Virtual Reality Interrogation
A person doesn't talk. You need to get a secret from him. So, you simulate conditions under which he does talk. You may convince him he is among allies, who depend on him telling the secret. You may convince him enough time passed that the secret is irrelevant now
. You may convince him the need for secret keeping is All Just a Dream
(The latter case may contain a healthy dose of Lotus-Eater Machine
). In short, he speaks.
And then it turns out this was indeed All Just a Dream
. Created by you.
Examples (Warning, a Spoilered Trope
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Anime and Manga
- In CyberTech: War of the Worlds, Dumbledore is captured by the good guys, manages to escape the prison, and, once he gets into Hogwarts, tells Snape to recover some prisoners from the Headquarters. Snape replies he can't get them all by himself, so Albus is forced to give Flitwick the location as well. Cue the illusion dissolving...
- The 1965 film 36 Hours, in which German agents use a Faked Rip Van Winkle on an American officer in an attempt to learn the details of the upcoming D-Day operation.
- In The Stars My Destination, there is an attempt to get information from the protagonist by simulating for him a reality where he is rich and happy, and his adventures are All Just a Dream. He spots A Glitch in the Matrix (his own reflection) right before talking.
- In The City and the Stars, the heroes are questioning a robot which must keep silent until the end of time. The Master Computer simulates just that.
- In The Icewind Dale Trilogy, Bruenor is given a potion to drive him back into his childhood, and make him remember the location of his lost homeland. When he cannot tell it because it is secret, Drizzt enhances the illusion by pretending to be an ally coming with an army to help Bruenor. Unlike most examples, the whole thing was actually Bruenor's idea rather than an enemy's.
- Subverted in the Shadowrun novel Shadowplay, where the virtual reality used against the female protagonist just simulates plain old physical torture and rape. But when rescued, she initially fears it may be this trope (though she only expects it to be a Hope Spot and then back to torture, rather than a sneaky interrogation).
Live Action TV
- In one episode of V.I.P., Val and Tasha are kidnapped and drugged after they hide a witness in a safehouse. In order to make them reveal the secret, the villain attempts to convince them they've been comatose for 40 years.
- There was an episode of Galidor where one of Gorm's minions created a virtual reality simulation of Allegra's bedroom to convince her it was All Just a Dream, and get her to talk about her adventures. Nick managed to break the illusion before she revealed any dangerous information.
- In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Stratagem". Captain Archer tries to get information out of an alien by convincing him that they are now friends and that years have gone by. The alien ship they have supposedly stolen is actually set up inside a small shuttle in the ''Enterprise'' landing bay. The small touches making the simulation seem real include tattooing both their arms with prison barcodes.
- Subverted in another Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, where Riker thinks he is a victim of one (he is supposedly in the future but his supposed wife is a woman of his dreams, that he knows never existed outside the holodeck. The hostile aliens reveal themselves when he calls them out on it. However, as it turns out the aliens aren't real either - there is just one alien, highly psychic and very lonely, keeping Riker in a Lotus-Eater Machine to have some company and conjuring things from his mind - the whole espionage plot was accidently created by Riker's own fears.
- The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries: "Sole Survivor", where Joe wakes up in a hospital room with no clue where he is or how he got there, only to be told that he's not only been in a coma for a year, but that his father and brother are dead. Cue fake newspapers, fake newscasts, and forged letters from all his surviving relatives and friends. Of course, Frank and Fenton are very much alive, and the whole thing is a Mind Screw to get Joe to reveal information on a defection attempt.
- Alias: Sidney's father suffered from a Tap on the Head and now thinks he's back in the 1970s with his wife and young daughter. So Sidney has to pretend to be her own mother, married to her father, in order to get her father to give up some secret codes.
- Not done with technology, but in a combination of this idea and Two Plus Torture Equals Five, the British spy protagonist of The Ipcress File is captured and held by enemy spies in a secret location in London. As part of an attempt to break him mentally and physically, his captors try to convince him that he's a criminal and traitor being held in an Eastern European prison. This includes having him visited by a spy pretending to be a representative of the Foreign Office, and thus a friendly face.
- The Prisoner TOS episode "The Chimes of Big Ben". Number 6 escapes the Village and is transported to London, where he meets a former superior. As he's about to explain why he resigned, he realizes that the situation has been faked to trick him and discovers he's still in the Village.
- In "A, B and C". Number Six is drugged and hooked up to a machine that controls his dreams. He meets several characters who try to get him to confess why he resigned. Eventually he figures out what's going on and arranges to take control of the dream.
- Legend of the Seeker Season 1, Episode 12 "Home" is driven by this plot device. Darken Rahl has his pet wizard trap Richard in a dream about his home. Inside the dream, Rahl takes on several different characters to try and convince Richard that the goings-on of the series so far was all just a dream to learn the location of one of the boxes of Orden from him. Ultimately, the power of love combined with Rahl pushing too hard breaks the spell at the last moment.
- Stargate SG-1 features season 2, episode 22, a Clip Show where one of the plotlines is where O'Neill, Carter and Daniel awaken from stasis in what appears to be the SGC, almost 79 years in the future. They discover it is actually a Goa'uld hoax by Hathor.
- In The Avengers, Tara King was victim of such a ploy by villains trying to locate John Steed and whoever he was protecting.
- Another had a fake "training seminar" orchestrated by enemy agents. British agents would not crack during the "interrogation simulations", but would later casually discuss the subject matter at the bar...
- In the Red Dwarf three-parter "Back in the Red" the Dwarfers are subjected to this by the newly resurrected crew to verify their story that it's three million years in the future and most of them had been killed by a radiation leak then reconstructed by nanites. Lister, Cat, Kryten, and Kochansky are subjected to two layers of simulation, so they could catch Rimmer attempting to erase their memories of him stealing the crew's confidential files.
- There's a scene in Vagrant Story where Guildenstern is interrogating Hardin about the nature of the Gran Grimoire, when suddenly the room turns monochrome, everyone in the room except Hardin vanishes, and Hardin's mentor, Sydney, is standing in front of him. Convinced that his mentor has somehow teleported him to safety, Hardin freely tells Sydney everything he knows... only to realise too late that he's still talking to Guildenstern, who has disguised himself with an illusion.
- In Schlock Mercenary, creating a simulation in which the subject has escaped and begun musing on how he got into such a mess is the first phase of the infamous Mind-Rip.
- In General Protection Fault, Nick gets kidnapped by Ki's counterpart from the "Nega-verse", who tricks him into getting into the MuTEX virtual reality machine on the night before his wedding to Ki, but instead transports him back to her dimension, where he is sedated on arrival and places him into her MuTEX in order to trick him, while sleep-deprived, into telling her how to make Project Velociraptor. Unfortunately, Nega-Ki makes a few mistakes, and Nick sees through her.
- In the 11th episode of Green Lantern The Animated Series, the heroes need to get a code for an ancient Cool Gate from a prisoner. First, he gives them a code. Then, the bad guys capture them, and he gives them another code. Then, he is released, flies away, gets to the gate, and uses a third code (that one works). Then, the Properly Paranoid heroes remove his VR helmet.
- A variation is present in an episode of Invader Zim. Zim puts Dib in a virtual reality where he gains ultimate power and uses it to defeat the Irken and become a major celebrity just so he could get Dib to confess that he threw a muffin at him during lunch.
- In the second season of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, after a prolonged period of torturing (off-screen) for information without success, Captain America's Skrull captors have his next interrogation "interrupted" by a rescue by the other Avengers (actually shapeshifted Skrull). It doesn't work though, as Captain America sees through it immediately.
- In Futurama MOM wanted to get Fry's bank information. Since his PIN was related to his old job in the twentieth century, her sons set up an elaborate hoax to convince him that coming to the future was All Just a Dream and he was back in his old life.
- An episode of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command uses the Faked Rip Van Winkle varient; he's convinced a Negative Space Wedgie transported him into the future and destroyed Zerg. In reality, the "mueseum pieces" are his actual armour, the kids he's telling stories (and weaknesses) to are robots and Zerg is alive, well and showing Buzz's captive crew the whole setup to taunt them.