Last week’s installment of Doctor Who “The Girl Who Waited” presented not only one Amy Pond, but two. One of the Amys was “our” Amy from the present time stream, while the other was an Amy from 36 years in the future, a future created accidentally by the Doctor’s general incompetence and the wrong push of a button.
It’s always perversely satisfying when older characters meet their younger selves and vice versa. Emotions always seem to run high when this kind of thing occurs, because after all, no one can push your buttons more than you! But if your past or future self evers shows up, beware. Meeting yourself tends to be a harbinger of coming disasters, as evidenced by the below six examples.
Biff, Jennifer, Doc, and Marty in Back to the Future Part II
For a certain generation of science fiction fans, our collective awareness about meeting a future or past versions of ourselves probably comes exclusively from Back to the Future II. (And solely that movie. Believe it our not, neither of the other Back to the Future movies feature characters meeting themselves.) 1955 Biff is infamously given the Sports Almanac by 2015 Biff. 1985-ish Doc also speaks with 1955 Doc in this one (albeit with his back turned.) And Marty from the first film accidentally knocks out Marty from the second film with an ill-timed swinging door! Finally, 1985 Jennifer comes face to face with 2015 Jennifer and both promptly faint before simultaneously uttering, “I’m young!” and “I’m old!”
Disaster: Alternate 1985
Janeway in nearly every season of Star Trek: Voyager
Janeway loves time travel, but not in a good way. In fact, it brings out the very worst in her in the Star Trek: Voyager season finale, “Endgame.” Even in an earlier season, it’s revealed that the Starfleet of the future sees Janeway as a huge problem. She even drives one Starfleet TimeShip captain genuinely crazy! And after watching “Endgame,” you can see why. In this episode, Admiral Janeway travels back and meets Captain Janeway to try and convince her to blow up the Borg for good and use that annihilation to get home earlier. Time traveling Janeway must be stopped!
Disaster: For the Borg? Destruction of a sizable portion of their entire race. For the characters? Who knows. For the viewer, confirmation that the spirit of Star Trek is long dead.
Commander Sinclair in Babylon 5
Though Commander Sinclair doesn’t exactly meet himself in the events of “War Without End” he does send himself a letter from 1250 A.D., written in his own handwriting! The letter reveals to Sinclair that he is destined to travel back in time and become Valen, the Minbari version of Jesus/King Arthur/David Bowie/Perfection. A young and old version of a character interact in an interesting way here because it’s not often that you talk with your own future, but when your future ends-up meaning you live in the past AND change your identity to that of an alien religious icon, it might make for sort of a weird day. Good thing Sinclair didn’t have the same drinking problem as B5 security chief Michael Garibaldi.
Disaster: None! Good job, Sinclair.
Molly O’Brien in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
In a story that is similar to “The Girl Who Waited,” Miles and Keiko O’Brien’s daughter Molly accidentally plunges through a portal in time as a child and returns instantly as a savage and insane adolescent. Miles and Keiko come to realize this older, stranger, angrier Molly is as much their daughter as the 8-year old version they lost, but they still can’t cope with missing their daughter’s maturing years. They end up resolving to let this Molly go back to the planet and live as a wild child. Unexpectedly, older Molly meets her younger self as she goes back through the time portal and wordlessly sends her younger self back, effectively killing herself.
(This episode is also a little bit meta, insofar as the actual age of Molly O’Brien was always a little bit confusing. She was famously born on the Enterprise in the fifth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but could already walk and talk in the sixth season. She stays that age for several years, then is suddenly eight years old by the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Maybe there were other times Molly has met herself that we just never saw!)
Disaster: Getting your sweet child replaced with someone who would probably eat you in your sleep.
Fry in Futurama
Futurama resisted time travel for a while, but once it made that science fiction plunge it really committed. The first of the DVD movies, Bender’s Big Score, goes all out with this, marooning Fry back in his original era while in the future Leela dates some bald guy named Lars. It turns out that Lars is the end result of Fry living out his time in the past in accordance with events to come, i.e. Lars is Fry.
This is unfortunate for Lars, though, because in the Futurama universe a duplicate from another time is doomed to die. Lars is no exception, dying in an explosion just after he and Leela are married.
Disaster: Watching yourself marry the woman you love. Getting thrown back into the past away from all of your friends. Dying and watching yourself die.
Young Spock and old Spock in Star Trek
What if you could go back in time just to give yourself some advice? Wouldn’t that be nice? Turns out maybe universes and timelines don’t have to be disrupted by a little bit of advice.
Unless in doing so you and a madman slip back through time and your home planet ends up being collapsed into a black hole. In which case you’re going to have to give yourself a ton of advice.
(Fun fact! Spock has met himself before in the animated series episode “Yesteryear!” Though he didn’t reveal his indetity that time and he was a cartoon.)
Disaster: Losing your entire family, planet, and becoming an endangered species in an instant.
Special Mention: Amelia Pond and Amy Pond in Doctor Who, again
Of course, Doctor Who’s Amy Pond has experienced old and young interactions before! In “The Big Bang” little kid Amelia is living in the bizarro timeline created by all the stars exploding back in 102 A.D. Right at the start, twenty-something Amy Pond emerges from the Pandorica in the late 1996 and tells her 7-year-old self “this is where it gets complicated.” Though Amelia and Amy don’t get to hang out for very long, this sequence does allow for the Doctor to say, “Come along, Ponds!”
Stubby the Rocket is the voice and mascot of Tor.com. Stubby the Rocket meets its younger self from time to time and reports that Stubby has and always will be Stubby.