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Catching Up on History

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So you're a Fish out of Temporal Water who's just come back to the world either through Time Travel, cryosleep, coming Back from the Dead, or maybe you've just been away for a while. You've surely missed out on a lot, so you better study up! Whether through intense reading, television, the internet, or other means, this trope is when a character catches up on history through some sort of means.

The Bunker Woman might also do this, along with the Cult Defector. May be a part of Not Used to Freedom for some.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ushio and Tora: The demonic Tora likes sitting in on Ushio's school classes because it lets him find out about things that had happened and been discovered after he was sealed.
  • Ya Boy Kongming!: After meeting Eiko and staying at her place, Kongming becomes familiar with modern society - after questioning Eiko for four hours. He also learns about the fall of Shu Han, as well as how China once again fell into chaos even after the Jin dynasty managed to unite the nation.
  • Zombie Land Saga: Most of Franchouchou has been dead for over a decade and are all varying degrees of Fish out of Temporal Water. Ai takes advantage of their producer's computer to catch up on phenomena from the years she's been away, specifically on the idol trends that have come and gone, to gain a better advantage for the group to progress in popularity.

  • The chapter "Departure" from the Avantasia Protag AU series deals with when Aaron (from the Victorian era) first found himself mysteriously transported to the modern day. After figuring out his situation and securing shelter, he finds the local library and spends all his free time for weeks or even months there reading everything to catch up. Not just history, but modern mechanics and science too.
    • Lampshaded when the library employees gossip about his strange habits and choice of books, including instruction manuals, and jokingly suggest he's a time traveler. Little do they know it's true.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Progress, Princess Luna has to catch up with all the inventions and developments that happened during her thousand-year exile to the moon.

    Films — Animation 
  • DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp: When the Genie is released from the lamp, he catches up on the 20th century by going through Scrooge's entire encyclopedia set in seconds.
    Genie: Well, what do you know? Las Vegas must be some place if Caesar moved his palace there!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Austin Powers: After being frozen for 30 years, Austin Powers spends some time watching TV to try and learn about what he missed, including the Moon landings, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Liberace turning out to have been gay.
  • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve Rogers is still adjusting to the modern era (though pleased with a lot of the advancements, especially The Internet which is useful for this trope) and has been making a list of all the things that he needs to catch up on. The exact items on the list varied depending on the international market in which the movie was playing, as this article illustrates. It also notes that Star Wars, Star Trek, Rocky, Nirvana, Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man soundtrack and Thai food are on every iteration of the list. Later in the movie, Natasha makes a WarGames reference, but when she starts explaining it to Steve he says he's already seen it.
  • The Fifth Element: When the Supreme Being Leeloo is regenerated From a Single Cell, she catches up on the last 5000 years of human history by speed-reading the encyclopedia. This causes some difficulty when she gets to the entry on War.
  • X-Men Film Series
    Prof. X: Logan, don't you have a class to teach?
    Logan: A class? To teach?
    Prof. X: History.
    Logan: History? Actually I could use some help with that.
    Prof. X: Help with what?
    Logan: Pretty much everything after 1973. I think the history I know is a little different.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: Hand Waved with En Sabah Nur's mutant power of knowledge absorption. When he wakes from a 5000-year slumber, he gains an in-depth understanding of the modern age just by touching a television screen and making it cycle rapidly through various shows.
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: Dr. Gillian Taylor makes the trip to the 23rd century along with Admiral Kirk and the crew of the late USS Enterprise along with the humpback whales they came back to retrieve to respond to a probe looking for such whales. After the crisis is concluded and Kirk is busted down to Captain for his actions in The Search For Spock, Taylor tells Kirk that she accepted a position on a science vessel in order to do "300 years of catch-up learning."
  • In The Matrix, a variation occurs where Neo (and, presumably, every other human rescued from the Matrix) learns that history as he knows it was just a deeply immersive virtual reality simulation (albeit one based on real history) and learns via another such simulation that the actual present world is a bombed-out radioactive wasteland ruled by The Machines with the vast majority of humanity now grown in pods and plugged into an artificial dream world.
  • In Superman: The Movie, Jor-El leaves his son Kal-El a hologram to be watched when he turns eighteen years old that explains his Kryptonian origins. The hologram is also full of information about Earth's history to better explain why Jor-El sent the child there: he wants Kal to serve as a Hope Bringer to humanity. Unfortunately, this opens up a Plot Hole, as it's never explained exactly how Jor-El knew so much about Earth's history when Krypton was billions of miles away in the first place; Jor-El also specifically says that time flows differently on the two planets, as "many thousands of your years" will have passed when Clark/Kal turns eighteen, meaning that Krypton was millennia ahead of Earth in terms of development.

  • Animorphs: In Megamorphs 3: Elfangor's Secret, when the Animorphs travel through time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, Tobias reads a history textbook to find out what changed in that timeline (the most major changes being the failure of the American Revolution and Nelson losing the Battle of Trafalgar).
  • In The Dead Zone, when John Smith wakes up from a coma he has been in for several years, he starts reading a backlog of old newspapers and magazines to catch up on what happened while he was in a coma (including Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War). At one point, he notes that one morbid aspect of this reading is finding out who died in the intervening years.
  • The Temporal Displacement Division in Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations is tasked with helping those who end up being flung (either by accident or deliberately) into the 24th century get acclimated to their new home. Two of the more notable cases they handle are Lts. M'Ress and Arex, who both found their way there via very different means of time travel.
  • Oona Out of Order: For Oona's first leap (from 1982 to 2015), Kenzie helps her to catch up. To avoid overwhelming her, he suggests she start with iTunes and Wikipedia. He lets her pick his brain about events like 9/11. She is surprised that a Black man has become president and that gay marriage is legal.
  • Extraordinary*: In the Distant Finale, Mutual is mentioned to have spent a lot of time catching up on what he missed, since he spent seven years on his parents' farm in Alaska with no contact with the outside world. At one point he managed to get his hands on a couple music and celebrity gossip magazines, which helped a little, but after he escapes he has to spend a lot of time using the internet and TV to catch up on the pop culture and history he missed. As his girlfriend Jen puts it, "The week he discovered Maxim magazine was not my favorite week."
  • In Tales of the Magic Land, evil sorceress Arachna wakes up after a five thousand-year-long enchanted sleep and spends many days afterwards reading the chronicle of the Magic Land to find out what the country is like at present and especially if there are any strong witches and wizards she should be wary of. The chronicle is immediately available to her because it's been written by the Gnomes, Arachna's faithful servants who live right by the side of her cave and have taken care of her in her sleep as well.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: After returning from his imprisonment on another world, Hive is taken in by Gideon Malick. While he does know about modern society through the memories of his hosts, Hive still decides to research humanity on his own through multiple screens playing news broadcasts.
  • Angel: Sahjhan brings Daniel Holtz, a Vampire Hunter from 18th Century England to 20th Century Los Angeles to kill Angel. Holtz is shown binge-watching news videos on Ominous Multiple Screens. On first arriving he asks if England has changed much.
    Sahjhan: It went through a rough patch about sixty years ago, but it's mostly unchanged. Warm beer, boiled meat, bad teeth. That's why I moved to LA.
  • The Boys (2019): After Soldier Boy is freed from the Russians, who have held him captive for over forty years, he spends time watching the news, looking at advertisements and just walking around.
  • The Flash (2014): After being trapped in the Speed Force for 6 months, Barry decides to catch up on all the TV/news that he missed. Luckily, being a speedster, he had Cisco put all the shows play at an extremely fast speed so that he could finish it all in only a few hours.
  • Jarod from The Pretender has to read up on current information since he had been locked up by the Centre since 1963.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Space Seed", Khan Noonien Singh is released from suspended animation and learns about the 23rd century by reading through the Enterprise's computer records. His genetically enhanced brain allows him to read through them at super-speed.
  • In season 11 of Supernatural, the Darkness, aka Amara, is forced to possess the body of a newborn baby, and slowly (though much quicker than usual) grow up into an appropriate age for world domination. While doing this, Crowley, who raises her in an attempt to gain her favor and use her power, sets about teaching her about what she's missed since being sealed away before the universe through various videos on a laptop.
  • Timeless: After Rittenhouse saved him from his death in World War I, Nicholas Keynes decides to learn about what he missed by reading Wikipedia. Except instead of using a computer, he has it printed out for him so that he can read it on paper.
  • In Warehouse 13, when Claudia's brother Joshua is rescued from being stuck in interdimensional limbo, he catches up on what he missed by watching YouTube.

    Video Games 
  • Wings of Liberty: Tychus is seen looking up archive footage of Kerrigan. When an irritated Matt shows up to ask why he's going through their database without permission, Tychus (who recently escaped from prison) says he's "just catching up on current events". He was freed on the condition that he kill Kerrigan, and was locked in a suit of Power Armor that will kill him if he tries to escape.
  • The Temporal Agent storyline of Star Trek Online has this happen to your 23rd Century character when they're pulled forward in time by Agent Daniels. He implants via speed-learning everything that happened in history between your supposed death until the game's setting of 2409.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • In the first episode of Animaniacs (2020), the Warner siblings sing about what they missed in the past 22 years such as smartphones, rising sea levels, the recession, Uber, YouTubers, Pluto as a dwarf planet, online shopping, and the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations. They lampshade that since the show is written in 2018 due to Production Lead Time, they sing predictions about the next two years such as chips in their brains, further climate disasters, living underground, living on Mars, and a movie about a time-travelling talking police car.
  • In the pilot of Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, the newly resurrected Holmes is given a VR headset of some kind to help him catch up on the last two hundred years.


Video Example(s):


Ya Boy learns about tech

Kongming died in 234, so he has close to 1.800 years of progress to catch up on.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / FishOutOfTemporalWater

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