Story where a crew is assembled
to find out what happened to a previous set of adventurers, a colony, a lost ship, etc. Occasionally, the original people have "gone native"
in any number of ways. For whatever reason, the rescue does not go smoothly, and the rescuers find themselves struggling to save their own lives.
See also Ghost Ship
, which is somewhat similar. In video games, this is a way of showing up Late to the Tragedy
. Shares a few elements with Ontological Mystery
Note: This trope was previously named "Heart of Darkness", which is the title of a work and has its own article. Heart of Darkness
is an example of a Doomed River Expedition
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Anime and Manga
- Patlabor parodies this twice.
- The first incident happens when lunch ordered from the only restaurant in the area never arrives and the delivery boy vanishes along with the lunch. A second order is made, and this time Division 2 sends out Ota and Shinshi in a carrier truck to retrieve the lunch themselves. They never return, and the rest of Division 2 goes to investigate. Once they don't return either, the mechanics send a group to find out what happened. True to the trope, everything goes horribly wrong.
- The second incident occurs, when the mechanics chase a food thief to a mysterious well near the Section 2 hangars. Once again, Divison 2 sends Ota and Shinshi first and quickly lose contact with them. And yes, once again, a second team is sent after them and everything goes horribly wrong.
- King Of Thorn begins with 160 people waking up from cryogenic sleep, hoping to be cured of a horrible disease that may turn their bodies to stone eventually. However, when they wake up, the entire facility is covered in thorny vines and infested with horrible monsters. Nobody's sure if it's been a hundred years or only a few days, what happened to everyone else, or the true nature of their disease.
- This is the basic plot of several Tintin stories, particularly Tintin Tintin In Tibet, in which Tintin forms a search team to find his friend Chang in the Himalayas, although he's not even sure Chang is alive. Chang turns out to have been cared for by the Yeti. In some other stories, Professor Calculus has the habit of being kidnapped, so Tintin and Captain Haddock, possibly accompanied by others, have to set off to find him.
- The Alien series:
- Alien. The crew of the Nostromo must investigate an alien Distress Signal.
- Aliens. The Marines are dispatched to LV-426 to determine why contact was lost
- Apocalypse Now is loosely based on Heart of Darkness. It differs from most of the examples here in that the protagonist is sent on an assassination mission rather than to find out what happened.
- And it was revealed later in the film that he was the second person they sent after the first one stopped reporting in.
- Cannibal Holocaust.
- Event Horizon.
- Sunshine, sort of. The crew of Icarus II passes Icarus I in space, and initially decides not to stop. However, they are forced into a Send In The Search Team situation after their own ship suffers catastrophic damage and they are unsure of whether their payload is still functional.
- Sunshine is really only a partial example, though, since the primary goal of the mission was not to rescue Icarus I and thanks to thanks to the mathematician's forgetfulness the lives were in danger before the rescue mission was undertaken, this trope still is quite the driving force behind the plot.
- Miranda of Serenity, though in this case the protagonists are there for a slightly different reason and only found out that a search team had been sent after they arrive, by which time all that's left is a wrecked ship and an Apocalyptic Log.
- Forbidden Planet.
- The first Resident Evil film featured a team of commandos searching an underground laboratory to find out why the AI in control of the facility killed everyone.
- The first Predator movie, though those participating don't actually know it. Their mission — supposedly to rescue a cabinet minister shot down by guerillas — is actually to find a special forces team that had been sent in to stop a guerilla offensive.
- A few of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles follow plots of this type.
- This is the plot of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, fifth novel of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. When the usurping King Miraz was killing off his various political rivals and potential rebels, he got rid of seven noblemen by convincing them to go sailing off into the blue (an uncharted ocean), and as he hoped they were never seen again. After overthrowing Miraz, one of King Caspian's two goals in his eastward voyage is to find the seven lords, or at least learn their fates.
- In Michael Crichton's Congo, the protagonists are sent on a follow-up expedition to Africa after the original team was mysteriously killed by apes in the heart of the Congo.
- Kim Newman's Alternate History novella Teddy Bear's Picnic, which essentially a retelling of Apocalypse Now with British characters and a few nasty surprises.
- In Dave Duncan's Seventh Sword trilogy, Wally Smith must find out what happened with his predecessor (Sonshu) so he doesn't repeat the same mistakes Sonshu made. Although his assingment isn't specifically to find out what happened, it's central to the plot.
- Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad.
- Subverted in the short story Glacial by Alastair Reynolds. Everyone on the colony experienced severe dementia and died after researching alien slugs. The protagonists investigate... The alien slugs are totally harmless. A scientist killed everyone in the colony with Pfiesteria to prevent them from further damaging the local ecosystem.
- Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land starts out with an expedition to Mars to find out what happened to the last expedition. They find Michael, an earthling brought up by Martians, setting up the rest of the novel. Grok?
- Star Trek
- Stargate SG-1, "The First Commandment".
- In the Outer Limits TOS episode "The Invisible Enemy", astronauts are sent to Mars to learn why the members of the previous expedition vanished. They were eaten by "sand sharks", who go on to menace the current expedition.
- In Monty Python's Flying Circus, an expedition to climb the twin peaks of Kilimanjaro (and build a bridge between them) is being assembled. The purpose: to find out what happened to last year's expedition.
- It's worth noting that the guy in charge of the expedition suffers from double vision. Given that his brother was running the previous expedition, it mus run in the family.
- Sir Henry Morton Stanley's search for the Africa explorer David Livingstone (the famous words "Dr. Livingstone, I presume...?" are also often referenced).
- Subverted in the fact that Livingstone wasn't actually lost or in need of being searched for, as far as he was concerned.
- In 1945, a group of 5 US Navy torpedo bombers disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle while on a routine training mission. Several planes and boats were sent out to look for them, and one of the rescue planes disappeared as well (generally assumed to have exploded in midair).