Some heroes have the misfortune of ending up in a strange place: maybe in the past, or in a world where they never existed or (if they're really unlucky) a world where they're a completely different person (and their best friend hates their guts, while the villains have them under their thumb). From the narrative's point of view, The Hero's predicament is usually important to them, but mean a lot less in the bigger picture. Luckily, people who are thrown back in time or Trapped in Another World will find a member of the Time Police, another traveler (with more experience) or even a god who'll help them get safely home.
These can be authority figures it can be justified: the ruler of a country still has some responsibility to all their subjects and the police are supposed to serve the public, why should the ruler of a multiverse or the Time Police be any different?. They can be heroes: a good hero will always help the needy, time travelers should be no exception. Gods or other higher beings may be working In Mysterious Ways or have some hidden agenda. The helper in question might not actually be that more powerful than the protagonist, but have a job dealing with much more important problems.
Places the protagonist could end up with this sort of help in can include;
- A Bad Future (typically from being pushed forward in time).
- The Past
- Someone else's life
- Another Dimension
- Somewhere that's simply a very long way from where they live.
As long as the protagonist is stranded and someone with enough know-how to help turns up it's this trope.
This can often be a type of Big Good. If Time Travel is involved, you can expect them to be a member of the Time Police. This sort of character may overlap with Mr. Exposition or Hero Secret Service. Contrast Rescued from the Underworld, when the hero fulfills this role for someone else.
- In Sailor Moon Sailor Pluto is the Soldier of Space-Time and is described as "a goddess, eternally guarding the Portal of Space and Time". Chibi-usa finds her at the gates of time while attempting to go back to the future. Subverted at first, considering she has specific orders NOT to open the gates, but she helps anyway.
- Played with in A Certain Magical Index when the goddess Othinus decides to deal with Touma Kamijou, the only person who was the potential to stop her. She sends him tumbling through the multiverse, going through several worlds hostile and alien to him, including a world where he's Public Enemy #1, a world where someone else is in his place, and a world where he never existed. She explains that she intends to break his will by showing how insignificant he is in the universe, but he lampshades how she never abandons him and takes time to explain the situation in each world, when all she had to do to get rid of him is to abandon him. Eventually, she comes to care for him, pulls a Heel–Face Turn, and returns them to the original world. The Will of the Misaka Network, who has Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory, also gives Touma some advice and encouragement.
- In My Immortal, Ebony briefly ends up trapped in the past until Marty McFly turns up to rescue her.
- In Twist of Fate, Kuroko and Awaki get trapped in a world where Touma Kamijou was never born, resulting in a Crapsack World since he wasn't around to save everybody. A time traveler named Moses arrives and helps them get back, though it takes a lot of work.
- Rufus gave Bill & Ted the time machine, showed them how to use it, and tended to turn up for advice when the boys found themselves in trouble. He was from the future of prosperity, peace, and excellence that they ushered in, and had a vested interest in helping them because without them his future would not exist.
- The guy in Hot Tub Time Machine who fixes the hot tub and acts like he knows about time travel. However, he doesn't tell them about the time travel.
- Pleasantville had the TV Repairman, who instigated the Trapped in TV Land plot, and then ineffectually tried to stop the fallout from it.
- In Night Watch, Lu-Tze helps Sam Vimes after he's sent back in time (even as much as telling the other Time Monks he just feels like helping him out) even though they're pretty busy fixing the world's Continuity Snarls. It's strongly implied that Vimes was sent back in the first place because he was over the Library when the Glass Clock broke reality, so Lu-Tze feels somewhat responsible.
- In The Divine Comedy, the living poet Dante is given a free pass through the fires of Hell and Purgatory to report on what he sees there, and is given the soul of Roman poet and satirist Virgil (a man damned because he had the misfortune to live and die before the mission of Christ), as his tour guide.
- The Three Bald Doctors in Stephen King's Insomnia. Two of them, Clothos and Lachesis, were benevolent; the third, Atropos, was decidedly not.
- In Warrior Cats, when Jayfeather is trapped in the past with the Ancients, the mysterious cat Rock shows up to take him back to his time period. This happens twice.
- In the Time Scout series, getting stuck in the past (downtime) isn't common, because it's an industry and everyone involved is very, very careful. However, it does happen occasionally, and when it does, the best are sent after them. The best being, basically, Indiana Jones, only with a much better ability to blend in. Time scouts and guides are trained to be invisible anywhen they go.
- The Guild of Temporal Adventurers plays this role in some of Michael Moorcock's stories.
- Doctor Who: The Doctor does this occasionally. He travels through time and space in the TARDIS dealing with various disasters of all sorts though.
- In the Eerie, Indiana episode "The Lost Hour", an old milkman saves Marshall from the Garbage Men in an empty, alternate dimension of Eerie. The milkman implies that he's an older version of Marshall.
- When Lois & Clark started having story arcs involving time travel and alternate universes, none other than H.G. Wells himself arrives to advise the heroes.
- An episode involving virtual reality has Jimmy Olsen advise Superman on how to catch the bad guys in the virtual world.
- In Quantum Leap it was implied that some conscious force (possibly even God) was guiding Sam' jumps to ensure that he did the most good. This was a deconstruction since this mysterious guide was never actually seen or had a voice (although they met someone who might have been them). It only made itself known by directing events like an actual deity would and, of course, when it did more or less directly interact with the main character, it was a total Mind Screw.
- Star Trek: Voyager: In "Future's End", Voyager finally gets back to Earth after falling through a space-time rift, but in 1996. At the end of the episode, a member of Starfleet from the future appears to send them back to the correct timeline (they get a bit worried at first, since the entire thing had started with the same future Starfleet member showing up and trying to destroy Voyager). Subverted when Captain Janeway asks if they can return to the correct time, but stay on Earth. Citing the Temporal Prime Directive, he has to refuse, and they're sent back to the Delta Quadrant on the other side of the galaxy.
- Supernatural plays with this trope a great deal.
- In Season 2, a Jinn traps Dean in an alternate timeline in which his mother never died and he lives an ordinary life. The real Sam searches for him offscreen and when Dean stabs himself in the dream-world, he wakes up to the real Sam untying him and helping him come-to.
- In Season 3, Sam finds himself in a time loop, forced to watch Dean die over and over again. Eventually, Dean's death appears permanent and Sam hunts down The Trickster responsible and forces him to restore Dean.
- In Season 4, Sam and Dean find themselves working ordinary office jobs with no memory of their real, monster-hunting lives or each other. Sam does have dreams of their real life, and the two eventually team up to hunt a ghost. In the end, both of them decide to quit the office work and become ghost-hunters. At that time, it's revealed to be a Secret Test by the angel Zachariah, who tells Dean that he's a hunter by nature and no matter what will always come back to it.
- In Season 5, Zachariah transports Dean to a Bad Future where Sam has said "yes" to Lucifer and the world is ravaged by a Zombie Apocalypse. Dean meets his Jerkass future self who has become cold enough to sacrifice his friends, including Castiel, to try and kill Sam/Lucifer. Zachariah hopes this will convince Dean to say "yes" to Michael, but present-day Castiel rescues Dean, who resolves to reconcile with Sam.
- In Season 5, the Trickster transports Sam and Dean into a warped reality, where they find themselves in Trapped in TV Land. At one point, Castiel bursts in on them, revealing that he has been searching for them and that he believes The Trickster may not be who he says he is. The Trickster thwarts Castiel, but not before he gives Sam and Dean enough clues to figure out that The trickster is an angel, so they can trap him and force him to return them to reality.
- In Season 6, Sam and Dean are transported to a universe where magic and ghosts are not real, and their lives are chronicled in a fictional television series called Supernatural. After being mistaken for the actors who play them, the real Castiel shows up and transports them back to their universe.
- Also in Season 6, the brothers go about their ordinary monster hunting activities in a Ford Mustang, work with Bobby and his wife Ellen and discover people whose ancestors arrived on a ship called the Titanic are being killed by one of The Fates. Eventually, with the help of Balthazar (who had saved the ship and angered the Fates) and Castiel, they return the timeline to normal even though that means Ellen and Jo will return to being dead.
- The Twilight Zone (1985): In the story "A Matter of Minutes", the foreman of a group of people (played by Adolph Caesar) takes time to explain to a couple who end up 'outside time' how time really works, even showing them an animated computer graphic prepared for such an event.
- In the Farscape episode "Through the Looking Glass", Moya enters starburst without enough energy to finish the task. She gets stuck halfway and split across four partial dimensions that are interconnected through localized rifts. Crichton eventually makes contact with a "gatekeeper" from outside the universe whose job is to repair breaches, and tries to help him navigate Moya out.
- Rachel Alucard from BlazBlue helps Makoto get back to the "main" timeline (after being trapped in one of the many timelines where Noel never existed) in Story Mode. Her reason for doing this apparently being that Makoto has "moxie".
- When the group in Chrono Trigger first winds up at the End of Time, an old man there actually the guru Gaspar gives a basic explanation of the time travel system and latter keeps track of what you are supposed to do. Conveniently, this is the first time the party has a chance to time travel freely, rather than being pushed into the gates by outside events.
- A Time Travel focused Carmen Sandiego game had these.
- Teddie is set up to fill this role in Persona 4 but he's just as clueless as everyone else as to what's going on. Still, he does lead the group to the people inside the TV until Rise takes over the job.
- Morgana in Persona 5 helps explain Palaces to the Phantom Thieves and serves as a guide, but only really has a general idea of how things work and half the time is just guessing.
- Dungeons & Dragons (1983) would have Dungeon Master pop in Once an Episode to dispense advice to the characters lost from our world.
- Miss Information from Histeria! would guide people through historic events and describe them, usually getting some details hilariously wrong and needing to be corrected.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) (as well as the comic) there's a character called Lord Simultaneous who holds the time scepter and generally manages time with his incompetent assistant Renet. He's even voiced like a New York tour guide, and has been key to helping our heroes out of time displacement related predicaments more than once (to the point of Deus ex Machina). Read more here.
- In Gargoyles one can move between any body of water (and we do mean any. In series, a swimming pool counted, and in the Comics, a large pot for boiling water for laundry did the trick) and the shores Avalon by invoking the spell. However, returning back isn't so precise. Avalon will send you to the real world, but it's not going to be your original location, but somewhere random (body of water still applies) with some weirdness going on. It's implied through the repeated description of the process ("Avalon doesn't send you where you want to go, it sends you where you need to be") that there is some consciousness making the arrival choice. Like wise, it's random as to how long this keeps happening, but all three onscreen uses do eventually wind up in the correct location (Tom finding the rest of the Manhattan Clan, King Author returning to England (only to be transported to another location by other magic, and Goliath and crew getting back to Manhattan). Of course, "where you need to be" is still in effect, so that means weirdness is about to go down.
- Futurama: When the brains send Fry back to 1999, Lord Nibbler explains to Fry why it's so important he actually goes to the Future.