Created By: Seanette on March 18, 2013 Last Edited By: LondonKdS on July 28, 2016

Temporal Duplication

When a time traveler visits the same place more than once, copies remain

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
YKTTW now sponsored by Morgenthaler per Up for Grabs rules.
As described in Up the Line, by Robert Silverberg, in some versions of time travel, if the same person visits the same event more than once, duplicates of that person remain. For example, if our hypothetical time traveler goes to, say, JFK's assassination five times, somewhere in that crowd will be five instances of our time traveler.

There's a good chance that the duplicates will interact with each other during the encounter. One common event is for a "later" duplicate to try to cause an "earlier" duplicate to do something (or prevent them from doing something) because they remember what will happen.

In contrast to this trope, some works do have a "temporal exclusion principle" that prevents you from visiting a specific time more than once so time travel paradoxes can't occur. See Only One Me Allowed Right Now.

Distinct from My Future Self and Me in that it's not simply about different temporal versions of a person meeting each other, but multiple instances of time travels creating duplicates in the same time period.

Used as a gameplay element in some video games.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In one early Doraemon chapter, Nobita tricked Doraemon into doing his homework. Doraemon then got the idea to use the time machine ask four of his future selves so he can finish it five times as fast. Unfortunately, since for the most part the series runs on Stable Time Loop, this basically means he's doing the homework for five times. The final future self snapped.

Film

Literature
  • Robert A. Heinlein short story "By His Bootstraps". Because of time travel, there are three different versions of the same person (at different points in their lifespans) in the same place at the same time.
  • In The Time Traveler's Wife, Henry (the time traveler) mentions that since he keeps traveling back in time to his mother's death, the scene is filled with copies of him.

Live-Action TV
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor used his Tardis several times to join forces with himself in order to handle a problem that only one of him couldn't handle. He seemed to be limited to only one of him of each "regeneration", though, so this may count as playing with the trope.
    • The episode Fathers Day has Rose ask the Doctor to take them back in time to when her dad got hit by a car so she can be at his side when he dies. But she bottles out after seeing her dad get hit and runs away from the scene. So she asks the Doctor to take her back to the moment again. The Doctor does so and Rose and the Doctor see themselves from when they traveled the first time.
    • A couple of stories establish the "Blinovitch Limitation Effect", which means that bad things happen if different temporal versions of the same individual make physical contact. See especially "Mawdryn Undead" and "Father's Day". This doesn't seem to apply to different regenerations of the same Time Lord.
  • In a Stephen Colbert animated segment of Tek Jansen, multiple Jansens appear; mostly one after the other, but a few interact with each other including killing one another.

TV Tropes
  • Played for Laughs in the Heävy Mëta arc of TV Tropes The Webcomic, when the Tröper Crüe travels back in time a dozen times to practice for the upcoming concert, resulting in twelve slightly older versions of the band running around the studio.

Video Games
  • In the climax of Day of the Tentacle, Purple Tentacle steals one of the Chron-O-Johns and amasses an army of temporal duplicates of himself as part of his plans for world domination.

Webcomics
  • In Schlock Mercenary, Kevyn traveled back in time to prevent events that led to the destruction of the galaxy. He succeeded, so now there's a time-clone Kevyn from the alternate timeline.

Web Original
  • In Chronotron, you must travel back in time and use your copies to solve puzzles.
  • Red vs. Blue had Church utilize this at one point, leading to a whole army of identical Church's (and an absurdly yellow Church) trying to save his group and finding all of his plans backfiring on him.
  • Played for laughs in a College Humor sketch that spoofs Back to the Future. Marty travels back to the past to make sure his parents hook up, but he accidentally sleeps with his mother instead. Doc Brown sends him back in time to stop this, but he ends up having a threeway with his mother AND himself. This escalates until the picture that originally showed Marty's parents now shows his mother and a whole crowd of Martys.

Western Animation
  • Dexter's Laboratory:
    • In the special "Ego Trip", Dexter travels into the future to meet his teenage self, then they both go further into the future to meet their elderly self, then all three go slightly into the past to meet their adult self. Their rival, Mandark, has a similar reunion.
    • Dexter sends Dee Dee into the past to save himself from a slime monster eating him. He doesn't believe her until he sees her in the yard talking to her previous self. In the end, there are three Dee Dees and he gets eaten anyway.
  • The Spongebob Squarepants episode Back to the Past ends with hundreds of Spongebobs and Patricks in one place, with more arriving constantly.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Back to the Pilot" Brian & Stewie use Stewie's time travel device to revisit the In-Universe period of time equivalent to the pilot episode. After Brian tells his past self about 9/11 in order to prevent it, many many many other copies of themselves also show up to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.


Community Feedback Replies: 35
  • March 19, 2013
    Arivne
    There's a good chance that the duplicates will interact with each other during the encounter. One common event is for a "later" duplicate to try to cause an "earlier" duplicate to do something (or prevent them from doing something) because they remember what will happen.

    Some works have a "temporal exclusion principle" that prevents you from visiting a specific time more than once so time travel paradoxes can't occur.

    Literature
    • Robert Heinlein short story "By His Bootstraps". Because of time travel, there are three different versions of the same person (at different points in their lifespans) in the same place at the same time.
  • March 19, 2013
    Aokage
    Used as a gameplay element in some video games.

    Web Original
    • In Chronotron, you must travel back in time and use your copies to solve puzzles.
  • March 19, 2013
    MrRuano
    Red Vs Blue had Church utilize this at one point, leading to a whole army of identical Church's (and an absurdly yellow Church) trying to save his group and finding all of his plans backfiring on him.

    Can't remember the whole thing, so can someone else with a better memory fix this? Can't remember the episode.
  • March 19, 2013
    WackyMeetsPractical
    • In Back To The Future Part II, Marty returns to 1955 after just leaving it. Naturally, there's another him running around and Never The Selves Shall Meet is in play.
    • Disneys The Kid, The main character is visited by himself as a little kid, and later, they both meet their even older selves.
    • Dexters Laboratory, in the special Ego Trip, Dexter travels into the future to meet his teenage self, then they both go further into the future to meet their elderly self, then all three go slightly into the past to meet their adult self. Their rival, Mandark, has a similar reunion.
  • March 19, 2013
    JohnnyCache
    • Averted in Bearing An Hourglass by Piers Anthony. Chronos, the Incarnation of Time, would 'skip over' times he had already visited, unless he traveled to just after the visit and ran time backwards, effectively erasing his former self from that portion of the timeline.
    • Doctor Who used his Tardis several times to join forces with himself in order to handle a problem that only one of him couldn't handle. He seemed to be limited to only one of him of each "regeneration", though, so this may count as playing with the trope.
  • March 19, 2013
    Koveras
    The following example is supposed to have Heavy Metal Umlauts in it but since YKTTW can't render them, I'll add them after this is launched.

    • Played For Laughs in the Heävy Mëta arc of TV Tropes The Webcomic, when the Tröper Crüe travels back in time a dozen times to practice for the upcoming concert, resulting in twelve slightly older versions of the band running around the studio.
  • March 19, 2013
    thewriter
    How about Temporal Duplication as a title. Or Time Cloning?
  • March 19, 2013
    JohnnyCache
    • Also in Dexters Laboratory, Dexter sends Dee Dee into the past to save himself from a slime monster eating him. He doesn't believe her until he sees her in the yard talking to her previous self. In the end, there are three Dee Dees and he gets eaten anyway.
    • The Spongebob Squarepants episode Back to the Past ends with hundreds of Spongebobs and Patricks in one place, with more arriving constantly.

    @Koveras: Try this: & u u m l ; (no spaces) for ü
  • March 19, 2013
    moriwen
    In The Time Traveler's Wife, Henry (the time traveler) mentions that since he keeps traveling back in time to his mother's death, the scene is filled with copies of him.
  • March 19, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Contrast Only One Me Allowed Right Now.

    • In the Family Guy episode "Back to the Pilot" Brian & Stewie use Stewie's time travel device to revisit the In Universe period of time equivalent to the pilot episode. After Brian tells his past self about 9/11 in order to prevent it, many many many other copies of themselves also show up to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
    • In a Stephen Colbert animated segment of Tek Jansen, multiple Jansens appear; mostly one after the other, but a few interact with each other including killing one another.
  • March 19, 2013
    triassicranger
    Live Action Television

    Doctor Who episode Fathers Day has Rose ask the Doctor to take them back in time to when her dad got hit by a car so she can be at his side when he dies. But she bottles out after seeing her dad get hit and runs away from the scene. So she asks the Doctor to take her back to the moment again. The Doctor does so and Rose and the Doctor see themselves from when they traveled the first time.
  • March 19, 2013
    AgProv
    Literature In the Science of Discworld series, the Wizards travel back into the primitive past of the planet Earth to prevent Elves from establishing themselves there and causing havoc for the human race. On their first visit, they eliminate elves so well that the human race, left to itself with no spurs to evolution, remains in a shambling Neanderthal pre-stone age - even in what would have otherwise been the Elizabethan Age. Realizing the Elves are responsible for instilling imagination and creativity in humanity which is essential for its progress, they then have to go back and persuade themselves not to destroy the elven incursion. Squabbles break out between each Wizard and his alternative as they realise the logic of the situation means one out of every two duplicate wizards will be extinguished... each is determined that it will not be him.
  • March 19, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    Video Games
    • In the climax of Day Of The Tentacle, Purple Tentacle steals one of the Chron-O-Johns and amasses an army of temporal duplicates of himself as part of his plans for world domination.
  • March 19, 2013
    Lumpenprole
    In Schlock Mercenary, Kevyn traveled back in time to prevent events that led to the destruction of the galaxy. He succeeded, so now there's a time-clone Kevyn from the alternate timeline.
  • March 20, 2013
    Arivne

  • March 20, 2013
    WackyMeetsPractical
    This could use a better description write up, and the example it mentions should be moved into the examples. In particular, we need to be sure to differentiate this from tropes such as My Future Self And Me. It's not enough for a person to travel to a place once and having two of hims existing at one time, where one is a traveler and one was there originally. What defines this trope is that the same person travels to the same time more than once, so that there are multiple versions of himself that weren't originally supposed to be there.
  • March 21, 2013
    TrueShadow1
    • In one early Doraemon chapter, Nobita tricked Doraemon into doing his homework. Doraemon then got the idea to use the time machine ask four of his future selves so he can finish it five times as fast. Unfortunately, since for the most part the series runs on Stable Time Loop, this basically means he's doing the homework for five times. The final future self snapped.
  • March 22, 2013
    Koveras
    @JohnnyCache: Thanks, fixed my example.
  • June 6, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    Since it seems the OP has forgotten about this one, I'll take up sponsorship.

    Updated to here.
  • June 6, 2016
    BKelly95
    Film
    • Austin fails to save Felicity near the end of Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me, so he takes the time machine and sends himself back ten minutes. When he encounters his past self, he explains "You're me ten minutes ago." At the very end, present Austin catches Felicity in bed with past Austin who says that it's technically not cheating.

    Live Action Television
    • Mystery Science Theater 3000 once had Mike and the Bots watching a time travel movie (Time Chasers) and Tom and Crow decide to send Crow back in time to convince Mike not to continue working as a temp and pursue his dreams of becoming a rock star. This results in him dying onstage and his lout of a brother Eddie taking his place on the Satellite of Love. Crow then goes back in time again to convince his past self not to talk Mike out of his current timeline. When Mike tells this story to Pearl at the end, she points out that the first Crow never returned to the present.

  • June 6, 2016
    rmctagg09
    • In one episode of Lloyd In Space Lloyd uses Douglas' experimental time machine to go back into the past and prevent the incident in grade school that had him deemed a loser for years, manages to succeed and returns to a seemingly more successful present, but finds that being one of the popular kids is not all it's cracked up to be. After returning to the past again to stop himself from doing so, both Lloyd's return to the present, only for an old Douglas to come back from the future and erase the Lloyd that was stopped from changing the future before leaving.
  • June 6, 2016
    DAN004
  • June 7, 2016
    BOFH
    Literature
    • In Poul Anderson's novel There Will Be Time, Jack Havig is a natural time traveller and at a very young age he defeats a school bully in a fight by temporally duplicating himself many times. In a later scene, he fights a group of natural time travellers and they all use the same temporal cloning technique.
  • June 7, 2016
    JD2K
    In Spliced, Mr. Smarty Smarts uses a time machine to go back and prevent his past self from creating an intelligence enhancing machine to make all mutants as smart as him. The two eventually play chess against each other only for one to get upset at the results. Cue another Smarty Smarts coming in to prevent a chess move followed by more and more.
  • June 8, 2016
    Gamermaster
    • During the Mahora Fest arc in Mahou Sensei Negima, Negi used a portable time machine given to him by Chao to be able to spend time with all of his students (going through the same three days over and over again). The first time he uses it, he and Setsuna see multiple future copies of him going about enjoying themselves. None of the copies ever interact with each other.
  • June 9, 2016
    Chabal2
    Pyramids: In order to make sure the pyramid is built on time, the builders reluctantly use a form of time travel (pyramids mess up time around them, changing the speed, looping or even reversing time) by having multiple instances of workers on the same job. This being the Disc, the workers immediately recognize the potential of getting paid multiple times for the same job (another has problems when he sees himself with his wife and doesn't know if it counts as cheating or not).
  • June 21, 2016
    StarSword
    TV:
    • In the PBS miniseries Genius by Stephen Hawking, Professor Hawking points to this idea in a thought experiment as a reason for why Time Travel violates the laws of physics. The logically required temporal duplicates (there would be two, one from you traveling backwards in time, the second from you traveling forwards again once you stop going backwards) violate the Law of Conservation of Mass, since the atoms making up both your bodies have to come from somewhere; they cannot just zap into existence or nonexistence.
    • The Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode "Visionary" has a time-traveling Miles O'Brien meet his self from a few hours in the future, leading to the immortal line, "I hate temporal mechanics..."
  • June 21, 2016
    StarSword
    Film:
    • In Star Trek, Ambassador Spock implies to the Alternate Timeline Jim Kirk that it would cause a paradox if he were to meet his counterpart Commander Spock, but he decides to introduce himself to him during the denouement anyway.
  • June 21, 2016
    Kartoonkid95
    • The Grim Adventures Of Billy And Mandy: In "B Illy Gets an A", Grim and Mandy try to go back in time to stop the past Grim from altering reality by changing Billy's test grade. As they go farther and father into the past, dozens of Grims end up joining them.
  • June 21, 2016
    Chabal2
    Harry Potter: After a failed attempt to rescue Buckbeak the hippogryph, Harry and Hermione end up running from Lupin, who's transformed. As they're surrounded by Dementors, Harry briefly sees what he's certain is his father's ghost in the distance, summmoning a Patronus to distract them. Then they use the Time-Turner to return an hour earlier, with Hermione insisting how important it is that they don't run into each other (until staying hidden to avoid a paradox becomes much less important than being found by a werewolf). As Harry keeps looking for his dad to save his past self (with three of the four Marauders present that evening, it wasn't much of a stretch), it finally strikes him that he'd seen himself cast the Patronus, and does so.
  • July 28, 2016
    NateTheGreat
    I'm still confused at the usage of "duplicate". Let me use the metaphor of a piece of string representing one's personal timeline. These examples are looping the string back and forth in temporal loops. The title implies that the string is being duplicated with stray ends all over the place representing new personal timelines. With loops there is only one John Doe, he's just meeting versions of himself from his own personal past and future, there are no duplicates, just "John from Time A", "John from Time B", etc. The title implies that there are "John who made decision A at time X", "John who made decision B at time X", etc.
  • July 28, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ maybe "duplicate" meant that "they're all Johns".
  • July 28, 2016
    Orbiting
    Webcomics
  • July 28, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    ^^^ You're overcomplicating this. Different works follow different time travel rules (or internally inconsistent rules). Whether they should be considered "the same person" or "a copy" is irrelevant and varies from story to story. What matters is that there is more than one version of the same person interacting.
  • July 28, 2016
    StarSword
    Image suggestion. For a caption, the best Star Trek line ever: "I hate temporal mechanics..."
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=w1nelcvegyo0f4hqsuarsen9