in time in order to prove Jesus a fraud. The book also discusses whether or not the past can truly be changed.
  • The Plot To Save Socrates (2006) by Paul Levinson tells of an attempt by time travelers from 2042 to prevent the philosopher from consuming the hemlock.
  • The Time Travelers Academy (2006) by Reginald Williams, a secret training academy that teaches time travel. The hero challenges the grandfather paradox to go back in time and save his fiancé but an unknown aspect of the grandfather paradox stipulates: Something in nature will stop the time traveler from changing the past.
  • In The Dechronization of Sam Magruder by George Gaylord Simpson, the eminent paleontologist, a 22nd-century scientist is accidentally sent back in time to the Cretaceous Period, where he must spend the rest of his life alone.


The number of novels that fall into the category of time-travel/humor is limited, however these novels tend to be some of the more immediately engaging and interesting of time-travel-related fiction.
  • In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980) by Douglas Adams the hapless Arthur Dent is brought forward in time to the last day of the universe, and then backward in time to the beginnings of mankind on Earth. Several other mentions of time travel and probable histories occur within the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy.
  • In Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (1987), Douglas Adams also explored this theme, wherein the time-traveling Professor Urban Chronotis plays a crucial part in Dirk Gently's latest case.
  • A sub-plot in Terry Pratchett's The Last Continent (1998) involves some wizards from Unseen University going through a portal that takes them thousands of years in the past. When they get stuck there, young wizard Ponder Stibbons tries to explain the dangers of time travel to his superiors, giving Pratchett the opportunity to poke fun at such concepts as the Grandfather paradox and the predestination paradox.
  • The Time Machine Did It (2004) by John Swartzwelder is a humorous send up of detective and time-travel fiction. In this short novel, detective Frank Burly is offered a job by a man claiming to be a former millionaire, who inexplicably wakes up one morning in abject poverty. Like Dirk Gently, Burly relies more on luck and circumstance than on actual detection.
  • The Great Cupcake by Bhavesh Shah addresses the practical issues that arise in a future where time machines become commonplace and are used for mundane and trivial purposes; the story centers around a "space cop" in pursuit of a criminal who has used time travel to escape into the past (which actually turns out to be our future).
  • Letters back to ancient China ("Briefe in die chinesische Vergangenheit") by Herbert Rosendorfer tells the story of a Chinese mandarin who wants to time-travels from the 10th century into present-day China. Alas, the Chinese has not considered the earth's rotation in his calculations, so he arrives in a strange town called Min-Chen in a country called Ba Yan (=Munich, Bavaria). He writes home several times, and tells his friend about his adventures in a particularly strange place, where there are vehicles without horses, towers with a height of half a li, and where the local language is written in a primitive alphabet with no more than 26 letters.
  • 12 Easy Lessons to Better Time Travel (PC or MAC)is a hypertext novel by Mark C. Marino. In the tale the Drs. Phebson offer a distance-learning course (distance both spatially and chronologically) to help readers master the difficulties of their movement through time. During the course of the narrative, the reader can learn the lessons through their lectures and by examining the case study of Barry Munz, a novice time traveler. Among the other time travel lessons are a set of rules, Ticky the Clock (an automated help agent), excerpts from the book of 10,000 clocks, and FAQs.


Time-travel romances focus on the relationship between two people, one of whom is usually "lost in time".

Children's fiction

Time travel is an occasional theme in children's fiction. Stories tend to fall into four types:
  • Magical time travel through a device such as a door or a window which tends to overlap with the ghost story to feature spooky and/or poignant elements. These stories tend to feature the past or present, rarely the future, and only two time periods. Examples include The Time Warp Trio.
  • The time-displaced person, often, again, tending to involve the past or the present.
  • Straight forward adventures in history-style books intended to teach children about history and provide diversion. Examples include The Magic Tree House.
  • The time travel adventure story which tends to involve the same elements as adult's time where some time travel adds extra spice and, generally, fiction involving many of the same concerns as adult science fiction such as time loops and time paradoxes.


  • Time travel is a major theme in the album The Philosophy of Time Travel (2007) written by the band Christmas Fuller Project.

Supernatural time travel

Time-displaced person

  • King of Shadows by Susan Cooper
  • Hatching Magic by Ann Downer features a 13th-century wizard who travels by magical bolt-hole to the 21st century.
  • A Rag, A Bone and A Hank of Hair by Nicholas Fisk, technically not a time travel story (the novel takes place in a re-created Blitz-era household sometime in the future) but deals with the same issues, of a boy from the future trying to adjust to life in a 1940s family.
  • A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley
  • Double Spell by Janet Lunn
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut follows Billy Pilgrim, who has become "unstuck in time".

Adventures in history

Time travel adventure

  • The Story of the Amulet (1906) by E. Nesbit is a very early and innovative story of time travel, featuring time paradoxes and travel into more than one time period in the past and, briefly, the future. Her Harding's Luck and The House of Arden also deal with time-travel, and feature a crossover, presenting the same events from the perspectives of different time-travellers.
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle involves travelling to various moments in time in order to prevent nuclear disaster in the present. A Wrinkle in Time uses a tesseract as a means to travel to other planets (the storyline does not involve actual time travel). Many Waters involves the twins' journey to the flood of Noah. They are initially transported by their father's experimental work, and return thanks to angels and multi-dimensional unicorns. With A Wind in the Door, these books are known as the Time Quartet. An Acceptable Time is an associated book, in which the protagonist is trapped 3000 years in the past.
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling features a number of causal loops.
  • Justin Thyme by Panama Oxridge. The first in a time travel series; its chapters interspersed with simplified explanations of time travel and its paradoxes.
  • Time Warp Trio by Jon Scieszka.
  • Books 9-12 in the Andrew Lost series by J. C. Greenburg feature time travel.
  • The Green Futures of Tycho by William Sleator explores some of the moral issues surrounding the power associated with time travel.
  • A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Pocket and the Pendant, by Mark Jeffrey, is ultimately about a trap laid by the immortal character Enki for his enemy, Jadeth, that requires the manipulation of time. First, in order to hide a powerful object (the Pendant) for 7,000 years he sends it forward in time from 5,000 B.C. to Max Quick and his companions in the present day. Then approximately 100 years before the present day Enki captures a minor enemy, Johnny Siren, and sends him to the present day as well. Finally, in the present day, Enki directs Max Quick and his companions to the exact place where they meet the Enki from 5,000 B.C. and take possession of the Pendant. When they are confronted by Jadeth and present-day Johnny Siren, they use past Johnny Siren as leverage to stay alive.


The idea of time travel is a common theme in motion pictures.

Science fiction

  • There have been three adaptations of The Time Machine (1960, 1978 and 2002).
  • In La Jetée (1962), the hero is haunted by a memory from his childhood, which turns out to be himself as an adult. (La Jetée — a movie short — was the basis of the full-length feature 12 Monkeys, 1995, described below.)
  • Masters of the Universe (1987). Time travel was featured in this movie, with a villain using a camcorder-like gadget which could show what actually happened in the past hour or so, and an inventor using harmonics to open up wormholes not only between dimensions but within the timestream of the same dimension, allowing the heroine (a young Courteney Cox) to save her parents from dying in a plane accident).
  • In Superman (1978), the Man of Steel, in an attempt to effectively resurrect the deceased Lois Lane, flies into outer space and circles the Earth at the speed of light, transporting himself backwards in time to a point just before an earthquake caused by Lex Luthor. He then arrived in time to save Lois from death.
  • In the of Superman II (1978/1980/2006), the Man of Steel again travelled backwards in time using the same method, but this time to prevent both the destruction of the USA by the three Kryptonian villains (Zod, Ursa, and Non), and Lois Lane from discovering Superman's identity (Note: This was per the original shooting script before it was revised by director Richard Lester for the film's eventual theatrical release.).
  • Time After Time (1979) includes a fictionalized H.G. Wells as the time traveler.
  • In The Final Countdown (1980), a sea storm transports a nuclear warship from the 1980s to the 1940s.
  • In (1982), the hero travels by means of "time cannons".
  • In The Philadelphia Experiment (1984) — based on urban legends and conspiracy theories surrounding what is known as The Philadelphia Experiment — sailors in a 1943 experiment travel 41 years forward in time.
  • In Back to the Future trilogy
  • Back to the Future (1985), time travel is achieved by means of a DeLorean time machine. Marty McFly intervenes in his parents' first meeting and prevents them from falling in love, placing his own existence in danger. Thus, the film presents a version of the grandfather paradox.
  • Back to the Future Part II (1989), Marty has to undo a mistake that was made by retrieving an object from the future.
  • Back to the Future Part III (1990)), Marty has to prevent the untimely death of Doc Brown.
  • In The Terminator (1984), John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect John's mother, Sarah from a deadly robot (the Terminator). However, Kyle falls in love with Sarah and ends up fathering John, the man who sent him back. Thus, the film provides an example of a causal loop. In the sequels (1991) and (2003), the future can be changed and this causes a number of potential paradoxes.
  • Doctor Who: The Movie (1996) involves the Doctor in his eighth incarnation in his second-to-final known showdown with the Master.
  • Star Trek films including time travel:
  • (1986)
  • (1994)
  • (1996).
  • Timecop (1994) also includes a prohibition against changing the past. The Time Enforcement Agency is specifically formed to prevent such alterations. This causes a dilemma for the hero, Max Walker, who is charged with preventing time-traveler's from altering time, but is tempted to do so himself to prevent his wife's death.
  • In 12 Monkeys (1995), James Cole tries to change the past but cannot. It therefore runs on the principle of a fixed timeline (the Novikov self-consistency principle).
  • The complex plot of Donnie Darko (2001) invites multiple interpretations for its model of time travel.
  • In Timequest (2002), a group of time travelers use a time machine to travel back in time to 1963 to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.
  • In A Sound of Thunder, a person that goes on a dinosaur hunt ends up altering the future by stepping on a butterfly.
  • In The Butterfly Effect (2004), small changes to the past affect the character's life in unexpected ways, an illustration of chaos theory.
  • The time machine in Primer (2004) is a rather limited one, since the user must spend as much time in the machine as they want to go back, and it can only go back to the time it was originally turned on.
  • Timeline (2004) is an adaptation of the book by Michael Crichton, although it omits much of the scientific detail. The plot has an example of a causal loop.
  • Deja Vu (2006) shows a detective who goes back to save lives from a terrorism explosion.
  • Next (2007) is a film where the main character can see 2 minutes into the future.




  • Army of Darkness - Ash Williams is an early-90s guy sent back to the Middle Ages.


  • Warlock - A Warlock who has been sentenced to death for witchcraft is transported 300 years into the future and is followed by a witch hunter who has to stop the warlock finding the grand grimoire

Children's films


Several television series use time travel as integral to their central theme: In addition, time travel can be used as an occasional device in an ongoing series, such as the following:
  • In Lost, the character Desmond Hume traveled back in time and can also see into the future.
  • In the French Animated series Code Lyoko, a return in time is used after a tower has been deactivated, Jeremy enters a code into the supercomputer and says "Return to The Past Now"; a jet of white light then erupts from the supercomputer and engulfs the planet causing it to return in time. This process can take people back to about a day in the past, only people who have used the scanners can recall any events before the time reversion. This is used repeatedly through the series. Injuries and scars are healed - however, the dead cannot return to life.
  • The five-year story arc of the TV series Babylon 5 (19931998) contained a long-term time-travel story, surrounding the disappearance of the titular station's immediate predecessor, Babylon 4. The effects of this time-travel story are important cornerstones of the series, but cannot be fully understood for a number of seasons. While the disappearance of Babylon 4 is mentioned in the pilot episode and the station reappears later in the first season ("Babylon Squared"), it is not until near the end of year three ("War Without End") that the plot is resolved.
  • Doraemon is about a robotic cat named Doraemon who travels to Nobita's era via a time machine accessible only in the drawer of Nobita's desk. He and Nobita often uses the time machine to travel to other eras (for example, to unsuccessfully attempt to capture a dinosaur or to see the latter's future wife and child).
  • Philip J. Fry of Futurama (1999-2003) is a 20th century man cryogenized into the 31st century. While the initial incident does not actually involve time travel, further along the series, he travels back in time to the Roswell Incident ("Roswell That Ends Well"). He also must later ensure his cryogenisis by recreating the incident ("The Why Of Fry").
  • In the Justice League episodes "The Savage Time" and Hereafter, the first episode moves backward in time to the 1940s and the second forward 30,000 years. In the Justice League Unlimited episodes 'The Once And Future Thing (parts 1 & 2)' and 'Far From Home', part 1 of the first episode goes backward to 'the old west' and part 2 forward to when the Batman Beyond series is set; whilst the second goes forward to a very distant future to a time when the 'Legion Of Superheroes' exist. It should note that Green Lantern John Stewart has been in all episodes except 'Hereafter', and has shown a dislike of time travel.
  • Red vs. Blue (2001 - present). In the season 3 episode "Make Your Time" a bomb explosion causes a temporal rift in time (and "destroys the present", according to characters later on) that sends the Reds, the Blues and their enemies forward in time to the far future (where "things are very shiny") while sending the character Church to the past. Church discovers that he is part of a predestination paradox that caused most of the events of the first two seasons, gets caught in a time loop (while trying to stop the bomb from detonating) where he interacts with dozens of future selves who have failed to stop the bomb and been blown back in time along with the original Church, and eventually ends the loop by standing with the Reds and Blues when the bomb goes off and being blown into the future along with them. After this storyline concludes the characters remain in the future, though the do return to the future version of Blood Gulch, and resume much of their old behaviors despite the differences between their old time and new. In season 5, a character from the Reds and Blues' original time joins the series (which was explained using Minkowski space theory).
  • Rocky & Bullwinkle's (19591964) "Wayback machine"
  • Red Dwarf (1988-1999)
  • The Simpsons (1989-present) In "Treehouse of Horror V", Homer J. Simpson travels back in time using a broken toaster and comically demonstrates the butterfly effect.
  • The Girl from Tomorrow (1990) and (1993)
  • Power Rangers (1993-Present)
  • ''Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
  • ''
  • ''
  • ''
  • ''
  • Star Trek
  • The City on the Edge of Forever
  • All our Yesterdays
  • Assignment Earth
  • Tomorrow is Yesterday
  • The Counter-Clock Incident features reverse time flow
  • Yesteryear features a time gate.
  • (1987-1994)
  • Yesterday's Enterprise, the Enterprise-C is travels forward in time through a rift, and alters the present. The crew of the Enterprise-D has been fighting the Klingons for the past 20 years. The Enterprise-C must be sent back through the rift to change the time line back.
  • Cause and Effect
  • All Good Things...
  • ''" also features time traveling, but it may be an illusion by Q (Star Trek)
  • (1993-1999)
  • Trials and Tribble-ations, the DS9 crew must travel back in time to prevent another time traveler from intervening in the events portrayed in the Star Trek episode The Trouble With Tribbles. (Federation 'Teporal Investigation' agents investigating the incident note that James T. Kirk has the largest file in their office.)
  • Things Past
  • Children of Time
  • (1995-2001)
  • Future's End, Voyager is accidentally sent back to 20th century Earth and has to prevent a stolen 29th cenutry time machine from being used to travel back to the 29th century.
  • Year of Hell don't specifically feature time travel, with the exception of the reset at the end, but do show whole species being literally erased from time.
  • Dragon Ball Z (1996-2003US)
  • Sabrina The Teenage Witch (1996-2003)
  • South Park (1997-present)
  • Stargate SG-1 (1997-present) In the episode '1969' SG-1 travels back to 1969 as well as briefly to the future, and in 'Moebius (parts 1 & 2)' they travel back to Ancient Egypt, 3000 B.C.
  • Charmed (1998-2006)
  • Family Guy (1999-2002, 2005-present)
  • Farscape (1999-2003). In the episode "Kansas", John Crichton and the crew of Moya travel through a wormhole to Earth in the year 1985 — 14 years before the events of the series. Crichton discovers that history has somehow been altered and his father Jack (alive in the regular timeline) is now the captain of the doomed Challenger space shuttle mission. The previous episode ("Unrealized Reality") stated that in the Farscape universe the timeline is flexible, and minor changes can occur without disrupting the timeline as long as nothing major or paradoxal happens. To that end, Crichton manufactures an incident where the young version of himself is trapped in a burning building and Jack rescues him, missing the Challenger mission to stay by his son's side and thereby fixing the timeline. Also in the episode Chiana seduces the young Crichton and has sex with him, but uses Noranti's memory-altering powder to remove the memory of the event from young Crichton and replace it with the one that adult Crichton remembers, preventing adult Crichton from even discovering what happened.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants (1999-present)
  • Inuyasha (2000-2004). In this series, Kagome continuously travels to feudal Japan to aid the title character. Sometimes, it may be the other way around.
  • The Fairly OddParents (2001)
  • The Powerpuff Girls (2001) Two episodes involve time travel. First, in the episode "Speed Demon", the Girls move so fast on a race home that they travel 50 years into the future, a time long enough for the satanic figure "Him" to conquer the city of Townsville, where the Girls live. In another, "Get Back Jojo", arch-enemy Mojo Jojo uses one of Professor Utonium's machines to travel back in time to the point where the Professor got interested in science in order to stop the creation of the Powepuff Girls. Ironically, he ends up responsible for their creation in the first place.
  • (2001-2005) Besides the usual assortment of time-travel stories, the first three seasons reference a Temporal Cold War where extraterrestrials from the far future involved the starship in various manipulations of "past" (current to the regular characters) events.
  • Stargate Atlantis (2004-present)
  • Catscratch (2005)
  • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006) Though no actual time travel is done in the anime series, Mikuru, one of the main characters, is a time traveler; her future self also appears in an episode. In the Light Novels, she and the narrator, Kyon return to and alter one date multiple times.
  • Heroes (2006-) One of the central metapowered characters, Hiro, is able to manipulate time and space, using it to travel to New York City of several weeks in the future, to travel back in time six months (albeit accidentally) in an attempt to save a woman's life, and to travel back from five years in his own future to warn another character. In the first season finale, Hiro accidentally travels to 17th century Japan.
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura, the protagonist, Sakura, is able to manipulate time with the use of two clow cards, the Time and the Return. Before being captured, Time caused Sakura to repeat the same day over and over. Return allows her to return to a certain point in the past.
  • Zipang. An anime series about a modern day Japanese naval vessel that gets sent back to World War II Japan.
  • "" (2002-2006) Jimmy has invented three types of time machines. He and his friends have been to the prehistoric era, the 1970s, and the future
  • "Danny Phantom" (2004-2007) Two episodes have used time travel as a theme, both involving "Clockwork". The first, The Ultimate Enemy, has Danny and his friends thrust into a future where Danny has turned evil and laid waste to the world. His older self then goes back to the present to assure that the events leading to his future take place. The second, Masters of All Time, has Danny go back in time to prevent his arch-enemy Vlad from getting his powers. Unfortunately, Jack ends up in Vlad's position, with Vlad instead Maddie's husband, which prompts Danny to attempt to fix it, only to realize he cannot, as there is apparently no ghost portal.
It has also been used for mockumentaries, such as Prehistoric Park.


Time travel has also featured in a number of games, including computer and video games, board games, Pen and Paper role-playing games and play by mail games.

Video and computer games

  • The Delphine Software International 1989 release Future Wars tells the story of a Window cleaner transported into a magical adventure through time.
  • Tim Schafer's Day of the Tentacle, a LucasArts graphic adventure, puts the player in simultaneous control of three separate characters in the same location, initially at the same point in time. For the majority of the game though, they are at three different points in time. Actions in one time period affect the circumstances in proceeding time periods.
  • The computer game series The Journeyman Project places the player in the shoes of Gage Blackwood, Agent 5 of the Temporal Security Agency (TSA), a secret organization in charge of guarding the timestream from being altered. Players would have to bounce back and forth in time to solve puzzles and find clues, visiting real historical places (Leonardo da Vinci's workshop) or places of legend (Atlantis). Players were also encouraged to not be seen either by avoiding contact with citizens of that time period, appearing as another inhabitant or becoming invisible altogether.
  • Timequest by Legend Entertainment shares a nearly identical premise, with the player chasing a person through time periods in order to prevent him from altering the past.
  • The computer game series that began with was based upon a postulated time travel technique, and a particular event where Albert Einstein traveled back in time to remove a young Adolf Hitler, thus altering the course of history — with catastrophic results. Time travel would later be used in the Campaigns of and its expansion pack, "Yuri's Revenge".
  • In the computer game Fallout 2, there is a special encounter involving a gate-like stone structure which is in fact a time portal. Stepping through it will transport the player back in time, to a period before the start of the first Fallout game, where they will find a computer with a water chip. Breaking the chip will ensure that the events of the first game will occur, as it involves the player of the first game seeking a replacement for the broken chip. This also ensures the Fallout 2 player's own existence as a descendant of the first game's player—a causal loop known as a predestination paradox. The encounter is called "The Guardian of Forever", a reference to the Star Trek episode, The City on the Edge of Forever.
  • In Shadow of Memories for PlayStation 2, the main character has to travel back in time to prevent his own death and to find out both the assailant's identity and reasons for the murder-to-happen.
  • Time traveling is a main theme in the Square Soft fantasy/role-playing game Chrono Trigger. A group of heroes for different eras travel back and forth through time in an attempt to prevent the end of the world in the year 1999.
  • Similarly, Tales of Phantasia features time travel both to the past and the future, using ancient technology.
  • The Legacy of Kain game series states that "History Abhors a Paradox". In the Kain series, the timeline, referred to as the "Timestream", is immutable. Changes made by individuals have no effect on the general flow of time, but major changes can be made by introducing a paradox. When a paradox is introduced, the Timestream is forced to reshuffle itself to accommodate the change in history.
  • The game Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? and two derivative television series (Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? and Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?) feature time travel extensively.
  • The games Freedom Force and its sequel, Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich, both feature a villainous character named Time Master who has absolute power over time.
  • In , the main character Link can travel back and forth through time via the Master Sword and the Temple of Time, but only his mind is truly traveling through time.
  • In , Link has only three days in order to avoid a moon crash into the country of Termina. In order to return to the first day, he uses the Ocarina of Time, which also allows him to slow the flow of time (or restore if it was slowed) or advance half a day.
  • In , there is also a time travelling plot in which Link must rescue the oracle Nayru. Like in Ocarina of Time, Link travels through two different eras, though he doesn't age.
  • The game involves the use of time portals to travel to various points in time (both past and future) to scavenge "crystals".
  • The educational video game Mario's Time Machine involves Bowser stealing precious artifacts from history (such as Shakespeare's pen and Magellan's ship's steering wheel) and displaying them in his museum, which Mario must then go back in time to stop.
  • Dino Eggs produced in the early 1980s for the Commodore 64 computer system involved a character called 'Time Master Tim' whom the player had to guide around prehistoric landscapes in order to rescue dinosaurs and transport them through time to the present.
  • A game titled Time Machine on the Commodore 64 has no relationship to the book. Instead, it places a professor lost in the depths of time as terrorists ransack his laboratory, blowing up his time machine. Then, the professor must help out the fledgling mankind to evolve and grow civilized.
  • In the trilogy (consisting of Sands of Time, and ), the Prince continuously travels back through times to repair his errors, each time causing a disaster. In the first game, the prince travels back through time to prevent himself from unleashing the sands, therefore causing the Dahaka to pursue him, as seen in Warrior Within, he travels through time to prevent the Sands of Time from being created. In The Two Thrones, his stopping the creation of the Sands of Time resurrected the evil Vizier.
  • In Empire Earth's Russian Campaign, Sergei Molotov/Molly Ryan must build a time machine to come back to the year 2018 and destroy Grigor Illyanich Stoyanovich's Empire, Novaya Russia.
  • , the franchise's second arcade game (later ported to the Super Nintendo), features a plot in which the Turtles must battle their way through time before confronting Krang and Shredder.
  • In , Mario and Luigi travel to the past to help their younger selves fight off an alien invasion.
  • In Final Fantasy, the villain Garland travels 2,000 years into the past with the help of the Four Fiends. Garland then sends the Four Fiends 2,000 years into the future to cause global destruction and send his present-day body into the past.
  • In the video game for Futurama, the crew must travel back to prevent the sale of Planet Express. They fail in doing so and get themselves killed which provides an infinite loop as the game starts all over again.
  • In Sonic CD, Sonic had to travel through time to stop Robotnik from using the Time Stones to alter the past and take over the Little Planet.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Heroes and Shadow The Hedgehog, Chaos Control is used as a method to stop time while the user can either move as usual or teleport.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), the main villain is Solaris, a sun god with absolute control of time. In addition, one of its split forms, Mephiles, is capable of time travelling and previously mentioned Chaos Control has the additional ability of creating time portals when used by two users simultaneously.
  • In Knowledge Adventure's , the goal of the game is to prevent a bratty girl from altering history so that her answers to a history quiz she failed will be correct.
  • In the TimeSplitters series, the player must travel to the past and the future to destroy an evil race of beings called 'TimeSplitters'. The most notable game in the series is in which the player must help both his past and future selves solve puzzles and defeat enemies.
  • Onimusha 3: Demon Siege involved the two playable characters being switched in time due to instability in a chief enemy's time machine. A feudal Samurai was sent to modern day Paris, while a modern day French officer was transported to feudal Japan.
  • In Gradius V, the Vic Viper comes across a time-space rift, from which a future Vic Viper and an enemy battleship emerge. The future Vic Viper destroys the battleship with the help of the present one. Later on in the game, the Vic Viper comes across the same battleship and must take itself and the battleship back in time to get assistance from its past self.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII, the character Ellone has the ability to send the consciousness of a person she knows back in time and junction it to another person she knows in the past. The plot in Final Fantasy VIII also deals with a sorceress from the future and "Time Compression" in which past, present, and future would all be mixed together.
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, Sora, Donald and Goofy travel to a past time period (called the Timeless River) when Disney Castle is being built. Black Pete tries to take the Cornerstone of Light that protects the castle from evil, but is stopped by Sora and company, along with Pete's past version.
  • In EarthBound, the journey of Ness begins after a time traveler, Buzz Buzz, tells him about a future apocalypse which only him and his friends can stop. In the last part of the game, the protagonists travel to the past, when the villain Giygas is most vulnerable. One of Giygas' minions, Pokey, escapes to another time period and becomes the main antagonist of Mother 3.
  • The game Second Sight is initially presented as a thriller/time travel story; the character, John Vattic, who remembers nothing of his past has periodic (and for the purposes of the game, interactive) flashbacks. However, awakening from his flashbacks, he finds that events and circumstances in the present have radically changed since before he had the flashback (said changes being directly connected to the actions of the player during the flashback). The twist ending reveals that the flashbacks are actually the present time and what was initially thought to be the present is actually Vattic seeing the future.
  • The game Clock Tower 3 involves the main character traveling through time to destroy supernatural killers after their final murders.
  • In the first-person Shooter Half-Life 2, a slow Teleporter is used and this holds protagonists Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance back one week in real-time but for them the trip was instantanious. This resembles time travel.
  • In Jazz Jackrabbit 2, the protagonists must chase the villainous Devan Shell through various points in time. The cancelled sequel, Jazz Jackrabbit 3, would have also seen Jazz going to a future ruled by Devan.
  • In Croteam's Serious Sam series, the games First Encounter, Second Encounter, and Next Encounter involve a hero from the future sent back in time by means of ancient Sirian alien technology in order to find a means to reach the homeworld of the alien overlord Mental, who has ravaged Earth in the future. Sam visits such places as ancient Egypt, Incan ruins, English villages, Chinese cities and Roman temples, albeit sometime after the respective civilizations have died off. Serious Sam 2 abandons the time travel theme in favor of various planets.

Board games

Various kinds of family and simulation games exist, where people play face-to-face or around a table, or within earshot of each other, or passing written notes around, and the topic of the game occasionally includes time travel.
  • Alternate Realities, designed by Kelly Coyle
  • Assassin, designed by Al Macintyre, with several variants such as:
  • maze
  • Paradox
  • Philosophies
  • Zombie
  • Chrononauts
  • Doctor Who, FASA boxed game, designed by Michael P Bledsoe
  • Time and Again, packaged by Time Line Ltd, designed by Voss & Worzel
  • Time Master, Pace setter boxed game, designed by Marc Acres, with several variants such as:
  • Red Ace High
  • Time Tricks
  • Time Marines, designed by Dan Reece
  • Time Travel Kriegspiel Chess variant, designed by Macintyre and Reece
  • Time War, Yaquinto boxed game, designed by J Stephen Peek
  • U.S. Patent Number 1, designed by James Ernest and Falko Goettsch

Role-playing games

Play-by-mail games

Play-by-mail games were human-moderated games where the moves were sent by postal mail, before the advent of computer-moderated multi-player games. Some of those games were about time travel, such as:
  • Out time days, designed by Freitas
  • Time Trap, designed by Richard Loomis

Comic strips and webcomics

  • Calvin and Hobbes featured a series in which Calvin was forced to write a piece of creative writing; he travels from 6:30 to 8:30 to do so. However, he learns from the 8:30 version of himself that because he traveled in time, he did not complete the paper. While they unsuccessfully attempt to get the 7:30 version of himself to cooperate, the 6:30 and 8:30 Hobbeses write the story based on this experience. Calvin gets an A, but is visibly displeased to see how he is represented as lazy; as the title of the story is "How Hobbes the Handsome Tiger Saves the Day; No Thanks to Calvin, the Time-Traveling Chowderhead."
  • Sluggy Freelance features several instances of time travel in the storylines concerning the cast's efforts against the demon K'Z'K. Berk, a soldier from the future, is sent back to prevent the demon from being summoned, as the war against the demons is all but lost, but fails. Dr. Schlock, the scientist who invented the time machine, sends himself back in time in order to survive. Torg and Zoe plan to go to 2000 in order to make sure that the Y2K bug does not interfere with the world's distribution of beer, but end up going back to a medieval time, where they fight against and defeat K'Z'K, altering history. This caused Zoë to do badly on an exam; she had no notes for the "war of the bug squishers," Torg's name for the war against K'Z'K. Additionally, in Timeless Space, a realm outside of time (its true nature is a subject of debate on Sluggy forums), some inhabitants are there because of failed experiments in time travel.
  • General Protection Fault's series "Surreptitious Machinations" heavily deals with time travel and its ramificactions. In an alternate future where the villain Trudy has conquered the world, Todd Wellington, Nick and Ki's son, goes back in time to prevent her rise to power, while Empress Trudy goes there to stop him and ensure that her younger self does what is necessary. He succeeds with the help of the GPF crew, but because he altered the time stream and prevented her rise to power, Nick and Ki never had him (he was born during the rebellion), and he fades from the time stream. Empress Trudy is about to fade as well, but seems to have escaped by using her time remote at the precise moment of fading. Todd, however, is found by the extradimensional entity known as The Gamester, and they and Mischief are trying to learn why the alternate future came into being. The future could not have come naturally, as Trudy could not have come to power without Empress Trudy's help, and Empress Trudy would not exist without Trudy coming to power, which is an example of a paradox.
  • Kevin and Kell features time travel when Kevin attempts to fix the Y2K bug and is teleported back in time to prehistoric days. They are teleported back after Kevin writes the solution to fixing the Y2K bug on a rock he saw in the backyard, but not before Rudy domesticates a goat and believes that he has invented domestication, a condition with which he struggles in the present (when, in fact, the Great Bird Conspiracy introduced the trait). After the computer program that is meant to run society is made Y2K compatible, Catherine Aura, the head of the Great Bird Conspiracy, and her son Nigel, go to live in Ancient Greece, and sculpt a statue of her. Fiona had seen that statue earlier while using her powers to fix items, but did not know why it looked like Ms. Aura. Furthermore, the GBC also travelled back in time, after developing sentience in the wasteland of Earth, to prevent humanity's rise, creating a parallel timeline without humans in the process, and with sentient animals as their doppelgangers.
  • One story arc of PvP (1999) is when Francis tries to play Diablo II by going to the future. after his make-shift time machine explodes, Brent tells him the year is 2004. he decides to grab Jade's breast believing there will be no concequences. in a later story arc, the gang actually achieves time travel using the magic of The Knuckle Of K'Puapua, and the time-travelling DeLorean once there.

Grandfather-predestination paradox


See also

External links

time travel theoretically and practically possible? If so, how can paradoxes such as the grandfather paradox be avoided?

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