The discerning overlord works smarter, not harder. When the need arises to kill everyone, why tear a world into its constituent particles
? Everyone on the planet is equally in its atmosphere: that fragile, wispy shell that can be blown away like seeds from a dandelion, or reconstituted in a number of creative ways. This takes a fraction of the time and effort, and need not deplete precious stores of Applied Phlebotinum
at all, yet in skilled hands produces all the spectacle and excitement
of antimatter bombs.
Certainly, paranoid bunkers and deep-sea habitats might survive. But then, what about the astronauts
? Efforts at complete annihilation must, by their nature, include extra steps to be thorough.
Abusive atmosphere alteration is not solely for the Omnicidal Maniac
, either. An Alien Invasion
might combine conquest and colonization
into one elegant package. Even the good guys may find themselves performing one, once a seemingly empty planet's catacombs open, sleepers waken, etc. The Apocalypse How
score of such an act varies, though it's hard for one to not have one.
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Anime & Manga
- Weather Report's Stand ability in the Part 6 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure can actually manipulate the ozone layer of Earth itself which is the reason why Enrico Pucci used his White Snake to take Weather Report's memory disc. If he had remembered his past trauma, the unconscious (and possibly apocalyptic) Heavy Weather ability of his Stand would be activated again.
Films — Animated
- The plot of the General Ripper in Battle for Terra is to use the Terraformer to replace the atmosphere on Terra from one that is poisonous to humans to an oxygen-nitrogen one. This would, of course, kill off any native lifeforms, including the pissed-off Terrans.
Films — Live-Action
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: The Original Series episodes.
- "Return to Tomorrow''. The Enterprise finds a planet whose atmosphere was ripped away by a cataclysm half a million years earlier.
- "Obsession". At the end of the episode, a matter/antimatter explosion rips away half of a planet's atmosphere.
- Averted in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "A Matter of Time", where the Enterprise fires an ionizing phaser blast into the upper atmosphere of a planet to clear away some volcanic dust. If the blast was imperfect, it would burn away the atmosphere. Needless to say, the Enterprise saved the day.
- Quatermass II had a chemical plant run by humans under alien control, which was manufacturing gases in which the aliens could live. They were horribly corrosive to human flesh, and IIRC the plan was ultimately for the aliens to manufacture enough to replace the Earth's atmosphere.
- Doctor Who: The two-parter "The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky," in which devices fitted to engine exhausts turned out to be atmospheric converters. The gas they give off is deadly to humans and manna to Sontaran young.
- The New Twilight Zone episode "Voices in the Earth". At some point in the past the oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere was changed to methane.
- "Skullcrusher Mountain", by Jonathan Coulton:
Picture the two of us alone inside my golden submarine
While above the waves my doomsday squad ignites the atmosphere
And all the fools who live their foolish lives may find it quite... explosive
But it won't mean half as much to me if I don't have you here
- Warhammer 40,000 has this as the end stage of separate methods of Exterminatus. Cyclonic torpedoes ignite the atmosphere as well as most things on the surface. In the case of virus bombing, the gasses released by the virus reducing most of the planet's biomass into inflammable mulch, resulting in a planet-wide firestorm. Technically it doesn't burn the atmosphere, just the flammable gasses released there, but close enough. Cyclonic torpedoes play this completely straight.
- The Tyranids also employ this trope as part of their "harvesting". Prior to and during their invasion, the atmosphere is saturated with stimulants and mutagens to violently increase the rate of plant growth; while simultaneously infecting and debilitating local resistance. Within weeks, a barren savannah can be transformed into a steaming jungle, with 40% of the military wiped out in the process.
- Dungeons & Dragons adventure OA7 Test of the Samurai. An evil magician named Za-Jikku is trying to change the planet's atmosphere. He kills people and turns them into evil butterflies, which breathe in normal air (t'ien ch'i) and change it to a deadly gas (yun ch'i). If he succeeds, he'll be able to breathe the yun ch'i and live forever but every other living creature will die.
- Traveller Adventure 4 Leviathan. In the backstory, a series of nuclear explosions caused the planet Ganulf to lose its atmosphere, killing all of the inhabitants.
- Traffic Department 2192. The rebellion kills The Emperor's daughter, so the Emperor floods the atmosphere with flammable gases and takes a match to the planet.
- Conquest Frontier Wars has this in video, with a nice low-angle shot.
- Star Control 2:
"Look, mistakes happen. Don't get so bent out of shape!"
"The Spathi once used a similar excuse after an unfortunate incident at their base on Algol IV. They didn't like the climate there so they decided to make `just a few minor, climatic adjustments.' Their equipment went haywire, they panicked and fled and the entire atmosphere was stripped off the planet much to the native Algolites sincere though short-lived regret."
- Homeworld and Homeworld 2 have the Low-Orbit Atmosphere Deprivation Weapon, and using one is the fastest way to get put down for the sake of all living things.
- It rains acid in Iji. The protagonist is protected, but trails clouds of smoke. The question of whether the Earth's atmosphere is irreparably damaged brought up a few times.
- The strategy of the Scrin in the Command & Conquer Tiberium Series of games might be better described as Biosphere Abuse, but aims for the same effect - making the planet inhospitable to everything, so there's no resistance once their fleet shows up.
- The terraforming tools in Spore can also be used to damage a planet's ecosystem, which can destroy buildings in colonies on that planet. This tactic is particularly effective against the Grox, whose colonies self-destruct when a planet becomes habitable.
- In Gargoyles, the titular 'goyles had a problem with a curse that would not end "Until the skies burned." Earlier, they had been bound in stone until their castle rose above the clouds, and David Xanatos had arranged that... so it comes as no surprise that he's got a solution this time, too. Figuring that they only need a very localized phenomenon, he helps them distribute a flammable gas above New York and sets it on fire, causing the heavens to burn (briefly and harmlessly), breaking the curse.
- A couple of the solar system's moons have an atmosphere which, if not for their lack of oxygen, would be extremely explosive.
- For that matter, Earth's atmosphere would also be extremely explosive if not for its relative lack of methane, or the relative abundance of nitrogen. The possibility of runaway chain reaction of atmospheric oxygen wasn't ruled out until the end of World War II, when it was stated to be a possible concern during the testing of nuclear bombs. Of course, humanity went and did it anyway.