Time Travel

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Trope · Genre
Synonyms: timeloop, groundhog day, do-over, redo
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Time travel is a classic science fiction subgenre that is as popular as a fanfic plot device as it is in the source texts themselves.

Many fandoms have canonical time travel, for example Doctor Who, Terminator, Stargate, Harry Potter, Supernatural, Heroes,... for a more complete list see the external TV tropes wiki entry.

While Star Trek TOS provides a number of the earliest examples of canonical time travel in a television series,[1] the entire premise of Star Trek XI, and the movies to follow, is based on time-traveling Romulans inadvertently creating a new timeline.

Subgenres of time travel that are popular in fanfic include:

  • The timeloop, like in Groundhog Day in which a character repeats a time period over and over again.
  • The second chance, where a character gets a chance to travel back in time to fix a mistake or tragedy of the past.
  • The mental time travel in which only the consciousness travels back in time and allows the character to re-live their live fully or partially. (This kind of do-over is popular for example in Harry Potter fandom. One version would be an older, war-hardened Harry gets transfered back into his eleven-year-old (or even younger) self, and fights Voldemort with this extra knowledge.)
  • Fusions with The Time Traveler's Wife, the novel by Audrey Niffenegger (and its film adaptation)


Science Fiction Citations gives the earliest use of the term "time travel" as a 1914 philosophy paper[2], but identifies the 1895 novel The Time Machine by H.G. Wells as the first use of "time traveller"[3]. This novel is also the source of the word "time machine" itself.[4]



  • Black Swan by Nemo the Everbeing. Angel is caught in a backlash of a spell gone wrong and emerges in a terrifying future. With the help of that universe's Wesley, he must find a way back through time to change history.
  • Impact by shiny silver grl. Takes place in season 3. As Darla prepares to give birth, Cordelia interferes with an attempt on Angel's life, but the consequences of her actions land her two years in the past, mere days before Doyle is to die on the Quintessa.
  • Man of the World by EnigmaticBlue. Fred’s death and the return of his memories leave Wesley a desperate man. He makes a dangerous bid to make things right, only to find that he’s a stranger in a world that’s no longer familiar to him.
  • Negative Space by orphan_account. Sometimes when you help the hopeless, you have to start at home.
  • A Stitch in Time by Rheanna and Yahtzee. Drusilla travels into the past to stop Angel from getting his soul back, and the Angel gang follow.
  • Living History by Lizbeth Marcs. Some people have come a place far, far away and a time far, far ahead to ask for help on an urgent matter. The target place and time? Moscow, February 2008. The problem? They’re in Cleveland, September 2003. And that’s just the beginning of the trouble.
  • Compelled - The Buffy/Angelverse Reshaped by Hotpoint; "The God-King of the Primordium decides to replay the game from an earlier level and shows the universe what an Old One with a grudge is capable of..." - series of stories in which Illyria travels back in time to before the destruction of Sunnydale and rewrites history.

Final Fantasy VII:

  • Act V by Sinnatious - takes advantage of the expanded canon of Final Fantasy VII to have Cloud from post Advent's children travel back to the time of its prequel, to fix things.

Gilmore Girls:

Gundam Wing:

  • Time and Time Again by BarBieBoy. All the pilots but Heero are killed in an explosion; he relives the same day over and over, trying to stop it.


  • A Change of Grace by Sheryl and Karen. Time "weavers" pull Taylor back in time to the late 1800s so that he can right a wrong in the life of one of his ancestors.

Harry Potter:

The Hobbit:

Lois & Clark

The Lord of the Rings:


NCIS/Stargate SG1:

  • Closed Timelike Curve by Bindingdiva. Gibbs/DiNozzo, Jack/Daniel, Gibbs/Jack/Daniel/DiNozzo (and combinations thereof). After the bombing, Gibbs never remembered his relationship with Tony until Tony is killed in a case involving a Goa'uld. Gibbs and O'Neill travel to the past to save him, creating a whole new future for all of them.

Stargate Atlantis:

Stargate SG1:


Teen Wolf:

  • Name by Corpium, Peter/Stiles, When Stiles goes back in time to save Paige and stop Gerard, he doesn't expect Peter Hale.


Vampire Diaries:

  • Timeless by Hybridlovelies. Klaus/Caroline, The girls come up with a plan to send Caroline back in time to kill Klaus before he ever arrives in Mystic Falls. But it turns out their plan won't be as simple as they thought. Especially when Caroline gets stuck in the past & only has Klaus to rely on.
  • Only Human by peaceful village. Klaus/Caroline, where a still human Caroline travels back in time and meets still human Klaus.

The X-Files:

X-Men: First Class:

  • If Only Could by freckleon. Charles/Erik, Today is not the day that Charles' world came crumbling down. Today is two weeks earlier.
  • Never Too Late To Be Who You Might Have Been by acetamide. Charles/Erik, Erik wakes suddenly and takes a deep breath, and realises that there is nothing.
  • Timeline series by Unforgotten. After Magneto of an X2-ish future succeeds in the unthinkable, Charles sends his consciousness back to 1962 to guide Erik away from the path that will lead to the genocide of the human race forty years hence. Charles knows that Erik has always loved him, and intends to use this knowledge + sex to seduce Erik away from his ideals in his youth. There's no way this well-thought-out, sensible, debugged and 100% bulletproof plan can possibly go wrong.

Thematic lists and rec sets for time travel stories



Harry Potter:


Stargate SG-1/Stargate Atlantis:


External Links and Resources


  1. Time travel was a recurring theme in Star Trek. See Memory Alpha for a history of Temporal Mechanics.
  2. Science Fiction Citations: time travel
  3. Science Fiction Citations: time traveller
  4. Science Fiction Citations: time machine