Week Ten: Alternate history & Sci-Fi doubles

How does Mountfort (2018) argue that the technological doppelganger differs from its Romantic precursors?

Traditionally, the use of doppelgangers and doubles  was often associated with fairy tales, myths and gothic literature (literary devices, n.d.). However, their frequency in recent science fiction texts highlights the societal shift in our beliefs. We tend to favour science and technology as a credible source of doppelganger creation over a supernatural occurrence. Mountfort (2018) supports this claim as he states, “contemporary science fiction television (SFTV) is riddled with doppelgangers that function as harbingers of rampant technological change” (p. 60). As a result of our attitude towards the ‘technological’ doppelgangers, there has been an increase in their visibility within the SFTV world. However, the reconfiguring of elements from the ‘romantic’ into updated categories, means they are still relevant today. The ‘romantic’, the ‘technological’ and how they relate will be discussed below.     

The ‘romantic’ doppelganger is the traditional, supernatural occurrence of doppelgangers. This version of doppelganger has declined in textual popularity as society has tended to believe less in the supernatural. However, Marcus (2013, as cited in Mountfort, 2018) argues that elements of the ‘romantic’  have persisted into modern variations doppelgangers. He continues by saying that they stem from basic categories of human thought and science including identity, similarity, difference and opposition (Marcus, 2013 as cited in Mountford, 2018, p. 60). Marcus’ five modern doppelganger categories are:

Coincidental double – A rejection of the “natural and supernatural” occurrence. Instead it is the result of a “very implausible coincidence” with a lack of “causal connection”.

Pseudo-double -The “protagonist believes that he has a double” but all other relevant textual information contradicts this belief.

Biological double – Such as twin or half-sibling, and makes “the natural explanation of the external similarity between them seem plausible”

Empathetic double – Where an “emotional affinity and similar experiences” create the double.

Useful double – The “original” desires a “double or doubles in order to take control of his life.”

Alternatively, and more prevalent in modern media is the ‘technological’ doppelganger. This version uses science and technology as the fundamental basis for a doppelganger. The concepts and scenarios in which these doppelgangers are created can be broken down into the following: quantum doubles, synchronic doubles, synthetic doubles and genetic doubles.

Quantum double

This uses quantum mechanics and theory to propose the idea of parallel universes. As a result, when an alternate version of a character crosses into a parallel universe, a doppelganger is created. This concept is popularised by shows like Fringe (2008-2013).

Synchronic (time travel) double

In this doppelganger variant is created as a result of theorising time as a continuum. If time travel is possible, a person traveling forward and backward in time would create a copy, or doppelganger if they travel to a time where they already exist. This type of doppelganger features in shows like Misfits (2009-2013).

Synthetic (robotic) double

This doppelganger is the result of advances in technology. Robotic doubles are synthesized in society with artificial intelligence and are essentially clones of the original. This type of doppelganger is at the core of the Swedish series, Real Humans (2012-2014) as well as the English-language remake Humans (2015-2018).

Genetic double

This version of doppelganger also involves the creation of doubles. In this instance, genes are harvested and/or manipulated in order to create copies of an original. The series Orphan Black (2013-2017) uses this version of doppelganger as one of its fundamental elements. 

Marcus’ (2013 as cited in Mountford, 2018) reconfiguring of elements from the ‘romantic’ in to updated categories, make them relevant to and applicable to the aforementioned ‘technological’ doppelgangers. For example, quantum doubles can also be categorised as coincidental doubles, as they exist without a causal connection. Additionally, synthetic doubles could also be considered useful doubles as they are created as copy to fulfil a purpose for the original. However, the ‘technological’ doppelgangers still have more relevance to contemporary SFTV as categories like synchronic doubles, which could almost be considered a coincidental double is accurately summed up by term. 


Abrams, J. J., Kurtzman, A., & Orci, R. (Producers). (2008). Fringe [Television series]. Ontario, Canada: Fox.

Baron, S., & Widman, H. (Producers). (2012). Real Humans [Television series]. Sweden: Sveriges Television.

Crowe, K., Strevens, M., & Pitt, N. (Producers). (2009). Misfits [Television series]. London, UK: E4.

Fawcett, J. (Director). (2013). Orphan Black [Television series]. Toronto, Canada: Space.

Fry, C. (Producer). (2015). Humans [Television series]. London, UK: Channel 4.

Literary Devices. (n.d.). Doppelganger. Retrieved October 23, 2019 from https://literarydevices.net/doppelganger/

Mountfort, P. (2018). Science fictional doubles: Technologization of the doppelgänger and sinister science in serial science fiction TV. Journal of Science & Popular Culture, 1(1), 59-75. doi:10.1386/jspc.1.1.59_1

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