Fictional Characters Who Came Face to Face with their Double [Random Pop Culture Top…something] – Part Two

A little while ago I wrote about Fictional Twins (see here) and that got me thinking about all those other instances that were kind of like twins, but not really. And that’s led to this post, which is about all the different reasons that I can think of that characters in fiction run into apparent duplicates of themselves, and some of my favorite examples of each!

So the list here isn’t a countdown exactly–it’s in more of an intuitive order or each category, rather than a “worst to best” order of the specific examples. Each entry on the list is a reason why characters have exact doubles out there for them to run into (and there are a lot of reasons, it turns out), accompanied by a notable example for that reason.

To be clear, we’re not just talking about stories where doubles of characters exist, but specifically where characters come face to face with (it would seem)…themselves.

And because this post was getting pretty hefty in terms of length, I’m going to break it up into two parts. Click here for Part One. Read below for Part Two (the last part)!

10. Alternate & Parallel Universes

In the old days, parallel universes usually meant that parallel characters looked the same. These days, with the Marvel approach to the multiverse as seen in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Loki (as well as the CW version of Crisis on Infinite Earths) this is not a guarantee (especially as these events are often opportunities to bring big-name actors from the past back into their fan-favorite roles). But there are still plenty of examples of parallel universe duplicates around.

For recent versions, just check out Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (if you can stand it) and most episodes of The Flash–at least whenever there was another variation on Harrison Wells lurking around. There’s a number of Star Trek examples, including one episode where Worf got to stand around a shuttle pod with a whole bunch of versions of himself.  A few Doctor Who episodes also feature this concept (Inferno, with the Third Doctor, and Rise of The Cybermen and its follow-ons with the Tenth Doctor). The movie Coherence plays around in these waters, the TV series Counterpart is built entirely on this concept, a Twilight Zone episode called Mirror Image featured parallel universe inhabitants who wanted to take over the lives of their counterparts in our world, and both the comic and animated series What If…? use this idea as an excuse for its stories.

This might be what’s happening with Community and its Darkest Timeline episodes–but it’s also possible that that’s all just in people’s heads.

One of the most prominent alternate universes was featured in Star Trek over several series, with various characters visiting the so-called “Mirror Universe”–a dimension when everything was dark and dystopian and many of the characters were evil.  Not too many people ran into themselves in those stories, but there were two Kira’s who came face to face in the first Deep Space Nine Mirror Universe story, Crossover.  The Mirror Universe Kira was a playful but cruel villain who became sillier as the show went, but was kept effectively ambiguous for most of her debut episode.

My pick, though, comes from another TV series that I really like and have made my way through relatively recently…

Juliana Crain

The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle is a four season TV series about a world in which the Axis powers won World War II, based loosely off a novel by Philip K. Dick.  Early on, the show reveals that it is not just an alternate history program, but rather a full blown science fiction series: film clips are discovered which reveal the existence of “other worlds,” in which history has played out differently.  Juliana Crain (played by Alexa Davalos) is a seemingly ordinary woman who begins to encounter these films and discover that in some way she is at the heart of them—alternate versions of her are present in almost all of films.  She even begins to have dreams of alternate lives that she has lived, before becoming a dimension-traveler herself.  She never meets an alternate version of her in person—indeed, the rules of the story state that this is impossible—but she does see a lot of other versions of herself both in the films and in her own memories.

11. Time Travel & Time Manipulation

There have been lots of time travel stories where characters bumped into themselves. Star Trek and especially Doctor Who are full of them, though characters only run into their duplicates on a few occasions. Some of these are Time Squared (Next Generation – featuring Picard and his future self; Visionary (Deep Space Nine – O’Brien crosses over with a future self numerous times), Endgame (the finale of Voyager – a future Admiral Janeway interacting with the present), The Big Bang (Doctor Who – with the Eleventh Doctor briefly meets himself) and The Day of the Daleks (Doctor Who – the Third Doctor interacts with himself for a few moments). A bigger version comes in the Doctor Who story Mawdryn Undead where the Brigadier’s encounter with himself is a major plot point.  Amy Pond encountered herself at least four times, although in one she was a lot older (The Girl Who Waited), one was a set of mini-episodes (Space / Time, which also featured the 11th Doctor and Rory meeting themselves), one she was standing really far away (The Hungry Earth / Flesh and Stone – again with Rory for part of it) and in one she was much much younger and played by another actress (The Big Bang)

(This thing of Amy meeting herself as a child reminds me of a bunch of other movies and stories where people encounter themselves through time travel, but they still aren’t exact duplicates because of the age differences, and therefore are played by different actors:  The Kid, Looper, Star Trek (2009), X-Men Days of Future Past, and the Quantum Leap episode A Leap for Lisa are examples of this.)

Clara also met a whole bunch of her selves in another mini-episode, thanks to the TARDIS basically taunting her.  And in an example that is more time manipulation rather than straight time travel, three versions of the Thirteenth Doctor all shared an adventure in the final episode of Doctor Who: Flux (entitled The Vanquishers).

In comics, this happened we’ve seen this with Hal Jordan, Darkseid, Superboy-Prime (when he was the Time Trapper), Cosmic Boy (when he was the Time Trapper), Supergirl (from her Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade storyline) and I’m pretty sure with Superman in All-Star Superman.  Waverider met a guy who looked like him in Zero Hour—he looked like him because of #8 from last time, but they were around at the same time to meet because of this category.

It’s also happened in Summer Time Machine Blues with Tamura, in Avengers Endgame which a bunch of characters, Back to the Future II, Grand Tour: Disaster in Time, at least the first Bill & Ted movie, and an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic that my daughter has told me about that sounds kind of funny.

One of the sillier examples comes from the TV series The Flash, where villains and heroes alike travel through time so they can appear in the same location more than once.  We discover eventually that this can produce time remnants—independent alternate timeline versions of characters that remain alive after this process.  One of those of the Flash becomes evil and takes on the villainous identity of Savitar in the third season. 

But I haven’t picked Savitar for this category because I thought it was kind of dumb.  Instead…

The Protagonist


Christopher Nolan’s time travel epic wasn’t the greatest movie, but still pretty engaging and fun.  In it, people in the future have figured out a way to invert an object’s (or a person’s) entropy—basically meaning that they start traveling backwards in time (albeit at the normal rate of existence).  For people, the machine to invert entropy is basically a big two door cabinet—you enter one side and come out the other–though because your entropy is inverted while you are outside, to the independent observer it appears that you are entering both sides at the same time (just that one of you is moving backwards).  The unnamed Protagonist of the movie (played by John David Washington) at one point encounters two masked soldiers emerging from the machine at the same time, and finds himself in a fight with the one who is moving backwards.  Later he discovers that both men were himself at a point later in his personal timeline. 

Pretty trippy stuff, but one of the best examples of this category.

12. Visions & dreams & hallucinations

This is where characters see themselves, but it is only in their heads.  I’m sure it has happened a fair few times in fiction, though at the moment I can’t think of many.  There was an episode of The Flash that I just watched in which the villain was taunting Iris with visions of herself, and it’s also a strongly hinted at explanation for all the cross-over appearances between the main characters of Community with their “darkest timeline” counterparts. 

It’s possible that this is also what the taped-images of people’s memories that appear in Infinity Train were, which some characters are able to “enter” and interact with, bringing them face to face with themselves.  But it’s a bit hard to tell—maybe they are more like an illusion (see below)?

My pick, though, comes a little scene in one of the most popular movies of all time:

Luke Skywalker and “Darth Vader”

The Empire Strikes Back

Not the “real” Darth Vader, but the one that Luke encountered in the creepy Dark Side of the Force tree on Dagobah while he was undergoing his Jedi training with Yoda.  In spite of Yoda’s warning, Luke brought his lightsaber with him to this environment, and immediately found himself fighting a vision of Darth Vader.  Luke won the imaginary battle, but found himself facing his own twisted face beneath the villain’s cracked mask.  It’s one of the most unsettling moments in the entire franchise.

Incidentally, there seem to be a variety of Star Wars characters who fought hallucinations of their Dark Side duplicates, including Ahsoka Tano, Rey, and Yoda.  In Star Wars, it seems to be the thing to do.  

13. Illusions & Holodecks

The difference between this and the above category is that these are images of characters that have independent sensory existence.  In other words, they aren’t just visible to the one suffering from the vision or the hallucination—they can be perceived by anybody in the vicinity.  And in the case of some of these, they even have a physical presence—like the figures on a Star Trek holodeck for example. 

Star Trek is where we get a bunch of examples from, by the way, including Next Generation episodes of Hollow Pursuits and Galaxy’s Child, the first season of Picard with all of the holograms of Captain Rios, and in Star Trek Beyond where they are able to make numerous holographic copies of Kirk riding on a motorcycle.

Loki could do this as well, as well (I’m pretty sure) could Dr. Strange.  And even Superman seemed to do it during a random scene in Superman II

One of the stranger examples comes from older issues of The Flash, where the speedster would occasionally run so fast as to create the illusion that he was in two places at the same time (due to something about leaving multiple behind after-images of himself in rapid succession).  This got completely implausible when the Flash would actually have the two versions of himself have a conversation with each other, which is just utter nonsense when you think about it.

A classic example is the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) in Star Trek Voyager.   Robert Picardo played this fail-safe technology turned full crew member into one of the show’s most engaging characters (known simply as the Doctor).  In later seasons of the show, various doubles were shown, including other EMH’s, and the guy who designed the system (and modelled it after himself), Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, who definitely came face to face with the Doctor.  Interestingly, this makes the Doctor into the duplicate, although we’re introduced to him long before we ever meet the guy whose image he bears.

For my pick for this category, I’m going in a slightly different direction:



In WandaVision, we find that Wanda Maximoff has gone a little crazy and used her chaos magic to alter the town of Westview, which includes having her lover, the synthezoid Vision, back to life (after having died in the movie Avengers: Infinity War).  Vision’s exact nature is a bit tricky to determine, but I think it’s safe to say that the whole environment of Westview has basically been overcome by a massive illusion, and that Vision is part of that illusion even if he does have physical form and independent thought.

This version of Vision encounters himself face to face when the so-called White Vision breaks through the hex to confront Wanda.  White Vision is basically the original Vision’s android body brought to life without any of his original memories, and with the purpose of destroying Wanda.  Vision helps to protect his family from White Vision before helping to restore his duplicate’s memories.  As all of what Wanda had done to Westview faded away, so too did her re-creation of Vision, but not before a tender goodbye, of course.

14. Other science fiction (and borderline magic) copies

This is a bit of a catch-all category for independently existing duplicate beings that are made by some means, often unexpected, that is depicted in the story, and which don’t really fit into any other categories we’ve explored so far (or will hence).

Star Trek has a lot classic examples of this, especially with its transporter. Kirk was once split into two beings (The Enemy Within), neither of which were the “whole” Kirk, whilst Riker was once duplicated (Second Chances) by the transporter, resulting in two people who were both the complete Riker. The Star Trek Voyager episode Deadlock saw the whole ship and its crew duplicated via a strange accident involving an area of space with unusual properties.

The copies of Dipper from the Gravity Falls episode Double Dipper are another example–they were created by a mysterious clone copy machine, and apparently were made out of paper (the dissolved when they got wet).

Bizarro from DC Comics is an imperfect copy that was the result of a duplicator ray that didn’t work quite right. He usually looked pretty distorted, but the version from Smallville still looked like Clark Kent for a while.

And I’ve never seen this but my daughter tells me that a more magical version of this same thing happened on an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, with the character Pinkie Pie.

But, none of them are my pick. Rather, I’m going with…

Calvin’s Duplicates #2-6

Calvin & Hobbes

These guys are a bit like Dipper’s duplicates from Gravity Falls, in that they were made as part of a wacky-brained scheme using improbable technology, that there is a whole bunch of them, and that their true nature is a bit of an enigma (particularly since much of what was presented in Calvin & Hobbes might be interpreted to just be the boy’s imagination).

In any case, back in 1990, Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes (by Bill Watterson) decided to create a duplicator out of a cardboard box, with which he created a copy of himself to do all his chores and schoolwork. This backfired when his copy refused to do what he was told, and later made a bunch more copies of himself. Calvin attempted to make the situation work by having them all take turns going to school, but his own pre-disposition toward mischief continued to create problems. In the end, Calvin sorted out the situation by tricking them into his transmorgrifier (the same box as the duplicator) and turning them all into worms, a situation the duplicates seem pretty happy with.

Interestingly, it is clear that there are only five copies of Calvin in the story (identified as Calvins #2-6), but in one panel its clear that there is a seventh Calvin present, which leads to all sorts of wacky theories (see here).

Later, Calvin amended his invention to include an “ethicator” that allowed him to make another duplicate who only contained his good side. This of course led to its own set of problems.

15. Fictions within a Fiction

This is one of the later categories that I developed, which is where there is a fictional character inside the fiction who looks like a major character.  I can only think of a couple of examples, although of course there could be more.  One is from the movie Tron Legacy. In the Tron universe, computer programs are sentient and live in a functioning society that exists inside the “System”. The programs always look exactly like the people who created them.

Jeff Bridges plays Kevin Flynn, a programmer who wound up inside the System in both the first movie and in its sequel.  In that second film, he had been trapped there by Clu, a program that he had created who had ambitions to take control of the System.  Clu is also played by Bridges, and the two definitely came face to face on a couple of occasions.

So that’s one example.  My pick is the other…

Thursday Next & the Written Thursday Next

First Among Sequels, One of Our Thursdays is Missing

So in the Thursday Next series of novels by Jaspar Fforde, fictional book characters are sentient and have their own society in the BookWorld, which exists behind the scenes of every book.  Thursday Next is a detective who deals with literature-based crimes in the “real” world, but also discovers the ability to travel into the BookWorld, where she also ends up working in law-enforcement. 

Eventually Thursday becomes so famous that books are written about her, resulting in the existence of fictional versions of her living inside the BookWorld.  Actually, there are two, owing to the significant differences in how Thursday is presented in some of the fictional books.  One of these—the more hard-edged, swearing & drinking version, turns out to be a villain working for Thursday’s enemies.  The other, who is the one I’m really thinking of here, is much more peaceful and hippie-like, but she steps up and actually rescues the original Thursday when she is kidnapped.  Indeed, this second written Thursday Next is the main character in one of the novels (One of Our Thursdays is Missing), in which the original Thursday is only present in a brief cameo at the end.

16. Mirror Images

One of the most mundane ways that a character can encounter their double is just by looking into a mirror.  But there are some stories that use this in interesting ways.  In Moon Knight, for instance, the main character can speak to other sides of his personality when he is looking into reflections.

In The Flash, both in the comics and on TV, there is a lot made of the Mirror Master, a villain who often creates living reflections of various characters. 

And Quantum Leap, the time travel TV show, featured a scene in almost every episode where main character Sam Beckett would look in a mirror and see somebody else’s face—the person whose life he was inhabiting for that episode.  Thus it was particularly notable in the series finale—entitled Mirror Image—where Sam looked into the mirror and actually saw himself, revealing the fact that on this occasion he hadn’t leapt into anyone.

My pick?

Tulip & Lake

Infinity Train – Book I

Infinity Train was an animated series about a magical / science fiction train which people going through particular emotional traumas would wind up on and find themselves forced to address their issues until they had worked through them.  Each car of the train was actually a gigantic eco-system of its own, full of unusual creatures and providing a puzzle of some sort that would need to be solved for characters to be able to pass through.

In the first season, the main character was young teen girl Tulip, who in one episode finds herself in a “chrome car” full of reflective surfaces.  There, she learns that her mirror image is sentient.  Mirror-Tulip is not happy about being trapped as Tulip’s reflection, and tricks her into letting her go free, which leaves Tulip trapped instead.  Nonetheless, Tulip shows kindness to her reflection and ultimately helps her to escape her confined existence. 

That’s the last time Tulip sees her double (indeed, she no longer has a reflection after this), but Mirror-Tulip reappears as the main character of the show’s second season.  At the end of that story, she escapes the train and eventually takes the name “Lake” for herself.

17. Wacky Coincidence

Perhaps the cheapest way of all for characters to meet their duplicates is for it to happen with no explanation—just a wacky coincidence in a big wide universe.  One of the best examples is in the Doctor Who story The Enemy of the World, in which the Second Doctor meets would-be global dictator Salamander, both played with distinction by Patrick Troughton.  Doctor Who also featured Romana meeting herself in The Androids of Tara and Nyssa encountering her duplicate this way in Black Orchid.

The same sort of thing happens in an episode of Benson with Gretchen Kraus, in The Incredible Hulk with David Banner, and in all the versions of The Prince and the Pauper that are out there, including the ones starring Barbie. 

My Pick: 

Charles Darnay & Sydney Carton

A Tale of Two Cities
Chris Sarandon as both men in a 1980 TV movie adaptation of the novel

Charles Darnay is a wealthy French gentleman and Sydney Carton is an intelligent but disaffected English barrister, both featuring in the novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  The two men bear a striking resemblance to each other, which is key to getting Darnay out of a treason charge (as it undermines the testimony of the key witness).  Later, Darnay finds himself about to be executed during the French Revolution.  Sydney Carton, who had also been Darney’s unsuccessful rival for the love of Lucie Manette, forcibly takes his place at the guillotine so Darnay and his family can escape.  The end of the novel suggests what might have been Carton’s final words, and have ended up being one of the most familiar quotes in all of English literature:  “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

And that is almost it. 

That is all the categories I can for coming face to face with your duplicate that I can think of, but I have also thought of two examples that don’t fit well into any other category (and that I cannot think of any that happen for the same reason).

Miscellaneous #1

Sad-One & Glad-One

Infinity Train

So, in Infinity Train, there is a cute little robot called One-One, who actually the true conductor of the train.  One-one seems to be actually two robots, who can join together to make a ball-shaped creature.  They look precisely the same, but are differentiated by their opposite demeanors.

Later, the show’s fourth season, it is revealed that the two robots–Sad-One and Glad-One, as they are known–used to be a single creature, just known as One, who was split into two halves (with their two divergent personalities) when another character ousted him as the conductor of the train.  Thus, Sad-One and Glad-One aren’t just robot duplicates of each other, or even a creature capable of replication—they are the same robot, split in half. 

Plus, they’re awesome, and would have definitely made my “Favorite Fictional A.I.’s” list if I had seen the show before I made it.

Miscellaneous #2

Number Six & Number One

The Prisoner—Fallout

The Prisoner was a surreal and confusing show at the best of times, but it’s series finale, Fallout, was completely oblique and can only really be interpreted as metaphorical (or maybe some sort of fever dream that the main character is having).

The series was about a spy who resigns under mysterious circumstances, and then finds himself kidnapped and transplanted into “The Village”, a bizarre and insular community that is cut off from the rest of the world, in which people usually have numbers instead of names, and in which every action is monitored—a total paranoid dystopia.  Each episode would feature Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) facing off with the new Number Two (the leader of the Village), usually with Number Six attempting to escape (and failing) or Number Two attempting to break Number Six’s will (and failing). Never seen but often referred to was Number One, the presumed mysterious head of the Village. 

In Fallout, Number Six attends a bizarre underground meeting in which he is suddenly given the opportunity to become the Number One himself!  After a whole bunch of strange stuff which is too much to get into here, Number Six is allowed into a tower-like structure which Number One is apparently inside of.  There he finds an enigmatic figure who is robed and masked—apparently Number One.  He pulls off the person’s mask only to reveal another mask beneath, that of a gorilla!  Then that mask comes off and the face beneath is Number Six’s own, except laughing maniacally.  Number Six locks this figure behind a hatch and then recognizes that the tower is a rocket, which he promptly launches into space.

What is going on here?  Is it a hallucination?  An illusion?  A clone?  Just a wacky coincidence?

We never find out, because it’s basically impossible to make literal sense out of anything that happens in Fallout.  It’s quite intentional that there is no simply-understood answer.  So the only category that I can file this under is just Unknown, which puts it in a category by itself as far as I’m concerned.

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