: When we throw the switches, how long before the ship blows? [snip] Parker
: We ain't outta here in ten minutes, we won't need no rocket to fly through space.
Any relatively simple (compared to the scope of the result) device or process which can cause the complete destruction of a building, spaceship, planet, empire, Weapon of Mass Destruction
, etc. Effectively an Achilles' Heel
for non-living things. The Evil Overlord
seems particularly fond of this trope, frequently installing it in almost all of his ships, buildings and other whatnot, even when there is no obvious reason why such things need an integrated self-destruct system when a non-explosive instant shutdown mechanism will suffice.
Though usually activated by a Big Red Button
, some self-destruct mechanisms require two (or even three) people
to enter codes, turn keys or push buttons
simultaneously, etc. The latter sort almost always comes with a countdown (or even a Magic Countdown
) until it actually goes off. All of this fussing about builds suspense and also allows the Self Destruct process to be halted once set in motion.
Sometimes the heroes change their minds, or they weren't the ones who started the countdown. Depending on the situation, the off switch may be uncooperative
(or there may not be
an off switch); this often results in a Wire Dilemma
. Other times it's simply a question of getting back to where the switch is. Either way, it is Always Close
In the real world, scuttling a large ship is a complicated process involving detonating explosive charges at various points on the superstructure - for obvious reasons, these charges are not
in place and armed at all times, but are usually placed just before the fact if it becomes necessary to destroy a ship. Persons working with sensitive equipment are often provided with a more practical "self-destruct mechanism" to use if capture is a possibility - a large hammer, fire axe, or other heavy implement used to smash the equipment and thus stop its being reverse-engineered.
Real world self destructs do
exist, such as special microwave ovens for destroying integrated circuits, electrically self-frying storage media, and self erasing disks are used in many intelligence situations; in all cases "won't smoke excessively, no toxic smoke, won't damage the vehicle or occupants" are pretty hard and fast contractual requirements.
Marginally more forgivable in the case of advanced spaceships; the Kzinti Lesson
, "A reaction drive's efficiency as a weapon is in direct proportion to its efficiency as a drive", can be made to apply just as well to the ship itself as to other ships.
See also Cyanide Pill
, Self-Destructing Security
, and This Page Will Self-Destruct
. Compare Load-Bearing Boss
. Sometimes related to Taking You with Me
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Spaceballs has a Big Red Button on Spaceball One that triggers the self-destruction of the ship. Lone Starr knocks Dark Helmet into it, setting off the countdown to the big boom. Later, the main computer gently informs Colonel Sandurz, President Skroob, and Dark Helmet (the only ones left on the ship after everyone else uses the escape pods) that they have one last chance at pressing another Big Red Button that cancels the procedure. They rush to do so, only to discover it's out of order, leading Helmet to lament "Even in the future, nothing works!". This is after, of course, Helmet unleashes an extremely loud, first-in-the-show curse.
- In the classic sci-fi film Forbidden Planet, the Big Red Button (actually a switch... well, a plunger switch, so kinda button-like) initiates a chain reaction that will destroy the planet.
- A 1990s Comic Book adaptation lampshades this by having one of the Earth crewmen ask something along the lines of: "Why would the Krel build that?"
- This editor saw a TV movie once that subverted the trope. A spaceship transferring prisoners has an accident that forces them near Earth, a trope in itself. The hero, a cop, must join forces with an alien crew member to stop the alien villain. He suggests going to the ship while the alien is on board and setting off the self destruct. The alien crew member is not only unfamiliar with the idea, but says it makes no sense, as the crew would be left stranded far from home.
- This was Something Is Out There, originally a miniseries, later edited down a lot and syndicated as a movie. Of course, after Tara (the female lead) points out that a self-destruct device would be largely useless, the male lead has to point out that in their present situation, it would be very nice to have one.
- She also notes that even if such a device existed, an ordinary crewmember such as herself wouldn't have been told how to use it.
- Weirdly, given the way it plays with tropes, Galaxy Quest's Protector actually doesn't have a self-destruct mechanism; the bad guys have to wire the ship's Applied Phlebotinum reactor to explode when they want to destroy it. But there's still a Magic Countdown, and it still stops at the last second.
- Lampshaded in that while they press the abort button with about 16 seconds to spare, the ship is rigged so that the countdowns always stop with one second left.
- Alternately, it may be that the ship did have one, but the Bad Guys didn't use it for some reason - e.g. they didn't know about it, sabotaging the engines was easier than hacking the codes, or they just didn't want to use a method that could be shut down by any of the command crew speaking a code phrase from anywhere in the ship.
- The Predators don't want their hunting gear to fall into local hands, and don't mess about, so they have a personal of these that can destroy an area equal to 300 city block. In the first Alien vs. Predator, it was explained as a way to keep Xenomorphs from spreading if a hunt on a friendly planet went wrong.
- Undercover Brother. Conspiracy Brother foolishly presses the Big Red Button and activates the Atomic Core device in The Man's island headquarters, causing the HQ to be destroyed after a countdown of several minutes.
- Alien. The Nostromo's engines could be used as a self-destruct mechanism with a ten minute delay before detonation ("We ain't outta here in ten minutes, we won't need no rocket to fly through space."). If the cooling units were turned back on with at least five minutes left, the countdown would be aborted.
- The Avengers (1998). After Mrs. Peel deactivates Sir August's weather control machine, it activates an "Auto Destruct" that destroys not only it but also the island base it's on.
- In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Kirk and company activate the self-destruct before inviting some Klingons abroad and beaming out, making this film very technically the final voyage of the starship Enterprise as advertised. As a Call Back, the steps they need to go through for activating the destruct sequence are the same as they were in "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield."
- The auto-destruct was used again in Star Trek: First Contact: faced with the Enterprise-E being overrun by the Borg (and eventual assimilation of Earth) the crew attempt to abandon ship and destroy the Borg with it. Things don't go quite to plan.
- Dreamcatcher based on the Stephen King book has a race of parasitic aliens whose biology is based on fungus — like those fungal parasites that eat ants from the inside out. This allows them to blow up their Living Ship like a puffball if attacked.
- Escape to Athena (1979). A Nazi sets the self destruct on the secret V2 silo before passing out. Telly Savalas is unable to avert the countdown, but gets all the good guys out while all the Nazi Faceless Mooks die. Given that there was plenty of liquid oxygen around, and secret missile equipment the Nazis wouldn't want to fall into Allied hands, at least there was a plausible reason for the existence of a destruct mechanism.
- In Resident Evil: Degeneration, WillPharma's research building has one of these that seems almost excessive... until you remember that they are experimenting with bio-weapons and killer viruses, up to and including the T and G Viruses.
- Buckaroo Banzai. Used to prevent the Red Lectroids from capturing the Black Thermopod.
- The Andromeda Strain, both the book and the movie, has an atomic self destruct device in the Wildfire complex in the event of a biological contamination. So figure what happens when the eponymous organism begins to eat through the seal gaskets...
- In the intro to Wing Commander, the NavCom AI navigational aid with information on approaching Earth safely is set up with a self destruct mechanism to prevent the data from falling into enemy hands. It doesn't work. The subplot was cut from the movie, but the novelization makes it clear that it was due to sabotage by a mole.
- Older than Television example: In Bride of Frankenstein, an entire castle has one for some reason.
- In The Muppets, Gonzo had set up his plumbing business with one of these, in case he had a chance to return to showbiz.
- James Bond movies
- The Aston Martin is fitted with a self-destruct mechanism. Of course, having James Bond as the driver usually makes said mechanism unnecessary. Only twice did one of the cars explode, and only in The Living Daylights Bond armed the Auto-Destruct.
- Two of them in You Only Live Twice.
- The SPECTRE space ship has a built-in self destruct device that's activated by an "exploder button" in the SPECTRE base.
- The SPECTRE base has one too. When it is stormed, Blofeld throws a switch that sets off explosions and a volcanic eruption.
- Transformers: The Movie shows that one of Cybertron's two moons has a self-destruct mechanism. It didn't affect Unicron at all. The planet Quintessa was also rigged to explode in the five-part season three opener in an attempt to kill the Autobots.
- Taken to the most unlogical extreme in Starchaser: The Legend of Orin, when after the heroes have saved the girl and taken over the villain's flagship. Dagg presses the Self Destruct Button and it proceeds to blow up EVERY other ship in the villain's fleet, except the flagship.
- The Empire Strikes Back. According to Han Solo the Imperial probe droid that discovered the Rebel base in the Hoth system had one, presumably to prevent anyone from capturing and identifying/analyzing it. It initially fought back when discovered, but when Chewbacca rendered droid vulnerable to capture by destroying its blaster cannon it immediately self-destructed.
- Event Horizon has the odd variation of fitting explosives to the connecting walkway between the command section and the engine section of the ship, for the event that the engines do something inexplicably stupid. Like, for instance, trying to drag the ship into Hell itself. For some reason, the charges are always in place, and can be armed whether they are attached to the ship or not. One main character who is Not Himself uses one such explosive to destroy the Lewis And Clark. The setup is used by the survivors to escape by the command section as the engine section returned to the pit from whence it had once been.
- In Armor of God, the base filled with Nazi Gold is equipped with one.
- Subject of a brief gag in Dr. Strangelove: "I think the auto-destruct mechanism got hit and blew itself up."
- In Robot And Frank, when a group of kids taunt the robot, Frank teaches it to say "Initiating self-destruct" and then to count down from ten to scare them off. It later turns into a Chekhov's Gag when the police try to dump the robot's memory.
- This occurs in both the book and movie The Andromeda Strain, where the Wildfire Lab in which most of the story takes place was constructed on top of a nuclear bomb, that is activated automatically in case of a lab breach. No Buttons or wacky codes here, just a automatic kaboom if the bug gets out. One man on the team has a key that can turn it off and save everyone - though the stations where he can put his key in on the last level are still being worked on. Then of course, they Receive the Call, start investigating the Alien Space Bug...and it gets loose. Adding insult to injury, of course, is that the Alien Space Bug feeds on pure energy, so if the bomb does go off, the bug will mutate and spell the End of the World as We Know It ... The trope is complete right down to the last second.
- The "last second" bit is actually played with. He stops the countdown with 34 seconds to spare, which "hardly seems exciting". The other scientists then inform him that the system also evacuates all the air from the level they were in 30 seconds before detonation.
- An early version of this trope appears in Robert E. Howard's planetary adventure Almuric.
- In the Known Space series, the Puppeteers have transparent, indestructible hulls. In one book, a Puppeteer scientist discovers a way to destroy said hulls by destroying the optical computer holding it together which is used in "Destroyer of Worlds"
- In the prose Daredevil novel Predator's Smile, Gary Wieczack had a self-destruct button in his warehouse to destroy incriminating evidence.
- The Mothballed Spaceship by Harry Harrison. The protagonists are trying to reactivate a derelict battleship that has been set to self-destruct to prevent it falling into the hands of anyone who doesn't have the correct codeword. Just in time they discover what the codeword is; a simple five-letter word in Esperanto — "Haltu" or, "Stop".
- Largely avoided in BattleTech fiction. In the famous scene in which Kai Allard-Liao wipes out the Falcon Guard by blowing up his own 'Mech (and thereby setting off the explosive charges earlier placed in the canyon walls), he has to wreck his own machine by pulling out circuit boards until the engine goes into overload because there is no convenient self-destruct trigger otherwise. Units actually wired to self-destruct on purpose are usually simple decoys such as those used during the battle for Luthien.
- Notably played straight in the videogames, where the self-destruct button is basically a flashy way to abort the mission.
- Inverted in E.E. Smith and Stephen Goldin's "Eclipsing Binaries": the face-off is between the Good Guys and the Dragon, when the Big Bad calls up and informs all that a self-destruct mechanism is ticking aboard their space station, then orders the Dragon to stay and die to atone for her repeated failures. She disobeys, holding off the heroes at gunpoint and stealing the Escape Pod... in which the actual destruct mechanism was planted. The Dangerously Genre Savvy Big Bad was relying on the heroes' repeatedly demonstrated ability to escape from a lethal situation in order to coax them into it, but hadn't counted on her minion taking independent action for once.
- Naturally, this shows up in Star Trek Novel Verse.
- Starfleet introduces them for the first time in Beneath the Raptor's Wing, part of the Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch. In the same novel, a Tellarite captain activates his ship's self-destruct mechanism to prevent the Romulans taking control of the vessel. In fact, there are quite a few examples; two Vulcan ships and at least one Klingon use the same technique, denying the Romulans capture of their craft.
- Lampshaded in the Star Trek Expanded Universe novel The Pandora Principle when Chekov, as the computer counts down, thinks to himself: "This is it. It's really going to happen this time."
- In Timothy Zahn's The Conquerors Trilogy, the computers on human spacecraft are equipped with self destruct mechanisms to prevent sensitive information from falling into enemy hands. The one example we see of the device being used for this purpose is subverted, as the task force admiral kept a personal log of important data contrary to Peacekeeper regulations, which the Zhirrzh found when sifting through the wreckage of the Kinshasa.
- Spaceships in The Expanse series have self-destruct systems which work by making the fusion engines explode. Military ships carrying sensitive technology generally have three self-destruct buttons: one on the bridge, one in engineering, and one in tactical. When the ship is boarded, the Space Marines will barricade themselves in those three rooms. If one is breached, the people in the other two press the buttons. The self-destruct buttons on the Donnager and the King end up getting used.
- Military starship captains in David Weber's Honor Harrington series will commonly scuttle their ships before handing themselves over as prisoners of war.
- In In Enemy Hands, when Honor's flagship is overpowered by Havenite forces, she orders her flag captain to surrender, and has him tell the crew that they should destroy any sensitive equipment and documents aboard before the enemy boarding parties arrive.
- In Shadow of Freedom, when Solarian Captain Myau witnesses the complete destruction of four battlecruisers at the hand of the Manticoran Navy, she has her engineers rig her destroyers' fusion plants to blow if enemy boarders aproach, then gives orders to abandon ship.
- Subverted in Tomorrow Town, a short story by Kim Newman. The villain's mad attempt to destroy the community by having Master Computer Big Thinks overclock the climate control is thwarted when Big Thinks helpfully informs the heroes that they might want to pull Circuit Breaker 15 about now. This also works to underscore the theme about how inaccurate the community's whole idea about the future is; upon confronting the villain after this, Jeperson notes that even in the far-flung world of the twenty-first century, it's unlikely that local communities or public offices will have self-destruct mechanisms just in case the incumbent doesn't feel like giving up office after their term is completed.
- Wizards in The Dresden Files can release an extremely powerful death curse. Of course this kills the wizard, hence the name.
- In Ten Thousand Miles Up captain Ateri learns that his krakun masters have decided to put multiple redundant self-destruct mechanisms into their Terraformer ships to prevent them from being stolen, right after he makes a deal with some pirates to steal the Terraformer that will be sent to the planet his ship just discovered. At the battle he suggests scuttling the Terraformer, and it looks like it happened, but really he hid it behind a cloak so his crew could steal it for themselves and colonize the planet.
- Great lengths are taken to avert this in The Hunt for Red October: When the plan is drawn up to detonate the Ethan Allen to trick everyone into thinking it was the Red October, six fuel-air bombs are placed at specific locations in the sub, releasing the explosive gas into the empty sub until the air is saturated, then igniting it all at once. When the GRU operative on the Red October tries to blow up the Soviet sub, he has to jury-rig a nuclear missile to detonate its solid rocket fuel all at once to do some, something that he specifically has to bypass several safeguards to enable.
Live Action TV
- Destroy The Godmodder: Used sometimes, usually whatever it is gets busted before dying, but sometimes...
- The UOSS took out close to half of the battlefield.
- Call of Cthulhu campaign The Fungi from Yuggoth. Dr. Dieter's laboratory has a self destruct device that will blow up the entire installation three minutes after the switch is thrown.
- If you're playing Paranoia, you work from the assumption that every robot or vehicle you encounter in Alpha Complex will be equipped with one of these, and the button activating it will be mislabeled. Ditto the Bouncy Bubble Beverage vending machines, the toilet stalls and many of the light-switches.
- In Star Trek Online, one of the ship skills you get is a self destruct with a 15 second countdown timer.
- In the Resident Evil series, the Umbrella Corporation is famous for simply loving its self destruct mechanisms, installing them in nearly everything it builds, from secret laboratories to Victorian mansions to trains. Justified since their specialization is in infectious Bioweaponry and we all know what happens if it gets loose.
- Code ATA standing for Ashes to Ashes from Super Robot Wars Original Generation series combines this with the Cyanide Pill by having Lamia be able to blow up not only herself but the Angelg and any surrounding units. Dunamis plans for the Brainwashed and Crazy Lamia to pretend to escape so that Excellen and Kyosuke can follow her only to blow herself killing both of them as well and sending everyone else into a Heroic BSOD. Axel stops her with the code DTD
- Units piloted by Shadow Mirror bioroids will initiate Code ATA on their own rides once its HP is depleted.
- Every ship in the MMORPG EVE Online has a self-destruct feature. Self-destructing is a viable tactic in a hopeless PvP fight, as it denies your opponent any chance of looting your ship's remains.
- All but one of the Metroid games feature at least one place triggering self-destruction, mostly due to Load-Bearing Boss. Sometimes planets.
- The titular house of the computer game Maniac Mansion has a nuclear reactor installed in its basement, which can easily explode, destroying the house, everything within it and everything within a five mile radius in a meltdown. The player can cause this in several different ways, including draining the mansion's swimming pool (which doubles as a cooling mechanism), pressing a very large red button that says "Do Not Press", or shutting off the power and allowing the electrical system to go haywire. One particularly bizarre way is if the player sets off the mansion's security system, which triggers a self-destruct sequence that blows up the entire mansion. This, of course, raises the question of just how stupid (or crazy) Dr. Fred is to install a nuclear reactor in his basement, much less buy a security system that triggers it to explode if it's activated.
- The first two Fallout games have these. Nice for Technical Pacifist and diplomatic PCs, 'cause it enables one to finish the game without firing a single shot.
- Fallout 3 also has an optional one in Raven Rock, the Enclave's main base. At the end of the Broken Steel DLC, you destroy the Mobile Base Crawler by targeting it with the Enclave's own Kill Sat.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, the Brotherhood of Steel's subterranean bunker in Hidden Valley comes equipped with one. Several of the various quest lines involve the option of triggering it to remove their faction from the field of play before the battle at Hoover Dam.
- In Gradius III and Galaxies, inputting the regular Konami Code will cause your ship to self-destruct. On the other hand, substituting Left with the L button and Right for the R button will yield full powerups.
- An optional $10 'Super Booster Pack' for City of Heroes gives all your characters a Self-Destruct power on a long recharge timer. It looks very cool and does quite a bit of damage, in return for causing you to be defeated and being slightly harder to resurrect. Since Death Is a Slap on the Wrist in this game...
- The Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game has a few easy ways to cause a draw — one of them just so happens to be a card called 'Self-Destruct Button', which does just that (though whoever is activating it needs to be at a HUGE disadvantage). The reason this is in Video Games is because the game 'Yu-Gi-Oh!: Nightmare Troubadour' had a story sequence where you had to use this or some other means to force a draw, otherwise you lost (even if you won the duel in question).
- However, Yugi gives you a few cards to do this in case you don't already have them — a Self-Destruct Button, and Ring of Destruction, the most notable method of forcing a draw (use it, kill something, and both players take damage equal to that monster's offensive power — naturally, this is used more often for the 'both players take damage' than the 'kill something').
- There's also a pair of monsters called 'Blast Sphere' and 'Adhesive Explosive', two monsters (one released before the other, but the other was made earlier) that, when face-down and attacked, will equip themselves to the opponent's monster and kill it at the start of the opponent's next turn. Blast Sphere has the added bonus of dealing damage to the opponent equal to the offensive power of what it killed. But naturally, for either to appear on this page, they both obviously follow shortly after... but it doesn't make the look on your opponent's face when they realize that they have just shot their own Infinity Plus One Monster in the foot any less priceless.
- Averted in Deus Ex. At one point the main character has to destroy an oil tanker. This is done through the above mentioned method for scuttling large ships.
- Although also played straight - most augmented people will explode after you kill them. For the Mi Bs, it's explicitly stated this is to prevent the technology falling into enemy hands. Some also have a kill-phrase you can speak to make them self-destruct without a fight. The sequel has people with a self-destruct that causes them to dissolve into a cloud of poison gas rather than explode.
- Played straight in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. One of the choices for the ending is to destroy the Panchaea by depressurizing the structure with a press of a button, killing everyone in it, including yourself, but not pushing anyone's agenda.
- In Wing Commander Privateer if you don't want to wait to get blown up or just are in a hurry to go back to an earlier saved game, you're given the option of self-destructing your ship, which takes you back to the main menu screen.
- The entire point of the first two Descent games is to find the mine's fusion reactor, and shoot it a bunch until a nuclear meltdown occurs (in the mines with boss robots, the robots are Load Bearing Bosses, although exactly why blowing them up still blows the mine is not explained). Then, of course, it's a mad dash to the emergency exit...
- The Harkonnen's Devastator tanks in Dune II possess these. Strange design decision since there doesn't seem to be any real use to them... unless if you're fighting against them as the Ordos. Suddenly, the Deviator's gimmicky but not too useful temporary side-switching attack becomes very useful as you order the tank to self-destruct in a huge and damaging blast radius while it's sitting in the middle of the enemy ranks.
- They also have this same ability in Dune 2000, where it qualifies as Worst Design Decision Ever - due to the game's primitive controls (left-click did everything - click the ground and it's a move order, click the enemy and it's 'attack'... but click the tank itself and it's 'arm self-destruct' with no way to cancel) it was terribly easy to set off the self-destruct by accident in the middle of your own army.
- In Quake II, the Strogg homeworld is riddled with self-destruct mechanisms that are activated by single buttons about ten times larger than the protagonist's head. It would have been impossible for him to have single-handedly defeat the Strogg without this being a ubiqutous design feature.
- World of Warcraft makes use of this trope in the Ulduar raid dungeon. Mimiron's lair has a Big Red Button labeled "DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON!". Pushing the button, naturally, activates the lair's self-destruct mechanism and the boss encounter's hard mode.
- Every building and machine in Machines comes with one, there purpose is unclear but could potentially be used with quick timing if your opponent uses Enemy Exchange Program techniques against you.
- Iji: One of the Komato logbooks talks about the various self-destruct devices for their bigger troops - Berserkers explode when killed, Beasts spray Splinters when they blow up, and Annihilators have massive explosions for when they finally bite off more than they can chew. The reason for this is that the Komato want to ensure that none of these big guns fall in the wrong hands - namely, that these measures do less harm to themselves than they do to the Tasen.
- There's also a mention in one logbook that generals used to have nuclear-grade warheads in their suit's self destruct. One ended up destroying multiple cities when he went out (which prompted the decision to use regular explosives instead). Ouch.
- In Mega Man X: Command Mission there is an extremely tough enemy called - appropriately enough - Meltdown. It will shrug off countless blows from your strongest party members while it slowly raises one arm that is shaped like a mine with a skull and spanners emblazoned on the side (no, seriously) during each turn. You have 3 turns to run away/kill it, and if you fail the Meltdown self-destructs, dealing the maximum damage you can be dealt. Obviously, your best chance of survival is to run away whenever you encounter it.
- Averted by name in Sudeki - the most Elco can do to delay activation of the "Peace Shield" is perform some sabotage that end up easily repaired. He later tell Tal point-blank that it "...Took years to construct, [destroying it] isn't as simple as flipping a self-destruct switch!"
- Aliens Vs Predator (2010) has the 10,000+ year old pyramid have a self-destruct sequence. Note that this pyramid was a large shrine to the first Predator to find the xenomorphs and the first captured Queen was buried along with him so maybe it was a defence mechanism but still, does everything their race builds have to blow up?
- In Star Trek: Elite Force, Virtual Voyager mode, there is a large self-destruct mechanism between the Captain and the First Officer's seat. Activating it makes Chakotay angry.
- In Space Quest V: The Next Mutation, the SCS Eureka is equipped with a jury-rigged self-destruct mechanism with an Astro Chicken egg timer. Using it before the right moment is a good way to get a Nonstandard Game Over. However, it is necessary to stop the Big Bad.
- WD-40's ship also has one that activates if an incorrect code is entered. Justified, if you don't expect your gynoids to ever have a glitch.
- The giant base in Over Blood started a twenty-four self-destruct countdown after an earthquake, giving people enough time to evacuate.
- Halo: In accordance with the Cole Protocol, all UNSC vessels in danger of capture by the Covenant must self-destruct.
- In Halo: Combat Evolved, the Master Chief and Cortana decide to destroy the Pillar of Autumn in order to prevent the Flood was spreading and the ring from being fired. Once they've recovered Captain Keyes' neural implants, containing the codes necessary to destroy the ship, they head to the Autumn and are rebuffed by Guilty Spark, who locks Cortana out and stops the countdown. So the Chief comes up with an alternate plan: crack the engine's shields and induce a reactor overload. They're successful.
- In Halo 2, Cortana plans on activating the In Amber Clad's self-destruct, to destroy High Charity, Delta Halo and Gravemind. She fails.
- In Halo 3, the Master Chief destroys High Charity's backup reactors in order to destroy it and Gravemind. The chief is successful, but somehow Gravemind makes it to the replacement Alpha Halo and starts rebuilding himself on it. The Master Chief, Cortana, and the Arbiter finally kill him for good by activating the incomplete ring: the ensuing firing shakes Halo and the Ark to pieces.
- Pretty much every Final Fantasy game has the Bomb family of monsters. Once attacked they begin a count down to explode in your face—unless you kill them first.
- Overlaps with real life, but many arcade games starting from the mid-80s on had suicide batteries. The way this works is that the game ROM data is encrypted and the manufacturer stores the decryption key on volatile RAM that is powered by a battery. The game is Lost Forever in that the key becomes lost once the battery drains, as the RAM loses the decryption key once it loses power. Once the battery drains, the operator is forced to call the manufacturer, which will either offer to "replace" the board's battery and key at a incredibly high price to the operator, or offer a trade in for a newer version of the game at a discount (note that suicide batteries and Capcom Sequel Stagnation go hand in hand). Since the 2000s, when arcade machines started using off the shelf PC hardware, suicide batteries fell into disuse and was replaced with licensing dongles with expiry dates on them, or games that refused to run once a certain date on the machine passed. However, the ruse is the same: operator calls and is offered a new license dongle or a patch to extend the game's expiry at a higher price, or a upgrade at a discount.
- Master of Orion allows manual self-destruct, which causes a ship to damage everything around. A special device increases the power of explosion and probability it will happen on capture — preventing ship from being captured (and possibly reverse-engineered) by enemy is the main reason to do this.
- The main plot of Mass Effect 2 has Shepard trying to find a way to stop the Collectors from abducting humans from across the galaxy. At first it's assumed that they live on their homeworld reachable only through the Omega 4 mass relay. Upon traveling through the relay, it's revealed that the Collectors actually reside on board a large space station, complete with a reactor core that can be overloaded to go boom. Setting the thing to go off only takes Shepard about fifteen seconds, so the entire mission basically amounts to fighting your way in, pressing a self-destruct, and getting the hell out before it blows.
- Of course, the base and its reactor being so ridiculously unsecure is justified since the Reapers never expected anyone to find out about their existence, manage to get their hands on one of their IFF's, survive the trip through the Omega-4 Relay and get past the outer defences.
- In XIII, in the final part of the SSH 1 Base mission, the base's self-destruct mechanism is activated and you must cancel the self-destruct procedure (by destroying the self-destruct computers) before the base explodes.
- In Crystalis, after the final battle with DYNA, a self-destruct mechanism is activated when the player throws Crystalis into the main reactor. The two characters are then shown running off screen as the alarm goes off and the reactor goes critical. The tower in the sky then gets struck by lightning and falls to the surface of the earth.
- In the NES version of Bionic Commando, the base's self-destruct mechanism is activated after the player shoots the cockpit of Hitler's escape helicopter with the Hyper Bazooka. He then has 60 seconds to escape before the base explodes.
- In Abadox The Deadly Inner War, destroying the final boss activates the Living Planet's self-destruct sequence. The player must then fly his way through the tunnels and out of the planet before it explodes.
- In the NES version of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, the self-destruct sequence for the Joker's secret base is activated when Batman destroys the final boss. The screen then shows Batman flying away in the Batjet as the base explodes, before the credits start rolling.
- In StarTropics, the spaceship's main computer activates the self-destruct sequence towards the end of the game and the player must find and retrieve the last Magic Cube and escape before the ship explodes.
- In the NES game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Manhattan Project, destroying Super Shredder (the final boss) activates the self-destruct mechanism for Krang's spaceship. At this point, the screen shows the Turtles escaping in the Turtle Blimp as the ship explodes.
- In Starcraft II one of the SCV's Stop Poking Me lines is where he accidentally hits the self-destruct and frantically tries to deactivate it.
- In Cake Mania 2 buying the second-fastest cake topping machine prompts the quip "Self-destruct button is on the back panel."
- In Mystery Trackers 4: The Four Aces the villain activated the self-destruct mechanism in his bunker shortly before the end of the game.
- In the Sega Master System game Zillion, when you reach the base's main computer near the end of the game, you must enter the code to activate the base's self-destruct sequence. After this, you have 300 seconds (5 minutes) to escape to the surface and back to the ship before the base explodes. If you do not escape the base in time, the explosion will kill you instantly and the game will end.
- The NES game Air Fortress has a similar setup: Each of the eight Air Fortresses contains a Power Reactor, which you must locate and blow up; once done, you have about two minutes to get to the escape hatch and your ship before the entire Fortress blows up with you in it. The challenge in later levels comes from the warp tubes not leading back to the same places they came from, forcing you to find an alternate way back.
- In the prologue of Max Blaster and Doris de Lightning Against the Parrot Creatures of Venus, part of which is played as the commander of a bunch of space-lizard pirates, Max hits the pirate base's self-destruct button on his way out, prompting the parenthetical comment "You knew you shouldn't have given in to the salesdroid's blandishments, but it was offering a great 2-for-1 deal on self-destruct systems, with free installation."
- The very last bit of gameplay in Rockman 4 Minus Infinity has you escaping an exploding Wily Castle, "Revenge of Meta Knight"-style. The two games even use similar powers (Wheelie Rider for Kirby, Hell Wheel for Mega Man).
- In Escape Velocity you trigger the one hard-coded to every ship by holding down Cmd-D (Ctrl-D in the Windows port of EV Nova) for ten seconds. You can escape if you have an Escape Pod or fighter aboard.
- The X-Universe series has one aboard player-owned ships and space stations with a ten second timer. Undock or eject before it goes off or the obvious happens.
- Andrew Ryan has one built into Rapture in Bioshock 1. Completely justified in that Ryan has an extremely warped perspective - if he cannot control Rapture, he will see it reduced to nothing before he'll see it in the hands of another. It's even foreshadowed in Arcadia, when he tells you of the time he set fire to a forest he owned when ordered to turn it over to the government. At that time, he set parts of Rapture to self-destruct by poisoning the trees in Arcadia, destroying Rapture's main source of oxygen.
- In the sequel, Lamb sets the prison area to self-destruct when it's obvious that her daughter, who was the crux of her whole operation, is utterly defying her by becoming a Big Sister.
- And in Minerva's Den DLC, turning off The Thinker, Rapture's Core AI, means that all of the city-supporting AI systems like, say, "pressure regulation" and "air supply systems" are dumbed down to morons. Tenenbaum panics and urges Sigma to kill Wahl quickly.
- The Shofixti Scout in Star Control 2 has a "Glory Device" strapped to its hull as a secondary weapon. The blast can destroy much larger ships. It requires three switches to activate, but most pilots throw the first two immediately and then keep one finger hovering over the trigger.
- In Hidden Expedition 7: The Crown of Solomon the villain's late partner's laptop self-destructs after your character reads a message identifying said villain and locates his current position via GPS.
- Arcade Game Xenophobe. Each base had a self destruct device that counted down. A player could temporarily deactivate the device by finding and entering a code. If the timer ever reached zero, the players would be beamed off the base and the base would explode.
- In Marvel Ultimate Alliance, the SHIELD helicarrier houses nuclear missiles equipped with a self-destruct mechanism using conventional explosives. When one such missile is hijacked in the opening mission, the heroes have to rush to the appropriate console to trigger its self-destruction.
- The robotic Guardians of the Ancients in Might and Magic all have the same self destruct code "0-0-1". When Sheltem the Dark went rogue, Corak attempted to trigger Sheltem's self-destruct by repeating the code. Unfortunately, Sheltem had predicted this and shut off his own auditory receptors so he couldn't hear it. During their final battle in the fifth game, Corak triggers his own self-destruct to destroy Sheltem once and for all.
- Haloid. The chest (front and back) section of MC's Spartan armor.
- When Julia gets beaten by Scrooge McDuck and Vegeta in Ducktalez 7, Julia activates it, causing the two to run away. Julia then deactivates it, but the money bin's AI reactivates it, hoping to take Julia with her.
- Sluggy Freelance
- In the "Isle of Dr. Steve", Dr. Steve's lab naturally has a self-destruct mechanism. It gets activated solely for the reason that Bun-bun asks Kiki to press a button on Dr. Steve's computer.
"Kiki, did you hit the override button like I told you?"
"I hit them all, so I must have hit that one!"
- Subverted and parodied in Exterminatus Now, where, while trying to foil the plot of bunch of evil scientists in the arctic, Lothar mocks Virus for suggesting the possibility of a self-destruct switch, which Virus indeed finds in the form of a Big Red Button. As it happened, the resident villains were Dangerously Genre Savvy, as the button instead triggered the alarm.
Alarm: You have activated the decoy self-destruct. Please remain where you are. Armed guards will arrive immediately to capture you or shoot you in the head, depending on their mood. Real evil labs don't have "self-destruct" systems in their control room, what are you, stupid?
Lothar: Ha! I win! Wait, shit.
- Played with in Real Life Comics, when Tony's clone activates the self-destruct on his space station before being killed. When Tony's friends ask for the override code, he points out that having an override code would defeat the entire purpose of a self-destruct system.
- In this The B-Movie Comic strip, Biff *cough* "discovers" such a mechanism in pharoh Rutentuten's pyramid.
- As usual, this trope gets a mention in The Order of the Stick with this strip. The question "why would you even have a self-destruct on that?" is later made into a plot point.
- Featured in a Welcome to Pixelton strip... except the button was in a guy's stomach.
- Bob and George Self-Destruct will occur in two minutes!
- A subversion of this in Two Evil Scientists became a Running Gag for the comic
- Fans! has this on handguns, for the occasional Desperation Attack.
- Schlock Mercenary shows one of reasons for these — Brad wanted one in his flying tank, to keep it from crashing into an occupied condominium.
- In Freefall, the Savage Chicken is said to have a self-destruct mechanism. When Niomi and Tangent first show up to answer Florence's call for a repair crew, Helix's overenthusiasm and lack of thinking out things before acting results in her asking if he is said mechanism.
- Parodied in this News Biscuit article, "Self-destruct buttons are 'a needless risk'".
- In the Acceptable TV short "Homeless James Bond" one of the villains' lair is just a very large conglomerate of cardboard boxes and the self-destruct mechanism which the titular hero activates is a long strip of duct tape which once pulled away causes the "lair" to collapse, accompanied by a Big "NO!" courtesy of the villain.
- A Running Gag on Villain Source (Your Online Source For Everything Evil) in which every advertised Supervillain Lair comes with an "obvious and accessible self-destruct mechanism". There's even a portable version!
- SCP Foundation keeps nukes on sites containing Keter class SCP, to be used if containment is completely lost, and can't be reestablished. Of course, since to be Keter, the object basically has to be able to end the world, it is justified.
- The Evil Overlord List says that if you must include a self destruct on your evil lair it shouldn't be triggered by the Big Red Button labeled "Self Destruct Mechanism", that button just triggers a hail of bullets
- In Worm, Coil's base has a phone-activated demolition command that Tattletale activates to trap Noelle/Echidna.
- In Phaeton the UD, Planet Shield and The Orphange all incorporate these into their bases and some other machines, that way nobody can swipe their tech that "adams just aren't ready for".
- Haloid. MC's Spartan armor has a detachable breastplate that can be set to detonate like a nuclear bomb.
- Spoofed in the Ren and Stimpy episode "Space Madness", where the narrator ends up badgering Stimpy into pressing the "History Eraser Button".
- The shiny, candy-like button.
- Lampshade Hanging on Codename: Kids Next Door: in one episode, Cree is en route to the KND HQ on the moon to have her memories erased, but escapes when the two KND agents piloting the ship accidentally activate the "Blow Up The Engines" button, which prompts her to incredulously ask Numbuh 5 why a spaceship would need such a device. (Actually, Fridge Brilliance would suggest that it would need one for exactly what happened: a prisoner getting free and taking over the ship. If she had been able to commandeer the ship, it would have been really bad.)
- In SpongeBob SquarePants one of Plankton's schemes is foiled thanks to the coin-operated self destruct he foolishly installed into his mechanical replica of Mr. Krabs.
- Subverted in The Venture Bros.: the old Team Venture once raided an enemy base that was set to self destruct, but malfunctioned. They then decided to move in. Then double subverted when the thing comes back online from someone touching the control panel. Thankfully Richard Impossible absorbed the explosion by eating the bomb in an attempted Heroic Sacrifice/failed suicide attempt.
- Goddard from Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius has a self-destruct mechanism that can be activated by voice command; afterward, he can reassemble himself.
- Specifically: "Play dead, Goddard!"
- In an episode of Doug, the class gets snowed into their school after hours, but Bebe Bluff is prepared with a laptop that can connect to the Internet via her own personal satellite. Unfortunately, before they succeed in actually contacting help, someone pushes the button on the laptop that causes the satellite to self-destruct. Bebe berates the person for being an idiot, but they then reply that having a button that does that is even more idiotic, which Bebe realizes is true.
- In the Transformers episode "B.O.T." (widely considered one of their worst episodes of all time) Megatron's Orbital Disruptor Cannon is equipped with a clearly labelled Overload button. Its sole function is, as the name implies, to make the cannon overload and explode. Yes, Megatron, putting this button on your cannon was a wonderful idea.
- Parodied in Futurama:
George Takei: Do you guys have a self-destruct code, like, "Destruct sequence 1-A, 2-B, 3—" [Bender's head explodes]
Bender: Thanks a lot, Takei. Now everybody knows!
- Jonny Quest: The missile in the TOS episode "Arctic Splashdown" has a self destruct mechanism so it can be destroyed in mid-flight if it goes off course.
- "Versus Dr. Freezoids". When Birdman defeats him, the title villain sets his Freezoid Generator to overfreeze. This causes his base to become a block of ice, expand and explode.
- "Number One". The main body of the title villain's pirate satellite has a timer-controlled bomb activated by a "destruct switch".
- "The Deadly Duplicator". Professor Taggert's duplicate uses a Destruct Bomb to destroy his lab.
- "Avenger for Ransom". Zardo captures Birdman and Avenger, puts them into a rocket and launches them into space. Just to make sure they don't survive there's an explosive device aboard the space capsule they're in that will blow it up ten minutes after launch.
- "Serpents of the Deep". At the end of the episode Dr. Shark flees his submarine and leaves a self destruct bomb on board with a time delay in the hope that Birdman and Avenger will land on it and be destroyed. Luckily Birdman recognizes the ploy and avoids the trap.
- The Herculoids episode "Malak and the Metal Apes". The Metal Apes (robots) have one, which can be activated by a Big Red Button in Malak's observation room inside his base.
- Phineas and Ferb: Dr. Doofenshmirtz puts self-destruct buttons on practically everything; the first time we see one activated is in "The Magnificent Few", where the button installed inside Perry's trap blows up the island hideout.
- And by "everything", we mean "everything"; in "Bee Story", Doofenshmirtz reveals he has a self-destruct button on his underwear... which he promptly activates.
- Early on in Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension, when Phineas, Ferb, and Dr. Doofenshmirtz first meet, it's mentioned that the reason Doofenshmirtz's Otherdimensioninator doesn't work is because he improperly wired the self-destruct button. Phineas asks him why it's neccessary, and Doofenshmirtz slowly realizes that he doesn't need it.
- Dr. Doofenshmirtz puts these on just about every "inator" he's ever built. In the movie, he also mentions attempting to take over with an army of robots...and put the self destruct buttons on the bottoms of their feet...
- Dexter's Laboratory, Dial M for Monkey episode "Huntor". After Monkey captures him, Huntor activates a device that will destroy the asteroid they're on in 30 seconds. Huntor assumes that Monkey will be distracted rescuing his friends (including Agent Honeydew), allowing Huntor to get away in his escape ship.
- Apperently all Irkens and S.I.R units in Invader Zim have one. This is shown in the first episode, when Dib first tells everyone Zim's a alien; Zim panics and brings out one of these, but puts it away, never to be seen again when everyone dismisses Dib as crazy. And in "Dib's Wonderful Life of Doom" Zim commands GIR to self destruct, which he gleefully does.
- The Mega-Doomer stealth mech is also equipped with such a device (causing the Tallest to briefly hope Zim was destroyed with it), and the Resisty's ship has a "Shrinky Self Destruct".
- In the Christmas Episode of Kim Possible, Ron and Drakken accidentally trigger the self-destruct on board "DrakForce One" during their struggles. This was after they'd accidentally launched all the escape pods (with the fortunate exception of the garbage disposal container).
- Averted in Johnny Test when the Darth Vader Clone was Genre Savvy enough to have it disable to prevent failure.
- In one episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, when Obi-Wan Kenobi's cruiser gets boarded and is being overrun by General Grievous's forces, he cleverly sets the self-destruct mechanism without the computer displaying or vocalizing any countdown warnings before making his escape. Unfortunately, since this effort is Doomed by Canon (Grievous has to survive until Revenge of the Sith), Obi-Wan can't resist the urge to leave a recorded message on the bridge to gloat to Grievous...giving him just enough warning to get off the ship seconds before it explodes.
- Young Samson & Goliath
- Episode "The Secret of Evil Island". At the end the Big Bad Voltor throws a Big Electric Switch to activate a device that causes the Island Base he's on to sink into the ocean.
- Episode "From Out of the Deep". After being defeated by Samson and Goliath, the enemy activate a self destruct device inside their ship before escaping. Goliath detects the device's activation and warns Samson, allowing them to escape before it detonates.
- Space Ghost
- "The Drone". At the end of the episode, after the title robot was captured it blew itself up with (as Space Ghost put it) a "destruct mechanism".
- "Homing Device". Before leaving Metallus' headquarters Space Ghost activates the HQ's destruct mechanism, causing it to blow up.
- Space launch vehicles usually have "Range Safety" systems. Typically it involves a linear shaped explosive charge that splits open the side of the rocket, allowing the propellant to disperse. They're there primarily to guard against the scenario of a malfunctioning rocket flying into a Bus Full of Innocents. There's even a guy (the Range Safety Officer) specifically tasked with pushing the Big Red Button if the rocket goes out of control and the safety of the public is at stake. Manned craft from Apollo onwards include a Launch Escape System to propel the capsule clear of the blast radius before triggering it; the Shuttle notably did not, depending solely on its aerodynamic properties to bring the crew safely back to the surface. Whether this would have worked is difficult to say.
- In the case of solid-fueled rockets, it is actually impossible to stop firing once they're lit, so triggering destruct is often the only way to terminate thrust in the event of a range safety concern.note Doing this typically results in the entire booster going up in a massive explosion, with lots of chunks of flaming debris.
- The Ariane 5 rocket's maiden flight: A bug in the navigation system caused the rocket to attempt a wild course change. Structural damage resulted, triggering range safety destruct.
- Averted with most Russian launches, as Baikonur Cosmodrome was intentionally sited in one of the least densely-populated regions of the old Soviet Union so that the odds of a failed launch crashing in a populated area were negligible.
- Naval vessels are sometimes fitted with "scuttling charges" — explosives designed to blow holes in the hull and sink the ship, to prevent capture by the enemy. Of course, depending on the design, scuttling is sometimes as simple as opening all the valves and shutting off the ballast pumps, effectively pulling the plug and letting the ship fill with sea water.
- When any US Military plane or helicopter goes down, one of the primary jobs of any surviving crew member or rescuer is to set up charges to destroy the downed aircraft.
- A lot of US Military gear, such as mobile generators, are fitted with a "Battle Short" switch. Throw it and the unit overloads to the point that it burns out (and may even explode). During a retreat, if there isn't enough time to extract the gear, this prevents the enemy from capturing the gear to use for themselves. Like most self-destruct mechanisms in fiction, there is no way to cancel it once activated.
- "Spiking the guns" referred to the act of driving a spike into the touch hole of a cannon to prevent it from being fired. While it could be fixed, doing so was an extremely difficult proposition. This was generally done to prevent the enemy from using a captured cannon.
- Probably overlapping with This Page Will Self-Destruct: in January 2014 DARPA hired IBM to create "new class of electronics" — Vanishing Programmable Resources — that would be easy to physically destroy by a radio command. The plan is to manufacture chips on a strained glass substrate that would easily shatter into fine powder and to initiate shattering with a fuse or a reactive metal layer.
- Blackberry smartphones hooked up to an enterprise server had a self-destruct built in. Someone who lost their equipment could phone a company helpdesk. The helpdesk would remote into the Blackberry server and initiate a remote wipe that would render the phone and any data on it to a useless brick.
- Some computers designed for use with illegal activities use various methods to melt their hard-drives.