Forget going to strange planets — the weirdest journey is stepping into someone else's skin. Seeing and touching the world in a whole new way. Quantum Leap positively owns this idea, but lots of other stories have gone there.
Source Code, opening tomorrow, is about a soldier who finds himself in the body of another man — on a train that's about to blow up. But here's our list of every other story about inhabiting a stranger's flesh.
Disclaimer: Of course, there's always a chance we missed something. Feel free to mention stuff in the comments. Also, we're not including Demonic possession, or body-swapping, or this list would be endless.
Since not everybody has seen the most recent episodes of this show, we'll be ultra vague here. Let's just say that someone is not themselves, and there's been some talk that Gene the cow might be getting a whole new outlook on life. That's really all we can say without ruining it for the stragglers.
Speaking of things we can't spoil for those who haven't seen the most recent episodes... let's just say it's too complicated to explain anyway. A bunch of people got stoned, and then they weren't themselves any more. Also, the Goa'uld are also capable of body transfer, and in the original Stargate film, Ra overtook the body of a teenage Egyptian boy.
In X-Men: The Last Stand, after the credits roll, it's revealed Professor X implanted his mind into the body of a comatose and braindead patient before his murder at the hands of Phoenix. In the comics, Moira McTaggert's son, Kevin, also known as the mutant Proteus, exists in a state of pure psionic energy, and is capable of
possessing human bodies as hosts which eventually "burn out", as his own body did.
In Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, it's discovered Spock implanted his ‘katra', or soul, into the mind of Dr. McCoy moments before his death. Spock's katra is eventually reunited with his regenerated body through a dangerous Vulcan ritual called "fal tor pan".
The Master, the Doctor's arch-nemesis, is the big daddy of body-squatting. When he reaches the end of his regeneration cycle, he takes over the body of Tremas, who conveniently already has a name that's an anagram of Master. (He was practically asking for it, if you think about it.) Later, when the Master is incinerated by the Daleks, he becomes a sort of energy snake that goes down the throat of a paramedic, which means the Master is stuck looking like Eric Roberts. And then more recently, the Master arguably takes over the bodies of almost every human being. Also, Meglos the cactus takes over the body of an Earth accountant.
In The Manitou, Susan Stasberg develops a tumor on her neck, which she later discovers is the fetus of a Native American shaman intent on using her body to reincarnate himself.
The Flash (comics)
The Top, a supervillain obsessed with tops and spinning objects, eventually gains extreme psionic abilities after years of spinning at tremendous speed rearranges previously dormant brain cells. Sadly, his new brain powers react negatively to The Flash's super speed vibrations and ultimately kill him. After his death, his mind is somehow able to enter the bodies of others, which he does to Barry Allen's deceased father, Henry, and a vice-presidential nominee. When Zatanna magically alters his brain to make him a hero, he goes insane once he becomes fully aware of the evil he committed as The Top, and uses his powers to try to reform the other Rogues, though he's eventually murdered by Captain Cold.
Friday the 13th
After being shot with a rocket launcher by the FBI in the ninth installment of the Friday the 13th franchise, Jason Goes to Hell, it's revealed Jason Voorhees can inhabit the bodies of others by means of forced ingestion through his "true form", a pulsating, black worm. He gets the ball rolling by hypnotizing a coroner into eating his still-beating heart.
The David Cronenberg film culminates in a duel between two powerful telekinetics, Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) and Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside). Vale's body is incinerated in the battle, but in the film's final moments, it's revealed his mind now resides in Revok's body.
In Iain M. Banks' novel, an organization called The Concern interferes with the development of alternate Earths in parallel dimensions by transporting their consciousness into unsuspecting victims using a drug called "Septus".
The television show's version of Bizarro had the ability to possess a human being for twenty-four hours before the body would eventually die. Memorably, he once punched a hole through Martian Manhunter's torso while in the body an elderly man.
Originally, this show's mind-wiped "Actives" were just being imprinted with fictional characters who had been created out of thin air by the genius programmer Topher. But soon enough, wealthy people realized that they could record their own brain patterns and plug them into these dolls — so one rich woman inhabited Echo long enough to solve her own murder. And the Dollhouse senior staff started using the dolls as spare bodies. Topher also programmed Victor to become a second Topher on a couple of occasions, so he could have two heads instead of one.
Batman: Blind Justice
In Detective Comics #598-600, written by Sam Hamm, Batman discovers a WayneTech-developed body swapping technology a mad scientist is using to become a hooded villain named Bonecrusher. And then once Bruce Wayne gets shot and almost killed, he uses the same technology to inhabit the body of an idealistic young man, who learns the cost of becoming Batman.
In Wes Craven's film, serial killer Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi) becomes a bolt of electricity that can inhabit other people's bodies, after dying in the electric chair.
In the episode "Where and When," Pete and Myka both leap back in time and inhabit the bodies of two warehouse agents from the 1960s.
The Twilight Zone
In episode "The Trade-Ins", and elderly couple named the Holts decide to investigate a new body-swapping technology, but are dismayed when they discover they can only afford one new, young body between them. Shortly after Mr. Holt agrees to the procedure, he decides to return his new body once he discovers he'd rather they be old together than suffer asymmetrical age discrepancies. (Also, there's a Vonnegut short story where a community has a handful of young perfect bodies that they take turns inhabiting, but we can't find any details online. Anyone remember it?)
Heaven Can Wait
In this 1978 remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan, a football star (Warren Beatty) is returned to life in the body of a billionaire industrialist after angel James Mason informs him he had died prematurely — though not before his original body is cremated. This was later remade as the Chris Rock film Down To Earth. In a variation of this, Chevy Chase is recast into the body of dog, Benji, to solve his own murder in the film Oh Heavenly Dog. Later in the film, his love interest, Jane Seymour, dies too, and becomes a cat.
The Takeshi Kovacs novels
In these books by Richard K. Morgan, people can store their personalities and memories and download them into new bodies, not unlike on Dollhouse. And people who owe too much money get stored away while other people get to rent their bodies. In the first book, Altered Carbon, Takeshi Kovacs occupies the body of a woman's boyfriend, which creates a weird sort of love triangle. Thanks to Buckybone for this one!
Ninja III: Domination
In what might be the greatest movie ever made, a ninja is killed, but his vengeful spirit enters the body of a young aerobics instructor, and turns her into the greatest killing machine the world has ever seen. Judging from the trailer, it looks like he enters her via video game arcade machine, which just makes it even better.
All Of Me
In Carl Reiner's film, Lily Tomlin's mind is implanted into Steve Martin's body by means of a mystical bowl, allowing her to control the right half of his body, and he the left side. Can those crazy kids get it together enough to make that body swing?
Patrick Swayze dies — but his spirit lives on. And he learns to communicate with a con artist played by Whoopi Goldberg. Eventually, in order to comfort the grieving Demi Moore, he can even inhabit Whoopi's body so they can share one last moment together.
The Top isn't the only DC character who can inhabit other people's bodies from beyond the grave. Deadman is a former circus acrobat, Boston Brand, who can take over people's bodies for a while, and use them to communicate or whatever. But he's not able to use his powers to get a better jumpsuit.
We pretty much covered it above — Colter Stevens is hurled into the body of another man, for the final eight minutes of that man's life before a train explodes. And he's got to make every minute count, even as he deals with the strangeness of being in another person's skin. The film is such a tribute to Quantum Leap, they even got Scott Bakula to do a voice-over cameo, in which he says, "Oh boy."
Being John Malkovich
There's a back door into the head of the famous actor, and anybody who steps through can inhabit the mind of Malkovich for a few minutes, before being spat out again. Until eventually, John Cusack figures out how to stay inside for longer and longer periods of time, and take more control. Too bad he winds up with a very different host body.
And finally, the great grand-daddy of body-jumping stories: "Theorising that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Doctor Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished... He woke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Doctor Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home…"