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Millions of years ago, in a distant galaxy...

The Distant Prologue is a short introduction scene that takes place a significant amount of time before the main plot starts.

Bonus points if it has subtitles in visual media: for example, "8,000 Years Ago", followed by "Present Day" after the Time Skip to the period when the majority of the work takes place. Can overlap with When It All Began.

Examples of Distant Prologue include:


Cross-Media

  • The Stargate Verse loves doing this, in both movies and TV series.
    • The original Stargate movie had two distant prologues: one in Egypt in 8,000 BC, followed by Egypt in 1928, and finally the United States of the "present day" (which is somewhere in 1994-1996 -- the franchise is somewhat inconsistent about this).
    • Stargate Atlantis starts with a flashback to millions of years ago, when the Ancients left Antarctica for the Pegasus galaxy in the titular city-ship.
    • The Ark of Truth starts with a Distant Prologue in an even earlier time period, when the Ancients left their home galaxy for the Milky Way galaxy.
      • The specific wording also sounds like a parody of Star Wars

Anime and Manga

  • Mai-Otome, to 14 years ago, when all three main characters were infants (and the series is intentionally misleading on which one of them appears in the prologue).
  • Flame of Recca, with the prologue taking place 400 years earlier
  • Pokémon films have done this in the fourth, seventh, and eighth movies.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S begins with Nanoha rescuing a child Subaru before fast-forwarding to the present time with a now teenage Subaru preparing for her qualifying mage exam for B-Rank. According to the lore, four years pass in-between.
  • One Piece starts with the execution of Gold Roger on the first page, time skips to Luffy's childhood for the rest of the first chapter, then time skips another 10 years to when Luffy becomes a pirate. (In the anime, Gold Roger's execution was exposition put in the start of the opening theme and Luffy's backstory became a Whole-Episode Flashback just after Zoro joined the crew.)
  • The Akira film starts with a very short prologue set in 1988 (basically showing the destruction of Tokyo with what initially appears to be a new kind of bomb) and quickly cuts to the year 2019.
  • The Silent Möbius TV series opens with Project Gaia going awry in 1999 and then cuts to somewhere around 2029 or 2030.
  • Dragon Ball Kai opens with the final scenes of the Dragonball Z TV special Bardock: The Father of Goku, set 23 years before the start of the series.

Comic Books

  • Y: The Last Man does this in some issues.
  • Elf Quest starts with the arrival of the first elves, trolls and preservers on the World of Two Moons and their fateful meeting with humans, and then jumps forward about ten thousand years between two panels!
  • Immortal Iron Fist starts in the 13th century with one of the early Iron Fists defending his home; from this point on the story takes place in the modern day.

Film

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey starts out at "The Dawn of Man", and then flashes forward to 2001
  • The first The Lord of the Rings movie during its prologue flashes to various events, the oldest of them five thousand years ago, and the youngest the 60-years-past events of The Hobbit.
  • Night Watch starts in 1992 and cuts to 2004. Its sequel Day Watch starts with Tamerlan (Timur)'s assault on Samarkand.
  • The Sixth Sense.
  • Rules of Engagement opens with a jungle. Obviously it's going to be Vietnam, and it is. It's a prologue to establish Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson's characters.
  • Batman Returns.
  • Ang Lee's Hulk.
  • Bram Stokers Dracula.
  • The movie adaptations of Ghost Rider.
  • Demolition Man starts out in 1996 and then John Spartan and Simon Phoenix are frozen and thawed out in 2032.
  • Stardust has this, in both forms, where it depicts the father of the actual protagonist crossing the Wall and eventually meeting up with the mother of the protagonist.
  • Genesis II (1973) starts in 1979 with scientist Dylan Hunt taking part in an experiment in suspended animation. A collapse covers him up, and he's awakened 154 years later in the year 2133.
  • A deleted opening of The Mask had Vikings rowing to America to throw the mask "off the edge of the world".
  • The Fifth Element starts in c.1900 when aliens take artifacts from an archaeological dig. The story then jumps forward to the far future, where we meet the main characters... and they end up needing to look for the artifacts.
  • The Final Sacrifice has the opening scene, the opening credits, and then "Seven years later." In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, they ask, "Seven years after the credits?"
  • Star Trek Generations and Star Trek (2009). The former shows the launch of the USS Enterprise-B and its encounter with the Nexus to set up Picard and Kirk's meeting; the latter shows Nero's initial appearance at Kirk's birth to set up pretty much the entire film.
  • The Disney films The Jungle Book Hercules and Tarzan all start off with the discovery of an orphaned or otherwise abandoned child.
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire starts with the fall of Atlantis, several millennia ago. There was originally supposed to be a second one after that, with a group of viking explorers searching for the place where Atlantis was, but it was cut from the theatrical version.
    • The Viking sequence was intended to be the prologue; they replaced it with Atlantis' destruction near the end of production.
  • G.I. Joe the Rise of Cobra
  • Armageddon:

 Narrator: This is the Earth at a time when the dinosoars ruled a lush and fertile planet. A piece of rock just six miles wide changed all that.

65 MILLION YEARS LATER

Literature

  • Good Omens has three. Genesis, sealing the garden, and twelve years ago.
  • Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds, maybe (it appears at first to take place in the distant future, but it doesn't take too long for the main action of the book to move into the even more distant future).
  • The Wheel of Time starts with Lews Therin Telamon finding out that in his madness he killed his wife. He kills himself and the story picks up 3,000 years later where Lews Therin is reborn as Rand al'Thor.
  • The Way of Kings has a timejump after each of the first few chapters, getting progressively smaller. Starting with thousands of years, then 5 years, then a few months...
  • Death Day has a prologue set about 500 years before the main story..
  • Almost every book in The Belgariad and its sequel series, The Mallorean. Most of the time these prologues are told in the style of a historical document or legend
  • Going Postal has "The 9000 Year Prologue" and "The One Month Prologue". The former is from the point of view of a golem stuck on the bottom of the ocean.
    • It's not anything plot-relevant either - it's just the only interesting thing that happened to him in all that time.
  • Stranger in A Strange Land begins with the first ship to Mars taking off, along with some information on the crew before it crashes. It picks up again years later when the next ship to Mars is sent out and Michael is found.
  • Several Warrior Cats books have prologues which take place long before the main story. The most notable ones are Firestar's Quest and Sky Clans Destiny, which take place about 20-30 years before the story begins (and seeing as the characters are cats, none of them were born yet back then).
    • Also notable is Dark River, which takes place at least twice as early as those.
  • Although the prologue in The Fall of the Sea People is set nearly 900 years before chapter 1, it is a character's childhood example rather than an ancient history example: Éirime is an immortal by the time she returns home.
  • Lightweights all. The prologue to The Silmarillion takes place before the Creation.

Live Action TV

  • A few episodes of The X-Files have prologues that take place years after the actual episode is set, such as Duane Barry and Young At Heart. The opening scene of The Movie actually opens in prehistoric times and then flashes ahead to 1998.
  • Gerry Anderson's UFO begins one year in the future (ie 1970) with Colonel Straker witnessing a UFO attack. The rest of the series takes place 11 years in the future (1980) when Straker is head of the anti-UFO organization SHADO.
  • Supernatural.
  • Lost's "The Incident" begins in a period that's at least a couple hundred years prior to either main plot.
  • Red Dwarf starts off in 2180 (though that date has changed several times. Only the first book and Ourobourous have confirmed this, with the first two series saying late 21st century and series 3/4 saying 23rd). Skip three million years once Lister enters stasis.

Video Games

  • If used in videogames, it's often a Justified Tutorial. For example, in Final Fantasy XII, the prologue puts you in the shoes of a rookie soldier caught in an unexpected ambush, having to quickly learn the ropes. Afterwards, you flash forwards to his younger brother, in another time and place, and the game proper begins.
  • Also used in the little-known Steambot Chronicles, where the tutorial shows a young boy being taught how to maneuver one of the titular Steambots, prior to a lengthy boat-trip. The game proper begins with another boy waking up with Easy Amnesia after a shipwreck.
  • Tales of Phantasia.
  • Tales of Innocence.
  • Lufia.
  • Done in Command and Conquer: Red Alert, except that "present day" is actually WW 2-era.
  • Mother 3.
  • The intro from Freelancer picks up where Starlancer ends, with an "800 years later" separating the two.
  • Homeworld, as seen here. This turns out to be just a taste, as the backstory of the video game is extended further, later.
  • Dragon Quest III has a prelude showing bits and pieces of your father Ortega's journey, leading up to his fateful confrontation with a dragon atop a volcano. After he vanishes, the king declares that you, his then-infant son or daughter, must continue his journey once you're old enough. The game proper begins on your Dangerous Sixteenth Birthday.
  • Xenogears has an opening cutscene set several thousand years before the main plot. Its connection to the plot only becomes apparent many hours in.
  • Xenosaga opens with the discovery of a mysterious artifact on Earth. The games take place a long long time later, after Earth has been lost.
  • Dreamfall starts with Brian Westhouse (a side character from The Longest Journey) in a Tibetan monastery in 1933. Chapter one is about Zoe Castillo, resident of Casablanca in 2219. DF then tops it by having a reverse-Distant Finale: The Stinger is about Briant Westhouse before he arrives at the monastery from the prologue.
  • Max Payne starts off with a scene from the ending, then jumps back three years, to the day Max's wife and daughter were murdered, then forward to the start of the game proper.

Web Comics:

Western Animation:

  • The pilot of Futurama starts off in 1999, and the rest of the season takes place in the year 3000.
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