As the recent film Looper demonstrates, 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, tricky paradoxes, or both. When has this happened before? When will it happen again? Check out some of the best examples of self-on-self action below.
For a certain generation of science fiction fans, our collective awareness about meeting a future or past version of ourselves probably comes exclusively from Back to the Future II. (And solely that movie. Believe it or 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!”
Harry Skips Over Learning How to Do a Patronus in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
How does Harry Potter learn to produce his patronus? By watching future Harry Potter produce his patronus. In the only instance of time travel in the Harry Potter universe, Harry uses Hermione’s time turner to go back in time and save himself from Dementors. Though Potter doesn’t technically meet himself, he does help himself out, even though the past version of Harry believed some weird version of his father had helped him. Like the massive slacker he is, Harry manages to skip learning how to do the Patronus Charm by simply ripping himself off in the future. The explanation? “I remembered watching myself do it.” Later in, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, all the time turners are conveniently destroyed during a big battle at the Ministry of Magic, presumably so other lazy students wouldn’t learn how to do complicated spells the easy way like Harry.
Fyr's his Own Ancestor on 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. Fry then realizes the kind of person he has to become in order to win Leela’s affection.
Usually when someone learns about the actions of an alternate self, it’s so they can avoid making the same mistakes/turning into a monster/etc. Here, we get that same struggle from the other perspective. Fry is already making those mistakes, though, and gets to see a version of himself that has wised up, letting him know that he’s capable of the same.
Arthur Dent is Unable to Call Himself in The Restaurant at the End of Universe by Douglas Adams
In the sequel to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Ford Prefect informs Arthur Dent that the main problem with trying to telephone himself in the past and warn himself about the destruction of Earth is that it simply won’t work. Because the titular Restaurant at the End of the Universe is more of a time than a place, it guarantees you can never run into yourself “because of the embarrassment this usually causes.” Like most of the sci-fi mechanics of the Hitchhiker universe, this isn’t adequately explained, but like most Douglas Adams gems, it’s designed more as a anti-logical punchline than anything else.
Amy Pond Meets Herself Constantly on Doctor Who
Oh Amy Pond! It seems like you’re always meeting yourself via time travel. This soon-to-be departed companion of the Doctor has interacted with herself on three occasions thus far, which must be some kind of record. The first time was in “The Big Bang,” where little kid Amelia is living in the bizarro timeline created by all the stars exploding back in 102 A.D. Right at the start of this, 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!” and have it not be in reference to Amy and Rory. Then, in the minisodes “Time” and “Space” two Amy ponds help sort of the conundrum of the TARDIS materializing inside of itself.
Tragically, the most recent instance of Amy meeting herself was in last season’s “The Girl Who Waited” in which Rory is confronted with choosing between young and happy Amy and old and grumpy Amy. At some point the idea having both Amy’s live on the TARDIS is floated with Rory asking the Doctor if it could work. “I don’t know, it’s your marriage!” the Doctor replies.
Will Amy meet herself again before the Ponds bow out? She’s only got one more chance!
Okay, your turn readers. Tell us all about your favorites examples of time-travel-meeting-yourself shenanigans! There’s an intriguing one from Red Dwarf that we skipped, for instance....
Stubby the Rocket is the voice and mascot of Tor.com and only met itself once. The results were super, super hot.