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Zeerust Canon

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Top: A New Hope (1977)
Bottom: Rogue One, its prequel (2016)
Rose: Why does [K-9] look so disco?!
The Doctor: Oi! Listen, in the year 5000, this was cutting edge!
Doctor Who, snarking in 2006's "School Reunion" at its own 1970s idea of 'futuristic'

A work is a sequel or prequel to a work that is outdated in one way or another but subsequent works have to keep the setting. Why? Because it's canonical. Some ways of working around this can include setting the story in an Alternate History, having a wide range of fashions and technologies, or invoking Technology Marches On for sequels that move away from the outdated aspects.

A franchise needs to be long established to fit this trope. If a show portrays a world that seems out-of-date even when it's new, it's in a Retro Universe.

See also: Zeerust, Failed Future Forecast, Cosmetically-Advanced Prequel, Two Decades Behind, The Aesthetics of Technology. And Retcon, for when this trope is averted.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Fist of the North Star, which was originally published in Weekly Shonen Jump during the 1980s, the war which destroyed the world took place in 199X and the term Seikimatsu ("End of the Century") is used to refer to the era the story takes place. Many spin-offs, remakes and video game adaptations have been produced in the years since the original manga ended way into the 21st century. The nuclear holocaust still took place in 199X in all of these spin-offs and Kenshiro and Raoh still retain their titles as the "Savior/Conqueror of Century's End", respectively. The English localization of the Ken's Rage games downplays the original setting by having all references to Seikimatsu translated as "Post-Apocalyptic" or "near future" depending on the context.
  • Macross Zero. Super Dimension Fortress Macross, released in the early 1980s, had a unification war at the start of the 21st century. Come the 21st century and Macross is still a the writers decided to use the war during the show anyway. On an even more fundamental level, the Macross landed on Earth in the far-off future year of 1999. The Earth was scoured with Zentradi fire in the even further-off year of 2010. The landing of the Macross is the prime divergence point because its arrival (and the realization that there were potentially hostile aliens out there) is what started the Unification Wars, a point which can confuse new viewers because in Robotech it was what ended the Unification Wars.

    Comic Books 
  • Savage was originally published in 1977, taking place in 1999. When the events of Invasion obviously didn't come to pass, it was Retconned as taking place in an Alternate History.
  • The Back to the Future comics retain the films' goofy Zeerust version of 2015, but reconcile it with Real Life by showing that real-world advances like the internet and social media exist, but didn't come up during Marty and Doc's trip to the future.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blade Runner 2049 has an interesting take on this. The original Blade Runner is set in 2019, which in 1982 was thirty-seven years in the future. 2049 came out in 2017, just two years away from when the original movie is set. To get around this issue, the film is explicitly and deliberately set in an alternate future, though it isn't outright stated - for example, a holographic advertisement depicting giant ballerinas can be heard saying "CCCP", because in the world of 2049, Soviet collapse never happened. Also, many of the companies that have infamously gone bust or massively restructured since the original film's release are still extant in 2049, as shown by an enormous Atari logo that the protagonist flies over.
  • The iconic Jurassic Park dinosaurs have managed to endure the series despite the fact that many of them probably look nothing like the real thing. For example, Velociraptor was shown as featherless and as big as Deinonychus, but Science Marches On and now we know that they were fully feathered (and smaller, but they knew this when they made Jurassic Park). In the original book, Dr. Wu makes a point of saying the InGen scientists were never even trying for realism in the first place, an explanation repurposed for Jurassic World to justify the continued inaccuracies. Another factor to it arises in Jurassic World, though not directly stated in the film itself, which retroactively explains the lack of feathers being that there's a "null gene" which causes all the dinosaurs to have scales instead, boiling down to being that InGen/Masrani hasn't yet been able to figure out "feathers" and "viable embryos" at the same time.
  • In Mad Max: Fury Road, most of the vehicles are based on pre-1979 models, in keeping with the original trilogy. Justified in that They Don't Make Them Like They Used To — these models can stand up to the harsh desert conditions better than modern computerized vehicles, so even if later models ever existed, the older ones are the only working cars left. Same goes for the guns featured in the film, most of which would have been around when the original film was released with the notable exception of the Glock that Max and Furiosa pass between each other throughout the film.
  • The Michael Radford film adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four retains the late 1940's tech such as pneumatic tubes, in order to show how the totalitarian dictatorship of Ingsoc has stifled development and creativity.
  • Star Trek (2009) uses Broad Strokes and an Alternate Timeline to try to walk the line between maintaining the look of the original series, including some very '60s elements like the female uniform of a miniskirt with go-go-boots, and making it look futuristic to a 2009 audience. Interestingly, this is completely averted by the original film series, which made no attempt whatsoever to retain design elements from previous films or the TV series, if they thought they had a better visualization. Explained in-universe by the Enterprise, at that point one of the oldest active ships in the fleet, having undergone a refit to stay up to date. Somewhat averted, however, with the USS Kelvin which looks slightly more advanced than the TOS Enterprise even though it's older.
  • Star Wars:
    • The prequels are supposed to take place before the original films, which feature varying levels of Seventies and Eighties Zeerust. Lucas rather cleverly got around this by incorporating some elements of even older Raygun Gothic styles into the technology of the prequels; the uber-shiny ships on Naboo come to mind. This was to reflect the better overall quality of life in the Republic era; by Revenge of the Sith, much of the Used Future look from the original trilogy was back in place, representing the transition into the Galactic Empire. This continues into The Force Awakens, which takes place 30 years after the events of the original trilogy and keeps many of the same motifs in terms of environments, costumes, weapons and vehicle design.
    • This plays a large part in Rogue One as it chronologically takes place just days before A New Hope. The film actually maintains the 1977 aesthetic and in-universe visual graphics blending it seamlessly with A New Hope as well as the original Star Wars Trilogy. A notable example is the storage medium of the Death Star plans: while it's about the size of a 3.5" hard drive, it has a pair of circular motifs on it that imply magnetic tape spools, fitting the "stolen data tapes" description from A New Hope.note 
    • The Disney-produced installments mix this motif with ones of Raygun Gothic and Everything Is an iPod in the Future, with more utilitarian walkers and ski-skimmers coexisting with newer, more pristine spacecraft, and a speeder that needs to be started by hotwiring the ignition; to name a few.
  • The Terminator series originally had Judgment Day in 1997. Following media changed it to 2004/5 (third/fourth movies) or 2011 (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), and the evil machines had new technologies assimilated to their backstories (Skynet spreads itself online) while retaining old touches (the Robo Cam still has old-school computer code). Then Terminator Genisys enforces this further by reverting Judgement Day to 1997... until an Alternate Timeline is created where it's in 2017. And the characters arrive there, 2 years after the film's release but very much like the real life 2015. Terminator: Dark Fate goes the same way, as the original Judgement Day was averted, the present is just one year after the film's release (2020), and yet the Skynet substitute took advantage of new technology while doing the same things as its "predecessor".
  • Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla was released in 2002, but an early scene illustrates the fictional history of the Anti-Megalosaurus Force using footage from classic monster films like Mothra (1961) and War of the Gargantuas (1966), featuring distinctively old-school Raygun Gothic vehicles and weaponry. In the rest of the film, the AMF's modern hardware takes major design cues from the older films but freshens them up with a more angular, militaristic look, creating a sense of believable continuity.

  • Robert A. Heinlein wrote stories in a "Future History"; the first one came out in 1939. He ended up including typical sci-fi speculations such as moving pedestrian walkways by the 1960s and moon bases by 1999. Eventually this was shown in The Number of the Beast to be an alternate time line, where the list of presidents was "Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy". The novel also introduced a more elegant way to track parallel universes: apparently the person who first lands on the moon is always different. We live in the Armstrong universe; most of Heinlein's Future History takes place in the LeCroix universe, after Leslie LeCroix's landing there in the novella The Man Who Sold the Moon.
  • Perry Rhodan, having started in the sixties, is a natural offender. When the material was cleaned up for re-publishing in book form, many elements were toned down (e.g. the Black-and-White Morality). However, on one book, the editor noted that he "just had to keep the pneumatic tube post, since it's a too silly idea to remove".
  • The original Dream Park was just asking for this trope when its future history included a massive earthquake that leveled much of California in 1985, a mere four years after its publication. The sequels initially retconned this event to 1995, then abandoned all pretense to let the series become Alternate History.
  • The late 21st century of The Medusa Chronicles (2016) by Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds is the one Arthur C. Clarke created in "A Meeting with Medusa" (1971); there's a World Government; the inner solar system has been colonised; there are clunky robots and mobile phone-equivalents but computers don't seem to be a major factor. (The novel spans many centuries in which things rapidly progress from this point, though). The point of divergence is the Apollo program being repurposed to stop a meteor strike; this results in more international co-operation, sustained enthusiasm for the space program, and maybe less interest in computing technology since all NASA's fancy calculators couldn't do the job and it came down to the human factor.
  • Leigh Brackett's first Eric John Stark stories (published in the 1940's and 50's) had the character adventuring on a Venus full of vast swamps and oceans, and a Mars that, while arid and fallen from its ancient greatness, still supported a vast human population. When Brackett returned to Stark in the 1970's, space probes had shown the other planets of our solar system to be barren of life (or at least life as we know it), so Brackett invented the extra-solar planet Skaith as a new setting for the stories. However, those stories still referenced Stark's childhood growing up on Mercury - even though an Earth-like Mercury was just as discredited as an Earth-like Mars or Venus, it was too important to Stark's character to be written out.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who and its Expanded Universe, which began way back in 1963, has a fair bit of Zeerust in its past but skirts round mention of failed predictions through its use of Broad Strokes continuity, aside from the odd Mythology Gag.
    • Additionally, the only stories from the original 1963-89 run of the show that were explicitly set at a future date in the 20th or indeed 21st century were made in the 1960s. Many of its "future" stories, including all those made in the 1970s and '80s, avoid this by either not mentioning a date at all or explicitly setting stories centuries or millennia into the future. The 21st-century show however started setting themselves up for this by doing things like explicitly dating "The Waters of Mars" (which is about gruesome events occurring on the first permanently-crewed human base on Mars) to the relatively close 2059 (which is now closer to the present day than the airdate of the first episode in 1963).
    • As an example, the 1966 story "The Tenth Planet" was set in 1986, by which time the UN has an International Space Command with a base at the South Pole and Cybermen invade the Earth in a big way. (No prior story had taken place in the future so close in time to the present day.) The 1985 story "Attack of the Cybermen" managed to function as a sequel to this story without really delving into the way that Who history and real history diverged. The Backstory of the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Iceberg, set in 2006 (though published in the 1990s), though, had the advanced tech and proactive UN as the logical follow-on from the "UNIT era" (whenever that was...)
    • The Doctor's former Robot Buddy K9 first appeared in "The Invisible Enemy", which aired in 1977. Since then, at least in the parent show and The Sarah Jane Adventures, he has not undergone a significant remodelling, so that his design aesthetic remains stuck in a '70s idea of 'futuristic'. When K9 re-appeared in "School Reunion" (2006), Present Day characters commented on his plainly dated appearance — see the page quote above.
    • In "Hell Bent", the Doctor steals another TARDIS from Gallifrey as a means of escape. An extended sequence takes place inside, which looks identical to the very first TARDIS interior set from 1963 (complete with big bulky doors and "round things" on the walls), officially canonizing it as the "default" TARDIS setting.
    • The Movellans, robotic enemies of the Daleks, first appeared in 1979's "Destiny of the Daleks", looking like they came straight out of a disco, with silver metallic dreadlocks and the lot. Jump to 2017 and their brief cameo fighting the Daleks in "The Pilot", and they look exactly the same, leading someone on YouTube to reimagine what that battle might have sounded like...
  • Red Dwarf is set in the late 22nd century and beyond but aired the bulk of its initial run in the late 1980s and early '90s. When the show was revived in 2009 the crew travels back to Earth in the then present-day, and discovers DVDs — apparently for the purpose of comically addressing the issue that they'd been using VHS tapes in the future in the original series. We discover that videotapes made a comeback because people kept misplacing DVD discs, whereas VHS tapes are just "too big to lose".
  • Star Trek
    • The Star Trek prequel series, Star Trek: Enterprise took place over a century before the original Star Trek series. Their approach to the stylistic differences was to make the "older" ship look like a submarine with noticeable bolts in the walls, crossbeams in the hallways and generally much smaller crew quarters and offices. In the Mirror Universe episode, the campy, zeerusty TOS-era ship Defiant is sent back from the 2260s of the prime reality to the mid-2150s of the Mirror Universe and everyone still marvels at how "futuristic" it is, as despite looking dated to the audience the more spacious comfort factor was ramped up.
    • Star Trek also goes back and forth on this in regards to the Eugenics Wars. In the original series it was said to be a massive worldwide conflict that took place in the 1990s. One episode of Voyager has them time travel back to 1990s California with no apparent war. However, canonicity nevertheless goes with the 1990s, with at least one semi-canonical novel claiming the Wars were clandestine happenings underlying the publicly known events of the 1990s. And then Enterprise had one of the characters mention that his great-grandfather participated in a battle against Augment forces in North Africa, while another episode reinforced the 'entire populations were bombed out of existence' story TOS had gone with. A prequel comic to Star Trek Into Darkness (which would be making claims about events in the original Trek timeline, since the divergence point to the later films' alternate timeline is much later than the 1990s) claimed that the Eugenics Wars did take place openly in the 1990s, but were shorter and less devastating than earlier canon claimed. Even then, it was implied that the character telling the story was lying. Of course, it didn't help that Spock had referred to the Eugenics Wars as "your [Earth's] last World War" in "Space Seed", only for later continuity to establish that World War III was a separate event in the mid-21st century. However, Spock also noted in practically the same breath that the historical records of that period were "fragmentary", so this effectively gives writers an excuse for characters to conflate the two conflicts. Finally, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds established that the Temporal Cold War has caused so much havoc in the timeline that certain events that have to happen are simply being jostled around and made to occur later, with the new date of the Eugenics Wars being between the 2030s and 2050s and preceeding World War III by a much shorter time.

    Video Games 
  • The Metal Gear series is probably the king of this trope, given its constant focus on the world of "tactical espionage" and each game that's not a prequel takes place 20 Minutes into the Future.
    • Somewhat subverted by the original Metal Gear, which was released in 1987, but originally took in the unspecific year of 19XX (it was only established to take place in 1995 in the sequels). The game for the most part manages to avoid referencing actual nations and organizations, aside for the backstories of the enemy bosses, who are all veterans formerly affiliated with various special forces.
    • Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, which was released in 1990 and takes place in 1999, references the Soviet Union and the StB (Czechoslovakian Secret Police) still being around. One character, a Czechoslovakian woman named Natasha, even compares her doomed romance with an American soldier (Frank) with the Berlin Wall (which was destroyed the same year the game came out). The plot summary of the game that was included in Metal Gear Solid attempted to reconcile some of these outdated inconsistencies by claiming that the army Zanzibarland fought for their independence was not the USSR, but the CIS, and by making Natasha (who herself was later renamed "Gustava" in re-releases of the game) into a former StB agent.
    • Metal Gear Solid came out in 1998, but the game itself takes place in 2005 (six years after Metal Gear 2), and has such glaringly outdated things such as the use of the term "Japanimation" instead of anime.
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty came out in 2001 and took place in 2007 and 2009. The demo version that came with the original Zone of the Enders even had the Twin Towers in the background, which was almost kept in the final game until the unfortunate timing of the 9/11 attacks. Said unfortunate event happened two days before the game was scheduled to go gold. Needless to say, the development team went into panicked work mode to avoid falling into this trope before their game was released.
    • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots came out in 2008 after the events of Metal Gear Solid, and the first half of Metal Gear Solid 2 had already passed. This also overlaps significantly with the Ruritanian Setting of the first two games, with fictional countries like Outer Heaven, and Zanzibarland. And, since the game takes place in 2014, in real life, business for PMCs is actually on the decline.
  • Back to the Future: The Game runs into this with the 2011 Point-and-Click video game. The final episode includes both Xbox 360 headsets (from the Real Life 2000s) and the Mattel Hoverboard (from the second film's 2015).
  • Alien:
    • Zig-Zagged in Aliens: Colonial Marines. Everything canonical from the film is painstakingly recreated as it was in the 1980s. However, pass through one door and suddenly the Sulaco's interior becomes Everything Is an iPod in the Future.
    • When creating Alien: Isolation, Creative Assembly deliberately filled the setting with the same sort of '70s and '80s computer technology that had been seen in the films for this reason. It extends to every facet of the game's style, including the in-universe advertising, magazines, signs, and fashion, creating a sci-fi world where the '70s never truly ended.
  • Wasteland 2 deliberately keeps the first game's vision of the future from 1988, despite coming out in 2014: computers are huge white blocks with comparatively small green and black monitors. The icon for the computer skill is a 5.25'' floppy. You even find random '80s crap like Rubik's cubes. Wasteland 3 keeps going, with an appearance by an AI version of Ronald Reagan and an explicit reference to Ghostbusters (1984).
  • Played straight in the PC Engine version of Snatcher and then subverted in the Sega CD version. The original NEC PC-8801 and MSX2 versions of the game, which were released in 1988, had 80% of the Eurasian population dying from a biohazard outbreak in 1991. The PC Engine version, which was released in 1992, kept this backstory unchanged, likely due to the fact that most Japanese players were already familiar with the original versions of the game. The Sega CD version, which was released in North America and Europe in 1994 and was made specifically for those markets, moves the date of this event to 1996, changing all the subsequent dates in the game by five years.
  • Cyberpunk 2077 is based on a pen-and-paper RPG from the late '80s and '90s that originally presented the year 2020 as "the future". 2077, which actually came out in the year 2020, naturally stuck to its predecessor's Cassette Futurism vision of the future, from the boxy, '80s-looking vehicles on the road to Japan and a United Europe being the world's economic superpowers to the USSR still existing.
    • In addition, Johnny Silverhand's flashback scenes are set in the timeline of the original Tabletop RPG: 2013 and 2023, presenting the same zeerust of the original games.
  • RoboCop: Rogue City, made in 2023, is based on a series of sci-fi movies from The '80s and keeps their distinctly '80s vision of the future, with regards to everything from big computer monitors to the titular protagonist's cybernetic enhancements to the punkish criminals and street drugs.

    Western Animation 
  • When The Jetsons was revived in the 1980s, it continued to be set in the Raygun Gothic-style future established by the original 1960s episodes despite advances in technology since then.note  It even carried over into the 1990 movie.


Video Example(s):



K9's dated look is lampshaded by Rose as "disco" (note that the character was introduced in 1977). The Doctor finds this very offensive.

How well does it match the trope?

4.9 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / ZeerustCanon

Media sources: