It's not uncommon for death not to be permanent in Fiction
. In this case, a character survives their death by having their consciousness (sometimes called mind or soul) transferred to a new, backup body, prepared just for that eventuality. This body is often a clone of the character, although this is not the case for robotic characters, naturally.
If a character has this set up to happen every
time they die, it confers a type of Immortality
. If this is the case for everyone in a setting, it causes Death Is Cheap
If the body is already "occupied" by another consciousness and was not specifically prepared for this, it's Body Surf
See also Brain Uploading
, Born as an Adult
, Justified Extra Lives
, Only One Me Allowed Right Now
, and Heart Drive
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Neon Genesis Evangelion's Rei Ayanami has a few dozen soulless clones stored in an LCL tank. Every time she dies (happened twice so far), her soul is transferred into a new body and she's ready to go with no injuries and temporary amnesia. Despite being only fourteen years old, she states in episode 25 that she'd rather stay dead for good; seeing that all her clones have been destroyed two episodes prior and her current body was absorbed into a monster that later fell into pieces, it seems she got her wish.
- Lieutenant Motoko Kusanagi does this in the first season of Ghost in the Shell due to her previous body being damaged.
- In Soul Eater, Giriko, being an Enchanter (one who can create artificially living beings) has programmed his memories and soul into his own genes, such that all of his children are born with his memories and powers. He has continued doing this for many lives over the course of 800 years. When Maka and Soul kill him in the Book of Eibon and he returns immediately, this time as one of his daughters.
- In Kara no Kyoukai, Aozaki Touko has done this at least once, having created an exact copy of her body that's so close to the original that they're virtually indistinguishable.
- Done in Getter Robo Ah as it's revealed that they had cloned Musashi Tomoe and made him leader of the human forces. Every timed he died in battle, though, they transferred all of his memories into a new body, with that one realizing not to pull that stunt again.
- Subverted with Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell, who often has various spare bodies that she can control by remote or switch her consciousness into whenever she needs. She's Genre Savvy enough to know when she's probably going to get killed (and with her skills, the possibility of coming even close to killing her almost never happens) and uses a remote body instead. Worst case scenario, her cyberbrain is all that is left and needs to be put into a new body, but otherwise she's Crazy-Prepared for these situations.
- Spartan from WildC.A.T.s had this ability, being an android and all.
- THUNDER Agents: NoMan is a dead scientist whose brain/conciousness resides in a robot body; when he's in danger of being destroyed he can transfer to a new robot. But if his robot body is destroyed while he's still in it, he dies.
- Alpha Flight: The handicapped Robert Bochs has a robot body called Box which he can transfer into and out of at will. During one story arc when Walter Langkowski (Sasquatch) dies his consciousness is transferred to Box until they can find him a new body. They think they found one out in deep space, but it turns out that it's The Hulk. Langkowski decides to let his soul dissipate.
- The Dark Empire comics had the reborn Emperor as the Big Bad, and it's mentioned that he kept a number of cloned bodies for the purpose of this trope.
- In the Marvel Universe, the original Hate-Monger is what you get if you apply this concept to Adolf Hitler.
- This is the secret behind the immortality of Bob Morane's nemesis Monsieur Ming.
- The biochips grant G.I.s this ability in Rogue Trooper.
- Brainiac pretty much never dies because there's always some drone or ship or piece of hardware somewhere carrying a backup of him.
- Diehard of Youngblood had this as one of his abilities in the earlier issues.
- Two's favourite method of escaping in Paperinik New Adventures,usually when the situation is truly desperate,like risking to being deleted or blown up. Being Dangerously Genre Savvy,he tries his best from stopping his "twin" One in doing the same.
- The whole point of the film The 6th Day. Cloning humans is forbidden, but the antagonist has developed the technology along with brain backups and uploading in order to provide himself, and a few select minions, with effective immortality.
- In Ancillary Justice, Anaander Mianaai has a few thousand running around to oversee the Radch's expansion, giving him an odd sort of functional immortality.
- This can also happen to a ship's AI if one of its ancillary bodies isn't destroyed with the main section of the AI.
- In the book Glasshouse, all humans avoid aging and repair injury by building themselves new bodies in "assembler gates". They also back-up their minds, so if they die they just come back to life, not knowing that anything happened. The only way people can make death permanent is by erasing someone's memories from the databases.
- Everyone in the cities in Biting the Sun is promptly picked up and has their "life-spark" transferred into a new body of their choosing upon death. Some characters actually take advantage of this to get around the normal time limit for body changes.
- In the Takeshi Kovacs series everyone is implanted with a cortical stack that essentially acts as a hard drive for the brain and allows people to be "resleeved" in a new body when they die. However most people can't afford to be resleeved more than once and unless they shell out a lot of cash they have to go through the whole aging process again.
- The "mechs" are like this. Every night, they have to manually upload the events of that day to a backup hard drive held by the organization that built the mechs, which is then uploaded to a new body should something happen. Note that this is only for mechs who live a conventional life; those off the grid have no means of saving a backup.
- The main character, Lia Kahn, gets into a car accident that does so much damage that the doctors at the hospital downloaded a copy of her personality into an artificial body and her organic body is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Lia is not happy about this because in the setting of the novel, people who have artificial bodies are subjected to Fantastic Racism.
- In the short story "Learning To Be Me", everyone has a Jewel implanted in their brains at birth. Said jewel is a quantum computer that constantly updates itself to think and experience life like the person's brain. Eventually, the brain is removed, and the people live as the jewel.
- Backups are ubiquitous in The Culture, the Chel religion favors "soulcatcher" implants in their heads that can be recovered and "sublimed".
- In the Orson Scott Card short story "Fat Farm", the protagonist, a glutton, has his mind moved to new, svelte cloned bodies on a regular basis. The Karmic Twist Ending is that the "cast-off bodies," who expect to be coddled, are instead pressed into slave labor. The 'original' is their boss.
- The Riverworld series. When someone died in Riverworld, their wathan (soul) was collected, a new body was created for them and the wathan was released and re-attached to it.
- Vorkosigan Saga: Some very rich and very evil people clone themselves, then when the clones are in their twenties have their brain transplanted into the clone's body. Mark has made it his life's work to eliminate this practice, by inventing a life-extension technology that does not depend on committing murder.
- Darksaber features Bevel Lemelisk, chief designer of the Death Star, as a major character. Prominent mention is given to how the Emperor used to have him executed for his failures - slowly, painfully, often via... creative methods - then immediately reanimate him in a cloned body. He would often "awaken" to find his corpse still nearby, apparently in case the horrible, horrible death he'd just suffered wasn't enough of an object lesson.
- The Emperor wasn't above using this method himself and was reborn in a clone body some time after dying in Return of the Jedi, but then he was killed again and hasn't come back.
- In John Varley's Eight Worlds series, the technology exists to make a copy of a person's memories, and to grow a clone from a tissue sample. Life insurance now consists of going in for annual (or more often, if you can afford it) backups of your memories, and if you get killed, your insurance company grows a clone, and loads your memories into it. Having more than one of you running around at once is very illegal, however, and any extra clones discovered are subject to summary destruction. This allows at least one unscrupulous character to create slaves with no rights or recourse, since their very existence is a crime.
- In the Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton, humans are functionally immortal due to rejuvenation treatments coupled with this trope, both to defy The Fog of Ages, and as a backup in case of untimely death by murder or accident.
- In his The Night's Dawn Trilogy the cabal who secretly control Earth ensure their continued rule this way, by instantly killing the old body after having their memories transferred to a new one, even editing out those memories they don't want to keep. However the revelation that the souls of the dead pass on to an afterlife means that rather than a form of immortality, they're sending those souls to the Beyond each time a body is destroyed.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love and its sequels establish this as one of the various means by which human beings can extend their lives. In addition to standard rejuvenation technology, which involves growing clone replacements of a person's worn out tissues, affluent individuals can have entire clones pre-grown and held in stasis should misfortune befall the original. At that point, the memories can be transferred from the corpse with computer support. Oddly, no mention is made of this technology being used to literally back up a person's brain, although the idea ought to have occurred to someone.
- Sergey Lukyanenko's Line of Delirium trilogy has the aTan (anti-Thanatos) technology work in this manner. Basically, when people would first purchase (extremely expensive) aTan, would would undergo a very painful molecular scan that would save their physical template into the database. They would also get a neural net implanted into their brains. The official story is that, at the moment of death, the neural net uploads the memories of the deceased to aTan's databanks via some sort of Subspace Ansible, and the memories would be copied onto a newly-replicated body in the nearest aTan facility. The truth is, it's impossible to instantly upload that much information, especially since the brain (and the neural net) could be destroyed at the moment of death. As such, the net constantly uploads information, and the interruption of transmission is treated as death. A closely-guarded secret is that, if two copies of the same person are created, only one (the first one) will retain consciousness. The other one will be a vegetable. Thus, aTan has proved the existence of the human soul (or, as they call it, the X-factor), and the Church Patriarch has blessed the technology. Not all alien races can undergo the procedure. Those who lack the X-factor are not successfully "reborn". Additionally, a person is only allowed to purchase 1 aTan resurrection at a time. Why? Because the Psilons who sold humans the technology fear immortality and insisted, as part of the agreement, that each person would only get 1 second chance. After the agreement, humans used Loophole Abuse to justify allowing a resurrected person to purchase another resurrection, claiming that a resurrected person is not the same person as before. This is a lie, but the real reason is never given. Only three people in the galaxy have, effectively, unlimited resurrections: Curtis Van Curtis (the owner of the aTan Corporation, and the only person who knows how it works), Arthur Van Curtis (his son; actually, his clone), and Emperor Grey (who gets them in exchange for permitting Van Curtis to keep the monopoly on the technology).
- Jenna Black's Replica: How the titular technology works. When someone dies of an unnatural cause (accident, murder etc.) a replacement body has the individual's stored memories downloaded into it.
Live Action TV
- The re-imagined Cylons of Battlestar Galactica download into new bodies, so long as there's a Resurrection Ship in range. Even the dog-level-intelligence Raider ships resurrect.
- The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon wants to do this, but is concerned that the technology won't be ready by the time his body dies.
- Semi-example in Red Dwarf, where holograms can be made, instead of new bodies, but all ship crewmembers have their consciousness stored.
- The Asgard in Stargate SG-1 make great use of this, with people like Thor being downloaded into a new cloned body any time one takes critical damage. Thor spent an extended amount of time with his brain inside a ship's computer before he could be downloaded. It's also known that the Asgard have long been unable to reproduce, and cloning is how they've long made more of themselves. It's unknown if this means there have been no truly new Asgard for a very long time. (What we do know is that the process can't be kept up forever; each copy of a copy of a copy is subject to a bit more degradation, making extinction a matter of time.
- The only reason their bodies are subject to clone degradation is because they haven't thought to keep the original DNA on file. If they had, they never would've had this problem, as they would be always cloning the original (i.e. not degraded) DNA.
- Dollhouse. In "Epitaph One" the powerful backers of Dollhouse intend doing this with the bodies of the Actives. Adelle DeWitt is horrified as the Actives have only agreed to let the Dollhouse use their bodies for a set number of years; it's not meant to be a permanent arrangement. By "Epitaph Two: Return" two of the Rossum bigwigs have transferred into younger bodies and one of them has let a binge-eating habit develop.
- In Paranoia, The Computer is aware of the importance of backups, so all citizens are part of a six-pack of clones note - when one dies, his memories (including how he died) are MemoMaxed into his next-of-clone, who picks up wherever he left off. Especially important for the PCs, whose high-risk careers as Troubleshooters tend to get them killed at least once in the course of any given mission.
- Eclipse Phase borrows the cortical stack concept from the Takeshi Kovacs series and externally stored "backups" are considerably more common (instead of being exclusive to the wealthy).
- Car Wars. A duelist can arrange to have Gold Cross grow a clone from his cells and store a copy of his mind. If he dies, his mind is downloaded into the clone and the player continues to use the character.
- An early edition of Dungeons & Dragons had the Stasis Clone spell. It created a clone of the caster, and when the caster died, their soul was immediately moved to the clone and the clone came to life. Prior to 3rd Edition clone spells created a living copy of the original with all their memories up to the point where the tissue sample was taken, and if the clone and original were active at the same time they'd try to kill each other. 3E changed that and made clones vegetables until the original died, at which point their soul would transfer and they'd lose a level, like any other form of resurrection.
- GURPS Ultratech includes technologies to make "backups", the Transhuman Space setting reserves that ability for infomorphs (i.e. AIs and Ghosts) as Brain Uploading requires the meat brain to be dissected.
- Mutant Future. Before the fall of civilization clone banks could grow clones and record the original person's memories, personality and skills in a computer storage device. When the person died, their mind was implanted into the clone's brain, making them a perfect copy of the original.
- The Eldar in Warhammer 40,000 half use this trope. They carry soulstones to capture their souls when they die. Although they don't get new Eldar bodies they can be used to control equipment, effectively giving them new robot bodies instead. One craftworld is known for using many more vehicles than normal. This is not because they're any better at it, it's just that they were nearly wiped out at one point and are forced to rely on their dead to form the bulk of their army.
- Dead characters in EVE Online automatically download into clone bodies.
- The same is true in Dust 514, set in the same universe.
- Cait Sith in Final Fantasy VII pulls this once, although it's unknown how many other bodies (if any) he has available.
- The player-characters of Borderlands possess immortality through the New-U stations (save checkpoints) they come across. If they do take too much damage and subsequently bleed out, they are simply cloned and deposited back at the last New-U station they passed. For a fee.
- The New-U stations are controlled by the Hyperion Corporation, who are the main bad guys throughout all of Border Lands 2, yet still work for the player, though not for other characters. The reason being is that one: Hyperion is still profiting from your deaths, two: Handsome Jack will not allow you to die unless he does it personally with his own two hands, and three: Angel may hack Hyperion technology to lend you assistance. Why it works when Jack is fighting you personally and Angel is destroyed is anyone's guess.
- VitaStations serve a similar function for the protagonists of BioShock and the sequel.
- And in System Shock, the series to which BioShock is a Spiritual Successor, each level had a machine that would revive you once you've hacked/reset it. (Before that, dying on that level gets you turned into yet another cyborg zombie.)
- Yes Man in Fallout: New Vegas is the king of this trope. Every time the player character kills him, he is just uploaded in another robot. This could go forever, making him one of the few immortal characters in the game. The same also goes for Victor, at least until you reach Vegas.
- Kane dies in each game of the Tiberium timeline of the Command & Conquer games. Tiberian Twilight confirms that Kane is in fact an extraterrestrial being in human form, and resurrects via cloning devices like those shown at the end of Firestorm.
- M. Bison from Street Fighter never stays dead. Ever. He's been canonically killed off no less than two times now, (including one where Akuma sent his soul to Hell) and each time he always comes back in a new body. His story in Street Fighter IV starts off with him waiting in a medical tank, growing impatient while his scientists ready his new body. He plans on transferring over to one of the new clone bodies he created, one in particular named Seth, who has already gained his own self-awareness and will not surrender his body without a fight.
- A new clone of Cryptosporidium is released everytime you die in the Destroy All Humans! series. It keeps track of what clone you're currently up to.
- In Homeworld, the Taiidani Emperor has long ago eliminated any possible heir to the throne out of fear that one of them might attempt to supplant him and has been replacing himself with clones in order to ensure that he and only he remains the Emperor. During the final assault of the Exiles, La Résistance on Hiigara chose this moment to strike and managed to destroy the Imperial cloning lab along with samples of the Emperor's DNA. When the Emperor himself was killed aboard his mothership, this ended any hope of continuing the Imperial line.
- In Infinity Blade, this is the nature of the Deathless' immortality. Their souls, or "Quantum Identity Patterns", are transferred to specially prepared clone bodies in labs upon death. There are ways to disrupt the Deathless' QIP, leading to permanent death or memory erasure.
- In Halo, The Forerunner Saga reveals that the Didact from the Halo 3 terminals is the result of the Didact implanting his consciousness into a younger Forerunner to be activated on the event of his death. In this case, however, the original didn't actually die, but was merely exiled, where he went insane and became the genocidal maniac we meet in Halo 4.
- From Schlock Mercenary—
- In an early strip Schlock and Reverend Theo Forbus discuss the Brain Uploading variant of this trope and why it isn't necessarily immortality.
- Petey is effectively immortal, now that he has the resources to build as many bodies as he wants. He may even be Type XI immortal, because his bodies are linked via hypernet nodes, and he sends several on suicide missions.
- Petey has also done this for other characters, notably Schlock after he got himself Killed Off for Real. It often involved making a copy of their memories and biological data without their consent.
- Ran (and technically all other robots) from Bob and George. Ran is a special case since he's made from such cheap parts that it's cheaper to just transfer his personality to a new body than it is to repair him.
- Quine in the webcomic Starslip does this. If his body is killed, a new one is created in a cloning tank on board ship and his consciousness downloaded into it.
- Discussed and deconstructed in the webcomic Freefall in relation to robots' minds. They can be backed up and downloaded into another body, but the main characters meet two robots who chose not to be backed up because from their perspective they're just as dead either way.
- All the named robots in Vexxarr have numerous backups. It first came up Minionbot briefly converted to Zen in an early arc but changed his mind when Carl threatened to overwrite his backup disc with MP3s, he later got a set of spare heads in case of Logic Bomb. Carl himself has a closet full of fully aware backups.
- Sunset Grill has The Emperor, named Alexander, who was the first for whom this worked. In fact, it's part of the reason he became The Emperor in the first place.
- Most Inner and Middle sphere polities in Orion's Arm have routine backups mandatory for their citizens. Though there are a couple exceptions who don't subscribe to "pattern continuity theory" and consider backups to be different people than the originals, at most a legal heir.
- Used on occasion in Transformers:
- In Beast Machines, Megatron goes through about four different bodies in a single episode. Throughout the entire series, he occupies his Beast Wars body, a big giant head, a tank Vehicon, a jet Vehicon, a random maintenance droid, and a beast-mode-less Optimus Primal's "Optimal Optimus" body.
- Also, in Transformers Energon, after Demolisher is blown up, Megatron builds him a new body and sticks his spark into it, but not before reformatting it to remove Demolisher's pesky morality.
- Robots built in Futurama have a wireless backup unit that save a copy of them every day, so if their bodies get killed, they'd just download into another body. With the notable exception of Bender.
- Brainiac 5 did this in Legion Of Superheroes, which sort of made his heroic sacrifice and Superman's weeping over a fallen comrade much ado about nothing.
- The titular Venture Bros. had a backup army of clones, at least until their dad had to stop cloning them for legal reasons (and all the clones were wiped out).
- In the The Simpsons episode, "Days of Future Future", Homer died and it was revealed that a mad scientist had made clones of him so that he has backups. He ended up dying over a hundred times in the next thirty years.