So, there are three main types of time travel. Or, at the very least, that’s the way I tend to classify time travel events in my head whenever I think about it. Which I kinda do a lot, because I’m that much of a nerd. Whatever.
With slight adjustments for the details of a particular time travel event, I really believe that these three categories can be applied to explain and classify every instance of time travel in comics/movies/books/TV shows/etc.
1. Time is Unchanging: All time travel that happens was always meant to happen. There’s just one timeline; all events are fixed and built into it and can’t be changed. In fact, trying to change or avoid things often means that you, the time-traveller, are the one who makes them happen.
Ex: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure| Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban| Kate and Leopold| Premonition| Supreme| Timeline.
2. Time as a River: Time travel can change certain things, but the things that were meant to happen will happen eventually. You might be able to change small details or delay things, but eventually the timeline will correct itself. It’s like throwing rocks into a river: pebbles make ripples, where you can see the tiny effects, but it won’t change the major flow.
Ex: Doctor Who| Journeyman| Terminator| The Time Machine
3. Time Changes into Alternate Timelines: The act of time travel always causes a change of some sort, and an alternate timeline branches off from that moment. This is where the most significant changes can happen and so it’s the most commonly seen. This one’s the most complicated just because different ‘verses deal with the role of the traveller and the state of their timeline in so many different ways.
Some ‘Role of the Traveller’ options:
- merge with your other self and have memories of both timelines (I’ve only ever seen this in Harry Potter fanfiction, but it exists)
- replace your other self (Batman/Superman Absolute Power)
- cause yourself to never be born (why Marty fades in Back to the Future)
- you and the other you(s) can exist simultaneously (old and young Spock in the ’09 Star Trek movie);
Some ‘State of the Timeline’ options:
- jump between the past and the future making and seeing changes instantly
- changes in the past create a new timeline, completely erasing yours giving you nowhere to jump back to
- jump to the future and return to the past to create a new timeline based on what you learned
Ex: 13 Going on 30| Back to the Future| Batman/Superman: Absolute Power| Charmed| Cinderella 3: A Stitch in Time| Eureka| Heroes| Star Trek
Can you think of more examples of time travel?
Is there anything that doesn’t fit into these categories? Anything that should be reclassified?