Morality Dial

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Surprisingly, it's still kid friendly and safety compliant.

Whether comedy or parody, robots - often Living Toys - have a dial that can switch their morality from Good to Evil, usually entailing a good old Crush! Kill! Destroy! when turned to evil.

Some especially evil robots have Bad / Worse for their dials, or other stranger settings. Usually a built in form of brainwashing/FaceHeelTurn that means robot A.I. Is a Crapshoot.

Any robot with a Morality Dial will always, always have it flipped to the other setting at some point.

See also Second Law, My Ass, Inventional Wisdom and Mirror Morality Machine. Compare Restraining Bolt, Morality Chip and Berserk Button.

Examples of Morality Dial include:

Anime and Manga

  • Sasuke of the Ganbare Goemon series had one, installed by Wiseman for no apparent reason.

Comic Books

  • The cyborg "Mean Machine" Angel in Judge Dredd has a dial on his head that controls his personality. The lowest setting is "Surly". Unfortunately for him and everyone around him, the dial is completely mechanical and thus is highly vulnerable to getting stuck, resulting in Unstoppable Rage.
    • They have removed it now, returning Mean to his original kind and sensitive personality, and released him to look after his equally gentle son.
    • Mean's son also has a dial, but it goes from "Kind" to "Messiah".
  • In Scud the Disposable Assassin robots have a contempt level which allows you to decide how sadistic your assassin should be. In issue #3, Scud infiltrates a prison in order to kill one of the inmates but is spotted. During the ensuing fight, the warden managed to hit Scud's Contempt Input, hoping to fry his brain. Technically, this worked; a Scud's contempt level usually only goes up to 10. When his input was destroyed, his contempt managed to jump up to 15. Scud then claimed to be "Jesus with a laser gun!" and proceeded to slaughter almost the entire security team. The warden was eventually forced to open the outer doors and pray that Scud would leave of his own accord.
  • Tik-Tok's spring in Oz Squad runs his morality rather than just himself. If allowed to wind down, he still functions, but becomes violent and lewd.

Fan Works



  • This example from the 1967 Doctor Who annual appears to have been written without any intention of parody:

"There was a single switch on the master panel. It was set to 'Rebellion'. Dr Who wrenched it violently in the opposite direction. Now it was pointing to 'Peace'."

Live-Action TV

  • The Doctor onStar Trek: Voyager has a ethical subroutine which can be disabled.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: The "Wizards vs. Angels" story arc had the Moral Compass which made people act according to what the dial was set on.

Newspaper Comics

  • Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes has one of these installed in his Duplicator, and can create either Good or Bad clones of himself. We've only ever seen the Good duplicate, but seeing as that clone disappeared in a Puff of Logic after having a bad thought, it's probably best that he never made a clone out of pure metaphysical evil later on.

Video Games

  • In one computer game (does anyone remember the title?) War appears as a robot with a defcon dial on his chest.
  • In The Neverhood, Big Robot Bil must be turned from evil to good by pulling a lever in his chest cavity.
    • In the writings of the Hall of Records, it's theorized that the lever was Bil's creator's clumsy way of giving Bil free will and the ability to choose between good and evil.
  • Aperture Science's Turrets have been all outfitted with an Empathy Generator. To keep them able to kill, they also have an Empathy Suppresor.
  • Fallout 3s security bots have easily accessible "Combat Inhibitors" which can be hacked or destroyed to disable their Friend or Foe sensors. Hacking the local security terminal similarly lets you set all nearby robots to be inactive, select targets according to Friend or Foe, or Kill Everything.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror had an evil Krusty the Clown doll with one. It was revealed that this was why it kept trying to kill Homer. When it was switched to "Good," it became Homer's unwilling servant.
    • Bart once set a dozen Roombas from "off" to "malevolent sentience".
  • A robot Expy of Hawkeye from Futurama‍'‍s M*A*S*H parody had a "irreverent/maudlin" switch. (Not that either of those settings is a moral position...)

(solemnly and sadly) "This isn't a war, it's murder." [flicks switch] (imitating Groucho Marx) "This isn't a war, it's moy-duh."

  • And played straight in the "Cops and Robots" episode of The Backyardigans. Turns out that the all robots, including the robotic villains, have a good/bad lever, and somehow the villain robots' lever have been set to the 'bad' position. It also provides for the plot in which the villain plans to infiltrate a robot factory and change the position of the switch of all the robots produced by the factory to 'bad'.

Real Life