There are several different scenarios that we can imagine how Dr. Stephen Strange never uncovered his inert power. What if he never had that car crash potentially crippling his hands to perform surgeries for life? What if he just gave up searching for the cure for his surgically crippled hand? What if he never returned back to The Ancient One’s door once she rejected him in the first place?
And Avengers: Endgame spoiler alert (if you haven’t watched it yet)! What happens in the timeline where The Ancient One gave the time stone to the not so incredible looking Hulk if that timeline still existed? What if he never lost his balance when looking at the X-ray in his car? Let's go with that. How would his appearances in Infinity War go afterwards?
The exceptional ability of Doctor Strange to perform the most complex of neurological operations with such confidence and ease may be one way he’s been using his powers all his life before being the time stone keeper. But what about the sparkly mystic art eccentrics? Does he find a way to master it eventually without the assistance of Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme? Because the then Sorcerer Supreme knew about his innate power before even meeting him.
He would remain as egotistical as ever but with his good side (sensed by The Ancient One upon his arrival at her door) still inside him, maybe he’d change his ways with some other big revelation or perhaps some emotional wreckage. He is the type to take up almost impossible challenges in neurosurgery like the woman with electronics implanted in her brain to control schizophrenia and rejecting the cases that are “too simple” for him [Dr. Strange, 2016]. A stubborn doctor who never listens to anyone telling him things are impossible when he feels it's just improbable.
Hey, there’s Christine Palmer played recently by Rachel McAdams, the night nurse from as far back as the Night Nurse comics of the 1970s. Somehow, Christine ends up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a love interest of the stubborn Strange. Now, there’s an angle Strange would've gone through if there never had been a situation that he needed to go to the Himalayas.
Suppose, the accident never happened and so the couple never broke off and Dr. Strange somehow found a way to be less of a hard-headed person. They could have had a life for themselves, saving countless lives - even the ones declared hopeless by all other surgeons.
Okay, their life is set. But what about all the other plots our modern Dr. Strange as played by our beloved Benedict Cumberbatch has been a part of? The appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? In the battle against Loki, Avengers: Endgame showed us that The Ancient One had the time stone with her, so it is confirmed that it exists even if Strange never meets her. Thanos is still coming for all the stones.
For one thing, The Ancient One would still be alive, assuming she is successful in defeating Kaecilius without releasing the wrath of Dormammu. Would she still be at Kamar-Taj though? Well, the fact that she can travel anywhere on Earth with a circular portal renders the question moot. And with keeping watch over anyone foreign (as in aliens) seen as a threat to the planet as part of her job description, she would’ve quite promptly arrived at the scene where Thanos’s minions come to New York.
Or perhaps, the so-called minions would’ve attacked The Ancient One’s residence Kamar-Taj directly as they were navigated by the time stone, which of course would’ve been locked in the Eye of Agamotto with that simple pesky protection spell. And Kathmandu would be in chaos with an armada of mystic art practitioners attempting to protect the 5-6 million people in the valley. (Nepalese fans be like, “Oh yeah! Kathmandu is the capital of my country Nepal.”) They would be formidable since a mystic art portal could cut the enemies’ bodies in half.
Remember the Infinity War scene where Wong sends the big scary looking alien (called Back Dwarf, apparently) to the mountains and cuts his hand off just by closing up the portal? (Kind of sad though, getting invited to the Iron Man’s wedding and remaining vanished for the moment. Or was he vanished? They never told us.) The same thing can be supposed to happen to that Black Dwarf.
Ebony Maw (yeah, that’s his name!), being the persistent one, would probably be successful in taking The Ancient One with him on his weird-looking ship even if she was absolutely capable of taking him head-on. Maybe her disciples also end up in the ship and onto Titan but are defeated.
But of course, Iron Man, Spiderman and probably Doctor Strange’s Cloak of Levitation would not have been with them on the ship. So what could’ve happened? Maw, with those pointy extra-terrestrial needles, could’ve become successful in removing the time-stone from The Ancient One. With no other apprentices, the line of Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme ends? Even if Maw fails, Thanos, with the power, reality, space and soul stones, could strip the defenseless Sorcerer of the stone easily. Thanos would have had four stones after that point in Titan.
There’s also the scene where the God of Thunder meets our Doctor Strange in Thor: Ragnarok and Thor’s adventure to find his father and the one to get the hammer as well. The incident that follows is before Thanos comes back to Titan with the soul and reality stones. It was Strange who guides Thor and Loki to Norway where their father Odin was taking asylum. Okay, so we can assume The Ancient One fulfilled the role here as well. Thor found his dad, Odin vanishes like the God he is, only for eternity.
Watch: Doctor Strange guides Thor and Loki towards Odin
Thor’s adventures, after his home being blown to bits by Thanos, with The Guardians of the Galaxy to recreate another Thanos killing kind weapon - the Stormbreaker; in already wrecked Nidavellir would play out almost the same way as in Infinity War. Half of The Guardians of Galaxy go to Knowhere though, to battle Thanos for the reality stone only to be deceived and lose Gamora as well for the soul stone.
Then they go to Titan where Maw is with The Ancient One, probably with the time-stone already taken from her, and Thanos still not there (he’s obviously at Vormir for you know what). There’s this epic small battle with Quill trying to get answers for Gamora. Remember, there is no Iron Man or Spiderman over there, just some of The Ancient One’s disciples.
There’s also that particular scene where Doctor Strange hands Thanos the time-stone promptly in order to spare Tony’s life. This was somewhat strange but not if you remember him stating to Tony that there’s only one out of 14 million futures with the possibility of defeating Thanos. Him giving up the time-stone is quite possibly the future he’s been talking about, among other futures of that same situation as well. And someone on Reddit (as reported by Nicole Drum on comicbook.com) even tied the connection of The Ancient One’s words in Doctor Strange with that Infinity War scene. She told Strange, “sometimes one must break the rules in order to serve the greater good” before dying. That he did, by breaking the rule of protecting the stone.
Watch: Remember everything The Ancient One says in here..
And it seems The Ancient One had already seen the possibility of such a situation. It’s safe to say that she may have seen the outcome of not meeting Strange as well and her version of the 14 million possible outcomes as well. And if we are to follow her wisdom, in our story, she probably would have given the time stone to Thanos on Titan as well but holding off Maw until Thanos arrives in order to ensure the one possibility of defeating Thanos. Heck, we can imagine the presence of more than one future of defeating Thanos but let’s not. Keep it dramatic, as intended.
Thanos arrives with soul stone as well but no Gamora and defeats all of them before heading to Earth where a huge battle is taking place. And there is a very remote possibility of that attempt to remove the Gauntlet from Thanos’s hand and Quill messing it up with his anger against him of Gamora. So, exclude it for now.
But wait… Wind back. Bruce Banner, aka The Incredible Hulk, was whooshing through a beam of path towards the Earth before that all, when being sent from a wrecked Asgard, by Heimdall, where Loki FINALLY (?) dies by the hand of Thanos. He has to warn The Avengers back on Earth who are broken up like a bunch of teenagers group. He does land in Sanctum Sanctorum, if it exists without the time-keeper, that seems near to where Tony Stark is talking about his child-dream with his fiancé Pepper since a part of a fight scene takes place in that park as well.
So, Bruce Banner meets Tony Stark, warns him of Thanos but has no idea of the break-up. Still, the fight is elsewhere in Nepal (or Tibet?) which they all probably are unaware of. And Spiderman isn’t called into action by any situation. Instead, Tony successfully dials Captain America but someone else responds because, well, at the same time he’s busy fighting alongside Black Widow, Falcon and Scarlet Witch, against the other two minions of Thanos attempting to capture the mind stone in Vision, in some other part of the world, Edinborough reportedly (that explains the night time in the scene).
The ‘someone else’ maybe James Rhodes aka War Machine since somehow Bruce ends up with him after making the call to Cap in Infinity War. The fight is the same and Vision is, for now, alive. Vision knows someone is coming for the stone in his forehead and is headed to what Cap refers to as ‘Home’ but is towards, guess who, War Machine. Forgive us if something’s missing. Perhaps we are unable to properly grasp the essence of those particular lines in that scene.
So anyway, most of The Avengers are assembled, Captain and Tony settle their differences since they share a new common enemy whose extent of power Hulk and Vision know about. They need to settle the Civil War thing and the awkwardness of the love triangle between Natasha, Steve and Bruce (no, not the soccer manager Steve Bruce!). Spiderman possibly also joins them.
Bruce explains all the situation and the complexity of the huge war brewing and approaching them, fast. They all move to Wakanda towards Black Panther as in the Infinity War, the only place they think they can remove the mind stone from Vision and destroy it before Thanos gets his hand or the Gauntlet on it. We can imagine the failure to remove the stone from Vision before the Thanos army arrives, even with Iron Man and Spiderman present (they can make a large difference though, but with Thanos owning the four Infinity Stones then, we wouldn’t know). The timestamp is almost the same after all.
Okay, the two parts of the story are done. Thanos comes to the final battle of the Infinity War with the four infinity stones from Titan with Maw still alive. With him controlling time and reality, the outcome is the same and Thanos ends up wiping half the population of the universe even with Thor’s Stormbreaker present. Well, Thor doesn’t aim for the head here as well.
Considering Thanos wiped half the universe just as randomly here as in the Infinity War, Iron Man is here but Spiderman disintegrates along with the other half of our heroes. After 5 Earth years, Antman makes the suggestion of the time thing and hoping everything plays out the same except the last scene of Doctor Strange’s appearance replaced by The Ancient One, the heroes finally defeat Thanos.
By the way, Dr. Strange also vanishes in Thanos’s snap and Christine’s story hasn’t been told at all. It’s possible that Christine too was disintegrated. Let’s go with that, both of them vanish and come back after that Hulk snap with their lives going on.
It’s funny to think they had already defeated Thanos in this reality (you know chopping his hand off and then his head on the Earth-like planet) and the Thanos Iron Man vanished with his snap is from another timeline but the big difference is all the vanished citizens of the universe are back. Let’s say the other reality goes just as Bruce explained when going to The Ancient One for the time stone. Sadly, Iron Man, Natasha Romanoff and Vision won’t come back. Gamora is replaced and Nebula kills her duplicate from that another timeline. Unless Marvel decides to do something else for that afterwards...