Marty: [wearing radiation suit] Silence, Earthling! My name is Darth Vader. I am an extraterrestrial from the planet Vulcan. [makes Vulcan salute]
After traveling back in time, it's accepted protocol that, instead of giving out your real name, you should use an alias that refers to a future aspect of popular culture. It's just how these things are done. If you really went back in time, this probably wouldn't be the brightest thing. After all, what happens if someone remembers that name or writes it down somewhere? In Movie Land, however, this is justified by the Rule of Funny.
For more general cases where a character makes refences to stuff beyond the current time period, see The Genie Knows Jack Nicholson.
- In the Army of Darkness crossover comic with Re-Animator, Ash ends up in West's lab in the early 20th century and claims his name is Elvis Presley.
- This becomes an important plot point in the Vertigo comic Comic Book Brave Old World. After the characters realize they're not the only people transported back to the year 1900, they round up the dozens of other refugees by announcing a talk to be given by Mr. John Lennon and Mr. Mick Jagger.
- Doctor Who (Titan): Tenth Doctor;
- In Fate/Noble Shade, the protagonist picks Ezio Auditore as an alias because he's in 2004 (before Assassin's Creed was released) and is channeling the powers of an Assassin-class Servant (who happens to have been a leader of the actual Assassins in life). He does eventually switch to using his real name.
- Austin Powers:
- Inverted in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Having missed out on thirty years of pop culture, Austin picks the aliases Richie Cunningham and Oprah for himself and Vanessa.
- In Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Dr. Evil uses footage from the film Independence Day to frighten the president and others into thinking the White House is being attacked. But tells him that's what's gonna happen. He calls his moon laser the Death Star and the task of assembling it The Alan Parsons Project. Having gone back to 1969, however, only Scott realizes the idiocy.
- The Back to the Future trilogy:
- Back to the Future Part I:
- Lorraine believes that Marty's name is "Calvin Klein" because it was written on his underwear. Some countries applied a Cultural Translation to this one, since it needed to be a recognizable brand name.
- Marty pretends to be Darth Vader, an extraterrestrial from the planet Vulcan, in order to scare his dad-to-be into dating Marty's mom-to-be.
- And he uses a walkman with a heavy metal cassette to "melt his brain". You can also see a hair dryer tucked into his belt, from an extended version of the scene where Marty pretends it's a gun.
- Plus, when he returns to the future, he finds that he inspired his future dad into publishing a sci-fi novel. Guess what the alien on the cover looks like.
- Back to the Future Part III: When Marty goes back to The Wild West, he says his name is "Eastwood, Clint Eastwood". Buford Tannen replies "What kind of stupid name is that?" The line "Everybody everywhere will say, 'Clint Eastwood is the biggest yellow-belly in the West.'" is also hilarious. They needed Eastwood's permission to use his name and they got it because Clint Eastwood is a big fan of the first film (just like Michael Jackson and Ronald Reagan).
- Back to the Future Part I:
- In Black Knight (2001), Jamal Walker introduces himself to the medieval people as Jamal Skywalker.
- Shanghai Noon:
- When Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson's characters introduce themselves:
Chon Wang: My name is Chon Wang.
Roy O'Bannon: John Wayne?
Chon Wang: Chon Wang.
Roy O'Bannon: That's a terrible cowboy name!
Chon Wang: Why?
Roy O'Bannon: No, come on. That's not gonna work. That's horrible; that's so bad!
- Inverted at the end, when Roy reveals that he doesn't use his actual name because he thinks it's embarrassing: Wyatt Earp. Wang reacts pretty much the same way.
- Also used in the sequel Shanghai Knights when Roy uses the alias Sherlock Holmes, inspiring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
- When Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson's characters introduce themselves:
- Inverted and subverted by Time After Time, where H.G. Wells comes to the present  and assumes the name "Sherlock Holmes", mistakenly thinking that the fictional character would be forgotten in the future. Plus, due to not many people knowing what "H.G." stands for, he's nicely able to fit in just by using his real name, Herbert Wells.
- 1632 :
- Backfires horribly when a character tries using this kind of name for misinformation. Turns out the person he was trying to fool had managed to buy a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica from the late 20th century, as opposed to the 1911 edition that most others have acquired, and did not appreciate being told that his prisoner, Mr. James Bond, was engaged to a Marilyn Monroe, and they could expect a visit from a great gunmaker from the future, Elvis Presley. Whoops.
- Played straight in 1635: The Papal Stakes, where Harry Lefferts uses the code name "Vulcan" when meeting with "Romulus". This actually makes sense, as any down-timer who caught the word "Romulus" would, by force of his ignorance of 1970s sci-fi and knowledge of Roman myth, assume that Romulus would be meeting with Remus.
- The Tim Powers novel The Anubis Gates:
- A character adopts the alias "Humphrey Bogart" in early-19th-century London. A variation in that the character is not himself a time traveller, but picked up the name from another character who is.
- The time travelers also whistle Beatles tunes as a way to recognize each other.
- Doctor Who Expanded Universe: In the New Series Adventures novel Plague City, the Doctor introduces himself in 17th century Edinburgh as Dr. Robert Louis Stevenson.
- Played with in Dream Park, when Griffin is pressed to explain in-character why his LARP character is "the greatest thief in the world". His first two examples are generic fantasy-thief tropes, but his third boast is that he owns the only surviving black-market copy of Star Wars. Other Gamers point out the in-story anachronism, as the South Seas Treasure game they're playing is set in the 1950s.
- In Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series, 20th century Dungeons & Dragons players transported to the world of their game use obscure pop culture references as passwords amongst themselves:
Two all-beef patties, lettuce, cheese...
- Another such variation occurs in one of the John Carter of Mars books, wherein a disguised John Carter introduces himself as "the Sultan of Swat".
- Terry Pratchett uses this in Johnny and the Bomb. Kids from The '90s introduce one of their group to a World War II-era shopkeeper as "Prince Sega. All the way from Nintendo."
- Granted, Nintendo existed at the time... As a card company. And Standard Games (later SErvice GAmes) existed too. Not that they were well known, or did business in the UK at all.
- Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series has a scene where one-time traveler uses the line "Does the name 'Ringo Starr?' mean anything to you?" as a shibboleth to recognize another.
- In a variation that involves an alien world instead of time travel, the Superman novel Last Son of Krypton by Elliott S! Maggin, has Lex Luthor use the alias "Abraham Lincoln", which Superman recognizes but which the aliens don't.
- Simon Hawke's Time Wars More like I'm Mr. Literary Reference: In The Timekeeper Conspiracy Lucas gives his names to The Three Musketeers as "Alexander Dumas". After the action is over, the Temporal Corps erase him from their memories, as it wouldn't be good to have the author of their story finding his name in their accounts of it.
- Inverted in Count to the Eschaton. After he is raised from cryogenic suspension thousands of years in the future, Menelaus Montrose adopts an alias with the first name "Sterling"—taken from the protagonist of the Star Trek-esque series that Menelaus was a fan of, and which has long been forgotten by that time.
- When Valkyrie from Skulduggery Pleasant was interrogated on an alternate Earth with No Such Thing as Alien Pop Culture, she pretended her name was Marilyn Monroe and that she lived in Graceland with Elvis Presley.
- The Tales of Paul Twister:
- Paul is Trapped in Another World rather than in the past, but he otherwise plays this trope completely straight, making up aliases for himself based on superhero names. This is explicitly so that if anyone else finds themselves trapped, they will come looking for him.
- Another character goes by the alias April O'Neil, presumably using the same concept.
- Lampshaded in The BBC's World War I Origins song:
- Boy Meets World: Corey gets sent back to the '50s. When the Mr. Feeny Expy asks his name, he says "Brad Pitt, sir." Mr. Feeny says "On your way then, Mr. Pittser."
- Doctor Who:
- In "The Empty Child", set in 1941, Rose jokingly refers to the Doctor as "Mr. Spock" when pressed for his name. Captain Jack, who's from the distant future, doesn't recognize the reference, and Hilarity Ensues.
- In "Tooth and Claw", set in 1879, the Doctor initially introduces himself as "Dr. James McCrimmon from the township of Balamory."
- "The Shakespeare Code" has them using a future pop-culture reference, not merely as a throwaway gag, but to actually defeat the Monster of the Week. It turns out the Elizabethan witch-aliens are killed by shouting "expelliarmus" at them.
- In "The Fires of Pompeii", when pressed for a name, the Doctor sputters "I am ... Spartacus."note His companion Donna leaps in with "And so am I." In the same episode, he also explains away her ignorance of what an augur is with "She's from Barcelona".
- In an episode of Spin-Off series The Sarah Jane Adventures, Sarah Jane and Luke go back to 1951, and adopt the names of Victoria and David Beckham.
- "The Angels Take Manhattan" features River Song doing undercover investigations in the 1930s. She goes by "Melody Malone", in reference to "Matches Malone", the Go-to Alias of Batman.
- In "The Snowmen", the Doctor shows up in the 19th century claiming to be Sherlock Holmes (and dressed the part). Unfortunately, the Big Bad's human assistant has heard of Arthur Conan Doyle and his novel. In fact, he has mentioned it in all but name earlier in the episode to a female Silurian detective, upon whom the character is actually based.
- "Rosa": When the Doctor and Graham have to deal with a police officer in 1955 Montgomery who's been called on them, Graham claims his name is "Steve Jobs".
- Legends of Tomorrow:
- In the second episode, Martin Stein introduces himself to his younger self as "Professor Elon Musk".
- In another episode, Ray Palmer introduced himself to the scientists who worked on the future of his technology as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, making this something of a "Mr. Past Pop-Culture Reference"... which makes one wonder how he knew that name would be forgotten in the future. Ray later uses John Wayne while in the Wild West.
- In the episode "Abominations", Nate Heywood introduces himself to Ulysses S. Grant as "Colonel Sanders".
- In the episode "The Chicago Way," Nate impersonates Eliot Ness (who was incapacitated after an attempted murder by Capone), while Ray plays his associate "Bob De Niro."
- In "Welcome to the Jungle", the Legends run into Mick's father, and Nate gives Mick the alias "Schwarzenegger".
- Life on Mars (2006):
Sam: This is my friend Gordon Brown, and his wife... uh...
- Sam goes undercover as "Tony Blair" at one point, with Annie as "Cherie". Later, when Gene tags along, he's given "Gordon Brown" as his alias.
- Also, when his mother asks his name he says "Detective Inspector Bolan", a mere few scenes after he's met T-Rex's lead singer.
- And in the US remake, Sam introduces himself to his mother in 1973 as Luke Skywalker. He says it's Navajo when she comments on how odd it sounds. In this case, he panicked when she asked for his name and that was the only thing he could think of.
Gene: What do you think I'm doing here, Tyler?
Sam: Building a Death Star?
- Also in the US version, Sam uses the alias "Tom Cruise" while impersonating a pilot, and "Bono" while undercover in the Irish mob. On an undercover mission where Gene and a woman have to accompany him, he assigns them the aliases George and Laura Bush.
- In the spinoff Ashes to Ashes (2008), Alex gets a request to meet from someone calling himself "Boris Johnson". Of course, it's to give her a clue that he's also a coma-time-traveller.
- Later on, she also applies to a dating agency under the name Kate Winslet.
- Inverted in The Middleman: Guy Goddard has been in cryogenic suspension since 1969.
Guy: Well, maybe Scotty can beam us down. ...It's an obscure reference to a cancelled television show. I'm sure you've never heard of it.
- On Once Upon a Time, Emma and Hook are sent back to the pre-Dark Curse Enchanted Forest, and attend a ball thrown by King Midas. When asked for their names, Emma comes up with Prince Charles and Princess Leia. The timeline probably puts them in the early 1980s, around the time of Charles' wedding to Diana and between the release of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, so it's a good thing they traveled to another world as well as back in time.
- In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "Time To Time", a time traveler uses "Luke Skywalker" as an alias when in the year 1969. He even finished a phone call with "May the Force be with you."
- Stargate SG-1:
- In the episode "1969", Jack O'Neill attempts this by claiming to be "Captain James T. Kirk, of the Starship Enterprise", despite the fact that Star Trek actually did exist in 1969, although the interrogating officer in the scene had apparently never heard of it (which isn't too far-fetched, given the original run of the show was much less popular). Jack later admits to giving a fake name, instead claiming to be "Luke Skywalker".
- SG-1 also does a variant where the characters give pop culture aliases to aliens. Once, Dr. Jackson told a pair of mercenaries his name was "Olo, Hans Olo" (with fun similarities to another thing); another time, he tried to pass himself off as the Great and Powerful Oz to an enemy ship, with an absolutely incredulous reaction from the other side; it probably didn't work because a "Great and Powerful" Goa'uld wouldn't be flying around in a transport ship.
- SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis would often do a variation where a reference or Phlebotinum Analogy would hinge on some pop culture reference to inevitably be lost on alien team members Teal'c, Vala, Ronon, and Teyla. But subverted toward the end of the series as the aliens — especially Teal'c — became more familiar with Earth culture.
- Teal'c in particular became an avid Star Wars fan. Which later created a joke when Vala (another alien) mentions how she got pregnant without having sex, asking if anyone had ever heard of such a thing. Mitchell and Carter both seem to think of Jesus (actually Mitchell's thinking of King Arthur) but instead, it's Teal'c who exclaims "Darth Vader", prompting a worried Vala to ask "How did that turn out?"
- "In the Beginning": Dean can't give his actual last name because he's just met his father in the past, so he introduces himself as "Dean van Halen". Of course, the Winchesters use musical references as aliases in the present too. Only one person ever noticed, and he just thought it was a funny coincidence.
- In "Frontierland", Dean introduces himself to the residents of 1861 Wyoming as Clint Eastwood, and then gives Sam's name as Walker and says he's a Texas Ranger.note
- In "Time After Time", Dean meets Eliot Ness and makes an idiot of himself babbling on about The Untouchables (1987), but can't resist introducing himself as "Special Agent Costner".
- In the pilot, Lucy introduces herself to a guard at the Hindenburg landing strip as "Nurse Jackie" and Wyatt as "Dr. Dre", and claims they're from General Hospital, while in the second episode, Rufus introduces himself to some USCTs as "Denzel Washington". Later on, however, this gets subverted, as the team eventually realizes that they can just use their real names.
- And then double subverted as they go right back to doing this anyway, using such aliases as Kanye, Doctor Quinn, and Agent Mulder.
- In "Last Ride of Bonnie and Clyde", Rufus goes so far as to make a fake driver's license that identifies him as Wesley Snipes. This actually saves his life, as Flynn has told the contemporary cops that Rufus is his bounty, under his real name, in an effort to get an opportunity to kill him.
Flynn: He is not Wesley Snipes! That license is a forgery!
Hamer: It's got the stamp. You can't fake that.
- In the unbroadcast The Time Tunnel remake, time travelers at the 1944 Battle of the Bulge use the aliases Colonel Klink and Sergeant Schultz.
- In The Umbrella Academy (2019), there's a variant when Klaus gets trapped in The '60s along with the rest of the gang, albeit in different years, he starts a cult that he names Destiny's Children. Most of the "proverbs" he gives them are actually quotes from 90s pop music.
- Back to the Future: The Game continues the tradition established by the movies:
- The player can choose Marty's alias in 1931, all of which are names of famous fictional characters from around the 80's: Sonny Crockett, Michael Corleone and Harry Callahan. This one kind of acts as a double-take trope, seeing as how Marty himself is a fictional character from the 80s, yet the players themselves are from the 21st century.
- Likewise, Doc Brown's alias in 1931 is Carl Sagan. Lampshaded by First Citizen Brown who recognizes the reference and remarks "The 'billions and billions' guy?"
- When he needs to get soup delivered to a young Doc Brown's house, Marty claims it's for a charity called "The Mario Brothers".
- In the fifth episode, First Citizen Brown tries to frame Marty as a Communist subversive named Yakov Smirnoff, and Edna Strickland takes the name Mary Pickford when she unintentionally travels back to the 1880s.
- This Critical Miss article describes a group of role-players playing as time travelers gone to WWI Germany using the aliases Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, and Rudolf Hess, which would have worked if not for other time travelers.
- In this edition of Man Comics, Rip Hunter tries to bluff his way into a meeting with George Washington under the name "Jean-Claude McFly".
- American Dragon: Jake Long: The titular character once time traveled and told his Past!Mom and Past!Grandpa that his name was Beyoncé Timberlake.
- The Owl House: When Luz travels 400 years into the past to meet Philip Wittebane, she goes by the alias "Luzura" (her Good Witch Azura OC and the main character a book she and King wrote the prior season). After Emperor Belos reveals that he is Philip's present day self, he mockingly refers to Luz as "Luzura" just to rub in the fact that she helped his rise to power.
- Subverted in the South Park episode "Trapper Keeper", which features a cyborg Expy of Star Trek and Terminator characters from a post-apocalyptic Bad Future who refers to himself as "Bill Cosby", a reference that was already over a decade old. Not only does he get away with it (especially given how white he is), but he also manages to pass for a 4th grade student despite looking and sounding like a homeless (the only aspect anyone does pick up on) and mentally imbalanced middle-aged man.
Stan: Ms. Crabtree, there's another creepy homeless person on the bus!
Ms. Crabtree: Sit down and shut up!
Stan: But they smell like pee!
VSM471/"Bill Cosby": I am not a homeless person! I am a fourth grade student! My name is... Bill Cosby.
- After he reveals himself:
Officer Barbrady: I knew you weren't Bill Cosby.
- After he reveals himself:
- Static Shock inverts this: Virgil travels to the future (specifically the Batman Beyond future) and sarcastically tells Terry he's Beyoncé when he doesn't believe him to be Batman. Terry apparently doesn't get it, since he introduces him to Bruce that way seconds later.
Terry: You know this kid? He says his name is Beyoncé.
- Accidental example in the What If…? (2021) episode, "What If... Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?" where O'Bengh thinks Dr Strange's name is Armani after he describes his suit and calls him that for the rest of the episode.