Created By: zarpaulus on June 5, 2014 Last Edited By: zarpaulus on August 5, 2014
Troped

Cryo Prison

Suspended animation as a form of incarceration.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Some science-fiction works don't risk putting their dangerous criminals in a Cardboard Prison, instead they freeze them. It makes sense, they can't escape without outside help while in cold sleep, but you have to wonder if it's punishment enough. Sometimes the pacifistic future society needs someone to teach them how to fight again, or after civilization collapses some foolish adventurers will unlock a cryotube and accidentally unleash a monster.

There is some Fridge Logic involved in the premise. It's not really a punishment, discounting future shock after long periods of incarceration. Most of the time there's no opportunity for rehabilitation. Really all it can do is remove a dangerous individual from society, like life imprisonment or execution, but in Real Life many countries are abolishing the death penalty and life in prison is very expensive and carries the risk of the inmate escaping or finding a good lawyer capable of getting them out on parole. And unlike execution cryonics could potentially be reversed if the inmate turns out to have been framed or otherwise innocent, or someone has need of their particular skills.

A common cause of a Fish Out of Temporal Water, may also be a case of Sealed Evil in a Can.


Examples

Comic Books
  • In the Silver Age Superman comics, Krypton briefly tried putting criminals into suspended animation in orbiting spacecraft before the Phantom Zone was discovered.
  • In DC Comics' Earth 2, the alternate world's Arkham Asylum has become a vast cryo-storage unit for villains. Which doesn't stop the new Batman putting a couple of bullets in the frozen Joker just to be on the safe side.

Film
  • In Demolition Man the titular character, a Cowboy Cop with a habit of collateral damage, is frozen along with the terrorist he captured. To be thawed out decades later when the other guy is broken out and the pacifist utopia L.A. has become can't handle him.
  • In Minority Report, those arrested by the Pre-Crime unit are placed in perpetual suspended animation as punishment.
  • In Lockout, the criminals being held on the orbital prison MS One are kept in cryogenic suspension.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness ends with Khan and his associates being put back into cryogenic suspension.
  • Supplentary shorts as well as Agents Of Shield indicate that following the events of The Incredible Hulk, Hulk villain The Abomination was placed in a cryocell in Alaska, which makes a certain amount of sense as there's not much one can do with a guy who is strong enough to escape any prison and basically unkillable.

Literature
  • In Altered Carbon crooks are not only frozen, their brain is uploaded and stored separately. Earth's super-rich have a habit of buying the frozen bodies and using them for their own amusement. Anti-Hero Takeshi Kovacs is brought out of storage after eighty years in the body of a crooked cop who annoyed his "benefactor".
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Han Solo at Star's End Star's End prison kept thousands of prisoners the Corporate Sector Authority found inconvenient in stasis, including Chewie. Then Han blew it sky high.
  • In Bruce Coville's The Search for Snout, placing troublemakers in suspended animation is used as a punishment aboard the alien ship Ferkel.

Live-Action TV
  • Lister from Red Dwarf was placed in suspended animation as punishment for bringing his pet cat aboard the titular mining vessel, violating the ship's quarantine rules. The rest of the crew are later wiped out during a reactor leak and the ship's computer is forced to wait 3 million years until the residual radiation has dissipated and Lister can be safely released.
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series Khan and his fellow augments were discovered on a Sleeper Ship where they'd been exiled after the Eugenics Wars.
  • Tekwar. Convicted criminals are sentenced to suspended animation for varying numbers of years.
  • Lost in Space episode "Condemned Of Space". The Robinsons encounter a computer-controlled Prison Ship with criminals kept in Harmless Freezing cryogenic suspension. The clock controlling the re-animation of prisoners had frozen, so they had all been kept "on ice" long past the expiration of their sentences.
  • Torchwood: Jack's psychotic brother is ultimately frozen in the Torchwood vaults after blowing up half of Cardiff, trapping Jack underground for 2000 years, and proving Anyone Can Die by causing the deaths of Tosh and Owen. Becomes Fridge Horror in Torchwood: Children of Earth when the Hub blows up and it looks like No-One Could Survive That, let alone someone in a freezer drawer.
  • Warehouse13 has the Bronze Sector, where the Warehouse stores rogue agents, like H.G. Wells and Paracelsus, preserved in the form of bronze statues by an Artifact. More than once people have broken in to free bronzed people. And it turns out that the bronzed are still conscious.

Tabletop Games
  • Eclipse Phase has storage similar to Altered Carbon, but most polities upload the brain to a simulation for rehabilitation or brainwashing.
  • Stronghold, the prison for supervillains in Champions, uses a process of suspended animation known as 'hot sleep' to hold prisoners too dangerous to be contained any other way. In-universe, this process is subject to an ongoing series of court cases to determine if it counts as 'cruel and unusual punishment'.

Video Games
  • In Mass Effect 2 Jack's recruitment mission involves breaking her out of cryo on a Prison Ship. She demonstrates why she had to be frozen as soon as she's thawed.
  • In StarCraft Tychus Findlay was put on ice until Mengsk needed him to get close to Raynor and kill Kerrigan.
    • In the background the Koprulu Sector was settled by Sleeper Ships loaded with frozen inmates from the United Earth Directorate's concentration camps.
  • The Chronicles of Riddick. The Escape from Butcher Bay video game shows that extremely dangerous prisoners are kept in cryogenic suspension for the duration of their sentences, letting them out one hour a day for exercise while heavily guarded. Which is all that Riddick needed in order to escape.
  • The Heroes of Might and Magic series has a fantasy variant, when Archibald Ironfist is Taken for Granite as punishment for trying to claim the throne from his brother Roland. He's later revived in Might and Magic 6 because his knowledge of magical rituals is needed to defeat the villains, and claims that since he was unaware of the passage of time during his 'incarceration', he doesn't feel like he's been punished at all.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: At the end of the Allied campaign, Cherdenko and Krukov are both captured and sentenced to being cryongenically frozen.
  • The Old Republic: The area of Belsavis known as The Tomb is a series of stasis chambers where the Rakata kept the things they feared most on ice for millenia. The Republic began sending their most dangerous prisoners down there as well, including the Dread Masters.

Web Original
  • Among the least of the detainments used for supervillains in this article of The Onion.

Western Animation
  • The Citadel in Adventure Time is a prison for those who commit "cosmic crimes". Criminals there are kept frozen in crystals made of some kind of life-prolonging goop.
  • Happened to most of the villains in the penultimate episode of Teen Titans.
Community Feedback Replies: 46
  • June 5, 2014
    Astaroth
    • Lister from Red Dwarf was placed in suspended animation as punishment for bringing his pet cat aboard the titular mining vessel, violating the ship's quarantine rules. The rest of the crew are later wiped out during a reactor leak and the ship's computer is forced to wait 3 million years until the residual radiation has dissipated and Lister can be safely released.

    • In Minority Report, those arrested by the pre-crime unit are placed in perpetual suspended animation as punishment.
  • June 5, 2014
    SKJAM
    In the Silver Age Superman comics, Krypton briefly tried putting criminals into suspended animation in orbiting spacecraft before the Phantom Zone was discovered.
  • June 5, 2014
    randomsurfer
    In Tekwar convicted criminals are sentenced to suspended animation for varying numbers of years. Protagonist and former policeman Jake Cartigan was sentenced to 15 years of cryo-imprisonment, but is released early after only 4 years.

    There's a certain fridge logic about this: if they're frozen, essentially asleep, then from their POV there isn't much (or any) punishment and certainly no rehbilitation. Why bother?
  • June 5, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ Yeah, it seems kind of like the only examples that make sense are the ones where it's more about removing a dangerous person from society. Life in prison is expensive and has the risk of escapes, while execution is rather permanent if it turns out later they caught the wrong guy.
  • June 5, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    The Chronicles Of Riddick: The "Escape From Butcher Bay" video game shows that extremely dangerous prisoners are kept in cryogenic suspension for the duration of their sentences, letting them out one hour a day for exercise while heavily guarded. Which is all that Riddick needed in order to escape.
  • June 5, 2014
    TonyG
    The Citadel in Adventure Time is a prison for those who commit "cosmic crimes". Criminals there are kept frozen in crystals made of some kind of life-prolonging goop.
  • June 5, 2014
    DAN004
    It should be Cyro Prison or Crooks IN Ice.
  • June 5, 2014
    Reflextion
    ^x5 "There's a certain fridge logic about this"

    The Pun Police have been notified, and will be arriving shortly to dispense your PUNishment. (but I do agree with you, bad (or good) word choice aside :p )
  • June 5, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Literature
    • In Bruce Coville's The Search for Snout, placing troublemakers in suspended animation is used as a punishment aboard the alien ship Ferkel.

    Film Live Action
    • In Lockout, the criminals being held on the orbital prison MS One are kept in cryogenic suspension.
  • June 6, 2014
    Astaroth
    • The Heroes Of Might And Magic series has a fantasy variant, when Archibald Ironfist is Taken For Granite as punishment for trying to claim the throne from his brother Roland. He's later revived in Might And Magic 6 because his knowledge of magical rituals is needed to defeat the villains, and claims that since he was unaware of the passage of time during his 'incarceration', he doesn't feel like he's been punished at all.
  • June 6, 2014
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • Lost In Space episode "Condemned Of Space". The Robinsons encounter a computer-controlled Prison Ship with criminals kept in Harmless Freezing cryogenic suspension. The clock controlling the re-animation of prisoners had frozen, so they had all been kept "on ice" long past the expiration of their sentences.
  • June 7, 2014
    Arivne
    • Examples section formatting
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Added the word "Examples".
      • Blue Linked media section title(s).
    • Capitalized (pre-crime).
  • June 7, 2014
    Arivne
    The title, Laconic and Description all limit this to frozen criminals but the examples include various forms of suspended animation with no mention of freezing, including petrifaction (!).

    Either the title, Laconic and Description need to be expanded to all forms of suspended animation (so valid examples aren't excluded) or many of the examples need to be deleted.
  • June 7, 2014
    robinjohnson
  • June 7, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^^ Picky, picky, picky. Those examples are also on the Human Popsicle page, no one seems to care.
  • June 7, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ of course this is a subtrope of Human Popsicle...
  • June 7, 2014
    Rubber_Lotus
    I recall that almost all the villains met this fate in the penultimate episode of Teen Titans.
  • June 11, 2014
    foxley
    Stronghold, the prison for supervillains in Champions, uses a process of suspeneded animation known as 'hot sleep' to hold prisoners too dangerous to be contained any other way. In-universe, this process is subject to an ongoing series of court cases to determine if it counts as 'cruel and unusual punishment'.
  • June 13, 2014
    paycheckgurl
    Torchwood: Jack's psychotic brother is ultimately frozen in the Torchwood vaults after blowing up half of Cardiff, trapping Jack underground for 2000 years, and proving Anyone Can Die by causing the deaths of Tosh and Owen. Becomes Fridge Horror in Torchwood Children Of Earth when the Hub blows up and it looks like No One Could Survive That, let alone someone in a freezer drawer.
  • June 14, 2014
    BKelly95
    Would the Bronze Sector from Series/Warehouse13 count?
  • June 14, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ Probably.
  • June 14, 2014
    DAN004
    Again, change the title plz?
  • June 14, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    I wonder if Popsicle Punishment would be clear enough to be considered a good snowclone of Human Popsicle?
  • June 14, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ I thought it involves the crooks being force fed with popsicles for their whole prison time? :P

    Again, Cyro Prison or Crooks In Ice
  • June 15, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    ^ Heh... that could hardly be considered a punishment.

    Anyway, I assume that first suggestion of yours was supposed to read "Cryo Prison"? In that case I second it.
  • June 15, 2014
    SharleeD
    • In the TV miniseries Tin Man, people convicted of crimes against the O.Z.'s rulers are locked inside metal cases that keep them alive, but force them to constantly re-live bad experiences of their captors' choosing as a punishment.
  • June 15, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ For the insulin-challenged, yes, it is a Cool And Unusual Punishment. :P
  • June 15, 2014
    zarpaulus
    Re-read Altered Carbon, it seems to suggest that the punishment in "storage" comes from two things, alienation by the time difference (Fish Out Of Temporal Water), and frequently finding that their body has been auctioned off and they're stuck with someone else's body, neither of which is much punishment to former Envoys like Kovacs who spent most of their time between missions in storage.

    That displacement might qualify as "cruel and unusual punishment" if it was long enough.
  • June 16, 2014
    zarpaulus
    Onion example.
  • June 16, 2014
    KZN02
    Does this apply to animals? Like more for a museum or zoo rather than a prison?
  • June 16, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Try giving us example of it.
  • June 16, 2014
    KZN02
    BIONICLE: Stasis tubes use a special gas that slows the life functions of beings inside to an extent that he/she/it can survive without nourishment for a long period of time. The Archives of Onu-Metru uses these tubes to contain most Rahi for display; those that are immune to stasis are contained in deeper levels.
  • June 17, 2014
    Chabal2
    Starcraft's backstory also uses this, as the four cryosleep supercarriers sent to colonize the Koprulu sector were full of prisoners, political dissidents, and other "undesirables".
  • June 17, 2014
    Tallens
    I think Cryo Prison works best.

  • June 25, 2014
    DaibhidC
    • In DC Comics' Earth 2, the alternate world's Arkham Asylum has become a vast cryo-storage unit for villains. Which doesn't stop the new Batman putting a couple of bullets in the frozen Joker just to be on the safe side.
  • July 2, 2014
    TotalDramaRox97
    Is this like the cooler in Avatar The Last Airbender and P'Li's prison in Legend of Korra

    Or like Claw of the Wild in Danny Phantom?
  • July 2, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    ^ I don't know about the Danny Phantom one, but the Avatar ones are more like Tailor Made Prison, since they don't actually involve suspended animation.
  • July 3, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^^ Going to need some more information on Danny Phantom.
  • July 3, 2014
    TotalDramaRox97
    In Danny Phantom Campers were being kidnapped ghosts and when they discovered they were being held they see tank filled with a tan substance (some people asked if it was the camp's oatmeal) with the kidnapped campers in it and Danny replied it was suspended animation that looks like the camp's oatmeal
  • July 3, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ What?
  • July 10, 2014
    Hodor
    Supplentary shorts as well as Agents Of Shield indicate that following the events of The Incredible Hulk, Hulk villain The Abomination was placed in a cryocell in Alaska, which makes a certain amount of sense as there's not much one can do with a guy who is strong enough to escape any prison and basically unkillable.
  • July 28, 2014
    Tallens
    • The Old Republic: The area of Belsavis known as The Tomb is a series of stasis chambers where the Rakata kept the things they feared most on ice for millenia. The Republic began sending their most dangerous prisoners down there as well, including the Dread Masters.
  • July 29, 2014
    hbi2k
    I think the bit in the description about the Fridge Logic (no pun intended) could use expanding.

    If the goal is punishment, cryostasis seems too lenient because the inmate doesn't experience time passing. If the goal is rehabilitation, it doesn't seem effective for the same reason, unless there's some sort of subliminal retraining going on a la Demolition Man. If the goal is to remove a dangerous person from society for the safety of ordinary citizens, you might as well just Kill Him Already if there's no chance for parole, unless that's not an option due to Complete or Resurrective Immortality.
  • July 29, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ Or they've abolished the death penalty like most First World countries today.

    After all, if a prisoner is later found to be framed and innocent they can be released, a bit hard to do that with someone who's been executed.

    There's also a few examples here that involve variations of Recruiting The Criminal. i.e. Demolition Man.
  • July 29, 2014
    Tallens
    Might be a feature of an Extranormal Prison.
  • July 29, 2014
    hbi2k
    ^^ Sure. The description should elaborate on variations such as when Cryo Prison is explicitly considered preferable to the death penalty because it allows for periodic review of the evidence and possible exoneration, as opposed to those in which it's a life sentence without parole or review.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=gcvil6zmxp8xjbe417ossqkp&trope=CryoPrison