Main Rubberband History Discussion

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12:54:19 AM Jan 12th 2016
edited by PaulA
Removed these examples from the examples list for the reasons listed.

1. Not clear whether it's an example: it begins with an alternate history, but does it end with ours?

  • Mathematicians in Love by Rudy Rucker (though it's always obvious that the starting world isn't our own; e.g., the university across the bay from San Francisco with all the hippies is called Humelocke, not Berkeley).

2. Definitely not an example: it starts with our history and ends with a different one.

  • The short story "Wikihistory" by Desmond Warzel reveals that history is vulnerable to the whims of, of all things, an amateur time traveling society embroiled in a massive, history-changing Edit War.

3. When an alternate history gradually converges with real history on its own, without the intervention of time travellers, that's In Spite of a Nail.

  • Philip Roth's The Plot Against America features a timeline in which Lindbergh becomes President in 1936, leading to a pro-Nazi America which oppresses Jews. However, by about 1946, world and US history alike are inexplicably back to the ones we know.

4. From the description I've read, this one doesn't end with the timeline being changed, it ends with the hero preventing the timeline being changed. How is that an example?

5. An episode that begins with the normal timeline, then has someone travel back in time and change something, then it gets changed back, is a different trope.

  • The 4400, "Gone": Maia and other child 4400s are abducted and sent to the past and create the technology for non-polluting cars, moon bases, and biodegradable plastics. Despite things being better, Diana and Tom manage to convince the abductors to undo their quite positive changes to reunite Maia and Diana, in return for a favor...
  • Eureka's Season 1 Finale essentially pulls a Donnie Darko-style plot, but over the course of four years instead of a couple of weeks. Considering how much the fabric of the universe hated the fact that one person's life had been saved, we can only imagine how bad the snap-back would have been if they'd killed Hitler instead.
  • In Stargate SG-1, after a hearty two-part alternate-history travel adventure, they come home to apparently their normal present. In a twist, however, now Jack's pond has fish in it when it's not supposed to. Jack declares the current universe is "close enough".
    • It's not "they come back to" so much as "the narrative goes back to". The two-parter began when the characters in the main timeline decided to go back in time to find a piece of valuable Applied Phlebotinum; historical records showed where it was in the past but by the present day it could have been anywhere in the galaxy. They succeeded, but at the cost of getting stuck back there and creating a very different alternate timeline Well, sort of very different. The alternate timeline's version of the heroes had to go back to restore the original timeline. All things considered, the series' true main characters only appeared in the first quarter of the two-part episode and the last five minutes.
      • Actually thinking about it, since seasons 1-8 are clearly in the 'no fish' timeline, the main characters of the show to that point died in Egypt and the last five minutes (and every episode or film in the 'verse since then) feature an entirely new, identical SG-1 as the protagonists.
  • One episode of Farscape has Crichton accidentally traveling to Earth in the 1980s, a result of which is his father now being slated to fly the Challenger's last mission. John and the crew of Moya eventually manage to get things right though, since as the alien "Einstein" had explained, history is literally like a rubber band and tends to snap back into place if enough things about the timeline are similar.
    • Subverted in another accidental time travel episode. After a long episode trying to help time right itself, they finally seem to have set things back on course. Only their presence in the timeline and the ensuing disruption it caused transformed a peaceful surrender into a horrible massacre.
  • Red Dwarf played this one for laughs in Tikka To Ride, involving the Oswald/Kennedy assassination. First time, the crew accidentally foils it and realizes they need to make it a stable time loop, so go through absurd lengths to try and get it back on track. After a few goes of it, they decide to skip to the future, only to find out that Kennedy has been impeached due to his numerous affairs, one of which with a woman that may have been a Soviet spy. They then convince the disgraced President to come with them and assassinate himself in order to avert the bad future.
    Lister: It'll drive the conspiracy nuts crazy - they'll never work it out!
  • Dog City: Baron goes back to the time the pilgrims purchased the new world from the natives and made a better offer: squeak toys. This created a Bad Future where he rules. Somehow, Ace and Eddie had Ripple Effect-Proof Memory and, after visiting a timeline where Eddie ruled, went back to the past and made an even better offer: a technologically advanced (even for present time standards) fire hydrant the heroes took from the Eddie-ruled timeline.

01:48:49 PM Feb 21st 2018
I put the Eureka example back in but worded it better. The original time travel didn't occur within the episode itself, but rather off screen prior to it. So the episode started with the characters already in the alternate future and unaware of it. Things got bad due to rubber banding and they learned what happened. So 1 went back in time to prevent the off screen change and retained his knowledge of the alternate timeline after setting wrong what once was made right.
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