Doing In the Scientist

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"You got your crappy fantasy all over my sci-fi RPG."
Anon.

Doing in the Scientist is the "rational" counterpart of Doing In the Wizard—this is where story element (or possibility) that was originally explained by 'science' is retconned into actually being due to magic or supernatural forces. This tends to be poorly received, partly because Fantasy is even more stigmatised than Science Fiction and partly because it tends to throw the established "rules of The Verse" out of the window.

Contrast How Unscientific.

Just so we're clear, this trope is not about blatantly magical elements being explained by very soft science. This is about science being replaced by magic, regardless of how hard the science originally was.

This is often seen in "updated" superhero origins. Once upon a time being on the range during a Gamma-bomb test, or being bit by and/or spliced with a radioactive spider, sounded semi-plausible. Nobody thought it could actually work (hopefully...) but it sounded vaguely like something that could happen. Science Marches On, however, and now there are some things that no scientific origin can plausibly excuse. Magic, on the other hand, can (by definition) do anything. Sure, it's technically even less plausible, but sometimes that's what you're after- maintaining Willing Suspension of Disbelief through a simple handwave that doesn't even try to be scientific is often much less taxing than trying to swallow nonsense about something that really exists.

A subtrope is Magic-Powered Pseudoscience, when it applies to revealing that seemingly-scientific Phlebotinum was powered by the creator rather than Techno Babble.

Not to be confused with The Magic Goes Away. If magic is the whole basis for a civilization's technology, see Magitek.

Examples of Doing In the Scientist include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, after extended use of duelling using shock-collars, Kaiser develops heart problems. This was initially explained as overuse of the shock collars, but the reason was done away with in favor of the dark power of his deck, which he stole from his mentor.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has gone into this full-force with Steel Ball Run, where it is revealed that Stands, at least in that continuity, are caused either by coming into possession of the remains of a Saint's body it's most likely Jesus's or travelling through a cursed, ever-changing-location, region in the United States.
    • Which is strange seeing that stands received the opposite treatment in the previous continuity.
  • Witch Hunter Robin: While the officiall explaination is that witch powers are caused by genetics that only the medieval period confused for genuine magic this explaination falls flat numerous times
    • Some witches use symbols that can be recognized by other witches who share no other relation which implies that there is a a coherent system in use among witches. One witch even contacted her sister's ghost for a revenge plot with a ritual that Robin recognized.
    • On one occasion Robin's fire power was nullified by standing on a water rune.
    • Just five years pre-series the STN used anti-witch bullets with carvings to ward off evil, and someone in the main narrative still does.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Spider-Man's superpower origin used to be a radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker and mutated him. Then some writer went back and said, "No, it was a magical spider dying from the radiation, and it bit Peter to bestow its mystical power before it went to that great web in the sky." In this case, though, the Scientist is Not Quite Dead - Spidey didn't really buy the magical explanation, and neither did the readers.
  • The Flash's powers were originally due to a Freak Lab Accident, but later the origin was retconned into a connection to a mystical dimension called the Speed Force.
    • The Speed Force didn't really Do In The Scientist as much as it forced the Scientist to shake hands with the Wizard. Though the Speed Force is indeed mystical, all of the Flashes as well as many other speedsters in the DCU gained or activate their connection through scientific means, such as Allen and West's lightning/chemical accidents or the Quick family's mathematical speed formula.
    • The Scientist actually gained ground on the Wizard recently, with the new Retcon that the Speed Force was actually created pseudo-scientically by the original Freak Lab Accident, with Barry Allen generating its energies as he runs.
  • Swamp Thing started off as a man who had turned into a plant-monster after getting splashed with chemicals, but under Alan Moore's stint as writer he was RetConned to be a mass of walking plant matter that thought it was a man. Eventually, he discovered his connection to the mental dimension 'the Green', and found that he was only the most recent in a long line of plant elementals.
  • Alpha Flight's Sasquatch originally had the same origin as The Incredible Hulk (with a bit of babble about the aurora borealis to explain why he wasn't green). Then it turned out he actually gained his power from one of the Arctic demons Snowbird was born to fight, and that he wasn't shapeshifting as much as switching bodies. He later gained the ability to change under his own power, but this too was magical and explicitly so.


Film[edit | hide]

  • This is the reason some viewers see the ending to Christopher Nolan's The Prestige as being something of a copout. The film spends three quarters running time obsessing over the details of making "magic" tricks through mundane means, with Hugh Jackman travelling halfway across the world in order to work out the method behind his rival Christian Bale's grand finale. Though Bale's secret is revealed to be a mundane one, we later find out that Jackman's imitation trick utilized a teleportation/cloning device secretly developed by Nikola Tesla, shifting the film's setting from the real world to Science Fiction. Though the film retains its most important theme - the character's dedication to their art taking precedence over everything, including their loved ones and even their own personal safety - many found the abrupt genre change to be a bit of a cheat.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Dexter novels, after a couple of books which appeared to be non-magical crime stories, suddenly threw in literal Christian demons and tried to claim that Dexter was demonically possessed. This did not go down well with many of the fans.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • According to the Opening Narration of The Sentinel, the fight for survival in the jungles of Peru heightened his senses, but the episodes attributed it to Magical Native American powers.
    • The French opening narration walked around this by being more "open" to the magical interpretation.
    • It wasn't just the fight for survival. He already had the genes of a sentinel (tribal watchman). The comforts of the modern world, however, did not require him to use his abilities. Being in Peru merely unlocked the hyper-senses. However, the addition of magic in the later episodes was definitely a copout.
  • Quantum Leap's series finale basically revealed that God was controlling Sam's actions, there were other non-technological based Leapers who were guardian angels thought dead or disappeared, and that most of the things previously thought to run on science actually ran on magical miracles. Though, all along it was suggested that his constant leaping was not due to the machine he built but some outside force.
  • The reimagined Battlestar Galactica Reimagined began as hard science fiction and slowly acquired more and more religious/fantastic elements. Precognition, incorporeal beings, restoration of destroyed objects and resurrection from the dead. Still though, many fans assumed that in the end everything would be explained away by some rational (or at least science-fiction-al) explanation: initially, through the involvement of the Cylons (particularly with regards to resurrection) then later super-evolved extraterrestrials, lost technological civilizations etc. No such revelation was forthcoming and the series ended with the characters, at least, putting the events of the series down to divine intervention, although strictly speaking the viewer is left to make up his own mind.
  • Lost danced with a scientific explanation for everything in seasons 4 and 5. Season 6, meanwhile, reverts back to fantasy, focusing the plot around two people who seem to be immortal demi-gods (one of whom has even been theorized to be a outright genie, since he claims to be able to grant wishes to his followers and whom is being kept on the Island like a cork keeps wine in a bottle) while introducing rules about not being able to kill somebody if they speak to you first, a healing spring that turns you evil when it's grimy and so on.
    • The show always played with the idea of science vs. faith, as epitomized by Jack and Locke respectively. There are scientific explanations for many of the things that happened (plane crashed, the time travel, etc.) and though Jacob guided the events of the whole show, it doesn't mean the actual events lack a logical reason as to how they happened. Put simply, the writers deliberately wrote the show so that most events were a blend of the scientific and the faith-oriented, and very few things were purely one or the other.
  • Babylon 5 toyed with the idea that at least some of the First Ones' powers were magical for a long time, but always also left it open that it was just the tech of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. Then The Lost Tales depicted what appeared to be an actual Christian demon (it was implied that the entity's actual nature was more complex than that, but it was still strongly suggested to be genuinely supernatural).
    • Many fans find the lack of ambiguity in The Lost Tales to be disappointing. However, B5 contains plenty of beings capable of pulling off similar effects (the Technomages, just to start with) so Lochley's "The Reason You Suck" Speech at the end may be entirely wrong.
  • In The Vampire Diaries it turns out that Jonathan Gilbert's invention don't work, but were enchanted by Emily unbeknownst to him to fulfill their intended function. Not likely to be a cause for backlash, seeing as magic is already established and the alternative is a 19th century, clockwork powered vampire detector.
  • There is always Supernatural, basically the exact opposite of Doctor Who where pretty much anything thought to be science actually ends up being magic or because of magical entities. The kicker for any fan of this trope is that science is also pretty much useless in the show itself (i.e. most monsters can only be killed in specific magical ways, if they can even be killed at all).


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Mage: The Ascension has perhaps the most unique example of this, as, in the setting, there is no real distinction between "magic" and "science". The setting is based on Consensual Reality ("The world is only as it is because we believe it is"). Basically, only gifted individuals (that the game calls "awakened") can truly work outside the CURRENT laws of physics. An Awakened today would be the only one to be able to summon a dragon, because dragons break the rules of our world. But everyone could use a computer. On the other side, an Awakened in the Middle Ages would be the only one to be able to build a mechanical difference engine, but everyone of course knows that dragons exist. Yes, in the Middle Ages, dragons were "science" and computers were "magic".
    • In short, not only the Wizard and the Scientist keep doing in each other, but they are actually the same person, who routinely changes his clothes from "cloak and wizard hat" to "glasses and lab coat" and vice versa in order to do in himself.
      • Actually, the Wizard and the Scientist are literally at war with each other. Most of the Wizards have been done in, but the ones who are left are trying to Do In The Scientist so everything can be magic again. Fortunately, there's a large faction among the Traditions (generally, the Wizard group) that are trying to Take a Third Option and have both.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Done in El Goonish Shive. "Take THAT Science Fiction!"
  • In Sluggy Freelance, it was originally implied that Oasis was the creation of Mad Scientist Dr. Steve, being either a robot he built or a human girl he Brainwashed and physically enhanced. Several years later, it's revealed that Dr. Steve didn't create Oasis at all; while exactly what she is remains unclear, researchers have labelled her "proof-positive paranormal" and stated "nobody made Oasis into a weapon but God."
    • Though Fantasy elements have been part of Sluggy Freelance since day one, so this revelation isn't as jarring as it might be in other series.
    • Also, her magical ability? Pyrokinesis. People STILL don't know how she survives being dead!
  • Gunnerkrigg Court featured robots for many chapters, before it was revealed that some—if not all of them—are Magitek, and capable of operating without motors, actuators, or any visible power source. In retrospect, this helps to explain how Antimony—who by her own admission doesn't know the first thing about how robots work—was able to single-handedly reassemble Robot S13.
    • It being magical still doesn't explain how someone unfamiliar with it could reassemble it.
  • Suppression takes an interesting twist on this trope AND Doing In the Wizard. Both wizards and scientists are trying to figure out what's up with Ebon Creek. Neither of them have all of the answers in so far.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • It was revealed near the end of Lonelygirl15 that trait positives are actually the descendants of the fertility goddess Hathor, although this was left open to interpretation.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Transformers has this in their origin story. Originally, they were just robots manufactured by the Quintessons as slaves that rebelled. Later it's said that they were created by an actual god, Primus, that is their planet. As in, their planet transforms into a god/their god transforms into a planet. (This doesn't entirely count, however, as some continuities follow the Primus origin and some follow the Quintesson origin.)
    • Of course the original Marvel comic from The Eighties takes the cake by beginning with the explanation that Transformers evolved from naturally occurring pulleys, levers and gears.
    • Meanwhile, at least one guide book says 'Okay, Primus created them, THEN The Quintessons found them and modified them."
      • The Wreckers comic used that explanation to add that Vector Sigma was Primus' link with the Transformers, while the Oracle was a shell program created by the Quints to sever that link, manipulate Vector Sigma and send some fake prophecies.
  • Scooby Doo has pulled this in some of its modern incarnations.
    • The first live-action film included actual demonic creatures controlled by the pissed-off Scrappy Doo.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Early on in Tales of the Abyss, it's revealed that there's a kind of cloning technology called "fomicry". How it operates isn't explained, but it's assumed to be scientific. Turns out that's only half right. The process by which it is done is technological, but the thing that allows it is actually magic: that thing being the power given off by the local Crystal Dragon Jesus. It's a lot less jarring than most examples, however, since in this world the resident wizard and most prominent scientist don't just get along: they are literally the same person.