Backstory of the Day

"Because Chakotay has always been a lifelong..." [sound of dice rolling].

An established character reveals a major part of theirs life story that is contrived as a plot device to match the subject of today's episode. We've never seen this side of the character before (and may never see it again). It typically happens in sitcoms.

Bonus points for being really implausible.

Similar to Fleeting Passionate Hobbies, except in this trope the character supposedly has always had a long history with the hobby or character trait, rather than picking up something new.

See also Retcon.

Compressed Vice is a sub-trope.


    open/close all folders 

  • A frequent plot device in Fan Fic is to have a protagonist always have had an interest in something never mentioned on screen, often something that the writer is interested in.

     Film — Live Action 

  • Unseen Academicals had Ridcully reveal a hidden past of "foot thee ball" for the football related plot. (Although he's always been much more interested in physical activities than the other wizards, it's just the specifically football oriented interest that hadn't been mentioned.)

     Live Action TV 
  • In one episode of Head of the Class Jawarhalal was suddenly well-known for agreeing with everybody about everything. Up until that episode it didn't come up.
  • Star Trek: Voyager had Chakotay suddenly having been a passionate Anthropologist, Boxer, and Palaeontologist (amongst other things) depending on whatever expert the writers needed to offer a sounding board to Janeway.
    • Invoked on TNG where Picard suddenly remembers he has always had an unbridled passion for horse-riding, and on hearing the planet of the week has riding trails, decides he must leave immediately to fetch his custom saddle; right in the middle of an extremely boring party.
  • The episode of Parks and Recreation where everyone turns out to have always been a major fan of Li'l Sebastian
  • The episode of The Office (American) where Oscar turns out to have always been a major trivia geek who can't stand being proven wrong.
  • Used in virtually every episode of Psych. We go back to the main character's childhood as his father forces some lesson him that comes into play in that episode.
    • Gus gets new hobbies whenever the plot demands: spelling bees, comics, Spanish soap operas and ferroequinology are a few.
  • Every episode of LOST. It's a part of the episode structure.
  • Frequently on CSI, one of the team will reveal a never-before-mentioned familiarity with whatever niche hobby group has suffered a horrific murder this week; Warwick's an ex-boxer, Greg's a skater, etc. By contrast, if said subculture is remotely controversial, one of the others will suddenly reveal their bigoted opinion about it. Drama!
  • New Tricks: The episode "Into the Woods" has Gerry suddenly always had a phobia of forests and wooded areas and everyone has always known that. This is despite previous episodes having shown him being perfectly fine in such situations.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Whenever the Doctor recalls his past on Gallifrey he never recalls anything that'd be out of character for his current personality, even though what we see of the First Doctor is very different to many of his successors. The activistic and Buddhist-themed Third Doctor was organising student campaigns to ban miniscopes and talking to hermits about enlightenment. The Insufferable Genius Rebellious Spirit Fourth Doctor was daydreaming about picnics during his classes, drinking his teachers under the table and squeaking through his exams with the lowest passing grade. The Hotter and Sexier Messianic Archetype Tenth Doctor was getting really homoerotic with the Master and experiencing forces of creation that drive people mad. The professorial but socially awkward Eleventh Doctor was inventing new sonic screwdrivers and being too embarrassed to talk to girls. The Nightmare Fetishist Reluctant Warrior Twelfth Doctor was experiencing a primal scene of Things That Go Bump in the Night and pondering the image of a soldier without a gun. This is somewhat justified by the idea that regeneration brings different memories to the fore while other experiences are forgotten, shaping each individual personality.
    • "The Doctor's Wife" hinges partially on the conceit that the Doctor has always, since he was stolen by her, secretly called the TARDIS "Sexy". This is something we have never before seen him do over 50 years and would be blatantly out-of-character for most of the Doctors prior to the new series and especially for the Doctor who initially stole her (who had an adversarial relationship with her at best and always referred to her as 'the ship'). Hell, it's not even until the Fourth Doctor that he bothered to get her pronoun right.

  • In The Navy Lark Mister Phillips once revealed his hidden past as a master typist including attendance at a specialist speed-typing tutor. However he proved to be as good at that as he is at being their Navigation Officer.

     Western Animation 
  • Family Guy often does this. A good example would be the episode where Peter reveals he has been a lifelong fan of the band KISS, so that Peter and Lois can go to KISS Stock.
  • Drawn Together does this regularly:
    • The episode where the cast has the visitor, "Strawberry Sweetcake," gave Wooldor Sockbat had a backstory of his city being besieged by their mortal enemies, the Sweetcakes, who captured the Sockbats and ground them up for use in their pastry factories.
    • Another episode gave Captain Hero a retarded son, who was the result of a relationship he had with his sister. The proof was the vestigial, underdeveloped arms hanging off their chests. He tried to teach his (now fully-grown) son how to be an Air Conditioner Repair Man. The plot elements from these episodes, including Captain Hero's extra arms, were never seen or mentioned again.
  • Phineas and Ferb is in love with this trope in regards to Doofenshmirtz. Only a few elements of his backstory (such as him being his family's garden gnome) are repeated, and there's a new backstory almost every day. Lampshaded in the "Cliptastic Countdown" special.
  • The Simpsons, running on Negative Continuity as it does, has a Running Gag in which Homer claims a previously unmentioned ambition to be "his lifelong dream", only for Marge to remind him that another previously unmentioned thing was his lifelong dream, and he did that last year.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball pulls this one occasionally with Richard.
    • In "The Wand" he finds a plastic wand in Gumball's cereal, and thus reminisces how his mother traumatized him by telling him that magic was fake, causing him to give out a Big "NO!". One that supposedly lasted day and night for decades.
  • When Butters begins acting up in the South Park Season 16 episode "Going Native", his biological parents reveal to him that they originated from and conceived him in Hawaii, which is basically used as a setup for a totally epic plot based around Hawaiian tourism and to explain why Butters and his family are so weird.
  • Slightly averted in Futurama, where Bender's lifelong dream of becoming a folk singer comes into play in two episodes, and lampshaded in the second of the episodes.
    Fry:So he's a folk singer, so what?
    Bender:So what? Have you forgotten my lifelong dream of being a folk singer? Because I sure have until right now.