Follow TV Tropes


Expendable Alternate Universe

Go To
Morty: Rick, what about the reality we left behind!?
Rick: What about the reality where Hitler cured cancer, Morty? The answer is: Don't think about it.
Rick and Morty, "Rick Potion #9"

If characters from our world visit an Alternate Universe, neither they nor the audience care what happens there.

This goes further than individual death. Absolutely anything horrible can happen in an Alternate Universe—Zombie Apocalypse, life-threatening plague, being taken over by evil, or completely destroyed—and our Earth will still be safe, if we can close the portal. Many heroes will not leave the Planetville of the week until its problems are solved, but for the Alternate Universe, all they care about is getting out alive.

The reason for this is that an Alternate Universe often feels like a cheap copy of our own. It's just an extra us, so its people aren't unique characters, and under the Second Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics, ‘not being unique’ automatically makes one expendable. It is extremely rare for so much as a single refugee to escape a doomed Alternate Universe, because that refugee will ruin Cast Speciation for the Earth-1 version unless the refugee will become a Suspiciously Similar Substitute. In-universe, this is often simply pragmatism from the characters: Works that feature alternate universes often use the "infinite variations" model of The Multiverse, and the leads simply can't afford to worry about saving every single possible universe.


Things are even worse if there's only one world, but Time Travel can change it back and forth. People in the future can die a hundred times each, but since the Time Travel will bring them back, who cares?

A related issue is that too many alternates can cheapen established stories. If the heroes have saved Earth from Planet Looters, the Zombie Apocalypse, The Virus, the Straw Nihilist and the Circus of Fear, that's impressive. If there's an Alternate Universe for each one of those villains winning, it means our heroes aren't impressive—they lost as often as they won, and we're from the universe where they just happened to win five times in a row. This gets even more egregious when there are infinite alternate universes; for every event in "our" universe, there are infinite others in which it didn't happen... The inverse applies as well—if the heroes only manage to win in one out of many possible universes, the fact that the odds are stacked against them can help to emphasize their struggle and thus make their eventual victory all the more satisfying. However, if there is also an infinite number of other possible universes out there wherein they still manage to prevail in the end, it can trivialize their struggles and leave audiences wondering what exactly the big deal was.


On the other hand, "You can have an infinity of apples but still not a single orange", as a scientist explained this theory: So it's still perfectly possible that the heroes win everywhere, or at least more often than they lose.

This callousness doesn't apply to worlds that are less obviously mirrors of our own. Wonderland, Narnia (assuming Up the Real Rabbit Hole doesn't come into play), and dimensions with only nonhuman life are all technically alternate universes, but they're so different that losing them actually hurts.

For those who don't feel an Alternate Universe is expendable and wish to save it, see Save Both Worlds. Compare Reset Button Suicide Mission, Dream Apocalypse, Dead Alternate Counterpart, The Time Traveller's Dilemma.


    open/close all folders 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once: Lampshaded by Evelyn, who asks why they can't just let a few alternate universes be lost to Jobu Tapaki. Waymond tells her that Jobu Tapaki is planning something much worse that could threaten the entire multiverse.
    • That being said, he asks Evelyn to think strongly about going into the janitor's closet after exiting the elevator to deliberately create an alternate “burner” universe where she did so they have somewhere to talk after initiating her into verse jumping. This reality acts as a decoy to Jobu Tupaki and her forces to buy themselves time before Evelyn has to confront her.
  • The 2001 film The One is about an interdimensional criminal who's been going through every universe and killing his counterparts to steal their lifeforce, and is down to the last one (ours). Grave consequences are implied if there's only one of one person in the multiverse. Notably, this is a rather constrained multiverse: it is explained that every time a sun turns into a black hole (or something like that) a new universe is created and so far this has happened 125 times. At the very end of the movie, the villain is sent to the "Hell Universe" which serves as a jail for all the others... there's an entire universe dedicated to being a prison system. No mention of the original inhabitants or what became of them.
  • Men in Black 3: Griffin is an alien capable of seeing all timelines at once, though he's not certain which one he's in. This means that he's often fretting whether or not this is the timeline that something disastrous happens based on minor actions that seem insignificant to others (such as Boris being delayed at traffic lights or Kay leaving a tip for pie).
  • Cube 2: Hypercube: A group of people are trapped in a giant maze of interconnected cubical rooms which also has distorted Alien Geometries and intersecting parallel universes. One character eventually becomes violently insane from the stress and hunger. He solves his food problem by repeatedly hunting down and eating alternate versions of the people in the hypercube.
  • Played with in the movie Stargate: Continuum. The team gets sent to an alternate timeline where the stargate was lost at sea and the SGC was never founded. When they suggest that they use the stargate to travel back in time and set things back the way they were, the alternate universe Landry chews them out for thinking they had the right to alter the lives of every human on the planet. They wind up having to do this to save Earth by the end of the movie anyway; it just took a year or so for a suitable threat to turn up.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Avengers: Endgame: Subverted. When Bruce shows up in the past to take the Time Stone from the Ancient One, she refuses, as it will doom her branching universe to extinction. Bruce promises that, with time travel, they can bring it right back to the same instant it was taken (whether that will cause her timeline to merge back into the main one or continue as a branch that isn't doomed to extinction is unclear). She initially refuses, since they could die before they have a chance to put the stone back, but she accepts it once she hears that her successor, Doctor Strange, is the one who made the plan possible. At the end of the movie, Steve uses the time machine again to put everything back where it's supposed to be.
    • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: Defied. Wanda's goal is to kill America Chavez, a child from another universe who has the power of inter-dimensional travel, and steal her powers. That way, she can travel to an alternate universe where her children are alive & Kill and Replace her alternate self so she can have her happy family life. Doctor Strange and Wong rightfully say throughout the film how horrible from both a safety and moral standpoint this plan is. Additionally, Strange's Alternate Universe counterpart is summarily executed by the rest of his team after he confesses that his actions inadvertently led to the destruction of two other universes. Played Straight with the fate of The Illuminati however, a superteam from another universe that try to stop the villain and are all brutally slaughtered for their trouble, which garners no sympathy from anyone in the main universe.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrowverse:
    • Arrow. Averted in Season 8 when the deaths of everyone on Earth 2 is treated with the appropriate depth. In particular, the episode focuses on Laurel's grief over the loss of her entire universe and everyone she loved. The Monitor on the other hand treats the destruction of Earth-2 as a "necessary sacrifice", showing little regard for the lives lost and simply warning that it was just a taste of what the Anti-Monitor is capable of; the only person who could or would treat the loss of an entire universe with such detachment is a godlike being who has an infinite number of universes to consider.
    • The Flash (2014):
      • Deconstructed. The heroes from the main setting of Earth 1 always consider Earth 2 just as legitimate as their own world, but the opposite isn't true as Earth 2 super villain Zoom takes to sending other Earth 2 villains to Earth 1 to kill the Flash. Several of them start out by tracking down their own counterpart and killing them, and even one who's explicitly stated to have never killed anyone before has no problem pulling a Kill and Replace on her counterpart to escape Zoom (though she's horrified when she accidentally kills someone else instead).
      • In the episode "Running To Stand Still" Earth-2 Harrison Wells sends hundreds of bombs through a wormhole to an alternate dimension. No one seems to consider the bombs might be raining down on a bunch of their alternate selves.
      • After the breaches are closed, Wells' daughter is rescued and the apparent death of Jay Garrick, Barry is told to forget about Earth 2 and move on with his life, saying that Earth 2's world is not his own to worry about. However, after seeing firsthand what it suffers at Zoom's hands, Barry feels guilty for leaving it at his mercy and vows to liberate it from Zoom.
      • The season 2 finale involves Zoom deciding to eliminate every world in The Multiverse besides Earth 1 (he still needs someplace to live, after all), forcing Barry to help him generate enough power for the device. However, Barry is determined to prevent that so much that he creates a time remnant for the sole purpose of the latter performing a Heroic Sacrifice. In effect, Barry is willing to give his own life in order to save countless billions.
      • Season Two also made the old The Flash (1990) show part of the universe, and it would be given the designation Earth-90. But it didn't become important to the plot until the 2018 crossover Elseworlds, where it's revealed that the Monitor slaughtered the whole Earth and every hero, except the Flash.
    • In Legends of Tomorrow Season 2 finale, the Doomworld!Legends find themselves on the receiving end of this. They travel back in time to prevent the Legion of Doom from getting the Spear of Destiny and creating Doomworld, and acknowledge that if they are successful they will be erased from existence. They then get themselves killed fighting the Legion ensuring their counterparts successfully escape with the Spear until only Sara is left, who then peacefully winks out of existence.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Played reasonably straight in the episode "The Wish". By the end of the episode, Giles and Oz are the only main characters left alive; then Giles manages to hit the Reset Button and restore the original universe, accepting the erasure of his own world because the other reality has to be better.
    • In the follow-up episode "Doppelgangland", the heroes have no problem with returning Vampire Willow to her own universe rather than staking her, even though she's killed people there in the past and fully intends to continue killing people once she gets back, apparently it's okay because she's not hurting anyone from our Buffyverse and Willow thinks she's kind of cool. She ended up being staked by Wishverse Oz almost immediately after returning to her universe, but the heroes had no way of knowing that would happen.
  • Star Trek:
    • Almost every Star Trek series had at least one episode where a Negative Space Wedgie produces a horror world, and everybody dies fixing the problem, but then our world Snaps Back, so all is well. (For instance, the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" and the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Year of Hell".)
    • A downplayed example, where the death of an alternate is treated as acceptable but still tragic, is the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Parallels". A Negative Space Wedgie rips a hole in time, and five billion plus Starships Enterprise need to get back to their home dimensions. This takes place in a second (for lack of a better term) universe where Riker is captain, and he leads the effort to fix the hole. Then a third Riker tries to stop him — the third Riker is crazed, from a horrible universe where the Borg have conquered the galaxy, and doesn't want to go back. The second Riker has his Enterprise fire on the third, intending to dissuade it, but the travails of the third ship had already done such a number that even a light shot blew it apart. Riker wasn't happy. The Techno Babble that ended the episode was effectively a Reset Button, and while Worf retained his memory of it, it effectively didn't happen.
    • Seen in Star Trek: Voyager. A time-space hiccup causes there to be two Voyagers in the same place at the same time drawing off the same power source. One of the Harry Kims is killed (and one of the Naomi Wildmans dies not long after being born), so the other Voyager sends their Kim and Naomi to the functioning ship before self-destructing to take out an invading alien force. Naomi and Harry's status as alternates is never mentioned again. This is somewhat an inversion of the trope, since it is implied that the destroyed Voyager is the "real" Voyager of the series! (Though this, too, is never again mentioned.)
    • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, there is an episode where Time Travel Disease keeps sending O'Brien forward in time to see himself die. (See: O'Brien Must Suffer). He goes to great lengths to save himself each time until the disease kills him, at which point Alternate Timeline O'Brien goes back in his place to save the station. In a subversion of the main trope, Alternate O'Brien feels very bad about Regular O'Brien's death.
    • Another DS9 episode seriously looks at this trope, where the Defiant crew learns that, thanks to the Timey-Wimey Ball, they'll soon crash-land hundreds of years in the past on an isolated planet. While their descendants will form a thriving colony of 8,000 people, the crew themselves will inevitably die on the planet (save for the long-lived Odo) and never see their family and friends back home, and Kira will die shortly after the crash. Sisko really doesn't want to strand his crew, and knows they could easily avoid the accident now, but that would Retgone the entire colony, effectively killing thousands of people. Ultimately, the crew reluctantly decides to subvert the trope at their own expense and go through with the crash — only for the older version of Odo to forcibly make the ship escape and erase the entire colony, all to prevent Kira from dying. Kira herself is horrified when she learns about this, especially as she'd made peace with dying for the sake of preserving lives.
    • This gets reversed in Star Trek: Discovery, where a Mirror Universe character makes it clear that he considers his universe the "real world" and the heroes' universe as expendable.
    • Downplayed in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Mirror, Mirror". Kirk cares enough about the denizens of the Mirror Universe to try and convince the crew of the Mirror!Enterprise, and especially Mirror!Spock, to give up their violent and authoritarian ways, but it's still treated as less important than returning the trapped crew members from his home universe.
  • Heroes:
    • The episode "Five Years Gone" is set in a dark future with a high body count, none of which will matter if our heroes prevent the dark future from happening.
    • In season two, Peter visits a future where 93% of the population is dead. That is, the human population. Of Earth. The planet. This is made worse by the fact that Peter's girlfriend is abandoned there when his powers deposit him back in the 'present'. So he attempts to save her by stopping that future happening. In Season 3, Peter's apparently forgotten that she ever existed...
    • Season 3 introduced yet another possible ugly future which contains, among other things Hiro's (apparent) death at the hands of his best friend Ando, Claire killing Peter, and a redeemed Sylar cratering Costa Verde (and killing Matt's future wife in the process) when his own son is killed and he loses control of Ted's powers. Also the mass proliferation of super-people has the Earth primed to EXPLODE, But none of it has happened yet. Neither will it happen, since that future is dead as well. We seem to be locked on target for Five Years Gone, however...
  • Oh, Stargate SG-1...
    • In the alternate universe seen in "There But For the Grace of God", the Goa'uld actually succeed in conquering Earth and killing the counterparts of SG-1 (except for Teal'c, who never defected from Apophis in this universe). (Teal'c got to die offscreen when the base was programmed to self destruct.)
    • As an exception, "Point of View" had "our" team travel to an Alternate Universe to help stop the Goa'uld invasion of Earth (although they still did it only after they found out that the alternate Samantha Carter couldn't stay in their universe). Although, oddly, this episode, while not following the trope, does explicitly state it. Teal'c (rather nonchalantly) kills his alternate, and when he's questioned about it by his (incredibly freaked out) teammates, he doesn't hesitate to matter-of-factly state "ours is the only reality of consequence". While this seems unusually callous of Teal'c, Fridge Brilliance may be relevant: he's The Atoner, so he would be particularly willing to kill a version of himself who was still guilty of what the "real" Teal'c was trying to atone for.
    • The episode "2010" sees the SG-1 of the year 2010 (ten years in the future of the time the episode aired) come up with a plan to erase their timeline, despite having defeated the Goa'uld with the aid of their allies the Aschen, because they've learned that the Aschen are sterilizing ninety percent of Earth's population to make humanity their slaves, with the Tau'ri lacking the resources to oppose the Aschen on their own and concluding that the only way to stop them is to prevent this alliance from ever being formed in the first place.
    • "Ripple Effect":
      • Alternate Dr. Frasier (who somehow only popped up in one of the 20+ SG-1 teams along with Carter's snake-brained love-interest Martouf; both are dead in "our" world) comes from a version of Earth where the Ori plague was still ravaging the world and a cure was still unfeasible. Alternate Frasier outright demands that her reality be taken seriously by Stargate Command, and she receives help (the cure) from them.
      • The episode does also follow...or perhaps invert the trope: one of the other SG1 teams is planning to sacrifice "Earth-1" to save their own Earth. Technically, the other SG-1 wasn't planning on sacrificing Earth-1. They just wanted to save their Earth by getting the prime universe's ZPM, figuring that a three-week ride on the Daedalus instead of an Earth-to-Atlantis gate wasn't too bad. (SG-1 of the prime Earth argued that the ZPM was also needed to power the city's shield and other defenses, but their alternates weren't really bothered about that). On the other hand, once the alternate SG-1 is stopped and sent back, the prime SG-1 team doesn't seem very concerned about the alternate Earth still lacking adequate defenses against the Ori.
    • Subverted in the audiobook "Gift of the Gods", which revealed that Daniel Jackson from "our" universe was Killed Off for Real before the episode "Fair Game" and replaced by an alternate universe counterpart.
    • The main role of O'Neill's friend Major Kawalsky is to die in every single timeline, whether they find it or create it with time travel. (Except for "Point of View", the aforementioned exception to this trope, which is the only one where he survives.)
    • In the season 10 episode "The Road Not Taken", Carter and her counterpart in another universe are experimenting with an Ancient device simultaneously. Something goes wrong and our Sam is transported to the other side. The other Sam wasn't so lucky. No one from the other side seems too upset about this, whereas our SG-1 is extremely worried for the duration of our Sam's absence.
  • Stargate Atlantis
    • Subverted in "McKay and Mrs Miller"; the techies have no qualms doing great damage to an alternate reality until they find out that life also exists in it (a chance that was considered astronomically small).
    • Subverted in "The Daedalus Variations"; the team is stuck on an alternate reality Daedalus which is jumping through different realities. In one reality, an unknown alien race starts attacking Atlantis. Sheppard insists on intervening convinced that this reality's Atlantis are still the "good guys". It leads to the aliens attacking them as well, but the alternate Atlantis helps, so it works out. Played straight with Ronon however. Teyla at one point wonders if her dead counterpart had a child as well only for Ronon to say worrying about every single reality's Teyla and her child is pointless.
    • The penultimate episode, "Vegas", is set in a separate alternate universe where Sheppard is a CSI-style detective in Las Vegas hunting down a rogue Wraith that somehow got to Earth. However, before the Wraith dies, it transmits a signal throughout the Multiverse shouting Earth's location. The Alternate!Woolsey's response to this is that it's pointless to worry about saving every possible universe and is sufficiently pleased to have prevented the invasion in his own. Unfortunately for the primary versions of the cast, the message makes it to their universe, setting up the finale.
  • Sliders:
    • The show both avoids and endorses this trope through its first two seasons. Despite an agreement not to interfere with the worlds they arrive in, the Sliders tend to get involved in local politics and generally try to make things better. Unless they are on any kind of doomed world, in which case they typically just try to survive until the jump, unless the apocalypse will come before the wormhole, in which case they're destined to stop it.
    • They also show a great deal more concern when one of their doubles dies, and have at several points considered staying behind to "fill the gap", before being talked out of it by the others (usually Arturo).
    • As the series went along, things became more polarized overall on this subject. Season 4 has Quinn refer to his home Earth (the one the show started at, not the one he was born on) as 'Earth Prime' constantly, and many episodes focus on how "wrong" a world is when X happened instead of Y (like episode 2 of that season, where they encounter a world focused on religion instead of technology. Because all of the science didn't somehow predate their modern technology, it was somehow backwards... all somehow gathered from a glance at a newspaper). This is the same season that introduced a massive cross-reality war between mankind and their Cro-Magnon ancestors.
    • Strangely, only two worlds seem to have produced Kromaggs. Both times alongside humans. In one case, the humans ended up kicking the Kromaggs out and, when the Kromaggs obtained sliding tech from an alternate Quinn (the one from the pilot), they start on their interdimensional conquest. The other world has Kromaggs treated like second-class citizens with an underground movement to help them.
  • In Doctor Who:
    • Mickey decides to stay in the parallel universe, replacing his counterpart Ricky, instead of going home, because he feels he can help make this world better. (And because his alt!grandmother is still alive.)
    • And Rose is considered to have as much of a "happy ending" as she can without the Doctor — her mother and father are reunited. Only it's the parallel counterpart of her dad — the home version is still dead, and the alternate version of her mother is not around for various reasons.
      • The season 4 finale confuses things once more by having Rose make a herculean effort to contact the Doctor to warn him of a crisis that threatens every universe. The Doctor's world isn't so far into crisis as the alternate one, where "the stars are going out". By the end, a reshuffle has taken place: Mickey's granny is revealed to have died, and he and Rose have concluded their unfinished business; so he returns home. The Doctor's almost-clone goes with Rose and Jackie to the alternate universe. Meaning that there's a character in the alternate universe who is - sort of - the counterpart of a character in the Doctor's universe, even though he originates from the Doctor's universe himself. Confused?
    • The original series also subverts this by having the Doctor traumatized by seeing an alternate Earth being destroyed in the story "Inferno".
    • Done with an alternate timeline, but still averted in "The Girl Who Waited". Amy is stuck in a faster time stream, and when the Doctor and Rory break into it to rescue her, 36 years have passed leaving her old and bitter. They realize they could yank the younger Amy ahead to their time, but rescuing her would cause Old!Amy to cease to exist. Old!Amy refuses to help them, being unwilling to "die" and feeling after all this time she deserves to rescued. She and Rory demand the Doctor find a way to save both versions of Amy, which he does. Then it turns out that was a lie, only one can be rescued. Old!Amy is left behind to be erased (the Doctor considers her to be a worse person than Young!Amy), an act that is both heartbreaking and paints the Doctor as unrepentantly manipulative.
    • The Original Series episode "Pyramids of Mars" has Sarah Jane asking the Doctor why they have to risk their lives to save Earth in the past, since they both know Earth is just fine in the present. The Doctor answers her question by bringing her back to the present... and opening the TARDIS door to reveal the wasteland the present will be if they don't stop Sutekh in the past. So they go back and stop Sutekh, and the wasteland present never happens, but the Doctor and Sarah remember it.
    • Big Finish Doctor Who has fun with this through the character of Elizabeth Klein. She comes from a timeline inadvertently created when the Doctor left a piece of laser gun technology in Colditz Castle in the middle of World War II, giving the Nazis the push they needed to win the war. The Doctor manages to fix his mistake and correct the course of history...but Klein's now stuck in the main timeline, and sees her timeline as the "correct" version which the Doctor meddled with and altered. Then she gets hold of a time machine. The Architects of History, in particular, raises the question of what makes the Doctor's meddling different from Klein's: a lot of his qualms about killing and collateral damage are shrugged off when it comes to Klein's universe, since it's not "the real one" anyway.
  • Deconstructed in Farscape's final season episode "Prayer". Long story short, John needs some information, and to get it he has to kill someone in an alternate universe where everyone on Moya was combined for some reason. And that someone is the combined Chiana-Aeryn, Aeryn being his love and Chiana being his little sister-figure. He points his gun, she starts begging for her life in a way that makes it clear she doesn't take it seriously because she can't believe John would do this...a tear rolls down her eye...John puts down the gun, says he can't do it. Which is probably why he brought his arch-nemesis/shadow, who predictably grabs John's hand and the gun and executes Chiaeryn. He also had reason to believe that they were all going to die within the arn if he hadn't become involved. This is hopefully why he shrugged off the deaths of two other crewmembers fairly easily. Scorpius directly pointed out to John that, officially, the entire alternate universe would wink out of existence the moment they left it, so anyone who "died" in it would also be wiped from existence soon enough - but he still felt bad about it.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys subverted this trope: Early in the show's run, one episode featured in a throwaway Mirror Universe where everyone's personalities were swapped: Herc was an evil despot, his sidekick Iolaus was a cowardly jester, Ares was the God of Love, etc. Many seasons later, after Iolaus had been killed off, Herc wound up with mirror-Iolaus, who has developed into an actual character.
  • In Lexx, they simply abandon their own universe and jump to another after dooming the first one to get consumed by an armed menace...
    • Lexx actually has two parallel universes co-existing as equal halves, one "Light" (rigid fascist order) and one "Dark" (chaos - the one our Earth is in). They aren't actually duplicate timelines of each other, so this trope probably shouldn't apply.
  • In Seven Days, it is not unusual for most of the main cast to have killed each other before a Backstep.
    • There is also an episode where the Sphere glitches, and Frank ends up in a Mirror Universe, where the US is a dictatorship, everything is written backwards, and all characters are their polar opposites. Naturally, some characters get killed, and Frank gets back to his own reality.
  • In Kamen Rider Decade, something is causing alternate realities to meld together, so the Kamen Riders entrust Decade with the task of destroying dimensions in order to stop the chaos. While traveling the dimensions (almost all alternate versions of the past Kamen Rider shows), Decade instead befriends the other Riders and helps them solve potentially world-shaking crises before moving on. In the final arc, the original Riders call Decade to task for not doing his job, and turn on him. However, it ends up a subversion, as it turns out that destruction was the correct course of action. Decade's goal was to bridge the worlds, then destroy them to end the merging, at which point those connections would bring everything back as it was and restore balance to the multiverse.
  • Played with, and ultimately subverted, in Fringe. At first, it seems that Walter feels this way about his counterpart when he steals his counterpart's son after his own Peter dies of a rare disease, but we later find out he intended to sent Peter back after curing him. Because of our Walter's action, which has also caused fissures in reality and mass casualties in the parallel universe, Walternate felt this way about OUR side, and used his position as Secretary of Defense to prepare for a war with it. The revelation that the universes are slowly destroying each other even gives the parallel universe a legitimate reason to want to destroy the main one. Most of the third season is spent with episodes switching between universes, enabling the audience to gain sympathy for the parallel universe while believing that only one universe can survive, until the season's final episode shows that the opposite is true - the survival of each universe is dependent on that of the other, and if one is destroyed the other will ultimately fall apart as well, so they have to work together and learn to trust each other. In the fourth season, Walter's dealing with a lot of guilt over the damage he did to the parallel universe. So, thoroughly subverted in the end.
  • Supernatural:
    • This occurs in the alternate universe that is our (or something like it) reality, and in others. It is also inverted in universes in which people live. Averting the Titanic disaster, for example.
    • In the Season Twelve finale, the Winchesters trap Lucifer in an alternate universe, and this is treated as Sealed Evil in a Can despite the fact that Lucifer is perfectly free to wreak any destruction he chooses on the people of that alternate universe. (And it doesn't even take him that long to find a way back to the main universe). However, this is later subverted in that the Winchesters do everything in their power to save as many people as possible from that dimension. Alt!Charlie even makes a point that she's not just some Replacement Goldfish for their own Charlie—her priorities are in her own dimension.
    • It turns out that God created the multiverse in the first place because he's a writer. Writers tend to go through lots of drafts before finishing their stories, don't they? He's already killed the Winchesters many, many times over in various dramatic and contrived ways, then just moves on to the next world. Eventually he deems those alternate universes to be a distraction to his goal of herding Prime Sam and Dean, so he proceeds to obliterate them one by one.
  • Community episode Remedial Chaos Theory explores this. Jeff rolls a die to decide who gets pizza and creates six different timelines, each one of them starting events that develop depending on who leaves the group. In the main timeline, Abed catches the die, but in the timeline where Troy leaves, things go very bad, very quickly. Pierce gets shot in the leg and dies, Annie gets locked away in a mental institution, Jeff loses an arm, Troy destroys his larynx, Shirley falls Off the Wagon and Britta...dyes her hair blue. Abed and Troy decide that since this is obviously the darkest timeline, they should commit to being evil and find way to the main timeline, kill their alternate selves and reclaim their lives. This becomes a plot point later in the season, as Abed starts seeing Evil!Abed in times of great insecurity, culminating in Evil!Abed taking over Abed's body in the season finale. Of course, since Community is not a sci-fi show, any or all of this may just be Abed's imagination.
  • In an episode of Earth: Final Conflict, Liam and Augur have a shuttle accident and find themselves in an alternate universe where the Taelons are invading Earth. Human civilization has also taken a different track, eschewing large settlements and preferring to live in harmony with nature with trade centers being the only permanent places with structures. Nevertheless, they are better prepared to fight the Taelons due to millennia of conflict amongst themselves (they have energy weapons, for example). A number of La Résistance members in this 'verse are killed (including Sandoval's double Jason, who is the leader), but Liam and Augur (along with Jason's girlfriend) manage to escape. Only a few episodes mention the other universe, but it is quickly forgotten.
  • Charmed introduced an evil counterpart to the main universe so whenever good succeeds in "our" world, evil succeeds in the other. Things have to be that way so the sisters can't help the other world but they continue to do good in our world knowing that means that they are doing evil to alternate people in the other.
  • Canadian scifi series Continuum plays this kind of loose, given that most of the characters within it don't seem to grasp their own time travel rules. Characters in the earlier seasons openly wonder if their "future" selves and families will continue to exist, or if even the ripple-effects of their mere presence in the past have already altered the timeline so drastically that their own parents will never meet. The mysterious time-traveling conspiracy from even farther in the future - known as "The Freelancers" - give a an explanation in Season 2: every time-travel event creates a branching timeline, co-existing alongside the original. When Cameron and the Liber8 terrorists traveled back in time, they created Timeline-2. This is explicitly why they are able to avoid grandfather paradoxes: Kellog's own grandmother was killed in Season 1, but he didn't wink out of existence. This was because it wasn't really his grandmother from Timeline-1, but an exact duplicate made along with Timeline-2. Thus it is impossible for Liber8 to prevent the rise of the corporate-ocracy in Timeline-1: all they can do is prevent it from rising in Timeline-2...which wouldn't even have existed in the first place if they hadn't traveled in time. It is also difficult to impossible for Cameron to return to her own son in Timeline-1's 2077.
    • This isn't entirely perfect, though, as killing the guy who invented the time machine you used to get there will create a time paradox. In the Season 3 premiere, Alec from Timeline-2 travels back in time a week to save his girlfriend's life, creating Timeline-3. If the Freelancers are correct, he didn't "save" the original, he simply created an exact duplicate...along with a duplicate of himself from one week in the past, who proceeds to become his rival for an entire season (both debating which has more right to claim their identity). Because Alec goes on to invent time travel, removing himself from Timeline-2 is an unsustainable paradox - his younger self can't be "killed" (removed from the timeline) with a time travel machine he hadn't even invented yet. We actually see Timeline-2 and Timeline-3 briefly coexisting, before Timeline-2 collapses and everyone in it dies.
    • ...then it turns out that the new Timeline-3 future is even worse than Timeline-1: Liber8 didn't succeed in stopping the corporations from taking over world government, only weakening them just enough that the fighting stalemated, eventually degenerating into multi-faction anarchy, so that the alternate 2030's are a hellhole of constant which Kellog is a major faction leader. Basically, anyone who wants to change their own timeline cannot, but if you just want to create a new timeline/universe where you can live like a king by abusing your knowledge of the (alternate but similar) future timeline, that is possible - which suits Kellog just fine.
    • The finale apparently created a final, Timeline-4 in which things worked out - though the show was forced to end quickly with a truncated fourth season, and the showrunners insisted that he planned out a longer storyarc than that.
  • A variation appears in the The Orville novella note  "Sympathy For the Devil". An infant is left in the care of a simulator for thirty years, and ends up becoming an SS officer in charge of a death camp within the simulated environment, When he is brought into the real world of the 25th century, the crew wrestles with the issue of his moral culpability for evil acts that didn't hurt any real people but have shaped him into a Nazi true believer.

  • Joked about by Hannah in the Gemini Arc of Sequinox, which features the Sequinox team getting thrown into various multiple alternate worlds. Early on she declares that all the worlds they're going to are "fake" simply to avoid thinking too hard about it. Ultimately subverted, however, as the girls do start taking steps to not make things difficult when their alternates are brought back into their own worlds and actively ensure that their allies understand the situation in places where their lack of knowledge has major impacts upon the world.

    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS:
    • The setting Infinite Worlds notes that neither Infinity nor Centrum quite view people from other worldlines as real people. Among other things, it notes that some filmmakers have taken to filming real battles on other worldlines with thousands of people dying to use as footage in their historical epics.
    • The Inertial Brake device in Warehouse 23 is described as working by dumping the ship's inertia into an alternate timeline, where it will likely cause some localized disaster.
  • Supplemental material for Hc Svnt Dracones reveals that Transcendent Technology Industries conducted research with this principle, setting up a group of observers whenever they were going to do something particularly dangerous. If the guys didn't change, great, go on forward. If the guys suddenly became disheveled, they came from an alternate universe that went a few weeks into the future and all tests would be discontinued. Of course, the brass claimed that it was just a 'save point time travel' situation... and then it turned out all their research consisted of picking an Eldritch Abomination's brain and that said creature was actually a Universal Constant that learned every time they did so. They cut that path of research off fast.

  • BIONICLE does this when Takanuva ends up in an Alternate Universe rules by a corrupt empress. That serial featured more on-screen deaths than the rest of the canon combined at the time of writing. It's a partial subversion, since Takanuva is genuinely shocked by some of the things he sees, such as his younger self getting impaled by iron spikes, and he tries to help the people in that universe as well as reaching his own goals of getting home, but after he gets out of there (and accidentally cuts the empress in half by way of a closing interdimensional portal), he takes only a few moments to wonder about the fate of that universe before continuing on with his quest.
    • Played straight when a bunch of Takanuvas are taken from their original universes, forcibly turned evil, and then get smashed to bits by one of the good guys with a warhammer.

    Video Games 
  • One episode of Night Springs, a Twilight Zone-esque Show Within a Show in Alan Wake, touches on this. A professor has created a device that gives him quantum immortality: thanks to the many-worlds interpretation, whenever it's possible that he'll survive a situation that would otherwise kill him, this version of him will survive while another one dies. He demonstrates this by putting a gun with a live round to his head and pulling the trigger; the gun doesn't fire. His students are shocked by the idea, with one in particular bringing up the deaths of his alternate selves, which the professor brushes off as trivial. However, the device becomes unplugged as the professor grows more manic in the implications of his power, and his next demonstration... doesn't go so well.
  • In Back to the Future: The Game this is brought up as a plot point. Thanks to things going haywire in the past, Marty winds up in a version of 1985 where Hill Valley is ruled by Edna Strickland, and has to recruit Doc (who had fallen in love with her) to go back in time and set things right. However this Doc learns that in the normal 1985, Edna is sad and lonely, and aborts the mission to try and stop Marty from succeeding.
  • Lampshaded in Ben There, Dan That!, when Ben remarks that he doesn't need to worry about disposing of anyone's corpse, since he's in a parallel dimension, and thus none of his actions have any meaning beyond their contribution to the accomplishment of his goals.
  • Inverted by the protagonists in BioShock Infinite, who on several occasions solve their problems by hopping to an alternate universe where things are better for them with no intention to make it back to their original universe. The gunsmith they needed is dead? Go to a dimension where he's alive. His tools confiscated by the police? Hop to a dimension where the police didn't take them. However, they really should have thought it out more; in the final universe nobody sent them on that particular mission in the first place or has any idea what they're talking about when they claim to have a deal.
    • Averted in the Burial at Sea DLC, which is centered around Elizabeth going to other universes and trying to right the wrongs by the Comstocks of every reality and reuniting the Bookers with their daughters.
    • Played straight by the Big Bad of the story, who firmly believed that only his offspring could rule Columbia after his death; unfortunately, constant exposure to dimensional travel had sterilized him, so he decided to get around this by opening a portal to another world and stealing the daughter of his alternate self.
  • Averted in Bravely Default during the final battle with Lord Ourobouros, who has successfully linked countless parallel worlds. After the opening phase of the battle, he begins using a powerful attack that destroys one of those parallel worlds as mere collateral damage, and does so multiple times. The main characters are appropriately horrified by this, with Agnes going into full-fledged Heroic BSoD mode and refusing to fight back. It's only once the inhabitants of the parallel worlds are able to fight back against Ourobouros' attack and prevent him from destroying them that the party regains their willingness to fight.
  • Fate Series: This is part of the world's natural law. As shown in Fate/Grand Order, the timeline naturally branches multiple times following the different possibilities of human history. However, there are only a finite amount of "water" (energy) to sustain so many different timelines at once, so every once in a while (around a century or so, usually during certain important historical events) the world would use something called a "Quantum Time-Lock", making everything that happened during its usage immutable. This has the side effect of Cutting Off the Branches that strayed too far from the "trunk of the history tree", especially if those timeline branches end with humanity becoming stagnant in one way or another and thus the energy would be wasted on them. The timelines that are "pruned" underwent Cessation of Existence, but as shown in the second saga of the game, they can be "resumed" by planting something called the "Tree of Emptiness" on them, creating a "Lostbelt" that are centered on where the trees are planted (e.g Russian Lostbelt shows an Alternate History of Russia). These trees are planted by the new villains and the resumed "defunct" timelines threaten to overwrite whole human history, so our heroes travel around the world to destroy them; however, they're faced with the dilemma of having to end the lives of the Lostbelt inhabitants, but they're encouraged by one of their Lostbelt allies to continue fighting for their world's future, no matter the cost.
  • This is essentially the Ascians' modus operandi in Final Fantasy XIV. To make a long story short, the world the game takes place in is one which, after a fight between the will of the planet and a being meant to keep him in check, was fractured into a lesser version of itself and thirteen reflections (i.e. alternate universes). The Ascians are trying to reunite the reflections to make their world whole again, which requires messing things up so badly on those reflections that they are utterly destroyed and their aether is left to rejoin with the Source, which triggers a Calamity. By the time of A Realm Reborn, only five reflections are left, one having become so inundated with dark aether that it was turned into the Void where demons come from, and another seven were rejoined - and by the post-game of the second expansion, an eighth is well on its way to rejoining as well. Fortunately, the third expansion's story involves the player and their friends going to that reflection and saving what's left of it before it can be rejoined and trigger another Calamity on the Source.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem Awakening averts this in a big way. Since a large amount of characters are from alternate futures where the heroes have had a lot less luck, in a Fire Emblem game especially, seeing any character as expendable can doom you down the road. And then there's how the characters, in-game, feel about the future characters. All of the future characters are children of the 'present' heroes. There's even a DLC chapter where the heroes from the present work to save one Bad Future timeline.
    • Inverted in Fire Emblem Heroes, where one faction of villains views the main universe as expendable. Hel had previously invaded an alternate version of Askr, with the local heroes teaming up with Embla to stop the invasion. Unfortunately, their attempt to seal her away went horribly wrong, with everyone from both nations, save Alphonse and Veronica, ending up dead. Hel then offered the royals a deal; help her destroy another world (the main universe), and she'd resurrect everyone in their world. Driven mad with grief and regret, the two, now going by the names Líf and Thrasir, accepted, fully willing to destroy another version of their homelands.
  • Into the Breach subverts this heavily. It's a roguelike where you play as a team of mech pilots hopping between timelines to save humanity. If you fail, then everyone in that timeline dies, and you jump to a new one. While this does allow you to lose a timeline and keep going, it also gives defeat much more meaning than just going back to the new game screen.
  • LEGO Star Wars. "In an infinite universe, all things are possible..." Though it's really just the one parallel universe where you must blow everything up to collect a million Lego studs — despite the fact that you're using Star Wars Lego figures on a generic suburban Lego Town...
  • Pokémon:
    • Defied in the Delta Episode of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. The original plan to stop a meteor from destroying the world is using an interdimensional teleportation device to send it to an alternate reality (implied to be that of the original Ruby and Sapphire), but Zinnia destroys the mechanism needed to operate it, noting that sending it to an alternate reality would only wreak havoc on that reality's version of the world instead and they wouldn't have the technology to do the same.
    • Played straight in Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. One of the Ultra Spaces you can visit is a version of Hau'oli City that has been devastated by a nuclear meltdown. You have the ability to catch Guzzlord, who are native to this reality and are dwindling in number, but there's no way to bring the lone resident human back to your universe.
    • Another example in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are the universes where the members of Team Rainbow Rocket. Each of the members come from universes where their respective game protagonists weren't there to stop them and they won. Their respective regions and realities would range from becoming Crapsack Worlds to simply ceasing to exist.
  • Played for Laughs in the Portal 2 Perpetual Testing Initiative DLC, with Cave Johnson and Aperture Science using interdimensional travel to steal from and exploit other versions of themselves under this logic. Things get messy when a Mirror Universe version of Cave turns out to have gotten the same idea and starts harassing our universe...
  • In Star Ocean: The Last Hope, the party accidentally travel to a parallel universe where Edge indirectly destroys an alternate 1960s Earth and everyone on it. The rest of the party plays this trope completely straight, writing off Edge's accidental genocide as unimportant since it was just a parallel world that took the damage. However, Edge himself averts this trope by realising just what he has done, and in response has a Heroic BSoD that lasts for the next ten or so hours of the game.
    • The game itself plays this straight, as no matter what the characters' opinions are, the event has no importance to the plot besides making Edge angst and adding Meracle to the party.
  • Tales of Xillia 2 dedicates itself to this trope in the greatest tradition of Tales Series deconstructions, with much of the plot revolving around having to destroy alternate universes that are threatening the prime universe simply by existing. The party brings up the morality of it on multiple occasions and often question if they truly did the right thing. It gets played for realistic results when one of the playable characters is from one such alternate world and is very upset to learn their world is gone because it "wasn't the real world".
  • Averted in the Warlords of Draenor expansion of World of Warcraft, set in an alternate pre-Outland version of Draenor. Despite meeting alternate past versions of major orc and draenei figures, none are ever treated as "expendable" so much as allies or genuine threats. It's a shock when the Draenor version of Prophet Velen sacrifices himself to counter a threat to the draenei in Shadowmoon Valley. Furthermore, members of the player's timeline, such as Vindicator Maraad, are also likely to die on Draenor. It helps that several important figures are not shown in the player's timeline, like Yrel, who becomes an Exarch in this timeline but is not in the original, or are already dead in the original, like Durotan, Thrall's father, who in the original timeline died when he tried to stand against the fel-corrupted orcs, or have a much different role, such as Akama, a Broken assassin in the original timeline, but an exarch and major draenei leader on Draenor. It also helps that Outland, the version of Draenor in the original timeline, is a Bad Future of past Draenor, and fighting to save this Draenor from Outland's fate is seen as a worthy goal.
    • The entire expansion ends up being a roundabout way to bring the orcish warlock Gul'Dan Back from the Dead. In the main universe, Gul'Dan was killed off in a mission in Warcraft II, and reintroduced in the next game as nothing but a skull — which makes for a good Artifact of Doom but can't exactly provide the rest of the cast with engaging repartee. Alt!Gul'Dan, on the other hand, is an unrepentantly evil bastard who has cemented himself in Love to Hate territory after blowing up Varian Wrynn.

    Visual Novels 
  • Muv-Luv: Averted where Takeru cares about his friends no matter what universe they're in.
  • Comes up across the Zero Escape series, which is confirmed to run on the Many-Worlds Theory - there are countless universes out there, each being created as one of the results of any decision. Not all of them are pleasant.
    • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: Zero/ Akane Kurashiki is more than willing to screw over numerous people across several different continuities until they reach the desired outcome: a timeline where Junpei successfully accesses the morphogenetic field to send Akane's younger self the information she needs in order to escape from the incinerator puzzle, which she only escaped from using the information he sent back to her.
    • Virtue's Last Reward: Sigma and Phi are able to project their consciousnesses across different timelines, swapping with their counterparts from those worlds. This allows them to escape the timelines where they and the other Nonary Game participants end up trapped forever or succumb to Radical-6, but it's also proven that those worlds still exist even after they leave. It's revealed that the AB Project's goal of using this to prevent the outbreak of Radical-6 from ever happening, even if Dr. Klim is successful, means the players of this game will still be stuck in their current Bad Future.
    • Zero Time Dilemma continues the trend with multiple timelines that end badly. And it turns out that all the timelines that aren't the one that leads to Virtue's Last Reward or the final ending are even worse than VLR's timeline, since a nuclear war will end up wiping out all of humanity, whereas Radical-6 "only" wipes out about 70% of it. But it's taken to an even greater height as we learn that when anyone SHIFTs, their consciousness trades places with the consciousness that was in that body up to that point in time. So not only are the universes they are leaving behind screwed, but they are screwing over an alternate version of themselves in the process to retain their memories. This becomes especially relevant in the ending. All 9 players have learned the truth of what they need to do to save the world. Only problem is that they are locked in the bunker which is about to explode with no physical way out. The only way they can escape with their knowledge to save the world is to SHIFT over to the versions of themselves that were freed before the game even began. They know full well that doing this will condemn the alternate version of themselves to die without ever knowing why. Though you can choose not to, you ultimately must to get the final ending.

    Web Comics 
  • In Checkerboard Nightmare, some kind of time-travel mishap flings past-Chex into the present. Upon realizing that the many-worlds hypothesis must be in effect, present-Chex fixes this problem by killing his past self.
  • In Commander Kitty, apparently unsupervised abuse of the transporter can make it serve as a Interdimensional Travel Device and results in summoning an army of bizarre alternate universe clones. The only way to deal with them is to just sweep 'em into the closet.
  • Final Blasphemy has Jeremy being shown several possible futures the author had planned, some of which had alternate timelines.
  • Subverted in General Protection Fault: the rest of the cast thinks Trudy is actually her counterpart from the "Emperor Nick" universe. That Trudy switched with "the real" Trudy, to give the latter a chance at true redemption. (So what they think is a new Trudy is actually still the old Trudy.)
  • Inverted in Goats, when one character discovers that the "simulations" he's been running and deleting are actually real universes (at least as real as the one he lives in, which is also being run on a computer somewhere) being destroyed, and immediately has a Heroic BSoD, moaning that he is the worst mass-murderer in history.
  • In Goblins we have the Maze of the Many, a multiversal dungeon crawl where alternate versions of the player characters combat each other and the dungeon to get to the treasure room first. If a party gets wiped out or does not reach the treasure in time, they pop back into existence when they entered, their memories of the dungeon lost. "Our" versions of Minmax, Farogath and Kin have failed over two million times. The author throws in a filler detailing the background of some of the alternates every now and then.
  • Homestuck is all over the map with this one.
    • When Karkat realizes that the demon who showed up from another universe and destroyed his game session was actually an alternate-universe version of Jack Noir, the Derse agent who helped him overthrow the Black Queen, Karkat says he feels betrayed even though he knows they're technically separate people.
    • When Dave travels back in time to prevent some bad decisions that doomed his timeline, he gets annoyed at being called "the other Dave" or any implication that he's not "really" Dave. Meanwhile, in the doomed alternate future, the readers actually see his doomed timeline blink out of existence. Rose, at least, survives this event in a fashion by merging with her past self.
    • Later, Aradia pulls the same trick as Dave about a couple hundred times, and ends up with an army of alternates of herself from doomed timelines. The alternates know beforehand that they're doomed to premature death—it's one of the laws governing time travel in paradox space—and they're okay with this because Aradia's completely emotionless. When all of the clones do get slaughtered, her friends don't seem terribly concerned about this, mostly because they have bigger problems to deal with than the philosophical implications of time travel clones.
    • Getting back to Dave: Due to weird time shit, he occasionally encounters corpses of himself from alternate timelines, and he's more creeped out by this than his stoic facade will let him admit. When Terezi tells Dave that he can achieve god-tier power by killing one of his doomed-timeline clones—who, as above, is doomed to die somehow, anyway—Dave refuses to do it. Then Terezi breaks down crying after seeing the doomed Dave die, even though alpha timeline Dave is still alive.
    • When we get a look at the Homestuck afterlife, we see that doomed-timeline alternates—Dave, Aradia, and a doomed John—are also there, and their souls are separate from their alpha timeline selves. This has created some weird moments, such as when John learns that his doomed timeline self dated Vriska and she treats him with flippant familiarity, even though this John never got to know her too well. Then, later, a dreambubble is destroyed, killing all of the dead alternates in it, which the fandom did actually respond to with genuine sadness.
    • The fandom was actually pretty sad to hear that the alternate Rose and Dave from the post-Scratch universe were dead, even though the main timeline Rose and Dave are still fine.
    • The trope was turned on its head when it was revealed that the universe that had been considered the primary one for well over three years was actually a doomed offshoot. Cue a massive Kill 'Em All, and the few survivors escaping to the true primary universe.
    • This becomes a subtle distinction between characters who are aligned with the nebulous concepts of Heart and Mind. The former is about individual identity, and Dirk can't identify with his alternate selves that are wildly different people. The latter is about choice and consequences, and Terezi can understand the circumstances of her alternate choices and thus identifies with all her alternates.
  • Kevin & Kell also played with this trope - with Kevin's sister, Danielle, dying in a Heroic Sacrifice, only to be replaced with her double from the Human world (long story). Most of the main cast knows the truth, but have accepted her as part of the family; even if a few would rather believe that she returned from the dead than she's from another dimension.
  • In Narbonic, a Time Travel device is powered by harnessing all the energy in, and in the process destroying, alternate universes "where they probably don't want to exist as much."
  • Averted and played straight in Sluggy Freelance. The main characters are surprisingly apathetic when they set up their TV to view alternate universes, and discover most universes end with one of them causing Armageddon. (It being a filler-guest story made in cut-and-paste style may have had something to do with this.) This is averted, however, during the "Aylee" and "That Which Redeems" arcs, where Torg tries his hardest to save alternate versions of the Sluggyverse; the death of the Zoe from the Dimension of Lame is actually one of the saddest moments in the series, and profoundly affects Torg from there on out. Then again, there was the Punyverse... it blew up, all of it, and it was a very remote reality with no obvious alternative versions of anything in the usual dimension, but they got away and just didn't care, presumably because it was such a stupid place and impossible to take seriously. To be fair, the punyverse was being destroyed by an atomic chain reaction. There was nothing they could do but escape, and they had only seconds to escape in.
  • Starslip has this legendary comic.
    • Interestingly, the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum physics can be interpreted in a way that this is how Star Trek-style transporters work. They kill you here and build a clone out of the atoms that are somewhere else. Normally, quantum physics is interpreted as only having one of each particle, but it could be interpreted as that there's multiple particles, and the alternate universes where two are swapped is just as likely. As such, there's a universe, just as likely as this one, where the atoms you're being built of now made you up before. You're effectively being transported to an alternate universe where your atoms are already there. Alternate you gets transported to this universe by the same method.
  • Averted in To Save Her; even though there are many, many parallel universes, Altenates of the same character are deliberately treated as separate people, even when the alternate of a dead character steps in as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute of the original.
  • In Wapsi Square, the plan to save Jin resulted in the deaths of many versions of Shelly from previous versions of the "Groundhog Day" Loop. Granted, these Shellys only had around a year left before the timeline reset, but they still died.

    Web Original 
  • In the Darwin's Soldiers tie-in story Card Of Ten, almost a team of anti-matter duplicates of the main characters is killed, but it has no effect on the main storyline.
  • In Ink City, Caroline justifies her decision to help Starscream find a way to destroy Optimus Prime this way. Yes, if they're successful, it puts a universe filled with innocents at risk... but it's not her home world that's at stake.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • An Alternate Universe counterpart of SCP-507 (justifiably and correctly) worries about this happening, and tries to hide his identity by cooperating with the "real one" to refuse to disclose which of them is "original" to that universe. Neither is, and their fears prove perfectly founded.
    • SCP-1739 is built around this trope. To be more specific, every time it's used it creates a new alternate universe that is destroyed by an Eldritch Abomination after a certain amount of time has passed. To make matters worse, it's implied that the whole thing is meant to distract said Abomination from the "main" universe.

    Western Animation 
  • After Prismo dies in Adventure Time, it's revealed that he set up a Time Travel-based gambit to reverse this that involves an alternate Jake falling into an eternal sleep and an alternate Finn getting turned into a sword. None of the three see any problem with this, and Jake might even be jealous of his parallel's amazingly comfortable sleeping arrangements. A later episode even shows the Finn turned into the sword, who can still talk, has no problem with this (assuming that's not just "prime" Finn talking to himself).
  • Futurama:
    • Played with in one episode. When the Planet Express crew arrives in an alternate, palette swapped universe, they argue with their counterparts over whose universe is Universe A. ("Why do we have to be 'B'?" "This place kinda feels like a B...") Eventually they decide on the names Universe A and Universe 1. Also both Benders genuinely care about their perpendicular universe counterparts, because if there's one thing Bender loves, it's Bender.
    Narrator: Meanwhile, in Universe A, Hermes A heads towards the sun. ...A.
    • In Bender's Big Score, Professor Farnsworth and the Harlem Globetrotters discover a law of physics detailing how the universe protects itself from time paradoxes: It arbitrarily kills any clones created via Time Travel. This happens several times over the course of the film; some clones are mourned more than others.
    • In "The Late Phillip J. Fry" a time machine that can only go forward in time takes Fry, Bender, and the Professor further and further into the future, until the universe they knew dies out and a new universe, completely identical to the old one, comes into being. They consider this a completely acceptable substitute for the real thing. This is actually an inversion, since it portrays the original universe as expendable and the original Leela was shown missing Fry and being miserable for the rest of her life, but Fry isn't particularly concerned because he just continues off with the new identical Leela in the new universe. It's also partially played straight in the Fry, Bender, and the Professor kill their counterparts upon arriving in the new universe and aren't particularly concerned (though given the previously established paradox rule that duplicates cannot co-exist, this may have been inevitable).
    • That being said, it wasn't entirely clear if the new universe that restarts after the end of the last one is actually "new", or a reboot of the original copying over itself. So it isn't clear if our "original" Leela actually died alone missing Fry, or if that future never occurred, because original Fry traveled so far into the future that he went full circle and came back to the present.
    • There is also an episode where the crew takes Fry on a tour of the Universe and its tourist attractions. One is a scenic outlook to a parallel universe. The difference? Everyone in the parallel universe is wearing cowboy hats. When Fry asks about there being an infinite numbers of these parallels, he is told that there is in fact only one parallel to their own. His response is that's probably enough. It's also why the alternate universes mentioned above are referred to as "perpendicular" rather than parallel in the DVD Commentary.
  • Justice League:
    • The show had an inverted version of this: in an alternate universe where Lex Luthor kills The Flash, Superman returns the favor, and the Justice League becomes the "Justice Lords," a totalitarian force that ensure peace and justice by suppressing dissent and lobotomizing former villains. When they find out about the series' main Earth, they decide to head over, incapacitate the Justice League, and "show them the light". The Justice League's response is a pure embodiment of this trope: they depower the Justice Lords and apparently stick them in prisons on the Justice League's Earth. So much for that world. (They still have their Batman, though. They'll be fine.)
    • Averted in the first Season Finale. Before traveling back in time to stop Vandal Savage's plan to Take Over the World the team warn Alternate Batman that:
      J'onn J'onzz: You understand that if we do change the past, you — this version of you — will never have existed?
      Alternate Batman: Nothing would make me happier.
      • The crowning irony of this statement is that alternate Batman was 'created' by Vandal Savage murdering his parents instead of Joe Chill. How he would feel if he'd known they'd be murdered either way is never revealed, because none of the League have the heart to tell him. On the other hand, AlterBat seems to be saying, "I risk my life every day fighting Alternazis. Death was always a possibility. Go get the bastards!"
    • There's also an episode where Superman is seemingly killed (in fact, thrown into the far future), and without him the Justice League fails to stop another plot by Vandal Savage. This doesn't turn out the way Savage planned and instead wipes out nearly all life and hideously mutates the rest - except for Savage himself, who is immortal. After living alone for centuries in the literal hell on Earth he created, Savage comes to regret his villainy, and teams up with Superman to prevent himself from defeating the Justice League by sending Superman back in time. Superman asks the heroic version of Savage what that means for him, but he considers that an acceptable sacrifice. Once they succeed, the heroic Savage contentedly fades away, assumably leaving only the usual supervillain version.
    • In the not-officially-related Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths when Batman's Evil Counterpart Owlman learns that every time anybody anywhere makes any kind of choice, a new universe is created for each possible option chosen, he decides that not only do other universes not matter, neither does his own, because any choice he makes is meaningless. After all, in another universe he automatically made a different one. He resolves to destroy Earth-Prime to destroy the multiverse, viewing it as "the only possible real choice" anyone could ever make. Batman manages to send both him and his bomb into an actually expendable universe where Earth has become a frozen wasteland devoid of all life.
  • In the underrated and at-times quite creepy Peter Pan & the Pirates, one episode has Peter and the gang entering an alternate universe where copies of Peter Pan, Wendy and the Lost Boys are slaves, toiling endlessly to prevent the Corc (their version of the crocodile that Captain Hook and everyone else are afraid of) from awakening. Peter Pan et al have an adventure in this alternate universe, but are unable to save these copies of themselves from their lifetime of misery and slavery. The copies help the originals escape, and that's it.
  • Inverted in Rick and Morty: in "Rick Potion No. 9", Rick and Morty inadvertently cause the end of the world and the former simply takes them to an alternate universe where they both died and take their counterparts' place, making this an example of an Expendable Main Universe. Morty is clearly traumatized by the notion that his friends and family are all doomed and he will spend the rest of his life with identical strangers. Given how nonchalant Rick is about this, it's quite clear that he considers every universe expendable. Rickmurai Jack reveals that the main Rick has pulled this exact trick at least once before, and he's from a different dimension than the Morty that the show is following (in Rick's original reality, his family was killed, which explains a lot about his nihilistic attitude).
  • An interesting idea from the TV special Rudolph's Shiny New Year. Father Time explains that, every New Year's Eve, a new island appears in the Archipeligo of Last Year. On these islands, "time stands still", and the world remains as it did during that year forevermore. Since this is a children's show, we get to see The Theme Park Version of a couple of years (One Million BC is depicted as a paradise of jolly cavemen and singing dinosaurs, 1776 is defined by Independence Day and Ben Franklin, and 1023 is apparently the year in which all the world's fairy tales took place), but Fridge Logic sets in after that. Think about it; in 1964 The Beatles will never break up, but at the same time the Civil Rights movement will barely get off the ground. In 1944, World War II will wage forever, Pearl Harbor is still in flames, and Hitler will never die. In 2001... need we go on? And there is the implication that all the people on these islands are the same people who actually existed in these time periods, meaning that somewhere out there are multiple versions of you, one for each year of your life, trapped forever in a nebulous 12-month span, never to grow, or learn, or live on. And if you indeed weren't from the real world and merely were a reflection living upon one of the islands, how would you ever know?
  • Transformers generally avoids this by being a multiverse rather than a universe, and thus all timelines are valid, and occasionally even have an effect on each other. Time Travel stories generally involve a large tear in the fabric of time and space, and any threat coming through from another universe where things happened differently tends to mean something is terribly, horribly wrong, often to the point of Unicron being involved.
    • In fact, later Transformers materials have indicated Unicron is a multiversal constant—one of the few things that is unchanged in the entire multiverse. If he is destroyed in one universe, that's fine—he still exists in the others. This doesn't prevent them from messing with each other, though—in Marvel's G1 comic, the Unicron of the Marvel continuity plucked Galvatron from both the future and an alternate universe to serve as his herald—presumably since Megatron, in that reality, was dead, and that Galvatron (and Unicron) had succeeded.
    • And the British comics go further then this by also having another, much stronger, Galvatron from a different future who came back in time to kill Unicron. He abandons this plan when he accidentally changes history and realizes that, since he continued to exist, he was just in an alternate timeline. This is a slight justification to Galvatron not caring about the fate of a universe that wasn't his own though; he's a bit of a jerk and more than a bit mad.
    • Played straight with Transformers: Cyberverse episode "The Crossroads". The Autobots find themselves stranded in Unspace where they meet alternate Ark crews, two of which disintegrate to demonstrate the dangers of staying there too long. Fortunately, 8 of the alternate Arks manage to escape.
  • Just like the series it's based after, What If...? (2021) explores different timelines from events that happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and like the series it's named after it tends to feature downer endings. Amongst these there's the Earth being overrun by zombies or a Doctor Strange variant destroying his universe.

    Real Life 
  • If one takes the Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, the Elitzur-Vaidman bomb tester experiment may be a subversion. If one, with a certain photon maze setup, links a macroscopic event to whether an object is a potential detector of a photon or not (in the original thought experiment, whether a bomb will explode or is a "dud"), it is possible to emit a photon and, if the bomb is live, have a 50% chance of the bomb exploding, a 25% chance of being unsure of whether or not is a dud, and a 25% chance of learning for sure that the bomb would have blown up. If the bomb is a "dud", the "unsure" result will always happen with 100% probability instead, which can be made more clear by repetition. The situation is highly contrived, and it is still more likely to be in the "bad universe", and the involvement of other universes rather than just quantum-unique probability-canceling effects requires taking the Many Worlds Interpretation. However, if one had multiple of these "bombs", would only lose the bomb and not your face if any exploded, and wanted to save at least a few live ones, you could find out, and potentially save for later, some of the ones that would explode, at the cost of creating a bunch of universes where you weren't or were more lucky in number of real bombs determined yet saved. It has been seriously suggested this principle could have computational uses that may suggest more significant effects.

Alternative Title(s): What Measure Is An Alternate Reality, Who Cares About Alternate Dimensions, Who Cares About Alternate Timelines, Who Cares About Alternate Universes, Anyone Can Die In Other Universes, All The Myriad Ways