Time traveling as a tactical move?
April 18, 2009 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Looking for science fiction movies/TV shows in which a military force (consisting of aliens or humans, good or evil) has tactically used time travel as a means to win a war.

To be specific, I’m not interested in individuals going backward or forward in time to kill one tactically important person, so the “Terminator” movies are out. The two ideas I’m really interested in are

1. An entire army (human or alien) traveling through time in a surprise attack on an unsuspecting civilization or

2. Individuals sent on a mission to the future, in order to return with a LOT of superior technology, such as better guns, better spaceships, better armor, etc which allows them to easily vanquish their foes in the past. Not just one really cool gun.

I’m sure this device has been used in sci fi films/shows many times before, but for some reason I'm drawing a blank. Thanks for your help!
posted by np312 to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The Final Countdown (1980) had something like this. I remember contemporary fighter jets buzzing WWII planes.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:14 PM on April 18, 2009

Not a movie or TV show, but Achron is an RTS based on this exact mechanic.
posted by lucidium at 1:25 PM on April 18, 2009

Doctor Who, although I think (in the new series) it's always been more a part of the back story.
posted by sbutler at 1:27 PM on April 18, 2009

Star Trek: First Contact has the borg doing #1. There are, undoubtedly, more Star Trek examples out there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:28 PM on April 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Stargate had a few episodes based on this premise I think.
posted by ian1977 at 1:48 PM on April 18, 2009

The movie Time Bandits features this as a final battle, when the protagonists collect troops from many time periods to attack the main villain at the end.

Stargate, specifically the movie Stargate: Continuum, had some individuals moving about, but not much in the way of units of troops.

Doctor Who is again an individual, but it DOES touch on what happens when technology hops time (and the Doctor's efforts to prevent it where he can). There's talk of the Time War, and some of its ramifications, but it's yet to actually be shown in full. One season ends with multiple armies dimension / time hopping in the finale, but it's not a consistent theme.
posted by GJSchaller at 2:31 PM on April 18, 2009

How about as a means to win a financial war? If so, Heinlein's "The Door into Summer" is about, among other things, a guy who uses time travel to manipulate stock prices and takeover a company.
posted by jbickers at 2:38 PM on April 18, 2009

It depends on your definition of 'war', but Denomolous threatening to dominate the known universe in 'Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey' is only overturned by B & T's deliberate exploitation of time-travel logic. They ultimately travel to the future and then return with the shocking and awesome weaponry of ROCK MUSIC. It and 'Excellent Adventure' are also worth checking out for a ruthless grip on the innate ruthlessly mindfucking logic of time travel that is sentimentally ignored by the likes of Dr Who and Back to the Future.
posted by Hugobaron at 2:50 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Babylon 5's time travel arc involves the tactical use of time travel to win a war.

Not a movie or TV show, but cstross's novel Singularity Sky involves a military action that violates causality.

Arguably, the terrible series Star Trek: Enterprise's "Temporal Cold War" arc was supposed to be about this kind of stuff, but it fell rather flat.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, unlike the movies, focused a lot more on what exactly it can mean when both sides of a war are able to send military units into the past to achieve tactical victories, beyond targeted killings -- like securing fortified areas and gaining access to military secrets.

The series 4 arc of the new Doctor Who culminates with a planetary occupation by masses of soldiers from the distant future.

The season 9 finale of Stargate SG-1 involves using time travel to secure superior energy technology to power a war machine, but it's travel to the past not the future.
posted by jbrjake at 3:35 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know you said no Terminator movies, but I want to second Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, especially the most recent series -- there's been a lot of focus on multiple timelines, and they've traveled both forward and backward in time. If you haven't watched it, I'm sure there are torrents/dvds of the series.
posted by glider at 6:05 PM on April 18, 2009

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman is exactly this storyline. It's not a movie yet, but apparently it's in the works. It's a very interesting book if you get a chance to read it.
posted by asras at 9:16 PM on April 18, 2009

Arguably, the terrible series Star Trek: Enterprise's "Temporal Cold War" arc was supposed to be about this kind of stuff, but it fell rather flat.

I came in to recommend this.

Except, I don't think Enterprise is terrible. It's just nothing even kinda like ST:NG.
posted by Netzapper at 9:42 PM on April 18, 2009

I haven't seen this film personally, but it might fit your criteria. Time Slip, a Japanese film about WWII soldiers who go back in time to feudal Japan. It looks schlocky and stars Sonny Chiba.
posted by cazoo at 1:12 AM on April 19, 2009

As sbutler mentioned above, the modern Doctor Who series includes backstory on a Time War between the Daleks and the Time Lords. My understanding is that both sides did hard-core erase-you-before-you-evolve-type stuff.

Also, I'd nth the Sarah Connor Chronicles, the second season especially focuses on tactical time travel. Also, it's really really good.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:31 AM on April 19, 2009

Charles Stross' excellent Singularity Sky also features this gambit combined with other attempts of causality tomfoolery within the Eschaton's time cone.
posted by bouvin at 2:36 PM on April 19, 2009

Possibly of interest: Fritz Lieber's The Big Time features two factions fighting one another throughout time.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:39 PM on April 19, 2009

« Older This is going to warp me, isn't it.   |   Is a cell phone gateway what we need, and have you... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.