At its highest point (1991), it was 17 minutes to midnight; at its lowest (1953), it was 2 minutes. As of January 2012, the clock stands at five minutes until midnight.
"Please don't stop it's lonely at the top
These lonely days when will they ever stop?
This handy metaphor is pulled out of the writer's bag of tricks whenever we need to be shown that time is of the essence in a particular dilemma. It is almost as good as a Magic Countdown
for getting across the message that time is running out. Expect the minute hand to be mighty close to the 12 at the top of the clock.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
at the University of Chicago actually keep one as a prop... of DOOM! When it was originally introduced in 1947
the clock symbolized how close the world was to nuclear war, with the metaphor supporting it being: talks have broken down, and once midnight hits, the attacks start. And we are all DOOMED
. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain
, the original metaphor is (mostly) obsolete, and it was expanded to catastrophic destruction
of any sort, provided it's on a global scale. The Bulletin
's website specifically mentions Global Warming
as possible causes of DOOM in addition to nuclear war.
This is a subtrope of When the Clock Strikes Twelve
. It may overlap with Timed Mission
. Also see Death's Hourglass
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Anime and Manga
- Laid close to the Twelve Zodiac Houses in Saint Seiya, is a tower whose clock has blue flames where the numbers would normally be. When Athena gets hit by a cursed arrow, the flames tell how many hours remain until the arrow ends up killing the wounded goddess. Once every hour, one flame is extinguished, so the main characters have only twelve hours to travel through the twelve houses, defeat the Gold Saints patrolling said houses, and convince the head honcho to remove the arrow from Athena's chest. In the end, all twelve flames in the clock disappear, but Athena manages to lift the curse and the arrow with her cosmic energy.
- A recurring motif in Watchmen with the clock gradually ticking towards midnight until the end. It is also mentioned directly with the clock being at five minutes near the beginning. Ironically, because of the deterrent posed by Dr. Manhattan at the beginning of the story, this is actually further from midnight than the real-life clock was in the early to mid-1980s (his departure moves the clock up significantly). The clock is seen more often as the most well-known symbol of the series: the Comedian's smiley-face badge. If you look at it with both eyes pointing up, the bloody smear resembles a minute hand pointing at 11 on a clock. This was actually the entire point of the design, to dress up something happy to something terrifying, with one tiny change.
- One Sunday strip of Brewster Rockit Space Guy had Agent X bring aboard the Doomsday Clock, itself a physical representation of the time to doomsday. Brewster, having missed this explanation, thinks the clock is off and sets to the proper time of midnight. This causes nuclear explosions all around Earth in the background.
- Dr. Strangelove - How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb has this.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who:
- The story Four to Doomsday was released when the real life clock was at four minutes. Possibly a coincidence.
- The story Kinda has an apocalyptic dream sequence that features a multitude of Doomsday Clocks of different technological types.
- The Heroes episode Seven to Midnight revolved around stopping a nuclear bomb from going off in New York City. At the time it was aired the clock stood at seven minutes.
- NCIS episode Murder 2.0 had the Doomsday Clock, at the time set to five minutes, used as a clue to indicate the next murder would take place at 11:55 p.m.
- LOST reveals in later seasons that the repeated number sequence, 4 8 15 16 23 42 is in fact a component of an insanely accurate Doomsday Clock: the Valenzetti Equation, which predicts the extinction of mankind, with the Numbers serving as the input.
- The second to last episode of Supernatural season 5 is called "Two Minutes to Midnight". "Midnight" in this case referring to the rise of Lucifer on earth, who did show up in the last episode of season 5.
- 2 Minutes to Midnight by Iron Maiden.
- The Smashing Pumpkins named the trope with their song of the same name from Zeitgeist.
- Music Linkin Park's album Minutes to Midnight. The music video for Shadow of the Day from the same album also makes reference to the clock with 11:55 appearing at the beginning.
- 11:59 by Blondie.
- The Call Up by The Clash has the lyric "55 minutes past eleven''.
- Likewise, Turn Your Back by Billy Talent has the lyric "When the clock strikes twelve, tell me where ya gonna be?" at the beginning. The entire song makes reference to disasters occurring and hoping the world can change.
- 4 Minutes (To Save the World) by Madonna.
- One Minute to Midnight by Justice.
- "Particle Man" by They Might Be Giants doesn't mention doomsday, but it does say that Universe Man has a watch that seems to measure the age of the universe. ("He’s got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand".)
- While not an exact representation, Rise of Nations has an example clearly based on the Doomsday Clock. When a player researches nuclear weapons, a counter appears on his HUD. Every time any player uses a nuke, it goes down by 1. If it reaches zero, the game ends with everyone losing as the clock strikes midnight.
- The Infinite Ocean, an indie game about an amnesic AI trying to avert a disaster, has a symbolic clock set at two minutes to midnight.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, the player has three days until the moon crashes down on Termina, with a giant clock tower counting down to this in the center of the Hub Level (which is appropriately named Clock Town) and a smaller clock display at the bottom of the screen.
- Homestuck has a doomsday clock near Terezi's home.
- One episode of Adventures of the Gummi Bears featured a Doomsday Clock built by an evil sorcerer, which would actually destroy the world if it ever struck twelve - unless, of course, it was destroyed first.
- The title of The Venture Bros. episode Twenty Years to Midnight is a reference to the actual Doomsday Clock.