"Close Enough" Timeline

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"Eh, close enough."
Homer Simpson, The Simpsons, "Treehouse of Horror V"

A common plot in Time Travel stories: The time traveller messes up the past, and has to put everything back the way it was. This trope is when the time traveller, in the end, doesn't quite succeed. The traveller, however, decides that the change the new timeline has brought with it is either a pretty insignificant alteration that he or she could easily adjust to (often happens if he or she is locked out of further time travel), or even outright beneficial, and happily accepts it (i.e. s/he could properly undo the change with further time traveling, but sees no reason to do so).

Compare Not Quite Back to Normal.

Examples of "Close Enough" Timeline include:


  • In Back to The Future, after Marty returns to 1985 at the end of the film, everything is the same as when he left it—except the mall has a different name, his family and Biff have different fortunes (though Biff's proves not to be so different after all in Part II), and Jennifer looks different.
    • Similarly, at the end of Back To The Future Part III, the only change is the name of the ravine to Eastwood Ravine.
    • Done in the Telltale games as well, where the only known differences are Doc stayed in 1986 part-time to take care of his father's estate (as Marty helped patch their relationship), he never got stuck in 1931 (because he knew who the speakeasy arsonist was in this timeline), and Edna married Kid Tannen.


  • In the Goosebumps book, the Cuckoo Clock of Doom, the main character is cursed by his family's cuckoo clock to be repeatedly sent mentally back in time into his own body at younger and younger stages of his life until he might be erased from existence. He alters the timeline so that it never happens, but his annoying and malicious sibling is erased from existence due to the clock's "defect" mentioned earlier in the book (the clock's year dial skips the sister's birth year). He promises he should probably go back and try to fix it. Maybe. Eventually. "One of these days."
    • Of course, it becomes quite horrific to the readers whose year of birth the skipped year is.
  • In Greg Bear's Eon, one of the main characters tries to get to one of these, after being unable to return to earth. She lands in a world where apparently the Egyptian dynasties never fell.
  • Discussed and then invoked in the Be Here Now story by Sam Hughes.

Live-Action TV

  • Given a Shout-Out at the 8th season finale of Stargate SG-1, where the team restores the timeline... except Jack's pond now has fish. He also says "Close enough."
  • Red Dwarf uses this in "Timeslides", when the last change to the timeline puts everything back how it was except that Rimmer is alive. He dies seconds later and the change in his backstory is apparently forgotten.
  • On Sliders, they travel to a world which is almost identical to their homeworld. At first they are certain they are home. Quinn is a bit suspicious and points out small details like who played in the Superbowl a certain year or that an old classmate didn't have braces like he remembered were different. The others think he's crazy. Then Wade discovers that the Golden Gate Bridge is blue. Wade and Rembrandt seem tempted to stay anyway and Quinn's mother wishes he would stay. Quinn doesn't want to because he knows that his double is out there and may return home someday.
  • From The Whitest Kids U' Know sketch "Me and my Buddy:"

So we go around doing the best we can
Like we stopped Goldor from fighting Zenuzan
But as a result that started Vietnam
So I guess we'll call it a draw

  • In the Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode, Tale of Locker 22, Chris has to rescue Julie after she accidentally time travel back to the 1960s and forced to perform a dangerous science experiment, that had killed another student called Candy Warren, who Julie was mistaken for. When they returned to their time period, they adverted Candy's death. As a result, Candy has become the school's vice principal. Consider her personality and the condition of the school, they decided to let it slide.

Video Games

  • In Super Robot Wars Z, Setsuko's good ending is this one, everyone in her original team is alive and well and Asakim is no longer in her world tormenting her. However, the "revived" Glory Star team are alternate universe duplicates from a world where she never existed, so they don't exactly recognise her.
  • In Day of the Tentacle, the plan of the heroes is to change the past yesterday. They end up changing the past quite a lot, but manage to save the world. The Stars and Stripes ends up tentacle-shaped, though.
  • The multiple endings of Singularity have shades of this; even in the good ending the world isn't quite back to what it was before you started messing with the timeline, and is in fact ruled by an advanced (though *possibly* benevolent) Soviet Union.
  • In Time Hollow, Ethan doesn't bother fixing the timeline in which his friend Morris has dropped out of school because Morris seems happier that way.

Western Animation

  • Seen in The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror V". The story ends with everything normal, except for people having long, forked, prehensile tongues. Homer names the trope by saying the line in the page quote.
  • On Family Guy, Peter went back in time to relive his teenaged years and almost lost Lois to Quagmire; he manages to fix everything, but Roger the alien is now inexplicably a member of the Griffin household.
    • Another time travel episode has Stewie and Brian go back to the pilot episode (multiple times), where their meddling results in a Bad Future. When they finally fix everything, they assume everything went back to the way it was. Then Peter shows up with his drinking buddies from the first episode.
  • American Dad episode "The Best Christmas Story Never Told" has Stan screw up the timeline in an attempt to "save" Christmas; after fixing things, his guardian angel informs him that gun control laws are less strict now (It Makes Sense in Context). Roger is also more bitter, because he rode the rise and fall of Disco thanks to a dropped Greatest Hits tape acting as a Grays Sports Almanac.
  • In the Earthworm Jim series, the universe was destroyed, but then rebuilt. Everything was the same "except the main character of Death of a Salesman is now named Urkel."
  • A different take on this is the Futurama episode "The Late Philip J. Fry." Professor Farnsworth invents a time machine that allows travel into the future only. Fry, Farnsworth and Bender discover that travelling to the end of time brings them back to the beginning (twice!), and they eventually return to their era shortly before they left. However, this universe is slightly lower than theirs, and they land on their duplicates, killing them.