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Time Travel Escape

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Our heroes have traveled through time to witness some important historical event. While they are there, observing the event (but of course not actually interfering), they meet, befriend, or otherwise become aware of John Doe. From their previous studies of history, they know that John Doe is scheduled to die at such-and-such a date, and such-and-such a time. In order to preserve the timeline, they have to let him die.

But they don't. Instead, the heroes grab John Doe and move him in time to the future (or the far past), allowing everyone in John's own time to think he's dead, thus preserving both the timeline and John's life.

A subtrope of Set Right What Once Went Wrong. May require Tricked Out Time. Contrast You Will Be Beethoven. Has nothing to do with traveling through time to escape pursuit, that's Emergency Temporal Shift.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • One Piece In the Wano Arc, it's revealed that Lady Toki at her youth was chased by pirates about to make her a slave and notions that it's time to do this trope again, until Oden Kozuki saved her.

    Comic Books 
  • In Grant Morrison's The Invisibles, the protagonists send "psychic projections" of themselves to eighteenth-century France and bring a "projection" of the Marquis de Sade back with them. King Mob explains: "You'll be like a ghost [in the twentieth century] but when you reach the end of your life here you'll unite with your future projection. I know it sounds ridiculous, but trust me."
  • During James Robinson's run on Starman, Jack Knight finds out his brother, David (who was shot and killed at the start of the run), got sent back in time to serve as the Starman of the '50s (who no one knew the identity of) until it's time for his death to come around. Heartbreakingly, this happens right when Jack and David are reminiscing on old times.
  • In the Marvel Universe it looked like this happened, but it didn't. A man believing himself to be Captain Mar-Vell appears. Everyone thinks that he's avoided his death from cancer by jumping forward in time. It turns out that time travel wasn't involved in the first place; the guy's really a Skrull sleeper agent brainwashed into thinking he's the real deal.
    • The same sort of plot happened some time after Barry Allen's death when Barry appears at the current Flash, Wally West's doorstep. Wally is confused but glad to see his mentor come back, but things start to get weird when Barry acts more and more like a Jerkass Knight Templar, making Wally afraid that he Came Back Wrong. In reality, the man who appeared was not Barry Allen, but a deluded fan of Barry Allen from the future who went so far as to give himself Barry's face and powers. After his defeat, he returned to the future where he would go on to become Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash, one of Barry Allen's arch-enemies.
    • Marv Wolfman stated that one possible Author's Saving Throw if anyone wanted to resurrect Barry Allen was to yank him back into the timestream during his final, fatal, run which was occuring backwards in time.
  • Runaways:
    • When the Runaways go to return to the present from the early 1900s, they bring along Klara Prast, who can control plants and is in danger of a bad fate via her abusive (and much older) husband. They also plan to bring along a street urchin who Victor fell in love with, but she is too afraid and stays behind.
    • The 2017 series starts with Chase using this (and magically-summoned medical assistance) to bring Gert Back from the Dead. He still changes history in the process, however, as Nico no longer remembers the team burying her.
  • In the Supergirl story arc Many Happy Returns, pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El lands in Leesburg and is discovered by the then current Supergirl Linda Danvers. Inverting the trope, Linda goes back in time to die in Kara's place when it becomes clear that this event must come to pass. Subverting the trope, Kara eventually goes back to return the time line to normal.
  • In Avengers: The Children's Crusade, Scott Lang is rescued from his death in this manner.
  • Starslayer starts with Celtic warrior Torin Mac Quillion being plucked from the battle against Roman legionaries were he is supposed to die and transported into the distant future.
  • Booster Gold's sister Goldstar, believed to have died in an explosion, was saved and brought to the present by Rip Hunter in the 2007 ongoing series.
    • During Blackest Night, Booster stops Ted Kord's body from reanimating over again this way. By taking his body outside the time stream, it is no longer reachable by his black ring and stays permanently dead.
  • The original Hourman Rex Tyler didn't want to do this as he was willing to fulfill his destiny sacrificing himself against Extant to preserve the timeline. It happened anyway when the android Hourman Matthew took his place.
  • In the first Cable limited series, Cable is trapped by Stryfe in a self-destructing base, and Stryfe designed the base to block Cable from using his space station to bodyslide out. But Stryfe failed to cut off access to Cable's time machine, which he uses to escape 2000 years into the future.

    Fan Works 
  • This is more or less the premise of the Harry Potter fanfic "A Little More Time" by Jess Pallas.
  • Also the plot of Fox Ears by The Starhorse. Fred lives!
  • In My Mirror, Sword and Shield, Suzaku saves Lelouch from his assassination this way.
  • Played with in the Rise of the Guardians fanfic Secret of Frost and Moon by Alaia Skyhawk. Emily Overland did die, but her body was revived as a spirit immediately after burial, then she was brought forward in time to be reunited with Jack.
  • In Weight Off Your Shoulder, it's revealed that Marinette did this to the Sentimonster Ladybug created by Mayura so they could take her place as the new Ladybug and Guardian of the Miraculous. The problem then becomes that this new Ladybug is quite mission-oriented and causes some accidental mayhem in Marinette's attempt at having a normal life, which leads to the decision by Marinette to adopt Ladybug and have them both share the burden of the role.
  • With This Ring: Ex-Time-Trapper Paul suggests something like this to Doctor Strange, who wants to go back in time to save a woman from a car crash, but who finds that events keep adapting to ensure she dies anyway. Paul explains that in order to make it work, he has to arrange things so his younger self still believes she's dead, and thus still sets out to find a way to travel back and save her; otherwise he's attempting to create a paradox, which the universe can't sustain.
    Strange: Her death set me on this path. I can't go back and save her because if I did then I wouldn't exist.
    Paul: Nearly. Your perception of her death set you on this path.
  • In Zero 2: A Revision, Umradevimon saves Puppetmon and Piedmon from their imminent death using Grankuwagamon's Dimension Slash to time travel to the past.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Early on in Back to the Future Part III, Doc and Marty wind up preventing a new schoolteacher, Clara Clayton, from falling into a ravine. However, it is only after the fact that they remember this was a historical event: That know of that ravine as "Clayton Ravine" back in 1985 because she fell in. While not much more is made of this in the movie, beyond the fact that Doc uses this as yet another example of why he shouldn't have invented time travel, the point effectively becomes moot by the end of the movie where we see she decided to come along with Doc to visit Marty and Jennifer (after he completed the time train sometime in the 1890s).
  • Rufus saves the Princesses from marrying some "royal ugly dudes" this way in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.
  • Used in Freejack, even though the people aren't technically being rescued. Whenever a rich, dying person wants a new body, they arrange for a victim to be taken from the past at the moment of their death. The person lives, but their mind is wiped so they'll make a suitable host body.
  • The humpback whales George and Gracie in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home were the subject of a Time Travel Escape. All humpback whales were extinct by the end of the 21st century according to that timeframe, until the crew of the Bounty intervened.
    • Even more specifically, they were personally about to be killed by whalers when they were rescued. Why they were released from captivity into an area where whaling was permitted wasn't explained..
  • Time After Time: Jack the Ripper uses H. G. Wells' time machine to escape the London police by travelling to the future.
    • Also inverted, when Wells takes Amy Robbins back to 1893 with him at the end, thus causing her to be listed as dead in the newspaper they found when Wells took Amy a week into the future to prove that his time machine worked.

  • In Leo Frankowski's Conrad Stargard series, Conrad tells his time-traveling cousin Tom that he (Conrad) saw Tom get killed by a Mongol spearman in 1241. Tom's response was "Hmmm... I guess I'll avoid going to Poland in 1241, then." Thus performing this trope on himself.
  • In the novel The Last Daughter Of York it turns out that this is the backstory of the heroine's mysterious Grandfather Dick. He's the younger of the Princes in the Tower who was brought to the future using a magic amulet when he was on the run from Henry Tudor.
  • In Margaret Peterson Haddix's The Missing series, people from the future do this with the missing children of the past (e.g Anastasia), and give them to families in the future. Unfortunately, the time machine went wrong and ended up in an airport in the 90s. When people found it, it was an airplane filled with babies. These babies were put into foster care and adopted by various families.
  • In The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein, Lazarus Long goes back in time to save his mother before she dies in a car accident, and takes her back to the future with him.
  • Part of the Backstory of one of the founders of Time Travel in Lisa Mason's Summer of Love and The Golden Nineties. She goes back to save a homeless woman she hit with her car when she was a kid.
  • John Varley's novel Millennium (1983) is about time travellers who rescue plane passengers just before their planes crash and replace them with realistic corpses. The passengers are taken forward in time to repopulate a devastated future Earth.
  • In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe novel "The Crystal Bucephalus", this is part of the backstory; a future religious cult were trying to develop a time machine so they could rescue their Messiah-figure from his execution. It turns out that they succeeded. And he promptly turned out to be a crook, who'd set up the cult to rescue him from his perfectly justified execution. Unfortunately for him, time machines work both ways...
  • Lucas in the Time Wars series dies in book 6, then comes back in book 9 when it turns out that his corpse had been replaced with that of his parallel-universe double, who had just been killed.
  • In Time Scout, people who are known to have been killed cannot be rescued. A group of activists begs for the rescue of Jack the Ripper's victims. Experienced time travelers roll their eyes. Anyone who's completely unimportant can have their lives altered... but that means you don't know what to alter or how. Escape averted.
  • In the series TimeRiders by Alex Scarrow, Liam, Maddy, and Sal are recruited by 'The Agency' at the time of their deaths and offered the choice of dying, or become a TimeRider. They choose the latter and are taken to The Agency's field office which is located underneath an archway of the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City in a two day 'Time Bubble', on 10 and 11 September 2001. But actually, their memories leading up to their recruitments are all Fake Memories. Liam, Maddy, and Sal were cloned by founder Roald Waldstein from his son, wife, and a young employee (all of whom had died prior to him founding The Agency) respectively as his metaphorical Replacement Goldfish.
  • Discussed in Many Waters when a pair of modern-day twin boys trapped in Noah's time consider this method to save a local girl they have a crush on from the inevitable flood (since they don't recognize her name among the Biblical list of people aboard the ark). They decide against it when they consider the ramifications, such as her lack of immunities from present-day illnesses.
  • Inverted in Discworld's Night Watch. Vimes (posing as Sergeant Keel) becomes the subject of this, and is replaced by the corpse of the previously-murdered Keel while Vimes gets to go home.
  • In Perry Rhodan, during the ongoing battle against the forces of chaos as embodied by the Decalog of Elements and after having been abducted into the past himself, the eponymous protagonist manages to strike a deal with a reasonably helpful alien species of natural time travelers that allows him to both rescue another (technically enemy) species that was wiped out way back during the Andromeda arc in this fashion and eliminate the Decalog's Element of Time at once. (Said Element consisting of a species of animals with time powers of their own that the first aliens were very interested in 'adopting'... which was in fact the only reason they agreed to involve themselves in present events this one time instead of staying in the 'safe' past as per their traditional practice.)
  • In the science fiction trilogy, Richard III in the 21st Century this is how Richard III escapes certain death at the Bosworth Field. A team of researchers from the future swap him out with an Identical Stranger so they can interview him. He gets stuck in the present and becomes obsessed with rescuing his deceased wife and son the same way. His wife Anne was too sick for it to be possible without changing the timeline, but they manage to save his young son, who had died of appendicitis.
  • Present in the Time Machine Series gamebooks; it specifically happens in Blade of the Guillotine when you visit Robespierre during the French Revolution. Attempting to escae has you run right into a closet and jump in time. One of the rules of time travel at the start of each book warns you to not disappear in a way that startles people or makes them suspicious. The text even acknowledges that everyone will be in for a shock when they open the closet.

    Live Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. reveals that that Daniel Sousa, a main character from Agent Carter, was the "first fallen Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.". When the Team time travels to the day of his death in 1955, Coulson takes his place and impersonates Sousa's dead body, who is then taken away by the rest of the team. As far as anyone back in the fifties is concerned, Sousa is dead, and Sousa stays with the team for the rest of the season as they move forward in time to the present day.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Girl in the Fireplace", the Doctor tries to do this to Reinette but she dies before he can.
    • The Cult of Skaro does this to themselves via "EMERGENCY TEMPORAL SHIFT" at least twice, in "Doomsday" and "Evolution of the Daleks".
    • In "Journey's End", it's revealed that Dalek Caan rescued Davros from the Time War this way.
    • "Let's Kill Hitler" reveals there's an entire organization, the Teselecta, which use this trope to overcome Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act, not to save them, but to punish them. They know that horrible evil dictators have to die at certain times — they just remove them from their timeline shortly before, and punish them for all the horrible things they've done.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • In the episode "Tribunal", history professor and Holocaust scholar Aaron Zgierski is taken back to Auschwitz by time-traveller Nicholas Prentice (who turns out to be Zgierski's own great-grandson). While there, they rescue Aaron's "older" sister (who is only eight at the time), who history records as being executed in a gas chamber, into the future to live out her life free of Nazi oppression. They also do the reverse with the man Aaron is trying to expose in the present as a former Nazi camp guard. Future history records that right before his arrest he fled the country and was never seen again. He disappeared because Aaron and Prentice kidnapped him and left him in the past dressed as an Auschwitz prisoner where his past self executes him.
    • A later episode shows that the time travel agency Nicholas Prentice works for recruits via Time Travel Escape; they take the potential recruit to the future seconds before they would have died, then offers them a choice between joining or being sent back to their death.
  • Subverted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Yesterday's Enterprise", where the U.S.S. Enterprise-C is saved from destruction by travelling into the future... but must then return to be destroyed to repair the irrevocable damage to the timeline the ship's time-travelling caused, because what was important wasn't the fact that the ship was destroyed, but the fact that it was destroyed in a heroic sacrifice that now never happened.
  • This was clearly an Unbuilt Trope during Star Trek: The Original Series, as this is not even suggested as a way of preventing Edith Keeler's death in "The City on the Edge of Forever". It is speculated that this may be what the "Guardian" is guarding against, as it clearly does not prevent altering history by other, more conventional means.
  • Supernatural: In the season 9 episode "King of the Damned", the demon Abaddon decides to coerce her rival-for-power Crowley by kidnapping his son Gavin from the year 1723 and torturing him. By the end of the episode, Crowley (who has regained part of his humanity) refuses the Winchesters' demand that he send Gavin back in time, because the boat that Gavin will use to emigrate to the American colonies will sink in a storm. As a last gift Crowley sets Gavin up with a new life in 2014.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles pulls Sarah from a time before she died of cancer. Partially subverted, in that Sarah begins developing cancerlike symptoms about a year later, exactly as she did before Cameron pulled them ahead. Also, a sort-of reverse happens at the end, when T-1001 takes John to the Bad Future, only to arrive to a timeline where no one knows who John Connor is, including his uncle.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Profile in Silver", Professor Joseph Fitzgerald, a time traveller from 2172 ,goes back to observe the assassination of John F. Kennedy but decides to prevents it. This creates a new timeline that ends in the human race being destroyed by nuclear war. The timeline is ultimately restored by Fitzgerald taking Kennedy's place in the motorcade while the president is safely returned to 2172, where he becomes a history lecturer at Harvard.
  • Visitors: In Czechoslovak TV series "Návštěvníci" (Visitors), the eponymous group of time travellers, sent to the past to gather information about teleportation technology to realign Earth's orbit, after a planetary computer predicts the orbit will be misaligned by passing comet, prevent the death of Mr. Drchlík, who was supposed to perish in a car crash, and take him to the future with them. Although the plan fails, Drchlík inadvertedly fixes a glitch in the planetary computer (which caused a lot of problems for the expedition, including sending wrong clothing, banknotes etc.), confirming that the original prediction was false and the comet will have no effect on Earth's orbit.
  • Voyagers!: Bogg and Jeff usually jump to a different point in time to escape an attack once per episode, though they always return to set history back on course.
  • In the Season 3 finale of Once Upon a Time, Emma and Hook have accidentally traveled back to the past, where Emma rescues a woman who is sentenced to be executed by the Evil Queen. Realizing that her presence would change the course of history, they decide to take her back to their time with them. She turns out to be Maid Marian, the (formerly) deceased wife of Robin Hood, who is currently in a relationship with the Evil Queen's reformed future self, Regina, causing this relationship to be shattered. The trope is subverted, as it's revealed later that the Evil Queen's even more evil sister pulled a Kill and Replace on Marian in the moments before she was taken to the future.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Time-travel roleplaying game C°NTINUUM has rules for doing this (in cases where the body is proven to be that of the character) involving the character knowing that they are going to die in just that situation. Joan of Arc, for instance, is a canon NPC who was nonetheless burned at the stake. This didn't stop her from spending a few centuries as a Continuum city's entire police force.
    • It also features rules for what happens if the death-marked PC dies before they should, which can be summed up as you're all pretty much screwed.
  • The Mutants & Masterminds free adventure "Charge of the Freedom Brigade" introduces the eponymous World War II heroes as mind-controlled antagonists but the Freedom City continuity has its own WW2 team, as seen in the adventure provided with their Golden Age source book. The solution? Alternate universe traveller Dr. Tomorrow determined that the Freedom Brigade would be eliminated from the multiverse due to his changes in the main Freedom City continuity, so he grabbed the Freedom Brigade and brought them to his future, the world of Erde to help fight Nazis in a world where the Axis won in WW2.

    Video Games 
  • In Star Trek: Borg, The U.S.S. Righteous was reported destroyed in the battle of Wolf 359. Q brought Cadet Furlong back in time to save his father (who served on the Righteous), treating the whole thing as merely a joke. He never thought Furlong would actually DO it. Cue a time jump to save the crew of the Righteous from death at the hands of the Borg, while ensuring everyone still remembers it disappearing.
  • Crono from Chrono Trigger is seen getting obliterated by Lavos. After much grief and sadness, his friends manage to figure out a way to go back in time and replace him with a very realistic doll, so Crono technically never died in the first place.
  • The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time: You are sent back in time to investigate, among other things, a space station that would later be found abandoned with even its AI destroyed. Said AI, Arthur, learns the truth when he scans you to find out what you're doing on the station: that he's going to die, and that even if both of you wanted to, you can't save him, because doing so would affect history. So, he copies himself onto a blank biochip you happen to be carrying, and is your sidekick for the rest of your time-traveling adventures in the game until his Heroic Sacrifice at the end, but he gets better for JP3.
  • Averted in Shadow of Destiny, where you're explicitly told that you can't solve the problem of being targeted for assassination by time traveling out the way of an attack.
  • EarthBound (1994) sees Buzz Buzz escape to the past after Gigyas destroys the universe.
  • This is the premise behind the video game Darkest of Days. A peacekeeping organization, founded by the creator of the time machine, travels through history and ensures it maintains its proper course. The agents themselves are heroic individuals who died without their bodies ever being found, allowing them to be rescued without altering history. The protagonist is a member of General Custer's cavalry who lay wounded on the battlefield unnoticed, and his senior partner is a New York firefighter who was buried under rubble during 9/11.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Time Hollow, Ethan saves his parents from a burning restaurant 15 years in the past by opening a Time Hole linking that time to the present. Ethan's father carries his unconscious mother through the hole and to safety in the present day. This has some side effects though, and is ultimately an unsatisfying solution — so in the end they fix the reason why they were in that building in the first place. This is also what happens to Kori prior to the game's events, as Ethan's dad pulls her through time to a few weeks after she would've fallen to her death. This leaves her out of the flow of time for years, as Ethan's dad couldn't figure out a way to save her besides pulling her through a Time Hole. Again, this is an unsatisfying solution, and Ethan and Derek are able to save her by sending Derek through to cushion her fall.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • In the Gargoyles episode "M.I.A." Goliath uses the Phoenix Gate to resolve a stable time loop, bringing the London Clan gargoyle Griff back to the present after the universe seemed out to kill him in Blitz-era London.
  • In the Justice League Unlimited, "Far From Home," members of the Legion of Superheroes bring Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Supergirl to the future to deal with a crisis — then realize that Supergirl goes unmentioned from history after the point they plucked her from. They believe she's fated to die, especially given she's forced to fight almost the entire brainwashed Legion and the Fatal Five, and by the end she looks like she's died... only for it to turn out that she decides to stay in the future, both because it's closer to the advanced world she grew up in and she's developed feelings for Braniac 5.