"Can't any one of your damned little Scooby club at least
try to remember that
A Character Check
is when the writer realizes the character is no longer behaving the way he or she was first portrayed, and tries to cover it up by throwing in a scene in which the character ostentatiously reverts to form. Related to Author's Saving Throw
, but a Character Check
seldom leads to any lasting change and is not necessarily popular with the fans, who may have become attached to the "new" version of the character and dislike the brief resurgence of the old one.
Very common with Designated Villains
or Jerk Ass
characters who have moved into Jerk with a Heart of Gold
territory; this sort of reminder of "how things used to be" is a frequent side effect of Badass Decay
and Villain Decay
. Also likely to result from Depending on the Writer
. There is also a certain amount of Truth in Television
here. Someone may have changed over time
, but still fall back on old habits now and again. However, fictional characters are usually expected to behave more consistently
. This trope may make the audience exclaim, "I Forgot Flanders Could Do That
Anime and Manga
- A textbook example from Dragon Ball Z is how Vegeta behaves in the Buu saga, where he lets himself fall under the Mind Control of Babidi just to feel "like himself" again.
- In My Immortal, Dumbledore, (who introduces himself by yelling "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING YOU MOTHERFUKERS!"), is shown "crying wisely" while delivering the news of Draco's suicide, with the author asking readers if that is out of character for him.
- The early chapters of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality made a half-hearted attempt to keep Professor Quirrell's canon feigned nervousness, but gave up very quickly and he basically just turned into an OC Stand-in after that.
- Desdemona from Total Drama Stranded is introduced as a manipulative strategist who will desperately do anything to keep herself in the game. She then begins a relationship with Elijah and mellows considerably. However, in an extreme act of desperation, she is willing to convince the others to vote him out.
- After Calvin gets Laser-Guided Amnesia in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series, he ends up with his original personality - that being the excitable little kid he was in the comic strip.
- After a surprising but understandable amount of cowering, Lina Inverse invokes this on herself in Flam Gush as a reminder that she is no longer the scared little girl she once was when facing Erik, glaring back to make him look away.
- In the Star Wars Corellian Trilogy, the group travels for a time with an astromech that can speak Basic. After being damaged, the droid becomes exceedingly paranoid and aggressive; when Anakin points out that "Q9 is acting funny", the droid runs diagnostics to get back to normal.
- Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a lot of these, with the most jarring and noticeable being the attempted rape of Buffy in Season 6. Only slightly less subtle was the scene in which he plays poker with other demons for kittens.
- Sylar in Heroes was prone to these in Season 3, as the writers veered erratically between portraying him as The Woobie and remembering, "Oh, yeah, this guy was a psychotic serial killer in Seasons 1 and 2." The utterly gratuitous murder of Elle was a case in point.
- Lionel Luthor of Smallville started out as a prime example of a Magnificent Bastard. He was cruel, manipulative, and gloriously evil. In Season 5, he started acting like a good guy while acting as the "Oracle" for Jor-El. In Season 6 the writers wanted to "slap [the audience] in the face" with a reminder of who he used to be, so they had him blackmail Lana into marrying Lex. Then, sad to say, he went back to being a good guy.
- Sawyer from LOST started out as the resident Jerk Ass with occasional glimpses of a heart of gold and gradually moves toward outright heroism over the course of the series. Throughout, however, he has moments reminding everyone that he is at best a Hero with an F in Good who Wants a Prize for Basic Decency. One of the most notable examples occurs in the episode "The Long Con" in which he performs an elaborate con to get posession of the castaways' guns. Charlie asks Sawyer why he did it, and his response is that he's "not a good person. Never did a good thing in my life." This makes him arguably a subversion of this trope- he is a Wild Card because he himself is unsure of whether the "real" Sawyer is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, a Justified Criminal, a Noble Demon, or just an Opportunistic Bastard.
- In M*A*S*H, the whole Margaret arc. She went from Hot Lips to Margaret. At first there was some homage paid to Hot Lips, then the writers just gave up.
- Margaret underwent a lot of genuine Character Development as the series progressed, becoming friendlier and less antagonistic. However, a rather noticeable Character Check occurred in the fifth season episode "The Korean Surgeon", in which Hawkeye and B.J. attempt to save a North Korean doctor who is a P.O.W. by shaving his beard and giving him a haircut and telling everyone that he is South Korean, so that he can join them at the camp. Margaret and Frank discover what's going on, and threaten to go over Colonel Potter's head to resolve the matter; something they'd frequently do to Henry Blake, but not to Potter as he was far more competent, extremely well-connected, and Margaret respected him a lot more (as Potter was regular army). The threat (and indeed the whole plot) seems more suited to an episode from the first three seasons (when Blake was in charge), so it comes off as a bit jarring.
- Doctor Who:
- The Fourth Doctor episode "State of Decay" does this for two neglected personalities of the Doctor. After several serials of the Doctor's characterisation being unusually dark, grumpy and Chessmasterly, "State of Decay" partially returns him to the charming, witty and capricious mode he'd been in for the previous three seasons - but the story itself is written with all the characteristic tropes of his first three seasons, such as Gothic Horror Pastiche, weakened ancient godlike beings attempting to regain power and a punk-influenced watch-the-world-burn morality.
- The Sixth Doctor was intended to be this - after the Fifth Doctor, an extremely kind-hearted, subtle and humanlike incarnation, the desire was to return the Doctor to being a flamboyant and socially tone-deaf character (similar to the popular Fourth Doctor in some of his madder characterisations) who was more threatening, morally-ambiguous, and borderline impossible to deal with (similar to the Ur Example of the character, the First Doctor). Unfortunately, the writers failed to execute this with the subtlety it required, leading to a Establishing Character Moment of him trying to murder his own companion that cast a long and poisonous shadow over his personality in the eyes of fans.
- The TARDIS started out broken; completely unsteerable to the point where the Doctor can never leave a place and time that he's not completely done with, because he can never return. During the Fourth Doctor's tenure, he switched to using the 'secondary control room', which allowed him to steer the TARDIS for the first time (onscreen, anyway), although due to his personality he often wouldn't and even installed a "Randomiser" to make control of it impossible again. The new series establishes right from the very beginning that the Doctor knows how to fly his TARDIS now, showing it capable of manoeuvres stated to be completely impossible for most of the Classic Doctors (the earliest example being the Ninth Doctor's And Another Thing rematerialisation in "Rose"), but every so often a story will start with the Doctor mis-steering the TARDIS and ending up somewhere unwanted, such as "The Idiot's Lantern" (50s Britain and not 50s America), "Tooth and Claw" (the Victorian era rather than the 70s), and completely Deconstructed in "Aliens of London" (a year after Rose left instead of a few hours).
- This is lampshaded during the eleventh Doctor's tenure; the TARDIS briefly gains the ability to talk, and at one point the Doctor accuses her of never taking him where he wanted to go. She retorts that she always took him where he needed to go.
- Mary and Edith from Downton Abbey spent most of series 1 engaged in The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry, only for various deaths, intrigues and the First World War to make them realize there were far more important issues at hand. At times they seem to get along quite well, only for writer Julian Fellowes to remember they're supposed to dislike each other and throw in a barbed comment or two between them.
- One of the biggest complaints of the series finale of How I Met Your Mother is that Barney returns to his womanizing ways from seasons 1-5 after he and Robin get divorced.
- The Cat in Red Dwarf was originally introduced as a Drop-In Character, somebody who was caught up in his own self-obsessed world, only occasionally interacting with the other crew, and sometimes even being a nusiance. This got forgotten over time, as he became more and more a part of their adventures, piloting the ship and making use of his Super Senses to get them out of trouble. But the plot of the reunion special "Back To Earth" effectively hinges on reminding us of the early Cat, complete with a hilarious Call Back to an episode in the very first series.
- Q was introduced on Star Trek: The Next Generation as a threatening god-like being who had judged humanity, found them wanting and had decided to exterminate the entire race. Almost immediately after his introduction, he was re-written as an omnipotent prankster, more akin to Loki than a vengeful Jehovah. Picard even stopped seeing him as a threat and more of a nuisance. But then there was the final episode, where Q was suddenly ready to destroy humanity again.
- Then there was Worf. In the first two seasons, Worf literally growled a lot, and smiled like a predator whenever it looked like violence might break out. Later in the series, he simply became a strict, honor-bound warrior with a more martial outlook to any situation, who never growled and never smiled. Occasionally the writers would write in a battle-lust scene for him, and once, quite jarringly, had him let loose with a belly-laugh as other Klingon characters might do. Aside from these brief touches, he was practically stoic.
- On Star Trek: Voyager, an entire group of people had this happen to them. The Maquis crew aboard Voyager initially had some serious problems trusting the Starfleet crew they were supposed to work with. By the time of the seventh season this had largely disappeared, as is natural considering how long they were stranded together. For some reason, the writers then decided to have an episode devoted to the mysterious murder of Maquis crewmembers, and immediately all the old distrust came out. Suddenly, all Starfleet officers couldn't be trusted, even to the point where they objected to Tuvok handling the investigation. Naturally, once the episode was over, the mixed Voyager crew became one big happy family again.
- For that matter, it happened to an entire race. When the Borg were first introduced, they were supposedly only interested in advancing themselves technologically, and correspondingly it made sense for them to ignore organic beings unless they considered them a threat. But after assimilating Picard, the writers forgot about the idea that the Borg only care about the tech of the races they encounter and basically turned them into techno-zombies, assimilating everyone they came into contact with. And yet, for some reason, when it was more convenient to explain how the characters escaped the Borg, they would bring back the idea that individual Borg drones "will ignore us unless they consider us a threat!"
- Da Orks in Warhammer40000 have a gestalt psychic field that allows them to impose Clap Your Hands If You Believe onto the material universe, mostly for the purpose of making their ramshackle technology actually work. Occasionally a writer would try to make an Ork pick up a tree branch that he thought looked like a gun, and start magically firing bullets with it. These days this doesn't happen so much, partly by clarifying that Orks aren't quite that stupid, and partly by establishing that Ork guns do work in human hands, they just work BETTER in an Ork's hands.
- WWE's use of Victoria warrants a mention. First she was a hoe, then a silly dancing ex-ho, logical. Suddenly she was psychotic, obsessive, evil, held a grudge against Trish Stratus of doubtful justification, claimed to hear voices in her head and saw things that were not there, such as carrying an imaginary title belt... not so logical. Then after Wrestlemania XX Victoria was silly dancer again, her seeming split with Stevie Richards, who she claimed "needed help" was about the only nod to how she was prior. Then she turned heel and dropped all prior characterization but went crazy again for a feud with Mickie James (who transitioned into sanity much more sensibly). As the feud with Mickie went on though Victoria stopped being psycho and started being a goof, the only thing missing from her original character being the dancing.
- In Marathon 2, Durandal was far less of a nutjob than the first game. Still, he does briefly stop to remind you that "If you insist on stumbling around when our time here is limited, I may just decide that you're not all that special after all and teleport you out into space." Probably justified in that he was going through the early stages of Rampancy in the first game (which includes a "psychotic anger" phase), and by the second game has calmed down and stabilized a great deal.
- In the very beginning of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud has a difficult and rude personality, characterised by various points where, in conversation, the player can choose between a couple of responses - usually a rude or abrasive one, and an apathetic or kind one. These scenes get fewer as the plot gets moving and Cloud's personality develops, and are completely abandoned after Cloud develops an agreeable, intentionally funny personality after reconstructing his memories, except for a scene towards the end of the second disc if the player chooses to have Barret in the party while hijacking the submarine - Barret will point out to Cloud that Cloud's whole personality is completely different to how it used to be and that he's come a long way, to which the player can have Cloud respond with either a rude or apathetic comment.
- In Homestuck, many characters had drifted to being more serious, as the events of Act 5 became very stressful and worrisome. This meant characters were less prone to cracking jokes, and more prone to simple kindness, depression, anger, etc. After a year's Time Skip in Act 6 however, they have been shown to act more similarly to their original characterization, with their new characterization still lingering however. The most notable characters this has occurred with are John, Dave, and Karkat, though it has occurred with everyone affected by the Time Skip to some extent, with the exception of Terezi.
- A whole two-page sequence shows Rose, who had been becoming far more serious and dark, being 'returned' to her original self by John in which he expresses concern about how she hasn't been making many jokes lately, and she kids along with him, pretending to be a Straw Vulcan-type character.
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes portrays The Wasp as energetic, witty, and caring, like in Marvel Adventures. However, one episode, "459", inexplicably reverts Wasp to her Silver Age personality. She desperately wishes her teammate Ant-Man would love her, and flirts with other male superheroes to make him jealous.
- Occasionally Stewie from Family Guy will go back to his evil genius persona from the earlier seasons, usually for a quick joke or the occasional odd episode.
- Rufus and Amberley were mostly diluted to Hero Antagonists after the pilot episode of The Dreamstone, however odd episodes made attempts to return them to center spotlight. Shades of their original characterizations also re emerged throughout Seasons Three and Four.
- Done to a few of the engines throughout the long run of Thomas the Tank Engine, despite Flanderization altering a lot of their personalities drastically, their old forms from the original novels and episodes do occasionally return. For example, Thomas, now more a Kindhearted Simpleton, will occasionally act cheeky or pompous, while Toby, now altered into a Lovable Coward, will show glimpses of his Big Brother Mentor persona.