: And you didn't think that the United States military might need to know that you're keeping a hostile alien robot frozen in the basement? Tom Banachek
: Until these events we had no credible threats to national security. Keller
: Well, you got one now!
This trope covers the idea of (usually) "lesser" beings capturing an alien, a god, an angel, etc. for some typically nefarious purpose. Obviously, some form of powerful magic or advanced technology
will be needed to pull this off, making it a more common plot in Fantasy
or Speculative Fiction
It's also a standard "The Men in Black
" plot, in which the government or other secret organization has miraculously captured a powerful entity and are extracting its knowledge and power usually through various unpleasant
means. Extra MIB points if this is occurring at Area 51.
If the being came with advanced technology
, they've likely been reverse-engineering
it for themselves. Or maybe they've secretly put said technology on the open market, claiming that they invented it. If a common modern day technology is revealed to have actually been a direct result of all this, then E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi
Naturally, should the entity's species find out about this, they're gonna be pissed
, leading to the threat of The End of the World as We Know It
. This may be justified, if said race was going to destroy us anyway
. Oh, and Heaven help you if the captured entity is just a baby
, and Mom
comes calling. But even without outside help, in most cases the captured being probably won't be a prisoner for very long
. So you are well advised to stand clear
If the entity is forced to obey commands, this becomes Olympus Mons
. If the entity is a Power Source
, it may be Powered by a Forsaken Child
. If the focus is obtaining profit from a substance generated by the entity, it's Mainlining the Monster
. If the focus is on simple containment of the entity or its power, you wind up with Sealed Evil in a Can
or Sealed Good in a Can
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Trigun has these in the form of Plants, which of course everyone in every major center of habitation uses for everyday things like power for electric lights and any other technology that runs on electricity. These are clearly sentient beings (Vash and Knives are revealed to be Plants in later episodes of the anime, thus explaining their immortality and incredible abilities) kept isolated in what appear to be airtight glass containers in order to provide said power).
- Neon Genesis Evangelion had the organization NERV capturing the unconscious entities Adam and Lilith, resulting in the rest of the Angels attacking; the only defence is Humongous Mecha cloned from said captives. That is exactly what the Omniscient Council of Vagueness wanted; merging these godlike entities will result in an omnipotent god ascending Humanity through Evolutionary Levels In Their Own Image.
- In the second Rebuild of Evangelion movie, based off of the really bad Engrish Kaji gave us, it's implied that the Third Angel suffered from this. It awakening is what forced Mari to fight it in EVA-05
- The Emilys in Soukou No Strain are all that is left of a race subjected to this.
- In FLCL, the phoenix-like alien with the power to steal planets, Atomsk, is imprisoned inside of the town's factory by robotic aliens.
- This plot recurs throughout the Pokémon franchise. Some villain wants to capture a Legendary Pokémon with godlike powers and the protagonists have to stop them. In the games, though, you're encouraged to capture the Legendary Pokémon (maybe after the villains tried to use their powers), and no one bats an eye. Of course, their power in the games tends to be significantly less godlike, due to Gameplay and Story Segregation preventing a Game Breaker.
- That, and in story, you've proven yourself to be a pure heart who will not use them for evil. The Pokémon themselves are sometimes noted as "seem to trust you".
- It's a well-known fact that godlike entities like being sent to beat the crap out of rats and caterpillars.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Father uses a philosopher's stone of over 50 million souls to imprison what he claims to be a god within his body. This gives him alchemical knowledge far beyond that of any individual human, allowing him to do such things as manipulate the weather and create nuclear fusion in the palm of his hand.
- Long, long ago in the Tenchi Muyo! universe, way before she took on a mortal body, Washu was on our plane of existance, and was somehow imprisoned by a race. They built a planet-sized containment facility to study her, and eventually siphoned off some of her power into three Gems. Eventually, after the death of one of the Bioroids carrying one of her Gems, Tsunami became aware of what was going on. No-one knows exactly what she did then, because there were no survivors.
- In Claymore, the Organization captured a pair of dragons and harvested their flesh in an attempt to create supersoldiers strong enough to slay them.
- In Soul Eater, Noah goes around capturing really powerful entities and keeping them inside the book of Eibon. Before his defeat, he'd captured Death the Kid, an Eldritch Abomination, Excalibur, and even said he'd wanted to collect Lord Death and Asura also.
- In Naruto the Tailed Beasts are Animalistic Abominations formed from the Ten Tailed Beast's power. Doesn't stop people from trying to weaponize them.
- In the new Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover from IDW and DC Comics, Vandal Savage is The Emperor of a very powerful version of The Terran Empire. How did he do it? He captured Q!
- IDW's Transformers comic has the Machination creating Headmaster technology from the captured Sunstreaker. Scorponok's severed head is working with them voluntarily to rebuild his body.
- Rival secret organization Skywatch uncovered Shockwave, the Dinobots, Soundwave, and his cassette warriors from Mount St. Helens in the 80s. They attempted to use them combat drones against the other Cybertronians and Machination, but the plan ultimately failed when all the robots were freed from Skywatch's mind control.
- In the original G1 Marvel Comics version, Megatron once got stuck in gun mode and picked up by a small time hood, who went around using him as a BFG. When he woke up, Megatron was not pleased.
- When the guy stood up to Megatron though Megatron was so impressed by the guy's moxy he let him live.
- In the first G.I. Joe crossover from IDW and Devil's Due, Cobra had found and activated both the Autobots and Decepticons, which was used as the explanation for all their futuristic weaponry.
- This trope was the kickstart of the plot of The Sandman after a Ritual Magic society captured Dream of the Endless and held him for years. Of course, they were trying to get his sister, Death. Keeping him kept captured caused all sorts of horrible havoc to dreams and sleeping patterns; imagine what would have happened if they had captured Death.
- Knowing her, nothing that bad.
- In the Preacher arc "Crusaders," it emerges that The Grail has captured an angel that supplies them with vital information.
- In Crimson, there's an arc about a bunch of humans who capture and eat angels.
- In Ultimate Marvel, the Russian supersoldier program is based around reverse engineering a captured alien robot (the Vision).
- The Invisibles, as one of its many brought up and then forgotten "big ideas", has a being from another dimension made of "4-D energy" that bled through into our world when Oppenheimer first tested the atomic bomb. Said creature was then captured by the US government and dissected and experimented on at Area 51.
- In Lucifer, Sandalphon keeps the Archangel Michael Demiurgos prisoner, using him to create a race of superbeings. Our beloved protagonist isn't too happy about this.
- It's been "revealed" that not only was the alien AI that operated the Danger Room sentient, but that Professor X knew it was sentient but chose to essentially keep it prisoner to train the X-Men. When it finally escaped (and made itself a robot body, calling itself "Danger"), it went on a rampage seeking revenge. (This was later eased off a little, to suggest that he didn't know Danger resented being used for training, but did realize she might go berserk if freed. They've since made up and Danger is an ally of the X-Men)
- In Empowered, there is the immortal, cosmically powerful being called The Caged Demonwolf, whom Empowered prevented from destroying the Earth by imprisoning it within "cosmic bondage gear." When her superhero team wouldn't store the now talking, enraged belt, Empowered was forced to hold on to it. Now, due to a sort of Stockholm Syndrome, The Caged Demonwolf has become both an advisor and friend, despite having an overly prurient interest in their sex lives.
- Happened in Paperinik New Adventures: while Xadhoom is a Physical Goddess, the Evronians have the ability to capture her, and did so FOUR TIMES. Every single time, Hilarity Ensued: the first time they used a forcefield that could keep her sealed that was fueled by Duckburg's electrical grid, so Xadhoom was free the very moment Uno hacked the computers; the second time Xadhoom entered in their capturing device in a deal to save Angus, and disintegrated it the very moment the Evronians broke the deal; the third time they immediately transmitted her where they had a way to force her to comply, but Paperinik's sabotage brought her back (cue Oh Crap for the Evronians); the fourth time they had her people in hostage, so she let herself being captured until her people rebelled and provoked enough chaos for her to escape and wipe out the HEART of the Evronian Empire. The Evronians tried it three other times, but it failed even more embarassingly: the first failed attempt consisted in a group of Evronians masquerading as Xerbians to get her to wear a controlling device, but she caught them on a slip and made a fool out of them before wiping them out; the second consisted in a weapon capable to absorb her enormous power, a weapon that wasn't fast enough in the absorption to finish her before she destroyed it; the third time in the middle of a battle they tried again the forcefield that captured her the first time, but Xadhoom dodged and they captured one of their own ships.
- The Chinese and Japanese governments in Irredeemable eventually reveals they have done this two a pair of extraterrestrial, time traveling, reality altering dimension hoppers. They can release them to take care of a returned Plutonian, but simply doing so will unleash a cloud of radiation that will kill one-third of the human race. They do so. In a related matter, they are sure they will handle the Plutonian because they are his biological parents (sort of) and voluntarily remained trapped precisely in order to avoid the inevitable radiation fallout.
- It was recently revealed that the Guardians of the Universe have been holding the First Lantern, Volthoom, captive for billions of years. They recently used his power to create the Third Army, but he got free and wiped out the Third Army. Now he's loose, with complete control over just about everything.
- One of the "Planetary" stories had the team tracking down a secret facility rumored to be up to who-knows-what shenanigans. They find a dusty old base left over from the 1960's, where the caretaker tells them the story of the creature at the bottom of a reinforced mineshaft. It's basically a variant of the Incredible Hulk origin, with the military taking weeks to subdue the monster, and spending years struggling to contain it. They still monitor its corpse, just in case three decades without food or water wasn't quite enough to properly kill it.
- The live-action Transformers movie has the U.S. government in possession of a frozen Megatron and The All-Spark. All modern technology supposedly came from decades of reverse-engineering the former.
- Even cars, which were some 20 years before they found Megatron.
- Possibly talking about the more advanced cars.
- The movie Independence Day has the government doing the same thing with a crashed alien fighter pilot. In a departure from trope, the captured alien fighter does not inspire the aliens to get angry and try to kill humanity — it's the aliens' attempts to try and kill humanity that prompts the US government to take one of them prisoner. Nor does any modern technology seem to come from reverse-engineering the ship; the scientists working on it couldn't even duplicate the powersource the aliens used.
- While not the entire god, the villains in Princess Mononoke want the Shishigami's head. It's still alive even after it gets blown off, though. This is an issue because it is also the god of death. The body remains alive. It wants its head back. Apply preschool arithmetic here.
- Averted in the first Ghostbusters movie. With all the capturing of ghosts, when they encounter an actual god, you expect them to capture it and contain it like all the ghosts. But all they end up being able to do is close the portal that is giving it access to our universe. Played straight with Vigo in the second. In the game which follows that, they keep Vigo in the station, powerless to do anything other than ask people to bring him a child.
- The premise of Super 8 is that one of those escapes.
- What Bakkir intends for the Electric Blue Angels.
- In the Known Space universe novel "Destroyer of Worlds", humans capture a Protector. These are highly intelligent, fast and strong evolved beings. They are explicitly stated to be the next evolutionary step to humans, merely requiring a certain type of fungus to trigger. They have a deep hatred for anyone (including other Protectors) who is not in their clan. The Protector is captured to provide information, but as per this trope, ends up turning the tables on his captors.
- Literary example: In the opening of one of the Nightside novels, John Taylor is called on to discover why a ghost is constantly sabotaging a power plant. He finds out that the plant operates by sucking power from a trapped and tormented solar being; the ghost is that of his enraged bride. Both were poisoned on their wedding day by the man who now runs the plant. For extra value, all three (captured being, ghost, and plant owner) were friends of John.
- An attempt to capture such a super entity is at the climax of Andrew Greeley's novel Angel Fire.
- The demon X(A/N)th in Piers Anthony's Xanth series is a voluntary one, and the source of the land's magical properties.
- In an out-of-print Dean Koontz's novel Fear that Man an inventor, using Some Kind of Force Field technology, captures something. When he understands that he captured a god, he keeps it imprisoned, fearing retribution. Consequently, life in the entire galaxy takes a very definite turn to the better...
- Using the magical power of Captured Super Entities is the entire premise behind Dragon and Phoenix. The Jehangli empire is powered by a captured phoenix, which is held in place by a captured truedragon, and one of the nobles plans to capture the protagonist Dragonlords in order to assume power.
- In the excellent short story "A Colder War" by Charles Stross, the Soviet Union does this to friggin' Cthulhu. It doesn't end well.
- Inverted in the Gordon R. Dickson short story "Danger—Human"—the captors are aliens and the "super-entity" is a human.
- In both The Silmarillion and appendices of The Lord of the Rings the Numenorian King Al-Pharazon does this to none other than Sauron. Turns out a subversion, since Sauron allowed himself to be captured to corrupt and destroy his enemies from within.
- The third book of the Mortal Instruments series has Jace and Clary finding a real angel in the Big Bad's basement.
- The Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel "The Lost Slayer" : Vampire king Giles keeps the bat-god-demon Camazotz captive so that he can feed on him. A turn from the onscreen rule that vamps don't like demon blood.
- In John Scalzi's The God Engines, this trope applies to the titular engines. They're used to drive starships.
Live Action TV
- One of the many plots in The X-Files. Often the Government's Men in Black will hold aliens or various Monsters of the Week captive, but sometimes if Mulder and Scully managed to get them, they would end up in mental institutions or hospitals.
- Mutant serial killer in "Squeeze" is institutionalized. The episode ends as Tooms is sitting on his bed staring at the small opening in the door. However, in this case the authorities refused to acknowledge he was supernatural and he was released in the sequel episode "Tooms".
- Episode "Fire" ends with its pyrokinetic villain being hospitalized and guarded. He is bound because he's extremely dangerous. He is confined to a hyperbaric chamber until he can be tried on murder charges.
- In episode "Eve", the government imprisoned various women called Eve. They were female Super Soldiers created in top-secret project. They showed psychotic and murderous tendencies.
- "Soft Light": Banton's power to suck people into his shadow was created in a Freak Lab Accident. In the end, Banton is held in a government's science centre with sensors attached to his head and flashing light is casting shadows on a photoelectric panel. He visibly suffers.
- In "Talitha Cumi", Jeremiah Smith is a healer who is captured but Mulder helps him to break free because he wants him to heal his mother.
- This was the essential plot of the Pilot of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Encounter at Farpoint." Here, the Enterprise is sent to investigate a mysterious base offered by a population who obviously do not have the engineering skill to build it, and where anything you want seems to mysteriously appear. It turns out that the base is actually a giant creature enslaved by the population, and its mate arrives to retaliate. Fortunately, the Enterprise figures out the situation and frees the creature to resolve the crisis.
- Various examples through Doctor Who and its spin-off Torchwood
- Billionaire Henry van Statten keeps a captured Dalek in his underground bunker in the Doctor Who episode "Dalek".
- The contents of the Pandorica. The most deadly and terrifying creature in the entire universe is supposedly trapped inside it. Guess who.
- The Time Lords' Genesis Ark.
- Abaddon under the Torchwood Rift and Satan in the Impossible Planet.
- The mayflies in Reset.
- In Stargate SG-1, SG-1 found an advanced human named Khalek who demonstrated telekinetic and telepathic abilities in the episode 'Prototype'. He's a Half-Human Hybrid created by Big Bad Anubis, with all of his "father's" memories, to the point that it's 95% of the way to having the Evil Overlord himself on your base. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?.note The SGC at first attempted to study him, and for security restrained him in a chair over an electrified floor in an isolated room whose only exit was through a Tok'ra one-way forcefield, on a dopamine inhibitor to restrain his powers with it set up to dump a massive dose into his system if he were to try anything funny. It didn't work. He telekinetically pinched the dopamine tube by effectively melting it with his mind, and then he yanked the guards through the forcefield onto the electrified floor. The electrified floor was shut down from outside by Colonel Mitchell to make it safe to step in the doorway to shoot at him, but he never got any shots off - just got shoved into the wall. From that point on Khalek basically just went through the SGC to the stargate, weaponless, telekinetically deflecting all the bullets that were fired at him and shoving all the guards into walls, knocking them out (or worse). In the end, he reached the stargate, dialed home, and walked through triumphant... Only to have his home's dialing defenses dial back, resulting in him stepping back into the SGC, befuddled. Seconds later, he was being shot at from two different angles, and failed to block one of the two sets of bullets, resulting in his demise.
- There was also the water microorganisms in the fourth-season episode Watergate.
- Stargate members attempt (they usually just stick at this, and not permanently contain) multiple super powerful creatures and entities. More notable among others, Adria, Adria in Baal's body, Baal(s) and Daniel as a Prior.
- While memory is vague, 7Days has an alien with knowledge of the Sphere (of the race of the ones who built the Sphere) kept on ice or something. It doesn't end well...
- Only because "Adam" is a prisoner, who was being transported somewhere when the ship crashed in Roswell.
- Xena: Warrior Princess episode "Death in Chains": King Sisyphus takes Celesta (Hades' sister and the goddess of death) prisoner so she can't take him to the Underworld.
- This was the purpose of the Initiative in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Mythology and Folklore
- This happens with the genies of Arabic mythology. Djinn were essentially free ethereal spirits with magical talents summoned and bounded to an object, such as a bottle or oil lamp, and had to serve (if they are in a good mood) whoever is currently in possession of the object or summons them via object.
- The part you're supposed to be impressed about, however, lies less in the fact that the hero (for certain loose definitions of hero) comes into the possession of such an object, but rather that there was a human sorcerer powerful enough to force and bind one of these proto-Angels into servitude.
- Actually based on an ancient grimiore The Keys of Solomon! He used his knowledge of Kabbalah to bind 72 demons in a chalice! It eventually morphed into this. Damien-Daemon-Djinn Also, they did not mean evil spirit until centuries later!
- In a Brothers Grimm tale, a man somehow ended up tricking Death up a tree, causing the world to descend into chaos because this kept people from dying.
- Older Than Feudalism: Death first took an involuntary holiday in Greek Mythology, when Sisyphos captured Hades (or Thanatos, Anthropomorphic Personification of Death, in some versions) by chaining him to a tree. Nobody in the whole world could die, no matter how horribly mangled, which finally pissed off Ares, god of War, enough that he came and rescued Death. Guess who got to die first?
- Considering that they're part of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, it shouldn't be too difficult to believe that the Eisenhorn novels feature this; when a number of captured Alpha-level Chaos Psykers are paraded through a large hive on a victory march, they manage to escape and wreak considerable havoc, including crippling recently-promoted Inquisitor Ravenor for life. Several of Eisenhorn's opponents (and later, Eisenhorn himself) also make use of daemonhosts: immensely powerful daemons bound into human bodies, which are both immensely dangerous and intensely displeased with their enforced servitude.
- Alpha Level Plus Psykers are far more dangerous than you might think. ONE AL+ Psyker managed to enslave over fifty thousand innocents, and force them into combat against his enemies, he could even influence and control Space Marines to a lesser degree, allowing him so slip away unharmed when fifteen marines were right next to him... one even picked him up thinking him an ordinary six year old...
- In the Kamigawa block of Magic: The Gathering, a feudal lord captures a newborn spirit from the Spirit World, which makes him immortal. This act also incites the entire spirit world to declare a long and bloody war on the mortal world. The worst part is, the long and bloody war with the gods of his world doesn't cause him to take the hint; he's still convinced that his immortal reign is the best for Kamigawa. Which trope is that again?
- In the tie-in novel Jedit, Shauku keeps a monster imprisoned under her castle and uses the being's knowledge for herself.
- The Men in Black in Deadlands actually don't traffic much in Captured Super Entities. Hellstromme Industries, on the other hand, uses one to power the titular starship in an adventure titled The Unity. The demon named Apostolos requires a specific act to fuel the ship's faster-than-light engine, the aptly named "Faustian Drive." For more information, refer to the example listed in Sadistic Choice. You were warned.
- The central idea behind Pokethulhu. Like in Pokémon, you capture and train monsters. Unlike Pokémon, they're all soul-eating Eldritch Abominations with horrifying and/or reality-bending powers.
- The city built around the Tarrasque is all about building a city around an immortal monster; one that periodically goes on a rampage eating anything organic, then hibernates deep below the earth when full, waking up only to repeat the process.
- Final Fantasy VI has The Empire doing this to a race of beings called Espers. They actually succeed in slaughtering most of their entire race.
- But only after said race of beings cripple the Empire.
- Final Fantasy VII also has JENOVA being exploited by the Shinra Corporation for super-soldier experiments (although technically she was captured by the Cetra centuries before).
- In Dragon Quest IX, a villain captures Celestrians (the equivalent of angels) and uses their abilities to benefit his kingdom.
- In World of Warcraft, the Blood Elves are holding a Naaru captive within Silvermoon City; this is how they have harnessed the power of the Holy Light and made their own Paladins. (They also had Paladins in Warcraft III, but that's different.) This source of power is abandoned in Patch 2.4 and replaced with the resurrected Sunwell.
- Intriguingly, the Naaru never seemed to care much, leading to theories that it was all a plan to "corrupt" the Blood Elves with Holy Light. With patch 2.4, it turned out that it was after all. An example of I Knew It.
- Another example is draining the blood of the demon Magtheridon to create fel orcs, and the two backfiring attempts to use the human avatar of the Sunwell in this way. Demon Hunters have a miniature version of this happening, in that they seal a demon inside themselves to empower them. The warlocks in the Shadow Labyrinth seem to be trying this trope, though they also seem to be pretty bad at actually controlling their major summons.
- In City of Villains, the Power Transference System in Cap au Diable is not a geothermal energy plant, as claimed, but a magical machine that drains the energy of a demon sealed in the mountain.
- Anyone who finds it suspicious that the giant cables and pipes throughout Cap au Diable are covered in demons made of red lightning need not worry about the above spoiler.
- In Xenogears, the entity known as the Wave Existence is trapped within the Zohar Modifier and used as a power source for the Deus Superweapon and all the Gears in the setting.
- Happens in Persona 3 with the Shadows.
- Jade Empire has The Water Dragon, the goddess of reincarnation and water, severely wounded by the Emperor, and her body turned into a trophy so that he can maintain his phenomenal cosmic power. The player is given a chance of killing the Water Dragon and allowing her to reenter the cycle of reincarnation so she can claim her old post, or keeping the body where it is and binding her to your service in agony.
- In Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark, the bad guys have somehow caged an angel and are using her blood to create an army of bone golems. If you free her, she'll help you out at the end of chapter 2.
- There is also the drow matron who managed to capture an archdevil by binding him with his True Name, and wishes to use him to take over the surface world.
- Tales of Phantasia has the high-tech ancient city of Thor, powered by Asuka, an imprisoned light spirit.
- In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, you can fight Arceus...and capture him to do your bidding. Also a case of Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?.
- Resistance 2 starts with the heroes knowingly releasing the super entity Daedalus, the being apparently in control of the Chimera, and being unable to stop it from escaping.
- Lost Kingdoms had the God of Destruction card. It went crazy in the first game but by the second, it's a humble servant to the throne (and it unlocks the castle too).
- Arc Rise Fantasia has the Rogress, powerful beings used as energy generators. The one you free and subsequent ones then naturally lend their powers to you in battle.
- Messiah has the human government capture Satan in a scheme to take over Hell and Heaven. Satan nevertheless tricks them out and almost takes over Earth as the president.
- In The Gamers Alliance, Awar manages to trap the god Shakkan into a shard of Krystallopyr during the Vanna arc, prompting the heroes to find a way to set the god free before the god's lizardfolk followers obliterate all humans in the desert in revenge.
- The SCP Foundation has several of these, up to a man who claims to be God. Although their method of "capturing" him essentially consists of them knowing that he'll be back and not worrying too much that he can get out of his cell whenever it takes his fancy.
- In the Ćon Flux episode The Demiurge, a war is fought over whether to keep a powerful, ostensibly-benevolent godlike being around for the good of all, or to blast it off into friggin' outer space on a rocket for the good of all.
- In one "Treehouse Of Horror" episode of The Simpsons, Lisa inadvertently creates a miniature society around a loose tooth. Said society (which views her as God and Bart as Satan), eventually "Debigulates" her down to their level. Problem is, they can't return her to normal.
Why, that would require some sort of "re
-bigulator", which is just such a preposterous —
- In Transformers Animated, Megatron's head is found by Isaac Sumdac and becomes the base of all future technology, but Sumdac has no idea who he is. Then Megatron wakes up and tricks Sumdac into not revealing his presence to the Autobots while helping to rebuild Megatron's body.