A form of Hollywood Science
where it's possible to, in effect, "drain", or "transfer", or "reverse" physical conditions.
The usual form this takes is related to Life Energy
— if you drain someone's life energy, they start to show the physical signs of aging. Transferring life energy ages the victim and youthens the recipient
. This treats aging as if it's the presence or lack of a substance, rather than a set of physical conditions; it would be like having a device which fixes flat tires by "draining the roundness" from things, causing nearby pizzas to turn polygonal. This is especially unrealistic with regards to hair as people who have their life energy drained immediately gain gray hair, despite the fact that hair is dead and the gray color comes from the hair follicles in the skin not putting pigment in anymore.
One variation uses life energy to transfer injuries instead of aging. Apparently, we might not be able to drain the roundness from pizzas, but we can drain "lack-of-bullet-hole-ness"; how else to explain why someone can drain your life energy to give you their wounds?
Another variation simply has characters "aged" or "youthened". There's no actual drain or transfer, but age is still treated as a substance, where it can be added or removed and you'll automatically get a whole host of physical changes. This can be especially silly when someone is youthened into a baby
, or a baby aged into an adult
. In theory, this could be justified by having Applied Phlebotinum
speed up time for real—except that the target never dies of starvation or lack of air, never excretes, never shows years' worth of hair growing in and falling out before it turns gray, never gets bored, etc.
Any version of this can be justified as "magic
", but it is common even in sci-fi settings. Usually labelled "Drain Life".
Sometimes used for Fairest of Them All
. May be a Power Source
to some villains or powers, or as the food for Horror Hunger
. If the character is using this to live forever, it's Life Drinker
. Helps when you use Powers as Programs
. Empathic Healer
is a more heroic inverse of this trope, where someone heals
another person by transferring the other person's wounds to themselves. Assets may be acquired via a Blood Bath
Transfer or drain for aging
- One of the monsters of the week in Zanki used leeches to drain the blood of schoolgirls, leaving them withered husks and making herself young and beautiful in the process.
- The movie Lifeforce and the book it was adapted from, The Space Vampires.
- In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the knight guarding the Holy Grail explains that, "The true Grail will give you life, and the false Grail will take life from you." When Donovan drinks from the wrong Grail, he ages rapidly until he dies, his body decomposes and turns to dust. Notable for the fact that Donovan grows a considerable amount of hair during the ageing process, and may well have died of starvation for all we know.
- In The Princess Bride Wesley has at least 31 years of his life drained away to the point that he's Only Mostly Dead.
- Featured in the MST3K classic Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders: the Jerkass subject of one story makes liberal use of a book of magic spells, but finds that afterwords he's suddenly been turned into an old man, since magic use drains Life Energy. His solution is to use the book's recipe for a Life Energy-restoring potion, but winds up overdoing it (or something) and turning himself into a baby.
- Used partially in the first X-Men film. After Rogue (having absorbed a large part of Magneto's power) is used as a battery for the machine that gives normal people powers, she becomes drained of energy, and her hair gets a grey streak.
- In The Dark Crystal, captive Podlings are drained of their "living essence" in order to provide the Skeksis with mindless slaves. Drinking the essence gives a temporary "youth boost", at least in appearance. Very temporary. "It always worked better with gelfling..."
- In the 2002 The Time Machine film, the Morlock leader gets partially thrown out of the time machine in overdrive and rapidly ages, similar to the Indiana Jones example above. This is even more strange, as this means he was basically hanging for centuries without trying to do anything about it. Actually, his hands should've been cut off the moment he left the temporal bubble.
- Notably averted in the Larry Niven book A World Out of Time. Aging is dependent on cellular poisons that can be removed. However, people who have it removed don't instantly turn young, but gradually get young as their younger cells can repair the body.
- Most magic in The Runelords books operates on this principle.
- In Dracula and in a few of the numerous adaptations, the Count starts off as an elderly man and becomes younger in appearance over time through drinking blood. Also, when Lucy becomes a vampire, she looks healthier "dead" in her coffin than she did alive.
- Fistandantilus of Dragonlance routinely drained the life-force from one of his apprentices to maintain his immortality, and from the description of the process it also seems to restore at least some of his youth. He still looks impossibly ancient most of the time.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Red Nails", Tascela does this. She intends to do it to Valeria.
- The second book in the Sword of Truth series has this as a major plot line - evil sorceresses drain the power of wizards and add it to their own.
- The Wraith on Stargate Atlantis. It was handwaved as "a series of complex chemical processes that we only barely understand." This, however, does not explain how the victims suddenly grow enough extra skin to be wrinkly like that.
- This can be covered by their body rapidly going through an accelerated aging process, so it still makes more sense than their hair turning grey/white.
- Rather than growing extra skin, couldn't they be losing muscle and bone mass? That could even help explain where Wraith get chemical nutrients.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Man of the People: An ambassador uses Troi as a dump for all his negative emotions, which in turn ages her rapidly.
- When the effect was undone, Troi immediately reverted to her younger self, including her grayed hair returning to black.
- And it happened to Dr. Pulaski when her aging disease was cured, only justified as the transporter basically restructured her body.
- Power Rangers Dino Thunder had a Monster of the Week who "stole youth" to be used as a power source, leaving victims elderly. Since Rangers monsters suffer from No Ontological Inertia, taking the monster out caused everyone to turn young again.
- One episode of Farscape involved a Luxan holy woman undergoing a psychic ritual with D'Argo, which unexpectedly resulted in her becoming far younger, because she was accidently draining energy from Moya, who underwent accelerated aging.
- In the Heroes online material, Linda Niles a.k.a. Leona Mills has this as her superpower. She also suffers from accelerated aging if she doesn't use this power regularly. However, she's a protagonist, so she only drains youth from trees and pieces of wood rather than people.
- Additionally, in the main series, when Adam loses his healing factor Or, more accurately, when Arthur Petrelli drains it from him, he ages super-rapidly and crumbles into dust. Apparently, healing factors in the Heroes 'verse merely suppress the symptoms of aging rather than reversing them or making them never happen at all.
- Babylon 5 features an alien artifact that transfers life energy. It can be used to heal illnesses, wounds, etc., but does not visibly alter the age of either the donor or the recipient.
- In the Smallville episode "Redux" the Freak of the Week's power to absorb life energy immediately becomes apparent as the victim rapidly ages.
- The Warehouse Thirteen Season 2 episode "Age Before Beauty" has Myka become an Undercover Model to track down an Artifact of Doom that's causing other models to age to death. The culprit reverts to an old man when he's Hoist by His Own Petard.
Transfer or drain for wounds
Anime and Manga
- The 1990s Spider-Man: The Animated Series had an arc based around this, with elderly villain Silvermane trying to become younger via magic and winding up turning himself into a baby. The Vulture constantly shifted between youthful and elderly form, eventually managing to stabilize himself as young by taking Silvermane's youth via the Applied Phlebotinum meant to restore him to adulthood (thus returning Silvermane to his original elderly form.) Later, Venom and Carnage were recruited by a villain to steal Life Energy to release a Sealed Evil in a Can. This resulted in rapid aging.
- My Little Pony had a one-shot villain, a witch named Somnambula, create a carnival as a trap for the Ponies so she could drain their youth and the unicorns' magical power to herself.
- The villain Mad Mod in Teen Titans used a magic cane in his second appearance to suck the youth out of Robin and into him. He then proceeded to rule over reality (or at least one city's worth of it) like a Beatles - and Monty Python-obsessed God until the Titans put him back in his place.
- ... that'd sounds like a pretty awesome god, actually.
- Busou Renkin: The special ability of Ouka Hayasaka's bow weapon is that she can craft arrows that transfer wounds to herself. She uses them twice: once on her brother, and once on Kazuki.
- In One Piece, Bartholomew Kuma is able to push EVERYTHING with his hands. Sounds useless, right? He can push even physical conditions out. So far, it has been shown only with pushing pain out of Luffy, which manifested as a giant red bubble. It then made a viable projectile, with a small bit of the bubble knocking Zoro to his knees. And then he took it all in. This trope's image is the end result. You can't see it in the picture but he is more or less unconscious. While standing. The wounds weren't healed, but the 'donor' felt great after waking up.
- If you use magic to heal someone in Ojamajo Doremi, their wound is transferred onto you. This is why healing magic is forbidden, as is magic that brings people Back from the Dead.
- Marvel Comics' most recent attempt at an ongoing series for Rogue took her absorption power to a ridiculous extreme; when she touches Juggernaut to absorb his powers while he is having a heart attack, she absorbs the heart attack. In a subsequent issue, she accidentally touches Gambit who is temporarily blind because of an eye injury, and is also struck temporarily blind until the absorption wears off. *
- Raven of the Teen Titans, at least in her comic book incarnation, "absorbs the pain" and apparently the physical wounds of whomever she heals. In one memorable scene, when her demon father Trigon put the "death stare" whammy on a little girl for being too childishly honest, Raven absorbed the "blood boiling" injuries from the child in a very painful-looking scene, becoming covered with welts and blisters until she could heal herself as well. Then Trigon vaporized the kid anyway.
- In the first X-Men movie, Wolverine lets Rogue absorb his healing factor to save her, and instead of his healing merely being halted, his already-healed wounds returned.
- Broken Sky does this with those that possess the yellow spirit stones, the healers. They can take on the injuries of another, whether the injury is mental or physical in nature. While they heal faster than most people, an inexperienced or reckless healer could kill themselves quite easily by absorbing more wounds than their body could handle.
- In the Torchwood episode "They Keep Killing Suzie", the resurrection gauntlet, when used with enough empathy on the revived person (a normal resurrection lasts one or two minutes), transfers the fatal injury to the user of the gauntlet. When the connection broke, the injuries leave.
- In the Babylon 5 episode "The Quality of Mercy", an alien device used by a disgraced human doctor transfers life energy between the people attached to it. The device was actually for executing criminals, a use to which it gets put by the end of the episode.
- This proves to be Chloe's Green Rocks-given power in Smallville. Her first use of it left her clinically dead for a long time, and her second left her with a finger cut in the same manner as Jimmy's had been when she healed him.
- In Heroes when the Wonder Twin heals people infected with his sister's illness not only do they get healthy, but their black tears somehow disappear.
- In the Star Trek original episode "The Empath", the titular mute alien could heal others, but suffered concurrent damage to herself. If she healed someone badly enough injured, she could die.
- A similar example in The X-Files, wherein a monster would eat people, and later vomit them out again into a mold where they took their original human form after a time... this had the effect of healing the people entirely, but passing all the symptoms onto the monster. The monster thus stacked up symptom after symptom, a living hell, until finally he ate John Doggett, who was dead at the time, thus passing the death onto the monster, who was finally free of the pain of disease-ridden life.
- In the game 7th Sea, there is an advantage in the Vendel/Vesten sourcebook called "Sympathetic Healer" that allows a player to absorb another's wounds into themselves. Likewise, they can transfer injuries into a target if pressed.
- Dungeons & Dragons (from AD&D 2 on) wizard spell "Vampiric Touch" (drains Hit Points).
- Psychic Powers "Life Draining" (drains Hit Points) and "Psychic Drain" (gains power points by temporarily damaging the victim's stats), 3 ed. has "Psychic Vampire" (drains power points, if the victim has none it damages stats temporarily).
- Forgotten Realms has wizard spell "Morgannaver's Sting" (stronger variant of Vampiric Touch) and in 3rd ed. druid spell "Healing Sting"
- The Psionic ability "Lend Health" from the second edition's Complete Psionics Handbook likewise works by way of literally transferring injury from the recipient to the psion using the power.
Aging/youthening without explicit transfer
Anime and Manga
- Kerry Ellison (Seraphim) of the Whateley Universe. When her powers manifest, she finds she can heal people but only by getting their injury/illness for a while. And the injury/illness from previous healings at a lessened level. Which means that when she heals an old woman with cancer, she's in agony for hours. And then she's forced against her will to heal person after person, taking on all their illnesses. Squick.
- SCP-590 is an empathic healer who follows this trope. When he heals someone's serious physical injury, he feels the pain they felt when they received the injury, and a scar appears on his body to correspond with the injury's location on the individual being healed. Unlike most empathic healers in fiction, he doesn't have an accelerated healing factor, so the damage he heals constantly accumulates in his body. When the SCP Foundation took him in, they had him heal several cases of mental retardation, permanently leaving him with the intelligence of a three-year-old child, thereby making him less able to resist his new role as the foundation's repository for suffering.
- Isumi's great grandmother of Hayate the Combat Butler is able to suck the blood of a target who is 'near death' to restore her youth. Isumi is hinted at having the same ability, but she's only 13, so it wouldn't have any effect.
- L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s, The Saga Of Recluce series has order and chaos magic. Natural aging is a breakdown of order in the body and an increase of chaos, which can be countered by using magic to restore and reinforce order to a person's body. While this makes a person healthier (and an order master is effectively immortal), it also causes cosmetic changes that make little sense, like gray hair returning to the person's natural color. In the first book, a secondary character goes from black to gray to black hair repeatedly while straining himself or using too much chaos magic, then recovering.
Anime and Manga
- The Master ages the Doctor 900 years while suspending his regenerative capability in the Doctor Who episode "Last of the Time Lords".
- This happened to Martha temporarily when Duroc almost took her in the Torchwood episode "Dead Man Walking".
- The various Star Trek series have had instances of rapid aging caused by diseases, etc. During a Next Generation episode, an away team was also turned into children in a transporter accident.
- In an episode of Stargate SG-1, O'Neill discovers a planet where people age rapidly during the night and becomes entwined in the Applied Phlebotinum that causes this. This is a semi-subversion, as Jack's hair grows very long as it goes gray, and after being cured Jack does NOT magically revert; he is told his still-actually-young cells will repair the ravages of fake age, but it will take a few weeks.
- Babylon 5 had someone caught in a temporal anomaly die of old age, even though his ship didn't have enough supplies for him to live that long. And then there was the affliction Sinclair had in the two-parter "War Without End"...
- In the episode "The Pisces" of The Star Lost, the crew of a scout starship discover that relativistic Time Dilation has No Ontological Inertia, so that once they slowed down they started rapidly aging to their "real" ages.
- Comic book characters may, depending on the story, "lose their powers" even if their "power" is that they have wings, a tail, etc., as if "power" is a substance and the wings, which are physical structures, only exist if the substance is present. (See also Powers as Programs.)
- Averted in Justice League, when a few 'Power Disruptors' are stated by Word Of God to simply be neural disruptors that prevent then from using their natural abilities. Hawkgirl gets shot by one and retains her wings.
- In one particularly absurd example from Super Friends, a power nullifier caused Batman and Robins' utility belts to disappear.
- Played straight and then averted to a hilarious degree on the 90s X-Men cartoon. While in the Savage Land, all the mutants temporarily lost their powers. For some reason this enabled Professor Xavier to walk although his inability to walk is related to a spinal injury and has nothing to do with his powers. When villains inevitably arrived, Wolverine announced "I've got news for ya, bub! There's nuthin' mutant about these!" and released his adamantium claws. However, without his healing factor he nearly passes out from the pain of grievously injuring his hands.
- Lampshaded later by Mr. Sinister: "I hadn't realised a side-effect would be your renewed ability to walk. I do hope you enjoyed it."
- Wolverine also lampshaded this after falling off a cliff: "I could really use some mutant healing power right about now."
- Averted, optionally, in the Mutants And Masterminds superhero RPG, where superpowers can be deemed Innate, not powers at all, and thus immune to effects that drain powers.
- Poor word choice, as the power 'Drain' specifically doesn't care if a trait is innate or not. If you have a strength Drain, you lose that innate Super-Strength too. What innate protects you from is things that target 'powers', such as Neutralize or Nullify. So if your Physical God gets hit with a Neutralize, maybe he loses his lightning blasts and what-have-you, but the strength that lets him juggle small mountains? That's just the natural physical capabilities of his race, therefor is 'innate' and not technically a power, thus it is not affected.
- The Fifth Edition Hero System RPG introduced the advantage "Inherent", which has the same effect.
- Also happened in the City of Heroes comic-book tie-in: The villains figured out a way to negate superpowers across the entire city. This lead to a great many Fridge Logic moments, as it even affected people whose 'powers' were magic, technological or the result of physical changes, but not those who had Charles Atlas Superpowers.
- There are also numerous cases of Superman's powers being transferred to someone else (including normal humans), despite the fact that his powers are a product of his Kryptonian biology.
- In the Silver Age and Bronze Age it was a general property of anything whatsoever from Krypton, including dogs, monkeys, and inanimate objects like his costume. This was completely separate from the structure of any specific item, so transferring it is more plausible.
- So they were transferring Krytonianness?
- The character Rogue from X-Men drains other mutants' powers and anyone's life force.
- Treating their physical forms very inconsistently in the process. She's been depicted as assuming part of Nightcrawler's inhuman appearance, for instance, but not Angel's wings; on one occasion she absorbed enough of Mr. Sinister's powers and personality that she effectively became him—but didn't turn chalk white, which one would assume to be simpler than growing fur.
- In X-Men: Evolution, Rogue drains powers and life energy, but not physical traits. For example, when she touches Cyclops, she absorbs his eye beams, but not his Power Incontinence, since that is an effect of physical trauma and not an innate part of his power.
- In X3, when Beast approaches Leech, his powers are drained. Apparently his powers include "being hairy", because his hair withdrew into his body as he got close, and immediately grew back when he stepped away.
- Same happens to Mystique when she gets her shot of Applied Phlebotinum, she loses her shapeshifting ability and looks like a normal human again. A bare naked
normal human Rebecca Romijn at that.
- The second example explains the first based on the events of X-Men First Class, where it's shown that Hank's hairy appearance is originally the backfired result of an attempt to use Mystique's genes to make himself appear totally human (his mutation had only previously affected his appearance in regards to his weirdly large feet).
- In Space Jam, the villains suck the basketball talents from five NBA players and use them themselves in an attempt to crush the Looney Tunes.
- The Sime Gen series by Jacqueline Lichtenberg is pretty much built on this trope. "Simes" (consumers) must have "Selyn" (Life Energy) to live. They can get this from "Gens" (generators). Simes are mutated humans, with additional senses and tentacles added to the arms. Gens are apparently normal humans. Simes must have a 'transfer' of life-energy from a Gen once a month or die — additional transfers can power special feats. At the beginning of the series transfer always kills the Gen, and Simes do not regard Gens as people, although Simes and Gens are inter-fertile and two Simes can have a gen child and vice-versa. During the series Simes learn how to have safe transfer and to regard Gens as people.
- A particularly egregious example can be found in Michael Crichton's sci-fi novel Prey, when the main character uses an electromagnet to force parasitic nanobots out of his wife's body for about thirty-second intervals (then they swarm right back in). During that half-minute, he describes her as becoming withered and old-looking without the nanites and more normal as soon as they flood back into her.
- Probably not an actual example, as this troper recalls pretty clearly that the woman actually was starved and abused, but the nanites were essentially acting as a layer of disguise, which the magnet pulled off of her.
- In an episode of The Adventures of Superman (and in the comic it was originally based on), the villain Parasite was able to drain life force from his opponents. But when he tried to drain Superman's power, that overloaded him, leading to the villain's demise. That ending suggests that too much of a good thing is bad, also poetic justice for hubris.
- Glory of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who drains sanity. She's a Chaos God. Judging by her deteriorated condition when she hasn't "fed" in one episode, it probably had something to do with maintaining some semblance of Order in her human form and mind to balance out her innately Chaotic nature and let her function in a mortal coil.
- The Friday The 13th: The Series episode "Vanity's Mirror" had a woman with a special compact mirror. If the mirror reflects light on a victim, he or she will die and the person who wields the compact becomes more beautiful.
- Both Lois and Clark and Smallville employed this trope. In both cases lightning can copy Clark's powers to someone else (in Smallville, the local Green Rocks also have to be involved) and both shows have had Clark's powers fully transferred into someone else with him losing them (in Lois and Clark it actually got passed around from Clark to Lois to Lucille back to Clark.) Both shows have also had episodes featuring youth draining abilities or devices.
- Something like this occurs with the Weeping Angels of Doctor Who. They send you back in time to live out your life in the past, then feed on the years you "might have had". The Doctor says this isn't a terrible way to go and calls them "the only psychopaths in the universe who kill you nicely". That is, until The Angels Take Manhattan, where they figure out they can make a "battery farm" of humans by sending them back repeatedly and feeding on them again and again until they age and die.
- In Unknown Armies, one of the perks of being a higher level Avatar of the Merchant is to allow them to facilitate the exchange of intangible qualities. They can buy your good fortune, sell your youth, or trade histories. The only rule is that the exchange must be must be mutually agreed upon.
- In Banjo-Kazooie, ugly witch Gruntilda plans to transfer the protagonist's sister's beauty to herself through a machine. You get to see the result on the Game Over screen...
- In the sequel, Gruntilda has become a zombie and plans to restore herself by draining the life force out of things. The ray also goes in reverse in order to revive characters who had been killed earlier.
- In Creatures, life and wounded are chemicals. You can't actually transfer them between creatures, but you can inject them. You can also genetically engineer them to make life out of oxygen, or, for that matter, make it out of wounded.
- Vriska Serket from Homestuck can steal luck, which apparently causes catastrophic misfortune to immediately befall her victims.
- A major plot-point of The Dragon Doctors is that everything living has a whole variety of essences within them; not just Life Energy but things which determine all characteristics. The first chapter involves a cursed valley that causes everyone who goes there to be turned permanently into a woman; it turns out there was an artifact that sucked up "masculine essence" from everything around it to promote plant growth. The reason this turns men into women is that the essence of both genders exist within people and getting rid of all the manliness tips the balance. Goro the muscular war surgeon gets all of all his strength (and masculinity) sucked out of him when he tries to physically attack the artifact, winding up a skinny, sickly woman who needs a strength essence infusion at a hospital later (it's treated like an organ transplant). Most of this is justified as magic working with "concepts" rather than raw physics.
- One episode of Static Shock featured a power draining villain, which captured several members of the Rogue gallery to drain them for his benefit; including Talon, a villain with wings. When she was recovering from the drain, it showed her feathers growing, as if the draining caused them to shrink.
- Another episode saw a large number of Bang Babies kidnapped and drained so Edwin Alva could restore his son from statue-form, which was the result of an earlier Superpower Meltdown from trying to combine all the potential powers of the Bang Baby Gas.