A character, usually one relatively high on the power scale, loses a fight. Sometimes they die, other times they're just humiliated. The point is, they just got their butt handed to them by the other guys in a largely fair fight. Is this the end of our eternal rivalry between good and evil? Has one side truly triumphed!?
In a word, no. It turns out that the truly epic character we just saw get beaten up was Not Himself
. Rather, he was Actually a Doombot
, either a robot or an impersonator who was pretty much impossible to distinguish from the genuine article until the writer told us so at the last minute.
The narrative role of this trope is obvious- it works to prevent The Worf Effect
, and also insure that characters don't "really" die, thus allowing them to come back on next week's program. This can, nonetheless, still come off as an Ass Pull
writ Shaggy Dog Story
since there are rarely ever any clues given that the character was really a doombot, nor does it have any future relevance in the story.
A semi-popular form of Retcon
. Often involves by necessity Ridiculously Human Robots
- The name comes from Doombots which supposedly are used by writers in the Marvel Comics Universe to explain how Doctor Doom rarely ever actually "loses" battles. I've never actually read any of these stories myself- it's just that the term "doombot" pops up in random articles semi-regularly in this context.
- Used on more than one occasion in episodes of Superfriends to explain how the latest scheme by Lex Luthor didn't actually work, since the heroes were being represented by robotic duplicates. Raises the question of why the Legion of Doom doesn't bother with autopsies, or why they throw away their latest superweapon the minute the Superfriends "appear" to be dead.