Who's real, who's the copycat?
November 5, 2006 2:04 PM   Subscribe

"No, I'm your husband." "No, shoot him! He's the imposter!" Where'd this come from?

There's a guy and some sort of doppelganger fighting. Someone, the guy's wife, daughter, friend, partner, whatever, has to figure out which is which and take out the evil copycat.

I've seen this scene parodied a few times in cartoons, namely Family Guy and South Park.

The terrible Michael Bay film The Island played it straight and had a scene where [spoiler] Ewan McGregor the clone & his "sponsor" did this exact schtick, ending with the "real" one getting shot instead of the (good guy) clone. [/spoiler] I was surprised the film played this scene seriously, considering that its been parodied more than a few times.

My question is: where did this first appear? I'm assuming it was some sort of sci-fi movie or TV show that featured clones, or other-dimensional doppelgangers, or evil robots that look just like people, whatever. Anyone know what film/show was the first to do a clone vs. original climax scene?
posted by papakwanz to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I remember that device used a lot in Get Smart. But I think they were parodying something earlier...
posted by cda at 2:11 PM on November 5, 2006

Well, I don't know if that scene is in it, but it seems the 1916 movie I'm Your Husband seems like a likely candidate for the first movie that had such a plot.
posted by cerebus19 at 2:13 PM on November 5, 2006

Make that "...but the 1916 movie...seems like a likely candidate."
posted by cerebus19 at 2:13 PM on November 5, 2006

This is similar to many moments in Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors," which is itself based on an ancient Roman play by Plautus.
posted by grumblebee at 2:27 PM on November 5, 2006

See also the (real-life) story of Martin Guerre, the subject of a couple of films and one or two books.

I'm wondering if the immediate antecedent of the South Park/Family Guy parodies is something like Face/Off - it seems like that would be something that would be recognised by most contemporary viewers.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:31 PM on November 5, 2006

Wow, I was going to suggest the Star Trek episode where Spock goes through the transporter for the first time, but you guys have me beat.
posted by blue grama at 2:34 PM on November 5, 2006

Star Trek was one of the first things that came to my mind as a possibility, but I didn't know if this had specifically been used in an episode (I know about the black/white vs. white/black guy, but that's a bit different).

Face/Off is a possibility that I hadn't thought of, but that in itself seems like a twist on the scene, given that they don't look exactly alike, but have switched faces. In both the South Park & Family Guy episode, the two people look the same: Cartman and his twin from the evil dimension, Peter and an android that looks just like him.

I never even thought of Shakespeare or Plautus. There's certainly the mistaken identity trope going on a lot there. But that, as in the 1916 movie cerebus19 mentioned, are comedies, so its a bit different. Obviously the mistaken identity trope has been around forever (Hector killing Patroclus when he's wearing Achilles armor!) but I'm specifically wondering about this scene used as a dramatic climax, and not an ironic or parodic use of the trope. So, something more like the precursor to Face/Off.
posted by papakwanz at 2:49 PM on November 5, 2006

Sorry about the terrible grammar in that last post!

Me fail english.
posted by papakwanz at 2:50 PM on November 5, 2006

My brain is dead right now, but I'd bet almost anything it's a really ancient trope. It's such a archetypal idea.
posted by grumblebee at 2:54 PM on November 5, 2006

Trek uses it in at least three episodes: Good Kirk / Bad Kirk; the Evil Spock / mirror universe episode; and one from the last season where one of Kirk's old girlfriends engineers a body swap with him, and James T. has convince Spock that it's really him in the hottie's skin.
posted by mwhybark at 3:00 PM on November 5, 2006

There was also the Star Trek episode about the insane asylum, where one of the loonies has the ability to alter his shape.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:34 PM on November 5, 2006

It might be a reference to this movie.

Good luck!
posted by GrooveStix at 4:10 PM on November 5, 2006

People!! It is so definitely 100% from 'Face/Off"!! I expected more from you mefites.
posted by Kololo at 4:19 PM on November 5, 2006

See also: Lucy Marx vs. Harpo Ricardo.
posted by rob511 at 4:47 PM on November 5, 2006

grumblebee: The Plautus play is the Menaechmi. Twins separated at birth, yada yada.
posted by MarkAnd at 4:47 PM on November 5, 2006

Also in The 6th Day.
posted by Wet Spot at 5:16 PM on November 5, 2006

I know this isn't the formula you're looking for, but I think a closely related story is the one about King Solomon and the two mothers (Kings 3:16-28). Each one claims the baby is hers, and Solomon's solution is to suggest cutting the baby in half and giving half to each mother. One agrees and the other says, "No. Don't cut the baby in half. I give up my claim." And Solomon realized that this must be the real mother, because a real mother would give up her claim to a child in order to save it.

The more I think about this story, the more I feel that it is -- in every important way -- the same story you're talking about. But you might feel that the differences are less superficial than I do.
posted by grumblebee at 5:37 PM on November 5, 2006


I too was shocked that The Island played off the "Duck Season! Rabbit Season! Shoot Him! *BAM*" Looney Tunes' gag so seriously. The movie is worth seeing for that scene alone.

They even get the whole "Gun POV" thing going on
posted by niles at 6:14 PM on November 5, 2006

Red Dwarf did this in the Series 6 episode "Psirens".
They discovered who the "real" Lister was because the "fake" Lister could actually play the guitar.
Probably not the first appearance of the gag.
posted by jozxyqk at 7:34 PM on November 5, 2006

Continuing the Star Trek theme: The Undiscovered Country, when Iman (shapeshifted into Kirk) and Kirk are fighting in the snow and discovered by the Klingons they've escaped from.
posted by John Shaft at 7:48 PM on November 5, 2006

Ooh, and it's in 'the Salt Vampire' TOS too! hunh, thesis ahoy!
posted by mwhybark at 7:57 PM on November 5, 2006

hey GB, wubbout Enkidu/Gilgamesh, too? And there is a ton of assumed identity stuff in Greek mythos, as you note. Anything in Egypt or implied from the bull religions? Can the minotaur legend be seen in this light?

Ooo oo and Cain and Abel mebbe!
posted by mwhybark at 8:01 PM on November 5, 2006

I can't believe it five hours for someone to come up with Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country.

Kirk is trying to convince the prison guards to shoot his doppelganger (and succeeds) while McCoy watches. The dialogue goes pretty much as the OP mentions (except for the husband bit).
posted by neckro23 at 8:32 PM on November 5, 2006

As already pointed out, this idea is not new and appears in lots of places — enough places that even if they had one antecedent in mind, that in turn probably echoed something earlier.

My favorite version (older than Star Trek, not as old as Sakespeare) is in The Ipcress File where a brainwashed Michael Caine has to choose who to point the gun at when instructed by two of his bosses to "shoot the traitor."
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:49 PM on November 5, 2006

Well, if you're looking for the movie "precursor to Face/Off," 1967's The Double Man has similar plot aspects. There's a plastic-surgery manufactured doppelganger to inflitrate a spy organization (the FBI in Face/Off, the CIA in The Double Man). Also, the "good twin" spy gets drawn in initially looking to avenge the murder of his son at the hands of the other side. Oh, and when the good guy version enters the territory of the "bad side," that's the realm in which he encounters the sensual chick (Gina Gershon, Britt Ekland). There's no face swap in The Double Man, though--just two opposing agents with the same face, which causes confusion and allows them to pass as each other.

That said, SNL's doppelganger is my favorite version the "evil twin/clone" trope.
posted by neda at 1:02 AM on November 6, 2006

Um, hello? It's from Total Recall. Note how the quote does not have two of the same characters, it has one husband (Quaid) and one guy-from-the-memory-implant-clinic.
posted by zpousman at 6:56 AM on November 6, 2006

I just remembered the episode "The Schizoid Man" from The Prisoner.
posted by papakwanz at 8:05 AM on November 7, 2006

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