Monday, April 4, 2022

4 Types of Time Travel (2)

    This is a continuation of a previous post that was made in 2020. A link to that post is provided. I would like to continue from what we discussed before and give more recommendations of media and explanations of each time travel and introduce a new category time reverse.  

     Imagine that you were able to travel to the past. In the past you meet a direct ancestor of yours, who has no posterity. You see yourself in your predecessor. You two get to know each other and become close, but one day while you’re not paying attention you injured your forebearer and they end up dying. You killed your ancestor. . .  By doing this you altered a whole chain of events, like your birth. But if you were born in the future, then how could you kill your ancestor in the past?

This is known as the grandfather paradox. Media that involves time travel tries to explain this paradox in different ways. In this post we will explore four types of time travel that has been explored in media. With each type we will explain 1) the speculation (how it works), 2) how media portrays this type of time travel, 3) How acceptable does it work in that story. Not every time travel media will be explored in this post. If there is one that you love that is missing leave a comment and we can explore it in another post. Personally, I have not seen/read all time travel focused media, but I would love more recommendations. Time travel is one of the most satisfying concepts in media. I am a huge fan.

1)      Alternate Timelines

In this assumption when you travel to the past you are going to a different timeline, a different world, just like your own, but the only difference is that the present you have not been to this past. With alternate timeline you can change the past which changes that worldlines future, not effecting your own timeline.

Let’s go back to the past to the mid to late 90’s. You go home from school and turn on Cartoon Network and “Sailor Moon” just finished airing. The next show that plays is Dragon Ball Z! The last epic episode you watched was when Goku defeats Freeza as a super Saiyan (*Spoilers*). In the previous episodes the Z fighters, minus Goku, are on earth, and Freeza is coming to destroy the earth for revenge. None of the Z fighters are strong enough to beat Freeza. There are only two living Saiyan’s, and both cannot become a super Saiyan. Earth is doomed. Then a new character, Trunks, is introduced and he is a super Saiyan and slices Freeza easily. Later we find out that Trunks comes from the future from a different timeline to save another earth, so it doesn’t end up like his. It was an epic twist and the best saga of Dragon Ball Z. This was my first show that talked about alternate timelines, and it worked well for this show.

Recently, I found another show that explores alternate timelines as well called Steins;Gate. In the show we follow young adults that create a phone microwave (PhoneWave) that allows the characters to send a message to the past. Every time the PhoneWave was used the timeline shifts to another parallel timeline where the changes occured, like telling your dad not to take a flight. However, most everyone in that timeline has only memories from the new timeline we are in expect for Okabe, who keeps the previous timeline memories (which he calls reading steiner). This drama is one of my favorite shows because of how well it explores the effects of time travel and the trauma that happens by being the only one remembering other timelines. It also explores sacrifices characters are willing to make to get in the best timeline (reaching Steins;Gate). I highly recommend this show if you like time travel dramas.

2)      Time is Fixed 

When time is fixed then nothing you can do will change the future. If you tried to kill your ancestor the universe will prevent you from doing so by unlimited means. For example, you would trip in the act and miss or get hit by a car, you imagination is the limit of what could prevent you from changing the timeline.

I read about this speculation in a couple of different books, “Timeline” by Michael Crichton, and the “Oxford Time Travel” series by Connie Willis. In these books characters go to the past for an on-site study of different eras in humanity’s history. We see in the books that nothing you do in the past will change the present. In Connie Willis books cats were extinct in the present, but they can bring cats from the past to the present because those cats cannot alter history. Ya, for cat lovers! Sad for dog lovers. . .

I should mention “Avengers: Endgame” in this post even though it was in the previous one. I believe that Marvel universe falls under this category now after watching "Loki". We see in “Endgame” that the avengers can go to the past, but what they do must not change the past or the time variance authority (TVA) will correct the time stream to converge to the main branch (hence the show Loki). That is why Captain America goes to the past at the end of the movie to put the infinity stone back. How he put back soul stone remains a mystery. Right now, I put Marvel under this category, but this could change in the future, but as of right now this is where I believe Marvel universe belongs. I think this movie doesn’t do time travel justice. It has many plot holes like Steve staying in the past and extracting the aether (Thor: The Dark World), but it is widely seen hence this discussion in this forum.

This is an ok method to use if plot holes are not made. If the characters break the universal rules, then this method fails and shouldn’t be used. I think this mistake happens a lot in media because the artists are trying to entertain the reader instead of making logical sense. That’s why I think instead of using this method artists should use alternate timelines. It is a safer bet with less plot holes.

If you want a fun book to read that incorporates time travel, I suggest “To Say Nothing of the Dog” by Connie Willis. It’s about a character named Ned who is avoiding his boss Lady Schrapnell to recover from being disoriented from time traveling too much (time-lag) by going to the past for a “vacation”.

3)      Time is Malleable

What you do in the past will affect the present. So, if you kill your predecessor, you will disappear shortly after. This is the laziest form a time travel in all of media. It makes no sense because of the grandfather paradox.

Two movies come to mind when I think about changeable past, changeable future. “Back to the Future” (of course) and “X-Men: Days of Future Past”. In “Back to the Future” Marty McFly prevents his mom from falling in love with his dad, so he starts to erase from existence. Luckily a solution is found, and he doesn’t cease to exist. This I believe is the first movie to have time travel as a main plot point. So, we should be grateful for how this movie influenced better time travel shows and movies. It has not aged well, but good for its time (in my opinion). On the other hand, “X-men: Days of Future Past” objective is to go to the past to change the future. Mutants are being hunted and the only hope for mutants is to send Logan (Wolverine) to the past to prevent this future. This movie tells the audience that the future can change, but without any explanation on how to overcome grandfather paradox.

4)      Time reverses

In this final time travel scenario instead of hopping to the past, like the other entries, we switch directions of time. If time was coordinates following a positive direction, then to go backwards in time we would turn around and go the negative direction. Even though you are going backwards in time you still get older. Like a car odometer when you go in reverse the odometer still moves forward by distance.

Two movies come to mind when I think of time reverse, “Superman” (1978) and “Tenet”. In “Superman” Lois Lane dies and Superman flies around the world in opposite direction from earths torque causing everyone on earth to go backwards in time so he would be able to save her. It’s cheesy, but hey it was the first superman movie made. It is allowed to be cheesy. In “Tenet” the main plot revolves around time reversing. To prevent World War three the protagonist manipulates the direction of time to prevent an attack from the future. In the movie they discuss grandfather paradox, and, in a genius, way stated that they don’t know the answer, but it is not worth finding out. If you haven’t seen “Tenet” and want to watch an action movie with time travel, watch it.

This is a good method for time travel, and I like this as much as alternate universe scenario. Not many movies use time reversal, but I hope this would change in the future as more people involve time travel in their story.

Here is a list of other movies and shows I could have included in the discussion if there is one that you would like to go over or if I left out your favorite time travel series leave a comment. I always have time to talk about, well you know time.


  • Edge of Tomorrow (Time Loops)
  • Terminator
  •  Looper
  •  Interstellar
  • Bill and Ted
  • Harry Potter
  • Your Name


  • Doctor Who
  • Heroes
  • Flash (DC Shows)
  • Samurai Jack
  • Star Trek
  • Re: Zero
  • Erased

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