Created By: Generality on July 21, 2012 Last Edited By: Generality on October 5, 2013
Troped

Self-Healing Phlebotinum

Phlebotinum that recovers from damage on its own

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Main
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Trope
Not all Applied Phlebotinum can be Made of Indestructium. But some phlebotina have the next-best thing: the non-living equivalent to a Healing Factor. These devices or objects can, given time and perhaps a little more, return to a perfect state without the need for repair work.

There are four basic ways for this to work:

Gradual Recovery

The phlebotinum gradually repairs itself as if it were a living thing with a Healing Factor (indeed, it may be partly alive, thanks to Organic Technology).

Instant Recovery

As soon as some condition is met (escaping battle, reaching a certain temperature), the item immediately returns to its ideal state, possibly in a flash of light or other special effect.

Costly Recovery

As either of the above, but something must be sacrificed to the object. This may be a simple base material, or a local source of mana, but if the object is evil, it will be something more sinister, such as blood or even souls.

Offscreen Recovery

The item disappears from view temporarily, either just left offscreen or actually banished to some other plane of existence. When next seen, it is good as new. One can infer that the same healing process is happening, but we aren't shown it, possibly to save on the special effects budget.

The explanation for this ability can of course vary from anything like magic to nanomachines. And thanks to advances in nanotechnology and metallurgy, this property is becoming increasingly plausible in Real Life. Already metal panels exist that, when deformed, gradually regain their original shape.

Regeneration isn't always a good thing, however. It can be what makes a Clingy MacGuffin reappear when it's seemingly been destroyed, and make that Artifact of Doom all the harder to get rid of.


Examples of Gradual Recovery:

Film
  • In Forbidden Planet, the Krell machines are said to be self-servicing and self-maintained.

Literature
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: The Qellan ghost ship that appears in Black Fleet Crisis is made of a self-healing metallic material called laminanium. During the Yuuzhan Vong War Lando Calrissian uses the material in the armor and structural components of his Yuuzhan Vong Hunter droids to make them able to take even more punishment. For their part all Vong technology is organic and can heal from varying amounts of damage depending on the item.
  • Invoked in Harry Potter: According to the Lovegoods, Snorkack horns reform a few months after exploding, unlike Erumpent horns. Only the latter are known to exist in the setting, the former widely regarded as a myth.

Live-Action TV
  • In some episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation the dilithium crystals which power the warp drive can develop cracks if overused, but will heal themselves as long as the warp drive is rested for a while.
  • Blake's 7. The first spaceship the protagonists get, The Liberator, had self-repair circuits allowing the ship to repair itself without help from the crew. The speed of repair generally depended on the level of damage; the worse the damage, the faster the repairs. Justified by minor damage being harder to locate.
  • Human-form Replicators in Stargate SG-1 can regenerate from damage dealt by virtually any weapon except the anti-Replicator gun. Regular Replicators are also sometimes seen reforming after being blown apart, though there's apparently a critical mass of blocks that have to be within a certain distance of each other for this to work.
  • Doctor Who's TARDIS has been all but destroyed on at least one occasion and required time to recover, although it appears that this only applies to its "heart" and not the ancillary equipment used to "drive" the TARDIS. The vessel is considered a Living Ship in any case, but it seems a mechanical form of life. In "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" the characters encounter a tree-like matrix on which cells grow which can develop in to any kind of technology, making repairs trivial.

Tabletop Games
  • Classic Traveller, Paranoia Press supplement Merchants and Merchandise. Delta Research sold a device called an E-Circuit Module. When installed on an object (such as a starship), it would gradually repair any damage to the object.
  • Shadowrun. Bioware (implanted artificial tissue) and cyberware could have repair nanites that would fix any damage done to them.
  • Dungeons & Dragons adventure S1 Tomb of Horrors. The PCs can encounter a huge glowing orange gem which is a cursed Gem of Wishing. If one of them dares to touch the gem and make a Wish the gem will explode, leaving a mass of stinking purplish mold which bubbles and chuckles. In 1 week the mass will reform as the glowing orange gem.
  • BattleTech: The Clans use an agent called HarJel in their Elemental Battle Armors. If the suit is damaged, HarJel acts like a sealing agent and also sterilizes suffered wounds and numbs the pain of the wearer. It is also uses to instantly seal ruptured hulls of spaceships. The secret behind it's mass-production is closely guarded by one Clan and thus the product is highly valued throughout Clan Space and the Inner Sphere.

Video Games

Examples of Instant Recovery:

Film
  • Nightmares segment "The Bishop of Battle". After J.J. Cooney beats level 12 and reaches level 13 of the title arcade game, the game falls apart and game opponents pour out and attack him. After Cooney exits the arcade the game pulls itself back together into one piece, ready for its next victim.
  • The Blanks in The World's End regenerate instantly and completely soon after being destroyed. They continue to do this even after the Network powering them leaves the planet.

Video Games
  • Tarkasian Living Steel in Sword of the Stars is implied to have this or possibly Costly Recovery. (After battles, ships equipped with it heal somewhat.)
  • In Mega Man ZX, you can collect new Biometals from the 8 bosses. Depending on whether you attack their weak point (which houses the Biometals) or not, they'll be damaged to various degrees; it will affect their weapon energy bar. You can have it fixed by Fleuve for a cost, or waiting until the boss respawn for a rematch.

Examples of Costly Recovery:

Anime and Manga
  • In Naruto it is eventually revealed that Zabuza's sword has the power to repair itself by leeching the iron out of blood.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Gunmen regenerate when infused with fighting spirit. Usually they return to their damaged state after the battle is over.

Literature
  • In The Stormlight Archive, Shardplate armor can be fixed, even if a piece of it is shattered, by installing gemstones infused with Stormlight. The gemstones usually crack in the process. And like a starfish, if you have only one piece, you can eventually regrow the whole Plate, unless someone else has a larger piece and is doing the same thing.

Examples of Offscreen Recovery:

Anime and Manga
  • In Bleach, if a Zanpakuto is broken, it will eventually repair as long as its owner is alive.

Film
  • In Excalibur, the titular weapon is supposed to be indestructible, but Arthur manages to do the unthinkable and break it by misusing it to kill the perfect knight, Lancelot. Distraught, Arthur hurls the sword into a lake, and when he repents, it is returned to him in perfect condition.

Community Feedback Replies: 31
  • July 21, 2012
    Pickly
    • In Starcraft II single player, the protoss crystal in the lab appears to have power 1, and heals other objects in a similar way.
    • Tarkasian Living Steel in Sword Of The Stars is implied to have power 1, possibly 2. (After bsattles, ships equipped with it heal somewhat.)
  • July 22, 2012
    Arivne
    Science/technology Applied Phlebotinum is sometimes said to have "self repair circuits".

    Live Action TV
    • Blakes Seven. One of the protagonists' ships had self-repair circuits that allowed it to fix its own damage without the crew having to do anything.

    Tabletop RPG
    • Classic Traveller, Paranoia Press supplement Merchants and Merchandise. Delta Research sold a device called an E-Circuit Module. When installed on an object (such as a starship), it would gradually repair any damage to the object.
    • Shadowrun. Bioware (implanted artificial tissue) and cyberware could have repair nanites that would fix any damage done to them.
  • July 23, 2012
    Generality
    ^ Nanotechnology is already mentioned as one possible explanation for this.
  • September 6, 2012
    chicagomel
    I'm unsure precisely what type it was, but the Krell machine in Forbbiden Planet was stated to be self-repairing. Type one, I want to say.
  • September 7, 2012
    Arivne
    ^ Morbius said that the Krell machines were self-serviced and self-maintained. He didn't say how, but I'm sure it was technological in nature.

  • September 8, 2012
    Generality
    For the sake of interest, what does a Krell machine do?
  • September 11, 2012
    Arivne
    ^ Some could generate astounding amounts of power, and one could create animate matter that would fulfill the subconscious desires of the user. The second one led to annihilation of the entire Krell race and came close to killing all of the humans in the movie.

    More information at The Other Wiki's article on Forbidden Planet.
  • October 17, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Would the self-replicating mines that were laid in front of the Wormhole in Deep Space Nine count?
  • March 25, 2013
    StarSword
    Another possible explanation is Organic Technology that heals on its own.

    Under gradual recovery:

    Literature:

    Video Games:

    Instant recovery:
    • Human-form Replicators in Stargate SG 1 can regenerate from damage dealt by virtually any weapon except the anti-Replicator gun. Regular Replicators are also sometimes seen reforming after being blown apart, though there's apparently a critical mass of blocks that have to be within a certain distance of each other for this to work.
  • June 8, 2013
    StarSword
    Did a bit of draft cleanup (namespaces).
  • June 8, 2013
    Jaqen
    Literature: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Erumpet horns explode and are gone; Snorkack horns explode and two months later, they reform and are ready to explode again.
  • June 9, 2013
    Melkior
    A better worded Blakes Seven example:
    • Blakes Seven, the first spaceship the protagonists get, The Liberator, had self-repair circuits allowing the ship to repair itself without help from the crew. The speed of repair generally depended on the level of damage; the worse the damage, the faster the repairs. Justified by minor damage being harder to locate.

    Gradual Recovery:
    • Doctor Who's TARDIS has been all but destroyed on at least one occasion and required time to recover, although it appears that this only applies to its "heart" and not the ancillary equipment used to "drive" the TARDIS.
  • June 9, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Tabletop Games

    A variant of this exists in the Battle Tech universe: The Clans use an agent called Har Jel in their Elemental Battle Armors. If the suit is damaged, Har Jel acts like a sealing agent and also sterilizes suffered wounds and numbs the pain of the wearer. It is also uses to instantly seal ruptured hulls of spaceships. The secret behind it's mass-production is closely guarded by one Clan and thus the product is highly valued throughout Clan Space and the Inner Sphere.
  • June 23, 2013
    Arivne
    Film
    • Nightmares segment "The Bishop of Battle". After J.J. Cooney beats level 12 and reaches level 13 of the title arcade game, the game falls apart and game opponents pour out and attack him. After Cooney exits the arcade the game pulls itself back together into one piece, ready for its next victim.

    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons adventure S1 Tomb Of Horrors. The PCs can encounter a huge glowing orange gem which is a cursed Gem of Wishing. If one of them dares to touch the gem and make a Wish the gem will explode, leaving a mass of stinking purplish mold which bubbles and chuckles. In 1 week the mass will reform as the glowing orange gem.
  • June 25, 2013
    X2X
    Video Games
    • The Black Emperor in Viewtiful Joe 2 claims that the Black Film is Made Of Indestructium after Joe's father Jet Black is seen smashing it to pieces under the soles of his shoes earlier in the game, suggesting this. Of course, since Jet Black is the Black Emperor, there exists the possibility that he faked destroying the Black Film to begin with.
  • June 25, 2013
    Larkmarn
    • Darker Than Black: The Meteor Shard is an example of instant recovery, to the extent that if broken, each shard will instantly be a full shard. This is exploited in the end, as it's an Amplifier Artifact so it lets every member of La Resistance have a shard.
  • June 25, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In some episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation the dilithium crystals which power the warp drive can develop cracks if overused, but will heal themselves as long as the warp drive is rested for a while.
  • July 3, 2013
    Generality
    ^^ That sounds more like some kind of phlebotinum... reproduction.
  • July 3, 2013
    DAN004
    In Mega Man ZX, you can collect new Biometals from the 8 bosses. Depending on whether you attack their weak point (which houses the Biometals) or not, they'll be damaged to various degrees; it will affect their weapon energy bar. You can have it fixed by Fleuve for a cost, or waiting until the boss respawn for a rematch.
  • July 4, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons
      • (Tomb Of Horrors example)
      • Dragon magazine #50. Barlithian's Mirror is a powerful artifact that will automatically repair any damage it takes that is maliciously inflicted.
      • Module DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor. The Comeback Inn is magically enchanted to be able to repair itself over time.
  • September 24, 2013
    Arivne
    Comic Books
    • Marvel Universe. The Air Walker robot had a self repair system that could fix any damage it took.
  • September 27, 2013
    TedlyAnderson
    Does the name have to have "phlebotinum" in it? One example I was thinking of (and, indeed, was looking for the appropriate trope) was the Apocalypse Tanks in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. Or a bunch of other units from that game, and similar games, too. These units aren't really classifiable as "phlebotinum" by the standard definition, it seems to me. Could this trope just be called "Self-Repair" or something similar?
  • September 27, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ That'll be "self-repairing machinery" than anything...
  • September 27, 2013
    Generality
    I used the term phlebotinum because self-repairing machinery doesn't exist (practically) in real life. A self-repairing tank is plausible, but still in the realm of sci-fi. That said, I'm not married to the current title if someone wants to suggest another.
  • September 28, 2013
    Cider
    Phelbotinum is not readily understood term though, unless you have been on TV Tropes long enough to have gotten used to all the Snow clones that use it. I would rather see more common language terms. Nanotechnology or Nano Machines are much easier to grasp, Power Of The Sun, simple, easy stuff like that.
  • September 28, 2013
    TedlyAnderson
    To me, "Self-Healing Phlebotinum" sounds too much like a special substance or an object that always repairs itself, rather than any object that can do it. I like "Self-Repairing Machinery" or "Self-Repairing Machine". It's simple, it's clear, and most importantly, it's got words in it that you'd try searching for if you want to find the trope. If someone has an example of a machine that repairs itself, and they want to find the trope, they'll probably search for words like "repair" or "machine", not "heal" or "phlebotinum."
  • September 29, 2013
    DAN004
    ^... but Phlebotinum ain't always a machine.
  • October 4, 2013
    Generality
    If we're okay with phlebotinum, I'll go ahead and launch with the current title.
  • October 4, 2013
    DAN004
    One question: Does my Mega Man ZX examples (some posts ago) count?
  • October 5, 2013
    Generality
    I'm not really sure, it sounds like a case of it being fixed by someone else, but I'll add it for now.
  • October 5, 2013
    DAN004
    Oh, I see your point. I'll say, though, that it "regenerates" in a meta kind of way: When you have a rematch with one of the bosses, make sure you make little to no hit at their weakpoints.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=cskqyxo5wtmn78xanaslwogh&trope=SelfHealingPhlebotinum