In Avengers: Endgame the writers (and characters) make a pretty big deal describing how

the in-story time-travel mechanics differ from other movies

Are the mechanics in fact novel (the first example in fiction)?

For the purpose of this question, this means:

1. You can travel into your past.
2. When you do, a new alternate timeline splits.
3. But your original timeline remains intact.
4. And you can return to your original timeline
5. with objects
6. and the new past timeline still exists in some sense

I'm leaving out the part about

Steve Rogers somehow returning to the original timeline since how this occurred isn't revealed in Endgame. And also, the part about how the Stones interact with the timelines since this is more about the characteristics of the fictional universe than the time travel mechanics.

  • It's hard to tell if you are looking for material from anything or just Marvel
    – Gnemlock
    Commented May 11, 2019 at 23:39
  • 1
    @Gnemlock, I said, "first in fiction". Commented May 12, 2019 at 3:09
  • 7. Apparently if you put things back more or less the way they were you get to stay in the original timeline?
    – user
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 10:58
  • @user that's not clarified... at all. Cap has the "time-GPS" with him, and it's been shown previously that you can jump relatively arbitrarily whenever you choose (so, jump to just after you left, but about 100 feet north, and sneak your way to the bench)
    – Delioth
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 20:11

3 Answers 3


In Stephen Baxter's novel The Time Ships (1995), traveling into the past creates a new timeline, but the old one continues to exist. The time-traveling scientist in that book doesn't know how to return to his original timeline using his technology; whenever he goes forward in time, he remains in the new timeline created, and experiences the changed circumstances of it. After having traveled back and forth several times, thus creating several new timelines, he is helped by more advanced beings to return to the timeline he started from.

In Avengers: Endgame

they are able to travel forward in time to their original timeline.


Continuum was a canadian time travel show on the SyFy channel that dealt with alternate timelines in much the same way as Avengers Endgame.

"The series centers on the conflict between a police officer and a group of rebels from the year 2077 who time-travel to Vancouver, BC in the year 2012."

Continuum wiki

Alternate futures

"It appears that each new timeline does not overwrite the one a time traveler originated in, but creates an entire new timeline/universe: an exact duplicate of their original timeline up to the point when they enter. "

Continuum timelines

  • Continuum diverges from Endgame on point #3 though. I can't spoiler tag comments, so: spoilers ahead. But at a certain point in the show, it's revealed that traveling to the past destroys the timeline of the present, meaning there's only one "real" timeline and you can never return to the "original" alternate future you came from. Commented May 14, 2019 at 19:35

Check out the list at https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TemporalMutability under the Branching Timelines heading. The list is pretty short, though to be fair it seems incomplete.

So Avengers: Endgame isn’t the first, its just that there’s a lot of examples of time travel that don’t use the Branching Timelines approach, especially when it comes to movies.

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