Recycled Script

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Above: 2009. Below, 2011.

"It's like they had a parrot on the staff during the editorial meetings that just kept pitching "Lois gets super powers! Lois gets super powers!" over and over again...
And they kept listening..."

Superdickery.com on Lois Lane #78[1]

When two or more shows share the same pool of writers (or when a freelance scriptwriter is a particular combination of industrious and lazy), it's not unknown for tight deadlines to be handled by the expedient of taking a script already used by one show and "translating" it to another show. Characters are mapped onto their closest equivalents, and situations are revised slightly to fit the new program, but the same plot is used unchanged.

When properly and skillfully done, the result can be an episode that looks and feels "original". However, haste and carelessness can (and has) resulted in shows that not only have a "cookie cutter" feel, but that actually draw the viewer's mind to the similarity between the original and the retread.

Recycled scripts are also a common side-effect of writers' strikes, particularly among Westerns made in the 1950s and 1960s. The practice actually dates back as far as the early days of radio.

When a show has run for a very long time, they might find themselves inadvertently recycling their own scripts. This is often the result of changes in the writing staff, where the new writers can't possibly be expected to remember the plots of all 500 previous episodes. Particularly common in shows where every episode ends on An Aesop, since there are only so many important moral messages the audience will understand. This is particularly grating in a Very Special Episode.

A show targeted at a Fleeting Demographic or one that is a sufficiently Long Runner may well unabashedly recycle its own scripts every few years.

Fans of canceled series are sometimes irked by the refusal of writers to reveal what they had planned if the series had continued. Frequently, the reason is this trope. If a writer has a real humdinger of a story or a great idea for a plot twist and hasn't pulled it out of their bag of writing tricks before the series was canceled, the writer is not going to spoil it just to appease the fans. Instead, they will hold onto it for the next job and get paid for it.

Related to, but not to be confused with Strictly Formula, where each individual episode plot seems the same, with minor variations. See also Fleeting Demographic Rule and Recycled Premise.

Examples of Recycled Script include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Samurai Champloo had an episode in which a sympathetic thief befriends a main character, then is killed trying to steal for a sick relative, that closely followed the plot of an earlier Cowboy Bebop episode. The main difference is that the Cowboy Bebop episode had a Bittersweet Ending where the thief manages to get his sister what she needed, the Samurai Champloo one has a full Downer Ending where he dies without any implication that his mother could afford the medicine or even continue her regular life.
  • Pokémon tends to recycle scripts quite often in the newer Diamond and Pearl seasons, usually Kanto and Johto plots. Notably, Jessie's Dustox's release, and Pikachu getting beat by a Raichu, and Ash asking if it wanted to evolve. Also Dawn's Swinub refusing to listen to her after evolving to Piloswine, then almost immediately evolving again and continuing to disobey her, just like Charmander did.
    • Dawn's first episode has been rehashed two or three times at this point. All with Ariados as antagonists who trap Piplup in a web.
  • Naruto had the Land of Vegetables filler arc that were basically a rehash of the main plot of the first movie: Naruto's team needs to escort a noblewoman in hiding that is cold and distant because of a past tragedy, and is in disguise because of attempts on her life, but becomes a Defrosting Ice Queen through her experience with Naruto and by the end is prepared to fulfill their duty happily.
    • Also, the "Curry of Life" filler arc features a villain who was a former member of the Seven Ninja Swordsmen of the Mist who is partnered with a young boy that was ostracized for his bloodline limits (Raiga and Ranmaru)--which is largely a retread of the villains of the Land of Waves arc (Zabuza and Haku).
      • Though unlike most examples, the similarity is actually pointed out in the episode. And makes Naruto far more determined to Save the Villain.
  • Bleach's Soul Society arc had Ichigo fighting through impossibly difficult enemies to save his friend, using an ability that he had previously gained to win his battles. The Hueco Mundo arc? Well, it has Ichigo fighting through impossibly difficult enemies to save his friend, using an ability that he had previously gained to win his battles.
    • The mandatory uniform for said captured friend is a white dress, no less. The new enemies are introduced through a Red Oni, Blue Oni pair that beat up Ichigo, giving him the need to train. And of course the badguys were just being used by Aizen all along, the point driven home by him suddenly deciding to stab a girl.
      • Also in both cases of two new enemies who set the events in motion, one is rowdy and the other emotionless.
    • Also: In the Bount arc, the heroes fight Jin Kariya, a White-Haired Pretty Boy who wants to take over the Soul Society because he and his Bounts were exiled long ago. In Memories of Nobody, the heroes fight Ganryu, a White-Haired Pretty Boy who wants to take over the Soul Society because he and his Dark Ones were exiled long ago. As if to accent the similarities, the same voice actor plays both Jin and Ganryu in English.
    • Fade to Black intentionally recycles old plots to play with the characters' memories. On the other hand the villains have Aaroniero Arruruerie and Kaien's recycled background, complete with Rukia guilt, but are not supposed to remind anybody.
    • A captain is betrayed by their lieutenant, whom they had always suspected would one day stab them in the back, but just didn't know when, where, or how. The ending of Turn Back the Pendulum? Or Deicide?
      • While the outcome is technically different for both, in that the lieutenant prevails the first time and the captain the second, Aizen comes out on top both times.
  • In the original Speed Racer manga, two issues include identical scenes in which Racer X tries to scare Speed away from a race. They're actual reprints, panel-for-panel, word-for-word, except for the name of the race.
  • Ojamajo Doremi and Fushigiboshi no Futagohime both manage to have an episode in their respective 2nd seasons in which the red-head's unintelligible Fairy Companion runs away after being berated for a major screw up (Dodo for dropping the watering can on Doremi's flowerpot in the former, Pyupyu for spilling medicinal herbs that Fine was planning to use in a soup in the latter).
  • Subtly parodied in a filler arc of One Piece. An early filler has the crew meet a littlle girl being pursued by corrupt forces and trying to find a legendary land. The villain was a wimp who couldn't challenge the Straw Hats directly and instead relied on tricks and traps. The earlier arc dragged out over eight episodes. In the more recent arc, with notable resolve not to go through this again, Luffy and friends just decided to smash everything in sight. This resolved it in two episodes.
    • To be fair the first filler arc was over a set of islands while the the second shorter arc was on just one specific one. Also the goal of the girls was different: Find a dragon, find a ingredient for a gem creation.
    • To a degree, rescuing Ace could be considered similar to the Enies Lobby Arc. They both feature an older sibling figure to Luffy who has a heritage which the World Government hates and considers a sin. Said figure initially does not have the will to live, but Luffy and his allies manage to convince him/her otherwise. In both arcs, Luffy storms a highly protected World Government facility with the help of former enemies. He also overtaxes himself immensely To the point where he cannot escape imminent peril.
  • Digimon fans who saw Summer Wars will probably wonder why they're watching a re-hash of the second Digimon movie: Our War Games. The answer: both were written by the same director.
  • Dragonball Z: Lord Slug was basically a rethread of the original 'gather the dragon balls' plotline in Dragon Ball, down to another Namekian villain. Dragon Ball Abridged had a field day with this, with Lord Slug being repeatedly confused with King Piccolo and responding poorly to it.
    • A lot of Z movies do that: Garlic takes from Raditz, Tullece from Vegeta, Coola from Freeza, Androids #13-15 from Cell and Androids #16-18, Bojack from Cell again and Janemba from Boo. That said, Slugg is by far the most Egregious case of this.
    • Exterminatus Now presents The plot of Dragonball Z - as Droste Image.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny copied plot lines from the last Gundam show, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: Shinn and Stellar's encounter in a cave (in Destiny) being similar to Athrun and Cagalli's (in Seed), while the final battles in both shows are nearly identical, with the only difference being that in Destiny, the Three Ships Alliance's victory was a Curb Stomp Battle (and in the TV version, a Flawless Victory).


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Was common practice at DC Comics in the 1950's-1960's (though almost exclusively in Superman titles edited by Mort Weisinger) because the audience was mostly children, and turned over fast. Two characters in the Legion of Super-Heroes, Mon-El and Star Boy, first appeared in rewritten stories of this sort. See Fleeting Demographic Rule.
  • Red Meat re-used the exact same script a few times, with only the graphics slightly changed.
  • When José Carioca's Brazilian comic series started getting popular, writers found themselves running out of ideas (it was a bi-weekly comic at the time). The solution was to recycle Donald Duck/Mickey Mouse cartoons and replace the main characters with José. Since they made sure to only use English stories that weren't localized yet, it sort of worked, at least if you ignore José acting out of character or interacting with characters he doesn't normally interact with (such as Goofy).
  • Archie Comics does this to a huge degree, which makes sense given its seventy-year run with multiple comics. And all the Digests that come out monthly, featuring anthologies of older stories. Running gags & themes abound, often creating the exact same stories and situations. Among the more notable examples, however, comes from the modern "New Look" stories- Titles, concepts, character names and slices of dialogue are completely taken from the "Archie Novels" series from the early 90s. Betty & Ronnie's fight over "Nick St. Claire", Archie moving away, Moose & Midge's breakup, etc., are all direct copies of prior work.
    • Speaking of Archie, their Sonic the Hedgehog series has fallen into this pit, recycling the same premise of an old and unused character group put Out of Focus coming under attack by a faction of the Dark Egg Legion and Sonic going (with one of the main characters) to fight them off. What's worse, is that this plot has been recycled three times in a row, at least.
  • Disney Comics did it: A 2000-era Disney magazine reused a serial story from the late fifties. It involved Mickey impersonating an Identical Stranger king.
  • A Christmas special for the Italian comic Lupo Alberto was copied from a Futurama episode: the main characters have an accident, she wakes up and discovers he is dead. Suddenly she discovers that he's still alive, but he asks her to "wake up" and discovers it was a dream. After some repetition of the fact, it's shown he was alive all along, she was in coma and he always said to "wake up" just as an encouragement for her problem.
  • Marvel's Tales to Astonish was a huge offender prior to 1961, when it was an anthology series. The writers apparently had a stock set of plots that were recycled, not every few years, but every few issues, right down to the twist endings.
  • In the late 50's and early 60's, Carl Barks recycled a couple of his own scripts from the late 40's with various changes, like making a Donald Duck story into a Scrooge McDuck one, figuring that no one would remember the old, long out of print comics. When older fans noticed it, Barks expressed shame in letters and interviews, feeling like he had been caught doing something wrong, despite that the fans simply thought it was a fun little trivia and liked both the new and old stories.
  • Marvel retold the origin of The Rawhide Kid multiple times over the years, usually with almost identical scripts, but different art, as shown here.
  • A script from a Winker Watson strip in The Dandy Annual 2009 was recycled for The Bash Street Kids a strip in The Beano (Issue 3610). Even though the scripts were from separate comics and for separate strips. The two comics are from the same publisher though.
  • In the early sixties there were plans for a Superboy Live Action TV series. The show never made it past the pilot, but scripts were written fot the show and were later used in the Superboy comic book series.


Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • In Half Life: Full Life Consequences, John Freeman receives a call from his brother to help him kill aliens and monsters, and goes out to do so on his motorcycle, killing "zombie goasts", and eventually defeating the last boss, only to see Gordon Freeman killed before his eyes. In What Has To be Done, John Freeman sets out on his faster motorcycle, kills more zombie goasts and kills the boss that killed Gordon Freeman, only for Gordon Freeman to rise as a headcrab-infected zombie goast.


Film[edit | hide]

  • On the big screen, the 1960s James Bond film Thunderball was recycled into 1983's Never Say Never Again with only a few minor tweaks to reflect the passing of time. The plot, names of several major characters, and even the actor playing Bond (Sean Connery) were otherwise unchanged. This was the result of a lawsuit by a writer who had contributed ideas to the original Thunderball, who was trying to leverage this into permission to make his own Bond movies; the verdict was essentially that he could make as many remakes of Thunderball as he liked.
  • Meet the Parents had a guy planning to propose to his girlfriend, but then has to meet her parents. He spray paints a cat, takes a lie detector test, and accidentally ruins their dinner with her grandmother's remains. The Sequel, Meet the Fockers, had the same guy planning to marry his girlfriend, but she has to meet his parents. His dog gets dyed blue, he is given a truth serum, and accidentally ruins dinner with his foreskin.
  • Anybody who tells you that Never Back Down isn't a script recycle of Step Up 2: The Streets Oddly-Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo, replacing dancing with mixed martial arts, is a liar.
    • See, I thought it was a recycle of The Karate Kid, but with MMA instead of Okinawan Karate... But then again, I've never seen Breakin' 2...
  • The John Wayne movies Rio Bravo, El Dorado, and Rio Lobo were pretty much the exact same story, just with a different supporting cast.
  • The writer of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button also adapted Forrest Gump. Comparisons have been made.
  • Ever thrifty, Roger Corman managed to film what was essentially the same script three times: When making Beast from Haunted Cave, he simply had writer Charles B. Griffith rewrite his own script for the heist thriler Naked Paradise and add a monster. He then had Griffith rewrite that script into a comedy, which he filmed as Creature from the Haunted Sea.
  • The ending of Star Trek: Nemesis was basically the ending of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. And the first half of Nemesis was basically the first half of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
  • Not only was Star Trek: The Motion Picture‍'‍s plot based on the script for the cancelled Phase II pilot, but it bore a striking similarity to an episode from the original series, "The Changeling".
  • Phantom of the Paradise has so many striking similarities with The Rocky Horror Picture Show (even though it could have only been inspired by the stage version of Rocky - RHPS was still filming when Phantom hit theaters) that some fans consider it part of the same series. Likewise, Rocky's bastard-sequel Shock Treatment has a number of striking similarities to Phantom; possibly a case of Richard O'Brien subtly reclaiming his own work.
  • The introduction of Batman and Robin is nearly identical to Batman Forever's opening:

"THE SCRIPT In attempting to capture some semblance of story, Joel Schumacher, along with screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, first used the basic outline of BATMAN FOREVER. If one were to sit down, and view both films simultaneously on two separate monitors, the comparisons between the two would seem just about right—time-wise. Examine, for instance, the first act. Freeze has taken guards in the museum. Two Face has taken guards in the bank. Batman is trapped in a vault being lifted, inexplicably, by a helicopter. Batman is trapped, inexplicably, in a rocket headed for unknown space. Through over-the-top theatrics, Batman is able to save the day. That sentence is applicable for either film." Greg Bray, Remembering Batman and Robin, Batman on Film

    • It doesn't just apply to the beginning; Batman and Robin also used some key plot points from Forever, namely the final act, where Batman, Robin, and Batgirl raided the observatory.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Douglas Adams' novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency reused several key concepts from "Shada", a story he had written for Doctor Who but which had been unfinished due to strike action (and elements of "City of Death", which was broadcast). Another Adams novel, Life, the Universe, and Everything, began its life as a Doctor Who screenplay called The Krikketmen. It shows, as the Gotta Catch Em All plot is a very different sort of animal from its predecessors.
  • Agatha Christie did this several times. The Poirot short story Yellow Iris became the Colonel Race novel Sparkling Cyanide; the Poirot novellas Murder in the Mews and Dead Man's Mirror (which were published together) were based on the Poirot short stories "The Market Basing Mystery" and "The Second Gong", respectively; the Poirot novel The Blue Train uses the same device as the Poirot short story "The Plymouth Express"; and two Poirot stories, "Problem at Pollensa Bay" and "The Regatta Mystery", were later rewritten to be about Mr Parker Pyne. Note that Poirot, Race and Pyne all exist in the same universe.
  • When Robert E. Howard's By This Axe I Rule!, a short story featuring his barbarian king Kull of Atlantis, was rejected by Weird Tales, he changed its setting and replaced Kull with a new protagonist he had been toying with—Conan of Cimmeria—and it became "The Phoenix on the Sword", the first of nearly two dozen stories starring the character.
    • In an interesting reversal, the script for a third Conan film -- Conan The Conqueror—was offered to Kevin Sorbo. Sorbo balked at the role, hoping to avoid the inevitable comparisons to Arnold Schwarzenegger, so the script was modified to be about King Kull instead, giving us Kull the Conqueror. (No, we can't give it back. Should've kept the receipt.)
  • Chris Van Allsburg recycled his book Jumanji, about a magic safari-themed board game that draws the players into its world, into Zathura, which is about a magic sci-fi-themed board game that draws the players into its world. Jumanji was later adapted into a movie; several years later, so was Zathura, and many of the changes to the plot of Jumanji were also put into Zathura (for instance, both films introduced a character who had been trapped in the game world since childhood, since he started a game and didn't finish it).
  • Any Goosebumps book with a "II" in the title.
    • The Monster Blood sub-series mostly avoided this to a degree.
    • As well as Deep Trouble II, and Return to Ghost Camp...largely because they didn't have a damn thing to do with their respective originals.
  • Some of the stories written for the Berenstain Bears Scouts series were simply extended versions of the episodes from the 1980s cartoon series.
  • Some Jeeves and Wooster stories, about a thick-headed young English gentleman and his ingenious valet, were adapted from PG Wodehouse's earlier Reggie Pepper series, about a thick-headed young English gentleman and... no one in particular.
  • Not the entire script, but at least enough similarities to raise an eyebrow: In most books / webcomics / what-have-you of Dozerfleet Comics, the way to tell a villain is truly a Complete Monster is that he targets a specific group for genocide, then has the men disemboweled and the women decapitated...ritually upon capture. And then, he turns his victim's corpses into museum exhibits for the Religion of Evil to gawk at.
  • In Le Morte d'Arthur, we get the tale of Sir Beaumains in Book VII, in which a lowly servant becomes a knight and is given an insulting nickname by Sir Kay, he goes on a quest with a damsel who mocks and degrades him endlessly, ends up proving his worth and changing the damsel's view on him, and his true identity is revealed to be Sir Gareth. In Book IX, we get the tale of Sir La Cote Male Taile, in which a lowly servant becomes a knight and is given an insulting nickname by Sir Kay, he goes on a quest with a damsel who mocks and degrades him endlessly, ends up proving his worth and changing the damsel's view on him, and his true identity is revealed to be Sir Breunor. Yeeeeeah, Deja Vu anyone?
    • Malory was compiling all the Arthurian romances he knew into one volume. It's entirely possible he included the same one twice with the names changed.
      • Actually, there is no known source for the Tale of Sir Gareth; although it draws on several Anglo-Saxon poems and the "Fair Unknown" genre that the La Cote clearly comes from, it has long been deemed too original to be a derivation. It is considered by most Arthurian scholars to be the only tale in the Morte to be created totally by Malory. La Cote Male Taile, on the other hand, came directly to Malory from the Prose Tristram, written in the 1200s.
  • Donald Sobol's Two-Minute Mysteries includes a story of a man who tries to impress his date with a fake medal his great-grandfather supposedly received, marked as a medal of valor from the first battle of Bull Run. The challenge is to figure out why the medal is obviously fake. Either it's obvious because it wasn't called the first battle of Bull Run until after there was a second battle of Bull Run ... or it's obvious because Sobol used the same mystery in his Encyclopedia Brown series.
    • The majority of the Two-Minute Mysteries are just Encyclopedia Brown stories condensed to one page and with the crime in question upgraded from petty theft to first-degree murder.
  • A monstrous race is threatening Lancre. They have mind-control powers that seemingly surpass Granny Weatherwax's headology, just as she's starting to worry that she's getting too old for this. Nanny and Magrat have to fight on without her. And then she pulls a Crowning Moment of Awesome and it turns out she had a plan all the time. Lords and Ladies or Carpe Jugulum?
    • Terry Pratchett's 1991 short story "FTB" (also known as "The Megabyte Drive To Believe In Santa Claus") is basically Hex's subplot from Hogfather, relocated to Roundworld.
  • The Roald Dahl adult short story "The Champion of the World" is about two men who come up with the idea of poaching pheasants by dosing raisins with sleeping pills and scattering them though the wood. There's something familiar about both title and plot...
  • The conclusion to the Pip and Flinx tales, in which some last-minute brilliance by Flinx allows him to track down a Lost Technology universe-warping superweapon and thus, save the galaxy from being devoured by the Great Evil, is basically a Recycled Script of The End Of The Matter, in which he did the exact same thing to save two solar systems from a black hole: the threat's just been scaled up by several orders of magnitude.
  • Dan Brown's Digital Fortress mentions a subplot explaining the etymology of the word "Sincere" as derived from "sine cera" which literally means "without wax" in Latin. In Digital Fortress he credits this to Spanish instead. It's explained that ancient sculptors would cover flaws in their work with wax, therefor a piece finished "without wax" would be considered honest and without flaw. Interestingly enough, Dan Brown revisits this exact same subplot when he explains "without wax" in his other book The Lost Symbol. This time correctly crediting the etymology to Latin.[2]

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • This trope was the basis for the early short lived 2000s NBC show called The Rerun Show in which a group of actors took actual scripts of old shows such as Bewitched and Married... with Children, and used the same exact dialog, while spoofing the show with props and actions.
  • The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman shared a fair number of scripts. The most obvious of these was a plot involving a crash on a remote island, stranding the bionic individual with a lot of extras plus a coworker from OSI (Oscar for Steve, Rudy for Jaime). The coworker is seriously injured, but there is a doctor among the survivors who can save him despite the primitive conditions; to help him do so, though, Steve/Jaime must cut open a finger on their bionic hand and bare two wires so that the doctor can cauterize a blood vessel.
  • Not the same show, but from the same writer: Kenneth Johnson wrote the two part The Six Million Dollar Man episode introducing Jaime, who was to be married to Steve until her bionics (recently acquired in the course of the two-parter's first half) malfunctioned and she ran amok during a tropical storm, after which she died from her condition. A couple of years later Kenny would write the season two opener of The Incredible Hulk, where David Banner fell in love with a doctor with a terminal brain disease—that causes her to run amok in a tropical storm until she died.
  • The Bionic Woman and Gemini Man once shared a script about a lookalike for the title character infiltrating the agency where she/he works despite being ignorant of the main character's superhuman abilities. They are both assassins, targeting the main character's superior. At the climax, the hero(ine) and the double are both claiming to be the real deal; the hero(ine) proves his/her identity by using their special abilities—one by bionic-jumping to the top of a tree, the other by turning invisible.
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century had a script, "Journey To Oasis", which was very nearly identical to the original Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Journey To Babel". Actor Marc Lenard even appeared in both, playing very nearly the same character.
  • In what is probably a specialized case, The New Odd Couple recycled eight scripts that were written for the original version of The Odd Couple.
  • An episode of Step by Step had the exact same plot as an episode of Happy Days. A character is dating a woman. Another character suspects that the woman may secretly be a popular stripper (who wears a mask). They notice that the woman has a very distinctive laugh. So they hire the stripper in order to make her laugh and prove her identity.
  • Similarly, Star Trek: The Next Generation recycled two scripts ("The Child" and "Devil's Due") that had been written for Star Trek: Phase II, the original proposed sequel series to Star Trek: The Original Series (they decided to do movies instead). The Next Generation also recycled some scripts that were used in the Original Series (most prominently "The Naked Now", which also referenced the episode it was recycling, "The Naked Time").
    • About the first half of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Future Imperfect" was suspiciously close to the G.I. Joe episode "There's No Place Like Springfield," written by the same author. Just swap Riker for Shipwreck and...
    • After three years of the original series and eighteen years for its spin-offs, scripts began to be borrowed and recycled from within each show and across the franchise as a whole. For example, the basic script for the original series episode "Elaan of Troyius" was recycled twice. It got particularly bad with Enterprise, which was accused of being a recycle of Voyager as a whole set in the past.
  • The Enterprise episode "Doctor's Orders" is virtually identical to the Voyager episode "One."
    • The Enterprise episode "Home" was similar to the Next Generation episode "Family". Both dealt with the Enterprise returning to Earth and the crew going on shore leave to visit their families and friends. Both were basically done so the characters and viewers could recover from the previous episodes, which had been emotionally trying for everyone ("Best of Both Worlds" for Next Generation, the entire Xindi arc for Enterprise). However, "Home" did serve a higher purpose, introducing three plot elements that would be expanded upon later (T'Pol's political problems and arranged marriage, human xenophobia, and the character of Erika Hernandez, captain of the starship Columbia). Short version: "Home" was "Family" with a few Chekhov's Guns. (No Chekov's Guns, though.)
    • "Oasis" from Enterprise was extremely similar to "Shadowplay" from Deep Space Nine, both being about isolated societies that turn out to mostly consist of holograms created by the one real person to stave off loneliness after the people they're based on were all killed. "Oasis" even brought back Deep Space Nine cast member Rene Auberjonois, who immediately pointed out the similarity.
    • Enterprise also has the episode "Chosen Realm," an obvious redo of the original series' "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield." Both deal with aliens who are at war over a trivial matter reflecting society at the time(having different colored skin, or a trivial religious debate), who ultimately return to their planet to discover that everyone has long since killed each other.
  • Star Trek: Voyager was often considered just a recycle of Star Trek: The Next Generation. For example, the Next Generation episode "Lonely Among Us" featured an Energy Being that is able to possess people and machines, and takes over the ship. Voyager's "The Haunting of Deck Twelve" used almost exactly the same plotline, but with the Framing Device of having Neelix telling the story of what happened to some children. By chance (probably), the Voyager episode ended up airing back-to-back with a repeat of the Next Generation episode when it was shown on BBC2.
  • A generic Star Trek plot - now in pictures and on a T-shirt! Ship -> Captain with two Red Shirts -> Planet -> Captain with two Green-Skinned Space Babes in skimpy clothes (but no Red Shirts) -> Back to Ship.
  • 24 scripts on Bewitched were recycled scene by scene. One was recycled twice. Most of these were episodes featuring the first Darrin that were recycled with The Other Darrin. Since some were two-parters, this means a total of 55 of the 254 episodes, 22% of the entire show, weren't unique. In addition to these completely recycled scripts, there were also many that had similar premises but were different in the particulars, and many individual scenes and gags that were recycled in otherwise original episodes.
    • Some of the black and white episodes were redone after the show went to color.
  • Boy Meets World and That's So Raven both had a Very Special Episode about racism. In both, the black friend gets denied a job because he's black and video evidence is used to get the word out. Both shows were made by Disney.
  • Stargate Atlantis has reused a few scripts from Stargate SG-1, usually with a Lampshade Hanging. In the Atlantis episode, "The Intruder", McKay comments on how the SGC faced a similar situation before (in the SG-1 episode "Entity"). The SG-1 episode "Grace" has a sister Atlantis episode "Grace Under Pressure". There was even a week in which the two shows, airing back-to-back, featured very similar, yet unrelated enemies haunting each team's base: SG-1 had to deal with Anubis in "Lockdown", and the Atlantis team faced an alien being in "Hide and Seek". Both enemies took the form of inky black Energy Beings and were disposed of the same way—through the stargate.
    • Two episodes of Stargate SG-1 several years apart both featured O'Neill being implanted with an Ancient Magical Database that gave him access to tremendous lost wisdom but was slowly killing him. In both episodes, his fading language ability was a serious obstacle, and in both episodes, the solution depended on him using his newfound mysterious knowledge to activate some powerful Applied Phlebotinum to reach the Asgard for help. However, this was more of a twist or deconstruction of the Recycled Script trope rather than playing it straight, because differences between the episodes highlighted how the show had changed over the years. The first time, downloading the Magical Database was by accident and O'Neill had to MacGyver the Phlebotinum from scratch to reach the Asgard, who they barely knew anything about at this point, and that was the whole point of the episode. The second time, downloading the database was a last-ditch attempt to resolve the season's Plot Arc, so actually finding a cure wasn't as important as finding something else in the database. The team had access to a fair amount of alien technology of their own by this point, and Daniel could even speak a bit of Ancient to translate for Jack.
    • Writer Katharyn Powers's first episode of SG-1, "Emancipation", was basically a recycled script of an episode she wrote for Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Code of Honor". Both episodes are considered some of the worst episodes their franchises ever produced.
    • In a plot spanning several episodes, the home base has been infiltrated and all but conquered by a ruthless enemy; simultaneously, a cataclysm outside is threatening to destroy the base if the conflict cannot be ended quickly enough. Stargate Atlantis ("The Storm") and Stargate Universe ("Incursion").
  • The late-1980s remake of Mission Impossible recycled four scripts from the original series virtually verbatim.
    • Justified, actually, since the show did debut right in the middle of the 1988 Writer's Strike (Which didn't prevent two of the writers taking their names off the remakes).
    • And one episode argueably improved on the original when Greg Morris guest starred as a retired Barney who gets wrongfully imprisoned in Turkey instead of the original episode's random victim-of-the-week.

Barney Jim?!? Is that you? Hell, you retired before I did!"
Jim Phelps Do any of us really retire?

    • So Jim didn't have to ask, "Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?"
      • Incidentally, the original series also reworked some episodes in its final season (compare "Two Thousand" to season one's "Operation Rogosh," both of which involve men plotting to wipe out millions of Americans and a plan to unmask the scheme by making the villain think it's the future).
  • The X-Files reworked season one episode "Ice" (about a parasitic alien that caused its victims to turn psychopathic and eventually die) into the season two episode "Firewalker" (you can probably guess the main difference). Both were based, in turn, on the classic John W. Campbell novella "Who Goes There?".
  • The Avengers occasionally recycled its own scripts during the Emma Peel seasons, when Cathy Gale scripts would be given an overhaul. For example, "The Joker" is a creepier version of the Gale story "Don't Look Behind You," and "The £50,000 Breakfast" is a remake of "Death Of A Great Dane."
    • Likewise the New Avengers episode "Complex" is essentially a remake of the original series episode "Killer".
  • The plot of the Thunder in Paradise episode "Endangered Species" (a wolf child turns out to be the heir of a murdered co-owner of an aviation company, and the other co-owner wants to finish the job) was also featured in an episode of The Wizard (film) with the same title.
    • And before that, it was an episode of Manimal, "Female of the Species". The same writer is credited for all.
  • One episode of The Brady Bunch in which Bobby pretends he's sick in order to get a visit from his favorite professional athlete, Joe Namath, was later re-used on Diff'rent Strokes with Muhammad Ali.
  • After Curly Howard's stroke, The Three Stooges attempted to get the audience attached to his replacement Shemp by making several of their old shorts over again with Shemp in the Curly part. Results were less than successful.
  • Both Out of This World and Sabrina the Teenage Witch did episodes where a hurt finger prevented the protagonist from using her magical powers at a key moment.
    • And where the magical protagonist used her powers to catch someone paying off a shady character, and deciding that the "only possible explanation" was that they were involved in illegal activities, only to later have to undo the damage to their reputation when it turns out that they were actually doing charity work while trying to protect the privacy of the charity recipients.
    • Sabrina recycled one of its own ideas: Sabrina and her friends are magically given musical talent in order to gain fame, which threatens to destroy their friendship. The two episodes were several seasons apart, and the details were different, but the basic plot is the same.
  • USA High seemed to rip off quite a few Saved by the Bell premises and plots.
    • Saved by the Bell did this themselves quite a bit, with Saved by the Bell: The New Class ripping off a number of plots from the original series.
  • The Twilight Zone tended to run into this somewhat, especially considering that it is An Aesop as discussed in the main article. Particularly interesting is that two episodes of the same recycled script will end with the Family-Unfriendly Aesop version of the other's moral.
    • Most noticably "Mr Bevis"/"Cavender is Coming" (though in fairness, both were written by Rod Serling - and both were prospective pilots for a series about guardian angels, which didn't fly. It would be a while before CBS managed to pull it off) and "The Dummy"/"Caesar And Me".
  • Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda was rife with this. First off, several basic concepts for the series were recycled from other aborted Gene Roddenberry TV projects. The character of Dylan Hunt, complete with name, was borrowed from Planet Earth and Genesis II, a pair of never-picked-up TV pilots from the 1970's about a man frozen in time for 300 years who awakens to find civilization in ruins following a nuclear war. The idea of the starship's computer AI being self-aware and having a female body it could walk around in was stolen from a rejected early concept for what eventually became Star Trek: The Next Generation. Another rejected Star Trek spinoff concept had featured a Federation starship, the USS Andromeda, frozen in time at the edge of a black hole, released 300 years later to find the Federation had fallen in a war with the Klingons, and the crew deciding to rebuild The Federation. On top of all that, an early episode featuring Dylan Hunt being able to briefly communicate with his wife who was still stuck back in the past was based on a rejected script for Star Trek: Voyager by the same screenwriters, and which bears a striking resemblance to a script that did get green-lit for Voyager in Season 1 to boot.
    • Perhaps this makes the "quantum slipstream drive" that becomes a plot point in latter seasons of Voyager a bizarre hybrid of Shout-Out and Mythology Gag.
  • An episode of Friends had Monica obsessing over a switch which didn't seem to do anything, and spent the episode going to further and further extremes to figure out what the switch did. The episode ended with her flicking it on and off, deciding that it did nothing, but we see it actually turns the TV on and off in Chandler and Joey's apartment. A clear recycle of a Married... with Children episode where Al spends the episode obsessing over a switch that doesn't seem to do anything, going to further and further extremes to figure out what it did. The episode ended with Al flicking it on and off, deciding that it did nothing, but we see that it actually turns the lights on and off in the dog house.
    • This was further recycled from (or into) a bit in Stephen Wright's stand-up comedy routine, where he tells of having such a switch in his house which he flicked randomly every time he passed it—until he got a letter from a woman in China demanding he knock it off.
    • Recycled again into a Nationwide Insurance commercial, featuring a man asking his wife the question while repeatedly toggling the switch. Cut to the neighbor's car getting smashed by the neighbor's garage door cycling up and down with the switch.
    • Another episode of Friends had Chandler learning a lesson about not breaking up with women over petty little reasons—something which he'd never done before, and would never do again, throughout the history of the show. The exact same thing happened to JD in an episode of Scrubs, but it had already been established as a plot device in an episode from an earlier season that JD has never broken up with a girlfriend in his entire life, ever.
      • The above paragraph was recycled from the Broken Aesop entry.
  • In its last two seasons, MacGyver started recycling material from its earlier seasons, but with more emphasis on the Aesop than on the story itself.
  • The Doctor Who story "The Seeds of Doom" (by Robert Banks Stewart) was recycled from The Avengers "Man-Eater of Surrey Green" (Stewart had written for The Avengers, but not that episode, which was by Philip Levene). "The Seeds of Doom" feels wrong for a Doctor Who story in many ways, since it follows the Avengers formula. For example, the (Fourth) Doctor casually jumps on top of a bad guy and punches him out.
    • Also the story "Night Terrors". A child in an everyday contemporary Earth environment turns out to be an alien whose reality-warping powers cause his fears to threaten his family and neighbours. When did we see that before?
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 reused several of the films they riffed on during their initial season on a local UHF station after going national. Several host segment sketches were also remade later.
  • Charmed did a lot of these in the final season.
  • The Easter Bunny is Coming to Town is pretty much just Santa Claus is Coming to Town with the origins of Easter traditions in place of Christmas traditions.
  • Kids Incorporated did pretty well for its first five seasons, but recycled stories from the early years abounded in the later seasons. For example, season 6's "Karate Kids" is almost identical to season 1's "The Bully" (The only substantive difference is that Robin actually learns Karate, whereas The Kid just pretended to have done so), down to the opening scene where the bullied character sneaks on-stage and performs wearing a Conspicuous Trenchcoat and dark glasses. Also, at least three episodes, near-carbon-copies of each other, have the Kids get a taste of super-stardom which nearly breaks the band up as they all forget how to work together.
  • Possible case: Both How I Met Your Mother and Rules Of Engagement featured an episode where the show's resident Lothario runs into the older woman to whom he lost his virginity (complete with "Mrs. Robinson" reference). The Lothario, reminded of his poor early performance, determines to sleep with her again despite her having gone from middle-aged to a senior citizen, and Hilarity Ensues. What made this example stick out so much is the the episodes in question first aired on the same night, on the same channel, within an hour of each other.
  • Two episodes in the fourth series of Monty Python's Flying Circus consisted largely of material lifted from the first draft of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Some of this material was written by John Cleese, who otherwise had nothing to do with the fourth series.
  • One of the episodes of ABC's revival of Columbo ("Uneasy Lies the Crown") was a remake of an episode of McMillan and Wife (by then just called McMillan) titled "Affair of the Heart" in which a dentist manages to kill someone and not be anywhere near the crime scene by placing digitalis under a newly capped tooth.
  • The season 3 M*A*S*H episode "White Gold" has a scene where Hawkeye and Trapper slip a mickey to Col. Flagg so they can perform an unnecessary appendectomy on him and put him out of commission, thus allowing the soldier Flagg's after (an aid-station medic who'd stolen some much-needed penicillin from the 4077th) to return to his unit unscathed. While it's more or less played for laughs, a very similar plot would be used to much more serious effect in season 8's "Preventative Medicine": in that episode, Hawkeye performs the unnecessary surgery on a gung-ho colonel so he can't lead his troops into a suicidal objective, but B.J. will have nothing to do with it, accusing Hawkeye of violating their ethical code as doctors.
  • Heroes, "Six Months Ago" v. Buffy, "Help": Character tries to save girl from predestined death by murder (Sylar/some crazy cult)? Check. Girl ends up dying anyway of medical causes? Check (blood clot/heart attack). The girls' names are even similar: Charlie and Cassie.
    • Although Hiro eventually does manage to get Sylar to save Charlie.
  • The short-lived syndicated version of Bustin Loose (starring Jimmie "JJ" Walker) lifted several scripts wholesale from Walker's previous show, Good Times, usually nearly word-for-word.
  • Bizarre example: In this video about North Korea's long-running "comedy"/propaganda TV show, it's mentioned that they've recycled a "comedy" bit about beans from 20 years ago. (Newswire reports mention that the show has been "delivering the same material over and over again".)
  • As mentioned in the main article, American Westerns tv shows of the fifties and sixties were more or less made of this trope; Warner Bros. had a policy of reusing scripts across their various shows to save money on writers, changing only the names of the primary characters and the locations, as well as changes made for time and pacing when a script for an hour long show was used for a half hour long show later. Roger Moore had already read lines originally written for Maverick years before he joined the cast of the show while working on another show, The Alaskans, for instance.
  • Charmed had two separate episodes (in season six and season eight), each about three evil witch sisters who steal the Charmed sisters' identities and make everyone else magically think they are them. Except for different supporting characters (Chris in one, Billie in the other), they were eerily similar episodes.
  • Merlin has quite a small pool of writers, and by the third season, you can tell. The episode "The Changeling" (in which a princess is possessed by a fairy and betrothed to Arthur) is a melding of season two's "Sweet Dreams" (Arthur is put under a spell and falls in love with a spoilt noble-girl) and "Beauty and the Beast" (a troll puts Uther under a love spell and marries him), and the episode "Gwaine" has elements of "The Once and Future Queen" (assassins come to Camelot and try to kill Arthur under the guise of participants in a tournament). Hell, practically every single episode is a variation of a) magical creature tries to kill Uther/Arthur, b) Arthur goes on quest to prove himself worthy of kingdom, c) evil woman seduces one of the Pendragons, or d) someone needs rescusing from the dungeons after being falsely accused of magic.
  • Paul Merton in Galton & Simpson's... was a series of recycled scripts by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson (some from Hancock's Half Hour), with the most significant differences being that Hancock's exclamation of "Stone me!" was removed, and that in one episode Sid James's character (who in the original shared a bedroom with Hancock) is replaced by Merton's then wife, Caroline Quentin.
  • Invoked by Wheel of Fortune during a "Going Green" week in April 2011 (with environmentally-friendly prizes and an overall Green Aesop-ish motif). On the April 6 episode, host Pat Sajak informed them that every puzzle was "recycled" from a previous episode (episodes in the 1990s, to be specific). To drive the point home, a clip from the 1990s episode in question was spliced into the start of each round.
    • In a more straightforward example, the show has recycled puzzles very many times. Prize Puzzles are most guilty of constantly being some variation on "relaxing in the sun/in the sand/on the beach".
  • After Jason Jones wound up hung over with a facial tattoo, the night after Osama Bin Laden was killed:

Jon Stewart: Didn't this... didn't almost that exact same thing just happen to you, like, two years ago?
Jason Jones: Still a funny premise.

  • The I Spy episode "Bet Me A Dollar", in which the partners set up a large-scale game of hide-and-seek that turns abruptly serious when it's revealed that the hiding partner has been poisoned, was recycled as Starsky and Hutch's "The Game".
  • Dan Schneider has several cases since Drake and Josh where an episode has been a direct lift of an earlier episode in another series.
    • He also has a massive tendency to repeat jokes. One example being the "three legged cat" joke.
      • Both Cat Valentine and Carly Shay have suffered the indignity of not being asked to a prom. One of these girls not being asked is ridiculous, both simply wouldn't happen.
    • A major character falls in love with another one, only for the Anti-Hero sidekick to come along and say that the love is superficial, leading to the couple breaking up, allowing the show to continue with Status Quo Is God. This describes both the Josh Loves Mindy episode of Drake and Josh and the iSaved Your Life episode of iCarly.
    • The two iPsycho episodes are basically the same thing with minor changes to the resolution.
  • After the success of its mass trauma episode "Blizzard" and its "one doctor, one case" episode "Love's Labor Lost", ER began trotting out similar episodes each season. This got so common that fans came up with a Memetic Mutation of "a _________at a______________floods the ER with patients" to describe certain episodes.
  • Both Los Serrano and Aida had a plot where one of the guys would be Mistaken for Gay and he would try to clear it out, just to discover women suddenly don't mind being naked around him, and then keeps the lie to take advantage of that. In both cases, the guy tries to get the girl he likes to strip, but she won't, and also in both cases, the guy tries to get some with the girl saying she's making him rethink about his sexuality. In both cases, the girl hits him.
  • Dragnet liked to recycle scripts at various points. One notable one was the Christmas episode involving a poor boy who took the statue of the child Jesus from the church he attended because he'd finally gotten the red wagon he asked for and wanted to give the child Jesus the first ride. It was done on the radio show, the black and white TV series and the color remake.
  • Forever Knight recycled several unused first season scripts into season 3, which was why Captains Stonetree and Reese were both named Joe. All they had to do was switch last names and replace Nick's first partner, Don Schanke, with his second partner, Tracy Vetter.
  • El Chavo del Ocho suffered badly from this. Several episodes were remade until four times, sometime even reapesting cast and roles. Granted, the show having done several Channel Hops (even if it whitin the many Televisa channels) and severals changes of format[3] could explain it, but it's still quite jarring when all of those episodes end together in syndication.

Musical Theatre[edit | hide]

  • A related phenomenon in musicals is the recycling of lyrics:
    • "I Remember It Well" originally appeared in the Broadway musical Love Life, but remained extremely obscure until its lyric was recycled (with some revisions) for the movie Gigi, set to completely different music.
    • "Put Me To The Test" was a Cut Song from the movie A Damsel In Distress, used as dance music only. Its lyric was salvaged and put to use in the movie Cover Girl.
  • This applies to music as well. In musical theatre, recycled songs are known as "Trunk Songs" - songs that were written for one show, cut, and subsequently lay at the bottom of the composer's trunk until he was in Boston with a new show that desperately needed a new song in seconds flat, at which point he pulled the song out of the trunk (the lyrics often being replaced entirely). It's a testament to the craft of the songwriters how seamlessly some of these songs fit into their new context. A few examples:
    • The music for both "One Hand, One Heart" and "Somewhere" were originally composed by Leonard Bernstein for Candide and subsequently dropped. When West Side Story required new material but Bernstein was too busy working on Candide, he handed these songs over to lyricist Stephen Sondheim.
    • Jules Styne's music for one particular song had been used in - and discarded from - several shows, before it wound up permanently in Gypsy as "You'll Never Get Away From Me".
    • Stephen Schwartz has stated that his music for the "Goldfarb Variations" in The Magic Show was culled from a much earlier show he wrote while still a student. The dramatic moment called for a four-part fugue - quite a technical challenge to compose - and, since Schwartz had already composed one, he decided to put it to good use.
    • A related example: many of the songs cut from Stephen Sondheim's Follies were re-used by choreographer Michael Bennett as material for the show's lengthy overture. The two songs featured most prominently are "All Things Bright And Beautiful" and "That Old Piano Roll".
    • Andrew Lloyd Webber does this frequently, sometimes to the point of ridiculousness. "Music of the Night" started life as "Married Man", "I Don't Know How To Love Him" was originally published under the title of "Kansas Morning," and a song called "The Heart is Slow to Learn" was written for a proposed sequel to Phantom, used as "Our Kind of Love" in The Beautiful Game, then pulled back out of that musical to serve its original purpose as the title song for Love Never Dies.
  • Opera has some more blatant examples: Rossini in particular was nefarious for his extensive borrowing from his previous operas. At the time, there was greater freedom to do so, as long as the two works premiered in different towns.
  • The Sera Myu used the plot of Galaxia resurrecting Queen Beryl quite a few times. Sometimes she was with the Shitenou sometimes not. Once she was resurrected with the Amazon Trio instead. Also many plots were pulled from the Anime or Manga but this is to be expected.
  • The song "Climbing Over Rocky Mountains" from Gilbert and Sullivan's Thespis was brazenly recycled, tune and words, in The Pirates of Penzance. Thanks to this, it is now one of only two pieces of music from Thespis's score that have survived.
  • About half the songs (maybe more) of songwriter and composer Jim Steinman (famous for his collaborations with Meat Loaf) were written for, or later used in, various musical theater projects he'd either written or was on board for as part the creative team. These include: Neverland (produced at his college, which eventually led to Meat Loaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" album), Wuthering Heights (produced for MTV), an aborted Batman stage musical, Tanz der Vampire and Whistle Down The Wind.


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • One arc of Modesty Blaise had her being captured and placed in the bottom of a large hole with a bucket stuck on her head, as entertainment for two elderly murderers. The same plot was reused in an arc of Agent Corrigan.
  • The Comics Curmudgeon has noticed recycling in comic strips, most blatantly in Blondie and Family Circus, which exactly duplicated the layouts of the original strips.
  • Garfield has recycled gags many times in the strip's 30+ year history, including at least two instances where the same gag was used twice only one year apart. One is at the top of the page; the other was a gag where Garfield is in such a hurry to get to a cup of hot chocolate that he stands on Odie.
  • Berke Breathed tended to reuse gags in his various comic strips. Of note: the "burger without a bun" gag, which was used in Bloom County's first comic. It came from Berke's previous comic The Academia Waltz, and was later reused AGAIN in Bloom County itself.
  • Beetle Bailey, which by now has a run of about half as many strips as there are atoms in the known universe, must have recycled hundreds of its jokes, almost certainly sometimes more than once. Since there are so many strips in existence, it's just conceivable Mort Walker just can't remember which ideas he has already used. But don't bet on it.
    • He seems very deliberate about reusing the gag where the officers are afraid to point out an obvious spelling mistake in the General's written instruction, and instead do exactly what the instruction says, even though it makes no sense (tacks instead of tanks, buns instead of guns, gag masks instead of gas masks. etc.)
  • The comic strip Mulch once redid a week-long arc word-for-word after a change in artists. It hadn't even been a year since the previous arc ran.
  • Buckles always reuses its punchlines. Really.
  • Hagar the Horrible tends to be guilty of this. In general there are maybe seven or so basic setups (Hägar getting nagged on by his wife, Hägar and Lucky Eddie stuck on a deserted island, vikings attacking some noble's castle, Hägar returning from Paris...) that are repeated over and over again.
  • Baby Blues occasionally does this. For example, the joke with the false weight on Wanda's driver's license was used three times.
  • Peanuts did this several times, as listed on this page.
  • And averted with extreme prejudice by Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side, none of which recycled an earlier comic.
  • Dilbert: Cleanup on aisle three.
  • FoxTrot:
    • A 1998 strip has Roger complaining about how the paperboy is always throwing the morning newspaper in a puddle or in the bushes, to which Andy responds by saying that Roger should stop tipping him with a nickel every month. A later strip from 2000 has Roger complaining about how the paperboy keeps throwing the newspaper in a puddle and declares, "Starting today, no more 5-cent monthly tip for that young man!"
    • A strip from 2000 has Paige channel-surfing very slowly, to the point that Peter grabs the remote and start channel-surfing very quickly, saying "This is how to do it." This same gag was used in a 2005 strip, except with Jason in place of Paige.


Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • Professional Wrestling manager/promoter Jim Cornette, out of character, has put out a "rule" that angles or gimmicks can be recycled after about seven years, due to the shifting fanbase.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • Not even Shakespeare was immune to this: Macbeth is a virtual rehash of Julius Caesar. Both tell the story of a general (Brutus/Macbeth) who, at the urging of a close companion (Cassius/Lady Macbeth), murders a ruler (Julius Caesar/King Duncan) and seizes power. After being haunted by their respective victims' ghosts, they are defeated by a former ally (Marc Antony/Macduff) in the name of the rightful heir (Octavius/Malcolm).
    • Almost all of Shakespeare's plays were recylings of others' plays to begin with - which was common at the time. Also, both Julius Caesar and Macbeth were based on historic records/legends which happened to have some similar plot points.
  • Cirque Du Soleil has done this at least twice with clown acts, recycling material from long-since-closed tours. Quidam's current clown segments (Audience Participation involving a date and a film shoot) are from the 1990-93 tour Nouvelle Experience. ZAIA revives the comic symphony conductor act that appeared in their Eighties tours. As well, back in The Nineties -- when the company was much smaller -- acrobatic acts developed for one show were sometimes moved with their performers to another and given a different song and costuming/staging to fit the new "home" (aerial cube moved from Alegria to Mystere after the latter's manipulation act was moved to Quidam); this still happens occasionally. Finally, the 1992 Japan-only tour Fascination mostly consisted of acts from the Le Cirque Reinvente and Nouvelle Experience tours (which hadn't visited Japan), and in visuals and theme duplicated those of Reinvente.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • BioWare RPGs Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, and Jade Empire all feature sidequests where you end up arguing your position before a panel of five judges against an insulting opponent. The connection is more explicit between NWN and KotOR: both sidequests feature a murder trial, the player character as the defense lawyer, and a defendant who did actually commit the crime (although in one case, the defendant was not responsible for his actions).
    • Mass Effect 2 also has this, though there are only four Quarian admirals (one only presiding, without a vote) on the panel that judges Tali'Zorah.
    • This is arguably Rule of Fun (or a repeated Scrappy Level if you didn't like them).
    • While speaking of Bioware, how many NPCs in the player's party has bioware created with same trust issues?
    • Also speaking of Bioware, their RPGs somehow manage to shoehorn at least one Tower of Hanoi puzzle in them (I'm not sure about Jade Empire, but there is Naga Sadow's tomb in KotOR and the Rift Station in Mass Effect).
    • Oh look, a chart.
    • Also every Bioware game starting with KotOR has some "prepare defense" quest, all games have some sort of gladiator fights (to be honest, almost any RPG has those) and some sort of vision quest.
    • Additionally, KotOR 1 and Mass Effect 1 share similar plotlines in general: travel to about four planets/systems to retrieve information about the enigmatic MacGuffin, with a ship as your "base", while trying to make sense of your vague dreams and visions. You gather all but one of your squad on the starting planet; the last is retrieved on one of the planets with information. Near the end, there's a big revelation. Neverwinter Nights does the exact same thing thrice, as the first three chapters all involve starting in a "hub" town and then going to four different places in any order to get an enigmatic MacGuffin from each, before finishing with a dramatic reveal and a final dungeon, wash, rince, repeat (Chapter 3's final dramatic dungeon is Chapter 4, technically speaking).
      • Same goes for KotOR 2 and Mass Effect 2: gather a dysfunctional team from across the galaxy (two members of which were in your previous team) in order to take down a major threat, with the ship from the previous game as your "base". Several of your team members have less-than-honorable pasts, and trust is now a major gameplay component. This all builds up to an epic conclusion, in which many of your team members can be Killed Off for Real. (Unfortunately, in KotOR 2's case, the conclusion was almost completely cut.)
        • KotOR 2 was not made by Bioware, though, so while there may be some recycled script elements (or rather, both games used the 'recruit a badass team' storyline), it's not like they recycled their own script.
  • Speaking of KotOR 2, it featured more or less the same setup as Black Isle/Obsidian's earlier Planescape: Torment: a Humanoid Abomination (that's you) tries to become normal again (Nameless One wants his mortality back and the Exile, her connection to the Force) and their suffering draws a number of other characters with serious issues to them.
  • Star Control 3 is a capital offender in this area; roughly 40% of the dialogue is ripped directly from the preceding game. The new lines are... lacking, to say the least.
  • For all the talk of Warcraft in Space!, Warcraft III has the same basic plot as StarCraft, with a hero of the first campaign becoming the Villain Protagonist of the second, followed by the various good guys including the Fallen Hero's ex-love interest uniting to stop them by teaming up in the final campaign, but ultimately failing to redeem them and not stopping them for good. There are several similar missions, and the Zerg and Undead even play extremely similarly in style, complete with backstories involving godlike precursors unleashing them.
  • A probably coincidental instance in animated series based on video games: The Super Mario World episode "Rock TV" has Bowser giving television sets to all the cavepeople and then hypnotizing them into turning against the Mario Bros. Ten years later, the Kirby Right Back At Ya episode "Un-Reality TV" has King Dedede giving television sets to all the Cappies and then hypnotizing them into turning against Kirby.
  • The first Metal Gear Solid borrowed several set-pieces from both of its MSX2 predecessors, Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, especially from the latter. Some of the events in Metal Gear Solid that were borrowed from previous games include:
    • A puzzle which involves deactivating an electrified floor by destroying its power supply using guided missiles (previously featured in MG1).
    • A boss fight with a rapid-fire weapon-wielding mercenary who is vulnerable to guided missiles (Machine Gun Kid in MG1, Vulcan Raven in MGS1).
    • A ninja-like character who turns out to be one of Snake's fallen allies from the previous installment (Black Color Black Ninja in MG2, the Cyborg Ninja in MGS1).
    • An anonymous informant who warns Snake of incoming traps. One of the more notable examples, as both characters turn out to be Gray Fox (Snake's Fan in MG2, Deepthroat in MGS1).
    • One of Snake's contacts turns out to be the enemy commander, who is willingly giving advice to sabotage Snake's mission (Big Boss in MG1, Master Miller/Liquid Snake in MGS1)
    • The first hostage Snake must rescue has a transmitter which pinpoints his location on Snake's radar (Dr. Marv in MG2, Donald Anderson in MGS1). Both turn out to be enemy spies in disguises (Black Ninja in MG2, Decoy Octopus in MGS1)
    • Snake must follow a female accomplice to the women's restroom in order to meet up with her (Natasha Marcova Gustava Heffner in MG2, Meryl Silverburgh in MGS1)
    • Snake ends up challenging Metal Gear's pilot to a fistfight (Gray Fox in MG2, Liquid Snake in MGS1)
  • Actually invoked in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. According to some characters, one of the objects of the whole thing was to see if going through what Snake did in Metal Gear Solid would create another super-soldier; and as a result, there are many elements that subtly echo the first game, such as the fight with Fatman among the crates, similar to Vulcan Raven; having to backtrack to the beginning, similar to the rifle; a fight where the player is able to go through the middle, but doing so is a game over, with both Vamp and Ocelot; even a cyborg ninja just to have one.
  • All three Uncharted games share plot elements: Evil and/or Jerkass Brits, a vehicle chase in a jeep with a rear-mounted machine gun/grenade launcher, a Public Domain Artifact that mutates its victims (and makes them incredibly annoying to fight, although the third game uses it only as part of a Meta Twist), a brief Genre Shift to Survival Horror, and a good guy getting shot only to later be revealed as surviving. Meanwhile, the first two games share even more plot points, in addition to the above: a traitor who didn't actually betray you, a Big Bad with a less-than-reliable Dragon, a forced team up with a rival against previously-mentioned mutants while you wait for your allies to rescue you, the Big Bad getting exposed to the artifact, bad guys dying Karmic Deaths as a result of the artifact, a bad guy subverting Heel Face Turn right before death, and Those Wacky Nazis.
  • It must have been made in large part as an homage, since the game Titan Quest has innumerable similarities to Diablo 2 – taking it much further than even most Diablo clones do. Consider the following...
    • The first world of each game: In Diablo 2 is mostly grasslands ending in a dungeon crawl, in Titan Quest, it is the grasslands of Greece ending in a dungeon crawl.
    • The second worlds: in Diablo 2 you are off to the desert where amongst other things, you fight through a valley with several large tombs only one of which contains the boss. In Titan Quest, you are off to the deserts of Egypt where at one point you find yourself in a valley with several tombs only one of which contains the boss.
    • The third worlds: In Diablo 2 you go to a world of mainly forests. One quest has you searching for a jade idol. In Titan Quest, you go to China and mostly fight through forests (and heavily forested mountains). One quest involves finding a jade idol.
  • Final Fantasy IV: The After Years could very well be called The Recyled Years instead, as a lot of plot points and scenes of the original are repeated, often with little to no variation. Considering you face nearly every boss form the original too, it could be considered the most enviroment-friendly game ever.
    • Interlude, a Midquel added to the Complete Collection, takes the cake by recycling again the Doom Wall and Mom Bomb bosses, though on the latter they slightly innovated by having you face Dad Bomb instead.
  • Tron 2.0 came out in 2003, was given virtually no publicity by Disney, and quickly vanished into Canon Discontinuity once Tron: Legacy came out. However, there are enough plot elements (protagonist is the son of the human protagonists, gets zapped to cyberspace when searching for his dad, gets drafted to the games and rescued by a mystery woman, goes to a bar to get what looks like the way out only to fall into an ambush...) matching up to make one wonder if the writers had the thing on multiplayer.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The episode "Dementia 5" was used, with very few changes, by two animated series made by the same studio. The series were Spider-Man and Rocket Robin Hood.
    • Another episode of Spider-Man, involving a scientist taking over a power plant to raise the city into the air, was re-used later. Essentially they changed a few words in the script, changed the scientist's skin color and added pointy ears, and suddenly it was involving an Atlantean using his submarine to lower the city into the ocean.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series writer D.C. Fontana recycled her script for the episode "Yesteryear" from Star Trek: The Animated Series into the Land of the Lost episode "Elsewhen".
  • When scifi author Larry Niven was hired to write an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series, he took the plot of his short story "The Soft Weapon" and replaced three of the characters with Enterprise crew to create "The Slaver Weapon". It even featured one of his trademark alien species, the Kzinti, without alteration. (His rejected original proposal for the episode, meanwhile, became another short story, "The Borderlands of Sol".)
  • DuckTales (1987) and Tale Spin both on The Disney Afternoon, did this with episodes that involved confusion over what the right date was ("Allowance Day" and "The Time Bandit", respectively), which led to an impending execution. The main character(s) were saved by a pilot (Launchpad and Baloo, respectively) who scooped away the clouds to reveal what day it really was (with an eclipse and a comet, respectively), proving who was right. Baloo mentioned that he was the first pilot who had ever done something like this, despite the fact that Tale Spin came out after DuckTales (1987). (It could be argued that because Tale Spin takes place in what appears to be The Thirties, Baloo would have been the first chronologically; a view taken by at least one crossover comic.)
    • It's worth noting that "Allowance Day" and "The Time Bandit" were written by the same writers.
    • Let's not forget that Tale Spin's basic premise borrows heavily from the later seasons of Cheers. I mean, really, they're both shows about a happy-go-lucky bachelor who loses his business to an uptight corporate ladder climber, then has to work for her to keep all that he holds dear. Rebecca Cunningham even looks a lot like Kirstie Alley's Rebecca Howe... if Kirstie Alley were a bear, anyway.
  • The Gummi Bears episode "Bubble Trouble" has the same plot as The Smurfs episode "St. Smurf and the Dragon".
  • Many of the early Hanna-Barbera series reused stories from old Tom and Jerry cartoons (understandable, since the studio was made up of MGM artists), as well as a few Looney Tunes (Some of the Warners story men wrote for HB). For example, the T&J short "Pecos Pest", about a relative of Jerry's from Texas who comes to practice for a TV appearance and uses Tom's whiskers as guitar strings, was redone as a Pixie and Dixie short. Similarly, the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Windblown Hare", in which the Three Little Pigs sell Bugs their homes just as the Big Bad Wolf arrives, was redone with Yogi Bear.
  • Filmation recycled the premise of the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe episode "Day of the Machines" (Big Bad uses an Energy Being to tamper with the heroes' computers) into an episode of Filmations Ghostbusters ("Cyman's Revenge").
    • Not only that, but the writer of "Day of the Machines" also recycled the plot for an episode of Transformers Generation 1—reusing not only the plot but also the title!
    • Similarly, Bravestarr has two episodes, "No Drums, No Trumpets" and "To Walk a Mile", that basically have the same plot: "a former Galactic Marshal, who has sworn off guns due to a tragic incident in his past, is looked down upon by his child. Then, said child is kidnapped by bad guys, forcing him to take up his weapon once more." Alan Oppenheimer even voiced the former Marshal character in both episodes.
  • An unfinished Swat Kats episode called "The Curse of Kataluna" had its script recycled to make the Real Adventures of Jonny Quest episode "Eclipse" and Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island.
  • Take a typical episode of Wacky Races, find a visual gag involving Dick Dastardly's attempt to stop the other racers, and the odds are pretty much even that you'll find an identical gag in a Chuck Jones Road Runner cartoon. (Michael Maltese is credited as a writer on both series.)
  • The Hey Arnold! April Fools' Day episode was basically a 30 minute version of their previous episode "Beaned"; both episodes involve Helga faking an injury long after she's actually healed from it to have Arnold take care of her.
    • The resolution of these two episodes are completely different, though. In "Beaned," Helga's conscience gets the better of her for taking advantage of Arnold's kindness and she fakes her 'recovery' so that he's let off the hook. In "April Fools Day," when Arnold learns that Helga's faking her injury in order to prank him, he retaliates with an audacious prank of his own before she can spring her trap. (Since "AFD" is supposedly set post-movie, the differences in outcomes for each story show a subtle change in dynamic between the two - Arnold's passivity to Helga's aggression is slowly evolving into a good-natured 'contest of equals' between the two.)
  • The Family Guy episode "The Splendid Source" was adapted from a short story of the same name which Richard Matheson wrote in 1956. It shows in that the episode's humor is much more sedate than the norm for the show, and is almost completely devoid of cutaway jokes.
    • A Cutaway Gag in one episode shows Peter drinking the communion wine at church and then cracking a joke about how Jesus Christ was wasted everyday. About two seasons later in a different episode, the gag is reused, but DVD Commentary states that the reuse of the gag was purely by accident.
  • It's probably just a coincidence, but the last part of "Arise, Serpentor, Arise"! (G.I. Joe) and the entire episode of "Atlantis Arise!" (The Transformers) have a few similarites: the villians of the series attack Washington DC, are defeated by the heroes, and the treacherous character voiced by Chris Latta saves his leader (receiving no gratitude for doing so). Of course, Cobra don't ally themselves with mer-creatures, and the Decepticons don't create a new leader, but even so...
  • A few recent episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants seem to have recycled plots from other Nicktoons. "Toy Store of Doom", for example, has essentially the same plot as the Rugrats episode "Toy Palace" (they get locked in the toy store after it closes for the night and are afraid the toys will attack them), while "Banned in Bikini Bottom" (Krabby Patties are outlawed and Mr. Krabs starts selling them at SpongeBob's house secretly) is similar to the CatDog episode "Just Say CatDog Sent Ya," in which Farburg Burger Bones are banned from Nearburg and CatDog stars selling them at a speakeasy in an underground cellar.
    • "Picture Day" was a recycled script from the Recess episode "One Stayed Clean".
  • Many cartoons made by The Pink Panther studio (DePatie-Freleng Enterprises) are recycled from old Looney Tunes scripts. Of course the studio was mostly made up of old Warner animators.
  • Ren and Stimpy episode "Haunted House" is recycled from an unproduced Tiny Toon Adventures short. See the original storyboards here [dead link].
  • Cartoon writer David Wise did this a lot. For example "Kremzeek!" from The Transformers became "The Big Zip Attack" in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and "Zap Attack" for The Mighty Ducks. A double example: He Man and The Masters of The Universe episode "Day of the Machines" was recycled partly from "Kremzeek", and partly from a Transformers Generation 1 story also called "Day of the Machines"!
  • The Simpsons episodes "Million Dollar Abie" and "The Boys of Bummer" both involve a member of the Simpson family (Grampa and Bart respectively) becomes a pariah over a sports-related mishap, to the point they attempt suicide. Both episodes are hated by the fanbase to the point of Fanon Discontinuity.
  • The Courage the Cowardly Dog episode Curtain of Cruelty has an identical plot to The Tower of Dr. Zalost; a scientist causes the entire town of Nowhere to become miserable, just like him, and the solution involves one of Muriel's homemade recipes. Also, Eustace is immune because he's already so cruel. Both episodes do have several differences though, for instance Dr. Zalost is a full 30-minute episode, while Curtain of Cruelty is a normal 15-minute short.
  • South Park Bigger Longer and Uncut is pretty much an extended musical version of the episode "Death". Here, Kyle's mom overreacts to Terrance and Phillip and gets the other parents to protest against them. In "Death", they protested by mass suicide, but in The Movie, it was an all-out WAR with Canada.
  • Batman the Animated Series and Darkwing Duck both had episodes in which the titular character temporarily lost their sight. They even had the same subplot in which the protagonist gains access to a machine that mimics sight, allowing them to fight crime again, only for the machine to get destroyed. Losing their eyesight and using the other senses to get around was also the premise of a Beast Wars episode.
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  2. which is also false, the word comes from the latin prefix sin- (one) and word crescere (to grow), drawing an analogy to a field that is not growing mixed crops
  3. El Chavo began as a sketch in an Sketch Comedy , before becoming its own half hour sitcom until it ended being part of an sketch show again.