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Flashback... Back... Back...
"Not another parallel reality!" cried Buster, as everything started to fade and turn monochrome.
"Relax, Citizen Kincaid. This is merely a flashback scene."
— Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space
A specific type of Flashback Effect
It happens all the time, you slip in the shower or remember something funny and whoosh! You're in a Flash Back
, and everyone knows it.
This is compounded by the familiar technique of echoing whatever phrase triggered the flashback as the scene slips
into the past. ("Are you okay... okay... okay...?" And then you're in the Flash Back
Some series don't use an echo, employing instead some other sound effect such as harp music or a bell, usually accompanied by a blurring/fading dissolve to the memory.
A typical subversion is to have too many echoes or have the character provide their own.
is a different trope entirely.
- In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, Papa Smurf sees Empath having the "Thousand Yard Stare Of Impending Flashback" during his first visit to the Smurf Village when he was in a "crying trance", reliving a memory from long ago. It was his being left in Psychelia by Papa Smurf as an infant and suffering the memory wipe Mind Rape of the Psyche Master.
- Comes up in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.
Announcer: Nineteen thirty-eight. Can you imagine what it must have been like back then...then...then...
- Parodied in Airplane!:
Striker: "Hello...lo...lo...? Echo...echo...echo! Pinch hitting for Pedro Borbón... Manny Mota... Mota... Mota...!"
- Done straight in the film Phantom Planet... and mocked by Mystery Science Theater 3000 in their ninth season. "Congratulations Mrs. Astronaut, it's a boy boy boy...", "Wake up Frank, you wet the bed bed bed...", "Frank, you're the worst party clown we've ever had had had...", ....
- Parodied in the Wayne's World movie as Wayne and Garth (in their typical low-budget way) literally walk on screen to back the plot up and work out a better ending by waving their hands across the screen and going "Doodooleeloo! Doodooleeloo!"
- Parodied in the modern The Addams Family show. Fester says something which causes Morticia to flashback as that last word is echoed over and over. When the flashback ends, it's revealed that Fester is just saying that last word over and over.
- Doctor Who plays with this trope in the episode "The Unicorn and the Wasp". Even the Doctor starts to get caught in a flashback at one point.
- In Good Luck Charlie, in the episode "Guys & Dolls", PJ lampshades this trope. He hears Gabe's voice in his head saying, "You're just like dad, dad, dad..." then he asks himself, "Why do flashbacks always echo?" or something like that.
- Parodied in Frasier. After reminiscing about the past, the characters look dazed and introspective as harp music is playing in the background, a typical cue for a flashback scene. A moment later they snap out of it. Still hearing the music, they turn around to see that someone behind them was actually playing a harp.
- LOST uses a whooshing sound to indicate flashbacks, although one can usually tell by the setting not being the island.
- Let's not forget the "Thousand-Yard Stare of Impending Flashback."
- As an interesting aside, the sixth season changed its "flashback" mechanic to highlight a "Sideways" world. Accordingly, the producers changed the traditional flashback noise to a noise more akin to an airplane lifting off, drawing a distinction between flashbacks and "flash-sideways".
- Parodied at least once on MythBusters:
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch parodies it, Salem tells Sabrina to make the music for him to tell a story in flashback, Sabrina does just that.
- Chewbacca in The Star Wars Holiday Special. It's subtle.
- The UFO episode The Dalotek Affair...The Dalotek Affair...The Dalotek Affair...
- In Nebulous, the Professor's frequent flashbacks to his childhood at the circus are heralded by an echo of him saying "I'm not a clown". Lampshaded when at one point, a character asks why he was lying on the floor muttering the world "clown", and at another time when the word "cloud" sets him off instead.
Nebulous: Did you say...clown?
Sir Ronald: No! I said "cloud"!
Nebulous: [flashback beginning] I don't want to be a clown...clown...clown...
Sir Ronald: [voice fading into the background] I said cloud!
- The musical variation is parodied in Son of Cliché, in the first of the recurring sketches "Asso, Spanish Detective".
Asso: I started to think back. Back to the beginning of this case...
[sting of harp music]
Asso: I was in my office, playing my harp.
- Bastion: This place is... intoxicating... intoxicating... intoxicating...
- Stickman and Cube couldn't resist having a go at this one: Stickman once patiently explained to Cube how to flashback, including repeating the last word of your sentence over and over again, and the obligatory sound effect. Cube then used these techniques to flash back to Stickman teaching him how to flashback. Cue neverending loop.
- While most of the flashbacks in the Supertrooper duology of Galaxy Rangers avoid this, the scene where Shane is forced to become a Hunter of His Own Kind uses this effect partly to make the scene feel even more oppressive.
- Parodied in Duckman. An episode begins with Duckman waking up tied to a table and wondering how he got there. He thinks "Think back, back, back..." and flashes back...to him waking up tied to a table just a few seconds ago. This time he thinks "Think back, back back...must think back a little farther, farther, farther...". He flashes back to waking up again. Rinse and repeat, but this time he adds "Maybe volunteering for LSD research wasn't the the best way out of the Marines" and finally succeeds in flashing back.
- Invoked in Earthworm Jim;
Professor Monkey-For-A-Head: I remember it as if it were yesterday...yesterday...yesterday...
Psycrow: It was' yesterday.
Professor Monkey-For-A-Head: Quiet! I am setting up a flashback! Yesterday...yesterday...yesterday...
- Parodied in The Fairly OddParents in an episode where several Flashbacks occurred, each time preceded by a character providing the echo themselves: "...while he was away at summer camp...camp...camp." Further parodied when Timmy's dad gets an echo response to "summer camp" while in the flashback; he adds "Put up drapes to cancel the echo" to his to-do list.
- Subverted in one Family Guy episode, Peter triggers a flashback in Lois's brother by saying "Pow! Right in the kisser", while dressed up as Ralph Kramden. Cut back to the present and Peter is actually saying the phrase over and over.
- The Simpsons had Marge flashing back to Homer's words, only to reveal that Homer was whispering them to her through a cardboard tube, including the echo.
- In "Lemon of Troy", Marge repeats the last line of a lecture on civic pride she gives to Bart; "Sorry to repeat myself, but it'll help you remember." Sure enough, Bart later has a flashback to what she said, and remarks "Hey, that does work!"
- In another episode, different characters trigger flashbacks by actually repeating the words "think back".
- In typical South Park style, in the episode "I'm A Little Bit Country", Cartman tries to avoid research on the Revolutionary War by inducing a flashback. This mostly involves getting himself hit in the head, and saying "I wonder what things were like back then. Back then. Back then..."