The show is riddled with reference terminology and adventures hopping in and out of alternate realities, timelines, and dimensions.

For example:

  • There are two episodes (S01E08 & S02E08) that are nothing but improvised clips from interdimensional cable shows
  • Same episode (S01E08), Rick gives the family a VR headset that gives them a glimpse into alternate realities of their own lives
  • Rick essentially destroys all life on earth by turning everyone into Cronenberg monsters (S01E06) and migrate to a new reality to continue living
  • Rick is confronted by the 'Trans-dimensional Council of Ricks' (S01E10) for the murders of several other alternate dimension Ricks
  • After the first season (S02E01), the group is displaced from time and split into multiple timelines concurrently, eventually remerging into one timeline


Question: Is there a difference between the terms 'dimension', 'timeline', and 'reality' with respect to the show?

Question 2: Does Rick's portal gun transport him to different places in the same timeline (for example, different locations in the current universe), or does it just take him to different dimensions/realities where different earths exist?

  • It might be useful to consider the writers keep Rick drunk endlessly, and a benefit of this is that your precision in science could easily be explained away with "more art than science" and figure that Rick dumbs things down for the feeble minds of whoever is listening. Fundamentally, it's just playing off the concept that there are infinite possibilities regardless of how you label them. If they tried to keep it air tight, the show would cease to exist in most realities.
    – Kai Qing
    Sep 30, 2017 at 0:00
  • Prepositions like "to" or "from" are inappropriate for proper dimensions. A reality/Universe/timeline has dimensions. They are qualities of a Universe, not locations/time on their own. For example, there may be entirely (spatially) 2-Dimensional universes, which would be in alternative realities/timeline/universes. Assuming we do live in a (spatially) 3D Universe, any other (spatially) 3D Universes are parallel universes, Mar 16, 2019 at 11:19
  • My guess is it's the same difference as between length, width, and height.
    – Misha R
    Oct 29, 2019 at 2:29

3 Answers 3


There isn't exactly a definitive answer to this question, as Rick seems to refer to dimensions and timelines interchangeably. From S01E08:

Infinite time lines, infinite possibilities. Including a time line where Jerry's a movie star.


Now who wants to watch random, crazy TV shows from different dimensions a-a-and then who wants to narcissistically obsess about their alternate self?

But in S02E01 the split timelines seem to be a distinct thing created as a result of the time freeze (which can't be traveled between with the Portal gun).

Finally , the portal gun is capable of transporting Rick both between dimensions and between locations in the current universe. For example, in S02E05 Get Schwifty, Rick uses the gun to get to the Pentagon in the current dimension, but in most episodes it seems to be more frequently used to travel between dimensions.

  • 2
    I think timeline are ones that are caused specifically by historical splits, whereas dimensions can include the really weird stuff, physics being all wonky, and even how they relate to timelines can be variable (for example, some dimensions might divide every time timelines do, others might be the same dimension no matter which timeline accesses it). So every timeline is a different dimension, but every dimension isn't necessarily a different timeline. Jan 4, 2017 at 2:26

There is a difference between alternate universes and parallel universes, but they are closely linked.

Alternate Universes

When Rick refers to

Infinite time lines, infinite possibilities. Including a time line where Jerry's a movie star.

this summarizes a theory based on quantum physics wherein whenever a decision is made, the universe is split into two where each different decision is made in either universe (it's much more complicated than that, but that's the gist).

This means that there are infinite universes where different choices have been made leading to different outcomes, and further choices, and further different dimensions, and so on and so forth until there are infinite realities.

This image demonstrates how the different decision will split into alternate dimensions, each has their own timeline where different events have happened in their own past, and thus each has a different reality where they will understand the sequence of events that has happened differently.

So whilst all of the words being used interchangeably refer to pretty much the same thing, timeline refers to the sequence of events that has created that specific universe, and dimension is the universe in which that reality exists.

Note that the words can be used interchangeably because time travels in one direction, and each alternate universe appears to have the same amount of time that has passed (Rick and Morty are always the same age, Tiny Rick notwithstanding).

Parallel Universes

This happens in S02E01 when Rick uses the time crystal to stop time. It is the same idea as alternate realities, but because Rick, Morty and Summer are out of sync with the rest of the universe's time it causes their own reality to rupture and split off from the rest.

When one of them is indecisive about something, usually two equal and different universes would be created, but because their own personal timeline is so much further forward than the one they are living in they get their own little universe that is massively unstable because it is trying to exist on its own.

So they cannot use the portal gun to travel from the parallel universes because they are around 6 months ahead of any other reality, and they cant travel between each parallel universe because they are so unstable.

As for the portal gun, it can travel both to alternate dimensions and different places in the same universe.

  • I don't think so. Alternative Universes/realities are constantly forking. I think the uncertainties in that episode cause the consciousness of C-137 R&M and current Summer to Fork as well. So, each split in the timeline due to uncertainty was going to happen anyway, it's just that the characters would only be conscious of the timeline corresponding to the decisions they made. When they portalgun between realities, they don't gain the memories of other selves from that reality, but in S02E01, they did. So we were seeing the same thing from an alternative perspective—multi-consciousness Mar 16, 2019 at 11:07

Realities, Universes, Timelines, and Dimensions always have Alternates and Parallels. Think of this analogy as a Story that is changeable in any way like a Book.

Realities are the Stories of how you live your life within a Book.

Timelines are the Stories you might have if you changed some decisions in a remake of the Book.

Universes are the Shelves of every Book you've written that has the same Story, where some have different endings but the ones beside the Book are the Continuation, while the Shelf above or below it have small to big changes.

Dimensions are the Bookshelves themselves, where each Bookshelf holds different Stories; the Books near the original have a bit of similarity, but the farther Bookshelf is from the original, the more different the Story is.

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