Self-Destruct Mechanism

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Ripley: When we throw the switches, how long before the ship blows? [snip]
Parker: We ain't outta here in ten minutes, we won't need no rocket to fly through space.

Any relatively simple (compared to the scope of the result) device or process which can cause the complete destruction of a building, spaceship, planet, empire, Weapon of Mass Destruction, etc. Effectively an Achilles' Heel for non-living things. The Evil Overlord seems particularly fond of this trope, frequently installing it in almost all of his ships, buildings and other whatnot, even when there is no obvious reason why such things need an integrated self-destruct system when a non-explosive instant shutdown mechanism will suffice.

Though usually activated by a Big Red Button, some Self Destruct Mechanisms require two (or even three) people to enter codes, turn keys or push buttons simultaneously, etc. The latter sort almost always comes with a countdown (or even a Magic Countdown) until it actually goes off. All of this fussing about builds suspense and also allows the Self Destruct process to be halted once set in motion.

Sometimes the heroes change their minds, or they weren't the ones who started the countdown. Depending on the situation, the off switch may be uncooperative (or there may not be an off switch); this often results in a Wire Dilemma. Other times it's simply a question of getting back to where the switch is. Either way, it is Always Close.

In the real world, scuttling a large ship is a complicated process involving detonating explosive charges at various points on the superstructure - for obvious reasons, these charges are not in place and armed at all times, but are usually placed just before the fact if it becomes necessary to destroy a ship. Persons working with sensitive equipment are often provided with a more practical "self-destruct mechanism" to use if capture is a possibility - a large hammer, fire axe, or other heavy implement used to smash the equipment and thus stop its being reverse-engineered.

Real world self destructs do exist, such as special microwave ovens for destroying integrated circuits, electrically self-frying storage media, and self erasing disks are used in many intelligence situations; in all cases "won't smoke excessively, no toxic smoke, won't damage the vehicle or occupants" are pretty hard and fast contractual requirements.

Marginally more forgivable in the case of advanced spaceships; the Kzinti Lesson, "A reaction drive's efficiency as a weapon is in direct proportion to its efficiency as a drive", can be made to apply just as well to the ship itself as to other ships.

See also Cyanide Pill, Self-Destructing Security, Excessive Steam Syndrome and This Page Will Self-Destruct. Compare Load-Bearing Boss. Sometimes related to Taking You with Me.

Examples of Self-Destruct Mechanism include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The Self-Destruct Mechanism plays a prominent role in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, most famously the moment when the main character blows himself up...and lives. Somewhat subverted by Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Endless Waltz, where it's revealed that the Gundams' Self Destruct Mechanisms were intended not to destroy them, but to kill the pilots in order to preserve confidentiality. In spite of this, the self-destruct mechanisms never kill the pilots either.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Athrun uses the Aegis Gundam's Self-Destruct Mechanism to take out an enemy (Kira and the Strike Gundam) after Aegis has run out of ammunition and energy. It would have worked if not for an Ass Pull explanation. Later in the series, he plans on self-destructing the Justice Gundam to take out GENESIS. Cagalli begs him to find another way, and they do.
      • Uzumi Nara Athha self-destructs Orb's mass driver and himself and there's even the stereotypical Big Red Button.
  • Dr. Jail Scaglietti's lab in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has a Self-Destruct Mechanism that Quattro remotely activates after Fate's group manages to subdue the Mad Scientist and the Numbers Cyborgs with him. Unfortunately for Fate, the lab has a lot of innocents stuck in People Jars so she has to deactivate it to save them, and Jail isn't cooperating since the backup clone in Quattro means it doesn't matter if he gets killed.
  • Subversion: Certain Pokémon from the eponymous series have a self-destruct move, even though they're living creatures. Seeing as the Pokémon in question, Voltorb and Electrode, may originally have been Poké Balls, this makes some sort of sense. On the other hand, there's the question of why a Poké Ball would develop a self-destruct mechanism in the first place.
    • Of course, despite the implication that they've blown themselves to bits, they've just fainted and are just fine after a stop at the Pokemon Center.
    • In the anime, Electrode doesn't even have the "fainted" look after self-destructing, only a smug grin.
      • Taken to an (il)logical extreme with Brock's Pineco in the third season, which would Self-Destruct as an expression of affection, and be perfectly fine afterwards (if a little singed). Sure, it doesn't have arms, but still...
  • Twice used as a way to escape and buy some time by the protagonists in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The first one requires a fairly lengthy code, while the second one required them to log into a computer first.
  • In Yatterman, and possibly in other Time Bokan series too, the Terrible Trio always installed an useless self-destructing mechanism on their mechas. This, combined with their stupidity, was often the cause of their demise. Also, the Big Bad almost always left them self-destructing messages with the mission objectives, often hidden in the weirdest objects.
  • Hanaukyo Maid Tai. During the hacking incident in episode 8 it's mentioned that the mansion has a self-destruct system accessible through the MEMOL supercomputer.
  • In Bleach, Ax Crazy Mad Scientist Mayuri Kurotsuchi reveals during his battle with Szayel that he has implanted a mechanism in his Bankai so that it will self destruct if it is ever used against its owner - just one of several Crazy Prepared moments displayed in said fight.
  • One Piece, Franky encounters one of these while exploring Vegapunk's old lab. Despite having been repeatedly warned not to activate it, take one guess what happens when he encounters the big skull-marked button.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion. At least Unit 00 and Provisional Unit 05 is equipped with "Mode D" that is activated via a handle in the pilot seat. It requires the pilot to actually get out of the seat, remove the handle's cover then grab and pull it upwards so it's impossible to set of accidentally. And THAT is a good thing, seeing that when Rei used it, Tokyo-3 turned into a huge crater lake. She didn't eject because if she would've did, the Eva's AT-field would've collapsed and Armisael would've escaped. Mari actually used it in a proper kamikaze attack: when she saw that she's likely going to run out of power before the Angel is fragged, she armed the self-destruct and ejected. The explosion completely vaporized the Eva, the Angel and the surface portion of NERV-Bethany.
    • NERV HQ also has a self-destruct mechanism that can be triggered by the MAGI and would destroy the upper portion of the Geofront, Tokyo-3 included. It is also programmed to automatically activate if an Angel is detected in Terminal Dogma; seemingly justified but actually a complete waste of effort since 1) if an Angel does gets there, it means the Evas have failed and nothing can stop it as well as 2) Adam's not even there to begin with so the Angels can't trigger Third Impact anyway.
    • In episode 13 of the series, "Lilliputian Hitcher", NERV HQ's self-destruct sequence is triggered by Balthasar-2 being taken over by Ireul (the 11th Angel). As the self-destruct countdown is in motion, Ritsuko programs a self-termination kill-code on her laptop, cancelling the self-destruct sequence and Special Command 582 as well. At the same time, the MAGI Super-Computer recovers and Ireul's biological circuits break down, and the Angel vanishes from existence, never to be seen again.
  • Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt: Lampshaded in If Angels Wore Swimsuits, Scanty furiously slams her fist down on a button in the middle of their Humvee, G-String, subverting Scanty triggering their Doomsday Device, instead blowing up the car.
  • In Witch Hunter Robin, Factory is an Elaborate Underground Base whose Self-Destruct Mechanism involves slamming a huge chunk of concrete on top of it, causing a collapse. The destruction occured in episode 26, "Time to Tell" (the final episode).
  • WALL-E
  • The Cyborg 009 episode "Mystical Island" has a Self-Destruct Mechanism for the island base which is triggered by the destruction of security robots. The self-destruct sequence was disabled when the scarecrow robot removed the circuit control card from the main power circuit, causing the base's main power systems to fail and the self-destruct countdown to stop with 6 seconds left on the timer.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Spaceballs has a Big Red Button on Spaceball One that triggers the self-destruction of the ship. Lone Starr knocks Dark Helmet into it, setting off the countdown to the big boom. Later, the main computer gently informs Colonel Sandurz, President Skroob, and Dark Helmet (the only ones left on the ship after everyone else uses the escape pods) that they have one last chance at pressing another Big Red Button that cancels the procedure. They rush to do so, only to discover it's out of order, leading Helmet to lament "Even in the future, nothing works!".
  • In the classic sci-fi film Forbidden Planet, the Big Red Button (actually a switch) initiates a chain reaction that will destroy the planet.
  • This editor saw a TV movie once that subverted the trope. A spaceship transferring prisoners has an accident that forces them near Earth, a trope in itself. The hero, a cop, must join forces with an alien crew member to stop the alien villain. He suggests going to the ship while the alien is on board and setting off the self destruct. The alien crew member is not only unfamiliar with the idea, but says it makes no sense, as the crew would be stranded far from home.
    • This was Something Is Out There, originally a miniseries, later edited down a lot and syndicated as a movie. Of course, after the Tara, the female lead, points out that a self-destruct device would be largely useless, the male lead has to point out that, in the situation they were then in, they would have very much liked to have one.
      • She also pointed out that even if such a device existed, an ordinary crewmember such as herself wouldn't have been told how to use it anyway.
  • Weirdly, given the way it plays with tropes, Galaxy Quest's Protector actually doesn't have a self-destruct mechanism; the bad guys have to wire the ship's Applied Phlebotinum reactor to explode when they want to destroy it. But there's still a Magic Countdown, and it still stops at the last second.
    • Lampshaded in that they stop the process with about 16 seconds to spare: the ship is rigged so that the countdowns always stop with one second left.
  • The Predators don't want their hunting gear to fall into local hands, and don't mess about, so they have a personal Self-Destruct Mechanism.
    • "Personal" on the order of "vaporize several city blocks". In the first Alien vs. Predator, it was explained as a way to keep Xenomorphs from spreading if a hunt on a friendly planet went wrong.
  • Undercover Brother. Conspiracy Brother foolishly presses the Big Red Button and activates the Atomic Core device in The Man's island headquarters, causing the HQ to be destroyed after a countdown of several minutes.
  • Alien movies:
    • Alien. The Nostromo's engines could be used as a Self-Destruct Mechanism with a ten minute delay before detonation ("We ain't outta here in ten minutes, we won't need no rocket to fly through space."). If the cooling units were turned back on with at least five minutes left, the countdown would be aborted.
    • Aliens. The colony's atmosphere processor (a fusion reactor) became an inadvertent Self-Destruct Mechanism when the Drop Ship's wreckage crashed into it and damaged it. The damage caused to the cooling system earlier by the small arms fire may have had something to do it with it as well. It exploded 4 hours later, with a blast radius of 200 miles and and a destructive force of 30 megatons.
      • Which shows that Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale. Beyond 50 kilometres (about 30 miles), there's no significant effect (ignoring fallout) of a 30 megaton explosion.
      • Since they have no sense of science either, it hardly matters. A fusion reactor cannot catastrophically explode - there's not enough fuel in it at any given moment to do more than turn the reactor itself into slag. For that matter, even a fission reactor can't produce anything bigger than a steam explosion.
  • The Avengers 1998. After Mrs. Peel deactivates Sir August's weather control machine, it activates an "Auto Destruct" that destroys not only it but also the island base it's on.
  • In Star Trek III the Search For Spock, Kirk and company activate the self-destruct before inviting some Klingons abroad and beaming out, making this film very technically the final voyage of the starship Enterprise as advertised. As a Call Back, the steps they need to go through for activating the destruct sequence are the same as they were in "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield."
  • Dreamcatcher based on the Stephen King book has a race of parasitic aliens whose biology is based on fungus — like those fungal parasites that eat ants from the inside out. This allows them to blow up their Living Ship like a puffball if attacked.
  • Escape to Athena (1979). A Nazi sets the self destruct on the secret V2 silo before passing out. Telly Savalas is unable to avert the countdown, but gets all the good guys out while all the Nazi Faceless Mooks die. Given that there was plenty of liquid oxygen around, and secret missile equipment the Nazis wouldn't want to fall into Allied hands, at least there was a plausible reason for the existence of a destruct mechanism.
  • In Resident Evil: Degeneration, WillPharma's research building has one of these that seems almost excessive... until you remember that they are experimenting with bio-weapons and killer viruses, up to and including the T and G Viruses.
  • Buckaroo Banzai. Used to prevent the Red Lectroids from capturing the Black Thermopod.
  • The Andromeda Strain, both the book and the movie, has an atomic self destruct device in the Wildfire complex in the event of a biological contamination. So figure what happens when the eponymous organism begins to eat through the seal gaskets...
  • In the intro to Wing Commander, the NavCom AI navigational aid with information on approaching Earth safely is set up with a self destruct mechanism to prevent the data from falling into enemy hands. It doesn't work. The subplot was cut from the movie, but the Novelization makes it clear that it was due to sabotage by a mole.
  • Older Than Television example: In Bride of Frankenstein, an entire castle has one for some reason.
  • In The Muppets, Gonzo had set up his plumbing business with one of these, in case he had a chance to return to showbiz.

Fozzie: That looked like a very expensive explosion. I can't believe we had that in the budget.

  • In the James Bond movies, the Aston Martin is fitted with a self-destruct mechanism.
    • Of course, having James Bond AS the driver usually makes said mechanism unnecessary. Only twice did one of the cars explode, and only in The Living Daylights Bond armed the Auto-Destruct.
  • Transformers: The Movie shows that one of Cybertron's two moons has a self-destruct mechanism. It didn't affect Unicron at all. The planet Quintessa was also rigged to explode in the five-part season three opener in an attempt to kill the Autobots.
  • Taken to the most unlogical extreme in Starchaser: The Legend of Orin, when after the heroes have saved the girl and taken over the villain's flagship. Dagg presses the Self Destruct Button and it proceeds to blow up EVERY other ship in the villain's fleet, except the flagship.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Possibly the Ur Example of this is in both the book and movie The Andromeda Strain, where the Wildfire Lab in which most of the story takes place was constructed on top of a nuclear bomb, that is activated automatically in case of a lab breach. No Buttons or wacky codes here, just a automatic kaboom if the bug gets out. One man on the team has a key that can turn it off and save everyone - though the stations where he can put his key in on the last level are still being worked on. Then of course, they Receive the Call, start investigating the Alien Space Bug... and it gets loose. Adding insult to injury, of course, is that the Alien Space Bug feeds on pure energy, so if the bomb does go off, the bug will mutate and spell The End of the World as We Know It ... The trope is complete right down to the last second.
    • The "last second" bit is actually played with. He stops the countdown with 34 seconds to spare, which "hardly seems exciting". The other scientists then inform him that the system also evacuates all the air from the level they were in 30 seconds before detonation.
  • An early version of this trope appears in Robert E. Howard's planetary adventure Almuric.
  • In the prose Daredevil novel Predator's Smile, Gary Wieczack had a self-destruct button in his warehouse to destroy incriminating evidence.
  • The Mothballed Spaceship by Harry Harrison. The protagonists are trying to reactivate a derelict battleship that has been set to self-destruct to prevent it falling into the hands of anyone who doesn't have the correct codeword. Just in time they discover what the codeword is; a simple five-letter word in Esperanto -- "Haltu" or, "Stop".
  • Largely avoided in BattleTech fiction. In the famous scene in which Kai Allard-Liao wipes out the Falcon Guard by blowing up his own 'Mech (and thereby setting off the explosive charges earlier placed in the canyon walls), he has to wreck his own machine by pulling out circuit boards until the engine goes into overload because there is no convenient self-destruct trigger otherwise. Units actually wired to self-destruct on purpose are usually simple decoys such as those used during the battle for Luthien.
    • Notably played straight in the videogames, where the self-destruct button is basically a flashy way to abort the mission.
  • Inverted in E.E. Smith and Stephen Goldin's "Eclipsing Binaries": the face-off is between the Good Guys and the Dragon, when the Big Bad calls up and informs all that a self-destruct mechanism is ticking aboard their space station, then orders the Dragon to stay and die to atone for her repeated failures. She disobeys, holding off the heroes at gunpoint and stealing the Escape Pod... in which the actual destruct mechanism was planted. The Dangerously Genre Savvy Big Bad was relying on the heroes' repeatedly demonstrated ability to escape from a lethal situation in order to coax them into it, but hadn't counted on her minion taking independent action for once.
  • Naturally, this shows up in Star Trek Novel Verse. Starfleet introduces them for the first time in Beneath the Raptor's Wing, part of the Star Trek Enterprise Relaunch. In the same novel, a Tellarite captain activates his ship's self-destruct mechanism to prevent the Romulans taking control of the vessel. In fact, there are quite a few examples; two Vulcan ships and at least one Klingon use the same technique, denying the Romulans capture of their craft.
  • In Timothy Zahn's The Conquerors Trilogy, human spacecraft are equipped for self destruct to prevent sensitive information in the ship's computers from falling into enemy hands. The one example we see of the device being used for this purpose is Subverted, as the task force admiral kept a personal log of important data contrary to Peacekeeper regulations, which the Zhirrzh found when sifting through the wreckage of the Kinshasa.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In Star Trek, the self-destruct mechanism aboard the starship Enterprise in its various incarnations is an example of the kind that requires multiple activators and includes a Magic Countdown. All of the Star Trek series, with the exception of Enterprise, had Magic Countdown episodes involving the self-destruct mechanism, as did the third movie. One notable subversion is the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Dreadnought", where Captain Janeway set the ship on a suicide run towards a rogue missile, before it was disabled at the last possible second.
    • In another Voyager episode, Kayzon ships had repeatedly hit one specific spot on Voyager in hit-and-run raids, damaging the secondary command processors. The reason became apparent when Voyager fell into a massive ambush, and tried to activate the autodestruct to prevent capture. Turns out the secondary command processors are vital to the job.
    • Star Trek: The Original Series
      • "The Doomsday Machine": Scotty turned the U.S.S. Constellation's impulse engines into a jury-rigged self-destruct device with a 30 second countdown. Note that once he enables the device, he warns Kirk that activating it is irreversible, presumably due to the considerable damage the ship has already taken. In his own words: "The way things are it's hard to keep it from blowin'!"
      • "By Any Other Name": Scotty rigged the engines to detonate while the Enterprise was passing through the energy barrier at the edge of the galaxy.
      • Used and aborted with the Enterprise's device (complete with Magic Countdown) in the episode "Let This Be Your Last Battlefield". The same code sequence was used again in the film Star Trek III the Search For Spock, this time destroying the Enterprise. :
      • "Assignment Earth": The missile carrying the orbital nuclear warhead platform has a self destruct device to destroy it in case it goes off course. Gary Seven deactivates it as part of his plan to scare the Earth governments into not using such weapons.
      • "Balance of Terror": The Romulan commander destroys his ship rather than surrender. Notably, the Romulan ship's destruct mechanism does not feature the usual count-down or multi-person activation. The Romulan commander simply pulls a level and the ship goes boom immediately.
      • Lampshaded in the Star Trek Expanded Universe novel The Pandora Principle when Chekov, as the computer counts down, thinks to himself: "This is it. It's really going to happen this time."
      • According to the extended universe and various technical manuals, most ships implement their self-destruct by simply turning off the force-fields that keep their antimatter fuel contained once the counter hits zero. One notable exception is the original Enterprise itself, which, according to a novelization, could do this, but Kirk set the system to go with a less volatile alternative so as not to destroy a nearby ship.
  • Spoofed in Red Dwarf, when Lister accidentally activates the self-destruct through the vending machine... and when the countdown finishes, he gets his order delivered. Turns out Holly chucked the self-destruct mechanism ages ago just because of the chance that would happen.
  • Stargate SG-1. Stargate Command features a self-destruct in the form of a Really Big Nuke. Its usual role in the story is to emphasise how the heroes really don't want the current threat escaping the base, and it's usually deactivated in plenty of time. Early on it was standard procedure to start the nuke's countdown every time the Gate was activated from off-world and only stop it once the gate closed.
    • The SGC's self-destruct was also prone to be activated or de-activated by hostile aliens. One wonders why they don't make the thing more secure.
    • The SGC's self-destruct requires two ranking officers to turn their keys and enter their passwords simultaneously.
    • Atlantis has one too, usually used to prevent the city from falling into enemy hands. Of course, the day is always saved just in time.
    • The midway station between the galaxies also had one. And when tampered by the wraith, this one was NOT stopped just in time. The protagonists ended up floating around in a puddle jumper for days until a ship came to the rescue.
  • |Mission Impossible was a frequent offen-THIS MESSAGE WILL SELF DESTRUCT IN FIVE SECONDS.
    • Although that line wasn't used nearly as often as people think. Plenty of episodes had the mission broadcast once over a secure line or the agents destroying the tape/message themselves.
    • Famously spoofed in Inspector Gadget, with the message self-destructing all over the Chief's face.
    • Also famously spoofed in Filmation's Ghostbusters: Zero's messages (disguised variously as a tuba, a rubber chicken, and other strange objects) exploded to comedic effect.
  • In the fourth season finale of the new Doctor Who series, it's revealed that UNIT installed multiple nuclear warheads in the Earth in order to destroy it if necessary. Mildly subverted in that the destruct timer is never activated; it requires three people to set off, and the Daleks transported Martha out of the third station while she was issuing an ultimatum.
    • In the Doctor Who episode "Genesis of the Daleks", Davros has a button on the control panel of his life support chair that turns it off. Later, he tries to press a red button that would destroy the Daleks.
    • Even the TARDIS itself is revealed to have a self-destruct mechanism in "Attack of the Cybermen."
  • In Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Robot Buddy Alpha Five had one of these. He can activate it himself, but can't turn it off. Rangers saved him at the last moment, of course. (And, if it's the 'kaboom' kind, they also saved the kid Alpha had been protecting. Alpha didn't seem to concerned about his proximity.)
    • A kid named Dillon, who wouldn't remember if he was the same one...
      • The finale of Power Rangers Turbo featured the rangers using the Rescue Megazord in battle. It was badly damaged and had not left a scratch on the enemy. Figuring that they were going to lose any way since there was no time to repair the megazord, T.J set it on a collision course with the enemy and activated the self-destruct, hoping the blast would take it out. It didn't.
  • A humorous take on the self-destruct button is offered in one of the 2010-11 ESPN promos for its NBA basketball coverage. A rookie player and one of ESPN's announcers are at the front of the RV the crew drives to games when the rookie starts playing with the buttons and knobs on the dashboard. One of the buttons is a Big Red Button, which the announcer tells him not to push. He does, initiating the RV's self-destruct sequence. As several ESPN and NBA personalities evacuate the RV, the rookie can be heard asking, "Why would you even install one of those?"
  • The Center for Disease Control in The Walking Dead is equipped with a high powered explosive device that is intended to incinerate everything in the facility in the event of total power loss.


Tabletop RPG[edit | hide]

  • Call of Cthulhu campaign The Fungi from Yuggoth. Dr. Dieter's laboratory has a self destruct device that will blow up the entire installation three minutes after the switch is thrown.
  • If you're playing Paranoia, you work from the assumption that every robot or vehicle you encounter in Alpha Complex will be equipped with one of these, and the button activating it will be mislabeled. Ditto the Bouncy Bubble Beverage vending machines, the toilet stalls and many of the light-switches.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Star Trek Online, one of the ship skills you get is a self destruct with a 15 second countdown timer.
  • In the Resident Evil series, the Umbrella Corporation is famous for simply loving its self destruct mechanisms, installing them in nearly everything it builds, from secret laboratories to Victorian mansions to trains.
  • Code ATA standing for Ashes to Ashes from Super Robot Wars Original Generation series combines this with the Cyanide Pill by having Lamia be able to blow up not only herself but the Angelg and any surrounding units. Dunamis plans for the Brainwashed and Crazy Lamia to pretend to escape so that Excellen and Kyosuke can follow her only to blow herself killing both of them as well and sending everyone else into a Heroic BSOD. Axel stops her with the code DTD
    • Units piloted by Shadow Mirror bioroids will initiate Code ATA on their own rides once its HP is depleted.
  • Every ship in the MMORPG EVE Online has a self-destruct feature. Self-destructing is a viable tactic in a hopeless PvP fight, as it denies your opponent any chance of looting your ship's remains.
  • All but one of the Metroid games feature at least one place triggering self-destruction, mostly due to Load-Bearing Boss. Sometimes planets.
  • The titular house of the computer game Maniac Mansion has a nuclear reactor installed in its basement, which can easily explode, destroying the house, everything within it and everything within a five mile radius in a meltdown. The player can cause this in several different ways, including draining the mansion's swimming pool (which doubles as a cooling mechanism), pressing a very large red button that says "Do Not Press", or shutting off the power and allowing the electrical system to go haywire. One particularly bizarre way is if the player sets off the mansion's security system, which triggers a self-destruct sequence that blows up the entire mansion. This, of course, raises the question of just how stupid (or crazy) Dr. Fred is to install a nuclear reactor in his basement, much less buy a security system that triggers it to explode if it's activated.
  • The first two Fallout games have these. Nice for pacifist and diplomatic pcs, 'cause it enables one to finish the game without firing a single shot.
  • In Gradius III and Galaxies, inputting the regular Konami Code will cause your ship to self-destruct. On the other hand, substituting Left with the L button and Right for the R button will yield full powerups.
  • An optional $10 'Super Booster Pack' for City of Heroes gives all your characters a Self-Destruct power on a long recharge timer. It looks very cool and does quite a bit of damage, in return for causing you to be defeated and being slightly harder to resurrect. Since Death Is a Slap on The Wrist in this game...
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game has a few easy ways to cause a draw—one of them just so happens to be a card called 'Self-Destruct Button', which does just that. The reason this is in Video Games is because the game 'Yu-Gi-Oh!: Nightmare Troubadour' had a story sequence where you had to use this or some other means to force a draw, otherwise you lost (even if you won the duel in question).
    • However, Yugi gives you a few cards to do this in case you don't already have them—a Self-Destruct Button, and Ring of Destruction, the most notable method of forcing a draw (use it, kill something, and both players take damage equal to that monster's offensive power—naturally, this is used more often for the 'both players take damage' than the 'kill something').
    • There's also a pair of monsters called 'Blast Sphere' and 'Adhesive Explosive', two monsters (one released before the other, but the other was made earlier) that, when face-down and attacked, will equip themselves to the opponent's monster and kill it at the start of the opponent's next turn. Blast Sphere has the added bonus of dealing damage to the opponent equal to the offensive power of what it killed. But naturally, for either to appear on this page, they both obviously follow shortly after... but it doesn't make the look on your opponent's face when they realize that they have just shot their own Infinity Plus One Monster in the foot any less priceless.
  • Averted in Deus Ex. At one point the main character has to destroy an oil tanker. This is done through the above mentioned method for scuttling large ships.
    • Although also played straight - most augmented people will explode after you kill them. For the Mi Bs, it's explicitly stated this is to prevent the technology falling into enemy hands. Some also have a kill-phrase you can speak to make them self-destruct without a fight. The sequel has people with a self-destruct that causes them to dissolve into a cloud of poison gas rather than explode.
  • In Wing Commander Privateer if you don't want to wait to get blown up or just are in a hurry to go back to an earlier saved game, you're given the option of self-destructing your ship, which takes you back to the main menu screen.
  • The entire point of the first two Descent games is to find the mine's fusion reactor, and shoot it a bunch until a nuclear meltdown occurs (in the mines with boss robots, the robots are Load Bearing Bosses, although exactly why blowing them up still blows the mine is not explained). Then, of course, it's a mad dash to the emergency exit...
  • The Harkonnen's Devastator tanks in Dune II possess these. Strange design decision since there doesn't seem to be any real use to them... unless if you're fighting against them as the Ordos. Suddenly, the Deviator's gimmicky but not too useful temporary side-switching attack becomes very useful as you order the tank to self-destruct in a huge and damaging blast radius while it's sitting in the middle of the enemy ranks.
  • In Quake II, the Strogg homeworld is riddled with self-destruct mechanisms that are activated by single buttons about ten times larger than the protagonist's head. It would have been impossible for him to have single-handedly defeat the Strogg without this being a ubiqutous design feature.
  • World of Warcraft makes use of this trope in the Ulduar raid dungeon. Mimiron's lair has a Big Red Button labeled "DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON!". Pushing the button, naturally, activates the lair's self-destruct mechanism and the boss encounter's hard mode.
  • Every building and machine in Machines comes with one, there purpose is unclear but could potentially be used with quick timing if your opponent uses Enemy Exchange Program techniques against you.
  • Iji: One of the Komato logbooks talks about the various self-destruct devices for their bigger troops - Berserkers explode when killed, Beasts spray Splinters when they blow up, and Annihilators have massive explosions for when they finally bite off more than they can chew. The reason for this is that the Komato want to ensure that none of these big guns fall in the wrong hands - namely, that these measures do less harm to themselves than they do to the Tasen.
    • There's also a mention in one logbook that generals used to have nuclear warheads in their suit's self destruct. One ended up destroying multiple cities when he went out (which prompted the decision to use regular explosives instead). Ouch.
  • In Mega Man X Command Mission there is an extremely tough enemy called - appropriately enough - Meltdown. It will shrug off countless blows from your strongest party members while it slowly raises one arm that is shaped like a mine with a skull and spanners emblazoned on the side (no, seriously) during each turn. You have 3 turns to run away/kill it, and if you fail the Meltdown self-destructs, dealing the maximum damage you can be dealt. Obviously, your best chance of survival is to run away whenever you encounter it.
  • Averted by name in Sudeki - the most Elco can do to delay activation of the "Peace Shield" is perform some sabotage that end up easily repaired. He later tell Tal point-blank that it "...Took years to construct, [destroying it] isn't as simple as flipping a self-destruct switch!"
  • In Aliens vs. Predator (the 2010 version) has the 10,000+ year old pyramid have a self-destruct sequence. Note that this pyramid was a large shrine to the first Predator to find the xenomorphs and the first captured Queen was buried along with him so maybe it was a defence mechanism but still, does everything their race builds have to blow up?
  • In Star Trek: Elite Force, Virtual Voyager mode, there is a large self-destruct mechanism between the Captain and the First Officer's seat. Activating it makes Chakotay angry.
  • In Space Quest V: The Next Mutation, the SCS Eureka is equipped with a jury-rigged self-destruct mechanism with an Astro Chicken egg timer. Using it before the right moment is a good way to get a Nonstandard Game Over. However, it is necessary to stop the Big Bad.
    • WD-40's ship also has one that activates if an incorrect code is entered. Justified, if you don't expect your gynoids to ever have a glitch.
  • The giant base in Overblood started a twenty-four self-destruct countdown after an earthquake, giving people enough time to evacuate.
  • Halo: In accordance with the Cole Protocol, all UNSC vessels in danger of capture by the Covenant must self-destruct.
    • In Halo: Combat Evolved, the Master Chief and Cortana decide to destroy the Pillar of Autumn in order to prevent the Flood was spreading and the ring from being fired. Once they've recovered Captain Keyes' neural implants, containing the codes necessary to destroy the ship, they head to the Autumn and are rebuffed by Guilty Spark, who locks Cortana outs and stops the countdown. So the Chief comes up with an alternate plan: crack the engine's shields and induce a reactor overload. They're successful.
    • In Halo 2, Cortana plans on activating the In Amber Clad's self-destruct, to destroy High Charity, Delta Halo and Gravemind. She fails.
    • In Halo 3, the Master Chief destroys High Charity backup reactors in order to destroy it and Gravemind. He's successful, but somehow he makes it to the replacement Alpha Halo and starts rebuilding himself on it. The Master Chief, Cortana, and the Arbiter finally kill him for good by activating the incomplete ring: the ensuing firing shakes Halo and the Ark to pieces.
  • Then, of course, there are the Bomb family of monsters in pretty much every Final Fantasy game. Once attacked they begin a count down to explode in your face. Unless you kill them first.
  • Overlaps with real life, but many arcade games starting from the mid-80s on had suicide batteries. The way this works is that the game ROM data is encrypted and the manufacturer stores the decryption key on volatile RAM that is powered by a battery. The game is Lost Forever in that the key becomes lost once the battery drains, as the RAM loses the decryption key once it loses power. Once the battery drains, the operator is forced to call the manufacturer, which will either offer to "replace" the board's battery and key at a incredibly high price to the operator, or offer a trade in for a newer version of the game at a discount (note that suicide batteries and Capcom Sequel Stagnation go hand in hand). Since the 2000s, when arcade machines started using off the shelf PC hardware, suicide batteries fell into disuse and was replaced with licensing dongles with expiry dates on them, or games that refused to run once a certain date on the machine passed. However, the ruse is the same: operator calls and is offered a new license dongle or a patch to extend the game's expiry at a higher price, or a upgrade at a discount.
  • Master of Orion allows manual self-destruct, which causes a ship to damage everything around. A special device increases the power of explosion and probability it will happen on capture—preventing ship from being captured (and possibly reverse-engineered) by enemy is the main reason to do this.
  • The main plot of Mass Effect 2 has you trying to find a way to stop the Collectors from abducting humans from across the galaxy. At first it's assumed that they live on their homeworld reachable only through the Omega 4 mass relay. Upon traveling through the relay, it's revealed that the Collectors actually reside on board a large space station, complete with a reactor core that can be overloaded to go boom. Commander Shepard spends about 15 seconds to program the thing to go off, so the entire mission basically amounts to fighting your way in, pressing a self-destruct, and getting the hell out.
  • In XIII, in the final part of the SSH 1 Base mission, the base's self-destruct mechanism is activated and you must cancel the self-destruct procedure (by destroying the self-destruct computers) before the base explodes.
  • In the NES game Crystalis, after the final battle with DYNA, a self-destruct mechanism is activated when the player throws Crystalis into the main reactor. The two characters are then shown running off screen as the alarm goes off and the reactor goes critical. The tower in the sky then gets struck by lightning and falls to the surface of the earth.
  • In the NES version of Bionic Commando, the base's self-destruct mechanism is activated after the player shoots the cockpit of Hitler's escape helicopter with the Hyper Bazooka. He then has 60 seconds to escape before the base explodes.
  • In Abadox The Deadly Inner War, destroying the final boss activates the Living Planet's self-destruct sequence. The player must then fly his way through the tunnels and out of the planet before it explodes.
  • In the NES version of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, the self-destruct sequence for the Joker's secret base is activated when Batman destroys the final boss. The screen then shows Batman flying away in the Batjet as the base explodes, before the credits start rolling.
  • In StarTropics, the spaceship's main computer activates the self-destruct sequence towards the end of the game and the player must find and retrieve the last Magic Cube and escape before the ship explodes.
  • In the NES game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Manhattan Project, destroying Super Shredder (the final boss) activates the self-destruct mechanism for Krang's spaceship. At this point, the screen shows the Turtles escaping in the Turtle Blimp as the ship explodes.


Web Animation[edit | hide]

  • Haloid. The chest (front and back) section of MC's Spartan armor.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

Alarm: You have activated the decoy self-destruct. Please remain where you are. Armed guards will arrive immediately to capture you or shoot you in the head, depending on their mood. Real evil labs don't have "self-destruct" systems in their control room, what are you, stupid?
Virus: Dammit!
Lothar: Ha! I win! Wait, shit.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Parodied in this News Biscuit article, "Self-destruct buttons are 'a needless risk'".
  • In the Channel 101 short "Homeless James Bond" one of the villains' lair is just a very large conglomerate of cardboard boxes and the self-destruct mechanism which the titular hero activates is a long strip of duct tape which once pulled away causes the "lair" to collapse, accompanied by a Big No courtesy of the villain.
  • Spoofed on Villain Source (Your Online Source For Everything Evil) in which every advertised Supervillain Lair comes with an "obvious and accessible self-destruct mechanism".


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Spoofed in the Ren and Stimpy episode "Space Madness", where the Narrator ends up badgering Stimpy into pressing the "History Eraser Button".
    • The shiny, candy-like button.
  • Lampshade Hanging on Codename: Kids Next Door: in one episode, Cree is en route to the KND HQ on the moon to have her memories erased, but escapes when the two KND agents piloting the ship accidentally activate the "Blow Up The Engines" button, which prompts her to incredulously ask Numbuh 5 why a spaceship would need such a device.
    • Well... maybe if the prisoner being transported - like herself - got free and subdued the guards - which she did - and could use the ship itself for some notorious scheme - which she intended to - such a device could be used to keep said prisoner from actually be able to pilot the ship - which she now couldn't - right?
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants one of Plankton's schemes is foiled thanks to the coin-operated self destruct he foolishly installed into his mechanical replica of Mr. Krabs.
  • Subverted in The Venture Bros: the old Team Venture once raided an enemy base that was set to self destruct, but malfunctioned. They then decided to move in. Then double subverted when the thing comes back online from someone touching the control panel. Thankfully Richard Impossible absorbed the explosion by eating the bomb in an attempted Heroic Sacrifice/failed suicide attempt.
  • Goddard from Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius has a self-destruct mechanism that can be activated by voice command; afterward, he can reassemble himself.
    • Specifically: "Play dead, Goddard!"
  • In an episode of Doug, the class gets snowed into their school after hours, but Bebe Bluff is prepared with a laptop that can connect to the Internet via her own personal satellite. Unfortunately, before they succeed in actually contacting help, someone pushes the button on the laptop that causes the satellite to self-destruct. Bebe berates the person for being an idiot, but they then reply that having a button that does that is even more idiotic, which Bebe realizes is true.
  • In the Transformers episode "B.O.T." (widely considered one of their worst episodes of all time) Megatron's Orbital Disruptor Cannon is equipped with a clearly labelled Overload button. Its sole function is, as the name implies, to make the cannon overload and explode. Yes, Megatron, putting this button on your cannon was a wonderful idea.
  • Parodied in Futurama:

George Takei: Do you guys have a self-destruct code, like, "Destruct sequence 1-A, 2-B, 3--" [Bender's head explodes]
Bender: Thanks a lot, Takei. Now everybody knows!

  • Jonny Quest: The missile in the TOS episode "Arctic Splashdown" has a self destruct mechanism so it can be destroyed in mid-flight if it goes off course.
  • Birdman
    • "Versus Dr. Freezoids". When Birdman defeats him, the title villain sets his Freezoid Generator to overfreeze. This causes his base to become a block of ice, expand and explode.
    • "Number One". The main body of the title villain's ship has a "destruct switch".
    • "The Deadly Duplicator". Professor Taggert's duplicate uses a Destruct Bomb to destroy his lab.
  • The Herculoids episode "Malak and the Metal Apes". The Metal Apes (robots) have one, which can be activated by a Big Red Button in Malak's observation room inside his base.
  • Early on in Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension, when Phineas, Ferb, and Dr. Doofenshmirtz first meet, it's mentioned that the reason Doofenshmirtz's Otherdimensioninator doesn't work is because he improperly wired the self-destruct button. Phineas asks him why it's neccessary, and Doofenshmirtz slowly realizes that he doesn't need it.
    • Dr. Doofenshmirtz puts these on just about every "inator" he's ever built. In the movie, he also mentions attempting to take over with an army of robots...and put the self destruct buttons on the bottoms of their feet...
  • Dexter's Laboratory, Dial M for Monkey episode "Huntor". After Monkey captures him, Huntor activates a device that will destroy the asteroid they're on in 30 seconds. Huntor assumes that Monkey will be distracted rescuing his friends (including Agent Honeydew), allowing Huntor to get away in his escape ship.
  • Apperently all Irkens and S.I.R units in Invader Zim have one This is proven in the first episode, when Dib tells everyone Zim's a Alien Zim panics and brings out one of these, but puts it away when everyone believes Dib's Crazy never to be seen again. And In Dib's wonderful life of Doom Zim commands Gir to Self destruct to which he gleefully does.
  • In the Christmas Episode of Kim Possible, Ron and Dradden accidentally trigger the self-destruct on board "DrakForce One" during their struggles. They also accidentally launched all the escape pods (with the fortunate exception of the garbage disposal container).

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Space launch vehicles have "Range Safety" systems. Typically it involves a linear shaped explosive charge that splits open the side of the rocket, allowing the propellant to disperse. They're there primarily to guard against the scenario of a malfunctioning rocket flying into a Bus Full of Innocents. There's even a guy (the Range Safety Officer) specifically tasked with pushing the Big Red Button if the rocket goes out of control and the safety of the public is at stake [1]
    • In the case of solid-fueled rockets, it is actually impossible to stop firing once they're lit, so triggering destruct is often the only way to terminate thrust in the event of a range safety concern.[2] Doing this typically results in the entire booster going up in a massive explosion, with lots of chunks of flaming debris.
    • The Space Shuttle is no exception to this rule. The Challenger's Range Safety ordinance was detonated by command, although the orbiter had already broken up at that point.
      • It is worth noting that it is only the Solid Rocket Boosters and External Fuel Tank that are fitted with explosives. In theory the orbiter will separate from the rest of the launch vehicle before the destruct command is given. In practice...
    • The Ariane 5 rocket's maiden flight: A bug in the navigation system caused the rocket to attempt a wild course change. Structural damage resulted, triggering range safety destruct.
  • Naval vessels are sometimes fitted with "scuttling charges"—explosives designed to blow holes in the hull and sink the ship, to prevent capture by the enemy.
  • when any US Military plane or helicopter goes down,one of the primary jobs of any surviving crew member or rescuer is to set up charges to destroy the downed aircraft.
  • Some more sophisticated modern land mines have a self-destruct app set to go off either on a time or command detonation. This is because of the obvious point that no one wants them hanging around after the war is over.
  1. The guy tasked with doing this is typically in another building, separate from the launch centre. He never meets anybody involved in the flight crew.
  2. Thrust venting can be used to equalize thrust -- yielding zero net acceleration -- but the propellant will still burn to completion. And not all solid rockets feature thrust venting. The Shuttles notably don't.