The Eternal Churchill

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...whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender...
Sir Winston Churchill, Speech to the House of Commons of the British Parliament, 4 June 1940

The human race is under attack or otherwise being menaced by alien or supernatural forces. We're outnumbered, outgunned and seemingly completely screwed. But we still refuse to surrender, and so fight back. The trope doesn't necessarily have to involve violence; any sufficiently bad threat to our survival will do, but war seems to be the norm. Almost like a species-wide Last Stand, and thus often requires a species-wide Rousing Speech.

This is often why Humans Are Special. This is the human race as The Determinator.

A subtrope of Emergency Presidential Address. Compare The Remnant. See also Patrick Stewart Speech.

Examples of The Eternal Churchill include:


Film[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Independence Day is a big one. In fact, this trope seemed to be largely the premise of the entire film.

"We will not go quietly into the night...we will not vanish without a fight! We are going to live on! We are going to survive! Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!"

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Fred Saberhagen's "Berserker" universe - "When they came, you [humans] were waiting and dug in on a hundred worlds. Because you were, some of you and some of us are now alive." The alien narrator also comments on his race's perception that humanity had suffered war for its entire history, against the day when nothing less would serve for the survival of all life.
  • In the novel Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, it's not so much that the humans can't be made to surrender—it's that they won't stay surrendered, which confuses and freaks out the alien invaders.
    • Granted, the aliens got their advanced technology from plans left behind by the Precursors, and therefore weren't even close to psychologically prepared to deal with other civilizations' paradigms. As proven by their decision that establishing dominance with an orbital bombardment is a good way to say "hello".
  • The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, especially the attack of the torpedo ram HMS Thunder Child against the Martian machines. The 1953 movie version had the following lines: "The redoubtable Finnish and Turkish armies, Chinese battalions and Bolivians worked and fought furiously... The people of Britain met the invaders magnificently, but it was unavailing."
    • Those countries aren't entirely random, incidentally. Within recent memory, the Finns had held off the full might of the Soviet Union in 1939-40, while the Turkish contingent in Korea had fought bravely and won unit citations in 1951. The Chinese of course were also involved in Korea, on the other side, while Bolivia had recently undergone a revolution and deposed a dictator in favour of democracy...
  • Animorphs has several examples of this throughout the series, and it could be said that the entire premise was at least partly based on this trope.
    • Indeed, even the aliens acknowledge this: one major difference between Yeerks and humans is that Yeerks will give up if they know they're going to lose, while humans won't. Some, like the Yeerk that controlled Jake or Visser Three, think this is basically pointless, but Visser One was smart enough to realize this would make conquering humans a harder task to accomplish.
    • Stated almost flat-out by one of Visser One's hosts:

Allison: "You think you know us. You know nothing. You’ve seen the world through the eyes of a defeated soldier and a junkie bimbo. You know nothing. We’ll defeat you, Edriss."

    • From Ax's "Earth Diary": "Give me liberty, or give me death. A human named Patrick Henry said that. I wonder if, when the Yeerks invaded, they knew humans said things like that. I wonder if they truly knew what they were getting into."
  • E.E. Knight's The Vampire Earth series has a heavy dose of this, at least when it comes to the humans that aren't Quislings.
  • This is on a smaller scale, but still significant, in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Over and over, individuals and small groups figured out what was going on. Over and over, they were captured and replaced. Yet more keep cluing in and trying to sabotage the invasion, until the aliens eventually give up and go home as the protagonist quotes Churchill. Sadly, the movie replaces it with a Downer Ending.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Memory, Miles repeats a joke about his ancestors (which I'm sure is based on a real joke with the ethnicities switched): that when they were invaded, they tried to surrender, but were so backwards they couldn't find anyone who could read the terms of the treaty, so they kept fighting and eventually won. This also sparks an epiphany as to which of his dual identities is the true him; because Admiral Naismith strove for victory, but Lord Vorkosigan could not surrender, so in the end Lord Vorkosigan was the persona he chose.
  • Princess Leia gets a speech like this in Star by Star, though admittedly its an entire galaxy she's encouraging to fight back against the evil invaders and not "just" the human race.
  • In The Devil's Eye by Jack McDevitt, the president of a planet that has just discovered a possible world ending catastrophe is approaching, gives a speech about perseverance that ends with "And if our world should endure for a hundred million years, it will always be known that this was our finest hour." Alex Benedict is an archeologist/treasure hunter and is the only member of the cast familiar enough with history to realize that he is cribbing, and who from.
    • Earlier in the same book, the main characters had found a copy of Churchill's speeches in the president's personal library among ordinary books, and had commented it was a disgrace to see something so valuable sitting there unappreciated.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • There were a few examples of this in Doctor Who, which probably contributed to why the Doctor liked the human race so much.

Colonel Alan Mace: Attention all troops! The Sontarans might think of us as primitive, as does every passing species with an axe to grind. They make a mockery of our weapons, our soldiers, our ideals. But no more. From this point on, it stops. From this point on, the people of Earth fight back and we show them. We show the warriors of Sontar what the human race can do. <much slaughter of the Sontarans ensues>

    • Near the end of Day Four of Torchwood: "Children of Earth", we're led to believe that this will happen. Then the trope is horribly, horribly subverted.
  • The Babylon 5 movie In the Beginning depicts the last stand of humanity against the onslaught of the Minbari Federation. Of the war, the following was said:

Londo Mollari: The War. The humans, I think, knew they were doomed. Where another race would surrender to despair, the humans fought back with greater strength. They made the Minbari fight for every inch of space. In my life, I have never seen anything like it; They would weep, they would pray, they would say goodbye to their loved ones, and then throw themselves without fear or hesitation at the very face of death itself, never surrendering. No one who saw them fighting against the inevitable could help but be moved to tears by their courage. Their stubborn nobility. When they ran out of ships, they used guns, when they ran out guns they used knives and sticks and bare hands. They were magnificent. I only hope that when it is my time, I may die with half as much dignity as I saw in their eyes in the end. They did this for two years; they never ran out of courage. But in the end, they ran out of time.

    • Actually, In The Beginning had back-to-back speeches about the same situation, and the latter was a flat out Tear Jerker.

Earth Alliance President: Are we on? This is... this is the President. I have just been informed that the midrange military bases at Beta Durani and Proxima 3 have fallen to the Minbari advance. We've lost contact with Io and must conclude that they too have fallen to an advance force. Our Military Intelligence believes that the Minbari intend to bypass Mars and hit Earth directly and the attack could come at any time. We have continued to broadcast our surrender and a plea for mercy and they have not responded. Therefore we can only conclude that we stand at the twilight of the human race. In order to buy time for our evacuation transports to leave Earth, we ask for the support of every ship capable of fighting to take part in a last defense of our home world. We will not lie to you, we do not believe that survival is a possibility. We believe that anyone who joins this battle will never come home. But for every ten minutes we can delay the military advance, several hundred more civilians may have a chance to escape to neutral territory. Though Earth may fall, the human race must have a chance to continue elsewhere. No greater sacrifice has ever been asked of a people. But I ask you now to step forward one last time, one last battle to hold the line against the night. May God go with you all.

  • Space: Above and Beyond was all about this trope: humanity banding together against the evil "chigs". In the pilot, the Secretary-General of the United Nations makes a very Churchillian speech about "the coming storm", then quotes Churchill directly (the Battle of Britain "Never has so much been owed by so many to so few" speech) after the Wildcard's first major victory.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • The Imperium of Man in Warhammer 40,000 lives by this trope. Though individual worlds may enjoy centuries of peace, the Imperium as a whole has been fighting a war for survival on a hundred thousand fronts for ten millennia.
    • Especially on the planet of Armageddon (the name wasn't chosen at random). The text makes you want to eat rats and roaches, crawl half naked through ventilation shafts and weld yourself into a crane to attack gargants.
    • Armageddon's got it rough, but for the king of kings of this trope we turn to noble Cadia. The Cadian Gate is, literally, the front door to the Eye of Terror; a.k.a. where virtually all the forces of Chaos come from. They have held the line for over ten millennia. They have turned back mad warbands, rogue cults and entire Dark Crusades. Military service isn't required or expected, it's just how life goes there. And rather than be the most morbid bunch in the universe, they're not only the shining example of the Imperial Guard, they consider being born on any other world (and not becoming a Space Marine) a mark of shame. For the Emperor, indeed.

Video Games[edit | hide]

Shepard: "Maybe you're right: maybe we can't win this. But we'll fight you regardless. Just like I did with Sovereign, just like I'm doing now. No matter how insignificant we might be, we will fight. We will sacrifice, and we will find a way. That's what humans do."

  • Partly subverted by The Ur-Quan Masters (AKA Star Control II). At the beginning, humanity has, indeed, been defeated, trapped beneath planetary shields in "Fallow Slavery", and the small detachment of humans left in a space-station outside the shields are nice and obedient to the eponymous Ur-Quan masters. (It helps that they can't maintain life support without Ur-Quan assistance.) Until the player character shows up with a Precursor spaceship. Then they rebel, and put together The Alliance with great speed, before taking on the Ur-Quan directly.
    • The Ur-Quan specifically chose to use planetary shields to avert this trope. Any race too courageous to agree to serve them would end up trapped in an impenetrable force field. This allows the Ur-Quan to win against enemies who were too dumb to know when they're beaten, without having to Kill'Em All.
    • If you talk to Commander Hayes, he reveals that Earth kept the war going right up to the point where Ur-Quan ships were positioned in orbit, ready to glass the entire planet.
  • The Terran Faction in StarCraft invokes this. They're a bunch of colonists descended from outcast criminals from Earth (think Australia IN SPACE) with Used Future technology, and fighting against both the insatiable rampage of the Zerg, and the hyper-advanced Protoss. And yet, they hold their own...

Emperor Arcturus Mengsk (Inauguration Speech): And to all the enemies of humanity, seek not to bar our way, for we shall win through - no matter the cost!

    • However, Mengsk is one of the less evil villains, and his only goal is more and more power.
      • True, but at least he seems to be trying to keep his promise, up until the UED starts kicking apart his empire.
    • In Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty, the ending of the Protoss sub-campaign has about 5 of these. Every Protoss special unit has a commander and when he/she warps in they give a little speech about how the world is ending, and we're throwing the party.
  • In Deadlock, the human faction is mainly known for its prowess in the realms of trade and diplomacy - greatly suited for winning the game in peaceful ways. But if they're forced into a fight, they have a special weapon too - all Human Infantry can use the 'Berserk' command in battle, injecting themselves with Super Serum that whips them into a frenzy, granting them the incredible strength and durability they need to take on vastly more powerful alien foes. Unfortunately, any survivors will either be killed or crippled for life by the drug's body altering effects. Even the Tarth find this fanatical dedication to be downright disturbing.
  • Halo: The UNSC also runs off this trope, to the point where the human population at war's end was reduced from 39 billion to about 16 billion.
  • Elite Beat Agents and the second Ouendan game feature this as a penultimate level. The final level involves some truly epic Sprit Bombs. Heck, EBA's second-last song is "Without A Fight"!
  • The villain equivilant of this is The Helghast from Killzone. They know to a man they cannot win, but they keep fighting for their home.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Salvation War has this trope as what seems to be its dominant feature.
  • The Chaos Timeline has a Sir Winston of Marlborough fighting the Socialists who's quite similar to him.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • And still to this day, nobody has ever done it better.