Going Beyond Evil Spock: Listing My Favorite Alternate Universe/Alternate History Stories
One of my favorite tropes in fiction is that of the existence of an Alternate Universe/Alternate History. With real and mind-blowing scientific theories suggesting that there’s an infinitive amount of alternate and parallel universes that mirror our own; it leads to many “what if” questions and scenarios and naturally, those “what-if’s” can make for great story telling. These stories range from Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Sound of Thunder” in which a hunter goes back in time to kill a T-rex but alters the universe by accidentally stepping on a butterfly to Stewie and Brian’s multiverse traveling adventures in Family Guy. It’s fair to say that the concept of Alternate Universes and Histories has made its impact on pop culture. Spurning from a recent small talk conversation at work with a few co-workers, I thought it’d be fun to list some of my personal favorite alternate universe/history stories found within comics, TV shows and movies (in no particular order):
Fringe’s Alternate Universe– Fringe is an incredible show that richly explores the idea of an alternate universe much like our own but with some differences. The show’s alternate universe arc begins when loveable addled genius Walter Bishop discovers an alternate universe 30 years prior to the first episode and stole that universe’s version of his son Peter when the Peter of our world dies from a childhood illness. Walter’s interference created disasters in the alternate universe and pretty much steered the course for the show’s most interesting story arc. There are some really cool minor things that make the alternate universe episodes worthwhile and fun ranging from the World Trade Center towers never being attacked, JFK still being alive, MLK on the $20 bill and a Back to the Future staring Eric Stoltz instead of Michael J Fox!
Watchmen’s Alternate History- Set in 1984, Watchmen shows us a very different history in which Richard Nixon is entering into his 3rd presidential term, the Vietnam War was been won by America and subsequently Vietnam shortly becomes the 51st state. Another fun note is that the story within-the-story comic book, Tales of the Black Freighter is pirate-themed since superheroes probably wouldn’t be as interesting if they really existed to readers in that timeline. The movie adaptation does well with the translation from page to screen via the film’s opening montage.
Superman Red Son- Superman has long been the symbol of Truth, Justice and THE AMERICAN WAY…but what would have happened if Superman happened to crash-land in Russia instead of Kansas? This incredible Superman story explores that very concept where Superman grows to represent the Hammer and Sickle of Soviet Russia rather than the red, white and blue of America. Plus, there’s Russian Batman and that’s an awesome perk alone for reading it. Many of the Elseworld stories in DC focus on alternate universe/alternate history of their marquee heroes. These range from Batman becoming a vampire to Superman: True Brit, which is a John Cleese-penned Superman story where he’s raised in the British countryside. However, Red Son is by and far one of the most enjoyable.
Old Man Logan- This is probably my favorite Wolverine story. We see an old, pacifist Wolverine living in a world in which super villains are in control and nearly all of the other superheroes have fallen in battle or have gone into exile. Wolverine takes a job teaming up with a blind Hawkeye to deliver a mysterious package across the former United States of America. There are lots of fun twists and turns along the way plus seeing a venom symbiote with a T-Rex as its host and inbred hillbilly Hulk offspring makes for a fantastic read. Plus it’s miles shorter and less dense of a story than Age of Apocalypse.
Supernatural Enters the Real World- While Deadpool is the reigning king of breaking the 4th wall in fiction, Supernatural had a very fun episode where Sam and Dean Winchester wind up in a world where they are just fictional characters on a TV show called “Supernatural”. It could have easily turned into a groan-worthy jumping of the shark episode for the show, but instead, the result made for one of the show’s most fun episodes. There’s plenty of digs lampooning the star’s real and personal lives, the “success” of the show, and Misha Collins (Castiel) being obsessed with Twitter.
Star Trek’s Mirror Universe– There’s probably been no other show on TV that explored alternate universes more than Star Trek has. Even the newest series of films take place in an alternate universe (although this is purely to avoid undoing all the previous Trek shows and movies and pissing off nerds). However, out of the many interesting universes shown in Star Trek, the original trip to an alternate universe is still a favorite of mine. This Mirror universe was introduced in the classic Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror” and introduced us to a more savage and militant version of our beloved crew of the USS Enterprise and taught us that evil doppelgangers usually wear goatees. Hmmm I’m bearded, maybe that means I’m the Evil Me and the Good Me is stuck in an evil Universe! (See Also: Yesterday’s Enterprise)
Futurama’s Alternate Universe(s)- This is one of the more fun episodes of Futurama. Professor Farnsworth creates a box that contains an entire universe inside, of course things go wrong and the crew runs into their alternate universe counterparts. With the exception of Fry and Leela being married in the alternate universe, there’s not too many differences: Bender is golden but every bit the same robot and even in the mirror universe nobody likes Zoidberg haha.
Lost’s Flash Sideways Universe – Lost was a fantastic show that I still to this day can’t really stop talking about. Season 6 really divided the fanbase with the final episode but everything building up to it made things fun. In a world where Oceanic 316 didn’t crash we see our favorite Lost castaways leading mostly different lives: Daniel Faraday is a musician rather than a scientist, Desmond works for Charles Widmore, Jack is a father, Charlie is alive and well performing with Driveshaft, Sawyer and Miles are cops and best of all: Ben Linus is a history teacher!!! Say what you will about Season Six, but seeing Flash Sideways Ben Linus bitch about coffee filters in the teacher’s lounge is awesome! Like the normal Ben, he ends up getting beaten to a pulp in this universe as well.
Did your favorite alternate universe get snubbed? Are we living in the darkest timeline? Sound off below on the comments or visit popcultureasylum’s facebook page to express your displeasure.