"Xavier Pendragon: An alchemist who uses Hapkido Cane Fighting. He was burned at the stake due to the fact that his powers, based on science, were actually dark magic. To be fair, they had a point, since this guy can shoot a magic dragon out of his staff which can bite people, along with turning them to gold, and, in one of the weirdest moves in fighting game history, swap characters with his opponent."This is where a story element (or possibility) that was originally explained by 'science' is retconned into being due to magic or supernatural forces. This tends to be poorly received (though not always) because it throws the established "rules of The Verse" out of the window. This is often seen in "updated" superhero origins. Once upon a time being on the range during a Gamma-bomb test, or being bitten by and/or spliced with a radioactive spider, sounded semi-plausible. Nobody thought it could work (hopefully...) but it sounded vaguely like something that could happen. However, Science Marches On and now there are some things that no scientific origin can plausibly excuse. Magic, on the other hand, can (by definition) do anything the author wants it to. Sure, it loses a lot of realism but sometimes that's what you're after—maintaining Willing Suspension of Disbelief through a simple handwave that doesn't try to be scientific is often less taxing than trying to swallow nonsense about something that really exists. A supertrope for Magic-Powered Pseudoscience, when it applies to revealing that seemingly-scientific Phlebotinum was powered by the creator rather than Techno Babble. This is the inversion of Doing In the Wizard. Not to be confused with The Magic Goes Away, rather, The Magic Comes Back is more appropriate. If magic is the whole basis for a civilization's technology, see Magitek. Contrast How Unscientific!.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, after extended use of duelling using shock-collars, Kaiser develops heart problems. This was initially explained as overuse of the shock collars, but the reason was done away with in favor of the dark power of his deck, which he stole from his mentor.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has gone into this full-force with Steel Ball Run, where it is revealed that Stands, at least in that continuity, are caused either by coming into possession of the remains of a Saint's body it's most likely Jesus's or travelling through a cursed, ever-changing-location, region in the United States. This is especially strange seeing that stands received the opposite treatment in the previous continuity.
- Outlaw Star: Gene's caster gun looks like futuristic super science but it's revealed to be a really old model that was formerly used by mages. It can counter Tao magic because the two are based on a similar principle. That's why its called a Cast-er.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Kyubey is a Sufficiently Advanced Alien, not a magical creature, and he wants to prevent the universe's heat death by breaking the second law of thermodynamics. However, he does this by performing genuine miracles and drawing out real magical potential in human girls so he can collect energy generated by emotions; none of these are governed by thermodynamics or any kind of science and that's why they suit Kyubey's purpose. A rare case of also counting as Doing In the Wizard.
- Paranoia Agent: Lil' Slugger is not a human delinquent. He's a supernatural phantom unwittingly created by Tsukiko to escape responsibility for the death of her dog.
- Spider-Man's superpower origin used to be a radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker and mutated him. Then some writer went back and said, "The radiation gave a mystical spider-totem spirit a chance to infuse Peter Parker with its power." In this case the Scientist is Not Quite Dead - Spidey didn't entirely buy the magic angle, and has shown enough scientific understanding of his power to poison a magical enemy who assumed he was just like any other totemic hero. Storylines involving the mysticism angle still come up from time to time and Peter has to accept the Wizard on these occasions.
- Around the end of the Other arc, Peter discusses this with a South American shaman who says that the answers aren't mutually exclusive. He says that a scientist would say that the sun rises in the morning because the Earth spins, while a mystic would say the sun rises because it is meant to, and they're both right, it's just different perspectives. In this sense, the Wizard and Scientist are different sides of the same coin.
- The Indian Spider-Man went with magic from the beginning. Pavitr gets his powers from a yogi, and his versions of the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and Venom are demons that possess humans.
- The Flash's powers were originally due to a Freak Lab Accident, but later the origin was retconned into a connection to a mystical dimension called the Speed Force but it didn't Do In The Scientist as much as it forced the Scientist to shake hands with the Wizard. Though the Speed Force is indeed mystical, all of the Flashes as well as many other speedsters in the DCU gained or activate their connection through scientific means, such as Allen and West's lightning/chemical accidents or the Quick family's mathematical speed formula. The Scientist later gained ground on the Wizard with a Retcon that stated the Speed Force was created pseudo-scientifically by the original Freak Lab Accident, with Barry Allen generating its energies as he runs.
- Swamp Thing started off as a man who had turned into a plant-monster after getting splashed with chemicals, but under Alan Moore's stint as writer he was retconned to be a mass of walking plant matter that thought it was a man. Eventually, he discovered his connection to the mental dimension 'the Green', and found that he was only the most recent in a long line of plant elementals. That second part was originally inspired by a series of experiments involving the memories of planarian flatworms which has since been discredited.
- Same thing with the new Animal Man, where Buddy Baker once gained his power from being experimented on by aliens, it is revealed to be a plot made by the Totems of 'the Red', counterpart of 'the Green'.
- Alpha Flight's Sasquatch originally had the same origin as the Incredible Hulk (with a bit of babble about the aurora borealis to explain why he wasn't green). Then it turned out he actually gained his power from one of the Arctic demons Snowbird was born to fight, and that he wasn't shapeshifting as much as switching bodies. He later gained the ability to change under his own power, but this too was magical and explicitly so.
- The AU miniseries Marvel 1602, which takes place in an Elizabethan version of the Marvel Universe, does this for practically all of the Marvel superheroes' origins. The Fantastic Four, for example, get their powers after wandering into a magical sea storm that turns them into physical avatars of the four elements; this universe's Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk after being hit by a blast of mystical energy from a tear in the fabric of space; and this universe's Peter Parker gets his spider-based abilities after being bitten by a spider that's hit with the same blast of energy.
- Daredevil's abilities are a rather odd variant of this trope, in that writers tend to vacillate on whether or not he has superpowers at all. His original origin story stated that he got Super Senses that compensated for the loss of his sight after getting radioactive waste in his eyes. Realizing the implausibility of getting superpowers from radioactive waste, though, many later writers have suggested that his enhanced hearing and sense of touch are just the result of years of training under his sensei Stick, which he underwent as a way of coping with his blindness.
- Scarlet Witch was a character originally created with the same background as most of the X-Men, she was a mutant. In her case, she could manipulate probability. This spurred the more scientifically-inclined of readers to postulate that she manipulated reality on a quantum level. To them, she took advantage of the fundamental randomness of the quantum foam, allowing her to not only alter the passing of events by manipulating entropy, but to alter the composition of the universe. To many, this is a far more interesting explanation of the character than "Chaos Magic", which is what Marvel has decided to go with.
Films — Animated
- Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch. After they are too late to save Stitch from his malfunction and he shuts down, Lilo's tear brings him back to life. Pleakley asks Jumba for the scientific explanation. Jumba proudly states (as if he knew any other way to state things) that there is no possible scientific explanation, declares it a miracle, and celebrates.
Films — Live-Action
- As seen in Oz: The Great and Powerful a kind of spiritual prequel to The Wizard of Oz, Oz is a real place (which was L. Frank Baum's intention). Dorothy just saw all the parallels between people she met in Oz and people she knew earlier and assumed it was a dream.
- The Prestige has an odd variant of this that falls somewhere between this trope and Doing In the Wizard. From the beginning, the movie is presented as a fairly mundane Period Piece about a pair of Victorian stage magicians battling over trade secrets for their magical acts. Naturally, we assume that all of their magic tricks can be explained away as clever illusions, even when both men come up with magic tricks that apparently let them teleport instantly from one side of a stage to another. Neither trick is magic, per se, but one of them turns out to have been accomplished with a replication/cloning device invented by Nikola Tesla, unexpectedly pushing the movie into science fiction territory.
- The Avengers: Tony suggests that the Hulk (A.K.A "The Other Guy") is not triggered by Bruce's heart rate per se, but that the Hulk deliberately manifests to protect Bruce in dangerous situations. Thus, it is an ally to be embraced instead of a monster to be caged. The events of the movie support this view. Bruce tells The Team that Hulk interrupted his suicide attempt and later it emerges in the final battle because Bruce told it to.
- Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice suggested that contaminated corn has been causing hallucinations that appears as demonic activity to anyone near it. Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest ignores this, and in turn ramps up the supernatural powers used by the requisite Dark Messiah child leader.
- Played with in Hellraiser: Hellworld. The Lament Configuration? An online puzzle. Pinhead? Literally called a franchise icon. Hellworld? An exclusive, debauched party. It's all just a game, until things get real and cenobites start showing up and the bloodbath begins. Then the wizard is done in a second time, as it's all the means a mundane killer uses to pick off the protagonists after drugging them with hallucinogens so they'd see what he put in their heads. Then, the wizard rises from the grave to kill the scientist, as the original killer opens the Lament Configuration and the franchise icon puts in his obligatory appearance.
- The Dexter novels, after a couple of books which appeared to be non-magical crime stories, suddenly threw in literal Christian demons and tried to claim that Dexter was demonically possessed. This did not go down well with many of the fans.
- Trapped on Draconica: Early on Alister's advisors say they 'stopped believing in magic years ago' and insist that the dragokin powers are not magic despite being bestowed on the princesses by a dragon god. Shortly afterward, Gothon uses teleportation magic to launch a sneak attack. Its purpose is to capture Ben and steal his definitely magical powers to travel between worlds.
- The Exile's Violin: Despite all the talk about how alchemy is nothing more than chemistry+mysticism and general disbelief in magic the Exile's Violin has real magic power and the 'alchemically enhanced' swords that previously defeated it are the only weapons that can stop it.
Live Action TV
- According to the Opening Narration of The Sentinel, the fight for survival in the jungles of Peru heightened his senses, but the episodes attributed it to Magical Native American powers.
- The French opening narration walked around this by being more "open" to the magical interpretation.
- It's also stated by Sandburg that each tribe had its own Sentinel, a person genetically-predisposed to hypersensitivity, designated as its protector. In this case, Jim is the protector of his "tribe" - the city of Cascade.
- Quantum Leap's series finale revealed that God was not controlling Sam's actions but there were other non-technological based Leapers who were guardian angels thought dead or disappeared, and that most of the things previously thought to run on science actually ran on magical miracles. However, all along it was suggested that his constant leaping was not due to the machine he built but some outside force.
- Battlestar Galactica (2003) began as hard science fiction and slowly acquired more and more religious/fantastic elements: precognition, incorporeal beings, restoration of destroyed objects and resurrection from the dead. The series ended with the characters, at least, putting the events of the series down to divine intervention, although strictly speaking the viewers are left to make up their own minds.
- Deep Space Nine gets closer to this than any other incarnation. The Prophets of Bajor live in a separate plane of existence and watch over the people of Bajor, who worship them as Gods. As far as everybody else is concerned, they're Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who live in a temporally non-linear plane of existence. The series never comes down hard on what they are but had something of a Tone Shift. Sisko, Jadzia Dax, and Gul Dukat all start out as either aloof or skeptical to the Prophets' or Pah Wraiths' divinity, but end up embracing it to some degree in the end. Also, in the last seasons of the Dominion War arc, a lot of Action / High Fantasy tropes i.e. The Chosen One, Final Battle, Evil Counterpart start to overtake the slow-burning character growth and social realism. There's no Sci-Fi explanation for what's going on much of the time. "What You Leave Behind" feels much more like Return of the King than "All Good Things".
- The series danced with a scientific explanation for everything in seasons 4 and 5. Season 6, meanwhile, reverts back to fantasy, focusing the plot around two people who seem to be immortal demigods (one of whom has even been theorized to be an outright genie, since he claims to be able to grant wishes to his followers and who is being kept on the Island like a cork keeps wine in a bottle) while introducing rules about not being able to kill somebody if they speak to you first, a healing spring that turns you evil when it's grimy, and so on.
- The show played with the idea of science vs. faith, as epitomized by Jack and Locke respectively. There are scientific explanations for many of the things that happened (plane crashed, the time travel, etc.), and though Jacob guided the events of the whole show, it doesn't mean the actual events lack a scientific reason as to how they happened. Put simply, the writers deliberately wrote the show so that most events were a blend of the scientific and the faith-oriented, and very few things were purely one or the other.
- Babylon 5 toyed with the idea that at least some of the First Ones' powers were magical for a long time, but always also left it open that it was just the tech of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. Then The Lost Tales depicted what appeared to be an actual Christian demon (it was implied that the entity's actual nature was more complex than that, but it was still strongly suggested to be genuinely supernatural).
- In The Vampire Diaries it turns out that Jonathan Gilbert's inventions don't work, but were enchanted by Emily unbeknownst to him to fulfill their intended function. This didn't cause backlash, seeing as magic is already established and the alternative is a 19th century, clockwork powered vampire detector.
- Supernatural: Anything thought to be science ends up being magic or because of magical entities. The kicker for any fan of this trope is that science is also useless in the show itself (i.e. most monsters can only be killed in specific magical ways, if they can even be killed at all).
- While Buffy the Vampire Slayer is mostly focused on magic and demons, a few antagonists, like Warren, the original Ted and Professor Walsh, used sci-fi tropes. Word of God says they could pull off things like semi-sapient robots and invisibility rays because they're actually magical savants fueled by the Hellmouth (or something). The Hellmouth attracts demons and encourages weirdness of all kinds, sometimes spontaneous (“Nightmares”, “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”, “I Only Have Eyes For You”, “Where the Wild Things Are”), sometimes in the form of mad science.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
- Simmons initially thinks that Will's stories of "It" and the Monolith planet having "moods" are just symptoms of his long isolation and that there is a scientific explanation. When she sees "It" for herself, and that a gorge suddenly became much wider when they needed to cross it, she decides otherwise.
- Certain characters in-series think there is some sort of scientific explanation for Robbie's Ghost Rider powers, either "enhanced" like Steve Rogers or Inhuman like Daisy. However, Robbie later claims that he literally sold his soul to the Devil and the show's creators have confirmed that he's explicitly supernatural.
- Doctor Who: In the Series 9 episode "Under the Lake", the Doctor denounces "ghosts" as nonsense. Then he changes his mind and says that yes, they really are the souls of dead people. They're not something scientific like Auton duplicates, flesh avatar clones or digital copies "floating about the Nethersphere". He's ecstatic to meet a "proper ghost".
- Mage: The Ascension has perhaps the most unique example of this, as, in the setting, there is no real distinction between "magic" and "science". The setting is based on Consensual Reality ("The world is only as it is because we believe it is"). Basically, only gifted individuals (that the game calls "awakened") can truly work outside the CURRENT laws of physics. An Awakened today would be the only one to be able to summon a dragon, because dragons break the rules of our world, but everyone could use a computer. On the other side, an Awakened in the Middle Ages would be the only one to be able to build a mechanical difference engine, but everyone of course knows that dragons exist. Yes, in the Middle Ages, dragons were "science" and computers were "magic". In short, not only the Wizard and the Scientist keep doing in each other, but they are (metaphorically) the same person, who routinely changes his clothes from "cloak and wizard hat" to "glasses and lab coat" and vice versa in order to do in himself. The most accepted ending to the metaplot reveals that humanity Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence since the Wizard and the Scientist really were one and the same, pointlessly fighting.
- The game is practically this trope with a rules system, since even the Scientists are "breaking the rules", they just try to do so in ways that people think are okay. Thanks to Hollywood Science, they can get away with a lot.
- Warhammer 40,000 see-saws back and forth on this one with Orks. Depending on the Writer, Orkish technology is either real technology they're able to build and use due to it being built into their genes, or it's pure magic powered solely by their belief it will work. Sometimes humans are able to use it with no trouble other than it being a bit crude, other times even simple things like guns turn out to just be full of metal scraps that couldn't possibly do anything.
- Most of the Mad Scientist characters of the Ravenloft setting sincerely believe that their ability to craft golems, surgically sculpt Broken Ones, and so forth comes from their own scientific genius. Out-of-character materials for the setting suggest that they're actually tapping into the Land of Mists' supernatural tendency to grant villains whatever their obsessions drive them towards, which explains why such creations have so often Turned Against Their Masters: they're manifestations of their makers' failed Powers checks, hence always come at a price.
- Early on in Tales of the Abyss, it's revealed that there's a kind of cloning technology called "fomicry". How it operates isn't explained but it's assumed to be scientific. Turns out that's only half right. The process by which it is done is technological but the thing that allows it is actually magic: that thing being the energy given off by the local Crystal Dragon Jesus. It's a lot less jarring than most examples, however, since in this world the resident wizard and most prominent scientist don't just get along; they're the same person.
- In Tales of Graces, it's shown that the Nigh Invulnerable Nova monsters can be harmed by a special kind of energy given off by Sophie. Later, it's revealed that Sophie is actually a Robot Girl created by the people of a different planet... except then it turns out that the thing that powers her mysterious attacks is actually the mystical energy of the planet. Similarly, the laws of the world of Fodra were thought to be entirely natural until Lambda was discovered in its core.
- Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway implies this trope. Throughout the game, the protagonist, Matthew Baker, is plagued by what seems to be a hallucination of a dead squadmate, Leggett, whom Baker is revealed to be partially responsible for the death of, and the hallucinations of other squadmates as well. One would dismiss this as the result of severe PTSD and shell shock, until the last cutscene, where Leggett asks Baker how he feels about snow. This being right after the infamous Operation Market Garden, and before the Battle of the Bulge, which occurred in the bitterly cold winter of 1944-45, a mere hallucination would not be able to predict the future of the squad, suggesting that Leggett is there in more than just Baker's mind.
- In Pokémon, Gastly and its evolutions, the first generation's only Ghost types, were said not to really be ghosts but just lifeforms made of some kind of gas. Subsequent generations have abandoned this and feature things like the souls of dead children who starved to death in the forest and abandoned dolls animated by The Power of Hate.
- Tekken 4 took a sudden and drastic turn towards Doing In the Wizard compared to the supernatural and soft sci-fi themes in the first game. Most notably, the Devil possessing Jin and Kazuya was first referred to as "the Devil Gene" in this game and described as a mutation. Ogre, similarly, was called a "bioweapon" instead of an ancient warrior god. The only robot was Combot, a Clockwork Creature rather than the Ridiculously Human Robot JACK series, and there's only one "fighting animal"—Kuma, who is pretty much an ordinary bear. Following games in the series brought the supernatural elements right back, but also folded most of the scientific elements right on top of them. The Devil Gene, for instance, is revealed to be a genetically-inherited curse.
- El Goonish Shive has an odd progression. At first, Tedd was a Teen Genius who invented a Transformation Ray gun. Then it was retconned to be Alien Technology, which was then retconned to be Magitek. "Take THAT Science Fiction!"
- Sluggy Freelance: It was originally implied that Oasis was the creation of Mad Scientist Dr. Steve, being either a robot he built or a human girl he Brainwashed and physically enhanced. Several years later, it's revealed that Dr. Steve didn't create Oasis at all; while exactly what she is remains unclear, researchers have labelled her "proof-positive paranormal" and stated "nobody made Oasis into a weapon but God." Also, her magical ability? Pyrokinesis. People STILL don't know how she survives being dead! fantasy elements have been part of Sluggy Freelance since day one, so this revelation isn't as jarring as it might be in other series.
- Gunnerkrigg Court featured robots for many chapters, before it was revealed that some—if not all of them—are magitek, and capable of operating without motors, actuators, or any visible power source. In retrospect, this helps to explain how Antimony—who by her own admission doesn't know the first thing about how robots work—was able to single-handedly reassemble Robot S13.
- Suppression takes an interesting twist on this trope AND Doing In the Wizard. Both wizards and scientists are trying to figure out what's up with Ebon Creek. Neither of them have all of the answers in so far.
- Wooden Rose: Eric originally attributed his wife's pregnacy to infidliety but when he saw that the child was a tree spirit and came to term in a week instead of nine months he had no choice but to accept that the supernatural was involved.
- Spinnerette: laughed at the idea of anyone using magic (especially the kind inspired by a tabletop game) and thought "Spirit of the Tiger" was an euphemism for steroids. Then Mecha Maid tells her that the latter is not an euphemism of any kind and Alexis performs the Ritual of Lolth for real.
- It was revealed near the end of lonelygirl15 that trait positives are actually the descendants of the fertility goddess Hathor, although this was left open to interpretation.
- In Atop the Fourth Wall, it was revealed that all the advanced fictional technology Linkara has been using (phasers and tricorders, morphers, pokeballs, etc.) are actually just toys that he's been enchanting using a magic book that can turn the image of something into the actual thing. Oddly, there's still genuine sci-fi stuff; its quite explicitly only the borrowed technology that was actually magic.
- Transformers has this in their origin story. In G1, the Autobots and Decepticons were manufactured by the Quintessons as slaves and weapons respectively (though prior to this story, super-computer Vector Sigma gave sentience to the Transformers while their origin was left unanswered). In more recent series it's said that they were created by an actual god, Primus, that is their planet. As in, their planet transforms into a god. (This doesn't entirely count, however, as some continuities follow the Primus origin and some follow the Quintesson origin.)
- The original Marvel comic from The '80s takes the cake by beginning with the explanation that Transformers evolved from naturally occurring pulleys, levers and gears and later saying it was the god Primus.
- Meanwhile, at least one guide book says 'Okay, Primus created them, THEN The Quintessons found them and modified them."
- In the Japanese G1 continuity, the Quintessons created the Autobots and Decepticons, while the Oracle/Primus/Vector Sigma/Primacron's Assistant gave them sentience.
- The Wreckers comic used that explanation to add that Vector Sigma was Primus' link with the Transformers, while the Oracle was a shell program created by the Quints to sever that link, manipulate Vector Sigma and send some fake prophecies.
- Scooby-Doo has pulled this in some of its modern incarnations. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island popularized this; the entire point of the film was that the gang had spent several years debunking hauntings as hoaxes and criminal plots and the film explored how they would react when finally faced with the supernatural for real.
- The first live-action film included actual demonic creatures controlled by the pissed-off Scrappy Doo.
- In one episode of What's New, Scooby-Doo?, the ominous coral-monster that'd been lurking around the beach turned out to be an actual coral-based sea monster ... which had nothing to do with the crime the gang solved as they investigated its presence!
- Kim Possible: Initially, Shego's hand blasts were implied to be devices in her gloves. Later it was firmly established to be a superpower given to her by a Magic Meteor.