The hosts of SciFiMonth have gathered cool prompts and top ten lists. Today, I’m going to tell you about my favorite time travel stories.
Time travel is one of the SF tropes I love. However, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish time travel from another trope I also adore: alternate universes. That’s not strange because according to some theories if you time travel and change something, that creates an alternate timeline.
Different stories (and franchises) have different rules for time travel. In most, the travelers can change the past and by changing it, change their own present (the future). They’re often warned against it but end up changing something anyway. In some singular stories you can’t change the past but that’s far more rare. Apparently it makes for less exciting story unless it’s about time travel tourism.
I love time travel in series because what I most like about it is a chance to see characters I know and love to be different. That’s why I’ve split this list in two: series (well, franchises really) and more stand-alone works.
1, The Days of Future Past comic by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
This is one of the first time travel stories I ever read and I was very young and impressionable then. In the original comic, it’s fourteen year old Kitty Pryde who had just joined the X-Men only a couple of issues before who receives the mind of the 30 years older Kate Pryde. She convinces the current day X-Men (Storm, Angel, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Wolverine) to try to save senator Kelly from assassination and so change the future.
Seeing the older and much, much sadder Storm, Colossus, and Wolverine of the future was just gut-wrenching. The original story is only two issues long but it’s very powerful. Also, later Claremont brought Rachel Summers from that future.
2, Star Trek TNG: Cause and Effect
I had really hard time choosing just one ST episode because I love many time travel episodes (“Yesterday’s Enterprise”, DS9's “Trouble with Tribbles”, Voyager’s “Year in Hell”, Star Trek: First Contact just to name a few). But this episode has somewhat different mechanic than the others mentions on this list, specifically the crew is caught in a time loop and repeats some hours.
3, Legends of Tomorrow: Raiders of the Lost Art
This show just gets better all the time. Since the whole premise of Legends is for a group of misfits traveling through time, it has a lot of time travel. In the first season, they have an immortal bad guy whom they’re trying to catch at different time periods. Later, they try to mop up breaching through time. In this episodes, they’re in Hollywood, reinspiring a certain young movie maker.
4, Back to the Future
While these movies are part of a franchise, there are only three of them, so I can’t really compare them to a long-running series like Star Trek. In this series, Doc Brown constantly tries to warn us not to use time travel for material good or for trying to alter the past. Except from Marty’s past.
I love especially the second movie where Marty returns to 1955 and we have two time traveling Martys running around at the same time.
5, Doctor Who: Blink
One of the best time travel series around is Doctor Who where time is a "big ball of wibbly wobbly time-y wimey stuff". In Blink Doctor and his companion Martha Jones are trapped in 1969. They try to communicate through video tapes with a woman in current time. It also introduces the most scary villains in the series, the Weeping Angels.
6, Avengers Forever by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco
This is a twelve issue maxi series where Kang and Rick Jones pull a group of Avengers from different timelines. Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne are from the “current” timeline (1998), Captain America who has super strengh but has just been disillusioned, Yellowjacket who is Hank but he’s had his nervous breakdown, Hawkeye from just after the Kree-Skrull war, Songbird so far in the future that she’s not yet an Avenger in the current time and Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell’ son Genis) from further in the future. This series explores and tries to make sense from various inconstancies and gaffes in the Avenger’s history. It’s a love letter to the continuity and wonderful for us old fans.
7, The Flash: “The once and future Flash”
In this episode, Barry travels to a future where he wasn’t able to prevent Iris’ death. In consequence, the whole team disbanded and the future Barry is depressed and no longer a hero.
The Flash has many, many time travel episodes and it explores their consequences in fascinating ways.
8, Connie Willis: To Say Nothing of the Dog: or, How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last
Technically, this too is part of a series, the time traveling historians from Oxford. However, the time traveling main characters Ned Henry and Verity Kindle don’t appear in the other books. Neither do the characters from 1880. Ned Henry is the narrator of the book. He’s from the future Oxford and has been time traveling trying to find the birdstump for an obsessed American financer. Now, he suffers from slippage and the don sends him to Victorian times so that he can rest.
It’s one of my favorite humorous books, right next to Terry Pratchett. The slippage effect, which is similar to jet-lag, which gives poor Ned confusion and difficultly in hearing makes it all the more hilarious.
In this movie, mafiosos use time travel to kill without a trace. The changes in the past instantly appear on the character’s future self.
10, Source Code
In this movie, captain Coltair Stevens is sent back to a train which is about to explode, again and again. He has eight minutes at a time to find a way to stop the explosion.