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Temporal Sickness
"Time travel's a bitch."
Sawyer, LOST

Simply put, the notion that time travel makes one physically ill. May be merely annoying, or potentially fatal.

Usually, it is stated or implied that this illness is due to repeated jumps through time, and thus has the effect of limiting the characters' ability to take advantage of potentially story-breaking technology.

Compare Teleportation Sickness. Not to be confused with the feeling you get when thinking about time travel too hard.

May cause disorientation that results in someone demanding to know from passersby what year it is.


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  • Kyon from Suzumiya Haruhi experiences this every time he (conciously) time travels with Asahina, one incident being seen in the first Episode of Haruhi 2009, where they go off to help Haruhi write a Message to some random Aliens, turning out to start off the whole Premise of the story. He talks about the world turning around and wanting to puke (in the novels).
  • Sailor Moon: When Usagi and the Outer Sailors were standing in a elevator-like time portal in the manga, Usagi suddenly starts banging on the glass and complaining that she was going to puke. She never actually does though. And of course, Haruka has to go and make fun of her.
    Haruka:"Not even Super Sailor Moon can battle the forces of gravity."
  • Mizuki's time travel artifact from Kamisama Kiss exerts a physical toll on the person directly proportional to the amount of time they spend in the past. After one trip, Nanami couldn't hardly move for a few days.

    Comic Books 

  • When the Justice League of America traveled several thousand years into the past, the human members got sick for a while. Batman was sick the longest because he is the most 'normal'. Green Lantern had some protection but he still got sick. The Flash recovered the fastest because of his super metabolism but he wouldn't recommend recovering that way.

  • Happy Accidents had Vincent D'Onofrio's character suffer from R.T.D.S. "Residual Temporal Drag Syndrome"
  • The Terminator had Kyle Reese exhausted and disoriented after his time jump. The Terminator was a machine so it didn't suffer the same problems.
  • Occurs in Primer:
    • The time machine works by enclosing an area - usually a coffin-sized box - in a special field for a certain amount of time, causing that area to Time Loop. Trying to walk in or out while the field is still on tends to mess up your anatomy, most notably causing bleeding from the ears. However, if you're trying to go into the past, you can't exactly wait until the field is ''off''; all you can do is wait until the field has almost died and then get in, which invariably leads to problems the more times you try it.
    • Not to mention that since this is essentially taking The Slow Path in the other direction, failing to pack enough air, food, and water can lead to poor health as well.
    • It's possible that there are negative effects when two time travelers get close to each other, too.
  • The Tomorrow Man involves a blue-collar worker from the 1970s who accidentally gets jumped into the 1990s. First time through, his stomach has an unpleasant reaction.

  • In Michael Crichton's novel Timeline, some characters suffer "transcription errors," which accumulate with multiple travels, causing insanity and death.
  • In Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man the time traveler has a pretty rough voyage and emerges nauseous. That's nothing to what's about to happen to him, though.
  • This happens in Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern books, manifesting as exhaustion and emotional instability if you exist at the same time as yourself. It's exacerbated if you go anywhere near yourself, and if there are more than two of you at the same time it gets bad. Additionally, time travel causes issues related to both sensory deprivation and hypoxia as you travel Between. This nearly kills Lessa when she travels 400 years back in Dragonflight. Later, in All The Weyrs of Pern, they use spacesuits.
  • Hellrides in Roger Zelazny's The Chronicles of Amber series were massively debilitating, involving the equivalents of jet lag and motion sickness as well as exhaustion. They're more dimensional travel than strictly time travel, but the concept is the same.
    • One could also take a safe, comfortable trip called the "royal road." Hope you don't have anywhere you have to be at any particular time.
  • The Stainless Steel Rat: This is an element of time travel in series.
  • In the Haruhi Suzumiya novels people always keep their eyes closed when traveling through time. Open your eyes, and you risk seeing something so horrible that you'll end up puking for weeks.
  • In Connie Willis' book To Say Nothing of the Dog characters routinely suffer from what is referred to as "time-lag", the effects of which usually last for several days, and consists of physical and mental disorientation; much like a more potent form of jet-lag or a hang-over. This is nicely portrayed when a nurse gives the protagonist a postcard of Oxford. When he rhapsodises over the dreaming spires she diagnoses serious time-lag. Also it allows the characters to carry the idiot ball.
  • In Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, time travel is potentially fatal - and the risk is cumulative, so that each trip is more dangerous than the last. None of the characters have made more than three time-jumps so far. Carrying large precious stones makes it safer and less unpleasant, to some extent, but the gems are consumed during the trip. (The ability to time-travel at all is also a trait only some people have, and is apparently genetically transmitted.)

    Live Action TV 
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Relativity", repeated use of time travel causes the user to become progressively ill, to the point of being fatal in certain circumstances. One version of Seven is killed this way, forcing the agents to recruit a past!Seven to fill the gap.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "All Our Yesterdays", inhabitants of a planet are sent back to their past to escape their star going nova. Kirk, Spock and Bones travel without being given the treatment, and will die unless they can get back in time. (excuse the pun)
  • In seasons 4 and 5 of LOST, characters who travel in time (whether physically or mentally) suffer nosebleeds, lose their memories, and die of brain aneurysms.
  • Intriguingly, The Sarah Connor Chronicles has characters exhibit virtually the same ill effects post time travel as in To Say Nothing of the Dog as cited above. John Connor even goes so far as to start referring to it by the same term, "time-lag". Makes you wonder...
  • In Seven Days, Frank Parker is the only living chrononaut; his survival is attributed to his unusually high tolerance for pain.
    • It should be noted that the reason he is the only living chrononaut is not strictly just because he has a high pain threshold, but because the navigation system of the time machine is somewhat ...erratic. The others wound up in orbit, or entombed in solid earth. That said, his high tolerance for pain is helpful as each Backstep ablates about a micron of his epidermal tissue.
      • In fairness, it is a pretty big factor, as unlike the other candidates, Parker's high pain threshold is explicity mentioned as actually making him perform better under duress, hence the reason why he can pilot the Sphere as "well" as he does.
  • In Doctor Who, time travel without a capsule (such as a TARDIS or other time ship) is possible but not recommended due to the temporal sickness it causes. The effects are not explicitly stated, but appear to be similar to being put through a huge tumble dryer.
    • Jack managed to travel to the end of the universe while outside the TARDIS...but it killed him. (He got better, though.)
    • When Rose encouraged The Ninth Doctor to allow The Load to travel with them, he got sick. Probably used as a device to highlight how useless he was in comparison with Rose.
  • In Goodnight Sweetheart, the only complaint Gary Sparrow has is wanting to know why time travel gives him gas?!
  • Time Trax: Darien Lambert can't return to the year 2193 until he finds and sends back all of the fugitive criminals from his time. This is because time travel requires the traveler to be injected with a drug called TXP, which is usually fatal if administered more than twice. Lambert was dosed with it when he was sent to 1993; returning to 2193 will require a second dose, after which he can never travel through time again.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Timesickness (a.k.a. "The Crosstime Cookie Toss") is a common disadvantage in GURPS Time Travel.

  • In Achron, units glow softly right after you chronoport them. They're perfectly functional, with the one exception being that they cannot chronoport again until the effect wears off. The effect has thus earned the nickname "rechronoport delay".
  • Porky in Mother 3 combines this with Age Without Youth (sort of) and Immortality Immorality.
  • In Time Shift it is suggested that time travel may cause disorientation and even memory lost. The Beta suit does counteract some problems, but judging by the intro video motion sickness may be a concern. The player character also passes out shortly after a time jump.
  • This can be a side effect of the "tears" in Bioshock Infinite. The severity of the sickness depends on how well people can cope with it, and people who died in other timelines have it much worse.

  • Both played straight and averted in Cwen's Quest. Travelling forward in time is painful and draining, but when you go backwards it actually has the opposite effect and temporarily gives you super powers.

Temporal ParadoxTime Travel TropesTerminator Twosome

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