Created By: Bisected8 on September 14, 2017 Last Edited By: Bisected8 on October 7, 2017
Troped

The Story That Never Was

To resolve the plot's overall conflict, a twist ending reveals that the events of the plot must be erased such that it might as well have been All Just A Dream (formally All Must Be Erased)

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Note: Since this is still a draft, I've included spoiler tags for the benefit of TLP contributers. They will be removed on launch (Now removed in advance).

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Draft begins below the line:
"I remember this famous episode of the original Star Trek, where Kirk has to go back in time and let the person he loves die, so the Nazis won't win the war... What kind of fucked up choice is that?"
Life is Strange, Episode 4: Dark Room, Max's Journal

Sometimes the protagonist will wake up and find out that it was All Just a Dream. This is a slightly darker take that shows up in speculative fiction that deals with Time Travel, Reality Warping and alternate realities; the events really took place, but some key For Want of a Nail near the beginning must be undone to resolve the plot's key conflict. It could be the solution to ending a "Groundhog Day" Loop (as opposed to getting the loop perfect), a matter of realising that a single trip was a case of Make Wrong What Once Went Right, or it could just be a case of the option to Ret Gone everything coming up in the finale. Reasons can include Balancing Death's Books, preventing a Time Paradox, or simply discovering that the unintended consequences of the event in question outweigh the good it does. More often than not, the event in question is the same one that brought about said conflict, making this an odd sort of Cutting the Knot solution.

This can be treated as utterly tragic, since it undoes Character Development, and may even be a sadistic choice (the "nail" in question is often some sort of tragedy, such as the protagonist's death). Other times it has a slightly more optimistic spin, with it being implied that some of the nicer events that transpired will take place In Spite of a Nail (a slightly awkward scene of the main character befriending a character, especially a Love Interest, who they no longer know is a popular one). In worse cases, it might even be All for Nothing, with it implied that the catastrophe that was averted could easily happen again (and the next people to experience it might be more selfish).

The thing that it turns out must be reversed to retcon away the events is typically an Inciting Incident.

Writers must be quite careful with this trope, since as with All Just A Dream, it runs the risk of making it seem like the entire plot was pointless. This is avoidable if a Ripple Effect-Proof Memory allows them to retain Character Development (although, this invokes a bit of Fridge Logic if the issue was that time travel inherently damaged the timeline; something's changed either way) or otherwise benefit in some metaphysical way which prevents the audience from feeling cheated, or if the entire plot involved multiple loops anyway (so the audience is used to large chunks of plot not being canon in the main timeline).

Compare Set Right What Once Went Wrong, where undoing a specific event is the overall goal (which might lead to this trope), The Greatest Story Never Told (which happened, but was simply kept secret) and Reset Button Ending, which returns the work to its Status Quo without resolving the conflict on its own (and doesn't always include a Cosmic Retcon). Contrast All Just a Dream, where the events are revealed to simply never have happened, "Leave Your Quest" Test where undoing everything would be seen as a copout on the heroes' part, and Stable Time Loop, where changes to the timeline are either inevitable or meshed in perfectly (although it's still possible to run into the "bad outweighs the good" problem).

Not to be confused with What Could Have Been.

As an Ending Trope, all spoilers on this page are unmarked.

Examples:

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    Comics 
  • In The Infinity Gauntlet saga, Thanos managed to get the Infinity Gauntlet, a powerful Applied Phlebotinum that can modify everything, so he erased the half of sentient life of the universe to please Ms. Death, among other things like defeating the Cosmic Entities of the Marvel Universe. After the battle against the Mad God, finally Adam Warlock got the infinity Gauntlet from Thanos and used to Set Right What Once Went Wrong by restoring all the lifes lost in the event (not just the ones erased by Thanos, also the deaths of heroes battling Thanos) and also managed to get everyone in the universe that was All Just a Dream.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Quantum Starlight (a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic and Whole Plot Reference to Quantum Break): an accident during the first test of a time machine causes time itself to fracture, leading to a whole mess of unchangeable Stable Time Loops and the looming threat of a Time Crash. And then the protagonists find a method of time travel that does allow them to change the past, so they go back and stop the original accident. The majority of the plot is erased from the timeline, but the time travelers retain their memories of events retconned away.

    Film — Live Action 
  • At the end of The Butterfly Effect, the protagonist decides that the only way he can stop screwing things up with his Mental Time Travel is to jump back to before he was born, and strangle himself in his mother's womb; deleted scenes imply he wasn't even the first of his mother's children to go through this.
  • Primer: when the power of Time Travel proves too dangerous and too confusing for anyone to use, Abe Terger travels back as far as he can and interferes with his past self's experiments, hoping to stop the past versions of himself and Aaron from pursuing time travel any further. The future versions of Abe and Aaron, who went through all that character development, continue existing—since time travel in Primer results in the travelers cloning themselves unless they're careful to maintain a Stable Time Loop.
  • Not in an "Old Testament kind of mood" at the time, God in Jesus, Bro! decides to undo the rapture and the various deaths caused by Rick, Santa Christ and the Devil's actions in the film by resetting everything to before Elizabeth breaks up with Rick. Subverted, in that Santa Christ returns Rick's memories of everything that happened shortly after.
  • In the finale of Donnie Darko, the titular protagonist goes back in time (somehow) and allows himself to be hit by the falling airplane engine that had missed him in the beginning, in order to change the sequence of events that led to his girlfriend being run over by a car.

    Film — Animated 

    Literature 
  • Goosebumps: Be Careful What You Wish For: Samatha Byrd gets a gift of three wishes from the witch Clarissa. But, as expected, all these wishes come with terrible side effects. At the end, Samatha's uses her final request to wish that she had never met Clarissa.
  • Animorphs
    • In the Megamorphs novel "Elfangor's Secret", Visser Four has used the Time Matrix to alter key events in human history to make the Yeerk invasion much easier. In order to undo the changes to the timeline (and Jake's death), the Animorphs ensure that Visser Four's host, John Berryman, was never born by preventing his parents from meeting, thus ensuring that Visser Four was never able to alter the timeline to begin with.
    • In "The Forgotten", the Animorphs decide to steal a Yeerk Bug fighter in order to fly it to the White House and expose the Yeerk invasion, but an accident results in an anomaly known as a Sario Rip being created, where two alternate versions of each person involved exists at the same time and will be eliminated at a specific time, and also results in the Animorphs getting trapped in the Amazon rainforest along with Visser Three and his underlings. However, Jake gets killed by Visser Three before that time, thus returning him to the exact moment when he made the decision to steal the Bug fighter (as he is apparently the only real person there, as he's the only one to have vivid flashbacks to before his decision throughout the novel). This time, he decides not to go through with it.
  • In David Eddings' Dreamers tetralogy, the fourth book describes a Deus ex Machina that one-ups the Physical Gods already present as viewpoint characters: the two amnesiac Old Gods remember their powers, effortlessly neutralize the Big Bad, and make their victory retroactive so the plot of the series never happened. Lampshaded, even, when they make a passing comment on all the Character Development that they unmade.

    Live Action Television 
  • The episode of Star Trek: The Original Series "Star Trek S1 E28 "The City on the Edge of Forever"" ends with this trope implied, the crew find themselves on Earth in the 30's after McCoy ends up accidentally drugged and falls through a mysterious portal, which causes the Enterprise to disappear. While they look for him, they meet a beautiful woman who they eventually realise became a peace activist who delayed America's entry into WWII just long enough to lead to a Bad Future. Kirk is forced to grab McCoy when he moves to prevent her from being run over while crossing the road (as presumably happened with Bones present, but not Kirk).
  • In Legends of Tomorrow Season 2, after the Legends spend most of the season trying to keep the Spear of Destiny out of the hands of the Legion of Doom, ultimately they fail and the Legion uses the Spear to rewrite reality. Even trapped within the Legion's Doomworld reality, the Legends make a final attempt to steal back the spear and undo the damage, only for Eobard Thawne to destroy the spear itself. The Legends then reason that the only way to repair reality is to stop the Legion from getting the Spear to begin with, so they travel back in time across their own personal history to WWI where the Legion had first acquired the completed Spear. In a Final Battle of the Legends teaming up with their past selves to face the Legion, all of the future Legends end up being killed with the exception of Sara. Sara then uses the Spear's reality powers to disable its own reality warping before the Legion would use it, thus preventing the Legion from ever creating the Doomworld to begin with and restoring reality to its correct nature.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In a season-one episode, there's a time paradox centered on a polaron-based power grid on a pre-warp civilization's planet in the Delta Quadrant. Tom Paris and Captain Janeway end up falling through a hole in time that was caused by the power grid's accidental detonation. The twist is that the future-Voyager-crew's own attempt to rescue Paris and Janeway is what caused the detonation, and Janeway realizing this and using a phaser to stop the rescue attempt resets the timeline, preventing the detonation and in turn preventing them from going back in time in the first place.
  • In Doctor Who,
    • In "Father's Day", the Doctor takes Rose Tyler back to the day where her father, Pete, was killed so she could share one last moment with him just before he dies. However Rose disobeys the Doctor and saves her father's life by pushing him out of the way of the car that would kill him. As this was a fixed point in time, changing it causes catastrophic events on the world with the Reapers of Time being released to deal with the paradox. Ultimately, the one way to fix the anomaly is to have Pete relive the event that was changed and get hit by the car that would have killed him. Accepting his fate as the only way to restore time, Pete walks in front of the car and gets killed, erasing all of the alternate timeline that occurred due to the paradox.
    • In "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS", the TARDIS takes damage from a salvaging ship's magnetic cobble field. This causes all sorts of problems including Clara being trapped inside, moments from time seeping out, and zombie creatures roaming about the ship. Then to top it all off the TARDIS core is revealed to have hit critical and will eventually explode, with the zombie creatures revealed to be future versions of the TARDIS crew who had their flesh burned up and melted by the TARDIS. The Doctor eventually figures out the one way to repair the damage is to prevent the entire day from happening to begin with, which he does so by reaching through one of the tears in time to the point where the TARDIS got caught in the field and passes his past self the button to turn off the magnetic field, effectively erasing the entire day.
  • In the two-parter finale of Series 3 of the revival. The Master had succeeded in taking control over the entire world, trapping the Doctor in a rapid ageing state, and Martha Jones on the run on the ground. The Master accomplished this by using a psychic Mind-Control Device to gradually work his way into being elected Prime Minister of Britain, before using an army of Toclafane (cyborg future human he had transported to the present) to cease control of the whole world. The Master would spend a year having his army gradually killing off the population of Earth, which was a Temporal Paradox since they were killing their ancestors. This is only made possible due to the Master turning the Doctor's TARDIS into a paradox machine. The Doctor ultimately manages to defeat the Master, by having Martha travel the Earth to every human survivor (linked with the Master's psychic device) and have them all think his name in unison, allowing the psychic energies to be granted to him. Once the Master is out of the way, the paradox machine is destroyed, causing the entire year of the Master's reign to reset back to before the paradox machine was activated. Only the select few people present near the machine retained memories of the year, while the rest of the population of the Earth were unaware of it occurring. This year came to be known as "The Year That Never Was".
  • At the climax of the Farscape episode "The Locket", the central characters are forced to use the strange properties of the Negative Space Wedgie that they are trapped in to reverse time and change history so that they never entered it. One of the two characters with a Ripple Effect-Proof Memory who remember this feels guilt that they might have erased a number of people who were conceived and born thanks to one of the crew having children on a planet on the other side of the anomaly, but the other speculates that they might have split the timeline instead of erasing it.

    Video Game 
  • As well as referencing the Star Trek example (as seen in the page quote), Life is Strange has this twice itself; at the beginning of chapter 4, and for the entire game.
    • Max realises she can jump back in time via photos (as well as just reversing it briefly as is done in normal gameplay) and tries to fix the death of Chloe's near angelic father. In the new timeline Chloe suffered a car accident instead and is dying a slow, painful death while confined to a wheelchair, suffering many of the bad things that were previously caused by her father's deathnote , culminating in a choice of whether you kill her with an overdose at her own request, or not. This is finally enough to make Max restore the original timeline, where Chloe is miserable and went through hell for the last 5 years, but still alive. The entire scene is effectively foreshadowing for the endings...
    • You first see Chloe when she's shot by Nathan, causing Max to manifest her Time Master powers and undo it in a Justified Tutorial. At the end of episode 5/Season 1 you have a Sadistic Choice of endings; "Sacrifice Chloe" or "Sacrifice Arcadia Bay". The former follows this trope, Max goes back in time (via a photo you took just before it happened) to let her get shot and Dying Alone (as far as she knows), never to be reunited with the former best friend crying her eyes out just feet away. A montage reveals that this also solves most of the story's other conflicts.note 
    • The other ending subverts this trope (as well as another). Max tears the photo up (echoing an earlier moment when she destroys her prize winning photo to retcon herself back to the town and be able to save Chloe), having decided to Screw Destiny and let the storm that this damage to the timeline summoned destroy the town (with a Shrug of God as to how many survivors there are). After it subsides an unspecified amount of time later, Max and Chloe leave the ruined town together, moving on with their lives.
  • Deponia Doomsday has a tangled story with time travel, time resetting and time loops that ultimately ends with Rufus convincing everybody that the tragic end of the previous game is the best option.
  • Bastion has two endings. One is to leave the broken land and the other is to reset to before the calamity, without knowing if it will repeat or not. It's heavily hinted that it does indeed repeat (serving as an In-Universe explanation for a New Game+).
  • Super Danganronpa 2 is all a computer simulation to retrain everyone to be better people. Well, at least that was the plan before Monokuma showed up and hijacked everything. A large part of the finale is about how to proceed with the situation, either undoing it all or letting the villain win. Despite all intents and plans, the reset turns out to somehow allow everyone to retain their memories and character developments, despite the timeline being thrown out.
  • Ghost Trick ends with going back to When It All Began and undoing the initial death, erasing the entire timeline from that point forwards.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) involved lots of time travel, and Dr. Eggman trying to harness the power of the god Solaris to conquer everything. Predictably, Solaris gets out of control and destroys almost all of time and space before Sonic and friends can stop him. The final cutscene involves one last bit of time travel, in which where Sonic and Elise extinguish the flame of Solaris, thereby preventing the lab accident that set the entire plot in motion. As the rest of the game wasn't very good, Sonic fans didn't particularly mind that it ended by erasing itself from the series timeline.
  • At the end of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Zelda resets the timeline to just before Link met her and she sent him of to try to stop Ganndorf on his own. They realize that Ganondorf would've never have risen to power if they had simply turned him over to the proper authorities instead of unlocking the sacred realm giving him the opportunity to steal the triforce. She also apologizes that all the time travel shenanigans deprived Link of a normal childhood. In doing so she actually failed to fully erase everything and created at least two timelines - one where Link simply vanished from existence after defeating Ganon as an adult, and one where he exposed the conspiracy as a child. Word of God is that despite being able to live out his childhood, Link retained memories of the events of the plot and lived an unfulfilled life because he never got to be the Hero of Time.
  • The original Final Fantasy saw this happen upon the Light Warriors destroying Chaos and ending the cycle of Garland going back in time to become him. However, it is stated that their deeds at least live on in legend, and their own memories.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama:
    • In the first of the "Anthology of Interest" What If style episodes there is this trope in the context of the short. It turns out that Fry not getting frozen and getting on with his life would lead to a Time Paradox (he's much happier in the future, but he doesn't know that). Parodied when a team lead by Al Gore try to kill him under the assumption he was meant to die (with the implication that they've done this before), before realising that he was meant to be frozen. Subverted when Fry learns this, he destroys the cryogenic pod instead of being frozen, and the universe is destroyed, leaving the group to play Dungeons & Dragons for the rest of eternity.
    • Futurama: "The Why of Fry" teases at this. The brain spawn's last-ditch effort to destroy the universe is to send Fry (the only person capable of stopping them) back to 1999 to prevent himself from getting cryogenically frozen—the event that kicked off the entire series. But Nibbler gives future-Fry a pep talk that convinces him that getting frozen and sent to the year 3000 is necessary. Fry instead makes a minor change that ensures he isn't in a position to be tempted by the brain spawn in the first place.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Back to the Pilot", Brian asks for Stewie's help in finding a lost tennis ball. Stewie agrees to take Brian back in time so he can see the location, but Brian fails to listen ends up telling his past self about the 9/11 attacks. This results in an apocalyptic Bad Future from the result of nuclear attacks. After multiple trips result in dozens of Stewies and Brians from the future arguing it out on whether or not to prevent 9/11, one of the Stewies decides to hold a vote. Upon the majority agreeing to allow 9/11 to happen, this Stewie and Brian then travel one minute back in time to the very first point they arrived via time travel, before they made any changes. Stewie then draws a gun on the past Stewie and Brian and forces them to go back to the present. By doing so, Stewie managed to erase the entire timeline created by the time travel along with this version of Brian and Stewie.
  • In the Justice League episode "Time, Warped", Batman tampers with the villain's time travel belt so that instead of going on his time traveling crime spree, as he did at the beginning of the previous episode, it locks him in a time loop at the point where he would have started.
  • In The Batman an episode revolves around Francis Grey, a clock-repair man who, because of his family's dire financial straits, stole an expensive watch. Leading to a cavalcade of Disaster Dominoes which landed him 20 years in prison. After developing Time Master powers and using them to lash out with an Evil Plan, he accidentally kills his son, supercharging them and going back to the moment before he stole the watch; wisely deciding to just work overtime instead. The episode ends as it began; with the bat-family discussing new years resolutions, but a clock that Alfred had trouble repairing has been fixed by none other than Francis himself. The episode ends less than a few minutes after it chronologically started with Francis returning to his van labelled "Grey and Son, watch repair" to spend Christmas with his family.
Community Feedback Replies: 59
  • September 14, 2017
    MetaFour
    • Primer: when the power of Time Travel proves too dangerous and too confusing for anyone to use, Abe Terger travels back as far as he can and interferes with his past self's experiments, hoping to stop the past versions of himself and Aaron from pursuing time travel any further. The future versions of Abe and Aaron, who went through all that character development, continue existing—since time travel in Primer results in the travelers cloning themselves unless they're careful to maintain a Stable Time Loop.
  • September 14, 2017
    LavonPapillon1
    • Not in an "Old Testament kind of mood" at the time, God in Jesus Bro decides to undo the rapture and the various deaths caused by Rick, Santa Christ and the Devil's actions in the film by reseting everything to before Elizabeth breaks up with Rick. Subverted, in that Santa Christ returns Rick's memories of everything that happened shortly after.
  • September 15, 2017
    henke37
    • Deponia Doomsday has a tangled story with time travel, time resetting and time loops that ultimately ends with Rufus convincing everybody that the tragic end of the previous game is the best option.
    • Bastion has two endings. One is to leave the broken land and the other is to reset to before the calamity, without knowing if it will repeat or not. It's heavily hinted that it does indeed repeat.
    • Super Danganronpa 2 is all a computer simulation to retrain everyone to be better people. Well, at least that was the plan before Monokuma showed up and hijacked everything. A large part of the finale is about how to proceed with the situation, either undoing it all or letting the villain win. Despite all intents and plans, the reset turns out to somehow allow everyone to retain their memories and character developments, despite the timeline being thrown out.
    • Ghost Trick ends with going back to When It All Began and undoing the initial death, erasing the entire timeline from that point forwards.
  • September 15, 2017
    Omeganian
    Isn't this Reset Button Ending?
  • September 15, 2017
    henke37
    That does seem related, but not quite the same. A note explaining the difference would indeed be useful.
  • September 15, 2017
    Bisected8

    Basically, the key parts are the fact that it's the solution to the story's conflict, and the events of the plot are subject to a Cosmic Retcon.
  • September 15, 2017
    MetaFour
    • Sonic The Hedgehog 2006 involved lots of time travel, and Dr. Eggman trying to harness the power of the god Solaris to conquer everything. Predictably, Solaris gets out of control and destroys almost all of time and space before Sonic and friends can stop him. The final cutscene involves one last bit of time travel, in which where Sonic and Elise extinguish the flame of Solaris, thereby preventing the lab accident that set the entire plot in motion. As the rest of the game wasn't very good, Sonic fans didn't particularly mind that it ended by erasing itself from the series timeline.

    • Quantum Starlight (a My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic fanfic and Whole Plot Reference to Quantum Break): an accident during the first test of a time machine causes time itself to fracture, leading to a whole mess of unchangeable Stable Time Loops and the looming threat of a Time Crash. And then the protagonists find a method of time travel that does allow them to change the past, so they go back and stop the original accident. The majority of the plot is erased from the timeline, but the time travelers retain their memories of events retconned away.
  • September 15, 2017
    DrNoPuma
  • September 16, 2017
    Snowy66
    • In The Flash 2014, often Barry is faced with a threat so devastating, the one way for the story to continue is for Barry to run so fast he goes back in time, hitting the Cosmic Reset Button to prevent the event from occurring to begin with.
      • In "Out of Time", Team Flash becomes suspicious of Dr. Wells, with Cisco's investigations leading him to discover Wells is the Reverse-Flash. Upon getting caught knowing the truth Cisco is killed by Wells. At the same time Barry has to deal with Weather Wizard summoning a tsunami to wipe out Central City and starts running at top speed to create a wall of air to stop the wave. However, instead Barry ends up generating a wormhole and gets sent a day back in time, allowing him to avert Central City's destruction and Cisco's death.
      • Happens again in the crossover with Arrow, where Barry, Oliver and the Hawks' combined efforts to stop Vandal Savage fail. It ends with Savage using the Staff of Horus to disintegrate Central City, with all of Team Arrow and Flash along with it. Barry being fast enough, ran from the explosion and time jumped again to before they faced Savage. This allowed Barry to explain to Oliver everything they did wrong earlier and fix it up so they could defeat Savage the second time round.
  • September 16, 2017
    Bisected8
    ^ Those both seem to be more Set Right What Once Went Wrong. To count as this trope, you need that "the only way to fix this is to retcon it all away by undoing the Inciting Incident" twist.

    As written, they seem more like "whoops, let's go back and redo things a bit better" plots.
  • September 16, 2017
    acrobox
    The ending the Ocarina Of Time Zelda resets the timeline to just before Link met her and she sent him of to try to stop Ganndorf on his own. They realize that Ganondorf would've never risen to power if they had simply turned him over to the proper authorities instead of unlocking the sacred realm giving him the opportunity to steal the triforce. She also apologizes that all the time travel shenanigans deprived Link of a normal childhood. In doing so she actually failed to fully erase everything and created at least two timelines - one where Link simply vanished from existence after defeating Ganon as an adult, and one where he exposed the conspiracy as a child. Word Of God is that despite being able to live out his childhood, Link retained memories of the events of the plot and lived an unfulfilled life because he never got to be the Hero of Time.
  • September 16, 2017
    Basara-kun
    Comic Books:
    • In The Infinity Gauntlet saga, Thanos managed to get the Infinity Gauntlet, a powerful Applied Phlebotinum that can modify everything, so he erased the half of sentient life of the universe to please Ms. Death, among other things like defeating the Cosmic Entities of the Marvel Universe. After the battle against the Mad God, finally Adam Warlock got the infinity Gauntlet from Thanos and used to Set Right What Once Went Wrong by restoring all the lifes lost in the event (not just the ones erased by Thanos, also the deaths of heroes battling Thanos) and also managed to get everyone in the universe that was All Just A Dream.
  • September 16, 2017
    Snowy66
    Ok, how about this?

    • In X Men Days Of Future Past it's revealed the events of all the previous films led to a Bad Future where Sentinels run rampant as invincible killing machines and had been exterminating both mutant and human life. The entire film's plot is Wolverine being sent back to the past to prevent the Sentinel creator being assassinated by Mystique, which was what triggered government funding into the Sentinel project to begin with. Eventually Mystique is persuaded to drop her vendetta and a new human mutant peace movement begins, and the Bad Future is averted with all the previously lost lives being restored.
  • September 17, 2017
    Bisected8
    ^ Not an example; there's no "undo the very thing that started this whole mess" element. Just straight up "go back and make sure things play out better".
  • September 17, 2017
    MetaFour
    I guess the important part is that a major part of the on-screen plot is undone by the climax? Because in Days of Future Past, Wolverine's interference does lead to everything after 1973 getting overwritten. But the majority of the on-screen plot concerns Wolverine in 1973, trying to change the past. Only a minority of the film's runtime actually gets erased from the timeline.

    Also, I think that Futurama example is more a spin on Its A Wonderful Plot than an example of this trope. "What if Fry had never been cryogenically frozen?" is the premise of the short, not the climax.

    Can this overlap with Leave Your Quest Test?
    • Futurama: "The Why of Fry" teases at this. The brain spawn's last-ditch effort to destroy the universe is to send Fry (the only person capable of stopping them) back to 1999 to prevent himself from getting cryogenically frozen—the event that kicked off the entire series. But Nibbler gives future-Fry a pep talk that convinces him that getting frozen and sent to the year 3000 is necessary. Fry instead makes a minor change that ensures he isn't in a position to be tempted by the brain spawn in the first place.

    Also:
    • Goosebumps: Be Careful What You Wish For: Samatha Byrd gets a gift of three wishes from the witch Clarissa. But, as expected, all these wishes come with terrible side effects. At the end, Samatha's uses her final request to wish that she had never met Clarissa.
  • September 17, 2017
    Bisected8
    Basically (it's why I chose a placeholder name that echoes All Just A Dream).

    That's a good point, but I mostly had "the thing that caused this must be undone" as the premise for the self contained short in mind (with the "trying to murder Fry" part being a parody of this trope when it's Shoot The Dog).

    And yus! A non-Time Travel example. Thank you!
  • September 17, 2017
    NightShade96
    • In the Animorphs Megamorphs novel "Elfangor's Secret", Visser Four has used the Time Matrix to alter key events in human history to make the Yeerk invasion much easier. In order to undo the changes to the timeline (and Jake's death), the Animorphs ensure that Visser Four's host, John Berryman, was never born by preventing his parents from meeting, thus ensuring that Visser Four was never able to alter the timeline to begin with.
  • September 18, 2017
    Snowy66
    • In the Family Guy episode "Back to the Pilot", Brian asks for Stewie's help in finding a lost tennis ball. Stewie agrees to take Brian back in time so he can see the location, but not to change the past in anyway. Brian fails to listen and ends up telling his past self about the 9/11 attacks, allowing past Brian from preventing the terrorist attack. This however results in a post-apocalyptic Bad Future from the result of nuclear attacks. For the rest of the episode Stewie and Brian go back in time and try to prevent Brian from warning his past selves and changing the future to begin with. However, while trying to prevent their initial time travel counterparts, more and more Stewies and Brians from the "further future" keep showing up trying to prevent earlier Stewies and Brians before them from intervening in the past. This gets to the point where there's dozens of Stewies and Brians from the future arguing it out on whether or not to prevent 9/11, until one of the Stewies decides to hold a vote. Upon the majority agreeing to allow 9/11 to happen, this Stewie tells everyone else to go back to their own time. This Stewie and Brian then travel one minute back in time to the very first point they arrived via time travel, before they made any changes. Stewie then draws a gun on the past Stewie and Brian and forces them to go back to the present. By doing so, Stewie managed to erase the entire timeline created by the time travel along with this version of Brian and Stewie.
  • September 18, 2017
    Bisected8
    Right, any thoughts on the title, index ideas, page quotes or images?
  • September 19, 2017
    NightShade96
    Maybe the title could be made something more indicative?
  • September 19, 2017
    Bisected8
    Such as (if I could think of one myself, I'd have used it ;p)?
  • September 19, 2017
    NightShade96
    Maybe Prevent The Fateful Event?

    Also, I just remembered another Animorphs example (sorry if it's confusing, that's kinda how it happens in the novel :P):

    • In "The Forgotten", the Animorphs decide to steal a Yeerk Bug fighter in order to fly it to the White House and expose the Yeerk invasion, but an accident results in an anomaly known as a Sario Rip being created, where two alternate versions of each person involved exists at the same time and will be eliminated at a specific time, and also results in the Animorphs getting trapped in the Amazon rainforest along with Visser Three and his underlings. However, Jake gets killed by Visser Three before that time, thus returning him to the exact moment when he made the decision to steal the Bug fighter (as he is apparently the only real person there, as he's the only one to have vivid flashbacks to before his decision throughout the novel). This time, he decides not to go through with it.
  • September 20, 2017
    Bisected8
    Time travel is always confusing to explain (hence why every bullet on this TLP seems to be a WOT).
  • September 20, 2017
    NightShade96
    ^ Good point.

    Also, you might want to add folder tags.
  • September 20, 2017
    Generality
    In the finale of Donnie Darko, the titular protagonist goes back in time (somehow) and allows himself to be hit by the falling airplane engine that had missed him in the beginning, in order to change the sequence of events that led to his girlfriend being run over by a car.
  • September 21, 2017
    Bisected8
    ^^ Done

    Right, any other thoughts on a title (we've got a lot of hats, but I don't think this can be launched without agreement on one).
  • September 21, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Film Animated
  • September 22, 2017
    Snowy66
    • In Legends Of Tomorrow Season 2, after the Legends spend most of the season trying to keep the Spear of Destiny out of the hands of the Legion Of Doom, ultimately they fail and the Legion uses the Spear to rewrite reality. Even trapped within the Legion's Doomworld reality, the Legends make a final attempt to steal back the spear and undo the damage, only for Eobard Thawne to destroy the spear itself. The Legends then reason that the only way to repair reality is to stop the Legion from getting the Spear to begin with, so they travel back in time across their own personal history to WWI where the Legion had first acquired the completed Spear. In a Final Battle of the Legends teaming up with their past selves to face the Legion, all of the future Legends end up being killed with the exception of Sara. Sara then uses the Spear's reality powers to disable its own reality warping before the Legion would use it, thus preventing the Legion from ever creating the Doomworld to begin with and restoring reality to its correct nature.
  • September 22, 2017
    WaterBlap
    Coming from the workstation thread just to suggest a name. Maybe Retcon Twist? It seems like this is specifically a twist trope in which a retcon is required.
  • September 22, 2017
    Bisected8
    Ooo, I like it
  • September 22, 2017
    Snowy66
  • September 22, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Just out of curiosity, are we accepting a Defied Trope example? A case where The Hero tries to resequence the past, but always fails, and the future, bleak as it is, becomes a foregone conclusion?
  • September 23, 2017
    Bisected8
    I think a Defied Trope of this would be a character refusing to make the change to undo the plot (as with the other ending of Life is Strange), rather than it not working.

    The important parts are:
    1. The protagonist realises the only (or at least the best) way to resolve the story's conflict is to Cosmic Retcon away the events of the story.
    2. This is a twist at the end.
    3. The result is similar to All Just A Dream, except the events of the story actually happened.

    So it turning out retconning things fixed nothing would be a subversion, but it would still have to be set up like that.
  • September 23, 2017
    Ultimatum
    Whole Plot Reset as possible name
  • September 23, 2017
    WaterBlap
    Probably enough name options for a crowner now. That said, I think The Day That Never Was should be The Story That Never Was. It sounds specific to a day or certain amount of time.
  • September 23, 2017
    Bisected8
  • September 23, 2017
    Snowy66
    ^Actually yeah I agree, The Story That Never Was sounds better. I got my one from "The Year That Never Was" from a Doctor Who episode.
  • September 25, 2017
    Bisected8
    Well, The Story That Never Was and Whole Plot Reset both have three votes.

    Any other input?
  • September 25, 2017
    luckgandor817
    Hey, how about "Ripping the Wings Off a Butterfly Effect"? Too edgy?
  • September 25, 2017
    luckgandor817
    Whoops. just realized I joined the party too late, oh well...the topic looked interesting, so I couldn't help myself.
  • September 25, 2017
    Bisected8
    It isn't too late to add it to the crowner if you want to?
  • September 25, 2017
    luckgandor817
    How would I go about doing that? I'm a bit lost on this...I added it to the voting; was that what you meant?
  • September 26, 2017
    Bisected8
    Yep. that's right.
  • September 26, 2017
    longWriter
    Star Trek Voyager: In a season-one episode, there's a time paradox centered on a polaron-based power grid on a pre-warp civilization's planet in the Delta Quadrant. Tom Paris and Captain Janeway end up falling through a hole in time that was caused by the power grid's accidental detonation. The twist is that the future-Voyager-crew's own attempt to rescue Paris and Janeway is what caused the detonation, and Janeway realizing this and using a phaser to stop the rescue attempt resets the timeline, preventing the detonation and in turn preventing them from going back in time in the first place.
  • September 26, 2017
    Omeganian
    In the Justice League episode "Time, Warped", Batman tampers with the villain's time travel belt so that instead of going on his time traveling crime spree, as he did at the beginning of the previous episode, it locks him in a time loop at the point where he would have started.
  • September 26, 2017
    intastiel
  • September 26, 2017
    Bisected8
    Right, any objections to this being launched around this time tomorrow?
  • September 26, 2017
    WaterBlap
    Before launch, I'd like to ask about making the runner-up to the crowner a redirect, namely Whole Plot Reset. They both got a lot of votes relative to the other options. Does that sound like a good idea or nah?
  • September 26, 2017
    Snowy66
    • In Doctor Who,
      • In "Father's Day", the Doctor takes Rose Tyler back to the day where her father, Pete, was killed so she could share one last moment with him just before he dies. However Rose disobeys the Doctor and saves her father's life by pushing him out of the way of the car that would kill him. As this was a fixed point in time, changing it causes catastrophic events on the world with the Reapers of Time being released to deal with the paradox. Ultimately, the one way to fix the anomaly is to have Pete relive the event that was changed and get hit by the car that would have killed him. Accepting his fate as the only way to restore time, Pete walks in front of the car and gets killed, erasing all of the alternate timeline that occurred due to the paradox.
      • In "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS", the TARDIS takes damage from a salvaging ship's magnetic cobble field. This causes all sorts of problems including Clara being trapped inside, moments from time seeping out, and zombie creatures roaming about the ship. Then to top it all off the TARDIS core is revealed to have hit critical and will eventually explode, with the zombie creatures revealed to be future versions of the TARDIS crew who had their flesh burned up and melted by the TARDIS. The Doctor eventually figures out the one way to repair the damage is to prevent the entire day from happening to begin with, which he does so by reaching through one of the tears in time to the point where the TARDIS got caught in the field and passes his past self the button to turn off the magnetic field, effectively erasing the entire day.
  • September 26, 2017
    Snowy66
    Also here's the Trope Namer example, also from Doctor Who.

    • In the two-parter finale of Series 3 of the revival. The Master had succeeded in taking control over the entire world, trapping the Doctor in a Rapid Ageing state, and Martha Jones on the run on the ground. The Master accomplished this by using a psychic Mind Control Device to gradually work his way into being elected Prime Minister of Britain, before using an army of Toclafane (cyborg future human he had transported to the present) to cease control of the whole world. The Master would spend a year having his army gradually killing off the population of Earth, which was a Temporal Paradox since they were killing their ancestors. This is only made possible due to the Master turning the Doctor's TARDIS into a paradox machine. The Doctor ultimately manages to defeat the Master, by having Martha travel the Earth to every human survivor (linked with the Master's psychic device) and have them all think his name in unison, allowing the psychic energies to be granted to him. Once the Master is out of the way, the paradox machine is destroyed, causing the entire year of the Master's reign to reset back to before the paradox machine was activated. Only the select few people present near the machine retained memories of the year, while the rest of the population of the Earth were unaware of it occurring. This year came to be known as "The Year That Never Was".
  • September 26, 2017
    Snowy66
    ^^I don't think the redirect is needed. That's usually for when a trope gets renamed.
  • September 26, 2017
    FGHIK
    • The two parter Year of Hell episode of Star Trek Voyager ended this way, when the villains temporal weapon is destroyed.

    (Not the same episode as the Voyager example already there)
  • September 27, 2017
    LondonKdS
    At the climax of the Farscape episode "The Locket", the central characters are forced to use the strange properties of the Negative Space Wedgie that they are trapped in to reverse time and change history so that they never entered it. One of the two characters with a Ripple Effect Proof Memory who remember this feels guilt that they might have erased a number of people who were conceived and born thanks to one of the crew having children on a planet on the other side of the anomaly, but the other speculates that they might have split the timeline instead of erasing it.

  • September 27, 2017
    Theharbo
    Would this example count?

    • In The Batman an episode revolves around Francis Grey, a clock-repair man who, because of his family's dire financial straits and baby-on-the-way, stole an expensive watch. He was no experienced burglar so he set off the alarm, and in his escape caused a cavalcade of Disaster Dominoes which landed him 20 years in prison. During this time, he was put to work repairing the prison's clocks and - finding himself with the realisation that time was all he had - he somehow gained a downplayed Time Master ability: He could turn back time leaving him the only one with the memories of the time that was rewound. At first, it was 1 second, but increased experience made him better with it until he reached his limit of 20 seconds - no matter how hard he tried, he could never rewind more than 20 seconds. The episode's plot kicks off by Francis having done his 20 years of jail time, his wife having left him, and deciding to inflict toxic-gas death upon the inhabitants of Gotham at the New Year's Eve celebration, uncaring for a world that decided to Disproportionate Retribution him for stealing a watch. He does this by tying a deadly gas release to the clock tower signalling the new year, and liberally makes use of his power throughout the episode, to the point that not even Batman can beat him despite being his physical superior. But just as the clock nears new year, Batman's contingency plan kicks in: Batgirl returns with Francis's now adult son, who proves that he still loves his father despite having been in jail for his entire life. The moment of reunion lasts a second before the clock strikes midnight, the gas is released, and Francis, to his dread, realises that he only has one gas mask too late to save his son. His resultant Big No and Despair Event Horizon triggers his time-rewind power and reverts time to just before he stole the watch twenty years ago. Still remembering the events that happened, Francis decides to leave the watch behind and instead work overtime to support his family. The final scene of the episode is the same as the first: the bat-family discussing new years resolutions - With one key exception; the clock that Alfred had trouble repairing in the now-Alternate Timeline has been fixed by none other than Francis himself, who declines an offer to stay over for Eggnog because he has his own family to celebrate with. The episode ends less than a few minutes after it chronologically started with Francis returning to his van labelled "Grey and Son, watch repair".
  • September 27, 2017
    Snowy66
    ^You should probably cut down on the words of that entry. Emit the irrelevant details like eggnog, you can sum up his time powers origin as "discovered he could control time", and the quotes.
  • September 27, 2017
    Theharbo
    ^Sure, but I wanted to provide details for my question: Is this an example of the trope or not?
  • September 27, 2017
    Bisected8
    It's an example; I'll try and trim it a bit.

    Redirects Are Free, so if anyone wants to make them after this is launched, just do so by the usual channels.
  • September 27, 2017
    Rytex
    The original Final Fantasy saw this happen upon the Light Warriors destroying Chaos and ending the cycle. However, it is stated that their deeds live on in legend, so partially subverted.
  • October 7, 2017
    WaterBlap
    Just posting here (after it's been launched) to comment that Redirects Are Free literally redirects to Needs A Redirect. They aren't free anymore.
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