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Time Travel Taboo

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Time travel is forbidden with a in-universe reason.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Tomodachi on Apr 8th 2017 at 11:58:33 AM
Last Edited By:
Tomodachi on Oct 2nd 2017 at 5:49:05 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Beerus: So this is a time machine, huh?
Whis: It certainly amazing but, to manipulate time and go in the past or future is a serious crime. Time is something that should flow in only one direction. If you go back to the past and change something, like, for example, picking a flower, it could greatly affect the established story. It could change entire cities or even an entire civilization. It might even result in an entire planet disappearing from the universe. Therefore, traveling through time so easily is strictly prohibited, even among the gods.

Say, wouldn't be a good idea to travel back in the past and fix something? Wait, according to the Time Police, the act of traveling in time is prohibited! You will go to Time jail!

This trope exists to provide an In-Universe explanation on why time traveling is forbidden. Maybe is to avoid a Butterfly of Doom scenario, the creation of an Alternate Universe, or to avoid the pain in the ass to question how things worked out and you became your own grandfather. Maybe time itself has a way to punish those who mess with time, by sending the Clock Roaches, or worse, messing with time will unleash them to destroy all of existence!

Related trope to Our Time Travel Is Different, Alternate Universe, Butterfly of Doom, Grandfather Paradox, and Time Police.


Examples

  • Dragon Ball Super
    • During both Dragon Ball Z: Revival of F and the arc that adapts it, Jaco explains to Bulma that time manipulation is illegal according to the Galactic Patrol. When Whis travels back in time, he turns a blind eye mostly because is pointless for him to say anything. Likewise, both he and the Galaxy King don't bat an eye when Hit's time abilities are shown in the Champa saga, mostly because it is also pointless.
    • After Future Trunks goes to the present to escape Goku Black, who has been destroying his home in the future, Whis states his surprise that Earthlings managed to create a time machine, but lso say that time traveling is a taboo to the gods for the Butterfly of Doom justification. Trunks was lucky Beerus was in a good mood and allowed the heroes to keep traveling in time to deal with the villain, who had a time ring. This trope is explored further with the Time Ring, a magical artifact that the Supreme Kais use to travel into the future to see how a civilization has evolved through time, and every time a new timeline is created, a new green Time Ring appears. In fact, one of the reasons Goku Black hypocritically proclaims he invaded Trunks's timeline was due to him sinning, by traveling in the past the first time and saving Goku from his heart disease.
      Goku Black: 'You've committed a sin far greater than me. Trunks, you're one of the reasons why I wished for the extinction of humanity, by rewriting the past, a new Time Ring was created. That itself is proof of your sin. How many times have you came back through time?
      Zamasu: We know that you continued committing a taboo among gods, despite being a mortal.'''.
    • After the Future Trunks saga is over, Bulma is trying to recreate another time machine despite Beerus warning her is forbidden. Without the presence of Goku Black in the future, he destroys the Time Machine once and for all, to Bulma misfortune.

  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: A series Ur-Example of the Time Travel Taboo involves the planet Gateway, from the episode City on the Edge of Forever. After the Federation was nearly wiped out by McCoy saving a 1930s woman who delayed the US' entry into World War II, the planet was placed under strict quarantine. Some non-canon licensed works upped the ante to the same death penalty used for Talos IV.
    • Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: These two concurrent series simultaneouslynote  introduced a the timeline current Department of Temporal Investigations and the future Temporal Prime Directive. The former is relatively flexible and informal, but it introduces a taboo to the series canon. The latter is enforced by 29th century officers who work to preserve the timeline, and will go so far as to eliminate people from history to do so.

  • In The Dresden Files, time travel is one of the acts forbidden by the laws of magic, with death as the penalty for a single transgression. The exact reason is not given, but presumably has to do with paradoxes or other problems.

Feedback: 19 replies

Apr 8th 2017 at 12:40:05 PM

I must say that I remember something about The Flash live action show saying something like this: that speedsters can't travel back in time, or else they will face the consequences of time guardians or something.

Apr 8th 2017 at 4:28:42 PM

  • Star Trek: A series Ur example of the Time Travel Taboo involves the planet Gateway, from the episode City on the Edge of Forever. After the Federation was nearly wiped out by McCoy saving a 1930s woman who delayed the US' entry into World War II, the planet was placed under strict quarantine. Some non-canon licensed works upped the ante to the same death penalty used for Talos IV.
  • Star Trek Voyager and Star Trek Deep Space Nine: These two concurrent series simultaneouslynote  introduced a the timeline current Department of Temporal Investigations and the future Temporal Prime Directive. The former is relatively flexible and informal, but it introduces a taboo to the series canon. The latter is enforced by 29th century officers who work to preserve the timeline, and will go so far as to eliminate people from history to do so.

Apr 8th 2017 at 4:59:09 PM

In The Dresden Files, time travel is one of the acts forbidden by the laws of magic, with death as the penalty for a single transgression. The exact reason is not given, but presumably has to do with paradoxes or other problems.

Apr 8th 2017 at 9:38:48 PM

Another variant is that time traveling is not forbidden, but doing any change to the timeline is.

By the way, the trope is Butterfly Of Doom, not For Want Of A Nail.

Apr 8th 2017 at 10:40:15 PM

It could be both cases.

Apr 9th 2017 at 12:21:32 AM

I think it's a bit vague for being a trope. A trope is a storytelling device, but "time travel is forbidden" is just something that happens. So I think it needs to be fleshed out with what role this plays in the story. For example, does it stop the heroes from saving the world, so they have to work around it, or is this the explanation for us not seeing time travellers from the future around us?

There's also a difference between different reasons for the ban - is it considered dangerous? Extravagant? Against religion?

I also have a nitpick with the name (but, yes, I realize it's a neat alliteration): if there's a reason given, then it's not really a taboo. A taboo is typically something that's forbidden just because it's forbidden.

Apr 9th 2017 at 1:19:23 PM

^ Don't taboos usually have reasons (whatever flimsy it is) IRL?

Apr 9th 2017 at 3:05:36 PM

I used the word Taboo since Dragon Ball Super used the word quite a few times for Time traveling. Besides, alliteration. We don't need to be that specific :/

Apr 9th 2017 at 4:21:22 PM

Maybe note that in Dresden Files all seven of the Laws of Magic constitute capital offenses and the others are: murder, forcible transformation, mind-reading, mind control, necromancy, and summoning Eldritch Abominations.

Apr 9th 2017 at 6:28:57 PM

^^ Dat "new TLP draft inspired on a single example" syndrome. *chugs*

Speaking of which... I dunno, if time travel is forbidden then why could there be a Time Police lol.

Apr 9th 2017 at 9:24:07 PM

Because the time police makes sure evildoers don't change time, or like Time Squad said, Time changes through unexplained reason.

Apr 9th 2017 at 11:59:49 PM

Corrected a lot of English errors in the Dragon Ball Super examples.

Apr 10th 2017 at 12:18:50 PM

So is it like a for of handwave?

Apr 10th 2017 at 4:30:38 PM

Is an In-Story justification: Time travel is illegal says the either the time police or the God, with a reason ( Butterfly Of Doom or avoiding creating alternative timelines)

Apr 11th 2017 at 6:35:32 AM

What's wrong with the word "taboo"? It's actually quite broad, and covers both weak and strong enforcement.

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