It’s kinda interesting how television works. We have a cast of characters we stick with, and can follow over time, as they develop and evolve in a slow and methodical manner.
Very few other mediums do this. Films are quite stand alone, we follow our characters for two hours, then never see them again. Or we get to see them for another two hours, and then maybe another two hours after that.
Books often times act like films in the same capacity, featuring standalone adventures, and a second one if they’re lucky. Of course there is the exception of proper series which could last for dozens of books, and often act like TV shows in that sense.
So I find that an interesting aspect of television. Where we meet the characters, learn about them, and sorta get used to them. So, if the show decides to dramatically change the setting for a single episode; like, say, 100 years into the past for a series of flashbacks; it can be a bit jarring, since we’re introduced to a whole new set of characters we’ve never seen before.
So, because of this, the writers often create duplicates. They keep characters we’re familiar with, and just transplant them into this new setting.
There’s even one film series that couldn’t avoid it: Back to the Future! You see, in Parts II and III we meet characters in 2015 and 1885 who are played by the same actors who played 1955 characters in the original film. Now they are, obviously, completely different characters, but they fit similar archetypes, and have similar roles in the plot. For instance, Thomas F. Wilson plays Biff, Griff and Buford Tannen, and all three characters are major antagonists at different points in history. During the films Marty also gets the chance to meet his son, daughter, and one of his ancestors, all played by him. That’s right, I did say ‘daughter.’
It’s a lot less jarring to see faces we’re somewhat familiar with, rather than a completely new cast. And it’s easy to get a sense of what their roles are when their faces are so familiar.
Sliders also did this. The show took place in a new universe every week, but it wasn’t uncommon to see the background cast and guest stars to be composed of familiar faces. Duplicates of characters we’ve seen before, or even duplicates of the main cast. But it’s used with a slightly different purpose, either using a case of mistaken identity for dramatic effect, or throwing us for a loop by having the duplicate of one of our heroes be the episode’s primary antagonist.
I kinda like this trope, it’s interesting seeing the characters we love in a different setting. See how a different environment would change them, even if they’re not technically the same characters.
Which brings me to a recent episode of Littlest Pet Shop, involving a treasure hunt, and flashbacks to the American frontier. This is gonna be fun! Continue reading