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Close-Enough Timeline

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Brainiac-5: I calculate a 99.84% likelihood that the timeline has been substantially restored.
Chameleon Boy: What about the other 0.16%?
Impulse: Just... don't go there.
Young Justice (2010), "Death and Rebirth"

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 they could easily adjust to (often happens if they are locked out of further time travel), or even outright beneficial, and happily accepts it (i.e. they could probably erase the change completely with further time traveling, but see no reason to do so, or perhaps don'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's 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 another Future Trunks and another Future 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.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean ends with this as a result of reality being rewritten a second time after first being changed by the Big Bad who killed all but one of the main characters in the process. The end result is a reality inhabited by Alternate Self versions of the deceased cast living far happier lives than their original incarnations with Emporio being the only one from the original universe alive.

    Comic Books 
  • Played tragically in the Astro City story "The Nearness of You", where it's revealed that one of these was created to restore reality after a Crisis Crossover event. In the reconstructed timeline, a few events were delayed by a day or so, which means that some people who existed in the old timeline were never born in the current one. People who were particularly close to them have vague dreams and visions of someone they've never met, with the focal character being haunted by memories of his wife who no longer exists.
  • In Paperinik New Adventures, Paperinik, the protagonist, is the one altering things, as he's forced to ally with the time pirate known as the Raider to try and prevent the destruction of Duckburg due a cold fusion experiment Gone Horribly Wrong, 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 he's involved). In the end, after the Raider is caught, the Time Cops realize that making sure the timeline goes exactly the way it was meant to would involve too many changes and be extremely difficult due to Paperinik, so they settle for making the experiment fail in a non-explosive way and discrediting the scientist who had tried it. This has consequences in later volumes, as the Time Police's usual ability to track down displaced time travelers is disrupted for this time period and they have no records of a large part of Duckburg that would have been destroyed in the explosion, allowing the Time Police to set up shop there for a while.
  • 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.
  • This is strongly implied to have happened with the ending of the independent comic Chronin. A history student from 20 Minutes into the Future takes part in her university's fledging time travel program to observe the past, only to be Trapped in the Past without her time travel device, which falls into the hands of someone who wants to change history. For awhile even after acquiring the device again, she can't return to her own time because changes that have been made to the past have caused the timeline to diverge too much for the device to work. Those changes can't be undone because they include the deaths of some major historical figures, but they can be mitigated, as another time traveller stays behind to somewhat take the place of those figures, and the main character gets a major antagonist to switch sides. That allows the timeline to heal enough that she can return home and resume her life.
  • The result of the rebooted DC Universe timeline at the end of Zero Hour: Crisis in Time!, 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.
  • The miniseries Multiversity: Harley Screws Up the DCU revolves around Harley Quinn finding out that she erased the superheroes from existence by going back in time and interfering with their origins, then teaming up with her alternate timeline counterpart who just freed herself from the control of Starro to try and undo the damages done to the timeline. By the end of the miniseries, the timeline is restored to how it was before with the exceptions of Barry Allen smelling like monkey urine and Aquaman still being erased from existence.

    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.
  • The Power Rangers crossover Forever Yellow features a team-up of Yellow Rangers from across the franchise attempting to stop a version of Venjix from being created in the main universe. At one point, the threat of Venjix is so great that Katie Walker and Z Delgado receive messages from the future that confirm that their future has changed to a timeline where Venjix is in control. During their time in the past, Z also learns that she is the niece of Black Wild Force Ranger Danny Delgado, who speculates that he lost touch with his brother/Z's father in her future. When Z and Katie return to their times, Z learns that she now has a close friendship with Amelia Hammond- the daughter of Andros and Ashley Hammond- and her cousin Katie, both of whom are Rangers themselves, and Katie Walker's check of Time Force's historical records reveals that Amelia was meant to die during Venjix's attempted takeover. Since the only changes to history are a better relationship between Z and her family and a little girl's life being saved, Z and Katie conclude that they aren't going to bother reporting this change to anyone else.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe fic "When Universes Collide" opens with Peter Parker, Wanda Maximoff and Shuri being sent back from the future to the final battle with Thanos (although others are soon revealed to have been sent back also). The travellers express awareness of absolute points in the timeline that cannot be changed without attracting the attention of parties like the TVA, and must adjust their plans to work around these points to find ways to save others. For example, Iron Man using the gauntlet to destroy Thanos's forces is an absolute point, but Tony Stark dying afterwards isn't, allowing Peter to share the burden so that Tony's injuries won't be as serious while Peter's enhanced healing allows him to better cope with the damage. Likewise, while Wanda has to confront Agatha Harkness after trapping Westview in her hex, she is able to cast a more benevolent hex than she did in the original timeline; rather than forcing everyone else to live out her own sitcom fantasy, she creates a hex that basically allows everyone to live a new version of the last five years where nobody was lost.
  • The Castle fic "Flashforward" opens with Kate Beckett of 2012 being sent back to 2009 through a temporal anomaly, but her attempt to find her mother's killer using the leads she's learnt in the future causes her death and creates a timeline where America and China are on the brink of war. After another group of time travellers send the Richard Castle of the "new" 2012 back in time to warn Kate about the consequences of her actions, Castle and Beckett are able to warn the 2009 Montgomery how best to mitigate the effects of their presence once their 2009 selves return. While this mostly restores the original timeline, after they wake up in 2012, Kate receives a call from Montgomery even though he originally died in 2011, the group able to find evidence of Bracken's actions that allows Montgomery to escape prosecution for his own role in events by taking a plea deal.
  • Discussed in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fic "Oswiecim", when a changeling takes the Defiant back in time to World War II and takes Doctor Bashir down to the surface so he's sent to Auschwitz. When Bashir is questioned by the Department of Temporal Investigations upon the ship's return to the present, he affirms that anything that happened in the past might have changed history, from someone being saved because Bashir took his place to someone dying because he ate what would have been their rations, but ultimately research seems to confirm that Bashir's presence made no significant changes, to the extent that one of his fellow detainees survived and wrote a book about their experiences.
  • The Victorious time travel AU fic "Across the Years" sees Jade West go back in time to 1869 to try and save Tori's life by stopping her wedding to Beck Oliver, having fallen in love with Tori through reading her diaries and knowing that Tori's marriage to Beck will lead to Tori dying after a stillbirth and Beck marrying his mistress before he eventually vanishes after his debts catch up with him. When Jade returns to the present with Tori after Beck tried to kill her once his debts and money laundering had been exposed, she observes some minor differences, such as that the inn belonging to Tori's family is still in operation rather than having been demolished, changes in the diaries Jade left in the present compared to what she had saved on her devices, and that Beck drowned while trying to escape arrest in 1869 where he originally disappeared in 1882 after the ship he was on allegedly sank. When Jade and Sikowitz (the inventor of the time machine) realise that there is also no longer any record of Jack the Ripper, Jade starts to speculate that Beck would have become the Ripper in the original timeline. Sikowitz prompts Jade to admit that it might have been some less obvious consequence of her actions in the past, but ultimately Jade concludes that it's not worth over-analysing that detail as she doesn't want to give Beck more attention than he might deserve.
  • The Fairy Tail fic "A World Without Zeref'' have Natsu, Lucy, Gray, Erza, and Happy trying to use the Eclipse Gate to prevent Zeref's existence but end up in a world where Zeref never became the Black Wizard. Even though 400 years of death and destruction from Zeref's demons or worshippers have been undone, the only globe-spanning change is that the population is higher and that the protagonists and their loved ones still exist in the new world (with their deceased loved ones still alive like Gray's parents and Simon). The world itself is actually a ripple showing the most possible timeline where Zeref died centuries ago but still allowing the heroes to still exist. Of course, it isn't that close to the original timeline as most examples on this page, as Fairy Tail is now a Dark Guild while many of their members had defected to form the Legal Guild Pixie Wing. There are also other changes, like Erza being a timid barmaid instead of a brave knight or Gray being a Fire Mage instead of an Ice Maker Mage and plotting to unify Fairy Tail and Pixie Wing. And the fact that no one remembers Natsu because without Zeref becoming a Dark Mage, he couldn't bring Natsu back to life
  • A justification for the Scooby-Doo reboots in Velma Meets the Original Velma. Whenever Scooby is discovered by Velma, he's forced to kill the gang and recreate the entire world from the remains, resulting in the next version changing. This, alongside Velma always remembering, isn't enough for Scooby, as he wants the original world back but simply deviates away from it more and more every time.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, even though The Flash stops himself from screwing up history, his altered costume suggest that the timeline is still slightly different. But since the world is not a war-torn hellhole, he doesn't seem to mind. In the comics, this serves as the beginning of the New 52 timeline, which the film doesn't get into.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • About Time sees Tim use his personal ability to time travel to tweak his personal history at various points, focusing on helping him find love with the woman he eventually marries. However, the nature of his power means that he can only ever change events in his own lifetime, and he soon learns that if he makes changes to history before the births of his children he will actually erase those children from history.
  • 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, the clocktower ledge is broken, Doc had protection against the Libyan terrorists, 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!), George doesn't take any hijinks from a more amiable Biff, and Marty's older siblings, Dave and Linda, now have white collar jobs, with Linda in particular having an active social life. Compare to the original timeline, where George was a meek office peon under Biff, Lorraine was a frumpy Lady Drunk, Dave worked at the local burger joint, and Linda was a socially-awkward Shrinking Violet.
    • At the end of Back to the Future Part III, after all the time traveling done in the sequels, the only additional change from the end of the first film is the name of the ravine to Eastwood Ravine.
    • Done in the Telltale game as well, where after all the traveling done in the game the only known differences from where the film trilogy left off 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.
  • The Flash (2023): The plot is set off by Barry time-traveling to prevent his mother's murder and father's subsequent imprisonment due to being falsely convicted of the crime, but it results in a Time Crash that could spell the end of the world. Barry eventually accepts that his mother has to die for everything to go back to normal and sets it back, but the ending shows some things have still changed; the security camera footage of his father at the supermarket at the time of Barry's mother being murdered now clearly shows his face (when it was obscured before), exonerating him of the crime, and Batman is now played by George Clooney instead of Ben Affleck.
  • 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.
  • In Totally Killer, Jamie's new timeline has a number of differences and is given a book to update her on what's new, but is similar enough she can return to it without issue. The main change for her (apart from her mother being alive, but she was only just murdered in the old timeline) is that because she accidentally prompted her parents to get together early she has an older brother named in her honor and her name is Collette now.

  • Animorphs:
    • In The Andalite Chronicles, this is combined with Reset Button when Elfangor and Loren use the Time Matrix to escape from the Patchwork World created when they and Esplin all tried to use it at once. The world is (mostly) the same, but Loren has been aged up a few years, and Chapman has no memory of her or the aliens.
    • This is how Megamorphs #3 ends, after the Animorphs prevent Visser Four's host from being born, meaning he never found the Time Matrix, and none of the time travel happened. But it's unclear how much really changed, other than the Yeerk didn't find the Time Matrix.
  • Night Watch (Discworld) 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 in to replace him, and gets Vimes to confess it by calling him "Sergeant" and awaiting the response. To make it even weirder both timelines still happened, running in parallel briefly before before being stitched together; Vimes has to mentor his younger self, but was himself mentored by the real Keel.
  • The Way Series: In 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 the Egyptian dynasties apparently never fell.
  • Thursday Next: 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 The 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.
  • In the third book of the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, Johnny and The Bomb, Johnny and his friends manage to prevent Wobbler's Grandfather Paradox and rescue him from the Blitz. They note in the epilogue that things are mostly okay, but some little things are not quite right (like the decor at the local McDonald's analog being different from what they remember). It's also implied that Old Wobbler, who was stuck in the past and came back via The Slow Path as the world's richest man, is still around.

    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 (1998) 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.
  • Pulled by the villains in Chousei Kantai Sazer X. Rather than conquer the planet by collecting the Cosmo Capsules like his ancestors did in the original timeline, when the Big Bad travels to the past he decides to instead use a device called the Dark Alumer to conquer the planet and alter it to the state it is in the Bad Future, ensuring the timeline stays functionally the same even if the events that led up to it differ.
  • The 2006 Hallmark Channel miniseries The Curse of King Tut's Tomb has explorer Danny Fremont discovering King Tut's tomb in 1920. But doing so unleashes a deadly curse with Set and demons of the underworld ravaging Cario. Over the course of the adventure, almost every character except for Danny and new love Azelia is killed. In the final battle, they help Tutankhamun himself be empowered to defeat Set. Tutankhamun tells them "all things are as they should have been" before the tomb reseals itself. Returning to a restored Cario, Danny and Azelia are stunned to discover everyone killed over the adventure is alive again, none of them remembering what happened with some not even recalling meeting Danny. Also, some now have much better lives (a would-be street "psychic" is now a hugely successful mentalist). Azelia sees the man who had been her fiance now married to another woman with children, which frees her to be with Danny. As they walk away, Danny hands the map to Tut's tomb to Howard Carter so he can go down in history as the man who "discovered" it.
  • 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 and that the driver was unidentified, whereas at the end she says that the driver stopped after hitting Pete revealing that it was an accident due to him being a student driver who called for help and that a mysterious blonde woman held Pete's hand until the end. Guess who?
    • "Turn Left" has Donna go back from a Bad Future to Set Right What Once Went Wrong by making herself take a specific turn on a seemingly ordinary day. In the original timeline, Donna stuck to her guns and went left to the job that would lead her into "The Runaway Bride", while in the altered timeline, changed by a time beetle mounted on her back, she turned right, the Doctor died in "The Runaway Bride", and every subsequent episode ended with catastrophe, ultimately devastating much of the planet. In the final version of the timeline, Donna still tries to turn right, but thanks to Alternate!Donna's Heroic Suicide by falling in front of a truck, there's a traffic jam, so she goes left rather than put up with it, putting the timeline back on track and killing the time beetle.
    • "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 is 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, essentially approving of the Doctor's more discreet interference/assistance over the Monk trying to impose his will on everything.
  • Farscape:
    • 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.
    • Apparently what results in "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.
  • 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.
  • My Hero 4x10 ends with George and Arnie mostly fixing the timeline after messing it up. However, as a result of an encounter between a younger Ella and a time-travelling Arnie in 1978, Janet now has a never-seen-before younger brother named Arnold, who looks an awful lot like Arnie.
  • Super Sentai
    • 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.
    • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger #41: In order to gain one of Greater Powers they need, the Gokaigers are enabled to travel back in time, appropriately by former Timeranger Domon, in order to prevent the destruction of a temple which is later revealed to contain said Greater Power. The Gokaigers are explicitly seen checking records of the temple's destruction prior to the trip, only to find it intact after returning to the present with seemingly nothing else having changed.
    • Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: One is created as a result of half of the Kyurangers (Tsurugi, Stinger, Champ, Raptor, Spada and Shou) traveling back in time to discover Don Armage's secret, with Lucky later making his own trip from the present to join them after seeing the aged wreckage of the spaceship Orion. Orion, the man responsible for spreading the legend of the Kyurangers, is prematurely killed in battle by Don Armage, overwriting the original timeline which lasted up to Space 29. As it was the pursuit of the legend which ultimately led to the Kyurangers manifesting in the present day, Shou stays behind to spread the legend in Orion's stead while Champ also remains to search for his creator Doctor Anton, with Shou proceeding to take The Slow Path by cryogenically freezing himself once his work is done (unnecessary for Champ since he is an unaging robot) while the others return to the present. As a result of this change to history, the Kyurangers (Garu, Balance, Hammy, Kotaro, Naga) who remained in the present are technically of a whole new timeline now despite being essentially the same right down to the events they experienced while the time travelers were busy in the past. The one notable divergence in this new timeline is that Eris, a guest character who recalled having met Orion in Space 19, now met Shou instead as becomes apparent when the team meet her again in Space 33.
    • Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger #25: Though Hidokei Wald ultimately fails to avert the Tozitend's defeats, his temporal incursion does create a minor change as several sequences in the first episode are rewritten with a future-aware Kaito. Most notably, Kaito deliberately recites the phrase to activate Setchan when he had originally done so inadvertently. Kaito then loses his future knowledge just before he meets Juran, and so we see Zenkaiger history proceed as it should while both Hidokei Wald and future Setchan operate from behind the scenes. Apparently Kaito recognising Barashitara and name-dropping the four Kikainoids (whom he had not yet met) to Yacchan had no consequences.
  • 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.)
  • Primeval: Season 2 ends with Cutter deciding that the new timeline created at the end of season 1 is this, content that Claudia Brown, rather than being erased, still exists in the form of Jenny Lewis. It also helps that the ARC is more equipped to protect people from creatures than the Home Office was.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • In "Timeslides", 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, may be 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, but at one point Troi tries to convince him that the universe he's in for the moment is good enough and he should stay. He declines, and the ending finally has him return to his own universe.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • The two-parter "Past Tense" has 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.
      • 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.
    • Star Trek: Voyager:
      • Discussed in the two-parter "Year of Hell", wherein a Krenim scientist named Annorax created a weapon capable of erasing his people's enemies from history, but Butterfly of Doom 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.
      • In "Timeless", Harry's original plan was to fix the past Voyager's slipstream so they make it all the way to Earth. When his corrections fail to save the ship and he doesn't have time to work out where he went wrong, the Doctor inspires him to send a phase variance that will collapse the tunnel but save the ship, the two agreeing that the important thing is to save the crew even if they can't bring Voyager home.
      • 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 by capturing the time-traveller who planted the weapon before he can do so. 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; aside from Janeway capturing the other time-traveller, the only other thing she does in the past is give a brief order (which is only "use your best judgement" when she asks what to do) to the present version of B'Elanna Torres during a battle.
  • Timeless:
    • Happens all the time, 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 (such as once coming back to learn their latest mission alongside Ian Fleming inspired a new James Bond novel and film), but never to the point that reality is unrecognizable to them.
    • An interesting variation occurs in the season 2 episode "The Kennedy Curse", where Rufus, one of the time travelers, chooses to change the timeline for the better by warning a young John F. Kennedy not to go to Dallas in 1963, hoping for Kennedy to get a second period as president. However, once back in the present Rufus is informed that Kennedy still got shot — this time in Austin instead of Dallas. The outcome stays the same and creates another close-enough timeline.
  • 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

  • Subverted in a Deleted Scene in The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy 1978, where Ford tells Arthur that they could find an Alternate Universe where the Earth wasn't destroyed and is exactly the same except for one leaf on a tree in the Amazon ... but that eventually Arthur would realise something wasn't quite right and drive himself mad trying to find out what it was.

    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 


    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 Hinckley, 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 other people Hinckley 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 (for the last five seconds of that episode, at least).
    • 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."
  • Johnny Test:
  • An episode of Men in Black: The Series had a bigoted conspiracy theorist use time travel to erase the Men in Black from existence. J and K are able to stop him and revert everything back to normal, but the final shot of the episode reveals that the bigot, who had been mind-wiped and accidentally sent back in time, had wound up becoming one of the founding members of the organization.
  • Parodied and deliberately exploited in Rick and Morty in the form of parallel universes. In "Rick Potion #9", 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 for Laughs in "Solaricks" when the Smith Family have to do the same thing at the end of another episode when they accidentally destroy the Earth again. They end up travelling to another alternate timeline where all of their counterparts simultaneously all died shortly before they arrived, but Rick admits it was a "rush job" because the people in this universe pronounce parmesan as "par-me-cian". The Smiths all express their incredible disgust and hatred at that.
  • 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.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Treehouse of Horror V"'s "Time And Punishment", 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 what initially seemed to be his perfect timeline where his family was filthy rich, his kids were polite and well-behaved, and Patty and Selma were dead. However, he abandoned that timeline immediately after finding out that donuts were apparently never invented in it. Mere seconds after he leaves, donuts start falling from the sky and Marge complains that "It's raining again."
    • In "Treehouse Of Horror XIV"'s "Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off" segment, Lisa presses another button on the stopwatch that has Time Stands Still powers. The other button apparently alters the timeline in such a way that it transforms the rest of the Simpsons in various ways. After turning into the opposite gender, TV guide covers, bobbleheads, and the Fantastic Four, they end up back to normal but spinning hula hoops. Homer immediately tells Lisa that this is good enough.
  • 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?" Of course, Plankton comes home from vacation seconds later.
  • 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.
  • The We Bare Bears episode "Charlie's Halloween Thing," features Charlie the Bigfoot telling three spooky stories. The last one involves Charlie finding a mechanical fortune teller and wishing to be human. Unfortunately, now his friends, the bears, have no memory of him. Charlie continues to make more wishes, but things get worse, until he eventually tries to undo all his wishes. He ends up in a reality where everything is the same, but the bears have miniature versions of themselves living in pouches in their stomachs. Charlie decides this is "close enough."
  • In the season 4 finale of Young Justice (2010), the Legionnaires (who are from about a thousand years in the future and are trapped in the 21st century) lament that they must have changed the timeline so much that their home doesn't exist anymore. Then their teammate Brainiac-5 arrives in a time machine to bring them back to the future, informing them that their timeline has been restored with 99.84% accuracy. Fellow time-traveller Impulse tells them not to question the difference.


Video Example(s):


Dimension C-131

Following the events of the Cronenburg Virus, Rick and Morty are forced to leap realities to another dimension: one where the pair of them had died after managing to fix the problem.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / NothingIsTheSameAnymore

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