10 (Mostly) Effective Time Cops From Sci-Fi Movies and TV

10 (Mostly) Effective Time Cops From Sci-Fi Movies and TV
Cha Cha and Hazel in The Umbrella Academy's first season. (Image: Netflix)

So you’ve figured out how to time-travel. Don’t abuse your new skill by messing up the timeline! Irresponsible space-time shenanigans can have a devastating effect on you and the future — which is why so many sci-fi stories have law enforcement agencies ready to intervene when things start careening off the rails.

The Commission

Photo: Christos Kalohoridis/NetflixPhoto: Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

Space-time regulators the Commission played a major role in the first two seasons of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, sending teams of assassins to try and prevent the Hargreeves family from stopping a pair of apocalyptic events. With the elimination of power-hungry boss lady the Handler (Kate Walsh) at the end of season two, we didn’t get as much Commission time in season three. But we did see what kind of chaos reality can slip into without their oversight, not to mention their handy supply of time-travel briefcases.

Time Variance Authority

Photo: Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel StudiosPhoto: Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

Play too fast and loose with the Sacred Timeline in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — as Loki did in Disney+ series Loki — and chances are good you’ll run afoul of the Time Variance Authority. The TVA is equipped with foot soldiers (called “Minutemen”), its own array of judges, agents (like Owen Wilson’s Mobius M. Mobius) — and even a chipper cartoon mascot, Miss Minutes, who helpfully doles out exposition any time the plot inches toward becoming completely confusing.

Time Enforcement Commission

Timecop — based on a tale from Dark Horse Comics — imagines that in the near future, not only is time travel possible, it’s caused enough calamitous problems to warrant its own time-hopping law-enforcement branch. Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a DC cop turned Time Enforcement Commission agent tasked with investigating a senator who’s (surprise!) abusing his time-travel access for personal gain. Cheesy? Yes! Entertaining? Also yes!

Dimensional Time Cops

Screenshot: Adult SwimScreenshot: Adult Swim

First glimpsed in the second season of Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty, these testicle-looking dudes have popped up on occasions when someone (Rick, a snake adopting technology it has no business using, Albert Einstein, etc.) looks like they might need a threat of Time Prison or perhaps a humiliating beatdown to set them straight.

Department of Temporal Investigations

Screenshot: Paramount+Screenshot: Paramount+

A pair of agents from the Department of Temporal Investigations drop by to have a stern chat with Benjamin Sisko in iconic Deep Space Nine time-travel episode “Trials and Tribble-ations” (read a full retrospective here!), while temporal agents and temporal incursions have also appeared elsewhere. This is Star Trek, after all! Enterprise, for instance, featured a temporal agent named Daniels, played by Matt Winston — and Voyager once sent Seven of Nine on a time-skipping adventure involving the USS Relativity, staffed by members of the Temporal Integrity Commission.


Screenshot: HBO MaxScreenshot: HBO Max

The first season of Adult Swim’s gory, surreal Superjail! gave us a two-part finale in which the prison’s sadistic warden finds himself in trouble over his future crimes — specifically his desire to turn his Superjail into a franchise. The Time-Police (who like to sing their dialogue; later, we see they’re in a rock band together) show up the instant the idea pops into his head and transport him to Time Court, where it’s revealed that the existence of Superjail franchises would spark a devastating global war. Next stop: Time Jail! A place far easier to bust out of than Superjail, as it turns out!

Time Bureau

Image: The CWImage: The CW

With all the wacky timeline breaking on Legends of Tomorrow, the Time Bureau (which replaced the Time Masters in season three, but didn’t last until the series’ seventh and final season) was a necessary if sometimes interfering presence. Its director, Ava Sharpe, ended up marrying Legends team leader Sara Lance, so at least a happy ending came out of it.

The Adjustment Bureau

You knew at least one Philip K. Dick adaptation was bound to appear on this list. The Adjustment Bureau follows a politician (Matt Damon) whose attempts to woo the woman of his dreams (Emily Blunt) are thwarted by a mysterious organisation of men in hats and overcoats that stamps out any alterations to “the plan” put forth by “the Chairman” — because the plan is for Damon’s character to become President of the United States. No romance allowed!

Temporal Bureau

Based on a Robert Heinlein story, Predestination takes a pretzeled path in its examination of a Temporal Agent (Ethan Hawke) — basically, a government-sanctioned, time-travelling assassin — who zips through decades while trying to prevent a bombing, then becomes entangled with different versions of himself along the way.

Vice Presidential Action Rangers

Screenshot: HuluScreenshot: Hulu

On Futurama, we learn that Al Gore heads up “a group of top nerds whose sole duty is to prevent disruptions in the space-time continuum” (it’s real, read the Constitution!). This superteam also includes Nichelle Nichols, Gary Gygax, Stephen Hawking, and chess-playing computer Deep Blue. Though they happen to be skilled at murder, they utterly fail at stopping Fry from destroying the universe, but — good news, everybody! — this happens on a “what if?” anthology episode that doesn’t affect Futurama’s own main timeline.

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