"I wonder if that silly duck'll remember that he can fly?
*THUD!* Guess not."
(Later) "I wonder if Daffy will remember that he can swim?
*Splash* ... Nope!"
When a character has the Idiot Ball
slipped into their pocket while they weren't looking, causing them to forget to properly use their abilities or powers to stop a bad guy or get out of a situation, even though they may have used the ability in similar situations before (often many times). This happens often with superheroes
and within the filler episode of Shonen
anime. It's especially bad when the power being forgotten about is an innate ability that the character was born with
, which makes it roughly akin to a Muggle
forgetting he can walk
This is used quite a bit when characters have extremely useful or increasingly powerful abilities or equipment, and some unfortunates
tend to have this inflicted on them all the time
, turning a Genius Bruiser
or Badass Bookworm
into a garden-variety Bruiser
. Only some lines of technological jargon or displays of useless gadgetry will remind the reader that they have more brains than they normally use. Some might consider this a form of Informed Ability
, with the "ability" being genius-level intelligence.
is a variant of this trope, when it's justified using convenient amnesia
. The heroic version of Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?
, except while at least villains don't have to answer to their actions, heroes should be obligated to stop evil-doers or disasters as quickly and efficiently as possible.
See Fridge Logic
for when it occurs to the viewers a little later what the character could've/should've easily done. See Remembered I Could Fly
when it occurs to the character Just in Time
what he should've done long before.
Plot-Sensitive Snooping Skills
is a particular variant/sub-trope. If a device is discovered once, never becomes part of a character's standard bag of tricks, and is forgotten that is Forgotten Phlebotinum
. Hollywood Tactics
are a usual result. Compare Drama-Preserving Handicap
As mentioned, this is a sister trope to Idiot Ball
, the distinction being that Idiot Ball
is when a character does something stupid to further the Plot
, while with Forgot About His Powers the plot depends on a character failing
to take an action they would normally take or that would make the most sense to solve the current crisis.
Compare Reed Richards Is Useless
, where a character with superhuman abilities or ridiculously advanced technology reserves it for equally advanced problems and never applies it to mundane difficulties, and Superman Stays Out of Gotham
in which another character in the same universe is conveniently not around to easily solve the problem for
Contrast Took a Level in Badass
and Dumbass No More
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Anime & Manga
- Nearly any situation should be easily solvable by The Flash, since he can move hundreds and hundreds of times faster than anything else on earth. Yet he constantly forgets to use the full potential of his superpowers until it's time to end the story. Abilities the Flash consistently forgets he has: running faster than light, speed stealing, infinite mass punch, etc.
- ... and it gets worse. On one occasion the villains have destroyed a bridge. The Flash runs to a university, teaches himself civil engineering, rushes back to the site of the collapsing bridge, scavenges for parts and builds an entire new bridge to replace the old one, all in the blink of an eye. This trope is the only reason anyone is able to beat him.
- Most Flashes can only retain their super-speed knowledge for a few seconds. The only one who could retain it permanently, Bart Allen, once read an entire public library. This came in less handy than one would think.
- Lampshaded in an episode of Justice League Unlimited, since it's revealed that while the Flash can do all these things and more, he doesn't phase through things because it's fairly dangerous, and he can't approach his upper limits because the plot says it would kill him. Luthor, on the other hand, isn't so worried about it when his mind ends up in Flash's body.
- It becomes even more ridiculous given the fact that at one point the Flash was able to (within a small fraction of a second) save a city from nuclear annihilation by carrying its half a million person population to a hill miles away one person at a time. And yet Central City's banks still get robbed on his watch.
- In the 4 issue alternate universe DC tale, Kingdom Come, The Flash does become an unstoppable one man war on crime, where he never slows down and has made Keystone City a crime-less utopia. To the point where he moves so fast, not only can he run through the air, he simultaneously exists in the physical and metaphysical planes.
- However, it's also revealed he's Blessed with Suck as he can no longer communicate with anyone (save Superman) and cannot stop.
- Most of the above points also apply to other speedsters in The DCU. Heck, to most comic book speedsters, period.
- Obviously, Superman suffers from the same forgetfulness both in the comics and in Smallville. Specifically, he frequently forgets to use his super speed while attacking. However, he is in the habit of standing and taking shots to intimidate his opponents so it's not always a case of forgetting. And how anyone ever manages to sneak up on him when he has super hearing is a complete mystery. Except for Batman, because he has active noise cancellation technology built into his costume for just such an occasion. Somewhat justified in that while he has super speed, he doesn't have super agility (usually) so, while he can fly fast in a straight line or a curve, it's not that useful to him in combat. As Batman once put it when comparing Superman's speed to Wonder Woman's: "Who's faster, Usain Bolt or Bruce Lee?"
- At it's most ridiculous in the Silver Age, as Superman has nearly god like powers (name any ability, put the word super in front of it, Supes has it) and will conveniently forget them between issues as the plot demands.
- Realistically speaking, most super-powered opponents facing Batman should always take the majority of victories in any battle, even if Batman "had prep". The Justice League in Tower of Babel provides prominent examples of this trope.
- Marvel's The Vision has occasionally fallen victim to similar attacks (though it's rarer). In one issue of What If?, he was killed by a parasitic alien vine that grew into his bodily systems. A fan wrote in to ask what was up; the editors eagerly latched onto his suggestion that "the plant in question isn't entirely tangible itself, and that's why the villain used it".
- The Essential Silver Surfer is full of this. When he meets a scientist who invents a device that might let him leave Earth but needs money to make it, the Surfer decides to get a job. He can't (because he doesn't have a Social Security number, he's not in the union, and he's funny-looking) so almost robs a bank in desperation, forgetting he can manipulate matter and could just make the scientist's gear for him. He spends about eight comics looking for someone who won't hate him for being "a silver-skinned freak" before he remembers that the Fantastic Four were quite friendly... need I go on?
- In Marvel Zombies, the zombies are attacking Doctor Doom's castle and the Scarlet Witch is infected by the Punisher. Gee, Scarlet Witch, did it never occur to you you could just teleport him and the other zombies away like you did with Ash earlier? Or teleport Enchantress away earlier so Dazzler wouldn't be infected? It is also never explained why Doom didn't just kill Enchantress in the beginning like he did later.
- It's likely Doom was keeping Enchantress prisoner in the hopes of experimenting on her and finding a cure for the zombie plague, although he should have warned Ash and the others about her.
- The last frame of the Spider-Man comic featuring the defeat of the Sinister Six in their first appearance had Doctor Octopus, the Vulture, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, and Sandman sitting in a police jail cell complaining about being defeated. How could the Sandman, a being who can turn into sand, be trapped in a common jail cell?
- Green Lanterns have been variously shown as being able to warp time, move faster than light, contain supernovas, fight toe to toe with Superman, alter their own DNA, read minds, find subatomic aliens... Scratch that, if it's a superpower of any sort any given GL has used it at least twice. Now here's the thing. There are creatures other than Gods that bother them. Funny huh? It's somewhat justified in their case as their power require willpower and concentration to make anything happen. A GL who is having a bad day, is unfocused or demoralized will be less effective and the GL's are essentially human without their rings (or at least the human ones are.) Plus, their rings require a periodic recharge and anything yellow or anyone whose fast enough or crafty enough to remove a ring is a threat. Still, the idiot plot is somewhat less excusable in the case of veterans like Hal Jordan (or really, any of the Earth based GL's these days) as he is both experienced, and extremely strong willed.
- The drama that drives the character of Adam Strange hinges on a concept that makes little sense in the context of the shared DC Universe. Adam is a human adventurer from Earth who gets transported to the planet Rann (located in the Alpha Centauri solar system, the closest to Earth) by zeta beams. Once the effect of a zeta beam wears off, Adam gets transported back to Earth and has to wait for the next zeta beam to transport him back to Rann once again. This creates drama (Adam can't stay on Rann indefinitely), and even though every once in a while, writers come up with super-powerful zeta beams that have a permanent effect, eventually another writer may find a reason to undo the effect, leaving Adam stranded on Earth once again. However, it makes little sense in the context of the wider DCU, where there are various more conventional means of traveling the (comparably laughable) distance to Rann. A particularly glaring example occurs in JLA #20-21 (written by Mark Waid), where the Justice League gets transported to Rann and has to help Adam fend off an invasion. Ultimately, Adam drives off the invaders by sacrificing the zeta beam radiation stored inside his body, which results in him getting transported back to Earth. There are at least three ways to get him back to Rann immediately: First, in the first part of the story, Adam mentions a previous visit to Rann by JLA member Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), who traveled there simply using the power of his ring. Second, the JLA has White Martian jumpships at their disposal, which are used to travel through space several times over the course of the series. And third, the JLA's ranks at that time include Orion and Big Barda of the New Gods, who have access to Boom Tubes, which can also travel vast distances. All of these methods would allow Adam to return to Rann in a short amount of time, without that pesky temporary effect of the zeta beams.
- The chronic and widespread amnesia over the Iron Queen's Magitek is one of the main causes of the Idiot Plot that is The Iron Dominion Saga; the Freedom Fighters are constantly clueless to the fact that their enemy can control machines with her mind, and wind up being shocked each time one of their cyborg or mechanical allies gets turned against them by her. They also keep forgetting that they have a counteragent to her spell right in their own backyard. And in case you're wondering, there's actually a time in the saga where the Iron Queen herself forgets that she has this power, and has to be reminded that the Freedom Fighters are holed up in a Grey Goo city that she can manipulate...after she successfully infiltrated and messed up said city with her powers.
- Doctor Strange. Speaking of the Sorcerer Supreme, he is repeatedly in situations where his virtually unlimited mystic abilities could resolve the plot, or at least make it much simpler. Alas, the good Doctor's imagination is often limited to that of those who write him.
- The giant mutant cockatrices who attacks Canterlot in the short in Issue #4 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) doesn't seem to be able to turn anypony to stone.
- Justified by Snowbird in Alpha Flight. While in animal form, she is dropped from a great height, so she shapechanges into an owl without changing to human form first — something she rarely does because its very painful. But, as the narrator points out, "In her animal panic, she had forgotten that her human form can also fly."
- Comes up a lot in Avengers Arena as the kids juggle the Idiot Ball from one to another:
- Captain Alcohol is supposed to have Super Strength. However, this is only used in the first issue and never used again even when it could help him.
- Jesse Custer in Preacher forgets about his Word of God more and more as the series goes on, which could have immediately solved many problems much faster by simply telling people "Stop!" or "Tell The Truth!" While early encounters include enemies who are immune to his power for a number of reasons, such as being given immunity by God or not understanding English, writer Garth Ennis apparently got tired of thinking up ways around the power and simply had Jesse stop using it, preferring to use his nigh-superhuman fighting skills instead. The trope is even lampshaded when Tulip asks him why he hadn't used the Word to defeat a group of enemies and Jesse just admits that he forgot about it.
- All the various telepaths in the X-Men could probably stop a hell of a lot of battles and villainous plots by simply mentally knocking out MANY of their enemies that don't have any kind of mind shield, but they often don't for unexplained reasons.
- As noted elswhere, Wolverine has super senses like hearing and smell, but they apparently only work when Wolverine needs them to solve a plot point. Otherwise he seems to be suffering from a recurring healing factor-resistant head cold.
- As The Comics Curmudgeon is fond of pointing out, newspaper comics Spider-Man's spidey sense is notoriously unreliable, as he's been shown to get snuck up and knocked out by regular humans, and once a RANDOM FALLING BRICK.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog, Tails had an uncle who was skilled enough in magic to, among other things, teleport and activate his Super Mode. Unless there's an unexplained limitation on that second spell, Dr. Eggman really shouldn't have been a threat for so long.
- In Getting Back on Your Hooves Trixie is feeding animals as part of a job working for Fluttershy, ending up falling down a steep bank and getting the list of animals she needed to feed muddy, resulting in a run in with a skunk. As she's getting cleaned up, this trope is lampshaded;
Spike: Uh, Trixie, one thing.
Trixie: Yes, what?
Spike: Why didn't you just use your magic to float the food down to the animals?
- This is also subverted in other places. Trixie's special talent is stage magic, so she's frequently frustrated when Spike asks her why she didn't do something Twilight (whose talent is magic itself) is capable of, but she's not.
- In Manchester Lost and its sequel, Paradise Thwarted, resident Cloud Cuckoo Lander Uriel tends to forget all sorts of things, including, at times, the fact that he has wings.
- Averted in Mass Foundations: Redemption in the Stars: Courier uses the VATS target assist, the Jury Rigging perk, Pip Boy map and the Geiger counter functions, as well as various stims. Liara frequently employs various biotic talents during combat and Feron can fix equipment with omni-gel, like the ME1 Infiltrator class he belongs to. Even the Blue Suns’ members use the full spectrum of their equipment from ME2, with missile launcher soldiers, flamethrower troops and Legionnaires with anti-shield Disruptor ammo all present and accounted for.
- The key sign of a bad Harry Potter fic: nobody uses magic for anything.
- In Dusk's Dawn Donut abandons most of his armor when invading the castle for no reason.
- It's incredibly common for Touhou fan works, and crossovers especially, to forget that all of the girls can fly.
Films — Animated
- A glaring example in ParaNorman; during the mid point of the film Norman is searching for the unmarked grave of the town's witch. He never once uses his powers to speak with the dead to attempt to talk to the ghost we see him talking with during the first act, one of which may have a lead or know the location. Of course, none of the ghosts were contemporary to the time of the curse and probably wouldn't know of the location anyway. Additionally, deleted material suggests the ghosts went into hiding the moment Aggie started unleashing her wrath upon the town.
- Some of The Land Before Time sequels have this problem, neglecting the fact that Petrie can fly.
- In Peter Pan the climax involves several characters being threatened with Walk the Plank despite the fact that they can fly.
- In BIONICLE 3, Matau is about to fall to his death from atop the Coliseum balcony, but Vakama saves him with a bungee-cord made out of spider webbing. A cool and heartwarming scene to showcase Vakama's return to the good side, except that Matau got up there by flying in the first place, or technically, grabbing onto an energy-disk that he could fire at any moment.
- In the first film, Onua causes a cave-in, so he and Pohatu start running, but get buried under rubble. This, despite that they had masterful control over the elements of earth and stone respectively — Onua even uses his power to levitate a some giant rocks in a later scene. Pohatu also wore the Mask of Speed (which Onua had access to too) that would have let them vibrate their bodies through the rock, or just plain run faster. Both could even have summoned their Mask of Shielding to protect themselves. The climax also involves some running and heavy objects falling, but nobody thinks of using their powers to save themselves or help Takutanuva who gets crushed under a gate.
- Early on in My Little Pony Equestria Girls, Spike manages to open a door with only one paw. Near the film's climax, he is somehow unable to open the exact same door applying even more force.
Films — Live-Action
- The Mobile Infantry in Starship Troopers have rifles that come with underbarrel shotguns and nuclear rocket launchers, yet they seem to rely almost entirely on their rifles' regular firing mode — even when faced with instances where such weapons would be most effective, such as close combat with the Bugs or when facing a horde of thousands of bunched-together aliens charging their fixed positions.
- In The Return of the King, Gandalf rescues Faramir and his retreating troops by using his staff to shine a bright light at the Nazgűl, which scares them away. One might wonder how come he doesn't do that every other time the Nazgűl are around...
- Commented by several cast members on the audio commentary. Ian McKellen mentions bringing the trope up to Peter Jackson, who shrugged and told him he used up all the batteries when he saved Faramir, and the shops in Minas Tirith were all out.
- This is probably the reason why, in the extended edition, Peter Jackson had the Witch-king destroy Gandalf's staff shortly afterwards; something that could not have happened in the book.
- In the book, the narrator's explanation implies that this was essentially a battle of wills, and the Nazgűl backed down because it wasn't the time yet to challenge Gandalf in all out battle — their leader wasn't present and they didn't have an army behind them, and their quarry wasn't that significant at this point. Basically, Gandalf intimidated them to leave, but they could have chosen to resist if they had a good enough reason. It's possible to speculate that this beam of light had approximately the same strength as a stream of running water, which the Nazgűl also fear, but can overcome if they really must.
- In The Neverending Story 2 Bastian has to save Fantasia with the help of the Auryn, which can grant him any wish he wants. He never thinks to wish for weapons, or an army, or even that Fantasia just be saved. Instead he wishes for things like a can of spray paint and individual steps to climb a huge cliff. And he only has a limited number of wishes before running out of memories (each wish removes a memory though at the time he gets it he was unaware of this so he had no reason to limit his wishes at the time).
- Star Wars
- The prequels retroactively introduce this trope to the original trilogy by establishing that R2-D2 has the ability to fly and torch his opponents, something he never does in the original trilogy even though it would have been useful to do so. Word of God has it that R2's rocket boosters broke at some point in the intervening years, and Industrial Automaton (the company that makes R2 units) no longer manufactures that part.
- The Jedi seem to be constantly forgetting what powers they are supposed to have. Of particular note is the whole "Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them." principle, when it generally seems as though Jedi characters can rarely sense impending danger through the Force and are often unaware of it until they can actually see, or hear, it coming. There are innumerable instances of this in the movies. Jedi also seem very inclined to forget that they're telekinetic.
- The Last Airbender: The Fire Nation imprisonment of the Earth-benders. In the cartoon that the film was based upon it was completely justified as they were on a metallic platform in the middle of the ocean. In the movie, they're at a mine. As in, surrounded by dirt and rocks. And they outnumber their Fire Nation guards by a minimum of a dozen to one. The very weak "their spirits are broken" excuse is washed away by a speech that boils down to "You're Earth-benders. You're completely surrounded by dirt and rocks. DO SOMETHING." They effectively imprisoned a bunch of soldiers, made them use their loaded guns to dig holes, and the soldiers never thought to shoot.
- And likewise in the other direction, firebenders were reworked to require a source of their element to bend like everyone else which prompts the need for a large container of burning fuel to exist at the camp. No one ever tries to put it out which would render the firebenders completely powerless. For that matter, despite this really major change in how firebenders work, no one ever tries to defeat them this rather simple way.
- In X2: X-Men United, Wolverine realizes that Mystique is disguised as Jean Grey by feeling the scars on her belly rather than by her smell, which he was established to be able to do in the first film when she tried the same trick with Storm.
- I Am Number Four John is an alien with a wide variety of superhuman powers, including super strength. While he uses it once early on to put down a bully, he conveniently forgets his wide variety of powers for the rest of the movie so that Jerk Jock Mark can push him around. When John finally does remember he has powers, he slaps down Mark's whole gang.
- Bruce Almighty: After Bruce was caught kissing Susan by his girlfriend Grace, he seemed to forget that he was near-omnipotent, so he could just wipe her memory of said event, or re-write history to make it that it never happened.
- In Smallville, Clark Kent, all the time, period. Like in "Legion" when he basically stands there as the Persuader pummels him. The worst case is probably flight. It is shown in "Crusade" (season 4 premier) that he physically can fly (and he has unconsciously floated before). Thanks to Executive Meddling, lame excuses are made to explain why he is completely incapable of flight until the finale. That is seven. Years. Later.
- Hiro Nakamura of Heroes is one of the most powerful characters in the series with the ability to stop time and teleport; he's just too much of a dork to think of using it when he needs to defend himself. This was even given a nod in the series when his friend, Ando, deliberately antagonized a group of peeved gamblers, assuming Hiro would use his power to put them all down. Hiro, not comprehending the situation, was almost immediately KO'ed by a punch to the face.
- What about the time that Hiro and his friend have to find out what's in a safe, finally get it open, only to have the document stolen by a woman with super-speed powers? Hiro then spends several episodes trying to chase her so they can get the document back and see what it says. It never occurred to Hiro that he could have gone back yesterday and opened the safe and read the document before the thief stole it. He then could have replaced the document if he didn't want to cause a paradox or even replaced the document with a fake if he were really smart. This is also immediately after Hiro spent some time idly making time pass forward and backwards just to see a clock's hands move. So the speedster is so fast that, even when time is "stopped" she moves at normal speed. What about when time is rewinding?
- Peter Petrelli is far worse than Hiro when it comes to being handed the Idiot Ball. But I guess they have to make him stupid to avoid having him fall into A God Am I status. By comparison, at least in the first season, Sylar usually used most of his arsenal to deadly effect.
- Example in case: In the final episode of Season 2, Peter is using up immense amounts of telekinetic energy to break into a vault with a solid 24-inch thick riveted steel door. As impressive as this may have been for the special effects, Fridge Logic would note that he can walk through solid objects and could have saved himself a lot of time and exhaustion.
- This also caused issues with his trust of Adam Monroe. Throughout the season Peter and Adam are pursuing a virus strain that, through Time Travel, Peter has learned will wipe out 93% of the world's population within a year. Though Adam insists he wants to destroy the virus, numerous other characters warn Peter that Adam is using him and will unleash the virus if he gets his hands on it. Peter himself even seems to question his motives a couple times. Problem is, Peter can read minds. He even uses this ability to learn the location of the virus strain, but never thinks to jump in Adam's head and see if he's sincere about helping before leading him right to the vault where the strain is being stored.
- The best example comes in season 3. In a Mexican-standoff hostage situation, rather than using telekinesis or time-stopping, he uses newly acquired super-speed to attack one of the enemies. The fact he attacked the most harmless enemy is a whole another Idiot Ball...
- The fact that, because he hadn't viewed the speedster's power yet, he had no idea he had Super Speed and was thus trying to just punch someone merely takes this Up to Eleven
- In contrast, in Season 4 Hiro expends considerable time and effort using his powers to solve a problem that he easily could have solved without them. He meets a distraught cubicle worker on the roof, who wants to jump because he was fired for photocopying his butt. So Hiro travels back in time to sabotage the copier, only for the guy to do it again at the next opportunity. And again. And again. While it was a Crowning Moment of Funny, one wonders if there was another way Hiro could have saved the guy's job at a company of which Hiro was CEO and 51% owner.
- At the end of Season 3, when Nathan is killed, Claire is nearby. Noah, who was brought back to life by Claire's blood after being killed earlier, does not suggest using her blood, but instead goes along with Angela's crazy plan.
- The various Star Trek series regularly did this. It's the 23rd or 24th century, yet the crew is frequently in peril from threats that even 20th century technology could handle. They repeatedly forget that their own warp drive, shields, transporters, phasers, replicators, holodecks, sickbay, etc., etc., can perform miracles.
- This is especially jarring in episodes in which transporter failure ("The Enemy Within") drives the plot. No one seems to recall the shuttles, the shuttles' transporters, or the cargo bay transporter system.
- In any scene where there is a man-to-man on the ship/station, they could put the transporter to work, simply beaming the enemies into the brig or even just erasing their patterns without bothering to reconstitute them.
- Intentionally done in the episode "By Any Other Name", when Kirk makes the Kelvan leader Rojan jealous by cozying up to Kelinda, until Rojan gets so angry that he completely forgets about his superior weapons that gave him the advantage in their first confrontation and attacks Kirk in rage using his fists, where Kirk is the one with the advantage this time, and manages to subdue him.
- Another Deep Space Nine example, in the second season finale (which introduced the Dominion formally, with the Jem'Hadar and the Vorta), a Vorta is able to use a powerful psychic telekinetic attack in combat and to escape from a holding cell. No mention of these abilities are ever made again, let alone actually used by a Vorta, even in situations where it could have been a huge advantage for them.
- The variable effectiveness of phasers is a common plot hole in Star Trek, especially the later series. In the Star Trek: The Original Series a small handheld phaser the size of a smart phone could potentially disintegrate a person or blow the side off a building. In Star Trek: The Next Generation Data once vaporized all the water in an aqueduct system stretching miles up a mountain using one. But in Deep Space Nine Federation troops fighting the Dominion are lugging around these huge phaser rifles that fire little bullet-like pops of energy that can barely put a hole in a wall, leading to many combat scenes distinctly similar to their major competing franchise.
- Kira, when training someone in weapons, does explain in one episode that Federation phaser rifles have multiple firing settings and, in fact, have so many settings that they easily go wrong in the field. It therefore boils down to people using the rifles keep forgetting they can adjust the firing settings for the situation they're in (and, of course, we also never see the rifles ever breaking down or going wrong despite it apparently being such a common problem that Kira would far prefer to recommend people use the much more reliable and sturdy Cardassian rifles in the field than the more fragile, unreliable Federation ones).
- Cloaking technology is a major source of tension, particularly between the Federation and the Romulon and Klingon Empires, who both use it extensively. The fact that the Federation could potentially counter the utility of cloaking devices by simply recruiting more members of telepathic races such as Betazoids into Starfleet seems to have somehow escaped their thought processes entirely.
- Deanna Troi's abilities vary wildly over the course of the show. In some episodes she can easily sense beings on other ships or on a planet's surface while she is on the Enterprise in orbit. But when this kind of power would eliminate suspense from the plot, she mysteriously becomes unable to sense people she knows very well, even if they are relatively close by.
- Geordi LaForge can see a large part of the EM spectrum with his visor, yet in the episode Disaster he can't see a plasma fire behind a panel - Dr Crusher has to tell him that the wall is hot.
- And yet, in First Contact, he uses his new bionic eyes to find Cochran from far away.
- In Star Trek: Generations, the Enterprise D sustains fatal damage when the Duras sisters manage to get ahold of its shield frequency, allowing their weapons to pierce the Enterprise's shields. It never occurs to any of the main characters to simply change the shield frequency when this happens, even though it was the first thing they tried during a similar situation in "The Best Of Both Worlds Part 1" (and in that case, Data was able to rotate the shield frequencies so quickly even the Borg couldn't keep up with him, forcing them to drain the shields instead — something the decrepit old Bird of Prey the Duras sisters were using couldn't have managed). The real reason behind this is the producers wanted to destroy the D so that they could build a new Enterprise that would look better in the cinema format for the next film, but they could have come up with a better way to do it.
- Dozens if not hundreds of random technobabble solutions are used only ONCE, and never used again.
- In the episode The Doomsday Machine, Kirk destroys the machine by getting the Constellation's impulse engines to overload and detonate when Kirk pilots the ship into it, but no one ever thinks of firing firing phasers into the opening rather than at its hull, which would have accomplished the same thing and would have been much easier.
- In Fringe an episode pertaining to a flash forward tries to portray Olivia Dunham as having mastered her abilities by showing off her telekinesis. Dunham, a generally already battle hardened cop with lightning reflexes and an inexplicable penchant for headshots (before any brainwashing) is confronted by Walternate, brandishing a gun, and is promptly shot in the face after failing to react.
- In Quantum Leap, there are several episodes in which Sam has to keep someone from being kidnapped, and the obvious solution — have Al stay with the victim at all times until something happens — rarely if ever occurs to them.note Generally speaking, Al's potential for spying is greatly underused.
- The novels handwaved this by saying that events and people tied closely to That Which Must Be Set Right become ambiguous the closer Sam comes to the moment he has to save them and that Ziggy can't lock Al on to events to witness them. (Which also covered why Al popped in a few times on where the savee is supposed to be only to find out they had disappeared.)
- When the Charmed Ones become powerful, they keep on forgetting about their powers. Like when a criminal was holding a gun at Phoebe's head and ordered Paige to cast a spell to disguise him. Rather than just orb the gun, Paige killed him by demon. Piper didn't use her freezing powers several times because she just didn't try. And Phoebe stopped using her premonition powers to help innocents and just focused on herself.
- On a less serious note, the levitation power that Whitelighters possess (i.e. the power that gets Leo caught out as a Whitelighter in the first place) is forgotten on several occasions where it could be potentially useful. It is justified that Paige can't use it yet; she's not a full Whitelighter, but Leo has no such excuse until he loses his powers, that is.
- In No Ordinary Family Stephanie seems to constantly forget that she has superspeed and could solve their problem in a fraction of a second. It doesn't help that when not using her powers she doesn't seem to have any kind of Super Reflexes, and terrible normal reflexes, so she's been hit by attacks that even most non-speedsters could dodge. One particularly notable example comes in the finale, when they're encircled by men with guns and after about 30 seconds of them talking and trying to find another way out, she remembers that she can just punch them out before they do anything, and does.
- In True Blood, Sookie has the ability to read most people's thoughts. There are many times where a character is able to trick her or give her false information, because she doesn't seem to remember this ability. Especially since early episodes imply that she can't turn it off.
- Possibly justified. Season 5 reveals that the overuse of her powers has caused them to weaken, and she mentions that her telepathy has not been as effective recently.
- Warehouse 13 has the Character Jynx who is supposed to be able to detect when people are lying to him. Soon he begins to get lied to as much as the other characters without detecting anything.
- This ends up getting him killed, although he gets better.
- Knight Rider tended to both play to and avert this trope. There were lots of things demonstrated that were used only once or twice and then never used again that would have been very helpful (usually involving scanning something, sensing something, or nearly-telekinetic power). On the other hand, sometimes functions would be brought back after a couple seasons and suddenly used again.
- A few functions were explicitly mentioned as removed, such as the laser and water hydroplaner, but by and large KITT's functions were a fluid thing and you never knew which new thing might pop up.
- In The Twilight Zone episode "Escape Clause", Walter Bedeker is given immortality and is unable to feel pain. Instead of setting out to have a long and happy life, he defrauds several businesses and confesses to killing his wife, which he didn't do. In court, he works to get himself convicted so he could try out the electric chair, but is then given life in prison instead, although it's not explained what he would have done after going to the electric chair. It is at this point that he uses the "Escape Clause" which causes his own death rather than face life in prison. At this point, he has apparently forgotten that in addition to being ageless, he is also invulnerable. How easy would it then be to escape from prison if he doesn't have to fear injury or death? He could wait for an opportunity and make a break for the barbed wire or electrified fence and just climb over it. What are guard dogs or gunshots to someone who is invulnerable? In the very least, he could wait it out.
- In Merlin, Merlin deserves an honorable mention for deciding that POISONING Arthur is necessary to fake his death, when there have to be a million other ways to do it. Arthur gets bonus points for going along with it.
- After the first few episodes, Merlin also completely forgets his original innate power of stopping time and telekinesis with nothing but a glare. As soon as he starts learning some spells that don't even have a fraction of this power, he only uses spells which could have him executed if anyone listens to his muttering.
- Partially lampshaded in "The Darkest Hour", when Merlin uses a spell to light the fire while the other knights are gathered around. Lancelot, the only knight who knows about his magic, glares at him. As we saw in series 2, Merlin can light a fire just by moving his hand and there is no need to risk the knights overhearing him.
- M-16 users in Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1 never once use the M-203 grenade launchers that are usually attached to their M-16s, even when faced with squads of Jaffa. In addition, the standard hand-held grenades are almost never used, despite multiple situations throughout both series where a single M67 grenade would eliminate their opposition. Even the M67 grenades "forget their powers" when the one grenade explosion in SGA Season 3, Phantoms, doesn't even damage Shepard, despite the 6 sticks of dynamite equivalent of the grenade and the blast being less than 15 feet away and nothing between the metal fragments lofted by the blast and Shepard. (At that close range, the effect would be somewhat like a hummingbird being hit by a 12 gauge shotgun blast.)
- Babylon 5: in an example that lasts the entire fifth season, a major mystery is stretched tenuously over multiple episodes because Sheridan forgets that he has seen Centauri Prime's future. (This is possibly as a result of Executive Meddling forcing many plot threads to be completed one season too early.)
- In the early episode, "The War Prayer", the Home Guard members emerge at a meeting with two members of the command staff having been disguised using Black Light Camouflage, which renders them effectively invisible. However, in the ensuing gunfight, they choose to go with "hiding behind the crates" as their method of concealment.
- In an episode of Lois and Clark, Superman tries to stop a martial artist who has super strength and is defeated because of his foe's superior skill. Superman decides his only option is to take a crash course in kung fu, which pays off during the rematch. It never occurs to him to use his super speed, heat vision, or super breath.
- In the failed Wonder Woman TV Pilot, Wonder Woman tortures a patient for information. Couldn't she have just used, oh, I don't know....HER FREAKING MAGIC LASSO THAT MAKES PEOPLE TELL THE TRUTH?! She even throws it on the bed beforehand, and it's outright stated that her lasso can make people tell the truth!
- Although, depending on the particular incarnation, the lasso's powers have varied from outright forcing them to tell the truth, to being unable to lie (but they weren't compelled to answer at all), or merely letting Wonder Woman know when she's being lied to/deceived.
- Doctor Who:
- In the episode "The Snowmen," the Doctor has stopped traveling through time and space after losing Amy and is living on a cloud (literally). He then shows the TARDIS to a new potential companion, Clara. While showing her the new TARDIS console, he turns around, allowing the ice woman to grab Clara from behind and fall with her from the cloud. As the Doctor helplessly watches Clara fall, he forgets that, fairly recently, he had no problems materializing the TARDIS in the path of River Song, falling in a similar manner. Apparently, being a Time Lord doesn't mean you have all the time in the world to solve a problem.
Justified somewhat however in that he was able to do that by going back in time to catch River, during an event that no-one actually saw her die, not to mention that her survival was guaranteed due to him already witnessing her death further along in her personal timeline. In that case he had time enough to figure out a precision jump that would land him where needed to be, whereas in this case due to witnessing Clara falling to her death and having little time to pre-plan, he was most likely unable to cross the timeline in order to save her.
- It's an established premise of the show that once the Tardis lands and becomes part of events, the Doctor cannot go back and undo his mistakes.
- The Doctor has several handy abilities, like the ability to go into a temporary death-like state of suspended animation (although at great physical effort) and the ability to read minds that virtually never show up when faking his own death or identifying the killer in a mystery would be useful. He also sometimes loses skills between regenerations, like his Third incarnation's trademark Venusian aikido being replaced with the Fourth Doctor's general brawling. He has also demonstrated that he has Hypnotic Eyes, especially in his Fourth incarnation, but almost never uses the ability in later incarnations. Writers are likewise prone to forget that he is supposed to have Super Reflexes.
- Damon Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries uses an ability to create fog in the first few episodes and then never does it again. He also seems to have an ability to compel someone from far away which he also never uses again.
- Also, vampires on both this and The Originals tend to rather frequently forget that they can move faster than the eye can see and are strong enough to snap the necks of people with less effort than it takes to snap a twig, and because of this just stand there and let humans and witches that they could easily kill capture and do whatever they want to them all the time.
- In the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys episode "Judgment Day", Hercules loses his Super Strength, but still manages to get the upper hand on Strife and beat him up. Strife begs Ares for help. Ares loses his temper and replies, "Fight him, you pathetic little fool. You're a god. USE YOUR POWERS!"
- In Supernatural's sixth season finale, Castiel needs a way to ensure that Sam, Dean, and Bobby do not interfere with his plan to open a door to Purgatory. This character has the power to render people unconscious with a touch. He could also teleport them to the other side of the planet, so they're too far away to get back in time to stop him. Or he could Reality Warp them into a room with no doors, windows, or other exits, trapping them there until he decides to release them. If he was feeling particularly pragmatic, he could even just kill them and then resurrect them afterwards. All of these are abilities he has previously demonstrated. So which one does he pick to get the heroes out of the way? None of them. Instead he decides to tear down the wall Death built in Sam's head to protect him from his memories of Lucifer's cage, leaving him stuck in a Battle in the Center of the Mind, and then tries to blackmail Dean and Bobby into not interfering by threatening not to heal Sam if they do. Of course, this doesn't work, Dean and Bobby interfere anyway and even Sam is able to overcome it at the last moment. So you really have to wonder why he didn't just go with a simpler, safer, and more effective alternative.
- Season 9 has a subplot where Sam is possessed by an angel and doesn't know it. As the season progresses he slowly starts realizing something is up due to strange occurrences like blocks of time he can't remember and Dean calling him Zeke. Problem is, angels possess the ability to both wipe memories and create new ones. Ezekiel could easily just delete anything that might make Sam suspicious and replace it with something benign, but he doesn't because Sam needs to be suspicious so the show can meet it's angst quota.
- Nathan Young started the show with Immortality and later trades it in for Reality Warper powers. He never takes advantage of his powers when it is important. For example, he cheats at a casino by changing his dice results. When the casino finds out and sends guards to apprehend him, he runs away, and when he runs into a dead end, lamely tries to distract them by pulling a rabbit out of his anus, and is eventually caught and arrested. He doesn't even consider using his powers to escape. It his case, it's justified because he's a complete moron.
- Jess gets this every other episode in the last season. In one case she nearly takes a nail to the eye by using a peephole when she knows she's being pursued by an attacker. Her power is X-ray vision.
- From Power Rangers Turbo, the explanation for the Turbo powers being used as opposed to the Zeo powers was to go to an island to stop Divatox from summoning a big monster. Yet, after that, they never think to use their Zeo powers ever again. This is especially stupid when you remember that the Zeo powers are always supposed to be getting stronger.
- In Dungeons & Dragons cosmology, the Demon Lord Kostchtchie, a brute with influence over cold, rage, and frost giants, has many powerful spell-like abilities at his disposal, including Harm, Ice Storm, Unholy Blight, and Greater Dispel Magic. But despite how powerful and useful they are, according to one source, he has such a rotten temper that he often forgets about them completely and just charges into battle with his warhammer. (Of course, with a title like The Prince of Wrath, it isn't surprising.)
- This happens in general to Dungeons & Dragons players, especially as they high higher levels and have amassed a big catalog of magical artifacts, spells, and such. Forgetting about fantastic powers and resorting to mundane utility is one of the many jokes surround the 10-foot pole.
- Exalted players, especially in high-Essence games, can have characters with so many Charms that they can't remember all of the ones they have, let alone what all of them do. This can result in players realizing, after the fact, that the mess they just got themselves into could have been completely avoided if only they'd used a Charm they forgot about.
- This shows up a lot in Cutscene Incompetence, when they could be a walking arsenal, yet a character insists on using a BB gun; or worse, after a case of Cutscene Power to the Max, when a character inconveniently forgets their cool powers so you don't get to use them.
- The railroad ending options of Fallout 3 have this trope in spades. No matter what, someone has to die from radiation poisoning, either the player or an innocent secondary character. This is despite the fact that the player has three optional companions who are immune to radiation damage — Fawkes (good players only), Charon (any player alignment), and Sergeant RL-3 (Neutral alignment). To add insult to injury, by this point in the game most players will have collected both a very high rad resistance through perks and a huge number of anti-radiation chems, and could probably stay in the chamber for weeks if necessary.
- Broken Steel changes the fate of the both the player character and Sentinel Lyons to being Not Quite Dead (unless you sent Lyons into the control room, in which case she is Killed Off for Real). Also it allows you to send in one of your radiation-immune companions to activate the purifier instead.
- Despite this, the ending cutscene will still call you a coward for not going through the deed yourself, likely because nobody felt like modifying it after the DLC and get Ron Perlman to re-do the voice.
- Though to reiterate, the fact that 4 of your companions should enter for you is explained away by it being "your destiny" or it not "being in their contract".
- A literal case if you ask Fawkes to do it in the new version. His response is basically "oh yeah, that would make sense wouldn't it."
- In Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice both have methods of detecting when someone is lying. Phoenix only ever uses his outside of court, and Apollo only ever uses his inside court. Even then, they only show up in certain circumstances, not every single time someone lies. Put shortly; it'd be a very short game if they DID work in court.
- Phoenix's Magatama lets the holder see "when a person they are talking to is locking something in their heart". Someone can lie, yet said person could not consider the lie to be of emotional value to them, so they don't have said lie in their heart. Thus no locks would appear. Plus it's implied very strongly that in order for the magatama to pick up a lie, Phoenix must directly ask that person the question they are lying to. So someone can lie casually and it won't pick it up. Phoenix has to directly ask that person a question (such as "Are you the person who killed Ms. Victim?") in order for the magatama to pick up if the witness is lying or not. Also Pearls tells Phoenix that his Magatama only works "When he's going up one on one with someone". So it won't work in court because Phoenix is up against the prosecution as well as the witness. In terms of Apollo Bracelet, once again it's NOT a lie detector (I get a little annoyed when people call the magatama and bracelet lie detectors). It's something that lets Apollo know when a witness is acting nervous, so sometimes someone will lie yet they won't cause his bracelet to react because they are not having a habit play up. Plus I'm sure the bracelet, while not used properly outside trials, does react sometimes to witnesses nervousness; such as when Apollo try talking to Machi, a foreigner, only for him to give up when he gets no reaction; His bracelet reacts when he talks to Trucy about how he does not speak English, hinting to Apollo that maybe he does understand what they are saying.
- In Professor Layton Vs Ace Attorney, Maya never thinks to try channeling any spirits for assistance during the group's stay in Labyrinthia. Granted, she could very easily be accused of witchcraft and executed if she was spotted channeling by the wrong person, so it's probably for the best in this case, but knowing how exciteable Maya gets about helping, it's a wonder she never brought the idea up.
- At one point in Chrono Trigger, the characters are disarmed and rendered helpless. Ayla can still fight with her fists, but Robo forgets about his inbuilt lasers, and the rest of the party forgets how to use MAGIC until they're rearmed.
- Lancer in Fate/stay night. Granted, it's not entirely his fault considering he's actually been ordered not to just kill everyone. But he never actually does net a kill with his Noble Phantasm — the only time he kills someone (Shirou in the intro, himself and Kotomine in UBW) is when he's doing regular stabbing.
- He tried it against Saber at the beginning of the game. It didn't work because her Luck stat was too high. (Considering that, the only ones his skill would work against are Archer, Rider, True Assassin and Dark Saber.) And he clearly beat Archer in UBW with the stronger version of it but didn't finish him.
- Gilgamesh is of course the king of this trope, but it's justified due to his massive pride: He just never considers anyone 'worthy' of going all out on.
- Except Rider in Fate/zero. Considering that he is one of the most powerful Servants seen, this is justified, the fact that Rider is Alexander the Great and can summon an army 30,000 strong of servants, not to mention the general awesomeness of Broskander helps along the fact that Gilgamesh considers him worthy. And Alexander took him drinking, probably the first friend Gil had since Endiku.
- How many times can the dragon Spyro forget he can breathe flames at the start of a new game in his series?
- Valkyria Chronicles plays with this one in places throughout the game, but the most glaringly obvious and stupid one is when Alicia comes to Welkin, distraught and nearly in tears over her Valkyria powers and the huge responsibility that's been dumped on her, seeking his help. Welkin, despite being a genius and in love with her, chooses this moment to casually ignore Alicia, and she runs off fighting tears because obviously if Welkin doesn't sympathize with her problems, she's just whining. The only reason he does this is to set the next major scene, when Alicia tries to kill herself because Welkin wouldn't acknowledge her pain and he rushes in for the last-second Cooldown Hug.
- Alicia and Selvaria both. Alicia spends most of the game wibbling about her powers that have no actual downsides, but she's convinced herself they make her inhuman somehow and Selvaria is mindlessly devoted to Maximillian even after he straight-out tells her he doesn't care about her except as a weapon. Thing is, they're the most powerful beings in the known universe, and literally no one is capable of forcing them to do anything they don't want to do. Even when she's not under the player's control and supposedly "berserk", she will never attack anyone who isn't part of an enemy faction in the war she already volunteered to fight (and is already ace-level Bad Ass even without her powers), and Selvaria has been a free agent willfully under Max's control since he picked her up. The entire story depends on both of them never realizing their own agency.
- Silver Surfer in the game of the same name for NES. The guy obviously forgets that he has cosmic powers, and tries to attack the bad guys normally. And is a One-Hit-Point Wonder. The result is legendary even among the Nintendo Hard games of the era. It's almost Bullet Hell with none of that genre's saving graces.
- Daikatana: "You can't attack me, this is the same sword from two different parts of time and will destroy the universe!" "Damn, if only I had some other weapons on me..."
- During the climax scene of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, Sveta briefly forgets she's an Adept and has to be prompted to use her powers by Tyrell.
- In Max Payne 2's Chapter 2, Max will single-handedly clear out an abandoned office building full of cleaners. Then he's forced to leap out a window to avoid an explosion, and the rest of the chapter is spent playing as Mona providing cover fire for Max. He'll get pinned down behind barriers several times over the next several levels and will be helpless until Mona can take out the lone man firing on him. The implication seems to be that he was injured in the accident.
- In 3 Max finally tracks down Fabiana as wells as Marcello, both held hostage by multiple gangsters, as he knew they would be throughout his entire investigation. He has the element of surprise, is heavily armed, and he's...well, Max Payne, a dynamite gun fighter who makes Time Itself his bitch when he has to. He walks directly into the room, gets disarmed, captured, and his failure gets both of the siblings murdered in front of him. He even acknowledges that he's kind of a screw-up.
- Also in 3, there's a portion where you have to take a sniper rifle and guard Passos as he runs from paramilitary thugs. Somehow, Passos forgets that he's a perfectly capable gunman and doesn't bother picking up any of the guns the dead goons drop.
- At the very end of Dead Space 3 Isaac and Carver meet the crazy fanatic leader of Scientology who is holding Ellie hostage, threatening to kill her. To dissuade him, Carver gives him the MacGuffin, allowing the maniac to free the Eldritch Abomination, potentially dooming the entire humankind. Now, what about using the damn stasis? You know, that power that allows them to almost freeze the target for an easy kill?.
- In Knights of the Old Republic, this is an actual plot point. Due to being mind-wiped by the Jedi Council, the protagonist cannot recall their time as Darth Revan, meaning they aren't aware of how they are able to understand so many languages, are so good with technology, and have to slowly rediscover their force abilities throughout the game.
- This happens a few times with a tech/biotic Shepard in Mass Effect. Due to being the leader, they tend to assign squadmates to a task instead, which perhaps makes sense when you have an AI that can hack anything, or a centuries-old asari biotics master. However, there are a few occasions where Shep really would benefit from using their powers, and doesn't.
- There is literally only one aversion in the entire series; in Mass Effect 3's "Omega" DLC, an Engineer Shepard can use a Paragon Interrupt to Take a Third Option when presented with a certain Sadistic Choice.
- Similarly, Dragon Age: Origins sometimes has the Warden forget their own abilities, and the rest of the world forget them too. For example - Wynne and Morrigan can suggest alternative healing options for Brother Genitivi's injured leg, but a Spirit Healer Warden can't. Likewise in the sequel, Hawke often forgets if s/he is a blood mage. Fortunately, Hawke often remembers his/her class in general though.
- Shiki tends to forget that his Mystic Eyes allow him to kill anything in Kagetsu Tohya. While most of it can be justified (it does cause damage to his physical and metal state when he uses it) there are a few moments where he would be in a worse scenario than if he didn't use them.
- In The Binding of Isaac, it's quite easy for the player to forget that they can fly, or shoot through solid rock, or effortlessly take out an entire roomful of enemies every six rooms, because they're so used to not having those abilities.
- In Pooh's Adventures, if Pooh has anyone with superpowers, expect them to forget about those when the time is right.
- When's the last time Daffy Duck flew under his own power?
- This was lampshaded in the short The Million Hare, as Bugs Bunny witnesses Daffy plunging off a cliff, which was recycled so John Madden could make the same observation in Big Game XXIX.
Bugs: I wonder if Daffy will remember that he can fly." (crash) "Nope, I guess not.
Madden: That's a good observation by Bugs. Why isn't Daffy using his God-given abilities?
- Might be a case of Animated Actor. Daffy never flies unless he's in a cartoon where he's portraying a duck either being hunted or flying south for the winter.
- Similarly, in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Daffy feels he's helpless and wishes that Duck Dodgers was there to save the day. Then he remembers that he's Duck Dodgers.
- And the flying thing gets lampshaded again in the Duck Dodgers episode "The Green Loontern". With the power of a Green Lantern ring, Dodgers makes a speech about how he now has the ability to fly, which his ancestors could only dream of ... while a flock of ducks pass behind him.
- On a related note, Woody Woodpecker would do the same thing. In one cartoon, he acutally commented that sometimes he forgets he's a bird.
- Kim Possible. In the episode "Blush" the "Wade-bot" launches itself off a cliff in the Amazon with Ron and Rufus, however Wade only remembers after the leap that he forgot to install the parachute. The Plot-Induced Stupidity comes into play when just a few minutes earlier in the same episode the Wade-bot had a hang-glider attachment to save Ron and Rufus from plummeting down a waterfall, and conveniently forgets about this gizmo once its could be useful again.
- To move the Idiot Plot of a typical episode of The Fairly OddParents, either Cosmo and Wanda's magical wands are stolen, or more commonly Timmy has to stupidly forget that he is enabled to alter reality on a whim. Naturally this has been lampshaded quite a few times. For example, in the episode "Where's Wanda" Timmy proceeds to turn the world into Film Noir and become a detective in order to track Wanda down... when he could have easily just wished her back. He notes, "All I had was my trenchcoat, hat, and an unlimited supply of magical wishes. The odds were against me."
- Also lampshaded in "Nectar of the Odds": Timmy unsuccessfully tries to make his lemonade taste better using cheese, taco sauce, peas, and chocolate laxatives. While Timmy goes to the bathroom (after trying the laxatives), Wanda wonders why he doesn't just wish for sweeter lemonade.
- Similarly, there are too many times to count in Danny Phantom where Danny seemingly forgets that he has the ability to become invisible or intangible at will. Early on it made sense due to it being clear he was still getting used to his abilities, and sometimes it was played for humor, but it seemed strange he would still sometimes forget this fact even in the later episodes.
- Justice League
- While this was a regular occurrence for characters, the Martian Manhunter is the king of this trope. He has the ability to transform into whatever Super Strong forms he can imagine — an ability he uses three times in the entire series. He'll stare at incoming projectiles with a surprised look on his face instead of turning intangible, or super solid or transforming into a form that cannot be so easily hit. In the season finale, Brainiac is holding everyone in an iron grip with tentacles. They struggle for an unreasonable time before J'onn remembers that he can turn intangible at will. In the Silver Age comics, he had even more powers, with new ones popping up all the time. Somehow, he just never used them with the slightest tactical sense. On the other hand, with powers ranging from Super Strength to making ice cream with your mind, it's hard to create conflict.
- As if to make up for it, Miss Martian in Young Justice uses her intangibility almost as much as she uses her shapeshifting.
- Superman never, ever remembers he has super speed, period. The many, many instances where Superman would be felled by an electrical field, despite the fact that he is supposed to be invulnerable. This got to be so bad that in the second season the writers actually started to show less of Superman getting taken out by an electrical shock or something along those lines, and more of his invulnerable side. There's also the many times when he and Supergirl could easily solve a problem by just using heat vision. Even when their opponent is nonliving they seem to forget that they're capable of this.
- In one episode, Flash has most of his body encased in ice by a villain. Too bad he was too distracted trading barbs with the villain to remember he could vibrate his limbs at super speed and would be able to melt the ice.
- And if you think the above examples are bad, you should watch the old Superfriends some time. "Gee, Jayna, here we are trapped under the foot of a giant space monster, touching each other. If only we had, I don't know, some kind of superpower that would allow you to turn into a small animal and me into something which could flow through the claws, we could escape!"
- All of Superfriends was made of this trope. It was parodied openly in a sketch on The State, Superman orders the other heroes to basically cleanup duty and then says "I'll stop the missiles... all by myself!" And then grabs his crotch with a smug look on his face.
- Seanbaby, as you can assume, mocked this liberally.
Don't be too quick to judge Superman's alzheimers problems, though. You probably forget about your powers sometimes too. You can't fly, but you have the ability to learn to waterski, bake, watch baseball, and put objects in your ass. If Lex Luthor came at you with a mind deconfribrulator, you'd be so scared you'd totally forget to learn to waterski. Also, you probably wouldn't jam anything into your ass. See? You forgot about at least TWO super powers, smartass.
- In Teen Titans, Raven is easily the most overpowered of the five, which is made glaringly obvious in season 4. As such, this is the only way to keep the entire team necessary. Raven often conveniently forgets that she can fly, teleport, and become intangible in situations where those powers would be highly useful. She also rarely uses her telekinesis to restrain opponents or hurl them away from the scene of a battle, rather than just tossing debris at them. She's done it before, to both allies and enemies, so it's not an issue of being unable. There's only one episode where she concentrates and simply cuts the baddie's armour with her power. One.
- It's especially jarring in that several times she's proven to be much more powerful than the entire Green Lantern Corp put together. Let's see some one-off-powers: she slices her way though a horde of robots, she can toss bad guys around with dark energy talons (not even directly controlling them; taking the having to put her soul into the object argument out of the equation), can become completely intangible for long periods of time and still use her powers, removed a bad guy from his gear and armor, mentally scarred Dr. Light, and at one point, arguably, becomes a Reality Warper. She essentially spends the entire series forgetting about her powers. After watching the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown she gives Slade in "The Prophesy" it's hard to watch her hold back/forget her powers so much.
- She states she has to "put a bit of herself" in everything she moves or uses her powers on while her powers are active. It's possible it's harder to do this on living things, especially hostile living things in the middle of a battle, than it is to do it to inanimate objects. It's not helped by only one episode explicitly stating that her powers go haywire if her emotions donote , and the completely left out point from the comics that the reason she has to keep such tight control over her emotions isn't just because of her powers, but to keep her father at bay. The fun part? The episode she states she has to put a bit of herself in whatever she moves, only moments after saying this, she uses her powers to restrain 2 guys. Even if you say she's only manipulating their clothes, it's clear she's capable of at least doing that to restrain enemies.
- She can stop time! That's listed under Story Breaker Power for a reason.
- No matter how many missions the characters in Code Lyoko go on, they always seem to forget that, first and foremost, while on Lyoko one cannot die from lasers and swords, they can only be devirtualized. They will also forget their most important abilities at the worst times.
- For example, Aelita could use her Creativity power to create terrain barriers around herself, but even in dangerous situations where she has enough time, she quite often forgets that she can do this. She is the most obvious offender, but the others are often guilty as well. Aelita also forgets that XANA will NOT kill her starting with Season 2, despite this being proven in the first third of the season. The "dying" thing is somewhat justified though. While they do just devirtualize, it's implied they can't go right back into Lyoko. It's also implied that Aelita using her powers too often or to make something really big exhausts her. It's not so much that she forgets her power, it's that using Creativity is Cast from Hit Points and each use costs 50 of her 100 points. Though this is more an Informed Flaw than anything else.
- Ulrich is a much worst offender. When he was first introduced, his Triplicata allowed him to summon two illusion of himself to trick the enemy. In season 2, it was upgraded so they could fight and hurt enemies of their own, with Ulrich once defeating an entire army of monsters thanks to it. Comes season 4, he forgets said upgrade when fighting William (who easily devirtualizes the real one) before forgetting the power altogether for the whole season. He doesn't uses it again until Code Lyoko: Evolution, and when he does, it's portrayed as just the illusion trick.
- In one episode of Darkwing Duck, Nega-Duck uses a device to steal the powers from the other four members of the Fearsome Five, and then escapes from the presumed escape-proof super-villain prison by using the Liquidator's control of water to part the waters of the bay and walk to the mainland. As Darkwing and the four villains watch, the Liquidator remarks, "Now why didn't I think of that?"
- This seems to be a staple of Drawn Together, especially in regards to Captain Hero, who takes this to The Ditz levels. More often than not though, he is just sociopathic.
- In The Mighty Hercules cartoon series of the 1960's, Hercules had a magic ring that would endow him "with the strength of ten ordinary men" (according to his theme song). Along with invulnerability and superhuman reflexes. In each episode, Hercules would go to fight the episode's monster and get the snot beaten out of him. And then he would remember he has the ring.
- Cheetara from The ThunderCats (2011) constantly forgets her Super Speed that can instantly defeat most of their enemies. 1980s Cheetara forgets the same thing. Partially justified in that her Anointment Trial episode shows her having a limited upper endurance. But most of the battles aren't that long.
- Apparently Bloom forgot about her healing powers in the 24th episode of the fourth season of Winx Club, since she didn't do anything to try to save Nabu.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars. All too often the Jedi Knights seem to forget that they have the ability to lift anything as heavy as a spaceship without touching it, jump high distances, and possess lightning quick reflexes. Curiously these bouts of stupidity come up when they're fighting a Badass Normal character such as Cad Bane (who seems to have the unofficial power of handing the Idiot Ball to anybody he's fighting at the moment), whom you think a Jedi could reduce to a pile of disembodied limbs within seconds. And of course it is not a coincidence that this always happens when around the series' original characters.
- Parodied on The Powerpuff Girls when the townspeople chase Buttercup. She starts running from them before reassessing the situation and flying away.
- Spider-Man: The Animated Series,
- In one episode Doctor Octopus kidnaps Felicia Hardy and J. Jonah Jameson and holds them for ransom. Despite Super Strength explicitly being one of his powers, Spider-Man tries to untie the ropes instead of just breaking them, giving Doc Ock time to step in and stop him.
- The same thing happens in the "Partners" storyline. Smythe has Black Cat bound and gagged in an electrified bubble, with the gag obviously preventing her from warning Spider-Man about the trap. She doesn't think to use her razor sharp claws to remove the ropes and gag until after the trap has already rendered Spidey unconscious.
- The Fantastic Four (1978) had Magneto unable to use his magnetic powers against a (fake wooden) gun. He suddenly concludes that his powers are gone. This is stupid enough itself, but he fails to use them even after being told it was a trick and the cops are arresting him. Cops with real guns, handcuffs and police cars.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- In the episode "Feeling Pinkie Keen". Twilight Sparkle is forced to take a leap of faith off a cliff to escape a Hydra when she mysteriously forgets she can teleport, as has been seen in at least two previous episodes, including the pilot. This happens anytime the plot requires her to be threatened by some impending doom. It is occasionally justified by her being under a great deal or stress at the time, such as a later example where she is blocked by a simple locked gate. While she can still teleport while under stress (indeed, she does it a lot in one case), her ability to make sound judgments has a tendency to nosedive under certain circumstances, usually those that involve her losing control or worrying too much.
- More a case of Forgot About Her Reputation, but in "It's About Time", it never occurred to Twilight that, as the personal student of the ruler of Equestria, that she would have free access to the royal library. Instead, she tries to sneak in. Of course, Twilight is the only one who forgets this, and when she is recognized by a guard, he amiably greets her and unlocks the door to the restricted section of the library for her. As noted above, this one can be excused by the fact that she hasn't slept for several days and is deep into a nervous breakdown at this point. Paranoid delusions would not be surprising in that state.
- In "The Crystal Empire, part 2" Twilight and Spike need to climb an incredibly long stair-case, and was complaining about it. Just as the viewers are wondering why she doesn't teleport, or at least levitate herself upwards, she decides to instead use a new power; gravity reversal!
- In "Bats!" both Rarity and Twilight should have been able to yank Flutterbat out of the sky with telekinesis rather than chasing her around and finally relying on an elaborate trap. Of course, they never do. What makes it even worse is that they are clearly shown using telekinesis other times in the very same episode.
- In "Rarity takes Manehattan" Twilight doesn't even try using her princess authority to help Rarity get a taxi. Or teleport her around. Rainbow doesn't try to fly her, or Applejack pull her in a cart...
- This happens to a number of characters in X-Men: Evolution. The worst offender is Kitty, who seems to forget that she can become intangible with some regularity. Xavier also seems to forget that he has telepathy sometimes. Wolverine is constantly surprised by people sneaking up on him even through he can smell people from a distance.
- Jake the Dog from Adventure Time often forgets that he has the seemingly unlimited ability to grow, shrink, stretch, and otherwise change his shape. Which would solve the central conflict of many episodes very easily. Unlike most examples of this trope, this is justified: he is an idiot.
- Toph in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Despite having highly toned senses through Earthbending she can't figure out that the group is walking into a trap at Lake Laogai or that it's actually Azula and not Ozai waiting for them in The Day of Black Sun. This despite both the trap and Azula being in caves made mostly of rock and dirt.
- Could be justified. Her senses work through detecting vibration. She can feel a human shape, but might not recognize it initially as Ozai (who she never met) or Azula. There's also the possibility of them being stationary, which could lessen her sight depending on how far the vibrations travel.
- In Batman Beyond, how many times does Terry forget about his invisibility device while fighting?
- Because it's been said the suit's invisibility function consumes a great amount of power.
- Ben 10 started out with 10 possible alien forms, each one with their own powers, and only got more as the story went on. Sometimes, the trope is justified by the Omnitrix screwing with him by not giving him the right form, but others he just seems to fail to realize one form would be more fitting than another for a specific situation. Ben 10: Omniverse puts it even further, where he seemed to have forgotten he can just watch the dial to see what form he is about to use.
- Humongousaur stands out as a particular offender. When first introduced, he was a Size Shifter capable of growing to incredible sizes. This ability apparently was forgotten after Vengeance of Vilgax. This may have been to keep the character from having too much role overlap with Way Big.
- This trope wasn't limited to Ben, either. Gwen had a serious tendency to forget she could fly and had telekinesis in Alien Force and Omniverse, focusing more on just creating shields and energy blasts. In Omniverse, when she gains the Charm of Bezel granting her telekinesis, she reacts in awe like if this was something completely new, even though at this point she has already shown several times she can easily do that of her own.
- A particularly ridiculous case in the Galactic Monster story arc of Omniverse. Sz'Skayr gets several occasions where he could easily possess Ben and doesn't bother even trying, even though this was the whole point of his goal in all his previous appearance, and, when his mind-controlled minions seize him, struggles using his scythe to get out of their graps even though he has the ability to turn intangible. Later, the climax ends up being a fight between Ghostfreak's minions and Ben's allies, where two characters involved have Make Me Wanna Shout abilities, one has Shock and Awe and another has a whole body made of Combat Tentacles. They spend the entire fight brawling like regular humans.
- Thanks to Fanderson's Chris Bentley for this one - let's take a look at "The Legend" from Gerry Anderson's Lavender Castle, about a spaceship whose crew is searching for the titular pink-ish abode. If you are a spaceship captain and know where the castle can be seen at a specific time, do you a) have your ship fly directly to that location and wait, or b) have them set you down and walk miles to it? If you said a), you are not Captain Thrice. No wonder Anderson didn't care much for the series.
- Dexter's Laboratory. Dexter often winds up feeling some karmic justice when he involves himself directly in things he could probably just invent his way around (for instance trying to find out what Dee Dee was doing up in the tree; rather than building some kind of spybot that could go up into the tree on his behalf he instead dresses up as a bird and gets himself trapped, giving Dee Dee the pretense necessary to screw around in his lab).
- On Archer, Ray Gilette acquires bionic legs early in the fourth season, and on at least one occasion, forgets that he has them when they might come in handy. At one point, this leads to him screwing up his back while trying to lift something heavy, because he had tried to lift with his back.
- During a Flashback in Transformers Prime, Arcee and Cliffjumper decide to run into a Space Bridge to escape a collapsing lair, instead of transforming into vehicles and driving towards it. There is an out-of-universe reason for this: the scene takes place on Cybertron when they still turned into their original alien vehicle forms, and the characters were only designed with an Earth-based vehicle mode. But it still makes little sense in-universe.
- IT administrators tend to accumulate Admin and God-Mode logins and back-end work-arounds. It isn't uncommon for an IT administrator to forget that they have unrestricted access to a certain program or direct access to its database, leading to much wasted time.
- Combat training of all types runs into this, and they spend a large amount of effort trying to avoid it. It is generally caused by the very differing circumstances of controlled training versus real life combat.