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San Dimas Time

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"The clock in San Dimas is always running."

San Dimas Time is a device that allows a writer to add some against-the-clock tension in a Time Travel story — in spite of how little sense that makes when you have time travel at your disposal.

In stories involving time travel, sometimes characters are faced with a time-sensitive problem that can only be fixed by traveling into the past. For example, something bad is going to happen in ten days, so the heroes travel 20 years into the past to prevent it. Except now that they're in the past, from their perspective the event they are trying to prevent is not days but decades into the future. They should have ten days plus 20 years to prevent it, right?

Not so when San Dimas Time is in effect. Events in two different time periods affect each other a fixed time period apart — for example, if you go back in time a year and change something, the change will only take effect a year after it takes place, and vice versa. This means that if you urgently need to fix something in the present and travel 20 years into the past to accomplish it, you do not actually have an extra 20 years before your time runs out. You only have as much time as you would have had from the moment you time-traveled into the past in the first place.

How or why time travel works this way is rarely answered, at least satisfactorily. If it is addressed, it's often blamed on the Timey-Wimey Ball, the need to avoid Temporal Paradoxes, or just preventing the obvious questions when you complete your journey, arrive at the same time you've left, but appear to have aged several years. It's also useful when you're communicating live with someone in a different time period (like some sort of inter-temporal telephone), to ensure no bizarre relativistic effects. However from a simply Doylist point of view, giving yourself more time via time travel would be a violation of the Rule of Drama; the plot needs some tension to keep the plot interesting.

San Dimas Time is related to but distinct from a Portal to the Past, where the time travel mechanism itself is restrained in what you can do — you can only travel through time by specific increments, or you only have a limited period before the time travel stops working. Meanwhile, in the Future… and Flashback B-Plot are narrative versions of this; the two eras do not actually affect each other, but we're seeing time pass within them at the same rate.

See also Fantastic Time Management and Tricked Out Time, which are ways to solve this problem. Contrast Take Your Time, where you have all the time you need even though there should be time pressure. Also contrast Narnia Time, when two separate timelines have no correlation.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball: Most of time travel works this way. Should be noted it makes sense in Dragon Ball, at least as of Dragon Ball Super, as its Time Machine isn't actually capable of altering past events, it only creates a separate multiverse.
  • In the Inazuma Eleven movie Saikyō Gundan Ōga Shūrai, a future organization travels back in time to prevent the events of the first season from happening, in an effort to make soccer Serious Business and make future people tougher. Endou's great-grandson Kanon follows them back in time to stop them. Both parties seem to think San Dimas Time is in effect despite not having any reason to think so. Kanon even apologizes for showing up late to the final match, in spite of being able to travel through time.
  • Inuyasha: The Demon Well is a temporal anomaly that connects the well to its past self 500 years later, with time passing between the two points consistent. No explanation is given for why the heroes can't change this, though it has to do with the supernatural wood the well comes from.
  • Time Paladin Sakura seems to run on San Dimas Time; for instance, Sakura hears that her base is being wrecked in the past and only sees it wrecked after that happens.
  • Tokyo Revengers: Because of how time travel works, Takemichi has to time travel to the exact date something happens and fix it on that day or else he can never go back to that date again. Additionally, for every second he spends in the past, the same amount of time passes in the present.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman:
    • Early Legion of Super-Heroes stories are full of such moments, with characters crossing back and forth between the 20th and 30th centuries as if they were just on the other side of town. "Oh no! We're too late!"
    • In The Great Darkness Saga, Superboy heads back to his century to celebrate his parents' wedding anniversary as insisting he has to leave right now, even though he can wait as long as he likes and still arrive in time.
    • Subverted in a 1990s Superboy story, when the Legion lose a member in the timestream. The Legionnaires insist they need to find her as soon as possible, before something happens to her, to which Brainiac 5 replies, "Doesn't anyone realize we're talking about time travel?"
    • In Legion of 3 Worlds, Superboy burns a line across Superboy-Prime's chest, and the same mark suddenly appears on the chest of Prime's future counterpart, Time Trapper. This is what convinces Brainiac 5 and the Legionnaires that the Time Trapper's knowledge of the past isn't set in stone, hypothesizing the Trapper is some sentient alternate timeline whose identity is in constant flux.
    • Lampshaded in A Mind-Switch in Time. Superboy is heading towards the future and Ma is worried about him being away. Pa points out he will be back within one second because he is time-travelling.
    • In The Immortal Superman, 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.
    • The Condemned Legionnaires: Since they need Supergirl's help, the Legion wonders whether she will be available to travel to the 30th century...even though they can choose when she will receive their distress call, and Kara can take as much time as she wants before departing and still arrive in time. When Supergirl makes it to the future, a narration box notes she has taken an incredibly short time, even though she logically should arrive as soon as the call was sent.
    • "The Unknown Legionnaire": Played with. Supergirl, who finds herself talking to the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 30th century, says she has to return to her classes in the 2oth century right now, or else someone could suspect she is Supergirl. After a chain of events have conspired to keep her in the future, her cousin lampshaded she does not need to hurry back because she is a time-traveller. She can stay for as long as she likes and return whenever she wants.
      Supergirl: "I have to return to Stanhope College in the 20th Century, as Linda Lee Danvers, or my secret identity might be suspected!"
      Superboy: "You can still make that appearance as Linda Danvers, by emerging from the time-barrier in 1965, moments after you last left that time period!"
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths enacted its Red Skies Crossover in this way, as the anti-matter wall that was destroying the Multiverse by going backwards in time was causing the sky in each continuity in to turn red at the same rate, regardless of when these stories took place.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • Donald Duck time travel stories generally uses this rule, at least in the sense of characters having a limited period of time to hang around in the past. Sometimes it's justified by the time travel mechanism; the machine didn't actually travel with them, but just sent them to a time and location, so they had to prearrange a time when the machine would pull them back to the present.
    • One story presents a particularly convoluted example. Gyro Gearloose accidentally sends an atomic bomb back to the prehistoric era and sends Donald and his nephews to retrieve it. They can still contact Gyro from the past, and the same amount of time has passed since the journey for each party. A time paradox also causes Earth to slowly disappear at the same rate in both eras as the bomb starts to wreak havoc and history tries to fix itself, before Donald succeeds and the universe un-corrects itself. Gyro tries to explain this mechanism but only manages to give Donald and his nephews a headache.
    • This comic has Mickey Mouse and Goofy badgered into traveling back in time to see the finals of an Aztec proto-soccer tournament, jump the same length of time to hours after they left, and find that Zapotec has recorded the game for them in the meantime.
  • In Days of Future Past, Kitty Pryde is psychically sent back in time to her younger body before the Bad Future happens. While she's in the past trying to prevent the assassination that would cause the Bad Future, her friends lug her unconscious body around trying to keep it safe from Sentinel attacks. They don't know for sure if San Dimas Time is in effect, but they don't want to take the chance. They wonder if their timeline will be erased when Kitty completes her mission. In the end it isn't, creating an Alternate Timeline.
  • Scooby-Doo! Team-Up: In "Scooby-Doo, When Are You?", a scientist from the Flintstones' time tests a Time Machine by pulling Mystery, Inc. from the "future" and tells them it'll likely take from three to four years before he's able to send them back. Shaggy is worried because he forgot to water his plants. The Great Gazoo tries to use his power to send them back but he "overshoots" and sends them to The Jetsons' future ("Future Shocked"). An archaeological team working for Mr. Spacely had already found the time machine by then and George Jetson uses it to send them to the very point in time it took them from in the first place.

    Fan Works 
  • In Sailor Moon Z "episodes" 10 and 11, a botched attempt to have the modern Inner senshi quintet observe their past selves leads not only to this but also to a switch between past and present selves that marks the point where the "series" takes a Hotter and Sexier turn.
  • Forever Janette by Rich's ComixBlog averts Doctor Who's tendency to use San Dimas Time (see below) by featuring the Fifth Doctor meeting the Master from the Seventh Doctor's timeline.
  • Discussed in Supergirl fanfic Hellsister Trilogy. Kara knows she can technically spend as long as she wants in the 31st century, but she feels she needs to get back to her normal life.
    He was only wearing white shorts and was half-covered by the sheet of the bed in her room at Legion Headquarters. "You're really going back today?"
    Kara Zor-El walked back into the bedchamber. Hairbrush still in one hand, she bent and hugged him. "I have to, Devian. I still live in the 20th Century. Got to get to work. I was on my way there when the Legion summoned me." She felt the firmness of his naked chest against her and was very glad she had become his lover. Her empty hand stroked the contours of his back. His arms were holding her as well, and she bit her lip to keep passion from overruling judgment.
    She could stay with him for a year here, easily. Two years. Longer. But she had a life, otherwhen, and she had to get back to it.
  • In the Pony POV Series, it's eventually revealed that Shining Armor's arc, taking place several years in the past, is running simultaneously to the main story, meaning Foregone Conclusion is not in effect. The reason for this is that Shining Armor literally did not exist until the day Twilight went to Ponyville, having been inserted into the timeline to be the nail between the main world and Dark World, and thus he's experiencing time differently. This continues until his place in the timeline is cemented, causing the present to wait for him to "catch up" before moving forward.
  • In The Western Sky - Series 2, Sally spends two weeks in the "present" of an alternate timeline trying to Set Right What Once Went Wrong and when she returns to the original timeline, Harry states that she's been missing for two weeks.
  • In Time Altered:
    Dumbledore: It would seem to me after what you have described that you somehow traveled through a wormhole. William Halleck wrote a book once telling of how when he was eleven he fell through a wormhole and was pushed forward into the future. He said that he lived there for three years until another wormhole found him and he was brought back to his original time. Three years' time had passed in his old time without him but other than that not much was different.
  • In Reaching Through Time when Harry is three is he discovers the ability to visit Tom in the past for short periods while the same amount of time passes in the present.
  • This features for the time-travel method used in the Victorious AU "Across the Years"; when the time-traveller goes through the wormhole necessary for time travel, the time periods remain in sync while the wormhole is active (albeit in a smaller form so others won't use it), so the same amount of time passes in the past and the present.
  • The Kim Possible fic “Tunnel Vision” sends Kim and Ron randomly travelling through time when they accidentally fall into the time tunnel created by Kim's father's latest project. The tunnel remains active and sends Kim and Ron on each time it powers up over the next few days, with the result that they travel from one time period to another for the next few weeks until they ultimately return home.
    • The AU spin-off "Bridging the Gap" diverges from the above when Kim and Ron become trapped in 1903 after Shego attacks the research centre and damages the tunnel equipment. After six months of intense work with a range of scientists, Kim's father and Wade are able to retrieve Kim and Ron from the past, but although six months have passed from their perspective, an error in the calculations to re-establish a link with Kim and Ron's time results in them being retrieved from 1909 rather than 1903, at which point Kim and Ron are married and have a four-year-old son.
  • In the Angel fic "Impact", when Cordelia of mid-season three swaps places with her past self shortly before Doyle's death, the two Cordelias spend two days in each other's times, switching back just after the older Cordelia has destroyed the Beacon and saved Doyle's life, apparently at the cost of her own, while the younger Cordelia arrives back in that time having spent a couple of days in the future.
  • This is apparently how time travel works in the Peggy Sue Arrow: Rebirth, which is how it is portrayed in Legends of Tomorrow. The timeline does not instantly change the moment Oliver is sent back in time, or even when he starts to make changes. Instead, the changes are gradual enough for Barry and the Legends (in the future) to notice them and make plans to stop him. Novu tells Oliver the only way to prevent them from doing so is to kill Eobard Thawne in the next 24 hours. Even deciding to do so is not enough, he has to actually do it. Once he does, the old timeline is gone completely.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Fat Bastard encounters a Human Popsicle Austin in 1969 and starts draining his mojo. It seems to affect Austin exactly 30 years in the future when he's unfrozen in 1999, as his mojo suddenly starts draining at the same rate that Fat Bastard is draining his mojo in the past — while he's in the middle of shagging Dr. Evil's assassin.
  • Justified in Avengers: Endgame. The only thing stopping the Avengers from getting unlimited do-overs if elements of their plan to steal past versions of the destroyed infinity stones went wrong is a limited supply of the particles they use to enter the quantum realm to travel to the past, since the creator of the particles is currently dead. They need to keep some Pym particles in reserve in order to return to the present, so if they fail to get one of the stones, they can't simply chase it further back. When the Avengers fail to retrieve the space stone from 2012 New York, it's a major setback and it forces Steve and Tony to take a MAJOR risk by using the rest of their supply of Pym particles to travel further back to a time where they can find their original goal AND enough Pym Particles to return to a present, specifically a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in the 70s.
  • Back to the Future doesn't use this trope; it derives its tension from an inability to activate the time machine or a need to avoid a temporal paradox. But since time travel is a novel, scary, and untested phenomenon, sometimes the characters behave as if San Dimas Time is in effect:
    • In the first Back to the Future, Marty laments that he'll be too late to warn Doc of his fate once he gets back to 1985 — until he realizes that he has a time machine, and he has all the time in the world. Unfortunately, he doesn't think to give himself any more than just ten minutes, and the DeLorean's engine is not obliging, so he still doesn't make it in time to save Doc. Fortunately, Doc decided to bend the laws of history and read Marty's letter from 1955 anyway.
    • In Back to the Future Part II, Doc rushes to get Marty in position to pretend to be his own son in 2015, and his watch is synced up to 2015 time to make sure he's got his timing right. But if he's wrong, he's got a time machine and can start again- except he doesn't seem to realize this as an option.
    • Much of the tension comes from direct causality; in Part II they recognize that the 2015 Biff changed the distant past to create an Alternate Timeline when they returned to 1985. Marty initially suggests going back to 2015 to stop Biff from changing the past, but Doc points out the alternate timeline will have reached 2015, so they need to figure out when in the past Biff changed the timeline.
    • In fact, this leads to this issue: since they learned that Biff won his first millions at the horse race on his 21st birthday in 1958, which was in one of the books that Doc brought from the library, and after Marty learned about the earliest point being 1955, Marty and Doc never seem to think of going between then and 1955 to steal the alamanac back at a better point in that three year span of time so that they wouldn't risk running into Part I Marty and 1955 Doc.
  • In Best Defense 1984, Dudley Moore races against the clock to install a cooling system in a tank, just in the nick of time to save Eddie Murphy... ten years later. It turns out that there's no actual San Dimas Time in effect — it's just poorly executed Meanwhile, in the Future…, and the film's withholding this from the audience was not well received.
  • Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is the Trope Namer, although the general rule seems to be more that they are part of a Stable Time Loop rather than they have to be synced up with their own timeline. Rufus tells the two that no matter when they are, "the clock in San Dimas is always running", so they need to hurry to get their research done in the past. But they actually return to their own time period to interact with themselves from a day previously, so there's no reason to suspect that they can't just give themselves more time if they needed it. Indeed, they figure out the time travel mechanics in such a way to be able to use their own future time traveling to influence their situation in their relative present. The second film averts completely, as the boys spend a year and a half traveling through time and arrive back a second after they left. It reappears in Bill & Ted Face the Music, when they learn they have a limited amount of time to write and perform the song that prevents The End of the World as We Know It.
  • In Frequency, 1969 time and 1999 time seems to be hooked up and run concurrently during the duration of the aurora borealis. A prime example would be the climax in which Frank shoots off the killer's hand in the past timeline. It is made to look like Just in Time to prevent the killer from killing John in the present. In reality Frank would have had 30 years to achieve that.
  • The first sequel to Halloweentown appears to have a restriction of this sort. The characters travel back in time, but have until midnight "their time" to return to the present. Even the process of time travel takes San Dimas Time, as one character comments, "It's almost twelve, and so far we're only at the 1970s."
  • The edited version of Highlander II: The Quickening replaced "The Planet Zeist" with "The Distant Past" and walked right into this trope.
  • Il Mare: Eun-joo and Sung-hyun are separated by exactly two years, her in the future and him in the past. When she is delayed in putting the book about his father into the mailbox, it doesn't get to 1998 in time. She writes him that the second anniversary of her losing her favorite tape recorder in 1998 is rapidly approaching. He just barely misses catching her at the train station in 1998 and giving her the tape recorder that she just dropped, so he has to settle for putting it in the mailbox so she gets it two years later. The ending has Eun-joo frantically sending an emergency message from the year 2000, hoping that it will get to Sung-hyun before he's struck and killed by a car in the past.
  • Kung Fury travels to Nazi Germany in the 1940's after Hitler shoots up the police station in 1980's Miami (with the help of Thor, who somehow knows what Nazi Germany is despite being in a period thousands of years before it came to be). In a similar fashion, Kung Fury's allies all catch up to him by time travel... After he's shot dead by Hitler. Thankfully, he gets better.
  • A Sound of Thunder overlaps this with a Portal to the Past. The time machine opens a single "gate", and while it's open, the people who go through are experiencing the past at the same rate that people in the future/present are experiencing it. Part of the climax is that, after everything goes horribly (and predictably) wrong, they have to go back in time to the same period and stop the screw-up. All this is pretty in synch with various hypothetical methods of time travel. The ways it affects the future is... jarring to say the least.
  • In Stargate: Continuum, Ba'al's changes to the timeline cause the Tok'ra, Teal'c and Vala to disappear one by one just before his execution in the present. Cam Mitchell, trying to stop him in the climax, needs to get to the moment of a particular solar flare, but can't get there because the Timey-Wimey Ball won't let him. But then he defies the trope and just waits a few years.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, the time traveling scepter (in the present) only has enough power to work five times in sixty hours, after which it is destroyed, rendering even the fully intact scepter in 1603 Japan useless as well.
  • In Tenet, the Big Bad has a dead man's switch that will leave a message telling his allies in the future where he hid the MacGuffin. Even though they won't receive the message for centuries, the heroes can't let him leave it until after they've moved the MacGuffin somewhere else.
  • In The Tomorrow War, the time travel technology works by creating a stable connection 30 years into the past, but the device itself and the connection point contuine to move forward through time, so the two time periods run concurrently.
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, time travel works this way because it's Mental Time Travel; Kitty can only send Logan's consciousness back to his 1973 body, and she has to work constantly to keep him there. Time passes at the same rate in both eras relative to each other (as shown when Charles hijacks the connection to talk to his past self). The problem is that the 2023 X-Men are going to come under attack by an army of Sentinels that are constantly trying to find them, and the time travel mechanism was their early warning system and is now preoccupied, which provides a time limit for Logan to Set Right What Once Went Wrong in 1973.

  • In Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity, an organization is able to travel through our time, while maintaining a wholly separate, normal, only-goes-forward-at-one-second-per-second time of their own. This necessitates the inventions of the words "upwhen" and "downwhen" for the time travelers to be able to talk about the past and the future as it exists in "our" time, instead of their own future and past. They refer to this as "physiotime", as it reflects the aging process, not the passage of time.
  • In the Xanth series, the time periods that the isthmus is connected to all move forward at the same rate as Xanth. If a Xanthian was to spend a year in The Dark Ages, they would return to Xanth a year later. This spell was done that way so Xanth can trade with other time periods, and the rules of time travel clearly don't require it, as unescorted non-Xanthians end up randomly dislocated in time going in, for security purposes. Technically, nothing stops Xanthians from going to Earth, going back into Xanth, redirecting the isthmus to reconnect to Earth an hour earlier, going back to Earth, and meeting themselves there, and then coming back escorted by themselves so that one of them ends up in the wrong time, but the isthmus connection is incredibly vague about what time period it connects to, and getting somewhere near the right century is amazing, so that would not be possible in practice (to say nothing of the paradoxes).
  • The time travel in H. P. Lovecraft's The Shadow Out of Time seems to work this way. When a member of the Great Race of Yith takes over a human body in the present, the human host's mind in turn goes back in time to the body of the creature that possessed him. The creature then spends several years in the person's body studying the history and culture of the era, and "meanwhile" the person spends equal amount of time in the creature's body, forced to write down all he knows about his own civilization. It's left unclear if this is a law of time travel or just a matter of convenience.
  • In By His Bootstraps by Robert A. Heinlein, Diktor apparently tried to invoke San Dimas Time on his predecessor self, but was rebuffed by with the line, "How can we waste time when we have this?" So he smoothed it over with fast talk and invocation of authority. It was worth a shot, since the protagonist is essentially every single important character in the story — his own personal clock keeps ticking, meaning things need to happen precisely when they did/will/must happen.
  • The whole of the Pendragon series, by D. J. MacHale, runs on San Dimas Time. The Travelers ostensibly arrive exactly when necessary to stop the evil plot, but half of the territories are separated solely by a time difference, and that the villain doesn't have to follow any of the same rules. It takes some time for the Travelers wise up and realize that Saint Daine can undo any repair of a critical point, simply by going back to it.
  • In the later books of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series (which involves dimensional as well as time travel), there is revealed to be a Keystone Earth in which time always moves forward and the clock is always ticking. Time does not move forward at a constant rate, though, periodically "lurching" forward in relation to the universe in which the majority of the action takes place. The mechanism is a direct result of Roland's own world having "moved on".
  • Octavia Butler's Kindred combines this with Narnia Time; whenever the protagonist is dragged back in time to save Rufus, the time that passes in the present before her return is compressed proportionally to how long she spends in the past. When, for example, she spends a few minutes in the past, she disappears in the present for a mere second or two, but when she accidentally leaves her husband in the past, she spends three weeks in the present before going back and learning that her husband has been stranded for over five years.
  • The short story "Wikihistory" by Desmond Warzel would seem to operate on San Dimas time; otherwise there would be no suspense regarding AsianAvenger's return.
  • Averted in Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt. The protagonists realize early on that the clock is not always running in San Dimas, and use that fact to prepare for time trips or to bail themselves out of dicey situations.
  • Called out and then explicitly averted in Larry Maddock' "The Flying Saucer Gambit", #1 of of the "Agent of T.E.R.R.A." series. The main character has a Time Machine and is employed as an agent of the Temporal Entropy Restructure and Repair Agency, with a License to Tamper. The system won't let him go back to any point in time that he already exists in. At one point he is in the middle of a battle when he uses the time machine to jump 20 years ahead, and the first thing he does is take a nap. He then reflects on how he can jump back to re-join the battle milli-seconds after he left, and not one person will be injured or killed even if takes years to plan out what he needs to do to help his side win the battle.
  • Discworld:
    • Lampshaded in Thief of Time, which tells the story of an anxious man with time travel powers hurrying to find a midwife for his wife's difficult labour, even as he easily travels through several decades during his search.
    • In Night Watch, Lu Tze makes it explicitly clear that time travel works in a series of elastic time loops, which will snap back into a single timeline, the nature of that timeline depending on the actions of the person doing the time travel. However, this concept starts to hurt Vimes' brain, so Lu Tze suggests that he just think of everything happening one thing after the other.
  • Robert Asprin's Time Scout series works on this. Each portal moves one a fixed distance back in time from when you entered it, so a week away in the past is a week in the future and vice versa.
  • In Edward Ormondroyd's Time at the Top, Susan Shaw spends a couple of days in the past and returns to find her father and the cook/housekeeper frantic about her disappearance.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog in the Fourth Dimension, Dr. Robotnik brags that the heroic duo has only fifteen minutes left to exist because his robots in the past have found (and are about to kill) the first evolved hedgehog and fox on the planet.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe:
    • The Eighth Doctor Adventures novel Emotional Chemistry maintains a continuous narrative crossing between three time periods, with four separate means of time travel, and only one point at which one of the characters is "out of sync" with the others.
    • In the Doctor Who Missing Adventures novel Goth Opera, the villainess, a Time Lady, muses on how if she wanted to face the Doctor, the rules of meeting other Time Lords (see below) dictate that she would likely be facing the (then-current) Seventh Doctor, and she cycles through all of the Doctor's regenerations looking for an easier matchup, even though this breaks the established rules. (She settles on the Fifth Doctor, who's still too much for her.)
    • Other spin-offs have featured the Doctor having out-of-sequence encounters with other Time Lords, meeting past or future versions of his foes, but this is often justified due to his enemies deliberately defying the rules or them dealing with pan-dimensional entities that break those rules by their very nature. The only occasion where the Doctor breaks these rules himself is the novel Legacy of the Daleks, when the Eighth Doctor receives a telepathic distress call from Susan and his attempt to travel back to a point before Susan sent the cry results in him meeting a version of the Master who more often faced the Third Doctor.
  • Averted in Scott Meyer's An Unwelcome Quest. Early in the novel, Todd kidnaps five of the wizards and drops Jeff off a cliff to his death. None of the wizards are too concerned, since they believe that they can just travel through time and come back to that point later. Todd points out two flaws in that analysis: (a) he made sure to watch Jeff hit the bottom of the cliff, ensuring that no one did/will save him, and (b) he's not planning to let the rest of them leave alive either. In order to engineer a Stable Time Loop, they have to save Jeff by making Todd think he succeeded, and they only have one attempt at it.
    • In the next novel, it's revealed the Phillip has linked a door in his home (located in 12th century England) to a door in Brit the Younger's home (located in Atlantis in the ancient times). This basically links the time passage in those two time periods, even though usually this trope is subverted. Also subverted when going to each time traveler's present. It's always a split second after they departed, no matter how long they spent in the past.
  • Zig-Zagging Trope in Blackout All Clear by Connie Willis. A group of historians stranded in World War II-era England worry about meeting up with recovery teams at the right place at the right time. Some of them (sometimes belatedly) remember that the team back home can take all the time they need to find them, because they have time travel. Except they still don't turn up when they're supposed to.
  • No Time Like The Past: Played with. The story derives some dramatic tension from the fact that Seven traveled to the 23rd Century shortly after Janeway, Tuvok, and Neelix were critically injured by chroniton radiation, and only Seven was in a position to get them proper medical attention in time. She's well aware that the clock isn't ticking in the future while she's in the past, but the lives of three of her crew depend on her returning to the precise point in time and space she left. Thus, enough variables are in play that her best bet is the Dismantled MacGuffin scavenger hunt.
  • In Harry Turtledove's The Guns of the South, the time machine used by the Afrikaaners to alter The American Civil War only works in increments of exactly 150 years - or at least, nobody can figure out how to change the setting. This is why they had to rush to steal it in 2014 (any later and no amount of intervention would have changed the outcome), as well as the reason why they show up in the relatively quiet Winter of 1864, rather than at a more critical juncture like the Battle of Gettysburg.
  • Wearing the Cape: In later books, this is revealed to be the Teatime Anarchist's weakness. He can travel to any potential future, but any time he spends traveling means equal time will advance in the present, which will become the unchangeable past. This is why he couldn't jump forward whenever a disaster started, spend a week figuring out the best way to stop it, and jump back to a second after it started and stop it before it got out of control. To this end, in the present he created the Ouroboros Project, a top-secret thinktank of seers, fortune tellers, and professional predictors. They collected and collated all information on the past and present as part of their jobs, so he just had to jump to the future, download their findings, and jump back to peruse at his leisure. In return, he gives them access to much of what he brings back, further refining their calculations.
  • Played with in "The Dandelion Girl". Time machines are set to travel a certain distance, meaning that if one was set to travel to July 7th 1950 today, it will travel to July 8th 1950 tomorrow unless you change the settings, and Julie simply chooses not to do that until the final journey, where she programs it to travel a couple of decades further.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Charmed (1998) episode "Forever Charmed'' three-year old Wyatt has his powers stolen. Wyatt and Chris then travel back in time to find out what happened, with Wyatt's powers just having disappeared from their perspective.
  • In the first season of Dark (2017) we are introduced to two working time machines—a 3-way tunnel in the caves, and a portable machine kept in a suitcase—which are both limited to trips in increments of precisely 33 years. So if a character travels from 2019 to 1986, spends a day in 1986 and then returns to 2019, they will find that a day has passed in 2019 as well.
  • Doctor Who, being the progenitor of the Timey-Wimey Ball, will occasionally use San Dimas Time to explain whatever else is going on. One consistent rule (which became Ascended Fanon) is that all TARDISes and everyone in them run on "Gallifrey Time", which forces everything else into San Dimas Time. The effect of this is that if the Doctor meets another Time Lord — or one of his other incarnations — they will always remember events in the same order, even if the number of years in between may differ. But there are always Timey-Wimey complications and exceptions:
    • In "Pyramids of Mars", the Doctor has only a narrow window of opportunity to trap Sutekh in the spacetime tunnel. Even if he were to use the TARDIS to return to Earth at a point hours or weeks earlier, he'd only wind up waiting around for the few minutes when Sutekh is in the tunnel, and can therefore be trapped. The fact that he rushes to get it done immediately is more an indication of his excitement level than fear of wasting precious San Dimas Time.
    • The Doctor will often be out of sync with other time travellers who are using non-Gallifreyan technology, like Captain Jack's vortex manipulator.
    • It's pointed out in "The Parting of the Ways", after the Doctor sends Rose back to the 21st century to get her out of the line of fire of an impending Dalek attack in 200,100. Rose is not happy, and desperately tries to get back as fast as she can, describing the events as happening "right now", but her mum Jackie points out that the future is way off and she shouldn't need to. Indeed, although it takes Rose several hours at the least to rip the TARDIS console open and access the Heart of the TARDIS to get back, less than an hour passes for the Doctor and Jack in the future before she actually arrives.
    • River Song, despite being half-Time Lord, routinely experiences events in a different order from the Doctor, sometimes (but not always) in reverse order. They have to sync diaries to figure out what the other knows. The first meeting from the Doctor's perspective is the weirdest (and saddest), because when he doesn't recognize her at all, she knows (because he told/will tell her) that she dies at the end of that meeting. After all, she primarily uses tech like vortex manipulators to travel.
    • The Time War appears to work in a fashion like this, although it's never properly explained; at the beginning of "The End of Time", Ood Sigma warns the Doctor that "events that have happened are happening now", alerting the Doctor that something is very wrong and causing him to rush to the TARDIS and get back to the twenty-first century. (He's just a bit too late.) It turns out this derives from the Doctor's solution to the Time War — lock them in time while he destroys them all, technically ending the war but not forcing them — or himself — to face the music. Out of universe, this trope is required to make the Doctor the Last of His Kind without running into any pre-war Time Lords.
    • Time is sufficiently broken in "The Pandorica Opens"/"The Big Bang" that it seems to be running in San Dimas Time in two directions at once, explaining how the TARDIS can go around in time when it's also exploding and causing every star in the universe to supernova simultaneously at every point in time.
    • The Doctor Who New Adventures novels expand on how "Gallifrey Time" works. What we know as time is called "Outer Time", and all Time Lords, as well as all TARDISes and their inhabitants, are fundamentally bound to what Gallifreyans call "Inner Time", which is an entirely separate dimension from what we call "time". Time Lords can travel freely in Outer Time, but never in Inner Time, which always passes at the same rate for everyone. This allows them to reconcile their timelines when they interact with each other. In fact, Outer Time — and what us Muggles would call "reality" as a whole — is an artificial construct created by the Seven Founders to make sense of physics.
    • Other spin-off media seems to loosely ignore the above; Big Finish Doctor Who audios have in particular often had the Doctor experience out-of-sequence encounters with other Time Lords and even Gallifrey itself, such as the Sixth Doctor meeting a version of the Rani who has already caused his regeneration into his seventh body, or the Fourth and Seventh Doctors facing a younger version of the Master.
  • In Family Matters, Urkel's time machine appears to run on San Dimas Time; in the second episode in which it appears, Urkel and Carl are trapped in the past, with Harriet back home in 1997 wondering where they had run off to.
  • Flash Gordon (1954):
    • In one episode the main characters have to travel back to the present day to disarm a bomb set to go off in their time... 1000 years later.
    • In another episode, after superluminal travel sends the protagonist back in time, he is still able to communicate with the base by radio, lining them up on San Dimas Time.
  • In the final episode of Goodnight Sweetheart, Gary ends up stuck in the past and writes a message to Ron in the present on the wall of his flat. Rather than the message having been there throughout the intervening decades, it materialises slowly in the present as Gary writes it in 1945.
  • In Journeyman, Dan doesn't have any control over when he time-travels, and the time he is missing from the present is never proportional to how long he was in the past. However, Dan lives in the 2000s and his fellow time-traveler Livia lives in the 1940s. Their lives appear to be synchronized and they experience their encounters, which occur in various time periods, in the same order.
  • Kamen Rider Den-O uses a variation: the DenLiner (and all other time trains) can only travel between two points in time, the "destination" on the Rider Ticket and the point of origin. The show thus has a few episodes where the heroes have to rush to get back to the present in time to prevent another crisis.
  • In Legends of Tomorrow:
    • The Season One finale has Vandal Savage planning to set off three different Doomsday Devices in three different time periods "simultaneously" — presumably, this is in relation to San Dimas Time. The heroes stop him by splitting into three teams, each heading to a different time period and killing Savage in three time periods, also simultaneously. The problem is that Savage is immortal; but they solve this by exposing him to radiation from all three Doomsday Devices simultaneously, rendering him mortal. It's best not to think about it too hard.
    • In the Season Three episode "Phone Home", Professor Martin Stein is revealed to have built a communicator capable of broadcasting through time so that he can keep tabs on his pregnant daughter, who is about to give birth to his first grandchild in 2017. There is a good deal of urgency about getting him to the hospital in time to be there for the birth, despite his living on a ship that travels through time.
    • It's actually relatively consistent that "time" keeps flowing for the Legends even while they're running around time. Whenever they go to the "present" it's always the current time according to other shows, even the couple times they've taken a break they're returned to whatever the current date is in Flash and Arrow rather than the night Rip first recruited them in 2016, with them being away for all the months that have passed since that date. This is probably to keep things in sync with the rest of the Arrowverse.
  • Logan's Run: In "Man Out of Time", after traveling forward in time from December 2118 to 2319, David Eakins has only 22 hours to return home. Time passes within both eras at the same rate.
  • Loki: The Time Variance Authority cannot stop a variant before it even happens, because they "distort the timeline", so they have to show up in "real time". It seems the Authority exists in a place where all time is happening simultaneously.
  • A variation occurs in season 5 of Lost. The Oceanic Six leave the Island in 2004, just as the people left on the Island (Sawyer, Juliet, Jin, Miles, Daniel, and Charlotte) start traveling through time, eventually ending up in 1974. When the Oceanic Six return to the Island in 2007, they are sent back in time to 1977. From everyone's perspective, it has been three years since they last met. Since then, everyone who enters or leaves the island is displaced permanently in time, but everyone who encounters each other after having done so will do so according to San Dimas Time.
  • In Making History (2017), Chris assumes they can just go back to shortly after they left. Dan informs him that the time machine doesn't work that way; however long you stay in the past, that's how much you're gone in the present. This information comes at the worst possible time, after spending days working for Al Capone, and Chris frets about all the work days he's missed.
  • In the Night Gallery story "The Little Black Bag", people from the future discover that a medical bag has been accidentally sent back in time to the audience's present. They then deactivate the "futuristic" abilities of the tools in the bag, but with a gap between when the bag was found and the tools were deactivated similar to the time between when the bag was lost and it was realized to have been lost. This is unfortunate for the guy being operated on with a scalpel from the bag at the time, for one. (In Cyril M. Kornbluth's original story, time flows forward at "both ends", and the future-people let the bag keep working as long as monitoring equipment indicates the user is doing good with it. As soon as someone with murderous intent gains possession, the plug gets pulled.)
  • In Outlander, this seems to be how time travel through the stones works. Travelers can't travel to any date of their choosing, it seems that the date will be about 200 years in the past, give or take. Claire travels from 1945 to 1743 and stays for 3 years before returning to the year 1948, 3 years after she left. 20 years later, she travels from 1968 back to 1766.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: the episode "Wild West Rangers" has Kimberly thrown back to The Wild West, leaving Billy and the remaining Rangers trying to retrieve her. Billy specifically states at one point, "It's a paradox. Our world won't change until Kimberly battles the monster in her time," implying the two timelines had become synchronised.
    • The events of Power Rangers Time Force are built on this trope. Ransik goes back in time to the year 2001, and the Rangers follow him a few minutes later. If the Power Rangers universe didn't run on San Dimas Time, the year 3000 would have been instantly altered at that point; there would have been nobody in 2001 to stop him. Later, it's explained that the things the Rangers and Ransik do in 2001 alter the future on a 1:1 ratio. This also explains why some times the Megazord is unavailable due to repair, despite the fact that, by all reasons, Time Force should be able to take whatever time they need to repair the Zords before sending them back in time to when they are needed. In the following season, which takes place in 2002, the Crossover has the Rangers contact 3001, a year later from the future timeline.
  • In Quantum Leap, from the moment Ziggy locates where and when Sam has leaped, the past and the future appear to be in sync. This becomes a problem when events in the future distract Al while Sam is in the middle of something. However, in several episodes Al comments that they have spent weeks looking for Sam since his last leap, while Sam has only experienced a few hours. This suggests that once Ziggy has located Sam, there has to be a concerted effort to keep their respective time periods in sync.
  • The same principle applies to Quantum Leap (2022) as well. The past and the future sync up as soon as Ziggy and the Project lock onto Ben; however, in the first episode, almost immediately after Ben leaps in, Addison instantly walks up and says that they'd spent hours trying to locate him.
  • Star Trek:
    • Zig-Zagging Trope in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Future Tense". The crew encounters a time traveler from the future and activates his "homing beacon", so his people from the future can find him. Once it's activated, he and all his devices are instantly transported back home. Captain Archer notes that once they got the beacon's signal, the future people could take all the time they need to retrieve him. Except if the beacon is activated in the past, the future people should see it at any time — even before the ship travels back in time to begin with.
    • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode two-part "Past Tense", Sisko and Bashir accidentally interfere with a riot that was supposed to lead to the social change that helped the creation of the Federation. Cut to characters who are still in the series' normal future time period, who see the Federation disappear at that moment despite the critical event happening centuries ago! The same happens in reverse when they put things right... Perhaps the microscopic singularity that interacted with the chroniton particles to produce a temporal energy surge acted as a tiny time portal to keep changes in both timelines "in sync" until the situation in the past was resolved.
    • Averted in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Time's Orphan", when eight-year-old Molly O'Brien falls into a Portal to the Past, which closes after her. Though the crew has to spend a few hours reactivating it, according to Odo, the plan is to beam Molly out "a few minutes after she fell". It's then averted in the other direction, when a problem in the transport results in them beaming Molly out ten years after she fell. It's also mentioned that it might be possible to try again and potentially beam Molly out at an earlier point in time, and the only reason they don't is because it would erase the older Molly from existence and they're not comfortable with that. Continues at the end of the episode; when the older Molly reenters the portal, she arrives on the same day that she initially fell through, and when her younger self is returned to her own time after all, from her perspective she's been gone for less than a day, even though it's been at least several days for her parents.
    • Basically ignored in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Timeless", where the ship was destroyed in an attempt to return to Earth using an experimental new drive system leaving only Chakotay and Harry Kim as survivors. Fifteen years later, they find Voyager and retrieve the holographic Doctor, hoping to use Seven of Nine's Borg components and salvaged Borg technology to transmit equations into Seven's Borg implants moments before her death so that the propulsion system won't suffer the errors that caused Voyager to crash. When the initial transmission fails, the Doctor points out that they can easily call Voyager again as "the past isn't going anywhere", but that doesn't help if Harry doesn't know what revised equations to send the past crew. Ultimately he has to abandon the goal of getting Voyager home in favour of aborting the slipstream flight before Voyager crashes. The only thing that's threatening them is the USS Challenger, a Galaxy-class ship commanded by Capt. Geordi La Forge, which would easily overpower the Delta Flyer if they caught up with them.
  • This appears to be how time travel works in Timeless. The control room at Mason Industries always has a mission clock running above it, which appears to match the time the team spends in the past. There's also lots of urgency about sending the Lifeboat back in time as soon as the Mothership's timejump is detected. Were this trope not in effect, Flynn's changes to the timeline would have been instantaneous to anyone in the present the moment he went back into the past.
    "I'm sorry Lucy, but Flynn is hours ahead of us. We don't have time for this."
    "Why not? We have a time machine, don't we?"
    "Flynn could be decimating history right now. Our reality could change like THAT, any second!"
    • There are some episodes where this is partially averted, such as when Wyatt's memories already contain information about a race car driver, who is actually a sleeper agent from the present that supplanted other racing celebrities from the original history. It could be that something about not being able to chase down all the sleeper agents right after they left the present meant that a Delayed Ripple Effect was able to catch up to the time team...or it could just be a Timey-Wimey Ball.
  • This appears to be the case in Time Trax. Since the show can't seem to decide if Darien is really in the past or in a time-shifted parallel universe, this may or may not be justified. Although several episodes suggest the latter is the case, they do occasionally contact Darien's superior by leaving coded messages in the classifieds, which are received in order and not simultaneously.
  • For technobabbly reasons, people in Travelers can't be sent further back than the time of the last arrival. That enforces a crude synchronization between the twenty-first century and the Bad Future - the latest Traveler to arrive will always have been sent back from a later time than all the Travelers who arrived before them, creating the illusion that the two time periods are happening in parallel.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Convict's Piano", whenever Ricky Frost travels back in time by playing the old piano, he is gone for the equivalent amount of time in 1986.
  • Most episodes of Voyagers! start with Jeffrey and Bogg arriving in one time period, jumping to another time period (usually to escape a sticky situation), and then returning to the first time period to fix history. This often results in Bogg wanting to hang around in the second time period (usually because of a woman) while Jeffrey anxiously tries to impress on him the urgency of needing to go back to the first time period "before it's too late", despite how little sense this makes.
  • Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego imposed a twenty-eight minute time limit (announced by the Chief Once per Episode) from the moment that the time-travelling villains stole a historical artifact/landmark to when history would be irreversibly altered. They never twig that they could go back in time to just before the theft in order to stop it, but that would ruin the quiz show a bit.

  • Journey into Space: Discussed in Journey to the Moon / Operation Luna. Lemmy speculates that all of time happens at once. He compares time to a book, saying that you have to read the first six chapters of a book in order to reach Chapter 7 but Chapter 7 still exists when you are reading Chapter 1. Lemmy theorises that Henry VIII is marrying his sixth wife (Catherine Parr) on the proper page (in 1543) and that his girlfriend Becky is concerned about him on her proper page in 1965.
  • The Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama The Legacy of Time: The Split Infinitive has the Doctor team up with Intrusion Countermeasures in the seventies to retrieve a Person of Mass Destruction who will inadvertently cause the decade to collapse in on itself as he tries to reunite with his past self ... while Ace teams up with them in the sixties to retrieve the past self. The Doctor explains that because of the nature of the phenomenon, the IC team won't remember what happened in the sixties "until" it happens to Ace, essentially meaning the two halves of the story are happening at "the same time", with the IC team allowing one-way communication as they remember what happened next. He also says that the timeline is sufficiently in flux that they can't assume they didn't die during the sixties events. This is illustrated when the villain plummets to his death in the sixties, and his seventies counterpart has a moment of horrified remembrance before disappearing in a Puff of Logic.

    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS Time Travel's standard scenario states that you can only travel to time "windows", about three months apart (and slowly growing farther apart), that are dragged forward as normal time passes. Why this happens, along with what happened at the point the windows initially extended from, is an unexplained mystery. This setting also has time moving at different rates in different time periods, meaning ten days in the past equals a single day in the present. However, this is only one of several options provided by GURPS Time Travel — it has rules to cover nearly every version of Time Travel on this site.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness supplement "Transdimensional TMNT" had a surprisingly complex justification for San Dimas Time that involved the time stream coiling around itself in predictable patterns and jumping from coil to coil where they touch.
  • Feng Shui has a reasonably sensible take on this trope: the various time periods, of which there are currently four, are linked together by portals through the Netherworld, and time in all four locations moves at the same pace. This has the effect, among other things, of making Tricked Out Time much harder for the players to manage — although if they have a decent Feng Shui site and are reasonably clever, they might just pull it off.

    Video Games 
  • Achron involves this, though more for gameplay purposes. The present is always moving, and any viewing of the past or future will by default involve the player moving through time at the same speed as the present. Changing any specific point in time also becomes harder as the present moves away from it, for balance reasons. However, the changes made in the past are periodically propagated faster than the player can go by timewaves, and the player can control their rate of movement through time. For example, fast forwarding will cause one to catch up to the present eventually, propagating changes along the way. This means that if someone else changes the past, you only have a certain amount of time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, or else the change becomes irrevocable.
  • In Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich, some of the team members end up in The '40s, but others remain in psychic contact via Mentor and appear to be experiencing the flow of time at the same rate.
  • Shadow of Destiny uses San Dimas Time; since the time in the present is counting down to the time of your inevitable death, it puts a time limit on all the puzzles you need to solve in the past, even this doesn't make much sense.
  • The Journeyman Project series of computer games are all dependent on this trope. Whenever something in the past is altered, it creates "temporal ripples" that take a certain amount of San Dimas Time to reach the present. Having detected the initial waves, the Time Police has just enough time to send an agent into the distant past, jumping over the distortion wave. This protects the agent, however the present will be overwritten. Afterwards, it's the agent and the agent alone who must Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
    • This is more explicitly addressed in the remake, Pegasus Prime. Retrieving an untempered record of history from Cretaceous, you return for a comparison in the altered present. Your boss, realizing his reality is about to be unmade, tries to stop you from carrying out your duty.
    • The third game adds another variant of San Dimas Time. In the first and second games, you return to your time period of origin mere moments after you left. In the third, you seem to return to the home period roughly as much after you left as you spent in the past, given how events progress.
  • Chrono Trigger typically does this with Portals To The Past, but later in the game, you acquire a Time Machine, and travel with it still inexplicably works the same way. Interestingly, fanon holds that the Time Machine is based on the preexisting portals between time periods. Here's the relevant article.
  • Handwaved in Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? (1997) where it's stated that legal time travel has to be cleared with a federal agency, and thus each Chrono-Skimmer will return to the present after a certain number of hours of machine use. The villains have no such problem.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • The level timers in Sonic CD, where you regularly travel hundreds of years through time mid-level on a regular basis. Subverted in that traveling through time will reset the timer to five minutes if the elapsed time was greater than that.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) involves, among many other confusing things, the main trio getting sent to a Bad Future, where they discover that Elise died when Eggman's battleship exploded the day after they left. Sonic says, "If we don't return in time, Elise will die on board Eggman's battleship!" Sonic actually ends up being too late to save her anyway — which he fixes by simply hopping back in time a few minutes.
  • The mandatory surfing stages in Mario's Time Machine for the Super NES are timed, meaning that San Dimas Time is in effect. The only gameplay downside to letting time run out, though, is that you get fewer bonus points.
    The Angry Video Game Nerd: And how ironic is that, that there's a time limit to go back in time?!
  • In Day of the Tentacle, the three main characters are stuck in the present, 200 years in the past, and 200 years in the future respectively, and events that happen in the past affect the characters in the future in San Dimas Time. For example, one character in the past can convince George Washington to cut down a tree in the yard, causing the tree to vanish into a stump in future timelines and another character (who is stuck to the tree by her underwear) to fall on her ass.
  • In one level in Chronotron, your time machine is on a lever controlled by an inaccessible button with a bomb on it. You must complete whatever you need to do before the bomb explodes, the lever goes away, and your time machine falls into oblivion. And, you can't just arrive earlier, because San Dimas Time doesn't work that way.
  • Used as a plot point in The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, as the Big Bad has stopped time at high noon around the construction site for the final dungeon. No matter how quickly you progress, you can't stop the tower from being built. However, rather than appear completed instantaneously to your present self, the tower being built in the past progresses in increments as you progress through the plot.
  • The high concept of Spider-Man: Edge of Time: Actions in the present alter the future, but they do so "simultaneously" in relation to the Portal to the Past; if Spider-Man can't stop the giant robot from ever being built "before" it kills Spider-Man 2099, then it's too late. Miguel handwaves this as a side effect of the permanent connection between the two time periods; Peter lampshades that it still doesn't make any sense.
  • In Time Lord, the clock is always running in 2999, and you have one year to Save the World by traveling through four historical time zones.
  • In Ghost Trick, every time Sissel goes time-travelling and returns to the present after averting someone's fate, it's always later than when he left (e.g., he left at 7:02 and returned at 7:21). The use of this trope doesn't make sense upon analysis, though, because Sissel is always forced to travel to the same point in history: four minutes before a given person's death. He could wait ten hours to time travel and save their life, and it wouldn't make a difference in the success of said mission.
  • In World of Warcraft, the Deaths of Chromie scenario introduced in 7.2.5 works like this. Chromie is going to die at a specific time, and you only have fifteen minutes to fix everything. You could try to go back earlier, except a master of time travel is blocking your attempts to do so. In any event, you can retry the scenario as many times as you want.
  • Zig-zagged in Millennia: Altered Destinies. You have a database of the Echelon Galaxy in your ship. The ship itself (and you) are shielded, but the database is not, which is by design, so it can act as your Ripple Effect Indicator, after you've changed something in the past. Usually, the database is updated seconds after you've done something. On the other hand, your Evil Counterpart will attack at any point in Real Life time, so it's heavily implied that his and your time passage is synched, which makes partial sense, since he's you but from an alternate timeline, convinced to work for the Microids.
  • Time travel in 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is either one-way, or fixed to five time periods from the 1940s to the 2100s, each forty years apart. If a character spends time outside their native era, they'll return with the same amount of time passing. This is because the characters aren't time travelling; they're going between parallel worlds (more properly known as "Sectors" rather than "eras") that are not causally linked together.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the way morphogenetic fields work is that the transmitter and the receiver have to be experiencing the same situation, so even after Akane removes the usual limitation that they have to be experiencing the situation simultaneously and links up with Junpei nine years later, the two Nonary Games still have to remain perfectly synced up. Therefore, despite not actually being on a sinking ship Junpei still has to solve all of the puzzles within nine hours or else Akane will die nine years in the past.

  • Superosity doesn't have San Dimas Time but illustrates a good reason to enforce it — the characters have aged while time-travelling, and although they return to The Present a millisecond after they left, they worry about having aged (and whether they have to change their birthdays).
  • Sluggy Freelance
    • Almost justified when, at the end of The Storm Breaker Saga, it's revealed the time travelling in this and previous stories has worked as follows: First, the demon K'Z'K is blast into the past accidentally, taking with him Gwynn's soul, leaving Gwynn's body in a coma in the present. He "cuts a noticeable trail" through time and space. Next, Riff's malfunctioning time machine sends Zoë and Torg into the past along that same trail (though it seems they actually arrive somewhat after K'Z'K, which would probably be a blatant example of this trope). They fight and temporarily destroy K'Z'K in that time, whereupon Gwynn's soul returns through time to her body to the present. In the present, Riff and Dr. Schlock have been trying to figure out a way to go after Torg and Zoë for some time, not knowing what time they went to. When Gwynn regains consciousness, she is able to report seeing them, and Riff travels along the trail her soul left, thus explaining why he only arrives in the time after Torg and Zoë have defeated K'Z'K. The question that remains unanswered, besides of why Torg and Zoë don't appear in exactly the same time as K'Z'K, is: why didn't Gwynn's soul return to the time when it left her?
    • A similar but simpler and entirely justified case is in "Mohkadun" when Gwynn's soul is swapped with that of Siphaniana of the ancient kingdom of Mohkadun. Both spend an extended period of time swapped in their own times, but it's because the times they switch back are determined from both ends by magic rituals and the like.
  • Homestuck calls this circumstantial simultaneity. It expresses how two events can happen "at the same time", even if they're not happening at the same time or if the events are in different timelines altogether.
    • Characters called Exiles operate computers which monitor specific people from 413 years in the past. Several times, Exiles try to assist those they monitor, but they never attempt to send messages any time except exactly 413 years in the past, even when sending a message sooner or later could save lives.
    • The big End of Act 5 Flash animation, [S] Cascade, involves no less than four different chronologies happening "simultaneously". For example, one of the major villains, Jack Noir, destroys a universe from the outside shortly after that universe was created. At the "same time", the Scratch is initiated to reset said universe, while Jack's past self in the future of the same universe is trying to escape from its destruction. This universe then explodes at the "same time" as another universe, even though the second universe existed before the first one, and the first universe was destroyed over 1024 years before the second universe itself explodes.
    • In Act 6, a few characters use a chat program that lets them communicate with characters living centuries in the past (well, in the past from the future characters' perspectives) or across realities. These copies of the program are designed to run on San Dimas Time to prevent synchronization issues.
  • In Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, San Dimas Time is enforced over long periods even though it's not a law of time travel, because otherwise leaving for months and coming back five minutes after you left can make things rather troubling.
  • Chicanery averts this in #138. Ness, stuck in a Cube parody with a bunch of mafia goons, decides to mess with them by going back in time to stab himself through the hands with a pair of spikes, intent on freaking them out with the sudden appearance of "suspiciously Christ-like" hand wounds. The goons simply note that the holes in his hands were the first thing they noticed about him, one of them explaining that it makes no sense to make a change in the past and then expect it to only take effect an arbitrary amount of time later. Ness then undoes the stabbing, at which point the goon who gave that explanation disappears (messily) into a singularity.

    Web Original 
  • Parodied in the Thrilling Adventure Hour and "The Cross-Time Adventures of Colonel Tick-Tock", when Queen Victoria repeatedly requires Colonel Tick-Tock to immediately leave to travel back in time to fix a problem, despite also saying that "Time is the one luxury we do have." It's lampshaded in one appearance where Tick-Tock's wife Constance asks "Couldn't he leave at any time?" The Colonel explains that it's "Quite the opposite. Were I to finish this biscuit, I would be far too late!"
  • In Season 16 of Red vs. Blue, when Sarge and Simmons are forcibly thrown back into the present, they learn one year has passed since they left, which is exactly the amount the time they had spent time travelling. In the meantime, the main characters were deemed disappeared.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Men in Black: The Series, Jay and Kay have to travel back in time to The Wild West, when an energy-absorbing alien who's about to cause havoc in modern time was still vulnerable. According to some Techno Babble, the past and present move at the same rate, so Jay and Kay only have a few hours to finish the job over a century ago, or else the alien will destroy a city, which theoretically wouldn't revert to normal even after the alien is killed in its larval stage over a hundred years ago. Nevertheless, when Jay and Kay find themselves running out of time and in need of backup in the past, they can use a device (which only travels through time at the speed of regular time) that will remain dormant until the corresponding present (as opposed to the present from the beginning of the episode) and then relay a message to the rest of the team describing the problem and requesting backup.
  • In the DuckTales (1987) episode "Time is Money", the characters appear to have at least a vague awareness that Time Travel doesn't work this way, given that they discuss going back in time to change events that occurred during the episode. They never do this, however, and past time periods do appear to be synchronized with the present.
  • Superfriends:
    • In one episode, Aquaman is trapped in the distant past with Apache Chief. He decides to bury his communicator under the future site of the Hall of Justice and set the emergency signal. The signal isn't detected until after his and several other teams get trapped in different eras and the rest of the team has begun looking for them.
    • In another episode, the Superfriends travel back in time to stop the time-traveling villains from meddling with their origins. Flash worries that he might have arrived too late to stop them, apparently not realizing that if he is, he can just go back further in time.
  • An episode of Biker Mice from Mars had the Big Bad travelling into the past to demolish the city by digging giant holes where it would be built. Whenever he finished digging a hole, it would appear "at the same time" in the future in the middle of the city.
  • In Beast Wars, The Planet Buster is blown up over prehistoric Earth, unleashing the Quantum Wave. Half a season later, the Transformers realize the Quantum Wave travels in space and time. It should reach Cybertron around the time period they come from (the 24th Century). The wave in fact hits right about the same length of time after the Maximals left their century as they have spent in the past, establishing San Dimas Time. Now, the Tripredacus Council sends an agent back in the past, to assist the Maximals to apprehend the Predacons, figuring out the time period from the Quantum Wave. Because of San Dimas Time, he arrives several months after the Planet Buster's detonation, as opposed to some time before then (which could easily have caused a Temporal Paradox).
  • In the Jackie Chan Adventures episode "J2", Jade's Future Badass self travels back in time to prevent Shendu's release in her time. She explains that because time is still moving forward in both eras, they have to destroy the artifacts before midnight, since future Jackie and Uncle are being held prisoner and Shendu can finish them off when he's freed. The artifacts are destroyed after midnight but Shendu's newfound freedom is undone.
  • In American Dad!'s first Christmas episode, it's established that the Ghost of Christmas Past visiting Stan has only just gotten the job, and Stan is actually her first client. Her time magic doesn't have any established limitations, so it seems to run on San Dimas Time just because she's not good enough at temporal magic to realize that it doesn't have to. She ends up late to stop Stan's meddling in the timeline because she had to get Francine's help in finding him and wound up lost in the Jurassic era. At the end of the episode, she gives Stan a present while saying she was just able to get to the mall in time to buy it.
  • Rick and Morty: Part of Rick's plan to stop an invasion of time-traveling alien snakes involved waiting in the present for the Time Police to go into the past and intervene. Only then do the snakes in the present disappear.