Rose: Why does [K-9] look so disco?A work is a sequel or prequel to a work that is outdated in one way or another but subsequent works have to keep the setting. Why? Because it's canonical. One way of working around this is to set the story in an Alternate History. A franchise needs to be long established to fit this trope. If a show portrays a world that seems out-of-date even when it's new, it's in a Retro Universe. See also: Zeerust, The Great Politics Mess-Up, Cosmetically Advanced Prequel, Two Decades Behind, The Aesthetics of Technology. And Retcon, for when this trope is averted.
Doctor: Oi! Listen, in the year 5000, this was cutting edge!
Doctor: Oi! Listen, in the year 5000, this was cutting edge!
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- In Fist of the North Star, which was originally published in Weekly Shonen Jump during the 1980s, the war which destroyed the world took place in 199X and the term Seikimatsu ("End of the Century") is used to refer to the era the story takes place. Many spin-offs, remakes and video game adaptations have been produced in the years since the original manga ended way into the 21st century. The nuclear holocaust still took place in 199X in all of these spin-offs and Kenshiro and Raoh still retain their titles as the "Savior/Conqueror of Century's End", respectively. The English localization of the Ken's Rage games downplays the original setting by having all references to Seikimatsu translated as "Post-Apocalyptic" or "near future" depending on the context.
- Macross Zero. Super Dimension Fortress Macross, released in the early 1980s, had a unification war at the start of the 21st century. Comes the 21st century and Macross is still a franchise... let's use the war during the show anyway. On an even more fundamental level, the Macross landed on Earth in the far off, distant year of 1999. The Earth was scoured with Zentradi fire in even further-off year of 2010. The landing of the Macross is the prime divergence point because its arrival (and the realization that there were potentially hostile aliens out there) is what started the Unification Wars, a point which can catch new viewers out because in Robotech it was what ended the Unification Wars.
- In an early Judge Dredd strip, the Twin Towers are destroyed by a perp. Of course, this can no longer happen. The closing of the New York city subways in the 1990s in universe also can no longer happen, as is also the case for Michael Jackson cryogenically freezing himself in 1987 and the discovery of Hestia in 2009.
- Savage was originally published in 1977, taking place in 1999. When the events of Invasion obviously didn't come to pass, it was Retconned as taking place in an Alternate History.
Films — Live-Action
- The Star Wars prequels are supposed to take place before the original films, which feature varying levels of Seventies and Eighties Zeerust. Lucas rather cleverly got around this by incorporating some elements of even older Raygun Gothic styles into the technology of the prequels; the uber-shiny ships on Naboo come to mind. This was to reflect the better overall quality of life in the Republic era; by Revenge of the Sith, much of the Used Future look from the original trilogy was back in place, representing the transition to Empire. This continues into The Force Awakens, which takes place 30 years after the events of the original trilogy and keeps many of the same motifs in terms of environments, costumes, weapons and vehicle design.
- Star Trek uses Broad Strokes and an Alternate Timeline to try to walk the line between maintaining the look of the original series, including some very '60s elements like the female uniform of a miniskirt with go-go-boots, and making it look futuristic to a 2009 audience. Interestingly, this is completely averted by the original film series, which made no attempt whatsoever to retain design elements from previous films or the TV series, if they thought they had a better visualization. Explained in-universe by the Enterprise, at that point one of the oldest active ships in the fleet, having undergone a refit to stay up to date. Surprisingly averted, however, with the USS Kelvin which looks ridiculously more advanced than the TOS Enterprise even though it's older.
- The iconic Jurassic Park dinosaurs have managed to endure the series despite the fact that many of them probably look nothing like the real thing. For example, Velociraptors were shown as featherless and as big as Utahraptors, but Science Marches On and now we know that they were fully feathered (and smaller, but they knew this when they made Jurassic Park). In the original book, Dr. Wu makes a point of saying the InGen scientists were never even trying for realism in the first place, an explanation repurposed for Jurassic World to justify the continued inaccuracies.
- In Mad Max: Fury Road, most of the vehicles are based on pre-1979 models, in keeping with the original trilogy. Justified in that They Don't Make Them Like They Used To — these models can stand up to the harsh desert conditions better than modern computerized vehicles, so even if later models ever existed, the older ones are the only working cars left.
- The Terminator series originally had Judgment Day in 1997. Following media changed it to 2004\5 (third\fourth movies) or 2011 (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), and the evil machines had new technologies assimilated to their backstories (Skynet spreads itself online) while retaining old touches (the Robo Cam still has old-school computer code). Then Terminator Genisys enforces this further by reverting Judgement Day to 1997... until an Alternate Timeline is created where it's on 2017. And the characters arrive there, 2 years after the film's release but very much like the real life 2015.
- The Michael Radford film adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four retains the late 1940's tech such as pneumatic tubes, in order to show how the totalitarian dictatorship of Ingsoc has stifled development and creativity.
- Robert A. Heinlein wrote stories in a "Future History"; the first one came out in 1939. He ended up including typical sci-fi speculations such as moving pedestrian walkways by the 1960s and moon bases by 1999. Eventually this was shown in The Number of the Beast to be an alternate time line, where the list of presidents was "Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy". The novel also introduced a more elegant way to track parallel universes: apparently the person who first lands on the moon is always different. We live in the Armstrong universe; most of Heinlein's Future History takes place in the LeCroix universe, after Leslie LeCroix's landing there in the novella The Man Who Sold the Moon.
- Perry Rhodan, having started in the sixties, is a natural offender. When the material was cleaned up for re-publishing in book form, many elements were toned down (e.g. the Black and White Morality). However, on one book, the editor noted that he "just had to keep the pneumatic tube post, since it's a too silly idea to remove".
- The original Dream Park was just asking for this trope when its future history included a massive earthquake that leveled much of California in 1985, a mere four years after its publication. The sequels initially retconned this event to 1995, then abandoned all pretense to let the series become Alternate History.
- Doctor Who and its Expanded Universe, which began way back in 1963, has a fair bit of Zeerust in its past but skirts round mention of failed predictions through its use of Broad Strokes continuity, aside from the odd Mythology Gag.
- Additionally, many of its "future" stories avoid this by either not mentioning a date at all or explicitly setting stories centuries or millenia into the future — all the pre-1989 stories which explicitly claim to be set in the 20th or 21st century are from the 1960s. The 21st-century show started setting themselves up for this by doing things like explicitly dating "The Waters of Mars" (which is about gruesome events occurring on the first permanently-crewed human base on Mars) to 2059.
- As an example, the 1966 story "The Tenth Planet" was set in 1986, by which time the UN has an International Space Command with a base at the South Pole and Cybermen invade the Earth in a big way. (No prior story had taken place in the future so close in time to the present day.) The 1985 story "Attack of the Cybermen" managed to function as a sequel to this story without really delving into the way that Who history and real history diverged. The Backstory of the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Iceberg, set in 2006 (though published in the 1990s), though, had the advanced tech and proactive UN as the logical follow-on from the "UNIT era" (whenever that was...)
- The Doctor's now-former Robot Buddy K-9, first appeared in "The Invisible Enemy" , which aired in 1977. Since then, at least in the parent show and The Sarah Jane Adventures, he has not undergone a redesign, so that his design aesthetic (at least in the parent show) remains unchanged. When K-9 re-appeared in "School Reunion" (2006), Present Day characters made note of his dated appearance.
- The Star Trek prequel Enterprise took place before the original Star Trek. In the mirror universe episode, the Campy Zeerusty TOS era ship Defiant is sent "back" and everyone still marvels at how futuristic it is.
- Star Trek also goes back and forth on this in regards to the Eugenics Wars. In the original series it was said to be a massive worldwide conflict that took place in the 1990s. One episode of Voyager has them time travel back to 1990s California with no apparent war. However, canonicity nevertheless goes with the 1990s, with at least one semi-canonical novel claiming the Wars were clandestine happenings underlying the publicly known events of the 1990s. And then Enterprise had one of the characters mention that his great-grandfather participated in a battle against Augment forces in North Africa, while another episode reinforced the 'entire populations were bombed out of existence' story TOS had gone with. A prequel comic to Star Trek Into Darkness (which would be making claims about events in the original Trek timeline, since the divergence point to the later films' alternate timeline is much later than the 1990s) claimed that the Eugenics Wars did take place openly in the 1990s, but were shorter and less devastating than earlier canon claimed.
- When Red Dwarf was revived in 2009, the crew travels back to our time and discovers DVDs, even though they'd been using videos in the original series. We then discover that videos made a comeback because people kept losing DVDs.
- The Metal Gear series is probably the kings of this trope, given its constant focus on the world of "tactical espionage" and each game that's not a prequel takes place 20 Minutes into the Future.
- Subverted by the original Metal Gear, which was released in 1987, but originally took in the unspecific year of 19XX (it was only established to take place in 1995 in the sequels). The game for the most part manages to avoid referencing actual nations and organizations, aside for the backstories of the enemy bosses, who are all veterans formerly affiliated with various special forces.
- Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, which was released in 1990 and takes place in 1999, references the Soviet Union and the StB (Czechoslovakian Secret Police) still being around. One character, a Czechoslovakian woman named Natasha, even compares her doomed romance with an American soldier (Frank) with the Berlin Wall (which was destroyed the same year the game came out). The plot summary of the game that was included in Metal Gear Solid attempted to reconcile some of these outdated inconsistencies by claiming that the army Zanzibarland fought for their independence was not the USSR, but the CIS, and by making Natasha (who herself was later renamed "Gustava" in re-releases of the game) into a former StB agent.
- Metal Gear Solid came out in 1998, but the game itself takes place in 2005 (six years after Metal Gear 2), and has such glaringly outdated things such as the use of the term "Japanimation" instead of anime.
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty came out in 2001 and took place in 2007 and 2009. The demo version that came with the original Zone of the Enders even had the Twin Towers in the background, which was almost kept in the final game until the unfortunate timing of the 9/11 attacks. Said unfortunate event happened two days before the game was scheduled to go gold. Needless to say, the development team went into panicked work mode to avoid falling into this trope before their game was released.
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots came out in 2008 after the events of Metal Gear Solid, and the first half of Metal Gear Solid 2 had already passed. This also overlaps significantly with the Ruritanian Setting of the first two games, with fictional countries like Outer Heaven, and Zanzibarland. And, since the game takes place in 2014, in real life, business for PMCs is actually on the decline.
- Back to the Future runs into this with the 2011 Point-and-Click video game. The final episode includes both Xbox 360 headsets (from the Real Life 2000s) and the Mattel Hoverboard (from the second film's 2015).
- When creating Alien: Isolation, Creative Assembly deliberately filled the setting with the same sort of '70s and '80s computer technology that had been seen in the films for this reason. It extends to every facet of the game's style, including the in-universe advertising, magazines, signs, and fashion, creating a sci-fi world where the '70s never truly ended.
- Wasteland 2 deliberately keeps the first game's vision of the future from 1988, despite coming out in 2014: computers are huge white blocks with comparatively small green and black monitors. The icon for the computer skill is a 5.25'' floppy. You even find random '80s crap like Rubik's cubes as Vendor Trash.