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Now Do It Again, Backwards

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Kim: The alien said that if I recreate the conditions of the accident and fly into the timestream, there's a chance I might be able to get back into my reality.
Paris: Might?
Kim: He couldn't give me any guarantees.

Come on in. Sit down. Aw, there's no need to be nervous. We all know how it is out there. Sometimes things get out of hand. Now, you just tell me all about it. I've heard it all before. Maybe you flew your spaceship through a wormhole while your engine was leaking, and you ended up in a parallel universe. Perhaps you are a gang of super heroes and you've had a bit of a whoopsie with some Applied Phlebotinum, some Green Rocks, and a liquid lunch. Maybe you fell back through time or ended up in an alternate dimension, or perhaps you just got zapped by some weird space anomaly.

Well, have no fear. We can help you. Whatever ill effects you've suffered, they can all be fixed by just doing the same thing that caused the problem, but in reverse. Fly back through the wormhole without fixing your engines first. Stand in the same place as before and rub the Applied Phlebotinum on the Green Rocks again. Find the hole in spacetime that leads back to the future or your home dimension, or go get zapped by the same anomaly (though you might want to Reverse Polarity first before you do that last one).

It's a subtrope of the Reset Button. Sometimes you can even deal with magical or even memory issues this same way— by repeating the spell (or blow to the head) backwards, potentially overlapping with Injury Bookend in the latter case. See also Level in Reverse.

Now, about payment...


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    Advertising Gnisitrevda 
  • This commercial for McDonald's, revolving around a fraternity hazing ritual of singing the Menu Chant, and after it is finished, the recruiter tells him to do it again backwards.

    Anime And Manga Agnam Dna Emina  
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward Elric lost his arm in exchange for bonding his brother Alphonse's soul to a suit of armor. In the climactic fight against God!Father, Alphonse sacrifices this bond in exchange for his brother's arm (his automail having been trashed moments earlier, his normal arm impaled on a sharp rod, pinning him, and with Father slowly marching his way, fully intent of using him as a Philosopher's Stone). The same isn't possible for Al's body or Ed's leg, however, as they were used attempting to bring their mother back to life. Ed finds another way to retrieve Al's body, but he just decides to live with his automail leg.
  • In Saint Seiya, Shiryu's heart stops when Seiya hits his Achilles' Heel. The only way to make it beat again is to hit him again from the oposite side.

    Comic Books Skoob Cimoc 
  • In The Essential Silver Surfer the Surfer goes into the future by accelerating to near-lightspeed. He returns to the present by doing the same in the other direction. (The former is entirely realistic; the latter is nonsensical.)
  • Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! escaped from a black hole by flying their rocketship through it backwards. No points for asking how it's possible to fly a rocketship backwards in the first place. Justified, since this is Earth-C, the cartoon dimension, which is supposed to have cartoon physics.
  • The Incredible Hulk: Kate Waynesboro gets dumped into some wacky gizmo and comes out the other end as an evil, female version of M.O.D.O.K., complete with giant head and hoverchair. Naturally, sending her through the machine again backwards returns her to normal.
  • In the "Rock Zombies" arc of Runaways evil radio DJ Val Rhymin uses a magic-infused song to turn plastic surgery patients into zombies to take over Los Angeles. While the older kids confront Val on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl Molly decides to try playing the song backwards to change all of the zombies back to normal. It works.
  • The Powerpuff Girls #66, "Rain, Rain, Go Away," has a sea monster making everyone do a rain dance from a pop song that everyone (except Buttercup) likes that makes Townsville flooded. To make the flood recede, the girls play the recording of the song backwards and blare it from two large speakers.
  • Trolls de Troy: One story has a man able to teleport trolls away from their homes. To fix this, the trolls decide to have him do it "à l'envers" (Meaning both "backwards" and "upside-down" in French) by hoisting him up by his legs while he casts the spell. It works, to the man's shock.

    Films — Live-Action Noitca-Evil — Smlif 
  • Subverted in the Mel Gibson movie What Women Want. After he tries to reenact the freak accident that gave him mind reading powers, nothing happens.
  • The Incredible Mr. Limpet. The method Admiral Spewter suggests to turn Henry Limpet back into a human being.
  • Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). Dr. Frankenstein's journal explains that the practically immortal monster can be killed by attaching him to the machine that gave him life and "changing the poles" (AKA reversing the polarity).
  • Subverted in Drag Me to Hell: Christine tries to do this, and the movie implies it would have worked, but she gave back the wrong button.
  • Wee Sing in the Big Rock Candy Mountains: After the characters perform "Follow Me," the Snoodle-doodles ask them to "do it all backwards, really fast!" They do it.
  • In the Disney Channel movie Halloweentown 2: Calibar's Revenge, the villain put a spell on Halloweentown's denizens, making them gray and boring, and the only way to reverse it is to say the spell backwards. They can't find Aggie's spellbook, so they don't even know what the spell is, but Marnie accidentally figures it out when she was "trap a" in a sentence: the original spell was "apart".

    Literature Erutaretil 
  • 1Q84: Aomame and Tengo are able to escape the world of 1Q84 by climbing back up the emergency escape ladder Aomame climbed down at the beginning of the story.
  • In Stephen King's The Langoliers, the characters accidentally pass through what they dub a "time-rip". The solution to getting back where they belong? Fly back through the time-rip from the other direction (the trip was west-to-east, the return east-to-west).
    • The trick to this, of course, is that everyone had to be asleep when they hit the time rip, or else they'd disappear like the rest of the people on the plane the first time through.
    • There is an alternate theory that those people didn't disappear, they simply remained in the present. Or, rather, were moved forward to the new present, while everyone asleep got stuck in the old present. Of course, without a plane, their outlook wasn't very good...
  • This was Albert's logic in regards to the rite of Ashk-Ente, in Discworld. The rite would bring Death to you (And supposedly bound to a circle). Albert wanted to live forever, so in performing the rite backwards he thought it'd keep Death away from him. Nope, instead it brought him to Death. And in Death's realm Albert will live forever.
  • The titular candies in the children's book The Incredible Reversing Peppermints; eating one completely reverses your personality, eating another reverses the reversal. Which does admittedly make a certain amount of sense, at least compared to a few other examples on this page.
  • It can be said that Faulkner did this in As I Lay Dying. When Dewy Dell (not the brightest bulb) tries to get an abortion, a man tells her that 'more of the same' will get rid of the baby. Dewy Dell storms out of the shop a few moments later raving how it wouldn't work.
  • Robert A. Heinlein novel Starman Jones. Starships travel by accelerating to near lightspeed and making a "transition" to a new location. During one transition a mistake is made and the ship ends up lost. The crew tries to get back by returning to the point where they appeared and making a transition which is the reverse of the original in the hope that it will take them home. It works.
  • In Rosetta's Dress Mess, Rosetta loses her fashion sense after being hit on the head by a plank of wood. Tink surmises that hitting her again will bring it back, and spends the rest of the book trying to whack her without being noticed (as Rosetta couldn't help ducking when she knew the blow was coming). She finally succeeds...after Rosetta got back her fashion sense on her own.

    Live-Action TV VT Noitca-Evil 
  • Star Trek was likely the worst offender in this case. The initial example above was from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Crossover", and the quote comes from the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Non Sequitur". A list of all the occurrences of this trope in Star Trek turned out to be longer than the Universe and collapsed into a black hole that we were only barely able to reverse by rewriting the list in reverse order, so let's just leave it at those two.
  • An episode of the kids TV show Space Cases featured Harlan Band (and the console that could inform the crew of the lethal radiation leak) becoming invisible after getting zapped by a discharge from the Christa's engine core (which only happened because he spilled juice on it). The obvious solution was to have him stand in the same place, have the ship's android pour more juice on the engine core, and, of course, Reverse the Polarity of the neutron flow.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Annoyingly enough, the episode "1969" (one of its most Trekish episodes ever, along with such gems as "Emancipation" and "Brief Candle"). Slightly subverted as they return to the future, not to the point in time from which they departed, and Cassandra has to send them back in time from there.
    • Also done in "Ripple Effect" where to return the dozens of alternate SG-1's to their home dimensions, they repeat the event that started the whole mess, and send them back through the gate in reverse order of when they arrived.
  • Stargate Atlantis: It pops up in the episode "The Daedalus Variations", where in order to get back to their own reality, Sheppard and the team have to fly the alternate reality Daedalus back through all the other parallel realities encountered during the episode in reverse order. Sheppard actually immediately suggests this, only for McKay to insist it will be more complicated than that. After trying and failing to find a "more scientific" solution, he settles on Sheppard's.
  • Farscape:
    • In the episode "The Locket", they fly into some mist where time flows differently, and they discover that hundreds of years have passed in the few hours they were in it. They don't seem to be able to get out until they... fly backwards out of it and this reverses time to right before they entered it.
    • Subverted in an early episode where the crew plans to use reverse thrust to get out of an alternate dimension (since they were going forward when they punctured the other reality) but are told that they will completely destroy the dimensional barrier if they try to back out. They have to go forward instead and count on the extra dimensional being charged with repairing the rift to guide them through safely.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Demons and Angels", this is how Kryten reconstitutes the RD from its triplicator-created Light and Dark copies.
  • Subverted in an episode of Boy Meets World. An accident with a microwave oven throws Corey back to the 1950s, and a Wise Old Man tells him that to get back, he just needs to recreate the circumstances of the accident. There's just one problem, as Corey points out: there were no microwave ovens in the 1950s.note  Luckily for Corey, it was All Just a Dream.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • "The Last Flight": During World War I, a British Royal Flying Corps pilot passes through a strange looking cloud and ends up in 1959. He eventually figures out that he needs to pass through the cloud again to return to his own time and does so.
    • "The Odyssey of Flight 33": The plane flies into an effect that puts them into the Jurassic period. They return to the effect and instead end up 30 years before their own time. The episode ends with them low on fuel and heading for the effect once more.
  • In Babylon 5, Sinclair becoming part Minbari apparently leads to Minbari souls being born into human bodies. A thousand years later, Delenn becoming part human somehow (according to Delenn) closes that door, rather than opening it wider.
  • Strange Hill High: In "Health & Safety", Mitchell, Becky and Templeton are trapped in a old safety film. They eventually discover that the way to escape to reenact the events of the film backwards until they arrive at the point where they entered.
  • Leo and Kai realize this is the method of departing the Lost Galaxy in, well, Power Rangers Lost Galaxy — they recite the Galaxy Book's Keonta spell, which Deviot used to send Terra Venture into the LG in the first place, backwards to open a portal out of it.

    Music Video Oediv Cisum 
  • Republica "Ready To Go". (It's only the camera zoom going backwards.)
  • Coldplay's "The Scientist"
  • Rather Unique's "Good Dayz"

    Mythology Ygolohtym 

    Puppet Shows Swohs Teppup 
  • In an episode of Fraggle Rock, Gobo causes an avalanche by using a riddle-solving spell on something that isn't a riddle. He undoes the avalanche by saying the spell in reverse.

    Tabletop RPG GPR Potelbat 
  • Call of Cthulhu spells.
    • When the Resurrection spell is spoken in reverse, it will cause a resurrected creature to return to dust. This was based on the H. P. Lovecraft short novel "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward".
    • Campaign Shadows of Yog-Sothoth, adventure "The Rise of R'lyeh". If the spell that's being used to raise R'lyeh is cast in reverse, it will cause R'lyeh to sink again.
  • In early editions of Dungeons & Dragons some spells were reversible and casting the reverse of a spell could negate the normal version.
    • Flesh to Stone/Stone to Flesh
    • Neutralize Poison/Poison
    • Bless/Curse
    • Light/Darkness
    • There are also a few magical effects that will undo themselves if applied a second time, like the (cursed) Helm of Opposite Alignment (as long as you didn't start with an alignment that was neutral on either axis) or Belt of Masculinity/Femininity, although in those two cases the character would need to go find a new copy, as each item discharges and loses its magic when used.
    • The Truenamer, if it were playable, would have this mechanic for some of its Utterances (i.e., spells): you can say them backwards to achieve the opposite of the normal effect.
  • Hoyle's Rules of Dragon Poker has a particular fondness for this trope, with around 10 of the games 240 or so rules changes involving changing the order of something, be it the cards, the suits, the betting or the dealing.

    Theatre Ertaeht 

    Video Games Semag Oediv 
  • The infamous plasma corridor in R-Type III.
  • Averted in the computer game Out Of Order. Playing the theme of The Town backwards renders it harmless, and reveals the hypnotic subliminal messages hidden within, but doesn't counteract the effect. To do that our hero has to swap out the hypno-tunes for his Three Frank Harlons album.
  • In LucasArts' Loom, many drafts can be reversed to achieve the opposite effect. For example, you can dye wool green, then un-dye it back to white.
  • In the fourth chapter of Tales of Monkey Island, Guybrush has to follow a set of steps to prepare a Voodoo recipe called the "Feast of the senses", to feed La Esponja Grande and make it grow. In the next episode he has to follow similar steps but backwards to make the Esponja shrink, as Lechuck had stolen it and was using to steal the Voodoo energies of the Crossroads.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Link pulls the Master Sword from the Pedestal of Time and travels seven years into the future. He eventually learns that he can go back to the present by putting the Master Sword back.
    • Zelda games featuring the Four Sword follow a similar format: First, Link unwittingly draws the Four Sword, unleashing Vaati who had been sealed within it. So Link has to tromp around the kingdom collecting trinkets in order to reach Vaati's sky palace so he can beat the crap out of him and stuff him back in the sword, which must be returned to its pedestal again.
  • VVVVVV has a shiny trinket that you cannot access because of an Insurmountable Waist-High Fence. To get to the other side, the player has to navigate through 6 different screens filled with spiky death... twice.
  • The final game in the BIT.TRIP saga, BIT.TRIP FLUX, is basically BIT.TRIP BEAT played from right-to-left instead of left-to-right. The game even ends with a backwards version of the pattern from the first stage of BEAT.
  • Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back: Cold Hard Crash. To get 100% completion of the game Crash must break every box in the current level he is in and collect a gem that only appears when he does so. To get all the boxes in this level you have to play through the first half without dying to activate and reach the death course, a difficult, checkpoint-free path covered in crusher traps and nitro mines, almost entirely on slippery ice. When you reach the end of the death course, you need to activate a switch and do the course BACKWARDS to get the new crate the switch spawns at the beginning of the level, at which point you take the platform back to the main level and complete it
  • It's the whole premise of Spoiler Alert. You literally play the game backwards, i.e. unkill both the enemies and the bosses, and uncollect the coins.
  • The conceit of the game Retro/Grade is that you're playing a shoot-em-up — backwards — and you need to unfire your shots and dodge the opponents' in a timely fashion, in order to prevent the universe from collapsing from paradox.

    Web Animation Noitamina Bew 
  • Parodied in Homestar Runner, in Marzipan's Answering Machine 9.2. Homestar mistakes "Go to Richway and pick up some Hefty bags" for "Go away and pick up sticks" for a breakup message. In an attempt to undo his response, he tries saying it backwardsnote , but realizes it doesn't work and ends up switching tapes with the machine.
    • Also, in the Strong Bad Email "rock opera," Strong Bad starts the email by saying, "Checkin' email, and take it to the flip side!" and then saying the same line with the audio reversed.

    Web Comics Scimoc Bew 
  • Parodied in a Daisy Owl strip in which Cooper suggests that the cure for falling down the stairs is falling back up the stairs.

    Western Animation Noitamina Nretsew 
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: Going through a tornado reduces Old Lady Muriel to 3½ years old. The solution was for Courage to put her through a tornado going the opposite direction.
  • An episode of The Powerpuff Girls (1998) with brain-breakingly bad physics had them going so fast that relativity started working backward and they ended up in the future. Then they somehow got back by going just as fast in the other direction.
  • In the Futurama episode "Roswell That Ends Well," the Planet Express crew accidentally travels back to 1947 after Fry puts a metal popcorn dish in the microwave while the ship is next to a supernova. The only way back to the 31st century is by microwaving another dish of popcorn.
  • Played literally in a Darkwing Duck episode. Darkwing Duck gets super speed, but using it makes him age extremely fast. Honker suggests he follow his course of events backwards, undoing everything he did that day, and reversing the aging process. It also removes his super speed completely.
  • Jonny Quest TOS episode "The Invisible Monster'': Dr. Quest plans to destroy the title creature by reversing the process by which it was created.
  • Space Ghost episode "Clutches of Creature King": Space Ghost is sent into the past by a "time warp caused by the cross of an energy force with a neutron ionizer". He reverses the process to return to the future.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Practical Joker": After the Enterprise passes through an energy field, the ship's computer starts pulling jokes on the crew. The computer is returned to normal when the Enterprise passes through the cloud again.
  • Totally Spies! episode "WOOHPersize Me!": Master Mario's music has a mind control effect on people who listen to it. To remove the control you just have them listen to the music played backwards.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series has experiment 624 "Angel". She can sing a song which can make any of Jumbaa's other experiments that had already been reformed (and even Jumbaa himself) evil again, except 625 and Stitch, who are completely unaffected because they're later experiments. Listening to the song backwards reverses the effect.
    • 625 and Gantu got Genre Savvy with this for once; after Angel had a Heel–Face Turn, 625 challenged her to sing her song backwards and turn him good. She did... which had no effect. And he had recorded it, so now they could play it backwards, and get the original "evil" song.
  • In one of his short adventures, Underdog reversed the effect of Simon Barsinister's camera ray by inserting the lens backward and aiming it at the police officers who had been turned into photographs.
  • An episode of DuckTales (1987) has the Nephews run Scrooge's business for a day, only their products tank and bankrupt Scrooge. However, the nephews find out that children aren't allowed to run a company, so everything that happens has to be undone, which gets all of Scrooge's money back.
  • In an episode of Peter Pan & the Pirates, Michael plays a piece of music that accidentally summons a female viking who can enslave people with her singing. Michael figures out that to get rid of her, he has to play the song backwards.
  • The New Adventures of Superman. Reversing the polarity of an electric charge transfers the powers of the episode's villain (and some other guy) back to Superman... after they got them from him through an electric shock.
  • Drawn Together, in the episode "N Ray Ray". (Everything is lovey-dovey, until Captain Hero realizes the house has been robbed. The animation then runs backwards for a short time to Start.)
  • In one episode of Creep School, Elsa accidentally ends up turning almost everyone in the school into copies of her through a magical fairy song she was taught by her grandmother. While the only person unaffected aside from her (due to having been wearing earplugs at the time) is doing things backwards in order to bake a "backwards upside-down cake", she has an "Eureka!" Moment and realizes she can reverse the effects of the song by whistling it backwards.
  • The Mickey Mouse (2013) short "Gone to Pieces" has Goofy falling apart with Donald and Mickey desperately trying to put their friend back together. In the end, Mickey and Donald succeed by causing Goofy's body parts to fly in the opposite direction of when Goofy fell to pieces.
  • In a Sesame Street animated short a boy gets lost after passing by several creatures and buildings straight out of Yellow Submarine. He finally encounters a tall man hidign behind a yo-yo who tells him that to get back home, "Try to remember everything you passed, but make the first thing the last." In other words, go back the way he came, seeing the same weird things but in the opposite order.

    Real Life Efil Laer 
  • Ultimate Example: Walk forwards. Now do the same thing in reverse. You're right where you started again, aren't you.
  • Real Life Example: Sandia National Laboratories has come up with a way to reverse combustion and turn carbon dioxide back into fuel. Although plants can do this (concentrate and store solar energy for later use by turning carbon dioxide and water into glucose) without much effort, it's a pretty big deal for humans to be able to do it artificially.
    • This is called the Fischer-Tropsch process and has been known since the '20s. Engineering it to the point where it's efficient enough to be useful is the hard part. WWII Germany did employ it out of desperation.
    • Humans actually can also do this as well (to a degree): it's called Gluconeogenesis. It's the reverse reaction of glycolysis, the first part of the process our bodies use to oxidize glucose, and is used when our blood sugar level is low.
    • In fact, all chemical reactions can be run in exactly reverse (in a principle way - energy, entropy and other factors may be stacked sky-high against it so the equilibrium constant is gigantic - but it's still an equilibrium).
  • Truth in Television (sort of): All vehicle land speed records have to be achieved twice to be declared official - once to set the speed, and again in the direct opposite direction - this proves that it was an official speed, and not assisted by a tailwind or such.
    • Jokingly referred to on Top Gear (UK), after Richard Hammond's high speed crash: Jeremy Clarkson remarks that it would have set the world record for the fastest car-accident... in the world. Only he has to do it again the other way.
      Hammond: I don't want the record — it's not one I want!
  • The idea behind the alternative medicine of homeopathy might be described this way. The usual homeopathic remedy for a given symptom is to consume a substance which would normally cause the symptom, but in such extreme dilutions that the result is chemically identical to water.
  • This trope is what Moral Guardians claimed was the “secret” to uncovering Satanic messages in rock and heavy metal music, by playing the tapes backwards supposedly you uncovered messages saying “Hail Satan” and other such stuff.

    Other Rehto 
  • The shutdown jingle of Windows NT4 is the reverse of the bootup jingle.

    Meta Atem 
  • Did you notice the slight subversion on this page? The folder names are capitalized wrong - Foo turns into Oof, not ooF.


Video Example(s):



Dipper realizes from Robbie he can play the record with his song backwards, which in turn reveals the subliminal mind-control message in it.

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Main / NowDoItAgainBackwards

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