Man in the Machine

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Faster than a bullet
Terrifying scream
Enraged and full of anger
He's half man and half machine

Judas Priest, "Painkiller"

In the intersection where man and machine meet, this man has been buried in a metal mausoleum.

He isn't a typical Hollywood Cyborg, lamenting his dwindling humanity, nor is he a Brain In a Jar fighting the Sense Loss Sadness and despair their Loss of Identity brings. He's a normal, ordinary human encased in a mechanical body. A Man in the Machine might be created from a person who is fatally wounded or suffering from an illness that makes it impossible for him to survive without heavy life-support machinery. This would normally doom the person to spend the rest of his life bedridden, but if those machines were to be mounted on a robotic frame, they would be able to walk around and interact with others. Their new mechanical body will effectively be a suit of Powered Armor, immensely strong and tremendously alienating since they can't live outside of it. Is it any wonder those trapped in these bodies as an Emergency Transformation become rampaging engines of destruction?

Of course, this might be the idea to begin with. A Mad Scientist may create one by sticking some poor unfortunate soul inside his battle robot to act as the pilot. The smart Mad Scientist will usually put the test subject through Brainwashing first though, or control the suit's inputs to make the pilot see what he wants him to see.

A type of Clingy Costume. Strongly related to Mobile Suit Human and We Can Rebuild Him. Compare Wetware CPU.

Subtrope of Cyborg.

Examples of Man in the Machine include:

Anime and Manga

  • The old man and his robotic bed-turned humongous mecha from Roujin-Z is a good example of this.
  • In Ghost in the Shell the third episode of the anime series had a tank which the terminally ill designer convinced his friend to implant his brain into.
    • One of the Tachikomas pretended to be a war veteran in this situation when dealing with a policeman.
      • We see a person who actually had one—called a Jameson-type body—in his case it's basically a cubic brain-case with stubby legs.
  • One episode of Cowboy Bebop had the crew tracking down a cult leader who was encouraging his followers to commit suicide. Eventually, what they discovered was, the cult leader they were searching for was merely a false identity. The true mastermind behind this was a teenaged hacker who was turned into a vegetable and used his life-support machines to contact the outside world.
  • Zone, from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's.
  • Venusis/Neo from Nadia. His robotic body looks human, but it is fairly obvious from his almost nonexistent expressions and the mechanical noises when he as much as moves his head how blatantly fake it is. He's dependent on a hugeass power cable protruding from his back and it is only one that we see him standing up from his throne. The contrast between that all and his very normal-sounding voice is jarring to behold.

Comic Books

  • Iron Man in some continuities. For example, the Earth X universe has him wired into an entire Stark Enterprises factory, controlling various armors remotely. He's also the only remaining non-Terrigen'd human due to this particular behavior.
  • The various incarnations of Box from Alpha Flight.
  • Robotman from Doom Patrol. Cliff often wished that The Chief hadn't "saved" his life after his fateful car crash.


  • Darth Vader.
    • General Grievous in the prequels can be considered either this or a case of the man being the machine.
  • Alex Murphy, aka RoboCop.
  • Source Code: The original fate of Cptn. Colter Stevens


  • This trope is more or less the entire point of the series of books starting with The Ship Who... Sang by Anne McCaffrey. Each of the main characters is a disabled person cybernetically attached to a ship. Or, for less adventurous shell-people, space stations. Eventually, however, technology is developed that allows the shell-people to control human-sized robot bodies.
  • Ng in Snow Crash, who had a kind of tank instead of just a mobility scooter. His rationale was that he didn't want a weak wheelchair like everyone else who had all their limbs blown off; instead, he wanted a giant car, because everything in America is drive-through! His monster vehicle even features a few docks for a mini-helicopter drone and a trio of killer cyborg dogs.
  • Shade, from Shade's Children.
  • Felix Jongleur, from Otherland, is a hybrid of this trope and Brain In a Jar. His physical body is so old that it can only be kept alive in a customized life-support tank, and he spends his time online in the image of his younger self, or in the Grail Network, as the fearsome god Osiris. Technically, he could cyborg himself, and such things exist in the story, but he's more interested in online Immortality than the physical kind.
  • Sergej Luk'yanenko's novel set in the Master of Orion universe feature the Meklon (error by Luk'yanenko, as in-game the race is called Meklar, Meklon is their homeworld ) - a lizard-like species who almost completely mechanized themselves. Among humans, the mechanist sect attempts to become less bound by flesh in much the same way, to the extreme of willingly becoming powered armors with minimal organic components. Although cybernetics and prosthetic cyborg limbs are well-known, the A-Tan technology has greatly reduces the acceptance of cyborgs.
  • In Alastair Reynold's Revelation Space series, the Black Box Conjoiner drives are revealed to be controlled by disembodied Conjoiner brains.
  • The Hitek, a dead-end branch of human evolution from Man After Man, had become so crippled by hereditary ailments that they spent their entire lives sealed inside personal hospital-suite/transports. Most were so frail that they'd die if they left their carriers long enough to attempt to breed.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Gideon Ravenor, a man so crippled his melted remnants are encased in a life-support/psychic enhancement antigravity box.
  • From Honor Harrington, Lady Emily Alexander-Harrington, Countess White Haven, similarly to Ravenor is so crippled that she's basically grafted to her self-propelled life-support machine. It doesn't hinder her brain functions.
  • Max Barry's Machine Man features Dr. Charles Neumann, who spends some time in an exceptionally powerful robot body before eventually just Brain Uploading.
  • In The Moon Maze Game, one of the players is a champion gamer crippled by an illness. To allow her to play in the steampunk-themed adventure, she's equipped with a robotic life-support capsule which, in-story, was supposedly crafted by Captain Nemo.

Live-Action TV

  • Hybrids in the 2004 Battlestar Galactica are humanoid cylons suspended in tanks of water and wired into Basestars. Sam becomes a more typical example of this trope late in the series.
  • Obscure late-90s superhero series MANTIS starred a roboticist who ends up paraplegic after being shot in a street robbery, and builds himself a sort of exoskeleton in order to no longer be wheelchair-bound. Then at some point he did what anyone else would in that situation; he upgraded it into a suit of Powered Armour and set himself up as a Batman expy.
  • The Cybermen in Doctor Who

Tabletop Games

  • The Trope Namer is Karchev the Terrible from War Machine, who has a special rule called "the man in the machine". Karchev was a Khadoran wizard who suffered grievous wounds during a battle, resulting in paralysis of all his limbs. He was hooked up to a life-support system that was installed into a chassis of a Warjack to allow him to continue serving the Motherland in battle.
  • Space Marine Dreadnaughts in Warhammer 40,000 are mortally wounded Space Marines placed inside a life-supporting sarcophagus that is then installed into a robotic body. Because dying is no reason to stop fighting. Ork Dreads and Killa Kans follow the same principle, with an Ork or Grot "volunteer" wired inside a robotic body.
    • Dark Eldar Talos could be considered a twisted variation, as it's a torture device/war machine powered by the death spasms of a prisoner trapped inside.
      • And then of course there is the Emperor. Unfortunately, he can't move about because his life support machine is so massive and complex that it is the size of a small country, and it requires thousands of psykers a day to be sacrificed to power it. Plus, the Emperor was so horrifically injured when placed in the machine that he is almost entirely incapable of any kind of functioning. The only reason that he is kept alive (or rather, on the very brink of death) is that he is necessary for intragalactic travel and communication.

Video Games

  • In Metal Gear Solid, Grey Fox is this. His body is grafted surgically to his robotic exoskeleton, and he has to constantly take anti-rejection drugs or suffer extreme pain. It's something of Did Not Do the Research on Kojima's part, though.[1]
    • Even worse, Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 4, whose only organic parts are his head and spine.
  • Protoss Dragoons in StarCraft are warriors too grievously wounded to continue serving as foot soldiers, and are transferred into massive robotic bodies that serve as fire support.
    • This worked so well apparently, that in the sequel they are succeded by Immortals and Stalkers, for high and dark templars, respectively.
    • Also from StarCraft are the Marines. They are mostly resocialized convicts who are permanently bolted into their powered armor. Tychus Findlay in the sequel is an escaped con who is still stuck in his armor.
      • Actually, most marines are not permanently bolted into their armor. Findley is a very special case.
      • This is of little difference, since in-game, marines are rarely supposed to survive the first battle.
  • Yoshimitsu from Soul Calibur might be considered one of these.
  • The main character of Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner, Dingo, ends up in this kind of situation after the first level. Having been fatally shot by the Big Bad, his deceptive lieutenant arranges to have the necessary life-support equipment installed directly into the Jehuty, and then wires Dingo into that, effectively chaining him to the cockpit... and since she can turn off the life-support by remote control, effectively turning him into her pawn. Fortunately, she's not really a bad person, so it works out okay.
  • Tali'Zorah, one of the main party members in all Mass Effect games, is from a species with such debilitatingly weak immune systems that none of them can safely remove their space suits outside of clean rooms.
  • Porky from Mother 3 is so old that he must spend all his time within a mechanical bed.
  • The Master of Orion universe features the Meklar race, who have proceeded to this condition willingly.
  • Karen S'Jet of Homeworld.
  • BioShock‍'‍s Big Daddies are humans with mechanized and weaponized diving suits permanently grafted on them.
  • The Templars, one of the most hated enemies from Strife. They are members of The Order whose bodies have decayed so much that they can't live without being hooked to the life support in their powered armors.
  • Deathwing is a special case of this. His proximity to the Demon Soul he created with stolen power from the other four dragon aspects ruptured his body so much, that the goblins had to encase him in a full-body adamantium plating in order to keep him in one piece. Behind that armor is a horribly crippled, yet still cosmically powerful, draconic body that would nevertheless bleed to death and spill its organs all over the place if it wasn't for those plates.
  • Mr. House from Fallout: New Vegas. For the first half of the game, the player is left wondering how someone from the pre-War days could still be alive. When the player eventually meets him, they have the option to break into his security vault and find a massive life-support machine. Furthermore, in one of the endings, it is hinted that if the player sides with Mr. House, s/he can also receive this life-support treatment and be effectively immortal, if they desire it.
  • Militron. Defeating him will actually cause his robotic shell to fall off, revealing a scrawny old man in his boxers who then slinks away in humiliation.
  • Alcatraz from Crysis 2. Later on, it is revealed that all wearers of the N2 nanosuit eventually become this. Toward the end of the game, Jacob Hargeave is revealed to also be one.
  • Stroggified Kane in Quake 4. Also, Cyber Voss and some of the other Strogg monsters.
  • The golems from Dragon Age, who were dwarves who were transformed into 10-foot-tall rock creatures, a process that involved having molten rock poured over them and their free will removed. Some volunteered; some didn't.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Skulker from Danny Phantom counts, as he is actually an apple-sized, tooth-shaped ghost inside a ghostly mecha the size of a tall human.
    • Technus also counts. A ghost that fuses with technology to form a much bigger mecha. Although not quite big enough to count as a Humongous Mecha.
  • White Knight from Generator Rex plays with this. Technically, he does not need his containment suit nor his Humongous Mecha, he instead utilizes them to completely seal off himself from the rest of the world, and thus the Nanites which infect all living things. Besides of course himself.
    • This has made him become quite paranoid, due to the random creation of Evos from Nanite-infected life being the main issue in his universe (and main plot to the show). The possibility of a normal, mundane businessman turning, at any moment, into a giant, rampaging cancer-cyclops has lead him to believe that he can only trust himself, because he is the last "clean" being alive.
  1. In Real Life people had to take anti-rejection drugs when they have the organic transplants that don't perfectly match their antibody profiles and are thus rejected by their immune systems. That's why the transplants from the close relatives are usually preferred -- there's less immunologic differences. In case of the cybernetic implants on the other hand the only thing to worry is the matter of allergy and biological compatibility. There's plenty of such materials, one of which, titanium, actually has one of the best strength/weight ratios known.