Follow TV Tropes


Out of Time, Out of Mind

Go To

A strange situation where a character experiences a great deal of time relative to everyone else yet does not act any different.

Bob's particular Quest has driven him to use Time Travel, or perhaps travel to a world where time runs Year Inside, Hour Outside. After a long and arduous quest — and we mean long and arduous, as in months, years, perhaps even decades or centuries, he returns home. And... goes right back to being Bob. He might not have visibly aged; his friends, just as he left them, are still talking about their everyday concerns instead of the fate of the universe; his house may still be there where in the future was a barren ruin, he should experience some shock. Even if he doesn't have memories of a Bad Future, living for a few extra decades, regardless of whether the world is different, should lead to a very noticeable change in personality. But Bob's personality just about never does, except in the most trivial way.

A more mundane extension of this trope might be the standard Sitcom plot wherein an adult character meets a childhood friend they haven't seen in years only to discover that the person literally hasn't changed at all — usually right down to still living with their parents, having the same part-time job they had in high school, and wearing T-shirts for bands that would have been popular a decade or more earlier. The regular character will either ruminate on how they can no longer relate to this relic of their old life or to revert immediately to their matching younger mindset.

A case of Status Quo Is God. Contrast Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory. See Year Inside, Hour Outside, "Groundhog Day" Loop, and The Slow Path for causes of the extra time.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU:
    • In one comic, Superman and Wonder Woman spend centuries fighting together against demons that assault Valhalla. While this has occasionally been referred to (Diana mentions it to Lois at one point), it doesn't seem to have had much of an effect on either of them. It's supposed to show Superman's strength of will — he manages to remain faithful to Lois for 1000 years with Wonder Woman sleeping at his side every night. While she never pushes the issue, it's clear that she's ready to go there if he is. Then again, this is Superman and Wonder Woman we're talking about — to them, it could easily have seemed like nothing more than an exceptionally long line of Tuesdays.
    • Plastic Man spends about three thousand years as a disembodied consciousness spread over thousands of miles of ocean. By the time he reforms himself, he admits that he'd suffered unspeakable agony, gotten used to it, gone insane, then gone sane. Mildly averted in that he does change somewhat (leaving the Justice League of America to be a better father to his kid) but not entirely.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Just before the end of the last Doctor Strange series in the 1990s, Doctor Strange spent 5000 years fighting the War of the Seven Spheres in another dimension. Given any reasonable age for him, that means at least 98% of his entire life was spent in this one plot. From a look at him today, you'd never know it.
    • Played with in Uncanny Avengers. During the course of the Apocalypse Twins storyline, Earth gets destroyed, all the mutants are relocated to a new homeworld, Planet X, and the five remaining Avengers are scattered. Thor tries for years to find a way to undo the destruction, Havok and Wasp get married and have a daughter, Katie, on Planet X, and Wolverine and Sunfire are imprisoned by the villains, with Sunfire forced to constantly incinerate Wolverine. After five years, all five Avengers get their consciousnesses sent back a la Days of Future Past via Kang and save the world. The reactions afterward are mixed. Thor and Wolverine are fine, the latter brushing off the years of torture because he's Wolverine. In the course of saving the world, Sunfire was transformed into an energy form resembling his look from the Age of Apocalypse, and says he feels more disconnected, but doesn't talk about his years as a captive, aside from asking Wolverine how he's doing. Wasp went on a personal retreat for several weeks, and Havok goes into stasis for the same period to heal some injuries. They discuss their feelings on the whole matter, especially Katie having been kidnapped into the timestream by Kang, but going forward they do seem to still be married.
    • In Uncanny X-Force, Psylocke engages in a duel of minds with the Shadow King. While only a few minutes pass in the real world, the two battle endlessly for centuries on a psychic plane. After the duel ends, Psylocke immediately contacts her team to resume their mission. She brushes the whole ordeal off and never speaks of it again.
    • In X-Men, Scott Summers and Jean Grey get sent to the future in different bodies to raise Cable. Despite having lived for 20 years together in this future, they don't change. And yet, Wolverine noticed just by looking at Jean that something was different about her, saying something to the effect that her eyes looked like they'd seen a lifetime of pain as opposed to a few weeks in the Bahamas. And aside from a now-new psychic rapport with Cable, nothing else changed.
  • Inverted in Watchmen, as John Osterman is changed by his odd conception of time and inability to age, so that he is gradually losing his humanity and becoming more and more apathetic. He can no longer relate to what is happening in his present because he is simultaneously experiencing past and future as well, and becomes increasingly distant from those around him as a result. All this despite being within a normal human lifetime chronologically and just having a different perspective on it.

    Fan Fiction 
  • How true this is in The Infinite Loops varies widely. Some characters act pretty much the same as their baseline selves, while some are dramatically different for better or worse.
  • With This Ring: The Renegade and Artemis are trapped in the distant future for an unknown period of time, as they don't have proper clocks, but they're pretty sure it's centuries; fortunately, since they're both New Gods, they don't age once they're physically mature. Upon their return, Artemis feels adrift, barely recognising her old teammates or her mother, breaking up with her former boyfriend because she can't relate to him anymore, and struggling to adjust to 21st century Earth. The Renegade, however, goes back to his old life and his family with minimal disruption. The biggest change for him is that Artemis is now a close friend — but not his girlfriend, he has one already and picks up right where he left off.

  • Played with at the end of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. Literally as they're going on stage for the big battle of the bands, the titular dimwit duo suddenly realizes that they still don't know how to play very well. Then the realize they have a time machine. The two, their Medieval princess girlfriends, the Grim Reaper, and the alien/aliens known as Station take a year long break to learn how to rock out, Bill & Ted marry their girlfriends, go back to the Medieval era for their honeymoon, have kids, and grow epic beards that would make ZZ-Top proud. The time machine pops back all of a tenth of a second after it took off, and despite these radical changes their speech patterns, attitudes and physical appearances haven't changed at all (save for said epic beards).
  • This arguably happens to Libby in Double Jeopardy. She serves a six-year prison sentence in the story but, when she leaves the prison, it seems like she had only been in it for a day or two.
  • Inception is a borderline case when it comes to Dom Cobb. We don't see what he was like "before", but it would be hard to tell by watching him that he and Mal had been trapped in Limbo for 50 years and grown old together. However, this is defied during The Caper. Cobb explains what will happen if any of the extractors dies in this dream: instead of waking up as usual, they will plunge into Limbo where the Year Inside, Hour Outside effect is deepest. They could be trapped there for a near-infinite amount of subjective time, and Cobb makes it clear that this would utterly destroy their minds. Saito and Fischer nearly face this fate. We see a fraction of its effect on Saito's mind: he appears as an old man who barely remembers his waking life.
  • In Jumanji, when Alan and Sarah return to their normal ages in 1969 after finishing the game, they apparently remember all of it, although Sarah mentions that their actual mental capabilities are quickly regressing back to childhood.

  • This is implied to be a problem for Burst Linkers in Accel World. In the early levels their accelerated time is limited, but once they hit level 4, they gain access to the Infinite Unlimited Field with no time limit to how long they can stay accelerated. An hour of real time is equivalent to just under 42 days in the Accelerated World. Too much time in the field can cause disruptions when coming out, and it's implied to be at least part of the reason why some of the higher-level characters (particularly Niko/Scarlet Rain) don't precisely act their age.
  • A Certain Magical Index has Touma undergo an unspecified but extremely long period of torture and death at the hands of Magic God Othinus. At the end of it, he's essentially the same person as before, something that's even highlighted in the afterword of the book. The only real change is that he now (sometimes) shows fear towards other Magic Gods, but even that is much weaker and less consistent than expected: he can hold conversations with Magic Gods, expresses a desire to help them several times, and currently lives with Othinus. This may be part of his status as the One Who Purifies Gods and Slays Demons, someone who can understand and regulate the Magic Gods (according to them).
  • The protagonist of Il gioco degli Immortali ("The Game of the Immortals") by Massimo Mongai is kidnapped by omnipotent entities to be a pawn in a sort of betting game that lasts for years. In the end he is released, just a few instants after the kidnapping. The entities restore his physical body (less fake teeth, for some reason), but leave him all his memories. Possibly averted: while he seems ok, we really know nothing about him before the start of the game, so it's hard to know if he changed at all.
  • In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the four Pevensie children spend some fifteen years living in Narnia as kings and queens, before coming back to our world not a day older... and with no trouble at all in adjusting to their old lives as children in our world. In fact, by the end of the final book Susan doesn't believe in the existence of Narnia any more despite the fact that she's lived there almost half her life. There's a piece of Fridge Logic that doesn't always occur to everyone, although there are a couple of one-off lines indicating their memories of adulthood faded unnaturally quickly.
  • Rudy "Basilico" Turturro, the protagonist of Memorie di un cuoco di un bordello spaziale ("Memoirs of a Cook from a Space Brothel"), also by Massimo Mongai, lives hundreds of incarnations in a single long, lucid dream caused by an alien disease. Only extensive medical assistance prevents death by starvation (the disease accelerates the metabolism) and by the shock of returning to the real world. The trope is averted as he requires psychiatric help later, as the lucid dream was exceptional, and he regrets the loss.
  • In My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, the 8-year-old Catarina Claes regains her memories as a 17-year-old otaku after a trip caused her to bump her head into a rock. Due to this, she sees herself as older than the other children who are biologically the same age as her, and yet she still acts her biological age, with any differences in her behavior caused by her new memories rather than life experience.
  • In a short spinoff series to Perry Rhodan, Atlan travels several thousand years back in time by accident. It's hinted that the machine that sent him back broke down afterwards, forcing him to take The Slow Path back to the present, and several other characters apparently related to the entire subplot make brief appearances in the main series afterwards, but he himself doesn't seem to have changed much. May be justified in that he was already well over ten thousand years old when he started and had spent most of that time marooned on Earth, so one thing the whole experience would most likely have given him is simply a certain sense of deja vu...
  • In one of the Red Dwarf books, Lister is trapped on a destroyed Earth for 34 years with nothing but giant cockroaches for company. He's mostly the same as he was before he left the Dwarf.
  • In The Wise Man's Fear, the main character Kvothe spends a vague ammount of time in a parallel world, and when he finally comes back to his time to his companions, it's explained to him that he was gone for only a couple days, but he looks older and has an unshaved beard. His own theory is that he was gone no less than a month and probably at least a year.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Averted in the Buffyverse, whose mythos establishes that in the "hell dimensions", years and years and years pass before any noticeable length of time has gone by on Earth.
    • When Angel is sent to one after the season two finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he spends the following four or five months before his return enduring what Giles describes as basically being centuries of unimaginably horrible torture. Sure enough, he arrives back on Earth completely feral and seemingly with no memory. It takes him several weeks of rehabilitation with Buffy before he's functional around other people again, and he's never the same as he was in the first two seasons.
    • Similarly, in Angel, Fred and Connor are deeply affected by spending five and seventeen years in hell dimensions (far fewer than Angel), and they weren't even being tortured like Angel was.
    • In the Buffy episode "After Life", Spike informs the newly resurrected Buffy that she was dead for "147 days". He asks her "How long was it for you... where you were?", to which Buffy responds vaguely: "A lot longer." It screws up her life for some time afterwards, and she never quite goes back to her old self. She was in a Heaven dimension, and rather unceremoniously ripped out of it to end up in a coffin where she had to dig her way out and then find herself in a Sunnydale temporarily overrun by demons.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Big Bang", Rory (who's come back as an Auton) spends almost 2000 years protecting the Pandorica containing Amy without noticeably changing in personality, falling in love with someone else, or forgetting his old life. "Day of the Moon" confirms that he still has the memories of that time after the universe was restored, but he can shut them away, so he doesn't always have them.
  • Eureka:
    • Justified in the second season, in which the main character does remember everything and acts differently. He is forward and way too personal with his future wife and forgets that his daughter isn't old enough to drive. Eventually his mind is wiped of future events and he returns to normal. The other time traveler does not, but that's a plot point. And he's a lot better at faking it.
    • When a team including the previous two is sent to an alternate reality by way of the past, they spend the entire first half of the fourth season trying to reconcile the differences between the time periods. We're still waiting to see if it continues to be an issue.
  • Red Dwarf: In "Rimmerworld", Arnold Rimmer spends over 600 years in a society of his own clones, who have kept him in a dungeon for most of that time. At the end of the episode, they get back to their ship using a teleporter which, it's been established, has a slightly unreliable time component, so they arrive to find their other selves already there. Lister assumes that they've landed in the past and starts giving dark hints to the other Rimmer about what's about to happen to him. The other Rimmer replies "Rimmerworld was weeks ago" with a casual air.
  • In the Sliders episode "Roads Taken", Quinn and Maggie are transported to a "bubble universe" where they live out their entire lives as a married couple, then return to the "real" world, no time having passed. They briefly talk about the experience of having just spent an entire lifetime together, but it has no lasting effect on their personalities or their relationship to one another.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Window of Opportunity", Teal'c and O'Neill are stuck in a time loop for at least 3 months, 10 hours at a time. During the episode they, among other things, learn how to juggle and a good amount of the Ancient language. There's not much evidence that any of the changes are permanent.
    • In the last episode of SG-1, "Unending", Teal'c travels back in time after spending 50 years or so on the Daedalus. In the subsequent movies and Stargate Atlantis, all he has to show for it is a goatee. This is despite the fact that he should be older than Bra'tac was at the start of the series (he was 101 years old in season 4, while Bra'tac was 134).
  • Star Trek:
    • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Inner Light", Captain Picard lives an entire lifetime in twenty minutes. (Well, okay, not an entire lifetime, but they probably didn't want to deal with the weirdness of Picard waking up as a newborn baby.) The only major difference is that he now plays the flute, and one reference in a later episode where he admits it caused him to (somewhat) rethink his priorities about what he gave up in his personal life to advance his career. In the later episode "Lessons", Picard describes his memories of the experience as dreamlike, in an apparent bit of retroactive justification. Ronald D. Moore later commented on this:
      Ronald D. Moore: I've always felt that the experience in "Inner Light" would've been the most profound experience in Picard's life and changed him irrevocably. However, that wasn't our intention when we were creating the episode. We were after a good hour of TV, and the larger implications of how this would really screw somebody up didn't hit home with us until later (that's sometimes a danger in TV — you're so focused on just getting the show produced every week that sometimes you suffer from the "can't see the forest for the trees" syndrome). We never intended the show to completely upend his character and force a radical change in the series, so we contented ourselves with a single follow-up in "Lessons".
    • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Hard Time", Chief O'Brien serves out an illusionary twenty-year prison sentence lasting only a few hours of real time. Downplayed however, because the actual episode was about him dealing with readjusting to society and coming to terms with what he did when he was a prisoner, but (uncharacteristically for DS9) it still didn't have any noticeable long-term effect.
  • In Supernatural, Dean is only slightly changed by spending 40 years in Hell — Sam has changed more, even though it was only 4 months for him.
  • In the Torchwood episode "Exit Wounds", Jack is taken back in time to 27AD and buried alive, spends most of the next two millennia repeatedly dying and reviving, is dug up in 1901 and put into cryo-storage so he won't meet his past self, and finally wakes up in the present day. This one incident has accounted for most of his life so far, yet once the other characters have found him, they seem to assume he can just pick up where he left off — as it seems he can. It's too early to tell whether this incident will ever be referred to again. When asked about it at Comic-con, John Barrowman admitted that it would probably not come up again, specifically. The explanation given was more or less that Jack retreated into himself so that it wouldn't have as harsh an effect on him.

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978): Marvin the Paranoid Android spent eons waiting for the crew until the Restaurant at the End of the Universe was built and he was parking cars. More of a joke, because Marvin's personality is permanently sulking and won't change no matter how much time passes. In the books, he eventually becomes several times older than the universe itself.

    Video Games 
  • In Chrono Trigger, there's a side quest where you leave Robo 400 years in the past, and zip ahead to find (and repair) him in the future (as he's become deactivated at some point and enshrined). He's turned what would become a desert into a forest. No, his personality is in no way altered by this (and you can even return to the past with Robo in your party and still see Robo working the fields).
  • In Final Fantasy IV, Rydia leaves the group and ages several years in a place where time runs slower than the regular world. When she returns, now fully aged, her personality is completely intact, the only real difference being that she now owes a debt to a certain group of people that she didn't before.

    Visual Novels 

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama:
    • In the episode "Roswell That Ends Well", Bender's head gets left in the 1900's when it falls out of the ship and is picked up again when the characters return to their own time a thousand years the future, much like Marvin in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978) mentioned above. Bender's reaction is quite different from Marvin's. When asked what it was like being buried in a hole for a thousand years, Bender replies "I was enjoying it until you guys showed up." Other than that one comment, there is no visible change to his personality after that episode.
    • "Bender's Big Score":
      • Bender does this about 20-30 times (becoming the chronologically oldest character in the series in the process by a pretty substantial margin) with no noticeable change in personality, although that might be explained by the fact that he spent most of that time doing nothing in a limestone cavern. Then again, after killing Fry, he shows up in the future, acting as if he had just killed Fry yesterday, even after spending 988 years alone grieving about it.
      • Subverted when a time-duplicate of Fry becomes significantly more mature and different looking after 12 years. The fire that burnt up his hair and screwed up his voice helped.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: In the episode "Good Old Sheldon", Sheldon goes through a series of time dilations and space travel that results in him living in space for 90 years (but looking the same). He then goes back to high school at the end of the episode, and acts pretty much the same from then on, despite being 105 years old now.
  • Rick and Morty:
    • Morty lives about 50 years in a video game which is a Year Inside, Hour Outside. When he comes back to himself, he forgets who he is for a few minutes, but then shakes it off.
    • In another episode, Rick and Jerry undergo a cosmic experience that Jerry describes as "eons of eternity". The effects last only a few minutes. Possibly justified, as Rick says that cosmic epiphanies wear off faster than tranquilizers.
  • In the Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Running with Scissors", Marco spends sixteen years in another dimension on a quest to prove himself worthy of owning a pair of dimensional scissors. Despite now being in his thirties, a fact the show occasionally references afterwards, it only takes him a few seconds of being back on Earth to get back into the groove of things. He also reverts to his thirty-year-old body whenever he travels to that dimension. A later episode goes even further and has him return and stay for several more decades in order to make good on a promise. Once again, it only takes a few seconds for a now presumably 60+ year old Marco to acclimate back.