"DO NOT MESS WITH TIME."
— Note from Harry's Future Self, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
In many time travel shows, the time machine is generally safe to operate, and the machinery itself is safe. However, not all time machines are like that. Some could get downright dangerous to use, because trivial mistakes in any time of time machine operation could get time travelers dead. Worse, the world or more could get destroyed by the time machine itself. There can be many reasons on why the time machine itself is dangerous. What if the time machine overlaps matter on its arrival? What if what powers the time machine itself is dangerous, due to various reasons from radioactivity, instability, or just sheer amounts of power necessary? Or, what if some of the time machine's physics requirements are dangerous? Or what if the time traveler is likely to end up someplace unsafe, like anywhere but the surface of the earth? Now, not all time-related dangers are related to time machines. There are also many forms of time dangers, such as those caused by difference in time's flow. For example if there was a bubble of space where time is running 20 times faster, and you stick your hand in it, your hand will get 1/20 as much blood and therefore will start to die! Not to mention all the blood that was in your hand at first quickly accumulating in your wrist. You could lose your hand in a short time. Temporal Paradox is a sub-trope to this. Compare Time Crash, Hyperspace Is a Scary Place.
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- Played for Laughs in a 2013 commercial for British "pay day loan" company QuickQuid. It features a time machine that customers can use to bring back their money from the future. Their tester comes back from the future with a wad of bills, but as an old man, and the company decides to just offer easy loans instead.
Anime & Manga
- In Doraemon, Time Travel is achieved by going through a tunnel-like space on your Time Machine. Should one get knocked out of the machine and into the tunnel, one will be stranded in time. The problem is, Doraemon's time machine is basically just some futuristic devices bolted to a tatami, so the risk of being thrown overboard is always there. Dorami's is safe, because it's a flower-shaped capsule. Have we mentioned that some bad guys have their own time machine, so you can have a chase in time while you chase in time?
- In Marvel, a series of time travel disasters has caused a Time Crash that has snapped Rubber-Band History. This means any time traveler can permanently change history of the mainstream universe without worrying about causality. The Hulk is tasked with going through time to fix it since a normal man whose suit failed ended up with different parts of his body aged to different years ranging from 90 to 2 weeks old.
- In a strip from Calvin and Hobbes, the dangers of using a cardboard time machine are discussed.
Hobbes: Why do we have to wear goggles?
Calvin: Geez, do you think traveling years into the future is like driving down the street?! We've got to contend with vortexes and light speeds! Anything could go wrong! Of course we have to wear goggles!
Hobbes: Gosh, I think my goggles are in the bedroom. If I'm not back in a couple minutes, you can go without me.
Films — Live-Action
- Timecop, as explained in the description, requires extremely high speed when they pass through the time travel field. There was one failure that just left two red spots on a heavy steel wall. That said, that's more No OSHA Compliance: After all, they could make the track twice as long to allow safe deceleration on failure... Or make the track a centrifuge, so it'd be trivial to make a second pass at higher acceleration... like one illegal time traveler did in one of the books.
- Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision: As opposed to the launch pad from the first film, here they use a different method of travel which can cause the time traveler to disintegrate upon departure, which is increasingly more probable if the same person goes through it repeatedly within a short period of time (from his/her point of view).
- In Back to the Future, the DeLorean has to be traveling at 88 miles per hour. Which means that unless you know what's going to be in front of you in the time period you're heading to, you're going to crash. By the third movie, Doc seems to be acknowledging this. Marty's a little less sure, but both times Doc assures him that the obstacle he's seeing in the present won't be there in the destination time. Or that something that isn't there in the present will be there in the future, (like the rest of the bridge.)
- In Primer excessive time travel causes strange physical problems in the protagonists: mysterious bleeding from their ears and deterioration of their handwriting. Word of God is that this is also a case of Clone Degeneration.
- In the 2002 film version of The Time Machine, the titular device creates a spherical bubble to protect the occupant. Reach outside, that protection no longer applies. The main character hurts his hand when he instinctively grabs at an item he dropped. A Morlock wrestling with him on the machine ends up hanging outside the bubble, aging into dust. Logically, any attempt to reach outside the bubble should have violently scattered their atoms across dozens of years of history, but the Rapid Aging looked cooler, presumably.
- The directors cut of The Butterfly Effect reveals that Evan suffers minor brain damage every time he majorly changes the past, resulting in severe migraines and nosebleeds as he gets the extra memories (often 20 years worth) burnt onto his existing ones. On the other hand, he's Genre Savvy enough to realise that repeated time travel might ultimately kill him, causing him to intentionally think through what he wants to change before each trip.
- The film version of Lost in Space had Will's time machine slowly rip apart the planet due to the radiation it emitted.
- In one of Larry Niven's Gil "The ARM" stories, the time compressor invention was used to hide a murder. First, a witness was murdered in an impossible way - his head burnt to ash by a flashlight from inside time compression sphere. The light come out hundreds of times stronger and literally burned the victim alive. Then another witness lost her arm poking the compressor, as she stuck her arm into an area where time moved faster - and deprived it of blood for several minutes. In the final arrest, the murderer was stuck inside the bubble and the cop was outside holding on to him by his legs. Unfortunately, the compression of time affected the killer in such a way that he died by thirst. Yes, the cop literally held the killer until he died of thirst. The effects of double time compression (One inside another) were discussed, and one of effects is that light speed inside the time compression sphere would be just a few feet per second. It means if a punch was thrown, the arm would get shorter!
- In The Time Ships, the time traveling jeep was blown to pieces by intersection with a reverse growing tree while they were traveling backwards with expiring fuel. Lucky, the time travelers survived.
- One of Michael Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time short stories has a time traveller trying to warn her era about the future, only to find that time itself won't let her. The harder she tries the more her time machine overheats, but she refuses to give up and dies in agony.
- In the novel Timeline, travel is accomplished by copying the information required to rebuild a perfect copy (at the atomic level) of the traveler and beaming this information into the past. Errors in copying are possible (in fact, inevitable if the machine isn't properly shielded) leading to Clone Degeneration. The beginning of the film version, the dead scientist's body scan revealed that part of his body appear to be slightly shifted from their normal place.
- In the short-short story "The Man from When" by Danny Plachta a time-traveller arrives from the future and states that his departure caused such an expenditure of energy that it completely wiped out the Earth of his time. He then reveals that he has travelled back all of eighteen minutes.
- In Kevin O'Donnell's story "Gift of Prometheus" a malfunctioning time bracelet freezes its wearer outside of time and space with a bullet in his gut, unable to do anything but suffer and wonder if it will last forever.
- The Diving Universe: Stealth tech creates bubbles of altered time, which are usually fatal to anyone unfortunate enough to stumble into them.
- In the Magic: The Gathering novel Time Streams, a lab explosion results in areas where the passage of time is slowed down or sped up; blindly stumbling into these areas from the outside is usually a cheap ticket to a messy death. Several students are caught in an area of extreme slow time, where decades later they're still living out the initial seconds after the explosion. Passage into and out of these desynchronized areas is eventually developed, allowing research to skip ahead at a prodigious pace.
- In Strange Attractors by William Sleator, the creation of a Crapsack World Alternate Universe is almost the only outcome that could come of sending anything (much less a person) into the past.
- In the Hostile Takeover (Swann) series, going the wrong way through a wormhole takes you back in time. The entrances of wormholes are heavily guarded, though, and anyone coming through is shot. Also, because of the butterfly effect, you're in a new timeline, which will never become the exact future you came from.
- This becomes the whole point from the second book of the saga written by the Spaniard writer JJ Benitez' El Caballo de Troya: Due to an unseen side effect due to time travel, both protagonists will invariably die, since they will start to age quickly than usual as their genes were affected due to time travel.
- Timecop: In "The Future, Jack, the Future", the protagonist and his temporary partner (played by Bruce Campbell) find a mothballed time travel lab in the past. They find an early version of the pod still using rocket boosters instead of the so-called "timecop propulsion". When Bruce Campbell asks what happened if the speed wasn't high enough, the protagonist pointed him towards the blackened wall at the end of the track.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Timescape", Picard is injured when he sticks his hand across the edge of a "time bubble", which causes his fingernails to age faster than his arm. Later, he experiences symptoms of "temporal narcosis" due to a malfunction of the equipment protecting him from being frozen in time. Ironically, its mentioned that taking the "armband" off would merely freeze someone in that timeframe with no ill-effects from the rapid transition from one to the other. Time is funny like that. Or because that particular time bubble was an extreme slowdown while the one encountered earlier that harmed Picard's hand was an extreme speed up. It would make sense that taking off the armband would move you into that time reference. Meaning if you took off your arm band in an extreme speed up it would age you into dust, while taking it off inside a slow down would well... slow you down
- Star Trek: Voyager:
Annorax: When I tell that Time has moods, a disposition to be intuited, I'm not speaking metaphorically.
- In "Blink of an Eye", an astronaut from a planet were time operates in a faster rate than the regular universe, ends up dying during the transition to the timeframe on Voyager, while the other one barely survives.
- In "Year of Hell", Mad Scientist Annorax invents a temporal weapon to restore his race to supremacy, only to inadvertently wipe his wife from existence. He's spent hundreds of years trying to master the art of time manipulation to correct his mistake.
Chakotay: What do you mean?
Annorax: Anger is one of it's moods. Anger and the desire for retribution, vengeance. Time itself has tried to punish me for my arrogance. It has kept me from my wife, denied me my future.
- In "Shattered", Chakotay ends up in a temporal anomaly that results in various parts of his body having different ages. The Doctor manages to stabilize him. Apparently, they covered this at the Starfleet Medical Academy.
- The Outer Limits (1995):
- In "A Stitch In Time", the result of Ripple Effect-Proof Memory is that an entirely new lifetime's worth of memories gets added onto the existing one, which could result in brain damage.
- The episode "Breaking Point" had a time traveller end up a few days in the future to see his wife dying from a gunshot wound. He goes back and tries to prevent it. However, the side effect of the trip is physical and mental degradation. By the end, his wife has had enough and decides to leave him. In a deranged state, he ends up shooting her. Seems to be a case of You Already Changed the Past, doesn't it? Then the episode does a 180 on this idea and has the guy go back to the night he first met his wife and shoot his younger self, himself turning to dust. Of course, the worst part is that she was planning on killing herself that day.
- Seven Days. There are so many things wrong with the Sphere. First of all, while it's very accurate in time travel, landing it where you want to be requires precise piloting. Second, Our Time Travel Is really painful. Third, well, go to the page and check out the list of Phlebotinum Breakdowns the machine suffered. That's probably not even the full list!
- Sanctuary: A time bubble allows people to enter, but violently destroys anything attempting to leave. Time inside the bubble runs six years to each day outside, resulting in three-year periods of no sunlight. Naturally, this is not good for a self-contained ecosystem. Furthermore, if the bubble had expanded too far, the time differential between the different parts of the Earth would have destroyed the planet. Will and Magnus manage to reverse it, but at the cost of ret-goning everyone born inside the bubble.
- Sapphire and Steel: Time is outside the (metaphorical) safe corridor in which human life and history exist, and it is constantly trying to exploit weak spots in the corridor walls and break in. This, when it happens, is not a good thing. Time is the enemy.
- Achron: You can Chronoport your units back in time. It's like teleporting, but for time instead of space. You just need to make sure the arrival point isn't occupied by anything. Like, say, your unit's past self.
- Final Fantasy XIII-2: Resolving paradoxes and fixing the timeline forces the seeress (Yeul) to see all of the changes caused, up and down the timeline. This happens to shorten her lifespan a little every time, the symptoms progressing from collapsing, to falling unconscious to (ultimately) dying. Serah happens to have the same powers. It makes for a depressing ending.
- In Earthbound, the Phase Distorter 3 destroys living things when it travels, requiring the party to have their minds uploaded into robotic bodies before they can use it.
- It also turns out that the original Phase Distorter prototype wasn't exactly safe, either, as MOTHER 3 shows that Porky Minch was eventually given Age Without Youth from abusing it.
- Life Is Strange: The game goes to great lengths to stress the dangers of having time-manipulation powers:
- Max's powers are immediately shown to be very taxing to use. If one tries to rewind too far, she complains that she feels sick and the screen disintegrates in the style of celluloid burning until you stop.
- Max starts getting nosebleeds and migraines in Episode 2.
- Near the end of Episode 2, Max also manages to freeze time entirely, but the fallout from this incident leaves her unable to use her powers for several hours, and she expresses fear of becoming stuck in time in the following episode.
- After creating a timeline where she is a member of the Vortex Club, William Price is alive and Chloe is in a terminal condition from a spinal injury, Max decides that her ability to alter history using photographs is far too dangerous because the Butterfly Effect is in full force.
- In Episode 5, Max suffers several nosebleeds from altering history from within history itself, which at one point leaves her 'between realities'.
- A Mindmistress story explores some dangers of time flow differences. Among other dangers, it's very unwise to hit anything hard while sped up. Being trapped in high speed was not too healthy for someone, as she died by age in short real time.
- Real Life Comics: One strip touches this subject with a discussion after a time bubble was used to rapidly age mead 6 months.
- In Homestuck, any time-travel that doesn't end in a Stable Time Loop results in the swift death of the time-traveler, as the universe actively destroys all timelines that branch off from the main one.
- In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Time Out of Joint", Clock King uses a time-altering device to trap Batman and Robin in a "bubble" of slowed time, where seconds for them pass as hours on the outside. Batman points out that objects "outside" the bubble are moving relatively at tens of thousands of miles an hour while they are comparatively "standing still". Meaning there will be an enormous (think asteroid impact or nuclear weapon) explosion if anything collides with them in their "frozen" state. Fortunately Batman defuses the trap before it can happen. Fridge Logic suggests that everybody outside the bubble just saw the Batmobile parked in the middle of the highway for a full day (or however long they were trapped), with the dynamic duo sitting nearly motionless inside. It's a good thing nobody tried to knock on the window to see if they were ok.
- The final episode of Futurama deals with the Professor inventing a literal Reset Button that rewinds time by ten seconds, affecting anyone who isn't in the button's radius or in the Professor's special shelter. When someone or something leaves the shelter and the button is used immediately afterwards, the something or someone is disintegrated. This happens to both a ten dollar bill the Professor scams Zoidberg out of using the button, and the Professor himself, though he manages to undisintegrate himself later on. And when Fry accidentally breaks the button by stepping in it, it freezes time for everyone and everything except him and Leela, who were both in the button's radius at the time.
- In the Justice League episode "The Once and Future Thing: Weird Western Tales", Chronos breaks into a storage locker on the Watchtower by locally speeding up time so that a section of the door ages and disintegrates in a few seconds.