Created By: ilniaj on April 20, 2013 Last Edited By: ilniaj on January 15, 2015
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Ambiguous Time Period

A work where the time period it takes place in is hard to determine.

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An ambiguous time period is where the series takes place at a certain time in the past or future and in the same universe as ours except for the story elements added by the author but doesn't state anything specific. This is either because the time period is completely unmentioned, mentioned but elements of the story or Word of God state that the fiction uses a different calendar than ours.

Sometimes Anachronism Stew will unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally) confuse viewers into wondering when the time period takes place in.

This can still happen in works that take place in a completely different universe as ours when there's an overarching timeline but it's very difficult to pinpoint where in that timeline the events currently being described take place in.

When the ambiguous time period is obviously not long ago than it's and example of Present Day Past. This trope is the temporal version of Where the Hell Is Springfield?. Contrast Period Piece and Unintentional Period Piece.

Anime
  • Gundam takes place in the future, but thanks to their excessive use of Alternate Calendar (several, in fact) how far in the future is impossible to pinpoint.

ComicBooks
  • The first Dragon Age comic mini-series is notoriously hard to fit into the series' overarching timeline.

Film
  • The Lion King gives no indication of what time the story takes place. Which is part of why it is so appealing. It could be happening in 1607 or 100 years in the future.
  • Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story: Word of God has it that the movie was supposed to take place in the early 1990s, but the case of Anachronism Stew including Peter renting Mona Lisa Smile on DVD, as well as digital cable being in existence would suggest otherwise; it pretty much looks as if it could have been set in the present day.
  • Most of the time, The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking seems to be set around the 1940s (when the first books were written). However, the characters are shocked when a local man "invents" a flying machine and Pippi's sailing adventures with her father seem to be out of the 1600s.
  • 10,000 BC appears to be set in the prehistoric times, with the main character encountering both a wooly mammoth and a saber tooth tiger. However he ends up somewhere that appears to be ancient Egypt or at least Mesopotamia (an emperor is having a large pyramid built).

Literature
  • Robert E. Hopward's Conan the Barbarian stories take place sometime between 20,000 B.C. and 9,500 B.C. Or as his short story "The Phoenix on the Sword" puts it, "Between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas."

Television
  • The Doctor Who episode "The End of the World" where Sol explodes from old age, destroying the Earth in the process, takes place in the year "5.5/Apple/26."

VideoGames
  • Several time periods you visit in Final Fantasy XIII-2 are labeled simply "??? AF" in the Historia Crux, meaning these episodes take place After the Fall but how many years after is unclear.
  • Nigel from The Lost Crown never does get a straight answer when he asks what year is it in Saxton, a region filled with anachronisms due to its numerous hauntings.
  • Live A Live avoids specifying dates at which chapters occur (although the timeframes are much clearer). Logs in Science Fiction chapter even go so far as to hide dates with Xs (although the "copyright" text in Captain Square minigame makes it clear it takes place no earlier than 22nd century).

Web Comics
  • Word of God states that the calender saying that the year is 3031 in Ava's Demon is not the BCE/CE calender we're familiar with.

WesternAnimation
Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • April 20, 2013
    randomsurfer
    The Doctor Who episode "The End of the World" where Sol explodes from old age, destroying the Earth in the process, takes place in the year "5.5/Apple/26."
  • April 21, 2013
    Koveras
    • The first Dragon Age comic mini-series is notoriously hard to fit into the series' overarching timeline.
    • Several time periods you visit in Final Fantasy XIII-2 are labeled simply "??? AF" in the Historia Crux, meaning these episodes take place After the Fall but how many years after is unclear.
  • April 21, 2013
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Robert E. Hopward's Conan The Barbarian stories take place sometime between 20,000 B.C. and 9,500 B.C. Or as his short story "The Phoenix on the Sword" puts it, "Between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas."
  • April 21, 2013
    justanotherrandomlurker
    Film
    • Mouse Hunt is a good example of this: much of the film's production design would indicate that it takes place sometime in the 1940s, however there are a few contradictions to this, including color television sets, and a quarter with the year 1974 on it.
  • April 21, 2013
    Larkmarn
    The description should mention Present Day Past, as well as the fact that this trope is essentially a temporal version of Where The Hell Is Springfield.

  • April 21, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    Batman The Animated Series (And by extension the DCAU) has tons of Anachronism Stew and not enough dates [read: none at all]
  • April 21, 2013
    FantasyLiver
    The Lion King gives no indication of what time the story takes place. Which is part of why it is so appealing. It could be happening in 1607 or 100 years in the future.
  • April 21, 2013
    SharleeD
    • Nigel from The Lost Crown never does get a straight answer when he asks what year is it in Saxton, a region filled with anachronisms due to its numerous hauntings.
  • April 21, 2013
    StarSword
    Type Labels Are Not Examples. The "Type 1, 2" etc. need to be removed.
  • April 21, 2013
    justanotherrandomlurker
    Film
  • April 21, 2013
    Waterlily
    Most of the time, The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking seems to be set around the 1940s (when the first books were written). However, the characters are shocked when a local man "invents" a flying machine and Pippi's sailing adventures with her father seem to be out of the 1600s.

    Ten Thousand BC appears to be set in the prehistoric times, with the main character encountering both a wooly mammoth and a saber tooth tiger. However he ends up somewhere that appears to be ancient Egypt or at least Mesopotamia (an emperor is having a large pyramid built).
  • April 21, 2013
    McKathlin
  • April 23, 2013
    surgoshan
    • Mel Gibson's Payback was deliberately ambiguous, doing everything it could not to set itself in any specific time or place. There are no cell phones, and what phones appear are all rotary, even the sole car phone appearing in the film. The conflict is over 70,000 dollars in cash, the clothing varying in style from fifties (one mob underboss) to seventies (the other) to eighties.
  • April 24, 2013
    Diask
    • Live A Live avoids specifying dates at which chapters occur (although the timeframes are much clearer). Logs in Science Fiction chapter even go so far as to hide dates with Xs (although the "copyright" text in Captain Square minigame makes it clear it takes place no earlier than 22nd century).
  • April 24, 2013
    StarSword
    • By Word Of God the Harry Potter series is set in the 1990s, but there's really no indication one way or the other in-universe that this is the case. This caused a bit of Fridge Logic among readers who noted that several problems in the series could be overcome by judicious use of Muggle technologies like cell phones, technologies that didn't reach prominence until later.
  • April 25, 2013
    bwburke94
    @StarSword: Chamber of Secrets confirms that the series runs from 1991-1998. Harry Potter is not an example.
  • January 15, 2015
    WhizzerMckwoff
    "The Lion King gives no indication of what time the story takes place. Which is part of why it is so appealing. It could be happening in 1607 or 100 years in the future."

    It's taking place after "It's a Small World" was written, lol. "Part of why it is so appealing"?? Straightforward YMMV. Also, 1607? Did you just make that up on the spot? And 100 years in the future from when?
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