Shapeshifter Mode Lock

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    However, the giants of the Sul’at League studied the Gyrderi and found a way to counter the druids—the giants enacted a terrible curse that forever bound them in the wild shapes they were wearing, trapping them and their descendants in the forms of animals.

    Eberron Secrets of Xen'drik, Chapter 3

    You know how when you were a kid, your mother always kept saying if you keep making that face, it'd stick?

    This is the Shapeshifting equivalent, where the shapeshifter manages to get stuck in a particular form, unable to use their shapeshifting powers. If they're lucky, they're stuck in their most natural or inconspicuous form (possibly their Shapeshifter Default Form), but if not, the body they're stuck in is either weak and pitiful, or monstrous and riot-inciting.

    Conversely, milder forms of Mode Lock may lock someone out of a certain form instead of in to one, or require that they stay in the form they take for a certain amount of time. In practice, used to establish contrivance to why a shapeshifter may not look optimal to a situation.

    The name is taken from Transformers, more specifically, from the Transformers: Universe profile for Cloudraker, where it is in an issue of the Marvel comic book, which states "His major physical problem is a tendency to suffer "mode-lock"—the inability to transform from one mode to another."

    Compare The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body, And I Must Scream, First Law of Gender Bending. See also Power Incontinence. Contrast Involuntary Shapeshifting.

    Examples of Shapeshifter Mode Lock include:

    Anime and Manga

    • The goal of the cursed characters in Ranma ½ was to be cursed again in the Spring of the Drowned Man or Drowned Girl. That way, when splashed with cold water, they'll turn into themselves (effectively not changing). Aside from that, the more common disadvantageous type of Mode Lock appears a few times as well:
      • In an early story, Ranma was the victim of a Pressure Point attack called the Full Body Cat's Tongue, which made him unable to bear hot water—the trigger to turn him male—thereby locking him into his girl mode until the cure was found. In at least the anime version, this resulted in a Twisted Knee Collapse once Cologne told him about it, and vowed he would be cured if only he agreed to honor his engagement to Shampoo.
      • In an arc in the manga we find out someone with the same curse as Ranma has been locked into cursed form by the water from a magical pail and is looking for the cure. Later, when Ranma pisses him/her off in a fight, he uses it on Ranma. Mousse and Ryoga go with Ranma planning to use it on themselves while in human form to effectively remove the curse, but since it works by splashing you with cold water, you'll always be in cursed form when the Mode Lock take effect.
      • Ranma also briefly had a temporary cure when he got a fever so hot it made any water he came in contact with too warm to activate the curse. Conversely, when he got a freezing cold later in the same story, the moisture in the air flash-froze in contact with him, which also made it impossible to turn into a girl (since solid ice doesn't trigger the curse).
      • Don't forget the second movie Nihao My Concubine, in which the villain has waters from a sacred spring that transformed the one splashed in it permanently into a man. He uses it to threaten girls to come along quietly with him, but the curse spring victims try to use it to break their curse. By the end of the movie, Ranma's falling high speed toward the spring, but he has Akane falling with him, so he destroys the spring so she doesn't get stuck as a man, ruining his chance to break the curse once again.
    • Hime-chan no Ribon has Hime-chan stuck in the form of her rival, Hibino. After being hit by a truck and revived, she got better.
    • Ai to Yuuki no Pig Girl Tonde Buurin: Buurin gets this in the second to the last episode after revealing her secret to her classmates. Fortunately for her, after collecting 108 pearls, she got better.
    • When Ichigo first turns into a full cat in Tokyo Mew Mew, both she and Mission Control fear that it'll be permanent. However, she figures out how to change back after a long and grueling day as a helpless kitten.
      • Said Mission Control, Ryou, who himself has a cat form named Alto is specifically said to be able to stay in cat form for no more than ten minutes - or else the transformation will become permanent.
    • In the second season of Corrector Yui, the corrector Synchro, who had spent almost the whole first season trapped in the form of Corruptor War Wolf, was forcibly reverted to his War Wolf shape when he was attacked and infected by a powerful virus.
    • In Claymore the more a Claymore uses her Youki power, the more her body transforms into a Youma—the very thing they hunt (since they are part Human part Youma). If they use up 80% of their Youki power, they fully turn into a Youma and cannot transform back into human form and hunter will become the hunted (apart from some rare exceptions).
    • Keel's goal of undoing his human transformation in Buster Keel. He does manage to gain a few items that let him temporarily transform his arms to their original forms for fighting.
    • In Detective Conan, the main character is transformed into a child. He later gets access to pills that temporarily reverse the transformation, after which he returns to child form again. However, taking the pills consecutively causes the user's body to develop a resistance, shortening the duration of the effect. As a result, when Conan returns to child form, he has to wait 8 hours before taking another pill.
    • Happens twice in Those Who Hunt Elves - once involving a shape-change spell, once involving a lycanthrope. In both cases, having a spell segment imprinted on one's body creates a Mode Lock as long as the segment is in place.
    • An example from Otogi Juushi Akazukin: Val used to be a werewolf. However, thanks to injuries he sustained while protecting Akazukin's home village from other werewolves several years before the series began, he's now trapped in wolf form.
    • Keiki from The Twelve Kingdoms is mode-locked in his beast form per orders of The Evil Princess Joei, as a part of her plan to usurp Youko's throne.
    • Digimon Tamers was the first series to explore this aspect of E[Digi]volution—both Guilmon and Terriermon have some trouble in coming back to their Child/Rookie forms after the change; there was even an entire episode showing the problems in hiding the huge Growmon in the real world. Eventually this aspect was downplayed, since they spent some 20 episodes in the Digital World, and after that the Digimon's existence was known by the public.
    • Marvelous Melmo has two chief examples of this trope. Melmo, the titular heroine, is gifted from her dead mother of two types of candies. The blue candies make her older, and the blue ones make her younger, with the explicit purpose of making her able to care for her younger siblings. As early as the first episodes, Melmo discovers that by taking both pills at once, she can de-age herself to embryonic state, then regrow her body in another form, thus shapeshifting to another animal.
      • When his little brother Totoo tries that for himself, he turns himself into a frog, spending half the series figuring how to swallow a couple of pills that now are bigger than his own stomach
      • When the angels responsible for Melmo's empowering decide that she's abusing it, by continuosly aging and shapeshifting for personal reasons, they withold their blessing from the candies. However, at the very same moment, Melmo is currently transformed into a dog, so, without her candies, she's stuck in that form, and unable to care for her little brothers. Upon getting her Aesop, she's turned back, but this time with a limited supply of candies.
    • Akko-chan from Himitsu no Akko-chan usually had to use the mirror to switch back as well, causing problems when she would temporarily misplace it.
      • In one episode of the original 1969 series, aptly named _____, Akko-chan, upon meeting a new deaf kid, uses her mirror, out of curiosity and compassion, to transform herself in a deaf-mute version of herself. Too bad that, since the mirror works by clear utterances of the needed transformation, and since Akko-chan insisted on the "mute" part of her ailment, Akko-chan couldn't ask the mirror to be changed back anymore.
        • Apparently, the mirror could have hit the Reset Button all the times, but but since it believed Akko-chan's desire for deafness shallow and impulsive, had decided to show her how serious is an handicap by threatening Akko-chan with a permanent mode-lock, with the added perk to show how badly she was missing the point: instead of trying to feel on a temporary basis what deafness is, she should have rather stopped at how her new friend was going on even knowing that he couldn't get a magic mirror to fix him.
    • Happens to Moka in Rosario + Vampire when she is unable to reattach her rosary and return to her "outer" personality. It takes more than a dozen chapters for this to get fixed, and it's still hinted that the two personalities are slowly becoming one.
    • In SD Gundam Force, Captain is stuck in vehicle mode after his soul drive is stolen.
    • This happens to the Macross in The Movie of Super Dimension Fortress Macross: when a Meltrandi attack blows off its Eva Fins, the Macross is locked into Humongous Mecha mode since those fins, aside from being its Wave Motion Gun, also happen to be the ship mode's forward section. And indeed after the final battle of both the movie and the series, the Macross never transforms into ship mode ever again as it's stuck waist down in a lake.
    • In Suite Pretty Cure, Seiren is stuck in her human "Ellen Kurokawa" form after performing a Heel Face Turn. On the plus side, she becomes the third Cure Cure Beat.
    • One chapter of D.N.Angel had Dark in control of the body after Daisuke went missing (sort of) on White Day.
    • In Howl's Moving Castle, Calcifer warns Howl that the more often Howl changes into his semi-avian form, the greater the chance that Howl will lose his humanity and never be able to change back. Other wizards in the film are mentioned to have done this deliberately in order to help with a war effort; Howl notes that by the time the war ends, they'll have forgotten that they were ever human to begin with.

    Comic Books

    • A memorable example in Lucifer came when the Big Bad sent a shapeshifting demon to kill Elaine. The demon in question killed her father and took his form to get close to her. After Elaine escaped, the Big Bad decided to stop said demon from interfering by trapping it in that form permanently. It literally begged for death at the end, as the man's memories started to overwhelm it.
      • Context is necessary to really appreciate the "begged for death" bit: It is immortal to the extent it had already outlived the death of a previous universe. There's no indication ANYTHING can give it release.
    • In X-Men, Courier shapeshifted into a woman to make an appointment with Mr. Sinister, who was posing as an obstetrician. Realizing he was set up, Sinister injected "her" with a destabilizing agent, the only antidote for which was to take away her powers completely. Unfortunately, he didn't realize Courier wasn't originally female...
      • Courier's not the only X-character to suffer this. Nearly any character with a civilian form and a combat form will find him/herself stuck in powered-up mode. Colossus has been trapped in metal form, Iceman in ice form, Lifeguard in half Shi'ar form, Shadowcat as intangible (not shapeshifter but worth mention), Wolfsbane as at least part wolf, and so on.
    • Parodied by the She Hulk graphic novel. Jennifer is told by Reed Richards that he has bad news: She's stuck as She-Hulk forever and can never change back into regular human Jennifer. After a Beat Panel, She-Hulk inquired "So what's this bad news"? It turned out that Reed was lying anyway since he's a dick.
    • Averted in a Wildcats/JLA crossover where Maul is afraid to use his power to exchange intelligence for size because he would become "too stupid to turn back" if he grew big enough to smash the villain's barrier. Superman solves it by giving him an electric spark that turns him small after 30 seconds.
    • A Skrull named Khn'nr was to be used in the infiltration of Earth in Marvel's Secret Invasion event. He was mode locked into the form of Captain Marvel, a long dead hero, and brainwashed into thinking he was him from the past. When he found out, he rejected his part in the invasion, and now is trying to work against it.
      • Similarly, quite a few Skrulls who took the form of Dr. Hank Pym wound up losing themselves in the role/being overwhelmed by the personality of the original, and had to be put down.
        • During the period when the entire Skrull race lost their powers, they were stuck in whatever form they took at the time. Those whose jobs involved snaking through drainpipes, for example, had to be cut out. The villain who actually initiated the change was in a suit that he thought would protect him from the effect. It did not, leaving him permanently trapped inside, in agony because the "suit" was not hollow, but loaded with internal machinery that he had oozed around and between.
        • In another example, some Skrulls who invaded Earth were brainwashed into becoming cows, rendering them harmless. Unfortunately, the cows were then slaughtered, and those who ate the meat either died or gained powers along with a virus. That's the origin of the Skrull Kill Krew. Team member Riot was stuck in a monstrous bug form for an extended period of time.
    • In The DCU, a story arc in Martian Manhunter involved him being Mode Locked in a form resembling his usual appearance, but with four arms. This was a Shout-Out to the four-armed Green Martians in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom novels.
      • Other instances include Manhunter being reduced to amorphous goo by a neurotoxin, being trapped in Aquaman's body and freaking out, and an Elseworlds story where all the heroes lost their powers, leaving him in his natural Martian form with all of the suck and none of the blessing.
      • The evil White Martians are initially dealt with this way by the JLA. They are given human form and have their memories removed, effectively trapping them as humans. Needless to say, problems occur when a few of them get their minds back and remember how to shapeshift.
    • In Transformers: Spotlight, Soundwave gets locked by the Decepticon Pretenders when he tries to stop them after learning the full extent of their plans.
    • The Thing from the Fantastic Four, but not in all continuities.
    • Happens to Bruce Banner on occasion.
      • Whether this is good or bad depends on the form he's stuck as. Though when he recently got stuck as Banner... he proved to be dangerous even without the Hulk.
        • It's all a matter of perspective. Hulk would love to be mode-locked and never turn into Banner again. Banner would love to be free of the Hulk, but at this point knows better. Both absolutely hate the idea of being mode-locked as the other.
    • A story arc in Legion of Super-Heroes involved Durlan shapeshifter Chameleon Boy getting stuck in his usual form and undertaking a dangerous journey on Durla to a place that would restore his shapechanging abilities. His father, who had long ago been Mode Locked into human form by a disease, came with him, but only to provide support; he had adjusted to having a permanent form and didn't want his abilities back.
    • Appears in Calvin and Hobbes when Calvin's Transmogrifier Gun runs out of juice after a Shapeshifter Showdown, leaving Calvin stuck in the form of an owl until it recharges. Somehow, his mother doesn't seem to notice, but humours him.
    • PS238 has Bryce Brenner "The Unbelievable Ultrabrute", an obvious Expy of Incredible Hulk; his son is always in "Bernard Smash!" mode. It's not clear why, possibly he just doesn't want to switch it off and/or cannot understand instructions.
      • "Rockslide" is stuck in a massive golem-like stone body.
      • "Dynamode" used to be a free-form shapeshifter, but an unfriendly encounter with some telepath resulted in a career-ending "software" lock. For extra humiliation, it enforces Dual Age Modes (morning to evening, she’s a brown-haired little girl, evening to morning, she’s an adult woman and redhead)and prevents her from figuring out on her own that it's an obvious evidence of her abilities still working, just not under her conscious control (unless that's her own stupidity).

    Fan Works

    • In With Strings Attached, it happens to George thanks to a flaw in the ring that normally allows him to shape change at will. He gets stuck as a pigeon in New Zork and is not happy about it; he uses his ring more cautiously for a time after it happens.
    • Because of the multiple shape-changers that make up the Love Dodecahedron at the heart of its plot, most of whom are looking for cures for their conditions, this is a persistent theme/device in Ranma ½ fanfiction, in contexts that range from light farce to horror.


    • Occurs in The Secret of Kells. After allowing Crom Cruach to hurt her so she can let Brendan sneak past safely, Aisling is stuck in her white wolf form, unable to speak to Brendan anymore. In the Distant Finale of the movie, however, we briefly see her in her human appearance, implying the lock is starting to wear off, or possibly already has.
    • In The Return of Hanuman, one of the conditions for Hanuman to be reincarnated as a human on Earth is that when he turns back into the original Hanuman, he could not turn back into human form.


    • This is part and parcel of the rules of shapeshifting in Animorphs; stay in a morphed form too long (around 2 hours), and you'll get stuck in it (this is called nothlit). Tobias gets stuck in red-tailed hawk form early in the series. He still manages to be useful to the team, though, and he eventually gets the ability to become human again, although the hawk becomes his default form from that point on: If he stays human for longer than two hours, mode lock applies again and he loses his ability to morph at all.
      • Besides the intervention of a Reality Warper (which is how Tobias got his ability to morph back), the only other known way to escape being a nothlit is if your animal form undergoes a natural metamorphosis. Once this happens (as when Cassie was stuck as a caterpillar but became a butterfly), your biological clock is reset and you have 2 more hours to change back.
    • "Yennorks" are Discworld werewolves born with permanent mode-lock. Angua had a sister Elsa who was unable to turn into a wolf and her brother Andrei passes himself off as a sheepdog because of his inability to take human form. She makes it clear to Carrot that this doesn't make them a human and a wolf, they're both still werewolves, just werewolves unable to change.
      • Also used more conventionally within the series: Angua frequently worries about the psychological effects of becoming a wolf, fearing that if she stays in wolf form too long, she will forget how to be human.
      • Shown with her father, in particular, who is slowly forgetting how to be human. Mentioned also that the human/reasoning side becomes less powerful the longer they're in Werewolf form, while the senses fade in human form.
      • Angua becomes mode-locked in wolf form while directly exposed to the light of the full moon. A curtain is shown to prevent this, but she makes a comment about having to sleep in a dog basket for a week every month, suggesting that keeping the curtains closed might not work all the time.
      • Borrowing can also cause this, in a way; if a witch borrows an animal's mind and stays there for too long, she'll forget she was ever human and it'll take a powerful witch to bring her back.
    • An unusual variation occurs in the Switchers series. The titular shapeshifters lose their powers at 15 (which is to say, Midnight on the morning of their fifteenth birthday) and are stuck as whatever they happen to be at the time. This issue is directly and pointedly addressed in the second book, appropriately entitled Midnight's Choice.
    • Likewise in His Dark Materials, Daemons may manifest as any creature up until (once again) their human counterpart grows up, whereupon they "settle" on a highly symbolic permanant form.
    • Several people in the Kiesha'ra series by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes have had their animal forms "bound" so that they can't transform, some intentionally as punishment. It's not a pleasant process.
      • Though none have appeared in published canon, Word of God says that a shapeshifter who spends an extremely long period of time in his or her animal form can get modelocked as the animal. This is referred to as going feral.
    • Used in Tamora Pierce's Immortals quartet. A strange black hawk turns out to be a powerful mage after being given enough drugs to knock out a human - he was so sick in animal form that there was no way he could do anything, much less change back. Daine also gains the ability to shapeshift later on, but often can't shift back if she panics or forgets about her human self.
      • And she has the ability to morph into an immortal, but not the ability to change back.
    • This is a subplot of a Polish story "Academy of Pan Kleks".
    • Wilhelm Hauff wrote a story "Halif the Stork" where you need a formula to transform, but will forget it if you laugh.
    • In Harry Potter, Hermione puts Rita Skeeter, the nosy reporter who isn't above ruining people's lives by writing bald-faced lies about them, into a jar that makes her unable to transform out of her animagus form, a beetle. The jar is just sealed and enchanted to be unbreakable—thus, if she tries to change back... well, she'd be too big for the container.
      • Also, Dumbledore has mentioned in The Tales of Beedle the Bard that anyone other than an animagus that tries to polymorph themselves would permanently become an animal, unable to use magic to change back.
      • This also happens to Tonks although it's not too dramatic. Tonks is unable to use her metamorphmagus skills when she becomes depressed about her love for Remus Lupin and thus gets stuck looking rather like a girl version of him.
    • Morgoth in The Silmarillion. "And then he took the form he had worn as the tyrant of Utumno -- a dark lord, tall and terrible. And in that form he remained forever after."
      • Likewise his protégé, Sauron, after the destruction of his physical body in the drowning of Numenor. Even after he regained physical form, he could no longer take on a fair-seeming appearance.
      • This may be due to a recurring "you become what you do" theme that seems fairly consistent with regard to the Valar and Maiar. It may have something to do with why the Valar themselves increasingly become shut-ins on their own island as well, though the text does not explicitly state so. If so, the entire existence of the Valar and Maiar within Eä can be seen as a progressively restrictive Mode Lock as time moves on.
      • The Wizards, on the other hand, were good spirits in a voluntary Mode Lock into the shape of old men. The reason for this is that they use their knowledge to advice and tutor other peoples, rather than use their abilities to grab power. Didn't work with Saruman.
    • In the Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin, wizards who spend too much time shapeshifted into animal forms can forget their humanity, especially when distracted by the animal's power of Flight or ability to freely range the oceans.
    • The succubus lead character in Richelle Mead's Georgina Kincaid series suffers a mode lock, along with all of the other demonic immortals in Seattle, when their supervising Archdemon goes missing (summoned and bound by his lieutenant, with help). Georgina is lucky enough to be in her default form when the lock begins - another succubus is not so lucky and gets locked into a completely different body. This stasis removed definable abilities such as shape-shifting and aura perception due to their being normally 'distributed' via the Archdemon, but their connection to hell - and their immortality - remained.
    • In the "Outernet" books by Steves Barlowe and Skidmore, the shapeshifter-characters Sirius and Vega are trapped in the forms of a cat and dog, respectiely. This remains throughout the whole of the series (with two brief exceptions).
    • Mikey McGill in The Skinjacker Trilogy gets stuck in his hideous monster form whenever his negative emotions overwhelm him, and it usually takes some sort of trigger to bring him back to normal.
    • Inverted in Dragons Winter when Karadur is locked in his human form (he's a dragon shapechanger). Later in the novel, Hawk is also so locked. Her alternate shape should be rather easy to guess.
    • In Prospero's Children by Jan Siegal, a sorceress with the ability to turn into a wolf would use her form to hunt humans for sport. One day she met a wizard who cursed her to remain in wolf form permanently until she could repent for her evil ways. After several years, she sought out the wizard so that she could show him that she had changed, but the wizard no longer had the power to change her back.
    • Curse of the Wolfgirl reveals that werewolves are unable to shift out of their human forms if there is a lunar eclipse. Then things get worse when the Big Bad of the book finds a spell that can simulate an eclipse and conspires with a bunch of hunters.
    • In Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals From the Dark series, the Metamorph species is able to voluntarily shapeshift. Their normal form is that of an amorphous blob. There are a few individuals who have a mutation that locks the individual into the first transformation for life. At that point, only slight changes are possible. These usually become spies among other races, able to slightly alter their appearance within the confines of the race. The observer on Earth took on the appearance of a human male. He's able to change into other males of any human ethnicity but not females due to radical physiological changes.
    • In Malazan Book of the Fallen, Treach, the Tiger of Summer, a Soletaken Ascendant is said to be stuck in his tiger form for at least last 500 years and becoming little more than crazed, mindless beast.
    • The title villain of IT by Stephen King can be forced into one form if several people all think of it that way at once. Like a Giant Spider.
    • There's a German children's book (main character's named Agathe) which involves witches, shapeshifting into cats and a "stay-a-cat-powder".
    • In Larry Niven's The Magic Goes Away series, werebeasts become mode-locked whenever the mana runs out (but recover their power if they enter another mana-rich area).
      • In What Good is a Glass Dagger?, a werewolf is surprised to learn that he reverts to wolf-shape in the absence of mana, losing the human part of his intelligence in the process. This has huge implications for his descendants.
      • The Lion in His Attic strongly implies that the above applies to all werebeasts.

    Live-Action TV

    • In Doctor Who, the Doctor's TARDIS possesses a "chameleon circuit" which, under ideal circumstances, disguises the machine by making it appear to be an inconspicuous object in the time and place it's parked. Due to a malfunction he's never been able to fix, however, it is permanently stuck in the shape of a 1960s British police box. He did fix it for one story, but then it broke again. It's later stated that he doesn't even try to fix it anymore, because he likes it that way. Other Time Lords that appear in the series have TARDISes with normally-functioning chameleon circuits.
      • In the Doctor Who Magazine strip, shapeshifting companion Frobisher got stuck as a penguin for a while. Even before and after that, however, it was the form he most preferred.
      • At one point the Doctor says he smashed the circuit with a hammer, so it would NEVER work again. In a more recent episode, he claims that whenever he repairs or replaces the circuit, the TARDIS herself deliberately shorts it out. They both prefer her as a Police Box. (Throwing the TARDIS instruction manual into a SUPERNOVA probably didn't help matters any.)
        • Although, now it's stated that the chameleon circuit is working properly. It analyzes a huge area of its surrounding environment, extrapolates an inconspicuous form for it's exterior, then shifts that appearance to... a 1960s British police box. Every time. But it is, technically, functional.
    • In an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Garak uses a device on Odo that prevents his shapeshifting. Since he cannot take his natural liquid form, his body begins to deteriorate. Later, he had his powers taken away by his people for a surprisingly long amount of time (unusual for this trope): about half a season.
      • Still later, in the latter days of the Dominion War arc, all of Odo's race (including Odo) fall under the influence of a disease which makes them unable to liquefy, slowly killing them as above. This is revealed to be a biological weapon invented by the shadowy, rule-evading part of Starfleet. Unfortunately for their plot, they had to infect the race through Odo, which means the good guys race to find the cure in the nick of time.
    • This happened to the character Tommy Oliver in Power Rangers Dino Thunder when the actor playing him had real life commitments; the character was stuck in his suit, then invisible for the best part of a season.
    • In one episode of Dengeki Sentai Changeman, episode dealt with Hiryū Tsurugi is stuck in his Change Dragon form. Unlike in other instances where it is treated as a minor annoyance at best, here it is treated as a real threat.
    • On Angel, during the Pylea arc, Angel in the other dimension would get stuck in the "super" version of his vampireness. The whole demon would emerge, instead of him just vamping out whenever he wanted. He would be stuck as the Van-tal for a really long time, until he could calm down.
      • It's heavily implied that the Van-tal demons were the original progenitors of the Vampire race. Which would mean that, by definition, vampires are themselves demons always mode-locked in a human body.
      • After Illyria, a primordial Old One had her powers mostly drained, she was effectively trapped in Fred's body. She did retain the ability to shapeshift... but only into Fred's human appearance.
    • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Amy the witch turned into a rat and couldn't turn back for 3 seasons. She was never really quite the same...
      • In the the Halloween Episode "Fear Itself", Oz is forced to live out his worst fear, which results in him suddenly starting to transform into a werewolf and getting stuck halfway.
    • Lost: Happened to The Man in Black twice. First, after killing Jacob he got Mode Locked in Mode Locke. He could still change back to the Smoke Monster form, but couldn't assume other human forms anymore. Then, the removal of the Island's cork in the Finale took that ability away as well, Locking him in a mortal body as opposed to the invulnerable Smoke form, allowing the Heroes to kill him.
    • On Fringe, the shapeshifter at the beginning of Season 2 is stuck in the body of Agent Charlie Francis after its shapeshifting device is broken. The shapeshifters' devices are unique so using another's would be pointless. The only way out is to complete its mission and go back before it is too late. This doesn't happen because Olivia Dunham shoots it in the head.
    • Happened to David Banner one time on The Incredible Hulk, but in an incredibly strange way: in the two-parter "Prometheus", Dr. Banner got a little too close to a radioactive meteorite, and got stuck halfway between himself and the Hulk. For the duration of the Shapeshifter Mode Lock, he retained his consciousness and intelligence, but had difficulty concentrating and focusing, and also possessed a fair portion of the Hulk's strength. Later in the same episode, he effectively got Mode Locked AS the Hulk after being captured and imprisoned by the military; his futile attempts to break free of his cell kept him pissed off enough to stay green.
    • Played for laughs in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, where a shapeshifting witch visits the satellite and loses control of her powers. She eventually winds up stuck as a bottle of bleach, though she can still communicate ("This is so annoying!").
    • In Sanctuary, a pregnant HAP's body will go into lockdown to protect the fetus, because shapeshifting also changes the protean's insides.
    • In Misfits One of the Super-powered teens has some trouble after his Gender bending power makes him stuck as a woman due to hisSelf-induced pregnancy, lucky all is well by the end of the episode.

    Myths and Religion

    • Some variations of the selkie myth have it that they can only go upon land a certain number of times before suffering permanent Mode Lock (either as a seal or human depending on what they were at the time).
      • Another variation is for a human to steal a selkie's skin in order to Mode Lock her in human form.
    • Another shapeshifter myth: the Margotines are fey white cats that can change into pretty human females — or can confer a human female the power to turn into a white cat. However, if the woman is wounded while in this form, she can no longer change back to her true shape — and the Margotine cannot turn into a human any longer either.
    • In Norse Mythology Loki suffered a temporary Shapeshifter Mode Lock in form of a mare, before giving birth to the Sleipnir. It Makes Sense in Context.

    Tabletop Games

    • In Exalted, if a Lunar Exalted's anima banner gets too intense, the Lunar will be Mode Locked to a handful of his most iconic forms.
    • Ars Magica. Using Muto Corporem (shapechangin) spells is potentially dangerous. If a mage spends a month in the shape of an animal, they will start to act and think like that animal. Eventually they could lose their human personalities altogether.
    • Amber Diceless Role Playing. It's possible for someone using Shapeshifting to lose the knowledge of how to shapeshift or even the ability itself, stranding them in their current form. It's also possible for them to lose their personality and take on the personality of the creature or person they're imitating, so they don't want to change back.
    • Forgotten Futures. A magician who transforms into an animal may come to believe that they are that animal and prolong the spell until it becomes permanent and erases their true personality.
    • Dungeons & Dragons before d20: shapechange a chance of changing the subject's personality, until one forgets being something else.
      • In Forgotten Realms priests of Ghanadaur (mostly drow) are granted a spell allowing temporary transformation into ooze. It also has a chance of permanently turning them into Ghaunadan — ooze minions of their god that remain sapient and can take the former humanoid form, but no more priests or members of their former species.
      • In Eberron, when the elves, most of which where the slaves of the giants rebelled, the Gyrderi, who where the free elves decided to help their kin. Being druids they had an ability called wild shape, which lets them shapeshift into animals. "the giants enacted a terrible curse that forever bound them in the wild shapes they were wearing, trapping them and their descendants in the forms of animals"


    • The Mistika Makuta from Bionicle suffered from this, after being exposed to the Pit Mutagen.
    • Powermasters in Transformers Generation 1, in theory, required their Nebulan partner in order to transform from vehicle mode to robot mode (in reality, all that was really required was to simply press a button. The toy was capable of working without it, but the partner made it a tad easier—not to mention the toys looked better with the partner attached).
      • More severe were the Action Masters, a series of non-transforming Transformer toys, stuck in their robot modes. The fluff explained that they had taken a substance called Nucleon, that had rendered them more powerful, more 'alive', but robbed them of their ability to transform into vehicles. To compensate for this, the Action Masters were all packaged with transformable accessories, such as weapons or vehicles.

    Video Games

    • In Prototype, halfway through the game you are given a "cure" that mode locks your ability to shapeshift your body into weapons. Oddly enough though you can still shapeshift.
    • In Warcraft III certain units can shapeshift, but the action is considered to be a spell, and costs mana (and sometimes also has a cool down). So, if a Dark Ranger casts Silence on a bunch of Druids of the Claw, then, well, no Bear Form for you. Similar things can be done with Druids of the Talon and Spirit Walkers.
      • A TFT walkthrough states that in one mission, hitting Ilidan with a bunch of damaging spells will have a high chance of distrupting his AI, preventing him from transforming into his demonic form when heavily injured.
    • In World of Warcraft, the black dragon boss Nefarian has calls out to specific classes with specific effects on those classes. The class call to Druids ("Druids and their silly shapeshifting. Let's see it in action!") will force all Druids to shapeshift into cat form and block them in it for a while. Feral specialised DPS druids may not be affected if they're fighting in this form anyway, but druid bear tanks, healers and spellcasters will be annoyed. Of course, at the time Nefarian was at the top of the food chain DPS-specced feral druids, and for that matter any non-healer druids, were so exceedingly rare in end-game raiding that Nefarian was probably fine discounting their existence entirely.
    • Not quite Shapeshifting, but in Kingdom Hearts 2, abusing Sora's drive forms can lead to him accidentally drive into the infamous Anti Form. Along with reduced damage resistance, no healing and no allies, Sora can't exit this form until his drive gauge depletes (during battle; it is possible outside of battle, but 99% of the time you only activate Forms during battle). This makes it a temporary (but still often fatal) example of this trope. And woe betide you if you gave yourself abilities that increase drive Form duration.
    • Two examples from Nethack:
      • The amulet of unchanging will mode lock the player. This is usually a good thing, since most transformations are unwanted.
      • The ring of protection from shape changers will mode lock all enemy shapeshifters, which renders them effectively harmless.
    • An example of the lock out version of mode lock: In the current-gen console game of Spider-Man3, if the player removes the black suit, they have to wait for a small amount of time before they can use it again.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Link gets stuck in wolf form whenever he goes into a area covered in twilight. The only way he can change back, is by returning the 'Tears of Light' to the spirit in that area. Later in the game however Zant curses Link, locking him in his Wolf form (despite there being no twilight covering the land) Once removed, said "curse" can be re-applied and removed at will, allowing Link to change whenever he needs to.
      • Majora's Mask begins with this trope. Link is changed into a deku scrub until he gets his Ocarina back and learns to play the song of healing. Of course later on you can change at will by applying various masks.
    • In Neverwinter Nights 2, a certain wonkiness in the nature of things makes it difficult -in some cases impossible- for the local druids to shapeshift. It's a story element and has no effect on the combat effectiveness of your party's druid.
    • Towards the end of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Samus goes to Phaaze, the source of all Phazon. However, the concentration of Phazon is so high that Samus gets thrown into a dangerous Hyper Mode has to drain all of her energy tanks in order to prevent instant corruption. And even that doesn't stop the problem since it just delays the inevitable where sooner or later, the Phazon will consume Samus so it becomes a Timed Mission from the landing to the end of the Final Boss battle.
    • Cornell, the werewolf protagonist of Castlevania: Castlevania (Nintendo 64), spends the entirety of Castlevania Judgment trapped in wolf form as a result of the time rift.
    • Leader units in Transformers: War for Cybertron get to inflict this on opponents as an ability, known as Disruption. In addition to causing damage, it forces anyone in robot mode into vechicle mode and vice versa, for a set period of time. This can be either pointless or deadly, given that the opponent has weapons in both forms but also can't access all of their abilties. A Scientist without his jet form will not last long.
    • In Ys II, Dalles traps you in Roo form, and you must go on a Guide Dang It Fetch Quest to change back.

    Web Comics

    • Slightly Damned: Kieri's "bunny curse" occasionally kicks in by itself and is difficult to revert.
    • CRFH: Roger's mom is stuck in furry form (and happy that way), and tells him that it will eventually happen to him too.
    • In El Goonish Shive, Grace and her brothers could each shapeshift partially or fully into whatever animal's DNA was thrown in with their human DNA. Since the brothers were a threat at the time, Grace hoped they wouldn't be able to turn back to normal if they were hit with Tedd's transformation gun. They dropped that plan when all it did to Grace was give her new forms she could shapeshift to.
      • Which brings us to Vlad, who was in a de facto mode lock as his attempt to turn human nearly killed him; he ended up staying in some sort of mishmash of forms with weird stuff growing from his face. He's unlocked after Ellen blasts him..and the idea of being kept away from a human form has her now voluntarily staying in her new human form no matter what.
      • Also the TF Gun has a built in mode lock related to it's original purpose: If you get pregnant while transformed, you stay female. (There's no mention of being able to turn back after giving birth...)
    • In Jix, the main aliens (the Ambis) have the ability to going from cute and fuzzy to large and pointy beasts. This is known as their feral form. One of the villains, Maricax was introduced in his feral form, unable to revert back to normal. That is...until another villain named Kelelder gives him super healing ability.

    Web Original

    Western Animation

    • Beast Wars and Beast Machines, not having the secrecy restriction of other Transformers series, invented excuses for the cast having to adopt and stay in alternate forms. In Beast Wars, it was that all of the robots would be debilitated by energon radiation and that organic-skinned beast modes would protect them (an excuse as good as obsolete by the second season, but by then everyone had vehicle modes that gave them the advantage of speed or flight anyway). (In at least one instance, having serious damage to the robot body prompted the internal system to force a Transformer back into Beast Mode.) Beast Machines had the Maximals stuck in beast mode until they learned how to use their new techno-organic bodies, and had to use their alternate forms to hide from the ubiquitous wardrones.
      • There was also an episode where Megatron has a beam-like device that trapped characters hit with it in Beast Mode. This lost the Maximals a chance to contact Cybertron.
      • The original Marvel |The Transformers comics introduced Nucleon late in the run, to tie in with the toy line's introduction of the non-transforming Action Masters. Nucleon strengthens a Transformer immensely, but, among other nasty potential side effects, always renders them unable to transform. Understandably, most users wind up wishing they'd never touched the stuff.
      • The Transformers cartoon, specifically the episode "The Autobot Run" had the Transfixatron, a weapon that trapped most of the Autobots in their vehicle modes (all land-based, all unarmed), making them very vulnerable to the Decepticons. Later episodes would imply that Mode Lock could also be the result of heavy damage, and the Headmasters were automatically stuck in vehicle mode anytime their partners (who transformed into their heads) weren't around.
        • Also in "Desertion of the Dinobots", a little bit of Phlebotinum called "Cybertonium", which all Cybertron-created Transformers (i.e.: not the Dinobots) need in order to function correctly, starts decaying, resulting in semi-hilarious malfunctions (Megatron in at one point waving his arms around wildly when trying to fly, Ironhide icing himself up). Jazz is shown as unable to transform from car mode (until Ironhide kicks him), and is later shown stuck part-transformed (robot upper body, still in car mode in lower body). During the episode, Perceptor actually says "Fortunately I am still stuck in microscope mode").
      • The Beast Wars example is a double-edged sword: by remaining in beast mode for too long, the beast instincts start to overwhelm the robot intelligence until they become feral. Certain Maximals who frequently remain in beast mode, notably Tigatron, are able to overcome this.
        • After even the normal Maximals were forced into permanent Beast Mode for an episode, they too learned the trick, and proceeded to teach the Predacons a lesson in Beast Wars.
      • Yet another Beast Wars example: Optimus Primal became mode-locked in "Gorilla Warfare" thanks to Scorponok frakking around with his cyber-bee.
      • The Transformers Prime two-part episode "Operation Bumblebee" featured Bumblebee's T-Cog being stolen by MECH, rendering him unable to transform into vehicle mode. Eventually it was retrieved, however MECH then procceded to turn on Starscream (who'd been working with them), and steal his T-Cog, leaving him stuck in robot mode.
    • Ben in Ben 10 has this happen to him a lot, since he's basically got a Black Box from outer space permanently attached to his wrist. Even leaving aside that when he uses it, it turns him into the alien he chooses (or the one it chooses instead) until the timer runs down, then turns him back human until it powers up again, there have been a number of Mode Lock incidents, generally involving a weaker alien such as Grey Matter or Ditto.
      • As a variant, Kevin winds up submitting to Mode Lock after overuse of previously-acquired Omnitrix-fueled transformation—what Vilgax lovingly (sarcasm) calls a "misshapen amalgamation". By the time Alien Force rolls around, he returned to human form in time for his escape from the Null-Void.
        • Seems to have happened to Kevin yet again in Alien Force, since now he's part concrete, metal, diamond, and other stuff.
    • In Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light, the title characters are futuristic knights who can transform into animals. During the episode "Lion Hunt", one of the Visionaries gets stuck in animal mode.
    • An episode of The Mask: The Animated Series featured a gypsy fortune-teller that tricked Stanley into giving her the Mask which she then used to power another magic Mask that gives enormous powers. She then discards the Mask thinking it's now useless and Stanley puts it on... only The Mask is stuck in the form of a sterotypical Scot (complete with kilt). He then gradually obtains the rest of his forms (starting with the most useless ones, as The Mask himself lampshades).
    • This is the entire purpose of the Plasmius Maximus in Danny Phantom. It has been used on both Danny and Vlad, modelocking them into their human forms. Other weapons/containment devices have this as a side effect of sorts.
      • Don't forget the episode "Forever Phantom", in which one of Jack's weapons zaps Danny and Amorpho, forcing the former to stay in his ghost form and the latter to stay in Danny's human form...even though Amorpho still manages to (with difficulty) shift a bit more before being cured. It's a long story.
    • Between episodes 21 and 23 of Wakfu, Adamaï, a young shapeshifting dragon, is stuck in Tofu form after being swallowed whole and then regurgitated by Igôle (a powerful beast reinforced by Xelor magic, which is what interfere with Adamaï's power). This is a case where the modelocked form is small and weak, Tofus being Ridiculously Cute Critter birds.
    • Gargoyles - Puck is mode-locked into one shape, that of Owen Burnett, by Oberon after rebelling against his king. Given that shapeshifting is a major part of Puck's tricks... this sucks. The punishment also included eternal banishment from their homeland Avalon. Puck wanted to spend more time living as a human in the human world, and Oberon gave it to him.
    • Meatwad in Aqua Teen Hunger Force practiced turning into a life sized figure of Abraham Lincoln (he can normally only become a hotdog and igloo) only to get stuck that way for the rest of the episode.