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Clone Degeneration

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Always make sure the mechanism is clear of paper jams before copying.
"You know how when you make a copy of a copy, it's not as sharp as, well, the original?"
Doug Kinney #3, Multiplicity

When dealing with fiction that clones things, the assumption is often made that clones must, after time, decay. That is, with each copy you make whatever Applied Phlebotinum you are using to create the clones will either decrease in effectiveness, or the clones themselves become less coherent since eventually everything is just a copy of a copy. This goes double for dead clones, who tend to dissolve because they're "less than human" rather than leave a proper corpse.

When dealing with a character who has the ability to create clones apparently out of thin air, this weakness is usually the only thing holding them back from whatever it is they're trying to do.

Uses very similar logic to Super Prototype and Conservation of Ninjutsu. The Super Prototype, when it is a one-of-a-kind machine, is awesome and unstoppable. Clones, likewise, seem really great at first— but the more of them you get, the more common and boring the idea of a clone is in the first place. As a result, they inevitably lose effectiveness because several copies of the same thing just wouldn't be all that interesting.

In some instances, it may be a Justified Trope: the creator may "program" a shortened lifespan into the clone to protect their property from getting away or trying to take his place. Relatedly, the degeneration may be because the process used to make the clone resulted in a Flawed Prototype, making all the clones a form of Keystone Army that will croak on some future date or circumstance. If the hero has qualms about killing clones, their degeneration lays them to rest. Whether out of being a Mercy Kill or making them seem less real varies.

See also Power Degeneration, which also applies to clones designed with powers. Compare Possession Burnout, when being possessed damages the host in an accelerated manner each time it's done.

Note that this trope does have some grounding in Real Life: Cloning isn't a fully documented science yet, and genetic kinks in the cloning process, such as shortened telomeres and genomic imprinting, remain factors that may lead to clones having shorter life expectancies than their originals. Clones of clones tend to be even worse off.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Ah! My Goddess:
    • In the Adventures of the Mini-Goddesses manga, one of the goddesses is able to make a duplicate of herself, which can make a duplicate of herself, etc., each of which is a bit shorter and squishier than its parent. In the main series, goddesses and demons can also divide themselves into avatars — smaller, less powerful versions of themselves. Before leaving, Hild splits off a 1/1000 avatar of herself in the form of a child to keep track of things on Earth. In chapter 248, her 1/1000 avatar then splits off a 1/1000 avatar which takes the form of a small crystal.
    • The main manga and series feature a clone of Urd. The Urd clone can use all the same magic as Urd, but her inferior body can't handle the stress.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
    • Clones tend to have physical or mental problems. Case in Point: Rau Le Cruset.
    • Another example would be Prayer Reverie in the Astray Mangas, who was okay in the head, but was basically ailing for most of the Astray X series, and was able to convincingly fake a death of "natural causes" at the apparent age of nine.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • This is the reason why Zest Grangaitz of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS was considered an imperfect Artificial Mage. He got the memories, abilities, and personality of the original, but his body was suffering from severe health problems.
    • Averted with Fate Testarossa, who appears completely healthy over a decade and a half after her creation, as well as Erio Mondial, who has been alive for at least a decade as of Force. The former is an interesting example: although she has none of the issues seen in this trope, she isn't a perfect clone, either. Changes in personality, which hand is dominant, and other small details mark her as a distinctly unique individual, which led to her ultimate classification as 'failed clone' despite the fact that her incredible raw magical aptitude perhaps make her an even better mage than the original. Although that was because her creator wanted a Replacement Goldfish and didn't care about anything else.
  • In Fate/stay night, Ilya will eventually die young because of her nature as a modified homunculi Holy Grail.
  • In her last few scenes in Neon Genesis Evangelion, Rei Ayanami's limbs had a tendency to ... fall off. Her body, being a mishmash of Lilith and Yui's DNA, isn't capable to holding together without Rei's AT field to counter the effects of imperfect cloning. After expending so much of her energy to counter Kaworu the previous day, she can't hold herself together.
  • The Sisters in A Certain Magical Index have to go through body adjustments specifically to prevent this. Justified because they were only made so that Accelerator could kill them.
  • In the Ghost in the Shell universe, it is possible for people to 'clone' their ghosts (what amounts to their souls) by copying the memory data of their cyberbrains, however this process leads to the eventual corruption of both the original and the copies created, and ultimately leads to the death of the original. As a result, the process, known as "ghost dubbing," is highly illegal, punishable by life in prison or brain-wipe.
  • In the fifth The Garden of Sinners movie, Enjou learns of his clone status the hard way. And then his arm falls off. The same movie contains a notable aversion with Touko, who is revealed to have created several clones of herself identical to the original in every way. This is a big deal, since the magical laws of the Nasuverse normally enforce this trope, i.e. that any copy (clone) is always weaker than the original, so Touko is the pretty much the only living magus to circumvent this law.
  • Negi of Negima! Magister Negi Magi employs several paper doll clones of himself in chapter 36, without knowing exactly how it works. This trope ensues...
  • Naruto's title character can create up to a couple thousand copies of himself, but they dispel whenever they take a direct hit. He also doesn't trust them enough to let them out of his sight, which suggests that they're not as smart as the original. Which is saying something, considering who we're dealing with.
    • Given how they can fight against each other, they're probably capable of independent thought and, given Naruto's natural rebelliousness, prone to disobeying.
      • By the time of manga chapter 550 his clones have received a sizeable upgrade, becoming capable of taking out Kage-level opponents on their own without the original present.
      • In the special chapter, which happens before the beginning of the Road to Ninja movie, Naruto plays a card game with two clones. Naruto claims if he or one of his clones wins, he says they all win since they are him. The clones think otherwise about it. After they vanished, even Naruto is confused if he actually lost or won.
  • The Mystery of Mamo plays this straight, when Mamo reveals towards the end that even his methods of cloning to reach immortality come with their limits.
    Dying Mamo clone: The transfer of the chromosomal data is never accomplished with complete fidelity. There are anomalies, infectiously small in each case, with accumulative effect of such chaotic pollution, can be observed after only a dozen or so generations and what you see before you is a 130th generation facsimile. I am but a faint, distorted echo of myself.
    Lupin: But you are always distorted by your obsession.
    Dying Mamo clone: But is it not... everyone's obsession?
  • In the manga of Lost Universe, this is the fate of Anise, who was created as a clone of Kane's grandmother, Alisia. Or at least, it would have been if it hadn't been for her using the Swordbreaker's ultimate attack and disappearing forever.
  • In the Dragon Ball Z movie Dragon Ball Z: Bio-Broly, Android #18, Goten, Trunks and Mr. Satan end up meeting the clone of the Legendary Super Saiyan Broly. However, he isn't completed and, when he spots Goten and mistakes him for Goku, Broly breaks out of his pod and immediately starts falling apart when he goes Super Saiyan. He gets worse when he's doused in the fluid that held him and is ultimately defeated when normal old water (or rather, sea water) is brought into the mix, destroying him and ending the evil legacy of Broly.
  • The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: One of Saiki's many powers is the ability to make a single imperfect copy of himself. His copy also can copy himself once, and so on. Each copy in the chain looks and acts less like the original until the last copy that is still capable of copying himself looks like a fishman, and that copy's copy who can't copy himself anymore is a Blob Monster.
  • Rebuild of Evangelion: The Rei Ayanami clones must regularly bathe in the mysterious liquid called LCL; if they go for too long without doing so, they will completely dissolve into LCL themselves. This eventually happens to the clone called "Rei Q" who accompanies Shinji and Asuka to the survivors' town in 3.0 + 1.0.
  • World's End Harem: Mira Suou is eventually revealed to be a modified clone of Elisa Tachibana. Her body is unstable and needs a medical check-up at least once a week so she won't break down and die. In Part 2, since Elisa was Secretly Dying, she decides to donate her organs to Mira to save her.

    Comic Books 
  • X23, Wolverine's Opposite-Sex Clone, possesses two claws on each hand instead of three. Things gets more complicated when Laura herself starts getting cloned. Most of her clone "sisters" are killed because Gabby was the only one who also inherited Laura's Healing Factor, and additionally she only has one claw in each hand. Also, genetic degeneration is the entire reason why X-23 came to be, since Wolverine's genome was too damaged to make a perfect copy of him (her creators went through 22 attempts before producing a viable clone, hence the name).
  • Palpatine's clones in Star Wars: Dark Empire suffer from this. As each generation is less natural than the last, they have diminishing ability to withstand the detrimental effects of his Dark Side powers, resulting in shorter and shorter lifespans before they burn out. This is in part because one of his guards betrayed him and sabotaged the cloning machine.
  • Superman:
    • Bizarro sometimes starts off looking like a normal duplicate of Superman before his skin turns pale, his powers get mixed up and he becomes Dumb Muscle, but other times he begins at his most degenerated state and acts from there.
    • In The Killers of Krypton, Harry Hokum takes a tissue sample from a captured Supergirl and orders his head scientist to grow an army of Kryptonian clones immediately, ignoring his warnings that accelerating their incubation is risky. When the Supergirl clones engage their template, their cellular structure is so unstable their bodies break down into puzzles of organic matter after being hit by a Shockwave Clap.
    • In the early '90s, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Lex Luthor faked his own death and came back as a younger clone, posing as his identical son. He eventually contracted a degenerative illness due to a flaw in the cloning process.
    • Superman Volume 1 #137 involved a villainous duplicate of Superman raised by criminals named Super-Menace. In the end, he makes a Heel–Face Turn and a Heroic Sacrifice... and just dissolves into energy.
    • In early Post-Crisis comics, cloning isn't completely perfect, especially with Kryptonians. The only perfect clone was that of James Harper, the Golden Age hero known as the Guardian — he bolted soon after and Cadmus ended up making other clones of him that weren't perfect. Kryptonian clones, because their DNA wasn't fully understood, fell apart after awhile, as was the case of the original Bizarros and later of Match. Superboy ended up becoming a successful case because human DNA from Luthor himself was mixed into his genetic makeup, stabilizing it.
  • Spider-Man:
    • The Clone Saga: Every clone created by the Jackal was subject to degeneration. Some of them were almost identical to the originals but aged / disfigured, while others would last so long and then spontaneously collapse into a pile of mush — Jackal triggered this in his "mini-me", Jack, as punishment for giving Ben Reilly information. It even drove one, Kaine, insane. Ben Reilly succumbed to it when he died. (And in Spider-Girl, passed it on to his kid.)
    • In Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy, the Jackal has almost figured out how to stop this and decides to figure out how by resurrecting and killing Ben Reilly multiple times. Doing so causes Ben to go insane and take over the Jackal's plans, becoming the Jackal himself. He's able to get it to the point where those with clone bodies have to take a special medication every 24 hours to prevent cloning degeneration and ultimately turn into Carrion Clones. He does make one perfect body without those flaws but Dr. Octopus steals it for his own.
  • Slo-Bo from Young Justice admitted to suffering from this near the end of the series. He would have died soon anyway had Darkseid not Omega Beamed him. Might have been preferable.
  • In a crossover of Simpsons Comics and Bartman, Celebrity Troy McClure gained the radiation explosion created identity of "The Sequelizer". His sequel-generating powers allowed him to create duplicates of himself, but each copy was only half as strong as the previous one.
  • Judge Dredd Total War. Nimrod is a Dredd clone that has been modified with super senses. However, neural decay happens frequently with genetically modified clones and Nimrod has seizures a lot. And Mega City One's cloning programme is the world's most advanced. Soviet clones are apparently subject to Sturgeon's Law.
  • Azrael buys it from a combination of this (he was artificially engineered and grown) and poison bullets, but they Never Found the Body and it's implied he Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • In Madman, Dr. Flem tries to clone himself. Because of the chemicals that he uses to try and make the clones grow more rapidly, almost all of them end up going berserk. For added horror, one of them bites him, infecting him with a disease that ravages his body.
  • Gloo from Astro City is a Blob Monster who was originally created by criminals in an attempt to clone the heroic Jack-in-the-Box and make him into the ultimate henchman. They failed spectacularly.
  • In the Sonic the Comic story "Future Shock", Dr. Robotnik created a clone of Sonic that aged prematurely. He used this to his advantage by implanting a false memory into the clone, making him believe himself to be Sonic from the future. Use of his high speed aged his body faster, with the clone ultimately sacrificing himself to hold off Robotnik while the real Sonic saved his friends.
  • In Legion of Super-Heroes storyline The Great Darkness Saga, Darkseid's Servants of Darkness are craggy, corrupted versions of their originals.
  • In Infinity Abyss, Thanos deemed the Thanosi clones a failure due to an intellectual deficiency that drives them to cause unnecessary destruction and be obsessed with death and nihilism like Thanos used to be before Infinity Gauntlet.

    Fan Works 
  • Ring-Maker: This was par for the course with Noelle/Echidna's clones in canon, but clones of the Ring Bearers are not only dead on arrival, Taylor's clones take the form of her past incarnations: Mairon, Annatar, and Sauron.
  • Very evident in Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover—copies of Athena that are grown too quickly suffer from mental instability, physical deformities, and imprinting defects. Shown in graphic detail to students of Jack and Brick as they tour the facility producing said clones.
  • In I, Warrior, this turns out to be why the Master's body is slowly rotting, as he's revealed to be an evil clone of Anakin Solo.
  • Rise of Paonne and Renard Rouge: Renard Rouge is able to create illusionary copies of other people, but looking close enough at them allows people to notice imperfections in the illusions.
  • This was the ultimate fate for the clones of Clyde, Miyuki, and Kyouya in MGLN Crisis, though the latter two perform a Heroic Sacrifice before it can kill them. The former was basically Doomed by Canon anyway, since they were created long before Fate (who was the first successful clone in canon).

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Proud Family Movie, the evil clone of Dr. John Carver attempted to Take Over the World by using his Peanut Cloning Technology to create an army of Super Genomes. Unfortuantely, he had difficulty getting them to stabilize as they'd constantly disintegrate into peanut butter almost instantly. Upon learning that Oscar Proud had developed a special sauce that not kept nuts from expiring but also had a side effect of causing them to mulitply, he set his sights on claiming it. Upon getting it in the climax, it enabled him to create an entire platoon of his Super Soldiers with a single nut.
  • In World of Tomorrow, future Emily explains that clones deteriorate more and more with each generation.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Nexus 6 generation of replicants in Blade Runner, though potentially physically and mentally superior to humans, have four-year life expectancies thanks to kill switches designed into their genes. Their creator describes it as "the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very brightly". The androids of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, upon which the movie was loosely based, have a similar life expectancy, but this is due to technological limitations.
  • Judge Dredd: This is the implied reason why Rico looks nothing like Dredd and became Ax-Crazy. It was more clearly seen when Rico hatches the first set of clones early. Fargo says that they were both created from his modified DNA, and presumably something went wrong (plus this explains why they all look different).
  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: The Indoraptor was cloned from degraded DNA, including from the Indominus rex that had been dead for a while. Because of this, he looks rather thin and sickly, his scales are constantly flaking, and he is often gasping for breath. However, he is still incredibly dangerous.
  • Moon: Each Sam Bell clone begins to break down physically and emotionally after three years. It's not clear whether this is a limitation of the cloning process or a built-in fail-safe in case the clones discover their true nature. Either way, each clone believes they're the real Sam Bell, and after putting themselves in the hibernation chamber for return to Earth are painlessly incinerated and replaced by another Sam Bell who believes he's at the beginning of his three-year contract on the Moon.
  • Multiplicity is about a man who has himself cloned, has one of the clones cloned, and he came out rather... special.
  • The Prestige: Averted. Tesla's cloning machine is so perfect that it's impossible to tell which is the original, even after years of cloning clones of clones.
  • Word of God for Primer states that doubles created via Time Travel are imperfect copies. This is the reason for Aaron and Abe's earbleeds and the degradation of their handwriting when they begin altering their past.
  • Shinzon in Star Trek: Nemesis suffers this, and one of the main complaints about the film is that he displays a bizarre lack of urgency over having just a few days left to live if he doesn't complete his plan, while his not-dying ally urges him to hurry things along.
  • "GEFs", clone bodies used for hazardous occupations in Xchange, have a life span of only three days, after which they begin rapidly decomposing. Naturally, the protagonist gets stuck in one that's already been alive for two days. The villain ends up in this body just as its time runs out— then appears not to be dying at first, because its timer is a few minutes off.

  • Problems occur with the Spaarti cloning cylinders which appear in The Thrawn Trilogy. A clone that is aged too quickly succumbs to what gets termed "clone madness," leaving them insane, and which proved to be a major problem during the Clone Wars. Thrawn eventually discovers that this is caused by some strange interaction with the Force as the clone matures, and growing the clones in an environment completely devoid of the Force such as that created by the salamander-like ysalamiri (or at least, one where the Force is suppressed, it seems to vary widely within the literature how exactly it works) will prevent the deterioration.
    • It’s worth noting that Timothy Zahn wrote the Thrawn Trilogy before the prequels, at a time where George Lucas forbade authors from exploring the Clone Wars era. Even before Disney’s acquisition of the property and the Thrawn trilogy being rebranded under the Star Wars Legends alternative continuity, Clone Degeneration really didn’t have any effect on the Clone Wars. Lesser quality clones that are grown more rapidly did exist, and were used by the new Empire in the weeks following Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith. However, with the final book in the Republic Commando Series by Karen Traviss detailing interactions between the battle hardened Kamino clones, and a fresh clone created on Coruscant’s moon as members of the newly minted Squad 40. Imperial Commando: 501st presents these alternative cloning methods used after Order 66 as basically the reason the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy exists.
  • In David Brin's novel, Kiln People, humans are able to create duplicates of themselves that are fashioned from a type of clay. The duplicates, called golems or "dittoes", possess the memories of their original from the time of their creation, but degrade after a day. Before this happens, golems are able to reintegrate their accumulated memories with their original using a special device. Attempting to make a ditto of a ditto generally results in a mindless invalid; it's noted early on that the main character, Albert, is highly unusual because when his dittos make dittos, they come out perfectly fine. The process in general isn't perfect; dittos that come out with little to no resemblance to their original's personality are called "Frankensteins" or "frankies".
  • Invoked in F.M. Busby's Rissa Kerguelen series. The Hulzein clan learns through painful experience that they have to alternate cloned generations with ones produced the normal way, or else they wind up with mentally unstable kids—which, given the resources and intelligence levels that all the Hulzeins possess, is just a bad idea for everyone.
  • In William Sleator's The Duplicate, the duplicates are less sane the farther they are from the original. They also get black markings on their hands shortly before they die, but they tend to go crazy and get themselves killed before that step occurs.
  • Discussed in Black Legion, as Khayon notes that Primarchs' genome is so unusual and complex that any attempts at cloning them end like this with the first clone. Ultimately, however, inverted - while first attempts failed, the final clone of Horus is nearly indistinguishable from the original.
  • In Suzanne Weyn's The Bar Code Rebellion, several clones are made of a single woman, each one with more and more bird DNA added to them. The first few are somewhat normal, though with notable strange behaviors and abilities. Once we reach the fifth clone, KM-5, it's become quite clear that the more bird DNA they possess, the crazier they are. The final clone, KM-6, is extremely weak, thin, and pale, and speaks only in bursts of birdlike noise.
  • Who Censored Roger Rabbit?: Toons can make duplicates of themselves for doing stunts, but the duplicates are very short-lived.
  • The novel Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang centers around this, in a way. A post-apocalyptic society rendered sterile by disease discovers that, though clones do display this in the form of sterility after a few generations, they actually reverse the trend after a few more. The society uses this to attempt to set up a sustaining population of fertile humans.
    • The clones display a form of this in another way, as well. After deciding that cloning is superior to sexual reproduction and building a society based around the health of the group and the destruction of the individual, they find that the younger clone generations lose the ability for abstract thought, to the point where the youngest generations are incapable of drawing maps or devising solutions for problems.
  • The Styx Drones from Colony are this. Each batch suffers from further deterioration of intelligence, leaving the present batch Too Dumb to Live.
  • In The True Meaning of Smekday, the Gorg, having reproduced via cloning, have degraded from superstrong aliens with Nigh-Invulnerability to superstrong aliens with a severe cat allergy.
  • Mitosis of The Reckoners Trilogy can clone himself an infinite number of times, but the clones grow molecularly unstable if too many exist at any one time.
  • In Michael Crichton's Timeline, the time travel mechanism is based on scanning the time-traveler and then sending the information back to be reconstructed. As is explained, like a fax, the time traveler will inevitably accumulate transcription errors, which leads to greater and greater disorders as more and more travels occur. This is explained to potentially cause everything from fatal heart defects to incurable mental illness.
  • We Are Legion (We Are Bob): Not quite degeneration, but each Bob clone has different elements of Bob's core personality emphasized. Riker is pragmatic, Bill enjoys pure science, Milo is less cautious, and Mario is anti-social. Their clones continue to be variants of the original Bob; Riker's clone Homer, for example, has a big sense of humor while Riker has practically none.
  • Worm:
    • Oni Lee's power allows him to instantly create a new clone of himself within eyesight, with the old body turning to ash after a few seconds. However, this power can't perfectly copy his mind and over time his mind dulled, eventually leaving him little more than a machine following orders from Lung. And worst of all, he knew what was happening but couldn't think of a way to reverse it.
    • Echidna creates clones of any living creature which she has either touched or swallowed. These clones are all mentally imbalanced, hating the original and wanting to destroy everything they loved, and are often physically deformed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Up the Long Ladder", this is what will inevitably doom one planet. The founders, reduced to five in number because of a spacecraft accident, had to resort to cloning themselves in order to have a sustainable population. When they try to "solve" (ultimately, just delay) the problem by getting clones of Riker and Doctor Pulaski, the Starfleet officers are not particularly happy with it, and they destroy their clones.
  • Stargate SG-1.
    • The Asgard are a benevolent race who once looked like six-foot humanoid elf folk. They've repeatedly transferred their consciousness into new clone bodies for tens of thousands of years, with increasingly diminishing returns, so that in the present they're tiny, fragile aliens of The Greys kind. Despite their best efforts, the degeneration proves untreatable and they commit mass suicide.
    • Beckett's cellular degeneration issues were eventually solved, effectively making him the original Back from the Dead.
    • O'Neill was kidnapped and replaced with a younger clone by the rogue Asgard scientist Loki. Loki's clones have accelerated growth, so they resemble the missing person by the time they're discovered, but it fails with O'Neill, leding to a teenage clone. note  The degeneration is a case of having You Have Outlived Your Usefulness literally encoded in the clone's genes. In fact, the O'Neill clone is overcome with pain within minutes of being recovered by Loki.
    • Kull Warriors are created in nonliving form and animated via ancient technology. They live for several days or weeks, though they're extremely hard to kill before their time.
  • The single-clone degeneration is addressed but ultimately averted in Farscape. When Crichton is "twinned" during season three, the Mad Scientist Kaarvok claims that the resulting duplicates are "equal and original", with no defects or imperfections. However, in a later episode, one of the two Crichtons experiences spontaneous bleeding and blackouts, leading him to believe this is at work: fortunately, it's just the villain of the week causing chaos across Moya. As one of the Crichtons has died in a Heroic Sacrifice and the other has suffered no ill effects it can be assumed that Kaarvok was correct. However, the multiple-clone degeneration is used in the episode Kaarvok was introduced in, specifically in the form of the feral, degenerate remains of the crew of the ship he'd been imprisoned aboard. Apparently after "twinning" the twin of a twin and so on a certain amount of error did emerge.
  • In an episode of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids that seems to have been loosely based on Multiplicity, Wayne creates a molecular duplication machine that has the side effect of making the target's molecules unstable, causing them to create more duplicates whenever they are bumped hard against something or jolted. This results in a good number of extra Waynes, nearly all of which are a bit dense. This is explained as the clones having Wayne's knowledge, but none of his practical experience - when Wayne tells his duplicate that the moon's made of green cheese, he buys it, even though he always thought it was made of various strata of rocks and magma around an iron core. "Why are my clones such dorks?"
  • In the Netflix revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000, one host segment in the episode featuring Reptilicus as Crow taking one of Tom's arms and creating duplicates of him. However, the copies start turning into different variants, like an Opposite-Sex Clone and an Evil Knockoff. Ultimately, Crow opts to destroy them and calls them over. The Tom that sticks behind tells Jonah is that he's probably not the real Tom.
  • On Orphan Black:
    • Many of the clones suffer from a mysterious lung disease and all but two of them are infertile as far as anyone knows. Statements made by one character in the second season imply that the latter is intentional (or at least to be expected) because the only exceptions are Sarah and Helena, who were twins. If they came from the same cloned fertilized egg that split into two embryos the way that non-cloned identical twins do, that technically could be considered to make them into copies of a copy.
    • The male clones of Project CASTOR suffer from a neurological disorder that causes seizures and also can pass on a protein that causes infertility.
  • In Red Dwarf, this trope is played with to an extent. There is a triplicator in the episode "Demons and Angels" which creates two versions of whatever is placed inside of it: one sublime and perfect, one disgusting and unpleasant. For example, Lister tries it out on a strawberry, making one that's delicious and one full of maggots. The kicker is that these cloned objects last for very short amounts of time before being destroyed, which causes chaos when Lister accidentally triplicates the entire ship.
  • There are two types of clones that Lex Luthor can make in Lois & Clark, the first type can live up to 70 years and the second only two weeks. Sadly the Lois clone is the latter type.
  • Zondag Met Lubach: The trailer for one of the seasons was a weird-ass sketch showing a bunch of defective Arjen Lubach clones being tested in a laboratory before Arjen concludes you simply can't beat the real deal.
  • ReGenesis: As a result of his being a clone, Mick has a multitude of ailments, including liver and kidney problems, that give him less than a year to live. His bone marrow is healthy, though, since he was created specifically to donate bone marrow to his brother. Subverted when it's revealed that he's not a clone, but rather a Designer Baby, and his health problems are due to the DNA his dad damaged in the process of fixing the bone cancer gene.
  • Foundation (2021): Cleon XIV (the Brother Dawn for most of Season 1) is revealed to be an imperfect product of the genetic dynasty, with many attributes that differentiate him from his predecessors, such as colorblindness and having a different dominant hand. He lives in terror of this being discovered and being killed and replaced with a backup clone. It turns out that his genes were tampered with by a resistance group, counting on his fear driving him into their Honey Trap so they can replace him with their own clone that's been indoctrinated to hate the Empire. While this ultimately fails, with the whole group (clone included) being wiped out, it's later revealed that they'd successfully tampered with the entire genetic template, meaning that there can be no more perfect Cleon clones.
  • In Dark Matter (2015), Transfer Transit is a relatively common way of travelling to another solar system by having an Expendable Clone with your memories created at the destination via Brain Uploading. The clones disintegrate after three days, or immediately if they're killed. This is used to show whether or not a character who was killed was in clone form. The technology is intended to allow people to take long-distance vacations, but both the protagonists and antagonists abuse it to go into dangerous situations safely. However, the plan was to reveal that CoreLactic can make clones that don't disintegrate, and that both One and the General faked their apparent deaths this way.
  • The Thundermans: The downside to clones is that they tend to be fragile. The clones of Phoebe and Dr. Colosso were fully cognizant, until a simple Tap on the Head turned them into complete idiots.

  • Pokémon: The Birth of Mewtwo expands upon Mewtwo's origins from Pokémon: The First Movie and how cloning works in the Pokémon World. Because Mewtwo has an immortal life force taken from Mew's fossilized hair, he is the only one of the five clones to survive the process completely. Those other clones being the Kanto starters and Ambertwo; the clone of Dr. Fuji's deceased daughter. Ambertwo is just one of many failed attempts by Dr. Fuji to resurrect her through the process, as the radio drama reveals that none of his Amber clones have ever lived past four years; even then they can only survive while in test tubes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The fetches of Changeling: The Lost are always missing something of the personality they were meant to replace. It could be a negative trait (quickness to anger) or a positive trait (dedication to a task), but there's always going to be something missing.
  • Paranoia XP has this as a mechanic in order to convince characters to try not to get killed quite as much (if the GM is letting the PCs buy clones rather than simply going through a 6-pack and then handing out new sheets.) After the first seven or so, things start to go south in a hurry, with extra fingers, hideous deformities, and (worst of all in Alpha Complex) color blindness. (Everything in Alpha Complex has a color-coded security clearance.) Luckily, BLUE-clearance PCs can pay extra to have the template cleaned up. Others have to depend upon secret societies and underhanded business that may well result in termination for treason.
  • The Pathfinder Adventure Path Rise of the Runelords features a minor villain named Vraxeris who suffered from this. Imprisoned for millennia in the extra-dimensional laboratory Runeforge, he outlasted all his colleagues by use of the Clone spell, creating a young and healthy duplicate that his soul would migrate to on the moment of his death. Like all but the most powerful resurrection magic, this left him down a level, but he had decades to earn it back before needing to repeat the process. However, after cloning himself so many times, he discovered that with each body the dementia that tended to affect him in old age was happening earlier and earlier in his lifespan. Eventually this prevented him from regaining enough power in time to create a new clone. When the heroes enter his domain, Vraxeris is dead and all that remains are some Simulacra of him (inferior, robot-like duplicates that themselves could qualify as this trope), mindlessly repeating their programmed tasks in their master's absence.

    Video Games 
  • Akatsuki Blitzkampf: This is what happens to the playable Elektrosoldat. He's one of several clones of the local albino, Adler, and is revealed in his ending to be unable to heal from his injuries.
  • Axiom Verge:
    • A subversion occurs. Most of the game's bosses are all clones of the Big Bad, but the cloning process isn't the reason they became biomechanical monsters with human faces — rather, it's the effect of the pathogen he released on the game's world. Nonetheless, he still exploits this to create new soldiers for his defense forces. The Player Character is also one of his clones and nearly suffers the same fate as the rest before the Rusalki intervene.
    • The game also plays this straight with the Aborted Clone, whose cloning was hastily disrupted and is little more than a pile of red organs and half-formed gun with a human face and spine. If left alone, the clone will die on his own.
  • BlazBlue: The Kaka clan are all clones of Jubei, but appear to have been made with intentional defects, such as limitations on their reproductive ability that stops their numbers from exceeding 100 individuals. This trope may explain why Taokaka is so very odd, though the rest of the Kaka clan, and especially Torakaka, seem more put together. The Elder of their village seems resigned to the fact that this trope is, in the long run, going to lead to their extinction.
  • Destroy All Humans!: This is the premise of the game. Unregulated use of nuclear weapons during the Martian War against the Blisk mutated Furon DNA so that they can't propagate due to lack of genitalia. Fortunately, the Furons perfected the art of cloning, rendering them virtually immortal. Unfortunately, each new clone has degraded DNA, making the results more unpredictable and eventually leading to the extinction of the Furon race. Fortunately, this could be fixed via infusion of uncorrupted DNA, and eons earlier, a Furon mothership happened upon another planet and... frolicked with the planets' inhabitants, leaving their descendants with bits of pure Furon DNA. Unfortunately for us but fortunately for them, that planet is Earth.
  • Justified in the usual manner in Dystopia, where clones are given a maximum life span of about 20 minutes, and their bodies decay very rapidly. This prevents enemies from finding any of the technology hidden in their bodies or any information hidden in their brains. In addition, combat clones are hastily assembled from cheap materials in about 15 seconds; and normal clones can take a few weeks to build but are intended for use by soldiers after they shed their combat clone bodies. At least, that's what they're promised by their employers.
  • This is a gameplay mechanic in EVE Online. If your Escape Pod gets destroyed and you have only a cheap clone back at your home station to use as backup, you run the risk of losing a lot of skill points, which can take years of real time to build up. It is therefore highly recommended that, once you've built up your skills, you invest in a higher-quality clone, especially if you're regularly venturing out into deep space beyond the reach of the Space Police.
  • Fallout 3 gives us Vault 108, which contains nothing but very aggressive clones of a dweller named Gary who can only say their own name as they attack. Notes left throughout the vault state that the first clone was fine, but copies made after that became more violent the farther they were from the original.
  • Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII is a prequel, giving us background on stuff like why Sephiroth went crazy and destroyed Cloud's hometown. A huge part of it turns out to be the emotional blows he suffered when losing his two closest friends to Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal against Shinra; the primary mistreatment in this case being that Shinra had created them via genetic hacking and then, at some point in their thirties, their bodies started to break down. And that was when they found out they weren't just naturally talented best friends from Banora, where the scientist running the project apparently retired after Hojo got all the funding in order to make Sephiroth.
    • Genesis, the one who actually went Ax-Crazy, may have minded that Sephiroth was perfect and the project that wasn't abandoned as much as the dying part. Never mind that Project G being mostly-canceled meant he got a childhood; he had a Green-Eyed Monster problem.
    • The degeneration condition is like this, but Angeal and Genesis aren't actually clones, as such. Angeal may even be his mother's natural son, she just messed with her own body so much to get the cells to make Genesis that he came out weird. Or not. Incidentally, this means Angeal and Genesis are at least 1/3 brothers, which is not a fraction that's possible in nature and which also makes the fact that they're a popular ship a lot squickier.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has a zigzagged case with "Inspector Brandihild". As a clone of the normal Hildibrand Manderville, he is physically imperfect as he has a blocky, almost '80s esthetic to him. However, the man is super smart, thoughtful and kind.
  • Halo:
    • This is the reason you don't make copies of AIs. In Halo: First Strike, Cortana actually weaponizes this; she used alien technology to create new (slightly flawed) instances of herself in a Covenant warship so she could be in two places at once. The copies made copies. The copies of the copies made copies. The quickly-growing swarm of AIs started forking off copies for specialized tasks, having those copies be overwhelmed by Covie AIs, and spinning off more copies. Eventually the alien ship filled its computers to the roof with Cortana clones, segfaulted, and blew up. On top of that, those flawed copies did actually manage to complete their assigned missions. What's really wacky is that it's implied that Cortana got the copy program from one of her own (completely insane) time-lost copies, thanks to the presence of a Forerunner time-manipulation device.
    • This also applies to human clones. Individual organs can be cloned and used for transplants without a problem, it's when you clone the whole body that things go south. Flash-cloning (which is the only method of cloning seen in the Halo universe) is when the clones are aged up to the original person who supplied the DNA. The clone will have the mind of an infant, given that it has zero memories, and the body will deteriorate and usually die within a couple months. Apparently the cloned body's metabolism just can't stabilize itself correctly. Despite this procedure being highly illegal, flash clones were used to cover up the SPARTAN-II project; ONI took the children, and replaced them with flash clones. As far as any of the parents could guess, their children inexplicably went into a vegetative state and died from an unknown disease.
    • Human-made "smart" AIs are an interesting example, as they are usually created by brain-scanning dead people (though Cortana herself was created from the flash-cloned brain of the still-alive Dr. Halsey). After a period of roughly seven years, all "Smart" AIs will eventually accumulate so much information that they basically think themselves to death; during this terminal phase, the AI falls into a state of "rampancy" in which it develops both "delusions of godlike power" and utter contempt for its mentally inferior makers.
      • Much of Halo 4's plot is about Cortana dealing with her ever-worsening rampancy.
      • The novel Halo: The Cole Protocol also demonstrates a "Smart" AI past its lifespan. Juliana, the AI of the Rubble (a conglomeration of hollowed-out asteroids joined by tubes), has been active for at least 8 years and is definitely showing signs of instability. The only thing keeping Juliana "sane" is her primary task of keeping the Rubble from breaking apart and protecting the people living there. After the Rubble is evacuated so that it can be Colony Dropped on the local Covenant base, Juliana chooses to go down with the "ship", as she no longer has anything to keep her from going into full rampancy. The novel also establishes that it's common among humans to indicate that an AI is going into rampancy by showing "seven" with their fingers.explanation  Oh, and the AIs also know the gesture, and Juliana gets pissed off when a Spartan shows it to his team.
  • Hardspace: Shipbreaker's LYNX Corporation has its ship disassembly crews cloned whenever they inevitably die on the job and sends them back in like nothing. The technology was apparently imperfect some time ago, as Weaver used to be a Cutter but some unknown cloning mishap took him off the field; since he sounds entirely normal otherwise, it's most likely something physical. And the technology still has imperfections; Hal threatens all salvagers on strike with forcing them into work so deadly they need twenty resurrections a day until "your DNA comes apart at the seams" and they return as a useless blob.
  • Hitman: Blood Money has clones becoming relatively commonplace. However, Agent 47 (a clone himself but not an example) stole his creator's notes in order to prevent further Agents from being made. As such, these clones are created with an imperfect procedure, which has resulted in a number of flaws — all the clones are albino, they suffer various physical ailments, and none of them can survive for more than a few years.
  • The second arc of The King of Fighters starting from 99 up until 2001 focused on NESTS and their unethical cloning experiments. To see how that panned out, Kyo's clones are obsessed with one-upping the man they were sourced from, and while Zero himself is a Noble Demon who graciously accepts defeat and goes down with his ship, his clone is a complete psychopath willing to destroy a city with his Kill Sat for his own treasonous ambitions of power. It isn't just limited to mental instability - clones are also more often than not unable to fully control their powers. Just ask Nameless, who reduced someone to ashes merely by tapping them on the shoulder.
  • The Haltmann Works Company in Kirby: Planet Robobot experiments with clones of powerful individuals on the planets they invade to convert the organic life into more efficient mechanical beings. However, their cloning process is imperfect. The most apparent case is their clones of King Dedede, in which every single attempt was some form of failure and the one they settled on was molecularly unstable to the point of splitting into three gooey copies of each other. They also made much more successful (though still imperfect) copies of Queen Sectonia and Dark Matter. The latter of the two could only be replicated in its weaker swordsman form, since the original was an Eldritch Abomination so alien in form that even the most powerful supercomputer in the galaxy couldn't properly analyze it.
  • Not necessarily clones, but close enough: In the Legacy of Kain series, Kain used parts of his soul to resurrect a group of long-dead Sarafan warrior priests as his lieutenants, each receiving a smaller part of his soul than the last, which would directly affect their evolution in vampiric unlife: Raziel received the most of his soul and evolved the quickest, while Melchiah received the smallest part, making his body vulnerable to decay.
  • Solid Snake, Liquid Snake, and Solidus Snake from Metal Gear are clones of Big Boss. Liquid got killed off prior to degeneration, however Solidus' aging has accelerated to the point he looks like someone in his sixties or seventies despite only being in his 30s. And by Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Solid Snake's aging has accelerated to the point where Big Boss himself, who is about 79 by that point, looks younger than Snake, who is only 42, does. Compounding this, Snake goes through a truly horrific gauntlet throughout the game. And yet, he still gets the job done. Unlike some other cases, this degeneration was deliberate. The clones were made with genetic flaws designed to limit their lifespan in hopes of keeping them under The Patriots' control.
  • The God of one of the worlds in The Neverhood eventually ended up creating that whole world's population this way. He was trying to duplicate himself, but the duplicate just assumed that he was really God, and went through the whole process all over again. This continued until eventually a duplicate was created that was not alive.
  • Nintendo Wars: Caulder/Stolos has "children" that are actually clones of him in Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. As Dr. Morris explains in the epilogue, he expresses concern of Isabella's survival and lifespan if a pessimistic viewpoint of her life is a short and fleeting one. In addition, both Penny and Tabitha are clearly not right in the head, with the former shattered from many experiments, referring to her teddy bear as sentient beings. The final battle reveals that he himself is a clone of the original doctor, which explains his lunacy.
  • During The Persistence, every clone printer sans one has gone haywire and started printing aberrant and murderous clones of the crew non-stop. Some lack eyes, some are abnormally large, and some weep loudly enough to cause physical harm, but all of them lack any of the intelligence or compassion of the crew they're cloned from.
  • Your uncle in Quantum Conundrum cloned his cat after its death. The first iteration was okay, but the third iteration earned the nickname "Derp".
    Quadwrangle: I want to clarify that DOLLI is great for cloning inanimate objects, but she's not entirely capable with organic ones.
  • Several gangs and factions in Saints Row: The Third have clones of a hugely muscular man that is so strong and large that the clones can shrug off most weaponry, vehicular assaults, and explosions, which would make them perfect candidates for gang warfare. Because the cloning process hasn't been perfected, all the clones lack intelligence and are nothing more than mindless monsters who can barely speak, in comparison to their template, Genius Bruiser Oleg Kirrlov.
  • In Satellite Reign, you possess an earlier iteration of the Big Bad's resurrection technology, which means it still has some bugs. Specifically, your agents' clone bodies take increasing stat penalties with each death, meaning you have to abduct people off the streets to provide new cloning stock.
  • Alluded to in Star Wars: Republic Commando whenever the player performs some suicidally dumb action.
    Scorch: Maybe 38's a copy of a copy of a copy.
  • In Super Metroid, the player encounters "Mochtroids" in the underwater sector, Maridia. They are the Space Pirates' failed attempt to clone Metroids. Mochtroids and distinguishable by their single nucleus, are very slow, lack the Metroids' characteristic Nigh-Invulnerability, and can't even latch on to their target properly.
  • Tales of the Abyss features this, along with everything else from the cloning vat. But since this is a Tales game, it plays around with the trope too: In the best case scenario, the replica is weaker but there is no particular degeneration in the original. In the very worst case, however, that of complete isofons, a different effect occurs. The original and replica are so entirely identical that both gradually begin to destabilize due to the interference of their matching fonon frequencies. Eventually, one or both will die, and their fonons merge, creating an individual with the memories of both the original and the replica. This is what the universe's physics says happened to Luke fon Fabre at the end of the game, according to some easily-missable sidequests with Jade.
  • Transformers: Fall of Cybertron: The Insecticons have the ability to copy themselves (a nod the G1 Insecticons) in a manner vaguely similar to reproduction, but as Shockwave's audio logs reveal they become progressively inferior. The original Insecticons are sentient and can transform but the rest are just a hungry mindless swarm under the control of the original three.
  • The Grineer Empire in Warframe collectively suffers from it, due to every single Grineer being a clone of a clone of "perfection" birthed in industrial quantities. Their degeneration is so bad that they have to use extensive cybernetics to survive; Grineer soldiers almost always have cybernetic feet, and the only thing left of the Grineer Councilor Vay Hek is his (visibly cracking and flaking) face and lungs.
    • Even then, the process that clones the Grineer has its occasional hiccup, creating "defective" clones that lack the fanatical devotion to the Grineer Queens, albeit they prove much healthier compared to the normal Grineer. Clem is one such "defect", as are the Kavor. Grineer Scientist Tyl Regor is trying to not only reverse the degeneration, but begin creating even stronger and potentially immortal Grineer, and he's already got his Manics up and running about...
  • Wasteland 3 has a man who turns out to be a fourth-generation clone of a villain from the first game. He is actually friendly and an aspiring scientist with some skill, but he himself admits that his intelligence and ability is nowhere near his proginator because of this trope — as is evident by his own attempts at cloning experiments (both on himself and on members of your squad if you ask) producing less than stellar results.
  • Zanki Zero: Partially inverted, as the clone protagonist grow stronger with each Extend they go through as the Extend Machine corrects for how they died. However, the machine is also imperfect and will generate "Waste" clones until it creates a successful human. The rest, mindless monsters called Creatures, are released into the wild.

    Web Animation 
  • In The Demented Cartoon Movie, this problem plagues Evil Blah's Auto-Damsel-Maker, ultimately resulting in a damsel who's a little... weird.
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, Fabius Bile makes a clone of Ahriman and presents it to him on live television. The clone wasn't finished, was in immense pain, and has Ahriman's psychic powers. Goes as well as you would imagine.
  • In The Grossery Gang webseries, Doc Broc's cloning machine creates clones that only last for an hour, before expiring into a cloud of dust.
  • Played straight and inverted in the rather bizarre miniseries House of Cosbys, the Bill Cosby clones get increasingly bizarre defects, however the main character keeps making them as every tenth Cosby has superpowers with each "Super Cosby" being more powerful than the last. Unfortunately, Cosby #100 happens to be pure evil.

  • The space arc version of the False Guenevere storyline in Arthur, King of Time and Space suffered this, paralleling the illness of the one in the fantasy arc.
  • Lampshaded in this strip from The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, where Molly's clone Galatea insists on using Molly's tissues for an experiment rather than her own.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja the doctor uses this to explain why killing off all his clones wasn't as bad as it seems, because the clones created with the old process were highly unstable. To illustrate this he shows a video where clone of Benjamin Franklin made with that technology accidentally kills himself by biting too hard into a sandwich. Which causes the top of his head to fall off. Old McNinja, a clone of the Doctor, was created with newer technology, which is greatly improved, but he initially believes himself to be suffering from this.
  • In Kevin & Kell, Corrie's clone, Dolly, begins Rapid Aging as a result of being a clone. Dolly becomes concerned about how her adoptive parents (who don't know she's a clone) will feel about this, so Corrie switches with Dolly, who poses as her birth mother to take her away. An accident with a Time Machine results in Dolly reverting to a baby, which gives her a fresh start on life even if her rapid aging resumes (which is somewhat unlikely to happen, given how little time progresses in the strip).
  • Subverted in El Goonish Shive, when Elliot accidentally creates a female version of himself, dubbed Ellen. Ellen realizes that the effect that led to her creation was only intended to last a month, and decides to become Elliot's greatest rival and villain. Shortly after this completely fails, she learns that she won't die after a month, and is offered a life as Elliot's twin sister, which she gladly accepts. She's been a part of the main cast ever since.
  • Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger
    • In an arc that parodies Star Trek, Quentyn refuses to beam down, for several reasons, one of which is that he doesn't trust the "disintegrating fax machine" to make a perfect copy each time. The Captain cluelessly introduces him to a Red Shirt who has gone through it many times. It shows.
    • Replicating replicators is a risky idea; the first few times you're fine, but past a couple generations they start producing toxic chemicals, radiation and, obviously, unusable products.
  • In Homestuck, Rose Lalonde's mother's attempt to clone her cat Jaspers resulted in a four-eyed kitten. When Roxy Lalonde tried this on a mass scale, it created a bunch of four-eyed cats, and more than a few seriously deformed ones.
  • On this page of The Non-Adventures of Wonderella, Dr. Shark claims a clone of Wonderella is actually the original. Ritagirl cites this trope to determine if this is true, and gives the two Wonderellas a written test. Wonderella stabs her duplicate with a pencil and writes "I Win!" on her paper.
    Ritagirl: Clones are never as smart as the original, right Dr. Shark? Like how paper copies are never as clear?
    Dr. Shark: A simplistic analogy by a liberal arts major! Go on...
  • Agatha's Dingbots in Girl Genius can build more of themselves out of spare parts and bits, but each subsequent generation is of slightly lower quality, maxxing out at about six generations. Eventually it's discovered that the first generation Dingbots are the clank equivalent to Sparks.

    Web Original 
  • The Spoony Experiment: While watching The Clones of Bruce Lee, Spoony points out the logic gap in the mad professor cloning Bruce Lee several times, only to demand they fight to prove who's the strongest. He points this out while sharing a sofa with two of his other characters.
    Chester D. Bum: It's kinda like when they cloned Jango Fett, and turned him into all those Stormtroopers, only they were kinda lame.
    Dr. Insano: This is why I prefer robots to cloning. Clones are crap! It's like filling out a form in triplicate but only getting to keep the pink copy.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-038, an apple tree that grows clones like fruit of whatever touches its bark. Human and animal clones age rapidly and only last about two weeks.
  • With the Secret Door short of Rooster Teeth, Gavin is cloned to improve efficiency, but when they find out, they're bound and gagged, and thrown into the closet. When Gavin finds out, they throw him in there, but remember they need the original, otherwise the clones will degenerate. Problem is, they grab Ben for re-cloning instead, who was mistaken for a Gavin clone due to their British Accents.
    Gus: Oh fuck! We need the original out here so we can make another clone!
    Burnie: Oh, right. Gotta go from the source, otherwise the copy DNA gets bad.
  • Justified in the Whateley Universe: the faster you force the maturation of a clone, the more likely it is to suffer from 'protein antagonism', a form or auto-immune problem that can lead to rapid breakdown. Clones grown normally will usually live a normal lifespan, but quick-clones may fall apart after even a minor bit of physical trauma. The fact that Belphoebe does not appear to suffer from protein antagonism despite a very fast maturation is a key plot point in "The Second Book of Jobe".
  • Lost In Adaptation: The Dom's hunchback clone butler Reginald's backstory is revealed to be a result of this. After discovering a clone machine in a deep underground expedition, The Dom decided to use it to make a clone of himself to do chores. Said clone was not content with his lot, so he made a clone of himself to replace himself so he could sneak off without The Dom noticing. The next clone did the same thing, and the one after that, and the one after that, until eventually, thanks to Clone Degeneration, the newest Reginald couldn't figure out how to operate the cloning machine (it's powered a green and red "On/Off" button), so he's stuck in The Dom's service.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: The "Treehouse of Horror XIII" segment "Send in the Clones" has Homer with a cloning mechanism which results in him creating duplicates who are progressively dumber than he is. Eventually, they get to be so stupid that one of them is Peter Griffin. Special mention should be made that the surviving Homer is a clone. The original Homer, who knew of the plot to fly a fake giant donut over a cliff to have the clones run after it and off the cliff, was the first one off the cliff.
  • This seemed to be inherent to present-day cloning in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003). In the fourth season of the show, it was revealed that Agent Bishop's body was slowly degenerating, and therefore needed to transfer his mind to a new one, which eventually happened, dissolving skin and all. Later on, Baxter Stockman cloned himself a new body to replace the one he had systematically lost during the course of the series, only to find it decaying as well.
  • Done with the incomplete April clones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), as they tend to turn into black goo when damaged, and one "reject" (who the turtles call "April Derp") is a giant monstrosity with extra heads and mouths. However, these were incomplete clones created from partial DNA, and presumably, if the Kraang managed to get their hands on her complete DNA sequence, these issues would not occur.
  • In Exo Squad, Neosapiens ran a risk of contracting a disease where their bodies decompose. Seeing as their entire species is a clone race, it made coming Back from the Dead via implanted memory recordings a bit of a gamble.
  • The Ring of the Nine Dragons from Xiaolin Showdown can divide one person into at most nine, but their intelligence is also divided, so in the end, you have nine people with only a ninth of your intelligence... and getting them back together is really hard. The notable thing about said ring is that it only does this to your average person, while Jack Spicer's clones were at least able to operate like normal people except for one bad one, and demons are apparently immune, as Mala Mala Jong's clones didn't display any differing behavior from the original.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force:
    • In "The Cloning", Frylock reveals that he's been cloning televisions every time the other Aqua Teens destroy one. Eventually, the latest television they make turns evil because having to clone the same thing over and over again causes its molecular structure to start breaking down, leading to this trope. Later in the episode, the Aqua Teens clone dollar bills and eventually end up making George Washington out of dollar bills.
    • "Bad Replicant" spoofs the trope with a physically mutated and clearly failed clone of Shake. Not only are the clone's attempts to pass himself off as the original pathetically obvious, he also turns out to be much kinder and more rational than Shake, and Shake's friends actually like him better than the Jerkass original.
  • Men in Black: The Series has Quick Clones. Each clone is indistinguishable from the original, but after time, the clone will begin speaking nonsensically before melting into a pile of goo. The time until melting varies based on stress and physical exertion. Alternatively, any clone can be terminated by pushing a button located behind the ear.
  • In The Jetsons, George had a clone made in one episode, only to find it could do stuff far better than him. He wanted to leave his life to the clone, but it turned out that the clone has a very limited lifespan and soon vanishes into thin air.
  • Danny Phantom: Danny's Opposite-Sex Clone Dani Phantom melts whenever she uses her superpowers. She gets better.
  • An experiment in Lilo & Stitch: The Series has this when Stitch gets hit by a duplicating ray, splitting into multiple copies of himself. His creator, Jumba, explains that the more duplicates there are, the more their strength is divided between them. Lilo uses this later against Gantu when he gets a hold of the experiment and tries to create an army with the experiments he's captured; they're all so pathetically weak that the heroes easily waltz right through them. This trope was later averted in Leroy & Stitch, when the titular Leroy is used as the base for a clone army and the clones are completely identical to the original, save for his outfit.
  • Drakken tried this in Kim Possible making "clones" (the show admits it isn't really cloning but called that for simplicity) of Kim, Ron, Rufus, and Bonnie and modifying them to be mindless attack drones. It works until it's revealed they're weak against soda, dissolving into green puddles when it's sprayed on them. Later on, they get renamed "synthodrones", which becomes a major plot point of the movie.
  • In The Flintstones, Fred was cloned by an alien in one episode. The clones were very much like real people, and are never seen physically degenerating, but were little more than mindless mooks, incapable of anything other than following their creator's orders, causing trouble and saying Fred's catchphrase in a very monotonous fashion.
  • Family Guy:
    • A very Squicky version happens in "Quagmire's Baby" when Stewie decides to clone himself, creating "Bitch Stewie", a deformed, moronic servant to the original. Later, Stewie makes one of Brian, which is arguably more messed up. Eventually, both clones melt into a pile of disgusting, fleshy goo.
      Brian: I'm not proud of this, but I have to lick that up.note 
    • Later, Stewie makes a perfect clone of himself, but this one is immensely eviler than him, complete with Slasher Smile.
  • The Gravity Falls episode "Double Dipper" has Dipper make use of a magic copy machine when he needs a few extra hands. This works fine until he gets a paper jam on the fourth clone, resulting in a lumpy, wrinkled version of himself that speaks in incomprehensible "NYANG NYANG NYANG!" sounds. When Paper Jam Dipper melts near the end, he treats his death as a Mercy Kill.
    Paper Jam Dipper (subtitled): It's better this way for Paper Jam Dipper.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "Too Many Pinkie Pies", Pinkie uses the reflection in a magic pool to clone herself (and that clone clones herself, and those clones clone themselves...). The first clone is actually a reasonable facsimile of Pinkie Pie that can pass for the real thing, if slightly more childish and excitable, but when that clone starts cloning herself it produces flat, exaggerated versions of the original that just hop around, chanting "FUN FUN FUN", and basically destroying things. A later episode shows one clone survived, however, that has apparently matured enough to be living a life of her own in Manehattan.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: In the episode "Mandy the Merciless", a future is shown where Mandy has achieved immortality, became ruler of the world, and kept clones of Billy around. When the newest clone is incapable of noticing that Mandy is now an enormous half-worm half-human hybrid, Grim comments that he swears the Billys get dumber with each cloning.
  • The Jimmy Two-Shoes episode "Too Many Jimmys" is a good example. When Jimmy borrows Heloise's people copier, the resulting clones are deformed and misshapen. For example, one had no head, another had legs for arms with an oversized nose, and another one had a single eye with no body separating his limbs from his head. The justification for this though is that Jimmy had damaged the machine before the cloning process was completed. Yet for some reason, everyone in Miseryville seems oblivious to the differences between the clones and the real Jimmy.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "CopyBob DittoPants", Plankton photocopies a bunch of SpongeBob clones to get the Krabby Patty formula. He used cheap toner to make them, so after a while, they all roll up and disappear from existence.
    • In "Snooze You Lose", SpongeBob and Patrick attempt to make a clone of Squidward, which ends up being a mindless, gigantic version that escapes from their lab and goes on a rampage. At the end of the episode, he's shown to be a better clarinet player than the original Squidward when he uses a building as one.
  • The Batman Beyond episode "Meltdown" sees Mr. Freeze cloned into a new body that seemed to lack the condition that he requires a special suit for survival in above zero temperatures, but the body began to show signs of this trope as it redeveloped the condition. Considering a piece of Backported Development was Victor Fries being bald despite a pre-Freeze Victor having hair in Batman: The Animated Series, the baldness might've been an early sign of this.
  • The Batman episode "Everywhere Man" features a supervillain with a "Quantex" device that allows him to create duplicates of objects and fully sapient copies of people, himself being a clone of his creator John Marlowe who went rogue. Unfortunately, each successive Everywhere Man doppelganger comes out more ill-tempered and megalomaniacal, with some even voicing a desire to use their technology to Take Over the World when the initial Everywhere Man was just content with being an art thief and kidnapper.
    "Like a bad photocopy, each duplicate is just a little darker than the last."
  • Sealab 2021: In "Lost in Time", Stormy and Quinn go through a fifteen-minute "Groundhog Day" Loop repeatedly trying (and failing) to prevent the accident that destroyed Sealab and blew them back into the past, with multiple time-clones of Stormy and Quinn eventually ending up in the brig. After over a dozen iterations, the timeline gets so screwed up that strange alternate versions of Stormy and Quinn start appearing, including pixie versions, ones dressed as a cowboy and an Indian, and a pair where Quinn and Stormy resemble Jabba the Hutt and Salacious Crumb.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): In the episode "Knock it Off", Dick Hardly, an old friend of the Professor's steals the Chemical X formula to make his own versions of the girls to market as superheroes. However, Hardly skimps on the materials and the more he makes, the more deformed and less like the originals they become, and it's said in the episode they only live a couple of hours.
  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series: Miles Warren experimented with cloning, but found that clones deteriorate and die over time. He thought Hydro-Man's ability to reform his body was the key, so he made a clone of Hydro-Man and a clone of Mary Jane Watson with some of Hydro-Man's DNA. Unfortunately, this only delayed the process and both clones ended up dying.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars reveals that not all clones come out in perfect condition. Some, like 99, are malformed and unfit for combat (although 99 shows one does not need to be in perfect health to be heroic). With the death of Jango Fett in the first hours of the Clone Wars, the Kaminoans only have a small sample of his DNA kept in stasis which is undergoing natural cellular degradation, making such irregularities more common as they stretch out the remaining stock.
  • Following from the above, Star Wars: The Bad Batch shows that the Jango Fett DNA has become so degraded that it would be impossible to safely produce more Fett clones and thus puts the Kaminoans in a precarious position trying to maintain their contract in any way possible with the newly-established Galactic Empire, which wants to switch over to recruitments as soon as possible.
  • Rick and Morty:
    • In "The Ricklantis Mix-up", Citadel morning news is run by Rick D716, Rick D716-B, and Rick D716-C. D716 is normal, D716-B has a long scar on the right side of his face, and D716-C looks like he is seconds away from disintegrating.
    • "Mortiplicity" has "decoys", robotic clones of Rick and the Smith family meant to take bullets meant for them while the others are away. As the episode progresses, it turns out that the decoy Ricks have created decoys of their own, and so on several steps until certain Ricks get lazy and make less convincing decoys made of straw, wood or other styles.
  • Phineas and Ferb: One of Dr. Doofenshmirtz's "Evil Plans" involves cloning himself so that he can... stand in multiple waiting lines at once. His first three attempts go wrong; one is too pale since there wasn't much print, the other is completely jagged due to a paper jam, and the third is disfigured and mentally impaired since Doof wasn't sitting correctly.
  • In She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, this is a major problem for Hordak, who is one of countless clones of Horde Prime. Hordak served as Horde Prime's chief general, but suffered from pain and physical degeneration due to a flaw in his cloning. Horde Prime, who despised weakness, sent Hordak to die on the front lines of battle, only for Hordak to fall through a portal and find himself stranded on Etheria. Hordak uses cybernetic armor to keep his body functional, but his health is deteriorating at a rapid rate.
  • Clone High is a parody of teen drama shows where the teens are clones of famous historical figures. One of the clones is hideously deformed because her donor, Marie Curie, presumably had some genetic damage from the radiation exposure.
  • In an episode of My Gym Partner's a Monkey, Jake makes a clone of himself and Adam so they do all the work while the real things can lounge about. It backfires horribly when the clones turn out to be immature jerks who get the two in trouble. The jig is up when the clones start to rapidly age. Adam and Jake are spared from detention, but since bringing clones to Charles Darwin Middle School is illegal, they are instead punished by washing cars to pay for the Old Clones Home.
  • The Tommy clones Dinko creates in the Pet Alien episode "The Night of Two Tommys +1" look identical to Tommy, but lack his personality and are much dumber than he is. One of them also has a blue face for some reason.
  • Sabrina: The Animated Series had an episode where Sabrina made clones of herself, but one of the clones points out that the original's powers become limited when cloned, as shown when Sabrina tries to hypnotize Gem into forgetting she ever saw the clones, but due to her magic being drained, Gem is able to regain her senses.
  • Denis and Me: In "Home A Clone", when Denis goes out shopping, Sir Meows-A-Lot finds himself without someone who can open a can of tuna for him. Using a piece of Denis' hair, he decides to make a clone who can open the tuna can. However, he used a cat's brain for the clone's brain, resulting in a clone of a human with the intelligence of a cat... meaning he doesn't know how to open up the tuna can.
  • Invincible (2021): The Mauler Twins enjoy giving each other grief about the idea, as part of their bickering about who's the clone and who's the original; whenever one makes a mistake or neglects to think of something the other enjoys claiming clearly the degeneration got to the other and they, as the original, wouldn't have made such a blunder. However, it's entirely Averted in practice: They're so good at cloning that there is essentially no difference between each other whatsoever, not even in their memories (which is why they can keep the bickering going).

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: Some speculate that this occurred with the cloned sheep Dolly, that she died early due to being born with a genetic age of six. The Roslin Institute disagrees, however.
    • Distressingly, an attempt to revive the extinct Pyrenean Ibex succumbed to lung problems (in this case shortly after birth) which is also what killed Dolly.
    • Apparently, aged cells have shortened telomeres compared to new ones, which means that they won't be able to replicate as much as a "newborn" cell will over its lifetime. Besides that, DNA is unstable and only stays mostly intact when you're alive, so the extraction and freezing processes to preserve it actually damage it. Since the last Pyrenean Ibex died in 2000 and the clone wasn't made until 2009 (and even the first attempts were in 2003), there was little chance that the DNA would even be viable anymore. For this same reason, many biologists doubt that long-extinct animals like the wooly mammoth will ever be successfully cloned.
  • Most parthenogenetic species in nature do retain the capacity for sexual reproduction, often resorting to this method of breeding when conditions become harsh. It's thought that species which lose this ability usually get wiped out by infectious diseases that can easily spread among genetically identical hosts, or by changes in their environment that they'd otherwise have the diversity to cope with: thus, while individual clones may thrive, all-clone species decline over time.
  • There are periodic science-community scares that the human Y chromosome - already a tiny, shriveled thing relative to the mighty female X - decays slightly with each generation, and will eventually disappear entirely, wiping out males and the human race along with them. At the moment, this is believed to be false, but we've only known about DNA for a few generations.
    • Some scientists speculate that this will take so long that by the time it happens, we won't need men and women for reproduction. Or maybe we'll be able to change gender at will, like in Jurassic Park. It's important to remember that the Y Chromosome has existed for more than 100 million years (far longer than the human species) with no apparent issues.
    • It is more likely that what will happen is that the genes that determine sex will simply move to somewhere else in the human genome, causing humans to shift to a different sex-determination system. There is evidence that this has already happened to several animal species which are doing fine. Not all animals with two sexes use the XX female / XY male system after all.
  • This occurs on a cellular scale with telomeres, dummy segments at the end of DNA strands that function like aglets. Every time a cell splits, the DNA is replicated, but a fragment of the end is lost, a loss taken from the telomere rather than the actual encoding segment. Over time and division, this causes telomeres to progressively get shorter; once they reach a critical length (the Hayflick-limit), the cell basically commits suicide to prevent DNA damage. There is an enzyme called telomerase that can attach additional segments to telomeres in order to prolong the cell's life, but under normal circumstances it's only produced by stem cells and reproductive cells. If a cell fails to die before running out of telomeres, the resulting chromosomal damage and mutation has a chance of activating telomerase production which renders the cell biologically immortal but results in uncontrolled cellular division that we call cancer.
  • In a non-genetic example, analog copying of any given object can never be perfect, and copies of those copies will be slightly different as well, which will result in ever more incorrect copies unless the original is referenced to correct mistakes. This becomes a problem when the copies need a high degree of precision, and the original cannot be referenced. For example, after Parliament burned down, it damaged/destroyed the British standards for units (such as the physical representation of the inch and weights), leaving the government with slightly different copies of that original as a reference.
    • And in computing, the same is true of lossy compression formats like JPEG and MP3. Repeatedly opening and resaving a JPEG image or MP3 audio file will gradually degrade it, introducing more and more artifacts. This is why media professionals prefer to work in lossless formats until they're ready to export a finished product.
  • Lost in Translation could be thought of as a variant of this, as certain imperfections inevitably occur in even the best of translations; poor quality and/or machine translations can be even worse. Using a translation as the basis for another can compound the issue, which is why translators should work from the original whenever possible.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Clone Degradation


Ricks Get Lazy

When Decoys start making Decoys, and those Decoys start making their own Decoys; the resulting Decoys are built with lesser-quality.

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Example of:

Main / CloneDegeneration

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