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Meanwhile, in the Future…

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Sarah: Arlington? Arlington? Where've you gone? Oh god, I'm stuck here in the late Jurassic without a time machine.
Narrator: Meanwhile, in the early 20th century, Arlington Wolfe, cross-time detective, is trapped on an iceberg.

An unusual form of Meanwhile, Back at the…. The story cuts between two different time periods, just as in Meanwhile, Back at the…, but here the plotlines are separated in time as well as space; one of them is chronologically in advance of the other. The narrator treats the two different plot threads in different times as if they were happening simultaneously, despite the fact that, chronologically, the plot thread in the past is going to be resolved long before the thread in the future starts.

This can be used as a way to maintain suspense about past events, using out-of-order storytelling to keep the audience in the dark about crucial details.

While Time Travel is not a necessary element, this trope most often appears in Time Travel stories, and in these scenarios it can also reflect the ability of past, present, and future to interact with one another. Examples with Time Travel sometimes turn out to be San Dimas Time instead.

The actual phrase "Meanwhile, in the Future..." is usually used tongue-in-cheek, but there are examples of legitimate comic books using it with a straight face.

Related to Time-Travel Tense Trouble. See also Sequencing Deception, in which the fact that there are multiple timeframes is concealed. Flashback B-Plot can be considered a more specific variant, in which a story alternates between two storylines in the past and present, both centering around the same character(s) at different points in their life.

Note: Please don't duplicate entries between this trope, San Dimas Time, Portal to the Past, and Flashback B-Plot.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Drifting Classroom, main character Sho and his entire elementary school have been sent to a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Several times in the story, Sho's mother, still in the past, has received a psychic message from her son cryptically asking her to plant a Deus ex Machina to rescue him from a cliffhanger that he's encountered in the future. She usually has to go through a short storyline to put everything in place, while the audience is waiting for Sho to escape the cliffhanger he's in.
  • Dragon Ball Z Kai did this with the final episode in the Cell Saga, "Peace For the Future! The Spirit of Goku is Forever!" In addition to showing the heroes living their lives after saving the day as normal, it also depicts Future Trunks returning to his dystopian timeline and using his new-found knowledge and power to defeat the Androids and Imperfect Cell. This was also present in the original Dragon Ball Z episode "Free the Future", but to a much lesser extent, as almost the entirety of that episode is spent on Trunks and the Androids.
  • The biggest plot twist in Your Name is that Taki and Mitsuha are separated both by place and time. Mitsuha is from three years in the past, and in Taki's timeline, she is already dead.
  • Subverted in the Memory Arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!, where it seems that the main character has gone back into the past, but when the 'meanwhile in the future' occurs, the audience discovers its actually an elaborate role playing game.

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who audio plays:
    • In The Kingmaker, The Fifth Doctor and his companions, Peri and Erimem, are stranded in two separate time zones. The story jumps between the two zones, telling the 'before' and 'after' of a sinister plot.
    • In The Rocket Men, Ian starts by recounting a scene where he, Barbara and Vicki are all hostages of sinister Space Pirates. He then wonders about where this began, and recounts the story of him arriving on the tourist planet from where the ship he was on would depart. Then he goes back to what happened after the first event, and continues going back and forth. This is used for some very good dramatic effect - the first Cliffhanger describes Ian flinging himself out of an airlock into the void, and it's only when we hear the following scene, from the past timeline, of him knocking out the pirate and stealing his suit that we know he had an air supply and a JetPack when he jumped, meaning the cliffhanger isn't quite as alarming.

    Comic Books 
  • The Swedish comic Goliat would announce cuts with captions like "Simultaneously in the Stone Age ..." in its time-travel arcs, without apparent irony.
  • The Flash:
    • In The Flash Vol. 1 #125, the Flash (Barry Allen) travels to the year 2287 and finds that aliens have conquered Earth by sending a hive-shaped device to the year 100,842,246 BC which removed all radioactivity in the minerals there, thus leaving the people of the future with no atomic weapons to fight off the invaders. Even stranger, when he returns to the 20th century, he finds that all atomic-powered devices there have abruptly failed as well. When Kid Flash (Wally West) goes back in time and destroys the hive, atomic power is "simultaneously" restored in both time periods, and the invaders are driven off.
    • A later Flash storyline relied on this for it to work. The Flash (Wally West) is stuck thousands of years in the future, forced to go past his top speed over and over again in order to get closer to his home time. Each time he does this, he risks dying — but he survives because the love of his girlfriend, Linda, is "like a lightning rod" which keeps him from getting lost in time and space. Meanwhile, in the...present, Linda has given Wally up for dead and moved on to a new guy. The moment she kisses him, (thus severing the connection between herself and Wally) the story cuts to an image of Flash, in the future, seemingly dying, despite the fateful kiss having happened over FOUR THOUSAND YEARS AGO from where he's standing.
  • This happens at the beginning of a storyline in Ultimate Fantastic Four (before they go back to prevent Ben's transformation to the Thing.) Reed is in contact with Sue and Johnny who are both in different time periods. Their communicators are apparently acting as a Portal to the Past for communication.
  • Business as usual in Silver Age Legion of Super-Heroes stories.
  • Superman:
    • Used as a plot device in 1969 Action Comics story The Immortal Superman, where the President asks Superman not to fly into the past or future for the next 24 hours to avoid disrupting a military experiment. No sooner has he agreed this than Superman receives an urgent distress call from the year 101,970. Instead of simply waiting until the next day before setting off, Superman uses a defective time-bubble belonging to the Legion. It takes him to his destination, but the defect causes him to age every year along the way, leaving him trapped in the future and over a hundred thousand years old. (He got better.) The point was raised in the letter column, with the editor eagerly accepting the reader's suggestion that Superman hadn't been thinking straight due to the effects of Red Kryptonite.
    • In Two for the Death of One, Superman gets split into two identical "twins". One of them is trapped in the fourteenth century whereas his other "half" is stuck in the present, and the story often cuts between both Supermen.
      Narration Box: While, five hundred years before...
    • Krypton Returns: In Supergirl #25, H'El travels to Superboy's mission's time, while "simultaneously" fighting Supergirl, with the times synching up so that he is hit by multiple Super Family members at the "same time".
    • Time and Time Again features Superman travelling back and forth between the past and the future. Once an Episode, we see scenes taking place in the same night Superman disappeared. Lois is worried about her fiance's disappearance, Perry White slowly repairs his relationship with his wife, Jimmy Olsen has his date with Lucy Lane ruined by the untimely appearance of his own mother (driving him into getting his own apartment in the process), LexCorp is in turmoil trying to cope with the fallout of Lex Luthor's apparent death and the trouble of locating his son to inherit the empire, and Bibbo Bibbowski is celebrating his recent lottery winnings by getting drunk with his pals.(It turns out Superman has been traveling in time for months from his perspective, while only one night passed in Metropolis before his return.)
    • A Mind-Switch in Time gets Superman stranded in the past as Superboy gets stranded in the present. During the first two chapters, the story swaps back and forth between Superman and Superboy's viewpoints.
  • Belgian comic Suske en Wiske (Spike & Suzy) does this constantly in their time travel stories. Most stories have one of the protagonists use the teletime-machine, in the meantime destroying it. Professor Barabas then spends the whole comic rebuilding it, after which the storyline is swiftly deus ex machina'd by reinforcements (most of the time Jerom). The teletime-machine also has a screen showing the events happening in the past.
  • In the Strontium Dog "Max Bubba" storyline, Johnny goes back to the year 793 AD to stop the eponymous mutant from changing history. Bubba proceeds to kill every member of the Thoresen family, apparently to send a message to the future, with the result that descendants of the Thoresons spontaneously drop dead and vanish, yet everybody seems to remember them. Characters in the future continue to monitor temporal distortions, and infer from the various disasters which occur that Bubba is continuing to wreak havoc with history, and Johnny has failed.
  • In DC One Million, half of the Justice League of America travels to the year 85,271 to be honored and feted. The ones in the present figure out that it's a trap, and start panicking to figure out a way to rescue their teammates before they're killed. The Huntress is the voice of reason when she points out that they have eighty thousand years to plan a rescue.
  • During his run on The Avengers West Coast, John Byrne once used the caption "Meanwhile, five hundred million years later..." seriously, in a non-Time Travel story. (It indicated a transition from memories of the distant past to the person remembering them in the present day.)
  • A good third of the plotlines in Watchmen takes place in the past, focusing on the Minutemen and Crimebusters.
  • Lampshaded in Fantastic Four, during their conflict with Hyperstorm. Some characters were stranded in the past, and others continued their actions in the future. A change of plots said "Meanwhile... if the word makes any sense in this context...".
  • PS238 has a complicated time travel plotline, and one setting that takes place outside of time, so it has some fun with this:
    At that, and just about every other moment in time and space...
    "Suddenly," in the year 2000...
    Meanwhile, relatively, in the present time...
    In what could pass for a loose definition of "meanwhile"...
    Relatively meanwhile, in between "tick" and "tock," just south of twenty-five o'clock...
  • A straight use of the line appears in the second Super Powers series - Green Arrow, Red Tornado and Hawkman are trapped in the past, while Aquaman and Martian Manhunter try and figure out how to send them back.
  • Natacha: In Les machines incertaines, Walter is sent 500 years to the future while Natacha stays in the 20th century. The plot alternates between them, with captions showing "meanwhile, in the 20th century".

    Fan Works 
  • Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami: The phrase "Meanwhile in the past" is used.
  • My Choices: Twisted Tales Through Time: The story alternates each chapter between a thousand years in the past, where Blue Star!Twilight works on reforming ancient Equestrian society while trying to prevent Luna's corruption into Nightmare Moon, and the new future, where the Twilight and Trixie have friendshipping adventures while Luna and Celestia prepare for a corrupted Blue Star's fated return.
  • The Unity Saga: A Portal to the Past con intergalactic worm hole opens up in the Star Trek universe, linking them to the Star Wars universe (the latter, bear in mind, takes place a "long time ago in a galaxy far, far away"). Although the Portal to the Past aspect justifies Meanwhile, in the Future... for most situations, at one point when Darth Vader is in the Star Trek universe, he communicates with the Emperor through Force meditations. And it's implied that this doesn't make use of the wormhole; they are just somehow able to link minds at times that correspond with the fixed temporal displacement of the wormhole.
  • It happens pretty often in Supergirl fanfic Hellsister Trilogy, given the constant time-travelling. After a present-time scene where Legion of Super-Heroes enemy Mordru extracts Satan Girl from Kara, the narration shifts to the 31st century.
    Ten centuries in the future, this will happen. Let us say that it did happen, to make our story easier to relate.
  • A version of this is used in the Code Lyoko fic Return to the Past, which jumps back and forth between March 10, 2006, the present, and June 6, 1994, where Jérémie is trapped. Each timeline does take place over the straightforward course of one day, but June 6's time loop repeats seven times over the course of the story. There is no communication between the timelines — Jérémie never thinks to communicate with the future, and the Lyoko Warriors don't know where Jérémie is until just before he returns.
  • In Stars Above, this trope is used in Chapters 4 through 9. The story cuts back and forth from the 2007 Lucky Star universe and the 2012/2013 Madoka Magica universe.
  • The Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Days Of Future Smurfed" starts off as a story being told in the future by Empath to his great-grandson about what happened in the past, with cuts not only between the future and the past, but also between the past and events that within the character's history as it unfolds. By the end of the story, Empath's great-grandson realizes that his purpose in the story is to create a Stable Time Loop to make sure that history unfolded just as his great-grandfather had told him about. The story ends with Empath's great-grandson becoming Traveler Smurf, watching Empath's younger self in the time period that he now calls his home.
  • Diamond and Silver's Excellent Adventure has section titles such as "Meanwhile, two weeks ago in the present".
  • Due to this being a key element of the original Prehistoric Park, the vast majority of Prehistoric Park fanfiction naturally has each 'episode' involving rescue missions feature what's going on at the park while Nigel (or, in the case of Prehistoric Earth and Prehistoric Park Reimagined, whatever character happens to be serving his role in his place) is busy going on adventures in the past to find prehistoric animals to rescue for the park alongside whatever antics Nigel (or whoever serves as his equivalent) is up to in the past.

    Films — Animation 
  • Meet the Robinsons inverts this when Louis is in the future, then we use a Match Cut to transition to Bowler Hat Guy arriving at InventCo in the present day.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 12 Monkeys features characters communicating with scientists in the future with a business's answering machine in the "present", which a team of scientists spend months and years recovering from the decayed magnetic tape. While the continuity is well-explained, the interaction between future and present, even with the time machine, is relatively sequential.
  • Best Defense 1984 uses the Flash Forward form of this: the main story involved Dudley Moore on a development project for a new tank, with the secondary story following along with Eddie Murphy as a tank commander going through a comedy of errors largely due to flaws in the tank. The future story reflects the events in the past story as they go along, highlighting the design decisions (and corporate espionage) as they take place. At the climax of the film, Eddie Murphy's tank is overheating, leaving him a sitting duck on the battlefield, but Dudley Moore leaps to his rescue with a cooling device... ten years earlier.
  • Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure:' "It is time. Their separation is imminent." By which he apparently means that their separation almost happened 600 years ago, but they might as well fix it now.
  • Cloud Atlas: Used throughout the whole movie to maintain the pace for each of the plotlines.
  • Justified in Déjà Vu (2006), the timetravel-based monitoring machine only has the power to "see" in the fixed time of 4 days and 6 hours earlier, being only able of controlling the P.O.V., and sending the main character's in the same past.
  • In Frequency, the effects of the temporally-displaced conversation between father and son don't take place all at once. Although it is quite inconstant — the speed of some actions in the past seems synced to the speed of the effects appearing in the present while others can take only a fraction of a second in the past but the effect in the present takes much longer. Notable examples:
    • A sentence written in the past appearing in the present letter-by-letter.
    • In one scene, the bad guy gets his hand blown off with a shotgun, meanwhile his 30 years in the future counterpart is shocked to see that same hand wither away into a nub while strangling his original opponent's son.
  • In The Lake House, two people living two years apart in the same house exchange letters through time. Near the end of the film, the woman (who's the one who lives in the future) realizes that the bloke she's been writing letters to is the one that died in her arms near the beginning of the film. Thus she frantically races to inform him of what happened before he gets run over.
  • The Last Letter From Your Lover: The film opens with Jenny's plot in the '60s, but gives almost equal screentime to Ellie in modern-day London, who is trying to piece the story of Jenny's affair together. As a result, Jenny and Ellie find the same letters at similar points in time in the narrative.
  • The Martian: At the climax of the movie, a rescue attempt at Mars is broadcast live to Mission Control and around the world. The scene cuts back and forth between the events happening at Mars and the reactions from those back at Earth, even though it was expressly stated that Mars was 12 light minutes away, which means the scenes at Earth are happening 12 minutes later than the scene at Mars.
  • The Smurfs 2 does this in the early part of the movie to show what's been going on with Gargamel and the Winslows since we have last seen them in the modern-day world.
  • Time Runner: The movie repeatedly cuts back and forth between the Bad Future where the aliens have invaded Earth and the past where a time traveller is trying to prevent all this.
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, the Mental Time Travel doesn't affect history until the traveler's body in the present wakes up. Is Hand Waved by the specifics of Kitty Pryde's ability.

  • In the Discworld novel Jingo Commander Vimes got, in a strange turn of events, a magical PDA that told him what was happening to his self in a different timeline, where he did not go to Klatch. Everybody dies. Maybe more a Meanwhile right now, but a very good example none the less.
  • The Michael Crichton novel Timeline justifies the time trip's thirty-six hour limit with the explanation that they weren't actually travelling into the past, they were travelling into a kind of parallel universe which existed in an earlier time, but in which time passed at the same rate as in our world. The time machines only have enough battery life to maintain a connection for thirty-six hours before they needed to be recalled. Or something.
  • Many of Alastair Reynolds' books work this way. There's a climax that the book is working towards in which all the characters will end up in the same place at the same time, and parts of the book are told in rough order of how long—in that character's time frame—it will be until the character reaches the climax. Since his books are Space Operas in a setting full of Time Dilation, this leads to quite a bit of skipping around in calendar years, especially toward the beginnings of his books.
  • A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones, uses this constantly. Characters talk about, for example, World War II "becoming" longer (i.e. it starts earlier and finishes later), something that is apparently a gradual process, although "gradual" in what is hard to say. Partially justified by the idea that the eponymous Time City exists in its own personal timeframe outside the rest of time, but nonetheless, the time travelling doesn't make internal sense. Still a good book, though.
  • This is a recurring gimmick in the Nicolas Eymerich, Inquisitor series by Valerio Evangelisti: While the main action is taking place in the middle ages, each episode also depicts a related subplot taking place "simultaneously" centuries earlier or later. And it doesn't even technically involve time travel, making the narrative device all the more contrived.
  • Illuminatus! is chock full of this, explicitly described as such to be paradoxic and funny.
  • Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency had Susan Way talk on the telephone to Richard MacDuff, who was four billion years in the past. As Professor Chronotis points out, this was a matter they would just have to take up with British Telecom. (Note that the "telephone from the future" device also appeared in Doctor Who, for which Douglas Adams wrote several episodes, which Dirk Gently borrows other plot elements from.)
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 novel Angels of Darkness, the story cuts back and forth between the interrogation of Chapter Master Astelan, and Brother Chaplain Boreas' storyline while on guard duty on Piscina, decades later. Interestingly, both plots include Boreas, and the effects of the first are enormous on the conclusion of the second plotline.
  • As it is a book about Vlad Tepes and Elizabeth Bathory, who can somehow write letters to each other despite living over one hundred years apart, Count and Countess is quite full of this.
  • H. G. Wells' The Time Machine - the Time Traveller vanishes forever at the end and the narrator wonders where he wound up. He at least recognizes the contradictions and absurdities of time travel by saying "He may even now, if I may use the term ..."
  • Cryptonomicon simultaneously juggles the story of World War II soldiers Bobby Shaftoe and Goto Dengo, World War II cryptographer Lawrence Waterhouse, and modern-day computer hacker Randy Waterhouse.
  • Seekers of the Sky has the recurring plotline of the Redeemer (replacement Jesus), which is repeatedly alluded to in the present-day narration but revealed only in small heaps across two books.
  • Dean Koontz does this in his time travel book Lightning, as his hero has to bounce between the time lab in 1944, where he drops a few hints to Churchill about winning the war and helping his girlfriend in 1989 avoid time-traveling Gestapo men, so she doesn't get killed again. It... gets complicated.
  • Appears frequently in the later books in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series.
  • Used blatantly in the opening paragraphs of Mansfield Park and Mummies by Vera Nazarian.
    While the venerable Pharaoh mummy continued to desiccate in secret splendor for thousands of years, far into the future, our Maria's one sister, Miss Ward, at the end of half a dozen years, found herself obliged to be attached to the Rev. Mr. Norris...
  • In Parable of the Talents, the story alternates between Lauren Olamina's journey out of a Christian concentration camp and her attempts to find her baby daughter, who was taken by Christian fundamentalists, and her daughter Larkin/Asha Vere's life with her abusive adoptive parents.
  • Star Trek: Federation cuts back and forth between three different timelines: 2060s pre–World War III, TOS in 2267, and TNG in 2366. The 2060s storyline mostly fills out backstory, but the TOS and TNG storylines are eventually tied together by a Negative Space Wedgie.
    • Star Trek: Destiny also bounces back and forth between multiple time frames. The bulk of the story revolves around events that occur just after Enterprise's time, events 1,000 years before that, and events 10,000 years before that in the Delta Quadrant. Then would jump to the late 2300s Star Trek: Titan time frame to unfold how those past events brought about – and are the solution to – the "present day" crisis.
    • Similarly, The Q Continuum has Q take Picard on a journey through Q's life in order to show Picard why he should abandon his current mission. The trip through time is interspersed with chapters detailing what the Enterprise is going through under Riker's command in Picard's absence.
  • No time travel happens in The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin, but the book is written in Anachronic Order. The odd-numbered chapters take place on one planet and the even numbered chapters take place on another, but the main character of both ongoing plotlines is the same person; the odd numbered chapters all take place chronologically after the final even-numbered chapter, and both end with the main character leaving one planet for the other. (In one case, he's leaving his home planet, in the other he's returning to it.)
  • Sharyn McCrumb's Ballad Novels are a mystery series set in Appalachia. Each novel is split between a murder case in the present investigated by Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and a historical case with some parallel or connection to it.
  • In the works of Alan Garner, Thursbitch uses this trope with some crossover between times in a small hamlet in England.
    • In Boneland, Colin and the Watcher are playing out the same issues of loss and trauma, in much the same geological place but separated by up to half a million years in time. Both are struggling to work out what is happening to them according to their conditioning and cultural preconceptions. Garner even hints that Recursion is happening and they are somehow directly linked.
  • The late-80s/early-'90s children's archaeology series Time Quest would alternate chapters between an account of a present-day excavation/expedition and a semi-fictionalized story set in the past based on the artifacts that had been discovered.
  • The Warrior Cats book SkyClan's Destiny works this way, with the current-day story of SkyClan interspersed with chapters from Stick's point of view, back before he left the city, some time earlier than the main events of the book.
  • Post-Self follows two plot threads, one in the 22nd century and one in the 24th. Due to Brain Uploading there are common characters to both threads, but after two centuries of forking and differentiation one has to ask if they truly are the same person, or some kind of descendant who's inherited their memories.
  • Talion: Revenant: The story cycles between Nolan's present and past, starting with the former, showing how he became a Talion with events leading up to where he's found himself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the third and final series of Ashes to Ashes (2008), Alex's voiceover on the opening titles mentions time running out for her to get back home (i.e. to the present day). This isn't explained in the slightest, though, since neither world, now or then, is in any imminent danger whatsoever.
    • Maybe explained by the finale.
  • In the Charmed episode "Chris Crossed" a powerless Chris is fighting future Wyatt in the... well, future. In the present, the Charmed Ones write a spell to gives back his powers and hide it in the attic where Chris can find it.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Possibly invoked "The Three Doctors" and "Arc of Infinity", where action takes place on present day and/or near future Earth and also on Gallifrey. However, since it's never really been clear where Gallifrey's "present" is in relation to Earth's, it cannot be sure.
    • The classic series episode "Terror of the Zygons" mentioned that the Brigadier literally had a "space-time telegraph" with which he could call the Doctor, though he was explicitly instructed not to use it except in extreme emergencies. The device came up once again in the 50th anniversary special, where the enemies were, once again, the Zygons. It seems that the telegraph is linked to the TARDIS in such a way that it connects them at the same points in their relative (subjective) time, justifying this trope.
    • "Mawdryn Undead" shows the Doctor separated from his companions in the same place six years apart. The Doctor needs to know what happened in the past and when in order to rejoin them.
    • The whole concept of the Doctor adjusting Rose's phone so that she can ring home wherever she is in space or time, and get the version of her mother appropriate to Rose's personal time line, rather than say, the people who lived in her house 40 years ago or her mother aged 80.
    • "The Parting of the Ways" has Rose contemplating the Doctor's imminent destruction — several hundred millennia in the future. She's in a tremendous hurry to get back the future and rescue the Doctor, despite the fact that, logically, there's really no need to rush, as her companions point out totally unconcerned, while for her it had just been happening right then. Given that Rose pilots the TARDIS by effectively becoming a god, so can put it where/when she needs, there really was no real need to rush.
      Rose: Two hundred thousand years in the future, he's dying, and there's nothing I can do.
      Jackie: Well, like you said, two hundred thousand years, it's way off.
      Rose: But it's not. It's now. That fight is happening right now.
      • The dilemma was not really about how to get back to the future quickly, it was whether to try and do anything about it at all. It appears that at least several days have gone by while Rose was back home (meanwhile, in the future it was only minutes or hours), and she was never specifically worried about being in a hurry.
    • Several people, most notably the Face of Boe and River Song, have contacted the Doctor via his psychic paper without knowing where in his timeline the message will reach him. In River's case, she was clearly expecting a future Doctor who actually knew who she was.
    • "The Girl in the Fireplace": Time windows have been opened onto various points in the life of Madame de Pompadour. These progress in real time, making the trope justified.
    • "Blink" has various characters in three different time periods. There is a very eerie illusion of communication between the three periods, but in fact, with the exception of a throw-away joke at the start of the episode which is never explained, it's entirely justified. The communication at the start of the episode is explained in the same way all of it is, by invoking the Timey-Wimey Ball. The Doctor learns the future side of the conversation in the future, then travels into the past to repeat his side of the conversation and leave other clues that aren't even his idea. He's just copying them from the future.
    • "The End of Time": An Ood says "Things that have happened are happening now!" as the Doctor races back to the 21st century, and arrives too late to stop the Master's resurrection. It's strongly implied there's a great big Timey-Wimey Ball involved in the events of the story.
    • At the end of "The Beast Below", Winston Churchill calls the Doctor thousands of years in the future. Maybe his phone just picks a random point in time that the Doctor's in his TARDIS?
    • "The Time of Angels" begins with River Song on a spaceship, then jumps ahead 12,000 years to when the Doctor finds her message for help.
    • In "The Pandorica Opens", the Doctor and River are in a constant conversation over the phone while one is on the TARDIS travelling in time. After they get cut off, things stay "in sync": the TARDIS explodes in 2010 and the shockwave is "immediately" felt in the second century (but not before).
    • "Extremis": The action shifts between Missy's execution, which takes place not long after "The Husbands of River Song"note , and the situation involving The Veritas in the present day — which is actually a computer simulation created by the Prophets of Truth in preparation for their planned invasion of Earth, and which the real Doctor is watching a recording of while guarding the Vault. Then again, there is no interaction between the two plotlines: the former is a flashback slowly revealed in pieces throughout the episode.
    • "Spyfall": Part 2 flips between the Doctor's conflict with the Master in two different past time periods and the companions' efforts to try and derail Daniel Barton's plans in the present day. To make things more fun, the amount of time everyone experiences is indicated to be different: the Doctor (and her allies Ada and Noor) experience at most a few hours; Ryan, Graham and Yaz go through around a day or more, due to having been initially stuck on a plane flying from San Francisco to the UK and later being seen taking shelter at night; while the Master's initial hunt for the Doctor in two different time periods is indicated by the growth of a Beard of Evil to take longer than is shown onscreen, even before he gets stuck on The Slow Path and has to live through 77 years to get back to the present.
  • Done in the Farscape episode "Different Destinations", with Jool, Pilot, and Chiana watching the Planet of the Week progressively deteriorate as John, Aeryn, and D'Argo stumble around in the past.
  • The Flash (2014): In the season 5 finale, when Cicada's power-dampening dagger is destroyed in 2019, it "immediately" also disappears in 2049, allowing Eobard Thawne to escape his imprisonment just before his execution.
  • Heroes does this whilst Hiro was in Feudal Era Japan, as well as when Peter is in the post-apocalyptic future.
  • Kamen Rider Kiva tells its story in 1986 and 2008 at the same time. Time jumps happen more than once per episode.
  • In the Lost episode "Because You Left", Daniel interacts with Desmond at some indeterminate point in the past. The next scene is Desmond suddenly remembering this conversation over three years later, with the implication that these events are in some way concurrent.
    • On Lost, the past is immutable except for Desmond, so this is really weird regardless of when it updates. He's the only person who can alter the past, and he appears to stop paradoxes by having crappy memory. (Both of the past and sometimes of the future.) It is perhaps notable that the other person, Daniel, who attempts to alter the past (but can't, except when Desmond is involved) also has crappy memory. In both cases, they don't remember things they should have remembered until after those things 'were caused' in the present. Perhaps that's how reality protects itself on Lost. If you went back to try to 'alter the past', the past version of you just remember events incorrectly until you decide to 'alter' it, after which point you correctly remember the way it always was, so no one really changes anything.
    • In a more direct example, Lost's fifth season takes place in two different times. One group of characters are off the island in the "present" (2007), and another group is on the island, which is jumping through various time periods.
      • More recently, the season has been moving in the direction of reuniting the groups, though two old characters, along with a slew of new ones, are still stuck... in the future! On the whole, season five has shed the strict character-centric flashback/flashforward structure of previous seasons (the -forward part having been introduced at the end of season three) in favor of more immediate ongoing plots in two time periods.
      • The Desmond interaction is possibly justified by the fact that he is jumping through time as well; perhaps a future Desmond shows up and recognizes Faraday.
    • Notably, this device leads to a bit of Fridge Logic in "The Incident": there's no way they could have succeeded in resetting time, because the episode shows that everything is normal thirty years in the future.
  • Outlander: Season 1 has an episode that focuses on Frank Randall in the 20th century while Claire is in the 18th century. Roughly half of the season 3 episodes alternate between Jamie in the 18th century and Claire in the 20th century. Several season 4 episodes bounce between Jamie and Claire in the 18th century and Brianna and/or Roger in the 20th century.
  • Power Rangers:
    • In Power Rangers Time Force, the Rangers summon their zords from the year 3000 when needed, and after a battle they return to the future. In one episode, the zords are damaged and have to be repaired in the future, preventing the Rangers from using them in the next episode. No explanation is given as to why they can't just summon the zords from 1000 years plus one week into the future, where they would be fully repaired.
    • Power Rangers S.P.D. is implied to somehow run parallel to 2004, meaning that there was a year without monster attacks since the monsters were in 2025. There's no indication that Power Rangers Mystic Force followed Power Rangers: Dino Thunder without having SPD in the middle.
  • In Prehistoric Park, every episode's B-plot usually involves whatever is going on at the titular park while Nigel is off on his adventures in the past to bring back additional prehistoric animals to be added to said park's animal roster for the sake of the episodes' A-plots.
  • Used a little in the Stargate SG-1 episode "1969". After SG-1 is sent back in time to the eponymous year due to a Teleporter Accident, we jump back to the present for a shot of an airman telling Gen. Hammond that the team is several hours overdue. Hammond tells the airman that there's nothing they can do to help our heroes. We remain with SG-1 for the remainder of the episode.
  • Justified in Starstuff, since time passes at the same rate on both sides of the communication link.
  • Used pretty heavily in Star Trek.
  • This happens quite often in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, being as it deals with characters from both the present and the future (multiple futures, actually). A notable example is the double episode featuring Jesse on her submarine in the future while Sarah and co. do their thing in the present, used to explain the backstory behind Catherine Weaver.
  • A key elements of This Is Us. This is revealed with a Wham Line at the end of the first episode, where we learn that segments centering around two characters actually took place 30 years before the rest of the show.
  • Timecop: Done all the time. Distortions in history seem to have a delayed ripple effect, so the protagonist will go into the past to deal with the situation, his colleagues discuss the situation in the future, the protagonist sends coded messages back to them, which sometimes prompts more people to go back from the Present Day to help him, etc.
  • Torchwood:
    • The episode "Captain Jack Harkness", set in 1941/2008, with Jack's travelling to the past presented as happening simultaneously with the team's efforts to bring him back.
    • Also played straight in the first episode of series two, "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang", with the conversation between Captains Jack and John, concerning the "current" state of the Time Agency, an agency which won't exist for several thousand years.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): The episode "A Message from Charity" tells the story of an '80s teenage boy communicating with a teenage girl in Salem 300 years earlier, and communicating what he found in a history book to save her from a lecherous "judge".
  • Played with early in the first season of Wayward Pines. Scenes in the titular town and elsewhere alternate, making them seem continuous. In fact, the mid-season reveal is that the scenes in Wayward Pines take place in the 41st century after an unspecified calamity wipes out humankind. Everyone in the town has been frozen (most of them unwillingly and unwittingly) for 2000 years in order to repopulate the planet. The scenes outside the town are all flashbacks, structured to give the appearance of continuity. This is done away with later, since it's no longer necessary.
  • The X-Files: The episode "Triangle" is split between modern-day shenanigans and the events of a doomed '30s cruise liner.

  • In The Goon Show episode "The Treasure in the Tower", the plot switches between a pirate ship trying to bury its treasure in 1600, and an attempt by the Ministry of Works in 1957 trying to find the treasure. At the end of the episode the pirates end up burying their treasure in 1600 in the hole dug in 1957 to find the treasure.

  • Tom Stoppard's 1993 play Arcadia takes place during 1809-1812 and also in "the present," with scenes more or less alternating between the two timeframes and advancing steadily in both.
  • In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Hermione holds an emergency meeting where she warns that a witch has gone into the past and may change history at any moment. No one seems to realize that if this were so, time should already have changed, they all act like the past event is something that hasn't happened yet.

    Video Games 
  • Achron lives and breathes this trope. With the ability to jump back and forth through time to create changes you have to react to an opponent who may not be in the same time period as you.
  • AI: The Somnium Files - nirvanA Initiative revolves around Mizuki and Ryuki both working to solve the same Serial Killer case. Ryuki's storyline takes place a few months after the end of the previous game, while Mizuki's takes place six years after.
  • The adventure game Day of the Tentacle jumped between three time periods at the same house; the modern day, 200 years in the past and 200 years in the future. Doing certain things in earlier periods would change the future periods. With actual "meanwhile" cuts between them, no less. Its time travel operated primarily on Rule of Funny and deliberately cartoony logic.
  • Similarly, the second Back to the Future game for the NES (Back to the Future Part II & III) let you jump between 1955, 1985, and 2015; doing things in an early period would alter later ones.
  • Carried out even further with the obscure Bill And Teds Excellent Adventure game for the Atari Lynx. The player could travel to nearly a dozen different time eras, and many puzzles would require setting something up in the past to resolve an obstacle in the future.
  • The TimeSplitters games: while it's an undeveloped Excuse Plot that ignores the details in 1 and 2, Future Perfect goes the whole hog complete with time-bending radio headsets.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Oracle of Ages, have required Link to travel between the present and the past to solve puzzles. Some of this is done in Stable Time Loop fashion, but there are rampant absurdities too. For instance, in Oracle of Ages, you can move seeds in the past to move the resulting vines in the many times as you want. Not to mention the absurd tower that gets more constructed in the Present as it's That tower actually has time stopped around it, as the workers are instructed to keep building until the sun goes down.
  • Legacy of Kain: Defiance
    • The story is split between two characters that are in different time periods. Near the end they do eventfully end up in the same time period but as Kain is immortal it makes you wonder why he even cares about waiting for 100 years to meet up.
    • There's an even more egregious example elsewhen. Kain at one point uses his telekinetic might to blaze a path through some ruins. Cut to Raziel 200 years later, and the columns are somehow untoppled. Made even worse by the fact, later on, you do make use of Kain's temporal trailblazing.
  • City of Heroes
    • Has screens that give a real-time overview of the situation in Recluse's Victory, a PvP battleground set in... the future.
    • There's also the Co-op zone of Cimerora. You're 2,000 years in the past, fighting to protect time itself, but you get real-time updates to the goings on in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles. You can also talk to your contacts in Cimerora while in the present day, by some vaguely defined mental link.
  • Sonic The Hedgehog:
  • In Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, the Prince uses time portals dotted around the castle on the Island of Time to get past broken down areas, activate devices that create paths for him in his own time and generally messes with the timeline to survive. Of course, messing with the timeline is what got him in that situation to begin with.

    This trope is expressly referenced early in the game. Shahdee says that Prince have reached the island, despite that she's in the Past, several hundred years before the fact.
  • As good as the story of Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time may have been, its time-travel system was rather absurd. First, there's the fact that time seems to pass in the Present while you're in the Past and vice versa, like they were separated realms, though this can probably be explained by the whole Portal to the Past thing. Second, the Mushroom Kingdom was taken over by the Shroobs in the past, leaving the Kingdom in the Present.... completely UNAFFECTED! Some might see this as a result of a Stable Time Loop, as Mario and Luigi defeat the Shroobs anyway, but that leads into a Paradox, since they can only defeat them because Present Mushroom Kingdom was free from the Shroob in the first place. Also, they are changing E.Gadd's past heavily... with the only result being him inventing some gadget. E. Gadd lampshades this trope by noting how paradoxical it is.
  • Freedom Force has an almost literal version of this in the second game, where the heroes have to go into the past to set a timed explosive on the shield generator for the Big Bad's fortress so they can get into it in the future. On the way in, they're recognized by one of his henchmen, who immediately demands that the guards raise their security from now on. "Meanwhile, in the future..." the guards standing outside the fortress disappear and more powerful versions appear in their place while the characters are watching.
  • Dark Chronicle does this handily, courtesy of the protagonists' personal Applied Phlebotinum activating a Portal to the Past (or in this case, 100 years in the future, and back again). Because Griffon has incredible powers over time and exists 10,000 years in the past, the two periods are treated as separate fronts in the war. It actually works.
  • Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers plays this one completely straight, with a cutscene introduced with "Meanwhile, back in Space Quest XII" while our hero Roger Wilco is in Space Quest X.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2 can be seen as making this a gameplay element, when you think about it. Serah and Noel jump between different places and times through the Historia Crux. When they leave one such location, time stops there from our perspective. From the player's vantage point, they can see their progress in each location across history simultaneously before actually diving back into one.

    Visual Novels 
  • The last case of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney takes place both in the game's present and seven years ago. On at least one occasion, you must find evidence in the present so you can present it seven years ago.

  • S.S.D.D.: Lampshaded at the beginning of the first time travel arc. In 2007 the series began to alternate strips set in the “present” with strips set in the future but telling the backstory of the time travelers.
  • Seen in the Narbonic storyline "Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck In Time". Probably justified; Dave's consciousness is bouncing around between three of his past and future selves without his conscious control, so the events are ordered as he experiences them.
  • Irregular Webcomic!'s podcast #17 uses the line "Meanwhile, in the early 20th century" delivered deadpan for humorous effect.
  • A Running Gag in Dinosaur Comics is T-Rex bugging Shakespeare in a panel titled "Meanwhile, in Tudor England," but given the kind of comic Dinosaur Comics is...
  • Dresden Codak utilizes the similar "Long ago, in the future". Again, time travel.
    • Combined with aggressively Branching Timelines; the very fact that the time travellers have travelled back in time means that that future will never happen, but does impact the present, so it's slightly easier to think of it as the past.
  • The author of Casey and Andy carefully justified it in this strip. Note also The Rant below.
  • Avoided in TRU-Life Adventures. Old Bob's multiple appearances in the present have not been shown in his own personal chronological order.
  • 8-Bit Theater gives us "Meanwhile, at the beginning of time" when White Mage is sent back in time and starts creation.
  • Used and discussed in this Byrobot "Sally and Thumb: Urchins in Goner-Town" strip.
  • A running gag of sorts in Homestuck:
    • Events concerning the WAYWARD VAGABOND and other future scavengers are preceded with "YEARS IN THE FUTURE, BUT NOT MANY..." or some variation, like "Years in the future, but really not enough to write home about." They also match up with "present" events thanks to San Dimas Time.
    • Act 5 Act 2 uses this liberally, switching between the main and troll game sessions and treating the completely separate series of events as if they're proceeding linearly together. The narration pokes fun at it from time to time.
      You are suddenly the troll girl.
      In a different game session.
      In the past.
    • Act 6 Act 2 is rife with examples of this trope, but this is only made clear at the end of the act. The Reveal marks the return of "Years in the future, but not many..." alongside establishing shots that make it clear what the future is not a nice place to live.
    • The all-knowing being known as Doc Scratch explains these transitions with the concept of "circumstantial simultaneity", which states events happening in different times and places throughout the existence are intrinsically connected.
  • The Girls in Space storyline "The Pickled Past" is set in present time and in Edinburgh, 1644. Both stories run at the same time and the events in the 17th Century affect the present day storyline.
  • Sandra on the Rocks: Meanwhile, fourteen years ago... might appears from the caption to be an example of this trope, but actually turns out to be a simple one-panel flashback.
  • In Touhou Nekokayou, this shows up in one particular exchange between Marisa and Tenshi:
    Tenshi: I will hit you so hard, your descendants will feel it!!
    Marisa: Um, was that supposed to make no sense?
    Tenshi: Yes it was!
    [Tenshi then smacks Marisa with the Stone of Celestials. The scene then shifts, with a textbox of "Meanwhile, 56 years later..."]
    Shanghai (Marisa's daughter): Ow!
    Carrol (Marisa's other daughter): Oof!

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama:
    • Parodied in the episode "The Why of Fry", wherein a temporal paradox threatening the existence of the universe itself cuts away with a jarring "MEANWHILE!" voiceover to a B-story involving Leela dating the mayor's aide.
    • Also in the episode "Roswell That Ends Well", the crew travels to the past and accidentally leaves Bender behind. Back in the year 3002, Fry wonders how lonely Bender must be stuck 1,000 years in the past... until he realizes that 1,000 years later, Bender would be back to the year 3002 and they can just go find him.
    • But done straight in Bender's Big Score, which cuts back and forth from the main narrative in the future to a B-story in the twentieth century.
      • In the episode The Late Philip J. Fry, Fry, Bender and Professor Farnsworth are traveling forward in a time machine that can only journey to the future. At some points we cut away to what is going on with Leela and the rest of Planet Express, including visits to the years 3030 and 3050. Truly, this is technically "Meanwhile, back in the past," but what the heck.
      • However, you can see a cause-and-effect here, as Leela leaves time-traveling Fry a message preserved in a cave, which Fry discovers a billion years later.
      • Due to the circular nature of the universe, this is also a "Meanwhile, in the future's future".
    • The title screen of "The Luck of the Fryrish" reads "Futurama: Broadcast simultaneously one year in the future".
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the "Time and Punishment" segment of Treehouse of Horror V, Homer accidentally invents a time-traveling toaster. This trope is mostly avoided, as the narrative follows Homer around as he time travels, but at one point he starts wreaking havoc in the past by clubbing everything around him and we see all the changes that keep happening to the Simpsons house in the future (including it being suddenly underwater and turning into the house from The Flintstones). The aliens Kang and Kodos then laugh at the havoc Homer's wreaking on the timeline before suddenly being turned into Sherman and Mr. Peabody from Rocky and Bullwinkle due to something Homer did in the past.
    • In "Simpsorama", after Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa end up in New New York in the 31st century, the plot cuts back to Bender in 21st Century Springfield with Maggie with the caption, "Meanwhile in the past (or if you're a Simpsons fan, the present)".
  • One episode of Superfriends has the ever-so-serious voice of the narrator intoning "Meanwhile, back in the future..." with no apparent irony.
    • Helped by the fact that the show was made a decade before Back to the Future came out.
  • Similarly, the narrator of Underdog delivered the line, "And at that moment in the present, the Thanksgiving Day parade reappeared."
  • Wolverine and the X-Men (2009) seems to use this trope. The "hunters" appear in the same episode Wolverine get kidnapped and analyzed, every time Wolverine tries to contact Prof X he's always a bit further in his own personal timeline, and the season finale happens at the same time as the people in the future fight Master Mold and the past gets changed.
  • Justice League's Vandal Savage must have his own field of time around him, as this happens repeatedly and inconsistently. Noticeable at the end of the episode Hereafter.
    • This might be justified in his case. (Or as justified as any Time Travel trope is, at least...) At various times it has been a rule in the DC universe, and the DC Animated Universe might use this as well, that the same person can't travel through time to a period in which another version of that person exists. If they do, the time-traveling version is intangible and invisible. But Vandal Savage is immortal and exists for all of humanity's history and future. This makes direct time travel impossible for him (although there are ways to do whatever he wants indirectly), so Mental Time Travel is the only option, and a phenomenon he's prepared for and used to, and no doubt there are other tricks that could be used. This rule is explicitly stated by Savage in "Hereafter", but is ignored in other parts of the DCAU, including two episodes of Static Shock and the Justice League Unlimited two-parter "The Once and Future Thing".
    • Although in "The Once and Future Thing" example, time itself started to unravel, as Chronos, losing stability, went against his original intent and started to bring things to the future, from the past, that would actually be missed. As that future in part was dependent on those things, it destabilizes all of time.
  • In An episode of Extreme Ghostbusters, Kylie, through a time slip, ends up in a Bad Future where ghosts run rampant and the Ghostbusters are all dead (but remembered as heroes) while a guy from that time ends up in the present day. The episode cuts back and forth between Kylie in the future and the rest of the Ghostbusters in the present, making it seem like everything is happening simultaneously.
  • A variation occurs in the Canadian cartoon The Boy, where a future Bob and Boy help out the present ones. While future!Bob is with the present Boy, the present Bob suffers an injury, which future!Bob appears to feel as though he was the one who got hurt.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode, "It's About Time!", Phineas, Ferb and Candace travel to the past, and changes they make to a patch of mud that will be a fossil in a museum show up 'instantaneously' in that fossil in the present.
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "Blendin's Game", time cops from tens of thousands of years in the future pull up video of Mabel and Dipper, who live in the 21st Century. A caption on the screen reads "Live Feed".

Alternative Title(s): Meanwhile In The Past