Created By: ArkadyDarell on December 10, 2012 Last Edited By: ArkadyDarell on December 15, 2012
Troped

Ominous Message From The Future

The future says hi. And that it's going to suck. Sweet dreams!

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So it seems that something really, really bad is going to go down in the future. How do we know? Because the future sent something or someone back into the past telling us it's going to.

Sometimes the message (or item, person, etc.) is intentionally sent, often as a plea for the people in the past to kindly do something to prevent the Bad Future or as a warning to prepare for it. In those cases it's more likely to be acted on and serve as the reason the rest of the story happens.

Other times it's accidentally sent, in which case it's more of a tossup as to whether or not it'll be seen by anyone other than the audience and whether or not anyone in the story will act upon it. If it isn't and/or they don't, it's used a form of creepy Foreshadowing by the writer.

When the Jacob Marley Warning involves Time Travel, it serves as a subtrope. See also Future Loser and Future Me Scares Me, who can serve as the message in question.

See Fling a Light into the Future for the inversion of the past sending an ominous message into the future. Also see Conqueror from the Future if the "message" is someone from the future coming back to the past to take it over.

Examples:

Comic Books
  • In Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, a message is sent back by an unknown person full of warnings about things the Lost Light should not do or else Bad Things will happen. Unfortunately nobody hears it and the Lost Light crew merrily goes about unwittingly doing more and more of them over the course of the series.
    "Don't open the coffin. Don't let them take Skids. Don't go to Delphi. And do notóI repeat, do notólook in the basement. And for the sake of the Cybertronian race itself, please don'tkzzzzzzzk"

Film
  • In Prince of Darkness (which takes place in 1987), scientists from the year 1999 use a tachyon signal to warn everyone who sleeps in the church of the disaster awaiting them.

Live-Action TV
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "War Without End", the eponymous station receives a distress call from a temporal rift in Sector 14. It turns out to be a version of Ivanova from eight days in the future, sending out a mayday about how the station is under attack by the Shadows. The message ends right as the future station explodes, and the rest of the two-part episode is spent trying to keep that future from happening.
  • The episode "2010" of Stargate SG-1 ended with the gate opening and a blood stained piece of paper coming through from the year 2010 (this was back in 2001) with the message, "UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES GO TO P4C-970," and signed by Col. O'Neill. General Hammond recognizes the handwriting and doesn't even question it, but immediately orders that address locked out of the dialing computer. A later episode deals with the threat mentioned in the note, where it turns out that a seemingly friendly race of aliens originated from the planet they had been expressly warned against visiting.
  • Some of the characters in FlashForward didn't like the implications of their glimpses of the future: Mark had fallen off the wagon, Olivia was apparently having an affair, etc.
  • In The Revolting World Of Stanley Brown, one of Stanley's future relatives makes sure Stanley keeps on inventing so that he will be born.
  • In Wizards of Waverly Place Harper of the future comes back to, first, write books about the wizard adventures she has with Alex because in the future one of them will have told the World about wizards, so the books aren't all that interesting or unique, and, second, make sure that Alex has those adventures with her. In secret.
  • The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Future's End" had Captain Braxton of the time ship Aeon come back from the 29th century with information that the entire solar system has been destroyed in a cataclysmic explosion and that Voyager was somehow involved. Now he's here to destroy them before that can happen. They manage to fight him off and both ships get stuck in the late 20th century. Braxton, who arrived 30 years earlier and has been living as a homeless bum all that time, continues to try warn people of the coming disaster, but due to his position in society, and the fact that he's talking about something that won't happen for centuries, people dismiss him as just another crazy bum.

Video Games
  • The events of EarthBound are set in motion by the time traveling insect Buzz Buzz from the future, who warns Ness that Giygas has destroyed the world in the future and that a boy named Ness would defeat him.
  • In the first Star Trek: Armada the USS Premonition comes back in time to warn the Enterprise of an imminent Borg attack that will eventually lead to the entire Alpha Quadrant being assimilated.
  • The Defiants in Rift send the hero from the Bad Future back into the past where the odds against Regulos were much more favorable.
  • The Serious Sam series is similar, in that the last surviving human is sent back several millennia in time so he can assassinate the galactic Evil Overlord Mental before he can destroy Earth.
  • SaGa 3 has three children sent from the Future into the Present in hopes of stopping the world from being completely flooded.

Western Animation
  • One episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic had a Twilight Sparkle from the future appear with torn up clothes, an eyepatch, and scars on her face. She has an urgent message. Unfortunately, she isn't able to give it before being pulled back to her time. Twilight spends the rest of the episode freaking out trying to avert the impending disaster. She was actually trying to tell herself not to get all wound up like that.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, a Candace from the future comes back to keep the boys inventing so that Dr. Doofenschmirtz can't take over the tri-state area. Different versions of her are met, but we never see more than three at once, as they're erased with their version of the Bad Future.

Other
  • From 2000-2001, a man calling himself John Titor posted on various message boards, claiming to be a time traveller from the year 2036 and full of tales of the After the End future which he came from. Whether he's actually a Real Life example of this trope or just was perpetrating a hoax or fiction remains to be seen, though he served as inspiration for Steins;Gate.

Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • December 10, 2012
    Tallens
    • One episode of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic had a Twilight Sparkle from the future appear with torn up clothes, an eyepatch, and scars on her face. She has an urgent message. Unfortunately, she isn't able to give it before being pulled back to her time. Twilight spends the rest of the episode freaking out trying to avert the impending disaster. She was actually trying to tell herself not to get all wound up like that.

    • The episode "2010" of Stargate SG 1 ended with the gate opening and a blood stained piece of paper coming through from the year 2010 (this was back in 2001) with the message, "UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES GO TO P4C-970." and signed by Col. O'Neill. General Hammond doesn't even question it, but immediately orders that address locked out of the dialing computer.

    EDIT: Made some clarifications to the Stargate example.
  • December 10, 2012
    DanielCase
    • Some of the characters in FlashForward didn't like the implications of their glimpses of the future: Mark had fallen off the wagon, Olivia was apparently having an affair.
  • December 10, 2012
    Tallens
    May also involve a Timey Wimey Ball.
  • December 11, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • Prince Of Darkness (1987). Scientists from the year 1999 use a tachyon signal to warn everyone who sleeps in the church of the disaster awaiting them.
  • December 11, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^^ I think maybe I want to keep the trope description just focused on the message and the tropes about the message itself. As really, all methods and types of Time Travel itself could be involved. (Stable Time Loops and You Can't Fight Fate are just as possible as successfully Setting Right What Once Went Wrong.)
  • December 11, 2012
    lakingsif
    • In Phineas And Ferb a Candace from the future comes back to keep the boys inventing so that Dr Doofenschmirtz can't take over the tri-state area. Different versions of her are met but we never see more than three at once as they're erased with their version of the Bad Future.
    • As with The Revolting World Of Stanley Brown where one of Stanley's future relatives makes sure Stanley keeps on inventing so that he will be born.
    • In Wizards Of Waverly Place Harper of the future comes back to, firstly, write books about the wizard adventure she has with Alex because in the future one of them will have told the World about wizards so the books aren't all that interesting or unique and, secondly, make sure that Alex has those adventures with her. In secret.
  • December 11, 2012
    StarSword
    I would've thought the inversion of Fling A Light Into The Future wasn't tropable, but you've got a good dozen examples. Have a hat.
  • December 11, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^ ...I didn't even think of it that way. I just was troping up the Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye page a long while back, and was like, "What, we really don't have this? It's a Time Travel classic." I just finally got around to drafting it up.
  • December 11, 2012
    WaxingName
    Video Games
    • The events of Earth Bound are set in motion by the time traveling insect Buzz Buzz from the future, who warns Ness that Giygas has destroyed the world in the future and that a boy named Ness would defeat him.
  • December 12, 2012
    Tallens
    • In the first Star Trek Armada the USS Premonition comes back in time to warn the Enterprise of an imminent Borg attack that will eventually lead to the entire Alpha Quadrant being assimilated.
  • December 12, 2012
    Generality
    Further note on the Stargate example: Gen. Hammond trusted the note because he recognized the handwriting; and a later episode dealt with the threat mentioned in the note, where it turned out that a seemingly friendly race of aliens originated from the planet they had been expressly warned against visiting.
  • December 12, 2012
    Gatomon41
    Could there be an inversion of this?
  • December 12, 2012
    Earnest
    If you search for inversion in the Fling A Light Into The Future page you'll get an extra 8 examples. :)

    ^Well, we have Fling A Light Into The Future, or do you mean Conqueror From The Future?
  • December 12, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^ Huh, you're right, there are a few examples on that page that would fit better here.

    So... uh... I'm stumped, if this gets launched, would I just simply also add them here, or I would I eventually delete them from that page too?

    ^^ Depends on what you mean by "inversion" in this context.
  • December 12, 2012
    Earnest
    ^Yeah, you can and should add those examples since it'll bolster your example section and if you cross wick it'll raise your inbound wicks.

    Though it'd be fine to leave the existing inversions there, it's probably better to move them and make a note on FALITF to put time travel to the past inversions into this trope so that new examples land there.
  • December 12, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^ Well, looking at FALITF I can already tell that I'm not going to be able to do that much with it. The inversions tend to fall into one of three categories:

    1. They don't have enough context for me to rewrite them for this page without knowing the work in question.
    2. They've already been suggested.
    3. They're inversions from different angles (like Conqueror From The Future).

    I only found about four usable examples. X3
  • December 12, 2012
    Gatomon41
    @Earnest: I think FALITF is along the lines I was thinking of. For some reason, the suggested Trope brought to my mind Hari Seldon in Foundation That Hari leaves vague messages and hints to reassure that the Foundation is on the right track. Don't think it can be example, however.
  • December 12, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    FWIW, the examples from that page I didn't know enough to rewrite:

    • In the Elseworlds story Superman Red Son, it is revealed that Jor-L has flung a light into the past, creating a Stable Time Loop.
    • Inverted in Final Crisis, where they send a rocket into the past, because the future is in the process of being destroyed.
    • Stargate SG 1: And the Ashenn storyline involved flinging a light into the past. They like this one.
    • Subverted in Anachronox, the light is flung into the past. And the guys doing it are dicks.
    • Pretty much the entire plot of Mortal Kombat 9, though with the light sent to the past so as to prevent the end of the world in the first place.

    ^ Yeah, that's straight-up FALITF. Nobody sent a message back at any point; Hari came up with everything himself in the present by using statistical analysis.
  • December 12, 2012
    Earnest
    @ Arkady Darell: Well, four is better than none. ;) The note on FALITF should probably mention it only deals with message bearing subversions, so the alternate subversions aren't removed and moved by others.
  • December 12, 2012
    zarpaulus
    I don't believe Terra Nova would be an example, the colonists weren't trying to change the past, they just wanted to establish a colony somewhere where the air wasn't so polluted you'd need a oxygen mask to breathe. It was even stated to be an Alternate Universe.
  • December 12, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^ Nobody has to necessarily be intentionally trying to change the past for this trope; just something from the future has to travel back and let the audience and/or people in the past know the future's going to be bad. It can be totally accidental.

    (Though I'm not familiar with the show, so it may not fit for other reasons; I don't know. Being an Alternate Universe may count, if there's no focus at all on either changing the future or foreshadowing it won't be changed. I'll remove it to be on the safe side.)
  • December 12, 2012
    Tallens
    • The Star Trek Voyager episode "Future's End" had Captain Braxton of the time ship Aeon come back from the 29th century with information that the entire solar system has been destroyed in a cataclysmic explosion and that Voyager was somehow involved. Now he's here to destroy them before that can happen. They manage to fight him off and both ships get stuck in the late 20th century. Braxton, who arrived 30 years earlier and has been living as a homeless bum all that time, continues to try warn people of the coming disaster, but due to his position in society, and the fact that he's talking about something that won't happen for centuries, people dismiss him as just another crazy bum.
  • December 13, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    Any chance anyone knows more about any of the examples I listed ^^^^^ above?
  • December 13, 2012
    Tallens
    ^The Stargate example is already up there.
  • December 13, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^ OK. I thought maybe that was the case, but had no idea if P4C-970 and the Ashenns really were the same thing. Scratch that one off.
  • December 15, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    I'll launch this within a day or two once I'll have the time to crosswick everything, but one last call to see if we can figure out the details of those last few FALITF inversions.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=q0mde5i2uvn56huavkmex0k6&trope=OminousMessageFromTheFuture