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File:PhoenixWrightButDifferent 8564.png

Oh, this is that sitcom about the lawyer and his bum roommate, right?[1]

A form of Character Derailment in which a character in a long running series gets Put on a Bus. Years later, the writers bring the character back, except... he isn't the same person anymore. He behaves differently, has different skills or interests - he's become a completely different person.

Writers could justify it by saying that character development took place offscreen, but it seems a little as if the writers have basically written a new character and slapped his traits onto someone who already existed in canon to make the introduction easier.

The inversion of Suspiciously Similar Substitute. See also Not as You Know Them and Characterization Marches On.

Examples of Same Character but Different include:

Comic Books

  • Superboy-Prime in DC Comics was introduced during Crisis on Infinite Earths as an Ascended Fanboy from the real world (or what was closest to it) who became Superboy during the Crisis. He finally went to a better place with the original Superman and Lois. He was brought back much more recently... as an insane villain who's a Take That at the fans (complaining about continuity, saying the old days were better, and so forth, all it really did was prove how poorly the character was written).

Live Action TV

  • Amy Madison, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the episode "Witch", she's a quiet young thing whose evil mother has taken over Amy's body. In episodes before she was Put In a Cage she was a witch who was no (or negligably) more evil than Willow (at the time), but when Amy is reintroduced a couple of seasons later, she's turned pretty much as bad as Mom.
    • Cue the surprisingly consistent Wild Mass Guessing about Mom repossessing Amy after the events of Graduation Day.
    • To be fair, she did kind of get stuck as a rat, for about three years. And then she comes back into the world much later, disoriented and unaware of all the time that passed during her (unintentionally self-inflicted) Baleful Polymorph state... plus the hinting that she'd started to at least partially abuse magic. It doesn't fully justify things, but in that light it makes her new characterisation at least a little easier to swallow.
  • Clare Bates, in Eastenders. She was a regular character in the show as a young teenager back in the 1990s. She was sweet, a doting daughter, and all-round girl scout. Actress Gemma Bissix found fame in a brief stint on Holly Oaks playing a scheming bitch, so the EastEnders writers decided to bring her back as a similar character. Now, 15 years might have passed in between for Clare to turn evil, but it was still a bit disappointing that the writers had to basically turn her previous exit storyline, a happy ending, into a sad one.
  • This is why long-term fans of General Hospital cringe whenever they hear a beloved character from the 1980's is coming back.
  • Paul Robinson was one of the main characters in the golden age of Australian soap opera Neighbours back in the 80s. Then, he was greedy and ambitious, though he usually managed to do the right thing in the end. Cut to 20 years later, and a new batch of writers think that the show needs a villain. Well, who better than the soap's original bad boy Paul? Unfortunately, the new writers misremembered how bad Paul had been - his first act upon returning was to burn down the Lasitters hotel complex, murdering a minor character who got in his way. His evil behaviour continued for a while until the writers relented and wrote in a storyline where he had a brain tumour which had affected his personality. It didn't stick however and he was soon back to blackmailing, stealing, sabotaging building sites and generally wrecking lives, although he wasn't quite as bad as when he first came back.
  • Power Rangers Dino Thunder brought back the original Sixth Ranger, Tommy Oliver, as the mentor to the new team. While his personality wasn't too far off from his original portrayal, we're supposed to accept that in the six or seven years since we last saw him he got a doctorate in paleontology and worked on some secret dinosaur-related research, and that he's now a high school teacher. Now we would probably accept it without question if it was Tommy's teammate Billy that did that, but when Tommy's excuse in the original series for arriving late to fights was being forgetful...
  • Merlin Morgana goes from idealist Well-Intentioned Extremist driven to villainy to make things fair and because she takes everything emotionally to less emotional person, who rarely thinks to improve the things in Camelot once she has taken it over, out of stress.
  • One of the main plot points of Doctor Who. The titular character is played by a different actor every few seasons. While generally the same personality, each incarnation has slightly different quirks that make him unique.
  • In Scrubs Danni Sullivan was introduced as a love interest for J.D. and during her initial appearances she was a fun, likable, sensitive girl whose only real flaw was that she wanted a serious relationship while J.D. was still interested in Elliot. After breaking up with J.D. she left the show only to return sometime later as a chain smoking, self absorbed, airhead party girl. The show Handwaved her totally different personality as being a result of her trying to be what she thought J.D. wanted in a girl.

Video Games

  • Touhou has sort of a weird example. There was a unofficial Continuity Reboot between the fifth and the sixth games (there's some evidence the early games are still in continuity, but even more that they're not, and Word of God isn't helping). So, four characters from before the reboot have shown up in later games. They vary from sharing only the name and a few bits of character design[2] to just having a noticeably different personality[3].
  • The 3rd Birthday's Aya Brea is much more unstable, submissive, and frightened than Aya was in Parasite Eve, to the point of seeming helpless no matter how badass you are in the gameplay. This is because she's actually Eve, Aya herself is actually a total badass in a later cutscene.
  • Phoenix Wright from the Ace Attorney was a promising lawyer and a really caring person on the first trilogy. And then came Apollo Justice, 7 years later, where Phoenix was now a hobo who played poker at the basement of a bar, having adopted a daughter months after the end of the last game. He is highly sarcastic and incredibly different from the cartoonish-happy-go-lucky guy from before. Although when you get to play as him, you learn that he still the same guy on the inside.

Western Animation

  • Cleveland Jr. from Family Guy was portrayed as a little, energetic kid and then was almost never seen anymore for the longest time... until The Cleveland Show when he reappeared transformed into a fat, slow-witted Chris Griffin Expy.
  • In the original Ben 10 series, Zombozo was a horrifying emotion vampire who was also a great showman. In Ben 10 Ultimate Alien, he's just The Joker with a couple magician-based superpowers.
    • Exaggerated by the Ben 10 Franchise In General. When characters from the original Ben 10 series appear again in Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, they not only often have new Voice Actors, (justified due to the Time Skip) they also look and act like completely new characters. In the main characters alone, Ben has taken levels in badass and kindness and is more The Cape/The Chosen One, Gwen has also taken a level in Kindness (becoming a Type B Tsundere, as opposed to the Type A Tsundere she was in the original series) and Kevin has a Heel-Face Turn and now has the power to absorb different elements and materials, transforming his body (or parts of body) into different materials such as Stone or Metal rather than his original Energy Absorption power (Grandpa Max is an exception, he seems to have the same personality).For the main characters, this was given an (attempted) Author's Saving Throw with some Character Rerailment in the 3rd season of Alien Force: Ben, Gwen and Kevin all took levels in the Jerkass, making them more like their original series personalities. However, this just broke the base even further, as Alien Force fans were annoyed at the changes to their personalities the writers did. Ultimate Alien essentially went back to their personalities from seasons 1 and 2 of Alien Force (with some exceptions, Depending on the Writer: Ben could sometimes be more egotistical and idiotic, and Gwen could sometimes be bossy or aggressive, Kevin had a Face-Heel Turn and was a bad guy again for a Story Arc). The Plumber organisation, which Max was a former member of in the original series, was a defunct government Men In Black organisation that consisted mostly of humans (a Green-Skinned Space Babe who was Max's ex-girlfriend in the Original series, was the only known non-human member). Alien Force and Ultimate Alien portray the Plumbers as a still active Space Police force (consisting mostly of Aliens), and Max is an active member once again (although in a semi-retired capacity, and he helped fight aliens in the original series anyway). Omniverse had an Author's Saving Throw for the two different depictions: the Plumbers were revived shortly after the events of the original series, this time as a semi-secret Space Police force including more alien recruits.
    • In terms of the Villains, Vilgax was now a Villain with Good Publicity (when the original series had him feared even by other members of species), Charmcaster relies on different magical powers than she had before, and the Forever Knights are now an actual order of Knights who fight Aliens, whereas the Original Series has them as some kind of MIB agency who used Knight-Like powered armor. Ultimate Alien also rerailed Vilgax and Charmcaster: Vilgax is once again a Magnificent Bastard who successfully tricks the Eldritch Abomination Diagon into pretending to be defeated, steals Diagon's powers and tries to force Ben to go Knight Templar and Charmcaster is seen using her bag again in Ultimate Alien
      • Ben 10:Ultimate Alien reveals that Kevin can still absorb Energy, but when his Species, Osmosians does so, it drives them Insane and makes them Psychopathic, hence explaining why Kevin is Evil in the Original series but Good in Alien Force and Ultimate Alien. Kevin has a Face-Heel Turn after absorbing the DNA and Energy from Ben's Ultimatrix and becomes Ultimate Kevin, a villain for the last 1/4 of the first season of Ultimate Alien. He then switches back to Heroism again.
  1. Wait, what do you mean "that's the same guy"?
  2. Alice Margatroid
  3. Kazami Yuuka, who is merely somewhat creepy instead of considering genocide an enjoyable pastime