The World Is Always Doomed
Is the world gonna be vaporized? Superman
: No. It's the same as it's always been, Luthor. On the brink. With good fighting evil. See you in twenty.
One day, the world is threatened with a meteor the size of Sicily
. The next day, some Mad Scientist
's "ultimate weapon
" will destroy the entire planet. The day after that, the entire universe will implode because the Cosmic Keystone
slipped off its pedestal...
Some series use a threat to bring about The End of the World as We Know It
as a common plot device. The problem is, the drama or shock value wears off pretty quickly once it's been done more than once. While it may be true that bigger threats can make for more exciting stories, there's only so many times we can hear "All of Earth is doomed!" before the Shocking Swerve
ceases to shock anymore.
One way that something like this is really believable is if the world really is always
doomed, as in a Cosmic Horror Story
setting where rather than defeating one menace after another that seems to randomly choose this very moment to come out of nowhere, it's all the heroes can do to merely provide an impediment against the progress of the same catastrophes that are continually attempting to worm their way past and wreak havoc. In a Lovecraft Lite
setting the cosmic horrors may be very much defeatable, but there are an endless number of them.
Common for any long running Action series. Pretty much endemic to Monster of the Week
series. Storyboarding the Apocalypse
might help restore some of the impact by reminding the viewer what will happen if the heroes don't pull off this week's victory.
When threats of impending doom are always being predicted but mysteriously fail to happen
, then you may wish to refer to the Apocalypse Day Planner
. If the series dwells too heavily on how the characters won't get a "Happily Ever After
" in the fairy-tale sense, then Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy
might result. Evil Only Has to Win Once
is usually involved, since the destruction of the world is usually the end of the line for the protagonists.
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Anime and Manga
- In Dragon Ball, almost every villain at least tries to take over the world, which probably counts as doomed. Oh, and it really IS destroyed once, though it got better. In fact one of the reasons Goku decides to stay dead midway through Dragon Ball Z is that he's noticed this, and furthermore, that he's usually what the villains are seeking. Later, he tries to get Gohan, Goten and Trunks, and later Uub to be the heroes because the villains still come. Ironically, the one who Jumped at the Call, his granddaughter Pan, didn't have the muscle necessary to take over the hero job.
- Haruhi Suzumiya has the continued existence of the world, or at least this version of it, relying upon the temperament of the eponymous teenage Genki Girl, and many of the plots revolve around preventing her from essentially erasing the universe and putting a new one in its place. In her defense, she doesn't know about it.
- Sailor Moon, the Earth is threatened by Eldritch Abominations that threaten to destroy all life, five times, 6 counting the side story. Justified, since the foes are actually fragments of the same abomination, Chaos.
- Shakugan no Shana implicitly states that existence itself is constantly under threat, and most people aren't even aware of this.
- Magic: The Gathering:
- Dominaria is a planet that had so many magical near-apocalyptic experiences (five at last count) that it had a near-apocalypse caused by having had too many near-apocalypses. Seriously, the place was starting to fall apart.
- When the game stopped focusing primarily on Dominaria and started showcasing a different world each year, every world visited would have a near-apocalypse... which were all later revealed to be indirectly caused by Dominaria's latest near-apocalypse!
- The Innistrad block is primarily about humans trying to survive in a world full of vampires, werewolves, and zombies. One character in particular, the Planeswalker Sorin Markov, is vampire lord trying to keep humanity from dying out. Because if the humans go, the vampires will have nothing left to eat. Even so, the other vampires aren't too happy with him.
- Nicol Bolas, who incidentally is responsible for at least one of the near-apocalypses, boasts to Ajani that he's "survived more apocalypses than you have chest colds."
- Various superhero books do this, of course, but writer Grant Morrison's era of JLA is particularly well-known for ramping up the world/universe-shattering threat level every storyline.
- As Linkara puts it: "It's the DC Universe, the end of the world isn't even an excuse for getting off work any more."
- The Marvel Universe is Like Reality Unless Noted... you can guess which is the other "unless noted".
- In one Astro City story, most residents of an apartment building gather on the roof to watch a potentially cataclysmic battle - except for one kid who stays inside to finish his homework. As his mother explains, "if the world doesn't end, he's still got school tomorrow." .
Films — Animated
- The Incredibles: Mr. Incredible describes it perfectly in the opening sequence.
Mr. Incredible: No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved! You know, for a little bit? I feel like the maid; 'I just cleaned up this mess! Can we keep it clean for... for ten minutes!?"
- In the beginning of Disney's Fun and Fancy Free, Jiminy Cricket remarks how the newspapers are always reporting one disaster or another.
Jiminy: But why get so excited? What's gonna be is gonna be. Why, the end of the world's been coming since 1903! That's uh, B.C. of course.
Films — Live-Action
- Star Wars Expanded Universe:
- Many arcs and individual stories, especially those set after the Hand of Thrawn duology, are all about the new Rebellion/Republic/Jedi-destroying Threat, even bigger and badder than the last ones! Vong, Joiners, Jacen going evil and causing a civil war, the Jedi going mad... Look! It's not like earlier media, now everyone dies pointlessly! It's difficult to find anything big that doesn't hype itself as The Biggest Threat Luke/Leia/Han Has Ever Faced.
- Lampshaded by Wedge Antilles in an X-Wing Series comic set not long after Endor.
After every major victory, I hope the fighting is over, but it'll never be over
. Even after we defeat the Imperials, there will be someone... another threat to peace...
- Yet there's still Starfighters of Adumar, which is "only" about civil war on a single world with the only thing at stake being whether its torpedo production goes towards the Empire or the New Republic. It's one of the lowest scale EU novels there is, and also one of the most entertaining.
- Nearly every second story set during the Clone Wars features The New And Improved Super Duper Completely Guaranteed Separatist Plan To Crush The Republic Forever, which is impressive considering that the war lasted for a mere three years. And again, Shatterpoint, about a minor civil war on a single planet (and Mace Windu being Badass), manages to be one of the best pieces from that time period.
- Diane Duane's Young Wizards series. Considering that the ultimate antagonist is the Lone Power, which invented death, loves suffering, and threatens to destroy the protagonists' home worlds when they piss it off, this isn't too surprising. Ronan in A Wizard Abroad comments to Nita not to take Johnny too seriously because the seniors all sound like the world is ending half the time. Nita thinks something to the effect of "probably because it is."
- Lampshaded/Parodied in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next: the ChronoGuard treat The End of the World as We Know It as an everyday occurrence. Apparently Thursday's dad alone has saved the world at least 40-some times.
- Very much present in the Sword of Truth series, where one book's solution tends to lead directly or indirectly to the next book's problem. Many of these dooms make a return for the Grand Finale trilogy, making the world doomed by at least four different methods simultaneously.
- Neil Gaiman's short story Only The End of the World Again, in which a werewolf goes to Innsmouth and somewhat-deliberately thwarts a ritual to destroy the world.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In the first book, Earth is destroyed; in the second, the universe ends (billions of years in the future— the main characters time-travel there and back); in the third, the Universe is threatened but saved; in the fifth, all Earths in all Alternate Universes are destroyed forever; and in the sixth, the only human space settlement is threatened. That leaves one book out of six without some sort of apocalyptic threat—in fact, the Earth comes back in the fourth, so...inverted?
- The Alex Rider series seems to have a villain bent on destroying the world every few weeks (in-world time).
- In The Sharing Knife, malices can be destroyed while young, but new ones will never stop appearing, and if one ever gathers too much power it will devour all life.
- A major plot point in the later The Dresden Files books is how the series of Masquerade-breaking disasters and near-apocalypses strung together can't be coincidence. It leads to Foreshadowing of a Bigger Bad to be revealed in the second half of the series.
- Par for the course in the Secret Histories series, as defending humanity from epic-scale threats is the Droods' job.
- In the fiction chapters of The Science of Discworld II, Roundworld keeps getting smacked by cometary impacts just as yet another native life form is starting up its own civilization.
- Assuming that HP Lovecraft's various Cthulhu Mythos stories take place in the same continuity, the world dodged a dozen near-apocalypses in the 1930's alone.
- In the Long Runner Redwall series, the number of books in which the titular Abbey is not besieged by vermin as part of the B-plot can be tallied on one hand (not counting the ones set before the Abbey was built). This is sometimes Lamp Shaded in books set later in the chronology, with several vermin leaders speaking of the Abbey with dread because of all the hordes that have broken on their walls.
Myth And Legend
- Teutonic mythology pushes it back to Older Than Dirt. Okay, Sigmund or Beowulf deals with the current monster but Ragnarok is still coming. And oh goody, you get to spend your afterlife training for it!
Live Action Television
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel have at least one planet-ending apocalypse per year (the Hellmouth alone was almost opened on three separate occasions), as well as one reality-ending apocalypse, along with endless armies of vampires, demons and the forces of darkness maiming and slaughtering and generally being not very nice. Lampshaded in numerous episodes, to the point where characters were going "AGAIN?!" whenever anybody mentioned it. One episode of Angel even has Spike and Angel arguing over who saved the world more:
Angel: I helped save the world, you know.
Spike: Like I haven't.
Angel: Yeah, but I've done it a lot more.
Spike: Oh, please.
Angel: I closed the Hellmouth.
Spike: I've done that.
Angel: Yeah, you wore a necklace. You know, I helped kill the Mayor and, uh, and Jasmine...
Spike: Do those really count as saving the world?
Angel: I stopped Acathla. That saved the world.
Spike: Buffy ran you through with a sword!
Angel: Yeah, but I made her do it. (Spike gives him a disbelieving look) I signaled her with my eyes.
Spike: She killed you. I helped her! That one counts as mine.
- Further, the fifth season of Angel seems to indicate that all those big "end the world" scenarios are mere distractions while the real apocalypse goes on right under our noses. The world spins more and more into chaos and decay... and the heroes chase around monsters all day long.
- In "The Zeppo", the entire gang except Xander saved the world in a huge epic battle... almost entirely offscreen, played as a joke. And Xander saved the world (on his own) by saving them from a different plot.
- Lampshaded in Charmed, where after receiving a ticket, Piper states that the world is so unfair to her that she just might stop saving it every week.
- Doctor Who:
- Every season has at least several instances of the entire planet Earth being on the brink of destruction from alien colonists/marauders/psychopaths whenever the Doctor arrives (not that other planets are spared), there is always a vast army or powerful being or cosmic force threatening to crush the universe under its heel, and there are numerous isolated instances of the entirety of reality about to be destroyed. It long ago reached the point where if it weren't for the Doctor the universe wouldn't have even existed in the first place. Even the Master, the Doctor's own Arch-Enemy who is constantly trying to conquer the universe, admits this, saying in "The Five Doctors" that "A Cosmos without the Doctor scarcely bears thinking about."
- The trope was particularly evident during the Third Doctor/UNIT era, where the Doctor was in exile on Earth, meaning that the invading aliens and villainous humans had to come to him every few weeks. It is a bit more plausible at other times in the series, when he can show up at any disaster in all of time and space (yet always manages to somehow land on Earth a disproportionate number of times).
- The Doctor remarks about the population: "You lot, you're like rabbits. I'll never be done saving you." He's got a gleeful, joyous grin on his face while he says it.
- In the Comic Relief Affectionate Parody "The Curse of Fatal Death", the Doctor states "I recently calculated that I have saved every planet in the known universe a minimum of twenty-seven times." This is not much of an exaggeration.
- Also parodied in a comedy sketch by Mark Gatiss, where a villain tries to come up with a sufficiently villainous plan to interest The Doctor — but fails to come up with anything that hasn't been done at least once already.
- Played for horror in "The Name of the Doctor". Because the Great Intelligence erases his timeline all the Doctor's victories become defeats. Cue the scene where Vastra watches entire star systems erased from history, because the Doctor wasn't there to save them.
- In Heroes every time a character travels into the future (which is quite a bit) it turns out to be doomed, a dystopia, or a doomed dystopia. Lampshaded in a third-season episode by one of the characters: "The world always needs saving."
- In Power Rangers the Earth (usually the West Coast in particular) has been attacked by monsters pretty much every year, usually about once per week, with each monster being a potential world ending disaster. The rest of the universe is seen only sporadically, but at least two seasons and several occasional episodes have hinted that Earth is not in any way unique in this regard. Earth did get a few breaks though: Earth didn't get attacked in Lost Galaxy because the villains were attacking the heroes in space, and there was a one-year reprieve after Dino Thunder because the next season took place in the year 2025. It also got a break after Jungle Fury because RPM took place in an Alternate Continuity (and in the future of said Alternate Continuity, at that).
- Stargate SG-1 spends about every second episode attempting to prevent some horrible calamity about to befall the planet, whether it was a another Goa'uld plot, an incredibly virulent Space Infection, or a group of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens they had managed to annoy. Eventually the series graduated to The Galaxy Is Always Doomed, with one thing after another attempting to conquer/exterminate/consume all life (Goa'uld, Replicators, Ori, Wraith...). Lampshaded numerous times, with SG-1 getting a little tired of the whole "save the world" routine as early as the fourth season, and apparently Teal'C is keeping score.
- Seven Days is about the agent the NSA sends back in time to avert all the catastrophes that would befall us every week without his intervention - things like a weapons test wiping out all life on Earth, or China and Taiwan getting into a war, or the President's nuclear launch computer falling into the hands of an irate ape. This raises the question of how the world survived before the Backstep project went online.
- Supernatural, starting around the five-season mark. After defying destiny and preventing an Apocalypse led by Satan himself, the Winchesters find there's still no shortage of world-class threats. An angelic Civil War leads to Castiel getting a literal god complex and rampaging across the world. This in turn leads to the release of the Leviathans, a whole new breed of primordial monster who organize the harvesting of all of humanity for food. After they are defeated, the Winchesters try to close the Gates of Hell until a manipulative angelic scribe banishes all Angels except himself out of Heaven, making Earth the new playing ground for all the remaining factions from the attic.
- Warhammer 40,000 does this with an entire galaxy. The daemons of Chaos and their mad human servants, the implacable life-hating Necrons rebuilding their ancient dominion, and the endlessly ravenous Tyranid hordes are all closing in, completing intricate plans or simply steamrolling over everything in the path, and any minute now the galaxy will meet it's end... aaaaaany minute now... It's reached the point where a number of writers are starting to hint that all of the threats to the galaxy have collided into each other and effectively canceled out.
- Exalted, full stop. From the quotes page:
Exalted is a game where one of your main antagonists is Death, Creator of the Underworld. Except there's several of him, probably six or seven. Oh, and he's got 13 dread henchmen, one of whom was probably you at some point in time. Also, Hell has a personal grudge against you this time. Did I mention Magical America regularly trains and sends ninjas out for you personally? Ninjas specially trained in ass-kicking? Which, if they won't work, they keep giant robotic suits of armor
on reserve for. Oh, and the Transformers
have united under Omicron, and are invading. The Jedi
have corrupted Heaven and usurped your rightful place as the Masters of Everything. Your ex-wife just dropped by, and she's a two thousand year old shape-changing man-eating monster now, interested in maybe going on a date next Thursday. Your best friend from your last life and while growing up now seeks to cover all the lands of Middle Earth
in darkness, if he can just find this damn ring.
And your God has the world's biggest crack habit
, and needs some serious rehab.
- The implications of this trope are brought up in the Forgotten Realms book Champions of Valor:
- In the Old World of Darkness gameline Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the player characters are strongly hinted to be on the losing side of a secret shadow-war between the Garou and the Wyrm, a spirit of hatred and corruption. The final sourcebook (titled Apocalypse: Time of Judgment), four scenarios are given for how the last battle plays out: the nicest version would ravage the spirit world and kill most of the Garou, the most extreme involves Lovecraftian entities destroying biospheres while a giant Wyrm eats the Moon.
- Ben 10 did this numerous times. A two-parter involved a ghostly alien that planned to mutate all of Earth. One episode titled "Ultimate Weapon" involved a weapon that could destroy all of Earth. The Ben 10 animated movie had Ben's Omnitrix in danger of self-destructing... and taking out the entire
galaxy universe with it.
- Almost every episode of Invader Zim's plot involves Earth being doomed. Justified in that nearly all of them are the result of the machinations of the bumbling incompetent title character.
- The Animated Adaptation of Men In Black both uses and averts this trope, with world-ending disasters being not unusual but the most common situations involve a single alien (or group) or a threat to the MIB itself instead of the planet.
- In Mighty Max (almost) every episode summoned Max to help save the world from aliens/magic/parasites whatever. The episodes that involved Big Bad Skullmaster's attempt to steal Max's hat are much better as a result.
Max: What's going on here?
Virgil: Oh merely the end of the world!
Max: Oh good. I was afraid it was something serious.
- In Futurama, every year at Christmas Robot Santa goes to Earth and wrecks everything for jollies.
Professor Farnsworth: Oh we're doomed. Every year we're doomed.
- It sometimes seems like every other episode of Peter Pan & the Pirates involves the threat of "the end of Neverland".
- Xiaolin Showdown. Raimundo: "Is it me, or does the fate of the world rest on us a lot?"
- In one episode of Superman: The Animated Series, Doctor Fate refuses to help Superman fight an Eldritch Abomination that Fate defeated in the past because he's grown weary of the neverending fight against evil. Superman being willing to fight against impossible odds (Supes is weak against magic) convinces Fate to help.
Superman: You came after all. What changed your mind?
Fate: It was because you went back. You reminded me that it's not just the forces of evil that never give up.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic threats that will spell doom for Ponyville, if not all of Equestria, are horribly common. A burst dam, choking smog, parasprites, Sombra, Nightmare Moon, Discord, even a full scale invasion of the kingdom... the ponies never seem to get a break. Furthermore, "Hearth's Warming Eve" shows that even in the distant past ponies lived in nigh-constant peril. Subtly lampshaded in "It's About Time", with Twilight immediately assuming that Future Twilight contacted her to warn her of some terrible catastrophe, every other pony easily believing her (at least before she started yet another Sanity Slippage), and in the course of attempting to prevent the disaster that doesn't exist they encounter another potential disaster completely by accident. Said disaster casually reveals that Ponyville is located within walking distance of the gates of Hell, where a huge number of monsters are kept imprisoned solely due to Cerberus's keeping watch on the gate. And apparently he runs off every so often.
- In My Little Pony And Friends practically every second or third storyline is about some monster or wizard trying to either enslave or kill off the entire pony population, even discounting the threats in the TV specials and the movie.
- This may also apply to the hotter parts of the Cold War. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, it's been argued that over a dozen incidents came close to ending it all.
- Any number of events could result in the complete extinction of a huge chunk of life on Earth. Some are predictable, others are not. Massive volcanic events, asteroid impact and cosmic rays are just three examples. One such "cosmic ray" makes it seem like the universe hates us, mostly because of the ridiculous misfortune that it may result from.
- Several economists predicted that the real socioeconomic/financial Armageddon (2008 was just the beginning) would happen as early as 2012. Fortunately they were wrong.
- See Exit Mundi for many examples, some of which could happen any day now.
- More generally: from the earliest surviving writings onward there is always some prophesied apocalypse coming in the near future, several of them a year these days. A good chunk of every generation in every culture has always seriously believed they were living in the last days of the world.