Created By: Omeganian on May 17, 2012 Last Edited By: Omeganian on July 4, 2012
Troped

Virtual Reality Interrogation

It is now safe to tell the secret... Whoops!

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Trope
A person doesn't talk. You need to get a secret from him. So, you simulate conditions under which he does talk. You may convince him he is among allies, who depend on him telling the secret. You may convince him enough time passed that the secret is irrelevant now. You may convince him the need for secret keeping is All Just a Dream (The latter case may contain a healthy dose of Lotus-Eater Machine). In short, he speaks.

And then it turns out this was indeed All Just a Dream. Created by you.

Examples (Warning, a Spoilered Trope):

Anime and Manga

FanFic
  • In CyberTech: War of the Worlds, Dumbledore is captured by the good guys, manages to escape the prison, and, once he gets into Hogwarts, tells Snape to recover some prisoners from the Headquarters. Snape replies he can't get them all by himself, so Albus is forced to give Flitwick the location as well. Cue the illusion dissolving...

Film
  • The 1965 film 36 Hours, in which German agents use a Faked Rip Van Winkle on an American officer in an attempt to learn the details of the upcoming D-Day operation.

Literature

Live-Action TV
  • In one episode of V.I.P., Val and Tasha are kidnapped and drugged after they hide a witness in a safehouse. In order to make them reveal the secret, the villain attempts to convince them they've been comatose for 40 years.
  • There was an episode of Galidor where one of Gorm's minions created a virtual reality simulation of Allegra's bedroom to convince her it was All Just a Dream, and get her to talk about her adventures. Nick managed to break the illusion before she revealed any dangerous information.
  • In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Stratagem". Captain Archer tries to get information out of an alien by convincing him that they are now friends and that years have gone by. The alien ship they have supposedly stolen is actually set up inside a small shuttle in the ''Enterprise'' landing bay. The small touches making the simulation seem real include tattooing both their arms with prison barcodes.
  • Subverted in another Star Trek episode, where Riker thinks he is a victim of one (he is supposedly in the future but his supposed wife is a woman of his dreams, that he knows never existed outside the holodeck. The hostile aliens reveal themselves when he calls them out on it. However, as it turns out the aliens aren't real either - there is just one alien, highly psychic and very lonely, keeping Riker in a Lotus-Eater Machine to have some company and conjuring things from his mind - the whole espionage plot was accidently created by Riker's own fears.
  • The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries: "Sole Survivor", where Joe wakes up in a hospital room with no clue where he is or how he got there, only to be told that he's not only been in a coma for a year, but that his father and brother are dead. Cue fake newspapers, fake newscasts, and forged letters from all his surviving relatives and friends. Of course, Frank and Fenton are very much alive, and the whole thing is a Mind Screw to get Joe to reveal information on a defection attempt.
  • Alias: Sidney's father suffered from a Tap on the Head and now thinks he's back in the 1970s with his wife and young daughter. So Sidney has to pretend to be her own mother, married to her father, in order to get her father to give up some secret codes.
  • Not done with technology, but in a combination of this idea and Two Plus Torture Equals Five, the British spy protagonist of The Ipcress File is captured and held by enemy spies in a secret location in London. As part of an attempt to break him mentally and physically, his captors try to convince him that he's a criminal and traitor being held in an Eastern European prison. This includes having him visited by a spy pretending to be a representative of the Foreign Office, and thus a friendly face.
  • The Prisoner TOS episode "The Chimes of Big Ben". Number 6 escapes the Village and is transported to London, where he meets a former superior. As he's about to explain why he resigned, he realizes that the situation has been faked to trick him and discovers he's still in the Village.
    • In "A, B and C". Number Six is drugged and hooked up to a machine that controls his dreams. He meets several characters who try to get him to confess why he resigned. Eventually he figures out what's going on and arranges to take control of the dream.
  • Legend of the Seeker Season 1, Episode 12 "Home" is driven by this plot device. Darken Rahl has his pet wizard trap Richard in a dream about his home. Inside the dream, Rahl takes on several different characters to try and convince Richard that the goings-on of the series so far was all just a dream to learn the location of one of the boxes of Orden from him. Ultimately, the power of love combined with Rahl pushing too hard breaks the spell at the last moment.
  • Stargate SG-1 features season 2, episode 22, a Clip Show where one of the plotlines is where O'Neill, Carter and Daniel awaken from stasis in what appears to be the SGC, almost 79 years in the future. They discover it is actually a Goa'uld hoax by Hathor.

Video Games
  • In Vagrant Story, when Guildenstern is interrogating Hardin about the nature of the Gran Grimoire, he uses magic to create an illusion of Hardin's mentor, Sydney, rescuing him. Then he tricks him into revealing what he knows.

Webcomic
  • In Schlock Mercenary, creating a simulation in which the subject has escaped and begun musing on how he got into such a mess is the first phase of the infamous Mind-Rip.

Western Animation
  • In the 11th episode of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, the heroes need to get a code for an ancient Cool Gate from a prisoner. First, he gives them a code. Then, the bad guys capture them, and he gives them another code. Then, he is released, flies away, gets to the gate, and uses a third code (that one works). Then, the Properly Paranoid heroes remove his VR helmet.
  • A variation is present in an episode of Invader Zim. Zim puts Dib in a virtual reality where he gains ultimate power and uses it to defeat the Irken and become a major celebrity just so he could get Dib to confess that he threw a muffin at him during lunch.
  • In the second season of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, after a prolonged period of torturing (off-screen) for information without success, Captain America's Skrull captors have his next interrogation "interrupted" by a rescue by the other Avengers (actually shapeshifted Skrull). It doesn't work though, as Captain America sees through it immediately.
  • In Futurama MOM wanted to get Fry's bank information. Since his PIN was related to his old job in the twentieth century, her sons set up an elaborate hoax to convince him that coming to the future was All Just a Dream and he was back in his old life.
  • An episode of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command uses the Faked Rip Van Winkle varient; he's convinced a Negative Space Wedgie transported him into the future and destroyed Zerg. In reality, the "mueseum pieces" are his actual armour, the kids he's telling stories (and weaknesses) to are robots and Zerg is alive, well and showing Buzz's captive crew the whole setup to taunt them.
Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • May 17, 2012
    Stratadrake
    More like Virtual Reality Interrogation. I saw the title and thought this was about characters discovering/questioning that they are Trapped In The Matrix (like with Eureka season 5).

  • May 17, 2012
    Astaroth
    • In Vagrant Story, when Guildenstern is interrogating Hardin about the nature of the Gran Grimoire, he uses magic to create an illusion of Hardin's mentor, Sydney, and tricks him into revealing what he knows.
    • There was an episode of Galidor where one of Gorm's minions created a virtual reality simulation of Allegra's bedroom to convince her it was All Just A Dream, and get her to talk about her adventures. Nick managed to break the illusion before she revealed any dangerous information.
  • May 17, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Can overlap with All Just A Dream.
  • May 17, 2012
    Omeganian
    @ Astaroth: Not sure if merely disguising oneself as a friend counts. That could be a separate trope. Was anything more elaborate involved?
  • May 17, 2012
    Dacilriel
    In Futurama MOM wanted to get Fry's bank information. Since his PIN was related to his old job in the twentieth century, her sons set up an elaborate hoax to convince him that coming to the future was All Just A Dream and he was back in his old life.
  • May 17, 2012
    SharleeD
    Some of these examples belong under the sister trope of Faked Rip Van Winkle.
  • May 17, 2012
    Omeganian
    @ Sharlee D: Yes, I see there is quite a bit of overlapping.
  • May 17, 2012
    Astaroth
    @ Omeganian: Part of the illusion involves the fake Sydney 'teleporting' Hardin to safety. The cutscene is available to watch here, if you want to judge for yourself.
  • May 17, 2012
    ozzy63
    This is how Angelus gets the informationon on how to wake up Acathla from Gilesm basically Dru does something and Giles sees Jenny and spills the beans.
  • May 17, 2012
    zarpaulus
    • In an episode of Invader Zim Zim puts Dib in a virtual reality where he gains ultimate power and uses it to defeat the Irken and become a major celebrity just so he could get Dib to confess that he threw a muffin at him during lunch.
  • May 18, 2012
    Arivne

  • May 19, 2012
    dalek955
    Also add a link to Lotus Eater Machine.

    • In Schlock Mercenary, creating a simulation in which the subject has escaped and begun musing on how he got into such a mess is the first phase of the infamous Mind-Rip.

  • May 20, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    Used by this troper while playing Mage the Ascension.
  • May 20, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Live Action Television

    • Fringe: Joanne Ostler interrogates young Ben in the episode "The Equation" with some kind of hallucinatory recreation of his dead mother.

    • Farscape: "Won't Get Fooled Again," one of the series' most surreal episodes, featured a Scarran doing this to Crichton. In a notable subversion, the goal was not to make Crichton believe the simulation was real (it was too bizarre for that); the point was to weaken his defenses by forcing him to question and doubt everything.
  • May 20, 2012
    Astaroth
    In series VIII of Red Dwarf, the first few episodes are revealed to be the result of the captain placing the main cast in a VR simulation to figure out what the hell's going on. After studying their behaviour, he concludes that they're telling the truth about the crew dying millions of years ago in an accident and being resurrected by nanobots, but that their behavior still warrants a stay in the brig (where they spend the rest of the series).
  • May 20, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    Subverted in another Star Trek episode, where Riker thinks he is a victim of one (he is supposedly in the future but his supposed wife is a woman of his dreams, that he knows never existed outside the holodeck. The hostile aliens reveal themselves when he calls them out on it. However, as it turns out the aliens aren't real either - there is just one alien, highly psychic and very lonely, keeping Riker in a Lotus Eater Machine to have some company and conjuring things from his mind - the whole espionage plot was accidently created by Riker's own fears.
  • May 20, 2012
    randomsurfer
    • Alias: Sidney's father suffered from a Tap On The Head and now thinks he's back in the 1970s with his wife and young daughter. So Sidney has to pretend to be her own mother, married to her father, in order to get her father to give up some secret codes.
  • June 6, 2012
    Jordan
    • In the second season of Avengers Earths Mightiest Heroes, after a prolonged period of torturing (off-screen) for information without success, Captain America's Skrull captors have his next interrogation "interrupted" by a rescue by the other Avengers (actually shapeshifted Skrull). It doesn't work though, as Captain America sees through it immediately.

    • Not done with technology, but in a combination of this idea and Two Plus Torture Equals Five, the British spy protagonist of The Ipcress File is captured and held by enemy spies in a secret location in London. As part of an attempt to break him mentally and physically, his captors try to convince him that he's a criminal and traitor being held in an Eastern European prison. This includes having him visited by a spy pretending to be a representative of the Foreign Office, and thus a friendly face.
  • June 7, 2012
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • The Prisoner TOS episode "The Chimes of Big Ben". Number 6 escapes the Village and is transported to London, where he meets a former superior. As he's about to explain why he resigned, he realizes that the situation has been faked to trick him and discovers he's still in the Village.
  • June 29, 2012
    planswalker
    • Legend of the Seeker Season 1, Episode 12 "Home" is driven by this plot device. Darken Rahl has his pet wizard trap Richard in a dream about his home. Inside the dream, Rahl takes on several different characters to try and convince Richard that the goings-on of the series so far was all just a dream to learn the location of one of the boxes of Orden from him. Ultimately, the power of love combined with Rahl pushing too hard breaks the spell at the last moment.
  • July 1, 2012
    Arivne
    Another The Prisoner example.

    • "A, B and C". Number Six is drugged and hooked up to a machine that controls his dreams. He meets several characters who try to get him to confess why he resigned. Eventually he figures out what's going on and arranges to take control of the dream.
  • July 1, 2012
    Bisected8
    • An episode of Buzz Lightyear Of Star Command uses the Faked Rip Van Winkle varient; he's convinced a Negative Space Wedgie transported him into the future and destroyed Zerg. In reality, the "mueseum pieces" are his actual armour, the kids he's telling stories (and weaknesses) to are robots and Zerg is alive, well and showing Buzz's captive crew the whole setup to taunt them.
  • July 1, 2012
    Omeganian
    Seems to be plenty of examples. Should it be launched?
  • July 3, 2012
    planswalker
    • Stargate SG 1 features season 2, episode 22, a Clip Show where one of the plotlines is where O'Neill, Carter and Daniel awaken from stasis in what appears to be the SGC, almost 79 years in the future. They discover it is actually a Goa'uld hoax by Hathor.
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