Roll Call: Who's come unstuck in time?
March 9, 2009 10:16 AM   Subscribe

Help with my homework filter!! I want to compile a list of time travelers from literature, television and cinema. I am looking for a couple specific attributes.

I want to know a few things about the time traveler:

1. Who are they? Gender, age, situation in native historical setting?
2. What is their mode of conveyance or displacement in time? Is it used deliberately?
3. What goals are met by their time travel?
4. Do they die? Are they dead already?

So, for example, Hermione Granger is a girl at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry in Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban, whose time travel device is a magic "time turner," inscribed with the words “my use and value unto you are gauged by what you have to do” and “I mark the hours every one nor have I yet outrun the sun.” The device is worn around the neck like a necklace, and turned, one ring within another, and a tiny hourglass at the center, to travel back in time only, at one hour per turn. She uses it to take additional classes to excel in her studies, and also, later, to solve a mystery.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
List of time travel science fiction via wikipedia. Enjoy.
posted by CoralAmber at 10:22 AM on March 9, 2009

Claire Beauchamp Randall, female, late 20s, visiting Scotland with her husband shortly after WWII, in the book "Outlander". She is looking at a henge on the top of a hill near Inverness when she accidentally touches one of the stones and ends up in the 18th century shortly before the Rising of 1745. She did not mean to go back in time. Later in the series, she does purposely return to her own time via the same stone circle to find the man she fell in love with, and twenty years later travels back. Other characters in the book from the 20th century follow her back purposely, then return to the 20th century.
posted by olinerd at 10:29 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Er, correction. Claire's first travel back to the 20th century was not to find anyone (it was actually to escape the war in Scotland in 1745). When she went *back* to the 18th century twenty years later, it was to find the guy.
posted by olinerd at 10:30 AM on March 9, 2009

The wiki list didn't have my favorite one on it. "Behold The Man," by Michael Moorcock.

1. Main character 30ish Brit from the 1980s.
2. An orby thing if I remember right.
3. Wants to go back and witness the crucifixion.
4. Would ruin the book to answer.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:32 AM on March 9, 2009

Simon Morley in Time and Again

1. a youngish artist in 1969 Manhattan.
2. self-hypnosis: by convincing oneself that one is in the past, one can make it so.
3. he goes to solve a mystery related to his girlfriend, which he does, and to do a job for the US government, which he decides not to carry out because of its implications.
4. no, he travels back and forth but in the end i think stays in the past.
posted by sidr at 10:32 AM on March 9, 2009

Henry DeTamble in The Time Traveler's Wife

1. Male, 28, Librarian, Chicago
2. Genetic disorder
3. The time traveling is uncontrolled so he doesn't have a say in the where/when part. It is a love story so many of the time traveling events occur as his future wife is growing up.
4. I'd hate to give it away even though it is mentioned early in the novel, check the link.

On preview, it is in that wiki list also.
posted by collocation at 10:46 AM on March 9, 2009

Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted "Theodore" Logan from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

1.) Senior in High School
2.) A phone booth, delivered from the future by Rufus
3.) In the first film, interviewing historical figures for a history report that must be passed to prevent Logan from being shipped to an Alaskan military school.
4.) They are briefly killed in the sequel but return.
posted by mkb at 10:47 AM on March 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

Hiro Nakamura in Heroes (NBC)

1. A 28 year old former mid-level drone for his father's company.
2. His powers are suspected to be from the next step in human evolution. He can control where/when he travels with mixed results.
3. Save the world.
4. Not dead.

See also: Papa and Peter Patrelli
posted by Hugh2d2 at 10:54 AM on March 9, 2009

James Cole, Twelve Monkeys

1. Convicted criminal in post-apocalytic future, possibly mid- to late-30s
2. Method of travel is unclear
3. Try to find information on biological agent that killed billions; attempt to collect a pure sample for future research
4. His younger self witnesses his death, whereupon the tragic cycle repeats anew

See also: La Jetée
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:02 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

1) The most famous time-traveller of all, Doctor Who!!
2) He travels in the TARDIS.
3) in order to save the Universe!
4) He doesn't die, he regenerates!
posted by Hanuman1960 at 11:13 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wonder if this counts. Either way, it's my favourite film (see user name).

Peter D. Carter, A Matter of Life and Death

1. Age 27; RAF Squadron Leader; 1945
2. Not quite time travel, but time is stopped by a visiting angel (Conductor 71). Carter has no control over when/where this will happen. When time is stopped he is free to interact with Conductor 71, and those in heaven, but with one exception not other living humans.
3. When time is frozen, Carter's fate (whether he should live or die) is decided.
4. That would be telling.
posted by Conductor71 at 11:18 AM on March 9, 2009

The Forever War, Joe Haldeman

- William Mandella is a university student conscripted for an elite task force in the United Nations Exploratory Force being assembled for a war against the Taurans
- Method of time travel is Faster than Light spaceships (travel into the future)
- Time travel is a side effect of FTL travel, so not an end in itself
- The main character actually survives the war that last several centuries but is only a few years subjective time.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:20 AM on March 9, 2009

This question begs an interesting question about the nature of time travel-- does chronologically continuous time travel, specifically time dilation, qualify? Since traveling close to the speed of light changes your perception of time relative to a stationary object, a short trip of a few weeks will pass like decades on Earth, if not longer. This opens up an entirely avenue of literature for your consideration, for example Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke and the books concerning Ender Wiggin's adventures after Ender's Game, starting with Speaker for the Dead. In Childhood's End, a character stows away aboard an alien space ship and is returned lifetimes later to an Earth significantly changed; in the Ender series, Ender travels from world to world with his sister, skimming across the surface of time and aging only a few decades while several thousand years have passed on Earth. Both have arguably traveled forwards in time, allowing them to experience events well beyond the scope of their natural lifespans; both, however have also done so by traveling vast distances in space. Do you specifically mean time travel without spatial manipulation, or backwards time travel?
posted by baphomet at 11:24 AM on March 9, 2009

That Wiki list was pretty comprehensive but I cant believe they missed time travel in pretty much all of the Star Trek series. Particularly in the Star Trek: Enterprise show. Maybe just media that is specifically about time travel? Anyway:

1. Too many to mention.
2. Warp travel around a star, intervention by godlike beings, advanced technology, and other unknown or inexplicable means.
3. Too many to mention
4. Some are, some arent.
posted by elendil71 at 11:33 AM on March 9, 2009

Response by poster: baphomet, that I would probably classify as time effects in space travel, though the notion of dimensional travel is a third consideration.

But it certainly helps to consider these circumstances, just as, as my question infers, hauntings of certain sorts also are to be considered.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:36 AM on March 9, 2009

Response by poster: Folks, I don't need a list of time travel stories. I need a list of time travelers so I can do a comparison involving the attributes listed above. Thanks.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:38 AM on March 9, 2009

Pretty much the entire Lost Season 5 so far has been time travel. There are too many instances to list.

Season Five is too soon to call (as far as goals and duration) but here's an old one:

Desmond Hume - Lost, Season 4

1. Scottish Male, 40ish, having left a magic island for a freighter off the shore.
2. His present day body stays in place (2005), but his consciousness shifts to his younger (1996) self - not deliberate. This is caused by his having left the island, while remaining proximate to it, and repeated exposure to electromagnetism.
3. He provides important information to a physicist at Oxford (who would later come to the island) and gives his ex-girlfriend the message that she must keep her phone number and take his call when he calls from the future (2005) - mission accomplished! He and his friends are saved (for now).
4. Alive.
posted by moxiedoll at 11:46 AM on March 9, 2009

Billy Pilgrim
posted by brevator at 11:51 AM on March 9, 2009

Oh boy. At the risk of revealing my not-so-secret love for bad SciFi Channel made-for-TV movies...

100 Million BC
1. Dr. Frank Reno, age somewhere between 18 and 80 (depending on what part of the movie you're at). He's been a scientist with the US military (the Navy, if I recall) since WWII.
2. Some vaguely-explained "Science", which may be related to the Philadelphia Experiment (another movie to check out). The first time, they believe they're going to teleport a group of soldiers, but instead of displacing them through space, they're displaced through time. Subsequent uses of the machine are deliberate.
3. After the first experiment with the machine, Frank's brother (and several others) were sent back about 60 or 80 million years, and were unable to return. After 60 years (in "our time"), they must use the machine to rescue the surviving soldiers.
4. (SPOILERS) (This gets a little complicated). At one point, we believe the 2008 Frank is eaten by a dinosaur in the cretaceous period, but he actually transports himself to 1950, where he meets with 1950 Frank. 2008 Frank tells 1950 Frank how to work the machine, then 2008 Frank dies. 1950 Frank uses the machine to go to 2008 to rescue the 1950s soldiers from the T-rex that's followed them to 2008. Then 1950 Frank goes back to 1950, lives out his life, and dies. So long story short: Yes. Twice.
posted by specialagentwebb at 11:58 AM on March 9, 2009

Mr. Peabody and his boy, Sherman:

1. Male, dog, genius, and male, human, not-too-bright
2. The WABAC machine, created by Peabody, which can only travel backwards through time
3. To observe historic events (and to make sure they happen)
4. Nope, it's a cartoon.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:19 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

1. Ebenezer Scrooge. Male. England, 1843.
2. Magic conjured by spirits (or maybe it's all a dream). Not intentional.
3. Scrooge learned to savor life and be a generous, loving man.
4. He didn't die, but he saw the time immediately after death in a vision of the future.
posted by grumblebee at 12:24 PM on March 9, 2009

Alex Drake, Ashes to Ashes

1. Alex Drake, female detective and psychologist, single mother, London, England, 2008. Daughter is in primary school, so Alex is probably in her 30's, although age is not revealed in the show so far.
2. Not known. Not intentional.
3. Not clear what goals are. Once she is in 1981, she tries to prevent her parents' death. She is still desperately trying to get back to her daughter in present day London.
4. Did she actually travel back in time? Is she in a coma? Is she dead? Is something else going on?

The show just premiered on BBC America, while the second season will start showing in the UK this year. Alex is still stuck in the 80's at this point in the show.

(I'll let somebody else cover Life on Mars, the precursor of Ashes to Ashes)
posted by needled at 12:33 PM on March 9, 2009

From Madeleine L'Engle's A Swiftly Tilting Planet:

1. Charles Wallace Murray, male, 15, seems to be living in an alternate history version of the early 1980s
2. Is placed "Within" the bodies of historical figures who previously inhabited the geographic area of his childhood home by a time traveling unicorn. This is surprisingly less cheesy than it sounds.
3. Defeats the evil nothing and, by exerting a subtle influence on the timeline, is able to stop a mad dictator who is intent on blowing up the planet from ever existing.
4. No, but he later goes mysteriously missing.

There's time travel in a later book in the same series, An Acceptable Time, but it was so bad that I pretty much blocked it out, despite having read it only a year ago.

Also, someone who's more familiar with Quantum Leap than I am should add it to the list. I've only ever seen like three episodes.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:58 PM on March 9, 2009

Jude Devereaux' book A Knight in Shining Armor, in which both protagonists travel in time, one forward then back and vice-versa for the other.

(1) Dougless Montgomery is a female in her early- to mid-thirties from a ridiculously wealthy and successful American family. She is on vacation in Scotland in the early 1980's with her long-time boyfriend and his snotty young daughter. After a spat the boyfriend and his daughter strand Dougless at a rural chapel dating back to the Middle Ages. (2) She's lost, distraught, and collapses in sobs and prayer in front of a knight's tomb (it's one of those kind that has a sculpture of the guy laying on top). Her emotions and need 'pull' the tomb's occupant—the knight in shining armor—away from the (1) Middle Ages tower spire cell where he's desperately trying to save his life and family name and across time to her sobbing side. (3) They fall in love over the course of a week or so, Dougless' confidence is restored (goal met!), and he slowly dissipates before her eyes in front of his own tomb. That's halfway through. Dougless doesn't get a moment before she too dissolves and wakes up in the Middle Ages. (2) No device or talisman is indicated as triggering the time travel this time (she wasn't resting with her hand on his tomb or anything). (3) She's arrived just before Mr. Knight is accused of whatever horrible crime has him locked up at the beginning of the novel, and she proceeds to go mucking about until he's totally blameless, doesn't die a hanging traitor (goal met!) and maybe even a countryman hero. (4) He dies a natural death much later in his life as a result, and Dougless is magically dissolved back to America again where she's ready to dump ditchy boyfriend and live happily ever after.

Aaron and Abe in the film Primer

(1)Two late-20's/early30's modern American suburbanite techies branch off their electronic component side-business to experiment with gravity degradation. Their 'box' also winds up offering backwards travel through time. (2) They build a replica (or three) big enough for a human, lock it in a public storage facility, and start out by (3) playing the stock market. Innocent enough, doesn't change anything other than their net worth. (3) Then a crime of passion is prevented. (4) Aaron at one point may or may not have killed one of his previous instances, it's not clear. They experience unexplainable side-effects of time travel; poor, uncontrollable handwriting and occasional bleeding out the ear. They part ways eventually and it is unclear to what end they come.

Good luck writing your paper. You didn't ask for it, but Dr. Dan Streetmentioner's Time Traveler's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations might come in handy.
posted by carsonb at 1:07 PM on March 9, 2009

The Anubis Gates -Tim Powers

1. Brendan Doyle - An English professor at Cal State Fullerton
2. Magic, yes
3. To attend a lecture by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1810.
4. No
posted by doctor_negative at 1:21 PM on March 9, 2009

Response by poster: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
1. Hank Morgan, average joe.
2. Inexplicable, unseen, accidental.
3. Changes are effected in the Arthurian era's technological awareness, Hank is treated as a magical figure.
4. He is returned to his own time by a sleeping spell.

The Time Machine
1. Unnamed scientist (called by various names in film and tv adaptations).
2. A vehicle with victorian flourishes of his own devising.
3. Intellectual exploration, which meets its antithesis and is reinforced in importance, in a future setting.
4. He returns to his own time.

The Portrait of Jennie
1. Jennie Appleton, convent educated orphan.
2. No explanation, she appears in the future at certain times and only in the presence of another charater, Eben, with whom she falls in love.
3. She seems to be travelling from the past or from beyond the grave to experience true love.
4. Her death is replayed with Eben unable to avert it. She was dead from the beginning.

Back To The Future

1. Marty McFly, average joe.
2. His friend's modified De Lorean.
3. To undo the murder of said friend, ultimately also improving his family life by exerting his influence on his own provenance.
4.He returns to his own time and has further adventures.

Donnie Darko

1. Donnie Darko, mentally unstable high school student.
2. Traverses a time loop, which is not fully explained in the main text. His universe doubles back on itself.
3. This affords him the opportunity to change the course of events which took place between the jump back and the point he jumps to.
4. This results in his sacrificial death.

The Terminator
1. Kyle Reese, soldier in the battle to preserve humanity against AI rule.
2. Is sent back via undescribed future technologies.
3. Sent in order to protect Sarah Connor, also, semi-unwittingly, to father his commander and sender, John Connor.
4. He dies.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:24 PM on March 9, 2009

Flight of the Navigator
1. Davey Freeman, normal kid.
2. Is transported via spaceship from Earth to the planet Phalon and back, a journey that takes him about 4.5 hours relative to the Earth's 8 years.
2. Actual (non-relative) time travel also occurs, via Max, a Trimaxian Drone Ship.
3. To correct the relativity disparity caused by the long-distance trip.
4. Nope! Life goes on.
posted by carsonb at 1:53 PM on March 9, 2009

Here is a list, with links, to all (?) the Star Trek time travel episodes.
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:29 PM on March 9, 2009

Kindred, Octavia Butler

1. Dana Franklin, 30-ish African American female, lives in LA in the 1970s as a successful novelist.
2. Never properly explained, but based on an ancestor of hers needing help throughout his life. He sometimes has (unconscious) control.
3. Dana saves her nth-great-grandfather's life many times and sets him/her family on the course that eventually leads to her own birth.
4. Despite killing herself, Dana is alive at the end of the story, minus one arm.

Replay, Ken Grimwood

1. Jeff Winston, average Joe - we meet him as a 43-year-old corporate executive with marital problems.
2. Death. He dies and then wakes up in his own past, with all of his memories of his "previous" life intact, but able to make new choices going forward.
3. Jeff slowly gains an appreciation for his life, mistakes and all. (If that counts as a goal.)
4. Again and again and again. That's pretty much the plot.
posted by teremala at 11:30 PM on March 9, 2009

What about Groundhog Day? It's time travel, but sorta turned inside-out.

1. Phil Connors is a weathered local meteorologist, and professional jerk.
2. Wakes up every morning to Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Looping technologies unexplained.
3. Phil goes from mega-jerk to courteous, worldly gentleman; gets girl.
4. No death; Phil eventually comes unstuck.
posted by carsonb at 11:18 AM on March 10, 2009

How about the totally awesome 80's flick "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure".
1. Bill and Ted must travel time to complete a history assignment
2. They meet various historical figures
3. They travel in a telephone booth!
4. Bill and Ted give a presentation that earns them a qualifying grade that saves Ted from millitary school

Rock on Wild Stallions! What great 80's cheese. You have to love it.
posted by TJGuy at 4:54 PM on March 13, 2009

Primer. Amazing film.

1. Abe & Aaron, work in hi-tech, but operate a garage startup exploring technologies. Male, 30s, Dallas (I believe).
2. Discovered accidentally. Device is a box which can be disassembled and transported, with the issue that it permits the traveller to return only to the point the box was turned on, rather than an arbitrary point in time.
3. Curiosity, then exploration, then control.
4. No. Arguably worse things take place, avoiding spoilers.

Can't recommend this film enough. Dense, intelligent, layered and unsettling.
posted by davemee at 3:10 AM on March 14, 2009

Here is a list, with links, to all (?) the Star Trek time travel episodes.

This list includes each incident in each episode, along with origin and destination years.
posted by finite at 10:38 PM on March 17, 2009

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