This is a subtrope of Prevent The War
that focuses on World War I
(aka The Great War).
It involves a Period Piece
adventure story that takes place in the late 1800's or early 1900's with a plot that centers around stopping a plot that would lead into what would become World War I. The hero or heroes catch wind of the Big Bad
planning to start a war between the various empires of Europe (usually with a False Flag Operation
or two) and they are the only ones who can stop them. The Steam Punk
setting and political intrigue of the time provides a rich atmosphere for a globe-trotting adventure yarn as the heroes race the clock to stop the bad guys. They will almost always succeed (unless Alternate History
is involved), but this usually makes the story Harsher in Hindsight
. Sure, the hero just stopped this particular villain from starting a world war, but we all know one happened anyway. Then there was a second one
. The writers may not reference this in order to avoid making the story too depressing but if they do, expect a dark form of It Will Never Catch On
. In more rare cases, sometimes they fail, sometimes they fail and die, and sometimes they even start the war in the first place.
Can overlap with You Can't Thwart Stage One
and You Can't Fight Fate
Compare and contrast with World War III
or World War Whatever
, which, for obvious reasons, are set in modern day or the future.
Anime & Manga
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier covers this. Thomas Carnacki, medium, ghost hunter and member of the fourth incarnation of the League has terrible visions of a devastating war in Europe. Intel leads the rest of the group, consisting of Mina Murray, Quatermain, AJ Raffles and Orlando, to confront their french counterparts, Les Hommes Mysterioux (Captain Robur, Arsène Lupin, Monsieur Zenith, The Nyctalophe and Fantomas) in a battle at the Paris opera house in hopes of preventing the war. When the battle is over, the League withdraws, hoping that they have defused the situation. Both teams were played against eachother by their German counterparts, the Twilight Heroes, a group consisting of various Mad Scientists such as Dr Rotwang and Dr Caligari. They are now free to plan the coming war with impunity.
- The film version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen involves the mysterious "Phantom" (eventually revealed to be Professor Moriarty) provoking the European nations, so that he can supply super-weapons and super soldiers for a world war. The term "world war" is even mentioned for audience members who weren't paying attention.
- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows has Moriarty provoking the European nations, so that he can supply weapons and bandages that will be needed for a world war. He mentions that, even if he's stopped, the world will still find a way.
- The Three Musketeers (2011) contains perhaps the earliest version of this trope as far as the period goes. The villains were trying to start a war among the empires of Europe. While the dialogue focuses on the continent, the idea is still the same, not to mention that a war of the European powers at the time would have likely included colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
- Ironically, the original three musketeers novel puts their story smack in the middle of the thirty years war, a world war zero if the world ever saw one. Preventing the war itself is never an objective, just making it turn out alright for France. (And given this is the time French took over from Latin as the common language of the European high class, history suggests they succeeded.)
- The Seven Percent Solution. The ultimate aim of the Big Bad is to start a world war. Holmes and Watson stop him, but Holmes notes that they have only delayed the war, not prevented it entirely (and he's proven to be correct when World War I occurs).
- Towards the end of The Black City, Erast Fandorin is hired to investigate the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand before the conflict escalates. Unfortunately, he never makes it to Austria in time.