The heroes need to get from point A to point B; occasionally, these things have a specific distance, and other times the distances involved are left fuzzy. Sometimes traveling at the speed of plot is a function of intentionally vague traveling speeds, sometimes of distance.
In Speculative Fiction, travelling at the speed of plot ensures that the characters arrive Just in Time for a plot point, whether that's in the nick of time or a You Are Too Late where the only thing you can do is mop up. If distance and speed are too overused as factors, Phlebotinum Breakdown is a great way to make sure the characters don't arrive early, whether it's due to transporter malfunction or a jump-drive misalignment.
This trope usually goes unacknowledged. If the writers explain it in a way that makes sense, then the trope no longer applies. If the writers explain it in a nonsensical way, Unscientific Science or New Rules as the Plot Demands are in effect.
The trope name comes from J. Michael Straczynski's partly tongue-in-cheek declaration of the cruising speed of the Excalibur on Crusade in June 2000; he said similar about the Starfuries in Babylon 5. In video games, see also Always Close for when a video game universe bends itself to fit this trope, and Take Your Time, which is about detours rather than travel speed.
This trope is sometimes referred to as 'jet packing'.
See also Overdrive, Faster-Than-Light Travel, Conversation Cut, Offscreen Teleportation, and Transformation at the Speed of Plot. Traveling at the speed of plot may also be why there are No Delays for the Wicked.
- No matter how many distractions the characters encounter, they'll always manage to collect all their Badges/Ribbons just in time for the annual competition at the end of the saga.
- Though it's subverted after Ash gets the Beacon Badge in the Diamond/Pearl series. Flint tells them that there's still a month to go before the Sinnoh League starts, though they make it there the day before it begins, anyway. This despite the fact that in the game the island that the Pokemon League is on isn't that far from Sunyshore.
- In the first season there's many filler episodes in between getting the last badge and actually entering the competition because he has two months to spare (plus the time it takes for him to travel back to Pallet Town to find out where its on).
- In Naruto, Naruto revealed Sage Mode, which provided him dramatically enhanced speed, enough to move hundreds of meters in a few seconds. But when he's fighting Deva Pain he struggles to travel less than a hundred feet in the five seconds the guy needs to wait between bursts of his power. From a standing start.
- In Fairy Tail Happy could transform into a flying mode for a brief time and could only carry one person rather slowly. But when the team needs to stop a villain headed towards a town he suddenly has a "max speed" which lets him catch up with the guy even though he could fly quite quickly and was most of the way there.
- The gang in Rave Master is stuck traveling by foot or horse when there's no time limit or something they need to find nearby. If there is a time limit or nothing close by, they get an airship (someone else's, if Musica's has yet to be repaired from the last time it crashed as an excuse to make everybody walk).
- One Piece:
- All distances traveled by the crew between islands is left completely undefined; with a couple of exceptions, we're never told how long they spend sailing in between story arcs. It could be a few days or it could be months. Whenever they're racing to stop an event, though (the civil war in Alabasta, Robin being sent to prison,etc.) they always arrive just as the unwanted event is starting, thus ensuring maximum mayhem as they try to set things right.
- Characters whose travels we do not follow sometimes seem to travel ridiculously fast, even if their ships should be no faster than the Straw Hats' ship. The following examples are not the only ones:
- The islands of the Grand Line generally seem to be at least within a few hours' travel time from each other. But when Mr. 3 and Miss Goldenweek, who are on a vacation on a resort island, are told to kill the Straw Hats on Little Garden, they manage to go there and build a wax house within what seems to be around 10-15 minutes.
- Speaking of Little Garden, Nico Robin/Miss All Sunday makes it all the way back to Alabasta while the Straw Hats are still on Little Garden. Granted, she has the Eternal Pose to Alabasta, but for the sake of the plot, the villains seem to travel more quickly than the heroes do in that arc.
- Mihawk appears in East Blue during the Baratie arc and then shows up at an unspecified island in the New World already after the end of the next arc. While it's not directly stated how long time passed, it doesn't at all seem to be more than a week, while the Straw Hats used several weeks, if not months, to get there (with a two-year Time Skip in between, but that shouldn't count as they didn't travel during that time).
- The Straw Hats spend a whole day of sailing from Punk Hazard to reach Dressrosa. Doflamingo as well as his two underlings manage to do that journey in one or two hours.
- These examples could be partially justified by the fact that knowing the seas you're sailing or having special technologies matters a lot in the world of One Piece. For example, Marine ships are coated in seastone, making them able to cross the Calm Belts that would otherwise be deadly monster-ridden areas, allowing for excellent shortcuts to and from the Grand Line. One imagines that at least Shichibukai and Yonkou have something similar or equivalent. In the Grand Line, travel is regulated by Log Pose, which requires time to attune to a given island and point to the next, but there exist Eternal Pose (always pointing at an island) and Vivre Cards (always pointing at a person) as well. With a suitable array of both you can navigate much more freely and probably follow more optimal routes - something a powerful pirate surely must be able to do. By comparison, the Strawhats are relative greenhorns who are still establishing a name for themselves and discovering the Grand Line's inner workings as they go. Pirates who rule it for years must have better ways of moving around than them.
- Late in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Relena goes to try to talk down White Fang's leader Milliardo. We get scenes with her en route for two episodes before she finally arrives on Libra in a third, making her trip last four days total (according to an official timeline). In a series where space flight has been around for over 200 years, that's pretty dang slow. On the other hand, there's no sense that Faster-Than-Light is possible, so this might actually be a more realistic example than the Gundams' rate of speed.
- Gundam Wing does this frequently. There are a number of episodes where Wing Zero goes from space down to earth in one episode, and then back again in the next one. That thing must be damn fast.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED has one notable example. When Kira gets his shiny new Freedom Gundam, he flies off from a space colony all the way down to Alaska, just in time to save the Archangel. The way the sequence of events is shown suggests that this all took a few hours at most, though the official SEED timeline clarifies that Kira actually spent three days flying from the colony to Earth.
- The anthropomorphic Gamba's Adventure starts with Gamba and friends meeting a little mouse, Chuta, who is on a mission to recruit saviors for his home island, which is terrorized by a vicious hermelin. In a flashback it's revealed that Chuta was seriously injured by the hermelin when he escaped - his wounds are still bleeding when he meets Gamba. However, it takes Gamba and friends more than half the series (20 episodes out of 26) to reach Chuta's home island. Which raises the question how Chuta could've survived before, being so severly wounded and all.
- Actually, they do sorta explain. Chuta originally arrived by stowing away on a ship run by humans. In the first episode, Gamba and his gang stowaway on the same ship heading to the island, but in episode 4 a storm causes it to sink. So Gamba and his friends had to create make-shift boats out of whatever scrap they could find.
- Trains in Fullmetal Alchemist tend to work like this, arriving just in time for Ed and Al to solve some crisis (sometimes on the train itself).
- Saint Seiya: In the Hades Arc, some of the Bronze Saints need to reach Greece despite some of them being in Japan and Siberia.
- Saint Seiya Omega: The Bronze Saints move from Greece to Mexico on foot. Unlike the original, they actually have a normal person traveling with them, making even less sense.
- A particularly egregious example occurs in Transformers: The★Headmasters "Birth of the Fantastic Double Convoy" early in the series where Convoy (Optimus Prime) is fighting his way to the core of Seibertron (Cybertron) where Vector Sigma is becoming unstable. Convoy spends a good episode and a half battling his way past various hazards, only for other characters, such as Cyclonus and Hot Rodimus (Hot Rod) to just show up at Vector Sigma having been on Earth mere minutes before in the same episode.
- Dragon Ball and Z use this trope for all it's worth, thanks to never establishing geographical distances: Goku will always arrive just in the nick of time after travelling at top speed, no matter how far away his destination was. Similarly, after Raditz is defeated Vegeta and Nappa are eleven months away from Earth. A few episodes later, the narration mentions they're at the edge of our solar system but still a few months away. In later seasons, spaceships (including the same type Vegeta and Nappa use) can get anywhere in the galaxy in no more than a few days.
- Dragon Ball Super nods at this trope by having Whis state that it takes about 25 minutes for him to ferry Beerus across the universe, meaning they'll always arrive at the end of the episode or the beginning of the next one, making for a more dramatic entrance. In practice, this limitation is only observed when it's useful for drama.
- Superman can zip about at supersonic speeds, for example grabbing something out of someone's hand and returning to where he was standing before they notice. Of course, he can't do this in the case of hostages, or any other situation where the plot requires him to move at a certain speed.
- Supergirl is sometimes even faster than Superman. She's been known to shoot a handgun, dash forward, grab the bullet, flicking the forehead's target so onlookers think he's been shot and go back to her initial position with none the wiser. However her speed fails when the plot demands she isn't fast enough.
- The Flash is fast, but just how fast seems to depend on the situation he's facing. Sometimes, he clearly moves faster than light and there are only negative effects of high speeds (sonic boom, becoming super massive) when he wants them. In one infamous case, he evacuated the entire population of a city to save them from a nuclear bomb... after the bomb had detonated, carrying half a million people to safety 35 miles away, one at a time, in the span of 0.00001 microseconds. He can also tap into a cosmic force called the Speed Force that allows him to control the physics of movement at will. Fine, but this begs the question of why he has any trouble handling normal-speed foes, though. Or for that matter, how he has any trouble handing anything short of reality-warpers.
- Y: The Last Man apparently takes place in real time... even so the fact that it takes two years to get from one coast of the US to the other, even in a somewhat post-apocalypse landscape, considering that trains and cars are still running, and the friggin' Oregon Trail was consistently done in 6 months, seems like their traveling speed just follows the month to month plot.
- In All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder, an incredible amount of other things happen in the time it takes "Batman/Crazy Steve" to get Dick Grayson, Age 12 to the Batcave, to the point that it apparently took days for the Batmobile to cross town. It doesn't help that Frank Miller is forever forgetting how long one event or another was supposed to take, so something said to have taken weeks will occur at the same time as something said to have taken minutes - Clark Kent even has a milk carton with Dick's picture during a flashback to "fifteen hours ago" during the same drive (in other words, before Dick was kidnapped by Crazy Steve.) I-Mockery theorized that the milk carton was a magical prescient carton of milk.
- The Disney animated version of Sleeping Beauty falls prey to this one. Prince Philip returns from the woods where he has met the girl of his dreams. When his father shows disinterest, Philip spurs his horse around and leaves at a gallop. Between that moment and his arrival at the cottage, the good fairies inform the girl that she is a princess and escort her back to the castle on foot, night falls, and the evil sorceress arrives at the cottage to set a trap for him. Notice also that Philip makes it back to the castle in less time than it takes Aurora to get back to the cottage from her errand, unless we are to assume these events are purposely presented out of order.
- The Emperor's New Groove spoofs this - in a montage we see Kuzco and Pacha race against Yzma and Kronk back to the palace. Yzma and Kronk fall into a gorge on the way, but they still manage to arrive first and be waiting for Kuzco. The following gem of an exchange then takes place:
Kuzco: No! It can't be! How did you get here before us?!
Yzma: ... [looks confused] How did we, Kronk?
Kronk: [pulls down the map from the montage] Ya got me. By all accounts it doesn't make sense.
Yzma: Oh well, back to business.
- Disney's Beauty and the Beast has the Amazing Spooky Path of Variable Length. It is unclear how close to the village Beast's castle (which, apparently, none of the villagers have seen before) is, since depending on the requirements of the plot, it seems to take characters between five minutes and several days to travel between the two. For instance, while Maurice manages to wander aimlessly about in search of the castle for long enough to catch pneumonia, Gaston and his mob move from the village to the castle in the space of a single song. Of course, it also isn't clear whether Belle spends three days or three months at the castle.
- In Shrek 2, it takes Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey several days to get to Far Far Away. Later in the movie, when the supporting cast finds out that the group is in trouble, they get there in just a few hours. It's implied that perhaps the supporting guys were riding on Dragon and Dragon is capable of flying at a much faster speed than a typical horse-drawn carriage is able to travel. Worse in Shrek Forever After, Shrek travels the distance between his home and Far Far Away three times within less than a day.
- Frozen: Elsa takes apparently no more than a few hours to get from Arendelle up to the top of the North Mountain on foot. It takes about a day and a half to two days for Anna to travel up the North Mountain to Elsa's ice palace, first by horse, then by foot, then by Kristoff's sled, then by foot the rest of the way. This is likely because she was not initially traveling to the mountain specifically, but rather searching around for the missing Elsa - she may have been traveling away from the North Mountain until the scene at the trading post when she overhears Kristoff's remarks to Oaken about the storm coming from the direction of the North Mountain. Likewise, it appears to take Hans and the Arendelle soldiers roughly thirteen to eighteen hours to travel from the castle in Arendelle to the ice palace on horseback since they appear to leave in the early afternoon and are seen arriving at the ice palace just as dawn is breaking. The difference between the travel times of Hans and Anna could be explained by Hans and his team riding horses the whole way and with soldiers who may have known the terrain and/or been more experienced trackers, whereas Anna made the majority of the the journey on foot and half of it unaccompanied, after spending most of her life in isolation, but no explanation is actually given how they found where to go.
- Frozen II: It takes several days for the heroes to journey to Northuldra the first time they traveled there, but in the climax Elsa rides the Nokk back to Arendelle just in time to save the city from getting flooded when the dam in Northuldra is destroyed. Justified as she's riding a magical water-horse on top of a flash-flood wave caused by the destroyed dam, already heading towards Arendelle; on the way up to the forest, they were on a cart being pulled uphill by Sven, a single reindeer pulling 3 adults, a snowlem, and other supplies.
- Inside Out: Joy and Sadness get themselves sucked out of Headquarters while Riley is at school. They they apparently proceed to spend the entire rest of the day just landing in Long Term Memory and walking across Goofball Island, a distance which they are later able to cross in roughly thirty seconds when the island starts to collapse. Pops up a few other times throughout the movie as well, but this is by far the most obvious one.
- My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) sees Twilight Sparkle captured by the villains and taken by airship most of the way back to Canterlot before the rest of the Mane Six even know she's gone. However, once they know, they not only manage to arrive shortly after the ship carrying Twilight (having traversed the same distance on hoof), they've also baked a cake large enough to conceal five parrot-lizard people and a hippogriff.
- In Moana, the "darkness" has been creeping across the world and takes 1000 years to reach Motunui. The World-Healing Wave in the end arrives at the island at the same time Moana does, probably a few days' journey from Te Fiti's island.
- Super Troopers has Farva runs to join the local cops before the climax of the movie. It takes him forever to do this, but it necessary because he needs to miss the scene where the team figures out whats going on, by the time Farrva arrives he's missed the info that the local cops are the the ones helping smuggle the pot. The amount of screen time totals about 2 and a half minutes with one cut, possibly with a gap of another minute. Farva handwaves this by saying he was securing the perimeter. It's lampshaded in the commentary by how long Farva takes to secure the perimeter. Its not very big the fact that he's jogging should take him less than half the time.
- The Blues Brothers has a good example of somehow traveling as slow as the plot demands—despite how fast they're going, the Bluesmobile takes something like eight hours to cover the 106 miles to Chicago, so they don't get there until after the tax assessor's office has opened.
- The 2008 Knight Rider movie had an egregious example of this. The bad guys chase the super-car, who leaves them snarled up in a traffic accident. The car then travels AT SUPERSPEED to Las Vegas, hundreds of miles away. The very same bad guys are waiting for them when they arrive. Nobody in the plot feels this is worth commenting on.
- Star Trek
- In Star Trek: Generations, the Nexus goes as fast as it needs to to be relevant to the plot. This means travelling at impulse in the opening then jumping to warp so it can move between solar systems almost as fast as the Enterprise.
- In Star Trek: First Contact, the Enterprise-E travels from the Romulan Neutral Zone to Earth to aid in a battle between Starfleet and a Borg Cube. Depending on what part of the Zone they were patrolling, this would require crossing a substantial portion of Federation space in a very short time. Granted, they were late getting there....
- In Star Trek: Nemesis, Shinzon's ship is going to be able to travel from Romulus (presumably deep in the Beta Quadrant) in roughly two days—still an amount of time that is bizarrely short when compared to travel times mentioned in the TNG TV series—which means that either the Enterprise-E travels at the speed of plot or the Romulan Empire is so large that traveling from its capital to its edge requires at least 40 more hours than getting from the Neutral Zone to Earth.
- Used in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek (2009), when the U.S.S. Enterprise — which is over three times bigger than the original — seemingly takes only three minutes to go from Earth to Vulcan. However, the sequence actually takes significantly longer than it appears to, since Kirk wakes up from being knocked out by a sedative after mere moments of screen time, in which McCoy has had time to change his uniform. Word of God is that the editing deliberately glossed over the passage of time to create the illusion of a real-time immersive experience.
- Star Trek Into Darkness:
- This extends to the sequel; the crew travels to the Klingon homeworld, partway in the Enterprise, and partway in a small ship. The sequence lasts several minutes, despite Star Trek: Enterprise stating that Qo'nos was four days away at warp 4.5. The real-life equivalent star system, Omega Leonis, is 112 lightyears away.
- A smaller scale example: Kirk, Spock and Uhura leave the cockpit to take a smaller ship down to the surface of Qo'nos, leaving Sulu as Acting Captain. As soon as Sulu starts speaking to inform the crew of this, just a few seconds after the aforementioned three left the room, the camera cuts back to them to reveal they've already changed clothes and are about to get on the smaller ship.
- J.J. Abrams has handwaves the faster ships by saying that the shuttles that evacuated the Kelvin, scanned Nero's ship from the future. Then Federation scientists studied the scans and made the technology standard.
- Tie-in comics show characters going to the Delta Quadrant and back in a short amount of time. In the TV shows, this would take over a century.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl:
- The Black Pearl is the fastest ship in the Caribbean, and the ghost pirates are suffering from a horrible curse. So after they abduct Elizabeth Swan, mistaking her for the one they need to break the curse, they would presumably head straight back to Isla de Muerta to do just that. Meanwhile, Will Turner wakes up the next day and, after an unsuccessful conversation with Norrington, breaks Jack Sparrow out of prison. The two steal a ship and sail for Tortuga where they recruit a crew. Then they proceed to Isla de Muerta. Despite what must have been a considerable detour and at least a few days head-start for a ship which is expressly faster than their own, Will and Jack still arrive at Isla de Muerta within hours of the ghost pirates at most. Perhaps the ghost pirates aren't in quite the hurry we would expect.
- Happens again after Jack and Elizabeth are marooned. With Will in custody, the pirates now have the real person they need. Yet Jack and Elizabeth spend the night on the island before being rescued by the Royal Navy. With Jack's navigation they reach Isla de Muerta, and again it's before the ceremony has started.
- In The Empire Strikes Back Luke and the crew of the Millennium Falcon leave Hoth at about the same time. Luke does a hyperspace jump to Dagobah to go meet Yoda. The Falcon, whose hyperdrive malfunctions, tries to evade Imperial forces in a nearby asteroid field. By the time they leave the field (the hyperdrive's still not working), Luke has crashed on Dagobah, met Yoda, and even began training as a Jedi. The crew of the Falcon then decide to go to Bespin. Bear in mind that they still have no hyperdrive or FTL and Bespin is in another solar system than Hoth. You'd expect the journey to take at the very least several days, even if Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale, yet they appear to make the trip is at most a few hours (they are wearing the same outfits when they land, no one looks particularly more scruffy or even remarks about the trip's length). Meanwhile, Luke leaves Dagobah, does a hyperspace trip to Bespin and arrives just after the empire's captured everyone. Either the Falcon's trip to Bespin took several weeks during which Luke trained on Dagobah, meaning the Falcon has facilities including a laundrymat, or they did the trip in a few hours and some how becoming a Jedi is something one needs only an afternoon to learn.
- Some Extended Universe sources posit that ships are often built with backup FTL drives that, while not as powerful as the main drive, is enough to get a damaged ship to the nearest planet, which, in deep space, is probably a good idea, as at sublight speeds the Falcon could easily have taken years to get to Bespin. Also, Word of God now states that the trip from Hoth to Bespin took several months.
- In Willow, the villain's climactic ritual seems to take weeks. We see her chanting and pouring magical potions, while the heroes gather their forces, march overland to her castle, dig fairly deep trenches... she doesn't seem to sleep, eat, or do anything else for what must be rather a long period of time.
- Wonder Woman (2017): Diana and Trevor leave Themyscira for London, crossing the Mediterranean Sea on a small boat. It's not mentioned how long the trip took place, but it takes the difference of two scenes in the movie. Steve mentions that they got lucky and were able to hitch a ride on a presumably-faster boat. Also they didn't stay awake to keep the boat on-course, suggesting that it's magical, and can move faster than it should be able to.
- Looney Tunes: Back in Action spoofs this when the heroes realize they have to navigate from a remote desert to Paris, France. When asked how they would get from the middle of nowhere to Paris, Bugs Bunny replies "Simple. Like this." and proceeds to pull the side of the screen creating a transition from the current setting to Paris.
- Pulp Fiction: "That's thirty minutes away. I'll be there in ten." Though Mr. Wolf is noted for driving very fast - the thirty minute estimate probably reflects a normal, law-abiding driver's time.
- Combined with a Travel Montage in The Muppets' "Travel by Map" sequence.
- Clash of the Titans (1981). While Perseus is returning to Joppa on Pegasus, he's shown passing over mountain ranges a long way from the sea. Even though he's clearly not traveling fast enough to get to the seashore in time, he does so anyway.
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: The autobots go from Giza, Egypt to Petra, Jordan and back in what seems to be a few minutes at most. Even apart from the substantial distances involved, this would involve crossing into and out of Israel four different times, which would probably not be the quickest endeavor for a platoon of unlicensed vehicles.
- In Stargate: The Ark of Truth, the time on the spaceship fighting the replicators seems to take less than a day, however Teal'c goes on an epic journey through mountains on foot in that same span of time.
- In preparation for the climax of The Wolfman (2010), Lawrence, Gwen, and Inspector Aberline all travel from London to the village, leaving at roughly the same time. Lawrence is on foot and seems to be keeping away from the roads. Gwen is on horseback. Aberline is in a horse-drawn carriage with several other policemen. They all arrive on the same day.
- Iron Man:
- It's this trope, or Tony Stark is apparently so good at seducing women that he can infatuate Christine Everhart at the beginning of the movie enough to make her drive four-and-a-half hours from Las Vegas to Malibu just to have sex with him.
- Not a lot of time is spared showing Tony flying halfway across the world to Gulmira after suiting up in the mark III in Malibu. In a deleted scene this is mitigated by him throwing a party at his home in Dubai first, then using fireworks and an orgy to cover up his tracks and launch from there.
- In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Harry manages to get from his home in England to a church in the United States quickly enough that A. Eggsy is still hanging around and checking Harry's laptop, and B. Harry expects to be back soon to continue a conversation. Apparently the Kingsmen have a really quick way to get around.
- In Journey to the West the initial trip from China to India takes over a decade, the return, about a week.
- Lampshaded in the 18th Century by Laurence Sterne in Tristram Shandy: Uncle Toby sends a servant out on an errand, and then several chapters are dedicated to illuminating Toby's history and character, at the end of which the narrator says, in essence, "that probably took you about an hour and a half to read, so let's say the servant's returned by now."
- Averted rather painfully in the hard sci-fi novel Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds, the second half of the book is mostly a prolonged chase between two spaceships... Taking over sixty years. While the story is interesting, it would be an understatement to say that the plot moves very very very slowly.
- Douglas Adams once described a vehicle moving at a certain function of speed R which is the speed you need to be traveling to get there at the time you need to be there in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Therefore, the punchline went, R17 is not a fixed velocity but is clearly far too fast.
- Zig-zagged in the Dragons of Requiem series. There are times where a character or group of characters must reach a destination, and in the very next chapter, they'll already be there. And then there are times where the character(s) will be stuck in one location for half a book, particularly if they're cornered by the enemy.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar stories played with the notion of time as highly variable in a situation where there's no day-night sequence to measure it by. Hero David Innes was once accidentally separated from his comrade and went through several weeks worth of adventures. When they were reunited, he discovered that since his friend hadn't needed to exert himself to anywhere near the extent David did, for him less than an hour had passed.
- Lampshaded in David Eddings' The Tamuli, where one member of the party is a goddess who can compress distance. Not only that, but she can alter mortals' perception of passing time. That handy-dandy army hasn't really been marching for weeks on end to arrive in the right place at the right time—they only think they have. She pauses periodically to get rid of all the extra food.
- Lampshaded by Space Captain Smith when our titular hero takes some damage to his navigation computer.
Carveth: The navigation computer's broken!
Smith: Can't we go on?
Carveth: We need that machine to plot our course! Without a plot device, we can't fly!
- Lampshaded by Kurt Vonnegut in Breakfast of Champions:
Kilgore Trout probably couldn't have made his trip from New York City in the time I allotted, but it's too late to bugger around with that. Let it stand, let it stand!
- In The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, A-Through-L explains that Pandemonium, the capital of Fairyland, comes to people whenever it likes; therefore, people quite travel at the speed of plot, no matter what.
- Subverted in Jacob's Trouble: The Gathering Storm, where the author calculated how fast the NASA and ESA spacecraft would travel using JPL's 1980s vintage argon gas core engine technology and how long it would require to get to Mars (6 days). Each scene in the book has a date and time and pains were apparently taken to make it work. It's one of the most scientifically-accurate sci-fi books ever produced, perhaps explained by the author being both an engineer and a scientist.
- Lampshaded naturally in the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde.
The trip down river was uneventful and over in just twelve words.
- The novelization of Revenge of the Sith features this. Just after his duel with Yoda, Palpatine senses that Anakin is in danger on Mustafar (in the Outer Rim), where he was currently dueling with Obi-Wan. Palpatine leaves the Senate chamber, boards his shuttle, leaves Coruscant, travels across the galaxy, and arrives at Mustafar moments after the Anakin/Obi-Wan duel has ended, while Obi-Wan is still standing over Anakin's burning, cut-up form. (The travel time is lengthened somewhat in the feature film, while this can be handwaved to a certain extent, since it's not clear when exactly he felt the premonition relative to Vader's duel.)
- Under the Pendulum Sun: This is literally true of travel in the Land of Faerie because "In Arcadia it's about the journey". As such, the fae coachman is late to deliver an important letter, as the trip takes "two revelations and an epiphany" and Catherine was slow to work out parts of Queen Mab's plot.
- Since every episode of 24 by definition takes one hour, it's amazing that a character can get from the north side of Los Angeles to the south side in ten minutes, in LA rush hour traffic. Of course, this is trumped by a character going from LA to Washington in twenty minutes. No, not Seattle. Washington, DC. There's also a case of a helicopter breaking the laws of physics by flying from Santa Barbara to LA in twenty minutes. And that trip to Mexico...
- A CTU assault on enemy forces can take any length of time to co-ordinate as long as it's ready when the episode has ten minutes to go.
- Occasionally, travel times on the show can be calculated in seconds, usually in the form of someone arriving at CTU to hear plot-critical information moments after they left another location. Perhaps CTU has access to Offscreen Teleportation?
- In the series finale of Angel, Illyria walks in literally seconds too late to save Wesley from being mortally wounded by the villain he was fighting. Given how effortlessly she'd dispatched her own foes and the fact that she was not showing any sign of being in hurry, Illyria could've easily arrived minutes earlier just by traveling at a slightly brisker walk, let alone running...it's just that the plot required her to arrive late.
- An example from The A-Team: The villains capture the A-Team and ship them off to be executed while they leave for a cemetery to kill a judge. The A-Team is driven to a car junkyard, where they escape, knock out their captors, and manage to repair, jury-rig, and clean and polish a hearse with a fold-out coffin with an armed gunman inside it. They then leave for the graveyard at what appears to be a reasonable speed and arrive one second before the villains.
- The trope was played agonizingly straight in the original Battlestar Galactica (1978), where the fleet explicitly travelled at a maximum of "lightspeed" — and usually slower since not all ships could manage that pace — and yet they passed through at least three different galaxies in the course of the series. Although that's as much bad research as Speed of Plot.
- Battlestar Galactica plays this trope. The miniseries, the webisodes "The Face of the Enemy", and the finale suggest that colonial FTL drives may have an unlimited range, but the calculations required to use them become nonlinear when jumping farther than the "red line" and the difficulty in performing them increases exponentially. It can be done, either at great risk or with divine intervention. Which means that the effective top speed of the colonial fleet is dependent on how badly they want to get where they're going. The factor isn't velocity, it's accuracy. Cylon FTL drives are better because they are more accurate.
- In the Thanksgiving 1968 episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, the Clampetts are seemingly able to drive from their mansion in Californy to Petticoat Junction in only a few hours. Other trips to and/or from Hooterville, including Granny's motorcycle/airplane/horseback jaunt home from caring for the Elliott baby, also appear to take a relatively short amount of time. However, by all indications, Hooterville is somewhere in the Midwest - probably not too far away from the Clampetts' native Ozarks due to the implied relation between their cousin Pearl Bodine and Hooterville's Kate Bradley. If it took the Clampetts several days to drive out to Californy from their cabin, as stated in an earlier episode, Hooterville shouldn't be a day trip for them.
- Bones has it when Sweets dies. Booth and Brennan were questioning someone in Virginia when Aubrey called that Sweets was injured. We later learn he died from a punctured aorta and massive internal bleeding. Even assuming Booth used the siren all the way back, its hard to see how they made it back to D.C. before Sweets succumbed and even before the ambulance.
- Criminal Minds is a frequent abuser of this trope. No matter what city the team is investigating in, if the episode is almost finished and the team has someone to rescue, they arrive in the nick of time to save the day, and if the episode isn't almost done, they don't rescue the victim. The only time the show changed things up was at the end of "Our Darkest Hour" where the Los Angeles traffic rears its ugly head- even though, again, it was invoked solely for the plot, just so that the team couldn't come by to help out the final victim, who was kidnapped by the UnSub to be rescued in the following episode.
- CSI: Cyber has a team based in Washington, D.C. which is able to travel to cities across the country and back again with no sense of urgency over the dozens of hours that would be lost in the process. In one notable instance the team managed to travel from Quantico to Tampa in the time it took a perp to finish his internet browsing session on a library computer.
- Doctor Who:
- The TARDIS always arrives at the exact right time for the Doctor to become embroiled in the plot of the week.
Doc Oho: The Cybermen advance so slowly in their decrepit old banger of a spaceship that the Doctor should have tied them up in a bow and packed them off before they even arrive. Most alarmingly of all, as soon as the ship is docked he suddenly rushes off screaming Weve got to stop them! Does he just enjoy doing everything in a last minute rush? Is that how he made his name for himself? By putting everybody in danger when he could have saved the day before anxiety sets in?
- Usually justified in that the TARDIS is sentient and almost certainly doing this on purpose. This is made explicit in The Doctor's Wife:
The Doctor: You didn't always take me where I wanted to go!
The TARDIS: No, but I always took you where you needed to go.
- Usually justified in that the TARDIS is sentient and almost certainly doing this on purpose. This is made explicit in The Doctor's Wife:
- Blink: The Weeping Angels are said to be extremely fast, but they sure can take their time sneaking up on people when no one's watching. Some of it can likely be explained by the fact that the Angels are psychopaths who like to mess with their victims. And some of it can be explained by the fact that, in this episode, the Angels can't move when the audience is looking at them, either.
- The TARDIS journeys are instantaneous or spend a few seconds in the Time Vortex at most, the 1996 movie has The Doctor settling down with a book and a cup of tea after setting course for Gallifrey. The Doctor later tells Grace that it would take the TARDIS ten minutes to travel from Earth to Gallifrey.
- The TARDIS always arrives at the exact right time for the Doctor to become embroiled in the plot of the week.
- Among many other less than plausible things in The Event was the protagonists' ability to drive across the USA in a few minutes (or fly from the USA to France). Basically, the time it took to travel between any two locations was generally "about one ad break".
- Firefly and Serenity used this trope discreetly. Though creator Joss Whedon has been explicit in indulging in Fast as Plot Travel, precise distances and time are sparse in the shows dialog.
- Fringe often assumes that the investigating team can navigate the Boston-New York-Washington megapolis in a matter of moments.
- Game of Thrones: This got more pronounced as the series progressed, especially as it increasingly diverged from its source material from Season 5 onward.
- This first reached memetic status in Season 2 when Littlefinger was given his own Adaptation Expansion subplot which consisted of him meeting with various people throughout Westeros, causing him to flit hundreds of miles between episodes. However, his appearances were sporadic and the logistics weren't particularly egregious given that small parties travel faster than armies and Catelyn returned to Robb's army in the same timespan.
- Bryan Cogman is generally the only staff writer to make even a token effort to explain this, usually simply by insisting that different storylines aren't in sync or are even in Anachronic Order for pacing reasons, which is reasonable enough as in the above example with Littlefinger in Season 2. The problem is Cogman also uses this argument to handwave even criticism of interconnected plotlines that cannot be explained this easily, such as Littlefinger learning of Sansa's escape and travelling halfway up the continent from the Vale to the Wall (half of it with an army) to meet with Sansa in the span of at most a few weeks when judged by the events of Sansa's own plotline.
- This became so blatant as the show began racing for the finish line in Season 7 that even mainstream news sites took note and criticized it. Characters and even armies now regularly flit up, down, and across the continent (journeys that previously took half a season or more), sometimes multiple times between scenes. This is especially blatant because in Season 7 there's enough characters and communiques passing between storylines to prove they're all happening at the same time, not to mention Cersei's pregnancy (which is revealed early and still isn't showing by the end) constricting timeline to at best five or six months, less than half the implicit timeline of previous seasons. So yes, Jon travelled up and down the continent multiple times in a few months, not counting all the time he was confined on Dragonstone as Lannister and Targaryen fleets and armies zipped back and forth from coast to coast or had to await rescue from Dragonstone in "Beyond the Wall".
- Perhaps the most blatant example is the climactic sequence in "Beyond the Wall" where, after a long march, Jon and his company are surrounded by foes but are rescued because their messenger runs all the way back to the Wall, sends a messenger raven halfway down the continent to Daenerys, who then flies her dragon all the way north again to save them, all in the same sequence and implicitly in under 48 hours since they're only shown spending one night beyond the Wall, while the besieging White Walkers (who possess ranged weaponry) as well as thirst, hunger, fatigue, and the elements all stand by patiently. Even the episode's director had to admit he just tinged all the scenes in perpetual twilight and hoped Emotional Torque would override the logistics.
- In the final season, Arya and the Hound depart from Winterfell together (on horses) toward King's Landing, with the armies of Daenerys' and Jon's alliance leaving after them toward the same destination (most of them on foot), along the same road. The two of them end up arriving at the capital to find it already besieged by the army which marched out behind them, meaning a thousands-strong force overtook and passed them with enough time to set up a siege (and for Dany and her court to travel to Dragonstone and back twice on boats). Neither group ran into any complications or delays shown on screen along the way. Further complicating the situation is that Jaime, who left Winterfell a significant amount of time after Dany and Jon's armies, ends up arriving and being captured after the siege is set up but before Arya and the Hound show up.
- This first reached memetic status in Season 2 when Littlefinger was given his own Adaptation Expansion subplot which consisted of him meeting with various people throughout Westeros, causing him to flit hundreds of miles between episodes. However, his appearances were sporadic and the logistics weren't particularly egregious given that small parties travel faster than armies and Catelyn returned to Robb's army in the same timespan.
- On Glee, not only do characters leisurely travel all over Ohio between cities that are hours apart in real life, but most of the McKinley graduates have gone on to college out of state, yet have no trouble making trips back home when the plot calls for it, regardless of travel time, cost, or school/work schedules. This is lampshaded by Sue, and later possibly explained by Brittany:
Sue: Don't you kids have jobs? You must have some kind of income to pay the team of scientists to run the teleporters you all clearly own because you keep coming back here!
Brittany: I can bend time and space with my mind.
- Most episodes of Heroes take place approximately over one day. However, they fail to explain how characters can continually take part in plot revelations in New York, Texas, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas constantly. Even the one character who can teleport is shown driving from one end of the country to the other with distressing frequency.
- Jack-of-All-Trades routinely depicted people (including heads of state like Napoléon Bonaparte and George III!) making quick journeys from Europe or America to the South Pacific island of Pulau Pulau that would, in Age of Sail reality, likely take 6 months at the very least. (Of course, this is a show where Rule of Funny trumps everything else, and Bellisario's Maxim is very much in effect.)
- The RevolGarry from Kamen Rider Double seems to move exactly as fast as it needs to in order to instantly cover any distance between the Narumi Detective Agency and wherever Double happens to be.
- Another insane example comes from Season 3 of Lois & Clark. In episode 2, Superman is seen flying from Metropolis to places around the world like Japan and Switzerland to get stuff for Lois, arriving back with the goods in less time than it takes to tell — less than 5 seconds per return trip at the most; a few episodes later, he has 15 seconds to get to Eastern Europe to intercept a nuclear missile, but somehow he can't get there in time. Instead, he tunnels directly through the Earth because it's quicker...? Made for a good scene when he saves the day, but forget about it making sense.
- When there's time, it takes days to cross the island. In other episodes the Losties seem to be able to get anywhere they need to be in an hour or two. Of course, time and geography are a little wonky on the island.
- The show has an interesting variation of the trope in that the time to travel between any two points seems to decrease each time. The first time they travel somewhere, it takes an episode or more; afterward, it takes less and less time until the trip is reduced to taking place offscreen. This can be explained by the simple fact that they don't know the route the first time, and will have some kind of beaten trail or markers to follow on subsequent journeys so they won't need to keep stopping to get their bearings.
- The Man in the High Castle: The events in the series are mostly set in San Francisco (occupied by the Japanese), New York City (occupied by the Germans), Canon City (the neutral Rocky Mountains), and also Berlin starting from the end of season 1. Characters will often travel from one place to the other within the same episode, though it's not always clear how much time has elapsed in between. Season 2 suggests that the events of the previous season only took 2 weeks. Some of this is explained by high speed air travel, but at some points they'll just take a car drive across several states instead.
- The show does this all the time with the elevator. Rides in this thing last long enough to hold surprisingly lengthy conversations. Since the building they're in is no more than a handful of stories tall and the conversations can last up to a minute, it can on occasion stretch suspension of disbelief to the breaking point.
- Sometimes however this trope is subverted by Gibbs, as he usually flips the elevator's emergency stop switch so he and whoever he's with can have a chat (or interrogation, depending on your point of view).
- Most travel in Once Upon a Time takes place at the speed of plot. Crossing Storybrooke or the Enchanted Forest takes from seconds to hours, as needed. Characters can leave Point A and arrive at Point B at the same time, even if one set of characters stops for a side quest along the way. Walking, horses, cars, boats, flying, and teleportation all take about the same amount of time, as needed. For example, in Season Four's "Poor Unfortunate Soul", it takes about the same amount of time to cross town as to travel between worlds, get to Poseidon, convince him to come to Storybrooke, travel between worlds, and bring Poseidon to Ursula.
- In Smallville the name-giving town and the city of Metropolis seem sometimes directly adjacent and sometimes it's a three-hour ride with the car.
- Space: 1999 was based on the idea that Earth's moon (which was occupied by the 300 occupants of Moonbase Alpha) was blasted out of orbit by a massive explosion and sent hurtling through space. There was never any suggestion that the moon was traveling faster than light but it passed through numerous star systems during the two years of the series. Even more magically; while the moon manages to travel between stars in little time between episodes, it also travels slow enough during episodes to allow Eagles to shuttle people between Moonbase and any nearby planets. However, some episodes feature the moon going through space/time warps, which sends the Alphans across a whole lot of light years. Also, the first season features a loose Story Arc where a "cosmic intelligence" is manipulating the moon's departure from Earth and later journey.
- The hyperdrives on ships in the world of Stargate SG-1 are weird... In both it and Stargate Atlantis, there are relative speeds to all the ships. Tau'ri ships go faster than Wraith ships, Asgard and Replicator ships go faster than both, and Ancient ships range from far faster than Tau'ri ships to just slightly faster than them, depending on the ship. However, as far as speed goes? Sometimes you can cross twenty lightyears in a few hours, sometimes it's a few days. The only set speed we know of is that it takes two weeks for a typical Tau'ri battleship to travel between Earth and the planet Atlantis is on in the Pegasus Galaxy.
- This is partially explained in that some ships have separate intra- and intergalactic hyperdrives, and that is easier to go faster between galaxies than within one.
- Star Trek:
- Happens constantly in all versions, driving hard-core fans nuts because the mechanical capabilities of the warp drive, impulse drive, and the shuttles vary violently from episode to episode. When the first Star Trek role-playing game came out, this characteristic was written into the rules. Unlike most science fiction RPGs, no maps with star systems, distances, and travel times was provided. The instructions specified that all this information should be made up according to the requirements of whatever adventure was being run.
- Turbolifts. Fast enough to throw people around when slowing or changing direction with inertial dampeners off, yet take long enough for a decent-length conversation (although they do typically hold them in the shaft if they are going to have a long one). The record holder must be the TOS episode "The Enterprise Incident" in which Spock and the Romulan Captain take the turbolift from the Bridge (Deck 1) to Deck 2 and have time for a minute-long conversation.
- This page lists all instances where both travel time and distance have been mentioned in any Star Trek series. The top speed that occurs is in the first series (mentioned to be at warp 8.4), and that would have been enough to get the Voyager home in a month!
- From TNG on, the writers had a warp speed equation they were supposed to use for consistency. TNG was pretty consistent about it. Deep Space Nine seemed to be half a day's travel by shuttle from both Bajor and Earth, but shuttles are only supposed to be capable of something in the range of warp 4. Voyager did better, but Enterprise threw it clean out the window, managing to establish that the Klingon homeworld Qo'noS is closer to Earth than Proxima Centauri.note
- Dean's '67 Chevy Impala from Supernatural does this on an alarmingly frequent basis, although the journeys usually last long enough for the Winchesters to hold whatever heartfelt conversation needs to be held in order to advance the plot.
- General Hospital Jax whisks Courtney off to Italy for a romantic dinner. Her friend Carly pursues them and arrives at the restaurant in time to interrupt them. This fails to account for the fact that a flight from upstate New York (where GH is set) to Italy is anywhere from 6-8 hours, plus whatever time Carly would need to travel from the airport to the city itself, not to mention the time difference between NY and Italy (6 hours), all of which mean there is no way Carly could have left New York when Jax and Courtney started dinner and arrived in Italy while they were still eating.
- In another episode, Stefan goes to Switzerland to visit Laura and is stunned when her husband Luke walks into the room, as he clearly left Port Charles long before Luke did. Luke lampshades this by snapping, "Haven't you ever heard of the Concorde?" Fair enough, but Stefan's nephew Nicholas arrives shortly after Stefan, even though also left Port Charles after he did and took a regular flight as well.
- On The Pajanimals, the Pajanimals can get to whatever magical lands they want or wherever, such as clouds that are close enough for them to talk to the moon, in just as long as it takes to "bundle up, huggle up, snuggle up and go!"
- In Adylheim, this is lampshaded (and possibly even justified!) by having the god of time and causality also be the god of drunkenness and debauchery. Why did it only take a day to get from Nander to Spire City? Quanoth's been at the barrel again.
- In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, despite there being a provided map of Oldport that details the exact distance between each location, characters are sometimes quicker to arrive than would be physically possible in order to better fit the plot. This is occasionally lampshaded when it happens.
Outside, due to a string of green lights and coincidences that gave the bus driver his best time yet, Barbra and Jacob were dropped off.
- First two seasons of The Massive Multi-Fandom RPG take place in a city which keeps randomly shifting its layout when no one is looking. This is highly convenient for the players, as no matter where the characters are, they can immediately arrive anywhere else as quickly or as slowly as desired.
- As the conflict in The Ballad of Edgardo escalates and the mods become increasingly apathetic, all sides begin ignoring the actual traveling rules and just arrive where they want just in time for another fight.
- The Star Wars d6 released by West End Games in the late Eighties had detailed rules for hyperspace travel and even "standard duration" travel times between systems mentioned or seen in the original trilogy, but it also says in the gamemaster section that travel between any two planets takes "as long as you want it to" so that the gamemaster can make travel times serve the plot. The section goes on to suggest reasons that the travel time might be longer (intervening gas clouds, energy storms, rogue planets) or shorter (a better route was found).
- In the Shadowrun novel The Lucifer Deck, a snooping character is trapped behind an office desk by an Awakened guard dog, and calls a friend for help. In a Speed-of-Plot demo that exceeds even The A-Team example (above), the friend calls a shaman he barely knows, persuades her to help, drives across town to meet her, and sets up an experimental ritual, allowing the shaman to send a spirit to assist the cornered snoop ... all in the time it takes a hellhound to muscle its way past a desk. Worst of all, the book even gushes about the spirit's incredible speed of travel when it flies to the rescue, never mind how long took to get the summons underway!
- Exalted uses this when you enter the Wyld; as it's the domain of The Fair Folk, progress between points is not measured in hours or miles, but rather by where you are in a particular story.
- Warp travel in Warhammer 40,000 is notoriously prone to messing with the timestream, meaning that depending on the story, author or requirements a warp-traveller might (assuming that they don't get lost in a roiling hell of pure emotion) end up arriving exactly in time, years early, decades late or before they even set out on a rescue mission and end up broadcasting the doomed distress call that caused them to attempt the trip in the first place.
- During the development of the RPG based on Firefly a discussion was held about how long it took for spaceships to travel between locations. One of the developers related J. Michael Straczynski's reference to how Starfuries in Babylon 5 traveled at the speed of plot. This became the official rule.
- StarCraft has infamously inconsistent warp speeds.
- The lore booklet that came with the first game's manual throws out some solid numbers: it took the original supercarriers 28 years to travel the 60,000 light-year distance from the Koprulu sector to Earth, it takes about a week to go from the Confederacy/Dominion core worlds to the fringe worlds, and it took the zerg Overmind's hive fleets 60 years to get to the Koprulu sector from wherever they were at the time he learned about the terrans. Taking into account the roughly known distance in the former two examples and assuming the Overmind crossed a good chunk of the galaxy's 100,000 light year radius for the latter case, and FTL is consistently placed at around six light-years per day.
- Things start to spiral out of control come Brood War. Its plot is dependent on the idea that the United Earth Directorate was able to send an expeditionary fleet from Earth to the Koprulu sector just a few months after learning about the existence of sapient aliens, which would require something like a thousand light-years per day of travel time. While ordinarily this wouldn't be a huge deal as you could simply assume Earth has more advanced FTL than the Koprulu factions, the end of the expansion has Kerrigan's Zerg Swarm outpacing the UED fleet when it tries a strategic retreat, which would require FTL hundreds of times faster than what was specified for the first game. Fan Wank usually goes with the explanation that Kerrigan's wormholes are just better than the Overmind's (that wouldn't be the first thing she could do that it couldn't), but this is never explicitly explained in the game.
- Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm have their own issues even assuming the above Fan Wank is true. In Wings, Kerrigan ultimately loses because she overstretches her forces and leaves Char vulnerable to a decapitation strike. She tries to recall her broods to Char, but as noted by both Word of God and in-game news reports, they couldn't get from the Dominion core worlds to Char fast enough to stop Raynor and Valerian's strike that took at least a day - even though Char is a former core world and thus should be quite close to them in relative terms. So in this case, it appears that they're back to the few light-years per day speeds of the Overmind's Swarm. Heart of the Swarm however has Kerrigan travel from Koprulu to Zerus, located in the center of the galaxy (so tens of thousands of light-years away), in what's implied to be a pretty short time period and is definitely nowhere close to even a single year, putting zerg FTL speeds back at Brood War levels. As noted on the StarCraft wiki page for Zerus, one Blizzard employee actually lampshaded this and noted that Heart gave the false impression of Zerus being right next to the Koprulu sector given how easily Kerrigan goes there and back.
- In the opening of Trials of Mana, every character's introduction ends with them travelling to Jadd while the opening credits roll. Unlike the others, Kevin doesn't take a boat because Mintos has no harbor, and swims his way there. He still arrives at the same time as everyone else, despite being a whole continent away.
- Averted in Mass Effect 2 there are two storyline missions that start automatically when you receive them, one where you can dawdle), and the big one, the suicide mission: you can choose when to do it, but if you do more than ONE mission, then a member of your abducted crew will die. The death toll gets higher the more missions you do, culminating in Dr Chakwas being the only survivor.
- You can still get to your destination with time to spare, no matter where you are in the galaxy — even if it's on the other side of the galaxy.
- No matter how quickly you complete all previous missions in Mass Effect 3 you will not get the vital information about Thessia until Cerberus is already there one step ahead of you.
- The computer does this in Kingdom Hearts. Upon arriving in Monstro, the player encounters Geppetto and Pinocchio. Pinocchio was previously seen in Traverse Town, and the game establishes that without a Gummi Ship or dark powers, traveling between worlds is impossible. Sora even asks Pinocchio "how did you get here?", but Geppetto starts talking to him, and somewhere between that and Pinocchio wandering off, the game forgets to explain it.
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: The only aversion to this is introductory quest to the Thieves' guild has you competing with someone else to steal something - you have to figure the location out, travel there, and steal it faster than they do.
- If you do fail it due to this reason, the guild gives you another way in.
- In Shadow Hearts: Covenant, it takes you about five or six hours and a couple dungeons to travel from the game's real starting place in the Ardennes Forest to the first major destination, Wales, as the party travels through Paris and then has to find a ship willing to travel to Britain during the height of World War One. From Wales, the party instantly and effortlessly travels to its next destination... Florence, Italy.
- Up until the recent events of the quest The World Wakes, the time in RuneScape has stood still for the player character; meaning hundreds of hours for random skill training, other quest plots, etc. have occurred within the same 24 hour period as no other quest give a sense of time passing and are referred to as "in the past" for anyone who does them after The World Wakes.
- Happens in all materials in the Warcraft universe, due to the writers never really establishing the size of anything. Especially bad in the World of Warcraft comic, where it takes a hippogryph less than a minute to fly from Ashenvale to Thunder Bluff, which would make the world about as big as the map in World of Warcraft, ignoring the obvious Space Compression that's present in the latter.
- Averted in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. At the proper start of the game you might think you can explore the Sarif building without problem. Spend fifteen minutes doing that and every hostage will be dead. Fortunately this is the only time this will happen in the game.
- In Undertale, NPCs will instantly travel to their mandated location at the drop of an Event Flag, even if that's halfway across the game world from where they left you just a few moments ago.
- Several cases in the Ace Attorney games have you investigating locations that are stated to be on opposite sides of a large city or even on the countryside, hours away by train (and yes, this distance is often a factor in the cases when it comes to alibis). However, if you miss something in one location (and you most probably will) nothing stops you from going back and forth several times in a single day, without missing any events that in-universe depend on office hours. Justified, since otherwise the game would be near-unplayable.
- Exaggerated on case 2 of Justice for All, when little Pearl, who's lived all her life in a small, isolated village, makes it to her cousin's trial ON FOOT. Said village is an hour away by train, which she didn't take because she did not know what trains were. Never mind how exhausting it would've been for her, realistically, she never would've made it on time.
- DM of the Rings: The trope is described in the comments of one of the strips: "A player is never late, Dave. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when the plot dictates he should."
- Invoked by Trope-tan in The Way of the Metagamer. Apparently it's Faster Than Light but slower than sound.
- Professor Dr. from The B-Movie Comic has been in enough movies to work it out, as he explains to an esteemed colleague.
- The Order of the Stick: Described here. Julio Scoundrél's airship goes faster the higher the stakes, but it never gets anywhere earlier than the nick of time.
Julio: No problem, I can get you there in ten days, eight if the world is at risk.
Roy: You have reserve power you can use?
Julio: No, I mean the ship literally flies faster the more is at stake. Darndest thing, really.
Roy: Huh. Do you think you could shave a day off if there might be two worlds on the line?
Julio: It's worth a shot, but I've been doing this more than 30 years and I've never arrived anywhere earlier than the nick of time.
- In Doom House, Officer Cop arrives at the doom house for the first time before Linux is finished speaking on the phone with the emergency operator.
- Justice League had the Green Lantern travel at varying speeds. Sometimes he could fly fast enough to approach light speed and other times he flew about as fast as Batman ran. It wouldn't be so bothersome if it weren't for the fact that when he was flying at the slow speeds he would get captured, even though he could've outrun his would be captors.
- Used in Avatar: The Last Airbender, as also noted on It's Always Spring. The last season was particularly notable for this as in the first half, it took a while for them to travel to the rendezvous point, with Sokka constantly complaining about all the detours cutting into their travel time note . In the last 4 episodes though, they travel from the Fire Nation to the Earth Kingdom and back again in less than 3 days. In the first season it was a bit more justified since they flew everywhere and the timescale was a lot less defined, but that just made the way Zuko easily kept pace in an obsolete steamship which was explicitly slower than them stand out.
- Later in Legend of Korra Book 2, Korra and friends manage to travel by ship from Republic City, which is located in the northern regions of the Earth Kingdom Continent, all the way to the South Pole in just under the 3 day time limit.
- In The Transformers, the Autobots can travel to anywhere in the world in an hour from their Cascades headquarters. Memorable destinations include the Congo, India, New York, France and Antarctica. How a bunch of cars got to the middle of Africa in an hour is anyone's guess.
- This trop is averted in Transformers: Prime with the use of the Ground Bridge.
- Futurama: The Planet Express Ship can travel to the edge of the universe and back in a week, which should make any trip in the Milky Way trivially short, yet they are shown to take days whenever convenient for the plot.
- Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable travel across the world by calling in favors with people they have helped in the past, while always arriving at the villains' lair in the nick of time and returning home in time to resume their mundane activities; they are late only when that episode plot requires it. Used specially in The (First) Movie where Ron Stoppable traveled independently from Norway to America, Australia and Africa; it was a plot point for him to be late to the action until the last location. The plot was kind of on the ball in this case, as Africa is a shorter trip from Norway than from the US, even accounting for the speed difference.
- Lampshaded in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius when Jimmy, Sheen, and Carl are traveling back from the moon:
Sheen: Hey, Jimmy, how come it takes astronauts days to fly to and from the moon and it only takes us a few minutes?
Jimmy: That's a good question, Sheen. You see—
[Carl's loud singing drowns out Jimmy and Sheen's conversation]
Jimmy: And that's about it.
- The speed of Jimmy's spacecraft seem to vary depending on the episode. In some episodes such as the one mentioned above, travel seems to be limited to below light speed and it takes the characters hours or at least minutes to accomplish interplanetary travel within the solar system, and in other episodes they can jump millions of light years within hours. Weirdly, Jimmy's love interest April from "Win, Lose, and Kaboom" cites interstellar/intergalactic distances as a reason for why they can't maintain a consistent friendship/relationship, despite the fact that within the same episode they jumped light years nearly instantaneously.
- The first episode of Invader Zim indicates it takes Zim six months to get from the planet Conventia to Earth. All other trips into space, however, seem to go more quickly: for example, Foodcourtia is only three days away. Either Conventia is waaaaay out there on the far border of Irken space, or the first episode's time was just to torture Zim with six months of "The Doom Song."
- In another episode Zim is shown to be enduring Gir's messing around with base's computer for a year - it's a Running Gag. Another one: Sizz-Lorr mentions 20 years of being trapped on Foodcourtia after Zim runs away, but Zim's mission lasted no longer than few years. It got lampshaded with time-warp-thing. To sum it up, Sizz-Lorr did 20 years in about 2 or so.
- In the LeapFrog educational release Math Adventure to the Moon, Leap, Lily and Edison board a rocket bound for the moon. The entire point of this DVD is to teach kids about counting and math, so the rocket has a speed gauge with 1 being the slowest speed and 10 being the highest. As the two learn to count by 2s, then 5s, then 10s, the gauge keeps getting replaced with greater numbers, finally going up to a 100. Tad orders it to slow down and the computer says that cruising speed has been achieved. It then says that the moon is 93,000 kilometers... behind them. They've overshot.
- Generator Rex
- Played straight during the "A Family Holiday" episode. There ware two scenes happening simultaneously (we know because there is radio contact between the two). Holiday gets in trouble, so Six orders rex to fly him there. "But that's a hundred miles away!" They make it in about twenty-five seconds. That's four miles a second (or Rex messed up the distance). And that's using a jetpack. Rex might be made of Iron, but Six...well, he still seems to be, even if he is supposedly a normal human.
- Complicated by the earlier episode Payback, where Rex was using the jetpack to try to catch Van Kliess, who was flying away on his whale-blimp EVO. Rex pushes himself to keep up, while VK is only about a mile head of him at most and not moving much faster than the average car, so we know it's this trope.
- The time it takes to travel between Ponyville and Canterlot in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic seems to vary depending on the plot. It can range from a five-minute walk to a one-day train ride.
- In "D.W.'s Name Game" from Arthur, D.W. specifically invokes this in her dream sequence. Walter the deer, who is a real deer in the world of Arthur, but has become a Talking Animal in her fantasy, tells her that the Thesaurus dwells beyond the woods at the library. She says it's a long way to walk, so she asks if he has a picture of it. He holds one up and she leaps into it, Breaking the Fourth Wall to comment to the viewer that it would have been "so boring" to watch her walk through the woods.
- On Creative Galaxy, travel takes as long as it takes for Arty to quite literally draw up the Creative Spark rocket ship in mid-air and zip to the planet where he wants to create his art in Real Time as a bit of cheery music plays. On the way back, a special "speed" for the ship is specified, such as "quiet speed" when Arty needs to get home without disturbing his baby sister, but the speed is again always just long enough to give an impression to little kids of time passing and get back in time to have taken care of the problem without anyone having to wait very long.
- On Special Agent Oso, whether Oso is halfway across the country or on the moon, you can be sure that as soon as he's informed of a child in trouble, he will arrive in time to help that child before it's too late, then return in time to finish his training exercise without inconveniencing anyone.
- Samurai Jack: In XCVII, Ashi spends the entire episode wondering around in numerous places searching for Jack and comes across many of the people he helped in previous episode. The setting even changes to night in the climax and Ashi is still nowhere near finding Jack. Yet she still arrives at the cemetery just in time to prevent Jack from committing Seppuku.
- In Dragons: Riders of Berk the group leave Berk and set out to explore new lands, creating a Home Base called Dragon's Edge. It's demonstrated to take at least a day by dragon to get from Berk to Dragon's Edge, but this extreme distance only seems to be a problem when it's convenient for the plot.
- Distance and even reality are never barriers for the Wonder Pets! when it comes to saving an animal in need. In the second story of the first episode, they travel into space to save a chimp in the time it takes to sing a cheery tune and in the first story of the second episode, they zip into a storybook to save a unicorn.
- In 3-2-1 Penguins!, the penguins' ship, the Rockhopper, travels as fast or as slow as the plot demands, as this conversation in The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka shows.
Michelle (Who has been on the ship for all of three minutes): Wow, so let's get on with the mission. Buckle up for landing, everyone!
Zidgel: Woah, slow down there, missy. I don't think you have a full appreciation of the demands of space travel...space travel can take hours, days, even, uh, several days. It's not like in those T.V. shows where they just go zipping around-
Midgel: Coming up on Bullamanka.
Zidgel: Uh, buckle up for landing, everyone.
- The Butt-Ugly Martians can reach other solar systems and back in the space of an episode where as Emperor Bog's fleet spends the entire series journeying from Mars to Earth.