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It's not uncommon for death not to be permanent in Fiction. In this case, a character survives their death by having their consciousness (sometimes called mind or soul) transferred to a new, backup body, prepared just for that eventuality. This body is often a clone of the character, although this is not the case for robotic characters, naturally.

If a character has this set up to happen every time they die, it confers a type of Immortality. If this is the case for everyone in a setting, it causes Death Is Cheap.

If the body is already "occupied" by another consciousness and was not specifically prepared for this, it's Body Surf, instead.

See also Brain Uploading, Born as an Adult, Justified Extra Lives, Only One Me Allowed Right Now, and Heart Drive.

Examples of Body Backup Drive include:


Anime and Manga

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion's Rei Ayanami has a few dozen soulless clones stored in an LCL tank. Every time she dies (happened twice so far), her soul is transferred into a new body and she's ready to go with no injuries and temporary amnesia. Despite being only fourteen years old, she states in episode 25 that she'd rather stay dead for good; seeing that all her clones have been destroyed two episodes prior and her current body was absorbed into a Cosmic Horror that later fell into pieces, it seems she got her wish.
  • Lieutenant Motoko Kusanagi does this in the first season of Ghost in the Shell due to her previous body being damaged.
  • In Soul Eater it turns out that Giriko, being an Enchanter (one who can create artificially living beings) did this in case he ever died. It shows up when Maka and Soul kill him in the Book of Eibon and he returns immediately, as a woman.
  • In Karano Kyoukai, Aozaki Touko has done this.


Comic Books

  • Spartan from Wild CATS had this ability, being an android and all.
  • THUNDER Agents: NoMan is a dead scientist whose brain/conciousness resides in a robot body; when he's in danger of being destroyed he can transfer to a new robot. But if his robot body is destroyed while he's still in it, he dies.
  • Alpha Flight: The handicapped Robert Bochs has a robot body called Box which he can transfer into and out of at will. During one story arc when Walter Langkowski (Sasquatch) dies his consciousness is transferred to Box until they can find him a new body. They think they found one out in deep space, but it turns out that it's The Hulk. Langkowski decides to let his soul dissipate.
  • The Dark Empire comics had the reborn Emperor as the Big Bad, and it's mentioned that he kept a number of cloned bodies for the purpose of this trope.
  • In the Marvel Universe, the original Hate-Monger is what you get if you apply this concept to Adolf Hitler.


Literature

  • In the book Glasshouse, all humans avoid aging and repair injury by building themselves new bodies in "assembler gates". They also back-up their minds, so if they die they just come back to life, not knowing that anything happened. The only way people can make death permanent is by erasing someone's memories from the databases.
  • Everyone in the cities in Biting the Sun is promptly picked up and has their "life-spark" transferred into a new body of their choosing upon death. Some characters actually take advantage of this to get around the normal time limit for body changes.
  • In Altered Carbon everyone is implanted with a cortical stack that essentially acts as a hard drive for the brain and allows people to be "resleeved" in a new body when they die. However most people can't afford to be resleeved more than once and unless they shell out a lot of cash they have to go through the whole aging process again.
  • Skinned:
    • The "mechs" are like this. Every night, they have to manually upload the events of that day to a backup hard drive held by the organization that built the mechs, which is then uploaded to a new body should something happen. Note that this is only for mechs who live a conventional life; those off the grid have no means of saving a backup.
    • The main character, Lia Kahn, gets into a car accident that does so much damage that the doctors at the hospital downloaded a copy of her personality into an artificial body and her organic body is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Lia is not happy about this because in the setting of the novel, people who have artificial bodies are subjected to Fantastic Racism.
  • In the short story Learning To Be Me, everyone has a Jewel implanted in their brains at birth. Said jewel is a quantum computer that constantly updates itself to think and experience life like the person's brain. Eventually, the brain is removed, and the people live as the jewel.
  • Backups are ubiquitous in The Culture, the Chel religion favors "soulcatcher" implants in their heads that can be recovered and "sublimed".
  • In the Orson Scott Card short story Fat Farm, the protagonist, a glutton, has his mind moved to new, svelte cloned bodies on a regular basis. The Karmic Twist Ending is that the "cast-off bodies," who expect to be coddled, are instead pressed into slave labor. The 'original' is their boss.
  • The Riverworld series. When someone died in Riverworld, their wathan (soul) was collected, a new body was created for them and the wathan was released and re-attached to it.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: Some very rich and very evil people clone themselves, then when the clones are in their twenties have their brain transplanted into the clone's body. Mark has made it his life's work to eliminate this practice, by inventing a life-extension technology that does not depend on committing murder.
  • Darksaber features Bevel Lemelisk, chief designer of the Death Star, as a major character. Prominent mention is given to how the Emperor used to have him executed for his failures - slowly, painfully, often via... creative methods - then immediately reanimate him in a cloned body. He would often "awaken" to find his corpse still nearby, apparently in case the horrible, horrible death he'd just suffered wasn't enough of an object lesson.
    • The Emperor wasn't above using this method himself and was reborn in a clone body some time after dying in Return of the Jedi, but then he was killed again and hasn't come back.
  • In John Varley's Eight Worlds series, the technology exists to make a copy of a person's memories, and to grow a clone from a tissue sample. Life insurance now consists of going in for annual (or more often, if you can afford it) backups of your memories, and if you get killed, your insurance company grows a clone, and loads your memories into it. Having more than one of you running around at once is very illegal, however, and any extra clones discovered are subject to summary destruction. This allows at least one unscrupulous character to create slaves with no rights or recourse, since their very existence is a crime.


Live Action TV

  • The re-imagined Cylons of Battlestar Galactica Reimagined download into new bodies, so long as there's a Resurrection Ship in range. Even the dog-level-intelligence Raider ships resurrect.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon wants to do this, but is concerned that the technology won't be ready by the time his body dies.
  • Semi-example in Red Dwarf, where holograms can be made, instead of new bodies, but all ship crewmembers have their consciousness stored.
  • The Asgard in Stargate SG-1 have done this at least once.


Tabletop Games

  • In Paranoia, The Computer is aware of the importance of backups, so all citizens are part of a six-pack of clones [1] - when one dies, his memories (including how he died) are MemoMaxed into his next-of-clone, who picks up wherever he left off. Especially important for the PCs, whose high-risk careers as Troubleshooters tend to get them killed at least once in the course of any given mission.
  • Eclipse Phase borrows the cortical stack concept from the abovementioned Altered Carbon novel and externally stored "backups" are considerably more common (instead of being exclusive to the wealthy as in Carbon).
  • Car Wars. A duelist can arrange to have Gold Cross grow a clone from his cells and store a copy of his mind. If he dies, his mind is downloaded into the clone and the player continues to use the character.
  • An early edition of Dungeons and Dragons had the Stasis Clone spell. It created a clone of the caster, and when the caster died, their soul was immediately moved to the clone and the clone came to life. Prior to 3rd Edition clone spells created a living copy of the original with all their memories up to the point where the tissue sample was taken, and if the clone and original were active at the same time they'd try to kill each other. 3E changed that and made clones vegetables until the original died, at which point their soul would transfer and they'd lose a level, like any other form of resurrection.
  • GURPS Ultratech includes technologies to make "backups", the Transhuman Space setting reserves that ability for infomorphs (i.e. A Is and Ghosts) as Brain Uploading requires the meat brain to be dissected.
  • Mutant Future. Before the fall of civilization clone banks could grow clones and record the original person's memories, personality and skills in a computer storage device. When the person died, their mind was implanted into the clone's brain, making them a perfect copy of the original.


Video Games

  • Dead characters in Eve Online automatically download into clone bodies.
  • Cait Sith in Final Fantasy VII pulls this once, although it's unknown how many other bodies (if any) he has available.
  • The player-characters of Borderlands possess immortality through the New-U stations (save checkpoints) they come across. If they do take too much damage and subsequently bleed out, they are simply cloned and deposited back at the last New-U station they passed. For a fee.
  • VitaStations serve a similar function for the protagonists of Bioshock and the sequel.
    • And in System Shock, the series to which Bioshock is a Spiritual Successor, each level had a machine that would revive you once you've hacked/reset it. (Before that, dying on that level gets you turned into yet another cyborg zombie.)
  • Yes Man in Fallout: New Vegas is the king of this trope. Every time the player character kills him, he is just uploaded in another robot. This could go forever, making him one of the few immortal characters in the game. The same also goes for Victor, at least until you reach Vegas.
  • Kane dies in each game of the Tiberium timeline of the Command and Conquer games. Tiberian Twilight confirms that Kane is in fact an extraterrestrial being in human form, and resurrects via cloning devices like those shown at the end of Firestorm.


Webcomics

  • Petey from Schlock Mercenary is effectively immortal, now that he has the resources to build as many bodies as he wants. He may even be Type XI immortal, because his bodies are linked via hypernet nodes, and he sends several on suicide missions.
  • Ran (and technically all other robots) from Bob and George. Ran is a special case since he's made from such cheap parts that it's cheaper to just transfer his personality to a new body than it is to repair him.
  • Quine in the webcomic Starslip does this. If his body is killed, a new one is created in a cloning tank on board ship and his consciousness downloaded into it.
  • Discussed and deconstructed in the webcomic Freefall in relation to robots' minds. They can be backed up and downloaded into another body, but the main characters meet two robots who chose not to be backed up because from their perspective they're just as dead either way.


Web Original

  • Most Inner and Middle sphere polities in Orions Arm have routine backups mandatory for their citizens. Though there are a couple exceptions who don't subscribe to "pattern continuity theory" and consider backups to be different people than the originals, at most a legal heir.


Western Animation

  • Used on occasion in Transformers:
    • In Beast Machines, Megatron goes through about four different bodies in a single episode. Throughout the entire series, he occupies his Beast Wars body, a big giant head, a tank Vehicon, a jet Vehicon, a random maintenance droid, and a beast-mode-less Optimus Primal's "Optimal Optimus" body.
    • Also, in Transformers Energon, after Demolisher is blown up, Megatron builds him a new body and sticks his spark into it, but not before reformatting it to remove Demolisher's pesky morality.
  • Robots built in Futurama have a wireless backup unit that save a copy of them every day, so if their bodies get killed, they'd just download into another body. With the notable exception of Bender.
  • Brainiac 5 did this in Legion of Super-Heroes, which sort of made his heroic sacrifice and Superman's weeping over a fallen comrade much ado about nothing.
  • The titular Venture Brothers had a backup army of clones, at least until their dad had to stop cloning them for legal reasons.

Notes

  1. in the latest versions, you can buy more, but they're pricey
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