Main DEFCON Five Discussion

Collapse/Expand Topics

11:02:39 AM Aug 8th 2013
edited by
Entries removed because they were just aversions, when the trope is about getting it wrong:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Eureka Seven gets it right: Gekkostate announces they're going to DEFCON I several times before engaging enemy airships. But then again, they're just one ship, why the hell would they need defcons?
  • Rare anime example (that got it right): The last episode of Sentou Yousei Yukikaze has the supreme commander announcing "all ships, go into DEFCON 1".

    Comic Books 
  • Another correct use: X-Factor v2 #26, where Cyclops refers to "the mutant equivalent of Defcon 1".
  • Foxtrot: Jason Fox once set his mother's cellphone ringtone to an alarm that took up the whole panel, named "Defcon 1".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Averted in WarGames. In fact, it's explained quite clearly that DEFCON 5 is peace and DEFCON 1 is war. Although in the DVD commentary the writers believe (wrongly) that they got it backwards.
  • Averted in Watchmen, when Nixon correctly tells his staff to 'take us to Defcon one'.
  • Averted in Thirteen Days. The scale is shown in proper order. The US military first stands up to DEFCON 3, and later escalates to DEFCON 2.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Another exception was in Stargate SG-1, where they correctly order the Defcon sequence in an episode where the US and Russia each believe the other has been infiltrated at the top levels by the Goa'uld. (This was done in several other episodes as well - they even have a set of Defcon lights on the wall so we can see them clicking downwards. These lights are, in fact, identical to the ones that appear in WarGames. Which makes sense, to a point, since the SGC and NORAD are both within the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. Having a military advisor on the show probably helped set that straight. Or just Googling it. An early episode, however, did have the Defcon system used erroneously.
  • Correctly used in Doctor Who "The Poison Sky". UNIT is said to be at Defcon 1 as they prepare to launch nuclear missiles at the Sontaran ship.
  • Parodied, predictably enough, in The Big Bang Theory. Howard describes an emergency as being "DEFCON 5" and as Leonard rushes everyone toward the door, Sheldon protests "DEFCON 5, well there's no need to worry then" and when his friends inquire he says "DEFCON 5 means 'no danger', DEFCON 1 is a crisis."
  • Averted in General Hospital by Spinelli. When his computer is hacked...which, for the Playful Hacker, is a Fate Worse than Death...he keeps repeating "Defcon 1".
  • Averted in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Bargaining" when Xander declares "This place is NORAD, and we're at DefCon 1."
  • Due to its almost unerring dedication to accurately portraying Government Procedural, The West Wing avoids this particular pitfall.
    • Generally true, although DEFCON/THREATCON mistake did occur occasionally in the show, with even military characters using expressions like "DEFCON Alpha" and "Threatcon Five". When advising his sole survivor cabinet secretary what to do if he were to become Acting President in the event of the Capitol Building being destroyed, Bartlet counselled that he should take the U.S. to DEFCON 4 (arguably wrong even if Bartlet meant "up from five", because such an event would likely put the country at two or three)

    Print Media 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Averted in the board game Twilight Struggle, a two-player game about political tensions during the Cold War. The DEFCON level starts at 5, and gets lowered as tensions mount between the two superpowers. Lower DEFCON levels restrict actions that can be taken (for example, below DEFCON 5 no coups or realignment attempts are allowed in Europe). If it ever goes to 1, though, the game is over and the player who triggered World War III has lost. This could be seen as a variant of You Lose at Zero Trust.

  • Done correctly in Sam & Max Save The World, using Defcon 1 (North, South and West Dakota were at war with each other).
  • An aversion right there in the title: The PC, PlayStation, and Sega Saturn game Defcon 5! You wouldn't think it, but within the backstory, Defcon 5 is precisely what's going on... even if the company in charge of the base you're automating does not want that.
  • Averted in Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots: the threat meter in the Cold War scenario accurately starts from DEFCON 5, and counts down the more reckless you are. If your threat meter reaches DEFCON 1, both sides will launch the nukes.
  • Averted, obviously, in DEFCON. All DEFCONs prior to One is spent building silos, fleets, and generally preparing for nuclear holocaust. When it gets to one, the nukes start flying.
  • Averted in the browser-based nation simulation game Cyber Nations, in which DEFCON 5 yields a happy population but weakened and more expensive military and DEFCON 1 makes your nation ready for battle at the cost of citizen income.
  • Averted in EndWar. "If the mission Condition becomes critical", DEFCON 1 starts. (In Conquest mode, it starts when one side takes more than half the uplinks; In assault, it starts when one side starts running out of units; and in siege mode, it starts when 10 minutes pass and the defender gets access to support.)
    • Also interesting in that the player that is winning doesn't go to DEFCON 1 first. The losing player does, and therefore gets the WMD capability first. And the winning player can't use a WMD until the losing player has, in a sort of retributive strike.
      • Probably for balance; in universe, the explanation is probably that high command doesn't think the use of WMD's are necessary if you're winning. Also, both sides go into DEFCON 1 at the same time; but the losing side still gets authorization to use WMDs first. (The losing side also does get one perk - the ability to permanently disable one uplink for the rest of the match.)
  • Used correctly in WarGames, loosely (very loosely) inspired by the movie of the same name. The DEFCON system started at 5, and got lower over time as enemy attacks landed. Once it reached DEFCON 1, that began the launch countdown for a nuclear response that would set off World War III.
  • Presumably averted in Lemmings, in which one of the levels is titled "We are now at LEMCON 1" - the fact that this was worth announcing makes it clear that they didn't think it meant peacetime. (It also helps that the lemmings start out about two seconds from walking into a bottomless pit and have a spinning deathtrap right behind them.)
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge gets it right: the first spoken word in the intro cutscene is "We are now at DEFCON 2" about a minute before the Big Bad threatens to Mind Control the entire planet all at once.
  • Act of War: Direct Action (as well as its expansion pack High Treason), a RTS produced by Eugen Systems, gets it right when the player plays as the US Army side, except that in the beginning of a game, the DEFCON mode starts at 3, not 5 (it's a wargame, after all), and successively goes to 2 and 1 as the player pays for those modes with the in-game currency. The lower the DEFCON condition, the more powerful and expensive the units become available. - effectively, DEFCON 1 allows for a nuclear missile strike.
  • Universe at War uses this in an odd fashion, with the DEFCON mode new units and powers are available through time, it uses it in the right order but not for the correct powers granted.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops averts this. During the campaign, the DEFCON level will be shown increasing toward 1 during cutscenes, in response to the time limit. Then, during the 'Five' level of zombie mode the team must lower the DEFCON level from 1 to 5 end the map's security lockdown and open an important door to a weapon upgrade machine.
  • Averted, in all places, in the arcade version of Battletoads - throughout one level, you see DEFCON numbers posted. They go down from four as you get further into the level, reflecting the increasing threat of the Battletoads getting deeper.
  • Command & Conquer: Generals has, of all things, a map named "Defcon Six". One imagines this might make the opposing sides catatonic in their tranquility, but the map is a frantic, six-player melee.
  • Averted in one scenario of Tropico 4: though an adviser at the beginning of the scenario assumes that "DEFCON" is a new American doomsday weapon, DEFCON starts at 5 and increments after certain actions that threaten the peace (like building weapon and chemical factories). You lose the scenario at DEFCON 1, but have the opportunity to raise the level through certain decisions and holding Pan-Caribbean Summits.
03:24:45 AM May 20th 2016
Most of the entries on the page are now aversions, with only about 20 actual examples. Is this trope about the misuse of these terms or not?
11:42:00 PM Dec 18th 2011
edited by Vyctorian
This is quickly becoming a Dead Horse Trope would anyone else agree that this should be listed on the page?
05:59:17 PM Aug 13th 2011
Does it make any sense to have the no longer used Terror Alert Level instead of the actual DEFCON colors for the trope image? Can we please change this?
10:14:42 PM Feb 9th 2011
The Top Gear example strikes me as a Did Not Do The Research with a side of Epic Fail (without crossing over into Critical Research Failure). I mean, a British show using an American system? If they had used "Stig's Order", not only would they have referenced their own country, but they would also have gotten it right!
05:02:11 AM May 3rd 2010
There is a Red Alert 2 official map called Defcon Six. I have no idea what this means.
11:08:37 PM Sep 29th 2011
It means everyone's got some hardcore peaceful vibes going on.
Collapse/Expand Topics