Will Smith’s new film Gemini Man may not be wowing critics, but it’s based on a storytelling conundrum that’s as old as time: What would you do if you had to fight your own clone? We’re looking at some of our favorite examples of duplicates who’ve had to duke it out.
Whether it’s through the magic of science, the science of magic, or something in between, clones and doppelgängers are a classic staple in speculative fiction. They represent the parts of ourselves we’d sometimes rather not see, or the lives we would have taken if the Butterfly Effect had fluttered in another direction. Facing off against your clone is the classic nature vs. nurture tale, seeing the people we’d become under different circumstances.
Here’s a list of some of our favourite and standout clone battles. I personally love the Citadel DLC story in Mass Effect 3, where Commander Shepard faces off against their clone that had been created for “spare parts”. Be sure to leave a comment with your favourite too!
1. Star Trek: Nemesis
One of the most famous (or should we say infamous) sci-fi clone stories of the 21st century. Star Trek: Nemesis, the final movie in the Next Generation series, brought Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) face-to-face with a younger version of himself, played by Tom Hardy. The clone had been created by the Romulans as part of an elaborate plan to secretly replace Jean-Luc in Starfleet, but the plot was abandoned... and so was he. The movie was designed to explore what kind of person Picard would’ve become under harsher circumstances, but it didn’t exactly stick the landing. And of course we couldn’t forget Data and his robotic copy B-4, not to be confused with Data’s other robotic copy, Lore, better known as the Evil Data. Geez, there are way too many Datas out there.
2. Orphan Black
You can’t talk about fighting clones without Orphan Black – that’s the premise of the whole show! Orphan Black was about a woman named Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) who discovered she was one of several clones (all played with different looks and personalities by Maslany) who’d been created as part of a top-secret experiment. It’s hard to pinpoint a standout battle between Sarah and her sestras, but I’ll go ahead and give a nod to the season four fight between Sarah and Rachel. It was intense, brutal, and extremely well choreographed. Of course, I do want to also mention that awesome clone dance sequence. Because it’s great to see clones getting along.
Futurama often delved into the subject of cloning. There were those two presidential candidates who were near-exact clones of each other – who Richard Nixon ended up defeating anyway. In “The Farnsworth Parabox”, Leela fought an alternate reality version of herself, though it ended up in a quick stalemate. Then, of course, you have Q*Bert, Professor Farnsworth’s clone that he created as a way to ensure his legacy. Their battles were more mental than physical, but it all came down to Q*Bert wanting to figure out his own path in life. Eventually, he became more of a surrogate son to the professor than a direct copy.
4. Alien: Covenant
David and Walter didn’t just “do the fingering,” they also had their share of spats. Alien: Covenant ended with Walter confronting his android double over the discovery that David had created the first xenomorph. Much like the rest of the movie, the whole situation was overly convoluted and full of inexplicable but fairly expected “twists”. The story seemingly ended with Walter making it to safety but it was actually David, who wanted to ensure the survival of the xenomorph species as part of his twisted thought experiment. Or something. You know what, I barely understood this movie.
Comic book stories are all about those clones. Supergirl’s last season dove into its own clone saga with the story of the Red Daughter who wasn’t conjured through science, per se. Snowbird was a copy of Supergirl who was created after Kara went back in time to defeat Reign using black kryptonite. Add in Reign’s genetic engineering and dark magic and well, second Supergirl! (Also, comic book shows!) She ended up in Kaznia and sided with the Soviet Union, coming to the U.S. as a spy. Eventually, she realised that Lex Luthor was bad news and chose to side with Kara, sacrificing herself in the process and bringing the two copies back together.
6. Steven Universe
Steven Universe is, well, a universe of clone stories. After all, the Gems were designed as clones, constructed to serve specific purposes for the Homeworld. It’s fitting that many of their stories involve the Crystal Gems and Steven fighting different versions of themselves since their rebellion was all about asserting their individuality and free will against conformity. One of the situations that stood out to me was the time Lapis made the Crystal Gems fight clones of themselves created out of water – as they were both mirror versions of themselves, and a new threat they couldn’t defeat.
7. Ash vs. Evil Dead
Sometimes clones aren’t made by science, they’re created by demon science. In the Ash vs. Evil Dead episode “Ashes to Ashes”, Ash was forced to fight Evil Ash, a clone copy grown by the Deadites using his possessed severed hand. (It was a foe he’d fought before on the big screen, too). Much like that scene in Futurama where Leela fought her alternate reality self, both versions of Ash thought they could get the upper hand because they knew the other one’s strengths and weaknesses. That’s not what we call a sound strategy but ultimately Good Ash won in the end... or did he? Yeah, he did.
8. The Island
Hey, remember that time auteur Michael Bay made a sci-fi thriller that starred Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson as clones of famous people who were harvested for their organs? If not, I really don’t blame you. The Island was a 2005 film that tried to tackle the complex subject of human cloning... but mostly served as another ridiculous Bayverse action-thriller with a thick glossy coat of the Transformers colour filter. Lincoln’s (McGregor) fight ends with the “I’m not the clone, he is!” battle of wits. But in this case, it’s the clone that comes out the victor. As pointed out by someone on Twitter, the story also bears similarity to the cult classic Parts: The Clonus Horror, which I haven’t seen but now I have to.
Bonus: The Matrix Reloaded
Okay this one’s cheating a bit, but I refuse to write about clone fights without mentioning the Neo vs. Smiths fight from The Matrix Reloaded. Neo ends up facing off against hundreds of digital Smith clones that keep multiplying as he continues to rage against them. It’s so absolutely ridiculous you can’t help but love it. Plus, I’m pretty sure there’s some collateral damage in there between the Smiths, so technically the clones do fight themselves – even if it wasn’t on purpose. Or maybe it was, the Smiths are arses.
Photo: Starz, Warner Bros., BBC America, Paramount Pictures