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Fish Out Of Temporal Water / Live-Action TV

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People out of their temporal comfort zone in live-action TV.


  • The early episodes of The 4400 deal with the adaptation of the abductees to life in the early 21st century. An African-American man from the 1950s discovers that Jim Crow is no longer around, but restaurants are now non-smoking.
  • Adam Adamant Lives! was an early TV example of this trope. A swashbuckling Edwardian gentleman (the eponymous Adam) was frozen in 1902 and escaped in 1966. The show apparently inspired Jon Pertwee's portrayal of the better-known contemporary TV time-travelling hero, The Doctor.
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  • In American Horror Story: Coven, Delphine LaLaurie is dug up after spending over 150 years buried underground. She discovers - to her horror - that not only is slavery illegal, but racism is no longer tolerated and a black man (Barack Obama) is President.
  • Angel:
    • Angel was born in the 1720s, so in one episode where all the characters lose their memories and think they're still teenagers, he becomes confused by modern technology. At one point, when he ventures outside and sees cars, he runs back inside and declares that there are hundreds of demons. When asked to describe what they looked like, he says, "Shiny." Also, one point, when Cordelia turns off the radio, he says, "How did you stop the tiny men from singing?"
    • Holtz is brought forward from the 1800s by a demon. This demon explains some things to him, and encourages him to focus on how while technology might be very different, by and large humans themselves are unchanged from his time. His obsessive focus on destroying Angel lets him shrug off most of the culture shock — one of the few questions he asks is how, with all the new weapons they've created since his time, no one has killed Angelus yet. A reasonable enough question given how well the Judge fared against modern weaponry.
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    • The Groosalugg upon following Cordy to Los Angeles.
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. As the result of an accident during a space mission in 1987, Buck Rogers becomes a Human Popsicle for 504 years and thaws out (due to Harmless Freezing) in the title time period.
  • Catweazle was an early 70s British show about a 10th century wizard who tries to cast a spell of flight to escape a group of Norman soldiers, but ends up in 1970 instead. There he encounters such strange wonders like 'electrickery' (electricity), 'tiny suns' (light bulbs) and 'telling bones' (telephones).
  • Continuum is about a police officer and a group of terrorists she was escorting to prison from 2077 sent back to 2012.
  • Dark Matter: The crew of the Raza have trouble adjusting to 21st century Earth, and expect for the Android are pretty ignorant of contemporary life (Six even wonders if there are flush toilets). In particular the Android stands out due to her odd syntax. It takes almost no time until some kids follow them to the Marauder and find out they're not who they say.
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  • Dark Shadows: Victoria Winters switches places with an 18th century governess, who was wrongfully convicted of being a witch and hung in 1795, during a séance. Vicky almost suffers the same fate, but the accusations against her are sparked from her arriving in 1795 as is, wearing her modern clothing and a "charm" bracelet and her inability to keep quiet about future events in a vain attempt to prevent them from happening. She is eventually convicted and sentenced to hang, but the hanging is what sends her back to the present day.
  • Dead Gorgeous is about three sisters who died in an accident in 1860. They are allowed to return to earth 150 years later, in 2010. Needless to say, they have some problems adjusting.
  • Doctor Who revolves around travelling through time and space in a blue box, so every companion, especially the ones from Earth, are subject to this. Generally, they don't stay around for long.
    • Since the classic series originated as a way to teach children history, some of the early companions are from earlier periods in Earth's history — for example, on 18th-century Scotsman Jamie's first few TARDIS trips he insists that an image can't be of the moon since the moon's in the sky, and, upon seeing a Cyberman, believes it to be a ghost and a portent of his death. Also, he's terrified of airplanes. Victorian girl Victoria adapts much more easily, only worrying about her clothes.
    • The most extreme case would have to be the short-lived First Doctor companion Katarina. She was born in ancient Troy and, as a result, was convinced the Doctor was a god and referred to the TARDIS as his temple. One reason she accepted the wonders of TARDIS travel so easily was because she believed she was already dead and en route to paradise. Sadly she died in a Heroic Sacrifice before she had a chance to really acclimate to the lifestyle.
    • In "The Awakening", Will is not, as the Doctor thought, a psychic projection, but was actually brought forward in time from the English Civil War. Fortunately the Doctor will bring him back.
    • Poor Richard from "Silver Nemesis" starts off as a rather sinister henchman for a seventeenth century witch, but one journey three hundred years into the future sees him reduced to a rather pitiful nervous wreck terrified by absolutely everything he comes across. By the end, he's just so happy to discover that the Doctor can take him home that he resolves to completely change his ways.
    • "Bad Wolf": Rose gets hit with this trope hard when she winds up on a killer version of The Weakest Link in the year 200,100. Since she's from the 21st century, she comes off to the locals as a very Dumb Blonde who gets most of the questions (except for ones about basic vocabulary and math) very wrong, because they're about an era that from her perspective hasn't happened yet. She gets one about the Face of Boe correct because she met him in a previous episode, but that's about it. The only reason she lasts to the final round is because another contestant votes to keep her in because he figures that since she's "stupid", he'll have an easy time winning if he's against her in the final round.
    • In "Blink", the Weeping Angels feed on the potential energy of humans, hurtling them back through time and eating off the life they could have had. Cathy Nightingale is sent to 1920, while Billy Shipton is thrown into 1969.
    • In "The Pandorica Opens", Rory Williams, based in 2010 and last seen in 2020 spends months as a Roman centurion, fitted with false memories of a soldier as well as that of Rory himself, being a duplicate created by the Nestene. He then spends the next two thousand years guarding the Pandorica with Amy inside. Though when the timeline gets closer to his native time he ditches the Centurion outfit and simply gets a job as a security guard.
    • At the end of "The Angels Take Manhattan", Rory is sent into the past by a Weeping Angel. Since the Doctor can't rescue him without ripping the space/time fabric in New York, Amy chooses to get touched by the Angel in order to be with her husband. River, who is able to visit her parents, confirms that they found one another and lived out their lives happily.
  • An episode of Earth: Final Conflict had an Atavus female and a Medieval English monk (who was hunting her) appear in the 20 Minutes into the Future world of EFC. He is initially put off by Renee Palmer, as he expects women to be docile and subservient. After learning her name, he simply assumes she's French and leaves it at that, although he does ask if she's a courtesan or a harlot, given the way she dresses and acts, not understanding why she feels insulted by the question. Interestingly, no one seems to pay attention to a man walking around wearing a monk's cowl.
    • Justified; there are still traditional orders of monks who wear the full habit and cowl, although they aren't as common as they once were. Medieval English personal hygiene (or the lack thereof) would however draw significantly more notice.
  • Fantasy Island often sent guests back in time to interact with historical figures. Other times characters such as Don Juan, King Arthur, and Jack the Ripper ended up in the 70s.
  • The Flash (2014): In season 5, Nora (Barry and Iris' daughter from the future) joins the main cast, and goes undercover as a CSI. She assures him that in her time, forensic science is super advanced, so she'll be fine—and then immediately contaminates the crime scene by touching something without gloves.
    Nora: Sorry, you mean you don't have a scene wide modified personic frequency field, to avoid cross contamination?
    Barry: I don't even think we have some of those words yet!
  • Fringe: Walter, as a result of spending the last 17 years in St. Claire's is mildly disoriented during the first season.
  • The Girl from Tomorrow is mostly about a girl from a distant utopian future ending up in the present, but also takes her present-time friends into a nearer dystopian future. When she first meets said friends, she's surprised a door "won't open" because she's used to automatic doors; the present girl - who doesn't know yet - opens the door for her while acknowledging the lock "is a bit hard at times".
  • Downplayed in Glitch with Charlie, Paddy and John. They are a bit puzzled or fascinated by modern developments which didn't exist in their lifetimes, but they quickly figure them out and the incidents themselves only get a few seconds of screen time. The rest of the resurrected characters are from recent-enough decades as to find the present-day sufficiently close to what they already know.
  • In Great Minds with Dan Harmon, a different historical figure is temporarily brought back to life in each episode so that they can be interviewed by Community and Rick and Morty creator Dan Harmon. More often than not, chaos ensues.
  • An episode of House had the titular character wake a man who had been in a coma ten years. Fish out of Temporal Water moments include House telling the man, when he wants to get new clothes, that we have switched to "recyclable clothes" that one wears once and then eats, and the coma guy stumbling across new music players. "What's this? It says 'IP-ODD'."
  • It's About Time, a short-lived Fantastic Comedy from The '60s, wound up using two variations of this trope. The show began with two astronauts becoming stranded in the prehistoric era and befriending a family of cave dwellers; after months of disappointing ratings, a mid-season retool resulted in the astronauts returning to their own time—with the cave family in tow.
  • Averted in Kamen Rider Kiva, when an incident at a fortune teller's causes Wataru to be possessed by the spirit of his late father Otoya. After finding out when he is, Otoya is delighted to discover such things as maid cafes and the Internet, and even helps his friend's daughter get over a personal problem. If anything, Otoya is better-adjusted to the 2000s than his introverted shut-in son.
  • The main character of Life spent more than a decade in prison. Well, the world has changed quite a bit since then...
    Crews: He sent John an IM. *beat* Reese, what exactly is an IM?
  • Life on Mars...sort of. "My name is Sam Tyler. I had an accident, and I woke up in 1973. Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time?" And Ashes to Ashes (2008), though slightly less so.
  • Lost season 5: after many merry adventures on the time travelling island, Sawyer, Juliet, Miles, Jin, and Daniel end up stuck in 1974. Unlike the usual progression of this trope, the five characters assimilate with the DHARMA Initiative and live happily among them for three years until Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sayid show up, also sent back in time, and violent Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Munsters Today, initially a Sequel Series to The Munsters, had the Munsters become this in the first season with the premise that they had been in suspended animation for over 20 years and now had to adapt to the culture of the late 1980's. The following seasons, however, ignored this aspect and acted as if the Munsters had never gone into suspended animation with the series becoming a more modern interpretation of the family rather than the original family sent years into the future.
  • One episode of Muppets Tonight features Gary Cahuenga, a ventriloquist's dummy who was locked in a trunk for some forty years. When released, he thinks it's time for his appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and has some initial difficulties adjusting to modern times.
    Gary: The women-! They're...wearing their dresses up to here! And...tattoos! And the guys are wearing earrings...in their noses!
    Bobo: Wait'll he gets a load of Dennis Rodman.
  • Once Upon a Time: Aurora has a bit of this due to her Deep Sleep lasting the entirety of the twenty-eight year curse instead of only a few months. In Storybrooke, Belle has a similar problem, since her only memory of the "real" world is the almost thirty years of being locked up in the local asylum.
    • Captain Hook/Killian Jones is shown to have issues with modern technology. He insists on calling phones "talking phones" as he thinks just "phones" sounds silly, and admits he doesn't know how they work beyond Emma answering when he hits the right button (if she doesn't answer, then he considers it useless).
  • The Outer Limits (1963) did this with the main characters of their Time Travel episodes ("The Man Who Was Never Born", "Soldier", "Demon with a Glass Hand"), all of whom came from The Future to what was then The Present Day.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Lithia", Major Mercer is a soldier who, after being put in cryostasis, wakes up four decades later to find he's the only man left after a war. There is more than simply the fact that only women exist though, as they're also communists, pacifists and blame men for what's happened. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he can't adjust to doing things as they like, and it goes badly.
  • Power Rangers Dino Charge gives us two out of time Rangers with Blue Ranger Koda (a caveman from 100,000 years in the past that was frozen in ice) and Gold Ranger Sir Ivan (a knight that got sealed inside one of the villains for 800 years). Both managed to survive by bonding to the season's MacGuffin and source of power (which grants the wielder eternal youth)
  • Primeval:
    • Technically anything that comes through the anomalies is a candidate for this trope, but it is most in evidence when a Medieval Knight comes through and mistakes modern London for Hell (you can see how he might think that though).
    • The knight was actually chasing what he thought was a dragon, which turned out to be a dracorex.
    • Two other time travelers, Ethan and Emily, show up in Season 4, but this trope doesn't come into play that much because Ethan is actually from the present and Emily just never seems confused about much of the present things. Except high-fives.
  • In Quantum Leap Sam spends the entire series leaping around throughout the past and having to adapt to different times (and being seen as a different person in each).
  • In Queen In-hyun's Man, Boong Do, a warrior/scholar in 1694 Korea, is flung forward in time to 2012, where he meets an actress who has been cast in a TV show about the events he was experiencing in 1694.
  • In Rentaghost, Timothy Claypole, a medieval jester, had problems dealing with modern technology while Hubert Davenport, a Victorian gentleman, had trouble adjusting to modern morals.
  • Two episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures have the cast sent back to an earlier part of Sarah Jane's history, which the Trickster wishes to alter for his own goals.
  • Saturday Night Live had "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer", who milked his temporal displacement for all its worth to win cases.
  • In an episode of Scrubs, a man who fell into a coma in The '80s wakes up and starts moonwalking through the hospital in a Michael Jackson costume while doing a Rubik's cube.
  • Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow, who was put into a magical sleep during the American Revolutionary War and woke up in present day to his bewilderment. Leads to moments such as tossing a gun aside after taking one shot because he's used to guns that only hold one bullet and can't be reloaded in the middle of a fight, getting pissed off at inaccurate museum tour guides, and locking himself inside cars.
  • This happened in a couple episodes of Sliders, particularly in one of the earlier seasons when the Sliders end up on a world that was ~20 years behind theirs and Quinn meets his younger self right after his father died.
  • Henry from Spirited suffers from this to an extent. It's not too bad, as he only died in the 70s, but he still has to be taught how to use a computer or the internet, and he notes that cars are very different from what he's used to. He's also very impressed with iPods and modern home entertainment systems.
  • A few Star Trek episodes had this:
    • Khan of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan fame was one of these when he first appeared in Star Trek: The Original Series.
    • In "The City on the Edge of Forever" an overdosed McCoy raves on about the terrible surgical methods of the period he's in, with "bodies stitched up like clothes".
    • TOS also had some Klingons-on-Ice.
    • As did TNG. The Enterprise dealt with those by letting Worf and K'eylar pretend to run the ship.
    • A few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation had holodeck characters brought to life. Professor Moriarty was "from" the 19th century, but adapted to Star Trek Next Gen's "present day" surprisingly well...
    • A similar occurrence in DS9 where Vic (from the 50's/70's) was comfortable knowing he was a hologram in the 24th century.
    • Done again in an episode of Voyager when the Hologram of Leonardo da Vinci gets accidentally loaded onto the Doctor's Mobile Emitter and taken by pirates to a nearby planet. He actually adjusts very well, and thinks he's merely in America as he decided to go there being hijacked.
    • Another TNG episode "The Neutral Zone" involved some defrosted Human Popsicles. Perhaps too much, since they were there mostly for exposition of "the present" in the Federation and to get in the way while Picard tried to deal with Romulans.
    • Star Trek: Voyager also had a Human Popsicle episode, "The 37's", which involved (among others) Amelia Earhart.
    • In yet another Voyager episode, "Future's End", Tom Paris thinks he can avert this trope due to his familiarity with 20th Century Earth. Unfortunately, he hasn't quite got it down to the decade, causing him to play this trope straight.
    • Voyager's finale also had an interesting case of 20 Minutes into the Future combined with this trope. Admiral Janeway arrived from 16 years in the future relative to the series' time scale. The Values Dissonance comes from her own clashing views with her younger self, Captain Janeway.
    • Scotty in the Next Generation episode "Relics".
    • In Voyager's "Natural Law" Seven and Chakotay are stranded on a planet with primitive humanoids (similar to our own ancestors.) This also happened in the Enterprise episode 'Civilisation' (but this species were equivalent to our Renaissance period.)
    • There is also the crew of the USS Bozeman, being sent forward in time from TOS to TNG by a Negative Space Wedgie while trying to fight off a Klingon battlecruiser (this part was added by the book Ship of the Line).
      • The book expands on the feelings of the Bozeman's crew. Captain Bateson adjusts fairly well, although he maneuvers himself into being named the first captain of the Enterprise-E over Picard. His Number Two, though, becomes a drunken wreck after learning the fate of his fiancée, who went into Klingon space to look for him after the disappearance and was sent back in pieces after the Klingons learned who she was (the attack foiled by the Bozeman was a great embarassment for them). Riker even muses early on that being trapped in the future is significantly worse than being trapped in the past. At least, in the past, you have a chance of letting your loved ones know what happened to you.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation even has a case of "someone from The Future ends up in The Future" in the episode "A Matter of Time", where a historian from the 26th century goes back to the 24th century to witness an important event that the crew of the Enterprise-D are about to undergo. It's almost all a lie, however - while he is using a time machine that came from the future, he stole it from its original owners as they went to visit his time - the 22nd century - and pretended to be a future historian so he could sneak back 24th century technology, making a major profit on it in his home time. Regardless of the truth, both alleged origin points and the destination are "the future" to the early 1990s audience watching the episode.
  • In Supernatural, Samuel Campbell, Sam and Dean's grandfather, is one, after he was brought back to life almost forty years after his death. As Sam so eloquently put it, "He thinks Velcro is big news."
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
    • After the first episode, Sarah, John, and Cameron travel from 1999 to 2007. On some points (Sarah and John getting cell phones) it's played for light laughs. On others (Sarah learning about the 9/11 attacks)...not so much.
    • Derek, being from the Bad Future, also qualifies as this. He brings his values back in time with him and believes that every problem can be solved with a gun. This attitude eventually gets him killed. Interestingly, the place where he feels most at home is at a military academy, where he poses as an instructor and becomes a Drill Sergeant Nasty, trying to prepare young soldiers for what will come.
  • In Thunderstone, almost every character in the show prefers their native time to any of the others. The citizens of North Col see Haven as a horribly primitive wasteland where the inhabitants struggle to stay alive and avoid capture each and every day. The Nomads see North Col as a claustrophobic, oppressive prison filled with technology they don’t understand. Much drama comes from characters being frightened or horrified by the society of a time unfamiliar to them.
  • Time After Time: H. G. Wells and Dr. John Stevenson (aka Jack the Ripper) travel from 1893 London to 2017 New York City. Stevenson adjusts better, quickly adopting contemporary clothes and technology, while Wells is initially stunned by the experience, especially that his longed-for utopia didn't happen.
  • Timeless is centered on this trope, but in one episode, it gets inverted when the team brings John F. Kennedy into the future.
  • The Torchwood episode "Out of Time" has three aircraft travellers from the 1950s pass through a one-way Time Portal. Each character reacts differently the initially most nervous one adapts and moves to London, the aviatrix dates Owen but breaks his heart when she takes her chances with the portal (the Rift) again, and the other commits suicide as all his family are dead except his son, who has no children, advanced Alzheimer's, and barely remembers his father.
  • This was a common trope on the original The Twilight Zone. Relevant episodes include "Execution", "Back There", "The Odyssey of Flight 33", "Once Upon a Time", and "No Time Like the Past".
  • Warehouse13:
    • Helena G. Wells via Human Popsicle effect (in an And I Must Scream prison no less). It's mostly culture shock, as the technology present is based off things she either invented or predicted. Even then she adjusts very well, and mostly seems bitter about everyone and everything she cared about being gone.
    • Later, Paracelsus is de-bronzed after spending centuries as a statue by his nephew, who took The Slow Path by virtue of being The Ageless. Subverted in that his nephew uses an Artifact to transfer his memories to Paracelsus, specifically to avoid this trope. Despite this, he still walks around in outdated clothing, but that could just be a personal preference.
  • An episode of The X-Files concerned a Literal Genie who spent decades at a time dormant in between summonings. Mulder's first clue that she'd been out of commission for a while was the fact that The Fonz was a go-to pop culture reference for her.


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