Follow TV Tropes


Alternate History / Live-Action TV

Go To

  • Aside from the whole "aliens crashlanding on Earth" part of the story, apparently Puerto Rico is a US state and the ERA passed in Alien Nation.
  • Cavemen: Cavemen have survived into the present day and exist as a minority group alongside Homo sapiens.
  • Surprisingly, Doctor Who has only dabbled with this concept a handful of times. The Doctor has meddled (or stopped meddling) in history all throughout the show's run, but he has visited alternate history-tracks only twice, in "Inferno" and "Rise of the Cybermen / Age of Steel", while in "Turn Left" we get the alternate history of "What if the Doctor was not there to defend the Earth?" Needless to say, it was pretty ugly.
    • In Day of the Daleks, the the Third Doctor visits a future Earth which he then retrospectively turns into an alternate history. To elaborate, just after the Doctor left our time, World War III broke out, weakening Earth and enabling the Daleks to take over. The Doctor learns enough about how the war started to return to our time and prevent it from happening, thus erasing the Dalek-occupied future.
    • Advertisement:
    • In the Fourth-Doctor episode "Pyramids of Mars" Sarah Jane asks why they don't just leave to avoid getting killed since they know the Big Bad didn't destroy earth in the 19th century since she is from 20th century Earth. The Doctor explains that now that they are involved in events alternate histories are inevitable and "her" Earth may never exist if they don't stop the Big Bad. He even takes her to her "present" and shows her a blasted and sterile wasteland that will result if they don't go back and fix things.
    • The series is pretty much about alternate histories in practice, they are just super subtle about it. Over the years many incompatible histories and futures are shown from adventure to adventure. Showrunner Steven Moffat has outright SAID that continuity errors aren't continuity errors, we just haven't seen the episode where the Doctor's traveled back in time to change history.
    • Advertisement:
    • However these become a major plot point in the 8th Doctor's earliest stories in Big Finish Doctor Who. In "Invaders from Mars" there is a different number of U.S states and Orson Welles doesn't recognise Shakespeare. "Time of the Daleks" elaborates on what happened to Shakespeare, and in "Neverland" it is revealed that the Doctor saving Charley Pollard is causing the Universe to be infected by Anti-Time, which is destroying the Web of Time.
    • The Last of the Time Lords depicts a alternate 2008-2009 where the Master rules over Earth and Martha Jones becomes a legend while Walking the Earth. After the Paradox Machine holding the entire scenario in place is destroyed, time reverts itself back and everything that happened over the year is erased from history.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: The first episode shows the birth rate had plummeted in 2015 to catastrophic levels. While the US birth rate has fallen, it's still only slightly below replacement levels. (And in the real world, this is more due to societal changes where people choose to have children later, or not at all, rather than having pollution cause an epidemic of miscarriages and stillbirths, although the former was blamed as well.) This explains the "present day" being not far in the future after this.
  • Advertisement:
  • You have to look carefully but it's in the background of House of Cards (US). Walker, elected in 2012 replaced a Republican and is the 45th President of the United States. Also Frank starts the series as Majority Whip of the House of Representatives which, since he's a Democrat indicates that they didn't lose control in 2010.
  • House of Cards (UK) does something similar, with the events of the series kicking off after Margaret Thatcher resigns from office several years before she did in reality.
  • In JAG there really was a smoking gun connecting Saddam Hussein to Al-Qaeda, discovered by U.S. troops in one of Saddam's palaces, as seen in "Lawyers, Guns and Money". However this information appear to be classified (for some reason), because a year later Harm, Mac & Bud prepare their defense arguments before the International Criminal Court in "People v. SecNav" and Mac explicitly states that there is no smoking gun connecting Al-Qaeda to Saddam Hussein.
  • Korean drama The King 2 Hearts takes place in an alternate universe where modern day South Korea is a constitutional monarchy.
  • The Man in the High Castle is an adaptation of Philip K. Dick's seminal alternate history novel in which the Axis won World War II and have taken over the world. The USA is split between the German and Japanese empires, with a neutral zone in the Rocky Mountains separating the two superpowers.
  • Political Animals: Diverged sometime around in the '80s or at least 1992 at the latest. Bud Hammond's presidency seems to have replaced Bill Clinton's, and Hillary Clinton's turn as a Senator from New York seems to have been replaced by Elaine as Governor of Illinois.note  Also, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was was replaced by Diane Nash (who is the first openly lesbian Supreme Court Justice).
  • Power Rangers:
    • As pointed out in History of Power Rangers the Power Rangers franchise takes place in a universe where the Earth's Moon has a breathable atmosphere and apparently normal Earth gravity. It was also still being visited by astronauts until Rita Repulsa was freed by said astronauts.
    • Additionally, the city of Los Angeles was first settled by the British and is called Angel Grove, and a number of other cities have alternate names, indicating similar alternate histories; most prominently, Boston was named Corinth in Power Rangers RPM.
  • In the 2006 BBC adaptation of the short story "Random Quest" by John Wyndham, the Point of Divergence between Colin Trafford's universe and the Alternate Universe to which he is sent was the Berlin Wall never falling due to the fact that there was no glasnost and perestroika, which implies that Mikhail Gorbachev never became the leader of the Soviet Union. As a result, the Cold War continued to intensify until the United States and the Soviet Union's power dwindled and both were eclipsed by the People's Republic of China. In 2005, Japan discovered significant oil deposits in the South Pacific and its threatening behaviour towards the Philippines and Indonesia over the course of the last 18 months has placed it on the verge of war with the US. The UK is suffering a severe drought with reservoirs throughout Southeast England and Wales being dry for months. This leads to the declaration of a state of emergency. The Western world is experiencing a severe fertility crisis which is expected to worsen over the course of the next ten years. Consequently, the United Nations Security Council has lifted its ban on human cloning and the first viable human clone has been already been born to a couple in San Francisco. In contrast to the 1971 film adaptation Quest for Love, the space programme in the parallel universe is more advanced than in Colin's universe. There has already been a manned mission to Mars. In 2005, in a joint operation between NASA and the Chinese National Space Administration called the Juno mission, an unmanned Jupiter polar explorer was launched from Cape Canaveral. It took fifteen months to reach Jupiter.
  • Parodied in the 2012 Royal Canadian Air Farce special in a hilarious case of Russian Reversal. When the Soviets won the 1972 Summit Series against Canada, the Soviets then proceeded to conquer the country and turn it into Soviet Canuckistan for real. Canada now flies the hammer and sickle, eats at Vladimir Hortons (a parody of Tim Hortons), and hockey greats like Paul Henderson were forgotten. Fortunately, Paul Henderson himself wakes up from his nightmare.
  • Saturday Night Live parodied this. For some reason all the questions came from a ten-year old kid in New Jersey, starting with, "What if Eleanor Roosevelt could fly?"
  • The TV series Sliders used this as its entire premise. Every episode our heroes slide into a new alternate present.
    • An interesting episode has them slide into a world with technology decades (if not centuries) ahead of normal. This is due to World War II lasting several years longer than in our world, resulting in a different president being elected. So when Roswell That Ends Well came around, he made a decision to go public with the knowledge of aliens instead of covering it up. The resulting technological trade jump-started American progress, allowing for a manned mission to Mars to take place (apparently, the Reticulans were smart enough to not to give a primitive warlike race interstellar travel technology).
  • Star Trek:
    • The main Star Trek universe is already an alternate history compared to ours, with an incredibly devastating eugenic war taking place in the late '90s and at least 4 additional Voyager probes being launched by the end of the 20th century. Of course when Space Seed or Star Trek: The Motion Picture were shot, these points of divergence were still in the future.
    • The Mirror Universe repeatedly featured in various Star Trek media is strongly implied to be this, although the specifics of the point(s) of divergence have yet to be touched upon. At the very least, the history of the Terran Empire stretches back before the 20th century, so it would be a case of Alternate History even when it was introduced in Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • Stranger Things is a more subtle case than most, but it takes place in one where Project MKUltra actually produced successful results. That would eventually result in the creation of Hawkins National Laboratory for developing Psychic Powers-equipped Super Soldiers the United States would use against the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
  • The Supernatural Season 6 episode "My Heart Will Go On" takes place in the present of an alternate history in which the Titanic never sank. The timeline was created by Balthazar saving the ship to provide more souls to fight alongside Castiel, and also to stop Céline Dion's career from taking off.
  • Implied in 30 Rock. Events mirror the real world pretty closely (i.e. the Clinton, Bush and Obama presidencies), but there are some key differences, and the point of divergence appears to be around World War I. For instance, although the Austro-Hungarian Empire still fell, the Hapsburgs are apparently still in power as monarchs of both Austria and parts of what is modern Germany in our world, Transylvania is an independent country rather than part of a united Romania, and Kristen Chenowith was murdered in Yemen.
  • The West Wing, like House of Cards, has this in the background; the last real-life President who is identified is Richard Nixon, and the US election rotation is two years off from what it is in the actual world (i.e. President Bartlet was first elected in 1998 and ran for re-election in 2002, instead of 1996 and 2000 respectively).