WikEd fancyquotesQuotesBug-silkHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extensionPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifierAnalysisPhoto linkImage LinksHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic

Our heroes have travelled through time to witness some important historical event. While they are there, observing the event (but of course not actually interfering), they meet, befriend, or otherwise become aware of John Doe. From their previous studies of history, they know that John Doe is scheduled to die at such-and-such a date, and such-and-such a time. In order to preserve the timeline, they have to let him die.

But they don't. Instead, the heroes grab John Doe and move him in time to the future (or the far past), allowing everyone in John's own time to think he's dead, thus preserving the timeline.

A subtrope of Set Right What Once Went Wrong. May require Tricked-Out Time. Contrast You Will Be Beethoven.

Examples of Time Travel Escape include:


  • In Grant Morrison's The Invisibles, the protagonists send "psychic projections" of themselves to eighteenth-century France and bring a "projection" of the Marquis de Sade back with them. King Mob explains: "You'll be like a ghost [in the twentieth century] but when you reach the end of your life here you'll unite with your future projection. I know it sounds ridiculous, but trust me."
  • During James Robinson's run on Starman, Jack Knight finds out his brother, David (who was shot and killed at the start of the run), got sent back in time to serve as the Starman of the '50s (who no one knew the identity of) until it's time for his death to come around. Heartbreakingly, this happens right when Jack and David are reminiscing on old times.
  • In the Marvel Universe it looked like this happened, but it didn't. A man believing himself to be Captain Mar-Vell appears. Everyone thinks that he's avoided his death from cancer by jumping forward in time. It turns out that time travel wasn't involved in the first place; the guy's really a Skrull sleeper agent brainwashed into thinking he's the real deal.
    • The same sort of plot happened some time after BarryAllen's death when Barry appears at the current Flash, Wally West's doorstep. Wally is confused but glad to see his mentor come back, but things start to get weird when Barry acts more and more like a Jerkass Knight Templar, making Wally afraid that he Came Back Wrong. In reality, the man who appeared was not Barry Allen, but a deluded fan of Barry Allen from the future who went so far as to give himself Barry's face and powers. After his defeat, he returned to the future where he would go on to become Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash, one of Barry Allen's arch-enemies.
  • In Runaways, when the Runaways go to return to the present from the early 1900s, they bring along Klara Prast, who can control plants and is in danger of a bad fate via her abusive (and much older) husband. They also try plan along a street urchin who Victor fell in love with, but she is too afraid and stays behind.
  • At the end of Peter David's Supergirl run, pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El lands in Leesburg and is discovered by the then current Supergirl Linda Danvers. Inverting the trope, Linda goes back in time to die in Kara's place when it becomes clear that this event must come to pass. Subverting the trope, Kara eventually goes back to return the time line to normal.
  • In a recent issue of Avengers: Children's Crusade, Stature rescues her father from his death in Avengers Disassembled in this manner. Time will tell if it sticks.
  • Starslayer starts with Celtic warrior Torin Mac Quillion being plucked from the battle against Roman legionaries were he is supposed to die and transported into the distant future.


  • In Back to The Future III, Marty and Doc save Clara Clayton from dying without realizing that doing so will change history through the children she would have taught had she lived in the original timeline. In the end, Doc fixes this "mistake" by removing Clara from the timeline when he builds a second time machine and taking her into the future.
  • Rufus saves the Princesses from marrying some "royal ugly dudes" this way in Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure.
  • The humpback whales George and Gracie in Star Trek IV the Voyage Home were the subject of a Time Travel Escape. All humpback whales were extinct by the end of the 21st century according to that timeframe, until the crew of the Bounty intervened.
  • Time After Time: Jack the Ripper use H. G. Wells' time machine to escape the London police by travelling to the future.
    • Also inverted, when Wells takes Amy Robbins back to 1893 with him at the end, thus causing her to be listed as dead in the newspaper they found when Wells took Amy a week into the future to prove that his time machine worked.
  • Inverted in Donnie Darko, in which the protagonist goes back in time to die (at a point where he almost did, but survived), because he feels things will turn out better that way.
  • Used in Freejack, even though the people aren't technically being rescued. Whenever a rich, dying person wants a new body, they arrange for a victim to be taken from the past at the moment of their death. The person lives, but their mind is wiped so they'll make a suitable host body.


  • In Leo Frankowski's The Cross Time Engineer series, Conrad tells his time-traveling cousin Tom that he (Conrad) saw Tom get killed by a Mongol spearman in 1241. Tom's response was "Hmmm... I guess I'll avoid going to Poland in 1241, then." Thus performing this trope on himself.
  • In Margaret Peterson Haddix's The Missing series, people from the future do this with the missing children of the past (e.g Anastasia), and give them to families in the future. Unfortunately, the time machine went wrong and ended up in an airport in the 90s. When people found it, it was an airplane filled with babies. These babies were put into foster care and adopted by various families.
  • In The Number of the Beast by Robert Heinlein, Lazarus Long goes back in time to save his mother before she dies in a car accident, and takes her back to the future with him.
  • Part of the Backstory of one of the founders of Time Travel in Lisa Mason's Summer of Love and The Golden Nineties. She goes back to save a homeless woman she hit with her car when she was a kid.
  • In Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry and Hermione go back in time to save a hippogriff from an unjust execution and thus save Sirius Black from a Fate Worse Than Death. Of course, the way the story depicts the actual execution of the hippogriff the first time around and the reactions to the creature's rescue seem to indicate that Rowling wrote the book with no "first time" in mind after all.
  • John Varley's novel Millennium is about time travellers who rescue plane passengers just before their planes crash and replace them with realistic corpses. The passengers are taken forward in time to repopulate a devastated future Earth.
  • In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe novel "The Crystal Bucephalus", this is part of the backstory; a future religious cult were trying to develop a time machine so they could rescue their Messiah-figure from his execution. It turns out that they succeeded. And he promptly turned out to be a crook, who'd set up the cult to rescue him from his perfectly justified execution. Unfortunately for him, time machines work both ways...
  • Lucas in the Time Wars series dies in book 6, then comes back in book 9 when it turns out that his corpse had been replaced with that of his parallel-universe double, who had just been killed.
  • In Time Scout, people who are known to have been killed cannot be rescued. A group of activists begs for the rescue of Jack the Ripper's victims. Experienced time travelers roll their eyes. Anyone who's completely unimportant can have their lives altered... but that means you don't know what to alter or how. Escape averted.

Live Action TV

  • Subverted in the Star Trek the Next Generation episode "Yesterday's Enterprise", where the U.S.S. Enterprise-C is saved from destruction by travelling into the future... but must then return to be destroyed to repair the irrevocable damage to the timeline the ship's time-travelling caused, because what was important wasn't the fact that the ship was destroyed, but the fact that it was destroyed in a heroic sacrifice that now never happened.
  • Something similar happens in "Profiles In Silver", a 1985 episode of the Twilight Zone. A time traveller from 2172 goes back to observe the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but inadvertantly prevents it. This creates a new timeline that ends in the human race being destroyed by nuclear war. The time line is ultimately restored by the traveller taking Kennedy's place in the motorcade while the president is safely returned to 2172.
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles pulls Sarah from a time before she died of cancer. Partially subverted, in that Sarah begins developing cancerlike symptoms about a year later, exactly as she did before Cameron pulled them ahead.
  • Doctor Who has Davros saved from death by Dalek Caan in the Series 4 finale.
    • In "The Girl in the Fireplace", the Doctor tries to do this to Reinette but she dies before he can.
      • Sort of done when the Doctor also rescues Rose, her mother, and later his clone by taking them to an alternate dimension. Also, Donna convinces the Doctor to rescue a single family off of Pompeii when the volcano erupts.
        • Which then comes back to bite Earth in the butt. Peter Capaldi played both Caecillius in the Fires of Pompeii and John Frobisher in Torchwood: Children of Earth. The Word of God (or at least his personal theory) is that Frobisher was Caecillius' descendant, and his involvement was a result of the Doctor's meddling.
    • There's also an entire organisation, the Tesselecta, which use this trope to overcome Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act, not to save them, but to punish them. They know that horrible evil dictators have to die at certain times- they just remove them from their time-line shortly before, and punish them for all the horrible things they've done.
  • In the Outer Limits episode "Tribunal", history professor and Holocaust scholar Aaron Zgierski is taken back to Auschwitz by time-traveller Nicholas Prentice (who turns out to be Zgierski's own great-grandson). While there, they rescue Aaron's "older" sister (who is only eight at the time), who history records as being executed in a gas chamber, into the future to live out her life free of Nazi oppression.
    • They also do the reverse with the man Aaron is trying to expose in the present as a former Nazi camp guard. Future history records that right before his arrest he fled the country and was never seen again. He disappeared because Aaron and Prentice kidnapped him and left him in the past dressed as a Auschwitz prisoner where his past self executes him.
    • A later episode shows that the time travel agency Nicholas Prentice works for recruits via Time Travel Escape; they take the potential recruit to the future seconds before they would have died, then offers them a choice between joining or being sent back to their death.

Tabletop Games

  • Time-travel roleplaying game Continuum has rules for doing this (in cases where the body is proven to be that of the character) involving the character knowing that they are going to die in just that situation. Joan of Arc, for instance, is a canon NPC who was nonetheless burned at the stake. This didn't stop her from spending a few centuries as a Continuum city's entire police force.
    • It also features rules for what happens if the death-marked PC dies before they should, which can be summed up as you're all pretty much screwed.
  • The Mutants and Masterminds free adventure "Charge of the Freedom Brigade" introduces the eponymous World War II heroes as mind-controlled antagonists but the Freedom City continuity has its own WW 2 team, as seen in the adventure provided with their Golden Age source book. The solution? Alternate universe traveller Dr. Tomorrow determined that the Freedom Brigade would be eliminated from the multiverse due to his changes in the main Freedom City continuity, so he grabbed the Freedom Brigade and brought them to his future, the world of Erde to help fight Nazis in a world where the Axis won in WW 2.

Video Games

  • In Star Trek: Borg, The U.S.S. Righteous was reported destroyed in the battle of Wolf 359. Q brought Cadet Furlong back in time to save his father (who served on the Righteous), treating the whole thing as merely a joke. He never thought Furlong would actually DO it. Cue a time jump to save the crew of the Righteous from death at the hands of the Borg.
    • It gets funnier. The ship was only lost because Q time ports the ship to the "present" day during the battle of Wolf 359, creating a stable time loop in the process.
  • Crono from Chrono Trigger is seen getting obliterated by Lavos. After much grief and sadness, his friends manage to figure out a way to go back in time and replace him with a very realistic doll, so Crono technically never died in the first place.
  • The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time: You are sent back in time to investigate, among other things, a space station that would later be found abandoned with even its AI destroyed. Said AI, Arthur, learns the truth when he scans you to find out what you're doing on the station: that he's going to die, and that even if both of you wanted to, you can't save him, because doing so would affect history. So, he copies himself onto a blank biochip you happen to be carrying, and is your sidekick for the rest of your time-traveling adventures in the game until his Heroic Sacrifice at the end, but he gets better for JP3.
  • Averted in Shadow of Memories, where you're explicitly told that you can't solve the problem of being targeted for assassination by time traveling out the way of an attack.
  • In Time Hollow, Ethan saves his parents from a burning restaurant 15 years in the past by opening a Time Hole linking that time to the present. Ethan's father carries his unconscious mother through the hole and to safety in the present day. This has some side effects though.
  • Earthbound sees Buzz Buzz escape to the past after Gigyas destroys the universe.

Web Comics

  • The now dead webcomic RPG World had a few supporting characters planning to use this kind of trick to revive a dead Wrench Wench party member.

Web Original

  • Ultra-Man, a member of the Global Guardians, originally fought the Nazis in the 1940s. He was brought to the present when a villain's superweapon accidentally ripped a hole in the Time-Space Continuum.
    • Freddy Mercury is alive in 2010 in the Global Guardians Universe because some unknown time-travelling metahuman faked the singer's death and brought him to the future, where there is an AIDS cure.

Western Animation

  • In the Gargoyles episode "M.I.A." Goliath uses the Phoenix Gate to resolve a stable time loop, bringing the London Clan gargoyle Griff back to the present after the universe seemed out to kill him in Blitz-era London.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, history says that three Leaguers were taken to the future for a mission, but only two returned. Turns out that Supergirl decides to stay in the future. The death assumption came from the Legion members misinterpreting their woefully inaccurate records. They only knew it would be three people, not who exactly, and that one never was never sent back, which they assumed as a death.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.