Fish Out of Temporal Water

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

A Fish Out of Water situation that results from characters being placed in an unfamiliar time period. This may be caused by:

In addition, the story will most likely follow one of these scenarios:

Someone from The Present Day ends up in The Future: In this case, the "fish" will be awed by an incredibly wonderful future, be horrified by a dystopian future, enjoy the benefits of a mostly positive future or be surprised by a future that's strange in an unexpected way. Whichever version it is, the future depicted will inevitably end up being completely inaccurate when the year given actually rolls around.

If the story is a comedy, the time-traveller is likely to discover that Ridiculous Future Inflation has occurred. There will also probably be humorous references to how the celebrities of The Present Day have ended up by then. An amusingly (or horrifyingly) dated one of these appeared in Back to The Future Part II, which had a newspaper in 2015 make reference to "Queen Diana" (Princess Diana died eight years after the film came out).

Someone from The Present Day ends up in The Past: This past is usually sometime before the "fish" was born, ranging from about twenty years ago to The Middle Ages, that being the earliest time in which people spoke English. Not a form of English that would be the least bit intelligible to modern-day time-travellers, but hey.

The "fish" will probably make little effort to fit in, awing the locals with A Little Something We Call "Rock and Roll", telling them that This Is My Boomstick and possibly becoming a Blithe Spirit. Apparently it's the sworn duty of all time-travelers to show the people of the past how to be hip in The Present Day. If they get anywhere near a military installation, they'll probably be mistaken for a spy. The "fish" may also describe the future in an ironic way or tell people about things which would have seemed impossible or ridiculous in that era:

Doc: Who's President of the United States in 1985?
Marty: Ronald Reagan.
Doc: Ronald Reagan! The actor? Who's vice president, Jerry Lewis?!

If a Trapped in TV Land situation fits this trope, it will fall into this scenario.

Someone from The Future ends up in The Present Day: In this case, the "fish" will be confused by the simplest things, which are, of course, completely obvious to the audience. Fortunately, they will have brought back lots of Applied Phlebotinum, just in case there was any doubt that they really were from The Future. They may have a flawed view of The Present Day reality influenced by idealizing revisionism of the historians of The Future, sometimes disenchanted that they lied. The traveler, unless downright awesome at all times, will almost inevitably be dangerously Genre Blind and equally likely to nearly get killed almost as much as the next type.

Someone from The Past ends up in The Present Day: The humor will result from the "fish" attempting to relate to The Present Day with only the knowledge of a previous time. Naturally, they will make mistakes and/or be awed by things which the audience has come to take for granted. The Values Dissonance between the two eras may come up.

If they're from any time after about the midpoint of the Industrial Revolution (when people first began to take for granted that the future will be different from the present), the "surprised by a future that's strange in an unexpected way" trope will probably apply.

If they're from far enough back, their first encounter with a motor vehicle will involve the words "metal demon", or alternately "horseless carriage". They will also be completely unfamiliar with the word "computer" in spite of this being a common retooled word, which once meant someone who does calculations or 'computes' for a living. Not knowing the word "accountant" would be just as unusual.

A character who isn't literally from the past, but somehow deludes himself that he's still living there anyway, is a Disco Dan.

Someone from The Future ends up in The Past: Fairly common Star Trek plot (and cause of some of the best episodes and a couple of the worst). Essentially combines The Present Day to Past and The Future to The Present Day tropes. Thank you for being unusual, Data. Thank goodness he had amnesia.

Someone from The Past ends up in The Future: Also a common Star Trek plot (although not quite as common, and usually done in a more unusual way than straight out time travel. Usually.) Here's looking at you, Sam Clemens.

Someone from The Future ends up in The Future: Can involve either going forward or backwards (but generally backwards). Does your mind hurt yet? Will be generally played for laughs (like somebody complaining that the technology that would be super-advanced to somebody from The Present Day is an antique) or for Continuity-based Fan Service (Trials and Tribble-ations, anyone?)

Someone from The Past ends up in The Past: There's a LOT of Past. Can usually result in one Historical Figure or archtype meeting; befriending or fighting another. Ninjas, Pirates, Napolean, Hitler, Genghis Khan; etc. Spam with other types for time travel annoyance.

Examples of Fish Out of Temporal Water include:


  • One recent series of credit card commercials feature fur-clad barbarian warriors' attempts to navigate the modern world. They're not actually shown time-traveling, but their apparent ignorance of contemporary life is consistent with this trope.
    • Interestingly, they best fit in at a summer camp. A rowing crew is seen competing on a lake. Then a Viking longboat overtakes it at a staggering speed, with the barbarians rowing to a drumbeat.

Anime and Manga

  • Shaorin in Mamotte Shugogetten. She spent 400 years in a ring and on her first night out ended up destroying an oven and a TV. The next day she destroys an entire school. How, on her first day there, she knew how to speak modern Japanese and knew how to make coffee was unexplained. (Especially unrealistic because coffee did not exist in Japan China 400 years ago.)
    • Her destroying the TV actually happens differently in each adaptation. In the anime, she attacks it when it shows a criminal threatening the camera with a gun; in the manga, a dog takes down the criminal and Shao takes the TV apart because she wants to reward him with a treat. Amusingly, when her longtime rival Ruuan joins the cast, she accidentally turns on the TV and Tasuke freaks out in anticipation of a repeat, only for the slightly more on-the-ball Ruuan to instantly figure out what's going on.
  • Mikuru Asahina from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya is from so far into the future that she has no comprehension of how to run anything in the 21st century. It's implied that mechanical technology is a dead end.
  • C.C. from Code Geass, after she loses her memories and reverts to the mentality of a preteen from the Feudal era. In one scene, she accidentally turns on a TV, then freaks out at what she sees... though in her defense, it was Japanese television she was watching.
  • Sai from Hikaru no Go is a humourous example, being the ghost of a master Go player from feudal Japan who was woken up by the titular Hikaru. His bewilderment at television and telephones is played for humour and he laughs hysterically when Hikaru tells him that humans have been on the moon.
  • Atem (Yami Yugi) from Yu-Gi-Oh was an Egyptian pharaoh 5000 years before the events of the series, which makes him a rather frightening arbiter of justice. Also happens in the Yu-Gi-Oh Tenth Anniversary Movie, in which Yusei ends up in Judai's time, and then both of them end up in Yugi's time.
  • Human Popsicle Faye Valentine of Cowboy Bebop has a brief scene during her spotlight Flash Back episode, "My Funny Valentine", when she fails to properly identify several basic appliances just after being unfrozen. The trope is invoked again to a more tragic bent near the end of the series, when she regains the memories of her past life and tries to go back home. After almost a century. Yeah, it doesn't go well.
  • This is part of Maia's secret hidden in her forgotten memories in Daphne in the Brilliant Blue.
  • Pokémon: Lucario and The Mystery of Mew, had Lucario belong hundreds of years in the past until he was trapped in the staff by his master. He's released at the beginning of the movie and is quite understandably confused (the kingdom he lived in is celebrating a festival, though when he last saw it, it was trapped between two armies, a place he remembers as a bedroom is now a museum, his master is dead, and basically nothing is as he remembers it.)
  • In Noblesse, the series begins with protagonist Rai awakening from his 820 year slumber in his coffin. Much of the series' humor revolves around Rai's incapability (and severely lazy lack of trying) to adapt to "modern day mechanics" such as doors. And windows. Especially funny in that, no matter how many instruction booklets his servant Frankenstein tries to write out for him, he always ends up just waiting around for Frankenstein to do it for him.
  • Jin (manga) tells the story of a brain surgeon in present-day Tokyo who gets sent back to 19th-century Japan, just as the Tokugawa era was ending and the country was beginning to open to foreign influences. He has to adjust to the social codes, but manages to fast-forward medical progress by several decades with the earlier introduction of germ theory and modern surgical methods.
  • Carol Reed from Oke no Monshou was the victim of a curse put on her, her mentor and an excavation team that was exploring an ancient Egyptian tomb. As a result, she gets thrown in the past and reaches Ancient Egypt...
  • Amatsuki is all about modern day city kid Tokidoki being trapped in a computer simulation of the Edo Period.

Comic Books

  • Part of the reason why Steve Rogers as Captain America is able to don his costume without irony and be an idealist in the modern world is because he was a young man in World War II who was so eager to fight that he volunteered for experiments when he wasn't physically fit for duty, and was then locked in suspended animation afterwards until the modern era.
    • Shortpacked lampshaded this.
    • The Ultimates‍'‍ version of Cap had almost exactly that experience, except that he ended up more traumatized than anyone else. Obviously he got better but still had a scary tendency to beat the crap out of people for violating his personal morals. As opposed to modern heroes who do the exact same thing but have values deemed more palatable because they're modern.
      • The first thing Ultimate Cap did when he woke up? Smash the room, because he thought an African-American general's existence was a Nazi ploy. The trope would definitely be used in the Ultimates Annual when he teamed with Ultimate Falcon though.
    • These circumstances were played around with in Dan Slott's She Hulk, where obscure Golden Age hero the Challenger shows up at the offices of Goodman, Lieber, Kutzberg and Holliway after being flung into the present day to see if there's any way he can, like, get his stuff and his house back. Stu Cicero tries to assist him in figuring this out, saying that thankfully Captain America's predicament provides ample precedent to work with.
    • And there's the Twelve, twelve random superheroes put in suspended animation by the Nazis in the last days of World War II and discovered sometime in 2007. Virtually all of them have a difficult time adjusting, with the curious exception of the Black Widow.
  • Goes both ways in Runaways: the team ends up in 1907 New York for a while and when they return to their present they take Klara with them; at this point in the story she is still adjusting to the change.
  • In The DCU, Zinda Blake, Lady Blackhawk, got catapulted from the 1940s to the present day during a Crisis Crossover. The problem for her is that, even though she is the one from the past, everybody else seems to be stuck in The Fifties! She wants to get on with her life, but people keep complaining her skirt is too short and that she belongs in a quiet job instead of gallivanting about in an airplane (Are we sure the rest of the decade didn't come forward with her?). Eventually she tells the stuffed shirts to get stuffed, steals the plane she technically owns anyway, and joins the Birds of Prey.
  • Booster Gold traveled back from the 25th century to the present, hoping to make a name for himself as a superhero (and make some money in the process).
  • Captain Atom's DCU origin saw him thrown 20 years forward into the present day. It caused him some culture shock, but what really got to him was discovering what had happened to his wife and kids while he'd been gone.
  • Princess Oona from Donald Duck is a stone age duck who ended up in the present, much to her disgrace.
  • Samaritan from Astro City is a time-traveler who averted a catastrophe, but rewrote his history so that he has no place in the future. Also Infidel, Samaritan's arch nemesis, is a time-lost villain whose own timeline was inadvertently destroyed by Samaritan's actions. Interestingly, neither of them has much trouble adjusting.
  • Ronin depicts a samurai thrust into the far-flung future.
  • During Greg Rucka's run on Wonder Woman, the Gorgons (in a hilarious aversion of Villains Blend in Better) are totally thrown off of their game by modern civilization. Medusa's initial attempt to kill Wonder Woman failed because she was scared off by traffic. Her sister Stheno spends most of her panel time studying the wonderful invention known as "television". They are forced to rely on Circe who is far more familiar with the modern world (having spent years living in it as Donna Milton) for most of the actual scheming.
  • Judo Girl was a stylin' superheroine in the 1960s, but after being frozen in time for 40 years she has a hard time dealing in a world where she's not the hippest trip.
  • In Transmetropolitan, "revivals" - Human Popsicle subjects unfrozen and regenerated - have a very hard time. The world has changed so radically in this future (to the point nobody knows the year) that most revivals suffer severe mental illness as soon as they look out the door of the cryogenics building. Not helping is that the people in charge think giving them a bed, clothes, and a handful of cash (which many revivals can't figure out how they're supposed to spend) is doing enough for them.
  • Dodge, the Big Bad of Locke and Key, has some spots of this (having been dead for twenty years) but manages to blend in well regardless. He's mostly just wowed by things like e-mails and cellphones.
  • Project Superpowers does not dwell TOO much on this, but nevertheless, it is about a bunch of World War II superheroes who have been trapped in Pandora's Urn for decades and are released in an alternate version of present day. Black Terror gets this with some of his ideals. Pyroman, on the other hand, quickly adapts and is just amazed at modern TVs.

Fan Works

  • This trope is employed to surprisingly good effect in the Unexpected Results series, a Trinity Blood fanfic around the premise of a woman from the present getting yanked over 1000 years into the future and landing in the post-Armageddon, vampire-filled Europe in which the series is set. Apart from a couple of relatively minor, and completely justified freak-outs, she copes surprisingly well.
  • The Mass Effect Self-Insert Fic Mass Vexations has a subversion: Author Avatar Art ends up 170 years into the future on the Citadel with no idea how he got there. However, since he knows the rules of where he is thanks to having played the game, he's able to adjust pretty quickly (though not as painlessly as he would have hoped).
  • Progress is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic about Princess Luna attempting to adjust to spending a millennium imprisoned in the moon. To give you an idea of how well it goes, she blows up a microwave trying to make popcorn in the first chapter.
  • In Kitsune on Campus, a Mahou Sensei Negima/Naruto crossover, Naruto digs himself out from the World Tree...3,500 years after Konoha fell. Being Naruto, he copes it fairly well.
  • In Soul Chess, a Bleach/Code Geass crossover, Lelouch finds himself going back 134 years BEFORE Britannia invades Japan.
  • In the Halo/Mass Effect crossover The Last Spartan, Master Chief is finally found on the Forward Unto Dawn and is promptly thawed out...131 years after the events of Halo3. Being The Determinator, he gets over the prospect of never seeing anyone from the 26th century again fairly quickly. Not without his reservations of humanity joining The Citadel or being nominated to become a Spectre though.
  • In the 1970s-vintage Star Trek: The Original Series fanfic "Mind-Sifter" by Shirley S. Maiewski (which can be found in the 1976 paperback collection of fanfiction Star Trek: The New Voyages), Kirk, rendered insane by Klingon interrogation with the mind-sifter (from the episode "Errand of Mercy"), plunges through the Guardian of Forever and ends up in the United States in the 1950s, where he is placed in an asylum. He is periodically lucid, however, and his occasional mentions of things like a turbo-lift puzzle his nurse.


  • All of the Back to The Future films, especially the first and third ones.
    • The second puts our hero in a different timeline altogether.
  • Star Trek IV the Voyage Home—Kirk and company go to the mid-1980s. There was some serious breakage of the Temporal Prime Directive there, what with McCoy refusing to leave hospital patients to primitive medicine, and Kirk's attempts to explain why Spock wasn't fitting in....

Kirk: Back in the '60s he was part of the free-speech movement at Berkeley... and I think he did a little too much LDS.

    • This would have been before (on the TO Sers timeline) before the Temporal Prime Directive existed. Between them an the TNG crew, it made altering the past a B plot.
    • And of course, the famous scene where Scotty attempts to issue voice commands to a Macintosh, attempts to talk into the mouse, and is then told to use the keyboard, which he calls "quaint". And Gillian Taylor, who goes from the present to the future and stays there, though we never hear from her again.
    • And also the famous scene where Chekov (the Russian guy) stops a cop to get directions to the 'nuclear wessels'.
  • The famously weird science-fiction musical (!) Just Imagine, where someone from the present (1930) awakens in the incredible far-off year of 1980.
  • Pleasantville: Two '90s kids get Trapped in TV Land, in a '50s Dom Com of exaggerated squareness.
  • Blast from the Past has Brendan Fraser's character trying to acclimate to life in the '90s after having been kept in an underground bunker his whole life and raised by parents for whom it's still 1962.
  • Idiocracy: Suspended animation into a distant future full of idiots...
  • In Good Bye, Lenin!, a fake East Germany needs to be staged for the protagonist's mother who was Rip Van Winkle for just a few months... during which the Berlin Wall fell.
  • The French movie Hibernatus is about a man who became a Human Popsicle after a shipwreck in 1905.
  • Just Visiting. The instinctive reaction of the two French knights when confronted with an SUV is to kill it. A lot.
    • The film is actually a remake of a very popular French comedy film called Les Visiteurs. They originally end in modern-day France (The Nineties), but in New York City in the American remake.
      • The two main actors are in both films.
      • The American remake also has the wizard who screwed up the spell (played by Malcolm McDowell) travel to the future to fix the problem. The original version had him leave instructions for his descendants.
  • The Christian film Time Changer, is about a nineteenth-century Bible scholar who travels to the present. He gets used to our technology (he'd better; he came in a solar-powered time machine), but is horrified by our perceived rampant immorality.[1]
  • The Spirit of '76. Citizens of a future American dystopia attempt to travel back and rediscover the nature of the titular spirit. Instead of 1776, they end up in 1976. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Much of the humor in the Austin Powers films derives from this trope.
    • Interestingly enough, the movies focus almost entirely on the social changes, with the technology changes barely being mentioned at all. Then again, considering he's a James Bond-style spy, the technology change probably isn't as great for him, but he does try to play a CD on a record player, and there is the scene in Goldmember where Austin introduces the internet to Foxxy. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Demolition Man sees Sylvester Stallone's usual character end up in the future through Suspended Animation. He's suitably confused by technological advances (such as the "three seashells" that have replaced toilet paper), and horrified by the fact that the world (or at least the city) has been entirely Disneyfied.
  • In Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the titular character is frozen in space and then revived 500 years later. He doesn't seem to have very much trouble adapting to the future, though.
    • Not only does he not have a hard time adapting to the future, but he revels in his ability to make inside jokes that only he (and the audience) understands. Additionally, his training as a pilot and an astronaut make him the perfect person to fight intergalactic crime in the future.
    • The movie was released in 1979, but the plot has Buck leaving Earth in 1987, which makes it seem a little odd when Buck gets everyone in the future to dance to disco music.
      • Which just means that Buck is really a Disco Dan.
    • Similarly, the character Hieronymous Fox (played by Gary Coleman) is from the same era as Buck.
  • In Ivan Vasilievich changes his occupation, a Soviet comedy movie, a young, aspiring Mad Scientist Shurik builds a time machine, and a superintendent of the house he was living in, Ivan Bunsha, exchanges places with the tsar Ivan the Terrible (the two Ivans are lookalikes). We get two fish out of temporal water, the superintendent who impersonates the tsar, and the tsar who thinks he is in a world of demons. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The final scene of American Gangster shows Frank Lucas stepping out of prison in 1991, in a New York that has changed dramatically since his reign as drug lord. The first thing he hears is gangsta rap blaring from a car rolling down the street.
  • Much of the humor in The Brady Bunch Movie and A Very Brady Sequel comes from putting the stuck-in-the-'70s Brady clan in the grunge-era '90s.
    • This example is a comedy inversion of the trope as the Bradys themselves are perfectly at ease acting as if it were still a 70's era sitcom, leaving others around them stunned and confused.
  • In Kate and Leopold a 19th century duke falls through a time portal into 21st century New York.
  • The tagline from Trancers says it all. "Meet Jack Deth. He's a Cop From The Future Trapped in the Present, and he's chasing a 23rd century menace in 1985."
  • Variation: Enchanted. The world of Andalasia exists in modern times, but is seemingly in Medieval Stasis, allowing the characters who cross over into our world to be like this.
  • In Time After Time, idealistic socialist H.G. Wells travels to the 20th century in pursuit of time-machine-thief Jack the Ripper, and finds it's not the Utopia he'd expected.
  • In The Navigator, some medieval villagers wander through a time-rift and find themselves in the present day. Unusual in that, while they are frightened by much of what they see, they never realize what's actually happening and assume it's just what big cities are like.
  • At the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers wakes up in a hospital room in New York, sees through the ruse of the SHIELD agent trying to convince him it's still 1941 and breaks out of the room and runs out of the building. He then realizes he's woken up 70 years later (in 2011) as he runs down the street and stands in Times Square.
    • In The Avengers, we see more of this. He doesn't know what pilates are, and all of Tony's pop-culture jokes go over his head. Then Fury mentions that Loki turned two of his best men into his personal flying monkeys.

Thor: I do not understand--
Cap: I do! (beat) I got that reference.

  • A mild version occurs in Escape From the Planet Of The Apes, when Zira and Cornelius hop a spaceship and get thrown back in time after Earth is destroyed. They're amazed by how advanced human civilization is and are perplexed by human things like prize fights, human clothes, wine (aka 'grape juice plus'), not to mention the fact that apes are wild animals kept in zoos.
  • This is the premise of Tim Burton's Dark Shadows starring (of course) Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, about a Vampire waking up after a 200-years-long sleep and finding himself in the 1970s. See a trailer here.
  • The German film Das Wunder von Bern ("The Miracle of Berne") is set in 1954, the year Germany won the FIFA world championship the first time. One of the protagonists, Richard Lubanski, returns home from a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp, one of the last Germans to be repatriated. He finds it hard to adjust to the unfamiliar new West German society which is on its way to give up the strict patriarchal and authoritarian ways he had been accustomed to, and in particular he finds himself unable to deal with his elder son, a young rebel with communist leanings. Richard's situation is aggravated by his own war trauma and the fact that his wife and children have of necessity learned to cope without him during the intervening decade and thus resist his attempts to reimpose the pre-war pattern of him as husband, provider and near-absolute head of the family.


  • The original Rip Van Winkle story is about a guy who literally sleeps through The American Revolution. He awakens twenty years after having originally fallen asleep and heads back to his town, thinking only one night has passed. Confusion ensues.
    • Rip Van Winkle (and all of its imitators) resembles the legend of Choni the Circlemaker (haMa`agel) as related in the Talmud (BT Ta`anit 23a), in which a famous scholar sleeps for 70 years, and awakens to find his teachings misinterpreted and all of his buddies dead. That said, this trope could be Older Than Feudalism.
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and all of its imitators/remakes.
  • The Cross Time Engineer has a similar premise as Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee, but with a 20th century engineer.
  • Looking Backward: 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy, written in 1888 about a man from 1887 who wakes up in 2000. Which is a socialist utopia.
    • William Morris' News from Nowhere, written two years later as a direct response to Bellamy's book, follows the same structure but shows a very different vision of a socialist future.
  • One of Spider Robinson's early Callahan's Place stories—and one of the few to involve no overt science-fictional elements—was called The Time Traveler. It was about a man who spent the 1960s in a South American prison and everything that had changed when he got back. For perspective, he had been jailed about half a year before President Kennedy's assassination and was released around the time of Watergate... This was published in a science fiction magazine: the author argued that the character had as much claim to being a time traveler as anyone with a time machine.
  • Stephen King does this in The Dark Tower series, using parallel worlds in which time sometimes passes at different rates. Thus a character from the '60s is as shocked as Doc Brown that Reagan is President in the '80s. (But at the finale, she ends up in a universe where Gary Hart is President instead.)
    • There's also Umney's Last Case, where a Raymond Chandler-style PI is dumped out of his vague 30s/40s fictional world by his creator and ends up in the real world of the 90s. It's a serious shock to the system.
  • In The Candlestone by Bryan Davis, several Knights of the Round Table have been trapped in the titular gem for centuries. The stories they hear from others have prepared them to some extent for when they are released, but still make mistakes, like when they thought that a giveaway box actually contained goodwill and got day-glo leisure suits from the seventies.
  • Lily from Soon I Will Be Invincible has this as her "official" origin story. But it turns out it's all just part of her Masquerade.
  • In Arthur C. Clarke's 3001: The Final Odyssey, one of the astronauts from 2001: A Space Odyssey has been rescued and revived after floating frozen in space for a thousand years. Now, in Real Life, the year 2001 is in The Past... But in the Odyssey novels' continuity, in 2001 we've got permanent moon bases and manned missions to Jupiter in giant spaceships, making it feel more like The Future to present-day readers (3001 was written in 1997, but still assumed the events of 2001 will have taken place). Really, though, the trope most closely evoked by the frozen astronaut's experience is someone from The Present ending up in the future. So which variety of this trope is being exemplified here? Past to Future, Present to Future, or Future to Future? Only you can decide.
  • Cyril Kornbluth's The Marching Morons. An amoral 20th century con man awakens in the year 7-B-936, offers his Final Solution to the world's population problem; hilarity does not ensue. For the billions he helped send to their deaths, or for him when he is forced to join them.
  • Floe in I Was A Teenage Popsicle by Bev Katz Rosenbaum. Floe was frozen at the time of her death. When she is defrosted ten years later, she finds that her parents are still frozen and she must live with her sister, who was younger than her but is now older than her.
  • A version in the young adult book Running Out of Time by Margaret Haddix .The protagonist believes it is 1840, but she is actually living in a historical village in 1996. The parents volunteered to live in the village, posing as frontier villagers 24/7, with tourists watching them via hidden cameras, but they kept this knowledge secret from their children for the sake of authenticity. When diptheria starts to kill children in the village, the owner won't give them medicine for it (since it didn't exist in 1840), so the main character has to sneak out of the village to get help, and is overwhelmed by the world of 1996. Yes, the publisher of this book did accuse M. Night Shyamalan of stealing ideas for his movie The Village.
  • In John C. Wright's War of the Dreaming, Warlock Azrael de Gray is one of these: person from the past transported to the present day. While he does eventually figure out the modern world, he never quite gets it.
  • In The Seventh Sword trilogy by Dave Duncan, a chemist named Wally Smith dies and is transported to an unfamiliar world where he inhabits the body of that world's greatest swordsman. Throughout the story, his knowledge of our world and lack of knowledge of his new world both get him into and out of trouble.
  • The Book Of Kells by R. A. MacAvoy. Who knew that tracing the pattern of the Cross of Bridget while listening to traditional Irish music could open a portal to another time?
  • 1632. A whole modern town gets sent back to the titular year (and moved from Appalachia to Central Europe). Not having any way to return to the present (and having an exclusive cache of modern technology and information), they decide to get the American Revolution started a hundred and fifty years early.
  • Andrei Belyanin loves this trope and uses it humorously as a basis for several novels, including the Sword with No Name series (a modern-day man is transported into a medieval kingdom filled with magic and evil sorcerers), the Tsar Gorokh's Detective Agency series (a modern-day policeman ends up in a mix of medieval Russia and fairy tales), The Thief of Baghdad series (the author's friend ends up in Ancient Arabia and forms the legend of the Thief of Baghdad), the Professional Werewolf series (a young female college student is recruited by a time-travelling duo to go to different time periods and fight evil), and The Redheaded Knight (a medieval knight ends up in modern-day Russia). The My Wife Is a Witch series also includes several parallel worlds that are in the past (such as the Aztec Empire during its final days). In most of the novels, there is a good deal of anachronism; however, this is deliberate on the author's part, who notes the absurdity of the situation.
  • Played straight, averted, and inverted in In the Keep of Time. When the children go to the past, Ian and especially Elinor do not feel like they belong at all, with Elinor constantly complaining of only wanting to get back to the present as soon as possible. Andrew, however, fits in almost right away thanks to some handy archaic clothing and a mercy mission to save the people of Smailholm, befriending Mae, proving himself to the Laird and his men, learning much of history from Cedric, and even witnessing the Battle of Roxburgh. When they all return to the present, it is Ollie, in the mentality of Mae, who is instead completely out of her depth and has to be instructed and helped to become part of that world. Interestingly, she isn't able to fully accept who she is and where she belongs until after another trip where they're all in the wrong time, in the future.
  • The Dragon Knight series by Gordon R. Dickson features graduate student James Eckert, who is teleported back to the middle ages somewhere near the year 1300 and ends up cohabitating a dragon's body for the first book, so he not only has to learn how to adapt to medieval surroundings but also being a large flying target for overzealous knights.
  • The main theme of Return From the Stars. Hal Bregg, the protagonist, ended up returning from his space mission to an Earth 127 years later due to Time Dilation (along with the other astronauts). The Earth government would want them to spend some time adapting in a special educational facility, but Hal decides to try and integrate himself into the future society on his own (mainly because he distrusts the educational facility's propaganda about how wonderful all future achievements are.) It is difficult, if only due to huge changes in psychology of humans.
  • In Paths Not Taken, characters from the modern Nightside travel back to Arthurian, Roman, and pre-Roman Britain. While John and Suzie don't have much difficulty elbowing their way through the series' everlasting World of Snark, Tommy Oblivion is horrorstruck by how the squalor and slavery of the 6th century contrast with his romanticised pop-culture impression of the period.
  • Several novels and stories of the Noon Universe by the Strugatsky Brothers include astronauts coming back from relativistic trips a century or two after they left and have to adjust to living in a new world with all of their friends and loved ones dead. This is until the discovery that relativistic travel doesn't have to be of the Year Outside, Hour Inside variety, if one foregoes the Special Theory of Relativity, which flips it into the Year Inside, Hour Outside variety.
  • Sylvia Engdahl's Enchantress From the Stars. The author states specifically that the locale is not set in time or space and it is never ever ever ever ever lots and lots of ever ever ever hinted on the truth of if Earth is involved in any way. The Enchantress in the title is a girl from the future in which people have psychic powers and gets a trip on her dad's starship to a more early world in the equivalent of Middle Ages ("dragon" is a mining thing from rebel imperialistic people from the future group.) and the other protagonists are from Mid Ages.
  • In Warrior Cats, Jayfeather is sent back to the time of the Ancients and must adapt to their traditions, while teaching them traditions he learned from the future version of them.
  • In ???, a popsicled Roman Centurion does the usual "horseless carriage" remark, only to add, after the canonical explanation, that ok, so it is only an unsurprising "Greek Device", and then to brag about having seen similar gadgets when he was in Alexandria...
  • Thibault, one of the main characters of the Les Conquérants de l'Impossible French novels for young readers, fell into a natural pool of liquid nitrogen just after it is implied that he's the one who fired the shot that killed King Richard Lionheart. He is found and revived in the early 1990s by the other main characters and spends quite some time learning to adapt to the change.
  • In Time Scout uptimers often make fatal mistakes downtime. Downtimers trapped uptime are the most pitiful refugees ever; many go mad.
  • The narrator/protagonist of Letters Back to Ancient China (not only this, but he also arrived on the wrong continent).
  • In John C. Wright's Count To A Trillion, Menelaus after his cure.
  • in Kim Harrison's The Hollows series, a witch named Pierce who lived in the 1800s appears first as a ghost, later gaining a body. He often comes up against the unfamiliar technology as well as more liberal culture of the 21st century, and speaks in an archaic manner.
  • In Isaac Asimov's Pebble in the Sky, Joseph Schwartz, a tailor from contemporary Chicago, is inadvertently and permanently displaced into the future of the author's Galactic Empire novels due to a scientific experiment gone strangely wrong.
  • Mikhail Akhmanov's novel Pharaoh's Guard has a modern-day Russian man end up in the service of Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt.
  • Kir Bulychev's Alice, Girl from the Future series has a book about the titular from the late 21st century who ends up the 80s USSR. In the meantime, an 80s schoolboy trades places with her and finds himself in the future, trying to stop Space Pirates from obtaining a dangerous mind-reading device.
  • Aleksandr Mazin's Barbarians (AKA Roman Eagle) trilogy has two Russian cosmonauts somehow end up in the 3rd century AD during the final years of the Roman Empire. One of them gets captured by the barbarians encroaching on Rome, while the other one joins up with the Roman legions. Naturally, they change their names from Gennady Cherepanov and Aleksey Korshunov to Gennadius Paulus and Alaseia the Heavenly Warrior. Somehow, Alaseia/Aleksey ends up the chieftain of the barbarian tribes, while Gennadius/Gennady becomes the Primus Pilus (senior centurion) of the Roman legions. The author's goal appears to be not to change histoy but to describe the fall of Rome through the eyes of our contemporaries, one of which is determined to keep the Empire from falling (having already lived through one such experience).
    • Mazin's Varyag series has an ex-commando end up in 10th century Kievan Rus' (the original Russian state).
    • His The Morning of Judgment Day novel involves a trained commando being sent to prehistoric past to discover the cause of Twenty Minutes in The Future catastrophes. Despite the training (mostly involving survival and fighting big cats), he's still ill-prepared to deal with the reality of prehistoric Africa. Imagine trying to ride an undomesticated zebra without a saddle or the time to break the animal in while running away from a tribe of murderous cannibals.
  • In Rene Barjauel's The Ice People, two people are cryonically preserved during a time of technologically advanced civilization thousands of years ago, and reawakened during the twentieth century.

Live Action TV

  • Fantasy Island often sent guests back in time to interact with historical figures. Other times characters such as Don Juan, King Arthur and Jack the Ripper ended up in the 70s.
  • Dark Shadows: Victoria Winters switches places with an 18th century governess, who was wrongfully convicted of being a witch and hung in 1795, during a seance. Vicky almost suffers the same fate, but the accusations against her are sparked from her arriving in 1795 as is, wearing her modern clothing and a "charm" bracelet and her inability to keep quiet about future events in a vain attempt to prevent them from happening. She is eventually convicted and sentenced to hang, but the hanging is what sends her back to the present day.
  • Phil of the Future is from The Future to the Present.
  • A few Star Trek episodes had this:
    • Khan of Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan fame was one of these when he first appeared in Star Trek: The Original Series.
    • In "City On the Edge of Forever" an overdosed McCoy raves on about the terrible surgical methods of the period he's in, with "bodies stitched up like clothes".
    • TOS also had some Klingons-on-Ice.
      • As did TNG. The Enterprise dealt with those by letting Worf and K'eylar pretend to run the ship.
    • A few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation had holodeck characters brought to life. Professor Moriarty was "from" the 19th century, but adapted to Star Trek Next Gen's "present day" surprisingly well...
      • A similar occurrence in DS9 where Vic (from the 50's/70's) was comfortable knowing he was a hologram in the 24th century.
      • Both of the above are justified in that these are Holograms and were programmed with the knowledge of what they are and when they were. Moriarty took some extra time to adapt because he was programmed with the knowledge to defeat Data, but was trying to make sense of it.
      • Done again in an episode of Voyager when the Hologram of Leonardo da Vinci gets accidentally loaded onto the Doctor's Mobile Emitter and taken by pirates to a nearby planet.
    • Another TNG episode involved some defrosted Human Popsicles. Perhaps too much, since they were there mostly for exposition of "the present" in the Federation and to get in the way while Picard tried to deal with Romulans.
    • Star Trek: Voyager also had a Human Popsicle episode, "The 37s," which involved (among others) Amelia Earheart.
      • Voyager's finale also had an interesting case of Twenty Minutes Into the Future combined with this trope. Admiral Janeway arrived from 16 years in the future relative to the series' time scale. The Values Dissonance comes from her own clashing views with her younger self, Captain Janeway.
    • Don't forget Scotty in the Next Generation episode "Relics".
    • In Voyager's 'Natural Law' Seven and Chakotay are stranded on a planet with primitive humanoids (similar to our own ancestors.) This also happened in the Enterprise episode 'Civilisation' (but this species were equivalent to our Renaissance period.)
    • There is also the crew of the USS Bozeman, being sent forward in time from TOS to TNG by a Negative Space Wedgie while trying to fight off a Klingon battlecruiser (this part was added by the book Ship of the Line).
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation even has a case of "someone from The Future ends up in The Future" in the episode "A Matter of Time", where a historian from the 26th century goes back to the 24th century to witness an important event that the crew of the Enterprise-D are about to undergo. It's almost all a lie, however - while he is using a time machine that came from the future, he stole it from its original owners as they went to visit his time - the 22nd century - and pretended to be a future historian so he could sneak back 24th century technology, making a major profit on it in his home time. Regardless of the truth, both alleged origin points and the destination are "the future" to the early 1990s audience watching the episode.
  • Lost season 5: after many merry adventures on the time travelling island, Sawyer, Juliet, Miles, Jin, and Daniel end up stuck in 1974. Unlike the usual progression of this trope, the five characters assimilate with the DHARMA Initiative and live happily among them for three years until Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sayid show up, also sent back in time, and violent Hilarity Ensues.
  • Doctor Who revolves around traveling through time and space in a blue box, so every companion, especially the ones from Earth, are subject to this. Generally, they don't stay around for long.
    • In the episode "Blink", the Weeping Angels feed on the potential energy of humans, hurtling them back through time and eating off the life they could have had. Cathy Nightingale is sent to 1920, while Billy Shipton is thrown into 1969.
    • In "The Pandorica Opens", Rory Williams, based in 2010 and last seen in 2020 spends months as a Roman Legionary, fitted with false memories of a soldier as well as that of Rory himself, being a duplicate created by the Nestene.
      • He then spends the next several thousand years guarding the Pandorica with Amy inside. She pretty much had to marry him after that.
    • Since the classic series originated as a way to teach children history, some of the early companions are from earlier periods in Earth's history—for example, on 18th-century Scotsman Jamie's first few TARDIS trips he insists that an image can't be of the moon since the moon's in the sky, and, upon seeing a Cyberman, believes it to be a ghost and a portent of his death. Also, he's terrified of airplanes. Victorian girl Victoria adapts much more easily, only worrying about her clothes.
  • The Torchwood episode "Out of Time" has three aircraft travelers from the 1950s pass through a one-way Time Portal. Each character reacts differently the initially most nervous one adapts and moves to London, the aviatrix dates Owen but breaks his heart when she takes her chances with the portal (the Rift) again, and the other commits suicide as all his family are dead except his son who has advanced Alzheimer's and barely remembers him.
  • Life On Mars...sort of. "My name is Sam Tyler. I had an accident, and I woke up in 1973. Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time?"
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is trying this. After the first episode, Sarah, John, and Cameron travel from 1999 to 2007. On some points (Sarah and John getting cell phones) it's played for light laughs. On others (Sarah learning about the 9/11 attacks)...not so much.
    • Derek, being from the Bad Future, also qualifies as this. He brings his values back in time with him and believes that every problem can be solved with a gun.
      • This attitude eventually gets him killed.
  • In Angel, Angel was born in the 1720s, so in one episode where all the characters lose their memories and think they're still teenagers, he becomes confused by modern technology. At one point, when he ventures outside and sees cars, he runs back inside and declares that there are hundreds of demons. When asked to describe what they looked like, he says, "Shiny." Also, one point, when Cordelia turns off the radio, he says, "How did you stop the tiny men from singing?"
    • Holtz is also brought forward from the 1800s. His obsessive focus on destroying Angel lets him shrug off most of the culture shock—one of the few questions he asks is how, with all the new weapons they've created since his time, no one has killed Angelus yet. A reasonable enough question given how well The Judge fared against modern weaponry.
  • Adam Adamant Lives was an early TV example of this trope. A swashbuckling Edwardian gentleman (the eponymous Adam) was frozen in 1902 and escaped in 1966. The show apparently inspired Jon Pertwee's portrayal of the better-known contemporary TV time-travelling hero, The Doctor.
  • Its About Time, a short-lived Fantastic Comedy from The Sixties, wound up using two variations of this trope. The show began with two astronauts becoming stranded in the prehistoric era and befriending a family of cave dwellers; after months of disappointing ratings, a mid-season Retool resulted in the astronauts returning to their own time—with the cave family in tow.
  • The original The Outer Limits did this with the main characters of their Time Travel episodes ("The Man Who Was Never Born", "Soldier", "Demon with a Glass Hand"), all of whom came from The Future to what was then The Present Day.
  • This was a common trope on the original The Twilight Zone. Relevant episodes include "Execution", "Back There", "The Odyssey of Flight 33", "Once Upon a Time", and "No Time Like the Past".
  • The Time Tunnel is centered around this trope.
  • An episode of House had the titular character wake a man who had been in a coma ten years. Fish Out of Temporal Water moments include House telling the man, when he wants to get new clothes, that we have switched to "recyclable clothes" that one wears once and then eats, and the coma guy stumbling across new music players. "What's this? It says 'IP-ODD'."
  • The main character of Life spent more than a decade in prison. Well, the world has changed quite a bit since then...

Crews: He sent John an IM. *beat* Reese, what exactly is an IM?

  • Catweazle was an early 70s British show about a 10th century wizard who tries to cast a spell of flight to escape a group of Norman soldiers, but ends up in 1970 instead. There he encounters such strange wonders like 'electrickery' (electricity), 'tiny suns' (light bulbs) and 'telling bones' (telephones).
  • Quantum Leap pretty much is this trope...Sam spends the entire series leaping around throughout the past and having to adapt to different times (and being seen as a different person in each).
  • This happened in a couple episodes of Sliders, particularly in one of the earlier seasons when the Sliders end up on a world that was ~20 years behind theirs and Quinn meets his younger self right after his father died.
  • Technically anything that comes through the anomalies in Primeval is a candidate for this trope, but it is most in evidence when a Medieval Knight comes through and mistakes modern London for Hell (you can see how he might think that though).
    • The knight was actually chasing what he thought was a dragon, which turned out to be a dracorex.
    • Two other time travelers, Ethan and Emily, show up in Season 4, but this trope doesn't come into play that much because Ethan is actually from the present and Emily just never seems confused about much of the present things. Except high-fives.
  • Averted in Kamen Rider Kiva, when an incident at a fortune teller's causes Wataru to be possessed by the spirit of his late father Otoya. After finding out when he is, Otoya is delighted to discover such things as maid cafes and the Internet, and even helps his friend's daughter get over a personal problem. If anything, Otoya is better-adjusted to the 2000s than his introverted shut-in son.
  • The early episodes of The 4400 deal with the adaptation of the abductees to life in the early 21st century. An African-American man from the 1950s discovers that Jim Crow is no longer around, but restaurants are now non-smoking.
  • Being originally from either pre-Islamic, or early Islamic, Persia, Jeannie was prone to this.
  • Two episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures have the cast sent back to an earlier part of Sarah Jane's history, which the Trickster wishes to alter for his own goals.
  • In Supernatural, Samuel Winchester, Dean's grandfather, is one. As Sam so eloquently put it, "He thinks Velcro is big news."
  • An episode of Earth: Final Conflict had an Atavus female and a Medieval English monk (who was hunting her) appear in the Twenty Minutes Into the Future world of EFC. He is initially put off by Renee Palmer, as he expects women to be docile and subservient. After learning her name, he simply assumes she's French and leaves it at that, although he does ask if she's a courtesan or a harlot, given the way she dresses and acts, not understanding why she feels insulted by the question. Interestingly, no one seems to pay attention to a man walking around wearing a monk's cowl.
    • Of course, all Atavus fit this trope, as they went into hybernation when humans were still cavemen and woke up to find billions of us running their world.
      • your forgetting that a celebrate black catholic monk is the source code of the entire human race.
  • In Rentaghost, Timothy Claypole, a medieval jester, had problems dealing with modern technology while Hubert Davenport, a Victorian gentleman, had trouble adjusting to modern morals.
  • One episode of Muppets Tonight features Gary Cahuenga, a ventriloquist's dummy who was locked in a trunk for some forty years. When released, he thinks it's time for his appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and has some initial difficulties adjusting to modern times.

Gary: The women-! They're...wearing their dresses up to here! And...tattoos! And the guys are wearing their noses!
Bobo: Wait'll he gets a load of Dennis Rodman.



  • Lincs FM, a station in Lincolnshire, considered by some radio enthusiasts to be stuck in The Nineties.
  • Played for laughs with Ed, the security guard in Jack's money vault on The Jack Benny Program. He's depicted as having been stuck down there since the Revolutionary War and completely innocent of current events, let alone such "modern" contraptions as wheelbarrows. At least one episode had Jack bringing him up to the surface, and his resultant future shock.

Newspaper Comics

  • The above-mentioned Buck Rogers was of course based on a golden age newspaper comic. It also spawned popular film serials, and in more recent times it inspired two separate Tabletop Games from TSR, and a recent comic book by Dynamite Entertainment.
  • Alley Oop is a time-traveling cave man. By now, he's been time-hopping for so many years that he tends to get over his culture shock of whatever era he's visiting pretty quickly. When his less-experienced cave man friends occasionally accompany him though, they usually have more trouble.

Tabletop Games

  • Rapata, aka Mr Shark, from Genius: The Transgression. He's a time-travelling 17th-century Maori navigator. His time machine is a canoe. He's actually adapted fairly well to modern and later times, except when he's really overworked and having a bad day (which is most of the time), in which case he skips planning for the century in question and just stomps down the main street of Seattle in a feather cape, brandishing a taiaha cudgel and screaming the name of whoever's pissed him off this time.

Video Games

  • Grovyle and Dusknoir are the future-to-present variety in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time, Darkness and Sky. Later on, we get the player character and their partner going from the present to the future with them... only for the amnesiac player character to actually be from the future as well. Not only that, but there are at least three separate futures due to the protagonists' screwing with the timeline.
  • Rather the point of Chrono Trigger. The characters of the story tend to take this in stride, with a few exceptions.
    • When Crono, Marle, and Lucca end up in 2300 A.D., they are shocked and horrified by the nature of their future.

Marle: "It's like another world..."

    • The results of the Ocean Palace Disaster displaces four characters who have no way back, specifically Melchior, Gaspar and Belthasar, the three sages, in addition to the young Janus, who became Magus. Belthasar was the only one to try to make a way back, but he died of old age by the time he finished his time machine. The other three made new lives for themselves when they ended up.
    • After the party defeats Magus and screws up his summoning of Lavos, the resulting time distortions displace Magus again and he ends up in his own past, where he acts as a prophet (using his knowledge of his own time period) to try for another swing at Lavos.
  • One scene in Grand Theft Auto Vice City features this trope. The protagonist, Tommy Vercetti, had been sent to prison in 1971 and released in 1986, shortly before the game started. One of the people he does jobs for is a sleazy porn director who's shooting a pornographic parody of Jaws. Tommy wonders to himself why anybody would go see a movie about fish.
    • Likewise, Grand Theft Auto IV features a darker, less comedic application of this trope. Dwayne Forge, who had just been released from prison after several years, is shocked about how the drug business, which had once been a last-resort career track for those desperate to escape the ghetto, is now being presented by pop culture as something that black youth should aspire to making it big in.
  • We have Tidus from Final Fantasy X, getting thrown approximately a thousand years into the future, where his home Zanarkland was destroyed by Sin. Turns out that Tidus was a dream created by the fayth and that everything that he knew wasn't real.
  • In Light's Out, the sequel to Dark Fall: The Journal, Benjamin Barker travels into two different future eras and one period of the past. His confusion at seeing what's become of the lighthouse he'd been checking up on could fit this trope, even if he didn't get the chance to interact with people as a social Fish Out of Water.
  • This is the basis to the whole story in Onimusha 3, as main hero Samanosuke Akechi is sent 500 years forward into modern Paris, just as Jean-Jacques, based on actor Jean Reno, is sent back into Samanosuke's time in a crazy time-travel plot to resurrect Nobunaga. Both of them act properly befuddled by their surroundings, especially Samanosuke.
  • To allow new players to enter the game without knowing the theme, OtherSpace uses this trope to allow players to be from any era in human history, then suddenly be sucked into the game world.
  • King Malinus from Adventure Quest returns to life after being dead for centuries only to find his once beautiful kingdom gone. He goes berserk and tries to find someone to blame for its destruction. He refuses to accept your explanation that no one is to blame; that time takes all things. He even attacks you thinking you are responsible. He calms down after you defeat him and then wonders what he should do now. Fortunately, his Moglin assistant (who survived all this time thanks to his healing magic) comforts him by telling Malinus that he has many descendants still alive and that his vanished kingdom acted as the foundation for the present civilization. You throw in your two cents by suggesting that Malinus could be a hero again since Lore will always need more heroes. Malinus takes your words to heart and offers as a reward a spell to summon him in battle.
  • Silas and Verna in The Trail of Anguish can't say exactly where they're from, from the museum exhibit suggests they're from a lost era.
  • Would you ever believe BlazBlue has this in an extreme form? Continuum Shift: Extend gives us Makoto's story mode, Slight Hope. Makoto Nanaya, the aforementioned, winds up falling into a dormant Cauldron in the Ikaruga ruins, and gets thrown out back at the events of Calamity Trigger - during the Wheel of Fortune timeline! Makoto has no role in NOL Intelligence or Sector Seven, Noel does not exist, and the only folks who have any idea what the hell she's going on about are Hazama, Relius, Kokonoe, and Rachel. In the bad ending Relius finds her first and... the rest is best left unsaid. In the good ending, Rachel helps her back to the active timeline.
  • Javik in Mass Effect 3, has been frozen for 50.000 years. As a result, all his memories regarding the races who now rule the galaxy are from when they were little more than cavemen.
    • Which he is constantly pointing out... even when he's praising them. What does he say about the Salarians, the smartest people in the galaxy? "They used to lick their own eyeballs".
  • Eirena the Enchantress in Diablo III, who was placed in a 1,500 year long slumber so that she can help the hero fight the forces of Hell.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Used in Pantheocide to brutally subvert both the idea of "states' rights" (he admits it to have been a crock in his time) and the historical fantasy of General Robert E. Lee's military skill compared to 21st-century warfare:

Lee stepped inside and came to attention. "General Petraeus, Sir, I would like to withdraw my request for a combat command. I would still wish to serve my country and my flag in any other way you might find appropriate."
Petraeus looked up. "Sit down Robert. What made you come to this conclusion?"
"Sir, for a week, I have been attempting to understand how your army works. With the aid of a very skilled and patient tutor. Sir, I regret to say I have failed completely. I am not fit to command and I must recognize that as a fact. One day, perhaps, but not now."

  • Lord Valentai and Bianca Holloway from The Gungan Council were both from the ancient past. Dominique England came from the future, however.
  • 80's Dan got pulled from 1989 to modern day when Brad Jones opened a bottle of New Coke.

Western Animation

  • Fry in early Futurama; he adapted surprisingly quickly.
    • Said best in 'Cryonic Woman'

Michelle: You were a loser in the year 2000 and you're a loser in the year 4000.
Fry: Yeah, but in the year 3000, I had it all; a couple of friends, a low-paying job, a bed in a robot's closet. I envied no man, but you wrecked everything!

    • In another episode 'Roswell That Ends Well' Fry and co. travelled back to 1947, crash landed in Roswell and Fry wound up killing the man he believed to be his grandfather, then he himself becoming his own grandfather.
    • The reason Fry adapted quickly was more of a production thing: they were finding it hard to create more storylines about Fry adapting to the future, so they turned him into a straight, somewhat dim-witted (Depending on the Writer) man in an insane future
  • Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels.
  • South Park lampshaded this in its second season by having a Human Popsicle who was only frozen for three years... but the town treated it as if this were a big thing.
    • In its tenth season, Cartman was turned into a Human Popsicle while trying to cut down on the time until the Nintendo Wii came out. Unfortunately, he ended up freezing himself for 500 years.
      • The next episode shows that he has adapted to life in the future quite well, although his primary concern is still to get a Wii.
  • This is the entire premise of Samurai Jack: Jack has been sent to the future and is trying to get back.
    • Much of what little comedy is had in the series is dependent on Jack's lack of understanding in the future. Most notably his name was a slang three hipsters called him on the streets and he thought that was what they seriously thought his name was.
  • A significant part of the premise of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward was seeing them adapt to living 100 years in the future.
  • Ivan Dobsky was convicted as the Meatsafe Murderer in the early 70s, only he never done it, he only said he done it so they would take his willy out of the light socket, but two nice men named D 'n A said he never done it, and they told everyone. So Ivan is released from prison, but he finds himself unable to cope with the changes that have occurred in society during the 20-odd years of his imprisonment. He laments this fact and says he wants to go back to prison, but people tell him he can only go back to prison if he does something truly horrible. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Kiva from Megas XLR is a soldier from the future fighting an alien war. She intended to send the Megas robot back to a turning point in the losing war, but accidentally sends it back to the 20th century. When she finds it in the early 21st century, she discovers the time controls are broken beyond repair.
  • Mummies Alive used and abused this trope with gay abandon. The mummies, after awakening over 3,000 years after their deaths, obviously have a lot of adjusting to do, but this adjustment period seemed to take an extremely long time, with jokes about the Mummies encountering modern technology making up at least 80% of every single episode.
  • Teen Titans does this with Cyborg, when he gets spontaneously warped to 3000 BC and dumped right in the middle of a war between a tribe of barbarians (led by the surprisingly bad-ass Sarasim) and some vaguely demonic creatures. He helps them fight off the monsters several times, and eventually discovers the one responsible for their appearance—Krall, an unscrupulous warrior from the tribe who asked a witch to give him glory, and instead received monsters he couldn't defeat. He asked her for the strength to beat them, and she brought Cyborg from the present. A transformed Krall and his minions lay siege to the warriors' home, and Krall manages to get the upper hand against Sarasim. Before Cyborg can save her, he's pulled back though a time warp to the present by the other Titans. At first he's distraught, but later Raven shows him a book detailing the history of Sarasim's tribe, which shows that they managed to defeat Krall's army, and Sarasim survived.
    • Another episode has Starfire sent twenty years into a Bad Future, when three of her four compatriots are retired.
  • Gargoyles had this in the first episode with the main protagonists having slept for a thousand years but they adapt surprisingly quickly (particularly Hudson's love of T.V. and Lexington in general).
  • The Alternate Reality episode of The Boondocks, in which Martin Luther King Jr. didn't die when he was shot but remained in a coma for forty years, uses this trope to critique aspects of both contemporary African-American culture and the mainstream news media.
  • The major driving plot of Avatar: The Last Airbender is how Aang cryogenically froze himself for 100 years, waking up to find that a war with the Fire Nation started not long after he was frozen and has gone on since then. Sometimes, the show thematically explores the consequences of how things change with time - in an early episode, he meets his only known surviving friend, who is now much older than he is; and about mid-series, he finds what used to be an oasis in the desert to be completely dried up. This is most notably explored, however, whenever the Air Temples are visited - Aang is shown reminiscing about how things are so different in his old homes, especially since for him it wasn't even a year ago that they were full of life.
  • Transformers Animated's take on Cyclonus only appears for a few minutes in the actual show, but the Allspark Almanac II lets us know that he's from the future and is just biding his time until Megatron becomes Galvatron.
  • The Smurfs in both Season 9 of the cartoon show and in the live-action movie.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Princess Luna was sealed in the moon for a thousand years. As such, her dialogue is peppered with Flowery Elizabethan English and she is obsessed with archaic long-abandoned court protocol.
  • Billy of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy dug up Fred Flintstone in his backyard.

Real Life

  • A Polish man named Jan Grzebski fell into a coma in 1988 and woke up from it in 2007, by which time Communism had long since collapsed. Of the experience, he said "When I went into a coma there was only tea and vinegar in the shops, meat was rationed and huge petrol queues were everywhere. Now I see people on the streets with cell phones and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin."
  • Charles Robert Jenkins, an American soldier, defected to North Korea in 1965 and remained cut off from the Western world. He made it out in 2004, finding that the U.S. had changed a bit since the 1960s.
  • Similarly, Japanese soldiers were stranded on some remote Pacific islands and unaware of the fact that their side had lost until they were discovered in the '60s and '70s.
    • 2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda continued fighting WWII for 30 years on the island of Lubang. He wrote a book entitled No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War. He is reportedly very disturbed by what he sees in changing traditional values.
    • A man fled to the jungle during the 1969 "Football War" between El Salvador and Honduras. He finally "surrendered" to a group of lumberjacks he mistook for enemy soldiers more than 30 years later, telling them he was tired of running away. The saddest part is that the actual war lasted a total of four days.
  • Prisoners who serve long jail sentences (over 15 years, usually) sometimes find themselves confounded by modern technology and culture when they leave prison. For example, there was an ex-convict who tried to steal a car shortly after getting out, having missed the invention and application of car alarms.
    • Sadly, there are more than a few cases of released prisoners committing new crimes specifically to get caught (or outright killing themselves) as a result of this. They simply cannot cope.
  1. The actual Victorian era had as much immorality as now, though in a different form and not spoken of in polite society, but he's from The Theme Park Version.