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"There is a vessel in your world where the days of my life are pressed together like the chapters of a book so that he may step from one to the other without increase of age, while I, weary traveler, must always take the slower path."
Madame de Pompadour, Doctor Who, "The Girl in the Fireplace"

"I'll see you in 500 years, Picard." --Guinan

"And I'll see you...in a few minutes." --Picard
Guinan and Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Episode: Time's Arrow Part 2

A mild tragedy for a time traveler, particularly applicable to the longer-lived variety.

A sort of breakdown of Meanwhile in the Future, The Slow Path is what a character travels down when they use time travel to experience much more time than the other characters in the story.

This typically takes one of two forms: a character can use time travel to take a "time out" from the story at large, returning when they are good and ready (or simply manages to blunder their way back home). Alternatively, a character might be left behind by time travel, and therefore be forced to return to the present by "going the long way." If a Human Popsicle or a longer-lived being is not involved, this can be particularly tragic, with the character forced to burn up a sizable chunk of their vital years.

If a time traveler gets stuck experiencing this trope for a very long time from the relative view of another time traveler, and yet does not act or behave any differently can be considered a case of Out of Time, Out of Mind.

The question of why the slow-pathed hero doesn't show up in their own previous adventures to lend a hand is generally addressed by the dangers of the Temporal Paradox, depending on which flavor of Timey Wimey Balls are in play that week (after all, they know all their previous adventures are going to turn out all right as they are).

Of course, if a spaceship is available, traveling forward in time is easy. Just accelerate to as close to the speed of light as its engines can manage, and the slow path gets a good bit faster. Oddly enough, despite Time Dilation being commonly seen in sci-fi stories, it's almost never used to escape from time travel mishaps.

See also Write Back to the Future.

Examples of The Slow Path include:


Anime

  • In Dinosaur King, Rex uses the time machine to go home to the future. Suddenly, the ship comes back. Zoe and Max wonder if he stopped his journey or was gone for a long time just to return to the day he left.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico: A jump back several years is how Ai grows up to be Inez Fressange.
  • In the manga of Sailor Moon, Sailor Pluto dies in the "future" to save Chibiusa. She reveals herself to Chibiusa in the next arc in the present day, having explained she was reincarnated backwards in time to a point before Sailor Moon's adventures began. She laid low until after the Senshi went forward in time, saw her death, and returned. This also explains how the Time Gate still has a Guardian while Setsuna is with the rest of the Senshi. Presumably she'll wait until her previous self dies and then take over her old duties at the Time Gate. The Anime of Sailor Moon does something different.
  • During the second season of GaoGaiGar, ChoRyuJin pushes a massive asteroid back through a portal, and is believed lost. A few days episodes later, Mamoru's class takes a field trip to look for ancient fossils, and to their great surprise, digs him up. It turned out that he ended up millions of years in the past; the asteroid caused the dinosaurs to go extinct.
  • Suzumiya Haruhi
    • After Mikuru lost her time-machine while a trip to the past with Kyon, Yuki time-freezes them sleeping in her guest-bedroom, so they wouldn't age while the time was passing by.
    • During the repeating summer vacation, Nagato reveals that she remembers every loop, accounting for something like 595 years.
      • In some ways, the viewers themselves. If you didn't realize that only the first and last of the 8 episodes were truely different(like reading the spoilers), you'd have been stuck watching through the same things 7 times in a row.
  • The ending of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time has Chiaki return to his time in the future, promising to wait for Matoko, who can no longer time-travel. "I'll be right there. I'll run there."
  • In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Furude Rika mentions "we were getting tired of waiting" when Keiichi moves to Hinamizawa. You'd be tired of waiting too, if you had spent a hundred years in a (sort of) Groundhog Day Loop.
  • The "left behind" version happens to Mai and Mea in Popotan, for a five year period. Mai gets to enjoy going to school and having friends.
  • An example in reverse order found in one of Yuichi Hasegawa's short manga. A boy "traveled" from ancient Greek using a cold sleep capsule. His intention is to enjoy the future a little then travel back to his time with his already-available time machine, which cannot go to the future since "the future does not yet exist." The boy is actually Perseus - sent to the present by Zeus (who is actually a genius inventor). His adventure in the story is eventually passed down as the legend of Perseus.
  • A coffee grinder bought in a disappearing antiques store ( or the Lucifer Hawk that runs it) sends Yuki Saiko of Silent Moebius thirty years into the past, where she meets a young man named Tohru and they fall in love. When she gets back to her own time, they meet again and it turns out he's her landlord.
  • In Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt, it turns out that Garterbelt used to be a career criminal. When he died, God revived him as an Immortal and sent him back to the age of the dinosaurs to witness the entire evolution of mankind first-hand.

Comic Books

  • In The Uncanny X-men the team, along with Colossus's six year old sister Illyana spend a short time in the dimension of Limbo. When they escape back to Earth the portal suddenly closes, seemingly trapping Illyana in Limbo. But then portal reopens and she leaps through. However, due to the wonky way time passes in Limbo ten years had gone by leaving Illyana now a teenager.
  • In Neil Gaiman's original Books of Magic miniseries, the Well-Intentioned Extremist Mr. E takes the protagonist to the end of time, so he can kill him without interference. Death stops him, and forces him to take The Slow Path back -- with the implication that he will create a Stable Time Loop by teaching his younger self to time-walk.
  • In The DCU Crisis Crossover DC One Million, various Justice League members exchange places with their successors in the 853rd century. The Martian Manhunter and the Resurrection Man are already there. (As is Vandal Savage, who keeps coming up in this trope).
    • And Platinum of the Metal Men. She keeps the bodies of her former team, lost one by one.
  • In one particular JLA story, Plastic Man is blown to bit in the past and the heroes manage to return to the present. Plastic Man was forced to spend the three thousands years in between reconstructing himself. He remains conscious the whole time, and the experience somehow actually makes him LESS crazy. The arc also features the Green Lantern Kyle Rayner getting killed in the past, but "living" through the centuries as a ring-generated "ghost"... until the day he's discovered by the replacement League.
  • In Elf Quest, the immortal elf Rayek kidnaps the family of Cutter, chief of the mortal Wolfriders, and takes them roughly ten thousand years into the future. His plan is to save the ancestors of the elves during their initial time travel mishap (which sent them back into the past). However, this would prevent the Wolfriders from ever existing. Cutter has no idea when his (immortal) lifemate Leetah and their (mortal) children will ever appear again, and he knows that he will die after roughly six thousand years. The first five centuries are torment for him and his tribe, and they eventually decide to have themselves wrapped in a time-freezing cocoon. The immortal characters (including the troll king, whose daughter was also kidnapped) live the years out, as do a select few Wolfriders who dislike tampering with nature and who simply choose to life a normal life. The plot resumes ten thousand years later, when Cutter's lifemate and children finally see him again -- after what, for them, has only been a few hours. Later chapters show that Cutter's time without his family severely traumatized him -- he could simply not stop counting.
  • In the Deadpool/GLI Summer Fun Special, Squirrel Girl gets lost in time travel and ends up in 2099, with a version of her boyfriend who avoided becoming Darker and Edgier (literally). She decides it's not so bad, until fellow Great Lakes Initiative member Mr Immortal shows up to tell her how the present's going. She wonders how he traveled there, then remembers how. For those who don't know, Mr Immortal's power is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Bishop of the X-Men was stuck in the past during the team's mission to stop Legion. He therefore lived through the years as the Age of Apocalypse storyline unfolded until its "present day." While the entire AoA timeline was wiped out at the end of the event, Bishop's memories of his life there were inherited by his mainstream continuity self. Somehow.
  • The graphic novel "I Killed Hitler" is based on this.
  • In the first story arc of Midnighter, the titular hero uses this by saving a man's life during World War 2 and asking for, in return, him to deliver a message to the Big Bad in the future.
  • One issue of Flight Comics had a story abut a girl who found a box, invented by a Chinese man, which basically stopped aging and the need for bodily functions as long as one was inside. Then her brothers die. She crawls inside the box, falls asleep, and wakes up in the future, where she has a good life and falls in love. Turns out she never woke up, and the world ended above her.
  • In the Thorgal story Master of the Mountains, a time warping ring is used to deposit two characters in the past. One uses the ring to get back, the other has to take The Slow Path. This is done twice, once by a would-be Chessmaster in a ploy to end up with power and the girl, and once by the girl to counter the Chessmaster's ploy and kill him.
  • Alan Moore wrote a few comics for the Star Wars Expanded Universe. One of them is "Tiltony Throws a Shape", in which Leia, forced to land on a barren world and pursued by stormtroopers, comes across some ungodly ancient powerful beings. One kills Leia and the stormtroopers, and another resurrects them - Leia just fine where and when she was, letting her escape... the stormtroopers eight thousand years in the past. Leia comes across their dessicated bones, near where the ship landed long after their deaths.


Fanfic

Film

  • Bill and Teds Bogus Journey ends with the duo leaving and returning in their time machine, before explaining to the audience that they just slipped away for a year and a half to get married, have a honeymoon and actually learn to play the guitar!
  • In Back to The Future Part II and III, Doc, stranded in 1885, sends the broken time machine to himself and Marty in 1955 by sealing it in a cave and letting time pass so they can repair it. He also gave a letter to Western Union with instructions to hold it and not to deliver it to Marty until a few seconds after Doc was sent back.
    • In a way this happens to Doc in the first movie as well. Marty pops in from the future and he helps him get back, knowing he won't see Marty again for decades, and it'll be even longer before they can discuss what happened. Just before Marty goes back to 1985, Doc tells him how hard it'll be to wait 30 years to talk about the excitement of building a working time machine.
  • In (T)raumschiff Surprise: Periode 1, the character Spucky ends up taking the slow path after the time traveling couch the heroes travel on needs to lose weight. Spucky's Galapagos Turtle DNA (as well as some "not cheap" treatments) keep him looking exactly the same when the heroes arrive back in the future. Spucky does make the most of the time to glam up the earth, however.
  • The Final Countdown, Owen.
  • The movie Primer is about a box that lets you take the slow path backwards: if you want to travel back in time six hours, you have to spend six hours inside the box. On top of that, leaving the box early has some deadly side effects. The box also works forwards, but that's not quite as useful.
  • At the end of Frequency, after an entire film of Write Back to the Future, Frank takes The Slow Path to rescue John from the Nightingale Killer.
  • In Hot Tub Time Machine, Lou takes The Slow Path back because his life in the original time line sucked. He uses the opportunity to make better decisions, and uses his knowledge of the future to become very rich. It's played with, though, because his physical age remains the same--his mind from the present had traveled back to inhabit his younger self.
  • Sky High plays with this when Gwen, aka Royal Pain is turned into an infant and has to grow up again, this time planning her revenge for decades.
  • In OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let's Go Kamen Rider, one of two Street Urchins who end up traveling 40 years into the past finds himself stuck there, . in the end, he turns out not only to have been instrumental to helping the Kamen Riders make their Bad Future better, he also happens to be his best friend's Disappeared Dad.
  • In Rebirth of Mothra 3 Mothra travels back to the cretaceous in order to defeat King Ghidorah while it was in a weaker state. But it's efforts fail and Mothra is left badly injured and stuck in the past. With no other way to get back to the present Mothra retreats into a cocoon and spends the next sixty-five million years healing and growing stronger, emerging in the present as Armoured Mothra to finish Ghidorah off for good.

Literature

  • In Tim Powers' book The Anubis Gates, Brendan Doyle severely injures the ka Dr. Romany while both are back in time, to the point where the villain can't follow him through a time portal. In the "present" of the story, Brendan realizes the "beggar's luck" he's seen before is Dr. Romany, after a century of desiccation, and after wondering how the ka returned to this time, whispers in horror, "Oh, God... You lived your way back..."
  • In Brian Caswell's novel Dreamslip, the two main characters can stay indefinitely in whatever time they visit, returning to the present at the exact moment they left and not being a minute older. If they die in another time, however...
  • In Terry Pratchett's Johnny and The Bomb, the hero and his friends travel back to World War II, then one of them ends up returning to the present via The Slow Path because of a Grandfather Paradox, after which he seeks out the hero in the present, having spent the intervening half-century using his knowledge of fast food (!) and future events to become the world's richest man.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Eric, the protagonist wishes that he could live for ever. This is then interpreted as living the slow path from the Creation until the end of the world.
  • Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony reverses this. At the end of the book, Artemis and Holly return from the titular lost continent, having jumped forward in time three years. Butler, Artemis's family, and the entire rest of the world took the usual path through those years. Conveniently, it seems likely that Artemis picked up a talent on the trip that will obviate the need to explain this to his parents. Even more conveniently, the skipped years make Artemis the same biological age as the love interest the book had set up for him... Except that the sixth book completely ignores this possibility, in order to Ship Tease something completely different.
  • In Vernor Vinge's Marooned in Realtime, The Slow Path is the murder weapon; just as everyone is about to make the big leap, Marta's time-stasis device is disabled, forcing her to live out her lifespan on an abandoned planet. When everyone else wakes up thousands of years later, she is long dead. Possibly the only murder mystery ever written in which the cause of death is "old age".
  • In The Dark Is Rising, Hawkin takes The Slow Path and becomes the Walker.
  • Marvin in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy ends up being "thirty-seven times older than the universe itself," due to various incidents involving messing about with time travel. One can only assume he took a lot of Slow Paths at some point. In one instance, he waits 576 billion years on the planet Frogstar B after the rest of the crew get teleported away. He doesn't enjoy it much:

 Marvin: The first ten million years were the worst, and the second ten million years, they were the worst too. The third ten million I didn't enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline.

    • Interestingly, 576 billion years is only 37 times the age of the universe under old estimates of the age of the universe (around 15 billion years). Under more recent estimates of the age of the universe (around 13.7 billion), Marvin turns out to be around 42 times the age of the universe.
    • The conclusion to Dirk Gentlys Holistic Detective Agency ends on a similar note, in that an alien ghost who's already waited for untold billions of years for life to evolve, attain intelligence, and invent time travel, winds up stranded in the ancient past it'd been trying to change, and has to take the Slow Path all over again.
  • In the short story "I Borrow Dave's Time Machine" by S. N. Dyer, the protagonist goes back in time and commissions several new works of art from various old masters--then leaves them hidden in the past and retrieves them when he returns to the present. Had he just brought them back with him, they would have been dismissed as fakes because the paint would have been fresh.
  • In Spider Robinson's Callahans Crosstime Saloon there is a character who is referred to as a time traveler though really he just spent over a decade in a Banana Republic prison cell and finds it hard to adjust to the world when he gets out.
    • He is, effectively. He missed out on ten years of human development and social upheaval languishing in a jail cell. He may have taken the slow path, of one year per year time dilation, but he still effectively jumped, culturally speaking, from 1963 to 1973.
  • The protagonists of Rainbow Mars by Larry Niven travel back in time hundreds of years using instantaneous time travel but lose access to it for the return trip. Instead, they use a stasis device on their rocket ship to return to their own time, popping into reality here and there to inadvertently spawn ancient legends, including that of Baba Yaga.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead, Ender leaves his sister to take the Slow Path while he flies off to another star system to make up for his prior mistakes. He knows she will probably die before he can get back. At the end of the book, she does the same, so they've both aged roughly the same amount when they meet again in Xenocide.
  • 'Thursday Next: The ChronoGuard from Jasper Fforde's novels can end up with chronological ages of several centuries and actual ages in the mid-twenties because of all the time-travel whackery they get up to. This makes life very hard for their families, who are busy taking The Slow Path and having grandchildren who end up being older than their grandfather.
  • In a variant, the golem Anghammarad from Going Postal plans to wait for the cycle of history to repeat itself, at which point it'll deliver a message it'd failed to deliver many thousands of years ago.
    • It makes perfect sense to Anghammarad. As a golem, as long as he gets repaired occasionally he could last until the end of time, and the subsequent re-beginning.
  • In The Time Traveler's Wife the time traveler initially meets his future wife when she is just a little girl, and she has to take the slow path to get to his normal time line.
  • Apparently, this is what happened to Aunt Grace of In the Keep of Time after she fell asleep in the Tower as a child and was so difficult to rouse "because the people wanted her to stay." She lost the memories of her life before then, because that part of her stayed behind to grow up and become Vianah. One can hope the same thing happened to the part of Ollie that was Mae, so that Muckle-mooth Meg didn't have her only child taken from her by the Elliots.
  • The mentioned use of Time Dilation to mitigate the time travel problems was actually used in one Perry Rhodan arc. Stranded time travellers decided to put the 50000 years they were off their original timeline to a good use and built the largest Terran ship ever. After finishing (which took some centuries, forcing the crew to become brains in jars), they used Time Dilation to get back to their old time. In the end, they missed by some decades, and due to misunderstandings (and madness from being reduced to jars) actually turned against humanity.
  • In the second or third The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel book, Scatty and Joan get sent back in time by Dee. They are both immortal, so it is rather puzzling why they don't show up again older, having waited through the intervening millennia. Maybe they got killed in the meantime? Or they could show up, I've only read through the third book.
  • In Robert Wilson's Spin, the Earth has been trapped in fast time. Our near-future heroes decide to use slow time to find a solution, by sending a colony ship to Mars, outside the time-effect. A week after launch, the distant descendants of the colonists return to Earth...
  • The Time Turners in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban are only ever used in the story to take people back in time - first Hermione so she can take multiple classes simultaneously all year, then Hermione and Harry to rescue Buckbeak and Sirius. In all cases, they took the slow path back to the present (although it was only a matter of hours in each case).
  • In Harry Harrison's The Technicolor Time Machine, the plot follows a film crew who use a Mad Scientist's time machine to film a movie about Vikings for cheap. They use The Slow Path approach several times, such as leaving a script writer on an uninhabited island in the past for several months (his time), which for them took several seconds. They also end up sending a Viking named Ottar to Vinland by ship in order to film him getting there, while all they have to do is use the time machine. They also end up accidentally leaving their star actress behind when jumping forward by a year. They find her again as Ottar's wife and the mother of his child.
  • Shows up in the final Time Scout book. It's a very risky maneuver; time gates aren't permanent. No matter how stable, any gate risks going unstable and disappearing.
  • In Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, Marygay Potter knows Bill Mandella won't be back from his last mission for centuries (if ever). She uses a relativistic spaceship to speed down the Slow Path.
  • While other characters in Manifold Space travel into the far future through relativistic effects, Nemoto persists in real time through combination of advanced medical treatments and sheer force of will, building up influence and manipulating humanity from the shadows.
  • Ian Watson's 1979 short story The Very Slow Time Machine is, as the title suggests, very much an example of this trope, featuring a time-traveller who appears to be travelling backwards into the past at the rate of one hour per hour.


Live Action TV

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Time's Arrow" -- Data's head spends several hundred years in a cave in California. In a classic Stable Time Loop, it's the discovery of his head that bootstraps the adventure.
    • This episode ("Time's Arrow") also has Guinan (who's species lives a long time) with her "past self" living in the past, meeting a time-traveling main crew. When Picard is preparing to return to the future, he leaves her with the quote listed at the top of this article.
  • The episode "Visitor" of Deep Space Nine is an excellent example of the effects of the slow path, albeit an unusual one. Benjamin Sisko is sent blinking in and out of time, staying for only a few moments, and leaving for years at a time. He keeps reappearing near Jake at farther and farther times apart, as Jake spends his entire life trying to stabilize his father, lest he be lost in subspace forever. Despite being the one afflicted with temporal instability, Sisko takes the ordeal much better, and is far more saddened by his son's suffering. The episode is one of the most loved episodes in all of Star Trek.
    • Ben takes it better because all that he experiences is a little disorientation then a few moments back with his son. About half an hour at most goes by for him, while Jake spends a lifetime with the knowledge that his father is trapped in the space between time. Eventually he realizes that his father, who keeps returning to him, not the source of the accident, is linked with him and as soon as he dies, his father will slingshot back to the time of the accident and time will take a different path, one in which Ben didn't get lost in time but can remember it anyway. For some reason he decides that instead of simply dying of old age in his retirement, he will poison himself so that the last thing his father sees before getting sent back will be his son dying, having killed himself for Ben.
      • This is handwaved with the explanation that unless both Siskos are together when Jake kicks, Ben will be trapped in subspace forever.
    • In another Deep Space Nine episode, Molly O'Brien gets stranded on an uninhabited planet about a decade in the past, with no way of retrieving her but to go fetch her in the present. Eventually, they recreate the accident and send the older version through where she meets the younger version and sends her back before the anomaly closes, so she winds up absent for a few days but being gone for only a few seconds from her perspective.
  • In the Enterprise episode "E2," the titular starship is sent one hundred years back in time while attempting to travel through a Xindi subspace tunnel. As a result, it lays low for the next century, becoming a generational ship, all so that it can stop the accident from happening in the first place.
    • Not as low as they should have. When the Enterprise first encoutners the Xindi, they accuse the humans of sending multiple ships into the Delphic Expanse. However, at this time, there are no other NX-class ships in active service (the Columbia is still under construction).
  • Stargate SG-1: "Unending" -- SG-1 is trapped within a time-stop field on the Odyssey for fifty years. When they finally work out a solution, Teal'c volunteers to be excluded from the time-reversal effect, so that he can deliver a plan to save the ship. Fortunately, as a Jaffa, his lifespan is exceptionally long, though he is still visibly older by the end of it.
    • Earlier in the show, season eight's finale "Moebius," a Zero Point Module takes the slow path from Ancient Egypt, due to some monkeying with the Timey-Wimey Ball by the team. That ZPM ends up in Atlantis's season 2 premiere.
    • In the episode "Window of Opportunity" Jack and Teal'c spend a sizable amount of time living through the same day over and over, instantly traveling back in time to the beginning of the day each time, and use the months of time they live through to take the opportunity to learn juggling, pottery, and also how the time machine works.
    • In Stargate: Continuum, Mitchell goes back in time in order to stop Ba'al from sabotaging the Stargate Program. However, he accidentally arrives several years too early, and is forced to wait until Ba'al's attack takes place.
  • Stargate Atlantis: "Before I Sleep" -- An alternate Dr. Weir has spent ten thousand years in stasis after saving Atlantis from flooding. She's still an aged old woman by the timme she's discovered.
    • In the season four finale "The Last Man," a solar flare sends Sheppard 48,000 years in the future. To return to his present, Sheppard spends somewhere around 700 years in stasis to catch a solar flare that sends him back to 12 days after he disappeared.
  • Heroes, "Six Months Ago": Hiro jumps back six months, then spends most of them trying to get Charlie out of harm's way. One bonus of this extra time is that he improves his English dramatically in what is, to the rest of the heroes, a very short period. Another is that he and Charlie fell in love, but then, maybe that's not such a big bonus considering what happened to her.
    • And then Charlie herself takes The Slow Path, when Samuel and Arnold hide her in the 1940's to keep her away from Hiro. He runs into her again in the present, where she's an elderly grandmother. Hiro decides not to intervene when he meets her granddaughter.
    • Kensei/Adam also experiences this as it seems his healing ability allowed him the immortality to wait hundreds of years for his revenge on Hiro.
    • "Bloodlines" (from the webcomic tie-in) reveals that Arnold, elderly the time-traveler from the Sullivan Bros Carnival, was actually 15 years younger than Samuel. Then on a mission back to 1961, he got Easy Amnesia and ended up taking The Slow Path back to the present.
  • The Australian TV Series Mirror, Mirror: Nicholas in the original time line.
  • In an episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a terminator is sent back in time to stockpile raw materials for terminator manufacturing. It does so by stealing a large amount of coltan and storing it in the fallout shelter of an abandoned military base that will be turned into a factory by Skynet. It then goes into standby mode, presumably to wait until Skynet builds the factory and discovers it.
    • Cromartie, the most persistent of the enemy Terminators in the series, ended up undergoing an unusual variant of this in the pilot episode. While his head gets transplanted from 1999 to 2007 along with the heroes, his body remains behind. They later recombine, so like Data, just one part of the body takes the slow path.
    • The Slow Path is used by another Terminator as well. In the episode Self Made Man, a terminator with orders to kill the governor of California in a certain time and place is sent back several decades too far, apparently just by accident, all the way to the 1920s or something. Not only that, but his electric time travel bubble kills the person who was going to build the building where the assassination was supposed to happen, so to fulfill his mission and avoid a paradox, he creates a construction company from the ground up, builds the building himself, and when it's finished, entombs himself into the wall of the correct room to wait 80 years for the governor to come to him. They really are implacable.
  • As of season 5, most of the characters of Lost are back in 1977. Some of them got stuck in 1974 and simply had to build lives for themselves in that time period while waiting for Locke and the O6 to return.
    • Though the neat thing is, the people who got off the island take three years to make it back, so that by the time everyone meets up again, they've all experienced the same amount of time.
    • Locke meets a young Charles Widmore on the island in 1954, then again in Tunisia in 2005. Widmore introduces himself, tells Locke that they met 50 years ago and asks how long it's been for him. "Four days".
  • The Outer Limits episode Vanishing Act featured a man who would go to sleep and wake up ten years in the future every time. Once she figures out what is going on, his lover spends the rest of her life trying to figure out how to save him.
  • Red Dwarf: This happens a couple of times. Holly, the ships computer waits through 3 millions years while Lister is in stasis, and the Cat's ancestors evolved into humanoids in this time. Also, in the episode Rimmerworld, Rimmer flees the ship when it is invaded, and lands on uninhabited planet. He accidentally creates an army of clones of himself, who lock him in a dungeon for nearly 600 years. For the crew, this is only a day or two due to a time dilation effect.
  • Sanctuary: Helen Magnus goes back in time 113 years to kill Adam Worth. Since she has no way to get back home again, she hides out for the next hundred and thirteen years, and uses the time to plan what she wants to do to deal with the crisis that was happening when she left. Will is distinctly unamused when she goes missing for what seems to him to be hours, only for her to show up in her bedroom at the Sanctuary and inform him that it had been more like a hundred and thirteen years.
  • When the others are blasted into the future in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Marvin has to take the slow path and wait billions of years to meet up with them. He spends the last several thousand years parking cars at the site where the Restaurant At the End of the Universe was eventually built.
  • Doctor Who, the Trope Namer, does this so often, it practically justifies a category of its own. Aw screw it:

Doctor Who

  • Doctor Who has played with this quite a bit in the Expanded Universe:
    • After the BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures book "The Ancestor Cell," the Doctor is dropped off around 1900, and then picked up by his companion around 2000, almost instantly for the companion. Several books are actually set in the intervening period for the Doctor.
    • Later retellings of "Planet of The Spiders" in the Virgin New Adventures claim that the third Doctor actually spent ten years in agony on the floor of the TARDIS before returning to UNIT to regenerate.
    • In "The Crystal Bucephalus," the fifth Doctor spends three years as a restaurateur after being abandoned on a random planet in a different era (he's looking to get picked up by time-traveling restaurant critics from the titular time-traveling restaurant).
    • In "The Stone Rose," the Doctor reveals at the end that he'd taken three years off in the middle of the story to study sculpture under Michaelangelo in order to produce the titular statue.
    • In the Big Finish audio "The Kingmaker," Peri and Erimem, having been ditched thanks to a navigational error, have to spend two years with Richard III while waiting for the Doctor to arrive.
    • In the animated story "The Infinite Quest," the Doctor spends three years on a prison planet raising a robot bird before he arrives just in time to rescue Martha, who took the TARDIS.
  • Classic Doctor Who did this rarely on-screen, but it's become more common in the revived (2005-) series:
    • In "The Invasion," the Brigadier has lived through four years of normal Earth-time while the Doctor and Jamie only spent a few weeks.
    • More recently, in "The Girl in The Fireplace," it appears that the Doctor will have to live through several thousand years of Earth history to get back to the TARDIS and his companions, though he finds a way out. All the same, this article is named for the way he describes the situation.
      • Which itself was a reference to the quotation at the beginning of this article, in which the titular character is reiterating an explanation given to her for why years of her life pass where only minutes or hours have passed for the Doctor.
    • Occurs several times in the new third season: In "Blink," several characters are attacked by "Weeping Angels," who send them back in time to take The Slow Path back, and eat the days they would have had. One of them, a 2007 cop, is sent back in time to 1969, only to be reunited with the episode's heroine on his deathbed, roughly an hour after they first met.
    • And let's not even get started on Captain Jack Harkness, who has already had to live through more than a century after arriving in 1869 to get to the 2000s, the setting of Torchwood and the third series of Doctor Who, in the hopes of seeing the Doctor again.
    • This also happens to Jackie and Mickey a mere four episodes into the new series. The 9th Doctor intends to bring her home 12 hours after she left and accidentally returns Rose 12 months later. Everyone who had to live through that year the long way thought she had been kidnapped or killed. Needless to say, no one involved was happy about the results.
    • In "The Eleventh Hour," the Doctor promises a young Amelia Pond that he'll be back in five minutes. However, as the TARDIS engines are malfunctioning he is a bit off. Twelve years off to be exact. And at the end of the episode, he accidentally leaves for another two years. Amelia's storyline can also be applicable to the first interpretation of the trope, as it seems she is taking an extended vacation the night before her wedding.
    • And in "The Big Bang," this happens twice: Amy is kept in suspended animation inside the Pandorica from 102 AD to 1996, while Rory stands guard outside, becoming "The Lone Centurion" of legend. Interestingly, this means that relatively Rory is actually twice as old as the Doctor.
    • The parody episode "Curse of Fatal Death" has a slight variation where the Master falls into a sewer which takes him three hundred and twelve years to crawl out of, before using his Tardis to return to just a few moments after he fell in. Three times. He keeps tally after each incident, and is very tired and put out after nine hundred and thirty six years of sewer climbing.
    • Lampshaded in "Vincent and the Doctor," when the Doctor asks if time always moves "really slowly" and "in the right order" as he waits for Vincent van Gogh to complete a painting.
    • In the 2010 Christmas special "A Christmas Carol," the Doctor attempts to change the ways of a cold-hearted tyrant Kazran(in order to convince him to help save a crashing starliner where Amy and Rory were honeymooning) by visiting Kazran as a child. During their first visit, they encountered Abigail, a beautiful woman who was forced to live in suspended animation to avoid dying of a mysterious disease. Over the next few years, the Doctor would visit Kazran every Christmas Eve, and they would bring Abigail out of her cold sleep to celebrate the holiday with them. So while the Doctor time-traveled from one Christmas Eve to the next and Abigail slept from one Christmas Eve to the next, Kazran ended up taking the slower path.
      • And used to set up the romantic relationship between Kazran and Abigail. The first two Christmas Eves, Kazran is played by Laurence Belcher (fourteen at the time of filming, but looked rather younger). Then, on the third Christmas Eve he's played by Danny Horn (twenty-one years old at the time). One of the first things Abigail says to him is "You've grown."
    • In "The Doctor's Wife", one of the things House does to torture Amy on the TARDIS is to make her believe this happened to Rory. At random intervals, Amy is separated from Rory by a sliding steel wall. She finds him a minute or two later, while much more time has passed for him. The first time, it's a few hours, and he's mildly annoyed. The second time, it's two thousand years, and he's a seething mad, wizened old man. The final time, he's a withered skeleton surrounded by messages saying "HATE AMY" written in what looks like blood. Of course, it's all an illusion and present Rory comes round the corner just a moment later.
    • In "The Girl Who Waited", Amy is separated from The Doctor and Rory and is stuck in a faster time stream. A few seconds for them is a week for her. When Rory manages to find her, 36 years have passed and Amy is not happy.
  • In the Torchwood episode "Exit Wounds", Jack spends eighteen and a half centuries buried alive/dead/alive again below what becomes Cardiff.


Theater

Video Games

  • This happens in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword; Impa takes Zelda through a time portal into Hyrule's distant past. When Link is able to follow her it's learned that it will take quite a long time for her to fully awaken the power dormant within her. (She's the reincarnation of the goddess Hylia) So in order for her to do that Zelda ends up spending thousands of years locked in a giant crystal.
    • At the same time Impa also stays in the past in order to guard Zelda and is a very old woman by the present, apparently staying alive by sheer force of will.
  • Chrono Trigger: One of the sidequests involves restoring a forest from what was once a barren desert. Since the process would take hundreds of years, the group's Robot Buddy stays behind to work while they time travel into the future, to pick him up. From this point on, on the overworld map, you will see an image of him working on the fields every time you go back to the medieval era, even if Robo is back in your party, because you're using the future Robo instead. But that's a Temporal Paradox for another day.
    • An even more dramatic example in another side quest involves a solar-powered artifact that needs millions of years of sunlight to recharge. Needless to say, with a time machine, you can actually make use of it - the party drops it off in a cave in the year 65,000,000 B.C. and returns for it in 2300 A.D. (taking a few detours along the way to stop a selfish jerk from stealing it).
  • Dark Chronicle depends heavily on people taking The Slow Path from the Present to 100 years into the future. As you create villages and populate them with people from the starting city, these villages have become high-tech laboratories, temples, great forests, or industrial sites by the time you return to Monica's time.
    • However, a much more explicit case is with the Elder Tree Jurak and the Sage Crest. The former starts out as some tree saplings, and becomes a monumental tree. Crest is actually a very young girl that Max and Monica meet during the present, but which becomes the greatest Sage in the world (and, although 100 years passed for Crest, the Sage still remembers Max and Monica, for whom there was a difference of only a few minutes).
  • In Sam & Max Episode 204: Chariots of the Dogs, the eponymous duo are left stranded back in Episode 102: Situation: Comedy by their own past selves and are forced to re-live the past year-and-a-half off-camera.
  • In Wild Arms 3, the protagonists manage to use a very powerful magic to send Asgard, the persistent robot hundreds of years into the past. All's right? Well, there's a curiously humanoid shaped rock formation in one of the first dungeons in the game, and sure enough Asgard bursts out of it when the party has to re-visit it later. It turns out that Asgard knew that the only way to go back to present is to take the slow path, imprisoning himself in a rock formation where he will emerge during the right time.
    • Interestingly, he goes back talking in Hulk Speak but comes back as eloquent and intelligent.
    • This is because Asgard is programmed with a learning AI. The more he experiences (fighting experience in particular), the more intelligent he becomes.
  • Something similar to this happens where Arche is concerned in Tales of Phantasia. One the game ends and it's time for everyone to return to their proper place in time, she doesn't say her permanent goodbye to either Chester, Cless and Mint, each born a hundred years after her birth (hundred and one in Mint's case), or to Suzu, born about a one hundred and forty years after her, since she's a long lived Half-Elf and will live long enough to see them again. Klarth isn't so lucky, and bids a more permanent farewell. The problem here is that she and Chester had a short-lived romantic relation, and there's no telling if Arche will still be young after a hundred years.
    • It's confirmed in spin off Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon, where you meet her in the original game's present and fight her as your first boss. She's matured a bit, but only looks to be in about her 20s or 30s.
    • What's the longevity of most relationships? What's the likelihood that a rather libidinous young half-elf won't find someone(s) else in the intervening century? Carrying a torch for someone who doesn't even exist yet for a hundred years would require either exceptional stubborn dedication or True Love.
  • In Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, Ray actually turns out to be another version of Missile, who was killed in a different timeline, as Sissel refused to help him prevent his and Kamila's deaths. As a result, Missile goes back in time using his ghost tricks on Yomiel's corpse and takes the slow path, waiting for ten years for the night he died to convince Sissel to help him, sparking the game's events.
  • Day of the Tentacle. Objects can frequently be flushed through time directly and immediately by Chron-O-John, but living organic matter needs an alternate transport; thus, a hamster travels the slow path as a Hamster Popsicle. Some objects can change form with slow pathing, too - a bottle of wine left in a time capsule for four hundred years isn't going to be much like wine by the time it reaches the other end, and a sweater left in a tumble dryer fed with a mountain of quarters will have somewhat dramatically shrunk.
  • Dr Diggins takes this route in Fossil Fighters after [[spoiler: being sent back to the Jurassic era. Fortunately, he finds a crashed dinaurian starship and uses the stone sleep process to wait out the 150 million years until he gets revived.
  • In Portal 2, Wheatley is active for the 99999 (or some other undefined, large number) days that Chell is in stasis and G La DOS is dead.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, E-123 Omega takes a Chaos Emerald and enters standby mode to help Shadow when he was trapped in the future.

Web Animation

  • In Red vs. Blue, Church gets sent back over a thousand years by an explosion that destroys the present. He asks the nearby AI to build him a teleporter or time machine (or both). It'll take about 1,000 years. Church stands there, and basically does three things: grow a beard (somehow), formulate a plan to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, and listen to awful knock-knock jokes. Keep in mind that, by this point in the story, Church is a ghost (really an AI) inhabiting a robot body, so he's effectively immortal.

Webcomics

  • 8-Bit Theater's White Mage accidentally takes away Sarda the Sage's chance to become the creator of the universe, and then traps him there at the beginning of time where he is forced to wait for the universe to evolve intelligent life. (The only thing Sarda could do in all that time was grow his iconic mustache, and that only took him two weeks).
  • In Bob and George, the titular George is sent back several months in a time suit to fix some plot holes in the previous storylines. He does so, but the suit breaks, so he spends the time until time catches up with him on the beach in Acapulco.
  • In Two Evil Scientists, Mega Man is sent back to the Space Colony ARK fifty years in the past, and ends up waiting 100+ years to the time of Mega Man X.
  • In the aptly named Stickman and Cube arc "The Slow Path," everyone but the titular characters are forced to take The Slow Path when Stickman and Cube travel into the future. The wait severely flusters the Author, who has to somehow keep the readers occupied until they return.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, the time-traveling would-be saboteur of Dr. McNinja's clone army is forced to take the slow path back to the present after his temporal stabilizer is damaged in an explosion. Thus becoming Chuck Goodrich, and explaining why the hell he wanted all those space suits put in houses. Beyond general insanity, anyway.
  • Quite a bunch of people in Homestuck, as most of them were born on April 13th, 2009. The two most triumphant examples are Becquerel (413 Million years) and the bunny from Con Air (who took the slow path 'twice'. This results in the bunny being more than 38 years old, even though the movie Con Air was released only 12 years prior to the start of the comic).


Parodied with Biscuits, the dumbest member of The Felt. This idiot thinks that his oven has the power to transport him into the future equal to the time he sets the oven timer. It works at one second per second. Which means he just hides in a broken oven until the timer buzzes.

  • In Wapsi Square, Shelly spends roughly 80,000 years trapped in an alternate dimension where time flows differently.

Web Original

  • Invoked in AH Dot Com the Series, "The Gates of Dawn": the crew are trapped at the beginning of time, before the Big Bang, and now things are too unstable to time travel back to the present. So instead they seal themselves in stasis in the belly of The Machine, which they know will survive to the present, and experience no time as we see a time-lapse sequence of fifteen billion years of history around them.
  • The Trinton Chronicles has Dan, who froze himself in time after a big battle, waiting until 'someone' rescued him from the temporal hibernation. It took roughly 80+ years before it happened too.

Western Animation

  • Futurama: "Roswell That Ends Well" . In a direct parody of the TNG episode, Bender's head is dropped in the New Mexico desert in the 1940s, and has to be recovered a thousand years later. Not only does Bender not mind being buried in the dirt for a millennium, he actually complains upon being rescued that his peace and quiet are being disturbed.
    • In Bender's Big Score, the titular robot repeatedly and happily volunteers to go back in time, steal precious historical treasures, and then wait in a cavern under Planet Express headquarters until a few seconds after leaving. And then at the end of the film, Bender "wakes up" all of the bender duplicates and has them exit the basement when they were not logically supposed to, thus creating a hole in the universe, and setting the stage for the next film.
      • Yet another episode that was A Day At the Bizarro "The Futurama Holiday Spectacular", Bender actually waits 500 million years after the crew has died for their fossils to be turned into oil that he could use for Robanukah. This turned out to be pointless as the oil he already had ended up lasting for 500 million years.
  • Omi from Xiaolin Showdown had to freeze himself for 1500 years with the Orb of Tornami, because Jack Spicer forgot to mention that his time machine didn't have a means to return him from the past.
    • He does this again to recover the Sands of Time from his future self. Spot the flaw in this plan. If Omi spends all of his time frozen, he can't give himself the Sands of Time because his old self wouldn't exist. The show does point this out.
    • Another episode uses it on a smaller scale, almost as a throwaway gag. Evil Teen Genius Ditz Jack Spicer uses the Sands of Time to disappear into the future--then returns a few seconds later in a Hawaiian shirt (but otherwise unchanged), explaining that he took a year off to come up with an Evil Plan.
  • In the Justice League episode "The Savage Time," the League travels back to World War II in order to stop Vandal Savage from conquering the world, and Wonder Woman fights alongside special agent Steve Trevor while there. Once the League returns to their own time, Wonder Woman encounters Trevor again -- this time as an old man, in a retirement home.
    • In the same episode: Hawkgirl meets and fights along side the Blackhawk Squadron. Later, in the JLU episode "I am Legion": Chuck, the last surviving member of the group,calls the Justice League for help. He seems to remember her.
    • In another episode, "Hereafter," Superman is teleported several thousand years into the future, where he finds... Vandal Savage, who has spent the entire time on Earth alone, living with the guilt of having wiped out the human race. For an additional sting, Vandal himself is personally well-versed in time travel science (cf. "The Savage Time"), but the local rules of time travel prevent one from travelling to an era where one already exists -- which for the immortal Savage is basically all of history, which is why in "The Savage Time" he merely sent information to his past self.

 Superman: How did you get here?

Savage: Oh, the old-fashioned way. I'm immortal.

  • In an episode of Jackie Chan Adventures, Jade is taken back in time, then Jackie and the bad guys follow. Jade and Jackie make it back to their own time, but the baddies end up going even further back, and have to return by The Slow Path... only to be back to their young selves by the next episode through Shendu's magic.
  • In the first season finale of Metalocalypse, Dethklok is excited by their idea for a new piece of merchandise, "Time Travel Face Bags" that let the wearer travel forward in time "at the speed of regular time."
    • With bags on their heads.
  • In an episode of Drawn Together, Captain Hero does the Superman time-rewind trick to the beginning of time and then... waits.
  • In Dave the Barbarian, the cast are turned into babies. Because Candy doesn't know how to make them normal, she does the next best thing, and wait for them to grow back.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang was a Human Popsicle for a hundred years (making him chronologically 112), while his friend Bumi aged normally and is now the Cool Old Guy king of the city of Omashu.
  • An And I Must Scream version is used in Generator Rex. Van Kliess was sent back in time by breach and an episode focuses on how he got back to the present. While it looks like he's getting in a time machine during his travels between the various eras it's later revealed that it's not a time machine but a stasis chamber and the And I Must Scream part comes when it's revealed that he was AWARE of each passing second during the the hundreds of years of waiting. And all while being chased by Breach who had been turned into a mysterious energy force
  • And I Must Scream and this trope are played for laughs in Darkwing Duck: DW goes back in time with Quackerjack's Timetop. Back to the time of the Dinosaurs. Only Dino-society is carrying an Idiot Ball of Invader Zim levels. After much humor and hijinks, one of the dinosaur scientists pumps the timetop and sends the Quackerjack back to the present. DW is stuck in the past, until a Dino-scientst drops him in amber (he was making pancakes). Cue the passage of time, with DW frozen with his eyes open.... Launchpad and present day scientists find DW and crack open his amber tomb. Darwing just shivers and says"Does anyone know what eon it is?"
  • At the end of Beast Wars Waspinator gets left behind on prehistoric Earth only to turn up on Cybertron in the sequel series Beast Machines. He never goes into detail about how he made it back, only that it "took a long time", suggesting he used this method.
  • In an episode of Hanna-Barbera's Godzilla the crew of the Calico discover the lost city of Atlantis, which was really an alien star ship along with it's crew frozen in stasis. While exploring Dr. Darien and Brock accidentally fall through a time portal and wind up in the past just before the city-ship sank into the sea. The pair have to then join the Atlanteans in stasis in order to get back to the present.
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