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Visions of Another Self

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A scene or series of scenes that takes place in the past or future, real or imagined, using the same actors as the existing show but as different characters. To properly count for this trope, the relationships of the characters in the vision must reflect on the relationships of the existing characters, often with a plot-relevant Aesop for the characters to learn from it.

Occasionally Visions of Another Self occur by having a character actually travel to a place, whether it's in the actual past, an Alternate Universe or a Mirror Universe. Just as, if not more often though, it will be a constructed fantasy, a dream, a hallucination, a flashback (or someone else's flashback), a holodeck experience or the fantasy equivalent thereof, part of a Vision Quest or just a very active imagination. The probability of one of these occurring increases dramatically if Reincarnation is involved. Other times, this is done without the present-day characters even being aware of the past, but the writers playing up the parallels between the two for the audience's benefit.

Sort-of-but-not-really related to Pensieve Flashback. Superficially resembles an ad hoc Universal-Adaptor Cast. If the character having these dreams starts to think that they are the true reality and the rest of the show is the dream, it's a Cuckoo Nest. See also But You Were There, and You, and You.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ancient Egypt in Yu-Gi-Oh!; the characters there are said to be reincarnations or parallels to modern-day characters, which is another plot point in itself.
  • The final episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion has a short section in which Shinji dreams about how his life could have been if the show he was in wasn't a deconstruction.
  • The Naruto movie Road to Ninja seems to be this, considering everyone (minus Naruto and Sakura)'s personalities are different than usual. There are hints it's actually a Lotus-Eater Machine.
  • A very sad example exists in MÄR, Snow is a clone of Koyuki created from a piece of her soul. She was never supposed to exist in MÄR Heaven. As a little girl, Snow dreamt of Koyuki and Ginta on Earth, and became infatuated with him and jealous of her other self. She doesn't have explicit memories of this for most of series but in her own words, was subconsciously aware she was a mere copy of Koyuki. Just she starts to get over this, she ends up being killed by The King, proclaiming her love for Ginta while dying in his arms. At the end of the series, Snow merges her soul back into Koyuki to become one whole person to be with Ginta. Note this is only in the anime.
  • A mild example in Fate/stay night, with protagonist Shirou and Archer. He actually gets to extract skill and experience out of him, and to see the biggest milestones of his life and his afterlife if he goes down on his set path in an Alternate Universe.
  • This was the form of a miracle that occurred in Minagoroshi-hen of Higurashi: When They Cry, wherein many of the main characters have nightmares of what they had done in previous time loops, which prompts them to get help from the rest of the gang before those nightmares could become reality again.
  • In Nurse Angel Ririka SOS, the heroine Ririka, who transforms into Magical Girl Warrior Nurse Angel, has some dormant Past-Life Memories that reveal the fate of a previous incarnation of Nurse Angel — who looks like a Palette Swap of her.
  • The setting of Saiyuki takes place 500 years ago, showing the past lives of the main characters. Three of the four are previous incarnations and get killed, while the last is imprisoned for 500 years and is found by the present incarnation of one of the three.
  • Volumes 7.5 and 8.5 of INVADERS of the ROKUJYOUMA!? take place in the time of the Princess Alalia, she and her companions bear an uncanny resemblance to the invaders of Room 106. Koutarou and Clan are there as themselves.

    Comic Books 
  • In PS238, Tyler travels to a castle outside of normal space and time. One hall is made up of mirrors, each of which shows him in a different superhero outfit. These turn out to be the Tylers of Alternate Universes, and touching the mirrors allows him to see inside their minds and know what they're currently experiencing.
  • During DC's 2019 Year of the Villain event, Lex is given a standalone tie-in where he visits alternate selves. A recurring subject is the Black Mercy which multiple characters state don't give a fantasy, but a vision of another reality. At least two Lex's underwent a Heel–Face Turn after inducing visions of alternate lives from Black Mercy derived tea and balking at the commonalities.

    Fan Works 
  • At one point in Sailor Moon Z, the main Senshi do a body-switch with their Silver Millenium counterparts. After they're returned to the present, they have more frequent Flashbacks of their past lives, usualy overlaping with similar moments in the present. The original also has flashbacks to this time though only when key to the plot.
  • In Stars Above, Oriko has these. She reveals that she dreams of the other timelines, and that she knows all the hell that Homura has gone through.
  • In the Azula Trilogy, at one point during Azula's trip to the Spirit World, she's shown visions of herself in other worlds, including one where she was banished instead of Zuko, and one where she was apparently born a peasant.
  • Occurs in the Pony POV Series, when Applejack looks into the Truth and sees many alternate universes, including other versions of herself. Her side story during the "Butterflies" arc has her actually meet several of her alternate selves, and together they defeat their potential Nightmare self, Nightmare Mirror.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the movie of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Buffy has dreams of her and her watcher as previous slayers and watchers.
  • Cloud Atlas swaps actors and roles for each time period, but the same soul incarnates multiple times as shown by their star-shaped birthmark.
  • Dead Again has the two main characters experiencing, through hypnotic regression, the lives of two other people in the 1940s, who are played by the same actors. It's suggested that Mike and Grace are the reincarnations of Roman and Margaret, although Mike is skeptical. The twist is that, although it's true about the reincarnation, the actors aren't playing the same people: Mike is the reincarnation of Margaret and Grace is the reincarnation of Roman.
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness reveals that dreams are people witnessing the lives and deaths of their Alternate Universe counterparts.note  Doctor Strange is involved in the plot when he dreams of a variant dying to protect a girl named America Chavez, who has the ability to cross universes. Using the Darkhold allows a mystic to "dreamwalk" and possess their variants.

  • In Teresa Edgerton's The Grail and the Ring, travel between the "real" world, Ynys Celydonn, and the Alternate Universe of the Inner Celydonn, is introduced. One of the first rules of such travel is to avoid meeting yourself if possible, because to do so courts madness.
    • Dame Ceinwen, despite being the most powerful witch in Ynys Celydonn, is largely restricted to the role of The Watcher in this book — partly because she is so powerful, but also because she has already been in the times and places of the Inner Celydonn that are critical to the current problem, and cannot risk being there twice.
    • Prince Tryffin is sent to Fairyland, which is an Alternate Universe version of his own father's castle - the version of his homeland featured in travellers' tales, in fact. When he meets his own counterpart he finds the experience very disturbing, and quickly takes a dislike to the man. He comes to the conclusion that this is largely due to being unsettled by seeing himself from the outside.
    • The Big Bad of the story is the Inner Celydonn version of an historical figure who went mad from experiencing this.
  • The third book in Legends of Laconia has this as its main story. Reincarnation is involved.
  • The early (1940) Alternate History short story Wheels of If by L. Sprague de Camp involves a man who wakes up as his alternate selves in a variety of timelines. Rather than there being an infinite number of variations, there is a small finite number of timelines in which a man lives who is close enough to being the protagonist that their consciousnesses can be interchanged.
  • In the Diogenes Club stories by Kim Newman, the character of Keith Marion has the power to exchange his consciousness with his alternate selves on different worlds. This is a bit Leaning on the Fourth Wall, since he has his origins as the protagonist of Newman's Gamebook Life's Lottery.
    • Swellhead involves an alternate history starting to encroach in our Earth, specifically the Elaborate Underground Base of a supervillain. As this happens psychic detective Richard Jeperson starts to remember noodle incidents from this alternate reality, in which he's a James Bond-type superspy who's the supervillain's Arch-Nemesis.
  • So Vile a Sin actually had the Doctor tortured with these. It was rather weird.
  • The Cosmere: With the magic of Allomancy, gold gives the allomancer visions of their past or present if they had made different decisions, and malatium lets them see other people's. This is usually emotionally taxing and not all that useful, but in Mistborn: The Original Trilogy, Vin's malatium vision of the Lord Ruler has vital information of his original identity.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This concept was used in an episode of Scrubs called "My Mirror Image", where J.D, Dr. Cox, and The Janitor each talk to a patient played by their actor. It's explained as a doctor "seeing themselves in their patients", and causes them to see possible consequences of their current behavior.
  • Charmed has shown the Halliwell Sisters' past lives on several occasions. These previous incarnations of the Charmed Sisters have always looked the same as the present-day incarnations. When this is first done, it is explained that the previous incarnations look different but the Halliwells "recognize" their spirits and thus see them as their current selves. Later episodes sometimes overlook this.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers featured an episode where Kimberly traveled back in time to the Wild West, where all of the inhabitants resemble citizens of present-day Angel Grove, including people who look like the Power Rangers (except for Kimberly's ancestor, who makes a brief cameo after the present-day Kimberly returned to her time), Bulk and Skull (who try to find out the identity of the Rangers), and even The White Stranger. (Three guesses who that is suppose to resemble. Hint: It's the White Ranger.)
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Two episodes in which Captain Sisko is a science-fiction writer in the 1950s, and the other regular characters are his fellow writers, friends, or (as appropriate) enemies.
  • Both Roswell and Smallville have played out forbidden romantic pairings (etc.) by re-telling them in a historical context.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess have a few episodes that use a variant of this, except it is a Flash Forward. The cast members play writers, producers, or various other modern-day characters who work on the production of the show. At least one of these episodes lampshaded and subverted the idea, with Hercules playing Kevin Sorbo. Including throwing Ares out of a moving car.
  • The old soap opera Dark Shadows had a couple of entire seasons consisting of this.
  • Bones does this in the Season Four finale, with the Jeffersonian being a bar instead of a museum lab, and the 200th episode, which was a Film Noir set in the 50s with Brennan as a detective and Booth as a jewel thief.
  • Stargate SG-1's "The Changeling": Is Teal'C in fact an average Earth firefighter? No. But it made for an interesting episode.
  • The final season of The Sopranos had Tony hallucinating himself as a salesman called Kevin Finnerty while in a coma.
  • The X-Files has an episode where Mulder meets his reincarnating soulmate. Under hypnosis, she recalls the details of several of their past lives, in which several of the show's characters show up as previous incarnations of themselves. One scenario involves Mulder and his soulmate having lost their child (currently his sister) to a drunk driver. Scully was there too, as Mulder's male best friend.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985) has an episode in which an unsuccessful inventor begins having/living visions of his alternate self in a Steampunk-ish parallel universe. In the end the two men voluntarily trade places.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, many Solars have instinctive flashbacks to their past incarnations- sometimes while dreaming, sometimes at less opportune moments. Common reactions include anger at the Sidereals who stabbed them in the back, sadness over long-dead friends, awe at the lost glories of the First Age, and shame (there's a very good reason no one wants the Solars around anymore). Since humanity's lost so much knowledge over the centuries, a Solar's memories are often his/her best way of learning the truth about who's in charge of Creation.

    Video Games 
  • At one point in Valkyrie Profile Lenneth, Lenneth Valkyrie sees a vision of the past of Dipan. During this, the sprites of Arngrim and Llewelyn appear, with the implication being they were past incarnations of them.


    Western Animation 
  • One episode of Kim Possible, "Rewriting History", shows Kim and Ron investigating accusations that Kim's lookalike ancestor, Miriam "Mim" Possible, stole a scientific device about a hundred years ago. As it turns out, Drakken and Shego's turn-of-the-last-century analogs framed her for the deal. It ultimately turns out to be All Just a Dream however. And then they see Ron and Drakken carved on to some poles: apparently, they had gladiators as ancestors waaaaay back in Roman times. Word of God states that despite being just a dream, the ancestors were really existing back when.
  • The Fairly OddParents! episode "Odd, Odd West" shows AJ's ancestor inventing a computer and Chester's ancestor complaining that no one reads manuals... and "Vicky the Kid" fighting Timmy Turner the Masked Stranger.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In the episode "Pest of the West", SpongeBob learns of his great ancestor SpongeBuck SquarePants and how he saved the town of Bikini Gulch from Dead-Eye Plankton.
    • And there was also an episode set in the Middle Ages where SpongeBob and Patrick had to free Bikini Bottomshire from the Evil Sorceror Planktonimor, aided by medieval analogues of Squidward and Sandy.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Zuko's Vision Quest includes a segment with an alternate-him who was never scarred sitting as Fire Lord, with the cold, still Squint of Evil his father always uses. This is what Zuko thinks he wishes, but it's associated with abandoning his mother and the self-he-is. Ultimately it disturbs him, though not as much as the version who's got Air Nomad tattoos. He is shown feeling his face to make sure the scar is still there and he's awake.
  • In Adventure Time, Finn is trapped in a dream filled with numerous random visions. At one point, he looks into a mirror and sees himself with an actual nose, without Black Bead Eyes and with a robotic arm. This turns out to be Foreshadowing for the fourth season finale/fifth season opening, where he looks like this in an alternate timeline.