No Man Should Have This Power
No one man should have all that power...
—Kanye West, "Power"
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
, but Power Corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Some powers — and responsibilities — are too great for anyone
to be trusted with.
A character may realize this on his own — perhaps the Big Bad
has just been defeated, and his Ancient Artifact
is now in The Hero
's control. After contemplating all the good he could do, The Hero
may realize that he can't take away people's free will. He may experience a "We're Not So Different
" moment, and gain some sympathy for his enemy.
Alternatively, the party may begin fighting over who should control this power, demonstrating their inability to be trusted with it. Eventually, a wiser member will point out that the only possible solution is for no one to have it.
In any case, the choice will usually be clear. The source of power must be discarded, destroyed, or sealed back in its tin. This may be a final resolution, a return to the status quo
, or even the beginning of a quest to get rid of the power. If the proper choice isn't made, this may mark the Start of Darkness
See No MacGuffin, No Winner
when the power is lost as a karmic punishment, rather than a willing decision in fear of the consequences. Also compare It Belongs in a Museum
. Does not refer to powers that only women have, or only The Chosen One or many
See also: The World Is Not Ready
, Status Quo Is God
, and Reluctant Mad Scientist
. If the power simply isn't used, for no specific reason, that's Holding Back the Phlebotinum
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Anime and Manga
- In the manga Tripeace, two rulers solve the conflict between their nations by destroying the magical fountain that they are warring over.
- Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night: The conclusion their respective main characters ultimately come to, regarding the corrupted Holy Grail.
- In Code Geass, Cornelia argues this when she tries to convince Schneizel that his plan to achieve world peace by nuking all the world's major cities and forcing them into submission is going too far. Unfortunately, he has probably the most chillingly understated A God Am I moment in history, and very calmly disregards her qualms and has her shot when she tries to stop him.
- Goku literally attempts to do this to one of the Dragon Balls in an effort to stop Syn Shenron from becoming Omega Shenron (again) in Dragon Ball GT. The results are: a Crowning Moment of Funny watching him nearly choke to death in the attempt to swallow it, a W-T-F moment when the ball APPEARS IN HIS FOREHEAD for no discernible reason, and eventually failure when Syn Shenron manages to re-absorb it anyway.
- In Vision of Escaflowne, the characters spend several episodes in a futile effort to keep the Big Bad from getting access to a sealed vault full of energy needed to implement his plans. Since the entire purpose of the nation guarding the vault is to ensure that nobody ever opens it, one has to wonder why they didn't just destroy the key centuries ago.
- One Piece has a villainous and justified version. The World Government would probably prefer to destroy the Poneglyphs that have the only known record of the Blank Century inscribed on them, with the possible exception of the one describing the location of Pluton. Said Poneglyphs are frustratingly impervious to harm, so the Government resorts to killing anyone who can read them. Tom the shipwright also kept Pluton's blueprints despite the risk of someone steaing them just in case he needed to build another ship to counter the threat of the original Pluton. He eventually does destroy the blueprints after they are almost stolen.
- The Marvel Cross Over Infinity Gauntlet ended with Adam Warlock acquiring the eponymous gauntlet which granted the user god-like powers. Not soon after that, the Living Tribunal, a cosmic being meant to bring order to the cosmos, declared that the gauntlet's gems must never be used by a single person ever again. The gems were then scattered amongst Warlock's allies.
- In an annual for the X-men Wolverine managed to acquire the crystal that an alien villain had tricked them into acquiring for it after the alien had killed everyone (they got better), finding himself imbued with cosmic power that he realized while thinking of Jean (this was before her return in X-Factor) no one should have and destroyed the crystal. It proved to be a hidden test of character and any species that tried to exploit the crystal (the lines of statues depicting those who failed included a Kree and Skrull at the head of the line) would be locked into a genetic dead end unable to continue evolving further.
- In Elliot S! Maggin's Bronze Age Superman story "The Day the Cheering Stopped", the Man of Steel gets a magical sword which was apparently created at the dawn of time. It gives him incredible power (even for Pre-Crisis Superman) and helps him defeat the villain. In the end he realizes the incredible power the sword will give him and feels that it will make him an all powerful protector. He decides he doesn't want this power and throws it into space. A voice (possibly the voice of God) tells him he did the right thing.
- Part of what makes the Winslow the MacGuffin in the Gallimaufry arc of Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire is the fact that it's explicitly indestructible. Even the Prime Movers don't seem to have found any better way to deal with it than to hand it to some promising species or other and let them hide it.
- Played somewhat for laughs in The Gods Must Be Crazy, when a tribe of Kalahari bushmen find a bottle, and it proves to be so useful in their barren habitat that they are soon fighting over it. The conclusion is that it must be destroyed, which as far as they know is only possible by throwing it over the edge of the earth.
- At the end of The Mask, the protagonist casts the magical mask into the river. (But subverted when his dog fetches it.)
- In Back to the Future, Doc Brown repeatedly promises to himself to destroy his own time-travelling technology, which finally happens at the end of movie 3. ( Almost immediately it turns out that he had built a new one.)
- Forbidden Planet: Dr. Morbius insists that humanity won't be able to handle the power granted by the Krell artifacts. Captain Adams resents Morbius setting himself up as the arbiter of this technology; when Morbius himself can't handle the power, Adams realizes this really is too much power for humanity, so he doesn't object to destroying the entire Krell laboratory.
- In The Film of the Book Jumper, this is why the Paladins are hunting the teleporters. "Only God should have this power—to be in all places, at all times."
- Non-supernatural version in The Dark Knight. Lucius Fox says "this is too much power for one person" when he sees Batman's machine that lets him monitor the whole of Gotham simultaneously. Further played with in that "this one time" he's willing to use it to catch The Joker, and also in the fact that the man who built it fully acknowledges that it's too much power for him and gives Lucius the means to shut it down once the immediate crisis has been dealt with.
- One of the complaints of the second Hellboy movie was that they destroyed the crown pieces at the end, when they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble by doing it as soon as they found them.
- In the live-action Transformers film, Optimus Prime says that if there's no other way to keep the Allspark out of Megatron's hands, he'll shove it into his own spark to destroy it. This option is a last resort because it would also kill Optimus. In the end, Sam shoves it into Megatron's instead. But as the sequel shows, turns out that doesn't quite work.
- In The Incredible Hulk (2008 film), Bruce Banner eats the flash drive containing the information he needs to cure his condition. However, in this case it's not to protect it from the military so much as from the Hulk, as Bruce realized he was about two minutes away from Hulking out. Later, when he's back to normal, we hear him... Uh, "retrieving it", so to speak, in a motel bathroom.
- In The Twins Effect one of the girls does just this to kill the Big Bad.
- At the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Harry chooses to get rid of two of the title objects, for precisely this reason (he keeps his cloak).
- In Vernor Vinge's ahead-of-its-time novella, "True Names", after Mr. Slippery and Erythrina defeat the Big Bad, they realize they're now in control of the world's computing resources, including the military nets, and can not only protect themselves against further threat, but can probably make the world a better place for a lot of people. Then they realize they could also be the worst dictators the world has ever seen, and reluctantly give up their control.
- In Larry Niven's novel World of Ptavvs, Earth and Belter agents must not only prevent Kzanol from retrieving a Mind-Control Device powerful enough to enslave the entire human population, but also make sure that the other human faction doesn't grab it for themselves.
- Subverted in Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain novel The Black Cauldron, where the good guys would like nothing better than to eat the titular MacGuffin, and half of the plot of the book is them trying to figure out how to destroy the damned thing. As it turns out, to destroy the Cauldron, you have to willingly jump into it, sacrificing yourself in the process. The climax of the book is the good guys all running for the Cauldron, attempting to throw themselves in it before the bad guys can get it, or before one of their friends jumps in, instead. It also includes a Tearjerker and Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, when one of their former foes reaches the Cauldron first.
- Used literally in The Guardians of Childhood when Ombric's bookworm Mr. Qwerty eats his whole library in order to keep its knowledge out of Pitch's hands.
- In Polish Dark Fantasy series about adventures of inquisitor Mordimer Madderdin, titular character once investigated disappearance of population from few small, secluded villages with traces of unspecified attackers and evidences of cannibalism. He finally finds out an alchemist who discovered a drug capable of turning anyone into fanatic, loyal and unstoppable killing machine, testing it on the first village and then slaughtering the remaining with his "army" for research data. After witnessing first-handed how a single drugged peasant ripping apart small squad of soldiers while being literally chopped to pieces and still kicking, he corners the alchemist with the remaining soldiers. Their commander starts to muse about how this substance could be used for greater good and to win back Holy Land... after which Madderdin orders his own men to kill remaining two soldiers, butchers the commander and the alchemist himself and then burns down the recipe and the lab, covering the whole thing as an act of witchcraft in the report. To hammer the point even harder, the whole situation is a severe case of out of character behaviour for Mordimer.
- The One Ring of The Lord of the Rings must be destroyed as much because of this trope as because it also happens to be the Soul Jar which keeps the Dark Lord alive. It grants "power according to the stature of the wielder," and there are a handful of folks around who might— might— be able to use it to overthrow Sauron, but because Power Corrupts, all that would do is set them up as a new Big Bad to trouble the world.
- On one episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the heroes embark on a quest to find the Sword Of Kahless, a very important religious artifact to the Klingons. So important, in fact, that whoever finds it and brings it back to the homeworld would gain the cultural/religious/political power to take over the Klingon Empire. As it turns out, it seems to corrupt its wielder faster than The One Ring, and after seeing her cohorts plotting to take over the empire and fighting amongst themselves over who gets to do it, Jadzia beams the sword into space. Word of God said that the sword was just a sword, with no unnatural powers; the lure of power and glory was what caused people to fight over it.
- The Star Trek Expanded Universe has the sword retrieved at least twice. In Star Trek: Armada, Worf's enemy Toral seeks to take over the Empire with a fake and goes after Worf in order to prevent anyone from finding the real one. Worf survives, retrieves the real sword, and reaffirms Martok as the Chancellor. In a novel, Ezri Dax retrieves the sword and gives it to Martok, who has been overthrown by his illegitimate son, causing the pitched battle to stop and every Klingon to bow down to their Chancellor.
- In Star Trek: The Next Generation, when Q appeared in "Hide and Q" he endowed Riker with the power of the Continuum in an attempt to uncover how humanity might someday surpass his species. Picard immediately pressured Riker into resisting the urge to use this power, ostensibly to prevent Will from abusing it, and also to win a wager against Q in the hopes of making the God-like being sod off forever. Even though he is corrupted by the power, Riker ultimately decides to remain human and has the power taken away, with the moral being that humanity will take its own path without needing to be uplifted by Q. This doesn't stop Q from continuing to harass Picard once a season for the rest of Next Gen's run, of course.
- Parodied in one episode of The Big Bang Theory. The guys end up with one of the actual props of the One Ring from the Lord of the Rings movies, and squabble constantly over who gets to keep it, while Leonard rolls his eyes. While they're asleep, Leonard takes the ring, and tells them he sent it back to Peter Jackson where it belongs. Subverted when it turns out Leonard kept it for himself.
- Doctor Who
- When the Doctor alters a fixed point in time in The Waters of Mars and thinks of himself as "the Time Lord Victorious", with the ability to dictate the laws of time and manipulate the course of history to whatever he wants, Captain Brook tries to convince him that nobody should be able to do that. He replies "Tough", and says it's for him to decide the morality of his actions. It takes Brook's suicide to shock him back to reality.
- The Doctor comes to this conclusion about the Key to Time at the end of The Armageddon Factor
Doctor: (scary voice) Are you listening to me, Romana? Because if you're not listening, I can make you listen. Because I can do anything. As from this moment there's no such thing as free will in the entire universe. There's only my will, because I possess the Key to Time!
Romana: Doctor, are you all right?
Doctor: (back to normal) Well, of course I'm all right. But supposing I wasn't all right?
- At the end of a series 2 episode of Spooks the team catches a hacker who has a program which enables him to hack any computer connected to the internet (he worked with the people who designed the internet in the early days, and has a back-door essentially). After recovering the computer with the hacking program on it, and considering what the government and politicians will do with it the team chuck it in the Thames.
- In Angel, the Gem of Amara is a magical ring that renders vampires immune to their weaknesses (staking won't kill them, they can walk in sunlight, crosses and fire are ineffective). When Angel gets a hold of it, he destroys it at the end of the episode since it's too dangerous for any vampire (even himself) to have.
- Shulk does this in the end of Xenoblade. He just killed Zanza by obtaining the same godlike power he had and was asked how he felt the world should be remade. His response was that it wasn't his decision to make which prompted him to relinquish his godhood and create a world where mortals were in control of their own destinies.
- Altair says this about the Pieces of Eden, and after beating the Well-Intentioned Extremist Big Bad, he announces that he intends to destroy it. He can't bring himself to do it; the possibilities of all the knowledge it contains are too much for him to resist, and later games show that while he never got Drunk on the Dark Side as he made sure to only use as little as possible to gain knowledge, he did spend most of his life trying to learn its secrets.
- In "The Tyranny of King Washington" DLC for Assassin's Creed III, Connor and Washington touch an Apple and experience an Alternate History where Washington goes mad with its power and declares himself king. Also during the game Connor drinks a tea made from a Red Wood that gives him power and slowly starts to lose himself to it. After Connor defeats him in this reality, they snap out of it. Neither of them wants to have the Apple after this, but Washington begs Connor to put it somewhere where no one will ever find it. Connor drops it into the ocean, while Washington's belief that a republic is the only bulwark against tyranny is only reinforced.
- In Devil Survivor, Gin's ending is what happens when you cross this with Omnicidal Neutral; you (in most cases) could have taken control of Babel, but instead you eliminate all other candidates, destroy Babel, and send the demons back to where they came from.
- In the Neutral Path of Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, the enlightened AI Arthur invokes this: he has acquired far too much information on the Schwartzwelt and its denizens, and knows that should he return intact to civilization, it will be misused and him glorified until he was deified by Humanity. The very idea is so against his core programming (Humanity should never lose control over their destiny, not even to him), so requests his main CPU be added to the components of the nuke intended to finish the Negative Space Wedgie, finishing both it and him for good.
- Tarnum in Heroes Chronicles: Masters of the Elements invoked this trope. Having conquered the Elemental Planes and become the titular Master of the Elements, he decided that his power was too great for anybody to wield and, after banishing the Elemental Lords back to their respective planes, deliberately had his own memory of the Elemental Planes (and the memory of every wizard who followed him) wiped, much to the chagrin of Gavin Magnus. But in light of what happened to Gavin Magnus later, Tarnum was probably right...
- The Triforce of The Legend of Zelda always splits apart to keep anyone without a balance of Courage, Wisdom and Power in their heart from obtaining the whole thing from the get-go. The backstories of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds also deal with individuals who do have the whole thing deciding to deliberately split it up anyway to prevent any wars among greedy individuals like the one that led to it originally being sealed in the Sacred Realm in the first place. A Link Between Worlds features a similar example with Lorule's version of the Triforce. The Loruleans faced their own war for the Triforce that tore apart the land, but the solution they came up with was to destroy it. They ended up realizing too late that the Triforce was the source of life for the land, and they nearly brought about The End of the World as We Know It.
- Invoked by Adam Jensen in the Kill 'em all ending. He says that humanity has the option of determining the future of augmentation, and that no one should have the ability to influence that decision. Not even himself. So he destroys Panchea and kills (seemingly) everyone with the power to do so.
- Subverted on Atop the Fourth Wall after Linkara acquires an insanely powerful spaceship:
Linkara: Is there any one person who can be trusted with this much destructive power? The capabilities of this thing are incalculable! And can I really be trusted to keep it? You know, maybe...maybe we should destroy it.
Iron Liz: Do you really mean that?
Linkara: Hell, no! It's mine now!
- Parodied on South Park. The boys see the girls playing with a paper fortune teller. After Butters successfully infiltrates their slumber party and steals it from them, the boys decide that the power to tell the future is to great and dangerous to possess, and destroy it with a spectacular explosion.
- In the Gargoyles episode "Grief", the Emir manages to take the powers of Anubis (mastery of death) away from Jackal and becomes Anubis' avatar. The Emir then does what he can to repair the damage inflicted by Jackal during his brief tenure as Anubis' avatar. After seeing the destruction wrought by Jackal and becoming the avatar himself leads the Emir to two epiphanies: the first being that the dead should stay dead, and that no one mortal should have access to this kind of power ever again. He collapses the entire building on himself, destroying any trace of the knowledge needed to bind Anubis.
- Goliath uses this to justify his withholding of the Eye of Odin. This has problems when he encounters the real Odin, and mistakes him for an enemy.
- He also uses this to justify sending the Phoenix Gate into oblivion. It didn't last long.
- In the Grand Finale of Generator Rex, Rex obtains the full godlike power of the Meta-Nanites as his family always intended. Rex issues two orders to the Meta-Nanites. First Rex initiates a Global Cure Event removing the Nanite threat. Then Rex orders the Meta-Nanites to shut down, stating that he doesn't want anyone, including himself, to have access to this much power ever again.
- The Bravestarr episode "The Wrong Hands" is basically the series's anti-nuclear episode. A race of militaristic aliens builds an enormously powerful cannon (powered by Kerium, of course) to "conquer the galaxy." Bravestarr recalls a time when, as a boy, he'd gotten his hands on a mining tool and accidentally destroyed the hut he and Shaman were living in. Shaman had told him how dangerous some things could be in the wrong hands, and that when he was older, he would see that some things are "too terrible and too dangerous to be in anyone's hands." Bravestarr destroys the cannon before it can do much damage.
- In Xiaolin Showdown after Master Fung's "We Win Because You Didn't" demonstration, Omi opts to "destroy" the Golden Tiger Claws, a teleporting Shen Gong Wu. He opens a portal to the Earth's core and throws the Claws themselves through it. Subverted in a later episode when the heroes need the Claws to defeat an otherwise-unstoppable monster - Omi uses the Serpent's Tail to retrieve them.
- Jackie tries this in Jackie Chan Adventures by destroying the talismans rather than allow the Big Bad to take them. Uncle then yells at him, because by destroying the talismans he's released their power into the world and now they Gotta Catch 'Em All all over again, this time with their powers imbued into living animals.
- Nuclear non-proliferation treaties are as close as real life gets to this trope.
- Knowledge is power, thus scientists universally invert this trope.
- The Roman politician Valerius Messalla was a devout republican (he gets a brief Shout-Out in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar as one of Brutus's military commanders) who was lucky enough to survive the Civil Wars. Augustus, the first Emperor, decided that this man of traditional Roman virtue would be a good choice for the new office of Prefect of the City of Rome (a sort of combination Mayor and Chief of Police.) Messalla resigned within a week, on the grounds that he was disgusted with the powers of the office. (Since the powers of the Emperor were considerably greater than those of the Prefect of the City, he probably meant it as a Take That.)