Created By: pureWasted on April 18, 2011 Last Edited By: Arivne on November 30, 2017

Alternate Existence Failure

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How Did We Miss This One?, Needs a Better Title, Needs More Examples, etc.

Alternate Universe trope.

Alice has somehow stumbled across an Alternate Universe. Before she can find her way back, she meets her best friend Bob, who jumps at the opportunity to help her, good friend that he is. But just then, Alice's will begins to falter. Bob doesn't understand and Alice is forced to explain:

"You've been dead for years."

Unlike every other alternate character who is nothing more than a superfluously fun re-interpretation of the ones we really care about, Bob is truly the Last of His Kind. And the moment Alice re-enters her world, he will be gone again.

There are three versions of this trope:

An Independent is the least traumatic for everyone involved. In fact, it might even give Alice a chance to say goodbye which she missed the first time around. Bob won't be overly affected by the news.

A Full Replacement doesn't end well. As soon as Alice sets right what once went wrong, Bob will disappear forever. Expect Bob to have a hard time coping with this revelation, but ultimately accept the necessity of returning things to their natural state, and even convince Alice that it must be done. The story is usually dark enough without forcing Alice to kill Bob against his will.

An Only A Dream affects Alice much as a Full Replacement, but has a different effect on Bob, who doesn't really exist at all. Seeing as how this Bob is likely the result of someone tampering with Alice's mind, he may begin acting out of character if Alice's will strengthens and she decides to leave the dreamworld. Bob will rightfully remark that Alice does not want to leave, and suggest that even if the world isn't real, it's real enough as far as Alice's feelings are concerned. Despite this, the decision will weigh on Alice as much as if he really were alive.


  • In Fringe, we learn at the end of S2 that in the red universe Olivia's partner and best friend Charlie is still alive.
  • In the Star Trek The Next Generation novel "Q-Squared", Jack Crusher is seen alive in one of the alternate universes shown in the book, and finds out from Trelane that it's the only universe in all of cosmic existence where he wasn't killed during Picard's command. He doesn't take the news very well at all.

Full Replacement

Only A Dream
  • Supernatural episode What Is And What Should Never Be. Under the djinn's spell, Dean dreams of a world where Sam's girlfriend Jessica and their mother Mary are still alive. He has trouble letting go even when he's sure the world is fake, and reveals later how close he came to staying.
Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • April 18, 2011
    A possible example of Type 1: In the Star Trek The Next Generation novel "Q-Squared", Jack Crusher is seen alive in one of the alternate universes shown in the book, and finds out from Trelane that it's the only universe in all of cosmic existence where he wasn't killed during Picard's command. He doesn't take the news very well at all.
  • April 18, 2011
    In another Supernatural example, a recent episode had the Angel Balthazar prevent the sinking of the Titanic. This naturally caused a Butterfly Effect which among other things, led to Ellen and Jo not dying during the fight with Lucifer. Unfortunately, Castiel had to put things back to normal.
  • April 19, 2011
    TBH, not sure how many of these count:
    • In JLA-Avengers the Marvel and DC universes are merged into a Silver Age Utopia. They discover that it isn't "real," and the real sepearate universes are Crapsack compared to the one they're in now. The two heroes withthe most to lose - Hal Jordan and Barry Allen (because Hal is an insane mass murderer and Barry is dead) - are the ones who convince the others to put everything back to the way it should be.
    • In the House Of M storyline Peter Parker doesn't want to go back to reality because his wife Gwen Stacy would be dead. He is eventually convinced to do so because it's The Right Thing To Do.
    • In a She Hulk Story Arc Hawkeye is pulled from the past to serve on a jury, and Shulkie doesn't want to let him go back because in the present he's dead.
  • April 19, 2011
    • In the Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode "Normal Again," Buffy hallucinates that she is in a mental hospital, and the last few years of vampire-slaying have been All Just A Dream. In this universe, her mom is still alive and her dad is still around.
  • April 19, 2011
    Type I:
    • In Fringe, we learn at the end of S2 that in the red universe Olivia's partner and best friend Charlie is still alive.

    To me, the working title sounds like the exact opposite of what the trope describes (ie. someone is NOT in the parallel universe who exists in the character's home or "real" universe). Maybe something along the lines of Alternate Universe Spare? Only catchier, of course.
  • April 19, 2011
    Alternate Universe Spare sounds more like it would be Doppelganger Replacement Love Interest... this is more like a Dream Apocalypse for one particular person.
  • April 19, 2011
  • June 12, 2013
    In Bioshock Infinite, one of the alternate universes has Booker dead as a martyr for The Vox rebellion. Rebels are understandably shocked to see him alive and well. Daisy Fitzroy orders him to be shot on sight, as him being alive would ruin her narrative on the overthrow of Comstock.
  • June 12, 2013
    Compare this unlaunched YKTTW [1] Dead Alternate Counterpart, which has some of the same examples.
  • June 12, 2013
    Anime example:

    An important plot point of Naruto The Movie Road To Ninja is the fact that the Alternate Universe where most of the movie takes place has Naruto's parents still alive while Sakura's parents are dead. Two other characters who had died by the time of the movie (the Fourth Hokage and Jiraiya) remain dead, but the circumstances of their demise changed.... and, oh yeah, the Akatsuki are still alive, too. And are good guys.

    It appears to be variant of Type 3 (the trip to the Alternate Universe is some kind of Lotus Eater Machine [[Handwave jutsu]] that Madara activated as a plan to get Naruto's fox demon... which for some reason required Naruto to fight his Evil Counterpart).
  • June 12, 2013
    The TV series Awake is a type III (???), where a detective can't tell which of two alternate lives is real. In one his son died in a car accident and in the other it was his wife.

  • June 12, 2013
    This looks like a good trope.

    I suggest that you change the "Types" to a soft-split, with each "type" replaced by a descriptive name. The use of numbered types is being removed from the wiki because it encourages lots of bad Zero Context Examples. So if you launch it with numbered types, other people will have to waste time changing it to fit the new policy.
  • June 13, 2013
    It seems to me that there is another type. The one where Alice has somehow entered a "pocket" reality which she has accidentally created or is sustaining but which can or will cease to exist when certain circumstances eventuate.

    For example, ST:TNG where Doctor Crusher is sent into a pocket reality inside a warp bubble by an engine room accident. The pocket reality is both physically collapsing (implied to be because of the warp bubble losing energy) and the people inside the reality are vanishing (implied to be because they are maintained by Dr Crusher remembering them, but she's incapable of continually remembering anyone except herself).
  • June 16, 2013
    A triple-shot in an episode of Doctor Who where the Doctor, Rose and Mickey find themselves in an alternate universe. Rose learns that the alternate version of her father isn't dead in this universe, but that she was never born. Meanwhile Mickey discovers that his gram is alive here. After alt-Mickey dies during the adventure, Mickey chooses to stay.
  • June 16, 2013
    Isn't this covered by Dead Alternate Counterpart already?
  • June 16, 2013
    Type II example - Film: Men in Black III - Boris the Animal goes back in time and kills Agent K. While everyone else thinks he's been dead for 40 years, Agent J is the only one who remembers the previous timeline and must go back to fix things.
  • June 17, 2013
    I have replaced Type I, II and III with Independent, Full Replacement and Only A Dream respectively, to avoid violating Type Labels Are Not Examples.
  • June 17, 2013
    Two inversions come to mind; though I'm not sure if you want them: In both Superman The Animated Series and Lois And Clark, Lois Lane finds herself in an (independant) alternate universe in which she is supposed to be dead, and ends up having to leave a Superman who needs her.
  • June 17, 2013
    @True Shadow 1: It does cover the "independent" form now, but this is a YKTTW from 2011.
  • November 29, 2017
  • November 29, 2017
  • November 30, 2017
    The Butterfly Effect: Full replacement version. Evan has the ability to cause different timelines/universes. In the original timeline, after his girlfriend Kayleigh dies, Evan creates/travels to a different timeline in which she exists. Played different than usual, as Evan purposefully created the alternate for her to be alive in, and never told her of the alternate universes or that she died in the original.
  • November 30, 2017
    Contrast Expendable Alternate Universe.

    Description needs to be rewritten to avoid Example As A Thesis
  • November 30, 2017
    In the Superman story "For The Man Who Has Everything", an alien parasite causes Superman to hallucinate an alternate life where Krypton never exploded. And when the parasite briefly infects Batman, he hallucinates a life where his parents weren't murdered.
  • November 30, 2017
  • November 30, 2017
    The Example As A Thesis is kind of confusing, although it might just be me