Random Transportation

The Doctor: You are now traveling through time and space.
Ben: Yeah, well, make sure I back get by teatime Doctor. I've gotta get back to my ship by tonight.
The Doctor: Young man, it's going to be a long time before you see your ship again!
Ben: Aye?
Polly: Why? When are we going to land?
The Doctor: I don't know, and that's the cause of half my trouble through my journeys. I never know.
Polly: Why not?
The Doctor: I have no control over where I land. Neither can I choose the period in which I land in.

A Speculative Fiction Trope in which our heroes have the means to go just about anywhere they want, with the catch that they have absolutely no control over just where they will end up. Whether it is because their method of transportation is damaged, not properly understood, or just inherently random, the protagonists will have no way of knowing where they're going until they actually arrive.

The end result is that any attempt to use their fantastic mode of travel is a Blind Jump. This forces the characters to go through a series of random Adventure Towns until arriving at their intended destination (assuming they ever do).

The characters may work out what rules govern their travel, such as staying within a certain range of their point of origin. If an outside power is controlling their travel, they may also frequently be sent to where they're most needed, rather than where they desire. A degree of limited control may even be gained over time.

A form of Walking the Earth. Frequently overlaps with The Homeward Journey, as the intended destination is almost always just getting back home. Compare Unstuck in Time.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi features the characters jumping to various versions of their hometown's marketplace.
  • The protagonists of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle travel the multiverse in search of Princess Sakura's scattered memories — however, they rarely know what kind of world they will end up in next, just that there is a "memory feather" in it somewhere.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Thor: The Dark World: In the final battle, the convergence has turned reality into Swiss cheese, so Thor and Malekith (and various other things) end up teleporting between the realms constantly during their slugfest, sending them through different worlds before bringing them back at several spots around London. For added trouble, Thor's attempts to recall his hammer keep failing because they keep ending up in different realms.

  • In The Time Traveler's Wife, Henry's time travel works like this. Under stress or seemingly just randomly he'll teleport to a random place in time and space, though the range is normally within his, his wife's, and his daughter's lifetimes. It does eventually go very badly wrong.
  • In The Infinitive of Go by John Brunner, some college students invent a teleportation machine that allows people to teleport from one Portal to another. However, it is eventually revealed that teleporting also teleports you to an alternate universe. The greater the physical distance between source and destination, the greater the differences between your origin and destination universes.
  • Bobby Pendragon of The Pendragon Adventure, like all other Travelers, moves from dimension to dimension wherever the flumes take him. Getting where you want to go isn't usually an issue. When you get there is another story; it appears that while the traveller doesn't have absolute control over this, the flume takes the traveller to when he needs to be there.
  • In Gateway, the first novel of the Heechee Saga humans have discovered an asteroid filled with small alien spaceships which may travel to an unknown destination when activated. While many never return, or take long enough that travellers have run out of supplies and died, the riches and fame to be gained from discovering important resources or alien technology mean there is no shortage of volunteers to fly them. Later in the series, it's revealed that they were placed with the intention of humans studying and learning from the technology, the Heechee never thought humans would be stupid enough to blindly launch themselves around the galaxy and now we've alerted the aliens the Heechee were hiding from that we're here.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Quantum Leap features Sam Beckett leaping at various points in history to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. He never knows what time period or into which person he'll Leap into next. A hint of this is almost always The Stinger for a given episode. The leaps generally occur within the U.S. and stay within Sam's lifetime. Though special circumstances have seen these rules broken at least once.
  • The Time Tunnel has its heroes being randomly transported to various points in the past and, on occasion, the future.
  • Sliders: The show has wormholes the characters can use to go from one alternate Earth to another. The catch is that they have no control over which worlds they go to. Their timer does gain a small upgrade to allow some control, enabling them to visit any world they have previously been to and track other wormhole users. Originally, the Sliders' timer worked within a specific radius so that no matter which alternate Earth they visited, they were always in the San Francisco area. One of their antagonists made an adjustment to the timer, increasing this radius to 400 miles; meaning the Sliders could now potentially wind up in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or anyplace in between.
  • Doctor Who
    • The First and Second Doctors had little to no control over where the TARDIS went in any given serial. This was particularly troublesome for companions who wanted to go home (Ian & Barbara, Ben & Polly, Tegan). This is most consistent in the earliest serials, in which the First and Second Doctors rarely, if ever, were able to get the TARDIS to land where they intended. In fact, two of the First Doctor's companions returned to their own time (give or take 3 years) not because of the TARDIS, but by procuring an entirely different and more reliable time machine. The TARDIS is effectively unsteerable until the Time Lords pardon the Third Doctor in "The Three Doctors". Not only do they restore his stolen memories of time travel theory, but they replace a core component of the TARDIS they had taken. Presumably, the replacement bit works better than the old one did. Expanded Universe (and even In-Universe) stories set back during the First and Second Doctor eras often forget that the Doctor never went anywhere on purpose in those days.
    • Even later, when the Doctor does gain better control, it is often difficult to wind up exactly where he wants to go. It doesn't help that the TARDIS is, essentially, a piece of junk in most incarnations. Note it isn't so much a matter of the Doctor being bad at piloting it, more so that it was designed to have six people control it at once. Although River Song seems to manage a smooth ride just peachily on her own, while simultaneously implying the Doctor is a crap driver who "leaves the brake on".
    • The Fourth Doctor invoked this trope by installing a randomizer into the TARDIS in order to evade the Black Guardian following the "Key to Time" arc. The Tenth Doctor used the randomizer for fun in "Planet of the Ood"."
    • The Eleventh Doctor episode "The Doctor's Wife" further suggests that the teleportation was never as random as it always appeared as the TARDIS in human form tells the Doctor that he didn't always get where he wanted to go, but he always arrived where he needed to be.

    Print Media 
  • A regular feature in the magazine based on the show 3-2-1 Contact was "The Time Team" stories, in which modern teenagers Sean and Jenny have a hand-held "tachyon machine" that transports them to various locations in time. However, they can't predict where the machine will take them, and it has to recharge before they can reactivate it to go back home.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000 and Warp travel (a demon-infested alternate dimension that allows FTL travel, sped up or hampered by Warp currents). While ships have a Navigator that allows them to navigate the Warp currents, all too often they end up adrift, and when (if) they do return to realspace, it's only occasionally on target, when not in deep space. And then there's the fact that sometimes you don't even come back at the right time, as one ork Waaaagh found when they ran into their future selves (that one ended in considerable confusion, as the future!warboss killed past!warboss in order to have two sets of his favorite gun).
  • Dungeons & Dragons, Basic D&D module DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor. When characters trapped in the Inn Between the Worlds passed through the Gate in the cellar they ended up back in the Inn but at a random different time, either before or after they entered (possibly long before or after).

    Video Games 
  • In BioShock Infinite, Elizabeth and Booker make use of Elizabeth's ability to open "tears" between alternate universes first as a means to an end; they regularly open tears to universes where there are supplies stored in the immediate area when they need supplies, to universes with doors or platforms, etc. This trope comes into play because they insist on using it as a cure-all; when they discover an essential contact has been tortured to death, they deliberately choose to do the opposite — travel to an alternate universe where the contact has not been executed... only to discover that every other aspect of that universe is up for grabs, resulting in an entirely different set of problems. And despite that, they do it again to move some machinery, dropping them into a universe where those problems have become even worse. Only at the very end of the game does Elizabeth gain the ability to choose exactly which reality they enter. They ultimately attempt to use it as a Reset Button — and are left uncertain if it worked.
  • In the Myst games, dropping into the Star Fissure transports people or objects to a random location, albeit one on Earth. Both the original Myst Linking Book and the telescope from Riven got to Earth this way, and the Stranger is presumed to have returned home by that method also.

    Web Comics 
  • In Emergency Exit, the main characters have a portal which transports them to random dimensions. Frequently used to start crossovers by having them transport to that comic's dimension.
  • After the great arm retcon in Homestuck, John begins teleporting and time-travelling throughout the entire comic (scenes without John are retconned so that John's teleportation can be seen). Later on, his retconning in the new game session begins to have discernible effects.
  • In Sluggy Freelance the whole premise behind Riff's Dimensional Flux Agitator is that it teleports people into random dimensions. They're sometimes able to teleport themselves back or reopen old portals, but the mostly the device is just one giant crapshoot.
  • This happens to the cast of Dubious Company. After getting stranded in a random dimension, the brains develop a spell to hop them to the next dimension in the hopes it gets them closer to home. However, they have no clue what that dimension is like until they arrive.
  • In One Piece Grand Line 3 Point 5, Zoro's No Sense of Direction is played in this manner. If Zoro needs to somewhere without a guide to help, his player has to roll a hundred-sided die to determine if he even gets there.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-507 ("Reluctant Dimension Hopper"), one of the human SCPs has this power, achieving teleportation by going through different dimensions with approximately the same landscape (moving from point A to B there will put him at B in the real world), but can't control when or where or how long he goes. Dimensions visited include one where there is complete darkness until you turn on a light and find yourself staring eye-to-eye with, basically, the Joker (twice), a Gender Flip dimension, one where plants scream telepathically if you eat them, one where the U.S. presidency is decided by Klingon Promotion, and another where he came back and refused to say anything but "So many spiders..."

    Western Animation 
  • In ReBoot, when Enzo, AndrAIa, and Frisket travel from system to system for years (to them) because the Games they use to travel go to random places. Their eventual goal is to find a system with ports they can use to go straight back to Mainframe.
  • The Avalon World Tour arc of Gargoyles is a result of the magical island Avalon sending Goliath and company not where they want to go, but where they need to be. They visit quite a few places before finally returning to New York.
  • The Smurfs has a time travel story arc where they lose the correct configuration for the crystal sculpture thingy and have to do this until they get back home, which unfortunately they never do.
  • Transformers Animated Season 3's "Transwarped" starts a story line about Omega Supreme being endlessly transported to random points in the universe before transporting yet again.