Twilight Sparkle: Congratulations, Spike! You're the new Rainbow Dash!
The Hero needs somebody with specific skills, a doctor, a hacker, whatever. He calls on the Innocent Bystanders for volunteers, or maybe drafts somebody into helping. The person protests. "I'm not a doctor, I'm just a dentist!" Followed by The Hero saying: "You're the closest thing we got", possibly with a pep talk.
Common alternative phrasings include "Close enough" or "It's the best chance we've got".
Very common in works that take place After the End where a group of people are trying to rebuild civilization.
See also Open Heart Dentistry, a subtrope in which a doctor is forced to do something outside their specialty. Compare Million-to-One Chance, You Are in Command Now, Field Promotion, The Main Characters Do Everything, Not That Kind of Doctor, Lowered Recruiting Standards and Ragtag Bunch of Misfits. Situations like this may expose a Miles Gloriosus or force them to Become The Boast really fast. If the volunteer happens to be a doctor of literature and a doctor of medicine, he's an Omnidisciplinary Scientist. If this trope describes the hero, he's the Right Man in the Wrong Place. Might overlap with Too Desperate to Be Picky. If the character-in-question was picked out of the blue by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, then they're a Victim of Circumstance with No Job Qualifications.
- Ace of the Diamond: Despite lacking stamina to last a full game, and ball control over his pitches, Furuya becomes the ace pitcher of Seidou High only because his two rivals for the position are left mentally broken after the Summer Tournament (Kawakami loses hold on his winning shot sinkers, while Sawamura faces the yips).
- Hypnos of Digimon Tamers was a covert Signals Intelligence program. Their job was to monitor global electronic communications, to track criminals, and other mundane tasks. Then Digimon began to appear, and the agency got stuck with dealing with them.
- In Fate/Apocrypha, Avicebron originally intended to sacrifice Gordes Musik, of his own faction, to finish his Noble Phantasm, despite his Magic Circuits only being "passably adequate" for the task, since he lost his first intended choice (the homunculus now named Sieg) and Gordes had lost his Servant in the same series of events, making it also a case of You Have Outlived Your Usefulness. After defecting, he uses his own master Roche Frain, who has a much higher compatibility, making it far more powerful than Gordes would have.
- In The Rising of the Shield Hero, it's eventually revealed this is the reason the Three Heroes fail to meet expectations. The ritual which summoned them simultaneously prevented the Sword, Spear, and Bow from choosing an ideal wielder, instead relying on inadequate backups. Only Naofumi was the preferred choice of his weapon.
- In Don Rosa story "The Lost Charts of Columbus", Azure Blue regained the Golden Helmet from a previous Carl Barks story, and the only way to prevent him from using it to legally claim ownership of North America was to find proof of an older claim. Donald Duck and his nephews found proof of an abbot who claimed way before Azure's ancestor. When a journalist at the press conference where Azure was claiming ownership—until being interrupted by Donald and his nephews announcing their findings — asked if whoever found proof of that claim would own North America, Donald gave an uncertain answer everyone deemed "close enough".
- S.W.O.R.D.: Abigail Brand would rather not have Fabian Cortez and Mentallo as part of S.W.O.R.D., since Fab's got Chronic Backstabbing Disorder and Mentallo is a complete lunatic, but as she tells Magneto, they're the only people with their specific powers she could find and recruit. The minute she finds a better option than Fab, she boots his ass out. However, the example of Mentallo soon turns out to be a case of Exact Words: Abigail says Mentallo is the best telepath she could get. She means it. Mentallo is a lunatic loyal either to himself or whoever's paying him the most. Abigail is paying him the most (and his psychic powers are too weak to bother her).
- Played with in Transformers (2019), where after being fatally wounded Autobot leader Sentinel Prime instructs his second-in-command Orion Pax to pass the Matrix of Leadership (and the leadership of the Autobots) to war hero Ultra Magnus. While Orion's brief stint of leadership wasn't exactly a success, the other Autobots point out that no one knows where Ultra Magnus is (a later comic reveals he was battling Space Pirates and so unaware of events unfolding on Cybertron itself) and that they need a leader now. Orion agrees and reluctantly becomes Optimus Prime.
- When Ultra Magnus actually does return to Cybertron, he willingly subordinates himself to Optimus since as far as he's concerned Optimus is the closest they have to a legal, elected government. He specifically notes that Megatron's taking away his right to vote out a government he doesn't like (since, you know, a coup) is what causes him to side with Optimus.
- In the The Death of Doctor Strange tie-in starring Spider-Man, a will from Strange required the help of Spider-Man in dealing with various monsters and other magical beings trying to take advantage of Strange's death. However, due to the events of Spider-Man Beyond, Peter Parker is hospitalized and Ben Reilly is the Corporate-Sponsored Superhero version of Spider-Man, thus he is wrangled into this. The Black Cat joins in because she wants to make sure it gets done despite her not trusting him as Spider-Man.
- In the Harry Potter fic "As We Chase the Sun", when Bellatrix is injured in her wolf-animagus form and is still unable to acknowledge her human identity after over a decade living as a wolf, Narcissa is persuaded by Andromeda to take her to a muggle vet as magical healers may realise the wolf is an animagus but vets will assume shes just a hybrid animal and can be Obliviated afterwards.
- In "Avengers: Darkness in Kingdom Hearts", after a disruption to Kang the Conqueror's equipment risks universal collapse as Xenohart starts his conquest years early (Kingdom Hearts), Kang is forced to recruit Spider-Man and the Scarlet Witch to help him stop this threat as the only two heroes able to travel to the endangered worlds as they caused the original disruption (Wanda's hexes disrupted Kang's equipment and Spider-Man jumped onto his chair as he was about to depart).
- Avenger of Steel;
- When the Kryptonian scout-ship was discovered, Jane Foster was contacted as the closest thing Earth has to an 'expert' in alien encounters as she has made peaceful contact with Thor, even if analysing alien technology is far outside of her expertise.
- While Kryptonians didnt have religion as such, the Kryptonian Rao achieved so many great things in his lifetime, such as being the only person to master the martial arts of Torquasm-Rao and Torquasm-Vo (which he himself created), that he is considered a god even to Zods forces.
- Avengers: Infinite Wars
- After the Avengers are sent to the Star Wars universe, in the absence of Tony Stark, Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne have become the Avengers' technical specialists, although they are only able to keep their existing equipment in order rather than make anything completely new or upgrade it.
- Back on Earth, Tony and Clint's first recruits for a new team of Avengers are Spider-Man and Daredevil.
- Later, after the 'new' Avengers have been sent to this galaxy, Matt joins Obi-Wan in visiting Mandalore to provide an independent legal perspective, based on his existing knowledge of Earth law and his subsequent research of galactic law.
- For the villains, Rumlow takes time to talk with Klaue regarding Ultron because Klaue's the only non-Avenger in the galaxy to have met Ultron back on Earth.
- During Wanda's time on Dathomir, she accepts the offer of lessons from the spirit of Darth Kreia to learn more about her powers even as both acknowledge that Wanda's abilities aren't the same as the Force.
- In the Avengers of the Ring sequel Dagor Arnediad, which features the residents of Middle-Earth aiding in the conflict of Avengers: Infinity War, Morgoth's betrayal deprives Thanos of the Mind Stone, forcing him to use the Silmaril as a substitute, which limits the range of the Snap while still allowing him to kill individuals on Earth and Arda before sealing himself away on Arda.
- In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Smurfnip Madness", when most of the Smurf Village is affected by the smurfnip-laced smurfberries, Tracker and Sickly must work together to restore the Smurfs to normal and mix up the antidote to smurfnip intoxication. Sickly says that neither he nor Tracker are alchemists like Papa Smurf, but Tracker says that he himself knows the difference between various types of plants, so he's the closest thing the village has to an apothecary.
- In the Worst Witch fic The Blood of the Covenant- based on the 2017 series- after Mildreds mother, aunt and grandmother die in a bus accident, it is soon established that she has no other family to take care of her given her absentee father. Since witches have no equivalent of social services, and none of Mildreds coven are in a position to give her a place to live as theyre all just children themselves, Miss Cackle and Miss Hardbroom make arrangements for her to become a ward of the school.
- In the Avengers: Infinity War fic Checkmate, after Thanos has left Titan with the Time Stone, Tony reveals that he has created a form of time travel that would allow someone to send their mind back in time so that they can pass on a warning about Thanos's plans and basically Set Right What Once Went Wrong. While Tony is willing to volunteer himself, Strange states that it will have to be Peter Parker/Spider-Man who goes back, as Tony and Nebula are needed on Titan in the present in case this plan doesn't work, sending any of the Guardians back is too great a risk as they would never ben able to convince their fellows of the situation, and Strange cannot go back as the energy required to open a portal from Titan to Earth would kill him even if he wasn't about to get killed in the Snap.
- In The Chosen Six, Dumbledore makes it clear that he was basically forced to hire Lockhart because the already-low reputation of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher took a further knock after Quirrell's death, preventing them from even looking into their standard candidates for the role, meaning that Lockhart was Dumbledore's only choice unless he wanted to give the Ministry a chance to step in.
- Invoked in the Avengers fic "Doomed"; when Carol Danvers is dying of an initially unknown condition, she requests that Spider-Man take point in the research as he's the person she trusts most to do the job, even if Peter expresses uncertainty about his abilities compared to more qualified experts like Reed Richards or Tony Stark.
- In Did I Make the Most of Loving You?, when an unknown virus affects most of the men in the fleet, Kara Thrace has to take command of Galactica as everyone above her is too ill to do so.
- In Donna Noble and the Magic Castle: Year 1, Donna's death of old age sees her 'regenerate' back into her childhood form and travel back to 1991 with her memories of the Doctor restored. Recognising the risk if she contacts her family or anyone else she would meet in the future, she contacts Jack Harkness to give her somewhere to stay because she reasons that he at least will know the risks of asking for future information and accept how much he can't ask her (beyond her telling him that he will meet the Doctor again at some point).
- An Extraordinary Journey;
- When the SGC rescue some of the ships Cain abandoned and the Colonials want evidence of what happened to them, Lieutenant Margaret Racetrack Edmondson is sent to talk with the survivors while posing as a Colonial scientist, as the Colonial Fleets remaining scientists are all busy elsewhere and the SGC are concerned that Cains victims wont react well to a member of the Colonial fleet.
- When Daniel is being held captive by Adria and Ori, General ONeill turns to Sarah Gardner for information about Zeus and the Lords of Kobol, reasoning that her time as Osiriss host makes her the most likely person to know anything about what Zeus was up to, as well as her possible expertise as a translator.
- In the Star Trek Online fic From Bajor to the Black, Lieutenant Kanril Eleya ends up the acting captain of a light cruiser by dint of everybody senior to her being dead or badly wounded. She ends up having to use, among other things, a conn officer who's actually from the Operations department. Apparently he plays a holodeck simulation of Operation Return a lot.
Eleya: [facepalm] Fine, we don't have time to be picky. Ahead full.
- In The Greatest of Them All, Peter Parker is the last survivor after the One-Below-All destroys the multiverse, and is sent back in time by God Himself to start his life over with all of his memories intact from birth to avert the destruction of reality. Once Peter is old enough to plausibly talk on his own, he makes contact with Professor Xavier as the telepath is the first person he can think of who possesses superhuman abilities whom he can also convince of the truth of his experiences, even though Xavier and Peter didn't interact on a truly regular basis in the original timeline.
- In Harry Potter and the Deadly Heller, after Ginny Weasley becomes a Vampire Slayer, with the Watchers' Council apparently destroyed, Harry and Ron often observe that Hermione is basically Ginny's Watcher when Ginny joins them on their hunt for the horcruxes. After Voldemort's defeat and their meeting with the other Slayers, Hermione is offered the opportunity to become a more official Watcher as the Council makes new contacts with the wizarding world.
- In Harry Potter and the Mystic Force, as the villains' plans escalate, Harry is forced to step in for the Rangers in their civilian and heroic roles.
- In the Farscape fic "In the Flesh", when the rest of the crew are captured by space pirates, the only one of the crew still free is Pilot, who has been transferred into Aeryn's body by accident; as Crichton muses, while he likes Pilot as a person, it's hard to have much confidence in someone who's spent the last few years in one chamber and got lost on his own ship the first time he left it.
- Infinity Crisis;
- In Crisis itself, Constantine explicitly states that he won't take the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme to replace Strange, but the Ancient One and Loki each accept that he's the only one who can hear what they have to reveal to the heroes.
- In Sins, Sirens & Strife, when Thor, Jane Foster, Sif, Darcy, and Valkyrie travel to Earth-51 to help the Justice League, Shazam explicitly notes that this probably applies to the circumstances that led to him being chosen as the new Champion, as the wizard was basically out of power after Sivana's attack so didn't have time to pick anyone else.
- In the Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfic Into the Fire, Zuko releases Sokka's father Hakoda from prison and asks him to negotiate on behalf of the Water Tribes. Hakoda points out that he's only a respected war-chief of the Southern tribe, not its sole leader, and he has no ability to speak for the Northern tribe at all. Zuko complains that Hakoda is the only authority figure he's been able to find at all, so they really just need to get down to business and hope everyone else agrees to the peace after they get something down.
- In I Will Never Be Him, Ning Yingying asks Shen Yuan to care for a miscarrying concubine and later teach the harem about infections and diseases in spite of his protests that he's not qualified as a healer, since even his flimsy medical knowledge is far above the wives' and he's too compassionate to willingly sabotage someone else's health.
- In Last Rights Captain Kanril is seen helping out in sickbay after a major surface battle because, despite being a gunnery officer by training, she knows how to do basic field medicine and they need all the help they can get.
- In Left Behind, when Crichton is trying to disable Rohvus control collar, Harvey has to concede that he only knows what the collar controls look like from reports and plans as Scorpius was never on a Leviathan to see what they looked like for himself.
- In Lightning Only Strikes Once, when planning to infiltrate Diane Sydney's group in the Ice Nation with the aid of John (whose father is one of her followers) and Octavia, Raven notes that their Grounder guide would have to be Lexa, despite the risks of bringing the Commander into enemy territory, as every other available Grounder would never be accepted as a runaway from their people; Lincoln's too built for anyone in the enemy camp to relax, Zion is too old for anyone not to suspect he's using the escapees, and Anya just can't look non-threatening.
- In The Lightning Strike, after the fall of Hydra, Skye becomes basically single-handedly responsible for going through the old SHIELD files to identify Hydra agents as she's the most tech-savvy agent available everyone knows isn't Hydra.
- Works simultaneously for and against the detectives in "Like Broken Glass"; when amateur terrorists attack the morgue to recover the plans and equipment their dead associate had for their upcoming attack on the New York naval yards, Richard Castle convinces them to spare him and Maura Isles as he claims that he knows the yard and Maura can redesign their bomb. While the terrorists take the two alive because their original experts are dead, Kate Beckett and Jane Rizzoli muse that if anyone could bluff their way through such a situation, its their respective partners, which gives the other detectives time to rescue their missing associates.
- In the Firefly/Doctor Who crossover The Man with No Name, the Doctor ends up needing Simon to operate on him when he gets shot. While Simon is a genuine doctor, he'd never treated (or indeed, heard of) a Time Lord before.
- In the Charmed (1998) fanfic "Once and Future Witches", circumstances force the Charmed Ones to stop their current threat by creating a "good Triad". Where the planned evil Triad would be represented by a ritual involving a warlock, a darklighter, and a demon, the contrasting "good Triad" should consist of a witch, a whitelighter, and an Elder, but since the demon they're targeting is after Leo and they obviously can't summon an Elder for this purpose, Paige and Chris act as the whitelighter and Elder representatives (Piper represents the witch).
- In the Twilight fic "Only Human", when Bella finds herself back in 1918 and meeting a human Edward, she tracks down the present version of Carlisle to tell him what has happened to her, reasoning that he's the only person she can be fairly sure wouldn't just dismiss her as crazy even if most of what she knows about him hasn't happened yet from his perspective.
- Orochimama: Kabuto might be a sociopath who views everything "Orochitama" does through a Pragmatic Villainy lens, but he's proven to be the only person who can follow her guidelines to act as a substitute leader when she's busy elsewhere. Everyone else goes for the most blatantly evil response to any problem, such as catching a minion stealing food and force-feeding him live burrowing beetles as punishment.
- From how Jaime Reyes describes it, this is the only reason why Green Lantern was appointed as the teen's official mentor in the Our Own League books.
Jaime: When Dr. Kord, the last Beetle, died, everything he learned about the Scarab went with him. No one else really knows how to work it, forget getting it off my back. I guess when the League found me, they figured, "Hey, this kid has a sociopath alien war machine, and we got a guy with a magic alien ring. They'll have tons to talk about!"
Conner: And how's that going?
Jaime: First day, Tonto used the ring to make a big, green taco. Asked me if it was cool.
- In the Star Wars fic "Paradox", when Ahsoka is sent into the future after being expelled from the Jedi Order, she ends up becoming Lukes new teacher in the ways of the Force after Obi-Wans sacrifice; she freely admits that she was expelled from the Order before she became an official Jedi Knight, but concedes that she can at least show him the ropes.
- In Pokemon: Shadow of Time, this is invoked by Giovanni when he notes that, after some of his Admins nearly killed Ash despite his explicit orders, Jessie, James, and Meowth are actually the closest thing he has to competent followers left as they actually obeyed his orders without him being constantly present.
- Basically the premise of "Power Rangers: Lightning Rush"; as the fic starts, Rocky DeSantos has been defending his new town from small-scale monster attacks as the Blue Zeo Ranger because there's nobody else to do so, and even after he and a group of grad students are chosen to be the new Rangers he's reluctant to be their team's Red Ranger as an active leader, and only accepts the role because he recognises that he's the best candidate available.
- As above, Power Rangers Mythos sees a Ranger team being assembled at relative random rather than through more considered planning. After an alien alchemist disrupts the Morphin Grid and kills most of the current Ranger team, the last surviving Ranger has to use an experimental time machine to recruit past Rangers to activate and use the only active Morphers available as she doesn't have time to recruit a new team from scratch.
- In Red and Blue as part of a training exercise, pairs of military fathers and sons from jurisdictions of Amestris and allied nations are supposed to compete against each other to build better relations. Except...
Mustang: The Eastern branch of the State doesn't have a father and son in the military. So the Fuhrer found the next closest thing. Us.
Edward: I'm a little insulted.
Mustang: The feeling is mutual.
- In The Rogue Symbiote, when Rogue acquires a symbiote, as she isnt comfortable trying to get training in using her new powers from another symbiote host such as Venom or Carnage (for obvious reasons), she approaches Spider-Man for help instead.
- In the Castle fic Solid Ground, the survivors of the airplane crash have to rely on paramedic Kimberly Watson for their medical needs even though theres only so much she can do given her background. Despite the stress of the situation, Kimberly accepts her Castle-derived nickname of Doctor Watson in good spirits, and announces her plans to go to medical school to officially qualify as a doctor after they are rescued.
- In "Star Wars: Arda Unleashed", during Order 66, Anakin (still on the Light side of the Force) and an injured Mace Windu have to ask the also-wounded Kit Fitso to sneak around the Senate's Executive building and find a security terminal to demonstrate what really happened during the Jedis' attempt to arrest Palpatine, as Fitso is alive inside the building even if he's hurt and this kind of mission doesn't play to his strengths.
- In Strange Scales, after Bella is turned into a mermaid, she learns that one of the other mermaids, the apparently seven-year-old Kali, is actually Rosalie's niece; before she became a mermaid, Kali was named Rosalie Katherine Hale, the daughter of Rosalie's younger brother. When Kali joins Bella in the Cullen household, Rosalie basically adopts her once she realises who Kali is, Bella reflecting that Kali is basically the child that Rosalie always wanted, with the "advantage" that Kali is actually related to Rosalie even if not her direct child.
- In the Stargate Universe/Battlestar Galactica crossover "A Tale of Two Rustbuckets", after a Cylon attack forces the Galactica and Destiny to depart using their respective faster-than-light systems, key personnel are forced to depart with the other ship, with the result that Eli Wallace and Lieutenant Vanessa James are now the commanding officers on Destiny as Young, Rush, Scott and Wray were all left on the Galactica.
- A minor but positive example occurs in Taaroko's Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 when Renee asks for Angels input on the sketches shes creating for her and Xanders new comic book adaptation of the Scoobies earlier adventures; while Angels artistic experience lends itself more towards sketches of subjects in repose, he is still the most artistically inclined person available who had any hand in the events Renee is trying to depict.
- In With This Ring, Paragon!OL goes to Cornwall Boy to get his magic-inflicted wounds healed because Cornwall Boy was the closest thing to a magic healer.
- Paragon!OL and Superboy are forced to keep CADMUS open because it is the only place on Earth with an understanding of Kryptonian physiology in order to treat Match.
- In Worlds Apart, despite recent issues with her, the gang let Faith take on the role of double-agent with the Mayor because she's the only one who'd work; most of the gang have school (and while Xander volunteered, he had nothing to offer the Mayor), the Mayor wouldn't buy Giles and Wesley, and there were too many risks involved in the idea of Angel posing as Angelus.
- In The Legend of Zelda fic Wrath of a God, when Link is possessed by the spirit within the Fierce Deity Mask, Zelda has to retrieve the Master Sword to try and separate him from the Mask in the absence of the traditional hero.
- In Chicken Run, the chickens eventually build a plane to escape the farm, and thanks to all his talk of being in the RAF, they naturally expect Fowler to be the pilot. When they're ready for takeoff, it turns out that Fowler was a mascot rather than a pilot — since, as he quite rightly points out, the Royal Air Force doesn't let chickens fly planes. Ginger also quite rightly points out that, at this stage in the proceedings, he's the closest thing to a pilot they've got, and inspires him to take the seat and get them to safety.
- Implied in Transformers: The Movie, when Perceptor is the one tending to the dying Optimus Prime after the Battle of Autobot City. Despite being one of the Autobots greatest scientific minds, Perceptor is not a medical professional. In The Transformers, he is portrayed as an scientific expert while Ratchet (Autobot chief medical officer) and Wheeljack (Autobot chief engineer) normally handle injuries. Unfortunately, both Ratchet and Wheeljack are dead by that point (Ratchet was graphically killed alongside several other Autobots when the Decepticons boarded their shuttle as part of a Trojan Horse ploy, while Wheeljack's corpse was seen during the fighting).
- First movie:
Ted Stryker: I flew single-engine fighters, but this plane has four engines. It's an entirely different kind of flying... altogether.note I haven't touched any kind of plane in six years.
Dr. Rumack: Mr Stryker, I know nothing about flying. You're the only one on this plane who can possibly fly it. You're the only chance we've got.
- And even then Ted needs to be talked through flying and landing the plane by someone on the ground, and he misses the gate by quite some distance and rips off the landing gear.
- The sequel brings it up again... only to have Striker point out that this time he actually does know exactly what he's doing (he was the test pilot), it's the shuttle that's malfunctioning.
- First movie:
- American Mary: Despite only being a medical student, Mary performs surgery on a client of Billy's whose body modification has gone wrong after Billy offers her a large amount of cash because she is in the club at the time and the only person around with any surgical experience.
- The two dentists in City Slickers.
"We're the only ones with any medical training."
"What exactly are we gonna do, Dad, give him a cleaning?!"
- In The Day After Tomorrow, when Jack protests that his climate simulation model is a reconstruction of a prehistoric climate shift and not a forecast model, Prof. Rapson replies: "It's the closest thing we have."
- In general the movies dealing with some problem on the airplane, parodies or not, have pilots incapacitated in one way or another as the story progresses and the only replacement is one of the passengers that does have some experience with flying, but not nearly enough so. Executive Decision would be such an example.
- In both versions of The Flight of the Phoenix, a plane has crashed in the desert,note and the group needs to get if to fly again. Thankfully one of their members is an aeronautical engineer. The only problem is, he designs model planes, not real ones. Still, aerodynamics are aerodynamics, so the damn thing works. (Sadly, in real life, the plane crashed and killed the pilot during filming.)
- In Hangman's Knot, Molly, a Union army nurse, operates to remove the bullet from Egan's back. Justified, as she is a Civil War veteran who would have a lot of experience with battlefield surgery and specifically removing bullets.
- In Heist (2015), Dante is wounded during the casino heist. On the bus, Cox calls out for anyone with any kind of medical training. The closest thing on the bus is a veterinary student.
- In Independence Day, when the counter-attack requires someone to pilot an alien fighter, the Secretary of Defence protests that nobody on Earth is qualified to pilot the ship, at which point Hillard observes that he's seen the ships in action and at least has an idea of their maneuvering capabilities.
- Later, when they're recruiting pilots at the base, the soldiers say combat flying experience was preferable, but anyone with any flying experience would do.
- In Jumanji: The Next Level, when the cast initially arrive in Jumanji, although it's not officially declared, Martha essentially becomes the leader of the initial group as she's the only person in her familiar avatar from her last visit; Fridge and Spencer are stuck in new avatars they aren't well-suited for and new arrivals Eddie and Milo don't entirely understand the situation facing them.
- In M*A*S*H, Hawkeye has his finger pressed against a wounded soldier's carotid artery to stop the fountain of blood and asks the only unoccupied person in the operating room to help him with a more enduring solution to the bleeding. Said unoccupied person turns out to be the 4077th's chaplain, Father Mulcahy, who warns at the outset that this is hardly his area of expertise.
- In Memphis Belle, bombardier Val has not exactly gone out of his way to deny that he is almost qualified as a doctor, even if he never specifically claims so. When Danny is wounded during the mission and the others look to Val to save him, he finally fesses up, admitting he only took two weeks of medical school before enlisting. The Captain, Dennis, gives him a speech about how he's the closest thing they got, and he goes off to save Danny's life...
- Monster Trucks;
- A good description of Meredith, as for a fair portion of the film shes the closest thing Trip has to a biologist to help him understand how Creach might exist and what the creature needs to live.
- Later on, Doctor Dowd has to drive the truck being used by Creachs father despite his lack of experience with the creatures in such a manner (this issue may also apply to Meredith, but in her case, she had second-hand experience of seeing Trip drive Creach).
- In Prairie Fever, Abigale is pressed into removing the bullet from Preston's back because her aunt was a nurse, and she has least seen this operation performed.
- Primal: Dr. Ellen Taylor is a medical practitioner, but she is a neurologist. As the only medical personnel on the ship, she ends up dealing with all of the injuries sustained. She certainly remembers enough of her basic training to deal with gunshot wounds and animals bites, but where she is really out of her depth is when Morales is bitten by a bushmaster, as it is unlikely she has ever had to deal with snakebite, even during her residency. Sensibly, she asks the Great White Hunter, who has a lot of practical experience with snakes, how she should be handling this.
- Rain Man: After Charlie gets fed up with Raymond one too many times, he takes him to a doctor nearby to try to sort him out. While the doctor notes that a psychologist would be more suitable for this, he is able to figure out some basic things about Raymond's autism.
- The ending of Snakes on a Plane had this; with the airplane's official crew having been killed by the snakes and most of the passengers dead, the closest thing the survivors have to an experienced pilot is a man who has logged over a thousand hours playing a flight simulator on a video game.
- The opening sequence of Star Trek: Generations features a freshly christened Enterprise being sent out on a rescue mission with no more than a skeleton crew and a handful of reporters. When refugees start pouring in, the medical staff are overwhelmed until Chekov recruits the reporters.
"You, you and you. You've just become nurses, let's go."
- Of course, Chekov himself had no medical training either but as often as he ends up in Sickbay, he's bound to have picked up some basics. In any case, being a Starfleet officer, he obviously had emergency medical training and the rest of the Enterprise B, as well as Kirk and Scotty, were busy keeping the ship from meeting the same fate as the refugees' ships, made him the most qualified until they got somewhere with a real doctor. note
- Star Wars
- Revenge of the Sith: Early in the film, Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Palpatine are trapped on General Grievous's badly damaged ship. Obi-Wan promptly asks Anakin if he's able to fly (or more importantly land) the ship, or what's left of it, to which Anakin immediately replies that given the circumstances, "the ability to pilot this thing is irrelevant". He does manage to pull off a safe, if not exactly elegant, landing.
- The Last Jedi: Finn and Rose travel to Canto Bight to find a codebreaker who they've been told can help them sabotage the First Order's flagship. A misdemeanor gets them thrown in the local jail, and with time being a factor, they escape with a fellow inmate who claims to be a great hacker. It backfires when they're caught by the First Order — the hacker decides to save his own skin by blabbing that The Resistance has been making a last-ditch effort to evacuate their ships.
Poe: Did you find the Master Codebreaker?
Finn: We found... a codebreaker.
- In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Xavier was the first choice for the plan to send one of the team back to 1973 to change history, but Kitty explains that his mind wouldn't be able to take the strain of the transference. Logan volunteers instead, reasoning that his Healing Factor will allow him to cope with the damage, but he freely admits to the young Xavier that he's the wrong person to inspire anyone and help Xavier get past his current personal issues.
- In Aeon 14: Outsystem, Major Tanis Richards, an intelligence officer, takes over as chief of security on the colony ship Intrepid from Commander Joe Evans, an Ace Pilot who ended up in the role because of a string of sabotage incidents. Joe is only too glad to give the job over to somebody who actually knows how to do it.
- In the Animorphs series, the titular team's only alien member is Ax, an Andalite who was basically a student on his homeworld before the events that led to him being trapped on Earth. As a result of his Andalite heritage, Ax is often called on for information about any new aliens or advanced technology that the Animorphs haven't encountered before, even though he was only a cadet and freely admits that he wasn't always paying attention in his lessons.
- In Choosers of the Slain, there's a conversation between Mike and one of the girls he rescued from the snuff house in Rozaje, Montenegro in the course of a mission. He points out that he's not an expert in rape counseling, and what little he knows is from a former lover who did it professionally, but the girl replies that Mike is as close as she can get to one at the moment given the Keldara are still on the mission at the time.
- At one point in the Codex Alera series, Tavi finds himself the only surviving officer of his legion, and is forced to take command. He starts by promoting several senior NCOs to replace the officers...and the madam in charge of the company's camp followers is appointed Tribune Logistica (officer in charge of the supplies). Lampshaded when his Number Two immediately complains about appointing a civilian as a Legion officer.
- In Sandy Mitchell's Death or Glory, Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!) presses a veterinarian into military duty because he's the only doctor they've got.
- Discworld has Doughnut Jimmy, a veterinarian to racehorses who is sometimes called upon to attend to gravely ill patients. The joke is that he is better than Ankh-Morpok's doctors because the stakes in the gambling underworld are so much higher than for treating people; at the very least he won't make things worse by bloodletting and blistering. His only flaw is that he thinks any patient is, on some level a horse, and will ask if he has been eating his bedding.
- In the novelisation of the Doctor Who episode "The Horns of Nimon", Soldeed is sent inside the Nimon vessel at gunpoint to make First Contact because he's the closest thing they have to a scientist (he's just a technician). After the Nimon give him the power to take over what's left of the Skonnon Empire, he gets delusions of grandeur and tries to act like a real scientist, which throws him for a loop when the Doctor shows up.
- Waldo Butters from The Dresden Files is called upon to perform battlefield medicine more than once by the hero, in spite of being a medical examiner by trade. This is because Butters can be trusted to be discreet, and Harry can't exactly risk using a hospital.
- Flight into Danger by John Castle and Arthur Hailey: Food poisoning takes down the flight crew and half the passengers in a four-engine passenger plane. The only possible pilot left is a passenger who's a retired military pilot—of a two-engine warplane with much different dynamics. The airport calls an expert pilot to help talk him in over the radio.
- During Galaxy of Fear, Tash Arranda once has to fly a small ship into an Asteroid Thicket. She protests that she's not one of the Asteroid Miners, nor a Jedi, who would be expected to have Improbable Piloting Skills. Her uncle assures her that she's an impressive pilot, and furthermore they don't have time to recruit someone better.
- In the second Harold Shea story, Shea and Chalmers are forced to recite an epic poem or else die. The closest thing that either one of them has memorized is "The Ballad of Eskimo Nell". What's more, his Love Interest is also present. At the end of the story, she asks what "those strange words" mean.
- A repeated motif in S.M. Stirling's Island in the Sea of Time, where the island of Nantucket is sent back in time to 1250 BC. The local machine-shop hobbyist becomes an industrialist, a greenhouse grocery-farmer expands to plant whole fields of crops, the captain of a Coast Guard vessel becomes commander in chief of the military, the police chief becomes head of state...
- The same thing happens in Eric Flint's 1632. A small town gets thrown back in time and the residents suddenly have to assume new critically important responsibilities that are far beyond anything they ever did previously. And like in Stirling's book, they succeed beyond all expectations.
- In Jurassic Park, a veterinarian specializing in avian health is responsible for caring for The Cassandra after the T-rex attack. Subverted when Ian Malcolm dies, then played straight when the death is retconned in the sequel.
- A lot of this was involved in staffing the eponymous park. Since no one had ever dealt with a live dinosaur, Hammond hired the closest he could find, mostly zookeepers, game wardens, and big game hunters. For veterinarians, he initially went with reptile experts until it became clear that most dinosaurs had more in common with birds.
- Stephen King
- Under the Dome. after the cut-off town's only real qualified doctor dies of a heart attack, the physician's assistant has to perform all medical procedures and drafts nurses as physician's assistants and civilians as nurses. In a town quickly devolving into chaos and violence, not to mention all the town's children having psychic seizures.
- The Stand. Stu Redman, whose primary stated work experiences are assembling calculators and pumping gas, is forced to perform an appendectomy. The guy dies in the process. Later on, the Free Zone is forced to rely on a veterinarian until a doctor arrives.
- Similarly, in The Regulators (written under the Richard Bachman pen name), veterinarian Tom Billingsley attempts to treat a neighbor who's nearly had her arm shot off.
- A veterinary surgeon is drafted in to provide first aid after a terrorist attack on a ferry in Tom Clancy's novel Patriot Games. Realistically subverted as one of the gunshot victims doesn't survive, even though a Navy rescue helicopter with a medical corpsman onboard arrives within minutes and all the vet did was apply pressure bandages.
- Paul Sinclair: Sinclair isn't a lawyer. He's the brother of a lawyer who took a couple law-related classes at the academy. Since that was more legal training than anyone else had on the ship, he was declared Legal Officer.
- In the novel The Untied Kingdom by Kate Johnston, former pop-star Eve Carpenter is transported to a parallel universe where England is little more than a third-world country as it became increasingly isolated following King Henry VIII simply severing ties with the Church rather than creating the Protestants. As a result, while the military are still debating if Eve is a spy or just insane, she is recruited on a mission to steal a computer from the enemy forces as the only person they have access to who may be remotely capable of working the machine, even as Eve herself protests that she only knows so much.
- The War Against the Chtorr. The protagonist is assigned to a front-line special forces unit because they need a scientist. In fact, he only has a couple of years of college-level biology, but most of the real scientists have been killed off in the plagues and those that remain are too valuable to risk.
- In Worldwar, Sam Yeager is a minor league baseball player-turned-soldier, who likes reading science-fiction stories. When the Race invades, his hobby becomes known to his commanding officer, who quickly assigns him to escort the two Race prisoners, since, obviously, they have nothing even approaching alien experts. Over the years, Sam becomes the foremost expert on the Race, though.
- Played for both laughs and drama in the episode "I've Got You Under My Skin" when Cordelia goes to a local magic store to get a box to contain the Ethros demon the gang is going to exorcise, but they don't have an Ethros Box carved by blind Tibetan monks in stock and she has to settle for a Shorshack Box pieced together by mute Chinese nuns. Unfortunately, a Shorshack demon is a little smaller than an Ethros, so the box doesn't hold up after the exorcism and the demon escapes.
- When Wesley was estranged from the rest of the team for a while, Fred, as the other resident Smart Guy, had to fill in for him as their expert on demons, prophecies and mystical lore as best as she could using the books he left behind. However, as she pointed out, she was trained as a physicist, not an occultist.
- Battlestar Galactica:
- In the second season premiere, the titular ship finds itself separated from the Fleet moments after Commander Adama has been twice shot in the chest, with Dr. Cottle, the only doctor on Galactica and one of only a handful in the Fleet, on another vessel. As such, the task of performing a risky life-saving operation falls to a nursing assistant who comments that she has no experience at anything more involved than giving enemas. Naturally, it works out, though all she did was manage to keep him alive long enough for the real doctor to sort him out properly, the implication being it would not have worked out if they had taken much longer.
- Also when Dr. Gaius Baltar is requested to determine where the Cylon mine's Tylium storage might be located — he doesn't have a clue about mining or factory work, but he's the Closest Thing They Got to all sorts of scientific experts. It's a good thing that he's a genius with a literal Guardian Angel.
- This can also apply to the Galactica itself. The ship was about to be retired and be turned into a floating museum and was outfitted with obsolete fighters (their obsolescence was the reason they were still effective; it made them immune to hacking). However, after the destruction of the rest of the Colonial armada, the aging Galactica is the only military vessel available to protect the refugees.
- In the episode "Dirty Hands", Chief Tyrol takes his concerns to President Roslin that the Fleet is becoming stratified as parents are passing on their skills and jobs to their children and class divisions are emerging between people like officers and professionals on one hand and enlisted crew and laborers on the other, not to mention the crews on vessels like the Tylium ore processing ship being under-manned and over-extended. But their initial solution of conscripting more workers from the civilian populace isn't perfect either, and we soon see a young architectural student hauled off to work at the Tylium refinery just because his CV shows he interned on a farm for one summer.
- In ''The Farm'', Simon tells Starbuck that the medical facility she is staying has "five teachers masquerading as nurses" as an indicator for how short-staffed they are. Starbuck bitterly retorts that she knows "a teacher masquerading as President" in reference to Roslin.
- In the fourth season of Blindspot, in "The One Where Jane Visits An Old Friend", Jane Doe is forced to turn to arrested double agent Doctor Borden for help dealing with her psychological struggles in trying to reconcile her restored memories of Remi into her identity as Jane Doe; Borden himself explicitly states that they never had a conventional doctor/patient relationship given how he was manipulating her for Sandstorm, but as Jane points out, he's the only trained psychiatrist who understands her situation without requiring excess background details about the principle characters in Jane's life.
- Castle: In the seventh-season episode "In Plane Sight," Castle and Alexis' flight to London is interrupted when the on-board air marshal goes missing, and the flight crew ask Castle for help finding him because they know his reputation, and he's "the closest thing we have to law enforcement on this plane."
Castle: Which in itself is cause for concern...
- Early on in the Doctor Who story The Seeds of Doom, the Doctor, Sarah Jane and two scientists are stranded at an Antarctic research station with a colleague who's been infected by a deadly alien parasite, and his only chance is an emergency amputation. The scientist the Doctor tells this to is shocked because he's a zoologist, but he agrees to try after Sarah Jane points out his colleague, a botanist, is even less qualified.
- Simon Tam in Firefly is a trauma surgeon not a therapist, which makes him ill-equipped to treat his sister River's current mental damage. But then he is also a Big Brother trying to save his sister, so presumably that will do, as he doesn't have any other option.
- When The Chief and Larabee are accidently locked in a vault in Get Smart, Max and 99 are sent to a prison to recruit a renouned safecracker to free them. Unfortunately, they arrive right after he was executed, so they enlist an expert forger instead.
- The IT Crowd: "Pick a Card... don't show me! Put it back in the pack... is this your card?" "No— but damn close! You are the man I seek."
- Jeremiah: Most people handling jobs with any specialized skills are fairly self-taught, given how they were kids when nearly all of the world's adults died. One such example is Reese Davenport from "The Bag", who sells his skills as a doctor. The limited skills he has come from being made to watch his emotionally distant doctor father at work before the Big Death and reading a medical book.
- In "Big Chicken Dinner" of Last Resort, Grace Shepard is assigned as defense lawyer to crew member accused of raping an island girl. She points out to her Captain that she isn't a JAG lawyer, but he comments that she was on the honor committee in military school which is "more than the rest of us". He tells her to just do the best she can. The prosecutor was the local island thug, so it wasn't like she was particularly outclassed.
- She later again protests her assignment but is overruled. It's revealed at the end the real reason she didn't want the case is that she was raped at the academy, as retaliation for punishing another cadet for honor infraction. Her case was never investigated, and she concluded over the course of the trial that the crew member did in fact rape the islander.
- In the Lost pilot, Jack deems Kate acceptable to stitch up his wounds because she once sewed the drapes in her apartment, though it was mostly that he couldn't reach the wound himself and she was the first person to happen upon him when he was checking the damage. He was just trying to reassure her she could manage.
- And in one of the later seasons, Jack has his appendix removed by Juliet, who is a fertility doctor.
- Averted in the second season, when we see a comparison between how the main survivor group and the tail section group had been living since the crash. Several of the tail section group died because nobody in that group was able to give real medical care like Jack did for the main group.
- B.J. Hunnicutt is put in charge by Hawkeye whenever the problem of the week involves horses because B.J. once stepped in a pile of manure and his father-in-law owns a farm.
- Averted in a similar scenario when they go to Col. Potter, who lived on a farm and served as a cavalryman in World War I; his response is to call a veterinarian to help.
- In one episode, a badly wounded soldier needs a recently-developed surgery that B.J. had been reading about in a medical journal, and isn't stable enough to transport to a more sophisticated hospital. Hawkeye suggests B.J. do it since his recent reading is the closest thing to expertise they have available.
- Comes up twice (though the first is mostly tongue-in-cheek) in an episode where a pregnant local woman needs a C-section. When they're trying to figure out who should do it, Hawkeye quips that, "I haven't delivered a kid since I drove my nephew over to his grandmother's", which a nurse suggests is "close enough". Hawkeye then points out that B.J. is just a few months out of residency, making him the actual closest thing they have.
- In an episode where all the women are sent away for some reason, the enlisted men are recruited as nurses.
- During the "Show Biz Awards" sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus, Eric Idle, parodying Richard Attenborough, introduces David Niven as the guest star to read the next round of nominations. "Sadly, Mr. Niven could not be with us this evening, but he has sent his fridge..." A large, white refrigerator with an oversized bow tie wrapped around it is wheeled onto the stage and reads the nominations in a silly voice.
- In Our Flag Means Death, the crew's cook, Roach, is also the ship "doctor" because, according to him, "Meat is meat, knives are knives." Which is Truth in Television for several historical pirate crews. An actual qualified doctor was a rare commodity on a pirate ship, and the cook's implements were often the only surgical tools available.
- Power Rangers:
- In the second and third seasons of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Yellow Ranger Aisha Campbell occasionally serves as a back-up technical expert; while she isn't as brilliant as the team's regular science expert Billy Cranston the Blue Ranger, she is smart enough to at least come up with stop-gap solutions to problems when Billy is in some way unavailable, such as repairing a damaged transmitter to stop a mind-controlling monster or reactivating the teleportation system when a brainwashed Billy depowers the Command Center.
- In Power Rangers Time Force, Wes Collins, the team's Red Ranger, initially joins basically because of this; the other four Rangers come from the future, but with the death of their Red Ranger, the only way to unlock all five morphers is with someone who shares the DNA of their lost member, and Wes is quickly identified as an ancestor of the deceased Ranger as the two look almost exactly alike.
- In Power Rangers Ninja Storm, Shane, Tori and Dustin only become the Wind Rangers because they are late in getting to the Wind Ninja Academy...arriving just in time to see it destroyed (all the other students having been captured by the Big Bad's forces). Cam expresses reservations, but Sensei tells him point blank they have no choice but them.
- Schmigadoon!: Jorge takes over as the town's doctor upon his father's retirement and later death, but is revealed in the finale to actually be a veterinarian by training.
- Stargate SG-1:
Aris Boch: Dr. Jackson, if you'd be so kind as to dress my wound.
- The team comes through a Stargate and finds a woman in labor and her husband insisting the only qualified help is too far away to get there in time. All 3 men on the teamnote turn and stare at Sam Carter... who loudly declares "don't look at me, I don't know what to do!" The baby is delivered by Dr. Jackson, who occasionally helped out a midwife during the year he lived on a pre-industrial planet.
- A bounty hunter who captures SG-1 asks Dr. Jackson to dress his wound. Daniel then turns to Major Carter, who has had some medical training. Which is, of course, useless, as Boch isn't human, and the wound dressing is nothing like an Earth first aid kit. Basically he just tells her exactly what to do and how to do it.
Daniel Jackson: I'm an archaeologist.
Aris Boch: I know, but you're also a doctor.
Daniel Jackson: Of archaeology.
- In Stargate Universe, combat medic Tamara "TJ" Johansen finds herself as the ranking medical officer among the crew of 80 or so stranded on the Destiny. After protesting that she's not qualified to be the ship's doctor, Col. Young gives her the standard "do your best" speech and sets her to work. Five episodes later she gets a second Field Promotion to chief psychologist in light of her undergraduate degree in psychology.
- Star Trek:
- In the episode "Mirror, Mirror" of Star Trek: The Original Series, Scotty drafts McCoy into helping him. McCoy does his "I'm a Doctor, not a" routine, but Scotty quietly says that of the people they have (the others being Kirk and Uhura), Bones is the closest thing they've got.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- Episode "The Siege of AR-558"; justified in that Trill retain the memories and experience of their previous hosts, but those particular experiences may have been decades or centuries ago:
Kellin: You an engineer?
Ezri Dax: No... but Tobin, one of my previous hosts, was.
Kellin: Close enough.
- Episode "Babel", after most of the station crew are afflicted by an aphasia-inducing bioweapon, Sisko recruits Odo (who is, among other things, the one member of staff probably immune to the virus):
Odo: Look, Sisko. I'm a security officer, a good one, but that doesn't make me qualified to help you run station operations.
Sisko: You're probably right, Constable, but as you can see, you're all I've got.
- Episode "The Siege of AR-558"; justified in that Trill retain the memories and experience of their previous hosts, but those particular experiences may have been decades or centuries ago:
- Star Trek: The Next Generation has the season 5 episode "Disaster": When the ship gets severely damaged, it turns out WORF is the only one who can help Keiko O'Brien give birth to Molly when they're stuck in Ten-Forward. Molly was born okay, but it was not easy for either Keiko or Worf.
- Star Trek: Voyager:
- Throughout the run of the series, Tom Paris is often drafted into doing nursing duties. Apparently taking an exobiology course in college (to impress a girl he was interested in) is the closest thing they've got to a nurse onboard now that the entire medical staff has been killed (further justified as Voyager was on a military reconnaissance mission when it was violently dragged to the Delta Quadrant rather than a standard Starfleet exploratory mission, and therefore may have lacked a standard full crew compliment of science-focused officers). And they do actually show Tom on several occasions stressed out pulling duty as nurse and pilot while trying to learn enough medicine to be at least competent whenever the Doctor is absent.
- The Emergency Medical Hologram aka "the Doctor" himself is an example, being pressed into service as the Voyager's full-time Chief Medical Officer after the aforementioned death of the entire medical staff. The EMH was never intended to be more than a short-term backup to the flesh-and-blood doctors and certainly wasn't meant to be kept running for years at a time. This eventually ends up causing problems, forcing the crew to extensively upgrade him just so that his program won't crash.
- In the episode "Course: Oblivion", where the biomimetic Voyager crew and their ship are undergoing molecular decohesion, Neelix is recruited by Captain Janeway to be the Chief Medical Officer after they lose the Doctor and are in the process of losing Tom Paris, with Neelix saying that he only had training as a field medic.
- Strike Back. The team breaks into a restaurant and demands that the owner get them a doctor for their injured comrade. He tells them that he has a brother who's a veterinarian and they shrug and declare, "Good enough."
- Supernatural. When the Monster of the Week is a Japanese spirit that can only be killed by a sword blessed in a running spring by a Shinto priest, Dean buys a katana from a pawn shop, then has a Japanese sushi chef read out the blessing while he pours a bottle of spring water over the blade.
- During the parish Christmas pageant in The Vicar of Dibley, Alice goes into labor with her and Hugo's first child. Geraldine asks if there's a doctor in the house. One guy pipes up with, "I'm a vet!"
Geraldine: You'll do.
David: Over my dead body. I'm not having my grandchild brought into the world by James Herriot. (steps up)
- The Walking Dead features Rick finding a doctor after his son Carl has been (accidentally) shot. Cue this exchange:
Lori: You've performed this before, right?
Greene: In a sense.
Lori: But you're a doctor?
Greene: Of course. I'm a vet.
Lori: You're a veteran? Like a combat medic?
Greene: A veterinarian.
- A bizarre example occurs in Johnny Horton's song "The Battle of New Orleans". Some soldiers accidentally melt their cannon by firing it too much during the battle, so they continue fighting using the closest thing they can find: an alligator.
- At the beginning of "Les nuits de Paris" (Les Luthiers), after mentioning that anybody who knew the current trends in French music should know the name Jean-Claude Tremend, Marcos Mundstock would eagerly announce said musician's brother-in-law presence in the theatre, inviting him to sing a song.
- Many RPG systems allow a character to "default" on a skill, using a different but related skill with some kind of penalty. How difficult this is depends on the system and the specific skills involved; e.g. in GURPS if you know how to drive a car well you'll be able to handle anything from a motorcycle to a tank, but trying to perform surgery on basic first-aid training is practically impossible.
- Related, it's possible to not be Proficient in a Skill, but if the Stat related to the skill is high enough, it's possible to use that. Likewise, the stat could be a Dump Stat, but the character could be Proficient in the skills related to said stat. Then there's weapon skills. In D&D5e, for instance, a strength-based cleric, like a heavy armored one from the Life Domain, might use a strength-based weapon they aren't proficient in, such as a longsword, especially if the other person nearby dumped strength, such as a wizard, especially if the weapon is the only thing that can damage the Big Bad, and those are the only two still standing after an attack. Likewise, if there isn't someone dedicated to a certain role, like a sneaky rogue, might have to look for someone with close enough skills, like a monk with a criminal background. If a diplomat is needed and the talkative Bard is unavailable due to a Paternity Suit with their 50+ lovers, grab the Warlock to do the talking — they did convince a powerful being to grant them powers after all. Need a tank, but Fighter, Barbarian and Paladin can't do the job after breaking their arms in that "arm wrestling contest", grab Ranger, Heavy-armor Cleric, and Wild-Shaping Druid to do the job.
- Dungeons & Dragons Version 3.5 had a feat called "Jack of All Trades" which allowed you to make a skill check in any skill that said "Trained Only" without training, turning you into an all-purpose "Closest thing we've got". Generally the results are very bad (you only have your attribute and any magic/tool bonuses, which is generally in the single digits total), though an obscure elf-only feat can turn it into Omni Disciplinary Scientist.
- The plot of The Whipping Man kicks off when an ex-Confederate soldier arrives at his former home in Richmond on April 13, 1865 (days after the fall of Richmond and the end of the Civil War), with a week-old bullet wound in his leg and gangrene setting in. The ex-soldier is afraid to go to a hospital. The only people home are two former slaves, one of whom assisted in a hospital during the war. All they have are some boxes, a length of rope, a knife, a saw, and a hell of a lot of whiskey. The Squick factor of what happens next depends largely on the production values of the performance you're watching.
- This shows up in the manual of the FMV Game Bloodwings: Pumpkinhead's Revenge.
The tormented spirit of Pumpkinhead has been let loose to seek vengeance among the living. Unfortunately, for the poor souls of Ferren Woods, they have nothing better than you to stop them.
- In Dragon Age: Inquisition, Cassandra and Leliana were originally looking for either of the previous two player characters to lead the titular organization, but were unable to find them. They eventually realize that the new player character, the only one to survive a disastrous peace summit and who just happens to have the exact tool they need, is effectively leading them anyway, so they make it official.
- This is also the case with Cullen, whom Cassandra recruited prior to the game to help subdue the rebel mages and Templars. When the Inquisition found itself suddenly having to become an actual military force, he became the leader of its soldiers.
- Among the support staff, medical matters in Haven are handled by Adan - who is not a healer, but an alchemist. He was working with the healer, who was killed at the above-mentioned peace summit, and Adan was the only one available to take over his duties.
- Fallout: New Vegas has "Fantastic", a technician at the HELIOS One power station, who managed to convince the NCR that he was fully qualified. In actuality, he's a moron and a junkie who barely has the faintest idea what the various buttons of the panels do what. If you manage to help him send power over to the NCR, he'll be promoted to the head technician of Hoover Dam.
Fantastic: "They were going from door to door asking if anyone knew any scientists. I said look no further. They asked me if I knew anything about power plants. I said as much as anyone I'd ever met. They asked me how well I understood theoretical physics. I told them I had a theoretical degree in physics. They said welcome aboard."
- Homeworld Cataclysm: After The Corruption come Eldritch Abomination known as The Beast devours the entire science crew of the Kuun-Laan, this exchange happens with one of their engineers.
Command: Do you understand what it is?Engineer: Kinda.Command: That is a hell of a lot better than anyone else around here. You are now our chief scientist.Chief Scientist: But sir, it scares me.Command: It scares us all, son. It scares us all.
- Knights of the Old Republic: your character is a soldier with basic Jedi training. You are suddenly the closest thing the Council has to a Jedi Knight to hunt down the source of the massive Sith fleet. It makes more sense after the Reveal.
- And more so in the sequel: your character has been cut off from the Force and exiled from Republic space. Suddenly, you are the closest thing to a Jedi left to defeat the Sith out to destroy all life in the galaxy.
- Not as common in Mass Effect 3 as you might expect; despite blowing out of dock on Earth seconds ahead of the Reapers, the Normandy is carrying a highly experienced engineering staff who can crew most of its duty stations. It helps that most of the ancillary systems can be run by its AI. Comm Specialist Traynor is a drastic example, though, becoming Shepard's adjutant by virtue of her previous job (overseeing the ship's communication systems overhaul) suddenly being obsolete. In a twist, she's dramatically overqualified for the job. However, her original training does come up from time to time, usually as a plot point. Over the course of the game, her role drifts to de facto intelligence officer.
- Shuttle pilot Steve Cortez is a minor example; he is a trained pilot, originally a fighter jock but fully qualified to fly your drop shuttle. However, he was assigned to the refit crew as a supply officer, which was actually a more valuable talent. When it became clear his chief competition for the pilot role, Marine James Vega, should never be allowed near a shuttle, ever, he starts handling both duties.
- Shepard him/herself is acting as Earth's de facto ambassador to the galaxy at large, being ordered to rally support from the other races to help Earth against the Reapers. While Shepard's training is strictly as a naval officer and Space Marine, s/he is also a Council Spectre of some renown, meaning that most of the galaxy's leaders are willing to at least hear him/her out, even if they're not in a hurry to pledge support. Similarly, Garrus and (potentially) Tali have become a military advisor and an Admiral respectively due to them being their race's foremost expert on dealing with Reapers simply due to their adventures with Shepard.
- Mass Effect: Andromeda:
- Whichever Ryder the player chooses becomes the human Pathfinder, on account of their father dying on day one in Andromeda, and passing the title over to them before expiring. Pretty much everyone, Ryder included, notes that they're untrained for the position, but since they're connected to SAM, the Pathfinder assisting AI, and cannot be separated, they'll have to do. Fortunately, Ryder proves more than capable.
- In a much less successful version of this, Jaruun Tann is the director of the Andromeda Initiative, because all the people who should have been in charge have died. And by the time Ryder turns up, his management has already led to mass riots, and a large exodus of the Initiative's population, along with near-all the krogan, because Tann is a salarian with open, blatant xenophobia toward them.
- Pokédex entries indicate that resurrected Fossil Pokémon like Tyrunt, Tyrantrum, and Aerodactyl aren't exact recreations — Tyrunt and Tyrantrum being posited to have had feathers, and Mega Aerodactyl being posited to be the latter's natural appearance.
- In competitive battles, Hidden Power is used to fill holes in a special attacker's coverage, thanks to being able to be any type (often, Electric-types will use an Ice-type Hidden Power to hit Ground-types, and Grass-types run a Fire-type one so that Steel-types don't wall them). However, its base power leaves much to be desired; originally it varied based on an individual Pokémon's IVs, with the highest possible power being 70; Pokémon X and Y changed it to a constant 60, making it even more situational than ever.
- In Tak and the Power of Juju, due to one reason or another, supposed Chosen One, Lok is indisposed so it falls to Tak to do most of the heavy lifting until Lok returns. In the end, it's revealed that Tak was The Chosen One all along.
- In Trials of Mana, the Faerie embarks from the Mana Tree in order to find The Chosen One that can wield the Sword of Mana. Eventually, she gets too exhausted to fly anymore and faints. Whichever of the six heroes that the player chose to be the main character is the one who finds Faerie, and she decides to make that character her vessel after hearing that they have basic competence with fighting. Faerie doesn't much like it either, but it was that or nothing.
- Warframe: In the quest to build your railjack, the first step is to build Cephalon Cy, an ancient command Cephalon who was a ship Cephalon during the Old War. He insists that the nature of his failure during the Old War means he is no longer a viable command Cephalon and searches for another during the construction of the ship. In the end, he can't find any other command Cephalons whatsoever, so he grudgingly takes the job himself once more.
- In The Witcher, we see how Leo is an experiment by Vesimir to create a new Badass Normal "pseudo-witcher" who has the swordsmanship and magic training of a witcher but not undergone the mutations to make them truly superhuman, as the means to impart the mutations into candidate witchers has since been lost; there hasn't been a new true witcher in decades and the number of existing witchers is dwindling. Leo is a skilled swordsman, able to defeat a swathe of bandits through sheer skill and conditioning, but the Professor cruelly kills him by shooting him with a crossbow, because he doesn't have the reflexes that allow true witchers to deflect bolts in flight.
- In Pico Vs. Überkids, the Human Genome Project sent three of its Überkids to school so they can learn more about humanity from the school's best and brightest. Unfortunately, due to to the events of Pico's School, those best and brightest are currently dead, so Mr. Flacit chooses Pico, Darnell, and Nene to teach them instead. They then "teach" the Überkids how to play Russian Roulette.
- During Yakuza 5, the Amon assassin siblings come looking for a rematch with the protagonists of Yakuza 4. Problem is, one of those protagonists (Tanimura) is completely absent from 5. Which unfortunately for new guy Shinada means he gets roped into the fight as his replacement.
- Subverted with Ms. Walsh in Double Homework. She is given the responsibility of teaching the protagonists summer school class, even though her background is in special education. However, it turns out that she was hired for her incompetence due to the requirements of the experiment being performed on the class.
- When Amy initially asks the protagonist to tutor Melody, he isnt initially keen on tutoring a music student, but after he takes the job, he teaches Melody a great deal, not just about music, but about life in general.
- Inverted later on when Melody is giving her first official concert in a bar. When Hank Sharp wants to see Melodys manager, the protagonist steps forward as says that he is, even though he has no experience managing a musical act.
- Also inverted when Steve and Bethany plan their theft of Melodys guitar. Steve volunteers to cut the power to Melodys instruments and sound equipment despite not being an electrician.
- In El Goonish Shive, Arthur needs a seer who is a scientist so he offers Tedd a lab and funding to help research and develop magic in order to make it safer for people to use. He admits he doesn't really want to use him, but his only other choice is a foreign child.
- The Order of the Stick: Played rather darkly when the party's cleric Durkon is murdered and raised as a vampire. Token Evil Teammate Belkar (who Durkon died protecting) objects that the vampire isn't the real Durkon, but party leader Roy accepts the vampire into the party on the premise that he's the closest thing they've got to Durkon, and they need a high-level cleric to survive the coming battles. He is wrong; "vampire Durkon" is an evil spirit puppeteering Durkon's corpse, while the real Durkon can only watch in horror. Roy ends up leading the vampire to an important meeting that lets the vampire bring the world much closer to destruction.
- Schlock Mercenary:
- Tailor, a robot designed to sew clothes, is the only one who can apply micro-sutures to prevent Tagon from bleeding into his brain. It's not rocket science, but it is brain surgery. Thankfully, he's a robot, and so with a little reprogramming he can be more adequately suited to the task.
- When the team needs a xenobiologist in order to better understand an alien biome, they turn to Lieutenant Ebbirnoth. Ebby has jokingly referred to himself as a "xenokillogist" before since he took a number of xenoanatomy and xenorganic chemistry classes in an attempt to learn how better to kill aliens—only to discover at the end of a long and expensive college education that it all boils down to "point this end at the enemy." He's still a better choice than the wormhole physicist, the roboticist, or the medic.
- And then when the team needs Ebby to help them understand the espererin, Ebby is incapacitated. After a quick glance over their physiology, Kathryn taps Para, the roboticist, to help. Para complains that she's not any type of biologist but quickly realizes that the espies are more mechanical than biological.
Para: Sweet mother of chrome... they're solar-powered robo-fairies.
Kath: And that is why I picked you.
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: Emil learned a little Finnish to be able to speak with Lalli, but in practice has trouble remembering two-word sentences. A situation in which Sigrun needs to speak to Lalli while his usual translator is not available eventually arises, and Sigrun turns to Emil for the job. Emil points out that he can barely manage to say "Good day" in Finnish.
- This forms the premise of Dave the Barbarian, with the main characters filling in for their more heroic parents, who've left the kingdom to fight more threatening villains elsewhere. It's even in the theme song.
Dave, Fang, and Candy! Brave and bold, they're not!
They ain't the greatest heroes, but they're the only ones we've got!
- This becomes a Running Gag in "Shiny Teeth", an episode of The Fairly OddParents. When teen idol Chip Skylark's famous teeth go missing, his producer (who's already spent twenty million dollars on Chip's new music video) declares Skip Sparkypants "the new Chip Skylark." When Skip similarly has his pants stolen by Cosmo, the producer instead decides that a random janitor will be "the new Chip Skylark" instead.
- It appears that the tribe of sewer-dwelling mutants have taken to worshipping Nibbler as a god, believing a virgin sacrifice will prevent mass-scale slaughter. Leela volunteers as the sacrifice to draw Nibbler out — only to be derisively mocked. ("Nice try, Leela. But we've all seen Zapp Brannigan's webpage.") It transpires that there's no one else available, however, meaning they have to use her anyway: "So when El Chupanibre comes to take the (airquotes) 'virgin'..."
- In "Hell Is Other Robots", Fry and Leela have to enter a fiddle contest against the Robot Devil to save Bender.
Leela: Do you know how to play the fiddle?
Fry: No. Do you?
Leela: No, but I used to play the drums. They're sorta similar.
- In Booster Gold's A Day in the Limelight episode of Justice League, he is asked to save the world from a guy with a black hole in his chest (no, really). He claims that this is too big and that he's a phony pretending to be a hero, but the Hot Scientist Girl of the Week says that he's the closest thing they've got (well, the only thing, in fact; the rest of the League is too busy fighting Mordru offscreen to give a damn).
- This is right after he asks her to help a woman in labor, seeing as how she is a doctor, she then angrily retorts that she is a physicist.
- The Seven Soldiers homage episode "Patriot Act" also uses this; most of the Leauge's heavy hitters are deployed elsewhere, so a bunch of B-Listers are called in to cover for Superman at a parade... and fight off the Hulked-Out General Ripper who has a bone to pick with Supes.
- In King Arthur's Disasters, Merlin notes that Arthur is a "wise, just and well-loved king [..] considering the alternatives".
- The Littlest Pet Shop (2012) episode "Terriers & Tiaras'' has Blythe making a last-minute substitute when Zoe, her entry in the dog pageant (who actually IS a dog) quits in protest. Zoe's replacement is Russell, a hedgehog whom Blythe passes off as an exotic European breed. Russell wins.
- During the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode, "The Return of Harmony, Part 2", with Rainbow Dash tricked into flying off to "Cloudsdale" by Discord, an aggravated Twilight needs someone to fill her spot as the wielder of the virtue "Loyalty". Her Beleaguered Assistant Spike turns out to be that someone. While not a bad choice, Twilight's plan still fails, in part due to the other characters still being brainwashed into embodiments of vice.
- The Powerpuff Girls (1998): "Twisted Sister" has the girls create a fourth Powerpuff Girl when they have too many chores to do; but since they didn't add the proper ingredients and used substitutes (artificial sweetener for sugar, dirt and twigs for spice, and what they think is "everything nice" such as flowers, stuffed animals, computers, etc.), the girl comes out giant and grotesque.
- In an episode of The Simpsons where Bart gets injured and needs legal representation, Lionel Hutz selects Nick Riviera as the medical expert for the upcoming lawsuit as he's "the only one in this room who's even close to a doctor", which Riviera treats as a compliment (the rest of the people in the room being Hutz, Homer, and Marge). In another episode, the nerds attending a Stargate convention start hitting on Groundskeeper Willie because his kilt makes him the closest thing to a real girl they hope to get.
- South Park:
- Randy Marsh often gets called to action as the town's only scientist. The thing is, he's not an Omnidisciplinary Scientist: he's a geologist.
- When the hospital was understaffed, the doctor considered Chef qualified enough for having watched one episode of Quincy.
- When the US government sends a team through the portal to Imaginationland, they put Kurt Russell in command, because he was "in that one movie that was kinda like this," and that gave him the most experience.
- Star Wars Rebels: In the episode Spark of Rebellion the crew of the Ghost's plan for infiltration the Imperial transport requires that they have a wookie "prisoner" to hand over to the Imperials, however as they don't have any wookies on their crew they instead try to pass of Zeb as a "rare hairless wookie", which doesn't work.
- TaleSpin: Don Carnage sent two pirates of his crew to break into Cape Suzette. One of them tried to be the boss of the other by claiming to have attended school. When the other dismissed the claim as false, the claimant then said he had already seen a school's photograph and the other pirate accepted this as a reason to let him lead.
- In the Young Justice episode "Drop Zone", this trope is played relatively straight when Kid Flash and Robin argue over who should lead The Team.
Kid Flash: You don't even have superpowers!
Robin: Neither does Batman!
Kid Flash: Duh! You're not Batman.
Robin: Duh! Closest thing we got!
- There was once a documentary on a small town damaged by a storm, and at the local hospital, things got so bad that, at one point, one surgeon found himself to be the only medical professional in the building, with no one to help him with a surgical procedure he absolutely had to do on a patient. In desperation, he found a random guy in the hallway and drafted him to help. The guy had no medical training whatsoever, and was given a surgeon's gown, mask, gloves, and had to help out in performing surgery.
- The U.S. Secret Service originally was founded to investigate counterfeiting. However, since the U.S. Marshals lacked the manpower, and the other law enforcement agencies (such as the Park Rangers and Postal Inspectors) didn't fit the bill, the Service got stuck investigating most federal-level crimes. This continued until the FBI and other dedicated agencies were created and took over some of those responsibilities.
- Also the reason why a former Treasury Department agency is responsible for protecting the most powerful leader on the planet. They were the closest thing Congress had to do the job at the time (literally the closest thing — the Secret Service's headquarters used to be right up the street from where Congress met). When it became clear (on account of three assassinations in 36 years) that dedicated bodyguards for the President were a necessity, it was quicker to re-purpose some of the existing Secret Service agents than to create a new agency for the job. It had the added benefit of not being a (para)military unit and thus avoiding the US's fear of over-militarization dating back to The American Revolution and having the President protected by civilians fit well into the Just the First Citizen spiel in a world full of reigning and ruling monarchs.
- Skippy of Skippy's List fame was at one point assigned as unit interpreter during a deployment in Albania by virtue of having been deployed in another country nearby previously and owning an English-to-Serbo-Croat (not Albanian) dictionary.
- Want to know why Ida had two credited cinematographers? Original cinematographer Ryszard Lenczewski left production after 10 days for disputed reasons note and camera operator Lukasz Zal was hired to fill in the vacant slot.
- If you cook or bake on a regular basis, you will be familiar with this trope. Recipe calls for almonds and you don't have any? Hazelnuts will do in a pinch. Don't have a deep frying machine? Surely a pot with oil in it will have the same effect.
- In times of crisis, this tends to happen quite a lot. In the aftermath of World War II, the Reichsmark while still technically legal tender had lost all purchasing power, but goods and services had to be paid for somehow, so cigarettes (rare, durable, can be stored, can be broken down in small value units, have an intrinsic value) became one of several modes of payment, along with all-out bartering.
- An out-universe example with the film Schindler's List: after seeing a rough cut of the film, composer John Williams told director Steven Spielberg that the film deserved a better composer. Spielberg replied, "I know, but they're all dead."
- A video-game genre-wide example can be found in racing games with real-life cars. In 2000, Electronic Arts struck a deal with Porsche with the release of Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed that gave the company exclusive rights to use Porsche cars in their games. All other major racing game franchises were suddenly unable to use an iconic brand of Cool Cars, so they resorted to using Ruf cars instead... which are modified Porsche models. The way these franchises used Ruf cars as stand-in for Porsche was only made more apparent by the fact that, after Electronic Arts's deal expired in 2016, these other companies completely stopped adding Ruf cars to their new games and went back to using Porsche cars instead... and the games that were being updated during the deal expiration outright removed all Ruf cars to replace them with Porsche ones.
- When studying how extinct animals lived, paleontologists will look to the animal's closest living relative(s) for clues. Or, they'll look to another unrelated animal that filled a similar niche, or had similar morphology, and likely lived and behaved in a similar way (even if it's not closely related to the animal being studied).
- This trope tends to pop up in arts and crafts, particularly when a craft supply is hard to find in certain colors. Don't have a piece of paper that's red on one side and black on the other? Get a red sheet and a black sheet, and glue them together. Don't have black paper at all? Use dark blue. Can't find gray and peach-colored pony beads? Clear with silver glitter and light orange might work. If all else fails, you may be able to paint whatever you do have the appropriate color.
- During the 2020 National Football League season, the Denver Broncos ended up with a situation where they had no quarterbacks available for their game against the New Orleans Saints - one of them had tested positive for COVID and the other three they had under contract were deemed ineligible because they had been in a meeting with him and consequently had to quarantine. With no time to sign a replacement, the Broncos turned to a wide receiver who had played quarterback as a freshman in college and had not even practiced as a quarterback in two years. Predictably, he threw two interceptions on the nine pass attempts he made and they were steamrolled 31-3.