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"Because Chakotay has always been a lifelong..." [sound of dice rolling].
SF Debris when reviewing some episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.

An established character reveals a major part of their life story that is contrived as a plot device to match the subject of today's episode. We've never seen this side of the character before (and may never see it again). It typically happens in Long-Runners where characterization is often established over time, and can help flesh out a Flat Character if done properly. If used too often, may result in an Expansion Pack Past. If a character does this and the stories are often or always contradictory, it's a Multiple-Choice Past. If never-seen-before people are involved, Remember the New Guy? can be at play.


Similar to Fleeting Passionate Hobbies, except in this trope the character supposedly has always had a long history with the hobby or character trait, rather than picking up something new.

This can overlap with Retcon (if this contradicts past backstories instead of adding to them)

Compare Compressed Vice (an addiction happens and ends rapidly instead of being backstory).


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    Asian Animation 
  • BoBoiBoy: Parodied in early season 2 by Papa Zola (previously established as a fictional superhero who was pulled out to the real world from a video game), who in three separate episodes shows up as a math teacher, a PE teacher and a football referee, claiming each time that the job has always been his childhood dream. They all are followed by a flashback that looks almost identical except for young Papa Zola's answer to "What is your dream?".

     Film — Live Action 

  • Unseen Academicals had Ridcully reveal a hidden past of "foot thee ball" for the football related plot. Although he's always been much more interested in physical activities than the other wizards, it's just the specifically football oriented interest that hadn't been mentioned. Mind you, given that Ridcully is a decidedly lower-middle class chap from the Disc's equivalent of Oop North (itself a retcon, originally he was from the countryside, but was a landowner, of the Lady Sybil "I'm too upper class to worry about nonsense like being posh" variety) it's not particularly implausible he'd have been a keen footballer in his youth.
  • The Hardy Boys: In many books the plot is kicked off by one of the Hardy brothers suddenly displaying a new hobby or skill they claim to have been into for years but is only now brought up.

     Live Action TV 
  • In one episode of Head of the Class Jawarhalal was suddenly well-known for agreeing with everybody about everything. Up until that episode it didn't come up.
  • Star Trek: Voyager had Chakotay suddenly having been a passionate Anthropologist, Boxer, and Palaeontologist (amongst other things) depending on whatever expert the writers needed to offer a sounding board to Janeway.
  • Invoked on Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Picard suddenly remembers he has always had an unbridled passion for horse-riding, and on hearing the planet of the week has riding trails, decides he must leave immediately to fetch his custom saddle; right in the middle of an extremely boring party. The other characters lampshade this a bit, none of them have ever heard him mention riding before, but tease each person who learns about it after them for not knowing that of course the captain (like any serious rider) has his own saddle. In this case however it was at least part an effort on Picard's part to escape conversation with a notoriously dull fellow officer.
  • The episode of Parks and Recreation where everyone turns out to have always been a major fan of Li'l Sebastian.
  • The episode of The Office (American) where Oscar turns out to have always been a major trivia geek who can't stand being proven wrong.
  • Psych:
    • Used in virtually every episode. We go back to the main character Shawn's childhood as his father forces some lesson on him that comes into play in that episode.
    • Gus gets new hobbies whenever the plot demands: spelling bees, comics, Spanish soap operas and ferroequinology are a few.
  • Frequently on CSI, one of the team will reveal a never-before-mentioned familiarity with whatever niche hobby group has suffered a horrific murder this week; Warwick's an ex-boxer, Greg's a skater, etc. By contrast, if said subculture is remotely controversial, one of the others will suddenly reveal their bigoted opinion about it. Drama!
  • New Tricks: The episode "Into the Woods" has Gerry suddenly always had a phobia of forests and wooded areas and everyone has always known that. This is despite previous episodes having shown him being perfectly fine in such situations.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Whenever the Doctor recalls their past on Gallifrey, it's never anything that'd be out of character for their current personality, even though what we see of the First Doctor is very different to many of his successors. This is somewhat justified by the idea that regeneration brings different memories to the fore while other experiences are forgotten, shaping each individual personality. To wit:
    • "The Doctor's Wife" hinges partially on the conceit that the Doctor has always, since he was stolen by her, secretly called the TARDIS "Sexy". This is something we have never before seen him do over 50 years and would be blatantly out-of-character for most of the Doctors prior to the new series and especially for the Doctor who initially stole her (who had an adversarial relationship with her at best and always referred to her as 'the ship'). Hell, it's not even until the Fourth Doctor that he bothered to get her pronoun right. The in-universe justification comes when he reacts to this statement with an embarrassed "only when we're alone!"
  • Mythbusters: Played for Laughs with a Running Gag of Adam Savage saying that Jamie Hyneman (who actually did had some odd jobs when he was younger before becoming a special-effects technician) had done work on anything from concrete overseer to Mafia hit-man, as well as some jobs that would only be true if he was really Really 700 Years Old.
  • It comes up a few times in Stargate SG-1.
    • Jack O'Neill was captured and kept as a POW in an Iraki prison for 4 months. This only ever comes up in the episode where he meets his (at the time) commander, who left him behind.
    • Daniel has a few. The first and most obvious is that Daniel's an orphan, and his Grandad is also an archaeologist who was disgraced over far out stories of alien beings. This is somewhat relevant as Daniel's entire character is based around the same thing, so you'd think "But isn't your grandpa the guy who spoke about glowing creatures and crystal skulls." something that'd come up when Daniel is the "Aliens built the pyramids!" guy. Another is that Daniel once had a girlfriend, and a fairly attractive one at that, Dr. Sarah Gardner. This again is relevant because it clashes with Daniel as he's portrayed in the movie and early seasons, where he's more of a hapless nerd and his relationship with Shau're came a lot from the fact that she's the first woman to really give him that much positive attention.

  • In The Navy Lark Mister Phillips once revealed his hidden past as a master typist including attendance at a specialist speed-typing tutor. However he proved to be as good at that as he is at being their Navigation Officer.

  • In the words of Commander Badass from Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, Jonsey is a human Swiss army knife of abandoned hobbies, such as forestry and rock climbing.
    Cmdr. Badass: I ain't even sayin' that sarcastically.

     Web Original 
  • Dr. Alto Clef from SCP Foundation invokes this in-universe frequently, coming up with blatant lies any time someone questions him about his past, why he works at the Foundation, how he got hired...

     Western Animation 
  • Family Guy often does this. A good example would be the episode where Peter reveals he has been a lifelong fan of the band KISS, so that Peter and Lois can go to KISS Stock.
  • Drawn Together does this regularly:
    • The episode where the cast has the visitor, "Strawberry Sweetcake," gave Wooldor Sockbat had a backstory of his city being besieged by their mortal enemies, the Sweetcakes, who captured the Sockbats and ground them up for use in their pastry factories.
    • Another episode gave Captain Hero a retarded son, who was the result of a relationship he had with his sister. The proof was the vestigial, underdeveloped arms hanging off their chests. He tried to teach his (now fully-grown) son how to be an Air Conditioner Repair Man. The plot elements from these episodes, including Captain Hero's extra arms, were never seen or mentioned again.
  • Phineas and Ferb is in love with this trope in regards to Doofenshmirtz. Only a few elements of his backstory (such as him being his family's garden gnome) are repeated, and there's a new backstory almost every day. Lampshaded in the "Cliptastic Countdown" special.
  • The Simpsons, running on Negative Continuity as it does, has a Running Gag in which Homer claims a previously unmentioned ambition to be "his lifelong dream", only for Marge to remind him that another previously unmentioned thing was his lifelong dream, and he did that last year.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball pulls this one occasionally with Richard.
    • In "The Wand" he finds a plastic wand in Gumball's cereal, and thus reminisces how his mother traumatized him by telling him that magic was fake, causing him to give out a Big "NO!" One that supposedly lasted day and night for decades.
  • When Butters begins acting up in the South Park Season 16 episode "Going Native", his biological parents reveal to him that they originated from and conceived him in Hawaii, which is basically used as a setup for a totally epic plot based around Hawaiian tourism and to explain why Butters and his family are so weird.
  • Slightly averted in Futurama, where Bender's lifelong dream of becoming a folk singer comes into play in two episodes, and lampshaded in the second of the episodes.
    Fry:So he's a folk singer, so what?
    Bender:So what? Have you forgotten my lifelong dream of being a folk singer? Because I sure have until right now.
    • However, this is further averted due to Episode 2 of the first season, seeing Bender respond to a quip by Fry with "Yeah, a robot would have to be crazy to want to be a folk singer" while looking somewhat despondent, showing it to be a much more long-running situation.
    • Also comes up whenever Bender is exposed to magnets. (They screw up his inhibition circuits and he bursts into song.)
    • And yet he wore a magnetic tie to impress the Countess in the Titanic episode, and didn't sing once making it a Series Continuity Error.