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Close-Enough Timeline

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A common plot in Time Travel stories: The time traveller messes up the past, and has to put everything back the way it was. This trope is when the time traveller, in the end, doesn't quite succeed. The traveller, however, decides that the change the new timeline has brought with it is either a pretty insignificant alteration that he or she could easily adjust to (often happens if he or she is locked out of further time travel), or even outright beneficial, and happily accepts it (i.e. s/he could probably erase the change completely with further time traveling, but sees no reason to do so, or perhaps doesn't want to risk creating a larger divergence while trying to fix the small one). Usually played as a happy ending but Fridge Logic can reveal this to be based on Protagonist-Centered Morality. After all, maybe Alice got the promotion in this timeline but that means harm was done to Bob who got it last time around.


Compare Not Quite Back to Normal, which revolves around an individual reversing a mess they made to themselves, but with some remains of the mess lingering, and In Spite of a Nail, where everything inexplicably ignores the mess made by the time traveller and ends up the way they should be. Contrast Rubber-Band History, where the new timeline the traveller ends up with is ours, and Stable Time Loop, where the traveller's attempt to fix the mess in the past results in them creating the mess in the first place. A Close Enough Timeline can be a result of Tricked Out Time, when the characters deliberately make sure that Grandfather Time says "eh, close enough". See also You Will Be Beethoven, when the time traveler has to forge a famous person's identity for the timeline to come out right.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Super: At the end of the Future Trunks Saga, after Future Zen'o destroys Future Trunks' timeline, Whis offers to recreate his world by creating a new timeline where Goku Black and Zamasu never came to be by warning Future Beerus so he can take care of them. Although it wouldn't be his world, it was the best Whis could offer and they would have to double up since there would be a Future Trunks and Mai in the new timeline. Trunks and Mai take the offer, wanting to be around those they fought so hard to save.
  • In Urusei Yatsura, Lum drifts from Alternate Universe to Alternate Universe in a particularly dramatic Filler episode. The biggest scare she gets is from an Ataru that openly adores her, and though she seems to find her way back in the end, the fact that the final Ataru doesn't reject her advances is definitely unnerving, but not enough to make her leave.

    Comic Books 
  • In Paperinik New Adventures, Paperinik, the protagonist, is the one altering things, as he's forced to ally with the time pirate the Raider to try and prevent the destruction of Duckburg due an experiment with cold fusion going awry, at which point a squad from the Time Police shows up to try and make sure the events go as they're supposed to (and arrest the Raider now that they know is involved). In the end, after the Raider is caught, the Time Cops realize that making sure the timeline goes exactly as supposed would involve too many changes and be extremely difficult due Paperinik, so they settle to make the experiment fail in a non-explosive way and discredit the scientist who had tried it.
  • Deconstructed in Black Science, when Rebecca betrays the team and escapes to a universe that's exactly the same as their own, but with the difference that her deceased brother is still alive. She proceeds to murder her alternate self just so she can live in said close-enough reality. Fortunately, Grant brings justice to her by tipping off that universe's authorities to where Rebecca hid her doppelgänger's body, exposing her as a fake and obliterating any chance she had to enjoy her new life.
  • The result of the rebooted DC Universe timeline at the end of Zero Hour!, when the heroes stop Hal Jordan as Parallax from recreating the universe in his own image and instead reboot it by the Spectre jacking up Damage's power to uncontainable levels, thus initiating the Big Bang. The end of the series had a fold-out sheet showing what events had happened and when in the rebooted universe's new timeline.

    Fan Works 
  • At the beginning of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, when Cyrus destroys the entire reality to create his world without spirit, Arceus' only can send Ash back to the day he began his journey with his memories intact so he can eventually stop him. However, since Arceus isn't as skilled manipulating time and space as Dialga and Palkia, things get garbled in the transition. The new timeline, while different in many aspects, is not completely alien to Ash, and some things end up familiar enough for him to adapt with relative ease.
  • The Angel fic "Impact" ends with Cordelia experiencing a positive version of this. After spending two days over two years in the past, Cordelia is sent back to the future unsure if she's managed to save Doyle, and Angel and Gunn's initial reactions lead her to believe that everything's the same as it was before, until a few more comments lead to her realising that in this new reality, Gunn's sister Alonna is still alive and Angel has become human and is once again dating Buffy, to say nothing of Doyle still being alive.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Back to the Future
    • In Back to the Future, after Marty returns to 1985 at the end of the film, everything is the same as when he left it — except the mall has a different name, his family and Biff have different fortunes (though Biff's proves not to be so different after all in Part II), and Jennifer looks different. His own family's "close enough" change stems from Marty working on his father's self-confidence and assertiveness in the past, and inadvertently encouraging his mother to be more truthful with herself. As a result, George is now a published sci-fi author able to provide an upper middle class lifestyle to his family, and he and Lorraine are far more happily married (and fit!), and George doesn't take any hijinks from a more amiable Biff. Compare to the original timeline, where George was a meek office peon under Biff, and Lorraine was frumpy and uptight.
    • At the end of Back to the Future Part III, the only change is the name of the ravine to Eastwood Ravine.
    • Done in the Telltale game as well, where the only known differences are Doc stayed in 1986 part-time to take care of his father's estate (as Marty helped patch their relationship), he never got stuck in 1931 (because he knew who the speakeasy arsonist was in this timeline), and Edna married Kid Tannen.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: First Contact has the Enterprise crew go back in time to stop the Borg from assimilating Earth in the 21st century. However, the Borg end up interfering with Zephram Cochrane's planned first warp speed flight, so the crew have to spend the majority of the movie on Earth both making sure his ship is ready to make the flight, since it was damaged by the Borg, so it can be detected by the passing Vulcan ship it's destined to meet, as well as getting Cochrane to actually make the flight in the first place. This results in their future still existing, but the difference is in how it happened, similar to one of the Deep Space 9 examples below.
    • Subverted in Star Trek (2009). Although Kirk's father is killed when the U.S.S. Kelvin is destroyed by temporally-displaced Romulans, the 23rd century was more or less the same as in Star Trek: The Original Series (aside from getting a cosmetic facelift). That is, until Vulcan gets destroyed, too. Word of God said that Vulcan was destroyed specifically to show that anything goes in this new timeline.

  • Night Watch (the Discworld novel) has Sam Vimes forced to become his own mentor when his original mentor, John Keel, is killed by the murderer Carcer (who was sent back in time with Vimes). Though told he has to keep the timeline intact, Vimes quickly decides to Set Right What Once Went Wrong by trying to prevent the Watchmen who died in the revolution from dying. With Carcer trying to Make Wrong What Once Went Right at the same time, things turn out mostly the same way and hardly anyone but Vimes, Carcer, and the History Monks know. Young Vetinari, however, was one of the few people who actually saw Vimes disappear and the marked difference between Vimes and the body of Keel put into replace him, and gets Vimes to confess it by calling him "Sergeant" and awaiting the response.
  • In Greg Bear's Eon, one of the main characters tries to get to one of these, after being unable to return to earth. She lands in a world where apparently the Egyptian dynasties never fell.
  • Played with in The Eyre Affair - the entire book takes place in an alternative 1980s in which literature is extremely popular, people clone dodos to have as pets, and the Crimean War never ended. Jane Eyre also ends with Jane marrying her cousin and becoming a missionary to India. The time loops and jumps within books throughout the plot never lead to the 1980s as we know them being restored - but Thursday's adventures do lead to the ending of Jane Eyre changing from a disappointing ending where she marries her cousin to the one that we know and love - a change that most people accept is better than their original ending anyway.
  • In the Goosebumps book Cuckoo Clock of Doom, the main character is cursed by his family's cuckoo clock to be repeatedly sent mentally back in time into his own body at younger and younger stages of his life until he might be erased from existence. He alters the timeline so that it never happens, but his annoying and malicious sibling is erased from existence due to the clock's "defect" mentioned earlier in the book (the clock's year dial skips the sister's birth year, something that he caused when fixing the backwards time flow). He promises he should probably go back and try to fix it. Maybe. Eventually. "One of these days."
  • Discussed and then invoked in the story Be Here Now by Sam Hughes.
  • It's implied a time or two that this may be how travel between alternate timelines/universes generally works in the Perry Rhodan setting — you can't ever be wholly sure that you're back to your "original" time, but if it's close enough that the traveler doesn't notice any differences, does it truly matter? A somewhat classic example is the main protagonist's son Michael Rhodan, who was left for dead on an enemy planet in issue #399 but then popped back up in the distant past in the next story arc, apparently having escaped the planet's destruction via last-ditch time travel after all...only, his memories of the event don't seem to quite sync up with the actual report of his "death". Could be just the Rashomon effect at work, could be this trope with a Michael Rhodan from another timeline where things played out just that bit differently essentially replacing the original without necessarily even realizing it — without a body, there's no way to be sure one way or the other even according to at least one author.
  • Many Waters: The seraphim consider the minor changes the twins made after travelling back in time, and seem to conclude this is the result.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 12 Monkeys has this happen at the beginning of Season 2, when the protagonists manage to destroy the virus before it's unleashed in 2016, seemingly preventing the global pandemic. But when they return to 2044, they find that due to the Army of the 12 Monkeys' persistence, they only managed to delay the plague until 2018. Because of this, there's still more remaining pockets of civilization in the post-apocalyptic world. And for some reason, Dr. Lipsky (who was killed in Season 1) is still alive, and Jones now has a lover she never met in the old timeline.
    • Played for laughs in Season 4, where Jennifer and Deacon gleefully take advantage of a trip to World War II to kill Hitler. On return to the future, it's briefly mentioned that Himmler just took over and aside from that, history stayed on track.
  • In the Charmed episode "Cat House", Phoebe and Paige go time-traveling through Piper and Leo's past, thanks to a botched spell. They manage to figure out how to fix most of the changes they cause, but they accidentally break Piper and Leo's wedding-cake topper and the episode ends with it still broken.
  • Doctor Who: This is how time travel works. If time remains basically the same then it's fine. However, there are fixed points in time which cannot be changed. This is also how the writers can justify not modifying Earth to fit with prior continuity showing 20 Minutes into the Future and acknowledging how different the world would be, since the show had shown the 21st century to be a much different situation than what's turned out to be at times.
    • In "Father's Day", Rose convinces the Doctor to let her visit her dad, Pete, in the 80s (who was struck and killed by a car when she was a baby). In a split second decision, she saves his life. This causes a problem. Time starts warping, the offending car gets stuck on an infinite loop, and scary time monsters appear to destroy the whole area and stop reality from tearing itself apart. Eventually Pete realizes what's going on, and that him being alive is what is causing the problems. He then decides that only he can save everyone by sacrificing himself to the looping car. At the end of the day he still dies, but in this timeline he gets to live a little longer, spend time with his grown-up future daughter, and be a hero for once. A Pyrrhic Victory if there ever was one.
      • The ending of the episode also reveals that the circumstances of Pete's death were slightly altered; at the start, Jackie said he died alone, whereas at the end she says a mysterious blonde woman held his hand until the end. Guess who?
    • "Vincent and the Doctor" has the Doctor and Amy travel back to meet Vincent van Gogh after seeing a monster in his painting. They find the Monster is an alien and change events so it no longer appears in the painting, but show Vincent he will be appreciated in the future. Vincent still commits suicide, but the Doctor tells Amy they still made his life better. In addition, the monster in no longer in the painting, and Vincent dedicated another painting to Amy.
    • The spin-off audio "The Secret History" features an interesting variation of this when the Doctor's foe, the Monk, a Time Lord who changes history to make it 'better', has managed to rewrite reality so that he has basically taken the Doctor's place in the universe. When a time-sensitive ally of the Monk's looks into the new future he has created and sees that things are now worse, she helps the Doctor regain his existence and restore his place in history. Looking into the future after the Doctor is restored, she observes that the new timeline still isn't perfect, but it's better than it would have been with the Monk's active interference as opposed to the Monk trying to make everything fit his own views.
  • Farscape
    • Apparently what results in the episode "Kansas". When the crew visit 1986, the timeline has altered for reasons which are undetectable, and John's dad is now scheduled to go on the Challenger space shuttle on its final mission, which didn't happen first time round. He wouldn't then be around to inspire John to become an astronaut, and then John wouldn't be on Moya and everyone's destiny would be different. Given that his dad's imminent departure on Challenger has seriously changed the course of the weekend for his family, they don't try too hard to replicate the original events of that specific weekend, but pick a remembered event that did cause John's dad to stay back from a different mission and try to replicate that. They don't succeed in every detail - John's dad has to be rescued instead of rescuing young John himself, but thanks to a bang on the head, he doesn't know that, so it works well enough. There are some hints (specifically, "Karen Shaw") that Moya's crew may have been around in the original timeline too, but possibly not doing the same things in every respect.
    • Subverted in "Different Destinations". Every attempt by John Crichton to correct the timeline only makes things worse, and he has to settle for a Downer Ending in which a devastating war is averted but a monastery full of innocent civilians is massacred, futilely calling for our hero to save them. Double subverted in that this actually was the close-enough version; other than a few dozen deaths (the original ended in the civilians' surrender being honored) the timeline is the same, but the alternate versions the part of the crew in the "present" sees ranged from one side destroying the other up to several variants on Apocalypse How, including an Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
  • The Flash (2014):
    • In "Flash Back", Barry goes on an adventure in the past. When he returns to the present, everything seems the same, except Hartley Rathaway/Pied Piper has inexplicably pulled a Heel–Face Turn and is a member of his team, with Barry's other friends saying he's always been there, thoroughly confusing Barry since he has no memory of the new timeline. Also, Hartley is on good terms with his parents, when in the original timeline, they had disowned him. Rathaway being "on the team" never really comes up again in a significant way, he never appears in any other episodes, and he's only mentioned in a few offhand comments about being consulted on some technology for them.
    • In the episode "Paradox", Barry finds himself in a further altered timeline where certain events have played out less favorably than they had previously - for instance, Joe and Iris not being on speaking terms and Cisco's brother having been killed by a drunk driver. Barry decides to go back in time once again to fix everything, but Jay Garrick talks him out of it, since he'll never get it exactly right and will just end up causing more problems than he solves. Barry begrudgingly agrees and decides to accept everything that's changed as it is. The more time passes, however, the more Barry realizes how much things have changed from what he remembers, such as there being a second lab tech at CCPD and Caitlin developing Killer Frost's powers. Also, interestingly enough, the changes to Earth 1 don't appear to have affected any parallel Earth, which is pointed out by Harry and Jesse, when they return to Earth 1 to deal with Jesse developing Super Speed. Some changes are positive, though, such as Cisco installing a panic app on the phones of members of Team Flash due to the frequent kidnappings. There's also Doctor Alchemy, who seems to be capable of restoring the powers and memories of any meta from the Flashpoint timeline for an unknown purpose. Then there's the fact that Eobard Thawne is alive again and appears to be working with Damien Darhk to mess with human history.
  • Legends of Tomorrow has Dr. Stein, observing his younger self in the past, and realizing how shoddily he has treated his wife. He berates himself a little, convincing himself to show her more attention, to be more romantic toward her. The next time he returns to the present, he discovers that "being a little more romantic toward her" resulted in him having a fully-grown daughter he doesn't remember. Despite the Legends' entire mission statement being to prevent or undo time anomalies, Dr. Stein insists he likes this timeline better, and refuses to change it.
  • Mirai Sentai Timeranger:
    • Subverted. In the final episodes, when the Timerangers are forcibly returned to their time, they find out that their lives have changed for the better, but when their superiors decide to modify their memories to adapt them to these changes, they reject it and decide go back to the past for the final battle.
    • Captain Ryuuya, however, attempts to play it straight, as he had seen two possible timelines leading to his current time, and attempted to make sure the "better" of the two would happen, except for one thing: have someone else die as Time Fire in the past instead of himself. In the end he fails, as he ends up being fatally shot while trying to stop the Timerangers from returning.
  • In the Once Upon a Time Time Travel two-parter "Snow Drifts" and "There's No Place Like Home", Hook and Emma completely fail in their attempt not to alter the timeline, before eventually deciding that as long as Snow and Charming's Meet Cute is in place, everything else will sort itself out. (A spot of Laser-Guided Amnesia helps too.)
  • Red Dwarf
    • "Timeslides": When the last change to the timeline puts everything back how it was except that Rimmer is alive. He dies seconds later and the change in his backstory is apparently forgotten.
    • In "Skipper", Rimmer uses a quantum skipper to skip across the multiverse, trying to find an alternate reality where his life didn't turn out so terribly. After a string of universes even worse than the one he came from, Rimmer finally finds one where the crew of the titular ship were never wiped out, he's alive rather than a hologram, an officer and married with four children, and the ship is about to arrive at Earth rather than being stranded three million years in deep space... but Lister is the ship's captain, and hence even more successful than him. Ultimately defied: Rimmer decides that even though this reality has everything he's ever dreamed of, he can't cope with Lister being better than him and returns to his home universe.
  • Sliders:
    • They travel to a world which is almost identical to their homeworld. At first they are certain they are home. Quinn is a bit suspicious and points out small details like who played in the Superbowl a certain year or that an old classmate didn't have braces like he remembered were different. The others think he's crazy. Then Wade discovers that the Golden Gate Bridge is blue. Wade and Rembrandt seem tempted to stay anyway and Quinn's mother wishes he would stay. Quinn doesn't want to because he knows that his double is out there and may return home someday.
    • The same episode has Professor Arturo become a celebrity for "discovering" sliding. When confronted by the others, he claims he would've eventually figured it out on his own. Even when confronted with the picture of the bridge, he calmly calls it the "Azure Gate Bridge". Of course, it turns out this Arturo is actually native to this world and has kidnapped their Arturo.
    • One major episode plays with this: Quinn bases his entire criteria on what his "home" dimension is by whether or not the gate of his front yard fence is broken or not. Little does he know, his mother fixed the fence in his home dimension, destroying his theory in the process. They're initially uncertain because the newspaper out front refers to the Oakland Raiders (they were still in Los Angeles when the four of them started sliding) and O.J.'s trial, but it's the gate that convinces Quinn that they're not home yet. Moments after they slide, we see Quinn's mother pay a handyman for fixing the gate, something she was always bugging Quinn to do, but he kept putting off, and wondering if she'd ever see her son again.
  • Given a Shout-Out at the 8th season finale of Stargate SG-1, where the team restores the timeline... except Jack's pond now has fish. He actually says "Close enough." - which, considering he's a fan of The Simpsons, is intentional Lampshade Hanging on Jack's part.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In the episode "Parallels," Worf starts hopping from one quantum reality to the next after colliding with a quantum anomaly while returning to the Enterprise from a bat'leth tournament. He starts hopping to different timelines where they're, mostly, similar enough to his own, only with one or two changes, but the timelines become more pronounced in their differences until they finally figure out what's going on and fix the problem by sending him back to his own. The ending has him return to "his" Enterprise, only to realize that he has the grand champion trophy for the tournament with him in the shuttle when at the beginning of the episode he'd told Riker that he'd been defeated early by an opponent who used an illegal move on him that the judges didn't call.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • Happens in the 30th anniversary episode of Star Trek, "Trials and Tribble-ations", which revisits the events of the original series episode "The Trouble With Tribbles". Though they manage to foil Arne Darvin's plot to kill Kirk with a bomb disguised as a tribble, their very presence in the past causes a minor change in the timeline, as seen when Kirk is looking for who started the fight with the Klingons; said scene is edited to include Chief O'Brien and Doctor Bashir.
      • Another episode had Sisko attempting to invoke this: Sisko, Bashir, and Dax are sent back to Earth's Crapsack Past, and the guy who's supposed to trigger the events that make things better winds up getting killed preventing some thugs from mugging them. Sisko is well-versed in history enough to take the guy's place, assuming his name and doing the things the dead man was supposed to going to have done. This results in a timeline that's pretty much the same as the one they left... except Starfleet has some questions for Sisko about why he suddenly always looked exactly like historical hero Gabriel Bell.
    • Star Trek: Voyager:
      • Discussed in the two-parter "Year of Hell", where a Krenim scientist named Annorax created a weapon capable of erasing his people's enemies from history, but For Want of a Nail ensured this often also did things like eliminating the sources of cures for plagues, ultimately hurting the Krenim. He's been trying to fix it all with more and more erasures for the past 200 years, and finally manages a 98% restoration of the Krenim as they were before he started. His subordinate asks if this is a Close-Enough Timeline, but Annorax has become a Knight Templar and insists it isn't. Somewhat understandably, this is because the 98% restoration still doesn't include Annorax's lost wife, who was wiped out with the very first erasure attempt. In the end, it turns out that the only way to fix everything is to erase the weapon itself, thus undoing all of the changes it ever made.
      • Downplayed in "Relativity" in which after a series of incidents, Captain Janeway is sent back in time by Ducane to prevent the placing of the weapon that led to the whole chain of events in the first place. After completing her mission, Ducane states that there's an incursion factor of .0036. We're not given any reference point as to exactly what this means, but it's implied that it's very small and Ducane comments that it's better than he expected.
  • Happens all the time on Timeless, as the heroes work to contain the damage caused by Flynn's, and later, Rittenhouse's, attempts to alter history to their own ends. As the mechanics of time travel on the show prevent them from simply jumping back even further to prevent the changes from happening, the most they can do is try and get events back on track as much as they can. Thus, when they return to the present, they always find changes of various levels of severity, but never to the point that reality is unrecognizable to them.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Back There", a man suddenly finds himself back in April 14, 1864. He attempts to prevent the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, but is dismissed as a lunatic and arrested. John Wilkes Booth frees him, but drugs him to prevent him from interfering, and he wakes up after Lincoln had already been killed. He then finds himself back in the present. He is sad that he failed to change history, but discovers an attendant at the club he goes to is now a very rich member. The rich man says that his ancestor was a policeman who believed a warning of Lincoln's assassination and tried to prevent it, becoming very famous and respected in the process and allowing him to advance his career.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Profile in Silver", Professor Joseph Fitzgerald creates an Alternate Timeline when he prevents John F. Kennedy's assassination. When it becomes clear that the new timeline isn't viable as the world will be destroyed within a century at most, he sends JFK forward to 2172 and allows himself to be killed in the President's place. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, JFK was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
  • From The Whitest Kids U' Know sketch "Me and my Buddy":
    So we go around doing the best we can
    Like we stopped Goldor from fighting Zenuzan
    But as a result that started Vietnam
    So I guess we'll call it a draw

    Video Games 
  • Chrono Trigger can play out like this, depending on the player's choices. Most notably, the attitudes of the Mystics toward humans in the Present can be changed if the party defeats Ozzie a second time, and the southern continent can become a forest instead of a desert. Other minor changes include the mayor of Porre becoming more generous, Guardia castle suddenly having a treasury with the Rainbow Shell in it, and the Northern Ruins turning into the Hero's Grave. The existence of the Black Omen may fall into this category as well, since it doesn't really change much of history despite being there for thousands of years unless you choose to go through it in 12,000 BC. Chrono Cross, on the other hand, more fully explores the ramifications of the heroes from Chrono Trigger being OK with the Close Enough Timeline.
  • In Day of the Tentacle, the plan of the heroes is to change the past yesterday. They end up changing the past quite a lot, but manage to save the world. The Stars and Stripes ends up tentacle-shaped, though.
  • Dragon Ball Xenoverse: This is the mission of the Time Patrol in game. While some things in-game are inevitably altered, such as Frieza going directly into his final form instead of transforming into each one consecutively, as long as history ultimately plays out how it was meant to (Goku successfully beating the bad guys), they're fine with it.
  • In Grand Chase Dimensional Chaser, Grandiel meets his past self and, upon the latter pressing him with questions, reveals that the time loop is not absolutely stable—certain events must happen because of The Needs of the Many, but divergences are still possible. Said divergences resulted in the present Grandiel seeing the difference between two timelines: as Grandiel of the past, he had met his future self, and the Grand Chase of the future, who came from a timeline where Kyle died from Belile's attack in the Forest of Life, but in his (i.e. the present) timeline, Kyle does not die, as he was revived by Nephilim sacrificing herself, and follows the Grand Chase on their journey. Thus, Grandiel believes that, even though the future Grandiel and Grand Chase triggered the Great Explosion of Kounat but were killed when they were consumed by it, his own death, as well as the present Grand Chase, has not been determined. This belief was ultimately validated when the Great Explosion did happen, but the remnants of Nephilim's power within Kyle teleported everyone back to the present time, sparing them the same fate that befell their alternate timeline counterparts.
  • The multiple endings of Singularity have shades of this; even in the good ending the world isn't quite back to what it was before you started messing with the timeline, and is in fact ruled by an advanced (though *possibly* benevolent) Soviet Union.
  • In Super Robot Wars Z, Setsuko's good ending is this one, everyone in her original team is alive and well and Asakim is no longer in her world tormenting her. However, the "revived" Glory Star team are alternate universe duplicates from a world where she never existed, so they don't exactly recognize her.
  • In Time Hollow, Ethan doesn't bother fixing the timeline in which his friend Morris has dropped out of school because Morris seems happier that way.
  • In Star Trek Online's Iconian War arc, the united heroic fleet decide one of the best things to do is rebuild Annorax's timeship and use it as a way to stop the Iconians from attacking. Their ultimate decision, erasing the asteroid which would reveal Iconia to a passing-by Yamato, ends up causing a timeline where the Borg nearly take over the Alpha Quadrant. They use the weapon again to fix their mistake, but accidentally cause a race to be taken out by the Borg in the process creating the Sphere-Builders and their mysterious benefactor from the Temporal Cold War.
  • The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road ends with Dorothy returning to her world as seen in Holly's book, with her house being okay and her parents alive.

    Web Animation 
  • Inverted by SMG4's Mario Bloopers, in the Time Travel Special. Mario works himself to the bone attempting to get the world right. He ends his efforts with a hearty "Fuck it".

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Darwin and Gumball's time travel adventures in the The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Countdown" ends this way.
    Gumball: This looks suspiciously normal. (blinks with vertical eye slits) Eh, I can live with that.
  • American Dad! episode "The Best Christmas Story Never Told" has Stan screw up the timeline in an attempt to "save" Christmas because he prevented John Hickley, Jr.'s attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Stan ultimately fixes things by performing a Fake Assassination of Reagan himself. His guardian angel informs him that since he only shot Reagan, not any of the people Hickley did in real life, there was no Brady Bill (which let her buy him a handgun as a gift without a waiting period). Stan also didn't bother reversing ruining Martin Scorsese's career or making his own version of Taxi Driver starring John Wayne. Roger is also more bitter, because he rode the rise and fall of Disco thanks to a dropped Greatest Hits tape acting as a Timeline-Altering MacGuffin.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse, in the episode "So Long, and Thanks for All the Smoothies". The activation of the Anihilaarg destroyed the universe, so Ben transformed into Alien X and recreated it... Except that his favorite fast food joint, Mr. Smoothie, came out a little different. This had repercussions later on when the celestialsapiens took him to court and the alternate flavor of the grape-flavored smoothie drove him to confession.
  • In the Earthworm Jim series, the universe was destroyed, but then rebuilt. Everything was the same "except the main character of Death of a Salesman is now named Urkel."
  • On The Fairly OddParents, the first time Timmy uses Time Travel, he causes a Bad Future. At the end, he puts everything back to normal... except that, thanks to a comment that Cosmo made to Bill Gates in the 70s, Timmy's name is now Internet, and the Internet is called the Timmy.
  • Family Guy:
    • Peter goes back in time to relive his teenage years and almost loses Lois to Quagmire; he manages to fix everything, but Roger the alien is now inexplicably a member of the Griffin household.
    • Another time travel episode has Stewie and Brian go back to the pilot episode (multiple times), where their meddling results in a Bad Future. When they finally fix everything, they assume everything went back to the way it was. Then Peter shows up with his drinking buddies who were Dropped After the Pilot.
  • A different take on this is the Futurama episode "The Late Philip J. Fry." Professor Farnsworth invents a time machine that allows travel into the future only. Fry, Farnsworth, and Bender discover that traveling to the end of time brings them back to the beginning (twice!), and they eventually return to their era shortly before they left. However, this universe is "slightly lower" than theirs, and they land on their duplicate selves, killing them and allowing the originals to take their place.
    • Also, Farnsworth kills Eleanor Roosevelt in an attempt to snipe Hitler.
    • A straight example in "All the Presidents' Heads". At the very end, the crew corrects for their previous interference in 1775, re-ensuring American revolutionary victory... and a new colonial flag depicting Bender and the phrase "Bite my fhiny metal aff."
  • Parodied and deliberately exploited in Rick and Morty in the form of parallel universes. Rick and Morty find an Alternate Timeline that is exactly like the one they left except that that universe's Rick and Morty died instantly in the experiment that, in their home universe, set off the chain of events that essentially ended the world. This allows "our" Rick and Morty to take their places. Rick also comments that there were only a limited amount of alternate universes that spawned that way that they could've done that with too, as causality dictates. The Deconstructive Parody aspects kick in when it fully dawns on Morty that he can never go back to his original timeline, which is played for some incredibly bleak Black Comedy.
  • Played with in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: the series ends with the Eldritch Abomination beneath Crystal Cove being removed from history and existence. While this is far, far better for most of the people in the world (who avoid having their lives ruined or being eaten by the entity), the gang lament that since they're in a world with no mysteries to solve it's not one they belong in. So, after angsting for a bit, they decided to go on a road trip.
  • In The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror V", Homer accidentally creates a time machine and inadvertently changes history, then struggles to change it back. After many timelines, he finally finds one where everything seems normal, except everybody has long, lizard-like tongues. "Eh, close enough." He also encountered an even closer timeline where his family are rich and the only apparent difference to the world overall was that donuts had never been created; he left the timeline before he could find out that donuts actually fell from the sky as rain.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy IV" ends in a way similar to this, but without involving time travel or the like—SpongeBob accidentally shrinks everyone in Bikini Bottom and solves the problem by shrinking the rest of the city and himself, too, to which everyone basically shrugs and says "What's the difference?"
  • Time Squad pretty much revolves around this trope. Buck isn't that great at his job as Time Police, so he tends to return to the future with some problems still intact, but good enough that history isn't derailed too off course. This includes accidentally allowing Benjamin Franklin to invent the light bulb, giving Nicolaus Copernicus the idea for the heliocentric Solar System model but forgetting to explain the details, and leaving Kublai Khan with instructions on how to build a laser rifle.


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