Set Right What Once Went Wrong
aka: Setting Right What Once Went Wrong
"Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Doctor Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator — and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Doctor Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap... will be the leap home."
The character receives foreknowledge of what will happen (or, if Time Travel
is involved, Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory
will allow them to remember what happened "the first time around") and has to correct it.
Constitutes the plot of nearly every episode of Quantum Leap
(from which this title was taken
), Early Edition
, Seven Days
, and Tru Calling
, as well as a majority of episodes of The Dead Zone
, and numerous individual episodes of other shows. Can form the arc
of a whole series, as in Heroes
Distinguished from "Groundhog Day" Loop
- The character's knowledge of what needs to be corrected prior to the first time through, and
- Usually only one attempt to correct it is necessary or in fact possible.
Combinations of "Groundhog Day" Loop
and Set Right What Once Went Wrong are possible, however, and have been used on occasion: see for example "The Siege" on The Dead Zone
, the Tru Calling
episode "The Longest Day", Early Edition
's "Run, Gary, Run." In fact, this combination is the entire premise of Day Break
Sometimes, trying to set right what once went wrong is what sets everything wrong in the first place
, resulting in a Stable Time Loop
and Two Rights Make A Wrong
. Succeeding would create a Temporal Paradox
(i.e. if you do manage to set right what was wrong, you would have no reason to travel back in time in the first place, which means the wrong-ness would still be there, so you'd travel back in time, etc.) When the purpose of the time travel is to save a person (but not alter the timeline) by pulling the person out of time, it's a Time Travel Escape
. Stopping people before they commit the crimes often results in a Bewildering Punishment
. If fixing the wrong doesn't involve making actual changes "by hand" but just doing something to make history snap back into place
, that's a Reset Button
Depending on how time travel works, this can pose a big moral dilemma: even if history has been altered to create a terrible new present, it's doubtful that everything
about the new present is terrible. Most notably, new people have probably been born in it who never existed in the original timeline. Will "fixing" the timeline cause these people to cease to exist? Note that in a "branching timelines" scenario, there is no danger of this because there is no way to unmake the bad present, only to create a better divergent branch off of it, or to find your way back to your original branch.
Often the adventurer has to travel to fix things, combining this premise with Adventure Towns
. This premise has also been applied to literature rather than time, with characters trapped in a Portal Book
interfering with the book's original plot and being forced to set things back on track to resolve "the right way."
Contrast Make Wrong What Once Went Right
, where the time traveler acts for either selfish purposes or because they're living on Crazy Street
Note: World War II
did not go wrong. Traveling there will only make it worse
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Anime & Manga
- Generator Gawl seems to fall into this category, seeing how the only reason Auge was able to take over was because Gawl, Koji, and Ryu went back in time to stop them. In the end Ryu was the one who created the include cells and gave Auge the ability to take over, which is what caused them to go back in the first place. Ouch, I think my brain just exploded.
- An attempt at this is the driving force behind the Myth Arc of Rave Master. The series inverts the trope because changing history back to the way it was is the bad guys' plan, as the original timeline's world was utterly destroyed save one survivor, who was able to change history to create the Rave world. On top of the Eldritch Clock Roach out to undo the paradox involved, most of the late-story baddies want to see the "false" world destroyed.
- The premise of Flint The Time Detective. The Time Shifters got scattered throughout history, changing the way certain historical events played out, and the Time Detectives have to capture them and put the past back the way it was.
- The final arc of Full Metal Panic! reveals that this trope is the motivation of Leonard Testarossa and his allies — their goal is to send the Whisperer Sophia, possessing the body of Kaname Chidori 18 years backwards to prevent the Yamsk 11 incident from happening, which would change the world into one more like Real Life. The moment where it all breaks down is when Sousuke is apparently killed by Leonard and Sophia uses this to persuade Kaname, showing her a reality where Sousuke was an ordinary boy rather than a child soldier. At first Kaname seems happy, but she realizes that he's not the same Sousuke she fell in love with and rejects the plan, refusing to run away from reality even if it means living in a world where Sousuke is dead. Thankfully though, he isn't.
- Homura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica leaps time to save Madoka from becoming a Magical Girl, or more commonly known as a Lich that may transform in the future into a witch. Each successive attempt only makes things worse. However, each attempt manages to make Madoka stronger until she Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence upon making her contract in this timeline.
- One of the arcs in Kurohime involves two of the titled character's foes (Kurohime considered a bad guy in that world) going back in time to try killing her, for personal reason (revenge being the main motive, but also to keep the father of one of them being killed by her.) Its a bit of a twofer subvision. 1) They realize Kurohime not as evil as they figured and learn the reason behind her motives and 2) They wind up inadvertently causing the events that lead to the father's death. Kurohime wasn't even trying to kill him but took the blame anyway.
- Amakusa 1637 is built around this trope. Six schoolers from modern Kobe end up thrown in the Nagasaki of 1637, few before the failed Japanese Christian rebellion of Shiro Amakusa; once they reunite and assess their situation, they decide to pull this trope to avert such tragedy. It works.
- This is the story of the first Tenchi Universe film, Tenchi Muyo in Love - the creature KAIN had killed Tenchi's mom in 1976 and the gang has to go back to stop him.
- This quickly becomes a running plot point for My Wife Is Wagatsuma San - Aoshima sees some aspect of the life of either him or his friends that he bemoans, so he tries to find some way to correct it in the present.
- The Yu-Gi-Oh! Tenth Anniversary Movie was this for the bad guy - he believes that Duel Monsters would bring about the end of the world and he seeks to kill Pegasus to stop it from becoming popular.
- In Rock Lee's Springtime of Youth, Lee instinctively tries to kill Obito, stating he has the feeling that everyone will be better off if the Uchiha is dead.
- Exiles was supposedly pitched as Quantum Leap or Sliders with superheroes.
- Booster Gold does this quite a bit as the secret protector of the time line. It's when he has to set wrong what once went right or keep wrong what once went wrong that things get really morally complicated for him.
- In Marvel's Civil War storyline, the entire event was kicked off when Namorita, a member of the New Warriors, fought a villain named Nitro whose ability was to explode. Said explosion killed hundreds, including Namorita herself. Because of this, Namorita's name was posthumously slandered with the rest of the New Warriors, much to the chagrin of her ex-lover, Richard Ryder aka Nova, even though they'd been broken up for years at that point. In his eponymous series, Nova is plucked out of the timestream along with a Namorita who is obviously from an era not only before the Civil War incident, but while she and Ryder were still lovers. Later, when the cosmic forces that threw them together start to send them back where they belong, Nova (being a Paragon-type character), refuses to let Namorita return to her own time (where she'll be doomed to repeat the same fate) and brings her to the present instead... consequences be damned.
- In an issue of Marvel Two-in-One, the Thing goes back in time to cure his past self of being an orange-skinned monster and change his own life, but only succeeds in creating an alternate timeline where a now-human Ben Grimm quits the Fantastic Four and is replaced by Spider-Man. This becomes Make Wrong What Once Went Right in a follow-up story, when it is revealed that the absence of the Thing on the FF results in Galactus succeeding in his initial attempt to feed on the Earth, leaving the remnants of humanity with a Crapsack World low in vital resources.
- In H'el on Earth, the main antagonist, H'el, wants to travel back in time to before his home planet Krypton exploded, and prevent its destruction. However, the energy needed for the time travel would destroy our entire solar system. Not that H'el cares about our solar system.
- In Age of Ultron, Wolverine decides to go back in time and kill Hank Pym, who created the robot Ultron which would annihilate humanity in the present. However, by killing Hank Pym, Wolverine creates a new dystopian timeline where the Avengers disbanded because of Pym's death, and Morgan le Fay is constantly threatening the small part of the world she hasn't conquered yet. He then travels back in time and prevents himself from killing Pym, but now makes Pym create a way to destroy Ultron when necessary.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation mini-series, The Last Generation, the Federation has collapsed because the Khitomer Accords from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country were never created as the Federation President was assassinated. After the last real bastion of the Federation discovers the android Data, who has realized this timeline is not the real one, they have to go back in time to make sure the Accords are created, stopping a Make Wrong What Once Went Right plot in the process.
- In Seconds, the red mushrooms give Katie this ability, which she starts to irresponsibly abuse and ends up sending everything to hell.
- In the Warhammer 40,000 Fanfic/Play by post story Abaddon Quest, there's a rather amusing Inversion, the eponymous Chaos Lord and his flunkies travel back in time to kill the God Emperor as a baby, which is to say they travel back to Make Wrong What Once Went Right. Considering /tg/'s Opinion of Abaddon, Failure Is the Only Option. As is Hilarity.
- In Heta Oni, Italy has been rewinding time again and again so that everyone can get out of the Haunted House alive.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Subverted in Evangelion RE-TAKE. Shinji of the End of Evangelion wakes up in the past, just after the battle with Leliel. He tries to set right everything that went wrong to prevent the End of Evangelion. It turns out he's only making life better for an alternate version of himself, and there's nothing he can do to change that. He eventually accepts it, and returns to the Crapsack World future he belongs to. Though there is an implication of a Happy Ending for him, so it's all good.
- Played straight in Going Another Way, where Rei, horrified with her direct hand in causing the Third Impact, decides to go back in time to diverge the timeline in such a way that while the core events still transpire, several differences also occur. The major one being that she steered Gendo's thoughts into sending Shinji to live with a much more caring and compassionate guardian, an action resulting in a much more strong willed and self-assured Shinji.
- The Pony POV Series Recursive Fanfiction Fading Futures has Twilight Tragedy manage to break free of Discord's control in the Epilogue timeline and seek to change the past so that Discord never won in the first place. She manages to do so, but as a result, the timeline she inhabits no longer exists and everything in it are "reborn" into their main timeline counterparts. Realizing this, she invokes her Superpowered Evil Side, Nightmare Purgatory, to take her revenge on Discord before the "rebirth" is complete. She realizes at the last moment she's dangerously close to becoming She Who Fights Monsters and manages to stop herself from finishing the job, preferring to fade away as Twilight Sparkle instead of becoming a monster, even if no one, not even her, will ever know.
- Later in actual canon, its revealed Twilight failed because a previous Twilight didn't have a Heel Realization and became Nightmare Paradox, and undid the Set Right What Once Went Wrong to keep punishing Discord.
- It's revealed that this is the goal of the Anti-Hooviet Rebels that Shining Armor meets in his arc. 25 years ago, the Shadow of Chernobull, a reality bending imagination monster was released from Pandora's Box by the Hooviets. After devouring countless existences and imaginations, it becomes General Admiral Makarov, the Big Bad of Shining's arc, who prevented the Hooviet Empire from collapsing when it was supposed to and ultimately attempting to warp the world to his own ends. The goal of the Rebels (and Shining Armor) is to lure the Wolf to Makarov so it can erase him from existence and return everything to how it would have been had he not escaped.
- The plot of "Time Terror", an episode of Calvin and Hobbes: The Series, involves Calvin trying to rescue his friends from different time periods before time gets screwed up.
- An omake for White Devil of the Moon had Chibi-usa (Or rather, a Nanohaesque version of Chibi-usa) travel back in time, believing she was doing this trope by making sure Nanoha never met Fate. Cue Vivio, who believes that by preventing Chibi-usa from doing that, she was doing this trope. Vivio won.
- Subverted in Out of Time when a time traveling Kenshin considers trying to save Tomoe, but discards it when he considers how the timeline could be screwed up (and then finds out he's arrived at too late a time to change it anyway). Also subverted by Saito, who not only doesn't try to change the status quo despite the opportunity and motive, but risks his life attempting to keep it instead.
- "Too Far has Diamond Tiara accept a deal with Discord to get a do over and avoid causing Dinky to be Driven to Suicide by her bullying (which finally caused Diamond to realize her actions have consequences).
- In Twilight Then Twilight Now Universe fanfic The Magnificent Six, this is the villain's big plot, and it is used to divide the new Elements of Harmony: Applejack, being the original Element of Honesty, is swayed to join the villain and stop the Götterdämmerung that resulted in the current present. The other five, being native born to the present, find this insulting and horrifying and fight her to stop her going through with it. Grey and Gray Morality is invoked because, as much as it's only natural the mortal elements would want to preserve their own existence, Applejack has an unquestionable point that the present is a nightmare compared to the Equestria when she was born, and so one has to wonder if undoing the Bad Future (from Applejack's perspective) is really so wrong.
Films — Animation
- The Girl Who Leapt Through Time involves a girl who learns she has time-traveling powers, but each jump makes things worse. She has to stop herself from screwing everything up over and over.
Films — Live-Action
- In Triangle this is what Jess tries to do after she realized she's in a "Groundhog Day" Loop. But it only created another timeline which we don't see completely in the movie.
- The three Back to the Future films feature this, each in different shades.
- In the first one, Marty accidentally travels back in time 30 years, and has to enlist the help of that time's Doc Brown in order to get back home. However, before meeting him and explaining himself, he alters the event that made his parents meet and fall in love; his father remains a social outcast while his mother develops attraction towards him. Marty's eventual solution to this problem has the unexpected bonus of his father being more confident and assertive over Biff in 1985, leading to this trope in a roundabout way.
- The second one begins with Doc taking Marty to the future to stop his son from getting arrested. It also shows that due to Marty being overly sensitive to being called a coward, he wasn't living as good a future as he could. However, Marty is forced into a more extreme example of this trope shortly afterwards; he planned to take a sports almanac back to the past with him to become filthy rich by predicting the wins accurately to the end of the century. The 2015 Biff hears the plan, and steals the time machine just long enough to give the almanac to his 1955 self, leading to a Bad Future where Biff killed Marty's father and married his mother, and ruled over a lawless city. When Marty discovers the root of the problem, he has to go back in time to destroy the almanac.
- The third movie has Marty go back further in time to 1885; when lightning struck the time machine, Doc Brown was imprisoned there, but sent a letter to Marty in the present to explain where and when he was, and that he was perfectly happy. Marty enlists the 1955 Doc to repair the time machine to get him back home, but they discover Doc's gravestone from less than a week after he mailed the letter, saying he was shot by Buford Tannen. Marty travels back to 1885 to save the Doc, and in the end, he alters his own future by overcoming his own ego and the taunts of others, and Doc's by saving his life and getting him a lover.
- Cyborg 2087. In the far future, a mind-control invention has been abused to create a police state controlled by cyborgs. Garth, a good guy cyborg, travels back to 1966 to convince the invention's creator to keep it secret and thus change the future.
- The two time travelers in each of the Terminator films are each trying to set right the wrong the other one caused.
- The film Frequency is about a man who can communicate with his dead father through a family ham radio thanks to an Aurora Borealis that appeared in the same timespan between 1969 and current-day 1999. He uses this communication to save his father from his impending death in a warehouse fire, but that sets off a chain of events that lead to his mother's death, so the two work together to fix that, but then... et al.
- The plot of Stargate Continuum centers around the main cast being the only people to know that the timeline has been changed and trying to convince others to let them change things back. The trope is notably deconstructed when SG-1 gets a What the Hell, Hero? speech upon suggesting time travel; the issue is raised that this trope requires an Omniscient Morality License to work and that to assume you can go around Setting Right What Once Went Wrong is an act of staggering arrogance as it necessitates changing the lives of millions... of course it always goes From Bad to Worse and they're allowed to do it in the end.
- Viciously subverted by the film The Butterfly Effect, in which every time the main character goes back in time to fix something the titular concept conspires to make things worse for everyone. This occurs repeatedly with all kinds of nastiness happening along the way, culminating in an inevitable Downer Ending the exact nature of which depends whether you're watching the theatrical release or the director's cut.
- The basic premise of Timecop, to fix what the baddies are doing in the past and avoid the aforementioned butterfly effect.
- Timecop 2 The Berlin Decision: Played with, as both the hero and the villain are trying to set right what once went wrong from their own perspectives. The villain is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who wants to be allowed to correct the mistakes of the past, only to be stopped by the time agents because of the possibility of disaster. When he proceeds to erase them from history, the hero goes back to undo his tinkering before he suffers the same fate.
- In The Time Machine (2002) Alexander Hartdegen's original motive for inventing his time machine is to prevent his fiancee from dying in the park. However, the movie subverts this trope, as his every effort to save her causes her to die anyway from another cause. It is explained later that were it not for that tragic event, he would never have finished his invention, which would have precluded him going back and saving her.
- The explanation is Alexander's own, which he has known but was afraid of admitting to himself. It took the Morlock leader to pull the knowledge from Alexander's head for Alexander to admit it and come to terms with the knowledge.
- The heroine of Retroactive finds herself timelooped due to close proximity to an underground time travel experiment. She is witness to a murder, and tries to use the shortish (20-minute?) loop to alter the outcome. Results vary.
- In OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let's Go Kamen Riders, history was accidentally altered thanks to a Cell Medal being left in the past during a fight. This resulted in Shocker defeating the Kamen Riders and conquering the Earth. So the plot of the movie revolves around going back in time to set it right.
- Inverted in the Final Destination film series. One protagonist's foreknowledge allows him or her and a group of friends to escape some kind of fatal accident. The rest of each movie is about death trying to fix this event that "went wrong".
- A core concept of Battle for the Planet of the Apes, with Caesar and co trying to stop the Earth-Shattering Kaboom of Beneath the Planet of the Apes from ever occurring.
- Brazilian film O Homem do Futuro (The Man from the Future) has a guy accidentally going back to the prom that ruined his life, and guiding his past self so things go right. Unfortunately it leads to future where he's a rich jerk and the love of his life hates him, so he again goes back to make sure things go back the way they originally happened (including passing the details on how his date should humiliate him).
- In the film Split Infinity, financially-minded teenager Amelia Jean falls from a barn loft and wakes up as her own late (by her time) great aunt for whom she was named. She tries to prevent her brother/grandfather from losing everything to the impending Black Tuesday. She succeeds only in learning a lesson about what's really important, and setting things in motion that would cause them to be the way they would be by her time. (And quite possibly confusing her great aunt when she returned to her own time...)
- Primer. The plot involves Aaron going back in time twice to save Abe's girlfriend, Rachel, from her psychotic ex-boyfriend. Thomas Granger, Rachel's father, is believed to have come back for similar reasons, but we never find out exactly what his motives were.
- Men in Black 3 has J forced to travel to 1969 in order save K's life and prevent the conquest of the Earth in the modern day after an alien criminal K arrested in 1969 goes back in time to help his younger self murder K. K kills the younger version of the alien instead of arresting him this time, preventing it from happening again.
- The main plot of X-Men: Days of Future Past is their quest to avoid the Bad Future, by sending Wolverine's consciousness back in time in order to stop the events that would lead to the dystopian future.
- In Repeat Performance, having just shot her husband on New Year's Eve, the protagonist finds herself transported from the wee hours of New Year's Day in 1947 to the wee hours of New Year's Day in 1946. Her reaction to realizing that this has happened is the trope.
- The Trope Namer is Quantum Leap, whose entire plot is a series of these.
- Tru Calling: Tru does this in almost every episode. A number of twists and variations of the trope are also used.
- This was also the plot for the entire Voyagers! series where Phineas and Jeffrey would travel through time to "give history a little nudge".
- Appears to be the premise of the lamentably late NBC series Journeyman.
- One episode revolves around him trying to undo something he did by accidentally leaving his digital camera in the 70s. He returns home to find that computer technology is decades ahead of what it was (holographic screens and video-newspapers are commonplace), but his son was never born (he was delayed at work due to a computer error), replaced instead by a daughter who was conceived a few days later. Despite his wife's objections, he goes back and fixes it.
- The pilot episode gave a clever twist to the usual formula: Dan initially concludes that the reason he keeps jumping back in time is to prevent Neal Gaines from committing suicide, but in the end he realizes that his real purpose was to prevent him from committing murder.
- Odyssey 5, where a Five-Man Band witnesses the destruction of Earth from a space shuttle and are sent back in time five years by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens to prevent it. Although they promise not to change events, each of them can't resist meddling with their past to make it better. For instance one woman who knows her son will die of cancer starts giving him a potentially dangerous preventative drug — her husband, convinced she's going insane, cuts off her access to the boy. Another character bets on a football game — the size of his bet leads to other people betting on the outcome, starting rumors that adversely affect the course of the game. Worse, the group have considered the possibility that their own actions might advance in time, or even cause, the destruction of Earth.
- Seven Days is entirely about this trope: a time machine allows a government agent to go seven days back in time in order to prevent the catastrophe of the week from taking place.
- The main plot of the first three seasons of Heroes, though this is more of a case of Set Right What Will Go Wrong. Name dropped by Hiro in Season 5's "PassFail" during his all-in-his-coma-mind-trial, and Mental!Adam/Kensei rightfully points out that he's simply reciting the opening to Quantum Leap.
- Another example of this is the CBC drama, Being Erica, where the majority of episodes were centred around her travelling back to a point in her past where she tries to put right something, she believes, went wrong in her life. Normally it would turn out that actually she needed to learn a lesson from that event and her changes wouldn't help her life that much. There were also a couple of episodes that varied from this format but stayed true to this theme. One where she was required to make changes to the life of the man sending her back in time, another where she managed to make a huge change in her life by stopping her brother's accidental death. This ended up to make her life drastically different and he still died but at a different time in his life and in a different way. Also, in another episode she had to travel forwards in time to learn about another time traveller's life as the version of him she knew in her present time was actually the past version of his actual self. He was refusing to make the changes he needed to and she had to convince him to make the changes he needed to and return to his own time.
- Angel crossover with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "I Will Remember You."
- Hercules The Legendary Journeys has an interesting variation in the two-part episode "Armageddon Now" when villain Callisto is sent back in time by Hope to kill Hercules's mother to prevent his being born. While this is clearly an example of Make Wrong What Once Went Right, Callisto agrees to commit the heinous act in exchange for the chance to prevent her parents from being killed by Xena's army.
- The first season of the Israeli teen series The Island features the attempts of an underground group of time travellers trying to prevent a giant meteor wiping out most of humanity in (their) past in 2009 (two years after the series premiered). The second season features the series’ protagonists trying to undo a Bad Future, going back to (what later became) Israel in 1909, and the new Big Bad. The third season features the protagonists going to mediaeval times to thwart him again.
- In Nine: Nine Time Travels, a Korean Drama, Sun-woo wants to change history and gain revenge against the man who killed his father and ruined his family. Luckily, Sun-woo has nine incense sticks that allow him to travel through time.
- Ludo's rock opera Broken Bride follows an obsessed scientist, who invents a time machine so he can go back and stop his wife from dying in a car accident. In the end he decides to get in the car with her on that fateful day.
- Pro Pinball: Timeshock! has the player attempting to stop a shockwave of anti-time that will destroy all of reality if left unchecked.
- An elementary tactic in Achron. Occurs often in multiplayer games as a response to another player screwing with your past.
- Basically the whole premise of Daikatana, although the main characters spend so much time screwing around in the mythic past that one could be forgiven for thinking it was otherwise.
- The plot of Marathon Infinity in the round-about way.
- This is the premise of the fan-made Game Mod Marathon: Eternal. Earth is devastated by an interstellar war, and the hero is sent back in time to ensure that Humanity wins. Avoids a Temporal Paradox because the Lost Technology doing the time traveling can also jump between different dimensions - the plan is to create an alternate timeline where Earth isn't destroyed and transport the refugees from the original Earth there.
- We learn in the end of Arc The Lad 2 that It was the reason behind Arc's father disappearance: he tried to set things right, and failed
- Final Fantasy
- The whole point of the Wings of the Goddess expansion in Final Fantasy XI. In fact, the player's version of Vana'diel was revealed to be the Set Right What Once Went Wrong outcome of the nine Cait Siths nudging the Crystal War into a better direction, until people from the other timeline decided to set wrong what once went right. Leads one to wonder how long the Pandemonium Warden fight took in the "bad" version of the universe.
- The point of Final Fantasy XIII-2 is to fix the timeline and help everyone find happiness while averting future disaster. They fail, and cause a massive Time Crash.
- The Time Crash that the heroes cause halfway through Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light allows them to do this. Visiting all the towns in the past lets them kill the demons that were corrupting or usurping many of the world's rulers through manipulation, plagues, and outright Demonic Possession. It also averts tragic events from their own timeline, like Lilibelle's death.
- In Fire Emblem Awakening, "Marth" traveled back in time to prevent The End of the World as We Know It which was originally set into motion with the death of her father, Chrom.
- In Dark Fall 2: Lights Out, Parker stumbles into a time portal while investigating the disappearance of some lighthouse keepers, and discovers both the reason they vanished, and that he'll be blamed by history for murdering them if he doesn't fulfill this trope. Likewise, while Darkfall: The Journal doesn't actually involve time travel, it does give the hero a chance to avert What Went Wrong, by foiling a supernatural menace in the present.
- The overarching plot of the popular Half-Life Timeline mod trilogy. Scientists at Black Mesa discovered time travel as a corollary to the dimensional portal technology they were working on... and gave it to the Nazis. Now Gordon must travel to the ends of time and even to parallel Earths to set right what once went wrong and stop the Nazi timeship fleet, eventually, after all else has failed, traveling back to Black Mesa a few hours before the Resonance Cascade event to stop the fateful experiment before it even began.
- Implied in-game and inferred by fans in regards to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and also one of the cornerstones of the infamous Split-Timeline Theory. The whole game deals with Link's efforts kick Ganondorf off the usurped throne of Hyrule (which Link was sort of responsible for in the first place), which he succeeds at with the help of Zelda and the sages. Then Zelda sends Link back to before all that happened so Link can experience the childhood he was robbed off. Link therefore uses this opportunity to warn Zelda and everyone else of how Ganondorf was planning to steal the Triforce, which leads to Ganondorf being captured and executed. However, this sets up the plot for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, where Ganondorf survives said execution and is trapped in the Twilight Realm, where he gives Zant the power to usurp the throne of the Twili. So things were set right, but they ended up going wrong in a different way.
- The Hyrule Historia book infers to a third split, in which your game over leading to the creation of the 8-bit era of Zelda games.
- In the Interactive Fiction game Jigsaw, the antagonist is trying to set right what once went wrong (preventing the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, for example), while the player character must try to keep history on track. (At least, that's how it starts; then it gets a bit more complicated.)
- Radiant Historia is about a soldier who is given a book called the White Chronicle, allowing him to travel back to certain points in time on his journey to help guide the world to its "correct" history (i.e. one that doesn't lead to its destruction through constantly-expanding desertification). Invoking this trope is required to complete the game. Many other temporal tropes apply at various points in the game, but this trope pops up beautifully in a simple sidequest: a woman is mourning the death of her husband from sickness, saying "if only he'd taken this medicine...". To complete the sidequest, just travel back in time with the medicine and give it to the husband (saying it's from his wife). Both husband and wife will be mystified about how you knew and where it came from, as the wife hadn't told you yet about her husband, but that fixes the future so they both live and are grateful.
- In Time Shift, the Big Bad gets the suit that lets him time-travel at will and reshapes the world to his own ideals, so the Hero has to get the toned-down suit and go back after him in order to try to fix things.
- Singularity has the main character trying to do this after a time-travel incident leads to the Soviet Union taking over the world with time-manipulation technology. It doesn't work. At best, the scientist who invented the time-manipulation technology takes over the world because of your actions.
- Millennia Altered Destinies is built on this trope. You play a human cargo ship captain who is abducted by an alien race called the Hoods and given a timeship with the goal of stopping the hostile Microids from taking over the Echelon galaxy (except that they have already done that in this timeline) and moving on to the Milky Way. To this end, you are to seed four suitable planets with life and help the four different races evolve and deal with various crises. Your ship, the XTM, can go back 10,000 years into the past in 100 year increments. You also have access to the complete history of the four races that, unlike you, doesn't have Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory. This means that, as soon as you change something, there is a temporal storm that updates the database right before your eyes. Essentially, you have 2 goals in the game: help the 4 races spread out throughout the Echelon galaxy in equal amounts (defeating the Microids) and have the 4 races reach the technological stage at which they can build replacement parts for your ship's wormhole drive to get back to Earth. Due to the game mechanics, you usually can only accomplish one of these.
- Unfortunately, there is an alternate version of you, who has been recruited by the Microids to stop you. He will randomly show up at any point in the past to destroy one of the races, undoing all your hard work. You can't kill him, just as you yourself can't be killed.
- Interestingly, the creators originally planned to have a Nonstandard Game Over if you happen to have screwed up the history of the four races so much that it can't be fixed. Your ship would be destroyed by a powerful temporal storm. Then they realized that this could never happen in-game, and eventually removed that ending.
- The premise of Day Of The Tentacle. Dr Fred sends the protagonist trio back in time to "yesterday" to turn off his Sludge-o-Matic machine, preventing Purple Tentacle's exposure to a mutagen sludge, its Start of Darkness and first Take Over the World step. Unsurprisingly the travel goes wrong and the adventure unfolds.
- The plot of Warriors Orochi 3 is mostly this. The game opens up with a gigantic eight-headed serpent called the Hydra killing nearly every member of the Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors and Warriors Orochi universes save Ma Chao, Sima Zhao, and Hanbei Takenaka. After they fail an all-out assault on the Hydra they are rescued by Kaguya, who sends them back in time and begins this plot.
- In Body Harvest, Adam and Daisy travel back in time to the first alien invasion, so they can prevent the harvest of the Earth from ever coming true.
- In Save The Date, this is your plight.
- In Dragon Ball Online and Dragonball Xenoverse, the villainous Time Breakers are out to alter key events in Dragon Ball Z history. You, as a member of the Time Patrol, must help Trunks correct the changes they make.
- In Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army, it's the villain's plan - to introduce future technology to Taisho-era Japan to transform it into a world superpower decades in advance in an effort to stave off the horrifying Crapsack World that is Shin Megami Tensei I and Shin Megami Tensei II. Interestingly, despite his plan being smashed to bits, it's implied he did succeed, steering the timeline away from the events of those games.
- The plot of Serious Sam involves the titular Sam going back in time to kill the alien overlord Mental in the year 3000 BC before he can blow up the Earth in 2038 AD.
- Your goal in Super Time Force is to jump through time, correct history's dumb mistakes, and kill stuff that never should have happened.
- It is revealed at the end of The Wonderful 101 that the GEATHJERK army hails from a future where humanity has become a galaxy-spanning empire that has destroyed countless civilizations and that they went back in time to stop this from ever happening.
- This is the basic premise of World of Warcraft Warlords of Draenor. While we can't actually change what happened to OUR Draneor (getting corrupted and blown up into fragments called Outland) due to this being a parallel timeline...the expansion pretty much represents this for Draenor. The Iron Horde is just an excuse to go there, and they aren't the main threat by the end of the expansion. The Draenei (Maraad especially) see going there as an opportunity to prevent what happened in our timeline from happening again. And indeed, our characters intervene at crucial moments to stop MANY bad events that happened on our Draenor from happening here.
- Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals has the New Game+ ending where Erim/Iris, having been sent back in time by the Dual Blade after Maxim and Selan's deaths, sacrifices herself so that Maxim and Selan don't have to die on Doom Island.
- This trope is the entire purpose of the game Time Hollow, where the main character is completely normal except that he can use his "Hollow Pen" to make a window into the past and alter an event.
- The plot of Higurashi: When They Cry once the protagonists realize that they've been trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop of murder, insanity and betrayal. Rika and Hanyuu knew from the beginning, and were trying to save the town, but eventually came close to giving up.
- Steins;Gate runs on this trope. The protagonist Okabe voluntarily relives the same couple of hours over and over as he tries and fails repeatedly to prevent his childhood friend Mayuri's death. Then, upon realizing that doing so is futile, he instead opts to send new messages to the past in order to counteract every previous D-mail that's been sent. The series ends with a truly Mind Screwy plan put together by his future self to physically travel back to the past and save his love interest by fooling his past self into thinking she's dead.
- The plot of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Virtue's Last Reward consists of various attempts to invoke this trope. When certain humans are subjected to severe emotional trauma, they become 'espers' and gain the ability to jump their consciousness between alternate universes, thus giving in-universe justification to the series' multiple endings. All of the main characters are either espers or being manipulated by espers.
- In Area X, Livan's wish to save Elcia as a child ended up destroying his timeline and creating multiple worlds, but their instability means that they will inevitably shatter. One possible solution is to alter the event that caused this rift—that is, everyone who was supposed to die back then dies, which is the case in Livan's route. In Ferim's route, he carries out a solution where everyone can survive, via merging the timelines and thus properly creating one world where everyone did live, rather than displacing people into multiple dimensions.
- The "Strangerverse" in AlternateHistory.com has its basic premise as this.
- In the United States of Ameriwank, the traveler came to Colonial America before the American Revolution and gave George Washington a mission to unite the world under the United States to prevent an apocalyptic war.
- Almost all of the Strangerverse stories take as their basic premise that there was an apocalyptic war shortly before 2258, and that a group used prototype time-travel technology to send one person back in time long enough to hand over a few tools to an historic figure and tell the recipient why he is doing so. Just when and where the Stranger travels to, what tools are delivered, and whether the destination was the intended destination provide the -verse part of the Strangerverse.
- This sets the events of Megas XLR into motion through subversion of the trope. The Human Resistance steals a prototype Glorft mecha, modifies it, and attempts to send it and its pilot back in time to prevent the Glorft from winning the war against humanity. Things don't go as planned, and as a result the Glorft invasion actually happens centuries before it's supposed to. Hilarity Ensues.
- The Peabody and Sherman segments of Rocky and Bullwinkle involve going back in time to correct historical events which have gone wrong.
- Samurai Jack: "Now the fool seeks to return to the past, and undo the future that is Aku..." Partially subverted in that, within the run of the original series, Jack never did return to his original time and stop Aku from taking over the world. He's always trying, but he's more often than not just fighting Aku's dystopia and helping people survive. A future film adaptation may play this trope straight. His never returning had more to do with the show being cancelled, though.
- This is Time Squad's mission; to keep the past from unraveling. However, all of these changes are comedic and none ever cause a bad future. They just have to be fixed.
- Young Justice: The mission of Bart Allen/Impulse. Although it originally seems simply to be "save Flash's life" we slowly discover just how screwed up the future is, mostly due to an evil Blue Beetle. How successful the mission is so far isn't really clear, though...
Episode or Character Plots
Anime & Manga
- In the Mahou Sensei Negima! manga, this is Chao Lingshen's motivation for messing around with her great grandfather's childhood, although whether she had an absurdly complicated plan set up, or was simply playing Xanatos Speed Chess as her alterations made foreknowledge less useful is never made clear. She actually fixed the problem she went back to solve with the changes wrought by her first trip, but later makes a second one to tie up a loose end or two before the Cosmic Deadline.
- Subverted in Dragon Ball Z. Future Trunks also attempts to set right what once went wrong, but he does this in a timeline not his own: since in DBZ every timeline counts as another dimension, any changes made in the current time will not directly effect Future Trunks' past or future. He still wants to help out, hoping to create at least one peaceful world, and to return to his own time strong enough to finally stop what he wanted to prevent.
- A great part of the Haruhi Suzumiya Light Novels deals with Kyon trying to rectify past events in order not to let Haruhi's powers go haywire. Although he travels back in time mainly to set Haruhi off so that she'd create aliens, time travellers and ESPers, and to fix up the events on December 18th. On that day, there's a point in time where there's 3 Mikurus and 4 Kyons. December 18th was only because of Disappearance, and to fix what Yuki did.
- Yakitate!! Japan: Kazuma's last bread of the second Tournament Arc is so amazingly delicious, it sends the judge back in time to retcon his own mother's death.
- This is the goal of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds Big Bad Z-One. However, Z-One is different than most in that he is willing to do anything, no matter how immoral to meet this goal. The plan involved causing Zero Reverse, a disaster that killed thousands, and he was willing to murder anyone whom he felt was in the way. In the finale, Yusei manages to surprise him completely, summoning Shooting Quasar Dragon as his ultimate card (Z-One had expected "Cosmic Blazar Dragon", the card that the Yusei in his timeline used as such), and in he end, it is heavinly implied that Yusei's is able to prevent the Bad Future using much less drastic means.
- Pokémon season nine episode 'Time Warp Heals All Wounds' sends May, Meowth and Squirtle back in time to prevent a man unknowingly leaving his pregnant girlfriend. May finds a lost necklace belonging to the woman, but oddly, no real explanation is given for the time travel.
- Rayek from ElfQuest travels to the future in an attempt to 'save' his space-travelling ancestors from being thrown back in time and crashing on the planet. Unfortunately, all their descendants currently living on this planet will then cease to exist — and will never have existed, since their ancestors will never have set foot on the planet in the first place. Opinions about whether or not this is a good thing differ — he thinks it's good, everyone else thinks it's bad. Who cares about other men's opinion anyway. He tried to compromise by having the people he actually knew and cared about stay inside the palace, which would protect them from the history-wiping effects... but since this would only save the people standing immediately in front of him, and still wipe out everyone else on the planet, they refused his offer. When confronted with the choice between annihilating everyone he ever loved, and preventing ten thousand years of suffering, he ends up suffering a BSOD and losing his powers.
- In the "Camelot Falls" storyline in the Superman comics, a prophetic sorcerer tells him what he needs to do to avert the extinction of humanity years down the line. In a subversion of this trope, Superman refuses to comply, namely because "what he needs to do" involves not preventing the deaths of countless innocents.
- The mission of Samaritan in Astro City. He actually did set things right before the series started, but now his own time period has changed beyond recognition.
- Cable has apparently set as his ultimate goal to set right everything that went wrong, like preventing Apocalypse from waking up. (He then wakes up Apocalypse himself by accident. Good job.)
- Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog series:
- Silver's personal Story Arc is much the same as in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) — he comes from a Bad Future where the world is all but destroyed, and is constantly traveling through time trying to find a way to undo it, with his only clue being that the betrayal of a member of the Freedom Fighters was somehow key to this disaster. Of course, like his game counterpart he's being advised by a (supposedly reformed) villain, but it wasn't until he decided to talk to the more informed denizens of the present that he figured out who his target was: Sally Acorn, who had been captured and roboticized by Dr. Eggman and forced to fight her friends against her will. Silver did manage to subdue his target, but then the book went into its crossover with Megaman and the whole thing became an Aborted Arc when the series resumed after the crossover thanks to a Continuity Reboot.
- A Story Arc in the early 100's issues involved Knuckles' future daughter Lara-Su attempting to undo her own Bad Future by preventing her father's assassination. Unfortunately, when she got back to her time, she discovered that her mother had lied to her in order to protect her — the truth was, Knuckles hadn't died, he'd pulled a Face-Heel Turn and was in fact responsible for the Bad Future they lived in. The bright side, however, is that the "present" Lara-Su had visited was the series' main timeline, while her future is an alternate one. So we don't have to worry about our Knuckles switching sides like that.
- The two story arcs intersected, with Silver helping Lara-Su defeat her crazed father. Silver wished Lara good luck as he left to continue his mission.
- In the Star Trek "Time Crime" miniseries, someone screwed up the timeline so that Klingons aren't aggressive warmongers and the Romulan Empire doesn't exist. Despite the positive bits, Kirk and Spock still have to fix everything because the overall outcome would ultimately be a Bad Future. That and, as bad as Romulans are, they don't deserve to be erased from time. In one Tearjerker moment, Kirk realizes that "fixing" the timeline will mean losing his son David (in the real timeline David was killed by Klingons), and he gives his son one final hug before embarking on his trip through time.
- A recurring plot in Paperinik New Adventures.
- The first time is when the Raider arrives in present-day Duckburg to prevent an experiment with nuclear fusion from blow up with half of the city, and PK (Donald Duck's superhero alter ego) has to help him fix thing and prevent the Time Police from stopping him while preventing the Raider from using the fixed experiment from charging his dimensional travel device and raid all dimensions (he ends up discovering a flaw in the device that froze the Raider in all timelines at once until the Time Police arrested him and slowing the Time Police long enough for them to settle on ruining the experiment in a non-catastrophic way).
- The second time it's discovered that an experiment in the future created a bubble that would destroy all the time, and The Organization gets Paperinik to free the Raider before sending them to stop the experiment.
- It's implied that the mess had been caused by The Organization sending an agent to prevent the experiment and the danger in first place, resulting in the experiment being anticipated and the agent causing the experiment to go awry in the attempt to stop it. Being Genre Savvy, one of the leaders of The Organization conceived the plan seen in the story, that ultimately resulted in Paperinik and the Raider getting the experiment anticipated a little more and cause it to go awry again, but arriving before the forming bubble in time to stop it.
- In the Runaways arc "Dead-End Kids", the kids are ostensibly hired by the Kingpin to steal a device. When the Kingpin tries to collect the device from them, they flee, and in the ensuing flight, they active the device, which ends up sending them back in time to 1907, where they meet a similar group of runaways, one of whom, Lillie Mc Gurty, hits it off with Victor. It later turns out that the much-older Lillie Mc Gurty of 2007 was the person who hired them, through the Kingpin, to steal the device and then orchestrated the events that caused them to use it, because Victor was the love of her life and she thought if she could get him to travel back in time again, they'd spend the rest of their lives together. Unfortunately for her, her actions also resulted in a gang war that forced the Runaways to retreat back to their own time, and Lillie's younger self was to go with them.
- In the Grand Finale for Spider-Girl, Spider-Girl:The End, May's symbiote-created clone April does this when it turns out that May dying leads to an apocalyptic future where Carnage symbiotes ravage the world.
- The Uncanny X-Men storyline "The Last Will And Testament of Charles Xavier" turns into this. As one of Xavier's last wishes, he wants the X-Men to find and help train an Omega-level mutant he couldn't (mostly because he was way too powerful). Cyclops hunts him and down and attempts to help him alongside Illyana (who is borrowing a past version of Doctor Strange's Eye of Aggamotto) and Emma Frost, only for them to get killed when S.H.I.E.L.D. finds them and kills them. One of Cyclops' students decides to travel back in time and persuades a past version of Xavier to prevent this, who does so by preventing the mutants parents from meeting, thus negating his birth. This also has the effect of removing the original beneficiary of who'd get the Xavier School from Mystique to Cyclops.
Films — Animated
- Meet the Robinsons: After the villain, the future version of Lewis's roommate Goob, goes back and creates a Bad Future, Lewis has to repair the time machine and recreate the happy future again. Then, at the end, he prevents the event that made Goob hate him in the first place.
Films — Live-Action
- In Galaxy Quest, the "Omega 13" device is used to go back 13 seconds in time, "enough to change a single mistake".
- In the conclusion and epilogue of Jumanji, Alan prevents Carl Bentley from getting fired (or gets him re-hired), and the kids' parents are stopped from going on their fatal ski trip.
- This is the main plot of Star Trek: First Contact. The past is going perfectly fine until the Borg try to set wrong what once was right.
- This is the main plot of Men In Black 3. Specifically, the villain successfully executes a Make Wrong What Once Went Right plot (which ultimately leads to an alien invasion in the present), and Agent J has to go back in time to undo it.
- In Elfangor's Secret, the team is sent back to prevent Visser Four from changing key events in the past. Unfortunately, those changes were much more far-reaching than either side anticipated, and would've prevented the Holocaust, though likely still making a worse future. So in order to return the present to normal, the team has to essentially condemn millions to death. Eventually they decide on paradoxing out the events of the novel, deciding that at least this way it happened naturally.
- In In the Time of the Dinosaurs, they must sabotage a nuclear device and sacrifice an entire colony of aliens, or else the Cretaceous Era won't end on schedule.
- In the novel Soon I Will Be Invincible, Lily gets sent back in time to prevent a blight from wiping out humanity, but after she succeeds she decides she liked the blighted future better and becomes a supervillain to try to bring back her original future. However, this turns out to be an outright lie — she's a native of the current time period, although the era she claims as her origin really is a possible future that she has visited — and she ends up using it to trick another supervillain into saving the world.
- In the third Harry Potter book, Harry and Hermione have the chance to go back and save two innocent lives.
- Dean Koontz's Lightning features a time-travelling protagonist who goes back to his own time, after having thwarted a Nazi Time Travel plot, and tells Winston Churchill about the Cold War. When he returns to the future, The Cold War never happened, as the Allies kept on pushing eastward after the Nazis surrendered, defeating the communists before the Cold War ever started.
- The short story "Scenes From An Alternate Universe Where The Beatles Accepted Lorne Michaels' Generous Offer, shows us what would have happened if The Beatles had reunited on Saturday Night Live. Turns out Ringo's a rather inexperienced Time Traveler.
- This is Charles Wallace's mission in A Swiftly Tilting Planet, as the Echthroi have created a Might-Have-Been (a hypothetical timeline that is in the process of supplanting the true timeline) where the world is destroyed by nuclear war. He must discover the source of the chain of events that leads to humanity's destruction and put it right.
- Sixty Eight Rooms: Sophie's diary changes after Ruthie and Jack meet her
- Red vs. Blue uses the Stable Time Loop variety of this trope. When Church is blasted into the past by a nuclear explosion, he uses the opportunity to try correcting each disaster that has occurred in the series up to that point. Of course, it turns out he's the cause of most of them, including his CO's mysterious heart failure, numerous injuries to his teammates, and his own accidental death ("Oh my god! I'm the team-killing fucktard!"). When his every attempt to prevent the bomb from going off fails, he eventually gives up, makes sure a copy of himself is blasted into the future with his teammates, and delivers a bitter Aesop about accepting reality as it is.
- The notorious Champions module "Wings of the Valkyrie" combines this and the Hitler exemption and setting things wrong: the player characters need to travel back in time to save Hitler; a previous traveller had ensured Operation:Valkyrie's success, expecting this would cripple the Reich. It didn't work; the Reich's new leadership was just as evil, and much more capable.
- The Ravenloft boxed-set adventure "Castles Forlorn" sends the heroes to a haunted castle which shifts repeatedly between three time periods. They have the opportunity to free an imprisoned woman while in the second of these eras, which causes corresponding historical changes to the third.
- The Eberron sourcebook "The Forge of War" suggests this as a basis for a Last War campaign, in particular suggesting an outline where a group of war criminals escape Dreadhold and go time-travelling through a magical portal, resulting in all kinds of chaos which the characters have to set right.
- The plot of the Magic: The Gathering block Khans of Tarkir involves Sarkhan Vol trying to prevent the death of a powerful dragon planeswalker a thousand years ago. He succeeds, and inadvertently also revives Tarkir's previously-extinct dragons. Sarkhan loves dragons, so he's over the moon about it; the humans of the plane end up enslaved by said dragons, arguably in a worse position than before he left.
- In City of Heroes, several factions are attempting to do this, but their concepts of "right", usually focusing on self-preservation, are often mutually exclusive.
- In Chrono Trigger the characters end up warped to After the End and, upon watching a video of The End itself, resolve to stop it happening. They only have one chance because, well, they die if they don't do it right. Also a rare example where the Temporal Paradox part of succeeding is actually acknowledged; a paradox is caused because the heroes learn of the end from records after it happens, and then alter the future so the end which produced those records never comes into being. Chrono Cross is essentially an entire game about a whole cornucopia of consequences resulting from this, none of which are pretty.
- The world of Dragon Quest VII used to be a vast and expansive place, but by the time of the game, it has been reduced to a single continent. Your party's mission is to travel back in time to the continents which once existed in the past and stop the various disasters which destroyed them, thereby causing them to reappear in the present.
- In Dark Cloud 2 you had to restore various points in the future that were destroyed in the past by the Big Bad.
- Kain's motivation during the later Legacy of Kain games is to fix the ruined world he himself created by traveling through time, although the plot is so complex and nearly every member of the cast is such a conniving manipulator that the importance of this, while not lessened, is somewhat drowned out. The rules of time travel in this setting make this goal even harder than it usually is; normally, You Can't Fight Fate and going back in time will merely cause a Stable Time Loop, but real alterations can be made by deliberately causing a Temporal Paradox and then acting inside of its effect. Raziel is thus the only being in all of creation with true free will because he is a living Temporal Paradox. A paradox that is resolved in the end when he willingly sacrifices himself to the Soul Reaver.
- Used in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006):
- In Sonic's story, he eventually ends up time-traveling to a Bad Future, and discovering that it was caused by the death of Princess Elise, very shortly after the date that Sonic had just left. Sonic travels back to rescue her.
- In Silver's story, Silver is a native of the aforementioned bad future; he travels to the past (i.e. Sonic's time) intending to kill the "Iblis trigger" and prevent Armageddon. However, he thought that Sonic was the Iblis trigger—because Silver's source of information about the past was manipulating him into Making Wrong What Once Went Right.
- The plot of Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time. Subverted in that it turns out to be impossible and/or will only result in tearing the universe apart.
- In Shattered Hourglass these are actually Karma point events. The protagonist Duran can interact with the lifeforce of a dying person, or reach into one's memories to access the past itself.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time's ending, Zelda sends Link back to the beginning of the game so he can avoid his Nice Job Breaking It, Hero moment. Rather than changing the future they're in, it creates a second time line. The timeline where Link sealed Ganon away now lacks a hero to take care of him, and the gods end up destroying hyrule in a Great Flood for lack of any other option. And the other timeline, where Link didn't lead Ganondorf directly to the triforce? Ganondorf ends up with 1/3 of it and gets sealed away anyway. Net result of attempt to set right what once went wrong: one timeline in exactly the same situation that they were trying to prevent, and one timeline utterly destroyed.
- The entire plot of Mortal Kombat 9 centers around an attempt to do this. Shao Kahn ends up winning the events of Armageddon, leading Raiden to send a message back to his past self to try fixing this. He ends up nearly bungling the whole thing. In the end, every single one of the Forces of Light save for Johnny Cage, Sonya, and himself are dead, their souls taken by Quan Chi. Shao Kahn is defeated, averting THAT particular Armageddon event, but Quan Chi has an army of powerful souls at his command now, and the ending implies that Shinnok and the Netherrealm are preparing to attack next...
- Deconstructed in Episode 4 of the Back to the Future games, where Citizen Brown doesn't like the idea that setting right what once went wrong means that the prudish Edna Strickland goes on to be a miserable old Crazy Cat Lady in the proper timeline, choosing instead to find a way to make sure that Young Emmett Brown ends up with Edna without her becoming a Knight Templar by making sure that he never develops his passion for science.
- Riven has a non-time-travel variant as the framing device. The linking books the series relies on can be used to modify worlds they link to using quantum uncertainty; if it could have been there but was never noticed before, writing in that it is there will make it happen. Unfortunately, Gehn, who wrote quite a number of linking books, was not actually very good at writing them, so the same quantum-uncertainty mechanics are causing the Ages he wrote to deteriorate of their own accord. His son, Atrus, is much better at writing them, and thinks he can save some of them using these same quantum-uncertainty mechanics, but some are beyond salvaging. Your task is to go into one of the doomed ones to rescue Atrus' wife and capture Gehn to stop his shoddy linking book writing, while he stays and tries to stall its destruction for as long as possible.
- This is the reason for (most of) the Caverns of Time in World of Warcraft. The Infinite Dragonflight are screwing with history and the Bronze Dragonflight are recruiting mortals to help them out, since they're too preoccupied searching for their missing leader Nozdormu.
- Warlords of Draenor is based on Garrosh Hellscream traveling into the past of his homeworld Draenor and preventing the corruption of his people by the Burning Legion. It's a very noble concept at face value but Garrosh uses it to turn the orc clans into the Iron Horde and invade Azeroth anyway.
- In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge, both the Allies and the Soviets in their respective campaigns go back in time to stop Yuri before he can complete his Psychic Dominators.
- In A New Beginning, a group of time-travelers from the apocalyptic 26th century try this as part of a last-resort effort called the Phoenix Plan in an attempt to prevent the ecological apocalypse.
- In Bioshock Infinite this happens when twice.
- First when the elderly Elizabeth in the Bad Future gives Booker a coded note to give to young Elizabeth to prevent the destruction of New York.
- The second time is in the ending when they realize that in the universe where Booker accepted the baptism in the river he was reborn as Father Comstock, and Booker lets Elizabeth drown him during the baptism to prevent Father Comstock from ever existing.
- Super Robot Wars Reversal gives us an accidental one. Raul and Fiona Grayden come from a timeline where the Mariemaia Rebellion succeeded and an accident involving either the destruction of the ''Ra Cailum or the Nadesico-C shunts them back five years into the past. During their stay, they get to the moment and have a Heroic BSOD over it. However, they both opt to Screw Destiny and help out, saving the Zambot 3 team in the process and leading to the Gundam Double X being the one who busts down Mariemaia's bunker instead of Wing Zero Custom falling apart doing so.
- Archer in Fate/stay night attempts to do this by creating a Temporal Paradox. Archer is not so much setting right what went wrong as trying to wipe out all evidence of it ever occurring.
- Saber believes that history went wrong when she chose to take the throne, taking her kingdom's fall as proof of it. Her goal in the War is to undo that choice so her kingdom can be led by a better king.
- In Umineko: When They Cry, Ange's goal in travelling from 1998 to 1986 is to make it so that her brother Battler and the rest of her family can come back from Rokkenjima, where everyone was mysteriously killed. Later she's told that she can only fix Battler's timeline and not her own, but she's determined to help him anyway. In the end she can't fix Battler's timeline either, since no matter what would happen, everyone would inevitably die during that fateful weekend. Everyone, that is, except Eva and Battler.
- In Folly and Innovation, Doc Brown has figured out exactly how to create a future we can all be happy with.
- Played completely straight in Schlock Mercenary, right down to the "only one chance."
- Inverted in chainsawsuit, with The Time Ruiner!
- Done as part of a Terminator homage in Sluggy Freelance when Berk arrives from the future to stop K'Z'K from conquering the world.
- Done in General Protection Fault in the "Surreptitious Machinations" Arc.
- Bad Future Dave Strider in Homestuck uses his Time Travel ability to try stopping John from being a gullible idiot. It appears to have worked and the protagonists get a lot of sweet loot from the future out of the deal as well.
- This tends to happen a lot in Sburb/Sgurb; time players often have to fix any deviation from the timeline and create a Stable Time Loop.
- Bug Martini shows us that if you attempt to set right what was once wrong, you risk doing just the opposite. You can also use this trope to end a relationship.
- Yehuda's motivation for working as a bike mechanic in Yehuda Moon And The Kickstand Cyclery. Not because he's pro-bike, but because he's helping the Shakers after inadvertently destroying their livelyhood.
- Late in the course of Narbonic, Artie and Mell discover a secret tape that was sent from a Bad Future. Future Mell did a host of bad things including becoming vice-president and then having the president assassinated, all so she could use one shot at time travel, even though it would kill her and destroy the universe. Her goal? To save Artie. She thinks that killing protagonist Dave Davenport will fix things. And she is wrong. Dave has become unstuck in time and now knows one obscure thing that will allow him to change the future.
- In Bob and George, the Author dramatically announces his purpose — a Deus ex Machina to fix the comic.
- In Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, the "Wrong" is that Commander Badass never got to see a movie starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger together at the same time. On his deathbed he sent his future space children back in time with his future space cash so they could make that movie. In an earlier strip he mentions he went back in time to prevent the Vietnam War, only to later undo his prevention of it, because a world without Rambo is too weird.
- Dr Mcninja: Chuck Goodrich was sent from the future to stop the zombie apocalypse. Later it turns out that every universe has a Chuck Goodrich, and every one of them is always fated to go back in time to stop some disaster. A new one shows up every few months to try to change the timeline, again.
- In Autumn Bay, Andrew and Marie-Ange return from a hellish future with this goal.
- The Fairly OddParents, episode "The Secret Origin of Denzel Crocker". Timmy's attempts to stop his teacher from growing up to become a fairy-obsessed maniac result in him lamenting, "NO! This is exactly what I was trying to ''prevent''!" To clarify Timmy finds out Crocker had fairies (his fairies in fact) in his childhood and was actually quite beloved by the town. But at the ceremony they were throwing for him, Timmy accidentally reveals them to the whole crowd. Granted it wasn't his fault though as Cosmo turned the power to the mics back on in his usual bout of stupidity. And even then the original timeline would've had Cosmo stupidly blurt out their existence anyway. Say the least it all went downhill after that. At least he stopped the election of President McGovern.
- The first Futurama movie "Bender's Big Score" deals extensively with time travel, ending with Bender going back to the year 2000 with the tattoo on the time duplicate Fry's ass to put the tattoo back onto past-frozen Fry's ass in the first place, for any of the plot to make sense.
- In the '90s X-Men animated series:
- Bishop traveled from the future to the present on three separate occasions to prevent a Sentinel-ruled dystopia from coming to pass. On the second trip, Cable travels from even further in the future to stop Bishop from inadvertently making the far future worse.
- Bishop is terrible at this though, mostly due to his trigger happy nature. His plans to just kill/destroy the source of the problem and then head back to the future never work because he doesn't unravel the conspiracies involved. Fortunately his actions let the X-Men know, and they do manage to fix things.
- Back to the Future
- "Go Fly A Kite". Verne accidentally interrupts Benjamin Franklin's famous kite experiment, causing the electricity in present day Hill Valley to disappear. Doc and Marty must head back to 1752 and simulate a storm in order for Franklin to make his discovery.
- Played straight in "Ok at the Gunfight Carol" episode of Captain Planet: Hoggish Greedy & Sly Sludge, travel back to the Old West to get the deeds for the Grand Canyon turning it a landfill. The Planeeters follow and work things back on track returning the Grand Canyon to it's natural state.
- Danny Phantom promises not to allow his evil future to come to pass after seeing himself as a sadistic, mass-murdering sociopath. Although Clockwork helps, the subversion comes when it's hinted at the end that it may just be a matter of time after all, if with different circumstances.
- Future Candace travels back in time after she discovers that her meddling with the timeline has turned the tri-state area into a dystopia ruled by Doofenshmirtz in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Phineas and Ferb's Quantum Boogaloo".
- This is the goal of Nox, the Big Bad from season 1 of the French cartoon Wakfu. His desire to save the family that he lost 200 years before the show has driven him to go from a simple watchmaker to one of the most powerful (and insane) magic users alive. Unfortunately, while he is a skilled enough time mage to slow time to a stand still, he has so far been unable to actually travel backwards in time. He believes that this is a power requirement issue, and now seeks to drain enough wakfu from the plants, animals, and people of the world to save his family. One character mentions that he has drained entire countries dry over the years, and his current plan involves exterminating an entire race of people to gain the wakfu he needs. Grougaloragran also mentions that it won't actually work, as time travel is simply impossible no matter how much wakfu he collects, and he'll probably just end up breaking the universe if he tries. Nox, however, is long past caring. Turns out it is possible. Too bad the wakfu requirements were far steeper than Nox estimated — the wakfu he spent centuries gathering was only enough to facilitate a twenty minute time jump.
- In Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures episode "The Edge of Yesterday," we learn that Dr. Quest created a time machine program in Questworld after his wife died, which would allow him to travel back in time and see his wife again. When he finished it, he realized he wouldn't only be able to see his wife, he could also change the past to prevent her from dying. His ethics would not let him alter history for personal gain, so he sealed the program so it couldn't be used. Later on, Jonny and Jessie use the program to go back in time and prevent Ezekiel Rage from planting a bomb that could cause the tectonic plates to split, destroying the Earth.
- Two episodes of Lilo & Stitch: The Series centered around this plot. In the first, Lilo embarrasses herself in front of her love interest. She find out Jumba has a surfboard style time machine and used it to fix the blunder, but at the same time theres an experiment running around that Stitch tries to catch and each attempt causes a disaster to the area causing multiple re-dos. Eventually Lilo has to let herself get embarrassed to fix the timeline. The second involves Lilo finding an experiment that can warp time forward, allowing her to age into a teenager and later an adult. However since she and Stitch are time traveling, they're not around to catch experiments. Allowing Big Bad Gantu and Hamsterveil to capture them and take over the Earth. Conveniently said experiment has a Reset Button but they have to rescue it first to fix the damage.
- The Codename: Kids Next Door episode Operation: F.U.T.U.R.E. deals with a future ruled by boy-hating girls who either enslave or convert any remaining boys using technology, with an elderly Numbuh Four being the only remaining male adult. The plot was apparently brought about by the world's ruler through communication with her past self in the present day. The resistance movement gets help from an unlikely source: Numbuh Three's granddaughter, who helps Numbuh Four send a message to the present day Kids Next Door with the information they need to halt the scheme at a vital time, preventing the shift from occurring.
- Family Guy
- Done as a Shout-Out to Back to the Future, when Peter has Death warp him back in time so he can relive a day in his teenage years. However he does so at a critical moment in the history of his relationship to Lois that ends with her married to Quagmire and him married to Molly Ringwald (its complicated, just go with it). Peter, along with Brian, convince Death to send them back to undo Peter's mistake.
- Also, explicitly referenced in an episode where Peter becomes a Jehovah's Witness (among other things) and explains Jesus like this, leading to a Quantum Leap sight gag.
- And now Stewie and Brian are credited as using this to CREATE THE FAMILY GUY UNIVERSE. LITERALLY. So that's a... set half-right what was elsetime random-in-the-void? It gets played straight in the same episode when Stewie's sperm-brother tries to erase one of his more 'European' ancestors to erase Stewie.
- And in the episode "Christmas Guy" Stewie did this in order to save Brian from getting hit by a car.
- Likewise, sister series American Dad!! had a Christmas Episode that featured a Ghost of Christmas Past trying to pull Yet Another Christmas Carol on Stan but he uses the opportunity trying to "fix" Christmas by killing Jane Fonda. His guardian angel stops him, but when they get back to modern times America is under the control of Soviet Russia. It Makes Sense in Contextnote . In a bit of a subversion, trying to fix the original event by making Taxi Driver doesn't work, so Stan is forced to shoot Reagan himself (which much to his relief is told he just has to "wing him") to fix the timeline. Note that even in the end the timeline isn't the same: Since Stan only shot Reagan, his assistant James Brady was fine which meant no Brady Bill and thus America has less strict gun laws.
- Bart Allen from Young Justice.
- In Justice League, a two-part episode involves the Justice League being trapped in a Bad Present created when Vandal Savage sent a computer back to his past self, giving him the information he needed to depose Hitler and assume control of the Nazis, allowing him to conquer the world. So, naturally, the Justice League have to travel through time themselves to topple Vandal Savage and prevent this from coming to be. Incidentally, the fact that this episode ended with Hitler's impending restoration to power elicited such a massive case of realised Fridge Horror — that the heroes had implicitly restored the Holocaust to prevent Vandal's present-era regime — that the directors publicly announced that Vandal's usurpation and cryogenic freezing, combined with when Hitler was released, meant that whilst Hitler went on to lead the Nazis to defeat, he had neither the time nor the resources to spare in directing the Holocaust.