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Tricked Out Time

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"Choke on that, causality!"
Professor Farnsworth, Futurama

One has successfully Tricked Out Time when they can say they've "faked" a Stable Time Loop, thus avoiding Temporal Paradox. Instead, the result is a Close-Enough Timeline.

How does one fake a Stable Time Loop? Well, you go back in time, and you make it look like the original thing happened, when instead, something else happened entirely. The important thing is that everyone who witnessed the event to be changed still see the same thing. Care must be taken to ensure the change is not detected by the wrong people until after the original time excursion point. If you go back and save someone by replacing them with a robot clone at the last minute, it's probably best that this person go with the time traveler Back To The Future.

This also works for prophetic visions: eg. a character who sees himself falling off a cliff to his death in a crystal ball may decide to stage the same scenario under conditions where their safety is ensured.

There is one additional wrinkle; if the characters did a good enough job making it seem like the original events happened, it may turn out that they were in a Stable Time Loop all along, and they had always been the ones behind the original event. The fewer viewers and less precise recording of the event in consideration, the easier it is for this to happen. Whether this results in a Close-Enough Timeline or a Stable Time Loop is often left ambiguous for both the characters and the viewers, as when the events line up to the point that they are indistinguishable to what originally happened, it takes a character able to view or interact with timelines directly, some kind of Narrator, or a statement by Word of God to tell the difference.

See also You Already Changed the Past, where any change you make to the past already happened before you thought of it.


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    Doctor Who 
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Show Proper:
      • "Father's Day" is all about this trope. You can visit the exact same point in time repeatedly so long as you don't make your past self experience something you don't remember experiencing.
      • "The Doctor Dances" has a minor one. When the Doctor blows up the Chulan warship (which is an ambulance) he mentions that "History said there was an explosion here". Originally, this was caused by a bomb, but Captain Jack got rid of that. Ironically enough, Jack had dumped the warship there so it would be destroyed by the bomb, as he thought it was junk which he was hoping to sell as he thought it would be destroyed before the buyer realised they'd been conned.
      • Though not explicitly mentioned onscreen, this would have added an interesting angle to the Doctor's position in "The Fires of Pompeii". He's in denial about why he can't try to save the city.
      • Major spoilers: Series 6 ends with the Doctor going to the death we saw at the beginning of it... inside the shape-shifting robot from "Let's Kill Hitler", disguised to look like him.
      • This seems to be the M.O. of said shape-shifting robot. It goes back to near the end of the life of a Karma Houdini, painfully tortures them to death to pay for their crimes, then impersonates them for what remains of their life. As far as the history books are concerned, nothing has changed.
      • Invoked by the Doctor in "The Angels Take Manhattan" when he explains that once you see (or read about) the future it becomes fixed in time.
      • More major spoilers: In "The Day of the Doctor", the Doctor (all thirteen regenerations) removes Gallifrey from the Time War, not only making the Daleks kill themselves in the crossfire, but also making it appear to have been destroyed to the rest of the universe (and himself).
      • In "Hell Bent", the Doctor pulls a Chrono Trigger on Clara, whose death is a fixed point in space and time. The Doctor uses Loophole Abuse to pluck her from immediately before this time. She will have to return to this point in time eventually, but she is immortal (and will not age) until she chooses to do so. Still, it's made clear that fiddling with the timeline in this manner is incredibly dangerous and reckless, even by the Doctor's standards.
    • Doctor Who Expanded Universe:
      • In the audio drama "The Fires of Vulcan", the Fifth Doctor is told by UNIT that his TARDIS is found in Pompeii, buried under the volcanic ash and revealed by an earthquake. Later, as the Seventh Doctor, the TARDIS drops them in Pompeii, and the Doctor is initially resolved to his fate of dying there. They eventually figure out a plan involving letting the TARDIS get covered in magma, wait for it to harden, and then jumping forward to just before the Earthquake, letting the earthquake happen, get out, and let UNIT find the TARDIS, and then go and steal it back.
      • The novel War of the Daleks undoes the destruction of the Daleks' homeworld Skaro by revealing that the Daleks discovered a piece of centuries-old footage during their invasion of Earth that described the events, which begin with the discovery of their creator, Davros, on Skaro. They travel back in time, find a suitable planet that looks a bit like Skaro, move Davros to it, and fake the rescue mission that discovered him — so the film remains accurate, but a different planet got blown up. The book wasn't particularly well received, since the description of this complex retcon took up a lot of space that could have been used for actual plot. The retcon itself is generally filed as Fanon Discontinuity by fandom, but Skaro itself survived as seen in the Series 9 premiere.
      • Another (hilarious) example is the audioplay "The Kingmaker". A wildly complex sequence of events leads to William Shakespeare hijacking the TARDIS so he can convince Richard III to kill his nephews and ensure that history remembers Richard as a monster and the Tudors (Elizabeth I's family) as heroes. It eventually ends up with Shakespeare being killed at Bosworth Field, and the Doctor dropping Richard off in the Elizabethan era with a copy of the complete works of Shakespeare...
      • In the audio “Better Watch Out”, the Eighth Doctor learns that Bruno Wener committed suicide by throwing himself into the river in the hope that his life insurance would be enough to help his family keep up with their ever-increasing rent. However, since he only left a note declaring his intentions and nobody has actually found his body, in “Fairytale of Salzburg” the Doctor is able to go back in time and stop Bruno from actually jumping, taking him a few days forward in time to be reunited with his family without changing history.
      • In Doctor Who Magazine story "A Wing and a Prayer" Clara meets Amy Johnson, a famous aviator, who she knows disappears after a plane crash in the sea. The Doctor says this has to happen, but at the end of the story Clara points out that what is important is that this appears to happen. They therefore save Amy by materialising around her as she sinks and take her off to the planet Cornucopia to continue flying.
    • Fan Works
      • "A Better Doctor" sees the Eleventh Doctor get involved in the aftermath of the events of Rabid (the 2019 version). While he is able to provide a cure for the viral outbreak in general and Rose Miller in particular, he is also able to save the life of Rose's foster sister Chelsea, even though Rose last saw Chelsea infected by the disease and shot by a security team sent by the C.D.C. As the Doctor explains, Rose never actually confirmed that Chelsea was dead, and the mutative effect of the disease kept her alive long enough for the Doctor to rescue her and take her for medical treatment once he was satisfied that nobody else explicitly saw Chelsea die.
      • In "Trial and Error", the Twelfth Doctor's attempt to retrieve Missy's TARDIS leads to a confrontation with the Valeyard, which results in him, Missy, Nardole and Bill travelling back to the space station where the Sixth Doctor's trial will take place... only to realise when they arrive there that the trial hasn't happened yet. With no other way to guarantee that history will unfold as it should, and having confirmed that Missy doesn't remember these events, the Twelfth Doctor is forced to disguise himself as the Valeyard to ensure that the trial plays out as he remembers... until the younger Master appears and things become more complicated.
      • Plays a part in a storyline of the fanfic "The Woman Who Counted"- a Sherlock crossover where the Tenth Doctor is travelling with Molly Hooper instead of Martha Jones- when the Doctor and Molly arrive in Russia a few days before the execution of the Romanovs; an alien family who were exiled from their world are able to take on the appearance of the Romanovs, believing that they can take Russia for themselves, allowing Molly to convince the Doctor to take the Romanovs to 1992. From the perspective of the wider universe, nothing has changed, but the Romanovs and their children are free to make new lives while the aliens are executed in their place.

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Booster Gold: Booster has done this twice: once in the comic 52, in which he fakes his own death by retrieving his future corpse and replacing himself with it (with the help of Rip Hunter). The second time was in volume 2 of his own comic, in which he prevents Ted Kord's death at the hands of Maxwell Lord with the help of three other Blue Beetles. Unfortunately it doesn't work, and he returns to the present to find it's a Bad Future, and he needs to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. However, Ted himself seems to have found a way around this, as Word of God confirms that it is him in his old lab at the end of the arc, though it doesn't get any major follow-up before Flashpoint rewrites everything.
  • One Dexter's Laboratory comic book featured Dexter finding a copy of that very comic book. He flips to the end and finds a scene in which the rest of his family mourns his death. He saves himself by getting his family to act out that scene.
  • In Don Rosa's Of Ducks and Dimes and Destinies, it is revealed that Scrooge McDuck got his first dime not from the man whose boots he cleaned, but from Magica De Spell, who tried to steal the coin from Scrooge when he was just a child. She then realized that the coin would be useless to her if Scrooge didn't have the coin while becoming the richest duck in the world.
  • In Fantastic Four: The End, set in a possible future, flashbacks give the idea that the children of Reed and Sue died in a catastrophic explosion going up against Doctor Doom, only to find out that the magical device being sought by Susan Richards allows for them to pull everyone into their present leaving it to only appear that everyone died in the explosion and preserving the timeline without spawning any alternates.
  • In one Jughead's Time Police story, Jughead gets a message from his future self to save Riverdale from a flood. However, eight centuries later, it's a historic fact that Riverdale was hit by a flood. How can Jughead save Riverdale without altering history? Since the "fact" is based on a headline dug up by future archeologists, all Jughead does is create that headline to be dug up later. That way, he can avert disaster without changing the future.
    Jughead: Since we can't change history, we'll have to fool history! It'll be the con job of the century! Er, I mean centuries!
  • In Justice Society of America, the Hourman of the 853rd century pulls the original out of the battle where he died and replaces him, using holograms to disguise himself. It gets better, because that villain is the same who "killed" him in the past, when he replaced the original Hourman. His team-mate Atom-Smasher does a nastier one with the same villain, switching him in for his mother on a doomed airplane flight.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Avengers of the Ring fanfic Scarlet Witch and the Thirteen Dwarves, after Wanda Maximoff ends up in Middle-Earth during Thorin and Company's quest for Erebor when Steve, Thor and Bruce have 'already' visited Middle-Earth during the War of the Ring, the fic concludes with the Vision coming to rescue Wanda, as he erases Sauron’s memory of Wanda and Ultron when he helps the White Council rescue Gandalf. After the Battle of Five Armies and his reunion with Wanda, the Vision appeals to the Valar to erase all recollection of himself, Wanda and Ultron from the minds of those who have met them in Middle-Earth, ensuring that the War of the Ring will unfold as it should without anyone aware of what Captain America, Thor and the Hulk are capable of.
  • The Gargoyles series Broken Mirror at one point features Demona being given a chance to save four gargoyles from Wyvern. This trope applies as she is informed she can only save gargoyles whose survival won't contradict known history; she is able to save Hudson's mate who disappeared decades before the massacre because nobody ever found her body, and it is no significant challenge to save three statues from Wyvern as obviously nobody would have examined every pile of rubble to confirm which gargoyle it was originally.
  • The Back to the Future/ X-Men Film Series crossover BTTX opens with Doc and Marty doing this basically by chance when they happen to arrive in Alkali Lake just as Jean Grey is holding back the water to help the Blackbird get away. Despite Doc's concerns about changing history, he agrees with Marty's observation that they can save Jean and then take their time to work out the consequences of her death, returning her to Xavier's school after the President's proclamation calling off the current hunt against mutants.
  • The Big Bad of Crimson Echoes was said to be dead the one time he was ever mentioned at all. Then the Big Good found out this trope was in play, only for it to turn out that maybe a guy like him probably should've stayed dead.
  • Marik Bentusi has a Gwenpool fan comic where Gwen points a gun at her past self, across the panel borders, to convince herself to start studying for an exam sooner. In the followup comic, past Gwen wonders about the causality of all this:
    Friday Gwen: But if I don't procrastinate, wouldn't that erase Sunday Gwen from existence? Don't I have to procrastinate now to save her life? Tho I guess if I don't procrastinate, I could still close the time loop on Sunday by pretending to crunch... I'm an idiot.
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality:
    • Dumbledore freely messes with time in this way in order to keep from messing with time in ways that create a time-wasting paradox. When preparing for a trip which may involve doing something that he doesn't yet know will cause a paradox, he casually glances at a specific brick in a wall. If there is a note taped to the brick that says "NO.", he cancels his trip and instead goes back just long enough to leave the note before going off to figure out why he had to cancel the trip.
    • Harry does something similar by accident. He tries to answer a math problem by forcing a time loop that would stabilize only at the correct answer, and all he gets is a note (presumably from his future self) saying, in extremely shaky handwriting, "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME." He then replicates the note perfectly due to his shaking hands and resolves not to come back to that research for a long time.
  • Used in Harry Potter and the Mystic Force. Some months after Harry is framed for killing Hagrid and flees to join the Mystic Force Rangers, the Rangers find themselves in a new reality where the forces of Darkness have conquered the world. In an attempt to help Harry, Madison arranges for the alternate Hagrid to get a time-turner and go back to before Harry was framed for Hagrid's murder and take his alternate self's place; it is explicitly stated that the Tribunal of Magic acted to preserve the alternate Hagrid's existence even after his timeline was erased, but they admire Madison's quick thinking and agree that her actions have preserved a life wrongly taken without affecting history.
  • The Karma of Lies discusses this when Ladybug reveals that all of the temporary Miraculi holders that she no longer trusts have been fired. Alix protests that she can't fire Bunnyx without creating a temporal paradox, as her future self has already come back to the present day. Ladybug responds that there are other options, such as taking advantage of technology to create a robotic counterpart or simply making a sentimonster of Bunnyx and sending them back instead.
  • Kill Them All: After being sent back in time, Taylor replaces New Wave with clones just prior to their deaths at the hands of the Slaughterhouse Nine. She then keeps them in another dimension until the timeline catches up. In the final chapter it's revealed she did the same with Annette, Kurt, and Lacy.
  • Discussed in Kyon: Big Damn Hero, where Kyon points out this possibility to Mikuru. It hasn't actually come up in the story yet, but given all the time traveling involved it almost certainly would have at some point.
  • How Time-Turners work in The Parselmouth of Gryffindor. Contradicting the past would lead to a Time Crash, so a time-traveler should do their best not to contradict the past up to their knowledge, and magically-induced good luck will do the rest.
  • Attempted by Princess Twilight in The Puddnhead Gambit. After receiving a prophetic vision of the events of My Little Pony: A New Generation, she commissions a film, the plot of which exactly matches her vision, in the hopes that her vision will turn out to always have been a preview of a movie that would premier next year rather than a vision of events many centuries into the future.
  • Considering My Mirror, Sword and Shield is a Code Geass and Back to the Future crossover, it was bound to happen when Suzaku accidentally finds himself trapped in a terrible past governed by historical tyrant Lelouch Lamperouge and has to find a way to survive in times of war 'without' altering history (or as much history as a highschool student would know, anyway). The straightest example comes near the end when Suzaku, having discovered that Lelouch is far from the soulless dictator history books made him out to be, and subsequently having fallen in love with him , decides that he absolutely cannot let him be publicly assassinated and his body torn apart by the hands of the furious population , but he has to prevent it in a way that wouldn't alter those historic events, lest Lelouch's carefully-constructed plan would crumble down. So he instead disguises himself as the would-be murderer, fakes Lelouch's assasination, drugs him, escapes with him unconscious, disguises an already-dead man with Lelouch's royal regalia and throws said corpse into the crowd so it could be dismembered in his place. Then he hides his-former-Majesty's unconscious ass until they can safely escape to the future inside the now-fixed time machine. And actually succeeds. Whew!!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Back to the Future series.
    • In the first Back to the Future, Doc does this by wearing a bullet-proof vest when the Libyan terrorists shoot him. He doesn't tell Marty this until after Marty comes back. The plot of the entire film is a semi-successful attempt to do this, since Mr. Baines still doesn't hit George with the car, but the timing of major events in George and Lorraine's relationship post-dance is otherwise the same (they live in the same house, have the same number of children at the same time with the same basic personalities, and so on).
    • Back to the Future Part II, when Doc and Marty go back in time to stop "young" Biff from getting the Gray's Sports Almanac. Doc warns Marty not to interfere with Biff receiving the almanac from his older self, because they had to make "old" Biff believe that his plan worked so he'll return the time machine (which he stole from Doc and Marty earlier) back to the future where they left it.
    • Marty suggests in Back to the Future Part III that they bring Clara Clayton back to the future with them — which would remove her from 1885, where she's supposed to be have died by falling into "Clayton Ravine". Doc rejects this as a step too far — but the filmmakers have suggested that if Doc had appeared to go over the edge of the ravine when the train crashed Clara may have killed herself by jumping into the ravine, removing herself from the timeline and causing it to be named after her after all. The filmmakers do state that Doc himself created a Tricked Out Time situation with the Clayton Ravine in the first revision to that timeline: originally, Clara's carriage went over the ravine, resulting in the name; in the revised timeline where Doc saved her (but where Marty was never present), she committed suicide by jumping into the ravine after Doc was killed by Buford, resulting in the name. This is used to explain why both Doc and Marty know of the ravine by that name.
  • In Freejack, future people perform kidnappings from the past so their wealthy clients can extend their lives through Grand Theft Me. They capture their target right before he or she would have died, and explicitly choose only targets who would have died in ways that leave few or no clues behind, such as massive fires or explosive car accidents.
  • Millennium (1989): people from the future fill up their population by studying records of who dies in plane crashes, then sleep gas the plane and "borrow" the would-be casualties, replacing them with fake bodies. Notable that they eventually screw up, and the resulting Temporal Paradox blows up most of the local Time-Space Continuum.
  • This is demonstrated to be the one loophole in the otherwise infallible Pre-Crime Department in Minority Report; if someone actually knows their future, they have the ability to change it.
  • In Primer, one character recorded all of his conversations on a previous iteration of the time loop and listens to them on his earpiece to keep the loop as stable as possible...except for the one variable he wants to change.

  • In Eoin Colfner's Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox, the paradox comes from the fact that things are happening to Past!Artemis that Present!Artemis doesn't remember. Turns out No.1 erased his memory and replaced it with what Present!Artemis remembers. Past!Artemis later wakes up thinking "something about fairies," creating a double Stable Time Loop.
  • In Captain Underpants, George and Harold go back in time to grab something that was destroyed before it was destroyed, replacing it with a replica.
  • Das Königsprojekt: A different approach was taken in this German novel. Here, it is possible to change the past - but only if there are no written sources of the event changed, or so few that you can change them on the fly - for example, giving a noble family a lot of diamonds and correcting the only source, the family chronicles, from "the fortunes of family X were greatly reduced during [the time in question]" to "augmented". Killing Martin Luther (because the only existing time machine, built by Leonardo da Vinci, is in the hands of the Catholic church) is right out and has to go awry, as they found out when they tried one time. (The time traveler and the machine returned with a bang to the present, resulting in the story of Martin Luther throwing an inkpot at what he believed was the devil.) Fridge Logic: What happens if there are no sources in the time traveller's present, but many at the point in time he's going to?
  • Discworld:
    • Invoked repeatedly in The Science of Discworld books, especially the third book in which the UU wizards and the Auditors of Reality have a mini-Time War over The Origin of Species that will decide Roundworld-humanity's fate.
    • This is the whole point of Night Watch: Past Sam Vimes's mentor dies too early, so future Vimes must stand in and take his spot mentoring himself. As long as he gets it close enough, everything will snap back into the way things were before the past was messed up.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the climax comes with Dumbledore tasking Harry and Hermione (Ron broke his leg) with doing this to save Buckbeak (executed earlier that day) and Sirius (imprisoned) despite their interference already having happened and needing to remain hidden so as not to scare their past selves. They lead Buckbeak into the Forbidden Forest before the executioner came out of Hagrid's hut; because their past selves had to run away before the officials saw them, they didn't see Buckbeak's death and only heard what they thought was the executioner cutting off Buckbeak's head, when what actually happened was the executioner taking out his frustrations on an inanimate object.
  • In the third Magic 2.0 book, the characters want to save their friend, who was dropped from a cliff by the book's Big Bad and then made sure to watch him go splat. After defeating him, they use his computer to figure out the exact space/time coordinates where the friend will be and spend months preparing for the one shot they have. They swap him with an identical-looking construct mid-fall (when the bad guy isn't looking), and everything is peachy.
  • Margaret Peterson Haddix's series The Missing follows young siblings Jonah and Katherine as they travel back in time after learning that Jonah, along with 36 other children, are actually famous individuals from the past that experienced early deaths, and that they were removed from time to be saved from an impending death and sold off in a future by smugglers. However, this caused a ripple across time that led to the present and future not following the "proper timeline." In the series, Jonah and Katherine must return the children to their rightful places in the timeline, but they trick time by time travelling away with the person who was meant to die at the last second, slowly creating a Stable Time Loop with each child "returned."
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's The Number of the Beast, the protagonists rescue Long's mother by traveling back in time and swapping her body with a brain-dead clone, seconds before it is hit by a truck. It's made even more Timey Wimey Bally by the fact that Long gets the idea to do it by going back in time and filming himself doing it.
  • Used once in Perry Rhodan to retroactively save a species that had been wiped out in an early arc of the series. With the aid of a species of ghostlike natural time travelers, they were snatched from their moments of impending doom and brought forward to the then-present day instead; since either way they no longer existed in the past to affect it, history proceeded unchanged and paradox was averted. note 
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel, the Raven alters history to save a dead student, in the process hiding that he had been saved by making a small handful of people believe they had hid him for safety. Whether this was an actual limitation, done to prevent a more harmful change, or just the way that it happened to be done is not clear in the book.
  • In the Bad Future of the Star Trek: Millennium trilogy, the Ascendancy is out to literally destroy the universe, and the Federation's last hope for preventing this is to destroy Bajor. They can't get there now, but they can in the past; however, if they change the past they'll just create an Alternate Timeline, doing themselves no good. Admiral Picard's brilliant solution is based on this trope: plant "deep-time charges" on Bajor in the past, leave them there until the present, and then detonate them. Unfortunately, the Ascendancy finds out and goes them one better...
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Engines of Destiny, Scotty attempts to trick Time by using salvaged Klingon ship to go back to the moment of Captain Kirk's apparent death (as depicted in the prologue of Star Trek: Generations) with the intention of using the ship to beam Kirk off the Enterprise-B the moment after he has completed his modifications to the deflector but before he can be (from Scotty's perspective) sucked out of the ship when it's struck by the Nexus 'energy ribbon'. However, the moment Scotty does this, history changes to a timeline where the Borg conquered Earth centuries ago and are now expanding outwards across the Alpha Quadrant, with only Kirk, Scotty and the Enterprise-D (which was following Scotty back in time when he changed history) aware of the original timeline. The characters eventually deduce that the only way to restore history is to transport Kirk into the transdimensional energy ribbon, but only the alternate Guinan learns that Scotty's trickery failed because he didn't have the complete picture; the Nexus had actually taken Kirk to a Place Beyond Time instead of killing him. Thus, without Kirk's later assistance, Picard was in some way unsuccessful in stopping Soran's own efforts to return to the Nexus on Veridian III (either failing to stop him or dying in the attempt), which led to his absence from the Borg's second attack on Earth and their subsequent trip back in time, allowing them to establish a beachhead on Earth in 2063 and expand from there.
  • One Time Patrol story by Poul Anderson has a Patrol member intentionally looking away as his girlfriend falls into a waterfall, precisely so he can come back and rescue her later.
  • In Time Riders by Alex Scarrow, "The Agency" recruits people at the moment of their death in order to fix history when it is tampered with.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Used in the third season finale of The Flash (2014). As Barry is apparently destined to watch Savitar kill Iris, H.R. uses a holographic disguise to impersonate her and die in her place. This still breaks the Stable Time Loop around her death, however, as once Barry learns the truth he has no reason to create the time remnant who will *become* Savitar, and thus the villain has to complete his scheme soon or he'll be erased.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: During season 7's time-travel arc, the team runs into Daniel Sousa, and records show he's about to get assassinated for correctly suspecting a conspiracy within SHIELD. Unwilling to let a good man die but also unwilling to change the past, the heroes instead use their technology to fake his death, and bring him along for the journey forward in time.
  • In Heroes Volume 5, Hiro is finally able to save Charlie and tricks his past self and past Ando into doing what they did originally to avoid a Temporal Paradox.
  • Inverted in the crossover between Kamen Rider Den-O and Kamen Rider Decade. Instead of tricking out time, the heroes trick out the time travelers, putting on an elaborate show to fake the operation of the time machine to prevent the bad guys from stealing it. And it is awesome.
  • The "prophetic vision" variant was used in the Painkiller Jane: A neuro had a vision of a future where he shot and killed each member of Jane's team when they pursued him and warned her against chasing him, trying to stop this. It came true anyway, with one small exception: Jane was the one who took the shots, carefully disguising herself so she appeared to be each member of the team in turn. Since she has a Healing Factor, no one died.
  • Arnold Rimmer does this unintentionally in Red Dwarf. After Lister changes his past so that he is a multimillionaire inventor (of a product previously invented by a childhood acquaintance of Rimmer's) who never joined the Space Corps, Rimmer conspires to use the same time travel method to inspire his own young self to invent the same product so that he will be the wealthy tycoon who has sex with beautiful women. Unfortunately, the inventor of the product from the original timeline is within earshot and apparently beats young Rimmer to the punch, effectively returning everything to the way that it was. Except that Rimmer is still alive. Then he accidentally blows himself up.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In the episode "Past Tense", Sisko inadvertently travels back in time to just before a historically significant riot. When Gabriel Bell, who led the riots, dies trying to protect him, Sisko assumes his identity and does the things that history says Bell did. History also says that Bell dies in the riots, which Sisko gets around by simply planting his ID on a corpse in the aftermath. When he gets back, Starfleet calls him up wanting to know exactly why the history books have changed to feature Sisko's picture in them, but then, they've got a time travel division specifically watching for this sort of thing. This led to a recurring gag as characters like Bashir and Nog keep noticing Sisko's photograph whenever they were reading about Earth history, only to dismiss Bell and Sisko's odd resemblance to each other.
    • Another episode has a Bajoran poet who is listed as having disappeared centuries ago, leaving a poem unfinished. He appears in the present by coming out of the wormhole, and after he goes back through the wormhole to his own time at the end of the episode, history now lists him living to a ripe old age, finishing the poem, and writing several others afterwards. Kira is somewhat nonplussed that she can simultaneously remember studying the poem in its unfinished and finished states, and Sisko concludes that the wormhole aliens that caused it were screwing with them.
  • The Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode "Self Made Man" is a textbook example of this trope. In it, a terminator sent back in time to the year 2010 to assassinate the Governor of California during the re-opening ceremony of an historic building in downtown LA accidentally arrives 90 years too early, inadvertently disrupting the chain of events which were to lead to said building's construction in the first place. The terminator then spends the next several decades building his own real estate enterprise from the ground up for the sole purpose of ensuring the construction of this building would proceed as it would have without his original interference. He then proceeds to hibernate in one of the building's walls, gun in hand, intent upon carrying out his mission as originally planned. Luckily, Cameron stops him.
  • In Stargate SG-1, the team ends up trapped in the past when their ship is discovered by Jaffa. They get bored and try to invoke this by starting the rebellion that drives the Goa'uld off Earth early, only for it to fail and kick off a different timeline where the Stargate was taken by Ra rather than buried. The alternate timeline versions of SG-1 then travel back and kick off a successful rebellion that ensures the gate is buried. Everything seems more or less identical except Jack's pond now has fish.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Thunderbolt Fantasy:
    • All over the place in season 3. The villains discover a way to travel through time; though they acknowledge that changing anything would likely backfire. However, they do decide to Take Zhao Jun Lin's corpse which was lost to sea back to the future with them to resurrect it as this will not change events.
      • Lin Xue Ya takes this to an entirely new level; using both the villains' method of time travel and his Master of Illusion powers to disguise several villains as heroes who had died and then swapping them; including himself.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Continuum:
    • This is the standard way to resolve a paradox caused by Narcissists. Worthy of note is the fact that Continuum ideology is that all apparent paradoxes are inevitably resolved this way, and that no real change in history has ever existed or can ever exist. Since causing temporal paradoxes is a main form of time-traveler combat, hypnotism is a survival skill and major historical figures have understudies.
    • Also worthy of note is that in crasher (the aforementioned Narcissists) philosophy, any change results in creating a new paraverse, and that the Inheritors are brainwashing Continuum spanners into keeping the universe they are currently occupying unchanged, fueling the crashers' desire to escape.
    • One wonderful example of tricking out time through Loophole Abuse is presented in the book: The GM tells one of the PCs that he has a message on his answering machine describing exactly where, when, and how the PC will die. The PC merely goes back in time a few minutes and leaves himself that message as a prank. The message had to be left; nobody said it had to be true.
  • The old GURPS supplement Time Travel featured a time agency that worked off the principle that it didn't happen unless someone from their present saw it happen. As noted in other examples, looking away when a friend is about to die is standard operating procedure as it leaves a loophole that may allow them to be saved. Many missions involve standing in the crowd at a historical moment so as to watch it happen and "fix" it in place against future tampering.
  • This is the one kind of time travel that won't get the Guardians of Forever hunting you down to undo whatever it is you did, in Genius: The Transgression, since it doesn't affect the overall flow of history.

    Video Games 
  • In Chrono Trigger, the hero is fried by Lavos the Eldritch Abomination. But wait! At the festival that began the game, there's a minigame where you can win a handy Clone (it's a lifelike doll, no intelligence). The heroes take the clone, go to the point precisely before you know who was evaporated, stop time, and replace him with the clone, then take him back to the future.
  • Dragon Quest V has the main character sent to the past in order to retrieve a mystical orb he owned when he was younger until it was destroyed. This particular act can actually be either this or You Already Changed the Past depending on whether or not you approach the grown version of yourself while still a child in the beginning. Any other attempts to mess with the past (such as preventing your father's murder) are doomed to failure, since you have no way of pulling that off without anybody seeing your interference.
  • The first scenario in Fire Emblem: Awakening is a vision of the future, in which the player's avatar fights a villain alongside Chrom, but then falls under mind control and kills Chrom. By the time the story actually gets to this point, the characters know about the vision, and the avatar is able to resist the mind control enough to only wound Chrom instead, with it only appearing that he died.
  • Ghost Trick: Sissel has to do this multiple times to trick Yomiel into believing that Cabanela and the pigeon-headed man have been murdered. Yomiel knows about ghost tricks, so Sissel has to hide both himself and the fact that their corpses are still alive, or else Yomiel will just kill them in a more confirmable way.
  • In the first Suikoden game, the hero's friend/servant sacrifices himself by locking himself in the same room as a flesh-eating fungus to save the hero. When the hero gets back to the room, no trace of the servant remains, except his gear; it's assumed that he was completely consumed. However, if you get all of the Stars of Destiny, it's possible to time travel back and whisk him back to the future; his disappearance being explained that way.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The game has a series of dungeons called the Caverns of Time, each of which involves a different past event from previous games or lore. In every case adversaries throw history off the rails and it's up to the group to set things right — or at least, close enough. Laser-Guided Amnesia makes certain that the original apparent history remains, whether it happened or not.
    • One of those is "The Culling of Stratholme" where you have to assist Arthas wiping out the infected population that is being turned into undead by the Scourge as the Infinite Dragonflight attempts to kill him so he won't go to Northrend and become the Lich King. Fridge Logic suggests it would be a good idea to allow one of Azeroth's greatest monsters to die before his Start of Darkness, however Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act seems to apply to his dark genesis. The canon reason for letting The Culling go as written in history, was that without it, the undead forces would have gotten a massive increase in their forces from the denizens of the city, and would have been far stronger in the final battle on Mount Hyjal, winning that fight.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ever17: All attempts to save all of the protagonists result in a Temporal Paradox. So... Blick Winkel manipulates them into cryogenic suspension and Brain Uploading in order to have their "deaths" not be permanent.
  • In Ikemen Sengoku, this happens in one of the routes. Namely, Nobunaga's Dramatic route where he's able to prevent the temporal forces trying to set the timeline back to its original form where he's dead instead of the main character having saved him at Honno-ji by faking his death and letting Hideyoshi run the country instead to make it appear close enough to the original timeline for the temporal forces to leave him and the main character alone and happy together in hiding.
  • Is the idea behind one of the endings of the time-traveling Visual Novel Steins;Gate (the true ending, actually). To elaborate: In the Beta timeline, it's a fixed event that Okabe see Kurisu dead in a pool of blood. However, in the True Ending, after messing up once, Okabe knocks out Kurisu and uses his own blood (he was stabbed earlier) in order to make it look like she died to his past self.
  • In Virtue's Last Reward, Kyle and Akane trade places to fit in Kyle's Powered Armor; depending on if Akane is killed or not; both doing the same thing to lead to Akane not being killed.

    Web Animation 
  • Follows a similar scenario to the Chrono Trigger example above: in Inanimate Insanity, where MePhone 4 gets shot and replaced, Marshmallow and OJ use a time machine to go back in time and replace him with a dummy (both obtained from Walmart).

    Web Comics 
  • Bob and George: at the end, in order to ensure the timeline is intact for the X and Zero games, including the Cataclysm, all the characters fake their deaths and move to Acapulco. This should be noted as one of the few times anyone in Bob and George gave a damn about the timeline, which had been twisted, warped, set on fire, run over by a steamroller and blown up with many, many elaborate time travel shenanigans before that.
  • In Casey and Andy, Jenn's time travelling daughter goes out of her way to not see something bad happen, so she can go back in time and avert it without causing a paradox.
  • In a side story of Erfworld, King Posbrake of Numloch attempts the "prophetic vision" variant.
  • Homestuck: Played with. Appearifiers can snatch people and items from other points in time, but only if they've played out their part and have nothing important to do, which would cause a paradox. If that would be the case (for instance, Rose attempts to Appearify Jasper before he can tell his terrible secret) the machine instead generates an ectoplasmic ghost image... which can be used to extract genetic material to create a clone of the original. But the clone is almost always mutated and damaged in one way or another... and when it's actually a perfect copy, that means it's destined to be sent back in time and turn out to be the original in a complex Stable Time Loop. Confused yet?

    The nature of time in Paradox Space will not allow any alteration to the Alpha Timeline; any significant change will create an offshoot timeline doomed for deletion. At best, someone from a doomed timeline can send something back to the alpha timeline insure that the alpha timeline happens. Tricking out time is the only way to succeed in any Time Travel shenanigans.
  • Starslip
    • The Time Police Deep Time take this trope and run with it. They can't kill (most) anyone in the past, since that will affect the future, but they can, for example, send one of their female agents back in time to be the first girlfriend of a male guard. Then she tries to get past him, and he can't bring himself to shoot her. They do this to about half the crew. One poor bastard got his father replaced with a Deep Time agent.
      "I've always been proud of you. Sorry I pretended to be your father for the past thirty years so I could get past this door."
    • Memnon does this with A2-Z when he needs the computer to calculate a particularly complex Starslip path. He drops A2-Z off in the 20th century, replacing the first, primitive prototype of A2-Z with its own future version, and then instructs it to spend the following centuries secretly working on the problem while hiding its advanced status from everyone until the day Memnon returns to the future. Subverted — it still wasn't enough time to find the answer.

    Western Animation 
  • Though the past is unchangeable in Gargoyles, naturally Xanatos is able to work around this and create a Stable Time Loop in his favor. On a trip to the past, he gives two period coins to the Illuminati, along with a letter. The coins are like pennies in the past, but by the present they're very valuable and are the coins that started his fortune. The letter of course, is to tell him to do just that, and then go back in time and maintain the loop when the opportunity presents itself.
    • The issue of causality is also discussed, as Xanatos reasons that this series of events makes him a self-made man, but his estranged father is unimpressed by the Loophole Abuse.