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Playing with Syringes

V: 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).

Super Soldiers 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.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Tongpu, alias Mad Pierrot, from Cowboy Bebop was the fatally-botched result of an attempt to create a Super Soldier.
    Jet: 'Cause really, there's nothing as pure and cruel as a child.
  • The Mew Project in Tokyo Mew Mew is a heroic version, strange as that may seem. Hey, it's either grab Japanese schoolgirls off the streets and turn them into Petting Zoo People or let aliens kill off the whole planet to take it for themselves, you know.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has Project F and other related Super Soldier projects created directly or indirectly by Big Bad Mad Scientist Jail Scaglietti, who was created and funded by the Space-Time Administration Bureau higher-ups.
    • Agito was found barely alive by her unintentional saviors Zest and Lutecia after being experimented on for an untold amount of time. Considering her size, the needles in question where almost as big as her.
  • Tenchi Muyo!'s Mad Scientist Washuu loves doing this with/to Tenchi, in order to find out just what makes him so darn special (such as being able to generate the Light Hawk Wings.) Her experiments are on the comedic side, though, so they don't usually hurt... they're merely implied to be rather Squicky, uncomfortable, and very, very embarrassing. Just remember, when Washuu puts on a nurse's outfit, straps you half-naked to a table, and goes "I've got magic fingers!" it's time to RUN, not give in.
  • Harry MacDowell in Gungrave takes control of Vulcan's Necrolization Project, which involves reanimating the dead into near-invincible soldiers called "deadmen"/"necrolizers". He uses it as a means to fully control Millenion and its assets. It is also the same technology that brings the series' protagonist, Brandon Heat, back from the dead as Beyond the Grave.
  • Mayuri of Bleach has done this. It's why Uryu and his father are the last Quincies.
    • Not any more... if the Vandenreich have anything to say about it.
    • Aizen and his cohorts did a lot of this in experiments to break the boundaries between Shinigami and Hollow. One early experiment, the proto-arrancar "White" created with the soul of a dead Shinigami, ultimately created one of the most powerful beings in the series The Hero Ichigo. "White" is the reason Ichigo's parents met and its remnants were reincarnated as Ichigo's Inner Hollow/Zanpakuto aka the real Zangetsu.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has hidden governmental labs in which mad scientists do horrible things to people through alchemy, including taking convicts, ripping the souls out of their body and turning them into sapient armor, taking wounded soldiers and making them into human-animal hybrids, and more generally, just turning people into Human Resources.
  • Pumpkin Scissors is generally seen as a Spiritual Successor to Fullmetal Alchemist, and also features this. Essentially, some mad scientists, with government approval, came to the conclusion that rather than making weapons or safety devices better, the soldiers needed to be tougher. Thus, you get things like soldiers who can withstand ignore tank fire, and "fireproof" soldiers who achieve this effect by having their nerves numbed and are pretty much living corpses who need to stay in metal suits 24/7 in order to survive.
  • The bad guys of Eureka Seven rocket past the Moral Event Horizon when they attempt to create new pilots for Type TheEND. As in, young war-orphaned girls strapped to tables with their eyes held open with small hooks, convulsing as insanity-causing chemicals are injected into their necks before their hearts give out, while the head scientist apologizes for the delay. Additionally they've all been given cosmetic surgery to make them look exactly like Eureka, apparently for no reason other than they suspect The END might actually reject a successfully drugged pilot if she looks different. The Sole Survivor of said experiments was... Anemone. It certainly explains a LOT about her.
  • Finnian from Black Butler got his Super Strength from surviving human experiments.
  • Orochimaru was exiled for doing this in his quest for immortality. He also conducted experiments on himself, turning himself into a giant white snake made up of smaller snakes.
  • A Certain Magical Index: Academy City does quite a lot of this behind the scenes. Much of it by the family of psycho scientists, the Kiharas. It would probably be easier to list the powerful espers who haven't been involved in some Academy City secret project at some point or another.
  • A group of human scientists attempted to create a "superior being" from scratch in Shin Megami Tensei IV: Demonic Gene. To absolutely no one familiar with the core franchise's surprise, it went to hell very quickly, creating Hiruko, a Humanoid Abomination who went on to become that world's version of the Black Samurai, from the reject pile, and Gina, who appears to be the project's crowning achievement. Scarily, Tayama has some info on the project...
  • In Gundam X, it's strongly implied that Tiffa Addil spent the early years of her life as a subject for such experiments, this being the reason for her borderline phobia of people.

    Comicbooks 
  • 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.

    Fan Fiction 
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • 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."

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.

    Tabletop Gaming 
  • 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.

    Videogames 
  • 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.
    • Subverted by Mordin Solus. While he did upgrade the Genophage he only did so because he thought it was the best long-term choice and feels immense guilt for this. He also actively despises this trope, seeing it as crude and a waste of life. He despises it so much that he completely flips his lid when he finds out a former protege of his was playing this trope.
      Mordin Solus: Never experimented on species capable of calculus. Simple rule. Never broke it.
  • 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'".

    Webcomics 
  • 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.

    Web Originals 
  • 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.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • 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.


    NightmareFuel/SuppressionTear Jerker
Past Victim ShowcaseA Tortured IndexPunished with Ugly
Patient ZeroMedical HorrorProfessor Guinea Pig
Visual NovelsImageSource/Visual NovelsRapunzel Hair
Mix-and-Match CrittersMake My Index Live!Pointless Doomsday Device
One Dose Fits AllArtistic License - MedicinePull the I.V.
Plausible DeniabilitySpeculative Fiction TropesPlot-Relevant Age-Up

alternative title(s): Sadistic Science Lab
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