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Close Enough Timeline
A common plot in Time Travel
stories: The time traveller messes up the past, and has to put everything back the way it was. This trope is when the time traveller, in the end, doesn't quite
succeed. The traveller, however, decides that the change the new timeline has brought with it is either a pretty insignificant alteration that he or she could easily adjust to (often happens if he or she is locked out of further time travel), or even outright beneficial, and happily accepts it (i.e. s/he could probably erase the change completely with further time traveling, but sees no reason to do so). Usually played as a happy ending but Fridge Logic
can reveal this to be based on Protagonist-Centered Morality
. After all, maybe Alice got the promotion in this timeline but that means harm was done to Bob who got it last time around.
Compare Not Quite Back to Normal
. Contrast Rubber-Band History
, where the new timeline the traveller ends up with is ours. A Close Enough Timeline can be a result of Tricked Out Time
, when the characters deliberately make sure that Grandfather Time says "eh, close enough".
- In Paperinik New Adventures, Paperinik, the protagonist, is the one altering things, as he's forced to ally with the time pirate the Raider to try and prevent the destruction of Duckburg due an experiment with cold fusion going awry, at which point a squad from the Time Police shows up to try and make sure the events go as they're supposed to (and arrest the Raider now that they know is involved). In the end, after the Raider is caught, the Time Cops realize that making sure the timeline goes exactly as supposed would involve too many changes and be extremely difficult due Paperinik, so they settle to make the experiment fail in a non-explosive way and discredit the scientist who had tried it.
- In Back to the Future, after Marty returns to 1985 at the end of the film, everything is the same as when he left it — except the mall has a different name, his family and Biff have different fortunes (though Biff's proves not to be so different after all in Part II), and Jennifer looks different.
- Similarly, at the end of Back To The Future Part III, the only change is the name of the ravine to Eastwood Ravine.
- Done in the Telltale games as well, where the only known differences are Doc stayed in 1986 part-time to take care of his father's estate (as Marty helped patch their relationship), he never got stuck in 1931 (because he knew who the speakeasy arsonist was in this timeline), and Edna married Kid Tannen.
- Tim's goal in About Time.
- In the Goosebumps book, the Cuckoo Clock of Doom, the main character is cursed by his family's cuckoo clock to be repeatedly sent mentally back in time into his own body at younger and younger stages of his life until he might be erased from existence. He alters the timeline so that it never happens, but his annoying and malicious sibling is erased from existence due to the clock's "defect" mentioned earlier in the book (the clock's year dial skips the sister's birth year, something that he caused when fixing the backwards time flow). He promises he should probably go back and try to fix it. Maybe. Eventually. "One of these days."
- In Greg Bear's Eon, one of the main characters tries to get to one of these, after being unable to return to earth. She lands in a world where apparently the Egyptian dynasties never fell.
- Discussed and then invoked in the story Be Here Now by Sam Hughes.
- It's implied a time or two that this may be how travel between alternate timelines/universes generally works in the Perry Rhodan setting — you can't ever be wholly sure that you're back to your "original" time, but if it's close enough that the traveler doesn't notice any differences, does it truly matter? A somewhat classic example is the main protagonist's son Michael Rhodan, who was left for dead on an enemy planet in issue #399 but then popped back up in the distant past in the next story arc, apparently having escaped the planet's destruction via last-ditch time travel after all...only, his memories of the event don't seem to quite sync up with the actual report of his "death". Could be just the Rashomon effect at work, could be this trope with a Michael Rhodan from another timeline where things played out just that bit differently essentially replacing the original without necessarily even realizing it — without a body, there's no way to be sure one way or the other even according to at least one author.
- In Super Robot Wars Z, Setsuko's good ending is this one, everyone in her original team is alive and well and Asakim is no longer in her world tormenting her. However, the "revived" Glory Star team are alternate universe duplicates from a world where she never existed, so they don't exactly recognise her.
- In Day Of The Tentacle, the plan of the heroes is to change the past yesterday. They end up changing the past quite a lot, but manage to save the world. The Stars and Stripes ends up tentacle-shaped, though.
- The multiple endings of Singularity have shades of this; even in the good ending the world isn't quite back to what it was before you started messing with the timeline, and is in fact ruled by an advanced (though *possibly* benevolent) Soviet Union.
- In Time Hollow, Ethan doesn't bother fixing the timeline in which his friend Morris has dropped out of school because Morris seems happier that way.
- Chrono Trigger can play out like this, depending on the player's choices. Most notably, the attitudes of the Mystics toward humans in the Present can be changed if the party defeats Ozzie a second time, and the southern continent can become a forest instead of a desert. Other minor changes include the mayor of Porre becoming more generous, Guardia castle suddenly having a treasury with the Rainbow Shell in it, and the Northern Ruins turning into the Hero's Grave. The existence of the Black Omen may fall into this category as well, since it doesn't really change much of history despite being there for thousands of years unless you choose to go through it in 12,000 BC. Chrono Cross, on the other hand, more fully explores the ramifications of the heroes from Chrono Trigger being OK with the Close Enough Timeline.
- Seen in The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror V". The story ends with everything normal, except for people having long snake tongues. Homer names the trope by saying the line in the page quote.
- On Family Guy, Peter went back in time to relive his teenaged years and almost lost Lois to Quagmire; he manages to fix everything, but Roger the alien is now inexplicably a member of the Griffin household.
- Another time travel episode has Stewie and Brian go back to the pilot episode (multiple times), where their meddling results in a Bad Future. When they finally fix everything, they assume everything went back to the way it was. Then Peter shows up with his drinking buddies from the first episode, making a Brick Joke.
- American Dad! episode "The Best Christmas Story Never Told" has Stan screw up the timeline in an attempt to "save" Christmas; after fixing things, his guardian angel informs him that gun control laws are less strict now (It Makes Sense in Context). Roger is also more bitter, because he rode the rise and fall of Disco thanks to a dropped Greatest Hits tape acting as a Gray's Sports Almanac.
- In the Earthworm Jim series, the universe was destroyed, but then rebuilt. Everything was the same "except the main character of Death of a Salesman is now named Urkel."
- A different take on this is the Futurama episode "The Late Philip J. Fry." Professor Farnsworth invents a time machine that allows travel into the future only. Fry, Farnsworth and Bender discover that travelling to the end of time brings them back to the beginning (twice!), and they eventually return to their era shortly before they left. However, this universe is "slightly lower" than theirs, and they land on their duplicate selves, killing them.
- Played with in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: the series ends with the Eldritch Abomination beneath Cystral Cove being removed from history and existence. While this is far, far better for most of the people in the world (who avoid having their lives ruined or being eaten by the entity), the gang lament that since they're in a world with no mysteries to solve it's not one they belong in. So, after angsting for a bit, they decided to go on a road trip.