The SyFy show Alphas is built on subverting this trope. The title characters are shown as a drastic mutation in the human genome, but their bodies and minds have to adjust dramatically to accommodate their powers. You can read electromagnetic signals? Great, but that means you brain is now mostly a data processor, eating up the neurons used for emotional neural paths, making you severely autistic. One girl has enhanced senses. She's a neat freak because she can see bacteria, Can't Have Sex, Ever because it would overload her sense of touch/taste, and when she supercharges one of them, all other senses shut down because her brain can't handle the information. Bill can trigger his Flight-or-Fight response to become super strong, but has a Hair-Trigger Temper and using his powers is bad for his heart.
No Ordinary Family includes a few examples of imperfect powers. In one episode, Jim tries to stop a moving car, but his super strength and invulnerability are not enough to overcome a car's momentum. This results in him getting run over repeatedly. Stephanie is depicted as consuming huge amounts of food to fuel her super-speed. She also trips and tumbles for hundreds of meters when she tries reading a text message while super-running. There's also a bit of lampshading going on, with Stephanie's assistant spouting the number of laws of physics that are being broken (Why doesn't the friction burn off her clothes? Shouldn't the sand destroy her corneas at that speed? How is she compensating for the wind shear?).
Both The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman would rip their bionic arms right off when trying to lift a big enough weight, unless their entire skeletal structure were augmented to support the stress of heavy lifting, not to mention their running speeds. Acknowledged and gently handwaved away in the 1987 TV movie The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, where Rudy Wells mentions adding such augmentation "just as we did for you and Jaime" to Steve's now-bionic son.
Also averted in the 2007 Bionic Woman; her bionics are grown by nanotechnology, which does a certain amount of general augmentation of her body to support them.
Averted in Martin Caidin's original novel, Cyborg, upon which The Six Million Dollar Man was based. Caidin expressly states the limitations of Steve Austin's bionics: he can't lift a car, but he has a grip with incredible crush strength. He can't outrun a car, but he can run at a sprinter's pace indefinitely, since he's not building up fatigue poisons.
Subverted in Warren Ellis' Global Frequency, when a bionic man has to go through several alterations just to use his super strength, making him a hideous, misbegotten freak of nature. The process renders him so unstable that he basically amounts to a Laser Guided Tykebomb slash Super Soldier. A nuke without the radiation. And then there's the other cyborg, who explains to the Global Frequency agents just how many augmentations she had to go through to make sure her bionic arm didn't rip itself from her shoulder every time she flexed it.
On Sci Fi Channel's The Invisible Man series, the "Quicksilver" coating warped/blocked out all visible light, but converted ultraviolet passing through it into wavelengths that Darien could see. When invisible, Darien can still see, just in black and white. Not only that, he can see other invisible people and vice-versa. Occasionally, he would only cover his eyes in the Quicksilver rather than going entirely invisible for the effect. And to save money on effects.
He was also cold due to much of the heat passing around him. Somehow, however, he was able to freeze a bomb in the second episode but doesn't turn into a Human Popsicle every time he goes invisible.
In one episode, Darien is also able to see a ghost (actually, the disembodied entity of a woman killed with a particle accelerator).
In another, what would have been a permanently blinding attack is reduced to a temporary inconvenience because his eyes were coated in quicksilver at the time (and he was still able to see as usual if he quicksilvered them up again while they healed).
The serum also, apparently, turned them stupid, as one of the scientists didn't think to look both ways when crossing the street at Super Speed, resulting in him slamming into a car.
Star Trek: The Next Generation contains many examples of required secondary powers, some explained and some not. Many show up in the later spinoffs as well, since they take place during the same technological period.
Many of the gadgets exist only because they are required secondary powers for the show's cooler technology like warp drive. Among them:
The Inertial Dampener solves the problem of rapid acceleration which, depending on the speeds involved, would reduce the crew to either a fine paste or a cloud of plasma.
The deflector array, a lower-energy form of the defensive shields, protects ships from particulate matter and even stray hydrogen atoms, which would rip an unprotected ship to shreds at warp speeds.
The structural integrity field reinforces the strength of a ship's hull, since the larger ships in the show (most notably the Enterprise) are too large to hold their shape on their own under the stresses they endure.
The Heisenberg compensators are a bare-faced Hand Wave to explain away the problem of quantum uncertainty which ought to make the transporter impossible. No explanation is given on how they worknote When put to the question by Time magazine, Art Supervisor Michael Okuda's response was, "They work just fine, thank you.", it's just the writers' way of saying "Yes, we know this is an issue, but it's the future and they fixed it with this thingy."
Some unexplained examples:
The warp core and transporter have some sort of perfected radiation shield that doesn't kill the crew every time they're used. The Required Secondary Tech is touched upon, briefly, in Star Trek: Enterprise.
A transporter malfunction in "The Next Phase" causes Ro and Geordi to become out of phase with the world, making them invisible and intangible. There is no explanation for why they can still breathe, touch the floor and use turbolifts, or see the world around them.
In the episode "Timescape", the Captain, Troi and Data use devices that give them personal "subspace isolation fields" which allow them to enter and move freely in the time-frozen Enterprise. The field apparently allowed air molecules it came into contact with to speed up to their rate and slow to normal on leaving, so they could move and breathe, and also extends itself into objects they touch, so they can move things and open doors.
The Founders, main villains of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, are shape-shifters with more than necessary secondary powers. They possess heightened intelligence, eidetic memory and the attention to detail that allows them to analyze their photographic memory with frightening efficiency. One Founder posed as chief medical officer Dr. Bashir for more than a month, successfully performing critical surgeries on main characters while mirroring his every nuance, while trying to destroy the Bajoran sector with an artificially induced super nova at the same time.
Heroes has many examples of powers with and without Required Secondary Powers, some explicit and others implied.
Dale Smither (the mechanic with super-hearing) had to listen to music constantly to block out distracting faraway sounds, and when Sylar stole her ability, he found the suddenly-loud sounds agonizing.
Likewise Matt and Peter both struggle with their mind reading powers and how to shut them off so they can't hear people all the time.
Peter for much of the first season struggles with juggling all his powers full stop.
And in Series 2, Peter Petrelli's ability to heal caused his new tattoo to be rather less than permanent. The writers have yet to explain how Claire can have a tan and pierced ears, though. (Maybe the tan's fake.)
Tanning is the result of two biochemical processes, one involving cell damage and one not. She could easily use one without the other and still get a mild tan.
And healing wounds as piercings is how the body reacts to having something stuck through it and not removed (just as long as it's kept clean and doesn't get infected first, and as long as the person isn't allergic to the type of metal used, which is known to happen). It also helps (maybe?) that she was pierced before she got her power.
More on Claire: in the episode where everybody lost their powers, Claire gets easily infected in addition to a gunshot wound. Since her regeneration had amped up her immune system so much and killed every infection, her body is incredibly weak due to its sudden absence.
This is actually mentioned in The Office (US version), where Dwight claims he has never been sick. Jim replies that he shouldn't have any immunities then.
Another thing on Claire: her healing doesn't work if there's something in the way. She can re-grow a toe, and possibly as much as a hand, but she would have to reset a broken bone or pull a knife out of a wound. Bullets either get pushed out, or they somehow wind up in the healer's mouth to be spat out (which makes no sense, since the bullet went nowhere near her mouth, but whatever).
She can heal from death, but only after the stick pulverizing her brain was pulled out.
The pain tolerance secondary power was played with. For the first two seasons, Claire was shown to have an extremely high pain tolerance, albeit not immune. This abruptly changed in the first episode of Volume Three. When Sylar cut open her skull and took her powers, she lost her own ability to feel pain. At all.
Hiro has been shown to slow time to a crawl when his powers were going whacky, so it's implied he never actually stops time, just slows it down to the point where objects and such are effectively frozen, but extremely fast things, such as photons, aren't. Their wavelength should still change, however.
Supported in season 3 when Hiro gets a rival who has Super Speed. He can slow time down to a "stop", but she's so fast that it merely brings her down to normal speed. She even says to him "You must not stop time completely, or we wouldn't be talking right now."
Hiro avoids the "flung off the planet" side effect because his powers explicitly affect spacetime, not just time. It also makes for handy teleportation— into the ladies' room, but hey.
DL, the Intangible Man of the show seems to affect the objects he phases through, rather than affecting himself, given the wavy effect of any object he goes through. His intangibility is also selective, apparently instinctively; he can reach through a door, then reach back with the same hand and unlock it from inside.
Meredith the fire starter is not only unable to be burned, but also doesn't seem to need to breathe oxygen either (which makes sense, seeing as how fire eats up oxygen and would suffocate you if you needed it).
This is shown in the episode where she is training Claire by locking themselves in a small room with no ventilation and lighting a fire. Meredith is fine, but Claire starts suffocating.
Likewise, Ted Sprague is unaffected by the radiation and explosions he generates. The series creators even refer to this trope as the "Rule of Ted".
Daphne the super-speeder is explicitly able to extend her protection from her power to anyone she's touching (and doesn't leave a trail of ripped-up pavement wherever she goes).
Elle Bishop's electricity-based powers cause her pain, but apparently no physical damage.
Lampshaded by Doyle in the online comics. When Doyle uses his people-puppet-power to force a Company agent to shoot himself in the head with a finger laser, he muses "So tell me, are you one of these guys immune to your own power? Hmmm... Guess not."
Perhaps the oddest use of this trope is with Isaac Mendes, his artistic ability appears to be a secondary part of his prophetic painting powers. When other people copy his powers they are shown able to paint pictures just as well (though in different styles). This is partly explained when Peter copies his powers and appears to be simply tracing visions that appear over the canvas.
Buffy has super strength and resilience, as do the vamps of her universe, but lack super anchoring. This results in them being thrown around a lot in fights without sustaining any significant injuries.
The Healing Factor is also much slower than in most other works. Slayers and vampires heal at a rate faster than a human, but slow enough so as not to violate the laws of physics.
In the episode Earshot Buffy kills a telepathic demon and accidentally gains the ability to hear other peoples thoughts. Unfortunately, the transfer of power did not include the ability to process all of the information it provides, nor the ability to 'tune out' the input. The lack of such Required Secondary Powers caused Buffy to collapse when she overheard the thoughts of a cafeteria full of students and nearly drove her insane.
Used to humorous effect in one episode where a demon casts a spell on the cast, locking them inside of a house. When the demon goes to leave after giving them all a blistering"The Reason You Suck" Speech, the demon finds out that the spell also prevents her from leaving, and must rescind the spell in order to depart.
Possible subversion in Smallville: in a cliffhanger where Clark loses his powers near the end, a doctor must save his life by injecting him with a substance via syringe. Clark's parents (unaware that he has lost his powers) are terrified that the doctor will discover their son's secret, as they expect him to be invulnerable to needles in much the same way that he is invulnerable to bullets. However, the needle goes in fine, because of the loss of his powers.
The lack of said required abilities - specifically, the ability to filter input from Super Senses - is a crippling problem for Firefly'sRiver Tam. Since she cannot filter incoming stimuli due to her empathic abilities, being in contact with the minds of other people is debilitating, and when others suffer sudden physical trauma it can render her catatonic.
In something of an aversion of the pyrokinetic version, Charmed has offered any number of witches, demons and warlocks who are completely vulnerable to their own fire-based powers, most notably Christy, who is burned to death by her own flame-throwing ability when she tries to use it against her telekinetic sister Billie.
Doctor Who: The Time Lords must have spent millenia perfecting all the biological processes necessary with the act of a body undergoing DNA rewriting at the most basic cellular-level across every organ from bone to hair. And it happens in roughly a minute, and doesn't kill the person undergoing it.
The energy is referred to multiple times by the Doctor as ''healing energy'', rebuilding and restoring damaged cells as much as slightly rewriting their DNA to modify appearance and personality. They don't just call it regeneration because it sounds cool.
Also understand that at least in the Doctor's case, it shouldn't take a massive rewrite of his DNA for his appearance to have varied to much. Remember the Doctor has always appeared externally as a caucasian male human would. Even his hair colour was only blonde in two regenerations out of the current eleven he has been through. The rest of the time he has had dark hair. His first had white hair due to physical age, but would otherwise have been dark in his youth (like William Hartnell's real hair colour was dark), and his third was probably forcefully made to look aged with white hair by decree of the time lords at his trial. The Doctor even joked many times about possibly regenerating into a truly bizarre appearance, perhaps with two heads - or maybe no head (and don't say that's an improvement). However apart from his...uh..unique dress sense, the Doctor has always looked like a dark haired caucasian male human.
In "The End of Time", the Master lacks a Required Secondary Power — creating the energy he uses when he gains the power to shoot energy bolts.
While Jack Harkness has a healing power, he doesn't have the resistance to pain secondary power.
Several other secondary powers (both mentioned above and not) are explained by the fact that his healing isn't so much restoring damaged tissue as it is reverting it. He is a "fixed point in time," however if this is explained as something like hitting the refresh button every so often, then how is able to retain memory?
Captain Jack remembers dying, so the fixed point aspect probably only retains physical attributes. His memory is unaffected.
His immortality could also be explained by the Bad Wolf Entity's power having restored him to life after his first death, but with the Entity's imperfect understanding of space time it restored him to life *every* time he died simultaneously.
Averted in the Highlander television series. Immortals while not invulnerable, have an extremely fast healing factor provided that their heads remain attached to their bodies. However, they still need to breathe and eat as mortals do and can temporarily die of starvation, dehydration, suffocation or enough bodily damage from ordinary weapons. There is one episode centered around an immortal seeking revenge against Duncan Macleod for marooning him on an island without food or water. The vengeful immortal asks Duncan if he has ever had to endure constant recurring death, resurrection, then death again (happening every few minutes from the point of first death as his body was already so heavily weakened) from starvation and dehydration. This cycle was implied to have continued for two centuries before the other immortal escaped the island.
Possibly even worse than this is the way immortals first have their immortality activated - at the moment of their first death. This means if an immortal dies before puberty, they will resurrect and remain at that age, being small and helpless and often easy prey for another immortal to take their head. Likewise if an immortal suffers their first death at a very old age, they will remain permanently old and infirm until death by beheading. As an immortal, you had better hope another immortal discovers you who is kind enough to kill you while you are a healthy adult so you can enjoy immortality until your head is eventually taken by an evil immortal who will usually have his head taken by Duncan later on.
In an episode of Stargate Atlantis, one of the characters finds an ancient alien device which creates a forcefield around him, giving him invulnerability. Unfortunately, the forcefield also 'protects' him from food and drink. And it won't come off... (for some reason it still allows him to breathe, though.)
And the others can hear him just fine.
The shield generator won't come off because, like many Ancient devices, it is telepathic in nature. Since Rodney isn't exactly the master of his own thoughts, his constant fear results in the device permanently activated, until Weir intentionally suggests he be used as bait for an energy-draining creature due to the shield, causing the device to shut off.
In the Stargate Verse, the DHD provides many of the secondary systems that make gate travel possible (or at least more convenient) in addition to its primary purpose of allowing the user to select the destination. When the Stargate program was initiated on Earth, they didn't have a DHD, so the Air Force had to kit-bash three supercomputers to fill in for it. The lack of required secondary systems (which included many failsafes) caused complications during a few episodes.
In one episode, the lack of a DHD turned out to be a benefit. One function of the DHDs was to update the physical locations of various stars gates, so the gates would be able to find each other. Ba'al used this update system to spread a virus that disabled all DHDs by scrambling the addresses. The only unaffected gate was Earth's, as the aforementioned computers calculated the star's positions itself from astronomy data not available to regular DHDs. For that episode, Earth alone could dial other planets, although it would be a one-way trip.
7Days acknowleges the positioning problem of Time Travel by requiring Parker to "fly the needles" when using the Sphere. He still usually winds up several (hundred) miles from the mountain base. One of his predecessors didn't do that well.
A lot of time, he even ends up back in the hangar.
Strangely, the scenes of time travel usually show him appearing in orbit and then falling to the surface, which would indicate that he appears "in front of" Earth, as the planet wasn't at the same location 7 days before. However, he seems to be too close for that.
Another required secondary power for time travel is extreme resistance to pain. Parker has it. His back-up Craig Donovan has never actually performed a Backstep, and the one time he tries, he can't handle the pain, so they abort.
Subverted in Torchwood: Miracle Day. Everyone on the planet becomes immortal, but without the required secondary power of super-healing. So, the guy who gets a metal rod through his chest survives, but still needs to spend days recuperating on painkillers. And the suicide bomber whose entire body gets pulverised survives, even when a flat puddle of muscles and bones on a table, and even when they remove his head. And that doesn't cover the realFridge Horror of the story...
Jack is the only mortal on the planet (mortality was reversed for everyone). So when he suddenly gets sick on the plane to the US, he assumes it's because he doesn't have any immunities due to his former immortality (although he should, at least, have immunities from when he was mortal). It turns out to be poison.
In The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Terminators don't need to breathe; that also means they can't take air into their lungs to float like humans can, and sink in deep water. Terminators that need to infiltrate human society also cannot weigh much more than humans, which is especially important for ones that have to pretend to be lightweight, small human women, like Cameron. That also makes them very easy for other Terminators to pick up and throw around and reduces their physical strength, meaning a Terminator like Cameron can't win a straight slugging match. A Terminator's mechanical nature means that it cannot heal physical damage like a human can and must keep a stockpile of parts to repair itself, and damage to its neural chip means that it cannot repair damage to its programming at all.
Painkiller Janeaverts the Healing Factor version: Jane can heal herself, but has no super tolerance for pain and has to endure every minute of the pain associated with the injury she receives.
Touched on in the premiere episode of The Flash; the first time Barry accidentally uses his super-speed, the friction from the air reduces his clothes to rags. His eventual costume is made from a high-tech combat suit.
Partially averted in made for TV movie Stan Lee's Lightspeed, in which the titular speedster (Lightspeed, notStan Lee) gets windburn if he uses his powers without a special protective suit (which, by the way, he purchased at an ordinary sporting goods store) and quickly depletes all of his energy if he doesn't regularly take special nutrition supplements. Also, his base of operations for the duration of the film is the hospital room where he's still recovering from mild radiation poisoning as a result of his origin.
He doesn't go even half as fast as some other speedsters so the fact that he only gets off with only windburn is somewhat justified.
Both the UK Being Human and the USA/Canada Being Human (Remake) feature werewolves who transform from human to wolf at the full moon. While conservation of mass seems to be ignored, the werewolves do not get the benefit of pain resistance in transformation, as it has been pointed out multiple times that the transformation involves each of the body's organs failing as it transitions from man to beast. A 39-year-old werewolf in the remake seems to be well into his sixties on account of having a heart attack once a month since he was 14. The only thing saving the werewolves is the secondary healing factor, dependent on the natural transformation; should a werewolf somehow start the transformation outside of the full moon, he will not survive the organ failure, which George discovers in the UK version.
Actually werewolves might not be ignoring the conservation of mass. The transformation causes the werewolf to rapidly grow new "werewolf" cells as it transforms. Maybe that's why they have such an appetitie? They are trying to regain the human's energy used during the transformation?
An episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. featured a pyrokinetic whose Required Secondary Powers were a major plot point of the episode in which he appeared. The "Centipede" organisation harvests his heat-resistant platelets to stabilize the Extremis component of their Applied Phlebotinum. The results for the pyrokinetic character are not pleasant.
The problem they were having with the Extermis component (the newest among many attempts to recreate the Super Serum) was that while it gave large amounts of strength, it also had the minor side effect to cause users to explode when angry.