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A scene or series of scenes that takes place in the past or future, real or imagined, using the same actors as the existing show but as different characters. To properly count for this trope, the relationships of the characters in the vision must reflect on the relationships of the existing characters, often with a plot-relevant Aesop
for the characters to learn from it.
Occasionally Visions of Another Self
occur by having a character actually travel to a place, whether it's in the actual past, an Alternate Universe
or a Mirror Universe
. Just as, if not more often though, it will be a constructed fantasy, a dream
, a hallucination, a flashback (or someone else's flashback), a holodeck experience or the fantasy equivalent thereof, part of a Vision Quest
or just a very active imagination. The probability of one of these occurring increases dramatically if Reincarnation
is involved. Other times, this is done without the present-day characters even being aware of the past, but the writers playing up the parallels between the two for the audience's benefit.
Sort-of-but-not-really related to Flash Back
. Superficially resembles an ad hoc Commedia dell’Arte Troupe
. If the character having these dreams starts to think that they are the true reality and the rest of the show is the dream, it's a Cuckoo Nest
. See also But You Were There, and You, and You
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Anime & Manga
- Ancient Egypt in Yu-Gi-Oh!; the characters there are said to be reincarnations or parallels to modern-day characters, which is another plot point in itself.
- The final episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion has a short section in which Shinji dreams about how his life could have been if the show he was in wasn't a deconstruction. It almost reaches Uncanny Valley levels.
- The Naruto movie "Road to Ninja" seems to be this, considering everyone (minus Naruto and Sakura)'s personalities are different than usual. There are hints it's actually a Lotus-Eater Machine.
- A very sad example exists in MÄR, Snow is a clone of Koyuki created from a piece of her soul. She was never supposed to exist in MÄR Heaven. As a little girl, Snow drempt of Koyuki and Ginta on Earth, and became infatuated with him and jealous of her other self. She doesn't have explicit memories of this for most of series but in her own words, was subconsciously aware she was a mere copy of Koyuki. Just she starts to get over this, she ends up being killed by The King, proclaiming her love for Ginta while dying in his arms. At the end of the series, Snow merges her soul back into Koyuki to become one whole person to be with Ginta. Note this is only in the anime.
- This was the form of a miracle that occurred in Minagoroshi-hen of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, wherein many of the main characters have nightmares of what they had done in previous time loops, which prompts them to get help from the rest of the gang before those nightmares could become reality again.
- In Nurse Angel Ririka SOS, the heroine Ririka, who transforms into Magical Girl Warrior Nurse Angel, has some dormant past life memories that reveal the fate of a previous incarnation of Nurse Angel — who looks like a Palette Swap of her.
- The setting of Saiyuki takes place 500 years ago, showing the past lives of the main characters. Three of the four are previous incarnations and get killed, while the last is imprisoned for 500 years and is found by the present incarnation of one of the three.
- Used again and again in Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse comics to provide "fresh" story ideas, because of their overall premise being basically "invent stories about these popular characters" and little else. Sometimes handwaved by invoking Identical Grandson, but more often the whole story just is like this without explanation.
- Several DC Comics Elseworlds play with the idea of the DC heroes and villains existing in a different era: Batman as a privateer, Old Western Justice League of America, Steel in times of slavery, Superman in the Middle Ages, etc.
- At one point in Sailor Moon Z, the main Senshi do a body-switch with their Silver Millenium counterparts. After they're returned to the present, they have more frequent Flashbacks of their past lives, usualy overlaping with similar moments in the present.
- The original also has flashbacks to this time though only when key to the plot.
- In Stars Above, Oriko has these. She reveals that she dreams of the other timelines, and that she knows all the hell that Homura has gone through.
- In the Azula Trilogy, at one point during Azula's trip to the Spirit World, she's shown visions of herself in other worlds, including one where she was banished instead of Zuko, and one where she was apparently born a peasant.
- Occurs in the Pony POV Series, when Applejack looks into the Truth and sees many alternate universes, including other versions of herself. Her side story during the "Butterflies" arc has her actually meet several of her alternate selves, and together they defeat their potential Nightmare self, Nightmare Mirror.
- In Teresa Edgerton's The Grail and the Ring, travel between the 'real' world, Ynys Celydonn, and the Alternate Universe of the Inner Celydonn, is introduced. One of the first rules of such travel is to avoid meeting yourself if possible, because to do so courts madness.
- Dame Ceinwen, despite being the most powerful witch in Ynys Celydonn, is largely restricted to the role of The Watcher in this book - partly because she is so powerful, but also because she has already been in the times and places of the Inner Celydonn that are critical to the current problem, and cannot risk being there twice.
- Prince Tryffin is sent to Fairyland, which is an Alternate Universe version of his own father's castle - the version of his homeland featured in travellers' tales, in fact. When he meets his own counterpart he finds the experience very disturbing, and quickly takes a dislike to the man. He comes to the conclusion that this is largely due to being unsettled by seeing himself from the outside.
- The Big Bad of the story is the Inner Celydonn version of an historical figure who went mad from experiencing this.
- The third book in Legends of Laconia has this as its main story. Reincarnation is involved.
- The early (1940) Alternate History short story Wheels of If by L. Sprague de Camp involves a man who wakes up as his alternate selves in a variety of timelines. Rather than there being an infinite number of variations, there is a small finite number of timelines in which a man lives who is close enough to being the protagonist that their consciousnesses can be interchanged.
- In the Diogenes Club stories by Kim Newman, the character of Keith Marion has the power to exchange his consciousness with his alternate selves on different worlds. This is a bit Leaning on the Fourth Wall, since he has his origins as the protagonist of Newman's Choose Your Own Adventure novel Life's Lottery
Live Action — Film
- In the movie of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Buffy has dreams of her and her watcher as previous slayers and watchers.
- Cloud Atlas swaps actors and roles for each time period, but the same soul incarnates multiple times as shown by their star-shaped birthmark.
- Dead Again has the two main characters reincarnating as opposite genders (swapping actors), which becomes a plot point.
Live Action — TV
- Happens practically Once an Episode on Scrubs; JD's daydreams put his coworkers into a number of absurd situations (and costumes.) This includes characters from Grease, West Side Story, and Star Wars, as well as occasional scenes that parody a traditional Dom Com.
- Charmed has shown the Halliwell Sisters' past lives on several occasions. These previous incarnations of the Charmed Sisters have always looked the same as the present-day incarnations.
- When this is first done, it is explained that the previous incarnations look different but the Halliwells "recognize" their spirits and thus see them as their current selves. Later episodes sometimes overlook this.
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers featured an episode where Kimberly traveled back in time to the Wild West, where all of the inhabitants resemble citizens of present-day Angel Grove, including people who look like the Power Rangers (except for Kimberly's ancestor, who makes a brief cameo after the present-day Kimberly returned to her time), Bulk and Skull (who try to find out the identity of the Rangers), and even The White Stranger. (Three guesses who that is suppose to resemble. Hint: It's the White Ranger.)
- Kamen Rider Hibiki takes place around 2005. The Movie takes place in the "samurai era" but features parallel versions of all the main characters. A few of them even have the same names.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had two episodes in which Captain Sisko was a science fiction writer in the 1950s, and the other regular characters were his fellow writers, friends, or (as appropriate) enemies.
- The most famous, but not the only example from that show - there was a holodeck James Bond spoof that played as visions of other selves.
- "Diabolical!" "Visionary!!"
- Both Roswell and Smallville have played out forbidden romantic pairings (etc.) by re-telling them in a historical context.
- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess have a few episodes that use a variant of this, except it is a Flash Forward. The cast members play writers, producers, or various other modern-day characters who work on the production of the show.
- At least one of these episodes lampshaded and subverted the idea, with Hercules playing Kevin Sorbo. Including throwing Ares out of a moving car.
- The old soap opera Dark Shadows had a couple of entire seasons consisting of this.
- JAG was quite fond of using this with Mac and Harm as the main characters of JAG's past.
- The series finale of Walker, Texas Ranger includes two parallel stories, one taking place in the present and one taking place in the Old West. They feature the same dozen or so actors playing similar (though not quite identical) characters.
- Done fairly often on Northern Exposure. One episode featured an old man telling Joel the story of Cicely's founding in 1909. Rob Morrow/Joel Fleischman played Franz Kafka(!) while the other regulars appear as counterpart characters, often with very similar names (Maggie O'Connell, for example, becomes Mary O'Keefe).
- In the Moonlighting episode "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice," Maddie and David hear about an unsolved murder from the 1940s, and then each dream about it that night, putting themselves into the key roles.
- The It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "The Gang Cracks the Libery Bell" is told in the setting of 1776, with all the characters being their normally horrible, wrong selves (with Cricket as an English colonel), occasionally making attempts to speak in the vernacular of the day, badly. At multiple points, the characters note that "it's 1776" to justify crime, and the last scene of the story makes it perfectly clear they're all just making it up.
- MacGyver does several dream episodes along these lines, including a pair of episodes with a period version of MacGyver in the Old West and the two-parter "Good Knight, MacGyver" in which the modern MacGyver imagines himself transported to the days of King Arthur (with Arthur "played" by MacGyver's boss Pete).
- Press Gang devoted much time to the tempestuous romance of leads Lynda (Julia Sawalha) and Spike (Dexter Fletcher). One episode has a flashback to Spike's parents meeting for the first time - played by Julia Sawalha and Dexter Fletcher.
- Bones does this in the Season Four finale, with the Jeffersonian being a bar instead of a museum lab.
- An episode of Lois and Clark had an old security guard tell about how he was betrayed by his girlfriend and business partner, and sent up the river. Cue a flashback with Clark Kent as the young security guard, Lois as the girlfriend, and Lex Luthor as the partner she leaves him for. (This episode was also right before the season one finale, which capped off the Lex/Lois courtship).
- Stargate SG-1's "The Changeling": Is Teal'C in fact an average Earth firefighter? No. But it made for an interesting episode.
- Stargate Atlantis had Vegas, a CSI-like episode in an alternate universe filmed in Las Vegas.
- The final season of The Sopranos had Tony hallucinating himself as a salesman called Kevin Finnerty while in a coma.
- In The X-Files episode "Triangle", Mulder dreams (or did he?) of going back in time on a ghost ship he was looking for, with key characters as the cast of it. Of course, Mulder is still convinced they are all who they really are, and ends up planting a rather passionate kiss on the non-Scully, who gives him a sucker punch to the cheek for his efforts.
- Also toyed with in the episode where Mulder meets his reincarnating soulmate. (Unfortunately, she's in a suicide cult. Well, that or she has multiple personality disorder.) Under hypnosis, she recalls the details of several of their past lives, which involve several of the show's characters as previous reincarnations as well. One such scenario is described as Mulder and his soulmate having lost their child (re: his sister) to a drunk driver (re: the Cigarette smoking man), Scully was there too, as Mulder's male best friend.
- Castle's Noir Episode, "The Blue Butterfly", features the regular cast acting out a 1940s murder in flashback.
- Leverage, "The Van Gogh Job"
- The '80s revival of The Twilight Zone has an episode starring George Wendt in which his unsuccessful inventor begins having/living visions of his alternate self in a Steam Punk-ish parallel universe. In the end the two men voluntarily trade places.
- An episode of The Cosby Show has Rudy read a story that she drew and wrote, with members of the cast taking on the roles of the characters in the story.
- In El Goonish Shive Tedd dreams about one of his alternate universe counterpart's life.
- So does Ellen, who is given memories of a world where she was born normally. Or Eliot was a girl, which amounts to the same thing.
- In Homestuck, the Sufferer is the only troll to have any memories of his alternate universe self, where the troll planet was peaceful, and starts a rebellion.
- One episode of Kim Possible, "Rewriting History", shows Kim and Ron investigating accusations that Kim's lookalike ancestor, Miriam "Mim" Possible, stole a scientific device about a hundred years ago. As it turns out, Drakken and Shego's turn-of-the-last-century analogs framed her for the deal. It ultimately turns out to be All Just a Dream however. And then they see Ron and Drakken carved on to some poles: apparently, they had gladiators as ancestors waaaaay back in Roman times. Word of God states that despite being just a dream, the ancestors were really existing back when.
- The Fairly OddParents episode "Odd, Odd West" shows AJ's ancestor inventing a computer and Chester's ancestor complaining that no one reads manuals... and "Vicky the Kid" fighting Timmy Turner the Masked Stranger.
- Sponge Bob Square Pants
- In the episode "Pest Of The West", SpongeBob learns of his great ancestor SpongeBuck SquarePants and how he saved the town of Bikini Gulch from Dead-Eye Plankton.
- And there was also an episode set in the Middle Ages where SpongeBob and Patrick had to free Bikini Bottomshire from the Evil Sorceror Planktonimor, aided by medieval analogues of Squidward and Sandy.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Zuko's Vision Quest includes a segment with an alternate-him who was never scarred sitting as Fire Lord, with the cold, still Squint Of Evil his father always uses. This is what Zuko thinks he wishes, but it's associated with abandoning his mother and the self-he-is. Ultimately it disturbs him, though not as much as the version who's got Air Nomad tattoos. He is shown feeling his face to make sure the scar is still there and he's awake.
- In Adventure Time, Finn is trapped in a dream filled with numerous random visions. At one point, he looks into a mirror and sees himself with an actual nose, without Black Bead Eyes and with a robotic arm. This turns out to be Foreshadowing for the fourth season finale/fifth season opening, where he looks like this in an alternate timeline.