Playing with Syringes

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
It's needle time! ^_^

V: What they did to me was monstrous.
Evey: And they created a monster.

A Mad Scientist, supported by The Syndicate and/or The Government, will run a series of classified experiments to create something - often without regard to the well-being of the often-living subject, and the words "moral", "ethical", or "safe" will not be in the head scientist's vocabulary. These experiments are often done to people Strapped to An Operating Table.

Super Soldiers and Super Serums are usually the goals of these experiments, but Biological Mashups, Psycho Serums, Secret Project Refugee Families and Phlebotinum Rebels are often the results. They often come with No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup, and have a great risk of With Great Power Comes Great Insanity.

Those scientists with fewer resources might become Professor Guinea Pig.

See also They'd Cut You Up, for when people with superhuman powers fear this happening to them. When animals are involved, this may be combined with Pounds Are Animal Prisons.

May overlap with Eye Scream.

Super Breeding Program tends to be this on a grander scale.

Examples of Playing with Syringes include:

Anime and Manga

  • Tongpu, alias Mad Pierrot, from Cowboy Bebop was the fatally-botched result of an attempt to create a Super Soldier.
    • It worked, but only in the same way that training an attack dog works if you don't know how to train an attack dog - Tongpu became incredibly dangerous, but they had no way to direct or order him. This, coupled with his regression into childhood, turned him into the demented killer we all know (remember being a kid? Clearly, bad people should die. Why the world doesn't work that way is a mystery. Now, imagine you're a kid with the power to enforce this notion, and a child's idea of what constitutes a bad person. Meet Pierrot.)

Jet: "'Cause really, there's nothing as pure and cruel as a child."

  • The Mew Project in Tokyo Mew Mew is a heroic version, strange as that may seem. Hey, it's either grab Japanese schoolgirls off the streets and turn them into Petting Zoo People or let aliens kill off the whole planet to take it for themselves, you know.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has Project F and other related Super Soldier projects created directly or indirectly by Big Bad Mad Scientist Jail Scaglietti, who was created and funded by the Space-Time Administration Bureau higher-ups.
    • Agito was found barely alive by her unintentional saviors Zest and Lutecia after being experimented on for an untold amount of time. Considering her size, the needles in question where almost as big as her.
  • Tenchi Muyo!‍'‍s Mad Scientist Washuu loves doing this with/to Tenchi, in order to find out just what makes him so darn special (such as being able to generate the Light Hawk Wings.) Her experiments are on the comedic side, though, so they don't usually hurt... they're merely implied to be rather Squicky, uncomfortable, and very, very embarrassing. Just remember, when Washuu puts on a nurse's outfit, straps you half-naked to a table, and goes "I've got magic fingers!" it's time to RUN, not give in.
  • Harry MacDowell in Gungrave takes control of Vulcan's Necrolization Project, which involves reanimating the dead into near-invincible soldiers called "deadmen"/"necrolizers". He uses it as a means to fully control Millenion and its assets. It is also the same technology that brings the series' protagonist, Brandon Heat, back from the dead as Beyond the Grave.
  • Mayuri of Bleach has done this. It's why Uryu and his father are the last Quincies.
    • Not any more... if the Vandenreich have anything to say about it.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has hidden governmental labs in which mad scientists do horrible things to people through alchemy, including taking convicts, ripping the souls out of their body and turning them into sapient armor, taking wounded soldiers and making them into human-animal hybrids, and more generally, just turning people into Human Resources.
  • Pumpkin Scissors is generally seen as a Spiritual Successor to Fullmetal Alchemist, and also features this. Essentially, some mad scientists, with government approval, came to the conclusion that rather than making weapons or safety devices better, the soldiers needed to be tougher. Thus, you get things like soldiers who can withstand ignore tank fire, and "fireproof" soldiers who achieve this effect by having their nerves numbed and are pretty much living corpses who need to stay in metal suits 24/7 in order to survive.
  • The bad guys of Eureka Seven rocket past the Moral Event Horizon when they attempt to create new pilots for Type TheEND. As in, young war-orphaned girls strapped to tables with their eyes held open with small hooks, convulsing as insanity-causing chemicals are injected into their necks before their hearts give out, while the head scientist apologizes for the delay.
    • Worse, they've all been given cosmetic surgery to make them look exactly like Eureka, apparently for no reason other than they suspect The End might actually reject a successfully drugged pilot if she looks different.
  • Finian from Black Butler got his Super Strength from surviving human experiments.
  • Naruto: Orochimaru was exiled for doing this in his quest for immortality. He also conducted experiments on himself, turning himself into a giant white snake made up of smaller snakes.

Comic Books

  • V from V for Vendetta was created as a result of a bunch of experiments conducted by The Government.
  • The Weapon-X project, run by Canada of all nations, in the quest to create the perfect biological weapon. We all know how warmongering those damn Canadians are. Performed horrible, inhumane experiments on minority members ranging from African-Americans to mutants.
    • Probably inspired by the Real Life atrocities committed against native peoples & the mentally ill in Alberta during the mid-20th century, but then, Alberta's always been kind of an odd duck compared to the other provinces.
    • This is the kind of response Canada wants the rest of the world to have, so when they overrun the planet with crazy Wolverines no one will see it coming.
    • More like they wanted Evil Government Conspiracy backstory for Wolverine, but they already had Canada locked in as the country.
    • The backstory originally had it as a joint U.S.-Canada project. Writers since then Did Not Do the Research and/or slapped on their own patchwork of Ret Cons to fit whatever story they wanted to tell.
      • For what it's worth, the only semi-intelligent work done on project MK-ULTRA (as far as we know—the CIA attempted to destroy the paper trail, but that didn't work very well) was done by a Canadian citizen in Canada with the tacit cooperation of the Canadian government. This in fact * did* involve strapping people to an operating table and playing with syringes (mostly filled with LSD), while a speaker under the bed spoke slogans in a loop. Can someone say truth in television? People confirmed to have been experimented on this way include Theodore Kaczynski the Unabomber, Henery Murray, James "Whitey" Bulger, and others. David Icke claimed to have been a part of this. Many conspiracy theories revolve around this program and some link Lee Harvey Oswald and Charles Manson to it as well.
  • Scientists sponsored by the United States, Britain, and Germany experimented on hundreds of African-Americans to reproduce the Super Soldier serum that created Captain America (comics) after the original formula was lost.
  • Warren Ellis's Desolation Jones is about an ex spy who, after being fired for constant drunkenness, "volunteered" to have this done to him. He emerges from it a hallucinating, insomniac, sociopathic albino with a completely withered body.
  • "Project Rainmaker" from PS238, which performed experiments on a non-combative metahuman in order to find out what caused metahuman powers. Said metahuman then got a power boost when they put a Mad Scientist in charge of the project, and escaped, destroying the lab in the process.
    • The project is later resurrected In Name Only. This time, it's about helping children whose powers fall on the "heart" spectrum find a use for them in the private sector. Unfortunately, no-one told the now grown-up metahuman, so he heads off to break them out.

Fan Works

  • A recurring fear of Green Shield and Fauna in DC Nation. Justified as Shield's ex-boss explicitly told her that's what he planned to do to her, and Fauna is an escapee from one of Luthor's clandestine projects.
  • Kyle Reese of In The Hands Of An Angry Machine claimed that future Cameron did this.
  • Winter War has Aizen, Mayuri and Szayel all involved in this in varying ways. So far, we have Mayuri's cloning of Nemu and destruction of her zanpakuto, and Aizen's Hollowification experiments. The results are varied, and they are all deeply unsettling.



  • The titular rats from Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Having gained superintelligence and much longer lives, some rats developed a sense of ethics and dissatisfaction with a life of theft. But others used their abilities to thieve on a much higher level than before which ultimately got them killed
  • Taura from Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan books is the last survivor of a Super Soldier project of this sort.
  • A scene in The Dream Merchant has the twins narrowly escaping being cut up so that a savage tribe can harvest their blood for a plague cure
  • William Gibson's short story "Hinterlands" depicts what it would be like to be on the receiving end of a Cargo Cult - the first human to experience it does not end well, dissected in a Soviet laboratory. Also Foreshadowing, as an insane victim of the cargo cult reprograms her spaceship's surgical bay to dissect herself, committing suicide.
  • Max of Maximum Ride, her family, her clone, her nemesis, her half brother, the mooks of the series and a surprising amount of other people are the victims of genetic engineering.
  • Academy City in A Certain Magical Index is an entire city built around this trope. Its public purpose is to create espers by experimenting on children. Hidden from the public view are countless experiments that don't need to bother with ethics.

Live-Action TV

Video Games

  • BioShock is the poster boy of this trope in Video Games. Just think back to how many EVE injections are used throughout the game by the player. And that's without delving into Plasmids and Gene Tonics.
  • The "Les Enfants Terribles" project of the Metal Gear games probably counts.
  • Synapse of City of Heroes is a Hero largely created by Crey Corporate researchers. We're not told exactly how this resulted in electrical powers and superspeed, but it involves being Strapped to An Operating Table with a bunch of rotary saws descending. His sidekick, the Catgirl Mynx, is another Crey Industries escapee, except she was changed into a Half-Human Hybrid. Interestingly, Synapse's Mirror Universe counterpart Neuron is the one that does this to her, being a Mad Scientist himself. To a degree, many of the Longbow Wardens have powers created in this sort of way, although they at least use consenting subjects and are pretty heroic.
  • The Shadows from Persona 3 were a result of this.
    • It's implied in FES that they've always been there, as they are the mindless fragments of human emotion; the experiment only allowed them to be collected into one place, where they fused to form Death, the 13th Arcana Shadow which summon Nyx.
    • A straighter example from Persona 3 would be Takaya, Jin, and Chidori, artificial Persona-users, created in exactly this fashion.
  • Jack's Squad and Mitra in Strange Journey. When confronted with live examples of biologies they didn't understand, they did the reasonable thing: cut them open and see what made them tick. What was a bit more unreasonable was when Jack and his scientists started enslaving demons en masse for organ harvesting and demon fusion (the syringe and scalpel sort of fusion) and Mitra started using humans as test subjects for insanity-inducing serums and other sorts of Body Horror-riffic experiments.
  • The Mass Effect universe is rife with instances of Playing with Syringes, and Commander Shepard seems to run afoul of every single one. Dr. Saleon, ExoGeni, Binary Helix... and of course Cerberus, a NGO Superpower that does things like arrange for a platoon of marines to be positioned right on top of a whole nest of thresher maws just to see what happens.
    • Subverted by Mordin Solus. While he did upgrade the Genophage he only did so because he thought it was the best long-term choice and feels immense guilt for this. He also actively despises this trope, seeing it as crude and a waste of life. He despises it so much that he completely flips his lid when he finds out a former protege of his was playing this trope.

Mordin Solus: Never experimented on species capable of calculus. Simple rule. Never broke it.

  • Both Final Fantasy VI and VII feature experiments to create some sort of Super Soldier. Both games feature a primary villain going nuts due to these experiments. Kefka simply due to the process being unrefined, Sephiroth does fine until he realizes that he was used as a Guinea Pig.
    • With Sephiroth, its also that they used cells from an evil alien, causing him to believe himself to not even be human.
    • During Dirge of Cerberus there is an entire underground ARMY of people who have either been a victim of this trope or who were born from it.
    • And let's not forget Lugae in 4—this seems to be his MO
  • The Batman: Arkham Asylum version of Scarecrow has a Freddy Kruger-eque syringe glove, taking this trope up to 11.
  • DOATEC interrogates Bayman under drugs in his Dead or Alive 4 ending cinematic.
  • Team Fortress 2's Medic has the aptly named Syringe Gun which shoots syringes at enemies. He also has an unlockable gun called the Blutsauger that shoots syringes that drain the life of the victim.
    • Not to mention his "info card" which describes his "trembling enthusiasm for plunging needles into exposed flesh".
  • Prototype: The entire backstory of the game is the result of this sort of stupidity. Blackwatch was originally a bioweapons research and development unit stationed in Ft. Detrick, which was tasked with creating a virus that would target certain minorities. But in '69, they tried testing their weapon on a little town called Hope, Idaho. The result was a near-apocalypse and the creation of Elizabeth Greene. Fast-forward about fifty years later, and a derivative of one of Greene's viruses got loose in Manhattan. Guess what happens next.
  • Subject 3 of Professor Layton and the Unwound Future had this done to him.

Web Comics

  • Draconians in the web comic Grayscale are subjected to this by Phoenix scientists, evidently not only for medical research and punishment, but because of the fact that the Phoenixes view other races, especially Draconians, as little more than animals. Nine, being a recent capture, is still in fairly good health and spirit, while Pai, who has evidently been there a long time, is little more than a skeleton.
  • Grace and her "brothers" from Project Lycanthrope in El Goonish Shive.
    • Big Bad Damien himself was the result of another project. Grace was the result of A sabotaged project to eliminate Damien.
  • Oasis in Sluggy Freelance is stated to be the result of an unknown amount of this trope. Hereti Corp, who funded the projects to create her among other things, is shown to be quite fond of unethical science in general.

Web Original

  • What The Organisation does in Survival of the Fittest Evolution to induce the superpowers in the students. The Super Serum is a success, although the powers created have varying values of 'super'.
  • Some of the experiments conducted on SCPs can seem a little like this, and others appear to be a result of this.
  • Not uncommon in the Whateley Univere, but at Super-Hero School Whateley Academy, the best example now is Jobe, who tried to invent a serum that would turn someone into a drow so he could have his perfect girlfriend. The first person who got injected was... Jobe. Then there's Jobe's serum that turns people into orc-like things: his father uses people transformed with that serum as miners in his kingdom.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Unit 731. One of the most horrific war crimes of the 20th century. Not only that, they added Karma Houdini to the mix, with many members being pardoned in exchange for handing over their research data to the Allies.
  • On a similar note, Dr. Josef Mengele's experiments on victims of the Final Solution.
  • There have been rumors that both NATO and the Warsaw Pact did unspeakable experiments during the heightened tensions of the Cold War. Of course, they're just rumors...
  • Advocates of "alternative medicine" often try to cast science-based medicine as being nothing but this, overemphasizing past incidents of unethical experimentation which have since been condemned and repudiated by the medical community and downplaying the benefits of medical treatments. Ironically, a fair amount of alternative medicine better qualifies, with attempts at "curing" autism by off-label uses of chemical castration, chelation, direct injections into the cerebrospinal fluid, and so on being particularly Egregious.
  • The Tuskegee syphilis experiments.
  • Vivisection. It's kind of like dissection, but the test subject is not euthanized first. Naturally, this is usually considered cruelty to animals. The aforementioned Unit 731 and Nazi doctors are believed to have done this to humans.