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Out of Time, Out of Mind
A strange situation where a character experiences a great deal of time relative to everyone else yet does not act any different.
Bob's particular Quest
has driven him to use Time Travel
, or perhaps travel to a world where time runs Year Inside, Hour Outside
. After a long and arduous quest — and we mean long
and arduous, as in months, years, perhaps even decades or centuries
, he returns home. And... goes right back to being Bob. He might not have visibly aged; his friends, just as he left them, are still talking about their everyday concerns instead of the fate of the universe; his house may still be there where in the future was a barren ruin, he should experience some shock. Even if he doesn't have memories of a Bad Future
, living for a few extra decades, regardless of whether the world is different, should lead to a very noticeable change in personality. But Bob's personality just about never does, except in the most trivial way.
A case of Status Quo Is God
. See Year Inside, Hour Outside
, "Groundhog Day" Loop
, and The Slow Path
for causes of the extra time.
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Anime and Manga
- Averted in the Suzumiya Haruhi novels, where being trapped in a time loop for thousands of repetitions is a likely contributing factor to Yuki's later breakdown in the fourth novel (no one else retained conscious memory of the loops). So it s also played straight as regards everyone else, though justified by their memory loss.
- In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, after a century of being caught in a "Groundhog Day" Loop that nobody else remembers, Rika Furude has a lot of practice acting like a child, occasionally slipping into an emphatically different tone of voice and giving the kind of serious advice you'd expect from someone with a hundred years of experience, and sometimes falling into a bout of depression and frustration that peeks through the façade.
- Zig-Zagged in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. To the rest of Mitakihara, Homura is a cold and condescending person all the time. Originally she wasn't this way. Fighting the scheme of an Eldritch Abomination over and over again in a "Groundhog Day" Loop did that to her.
- This is implied to be a problem for Burst Linkers in Accel World. In the early levels their accelerated time is limited but once they hit level 4 they gain access to the Infinite Unlimited Field with no time limit to how long they can stay accelerated. An hour of real time is equivalent to just under 42 days in the Accelerated World. Too much time in the field can cause disruptions when coming out and its implied to be at least part of the reason why some of the higher level characters (particularly Niko/Scarlet Rain) don't precisely act their age.
- In the X-Men comics, Scott Summers and Jean Grey get sent to the future in different bodies to raise Cable. Despite having lived for 20 years together in this future, they don't change. And yet, Wolverine noticed just by looking at Jean that something was different about her, saying something to the affect that her eyes looked like they'd seen a lifetime of pain as opposed to a few weeks in the Bahamas. And aside from a now-new psychic rapport with Cable, nothing else changed.
- In Uncanny X-Force, Psylocke engages in a duel of minds with the Shadow King. While only a few minutes pass in the real world, the two battle endlessly for centuries on a psychic plane. After the duel ends, Psylocke seems immediately contacts her team to resume their mission. She brushes the whole ordeal off and never speaks of it again.
- Just before the end of the last Doctor Strange series in the 1990s, Doctor Strange spent 5000 years fighting the War of the Seven Spheres in another dimension. Given any reasonable age for him, that means at least 98% of his entire life was spent in this one plot. From a look at him today, you'd never know it.
- Plastic Man spends about three thousand years as a disembodied consciousness spread over thousands of miles of ocean. By the time he reforms himself, he admits that he'd suffered unspeakable agony, gotten used to it, gone insane, then gone sane. Mildly averted in that he does change somewhat (leaving the Justice League of America to be a better father to his kid) but not entirely.
- Inverted in Watchmen, as John Osterman is changed by his odd conception of time and inability to age, so that he is gradually losing his humanity and becoming more and more apathetic. He can no longer relate to what is happening in his present because he is simultaneously experiencing past and future as well, and becomes increasingly distant from those around him as a result. All this despite being within a normal human lifetime chronologically and just having a different perspective on it.
- In one comic, Superman and Wonder Woman spent centuries fighting together against demons that assault Valhalla. While this has occasionally been referred to (Diana mentions it to Lois at one point), it doesn't seem to have had much of an effect on either of them.
- Then again, this is Superman and Wonder Woman we're talking about. To them, it could easily have seemed like nothing more than an exceptionally long line of Tuesdays.
- While it doesn't completely work, its supposed to show Superman's strength of will. He manages to remain faithful to Lois for 1000 years with Wonder Woman sleeping at his side every night. And while she never pushes the issue, its clear she's ready to go there if he is.
- Averted with Captain America in Dimension Z. He spends a decade there raising a kid and fighting evil under horrible conditons, and returns to the real world to find only minutes have gone by. For a lot of reasons, this really messes him up.
- The basis of any Peggy Sue story; these are often the exception to the 'no personality change' clause.
- Notably averted in Groundhog Day. While it doesn't use time travel, the protagonist, Phil Connors, is trapped in limbo for what the Word of God said was around ten years (so, 3,652 repetitions or more), and becomes a much better person by time he is freed, as well as learning several foreign languages, memorizing thousands of books and learning to sculpt and play the piano like a master. Notably, (although it's played for humor) he is shown committing suicide using various methods for a long stretch of time, understandable behavior of someone in this scenario.
- Averted in Back to the Future, when Marty, after spending a week in The Fifties, overreacts to seeing Jennifer again and she replies, ironically enough, that "you're acting like you haven't seen me in a week."
- This arguably happens to Libby in Double Jeopardy. She serves a six-year prison sentence in the story but, when she leaves the prison, it seems like she had only been in it for a day or two.
- In Jumanji, when Alan and Sarh return to their normal ages in 1969 after finishing the game, they apparently remember all of it.
- Averted in Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel. The three protagonists are randomly skipping through time whenever they enter the men's room of a pub. One character goes back into the bathroom alone, then appears a few seconds later with a big beard and stories implying that, from his perspective, he had been trapped in a Bad Future for about three years. He spends the rest of the movie slightly feral and kinda... off.
- Played with at the end of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. Literally as they're going on stage for the big battle of the bands, the titular dimwit duo suddenly realizes that they still don't know how to play very well. Then the realize they have a time machine. The two, their Medieval princess girlfriends, the Grim Reaper, and the alien/aliens known as Station take a year long break to learn how to rock out, Bill & Ted marry their girlfriends, go back to the Medieval era for their honeymoon, have kids, and grow epic beards that would make ZZ-Top proud. The time machine pops back all of a tenth of a second after it took off, and despite these radical changes their speech patterns, attitudes and physical appearances haven't changed at all (save for said epic beards).
- Inception is a borderline case, since you don't see what Dom was like "before", but you'd never guess from watching him that he and Mal had been trapped in limbo for 50 years and grown old together.
- Averted in About Time. Tim is definitely changed by falling in love with Mary, and treats losing that as losing a central part of his life.
- Averted in William Sleator's Singularity. The protagonist spends about a year inside a timewarp, which is about an hour outside. Changing his personality was his goal going in, and it works, especially because the timewarp is only about 8 feet across, and he's the only person in it.
- In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe the four Pevensie children spend some fifteen years living in Narnia as kings and queens, before coming back to our world not a day older... and with no trouble at all in adjusting to their old lives as children in our world. In fact, by the end of the final book Susan doesn't believe in the existence of Narnia any more despite the fact that she's lived there almost half her life. There's a piece of Fridge Logic that doesn't always occur to everyone, although there are a couple of one-off lines indicating their memories of adulthood faded unnaturally quickly.
- Averted in the Nightside novels. When John Taylor encounters or psychically views his closest friends as they exist in the future, not only has their behavior and demeanor changed over time, but it turns out they're the ones who've been trying to kill him ever since he was a little kid, because they blame him for causing The End of the World as We Know It.
- Averted in The Jaunt, a short story by Stephen King, in which the method of interplanetary travel, which is harmless if undertaken while unconscious, takes eons to the waking mind. Every human who has done the latter either died from shock upon returning, or was driven incurably insane.
- "Memorie di un cuoco di un bordello spaziale" (seguel of "Memorie di un cuoco d'astronave") by Massimo Mongai. The protagonist Rudy "Basilico" Turturro lives hundreds of incarnation in a single long, lucid dream caused by an alien disease. Only extensive medical assistance prevents death by starvation (the disease accelerates the metabolism) and by the shock of returning to the real world. The trope is averted as he requires psychiatric help later, as the lucid dream was exceptional, and he regrets the lost.
- "Il gioco degli Immortali" also by Masomnipotenti. The protagonist is kidnapped by omnipotent entities to be a pawn in a sort of betting game, that lasts for years. In the end he is released, just a few instants after the kidnapping. The entities restores its physical body (less fake teeth, for some reason), but left him all memories. The trope is almost averted anyway: while he seems ok, we really know nothing about him before the start of the game, so it's hard to know if he changed at all.
Live Action TV
- Captain Picard, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Inner Light", lives an entire lifetime in twenty minutes. (Well, okay, not an entire lifetime, but they probably didn't want to deal with the weirdness of Picard waking up as a newborn baby.) The only major difference is that he now plays the flute, and one reference in a later episode where he admits it caused him to (somewhat) rethink his priorities about what he gave up in his personal life to advance his career. In the later episode "Lessons", Picard describes his memories of the experience as dreamlike, in an apparent bit of retroactive justification. Ronald D. Moore later commented on this:
Ronald D. Moore: I've always felt that the experience in "Inner Light" would've been the most profound experience in Picard's life and changed him irrevocably. However, that wasn't our intention when we were creating the episode. We were after a good hour of TV, and the larger implications of how this would really screw somebody up didn't hit home with us until later (that's sometimes a danger in TV – you're so focused on just getting the show produced every week that sometimes you suffer from the "can't see the forest for the trees" syndrome). We never intended the show to completely upend his character and force a radical change in the series, so we contented ourselves with a single follow-up in "Lessons".
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine epsiode "Hard Time", Chief O'Brien served out an illusionary twenty-year prison sentence lasting only a few hours of real time. Downplayed however, because the actual episode was about him dealing with readjusting to society and coming to terms with what he did when he was a prisoner, but (uncharacteristically for DS9) it still didn't have any noticeable long-term effect.
- Red Dwarf:
- In "Rimmerworld", Arnold Rimmer spent over 600 years in a society of his own clones, who have kept him in a dungeon for most of that time. At the end of the episode, they get back to their ship using a teleporter which, it's been established, has a slightly unreliable time component, so they arrive to find their other selves already there. Lister assumes they've landed in the past and starts giving dark hints to the other Rimmer about what's about to happen to him. The other Rimmer replies, "Rimmerworld was weeks ago," with a casual air.
- Also, in one of the books, Lister is trapped on a destroyed Earth for 34 years with nothing but giant cockroaches for company. He's mostly the same as he was before he left the Dwarf.
- Justified in the second season, where the main character does remember everything and acts differently. He is forward and way too personal with his future wife and forgets that his daughter isn't old enough to drive. Eventually his mind is wiped of future events and he returns to normal. The other time traveler does not, but that's a plot point. And he's a lot better at faking it.
- When a team including the previous two is sent to an alternate reality by way of the past, they spend the entire first half of the fourth season trying to reconcile the differences between the time periods. We're still waiting to see if it continues to be an issue.
- In the Torchwood episode "Exit Wounds", Jack is taken back in time to 27AD and buried alive, spends most of the next two millennia repeatedly dying and reviving, is dug up in 1901 and put into cryo-storage so he won't meet his past self, and finally wakes up in the present day. So this one incident has accounted for most of his life so far, yet once the other characters have found him they seem to assume he can just pick up where he left off — as it seems he can. It's too early to tell whether this incident will ever be referred to again.
When asked about it at Comic-con, John Barrowman admitted that it would probably not come up again, specifically. The explanation given was more or less that Jack retreated into himself so that it wouldn't have as harsh an effect on him.
- Averted in the Buffyverse, whose mythos establish that in the "hell dimensions," years and years and years pass before any noticeable length of time has gone by on Earth.
- When Angel is sent to one after the season two finale, he spends the following four or five months before his return enduring what Giles describes as basically being centuries of unimaginably horrible torture. Sure enough, he arrives back on Earth completely feral and seemingly with no memory. It takes him several weeks of rehabilitation with Buffy before he's functional around other people again, and he's never the same as he was in the first two seasons.
- Similarly, Fred and Connor were deeply affected by spending five and seventeen years in hell dimensions (far fewer than Angel) and they weren't even being tortured like Angel was.
- In the Season 6 episode "After Life," Spike informs the newly-resurrected Buffy that she was dead for "147 days." He asks her, "How long was it for you...where you were?" To which Buffy responds vaguely: "A lot longer." It screwed up her life for some time afterwards, and she never quite got back to her old self. She was in a Heaven dimension, and rather unceremoniously ripped out of it to end up in a coffin where she had to dig her way out and then find herself in a Sunnydale temporarily overrun by demons.
- Stargate SG-1:
- In the episode "Window of Opportunity", Teal'c and O'Neil are stuck in a time loop for at least 3 months, 10 hours at a time. During the episode they, among other things, learn how to juggle and a good amount of the Ancient language. There's not much evidence that any of the changes are permanent.
- In the last episode of SG-1, "Unending", Teal'c travels back in time after spending 50 years or so on the Daedalus. In the subsequent movies and on Stargate Atlantis, all he has to show for it is a goatee. This is despite the fact that he should be older than Bra'tac was at the start of the series (he was 101 years old in season 4, while Bra'tac was 134).
- Played straight in Supernatural, Dean is only slightly changed by spending 40 years in Hell - Sam has changed more, even though it was only 4 months for him.
- Rory in the series 5 finale of Doctor Who. The series 6 premiere confirms that he's still him and remembers those events after history is fixed, and he stopped being made of plastic. He apparently spent almost 2000 years protecting the Pandorica containing Amy without noticeably changing in personality, falling in love with someone else, or forgetting his old life.
- Averted in The X-Files in the Groundhog Day scenario episode "Monday", where a single day keeps repeating itself with only one person being aware of the loop. She realises something needs to be done to break the loop, and her numerous attempts to do so leave her visibly drained and frustrated from the constant repetitions.
- There was an episode of Sliders where Quinn and Maggie were transported to a "bubble universe," where they lived out their entire lives as a married couple, then returned to the "real" world, no time having passed. They briefly talk about the experience of having just spent an entire lifetime together, but it has no lasting effect on their personalities or their relationship to one another.
- Arguably, the more mundane extension of this trope could be the standard sit-com plot where an adult character meets a childhood friend they haven't seen in years only to discover that the person literally hasn't changed at all - usually right down to still living with their parents, having the same part-time job they had in high school, and wearing T-shirts for bands that would have been popular a decade or more earlier. The regular character will either ruminate on how they can no longer relate to this relic of their old life or to revert immediately to their matching younger mindset.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
- Marvin the Paranoid Android spent eons waiting for the crew until the Restaurant at the End of the Universe was built and he was parking cars. More of a joke, because Marvin's personality is permanently sulking and won't change no matter how much time passes. In the books, he eventually becomes several times older than the universe itself.
- Averted in So Long and Thanks for All the Fish: Arthur Dent, having hitchhiked around the galaxy a few times, finds himself returning to an Earth set after he left, but not as far after as he actually spent bumming around (more than ten years have passed by his clock, a few months by Earth's clock). He explains it all by saying he went to Southern California and had a "face drop", supposedly all the rage there: his friends don't entirely believe him, though most of the inconsistencies in his story are written off as a combination of jet lag and the fact that Arthur's on his sixth or seventh beer by the time he starts coming out with the weirder stuff, but they can't figure out how he's changed so much.
- Subverted with Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. Rika behaves like a child, but it's revealed to be an act so as not to freak anyone out.
- CROSS†CHANNEL averts this. Although humanity has apparently been annihilated, Miki is bright and cheerful as always. After she decides to "reset" along with everything else, we see a more fragile side of her.
- In Chrono Trigger, there's a side quest where you leave Robo in the past, and zip ahead to find (and repair) him in the future. He's turned what would be a desert into a forest. No, his personality is in no way altered by this.
- Averted for Lillet of Grim Grimoire. She becomes increasingly brusque in her dealings with the others with each cycle, primarily because she finds that the teachers just make things worse if she tried to explain it.
- In Final Fantasy IV, Rydia leaves the group and ages several years in a place where time runs slower than the regular world. When she returns, now fully aged, her personality is completely intact, the only real difference being that she now owes a debt to a certain group of people that she didn't before.
- In the episode "Roswell That Ends Well", Bender gets left in the past and picked up again in the future, much like Marvin in The Hitchhiker's Guide mentioned above. Bender's reaction is quite different from Marvin's. When asked what it was like being buried in a hole for a thousand years, Bender replies "I was enjoying it until you guys showed up."
- "Bender's Big Score":
- Bender does this about 20-30 times with no noticeable change, although that might be explained by the fact that he spent most of that time doing nothing in a limestone cavern. Then again, after killing Fry, he shows up in the future, acting as if he had just killed Fry yesterday, even after spending 988 years alone grieving about it.
- Subverted when a time-duplicate of Fry becomes significantly more mature and different looking after 12 years. The fire that burnt up his hair and screwed up his voice helped.