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Expendable Alternate Universe

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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.

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 in fictionland, ‘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.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Asura Cryin' spends a good deal of time getting us acquainted with the main universe of the show, though it's hinted early on there's another one. When several characters from the main universe (which is actually World-2) are killed off, the show changes gears and goes to World-1. While Tomoharu knows he doesn't belong here, an effort is being made to Save Both Worlds; they're both considered equally real, though there's still only one Tomoharu between them.
  • Either averted or played straight (depending on how you look at it) in the anime/manga series Bokurano. With every Humongous Mecha battle, an alternate reality that is strikingly similar to that of the universe of the main characters is simply wiped out of existence. The aversion is that the characters do acknowledge the consequences of doing this, and many of them are quite traumatized by it. Played straight in that, well, they end up doing it anyway. For the most part.
  • The Code Geass manga Nightmare of Nunnally has the heroine use her Geass power to see an alternate universe - namely, the "mainline" universe of the Code Geass anime. No interference here, though Nunnally says she's happier with the manga reality, mainly since in the "other" timeline, her beloved brother Lelouch and half-sister Euphemia are dead.
  • Averted in Doraemon: In the fourth movie (and the remake) Doraemon: Nobita's Great Adventure into the Underworld, Noby and Doraemon create an alternate universe that runs on magic instead of science. They then find out the world they created has a Big Bad who wants to take over the Earth, and the duo race to try and return to their own universe. When the opportunity arises, however, Noby shoots down the idea after learning that while they and their world would be fine, the magic-verse they created will continue to play out and The Bad Guy Wins, deciding to save it before returning.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Cell comes from a timeline different than that of Trunks or the regular timeline. While the regular timeline and the one Trunks is from are eventually saved, no one seems to ever care about this third timeline and after awhile it's simply forgotten.
    • Somewhat justified. The implication of Cell arriving in the main timeline is that people on Earth in that timeline are already dead (because Cell killed them before traveling) or alive and well (because the Androids were killed by Trunks, forcing Cell to kill him and came back in time to find them instead).
      • All the Z Fighters are dead in that "forgotten" timeline as Cell killed the Trunks from it. So it is justified as the main protagonists of the story (with maybe the exception of Bulma and side characters like Chi-chi) are gone. Additionally, due to how time travel works in DBZ, the only person who could travel to the third timeline is Cell himself.
    • Averted with Future Trunks' timeline: while most of the characters are dead thanks to the Androids, it's treated as no less important and the Cell Saga even ends with a Post-Script Episode that shows him destroying the evil future versions of Androids 17 and 18 and Cell, bringing peace to his world. Then played heart-breakingly straight in Dragon Ball Super where the inhabitants of Trunks' timeline are slaughtered by Goku Black and Future Zamasu, then the entire parallel universe is erased from existence by Future Zeno in order to destroy Zamasu's immortal Eldritch Abomination form, erasing even the souls of those in the afterlife.
    • Seemingly played straight but then averted with Super's Universal Survival Saga. The premise is that 8 of the 12 universes fight in a battle royale for their survival; the losers are erased from existence and the winning universe survives and gets a wish on the Super Dragon Balls. It's averted as the winner, Universe 7's Android 17, uses his wish to bring back the erased universes, and it's all but directly stated that Goku had been planning to do so from the beginning. The Omni-King(s) were actually expecting the winner to subvert the trope's mentality as a Secret Test of Character on part of the multiverse's mortals; if any of them made a "selfish" wish, then every other universe, including the ones that didn't compete, would've been erased as well.
  • The anime Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure, which features two parallel universes, take this to the ultimate extreme by having the characters seemingly view themselves as more important than everybody in BOTH worlds. At the end of the series Kazuki and Mitsuki Sanada accidentally merge the two universes together into one new universe during an attempt to Save Both Worlds. Only the main characters remember the events of the show; to be fair, the merger was a Close-Enough Timeline, and attempting to reverse the change was beyond the abilities of the cast.
  • Full Metal Panic!: Big Bad Leonard Testarossa treats the main FMP! timeline as this, since he's convinced that it's a "wrong" universe due to the changes caused by the Yamsk 11 incident, and his ultimate plan is to change history and prevent the incident from happening in order to alter the entire world. Thus, he believes that any action he takes in pursuit of this goal — up to and including mass murder — is inconsequential since everyone killed will be alive and well once the timeline is altered. However, it's averted by the protagonists: Leonard's ally Sophia tries to convince Kaname to go along with the plan by showing her a vision of the other world where protagonist Sousuke was an Ordinary High-School Student rather than a Child Soldier with a tragic, bloodstained life. Kaname refuses because, while that Sousuke might be a wonderful person, he's not the same Sousuke she fell in love withnote .
  • Future Diary: Discussed by Minene and Yuki when they both travel to the Alternate Timeline. Minene insists Yuki must invoke this trope if he wish to succed. Yuki defies it and tries to save everyone's versions. He makes the correct choice.
  • In Haruhi Suzumiya (Disappearance) Kyon had to destroy the Alternate Universe that Nagato created, to recreate his own Universe.
  • The central conflict in Higurashi: When They Cry Rei is about this. At first, Rika is willing to do ANYTHING to get back to her 'own' universe without even contemplating the morality of it, up to and including matricide. Then as she relaxes a little bit and lets herself become a part of the universe she contemplates the good parts of it and why it could be wrong to regard her original universe as a universe A and the one she's currently inhabiting as a universe B. In a Bittersweet Ending typical of the series, she ends up committing an unspeakable sin to get back home anyway, only after acknowledging the meaning of it enough to be truly scarred by it. Sure, another character tells her 'it was all a dream,' but it was rather probably an attempt at comforting through deceit.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run sees the Big Bad, Funny Valentine, constantly pull alternate versions of himself and others out of their home dimensions, whether to use them as a weapon or to shove his mind into the alternates when mortally wounded. He never once expresses sadness at ruining the lives of others, as he's convinced his is the only universe that matters. Oddly, his attitude may be justified, as the "main" universe is the only one where the Holy Corpse exists; certainly the other versions of himself never express complaints, not like they have much of a choice. Alternates that aren't the stand user cannot be in the same universe for very long as they will be turned into level 3 Menger sponges and obliterated, although if one is dead and the other is alive the alternate can stay in the universe until a portion of the root world corpse touches them. Like Dio and Diego's head.
  • Noein plays with this. All the Dragon Knights believe that universes outside their own are somehow virtual and unreal, Haruka is arguing with them all the way, and Karasu is the only one who's convinced/realizes that the "virtual universe" thingie connected to a real universe rather than creating an artificial existence. In the end, it's up to Tobi to drop the anvil - that peoples' existences are confirmed by interactions and specifically bonds, not by observing a collapsing waveform.
  • Super Robot Wars: Original Generation:
    • An inversion and subversion. A group of heroes fleeing their own universe after a coup against the corrupt Federation fails, and they try to rebuild their powerbase in our universe. They get several things right, but are surprised when several major things that happened to our universe just didn't happen in theirs. The subversion lies in their belief of recruiting the heroes of OUR universe to help them at any cost, and the main characters treat them as important as any other person. However it's hard to say if this really counts, because aside from one main female characters' alternate counterpart who is so radically different they don't even know it's her until the end of the game, the rest of the alternate universe characters are all people that don't exist in the main universe, or at least have never appeared in story there. It's hard for the main characters to write Axel off as "oh it's just an alternate Axel Almer" when they don't know of any other Axel Almer.
    • The Inspector, the anime adaptation of Original Generation 2, plays the trope a bit straighter; Beowulf, already established in the games as the parallel version of Kyosuke Nambu, goes from merely being Axel's unseen arch-nemesis to being the Big Bad of the series who mercilessly slaughters his world's version of the SRX Team in the Cold Opening of the first episode.
  • Deconstructed in The Vertical World on multiple levels.
    • Ruska's adventure takes him to the past, present, and future across multiple dimensions - despite often meeting multiple versions of people he knows and venturing into multiple realities with varying levels of permanence, he never once treats the people and worlds he comes across as expendable. Once he escapes the Vertical World, Ruska even tearfully calls Chandra out for developing a new history because of how many people were created just to conflict and suffer because of it. It's Ruska's firm understanding that the people within the Vertical World aren't expendable and still have lives that he'd be abandoning once he alters the past that leads to him going I Choose to Stay at the end of the series.
    • Ruska's very motivation to save the Vertical World is founded on his refusal to acknowledge this trope, as the people of the Vertical World have lives that could continue indefinitely, regardless of his actions. Despite this, he understands that even if they aren't the exact same people he knows, various versions of the Vertical World and those within it will continue to be created and destroyed unless he can create a timeline without this cycle.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions opens with shots of multiple parallel Earths being disintegrated by a golden light as it cuts to the Earth the movie takes place on. It's twisted around a bit as the villain's belief that the universe is expendable because he believes an altered one will be better is only the root of his ruthlessness, and otherwise has very little bearing on what he's doing and where the plot goes in the end.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V had avoided this trope by making all of the universes different from each other, and making the few counterparts (There are only 2 sets) into individuals with different motives, backstories, and apparent personalities. This trope is finally introduced in episode 126, where Leo Akaba's belief in this trope is a large part of what made them a villain as the four universes that we've watched for 3 seasons are fragments of the one he came from. Ultimately, it's played straight as the four dimensions merge, and the heroes' dimensional counterparts are subsumed into Yuya and Zuzu, respectively.

    Comic Books 
  • Comic books have lots of alternate universes, from the DC comics Elseworlds and "imaginary stories" to Marvel creations like What If? and Marvel Zombies. Almost every one of these ends with a bucketload of corpses, or maybe the entire universe getting destroyed. It's not our Wolverine, we don't care if this one dies.
    • This is even more blatant in Set Right What Once Went Wrong stories. The cover of Days of Future Past boasted "In This Issue: Everybody Dies!". It was true: Everybody did die, but in the dark future that wouldn't come to pass if our heroes in the present succeeded.
      • Except it was revealed that time travel in the MU just splits off alternate histories, so the original Crapsack World timeline still happened, just not in the mainstream books; the attempt didn't save the DOFP X-Men.
      • Subverted in Paradise X, in which a number of heroes go to immense lengths to save alternate universes (though some prove unsalvageable). The only thing they won't do is travel into the past to reset a universe, since this will just create another alternate (stranding the people they were trying to save). It pays off—even archvillain Annihilus from the Negative Zone is willing to help out, out of gratitude for the assistance.
    • Marvel at least makes a small concession to this trope, in that the 'main' universe is Earth-616, implying that it is just another one among many. DC, on the other hand, traditionally had its main reality as Earth-1, implying it to be the real world that all the others are merely copies of. After the multiverse shakeups of The New 52 and DC Rebirth, however, the main world is Prime Earth (previously New Earth).
    • Subverted in Grant Morrison's Earth 2 graphic novel; when the Justice League discovers the existence of an alternate Earth run by villains, Batman flat out says it's not their problem but later changes his mind.
    • Similarly, the heroes of the Marvel universe are entirely aware that there's an alternate Earth out there where the Nazis won WW2 and are turning the whole planet into a concentration camp. (First revealed in Excalibur back in the 1980s.) No one seems to care enough to do anything about it, not even Kitty Pryde, who is a first-hand witness, and Jewish.
    • Related to this trope is the general deactivation of Plot Armor - no point maintaining Status Quo Is God when nobody's ever gonna come back, after all. For whatever reason, this seems to hit Spider-Man particularly hard; if he appears in an issue of What If?, there's about a fifty-fifty shot that he'll get killed off, depowered, or otherwise made unusable.
    • Despite the numerical designation of the main Marvel universe, there have been a few instances where it's implied that Earth-616 is the actual main reality that most of the multiverse spun-off from, such as in Secret Wars (2015), where the Ultimate universe version of Reed Richards travels there and declares it as the main hub of the multiverse.
  • Age of Apocalypse killed off almost the entire alternate cast, with only a handful escaping back to 616, but the series still had a cult following and Marvel eventually acceded to demands that Blink be brought back, meaning that someone must have cared.
    • 2013's X-Termination appears to have killed off the AoA reality for good.
  • Usually subverted in The Authority comics in that the title group (who have a Cool Ship capable of traveling between realities) are more than willing to move into other realities and tell the locals how things should be done - Or Else!
    • They do show respect for other realities at times, usually as long as they're run right - or if the Authority wants their help. In one instance they had to temporarily evacuate the world's entire population to other realities, and are seen negotiating with The Meritocracy, their gender-flipped counterparts in a gender-flipped reality. (They in turn put the decision to a worldwide vote rather than decide for themselves, resulting with a majority agreement from that world's people.)
    • On the other hand, in one arc they destroy an alternate Italy and in another they cause the death of everyone on an alternate earth trying to power their ship.
  • The entire plot of The Avengers (Jonathan Hickman) revolves around The Illuminati trying to solve Incursions, which occur when two alternate Earths nearly collide. The only solution is to destroy one of the worlds in order to spare the other. The heroes constantly seek to find ways to prevent this, but Namor ends up destroying one of the alternate Earths when all other options fail. A few issues actually have the Illuminati watching different alternate worlds meet their end at the hands of nearly invincible threats they themselves have been fortunate to not yet challenge directly yet.
  • Black Science, a comic about a group of dimensional travelers, actually inverts this: The alternate universe versions of the main characters are the ones who think that "our" versions are expendable.
  • Daredevils #6 has Earth-238 destroyed by Lord Mandragon, Saturnyne's replacement.
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths was a series specifically designed to destroy Alternate Universes in The DCU. There were so many around that the Powers That Be felt they cheapened the "real" universe, so their death was mandated. As usual, the ending is considered happy even though several universes just got wiped out, along with all 6 billion-plus people (and trillion-plus aliens) in each one.
    • The Multiverse was such a constant until Crisis that people did, in fact, care about the people in most of the more prominent universes. In Crisis itself, the death of the original Crime Syndicate is just heartbreaking; they're supervillains, but they're still part of the world, and they fight more bravely for it than anybody else does for theirs. A few of them run headlong into a wave of antimatter by the end...
      • This is rather subverted in Infinite Crisis, as those who saved the single remaining universe decide that they saved the wrong Earth. Infinite Crisis is all about trying to stop these former heroes from re-writing the world in their mold. They nearly succeed.
      • The Multiverse was brought back at the end of Infinite Crisis, because of the temporary return of the Infinite Earths caused there to be too much aspects to return which made it impossible for New Earth to return to its original Post-Crisis state. Because of the events of 52, Infinite Crisis' immediate sequel, fifty one of the fifty-two were now radically different from each other. People were happy about this... until Countdown to Final Crisis came along and destroyed one earth (but not its universe), and destroyed a universe so utterly that it had to be rebuilt from scratch. Then a deadly mutative virus permanently altered all life in that same rebuilt universe. Grant Morrison has officially stated that Countdown never happened (minus Earth 51 being destroyed which is what caused Final Crisis).
  • In the Pre-Crisis era, DC Comics struck a balance between readers not caring about alternate continuity characters and the need to maintain the status quo of its mainstream continuity characters with its Earth-Two continuity. Under DC's multiverse system, Earth-Two was DC's original continuity from before the Continuity Reboot of the Silver Age. Since the Earth-Two characters were the original pre-reboot versions of the characters, it was expected that readers would still care about them since they weren't from some throwaway continuity. However, since the Earth-Two characters had been displaced by the reboot versions of the characters, there was less need for DC to maintain the status quo for the Earth-Two characters since they had the reboot versions to maintain the status quo. In the Earth-Two continuity, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash all got married and Batman was later killed off.
  • Deconstructed in the DC Infinite Frontier miniseries, by which point the existence of the multiverse has become common knowledge on Earth-Prime: Director Bones and Machinehead both turn out to be part of Injustince Incarnate, an alliance consisting mostly of villains and antiheroes from other Earths who are in liege with Darkseid, who is promising them protection if another multiverse-warping event like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Flashpoint occurs. Because their universes tend to suffer the worst whenever multiversal events occur while Earth-Prime is comparatively spared, the alliance is formed partly out of resentment for its heroes, who get to live on and celebrate the victory while their universes are radically changed or wiped out entirely.
  • An alternate version of Magik (the kid sister of Colossus from the X-men) believes this to be the case when she joins the heroic Exiles team after the death of Sunfire. She doesn't hesitate in aiding in the genocide of Japan even when it means killing her brother's alternate in that universe seeing everyone else as expendable and only concerned with returning to her own reality.
  • In Flashpoint, the world is an absolute shit show thanks to changes to the timeline. Aquaman and Wonder Woman are bloodthirsty tyrants engaged in a war poised to destroy the world, Gotham is even worse than normal while having a brutal vengeful Batman to keep it in check, and Superman landed in Metropolis and not Kansas, killing millions. Barry Allen, who remembers how things should be is trying to change things back, and is upset when Thomas Wayne (the Batman of this universe) makes it clear that he himself doesn’t care about his reality — he knows it's a Crapsack World, and can accept that the one replacing it once Barry goes back in time to fix things will be better. That and his entire reason for helping Barry is to have a reality where Bruce doesn't die.
  • Defied in Infinity Wars: while he helps fighting, Soldier Supreme (Captain America & Doctor Strange mashup) objects he doesn't want his life to be undone, even if it means two "more real" heroes will live instead. Adam Warlock promises to try keeping this universe existing while restoring the real one, and the so-called "Warp World" continued to exist within the Soul Stone. Marvel returned to the concept of the Warp World a year later in the "Secret Warps" storyline, which officially treats the reality as its own thing.
  • The titular heroine of Naomi was born in an alternate universe where a Mass Super-Empowering Event affected at least 29 individuals — most importantly Zumbado, a mass murderer who was about to be executed when he gained his superpowers. He proceeded to conquer his Earth, and by the time Naomi visited her homeworld for the first time in seventeen years, it's in a post-apocalyptic state, and Zumbado is interested in invading the main DC Universe. That said, Naomi expresses a desire to rebuild her homeworld. Indeed, Brian Michael Bendis claimed that one of his goals is to establish an intriguing new world for future writers to write stories about, citing Jack Kirby's Fourth World as an example.
  • Subverted in the first issue of Planetary. Doc Savage Expy Doc Brass and his Super Team created a machine that uses a short-lived pocket multiverse as a supercomputer. Unfortunately for them, the pocket universes experience billions of years in the real-world seconds before they're destroyed, and a familiar-looking super team from one of the universes figures out what was going to happen to them — and how to get to the universe where Doc Brass and friends were.
  • Secret Wars (2015): Battleworld is all that remains of every reality in the Marvel multiverse until All-New, All-Different Marvel.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), the second Robotnik came from a universe where he had already killed all the main characters. This second timeline is simply forgotten.
    • Following the events of Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide, ALL of the Sonic universes save for a handful were wiped out by the Cosmic Retcon. This is treated as being most definitely a bad thing but the characters have their own problems to deal with; namely keeping their world from blowing up.
  • Spider-Verse:
    • Averted by default in that the whole point of the story is the various alternate Spider-Men and Women trying to stop Morlun from killing people throughout the multiverse. On the other hand, the comic exploits the alternate universe angle to create an Anyone Can Die atmosphere, making battle scenes even more dramatic.
    • This was played straight as part of an Author's Saving Throw: Many popular alternate universe characters were killed off as a result of the crossover, with the straw that broke the camel's back being the MC2 versions of Peter and MJ, parents to Spider-Girl. Those realities' numerical designations were quietly changed to reflect the idea that they were just similar-looking alternate realities to the ones you read. This of course means Spider-Verse!May's misery is not something to be concerned about, since our May is still as happy as ever. And of course, nothing is said about the many alternate realities that are irrevocably deprived of their Spider-Man, including alternates of Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and even Marvel vs. Capcom. Peter might be alive in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, but that doesn't mean there isn't one version of him who will never know the glory of the Reality Stone combo.
    • Lampshaded when Pavitr Prabhakar (Spider Man India) starts to worry that he's just an expendable reflection of Peter. Spider-Man UK comforts him by bringing up his own experience with other dimensions, and asking who's to say it's not the other way around?
  • This is the basic mindset of Superboy-Prime. Not only is every universe except his own “perfect” world expendable, but he believes he comes from the only real universe, and everywhere and everyone else in the multiverse are just fictional characters. Ergo, it’s perfectly okay to kill them, because they’re not real, and he is.
  • Tales from the Dark Multiverse: The story goes that long ago, there was a cosmic system intended to quality-assure the creation of new universes. Those which were inherently flawed or damaged would be melted down and recycled before life even evolved: only stable universes would get to live on. However, the entity in charge of all this was murdered by his apprentice, and suddenly the flawed universes formed a multiverse of their own: these universes were still unstable, and therefore, would always inevitably break down in one way or another. The result is that every story set in the Dark Multiverse ends with the destruction of all life, whether it's through Batman becoming the next Joker, Blue Beetle converting everyone into OMACs or killing them, the Black Lanterns wiping out everyone except Sinestro, or Lois Lane becoming Superwoman and wiping out the Earth to avenge Superman's death. Naturally, the characters in these universes consider themselves as valid as any others, and then they tried to get out...
  • Tharg's Future Shocks: When scientists accidentally tear a hole through spacetime leading to an alternate Earth during weapons testing for the army, a General Ripper decides to test their new missiles against the other dimension so they can steal their resources, declaring that their own reality is the only one that matters. Someone investigates and finds out that the portal didn't lead to an alternate universe, but their own dimension 60 hours in the future.
  • Taken to an extreme and Played for Drama in IDW's Transformers comics with regards to the Dead Universe. It's revealed in Dark Cybertron that Shockwave used the Regenesis Ores to render an entire universe uninhabitable from the moment of its origin, thus creating the Dead Universe. He mentions it only in passing, showing just how emotionless and amoral he's become. This also makes the trope justified later when the Dead Universe collapses; the only important thing about it is that Optimus Prime and his team escaped in time, but only because everything there is already dead.
    • Overlord and Tarantulas's plan in Requiem for the Wreckers is to create an infinite supply of these. Tarantulas will study the results of subtly changing the timeline at various points. At the last moment, Overlord reveals that he's just going to use the time portal to kill Megatron over and over again to settle his vendetta against the Decepticon leader. Tarantulas actually worries that this could damage the space-time continuum. Neither of them could care less about the inhabitants of the other timelines they're generating.
    • Averted in Transformers: More than Meets the Eye with the Functionist Universe. Initially introduced as a possible present that resulted from Megatron dying before he founded the Decepticons, the main cast eventually travel there and actively work to overthrow the Functionist Council, with Megatron staying behind at the end of the story arc to continue the fight. At the very end of the series, the Functionists invade the main universe and with Megatron close behind having spent many years in that timeline thwarting their attempts to exterminate organic life.
  • In the comic version of Wanted the Villain Protagonists jumped to other dimensions with the specific purpose of stealing things (such as an irradiated condom) and killing superheroes. While they were there they felt perfectly free to trash other realities to make their own go the way they wanted (of course, as supervillains they would have no such compunctions).
  • X-Man: In X-Man #71-74, Qabiri destroys five alternate Earths, causing all Earth designations to slide down one number each time.
    • Used by Bishop during his hunt through time for Cable and Hope to justify him destroying virtually every other continent on Earth but America; as Bishop sees it, once he kills Hope and creates a new future, everyone else he's killed won't exist.
  • On a Post-Zero Hour: Crisis in Time! encounter between every possible version of the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Time Trapper, the heroes criticize the trapper for toying with their histories, claiming they're not variants but people.

    Fan Works 
  • In Alone, Together, Kim falls back on this concept as a way of distancing herself from increasingly disturbing realizations about her experiences in the Other World, telling herself that those things happened to another version of her, not her real self. This rationalization breaks down during a phone call from Shego, who clearly sounds like the friend and lover she knew in the Other World rather than the Arch-Enemy she knew in this one.
  • In Ancienverse, DARC regards the main universe as useless and expendable.
  • Played straight in Betrayed, somewhat surprisingly considering the fic's theme that actions taken before a RESET aren't expendable or necessarily forgivable. Several alternate timelines where Frisk acted differently are visited, all of which except the Pacifist timeline are far worse than the main one, whether because Chara reignited the Human-Monster War and it didn't fizzle out, or because Frisk is a psychopath who enjoys killing monsters and returned to the Underground to finish the job, or has a Lack of Empathy and kept the monsters trapped and in anarchy For the Lulz. Moreover, Gaster takes souls from other timelines on a regular basis, not caring that doing so incites wars interdimensional in scope. He also brings warriors from nasty timelines to more peaceful ones. The heroes go to great lengths to repair the damage done to their own timeline, but don't even try to fix the others that are just as bad or worse, though admittedly they have the "one can't fix an infinity of worlds" excuse.
  • The Flash (2014)/Supergirl (2015) crossover Call Me Kara averts this. Even though Kara was effectively betrayed by her home dimension, she still cares about what happens to it, and when Darkseid shows up both she, Barry and the whole Justice League go to her Earth to fight.
  • Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes has three timelines, the one that was created after the Big Bad from the original game died, one where the myths of a certain legendary sword never existed, and one that was mentioned in the official sequel Chrono Cross, where the aforementioned Big Bad was not around to influence evolution and a long-dead race was revived to wage war on the now-ordinary humans. This fan-game's Watcher kinda doesn't like that these alternate timelines exist, as his workers, if you did something to muck up the timeline to make it different from normal, will not allow you to return to base until you make the necessary changes that keep history on track.
  • The Converging Series (sequel to Descents and Inversions): the non-canon main characters are accidental time travellers from different alternate futures who are descended from various pairings of the canon characters. While the Only Sane Man recognizes the existence of coexisting alternate realities (having had to deal with his reality-hopping amazon "half-sister" in the prequel), all the others decide to force the current reality into their own, to ensure their own continuous existence.
  • Coreline Zig-Zags the trope. In the aftermath of a multi-versal collision (which created the setting) it is obvious that many people believe this (and there's even a terrorist faction (the "Knights Of The True Timeline") that takes it to its In-Universe logical extreme, exterminating Alternates of people willy-nilly), there are a great many who come from those Alternate Universes that scream that (Dimensional) Clones Are People, Too.
  • A Crown of Stars: Subverted. In this story Shinji and Asuka discover the existence of a whole multiverse full of alternate universes and parallel realities. Upon arriving in Avalon, they meet some of their alternate selves and hear about other worlds similar to theirs. However, the rulers of Avalon treat all of them as an important deal.
  • Taken up to Blue-and-Orange Morality levels by "A.K." in Dimension Hopping For Beginners, who hunts down each dimension's Lord Voldemort and sometimes helps the Harry Potters he meets along the way, but other times 'helps' others inappropriately, like dumping a justifiably angsty version in an army boot camp to 'toughen up' rather than helping him appropriately resolve his emotional trauma, or even worse, by killing any Harry Potter who he disapproves too strongly of (such as one in love with Draco Malfoy). In his own words:
    A.K.: It's not every Harry Potter I've let live.
  • Subverted in crossover Echoes of Yesterday, where Supergirl gets dragged into Earth-Bet. Kara misses and wants to go back home badly, but after finding out via a bit of fact-checking what kind of Crapsack World she has landed into, she decides she must do everything in her power to help.
  • An Extraordinary Journey evokes the SGC's usual philosophy of not worrying too much about alternate universes, but when circumstances send Willow to parallel universes she can't help but try and help her local counterparts, ranging from saving Dawn from a car accident to fighting her magic-corrupted alternate. While Willow once claims that she has adopted this philosophy after she slightly ascends to kill Adria and is banished to another universe by the other Ascended, in reality she was just pretending not to care about this reality to put the First off-guard until she could contact the Asgard for help getting home.
  • Feralnette AU: This mentality is heavily deconstructed.
    • Due to how Time Travel works in this series, there's only one Bunnyx, who comes from the canonical setting of the show. Unfortunately, Alix believes this means that there's only One True Timeline, and that any deviations from that path, no matter how minor, are anomalies she needs to stamp out. To her mind, all other universes, and the inhabitants thereof, are innately disposable; they aren't HER friends, family, or the like, and thusly don't matter to her.
    • Bunnyx also played a key role in this 'verse's AU having a breakdown. Not only did she needlessly harass, blame and berate her over minor differences that didn't actually threaten anything, she dragged her into the Bad Future and made her deal with Chat Blanc, blaming her for his existence... and forcing Marinette face to face with a doomed version of herself. The trauma of watching her own ashen corpse dissolve away, coupled with the constant pressure of being blamed for everything that went wrong, led to Marinette deciding to remove herself from the equation as much as possible and focus entirely on her duties as Ladybug.
    • Bunnyx is also continuing to harass 'Feralnette', claiming she wants to set things right... but still insists on this being entirely on her terms, trying to make her act more like 'her' Marinette.
  • Defied in Frozen Turtles: While Arendelle is in another dimension, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven consider the Turtles' lost Earth to be their Earth as well, and join the effort to save it.
  • In Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past, Harry acknowledges that sending his memories back to his eleven-year-old self from a timeline where society has basically collapsed after the war against Voldemort went on until he was thirty will either create a new reality or destroy the one he exists in, but Harry is so broken after seeing virtually everyone else he ever knew die that he doesn't care and the only other person he can talk to (Dumbledore's portrait) accepts that he can either help Harry with this last plan that might save some people, or just wait until Harry becomes so depressed he kills himself.
  • The Infinite Loops has Loopers refer to this attitude as Sakura Syndrome, and generally frown upon it. Yes, reality is stuck in a time loop but not only will your fellow loopers remember your actions, if you break the world too hard you might wind up in the Eiken Loop or accidentally destroy your universe.
    • Also massively averted; as most of the loopers are both massively powerful and constantly exposed to alternate universes, they've practically created a science of fixing them in as short a time as possible. Given full power, most of them can do it in minutes, if not seconds. Given a universe that limits their power somehow, it takes them...hours. Occasionally days. Every universe matters, no matter how inconsequential.
  • Not explicitly stated, but speculated in League of Two Earths when Oliver, Barry, Kara and their allies realise that Earths 1 and 38 have been merged into one universe. As far as the wider world is concerned, Star City, Central City and National City have always existed on the same Earth and their heroes’ respective team-ups still took place, but only those who directly interacted with people from the other worlds before the merge still remember the original course of events. The heroes eventually determine that when their worlds merged, anyone with counterparts on both Earths would have merged into one person with the ‘stronger’ counterpart taking precedent, so essentially the weaker counterpart, whether from Earth-1 or Earth-38, has ceased to exist as an independent entity.
  • Ignored in A Man Like No Other; it is clearly stated that the timelines of Panem and the Avengers exist independent of each other the moment Katniss and Steve brought the other Avengers into this future and gave them the chance to change it, so both timelines can co-exist.
  • Goes back and forth in Mirror World, as the story starts when Sam is abducted by a syndicate of hunters from a parallel reality because they want to analyse him to see if he has the immunity to Eve demonstrated by their version of Sam. Not only do these hunters not bother to explain why they want him or check to see if he has that immunity before they capture him, they treat him more like a thing than a person, showing no sign that they care about anything he might have to contribute based on his own experiences in his reality. By contrast, after Dean and Castiel follow the Syndicate to their world to rescue Sam, rather than abandon that world to its fight against Eve, Dean and Castiel help the Syndicate assemble the weapon he and Cas used against the Leviathans to kill the Eve of this reality, with the alt-Gwen Campbell- alt-Sam's closest friend- ashamed that it took two men from another world to make the Syndicate see how far it had fallen.
  • Applejack's reharmonizing chapter in the Pony POV Series has her seeing a large number of these staring into the Truth, a pool that shows the viewer all kinds of uncomfortable truths. She sees the Bad Future presented in "Epilogue" along with others. The most heartbreaking is the "Orangejack" timeline, where she discovers that she could've lived perfectly happily without returning home and met the love of her life, even having children. She's heartbroken at the realization her children won't exist because of her choice, until Celestia reveals that universe still exists and they'll live on in that path.
  • Played With in A Price to Pay. Adrien and Gabriel dismiss the cost of the latter's Wish because they know reality will be rewritten in the process of granting it; not only do they not care about the fact that somebody will die in order to revive Emilie, they assume that the death won't impact them in any way. After all, it's not like anyone will KNOW that they're responsible, right? Naturally, their Wish is granted in such a way that ensures the blame is still laid solely at Gabriel's feet, despite the fact that he was never Hawkmoth in the new reality.
  • Recklessness (Miraculous Ladybug) features a variant: since Alya intends to use the reality-rewriting Wish to learn who Hawkmoth is, she figures that nothing she does to obtain the Miraculi she needs to make said Wish will actually matter — it'll all be retconned out of existence anyway, right? So she isn't phased by how her betrayal causes Adrien's akumatization and Marinette's demise, even brushing off the anguished reactions of others to these events as 'unnecessarily dramatic'. Sure, they don't know that it's all about to be wiped away, but there's still no reason for anyone to weep over their daughter's corpse, right?
  • Shinji And Warhammer 40 K: Subverted. Shinji cares just as much about the original canon alternate world that he might have inadvertently destroyed as he does about his own.
  • Discussed in What Tomorrow Brings. Chapter 53 begins with a flashback where Cassie asks Jake why he wants to go back to the original timeline and leave the splinter universe to die. Jake responds that it's the only way to make the splinter universe stable again, and that he gave the morphing cube to James.
  • Disregarded in the Supernatural fic Will the Real Dean Winchester Please Stand Up where Dean swaps places with his counterpart in another universe; alt-Dean might at least partly agree to fight the current threat as it's the only way to get himself home rather than explicitly caring about his other self's associates, but at one point Dean explicitly rejects the option of opening a portal in his new world to return to his own because of the risk that things from his world might get through to this one, which would include demons that could target his counterpart's children as payback for his own actions.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • On the other hand, once Evelyn decides to be The Anti Nihlist, she goes out of her way to return to a few universes she'd previously visited to fix the problems she'd created there, deciding that even the more bizarre universes shouldn't be just written off.
  • 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.
    • Spider-Man: No Way Home subverts this and combines it with Save the Villain. Upon learning from Strange that all the villains pulled into the Marvelverse are doomed to die back in their own worlds, MCU Peter Parker stops Strange from sending everyone back until he can alter the fates of the rogues from the Spider Man Theatrical Films and The Amazing Spider Man universes.
    • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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 (presumably ours, though it's implied not to be). Grave consequences are speculated if there's only a single version of one person in the multiverse. Notably, this is a rather constrained multiverse: it is explained that every time a massive star 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 "Hades 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.
  • 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.


By Authors:

  • Greg Egan plays with this a few times.
    • His short story "The Infinite Assassin" deals with this from the inside: the protagonist is remarkably uniform between worlds, so he can leave one world, complete his cross-universe mission, and return to a completely different set of bosses who'll nevertheless recognize him. His sense of identity is correspondingly diffuse: "I am the ones who succeed."
      And I wonder: in how many infinite sets of worlds will I take one more step? And how many countless versions of me will turn around instead, and walk out of this room? Who exactly am I saving from shame, when I'll live and die in every possible way?
    • If that's not mind-boggling enough, check this out: the protagonist's ultimate defeat involves being blasted into "Cantor Dust". If your victory condition has been mathematically restricted to a nowhere dense subset of the space of all universes, then you can win in one, you can win in many, you can even win in an "uncountably infinite" number of universes. But that's still an infinitesimal subset, meaning you've been defeated in "100% of all universes".
    • This is actually weaponized, for lack of a better term, in the novel Quarantine (1992). In a future when neurological mods can be implanted to alter the workings of the brain, a pair is developed that will A) suppress the user's ability to collapse wave functions by observing them and then B) let them choose from among the infinite possible timelines which one will become real. A person using it can do anything they want, as long as there's even the slightest possibility of it actually occurring. Break locks by picking random combinations, navigate through a crowded room unseen because everyone happened to be looking the other way at the same time, walk through walls via quantum tunneling effects.
    • "Singleton" is about an AI who's specifically designed not to have alternate versions of herself.
  • Harry Turtledove has made a living off of this trope. All of his books, aside from fantasy novels, deal with this trope in some way (and most of them are pretty good) but the most blatant is the Crosstime Traffic series, in which eponymous company has solved our earth's Malthusian troubles by developing "Chronophysics" and the technology to go to parallel worlds. Although this mostly gives him license to drop modern teenagers into period pieces, as the books are obviously written for teenagers, and they are pared down from his normal book length, forcing him to sacrifice the plot and world development which is omnipresent in his best works.
    • By the way, the Crosstime Traffic series is a Shout-Out to Piper, as the names of the people who developed the technique in Turtledove's stories are clearly based on those who developed the Paratime technique.
  • Keith Laumer's works:
    • After Piper and before Turtledove, there's the Imperium stories, where the "Maxoni-Cocini drive" allows access to parallel timelines - but at the risk of destroying one's home time-line in an unspecified chrono-nuclear disaster. In fact, our Earth is in the middle of a Blight made up of timelines where the M-C drive went horribly wrong.
    • Laumer's Dinosaur Beach explores parallel time and the Timesweepers who have to clean up the messes left by previous time-travelers while fighting off others who don't want the extant lines cleaned up.
  • Robert Reed likes this trope.
    • In a more straight example in his novel, Down The Bright Way, there are thousands of alternate Earths, each of which started diverging around the time apes started becoming more intelligent.
    • Hyperfiber in his Great Ship universe is an extremely durable material that gains its strengths from spreading any damage and energy over hundreds of alternate dimensions, making it nearly impossible to destroy.
    • In Mere, a race of aliens has quantum sized structures in their brains that cause them to see a faint "aura" around some objects, which they interpret as being glimpses into alternate universes.
  • Roger Zelazny:
    • The Chronicles of Amber series has the Amberites treat the "shadows" as less valuable than the "real" world containing Amber. How much less valuable? Caine murdered one of his alternate selves and dumped the corpse in Amber as part of faking his own death. He was one of the "good" guys. And they also think little of recruiting hundreds of thousands of shadow-dwellers as cannon fodder for their civil wars. To be fair, the "nothing but us is real" mentality starts to unravel a bit once the main characters figure out that their own world isn't exactly the "prime universe" as they've been lead to belive - and attitudes towards Shadow-dwellers seem to be at their most sociopathic early in the series, with most of the major characters softening a bit as time goes on.
    • In his novel A Dark Travelling, alternate worlds are referred to as "bands", and three of them have become dystopian "Darkbands". The protagonists find themselves caught up in an attempt to liberate a Darkband, with the end result being a splitting of the band into two new ones, one free, and one where the liberators failed and were killed, as the battle went both ways. The main character expresses a desire to visit his own grave when that band is liberated.
  • Larry Niven's "All the Myriad Ways", actually deals with an inversion - because billions of new alternate worlds are created every second (every time anyone makes a choice, even such a minor choice as what color socks to put on, or even to put on socks at all, a new universe is born; multiply that by the billions of people on the earth, and...), people no longer value their own lives, because they know alternate versions of themselves will do better if they die — and why not commit murder, rape, robbery, or suicide, if you were always destined to do so in at least one timeline? The story ends by showing nine very different outcomes to the same story with only the last line changed on a whim of the protagonist.
    • In the story collection of the same name, this is followed by an essay where Niven explains his dislike for the concept of "infinite divergent worlds", reasoning that it essentially nullifies free will, as no one can really choose any action if, in the bigger picture, they choose every action.
      • L. Neil Smith has named this "Niven's Fallacy", pointing out that you are the only one you have. Only your choices count, since you can only live one life, in one universe at a time. Your perspective is of a single existence at a time, and your actions shape that existence from your perspective. You are you, your double is someone else - if you had done something differently, you wouldn't be you, you would be someone else looking back, asking a different set of questions. Thus, while Niven says that infinite Expendable Alternate Universes for every decision means that they all cancel each other out and there is no such thing as free will, Smith says that they in fact mean that each of an individual's decisions is proof of godlike power, as each of them creates a different universe for each to inhabit.

By Titles:

  • Neal Stephenson's Anathem mixes this in, at the end.
  • Avoided in Diana Wynne Jones's Chrestomanci sequence, where events in alternate Earths do affect events in the main character's world (which isn't ours, and isn't World One, either. Nor is our Earth - we're World 12B.) However, saving a life from another world can throw the whole system into disarray if you're not careful... so any traffic between the worlds has to be carefully regulated.
  • The City We Became: Thousands of alternate universes are destroyed when a city is born. While the main characters had no way of preventing this from happening with the birth of New York, they still decide pretty quickly that it's worth it and make no attempt to prevent it from happening again.
  • Discworld:
    • Played with in the novel Night Watch, in which Lu Tze tells Sam Vimes that despite there being multiple alternate timelines, and a theory that states everything which could physically happen must happen in one of them, there are nevertheless events which haven't, such as there being no parallel universe in existence where Sam Vimes as he is now has killed his wife Sybil, showing that individual choices do matter.
    • In Jingo, Sam's PDA somehow gets switched with one from a different timeline. He's horrified as he realizes that, if he had made the wrong choice at the wrong time, a lot more people would have died. Including Vimes himself: "Things to do today... Die..."
    • In Men at Arms, Pratchett all but says at the start that there were a lot of coincidences and lucky breaks that made the novel's happy ending possible—and then notes that in most universes, it didn't happen that way. Cuddy and Detritus didn't fall through the weakened street. Or Edward d'Eath didn't do anything with his rage, and just nursed his grudge alone. "In a million universes, this was a very short book."
    • It's a plot point in Lords and Ladies, where the weakening boundaries between the Discworld and Fairyland are also causing the boundaries between alternate realities to weaken, enough for the protagonist Granny Weatherwax to remember the lives of her alternate selves. Realizing it helps her figure out how to Borrow a swarm of bees at the climax.
  • The Doctor Who New Adventures novel Blood Heat subverts this; after bringing peace to the Alternate Universe where the action of the novel takes place, the Doctor reveals that because it's an artificial timeline generated from the 'real' universe, it's siphoning energy from the 'real' universe that will cause the original one to end billions of years prematurely unless he destroys it. This does not stop him from feeling great guilt at the very real lives he is being forced to end in the Alternate Universe, nor his companions from angrily lashing out at him for this when he tries to justify it with this trope for their sake. Later novels in the series reveal that an old enemy of his created the artificial universe precisely to put the Doctor in this position.
  • Word of God is that a future book of The Dresden Files will invert this — an alternate universe version of Harry has a habit of summoning himself from other universes to act as fall guys when he needs to fake his death. The future book will include him summoning "our" Harry.
  • Last Mage subverts the trope with a whole continuum of differing universes, none of which the protagonist (who, like his alternates, is charged with protecting only one) considers expendable.
  • In the Magic: The Gathering novel Test of Metal, Bolas at one point uses clockworking to attack Tezzeret with a massive swarm of undead copies of himself from timelines where he lost the fight. Later Tezzeret says that he can forgive Bolas despite an oath to kill him because he did kill him, over and over again.
  • While several of Philip K. Dick's novels and stories happen in alternate or subjective realities, the best is arguably The Man in the High Castle, where a native of a universe where the Axis won WWII discovers an alternate USA (and also reads of a third) where they did not. None of these is our universe. Another is Eye In The Sky, where a group of people each gain control of reality as they individually wake from a coma. Reality in this case is according to prejudice and their wishes, rather than an alternate, but the idea of decisions causing the change holds true.
  • In H. Beam Piper's Paratime stories, the home timeline carefully guards the secret of inter-timeline travel and takes advantage of resources from less developed (or completely uninhabited) timelines. The Paratime Police suppress gross exploitation such as inter-timeline slave-trading, but the bottom line is that Homeline's interests come first.
  • This is the premise of the Star Trek: Myriad Universes series of novels from Pocket Books, exploring various "what-if" scenarios in the Star Trek universe. This is also the premise of the first novel in the Crucible trilogy, Provenance Of Shadows, which explores both the aftermath of "City on the Edge of Forever" and an alternate universe where McCoy did save Edith Keeler and Spock and Kirk never came back for him, leaving him stuck in the alternate past forever.
  • In another Star Trek novel, Q Squared, the crew becomes concerned that exposure to alternate universes will cause people to become sociopathic, referring to the phenomenon as "Niven syndrome." This ends up inverted: the only character we see going Ax-Crazy does so from the revelation that he only exists in one possible universe, having been killed off in every other one to allow his wife and best friend to get together (and even in his universe, his son dies towards the same end result).
  • In the Star Trek Shatnerverse Mirror Universe trilogy, the Mirror Universe versions of Kirk and Picard both refer to the 'prime' reality (the reality depicted in the series) as the "ghost" universe, acting as though their counterparts are just weak imitations, in contrast to how the prime reality treats the Mirror Universe as an equal.
  • The Star Trek: Coda trilogy establishes that the events of the Novel Verse are essentially this to Star Trek as a whole. Faced with the Temporal Apocalypse caused by the Devidians, who are devouring entire alternate realities to feed themselves even as such an appetite will destroy the Devidians as well, Captain Picard gathers a crew to oppose the threat that eventually establish that the Devidians' attack is only possible because of an unstable reality created by the time travel in Star Trek: First Contact. The circumstances of the creation of the "First Splinter" timeline created a vulnerability in the multiverse that the Devidians are exploiting, and the only way to save the multiverse is to prevent the original instability, which requires them to prevent the creation of the original First Splinter timeline and thus erase the events of the last two decades of novels.
  • In the Sterkarm novels by Susan Price, amoral tycoons are quite happy to strip-mine the past for natural resources via time-travel. They don't care that by so doing they'll screw up the future, because it's only possible to get to the past of an alternate "dimension", and therefore it's not their future.
  • Played with in The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub. When flipping between Alternate Universes of our Earth and The Territories and others at the end, someone will switch minds with and take over the body of their double from that universe. ...unless they don't have one (as is the case with Jack, the protagonist), where they disappear from their home world and appear in the other.
  • In Stephen Baxter's The Time Ships, the Time Traveler is horrified at discovering that he's changed history by leaving the account of his first travels (published by H. G. Wells as The Time Machine, of course) even though the world he's averted is the horrible Crapsack World of Morlocks and Eloi. He's so distraught he tries to prevent himself from inventing the machine, which of course goes horribly wrong. Fortunately it turns out that he's creating alternate universes, not destroying history.
  • Played with in Simon Hawke's Time Wars series book The Pimpernel Plot: After the time commandos effective wipe out an alternate universe by retroactively preventing the event that accidentally created it, Colonel Forester deliberately invokes this trope by asserting the people in the alternate universe were just potential people, little more than ghosts who never properly existed in the first place, because otherwise they'll have to accept being the worst mass murderers in history.
  • Comes up in the World Gates trilogy by Holly Lisle, especially when one character talks to the fellow that was her husband, only he's a still-alive version in another universe.
  • Worm plays with this extensively:
    • The protagonists live on "Earth Bet", regarded as something of a hellhole by the inhabitant of "Earth Aleph" (albeit an interesting one to some people) because they suffer frequent supervillain-induced disasters that kill lots of people. There are careful treaties to avoid war between the two worlds. Theory predicts that Aleph and Bet are the only worlds at the optimum "distance" to each other to include alternate-universe versions of individual people and still be accessible.
    • The supervillain Coil has a power based around this, allowing him to take different actions in two identical timelines and collapse the result he doesn't like. He tortures people for fun in his "throwaway" timelines, although never people so important that it would derail his plans if he was forced to keep that timeline. Although he speculates it may just be a simulation.
    • Later invoked when it's revealed that all superpowers are transferring energy and matter to and from nearby parallel worlds in order to function, many of which are implied to be nearly identical to the world of the main story except that they're randomly devastated by superpowers.
    • At one point a portal to another universe is created, and deliberately tuned to an uninhabited world ("Earth Gimel") so that it can be exploited for resources and used for mass evacuation in case of disaster. Although the sequel reveals there were a few scattered native inhabitants after all.

    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.
    • Much like in the story it's based off of, Crisis on Infinite Earths wipes out many worlds based off other live action adaptations of DC Comics to raise the stakes. Among the victims include Tim Burton's Batman, Titans (2018), Earth-X, the '60s Batman series, and Birds of Prey (2002). Tie-in comics also add the New 52, the '70s Wonder Woman series, and the Superman Theatrical Cartoons by Fleischer Studios.
  • 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 isn't happy. The Technobabble that ends the episode is effectively a Reset Button, and while Worf retains 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 Ret-Gone 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.
    • Played straight in a Star Trek: Enterprise episode which otherwise follows the same beats as the above DS9 episode. The Enterprise encounters another Enterprise populated by the descendants of the crew after the ship was accidentally thrown into the past. Old-T'Pol gives the present-day Enterprise a way to avoid getting Trapped in the Past. It was only after the ship avoided the accident and the other Enterprise was nowhere to be found that anyone stopped to consider that avoiding the accident would erase them from existence.
    • 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.
    • In the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow" La'an is thrown into an alternative timeline where Earth never became enlightened and the Federation never formed. She meets an alternate James T. Kirk and they are both thrown back to the early twenty-first century. Initially, Jim resists her mission to "fix the timeline" because he doesn't want to harm his friends or his reality. But he gradually recognizes his is a Crapsack World and starts to help La'an.
  • 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.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The original series subverts this by having the Doctor traumatized by seeing an alternate Earth being destroyed in the story "Inferno". He spends much of the next episode after its destruction in a Heroic BSoD, and the story "The Mind of Evil" reveals that his memory of seeing a world consumed by fire is his worst fear.
    • The 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.
    • In "The Age of Steel", 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 alternate grandmother is still alive.)
    • In "Doomsday", 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?
    • 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.
    • 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 with the revelation that he stole his counterpart's son after his own Peter died of a rare disease, but we later find out he intended to send Peter back after curing him; in his grief, he couldn't bring himself to give Peter up. 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.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse:
    • Played for laughs in the OblivAeon Letters Page episode, where Christopher and Adam spend several minutes establishing the existence of a Telenovela universe, only for OblivAeon to wipe it out of existence.
    • Played much more seriously with the Iron Legacy timeline which is destroyed by La Comodora in the leadup to OblivAeon. At that point it was considered a mercy to destroy the timeline since basically everything was destroyed and almost everyone was dead and all that's left are the Wraith and Iron Legacy, fighting against the backdrop of a broken city. La Comodora even says that erasing a timeline is not something to be considered lightly.

  • 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 
  • Inverted in 11eyes. Three characters who were all technically strangers in the beginning, seeing how all of them come from a different parallel world get brutally murdered. In the end, not only does the person who did it get off clean because she was (technically) the good guy, but everything ends all and well, because in the world where they end up in, has all three of them alive and well, even though they are not the same characters we have come to know and love.
  • 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 an alternate future 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 a different 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.
    • Similarly inverted in Fire Emblem Engage, where the Big Bad views the "main" universe as one of many expendable ones. Sombron's goal is to travel through alternate worlds until he finds one where the Zero Emblem still exists. By the end of the game, he's achieved his goal of opening a portal to another world, and offers to simply leave the protagonists without a fight, as he's done all he needed to in their world. They choose to fight him rather than let him move on to terrorize another world.
  • 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.
  • Muv-Luv: Averted where Takeru cares about his friends no matter what universe they're in.
  • 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 come from. 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.
  • 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.
    • Due to his constant time travel, Dave 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.
    • 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.
    • When we get a look at the 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.
    • The trope was turned on its head when it's revealed that the universe that had been considered the primary one for well over three years was actually a doomed offshoot. Cue a massive wipe, 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.
    • Outside of alternate timelines, the planets of Derse and Prospit and their named Monarchs and Agents — essentially Sburb's native NPCs and villains — are replicated in every session of the game. Four such sessions are seen in the comic, each with its version of the characters, and the agents in particular tend to die frequently and with little comment, since there will soon be another version of them to take their place.
  • Kevin & Kell plays with this trope. Kevin's sister, Danielle, dies 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.
  • 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."
  • Sluggy Freelance: Zig-zagged. 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 
  • Adventure Time:
    • Subverted with the Farmworld alternate timeline. When we first see it in the episodes "Finn the Human" and "Jake the Dog", the Lich manages to bring about another nuclear apocalypse and that dimension's Finn goes mad thanks to Simon's crown. In "Crossover", Prismo calls on Finn and Jake to kill that dimension's Lich, giving Farmworld a Belated Happy Ending in the process.
    • After Prismo dies, 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 until he was turned into Fern.
  • Futurama:
    • In "I Dated a Robot", 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 number 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.
    • Played with in "The Farnsworth Parabox". 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.
  • Justice League:
    • Averted in "The Savage Time". 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!"
    • "A Better World" has 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.)
    • In "Hereafter", 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.
  • One episode of Peter Pan & the Pirates 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 #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). In "Solaricks", the entire family has to go to another alternate dimension after the Jerry from the Jerryboree accidentally unleashed The Virus and gets the Earth destroyed.
  • 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?
  • Sonic Boom:
    • Averted in "Where Have All The Sonics Gone?". Once Sonic realizes he's in another dimension, he assembles the alternates of his friends to the resistance and helps them start to overthrow Lord Eggman before going home.
    • Played straight in "Eggman's Brother" with Morpho's home dimension having been destroyed by its Dr. Eggman.
  • Discussed in Sonic Prime. Shadow views the alternate worlds as being expendable since they were created by the shattering of the Paradox Prism and not naturally occuring. Sonic, having gotten to know the other versions of his friends, insists they're just as real and deserving of life. Unfortunately, due to Sonic applying too much of Doppelgänger Gets Same Sentiment, Nine ends up thinking Sonic believes the other worlds are expendable and betrays him to create his own world.
  • 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