Despite being part of the , The Legends of Tomorrow seem to operate under different rules of time travel and what can or can not be changed without massively altering the timeline. Still, they appear to operate under some sort of guidelines of when they can, or cannot travel to, or what they can or cannot alter.

The obvious assumed rule, of course, would be that they were not allowed to create paradoxes - deliberately, at least - but their entire original mission was to do exactly that. Killing Vandal Savage at any point in the past as they had intended would have created a paradox, or at the very least, greatly changed the timeline as he was intimately involved with many of the atrocities of history.

The Legends are often directed to eras because of "timequakes" emanating from changes that they must prevent. Because it's a TV show, the Legends always initially fail and have to clean up their own mess - and without fail, people of the time are exposed to unnatural things (e.g zombies, a man made of fire, etc) or things from out of their time (e.g. the ATOM suit, flamethrowers, etc), or change history themselves (e.g. killing a feudal warlord, freeing a plantation worth of slaves). The Legends never seem concerned with the possible consequences of such things, but they acknowledge that tiny things can create huge changes - such as

Professor Stein accidentally causing an altered timeline with a daughter, after he told his younger self to focus more on his family.

The Legends were very unhappy with this revelation.

In a rare explicit declaration in Fellowship of the Spear (S02E15), Rip explains that the events involving Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection are too crucial to even go near, as any alteration could have devastating effects on the timeline, but besides those three points, I know of no other stated rules of when they can or cannot travel to.

Yet, when the Legends discover that an item they seek is in the middle of an active battlefield in the era they are currently in, there is no discussion of "let's jump to a time when this isn't an active battlefield", opting to deal with the active battlefield in a different, far less effective manner. And the show is littered with similar instances where use of their time machine could let them easily fix their problem.

So - given all that...

What are the rules of time travel and what can/cannot be changed?

Has the show explained something that I missed or didn't understand, or have the producers addressed this?

  • 9
    Rules? They're obviously...erm... flexible.
    – Paulie_D
    Mar 28, 2017 at 13:35
  • 9
    "A friend of mine once told me, 'wibbly wobbly timey wimey'." -- Rip Hunter
    – KutuluMike
    Mar 28, 2017 at 13:47
  • @KutuluMike Is that an actual quote?! How have I missed it??? Do you remember episode number?
    – Deleteman
    Mar 28, 2017 at 14:07
  • 4
    It's the rule of cool. Nothing has to make any logical sense, it just has to seem cool when it happens.
    – DCShannon
    Mar 28, 2017 at 22:40
  • 2
    From the Flash Season 3 episode 21: "Cause and effect’s a tricky thing. (...) See that’s the thing about time travel, Barry. The more you do it, the less the rules apply to you.”. So, basically, they decided they will not give a f*** about consistency.
    – Taladris
    May 11, 2017 at 8:54

2 Answers 2


I think the first thing you shouldn't do is compare the Legend's adventures during season 1 and 2. During season 1 they were, like you stated, going against rules and working against the Time Masters.

With the end of the Time Masters, on season 2 they've become the sole protectors of the timeline, but I guess they're just not as strict as the Time Masters were... Probably because they're realising the some changes affect the timeline in an acceptable manner (like using their powers in the middle of a battlefield) while others are more critical, like affect Jesus Christ's crucifixion.

As for a list of pre-defined rules for time travelers, no the show hasn't stated that and I don't think they'll be interested in following them if there was one.


The rules of time travel are stated in the first few episodes of Legends of Tomorrow. Right off the bat in Season 1 Episode 1, rip shows the legends the future of Star City in hopes to convince them to join him on his mission. This was risky because it would be affecting the timeline. One should not know too much about the future because if they do, they will be prepared for what is going to happen and be able to change it. Rip knew this and used the legends to change the future. Someone should never interact with their younger selves because it could put their entire existence in jeopardy. Later in the show, this rule is broken. Little things can be changed such as cutting a blade of grass in the past because it will have minimal effect on the timeline. If someone went back and killed someone such as Albert Einstein, the timeline would be corrupt as he has made a great impact in the world.

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. The question was about specifically what rules have been stated, defined or alluded to in the show about what can or cannot be changed? Instead of speaking in generalities, can you answer about the rules used in the show?
    – DavidW
    Mar 22, 2022 at 17:47

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