Sarah: Arlington? Arlington? Where've you gone? Oh god, I'm stuck here in the late Jurassic without a time machine.
Meanwhile, in the early 20th century, Arlington Wolfe, cross-time detective, is trapped on an iceberg.
An unusual form of Meanwhile, Back at the...
. The story cuts back and forth between two plotlines, just as in Meanwhile, Back at the...
, but here the plotlines are separated in time as well as space; one of them is chronologically in advance of the other. The narrator treats the two different plot threads in different times as if they were happening simultaneously, despite the fact that, chronologically, the plot thread in the past is going to be resolved long before the thread in the future starts.
This can be used as a way to maintain suspense about past events, using out-of-order storytelling
to keep the audience in the dark about crucial details.
is not a necessary element for this trope, but in those scenarios it can also reflect the ability of past, present, and future to interact with one another.
The actual phrase "Meanwhile, in the Future
" is usually used tongue-in-cheek, but there are examples of legitimate comic books using it with a straight face.
Related to Time Travel Tense Trouble
Note: Please don't duplicate entries between this trope, San Dimas Time
, and Portal to the Past
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Anime and Manga
- In Drifting Classroom, main character Sho and his entire elementary school have been sent to a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Several times in the story, Sho's mother, still in the past, has received a psychic message from her son cryptically asking her to plant a Deus ex Machina to rescue him from a cliffhanger that he's encountered in the future. She usually has to go through a short storyline to put everything in place, while the audience is waiting for Sho to escape the cliffhanger he's in.
- The Swedish comic Goliat would announce cuts with captions like "Simultaneously in the Stone Age ..." in its time-travel arcs, without apparent irony.
- The Flash had a whole storyline that relied on this for it to work. The Flash (AKA Wally West) is stuck thousands of years in the future, forced to go past his top speed over and over again in order to get closer to his home time. Each time he does this, he risks dying — but he survives because the love of his girlfriend, Linda, is "like a lightning rod" which keeps him from getting lost in time and space. Meanwhile, in the...present, Linda has given Wally up for dead and moved on to a new guy. The moment she kisses him, (thus severing the connection between herself and Wally) the story cuts to an image of Flash, in the future, seemingly dying, despite the fateful kiss having happened over FOUR THOUSAND YEARS AGO from where he's standing.
- This happens at the beginning of a storyline in Ultimate Fantastic Four (before they go back to prevent Ben's transformation to the Thing.) Reed is in contact with Sue and Johnny who are both in different time periods. Their communicators are apparently acting as a Portal to the Past for communication.
- Business as usual in Silver Age Legion of Super-Heroes stories.
- Used as a plot device in a 1969 Action Comics story where the President asks Superman not to fly into the past or future for the next 24 hours to avoid disrupting a military experiment. No sooner has he agreed this than Superman receives an urgent distress call from the year 101,970. Instead of simply waiting until the next day before setting off, Superman uses a defective time-bubble belonging to the Legion. It takes him to his destination, but the defect causes him to age every year along the way, leaving him trapped in the future and over a hundred thousand years old. (He got better.) The point was raised in the letter column, with the editor eagerly accepting the reader's suggestion that Superman hadn't been thinking straight due to the effects of Red Kryptonite.
- Belgian comic Suske en Wiske (Spike & Suzy) does this constantly in their time travel stories. Most stories have one of the protagonists use the teletime-machine, in the meantime destroying it. Professor Barabas then spends the whole comic rebuilding it, after which the storyline is swiftly deus ex machina'd by reinforcements (most of the time Jerom). The teletime-machine also has a screen showing the events happening in the past.
- In the Strontium Dog "Max Bubba" storyline, Johnny goes back to the year 793 AD to stop the eponymous mutant from changing history. Bubba proceeds to kill every member of the Thoresen family, apparently to send a message to the future, with the result that descendants of the Thoresons spontaneously drop dead and vanish, yet everybody seems to remember them. Characters in the future continue to monitor temporal distortions, and infer from the various disasters which occur that Bubba is continuing to wreak havoc with history, and Johnny has failed.
- In DC One Million, half of the Justice League of America travels to the year 85,271 to be honored and feted. The ones in the present figure out that it's a trap, and start panicking to figure out a way to rescue their teammates before they're killed. The Huntress is the voice of reason when she points out that they have eighty thousand years to plan a rescue.
- During his run on The Avengers West Coast, John Byrne once used the caption "Meanwhile, five hundred million years later..." seriously, in a non-Time Travel story. (It indicated a transition from memories of the distant past to the person remembering them in the present day.)
- A good third of the plotlines in Watchmen takes place in the past, focusing on the Minutemen and Crimebusters.
- Lampshaded in Fantastic Four, during their conflict with Hyperstorm. Some characters were stranded in the past, and others continued their actions in the future. A change of plots said "Meanwhile... if the word makes any sense in this context...".
- In Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami the phrase "Meanwhile in the past" is used
- In The Unity Saga crossover, a Portal to the Past con intergalactic worm hole opens up in the Star Trek universe, linking them to the Star Wars universe (the latter, bear in mind, takes place "[a] long time ago in a galaxy far, far away"). Although the Portal to the Past aspect justifies Meanwhile, in the Future for most situations, at one point when Darth Vader is in the Star Trek universe, he communicates with the Emperor through Force meditations. And it's implied that this doesn't make use of the wormhole; they are just somehow able to link minds at times that correspond with the fixed temporal displacement of the wormhole.
- A version of this is used in the Code Lyoko fic Return to the Past, which jumps back and forth between March 10, 2006, the present, and June 6, 1994, where Jeremie is trapped. Each timeline does take place over the straightforward course of one day, but June 6's time loop repeats seven times over the course of the story. There is no communication between the timelines - Jeremie never thinks to communicate with the future, and the Lyoko Warriors don't know where Jeremie is until just before he returns.
- In Stars Above, this trope is used in Chapters 4 through 9. The story cuts back and forth from the 2007 Lucky Star universe and the 2012/2013 Madoka Magica universe.
- The Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Days Of Future Smurfed" starts off as a story being told in the future by Empath to his great-grandson about what happened in the past, with cuts not only between the future and the past, but also between the past and events that within the character's history as it unfolds. By the end of the story, Empath's great-grandson realizes that his purpose in the story is to create a Stable Time Loop to make sure that history unfolded just as his great-grandfather had told him about. The story ends with Empath's great-grandson becoming Traveler Smurf, watching Empath's younger self in the time period that he now calls his home.
Films — Animated
- Meet the Robinsons inverts this when Louis is in the future, then we use a Match Cut to transition to Bowler Hat Guy arriving at InventCo in the present day.
Films — Live-Action
- Best Defense uses the Flash Forward form of this: the main story involved Dudley Moore on a development project for a new tank, with the secondary story following along with Eddie Murphy as a tank commander going through a comedy of errors largely due to flaws in the tank. The future story reflects the events in the past story as they go along, highlighting the design decisions (and corporate espionage) as they take place.
- At the climax of the film, Eddie Murphy's tank is overheating, leaving him a sitting duck on the battlefield, but Dudley Moore leaps to his rescue with a cooling device ... ten years earlier.
- Twelve Monkeys features characters communicating with scientists in the future with a business's answering machine in the "present", which a team of scientists spend months and years recovering from the decayed magnetic tape. While the continuity is well-explained, the interaction between future and present, even with the time machine, is relatively sequential.
- Frequency, using the device of a ham radio owned by both the thirtysomething father in his time period and the similarly aged son in his, allowing the two to communicate. The timelines fortuitiously collide in the end sequence.
- In The Lake House, two people living two years apart in the same house exchange letters through time. Near the end of the film, the woman (who's the one who lives in the future) realises that the bloke she's been writing letters to is the one that died in her arms near the beginning of the film. Thus she frantically races to inform him of what happened before he gets run over.
- Justified in Déjà Vu, the timetravel-based monitoring machine only has the power to "see" in the fixed time of 4 days and 6 hours earlier, being only able of controlling the P.O.V., and sending the main character's in the same past.
- The Smurfs 2 does this in the early part of the movie to show what's been going on with Gargamel and the Winslows since we have last seen them in the modern-day world.
- In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Past and Future timelines run simultaneously until the connection is finally broken. Is Hand Waved by the specifics of Kitty Pryde's ability.
- Alan Garner's novel, Thursbitch, uses this trope with some crossover between times in a small hamlet in England.
- In the Discworld novel Jingo Commander Vimes got, in a strange turn of events, a magical PDA that told him what was happening to his self in a different timeline, where he did not go to Klatch.
He Everybody dies. Maybe more a Meanwhile right now, but a very good example none the less.
- The Michael Crichton novel Timeline justifies the time trip's thirty-six hour limit with the explanation that they weren't actually travelling into the past, they were travelling into a kind of parallel universe which existed in an earlier time, but in which time passed at the same rate as in our world. The time machines only have enough battery life to maintain a connection for thirty-six hours before they needed to be recalled. Or something.
- Many of Alastair Reynolds' books work this way. There's a climax that the book is working towards in which all the characters will end up in the same place at the same time, and parts of the book are told in rough order of how long—in that character's time frame—it will be until the character reaches the climax. Since his books are Space Operas in a setting full of Time Dilation, this leads to quite a bit of skipping around in calendar years, especially toward the beginnings of his books.
- A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones, uses this constantly. Characters talk about, for example, World War II "becoming" longer (i.e. it starts earlier and finishes later), something that is apparently a gradual process, although "gradual" in what is hard to say. Partially justified by the idea that the eponymous Time City exists in its own personal timeframe outside the rest of time, but nonetheless, the time travelling doesn't make internal sense. Still a good book, though.
- This is a recurring gimmick in the Nicolas Eymerich, Inquisitor series by Valerio Evangelisti: While the main action is taking place in the middle ages, each episode also depicts a related subplot taking place "simultaneously" centuries earlier or later. And it doesn't even technically involve time travel, making the narrative device all the more contrived.
- Illuminatus! is chock full of this, explicitly described as such to be paradoxic and funny.
- Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency had Susan Way talk on the telephone to Richard MacDuff, who was four billion years in the past. As Professor Chronotis points out, this was a matter they would just have to take up with British Telecom. (Note that the "telephone from the future" device also appeared in Doctor Who, for which Douglas Adams wrote several episodes, which Dirk Gently borrows other plot elements from.)
- In the Warhammer 40,000 novel Angels of Darkness, the story cuts back and forth between the interrogation of Chapter Master Astelan, and Brother Chaplain Boreas' storyline while on guard duty on Piscina, decades later. Interestingly, both plots include Boreas, and the effects of the first are enormous on the conclusion of the second plotline.
- As it is a book about Vlad Tepes and Elizabeth Bathory, who can somehow write letters to each other despite living over one hundred years apart, Count and Countess is quite full of this.
- H.G. Well's The Time Machine - the Time Traveller vanishes forever at the end and the narrator wonders where he wound up. He at least recognizes the contradictions and absurdities of time travel by saying "He may even now, if I may use the term ..."
- Cryptonomicon simultaneously juggles the story of World War II soldiers Bobby Shaftoe and Goto Dengo, World War II cryptographer Lawrence Waterhouse, and modern-day computer hacker Randy Waterhouse.
- Seekers of the Sky has the recurring plotline of the Redeemer (replacement Jesus), which is repeatedly alluded to in the present-day narration but revealed only in small heaps across two books.
- Dean Koontz does this in his time travel book Lightning, as his hero has to bounce between the time lab in 1944, where he drops a few hints to Churchill about winning the war and helping his girlfriend in 1989 avoid time-traveling Gestopo men, so she doesn't get killed again. It... gets complicated.
- Appears frequently in the later books in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series.
- Used blatantly in the opening paragraphs of Mansfield Park and Mummies by Vera Nazarian.
While the venerable Pharaoh mummy continued to desiccate in secret splendor for thousands of years, far into the future, our Maria's one sister, Miss Ward, at the end of half a dozen years, found herself obliged to be attached to the Rev. Mr. Norris...
- In Parable of the Talents, the story alternates between Lauren Olamina's journey out of a Christian concentration cam[ and her attempts to find her baby daughter, who was taken by Christian fundamentalists, and her daughter Larkin/Asha Vere's life with her abusive adoptive parents.
- Star Trek: Federation cuts back and forth between three different timelines: 2060s pre-World War III, TOS in 2267, and TNG in 2366. The 2060s storyline mostly fills out backstory, but the TOS and TNG storylines are eventually tied together by a Negative Space Wedgie.
- The two plotlines in Nemesis by Isaac Asimov are separated in time as well as in space, but they alternate chapter by chapter and do converge at the end, as the plotline that starts at an earlier date catches up to the one that takes place later. The differences in chronology are not immediately obvious at the beginning of the book.
- No time travel happens in The Dispossed by Ursula K. Le Guin, but the book is written in Anachronic Order. The odd-numbered chapters take place on one planet and the even numbered chapters take place on another, but the main character of both ongoing plotlines is the same person; the odd numbered chapters all take place chronologically after the final even-numbered chapter, and both end with the main character leaving one planet for the other. (In one case, he's leaving his home planet, in the other he's returning to it.)
- Sharyn Mc Crumb's Ballad Novels are a mystery series set in Appalachia. Each novel is split between a murder case in the present investigated by Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and a historical case with some parallel or connection to it.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who audio play:
- In The Kingmaker, The Fifth Doctor and his companions, Peri and Erimem, are stranded in two separate time zones. The story jumps between the two zones, telling the 'before' and 'after' of a sinister plot.
- In The Rocket Men, Ian starts by recounting a scene where he, Barbara and Vicki are all hostages of sinister Space Pirates. He then wonders about where this began, and recounts the story of him arriving on the tourist planet from where the ship he was on would depart. Then he goes back to what happened after the first event, and continues going back and forth. This is used for some very good dramatic effect - the first Cliffhanger describes Ian flinging himself out of an airlock into the void, and it's only when we hear the following scene, from the past timeline, of him knocking out the pirate and stealing his suit that we know he had an air supply and a JetPack when he jumped, meaning the cliffhanger isn't quite as alarming.
- In The Goon Show episode "The Treasure in the Tower", the plot switches between a pirate ship trying to bury its treasure in 1600 , and an attempt by the Ministry of Works in 1957 trying to find the treasure. At the end of the episode the pirates end up burying their treasure in 1600 in the hole dug in 1957 to find the treasure.
- Achron lives and breathes this trope. With the ability to jump back and forth through time to create changes you have to react to an opponent who may not be in the same time period as you.
- The adventure game Day Of The Tentacle jumped between three time periods at the same house; the modern day, 200 years in the past and 200 years in the future. Doing certain things in earlier periods would change the future periods.
- With actual "meanwhile" cuts between them, no less. Its time travel operated primarily on Rule of Funny and deliberately cartoony logic.
- Similarly, the second Back to the Future game for the NES let you jump between 1955, 1985, and 2015; doing things in an early period would alter later ones.
- Carried out even further with the obscure Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure game for the Atari Lynx. The player could travel to nearly a dozen different time eras, and many puzzles would require setting something up in the past to resolve an obstacle in the future.
- The TimeSplitters games: while it's an undeveloped Excuse Plot that ignores the details in 1 and 2, Future Perfect goes the whole hog complete with time-bending radio headsets.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Oracle of Ages, have required Link to travel between the present and the past to solve puzzles. Some of this is done in Stable Time Loop fashion, but there are rampant absurdities too. For instance, in Oracle of Ages, you can move seeds in the past to move the resulting vines in the present...as many times as you want. Not to mention the absurd tower that gets more constructed in the Present as it's built...in...the...past?
- That tower actually has time stopped around it, as the workers are instructed to keep building until the sun goes down.
- Meanwhile, the events of Ocarina Of Time actually created three divergent timelines, which later games were set in.
- Legacy of Kain: Defiance has the story spilt between two characters that are in different time periods. Near the end they do eventfully end up in the same time period but as Kain is immortal it makes you wonder why he even cares about waiting for 100 years to meet up.
- There's an even more egregious example elsewhen. Kain at one point uses his telekinetic might to blaze a path through some ruins. Cut to Raziel 200 years later, and the columns are somehow untoppled.
- Made even worse by the fact, later on, you do make use of Kain's temporal trailblazing.
- Everything probably justified due to the fact the reason they were separated in the first place is that Kain broke the Stable Time Loop, so time went a little crazy.
- City of Heroes has screens that give a real-time overview of the situation in Recluse's Victory, a PvP battleground set in... the future.
- There's also the Co-op zone of Cimerora. You're 2,000 years in the past, fighting to protect time itself, but you get real-time updates to the goings on in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles. You can also talk to your contacts in Cimerora while in the present day, by some vaguely defined mental link.
- Sonic CD made use of it as well. It even gave a 'Good Future' bonus when you beat Robotnik/Eggman.
- In Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, the Prince uses time portals dotted around the castle on the Island of Time to get past broken down areas, activate devices that create paths for him in his own time and generally messes with the timeline to survive. Of course, messing with the timeline is what got him in that situation to begin with.
- This trope is expressly referenced early in the game. Shahdee says that Prince have reached the island, despite that she's in the Past, several hundred years before the fact.
- As good as the story of Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time may have been, its time-travel system was rather absurd. First, there's the fact that time seems to pass in the Present while you're in the Past and vice versa, like they were separated realms, though this can probably be explained by the whole Portal to the Past thing. Second, the Mushroom Kingdom was taken over by the Shroobs in the past, leaving the Kingdom in the Present.... completely UNAFFECTED! Some might see this as a result of a Stable Time Loop, as Mario and Luigi defeat the Shroobs anyway, but that leads into a Paradox, since they can only defeat them because Present Mushroom Kingdom was free from the Shroob in the first place. Also, they are changing E.Gadd's past heavily... with the only result being him inventing some gadget. E. Gadd lampshades this trope by noting how paradoxical it is.
- Freedom Force has an almost literal version of this in the second game, where the heroes have to go into the past to set a timed explosive on the shield generator for the Big Bad's fortress so they can get into it in the future. On the way in, they're recognized by one of his henchmen, who immediately demands that the guards raise their security from now on. "Meanwhile, in the future..." the guards standing outside the fortress disappear and more powerful versions appear in their place while the characters are watching.
- Dark Chronicle does this handily, courtesy of the protagonists' personal Applied Phlebotinum activating a Portal to the Past (or in this case, 100 years in the future, and back again). Because Griffon has incredible powers over time and exists 10,000 years in the past, the two periods are treated as separate fronts in the war. It actually works.
- The last case of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney takes place both in the game's present and seven years ago. On at least one occasion, you must find evidence in the present so you can present it seven years ago.
- Space Quest IV plays this one completely straight, with a cutscene introduced with "Meanwhile, back in Space Quest XII" while our hero Roger Wilco is in Space Quest X.
- Played for Laughs and refenced by name in this S.S.D.D strip.
- Seen in the Narbonic storyline "Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck In Time". Probably justified; Dave's consciousness is bouncing around between three of his past and future selves without his conscious control, so the events are ordered as he experiences them.
- Irregular Webcomic!'s podcast #17 uses the line "Meanwhile, in the early 20th century" delivered deadpan for humorous effect.
- A Running Gag in Dinosaur Comics is T-Rex bugging Shakespeare in a panel titled "Meanwhile, in Tudor England," but given the kind of comic Dinosaur Comics is...
- Dresden Codak utilizes the similar "Long ago, in the future". Again, time travel.
- Combined with aggressively Branching Timelines; the very fact that the time travellers have travelled back in time means that that future will never happen, but does impact the present, so it's slightly easier to think of it as the past.
- The author of Casey and Andy carefully justified it in this strip. Note also The Rant below.
- Avoided in ''TRU Life Adventures. Old Bob's multiple appearances in the present have not been shown in his own personal chronological order.
- 8-bit Theater gives us "Meanwhile, at the beginning of time" when White Mage is sent back in time and starts creation.
- Used and discussed in this Byrobot "Sally and Thumb: Urchins in Goner-Town" strip.◊
- A running gag of sorts in MS Paint Adventures' latest series, Homestuck. One comic explains this as the concept of "circumstantial simultaneity", a metatemporal way of looking at causally-related events.
- YEARS IN THE FUTURE ... BUT NOT MANY
- "Meanwhile, the past pulls a mean double reacharound..."
- Also, the "Accelerate" update.
- "Jane: Enter" reveals two characters were in the future all along.
- The Girls in Space storyline "The Pickled Past" is set in present time and in Edinburgh, 1644. Both stories run at the same time and the events in the 17th Century affect the present day storyline.
- Sandra on the Rocks: Meanwhile, fourteen years ago... might appears from the caption to be an example of this trope, but actually turns out to be a simple one-panel flashback.
- A line almost identical to the title of this trope is used in The Banjo Kid's review of Hell Girl. (By the way, he was talking about the present).
- Kids Next Door, "Op FUTURE".
- Parodied in the episode "The Why of Fry", wherein a temporal paradox threatening the existence of the universe itself cuts away with a jarring "MEANWHILE!" voiceover to a B-story involving Leela dating the mayor's aide.
- Also in the episode "Roswell that ends well," the crew travels to the past and accidentally leave Bender behind. Back in the year 3002, Fry wonders how lonely Bender must be stuck 1000 years in the past... until he realizes that 1000 years later, Bender would be back to the year 3002 and they can just go find him.
- But done straight in Bender's Big Score, which cuts back and forth from the main narrative in the future to a B-story in the twentieth century.
- In the episode The Late Philip J. Fry, Fry, Bender and Professor Farnsworth are traveling forward in a time machine that can only journey to the future. At some points we cut away to what is going on with Leela and the rest of Planet Express, including visits to the years 3030 and 3050. Truly, this is technically "Meanwhile, back in the past," but what the heck.
- However, you can see a cause-and-effect here, as Leela leaves time-traveling Fry a message preserved in a cave, which Fry discovers a billion years later.
- Due to the circular nature of the universe, this is also a "Meanwhile, in the future's future".
- The title screen of "The Luck of the Fryrish" reads "Futurama: Broadcast simultaneously one year in the future".
- One episode of Super Friends has the ever-so-serious voice of the narrator intoning "Meanwhile, back in the future..." with no apparent irony.
- Helped by the fact that the show was made a decade before Back to the Future came out.
- Similarly, the narrator of Underdog delivered the line, "And at that moment in the present, the Thanksgiving Day parade reappeared."
- Wolverine and the X-Men seems to use this trope. The "hunters" appear in the same episode Wolverine get kidnapped and analyzed, every time Wolverine tries to contact Prof X he's always a bit further in his own personal timeline, and the season finale happens at the same time as the people in the future fight Master Mold and the past gets changed.
- Justice League's Vandal Savage must have his own field of time around him, as this happens repeatedly and inconsistently. Noticeable at the end of the episode Hereafter.
- This might be justified in his case. (Or as justified as any Time Travel trope is, at least...) At various times it has been a rule in the DC universe, and the DINI Verse might use this as well, that the same person can't travel through time to a period in which another version of that person exists. If they do, the time-traveling version is intangible and invisible. But Vandal Savage is immortal and exists for all of humanity's history and future. This makes direct time travel impossible for him (although there are ways to do whatever he wants indirectly), so Mental Time Travel is the only option, and a phenomenon he's prepared for and used to, and no doubt there are other tricks that could be used. This rule is explicitly stated by Savage in "Hereafter", but is ignored in other parts of the DCAU, including two episodes of Static Shock and the Justice League Unlimited two-parter "The Once and Future Thing".
- Although in "The Once and Future Thing" example, time itself started to unravel, as Chronos, losing stability, went against his original intent and started to bring things to the future, from the past, that would actually be missed. As that future in part was dependent on those things, it destabilizes all of time.
- In An episode of Extreme Ghostbusters, Kylie, through a time slip, ends up in a Bad Future where ghosts run rampant and the Ghostbusters are all dead (but remembered as heroes) while a guy from that time ends up in the present day. The episode cuts back and forth between Kylie in the future and the rest of the Ghostbusters in the present, making it seem like everything is happening simultaneously.
- A variation occurs in the Canadian cartoon The Boy, where a future Bob and Boy help out the present ones. While future!Bob is with the present Boy, the present Bob suffers an injury, which future!Bob appears to feel as though he was the one who got hurt.