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Trouble from the Past

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It's The Future (or Alternate Universe), whether bright and shiny or gritty and violent, and as if its residents didn't have enough on their minds, a major issue from their civilization's collective Dark and Troubled Past arises once more and has to be dealt with ASAP, kicking off the plot. Said issue may have something to do with Great Offscreen Wars, Forgotten Superweapons or deadly diseases still on the loose, but not necessarily. Often, the nature of the issue is the object of the author's criticism of contemporary state of the world (so expect the future generations to deride their ancestors' actions); this trope lends itself well to Green Aesops.

A Super-Trope to both Sealed Evil in a Can (where the past generations could only seal the evil, rather than destroy it) and Sins of Our Fathers (where the "generation" part requires literal direct descent). Break Out the Museum Piece may be required to deal with it. A Sister Trope to Generational Trauma, which happens when people of the past and present are at direct odds with each other. Not to be confused with Historical Domain Crossover or with time-traveling villains.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The interdimensional community in the Lyrical Nanoha series is more or less a technological Utopia still reeling from the Belkan War a hundred years ago. Almost every season so far revolved around a piece of Belkan legacy from said war.
  • The whole purpose of the Proxies in Ergo Proxy is to clean up Earth's ruined environment for humanity at large to be able to return from space. And then the Proxies are supposed to die.

    Fan Works 
  • Action Pack: The Konoha village just can't keep out of the Uzumaki's new lives.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Wall E, the people who return to Earth still have to clean up their ancestors' mess of garbage.

  • The Beautiful Faraway series by Sergey Lukyanenko is set on a future Earth where humanity mastered everything there was to master, but heavily damaged its own genetic code in the process. Because of this, one of the protagonists cannot have children with the woman he loves, as their genes would produce dangerous mutations if combined.
  • It would seem all past to us, but in the Deryni works, the twelfth century Gwynedd has to deal with the evils done in the ninth and tenth centuries (invasion and conquest, a nasty Magocracy, a rebellion that leads to a backlash, and then two more centuries of Fantastic Racism).
  • In Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, people in the future still have to clean up the hole in the ozone layer and contain a species of nigh-invulnerable genetically engineered ecosystem-destroying orchids.
  • Star Trek: Federation: Adrik Thorsen in the TOS and TNG timelines.
  • The Lord of the Rings: About three thousand years in the story past, Isildur defeated Sauron in battle, but did not destroy Sauron's ring (the One Ring To Rule Them All) when he had the chance. Then the ring was lost. And later, much later, it was found, and started trying to make its way back to Sauron...

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Star Trek Verse we have the Eugenics Wars of the mid-1990s, the "sanctuary districts" of the early 21st century where the homeless, jobless, and mentally ill were left to rot, and the Postatomic Horror following World War III in the late 21st century. These were usually only issues because our heroes occasionally time travelled to those eras, but sometimes they showed up in the present day:
    • In Space Seed and the follow-up Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the genetically engineered superhuman Augment leader Khan Noonien Singh from the Eugenics Wars is found to have escaped Earth on a sleeper ship and becomes a great enemy to Kirk.
    • In Star Trek: Enterprise, some Augment embryos were revived and raised to adulthood by a rogue scientist and the crew had to fight them.
    • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the humans of the past hunted whales to extinction and that turned out to be a bad idea.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy X works on this principle. The inhabitants of Spira all consider Sin to be their punishment for not following Yevon's teachings. A summoner must give their life in order to vanquish Sin for 10 years. Then, it comes back again. The player attempts to find a way around this clause and destroy Sin for good.
  • Half of the problems in the entire Fallout series are leftovers from the past, either in the form of radiation, old world machines, or other leftover messes. The Vaults themselves were the product of a failed social experiment, and in many Vaults survival is often hampered by design as a result.
    • The main troublemakers in each game have included a mutated mastermind created by exposure to a pre-War Psycho Serum he accidentally stumbled upon, the remnants of the evil pre-War U.S. shadow government, two separate pre-War supercomputers who got it in their heads that they should be running things and most of the inhabitants of the Wastelands needed to die, and the amoral descendants of M.I.T. In fact the only main villain who doesn't have any ties to the pre-War world and arose naturally in the post-atomic world is Caesar and his Legion from New Vegas.
  • A recurring theme in the Mega Man franchise. Mega Man X has the cast having to deal with the fallout of Light and Wily's feud in the form of the Maverick Virus, Mega Man Zero has the cast having to deal with the fallout of the Elf Wars and the corruption of X's dream of mutual peace in the form of Neo Arcadia, Mega Man ZX has the cast dealing with the fallout of Zero failing to completely kill Dr. Weil, and Mega Man Legends has the cast having to deal with the fallout of their Elysium precursors in the form of the Carbon Reinitialization Program.

    Western Animation 
  • The future of Futurama may not be a utopia, but poverty has been mostly eliminated; however, it came at the expense of many a Dystopian Edict. The unemployed are forced to take jobs against their will, the remaining poor have been sent to insane asylums, and mutants are forced to live in the sewers. Also, in the episode "A Big Piece of Garbage", the people of the 31st century have to deal with the garbage problems of the 21st century.