8 Ways to Bring Your Character Back from the Dead in Science Fiction

Here are some examples of how you could bring your character back from the dead:

 

Rebuild Them as a Robot

In the film Robocop, a terminally wounded officer is given a robotic body, keeping only his head and brain alive. He is more powerful and more kick-ass than before, with full body armour, incredible strength and zoom vision. But he was a lot more robot than he was human. If you want your character to come back exactly how they were, you could use significantly more advanced androids that are indistinguishable from humans, like the Replicants in Blade Runner, or the Human-looking Cylons in Battlestar Galactica.

Bring Them Back as a Hologram

In the British science fiction series Red Dwarf, Dave Lister’s dead bunkmate Rimmer is recreated as a hologram after his death. Rimmer looks the same, has the same memories and the same annoying personality but is created from light so he can’t touch anything. Being a hologram can have many advantages; Star Trek: Voyagers holographic Doctor can’t be killed by conventional means and he can change into the holographic form of anyone else.

Use Advanced Medical Technology

With advanced medical science any illness can be cured. It’s possible your characters meet an alien species so advanced that they can cure death. In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Neutral Zone” several Humans from the 20th century were found in stasis, frozen because they had terminal illnesses. One of them was even frozen immediately after death. They were revived and were easily cured by the Enterprise’s advanced technology.

Create a clone

Clones are common in science fiction stories, from a piece of DNA a complete human duplicate of a character (living or dead) can be created. If you want to bring a character back from the dead it’s possible to clone them as long as you’ve got a DNA sample. They’ll be exactly the same physically but you might have to explain the accelerated growth and devise a realistic way for your new clone to inherit the memories of the dead character.

In the 1978 film The Boys From Brazil a Nazi doctor creates many clones of Adolf Hitler after his death, hoping to restore one as the leader of the restored Third Reich.

Of course, clones are not always perfect. In the film Star Trek Nemesis, Captain Picard discovers that the Romulans have cloned him in an attempt to supplant him. However, the cloning process was flawed and he required an infusion of Picard’s DNA to stay alive.

Time travel

If you don’t care about time paradoxes or tears in the space-time continuum, it’s possible your characters could travel through time to retrieve a dead colleague from before they died. In the feature-length cartoon Bender’s Big Score Bender travels back and forward through time many times that he overlaps causing many alternate versions of himself.

Parallel dimension

Star Trek and other science fiction series have shown us many parallel dimensions, usually with subtle or significant changes. Characters from a parallel universe can be evil versions of their counterparts, or have at least some significant changes to their character brought about by something different in their past. It’s possible that your characters might visit a parallel dimension and bring back their dead colleague’s counterpart. This gives you a chance to continue using the same character, but with some interesting changes.

Regeneration

This is not as common as the examples above, but it’s possible that your character could regenerate into another body. In the extremely long-running science fiction series Doctor Who, every time the Doctor dies, he “regenerates” and comes back to life in the body of someone new. He can apparently only do this a number of times, but it makes an interesting way to change his character every so often and replace him with a different actor.

If you want to do something similar with your character make sure you’ve already explained that they’re an alien and that they can do this sort of thing, otherwise it’ll seem an unrealistic and far too convenient way to cheat death. Alternatively, regeneration could be achieved through advanced technology, but there should still be limitations in place.

Personality transplant

If your character’s body has been totally destroyed, there might still be a way to keep their memories and personality intact. They could use some technology that allows them to download their personality into a robot, clone or computer, or possibly ‘possess’ another person with their mind. In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Kirk realises the dead Spock’s memories (his katra or spirit) had been passed onto Dr McCoy, allowing Spock’s personality to exist inside McCoy’s body, allowing them to find Spock’s regenerated body and reunite his memories.

In the Battlestar Prequel “Caprica”, Daniel Greystone restored his dead daughter’s personality into a Cylon robot. A copy of her also existed for a time in cyberspace and was able to appear in virtual reality games.

So if you’re a science fiction writer or roleplayer and you’ve killed your character and want to bring them back from the dead, there’s some easy ways you can bring them back in true scifi style.

This article was written by David Ball, the creator of OngoingWorlds, a website where you can create and run  your own roleplaying games. You can read more of his roleplaying tips here.

  • i think Phil has done all of those except the regneration one and the robot

  • Bryan Neeley

    stargate has means to bring the dead back to life the sarcaphagus of the goald or the atlantean device it was adaptied from. they have acension to go to a type of heaven it involves both a leap of faith and an increase in brain activity. they can return to life if they break the rules of acension on purpose. i can’t belive the series has 2 atheists in it dr rodney mc cay on atantis and the leader of the crew that got sent to the destiny if they have these things.

    • Bryan, Stargate has atheist characters because the tone of the show is generally atheistic. It’s all about disproving the ultimate power of gods through science and reason, proving that all things can be explained through the application of logic, and freeing people from the slavery of various religions.
      There is nothing in the show that suggests the existence of an all-powerful creator being, only aliens with advanced technology (or biology). The sarcophagus is the perfect example of that – immortality through technology, pretending to be magical.

  • hsfhttdjtdjrstf

    the cloning method really doesn’t make sense. sure cloning can copy the body, to a degree ignoring all the unique little flaws, mutations and epigenetic characteristic one picks up through life, but the personality and memories are not stored in our genes. the only way that a clone could be identical would be if they had been through exactly the same events as the original person (and they would have to not realise their lives were being scripted otherwise they would end up with a very different set of memories) down to every stray cosmic ray that kills some random brain cell now and again.

    in the end the only reasonable way to “kill” then “resurrect” a character is to use relativity or stasis, have them go “missing”. get presumed dead but no body ever found then at a later date they can either: return home after a little accident jams on the thrust of their relativistic ship for 5 hours their time, however much you want earth time (just use y=1/sqrt(1-v^2/c^2) to find the speed needed, even better if you apply some calculus to that equation so you can cope with time dilation integrated during a period of acceleration not just at constant speed); or be picked up “frozen” in a life-pod.

    unless you want to create situations of “man from the past in a very different future” usually having your character bringing some knowledge or idea lost during the time he was frozen/accelerating/taking too close a look at a blackhole. if you kill your character then want to resurrect them there and then you’ve made a mistake in the plot which would be more convincingly fixed by having them avoid death in the first place.

  • Jack Hemsley 1

    Another way to bring back a dead character is consciousness transfer like on Avatar.