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Playing with Syringes
: What they did to me was monstrous. Evey
: And they created a monster.
A Mad Scientist
, supported by The Syndicate
and/or The Government
, will run a series of classified experiments to create something — often without regard to the well-being
of the often-living subject
, and the words "moral", "ethical", or "safe" will not be in the head scientist's vocabulary
. These experiments are often done to Disposable Vagrants
and Condemned Contestants
who are Strapped to an Operating Table
, but occasionally you'll see a Professor Guinea Pig
who uses himself and/or his family
as the test subject(s).
and Super Serums
are usually the goals of these experiments, but Mix-and-Match Critters
, Phlebotinum Rebels
, Psycho Serums
, and Secret Project Refugee Families
are often the results. They often become Disposable Superhero Makers
with No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup
, and have a great risk of With Great Power Comes Great Insanity
or Power Degeneration
. Expect a plot springs up with one of those victims having Escaped From The Lab
See also They Would Cut You Up
, for when people with superhuman powers live under the threat of this happening to them. When animals are involved, this may be combined with Pounds Are Animal Prisons
May overlap with Eye Scream
Super Breeding Program
tends to be this on a grander scale.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- V from V for Vendetta was created as a result of a bunch of experiments conducted by The Government.
- The Weapon-X project, run by Canada of all nations, in the quest to create the perfect biological weapon. We all know how warmongering those damn Canadians are. Horrible, inhumane experiments were performed on minority members ranging from African-Americans to mutants.
- It's most likely they wanted Evil Government Conspiracy backstory for Wolverine, but they already had Canada locked in as the country. Although the backstory originally had it as a joint U.S.-Canada project. Writers since then haven't done their research and/or slapped on their own patchwork of Ret Cons to fit whatever story they wanted to tell.
- Probably inspired by the Real Life atrocities committed against native peoples & the mentally ill in Alberta during the mid-20th century, but then, Alberta's always been kind of an odd duck compared to the other provinces. Another possible inspiration: the only semi-intelligent work done on project MK-ULTRA (as far as we know — the CIA attempted to destroy the paper trail, but that didn't work very well) was done by a Canadian citizen in Canada with the tacit cooperation of the Canadian government. This in fact did involve strapping people to an operating table and playing with syringes (mostly filled with LSD), while a speaker under the bed spoke slogans in a loop. Possible truth in television? People confirmed to have been experimented on this way include Theodore Kaczynski the Unabomber, Henery Murray, James "Whitey" Bulger, and others. David Icke claimed to have been a part of this. Many conspiracy theories revolve around this program and some link Lee Harvey Oswald and Charles Manson to it as well.
- Scientists sponsored by the United States, Britain, and Germany experimented on hundreds of African-Americans to reproduce the Super Soldier serum that created Captain America after the original formula was lost.
- This was the origin of Marvel's Cat (better known as Tigra), although her origin involved a triple-cross. Dr. Joanne Tumolo developed a process "for any woman to totally fulfill her physical and mental potential — despite the handicaps that society places upon her." Dr. Tumulo ran out of funds, but Malcolm Donalbain ("world famous sportsman, eccentric, and entrepreneur...) learned about the project and was "such a fanatic on physical conditioning that he agreed to subsidize further work." Donalbain insisted that his employee, Shirlee Bryant, be their test subject. Here's the double-cross: Shirlee stole the scientist's process so Donalbain could build duplicates of her equipment. Shirlee died in a test of her abilities, but Donalbain planned to open a nationwide chain of health clubs that would create an army of Amazons to carry out his commands. Here's the triple-cross: Dr. Tumolo had wanted her assistant, Greer Nelson, to be her first subject. Greer persuaded her mentor to test her secretly. Using her new powers as the Cat, Greer stopped Donalbain's plans.
- Warren Ellis's Desolation Jones is about an ex spy who, after being fired for constant drunkenness, "volunteered" to have this done to him. He emerges from it a hallucinating, insomniac, sociopathic albino with a completely withered body.
- "Project Rainmaker" from PS238, which performed experiments on a non-combative metahuman in order to find out what caused metahuman powers. Said metahuman then got a power boost when they put a Mad Scientist in charge of the project, and escaped, destroying the lab in the process.
- The project is later resurrected In Name Only. This time, it's about helping children whose powers fall on the "heart" spectrum find a use for them in the private sector. Unfortunately, no-one told the now grown-up metahuman, so he heads off to break them out.
- In the DC Comics New52 Resurrection Man, "The Lab" is a secret private weapons contractor developing Super Serum for the US government, going into war zones and using wounded American personnel as guinea pigs. Their concoctions created the Body Doubles, Director Hooker, and Mitch Shelley, but not the way Shelley wanted.
- A recurring fear of Green Shield and Fauna in DC Nation. Justified as Shield's ex-boss explicitly told her that's what he planned to do to her, and Fauna is an escapee from one of Luthor's clandestine projects.
- Kyle Reese of In The Hands Of An Angry Machine claimed that future Cameron did this.
- Winter War has Aizen, Mayuri and Szayel all involved in this in varying ways. So far, we have Mayuri's cloning of Nemu and destruction of her zanpakuto, and Aizen's Hollowification experiments. The results are varied, and they are all deeply unsettling.
- In Human Curiosity, this is the fate that befalls all the nations kidnapped by the HCS
Films — Animated
- The Secret Of NIMH, as mentioned above. The film version goes out of its way to make the lab a bit more nightmarish, with close-ups of abused animals cowering in their cages and rats reacting with agony to their injections.
- In FernGully: The Last Rainforest, Batty Koda was a victim of this. It left him unbalanced mentally (unless he was always like that) and with a malfunctioning sonar.
Films — Live-Action
- Apparently a pastime of Trask, given he does this to all of the Dropped a Bridge on Him mutants from First Class and intends to do the same to Mystique in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Captain America: The First Avenger shows us a rather heartbreaking shot of former cocky, confident ladies' man, Bucky Barnes, strapped to a table, bleeding and mumbling his name, rank, and serial number to himself (a strategy taught to soldiers so that they wouldn't break under torture,) apparently unaware of his surroundings. We later find out that Zola was trying to recreated the Super Soldier Serum that made Captain America and the Red Skull who they are. Given that both those procedures involved multiple injections of unknown chemicals and made their subjects howl in pain, it seems safe to assume whatever Zola did to poor Bucky in that lab was ugly, painful, invasive, scarring, and just overall violating to him as a human being.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier: That's not even getting into what was done to Bucky during and before. Yes, that mind wipe scene is horrible, but do you really think they used anesthetic when they cut off the rest of his arm while he was still conscious? And god only knows what they did before they perfected that chair of theirs...
- In the far more lighthearted Marvel Cinematic Universe offering Guardians of the Galaxy, we get the Humorously Misanthropic Comic Relief Funny Animal Rocket, whose heartbreaking drunken rant about how he's a freak of nature who achieved sentience during being repeatedly vivisected comes the fuck out of nowhere in the middle of an otherwise funny scene.
- The titular rats from Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Having gained superintelligence and much longer lives, some rats developed a sense of ethics and dissatisfaction with a life of theft. But others used their abilities to thieve on a much higher level than before which ultimately got them killed
- Taura from Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan books is the last survivor of a Super Soldier project of this sort.
- A scene in The Dream Merchant has the twins narrowly escaping being cut up so that a savage tribe can harvest their blood for a plague cure.
- William Gibson's short story 'Hinterlands' depicts what it would be like to be on the receiving end of a Cargo Cult - the first human to experience it does not end well, dissected in a Soviet laboratory. Also Foreshadowing, as an insane victim of the cargo cult reprograms her spaceship's surgical bay to dissect herself, committing suicide.
- Max of Maximum Ride, her family, her clone, her nemesis, her half brother, the mooks of the series and a surprising amount of other people are the victims of genetic engineering.
- There's a degree of this in Galaxy of Fear, as might be expected when the Big Bad of the first six books, Borborygmus Gog, is a Mad Scientist. The Empire funded a massive lab on Kiva for him and Mammon Hoole, who studied the nature of life there. Borborygmus sent the Emperor word that the latest experiment looked like it would backfire and create a World-Wrecking Wave that would kill everything on Kiva, and he wanted to go through with it anyway. The Emperor concurred, and after it was done hired Borborygmus to set up a slew of other projects. The very first book has a Villain Opening Scene where Borborygmus vivisects something on an operating table with a hooked blade.
- On Dr Franklins Island, Doctor Franklin gives his employees the impression that he's working for the US government, though he really isn't. For a long time he just spliced human traits into animal subjects, but he really wanted to move on to making transgenic creatures that started as humans - and when a plane crashes off course and authorities can't find the few survivors, it does not matter at all to him that the new, perfect subjects are completely unwilling.
- In the Darker and Edgier sequel to Hidden Talents, Trash is kidnapped by an ex-military organization investigating people with psychic abilities. They fake his death and keep him drugged into complacency for months as they test the limits of his telekinesis, hoping to contract him out to the US military as a weapon. Fortunately, he does eventually escape.
- Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky gleefully teeters on the fence between invoking this and playing it straight. In the Dénouement, while negotiating over what to do with the human POWs, the Spiders insist on keeping Ritser Brughel, unarguably the worst of the surviving war criminals, to themselves. When the humans concede that it would be fair to give him to the Spiders to be punished, the Spiders' response is something along the lines of, "Punish him? Oh, no. We just need a live experimental subject to help our studies of human physiology. Any 'punishment' would be strictly incidental."
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Adam is a partially demonic version of Frankenstein's monster who was created this way.
- Adam turns Forrest into a duplicate of himself.
- River Tam from Firefly was turned into a human weapon through cruel experimentation at the Academy that left her insane.
- Mohinder in season 3 of Heroes
- Max, the main character of Dark Angel, was created as part of an experiment to develop genetically enhanced Super Soldiers. (Among other things, she has cat DNA.)
- Babylon 5:
- The series has two rather nightmarish scenes involving this trope, both involving a species called the Streib who were a Henchmen Race to the Shadows: the episode "All Alone In the Night" where Sheridan is abducted by them, and the episode "Movements of Fire and Shadow" where Londo is prepped for taking on the Drakh Keeper, both show a similar Nightmare Fuel -inducing whir of surgical implements, needles, drills and such bearing down toward the victim's face, from the point of view of the victim.
- Something similar is also seen in Carolyn's flashback in "Ship of Tears"—here, it was supposedly how she was prepped for her intended fitting into a battlecrab as its CPU.
- What was done to the humans in the "live-aboard program" in V-2009.
- Fabius Bile in Warhammer 40,000 is basically this trope personified. For one thing he has a syringe gun (getting hit by this basically condemns the victim to a rapid but extremely painful death-by-mutation) and has a backpack (which is actually an extension of his spine) covered in surgical tools. He basically mixes the primordial elements of Chaos into some vague facsimile of medical science and the results are horrifying (and he will happily practice them on you, whether you want him to or not). Bile is generally considered one of the most generally twisted and horrific villains of the setting; for a franchise that immortalised the phrase "Grim Dark", that's saying quite a bit.
- BioShock 1 is the poster boy of this trope in Video Games. Just think back to how many EVE injections are used throughout the game by the player. And that's without delving into Plasmids and Gene Tonics.
- Even when you go into plasmids, that's still nothing compared to the Little Sisters, who literally play with syringes!
- Not to mention the surgical experiments used to turn those girls into Little Sisters in the first place.
- The "Les Enfants Terribles" project of the Metal Gear games probably counts.
- If it doesn't, the experiments that made Grey Fox definitely do.
- Also, Vamp from Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4 is another example. Using an experimental variation of the nanomachines developed by Naomi in Metal Gear Solid, he's practically immortal thanks to his Healing Factor - except if you pump him with nanomachine suppressors - the same kind needed to resist the titular "Guns of the Patriots."
- Synapse of City of Heroes is a Hero largely created by Crey Corporate researchers. We're not told exactly how this resulted in electrical powers and superspeed, but it involves being Strapped to an Operating Table with a bunch of rotary saws descending. His sidekick, the Cat Girl Mynx, is another Crey Industries escapee, except she was changed into a Half-Human Hybrid. Interestingly, Synapse's Mirror Universe counterpart Neuron is the one that does this to her, being a Mad Scientist himself. To a degree, many of the Longbow Wardens have powers created in this sort of way, although they at least use consenting subjects and are pretty heroic.
- The Shadows from Persona 3 were a result of this.
- It's implied in FES that they've always been there, as they are the mindless fragments of human emotion; the experiment only allowed them to be collected into one place, where they fused to form Death, the 13th Arcana Shadow which summon Nyx.
- A straighter example from Persona 3 would be Takaya, Jin, and Chidori, artificial Persona-users, created in exactly this fashion.
- Jack's Squad and Mitra in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. When confronted with live examples of biologies they didn't understand, they did the reasonable thing: cut them open and see what made them tick. What was a bit more unreasonable was when Jack and his scientists started enslaving demons en masse for organ harvesting and demon fusion (the syringe and scalpel sort of fusion) and Mitra started using humans as test subjects for insanity-inducing serums and other sorts of Body Horror-riffic experiments.
- The Mass Effect universe is rife with instances of Playing with Syringes, and Commander Shepard seems to run afoul of every single one. Dr. Saleon, ExoGeni, Binary Helix... and of course Cerberus, a N.G.O. Superpower that does things like arrange for a platoon of marines to be positioned right on top of a whole nest of thresher maws just to see what happens.
- Both Final Fantasy VI and VII feature experiments to create some sort of Super Soldier. Both games feature a primary villain going nuts due to these experiments. Kefka simply due to the process being unrefined, Sephiroth does fine until he realizes that he was used as a Guinea Pig.
- With Sephiroth, its also that they used cells from an evil alien, causing him to believe himself to not even be human.
- During Dirge of Cerberus there is an entire underground ARMY of people who have either been a victim of this trope or who were born from it.
- And let's not forget Lugae in 4—this seems to be his MO.
- The Batman: Arkham Asylum version of Scarecrow has a Freddy Krueger-eque syringe glove, taking this trope up to 11.
- DOATEC interrogates Bayman under drugs in his Dead or Alive 4 ending cinematic.
- Team Fortress 2's Medic has the aptly named Syringe Gun which shoots syringes at enemies. He also has an unlockable gun called the Blutsauger that shoots syringes that drain the life of the victim.
- Not to mention his "info card" which describes his "trembling enthusiasm for plunging needles into exposed flesh".
- Played the straightest in "Meet The Medic", which shows him performing open-heart surgery on the Heavy…while the Heavy is still fully awake. It's Played for Laughs.
Heavy: Should I be awake for this?
Medic: Heheh, well no. But as long as you are, could you hold your ribcage open a bit?
- Prototype: The entire backstory of the game is the result of this sort of stupidity. Blackwatch was originally a bio-weapons research and development unit stationed in Ft. Detrick, which was tasked with creating a virus that would target certain minorities. But in '69, they tried testing their weapon on a little town called Hope, Idaho. The result was a near-apocalypse and the creation of Elizabeth Greene. Fast-forward about fifty years later, and a derivative of one of Greene's viruses got loose in Manhattan. Guess what happens next.
- They've somehow managed to to outdo themselves by the time Prototype2 rolls around. Blackwatch and GenTek manage to not only turn the now reinfected Manhattan into a testing ground, but they basically run experiments such as the proven "lets-unleash-a-viral monstrosity-on-a-bunch-of-unarmed-civilians-and-see-what-happens" test. Double-blind, I'm sure. Of course, this being Blackwatch/GenTek, that's just one of a whole slew of morally-bankrupt activities they're working on.
- Subject 3 of Professor Layton and the Unwound Future had this done to him.
- Resident Evil's Umbrella Corporation practice this so much they could put a copyright on it. For starters, they have a bad tendency to hire morally bankrupt sociopaths to head up viral weapons projects and then act utterly shocked when they start losing control of them. The viruses themselves would be of questionable effectiveness as biological weapons note and to call their security "piss-poor" is an insult to urine. Most of the games can basically be summarized as "the inevitable result of hiring a complete psychopath to inject any living thing he sees with a mutagenic virus" or "let's throw some military types in a box with our escaped mutants and call it 'gathering combat data'".
- The scientific experiments conducted in Tower of God used to fuse children with powerful energy beings, and the general practice of using children to produce Ignition Weapons.
- Draconians in the webcomic Grayscale are subjected to this by Phoenix scientists, evidently not only for medical research and punishment, but because of the fact that the Phoenixes view other races, especially Draconians, as little more than animals. Nine, being a recent capture, is still in fairly good health and spirit, while Pai, who has evidently been there a long time, is little more than a skeleton.
- Grace and her "brothers" from Project Lycanthrope in El Goonish Shive. Big Bad Damien himself was the result of another project. Grace was the result of a sabotaged project to eliminate Damien.
- Oasis in Sluggy Freelance is stated to be the result of an unknown amount of this trope. Hereti Corp, who funded the projects to create her among other things, is shown to be quite fond of unethical science in general.
- What The Organisation does in Survival of the Fittest Evolution to induce the superpowers in the students. The Super Serum is a success, although the powers created have varying values of 'super'.
- Some of the experiments conducted on SCPs can seem a little like this, and others appear to be a result of this.
- Not uncommon in the Whateley Universe, but at Superhero School Whateley Academy, the best example now is Jobe, who tried to invent a serum that would turn someone into a drow so he could have his perfect girlfriend. The first person who got injected was... Jobe. Then there's Jobe's serum that turns people into orc-like things: his father uses people transformed with that serum as miners in his kingdom.
- In Worm, Cauldron abducts people against their will to test their Super Serums, which have a high chance of turning the subject into a monster or killing them outright.
- Unit 731. One of the most horrific war crimes of the 20th century. Not only that, they added Karma Houdini to the mix, with many members being pardoned in exchange for handing over their research data to the Americans...who didn't share it with their allies.
- On a similar note, Dr. Josef Mengele's experiments on victims of the Final Solution.
- There have been rumors that both NATO and the Warsaw Pact did unspeakable experiments during the heightened tensions of the Cold War. Of course, they're just rumors...
- Advocates of "alternative medicine" often try to cast science-based medicine as being nothing but this, overemphasizing past incidents of unethical experimentation which have since been condemned and repudiated by the medical community and downplaying the benefits of medical treatments. Ironically, a fair amount of alternative medicine better qualifies, with attempts at "curing" autism by off-label uses of chemical castration, chelation, direct injections into the cerebrospinal fluid, and so on.
- Of course, some of those herbs aren't good for you either. One plant has leaves that have medicinal properties, and inert stems. However, when the stems and leaves are combined, they create a toxic protein that just makes things worse.
- The Tuskegee syphilis experiments.