"If I die, I can be replaced."
The tendency of characters to treat clones
and identical Doppelgangers
, often to the point of killing them casually
because they can be replaced with reserves
, or, in cases where there is an "original", it is the only one that counts.
Occasionally, both clone and original will have a deep seated loathing akin to There Can Be Only One
. May be justified if the clones are naturally Empty Shells
or soulless and psychotic
. This trope also appears when clones are used as part of a Clone Army
Compare Dream Apocalypse
and What Measure Is a Mook?
. See also Uniqueness Value
and What Measure Is a Non-Human?
. Related to Ambiguous Clone Ending
, Cloning Gambit
, Tomato in the Mirror
, Evil Knockoff
, Screw Yourself
, and Teleporter Accident
. Expendable Alternate Universe
is when alternate realities
similar to your own are given this treatment.
Contrast Clones Are People Too
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Anime and Manga
- In Vandread, this is revealed to be the underlying reason for the creation and maintenance of the sex-segregated planets of Meger and Talark where children are Designer Babies artificially engineered through mixed-cloning of the original colonists — majority of whom still remain secretly secured in cryo-stasis — as the colony leaders were unwilling to sacrifice any natural-born children to the organ-harvest fleets of Earth.
- In A Certain Magical Index, Mikoto is cloned 20,000 times, so that the clones can be killed in an experiment to increase Accelerator's power. She's mildly put off by discovering the existence of the clones, but she goes berserk when she learns they're being killed off en masse for an experiment. She breaks down when said clones dispassionately claim that they are simply "180 000 yen note lab animals."
- Inverted in Franken Fran: Fran generally considers both the original and the clones equally expendable as long as there is at least one copy of the person left (though she will try to keep all involved alive).
- Found in Afterschool Charisma. Rockswell thinks 'redundant' clones are unnecessary. After his suicide attempt, Mozart becomes bitter when he realizes this. Shiro and Mr. Kuroe disagree.
- Lyrical Nanoha usually follows the Clones Are People Too route, but Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S has an inversion of this in Doctor Jail Scaglietti. He considers even himself to be expendable as long as one of the Jail clones that he had implanted in the wombs of the Numbers gets away.
- Played straight in Neon Genesis Evangelion: Rei has several dozen clones ready to swap her out if she dies or decides to not play along with her superiors' Assimilation Plot. All three of her superiors who know about it (Gendo, Fuyutsuki, Ritsuko) treat her like a tool and she lets them because she knows her replaceability too and considers resistance useless. Really, only Shinji treats her nicely with genuine intentions - which later comes back to bite everyone else in the ass in a MAJOR way.
- Puella Magi Kazumi Magica has Nico during her combat with Kazumi against the Soujus.
- In one of the later arcs of Kaze no Stigma, a girl who is supposed to be sacrificed to an evil spirit in order to prevent it from destroying half of Japan is cloned. The 'copy' would basically be used in her stead, so that she can survive, and is routinely dehumanized as an 'It' despite clearly being her own person. Fortunately for her, the one time she decides to run away to experience the world before she's sacrificed, she meets a polite and somewhat awkward boy around her age by chance, whose older brother wields devastating magical powers while possessing an extreme aversion to the very concept of 'sacrifice'.
- M.O.D.O.K. creates clones of himself in order to generate a steady supply of backup organs.
- Usually but not always averted with Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man. His mutant power is creating duplicates of himself, which become more independent the longer they are separate. In the current series of X-Factor, in which Madrox is the lead character, the duplicates embody aspects of Jamie's personality at random. Jamie usually regards the duplicates as extensions of himself, but occasionally as independent people depending on circumstances. The duplicates themselves, however, are all over the map on how they think of him, themselves and each other.
- Calvin intentionally created a duplicate to do tasks that he doesn't want to do, like clean his room. Predictably, the duplicate doesn't want to do them either, and runs off to misbehave, knowing the original will get all the blame. A few clones later, it turns out Calvin really doesn't get along with himself, and ends up turning them all into worms (but, as Calvin knows, this makes them happy, because now they're gross). Later, Calvin creates a good duplicate of himself that doesn't mind doing his chores, but ends up driving Calvin crazy anyway by trying to be nice to Suzie. Calvin and his good copy get so mad at each other that they get into a fight, since fighting is bad, the good duplicate self-destructs in a Logic Bomb. Hobbes comments on the irony that even Calvin's good version is prone to doing bad. Later still, Calvin meets "duplicates" of himself through time travel, and of course gets into a fight with those past and future selves as well, because none of them want to do a creative writing homework assignment, but each of them has "good" excuses for not being the one to do it. Meanwhile Hobbes gets along perfectly well with his past version, and they actually work together to complete the homework themselves by basically writing a story about how foolish Calvin's time-travel scheme is.
- The Spider-Man Clone Saga went out of its way to avert this: Ben Reilly - and Peter Parker - whichever one was convinced at any given moment that he wasn't the original - couldn't go for more than two seconds without crying about how he was nothing more than a clone, even though almost everyone around him repeatedly insisted he was just as much of a man as the original.
- By the 1970's, two members of the Legion of Super-Heroes had been Killed Off for Real. The Legion created clones of them, knowing that the clones lasted 48 hours and then exploded, in order to test whether they have the same bravery as the originals. The Legion seemed to think there was nothing wrong with creating sentient beings who die after 48 hours and think they're their old teammates, as long as they're clones.
- In Alejandro Jodorowsky's Megalex, The police clones are terminated after living for four hundred days, the limit enforced by explosive control tabs implanted at the base of their skulls. This is done to prevent them being infected by dissidents. The clones are filed into a large room like a group show, made to strip, disinfected to allow more efficient recycling, and then their control tabs are detonated. The allusions to concentration camps are obvious. One of the protagonists, Ram, is an escaped police clone.
- One of the most overt instances of this trope was when Professor Xavier was infected by a Brood egg, the Starjammers' medic cloned a new mindless body in which to transfer his mind.
- Cyclops' former wife Madelyne Pryor was revealed as a clone of Jean Grey in an apparent attempt to exploit this trope. It was later revealed that her creator Mr. Sinister has made more Madelynes.
Film — Live Action
- The main plot of Parts The Clonus Horror revolves around this trope.
- In The Prestige: One of the magicians constantly clones himself and kills one of them in order to perform a magic trick night after night. However, because they are perfect clones, he has no way of knowing whether the machine teleports him but leaves a copy behind, or if it creates a copy a distance away. He never knows whether the trick kills the clone, or if he kills himself and the clone carries on.
- Either way, the original one is dead. The first time he used the machine, the one who stays behind kills the one who teleports. All other times, the one who stays behind is killed.
- It's played straight and subverted in The 6th Day with Schwarzenegger's character(s). Arnie's clone lives in the end, albeit he had to move to another city and basically give up his family. Played straight by the Big Bad, who regrets his cavalier treatment of cloning when his clone, created because he is dying, does not even wait until he's dead before he grabs the clothes so that he can go after Arnie. Some characters consider their death not a big deal, providing a clone of them (with uploaded copy of their memory) will be made. Basically they treat such a clone as not a copy, but a continuation of themselves.
- Of course, at least one of these clones is none to happy about the situation, as even with the backups of his memories, dying is still incredibly unpleasant.
- Sent up in the second The Gamers movie, when the Spoony Bard uses the nigh infinite resurrections the DM granted him out of sheer pity to tank a powerful demon… And even provide a fellow party member cover behind the resulting mountain of his own corpses!
- Never Let Me Go: In the film (as well as the original book), the main characters are clones created by the government to serve as medical organ donors for "real" people. As children they meet at a boarding school at which they spend their time creating artwork, a project designed to prove whether or not clones have souls.
- In Duncan Jones's Moon it turns out that lunar mining technician Sam Bell is unknowingly a clone of the original with a limited lifespan, destined to be replaced with another clone when his assignment is finished - i.e., when he's killed off. His company has been doing this for years in order to save on labor costs; it's implied that the original Sam was OK with the idea. The jig is finally up when one of the clones awakens prematurely, and the two Sams figure out a way to publicize the truth.
- Star Wars Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith both feature the clone Grand Army of the Republic who fulfill this trope to a T. By the time the original series rolls around, only Darth Vader's personal battalion remained all-clones.
- If you pay attention to some of the EU though, this trope is actually averted. In the novel Labyrinth of Evil, Anakin goes out of his way to save the lives of several clone troopers in his squad. This is then followed up by the scene in Revenge of the Sith where Anakin is about to abort his mission in order save the clone pilots getting attacked by droid fighters, before Obi-Wan reminds him that rescuing Chancellor Palpatine is the all-important objective. The Clone Wars cartoon that came along later also tilts strongly towards Clones Are People Too.
- The premise of The Island. The clones are grown to harvest replacement organs for the rich and famous with the promise of "The Island" as a "reward" for good behaviour.
- Jack and Victoria from Oblivion2013, given Victoria 49's fate.
- Timothy Zahn kickstarted the Star Wars Expanded Universe with no knowledge of the cloning system that would be used years later in Attack of the Clones, so his clones were grown quickly in "Spaarti cylinders" and could be programmed with the original's memories (though the quality of the memory transfer was said to be somewhat variable, accounting for any personality differences that might crop up between the clone and the original). Some other EU authors took this idea up and had various high-ranking Imperials have possession of their own personal cylinders. The most notable one is Ysanne Isard, who would send out her clone, who believed herself to be the original, to do jobs she could entrust to no one else. When the job was done, she would have the clone killed and prepare another, updating her memories. When a clone survived, she went as far as arranging an Enemy Mine with her worst enemy, revealing that she wasn't dead, to take her down. This didn't work out quite as well as Isard intended; the missing clone was killed, but her enemies figured out exactly how she was planning to double-cross them.
- In Galaxy of Fear: Clones there is a facility that can somehow grow clones in hours, and some even believe they're the originals. Most are evil, deliberately warped by a literal Darth Vader Clone, but a sparse few are terrified and pitiable. Tash Arranda is not as affected by death as she once was, but is even less shaken than usual when her own clones are killed as she watches.
- Averted in Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon, where the protagonist uses Brain Uploading to make a duplicate of himself near the end because his plan to bring down the Big Bad requires him to be in two places at once. Each version of him acknowledges the other to be just as real and deserving of existence, but one of them has to go, and they settle it by reasonable conversation and ultimately with a game of rocks/paper/scissors, with the loser being the one who gets deleted.
- In Playing With Fire, Valkyrie lets Skulduggery shoot her mirror doppleganger to trick the Torment, who wants her dead. Slightly subverted in that she has been explicitly assured that her reflection cannot have a real mind of its own, it is compared to Skulduggery tearing up a photograph of her - even so, she still feels horribly guilty over the plan.
- Also, the reflection need only be returned to a mirror to revive it.
- In the short story Identity Theft, people can opt to have their minds transferred into robot bodies. One character is copied twice (so that another character can secretly interrogate the extra one). Despite the fact that he's also technically a copy, the legal copy is horrified at the thought of an extra him running around. To keep him from demanding that the illegal copy be destroyed, the hero helps the extra copy assume a new identity.
- The hero of John Varley's The Golden Globe — an unknowing clone — gets away with killing his own "father" on a technicality due to an obsolete anti-cloning law that prohibited two people from sharing identical DNA. Fortunately for him the law didn't actually specify which clone had to be killed.
- First played straight, then inverted in Good Night, Mr. James by Clifford Simak. The original sends the clone on what's probably a suicide mission, with the intent of killing it anyway if it completes the mission. The clone figures it out and attempts a Kill and Replace.
- Another Kill and Replace inversion is "The Far Side of the Bell-Shaped Curve" by Robert Silverberg. Let's just say the title doesn't indicate which far side of the curve the main character's on.
- The entire plot of Destination: Oblivion, a pre-Dune novel by Frank Herbert. All of the main characters are expendable clones, basically a living simulation to iron out all the kinks in the mission before sending out "Real" people. They're not meant to survive. This isn't a spoiler: the audience finds this out at the very beginning of the book. The characters take a lot longer. That goes throughout the Wor Ship series; clones will be sent on the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs, and if there's ever a shortage in supplies or necessities, clones will be the first to suffer.
- The Dune series itself had Gholas, clones grown with all the original's abilities but no memories (at least at first). In God Emperor of Dune, Leto II has had a series of Duncan-clones (one at a time) serve as advisor/companion the entire time he's been ruling (several thousand years). It's gotten to the point where he knows Duncan so well he can basically read his mind. He takes great delight anytime one of them actually deviates from his expectations or the behavior of the previous Duncans.
- In Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief the Sobornost Founders have uploaded their minds to millions of artificial bodies. These collectives are called copyclans, and their members synchronize their memories and brainpower whenever they are together, allowing them to be everywhere in their massive empire at once. It doesn't matter if a few die, since there's always backups. Although their interests don't always coincide, and some of the Founders are said to be in war against themselves. Also, the main protagonist, Jean le Flambeur has millions of copies of himself trapped forever in the Dilemma Prison, but he's just happy that he was the one that got away.
- The Vorkosigan Saga is all over the place on this trope. Betans think that Clones Are People Too, but one of the big industries on Jackson's Whole is to clone a rich person and surgically transfer the brain of the original into the clone, which restores the client to his/her late teens/early twenties at the cost of the life of the clone (Assuming the surgery is successful). One of Mark's main goals in life is to shut that industry down.
- This trope is part of why copying your brain upload into more than one body at a time is illegal in some polities in Glasshouse. A feared army in the backstory uses this trope to good effect so much so that it's eventually revealed that most of their troops consisted of copies of the book's protagonist. Additionally, Sanni uses this as an apparent Thanatos Gambit during the book's climax.
Live Action TV
- Very much averted in the Doctor Who two-parter "The Rebel Flesh"/"The Almost People", in which a group of 'Gangers' are animated by a solar tsunami. The gangers insist they are just as real as the originals, sharing all their memories and personalities. But at the end, Ganger!Doctor sacrifices himself to save the real Doctor.
- Less averted in 'The Girl Who Waited', where Rory must choose between rescuing the Amy he knows and loves and an Amy who, due to timey-wimey-ness, has been waiting thirty-six years for him, and has become strange and bitter as a result. While Rory genuinely wants to save both of them, when the time comes the Doctor slams the TARDIS door on older!Amy without hesitation, leading to her erasure from existence. He doesn't seem to regret the decision very much. To be fair even Old!Amy seems to agree it's the right thing to do.
- It ain't a Tomato in the Mirror trope without an Outer Limits episode devoted to it.
- Though the Revivial series episode Replica averted the trope; when a bioengeener's wife emerges from a coma that was incorrectly thought to be terminal she states that the clone (who has her memories) created prior to her awakening needs to be "disposed of". She quickly notes that she does not mean termination: she is instead suggesting erasing the clone's memories and leaving her in a far away city where she can hopefully start a new life (in the end, the clone ends up with a clone of the bioengineer himself and Everybody Lives).
- Star Trek: The Next Generation has Will Riker being split by a transporter accident a couple years ago. They send him on his way as "Thomas" Riker once he is recovered.
- "Up The Long Ladder" introduced a colony which, having too few members for a stable gene pool, resorted to reproduction purely through cloning. Their genetic samples deteriorating, they secretly take new ones from Riker and Pulaski. When they find out, both find the unawakened clone bodies and kill them outright. According to writer Melinda Snodgrass, it was intended as a pro-choice aesop - but it wasn't very well-received.
- Star Trek: Nemesis: Data dies. However, since B-4 and he shared memories, it's strongly implied Data will 'resurrect' through B4. Expanded Universe material, such as the prequel comic to the 11th movie, outright states it to be the case.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has a man who murdered his clone to frame Odo for his murder. He is arrested in the end, Odo saying that killing one's own clone is still murder - a rarity of a clone being valued as a life form of its own in Trek.
- A later episode has Miles O'Brien zapping himself several hours into the future. He subsequently dies, and then the future O'Brien goes back in his place. The slightly-in-the-future O'Brien was about to die anyway due to the station blowing up, so sending him back keeps the main cast alive and intact.
- Star Trek: Voyager plays with this one in "Tuvix," wherein the named hybrid makes an overwrought speech about how splitting him back into Tuvok and Neelix will be murder. Much of episode was about the moral dilemma of killing one to save the other two, and even the Doctor refused to perform the procedure, due to the Hippocratic Oath. Janeway had to do it herself, and left in a guilty mood. A lot of fans never forgave her.
- Star Trek: Enterprise has the episode with "Sim" Tucker, in which he is made and harvested for parts in order to save Trip. He doesn't take it all that well at first, but comes around in the end. (He was going to die anyway in an hour or two, after all. And in their defense... harvesting him for parts wasn't the plan, they just needed the injured Trip's skills in a big hurry, and no one expected the clone would retain Trip's memories (or IIRC even be cognizant))
- Several people (both in-universe and in fandom) believe the transporter works this way - the original is killed and a duplicate who thinks it's the original is created somewhere else. The technical manuals explain that this is not the case, as the transporter works on a quantum level rather than a molecular one, and people who believe this in story are dismissed as having an irrational fear of transport. This explanation also avoids the issue of why antagonistic races don't simply duplicate their foot soldiers via transporter to make a disposable army.
- An episode of Friday The 13th: The Series had a guy using a cursed artifact to create duplicates of himself and send them to kill people while he himself was on live TV (perfect alibi). He'd destroy the duplicates after. One dup' who knew what was coming decided to kill the original and thereby become a real boy, but forgot he'd been shot earlier. He bled to death immediately after becoming real.
- Wizards of Waverly Place (yes a Disney show) where it's implied in an episode that Alex does this to her own magic copy.
- Surprisingly averted in Farscape. The main character is duplicated for the greater part of Season Three, but neither duplicate is actually a fake, and neither is the original (the original was somehow just split into two, and each half made whole). Neither Chrichton is treated as expendable, and in fact, when one does die later in the season, it's played with just as much drama and residual emotional trauma as if there hadn't been a spare Chrichton. This is probably helped by the fact that they spent most of their time apart from each other. Unsurprisingly, though, they killed off the one who had progressed in his relationship with Aeryn and figured out the all-important control of wormholes.
- An episode of Earth: Final Conflict had Liam split in two using a side-effect of quantum teleportation, although Street notes that the duplicate will be erased out of existence at some point in the future. For the rest of the episode, the duplicate assumes the role of Liam, while the original is in an induced coma to fool Sandoval and Zo'or. The duplicate is treated no differently than the original, but chooses to sacrifice himself in the end to save Renée. The duplicate is not mentioned after that.
- Seen several times in the Stargate Verse. Once with Teal'c when he shot his Alternate Universe doppelganger, saying that theirs was "the only reality of consequence.". Inverted with an alternate universe SG-1, who try to steal "our" universe's ZPM in order to save their reality. Also inverted with alternate Woolsey in "Vegas", who doesn't care that their failure to find a Wraith threatens other Earths. Additionally, Ba'al does this with his own clones at the end. Slightly subverted with the clone of Jack O'Neill, though his two other doubles weren't so lucky.
- An episode of Sliders has the protagonists land In a World where human cloning is real, and clones are grown for spare parts. When the real Quinn is grabbed because the locals think he's a clone of this world's Quinn (who is in need of new eyes), his friends break into the cloning building and rescue him. Except they really took the clone, who was kept in a vegetative state. Then the clone starts developing a personality of his own. In the end, this world's Quinn chooses to remain blind rather than take the eyes of his clone. Acting For Three.
- There was an episode ("Twin Streaks") of the short-lived Flash TV show involving a clone of the Flash created by crooked scientists of the week. The clone sacrifices his life to protect the "real" Flash, and although the characters are not indifferent to his death, they clearly don't find it as serious as if a "real" person had died.
- This plot was cannibalized to make the Lois and Clark episode "Vat Man." (It was one of several Flash episodes to receive this treatment.)
- Happens in the CBC Radio program Canadia 2056. When the crew of the Canadia find a Negative Space Wedgie that leads to another universe, they meet themselves, who save them from being destroyed by said "anomaly", and send one of them over to help repair the damage. The Canadia's Captain and Max Anderson repay the Alternate Canadia by stealing their engines (theirs were destroyed escaping the anomaly), kidnapping the Alternate's Skip Conners so they could steal her body (so they could put their Skip's brain in it) and causing the American Warship accompanying them to destroy the alternate Canadia. They also accidentally kidnap one of the Alternate Canadia's Crew. The reason? The Alternate Crew must have been evil, because the Main Crew were not.
- The Lintillas and the Allitnils in The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy.
- In Two Guys and Guy, Frank has done this to Wayne in order to counteract his eternal Butt Monkey status.
- Inverted in Girl Genius. After Lucrezia gains the ability to upload her mind into multiple bodies, she doesn't mind dying as long as some copies remain elsewhere.
- Also, she really doesn't want to kill/commit suicide in Agatha's body, as it will cause her to lose very valuable knowledge that she had gained, and that knowledge will not transfer to her other copies, nor back to the device that she uses to create the copies in the first place.
- King Slately in Erfworld is actually heartened to see his magically created double go down fighting, because it shows a copy of him could fight bravely, even as we get a closeup of the mangled body. Then it turns into a Tomato in the Mirror, when his son points out doubles don't leave bodies. The fact that the King clone didn't even know he wasn't real points out the moral problems of using them as cannon fodder.
- Subverted in El Goonish Shive: An Opposite-Sex Clone of Elliot is made, who has all of his memories up until that point. It's initially believed Ellen's doomed to vanish after a certain amount of time, which causes her to panic and briefly try to be an Evil Twin. It's quickly discovered her existence is secure, and thanks to a few pulled strings, she is now living as Elliot's "twin sister". She has since become a character rather different from Elliot, and is completely accepted by everyone privy to the secret.
- Gate-clones in Schlock Mercenary are treated as sentient individuals, and the lives of most sentient individuals are often treated pretty cavalierly if they aren't protagonists. They're definitely legally unique; the problem comes from the fact that gate-clones have all the memories of the original up to the cloning. For example, if a man kills someone, then gets gate-cloned, both clones are guilty of murder.
- The trope is played dead straight by the F'Sherl-Ganni, who created the gate-clones; they made a practice of duplicating people, interrogating the duplicates, and then disposing of them. This practice killed about fifteen billion people every three hours and thirty-nine minutes, for hundreds of thousands of years. They murdered the equivalent of the entire galaxy's population several times over. Good thing they were just clones.
- The Gavs are something of a special case. Given their sheer number (950 million to start with) a certain amount of attrition could be expected to random chance.
- Averted in It's Walky! where Joyce has to face criminal charges after killing her duplicate.
- Subverted near the climax of the "There But For The Grace" story arc in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!. Jerry fires his gun at Molly and Galatea, and it looks as if one of them (presumably Galatea, the clone) has been killed. But it turns out in the next strip that they're both fine; he was aiming at another target.
- "Debated" in Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal here
- In a The Parking Lot Is Full strip a rich man uses cloning technology to make endless copies of himself... Into hamburger. Self-cannibalism: The ultimate in decadence.
- Grey Gerling, of Barfquestion fame, illustrated a story he wrote when he was ten. The protagonist, to escape from a monster he created, cloned himself and got the monster to attack the clone instead of himself. In the title of the page Grey mentions that he didn't see how morally wrong it was fourteen years ago.
- Debated in Homestuck, as Vriska builds an army of ghosts, comprised mostly of dead-end doomed-timeline versions of her friends, on the basis that they're just copies.
- Shown to be how the trolls managed to beat the black king in their session, using an army of doomed timeline aradia bots to block his instakill voice long enough for them to take him down.
- Pan can create copies of himself and others in Thalia's Musings. The copies are explicitly stated to be like shadows or projections in nature, incapable of feeling. He creates a copy of Echo to help her fake her death in front of Hera.
- In Doppelgänger Vincent accuses Victor as using him as this.
- The central premise behind the sci-fi noir web series Aidan 5. People are cloned to make expendable copies, but their clones are in fact people too.
- Lopez of Red vs Blue has an army of spare robotic bodies so he can transfer his programming into a new one when destroyed. In a similar way Delta has several backup copies of himself in files.
- This is one of the philosophical/moral quandaries behind the ethics of cloning, particularly the idea of "growing" full-body people for harvesting organs that are identical matches.
- This is an old-fashioned fear even today, since we already know that cloned organs can be grown in pigs or sheep instead of human bodies, and we aren't far from growing at least some organs in vitro, as well.
- Averted with identical twins. While they are genetically identical, neither is considered remotely expendable. It's only in fiction that twins are treated as expendable.