Arthur: What do we do now? The Tick: Well, we find the vegetable villain who did this to me and get the antidote! Arthur: There's an antidote? The Tick: Villains always have antidotes... They're funny that way.
One of the characters gets poisoned or sick, and there's a very rare cure for them. Usually done by the villain, who will oppose the remaining heroes in getting the antidote, or else is blackmailing the heroes into doing something for them. In which case the villain will usually be Carrying the Antidote.
Not quite a Death Trap on the part of the villain, but related in being needlessly complicated. If they were able to inject someone with a poison that's curable with a MacGuffin, why didn't they just use an instantly lethal means? A bullet instead of a dart, or a poison that would instantly kill someone? One answer suggests that in this one situation, they aren't Genre Blind: a bullet would miss while a dart wouldn't. Another has the villain deliberately not killing the target; he or she wouldn't mind if the target dies, of course, but it's more important to have the heroes busy looking for or getting the cure while the Master Plan unfolds.
Can be a form of After-Action Healing Drama. Contrast After Action Patch Up.
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The crew of the Space Battleship Yamato had a year to reach a planet on the other side of the galaxy, get a device that would decontaminate an otherwise radiation-poisoned Earth, and get back to use it, before Earth became permanently uninhabitable.
The Moxibustion Arc in the manga/anime Ranma ˝. The wicked Happōsai hits Ranma with the Weakness Moxibustion, which makes the strongest man as weak as a toddler. They discover that Happōsai has the ancient scroll with the cure and spend the entire arc training to fight him to get the chart.
Whenever Ranma finds out about something that might cure his curse. Of course, Failure Is the Only Option, so every time a cure for the curse is found, it either doesn't work or is lost before it can be used.
Subverted to tragic effect in One Piece; Chopper risks his life to find a mushroom which he believed was a panacea that would cure his mentor's illness. However, he was mistaken and it was actually a highly poisonous mushroom... which his mentor proceeded to eat, grinning, knowing its nature.
Guts's current quest in Berserk has him seeking Puck's home world of Elfhelm in hopes that the King can cure Casca's post-Eclipse insanity.
Pokémon: During the Orange Islands arc, Ash and Tracey fell victim to a Vileplume's Stun Spore, and Misty had to go out to find a cure for the resulting paralysis. In the same episode, Jessie also fell victim to the same Vileplume's Stun Spore, leaving James and Meowth to find the same cure as Misty.
Used in Pet Shop of Horrors, when Totetsu is shot and Leon must find Count D to learn what type of blood is needed for a transfusion. All is put well in the end, when D's father secretly comes to see the animal and tells the doctors what sort of blood to use.
In Axis Powers Hetalia, Spain gets sick because of his economic problems and his ex-pupil Romano searches for a cure, even recurring to The Mafia for help. When he returns, though, Spain's economy is better so he's healthy.
In Detective Conan, Conan is trying to find the poison he was given, because if he finds a sample, the Mad Scientist living next door might be able to make a cure. A character who shows up later is also working on a cure, but unfortunately she lost most of her research and thus doesn't have a lot to go on.
In Monster Rancher, Holly gets sick from Black Worm poison due to Taking the Bullet for Tiger. Hare knows the cure is Natsume Berries but doesn't know where to find them, so Tiger goes off to search by himself. Captain Black Worm ambushes Tiger where the berries grow while the other heroes hide from the Black Worm subordinates.
Used on Spider-Man by the Hobgoblin back in the late eighties or early nineties. The Hobgoblin doesn't just shoot himbecause he wants Spidey to give him the Green Goblin's journals. Played with, in that the Hobgoblin doesn't have the antidote — but Spidey gets it from the Kingpin in exchange for help dealing with Hobgoblin (who is a rogue element in Fisk's plans).
Doctor Strange occasionally needs to find a magical cure for an ailment that is beyond modern medicine. The Oath and Spider-Man: Fever both involve his attempts to save the lives of Wong and Spider-Man, respectively.
Used in ElfQuest when Skywise has to find some Whistling Leaves (a diuretic) to help cure Cutter's fever. He only finds the leaves in the end due to a small breeze which causes the leaves to give out the whistling sound they were named for thus guiding him to the plant.
Played five times in the WALL-E Forum Role Play. Thrice by Buddy, first by attempting to kill Auto (and as many other robots as would likely be infected, since they were expendable to his cause) and then by blackmailing the Colony to Auto scrapped; once by Blacklight, who wanted to wipe mankind off Earth to rescue the robots; and once when the remains of the Black Plague virus actually became sentient.
Pretty much the whole plot of Once Upon a Forest. A little badger named Michelle becomes comatose after inhaling toxic gas so her three older friends must travel beyond the forest to find the herbs she needs to be cured.
In The Land Before Time IV, Grandpa Longneck is stricken with an unspecified illness, requiring Littlefoot and his friends to track down a specific type of flower that contains a cure.
The Riftwar Cycle novel Silverthorn has this as the major plot, when the protagonist must quest for the plant of the title in order to cure a princess who was struck down with a poison made from the very same plant.
Biblical Apocrypha has the Book of Tobit, where a young man named Tobias must go search for a cure for his blind dad Tobit. His travel companion happens to be the Archangel Raphael in disguise, and while Tobias searches for both Tobit's cure and falls for a girl named Sarah, Raphael fights a demon that keeps killing every man poor Sarah has married before getting together with Tobias.
In Empire of Ivory, once Temeraire proves immune to the Incurable Cough of Death that is killing the rest of Britain's dragons, there is a scramble to Cape Colony in the hops of finding what cured him of the cold that it was initially dismissed as. Too bad a cave full of the mushrooms in question happened to be under cultivation by a Hidden Dragon Empire.
In Ryan Graff's The Fires of Affliction, the Mystery Cult repeatedly poisons, then cures, the heroine Lori as a way of preventing her from escaping their grasp. When she finally breaks out and meets the hero, he scrambles for another way to cure her.
Also played with, in that while the cure that Addie ultimately found would have worked just fine, she also inadvertantly found the "real" cure, which everyone in the kingdom had been searching for — by being a "coward who found courage", Addie caused rain to fall all over the land. The rain came from the home of the fairies and cured everyone of the disease.
Juliet Marillier's Heart's Blood: After Anluan is poisoned, Caitrin must find the antidote and brew it without knowing what kind of poison it is or where the antidote is written, all in less than an hour.
The first book of The Elenium centres a search for the only thing that can cure the poison that the Queen has been poisoned with. In the villain's defence, he had to make it look natural, so instantly lethal means was out of the question, and he could not have anticipated either the magic that kept her alive long enough for the cure to be found, nor that there actually was a cure that could be found.
During The Mallorean Zakath is given a poison that has no known antidote. Her the search is relatively short, only a chapter, as they consult Cyradis who tells them the only cure is the panacea, quickly identified as Adara's rose.
A large portion of the Warrior Cats novel Long Shadows deals with Jayfeather trying to find catnip to cure a recent epidemic in his clan after his stock was destroyed. Also, in the Adventure Game included with The Fourth Apprentice, the Clans are coming down with a sickness, so they send out the Adventure Game cats to find some herbs for them.
The villain of Galaxy of Fear: The Planet Plague didn't know of a cure and just wanted Tash to transform into aBlob Monster. But he got this virus from the ruins of an old civilization, and said civilization also wrote down how it could be cured. The heroes were fortunate not only to find that, but to have a droid find it so it could be recorded.
Doubly subverted in Septimus Heap: Physik: Queen Etheldredda is actually trying to lure Septimus into a trap so she can extort Jenna to bring him to a place where he is kindapped into a time 500 years ago, but there he does find the cure for the Sickenesse that is ravaging the Castle in the present time.
Used twice in Lord of the Rings with the Athelas plant (also known as Kingsfoil) which it seems only Aragorn knows how to use as more than a simple headache remedy. The first time, he uses it to help relieve the pain of Frodo's wound from a Morgul-knife and the second time to cure those who have been afflicted by "The Black Breath", spread by the Nazgűl. Both times, the plant has to be sought out since there is none at hand when it's needed.
An example of the second approach occurs in the third-season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Graduation Day". Faith shoots Angel with a poisoned arrow; she could easily have hit his heart and dusted him, but she and the Mayor would rather Buffy stay distracted by his illness and eventual, slow, and painful death. Of course, this backfires on Faith when the antidote turns out to be Slayer blood...
Thoroughly subverted by the Babylon 5 episode "Confessions and Lamentations", in which Doctor Franklin spends the entire episode searching for a cure while Delenn tends the plague-stricken Markab people, and the rest of the cast deals with other consequences of the plague. In the end, Franklin races to the quarantine ward with the cure... only to discover a tearful Delenn, who informs him that he's too late: they've all died.
Speaking of B5, the Spin-Off series Crusade was entirely premised on this: the cast was searching for a cure to a plague visited upon Earth by former Shadow minions, which would conveniently lie dormant for five years before killing everyone. (The plan was to set up an audience expectation that the cure would be found in the fifth and final season, then have the cure discovered somewhere around season three and spend the rest of the series fighting a new and greater danger uncovered during the search. All this was rendered moot when the series was canceled before even airing.)
Starsky & Hutch: In the episode "A Coffin for Starsky", Starsky is injected with a poison that will kill him in 24 hours; in this case what they need to find is a sample of the poison so the cure can be created. A less personalized version occurs in "The Plague", in which Hutch is one of the first victims of an incipient epidemic, and Starsky has to track down a hitman with a natural immunity to the disease.
In the Doctor Who serial The Caves of Androzani, the Fifth Doctor is forced to regenerate after he and his companion Peri are poisoned — although he manages to milk the giant Queen-Bat to get the antidote (don't ask), there's only enough for one.
NCIS: The team spends the episode "SWAK" looking for a cure for Tony, who's been dosed with a designer version of The Black Death. Subverted in that, although the virus has a limited life, there is no actual cure — Tony has to survive on his own.
In the Alias episode "Counteragent," Sydney needs an antidote to a virus that is killing Vaughn. Sark says she can have it if she brings him Sloane.
In Merlin, Arthur goes on one of these after Merlin takes a poisoned chalice originally meant for him.
Happens twice to Aeryn in Farscape: first when she needs a tissue transplant in Season 1 so the team has to infiltrate a Peacekeeper base and again in Season 4 when she is infected with the "Living Death" by an enemy who possesses the only cure.
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Section 31 creates a disease designed to annihilate the Founders in order to bring down the Dominion and end the war. In order to transmit the disease to the Founders, they use Odo as a carrier. This leads to three episodes of this for Dr. Bashir, with "Extreme Measures" being the embodiment of this trope.
Subverted in "The Quickening." Bashir comes to the aid of a planet that was infected with a plague two centuries ago by the Jem'Hadar, expecting to swoop in with his genius and his gadgets and save the day with another miracle of 24th century Starfleet medicine. It doesn't work out that way. It turns out the disease was designed to accelerate when exposed to electro-magnetic fields such as produced by modern medical equipment, which a wave of patients in mortal agony pleading for euthanasia. However, Bashir was able to accidentally create a in vitro vaccine to enable babies to be born free of the plague. Although the planets population and Commander Sisko tell Dr. Bashir that this was a great accomplishment, he is hardly satisfied.
In one episode of the live action Zorro, Zorro is poisoned by the villain of the week. He later tricks the villain into thinking that Zorro had poisoned him back with the same toxin, making him go to the nearest source of an antidote, which Zorro followed him to.
Chuck has this in the season 4 finale when Sarah is poisoned by Vivian Volkoff on the eve of their wedding and Chuck has to find a cure.
On The X-Files, Mulder desperately searching for a cure for Scully's cancer makes up the episodes of "Redux" and "Redux II." He does.
One episode of Castle hit Castle with a poison that led to this, but justified: the villain didn't even know Castle existed, let alone that he'd been hit with the poison. The actual target of the poison was killed almost immediately by it, Castle just got a low dose of it accidentally (enough to kill him, just not as immediately) by being in the same car with the victim for a few minutes.
This is an important part of the plot in The Julekalender. Gammel Nok is dying because the music box that plays the melody of his life is about to stop. The main characters Fritz, Hansi and Günther have to look for the only key that can wind up this music box.
A major portion of BIONICLE falls under this (specifically the arc called Bionicle Legends): two parts were dedicated to finding the MacGuffin that could save Mata Nui's life, and the third revolved around restoring him to consciousness.
There was also a smaller-scale one in the book "Maze of Shadows", where the plant monster Karzahni forces the Toa Metru to get him a flask of energized protodermis in exchange for curing Nokama of poison — and to prove he could do it, he gave her a temporary antidote. It turned out that Karzahni needed to Find The Cure for a condition of its own, but too bad protodermis has Unpredictable Results...
Chrono Cross: Early on, Kid is poisoned by Hydra Venom, which requires Hydra Humor to cure. Problem being, the hydras are extinct in this dimension. You can choose not to fetch it—she'll be cured by a strange from the mainland anyway Norris and not commit an act of ecological vandalism, but it mostly depends on which characters you want to join you.
In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Mario wins a game at an arcade and obtains a strange mushroom as the prize. He eats it and becomes inflicted with a disease called Bean Fever, which makes whoever has it slowly turn into a bean, and Luigi has to go to some ancient ruins to find Crabbie Grass, the only known cure.
In Final Fantasy IV, Rosa comes down with a sickness that can only be cured by the secretions of a rare desert arthropod. This happens to another character in The After Years.
Inverted in Final Fantasy V, as in a flashback you learn that a mother of a character had a disease which could only be cure by a dragon's tongue. However, since this would kill the dragon, the character decides not to do it. Played straight on the two occasions the heroes need to find dragon grass to cure sick wind drakes, however: it only grows, in small quantities, on certain remote mountaintops and in one case has mutated into a monster.
In Heretic II the protagonist is infected with The Virus at the beginning of the story and has to find the cure not only for other people but also for himself.
This is the main objective in the Storyline of Mitsumete Knight R : Daibouken Hen : the King of the kingdom the main character serves, is gravely poisoned by a terrorist group, and the only way to cure him is a mysterious MacGuffin called "The Tear of the Star". It's so rare and legendary, nobody actually knows exactly what it looks like. And of course, the main character is sent on a quest to find it.
A side quest in Tales of Symphonia has Raine falling ill from a (completely non-villain caused) disease and the party has to spread out to find the antidote, which turns out to be a rare plant that only grows on the top of a single mountain in the whole world.
The Xchagger Plague subplot in the third installment of Star Control. The victims: The Harika/Yorn. The culprits: unsurprisingly, The Crux.
A major plotline in Batman: Arkham City has Batman seeking to find a cure to the disease killing The Joker because he gave Batman a blood transfusion as well as "donating" his blood to various hospitals in Gotham to ensure Batman's cooperation.
In Blazblue, the ultimate goal of Litchi Faye-Ling is to find a cure that will not just restore her friend Lotte Carmine from Arakune to normal, but also a cure for herself about her encroaching corruption. Unfortunately, the one she knew could help her, Kokonoe, flat out refused, and Hazama claims that NOL has the cure. Litchi was quick enough to realize that it's a Blackmail and Hazama is a very ominous, suspicious dude, but with her time to get completely corrupted drawing even nearer, she ends up Forced Into Evil to preserve the cure.
Several games in the Resident Evil franchise has you hunting down a cure for someone:
Resident Evil, if you're playing as Jill, has you look for Serum to cure a wounded and poisoned Richard, but he dies whether you get the cure to him on time or not. Richard is already dead by the time Chris finds him. In the remake. If you get the cure to Richard quickly, he will be alive, but he pulls a Heroic Sacrifice later on since he's Doomed by Canon.
In the original game and the remake, if you get poisoned by the giant snake on your first encounter with it, your character slumps over from the poison, causing their partner character to show up and administer a cure.
Resident Evil 2 for Claire's Scenario A has the character developing a vaccine that will stop the G-Virus embryo that was implanted in 10 year old Sherry Birkin. By Resident Evil 6, the embryo within Sherry remains dormant due to the vaccine, but is not eliminated. Instead, Sherry's body adapts to the embryo and it grants her super healing.
Resident Evil 3 has Jill get infected with the T-Virus by Nemesis, which kicks off the quest for the cure by Carlos and he delivers the vaccine on time. The vaccine would cause Jill's body to develop antibodies specifically against the T-Virus and would be an effective cure. Wesker in Resident Evil 5 captures Jill and ues her antibodies against her by implanting a mind controlling device on her chest.
Resident Evil 4 has Leon and Ashley get implanted with the Las Plagas, which will mutate and take control of their bodies if not eliminated on time. Breaking the trend of using a vaccine, the game "cures" the two characters by having them using electrical shocks on each other to kill off the parasite within them.
The villain Black Sundae poisoned the city's ice cream supply, and Lady Spectra And Sparky had to find him and retrieve the antidote before the city's children succumbed.
In The Gamers Alliance, the elven archer Rhylian is desperately searching for a cure to the Blood Fever, a disease which is fatal to elves.
Both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons featured variations of this trope. In the 1987 cartoon episode "Enter the Fly", April was poisoned by inhaling the pollen from the Doku ("poison") plant, which had been sent to her by an "anonymous admirer" (actually The Shredder). The turtles must then search for the Gazai plant, which is the only source of the antidote. In the 2003 series, it occurs when Donatello is infected with the mutagenic virus making its way across New York, which allows Agent Bishop to extort a favor out of them in exchange for a cure — one that he doesn't actually have. Fortunately, the turtles' ally Leatherhead managed to invent one on his own by the time they got back from stealing the relevant MacGuffin.
Gargoyles: "Long Way to Morning" has a flashback of this directly, where the Gargoyles had to recover the antidote to a poison made by an evil wizard who poisoned a prince. In a modern day subversion, Demona thought she poisoned Elisa (but Elisa's hidden badge deflects the dart) and Goliath plays along; if he didn't chase Demona, then she would have realized her attack on Elisa had failed.
Dangerously Genre Savvy Demona didn't develop an antidote, she was just stalling for time until it should have killed Elisa.
Jackie Chan Adventures, episode 9, "The Rock". It makes some sense that the villain has the antidote in this case, as his plan is to to force Jackie into helping him by only giving him the cure if he does what the villain wants.
In "Mission: Imp-Possible", Nefir the imp poisons Aladdin with a sleeping drug in order to goad Genie into helping him find a valuable treasure, the Golden Silk of Panacea (which also happens to be the only cure for the drug).
There's also Iago stealing fancy bath oils intended for the Sultan and thus consuming a poison intended to kill the Sultan that slowly turns him to stone, limb by limb. So of course the others try to get the cure, and Iago just betrays them by giving the Big Bad the lamp in exchange for the cure. Fortunately on the way there he has a change of heart, get captured, gets Aladdin and the rest captured, gets called a traitor and then gets saved by Genie who points out that Iago changed his mind at the last moment and is not to blame. Make up your mind, Iago!
Conan The Adventurer does this as an episode. The disease was to make Conan susceptible to the metal in his sword (and his allies' weapons). Ironically, the metal itself would prove to be the cure, although not before the Big Bad was tricking the allies into giving him his weapons to get what turned out to be a non-existent cure, and sending out his minions to destroy a valuable relic (the cloth covering a certain person's body, meant to cure anything) that the allies had just taken, to make sure the Big Bad's route was their only option.
Subverted in the Transformers: Beast Wars episode "The Low Road". An... unfortunate side effect of the virus and its interaction with some wild bean vines is what wins the day for our heroes. Needless to say, it's sort of a self-parody episode of a usually much-more-serious show.
Beast Wars also had a unique take on this in the episode "Gorilla Warfare". The Predacons infected Optimus Prime with a virus designed to make him a coward, planning to ambush the Maximals when they launch an attack to steal the cure. However, incompetent virus creation turned Optimus into a beserker instead, making him tear through the Predacon base singlehandedly.
As the page quote reveals, this happened to The Tick once. At least in his case it was explainable by the fact that the villain spilled his Applied Phlebotinum at him as a last-ditch attempt to dislodge him... Why the villain in question had an antidote to counteract it, less so.
My Little Pony: "The Golden Horseshoes". Said horseshoes are the MacGuffins needed to save a Pony from being erased from existence, so...
In the Hercules The Animated Series episode "Hercules and the Big Lie", Herc tells Icarus he has "Catastrophia" to get away from a geeky comic-scroll convention. The cure is in the backyard of a giant. Icarus goes after it anyway.
In the Legion Of Superheroes cartoon, Brainiac 5 goes hilariously off-the-wall bonkers and needs an ultra-rare ore from Timber Wolf's seriously-ultra-wild-and-dangerous home planet.
The deadly Ecto-Acne from Danny Phantom has main hero Danny looking for the cure after Big Bad Vlad poisoned his friends with the same dose. The big problem: the villain has the illness, too! The forced poisoning was intended as blackmail (which works). Danny eventually finds the final formula (it's diet soda)... right after he traveled through time, subsequently ruined the present time period, leaving him to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. Boy always takes the hard way, no?
The The Super Mario Bros. Super Show had a twist: Snake-bitten Mario needed to eat a special antivenom pizza to be cured. They had the ingredients, but no way to cook it; Luigi had to find a fire flower.
The South Park episode "Red Man's Greed", the Native Americans gave SARS to the town using infected blankets to try to get rid of the townspeople to build a highway to their casino. Stan, who wasn't sick, went to search for a cure, which turned out to be Campbell's chicken noodle soup, Day Quil, and Sprite.
In "Tonsil Trouble", Cartman accidentally gets HIV from a blood transfusion following his tonsil removal, and deliberately infects Kyle after being mocked by him. The two of them set out to meet Magic Johnsonnote Cartman believes Magic can help them since Magic has lived for years despite having HIV to find a cure, which turns out to be "about $180,000 shot directly into the bloodstream".
In Wakfu episode 7, Amalia is bitten by a devil rose, and her companions have to find the only existing cure for the poison, a very rare sap from a magical tree, in a forest full of Man Eating Plants.
Apparently the whole reason the parents of the titular character in Hey Arnold! went missing. Not only do they have to traverse the South American jungle to collect the ingredients of the dreadful Sleeping Sickness, they also have to find the very elusive patients called the Green Eyed People. Note that they do this plot twice... the latter apparently not ending too well.