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Crew of One

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Notice how there's no loaders or spotters? This is just the tip of the iceberg...note 

Blackadder: I was under the impression that it was common maritime practice for a ship to have a crew.
Redbeard Rum: Opinion is divided on the subject. Yerrs; all the other captains say it is, I say it isn't!

Several kinds of vehicles are so complex and require such multitasking that they cannot be operated by a single person: tanks, trains, certain airplanes, etc.

Take the typical tank, for example. If you're in the driver's seat, you have limited visibility and you can't load or fire the main gun. If you're in the commander's seat, you can see all around you, but you can't drive, shoot or load the gun. If you're in the loader's seat, you can't see well or drive (you might not even be able to shoot the main gun). The training points out the fact blatantly: The Captain has to sit, look around, and give orders, each crewman has a single task to perform and has to do it at his best, this is why absolute trust in your buddies is the most important thing you have to learn in the military.

However, this doesn't seem to be a problem in Fictionland. The Hero (usually a Universal Driver's License holder) can easily handle any such vehicle singlehandedly. Common in certain movies and video games (though in the latter case it could be considered an acceptable break from reality).

Almost universal in the case of Humongous Mecha, the notable exceptions being Combiners.

This can be justified in certain Speculative Fiction settings by omnipresent computers and simple AI. One might say the ideal number of people for any given vehicle is one: one human to handle the tactics and the moral decisions, and computers to handle the rest of the more mechanical tasks like navigation. The limiting factors, of course, are the amount of multitasking still left to the pilot, and how long the pilot can function at that level.

It can also be justified in emergency situations, at least in aviation. In the case of the death or incapacitation of one member of the flight crew, for instance, the other pilot is always able to fly the aircraft. In fact, it's a requirement that all aircraft be flyable by a single pilot for this very reason. And it's not that rare a circumstance; dozens of pilots have died during flight.note  Modern diesel-electric and turbo-electric ships are often similarly capable of being controlled by a single crew member in extremis.

Compare Guy in Back and how they are often treated in video games, as well as Critical Staffing Shortage. Related to The Main Characters Do Everything, especially One-Man Army.


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    Naval Vehicles 
  • Tales Of The Peculiar:
    "Where's the captain?"
    "You're looking at her."
    "Okay then, where's the crew?"
    "You're looking at her."
    • Justified in that the Captain / Crew can control the wind, and in doing so sail very easily.
  • Parodied in the climax of The Simpsons episode "New Kids on the Bleech", where pop band manager/Navy Lieutenant L.T. Smash singlehandedly hijacks an aircraft carrier. Well...almost singlehandedly:
    Bart: Think he's going to do something dangerous?
    Nelson: How should I know? Just keep loading missiles. [loads one into a launcher]
    Ralph: [carrying a missile] Pop music's hard work.
  • While you can't quite pilot a battleship or aircraft carrier by yourself in the Battlefield series, you can instantaneously hop between a ship's four to six different stations with a keypress to come remarkably close.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • This trope is subverted in The Curse of the Black Pearl. Jack and Will only manage to pilot the Interceptor after Norrington and his men set the sails. Even then, Jack admits that he can't sail it by himself, at least not well enough to dock in Tortuga - where they quickly enlist a more-or-less full-sized crew.
    • In Dead Man's Chest, they say that you could crew the Black Pearl with six men. Given that their priority was to escape the island, this was probably the number needed just to get the ship into the water.
  • Blackadder II features the batshit insane Cpt. Rum, who runs a ship without a crew. Granted, he usually cons passengers by “sailing ‘round and ‘round the Isle of Wight ‘til everyone gets dizzy” then sailing home.
    After two days without sight of land, after leaving Tilbury
    Edmund: So you don’t know the way to France either.
  • In the 1992 Steven Seagal film Under Siege, a crew of 3-4 men, out of which no one directly claims to be a trained artilleryman, load, aim and fire the 16-inch main gun of USS Missouri (BB-63) towards the small target which is a surfaced Diesel submarine. In Real Life, the machinery of each gun took 47 sailors to operate, a specialist observer operated the turret rangefinder and a trained artillery officer used an electromechanical computer to aim the gun. And the submarine was far too close to target with a 16-inch turret gun.
  • In Battleship, the Missouri is once again operated by a crew that can't even be called "skeleton", about half of whom are World War II vets (who actually know the systems) and the other half are the crew of a modern missile destroyer used to things like all-digital systems, computers, and GPS. And yet they manage to make the battleship slide sideways by simply dropping the anchor.
  • The whole point of the game Carrier Command: two carriers, completed with small squadrons of jets and amphibious tanks, were built to occupy a newly-formed island chain. These were built so a single person could control everything, including said jets and tanks. One of these was further refined to be completely AI-controlled; this AI was subverted by terrorists. You get the other one, and your job is to destroy the other carrier (either directly, or by starving it of resources by capturing its island bases). The result is played straight: you can usually only focus on fighting with one vehicle at a time, with the rest of your forces either on autopilot or docked.
  • World of Warships. Whether you're commanding a 32,000-ton aircraft carrier or a smaller 1500-ton destroyer, it's you with hands on everything.
  • Singlehanded oceanic sailing in the Real Life. The first transatlantic singlehanded crossing must have occurred already in the 18th century. The first person to sail singlehandedly around the world was Joshua Slocum in 1895-1898 on his two-masted 36'9" ketch Spray. This feat has been repeated many times— nowadays, there are even solo circumnavigation races.
  • A modern Real Life example with "Max Hardberger: Repo man of the seas". While not a one-man operation, he claims he can "re-steal" a huge cargo freighter with only two or three other guys (one of whom is a chief engineer) right from under the authorities' noses. To be fair, the ships he steals are being held illegally by foreign nations seeking to make a quick buck in bogus "docking fees". Max charges the owners of the ship $100,000 to retrieve the ship and return it safely. He has already done it 15 times. It helps that most systems are computerized these days.
  • When Popeye is hired by Castor Oyl in Thimble Theater, the sailor learns that Castor honestly wants him to do all work on his ship. Castor asserts that this is a great honor, being given multiple jobs, to which Popeye retorts that if he's going to do the work of six men, he'd better get six salaries.
  • Subnautica has the player character operate a Cyclops submarine, a vessel designed to be operated by a three-person crew, alone. Though it's extremely Justified, on account of you being the Sole Survivor of a ship crash. Also you can't perform all three roles at once - if you want to reload the decoys and do some repairs, you have to abandon the cockpit.
  • Averted in Tales of Berseria. A crew of three can barely get a ready-to-sail ship out of port and quickly run aground. Even once they get an experienced captain to guide them, they can barely make their small skiff behave and a fully-crewed ship easily out-sails them. While a ship is sailed solo at one point, the feat is achieved by a Wind Malak, who presumably cheated a bit.
  • Mostly averted in One Piece, in which most aspiring captains find themselves overwhelmed if they attempt to sail the seas all by themselves, which protagonist Luffy quickly realized and thus prioritized gaining a crew. There are exceptions, which are some of the most literal uses of this trope:
    • Dracule "Hawkeye" Mihawk, however, plays this straight and is perhaps the most literal example of this trope: Mihawk is the only person on his crew and operates his boat all by himself. A combination of being the World's Greatest Swordsman and having a caustic, offputting personality means he cannot get along with anyone except Perona, whose talents lie in fields other than operating a ship (and thus does absolutely nothing when at sea). He is also the only successful such instance in the series, though he has to rely on his incredible strength and toughness to not die.
    • There is also a semi-canon example in Douglas "Demon Heir" Bullet, antagonist of One Piece Stampede, who deliberately operates his submarine by himself as he doesn't trust anybody and believes true strength comes from working alone. Bullet relies on his Devil Fruit powers to reshape his submarine as he sees fit, allowing him to take any role he needs.
  • Invoked in Clarke And Dawe's famous "The Front Fell Off" skit concerning the regulations for oil tankers:
    John Clarke: (as Senator Collins) There's a minimum crew requirement...
    Brian Dawe: What's the minimum crew?
    Clarke: Oh, one, I suppose.
  • Subverted in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 with most ships (the Assault Destroyer in particular repeatedly asks how other sections of the ship are faring), but even these are just as vulnerable to Sniping the Cockpit as smaller vehicles.

In games, tanks and other AFVs are by far the outstanding demonstrator of this trope; more often than not, a single person will be able to drive, aim, and fire the main weapons of an armored vehicle on their own. Games that involve having multiple players operating one vehicle will usually have one player driving and any others operating the vehicle's weapons systems, but even then this will typically take the form of the first player/driver controlling the movement and aiming/firing the main gun, while the second player will simply take control of a mounted machine gun on the top. It is also very rare to get a real first-person view inside the tank, usually to avoid showing the crew working but also because this is usually not conducive to gameplay. The rest is a Rule of Fun issue; it's rather hard to get people excited about getting to be a tank's loader or radio operator. And in games that don't involve multiplayer co-op, this is the only way to make tanks playable at all. Even if the tank in question has fully automated loading of its main gun (most don't), every tank that has a turret has the driver seated in a separate compartment with no ability to control the weapons, and everybody in the turret likewise has no ability to drive the tank.

  • Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction plays this trope straight for tracked vehicles and helicopters but averts it for wheeled vehicles, where you can either drive or operate the weapons, but not do both (definitely an odd choice for a single-player game). World In Flames plays it straight for all vehicles, regardless of their type.
  • Crysis has tanks, as well as jeeps and trucks, whose mounted weapons are controllable from the driver's seat. They just magically swing around. Note that this happens only in easy difficulty; harder difficulty levels require you to change seat in order to control the gun - although that still takes such a short time that it isn't really much of a hinderance.
    • Note that, on the higher difficulties, you can still drive the tank and aim/fire the main cannon at the same time.
  • Call of Duty
    • In a few missions of Call of Duty, 2, and World at War, the player is in control of all of the functions of a tank, but it is understood that the tank has a proper crew, as they repeatedly talk to you across the mission and the machine gun in front fires on dismounted enemies ahead of you without the player's input. The Hand Wave is that you're the tank commander, and this is gameplay shorthand for you playing spotter and telling the crew what to do.
    • Averted in Modern Warfare 3, as your character only mans the minigun turret on an M1 Abrams tank to keep RPG-wielding infantry and helicopters at bay, while other people handle manning the main turret and actually driving, including a shot after you're knocked down into the tank of the loader pushing a shell into the cannon's chamber.
  • The Commandos series averts this, at least with tanks: the Driver can drive tanks, but the Sapper must be on-board to fire the cannon.
  • The Battlefield series.
    • Some vehicles (such as the BTR-60 in Battlefield Vietnam) were in fact kinda useless without two people, one to drive and one to shoot. Other vehicles, such as the helicopters in Battlefield Vietnam and Battlefield 2 became significantly more effective with a second crewman to fire more guns, but didn't necessarily require them; people would even frequently take two-person helicopters, hover in place, and then simply switch seats to fire the copilot's weapons. But the tanks were pretty much always one-person-crew killing machines.
    • The missions in the Battlefield 3 campaign where you play as Sgt. Miller zig-zag this. On the one hand, he's explicitly referred to as the driver of his M1 Abrams; there are multiple shots showing the rest of the crew, particularly the loader, at work doing their own jobs within the tank, and in one section of gameplay where you're forced to dismount, the tank is left holding where you parked it and only supporting you with its gun. When in the tank, Miller uses the commander's hatchnote  on the turret roof and sits in the gunner's seat to use his optical sights. On the other, despite being the driver, when you are driving, thanks to gameplay mechanics you are also in full control of the turret, doing the actual aiming and firing to take out enemy tanks. Plus, there are multiple sections where you, the driver, for no reason whatsoever, pop out of the commander's hatch to man the .50-cal machine gun on top while someone else drives. Besides that, a tank driver is usually a private; a sergeant would generally be a vehicle commander. This example would be a lot less snarled if they just referred to Miller as the commander rather than the driver.
      • The F/A-18 mission is an aversion, as rather than directly flying the jet, you're only the Guy in Back, cueing up the weapons while the pilot moves to give you an angle. It's accurate to the real Super Hornet, at least mechanically (the weapon systems officer can fire all the weapons, even the cannon), and also allows for an exciting aerial mission without forcing players to become good at flying jets, which is infamously difficult mostly because the players who are already good at it are just so good that nobody else can learn without getting shot down in two seconds.
    • Battlefield 1 plays with this a bit. The driver of the bigger tanks can load and fire their own gun, but as the WWI tanks don't have turrets they can only fire on targets in front of them - the driver is reliant on having a crew to guard their flanks. The landship in particular, as the driver only has access to a machine gun or rifle and the actual cannons are in crew-operated sponsons on the sides. Played straight with the light tank, though. Then again, the FT-17 light tank only had a crew of two in real life. The campaign acknowledges that the Mark V "Landship" requires a large crew (8 people in reality), but Black Bess is running shorthanded (5 at the most). Interestingly, while you are in control of all the functions gameplay-wise in the campaign, in-universe it's clear that you're not doing all of it on your own; aim off to one side of the tank and whichever gunner has a shot on your target will be the one to open up when you press the fire button. Moreover, with the exception of the "Fog of War" mission, where someone else is explicitly at the controls, any time you leave Black Bess she'll stay right where you parked her, the crew only covering you with her machine guns once you alert the enemy.
  • The Grand Theft Auto series.
  • The Command & Conquer franchise has plenty of variations.
    • Tiberian Dawn originated C&C's surviving crew concept, where there is a fifty-fifty chance that a single soldier will pop out of a destroyed land vehicle. Red Alert extended the concept to aircraft with its inclusion of parachuting infantry and fixed-wing aircraft that one expects to be able to eject from. Then came Tiberian Sun, and suddenly, you have special hijackers. The idea only went as far as that in either of the main series before it was dummied out in Red Alert 2.
    • Generals made it possible to neutralize vehicle crews and take over the vehicle by ordering a single infantry unit into it. And they all know how to drive anything, too. But only American vehicles have the ability to eject a soldier out of their machines and in spirit of the C&C games before it, only eject one soldier per vehicle. But it's not just any soldier, either, it's a trained Pilot, and for very good reason, too: a Pilot carries his experience with him. If he manages to get back into a friendly vehicle, he'll pass his battle experience down to the crew riding that vehicle.
    • On the other hand, the manual states that the reason the Mammoth tank and its equivalents in all games are able to self-repair is that they're large enough to house a full repair crew onboard.
    • Command & Conquer: Renegade, in all its gameplay simplicity, although one can set an option for multiplayer where when a second character embarks, he's the gunner. But not only is it optional, it's never enabled on any server. There is nothing to stop you from operating a Mammoth Tank all by yourself. Worse, it still has its self-repair ability despite clearly not housing the crew of eight that gave it that ability.
    • Subverted with the Guardian and Sickle tanks in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 which explicitly mention other crew members in their responses, but are just as vulnerable to Sniping the Cockpit as other vehicles.
  • The Landmaster in Star Fox. Probably justified due to the advanced tech of the races in the Lylat system. Also, it does seem to be hardly larger than an Arwing (at most), and just about as complex.
  • Halo: Master Chief is capable of operating a Scorpion Tank by himself; in the fluff for the first game, it's explicitly stated that a Scorpion can be operated by two Marines or a single Spartan, as the latter has a neural interface advanced enough to let them do it. That said, unaugmented troops are also able to operate Scorpions solo in later games, though that might be just a concession to gameplay.
  • In xXx: State of the Union, Darius' single-handed operation of the tank stretches believability. It does look more awkward than his pursuers (fully staffed tanks), but it is his first time.
  • GoldenEye does this with a tank in the third and especially twelfth levels, not to mention a similar tank in the original film. Plus numerous other vehicles throughout the series.
    • Though in the film, he mostly just drives the tank, with apparently limited maneuverability. When he does fire the cannon, it is completely stationary (implying that he moved about in it) and is being fired at an oncoming train.
    • Behind the scenes, Brosnan wasn't controlling the tank, just sticking his head through the front hatch. The real driver was lying prone on the floor underneath him and looking through a concealed glass panel cut out of the glacis plate.
  • Rambo does this in Rambo III. He's apparently able to drive, fire, and load a Soviet tank with his head sticking out the front hatch.
  • Taken to spectacular heights in Keith Laumer's Bolo series, where massive continent-sieging combat vehicles can be operated by a single pilot. Some of the later models, however, don't even need a pilot at all.
    • Though supposedly not artificially intelligent, one Bolo mk III demonstrates the ability to operate entirely without human control. Most Bolo stories feature mk XV or higher units that have no real need for human crew, though almost all marks are intended to carry a commander.
  • In PlanetSide 1 the factions' main battle tanks, along with jeeps, bombers, and transport vehicles, generally need at least one other player to man the guns, with the vehicle having to be stopped and a fair amount of motion needed to change slots. However, the Lightning skirmish tank, the Fury and Basilisk ATVs, and the flight-capable Humongous Mecha used this trope to be the game's only real single-person ground combat vehicles. Partially played straight in the sequel, where main battle tanks are both driven and can use their main gun with just one crewman, but require a second person to use the secondary weapons. Harassers, Sunderers, and Galaxies still require one or more gunners, as the driver/pilot gets nothing to shoot with.
  • Many old arcade shooters, when the player gets a tank, would let him crew it himself. Front Line and Ikari Warriors come to mind.
    • Metal Slug, on the other hand, does not count, given that the tank in question is too small for a second driver/gunner anyway.
    • Tokyo Wars is another example.
  • Real-Life example: When a crazy man stole a tank from a San Diego National Guard base and began rampaging around, the news anchors describing the action had to repeatedly remind the viewers that he could not operate the main gun alone.
  • In the original Mobile Suit Gundam, while not all tanks can be run by one man, the crew sizes are still small. The Federation's Type 61 tank has only a driver & a gunner, with the commanding officer usually taking the latter station, possibly justified by panoramic view provided by tiny cameras on the hull & screens in the interior. The Guntank also starts out with a driver/gunner crew, but by necessity after the driver's death, it is later upgraded so it can be piloted singlehandedly. The Zeon Magella Attack Tank, on the other hand, plays it straight, with a single pilot in the turret, which can detach & become a fighter jet.
  • Interestingly zigzagged in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. Stealing an enemy tank in the original game requires escorting a specially trained crew to the tank, but in the Spearhead and Breakthrough expansions, both Barnes and Baker manage to singlehandedly operate both German guns and tanks, though the player has to let go of the driving/cannon controls to man the machine gun.
  • In Warhawk, tanks need only one player to be both driver and main gunner. A second player can board the tank and fire weapons from its hatch, or preferably, keep it repaired with the Wrench.
    • A 4x4 driver, on the other hand, can only drive and honk the horn. It takes a second player on the 4x4 to fire its machine gun.
  • Utterly averted in Operation Flashpoint, in which tanks have the full crew of three (driver, gunner, and commander), though you can do without a commander in a pinch (and suffer impaired visibility as a result). In the tank missions the player typically acts as a tank commander, giving movement orders to the driver and targeting and firing orders to the gunner over the radio. If the tank isn't operating with a full crew, the ones present can switch positions as needed; even one person can drive a tank provided he switches between driving and aiming/firing as needed, though this is obviously slower and more awkward than having a full crew since you obviously can only do one or the other at any one time.
    • Also averted for the other types of vehicles in OFP. Boats, helicopters, and even armed jeeps have a separate driver and gunner. In all cases, the driver can still fire (though not aim) the weapons in the absence of a gunner.
    • Helicopters and tanks can switch to "manual mode" where the pilot/commander handles firing weapons all by himself but tanks still need targeting orders for the gunner, the commander can't do that himself.
  • Every vehicle in BattleZone, most of which are hovertanks of one form or another. The player can even snipe the driver of an enemy tank, run over and jump in. Even if said tank is explicitly stated to be an AI-controlled drone.
  • Averted in the old Sony online shooter Infantry. All the large vehicles required a driver and a gunner for each weapon the vehicle had. This meant that the hovertank required 4 players to be fully effective: one driver, one main gunner, and two machine gunners.
  • Space Marine tanks in Warhammer 40,000 have very small crew sizes: typically just a driver/commander and a single gunner, with advanced "machine spirits" taking care of jobs that would normally go to other crewmen. (Chaos Space Marine vehicles are much the same, but instead of machine spirits, they have daemons.) The Imperial Guard, who possess more men and less impressive technology than the Marines, have tanks with more conventional crew sizes.
    • Tau Hover Tanks have rudimentary AIs and automation to take the load off the crew, but keep a larger crew in case somebody gets incapacitated, and to prevent attention from being divided up too much. A Hammerhead Gunship, for example, has three crew members operating "glass cockpits" but can take over any tasks whenever necessary, so a single Tau operator could theoretically singlehandedly pilot the Hammerhead by tabbing between control screens.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles it's implied that the crew of the Edelweiss consists of just Welkin and Isara. The Edelweiss is based on a King Tiger, with five crew positions; it even conspicuously has an access hatch for the radio operator it apparently doesn't have. Later entries sometimes only have a single named person for an entire vehicle, though this is usually the vehicle's commander and subordinate crew are mentioned offhand.
    • The Edelweiss specifically justifies this: it's heavily modified with automated ammo loaders, combined systems, and so on so it can be operated by one commander and one driver/engineer. However, these extra systems require the driver to be specially trained, make the tank far too expensive to be mass-produced, and are implied to require a hideous number of man-hours in maintenance (again, with an overseer familiar with the tank's unique systems) so only the prototype model exists.
      • Even with this Hand Wave, Welkin would still have to act as the tank's gunner and commander simultaneously, in addition to commanding his squad at the same time. Talk about overwork.
  • The MMO World of Tanks for the most part averts it. While the player can control a tank with a mouse and a few keyboard hotkeys, the vehicles have NPC crew members representing the commander, loader, gunner, radio operator, driver, and so on. However, losing crew members only debuffs the vehicle. It is possible to lose all crew members except for one, and still operate the tank with all of the main functionalities in order, only receiving some drawbacks such as lower acceleration, lower view range, slower reload, decreased accuracy, etc.
  • Subverted in Unreal Tournament 2004. Several of the larger vehicles need a crew of multiple people to work at full capacity. However, the trope can also be played straight as only one pilot is needed for a vehicle's primary functions, like the movement and main weapon. The other pilots only operate secondary weapons or functions.
    • The Goliath, the Cicada and the SPMA has the driver handling movement and the main weapon at the same time, with the second crew member manning a secondary weapon (top-mounted machine gun for the Goliath, gimbal laser turret and flares for the Cicada, skymine launcher for the SPMA).
    • The Hellbender has a driver, one gunner shooting a skymine launcher and another gunner manning a back-mounted laser turret. Surprisingly, this actually has a purpose as the rear gunner has a stronger weapon but is completely exposed and vulnerable to snipers, while the other gunner has a slightly weaker weapon but is even harder to snipe than the driver. The driver himself can do nothing but honk the horn; on the other hand, the bots in 2004 are scripted to automatically board a honking Hellbender.
    • The Leviathan has not one but FOUR secondary positions, each handling a separate turret. As with the trio above, the Leviathan's driver also handles both main weapons.
  • The World War 2 game Red Orchestra may be one of the few video games to subvert this. There is a driver, main gun, and machine gun position on a tank; the driver can't see, and the gunners can't move. A good team needs to have the two coordinating their actions during a tank fight. It is possible for a single player to command the whole vehicle by switching between different crewmen, but all actions not performed directly (sitting in the loader seat and driving) will be delayed by a half-second. The delay is explained about by the tank commander shouting the order just before it is carried out by the crewmember. Loading the main gun is done automatically by an AI crewmember.
    • It is possible to play it straight as well. Anti-tank rifles through vision slits, tank shells through armor, or the shock from artillery can kill crew members in a tank. It's very possible to have a single living crewmember drive into position, climb into the gunner's seat, fire the gun, then climb over and load the next round. It's certainly not as efficient as in most games, as the tank can only perform one action at a time, and there is a delay between actions as the crewmember climbs around the interior.
  • Stated in the Earth 2150 manual that Eurasian Dynasty's tanks are, essentially, late 20th century tanks that have been refitted to be piloted by a single cyborg.
    • Partly justified because they're not using old Soviet/Russian tech but American M1 Abrams tanks, which are already heavily computerized.
  • Tanks in MechWarrior Living Legends are controlled entirely by a single player, despite several tanks being the size of buildings, and in contrast to the source material where tanks have a regular crew, in order to make them competitive with the BattleMechs that are controlled by a single pilot.
  • Saints Row plays this mostly straight; generally the Boss is more than able to hop in a tank and wheel around Stilwater or Steelport to his/her heart's content while cannoning anyone nearby. But a tank may also have a gunner position: bring a Saint along and he/she can crew a machinegun, just in case. Sometimes it's a race to see who can shoot down a helicopter first, your gunner or you.
  • Star Wars: Episode I - Jedi Power Battles have the Theed missions where you can hijack a Trade Federation AAT and rampage it through droid armies, using it's missiles, cannons, and multiple laser turrets simultaneously alongside the usual Car Fu. Despite how supplementary materials states that AATs are supposed to contain a crew of three to five battle droids.
  • Heroes of the Storm has Sgt Hammer, who pilots a Siege Tank on her own.
  • From the Depths: The player's ships are either controlled by the AI or the player alone.
  • Gears of War 2 averts this with Fenix, Dom, Cole, and Baird taking a specific role to keep the Centaur running and gunning.

  • The Andromeda Ascendant is a kilometer-long capital ship with dozens of slipfighters and relativistic missile launchers and for most of the series functions with a crew of six. Albeit justified as most of the original crew of thousands abandoned ship in the pilot and the AI is capable of filling most of their functions.
  • Derek Smart's Battlecruiser 3000AD series is this trope taken to the ridiculous extreme. Of course, in-universe, there are crews, but it's actually one man, the player, doing EVERYTHING.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Played with — the Doctor's frantic dashing from one control to another while driving the TARDIS led many to theorize that it wasn't designed to be operated by a single Time Lord. (Though the Doctor does manage it pretty well. Most of the time.) This was confirmed in the commentary of one episode of the first series: the Doctor's TARDIS was designed to have 6 operators.
    • This can be surmised by the fact the control console is hexagonal indicating 6 duty stations.
    • There's also the fact that when you consider how many times the TARDIS malfunctions or is otherwise inaccurate in arriving at its destination, it seems that the Doctor is just barely able to maintain the thing. It is also occasionally implied that even the Doctor isn't quite sure how it works, and leaves a certain degree of its operation to chance or trial and error. It helps that this particular TARDIS was a banged-up, obsolete model when the Doctor originally stole it several centuries ago, and he has never once Read the Freaking Manual. Plus, it's a Sapient Ship who frequently disagrees with the pilot about where they ought to be headed.
    • In "Journey's End", the Tenth Doctor outright says that the reason he Drives Like Crazy is because he's trying to do a six-person job. Thanks to the episode's Crisis Crossover nature, he has more than enough companions to fly the ship perfectly smoothly, despite it towing an entire PLANET at the time.
    • The original set designer of the TARDIS said that he put all the controls and gauges on a control panel in the center of the room because one person was operating it. In other words, it's intended to be driven by six, but is designed to be driven by one in case it's needed.
  • Spacecraft in EVE Online can be controlled by a single person, assuming that said single person is a 'capsuleer', or 'pod pilot' and the ship is designed to accept a pod. Otherwise it takes a full crew to fly a ship. Only a small fraction of humanity has the potential to be pod pilots, and those people are considered a valuable resource, to the point that capsuleers are assured access to clones and that no empire can lay claim to them.
  • Every ship in the Elite series is operated by a single person. This applies even in Elite Dangerous where some of the larger ships, like the Anaconda, are described as being intended to have a crew. Elite Dangerous does offer a form of co-op where a player can invite other players to join them but even the In-Universe description of this has the guest be nothing more than an intangible hologram with limited access to ship functions.
  • The cargo freighters in Freelancer. Partly justified because they come across as trailer trucks IN SPACE!
    • Also, although capital ships are implied to have a full crew, there's several third-party mods where you can pilot one of these by yourself.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico's movie shows the humans' One-Man One-Ship project attempting to engineer a human that could handle a ship all by himself, with onscreen results in the form of Ruri (a Super Prototype?), Harry, and Lapis.
  • Most games from the X-Universe series allow you to fly capital spaceships the size of space stations entirely on your own. Made all the more ridiculous because the ships in question are very clearly meant to house other people (at least, the lights and windows all over their surface suggest so), particularly in X2: The Threat with its capital ship bridges full of empty seats. Handwaved by having the ship's computer handle practically everything, though general fan consensus is that the ships are manned, just by invisible Player Mooks. However, AI-controlled capital ships (and corvettes) all have a large crew when open a comm channel with them - such as the Captain and navigation officer.
    • At the same time, Not only is the player controlling their own ship, but also the many many ships of their empire at the same time. (Although these too are computer controlled, the "living" NPC pilots aren't much smarter than your AI-controlled ships.)
    • X: Rebirth averts this; while capital ships can be operated by just the captain, they will be helpless against attackers; most capital ships fly with at least three crew. The player's ship, the Albion Skunk, always has a pilot and co-pilot.
  • In GURPS there are two ways to do this with spaceships. Either you can have an AI automate the system or you can take a penalty to skill rolls for multitasking, in fact with a big enough penalty it's possible for one person without any "superpowers" to run a ship that normally has a bridge crew of 60 people.
  • Alastair Reynolds:
    • In the Revelation Space 'verse, the extreme size of the lighthuggers (around 4 kilometres long in most cases) are often contrasted with their relatively tiny crews; in Galactic North, the story revolves around two such ships that are crewed by single people.
    • In House of Suns, each shatterling is given his or her own starship and expected to go it alone, minus the odd passenger.
  • Any brainship in Anne McCaffrey's "The Ship Who..." series could technically run with just the shellperson controlling it — just one person. However, these ships are usually paired with a normal human, resulting in a crew of two.
    • The Brawn is primarily there to keep the brain company, provide a physical presence outside of the ship and provide a layer of redundancy. In theory, the brain can use their remotes to handle all routine tasks (such as maintenance, cargo handling, etc.) but having the brawn on board means that repairs can be made if the brain loses that capability.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek spaceships (at least of the Star Trek: The Next Generation era) can generally be operated by a single person thanks to the advanced computers (though maintenance requires a complete crew).
    • In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Scotty automates the damaged Enterprise sufficiently to fly it with only a few people... though the system breaks down when they end up in a combat situation.
      • Similarly, Star Trek novel has Scotty control an entire (TOS-era) starship himself by basically rigging a (TNG-era) shuttlecraft's controls into it, so that the ship basically does whatever you tell the shuttle to do. Of course, he is Scotty. Even so, the setup proves unable to stand up once the ship begins to take damage in combat (no crew being present to repair it while Scotty was driving the ship), and it was never meant to be anything other than a one-time kludge solution.
    • Another TNG novel had Picard being briefly moved to an alternate-reality Enterprise-E. It was noted that ships in that reality were specifically designed to have a crew of one, using bio-engineering to connect one's brain directly to the ship. Picard is rather horrified by this system, comparing it to the Borg.
    • "The Ultimate Computer" features a test of a new type of computer capable of running a starship all by itself. There turn out to be a few problems with this, though the computer not being able to make the ship do whatever it wanted wasn't one of them. So the technology at least existed even by that time.
    • In "The Doomsday Machine", Kirk, Scotty, and a few other crewmen repair the badly damaged starship Constellation just enough to use it to distract the titular Big Dumb Object away from the Enterprise. Eventually, Scotty is able to run all command functions and a self-destruct button to the auxiliary control room, enabling Kirk to ram it down the alien craft's throat.
    • In "The Corbomite Maneuver", Balok runs his gigantic ship alone. Justified, as he's a Sufficiently Advanced Alien.
    • Subverted in "Remember Me": One more reason that Beverly Crusher realizes something is HORRIBLY WRONG is that only she and Picard are the only crew of the Enterprise. She asks him why there is no other crew, and he responds "We never needed anyone else."
      • After Picard disappears, the ship's computer insists that Crusher has always been the only crew member - but even the computer can't explain how that's possible.
    • In Star Trek Online, starships have crews, but they don't actually need them. The only effect from getting all your crew killed is the ship stops Regenerating Health. Similarly, your bridge officers only provide the ship with some additional powers, you can fly the ship just fine by yourself.
    • Star Trek Into Darkness, the Vengeance was designed to need a much smaller crew than its predecessors and could be operated by one person if necessary. This is quite fortunate for Kirk, Scotty, and Harrison when they board it to capture the ship from Marcus, then again for Harrison when he truly does have to pilot it by himself later. The novelization also makes it clear that Harrison's ability to fly the ship solo into combat in an effective manner is also largely due to his superhuman mental abilities and reflexes.
    • In Star Trek: Voyager we meet the terrifying Species 8472 and their bio-ships. Each ship requires only a pilot and the ship itself is extremely formidable, being able to destroy multiple Borg cubes in seconds. The pilots themselves are no slouches; they're able to resist assimilation, have psychic powers, and their cells are extremely virulent, meaning a slash can poison the victim and kill them if left untreated.
    • On Star Trek: Picard, Cristóbal Rios is the owner and pilot of the speed freighter La Sirena, and can operate her singlehandedly if need be. He does, however, have a quintet of holograms to assist him, and they all look and sound like different versions of Rios himself.
  • Stargate-verse
    • It's actually come up several times in the Verse when the main characters get their hands on a spaceship but the fact that one person or the few present cannot fly it by themselves is the source of drama.
    • Stargate SG-1: While an early appearance by an Asgard ship has Thor refer to having evacuated his crew when the ship was overrun, later appearances seem to imply it's just him aboard. He's certainly able to operate all its functions without even leaving his chair. This is most likely the same situation as in Star Trek above: Automation allows a single person to operate the ship (although possibly not as well as a full crew), but maintenance is impossible. There is no sign of anything like maintenance bots, for instance.
    • Stargate Universe has this as a major plot element — the ship can handle itself, but if they need to turn off the autopilot so they can do something else it's quite a chore.
  • In Mass Effect 2, the Cerberus-built Normandy includes an AI that could theoretically take over pretty much every aspect of running the ship, apart from helming it, and allow it to be run by a crew of one. Cerberus intentionally made the AI unable to do so, at least without overriding its safety constraints which you have to do late on in the game, and thus the ship features a full human crew complement.
    • However, while the ship's AI can theoretically pilot the ship, she can't maintain the ship, and would need at least human crewmen to act as engineers. In addition, any task performed by crew frees up processing power for other tasks, which proves crucial when the AI needs to focus all available resources towards hacking the Collector ship to allow Shepard to escape.
      • In the third game, the AI gains control over a humanoid robot that could theoretically maintain and helm the ship, although this is never put to the test.
    • She also makes it clear that while she can pilot and operate the ship, she shouldn't. A skilled organic pilot is superior to full AI control simply because her maneuvers would be too predictable.
  • Various ships in the Star Wars Expanded Universe have large crew complements which for one reason or another end up being cut down.
    • The Courtship of Princess Leia has Luke Skywalker flying the Falcon - whose unmodified version is supposed to be controlled by at least three people with another two at the guns, but has been altered extensively - and using the Force to operate all of the controls, including the quadlasers, with extreme precision. The Falcon can actually be operated entirely by one person, but firing the main guns from the cockpit with any kind of accuracy is damn near impossible (Luke's ability to do so in the above novel, even with the Force on his side, was considered a mighty achievement). And if something breaks down (like the hyperdrive did in The Empire Strikes Back) there's no way to fix it without leaving the pilot's seat.
    • In Wraith Squadron, the eponymous twelve-member squadron manages to capture a modified Corellian corvette and immediately call for crewers. They crew it themselves until the New Republic sends more people, but have some difficulty.
    • In The Thrawn Trilogy it's a plot point. In fact, the central plot point to the second book of the trilogy. Dreadnaught-class heavy cruisers usually need a crew complement of sixteen thousand people, but one fleet - called the Katana Fleet or the Dark Force - was fitted with slave circuitry which reduced the needed crew from around 16,000 to 2,200 each. And meant that when the crewers on the flagship caught a hive virus, went insane, and programmed a random jump, the entire fleet was lost in the depths of interstellar space, at least until they were accidentally found many years later. At which point, the race is on between two rather evenly-matched navies to get the ships first and tip the balance in their favor.
      • Many smaller ships throughout the Expanded Universe also have slave circuitry, which fell out of favor for warships after the Katana Fleet disaster but remains highly advantageous for smaller freighters and civilian space yachts. Han Solo, on the other hand, specifically refuses to include such a system on the Falcon, because he doesn't want anybody else being able to remotely control his ship, ever.
    • Revenge of the Sith has Anakin and Obi-Wan taking control of a modified Providence-class destroyer and landing it entirely on their own. The whole scene is more Played for Laughs than any of the above, however, considering the ship is literally breaking apart as they're flying it.
    • One humorous dialogue option in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, while exploring a capital ship whose crew had all been mysteriously slain, has the player suggest commandeering the ship to escape the facility they're trapped in. Cue Atton Rand:
    Atton: What, with the huge crew we've brought with us?
    • And then there's the Errant Venture, the only Star Destroyer in private hands in the entire galaxy. Belonging to Booster Terrik, it's basically a mobile starport for smugglers and a cool symbol of power - which is constantly falling apart because it turns out that trying to fly a Star Destroyer with what amounts to less than even a skeleton crew is not exactly easy, and scraping up the budget to maintain a Star Destroyer as a private citizen isn't easy either.
    • The New Jedi Order novel Rebel Stand sees the Super Star Destroyer Lusankya specially modified for use in a ramming attack. Some of the modifications allow the ship to be controlled by one person, though this task is made somewhat easier by the fact that all of the ship's weapons have been removed, so the pilot's only function is to maneuver the ship.
    • The Last Jedi has Admiral Holdo singlehandedly fly a Rebel cruiser and use it to ram the First Order command ship. Earlier, during Poe's attempted mutiny against Admiral Holdo, the bridge is similarly deserted, with only a couple others present and Poe handling nearly all of the bridge tasks personally.
  • Most starships in the later years of Known Space history are computer-automated to the point that a single pilot is all the crew you need. Of course, the cruise ships, military vessels, and exploration craft all carry larger crews for other reasons (guest comfort, backup in case of death or injury, and so on), but they don't need to if all they want to do is get from Planet A to Planet B.
    • It is perfectly possible for the autopilot to do ALMOST the entire flight, except for one minor detail: Traveling too close to a massive body while in hyperspace will destroy the ship, and a mass sensor, the only system capable to detecting such a hazard while in hyperspace, is a psionic device. That is, it operates only because a mind is examining the output.
  • In Path of the Fury, there is exactly one kind of interstellar spacecraft capable of being crewed by a single person, and that is the alpha synth. Even small courier vessels or heavily automated larger vessels generally require a crew of at least six.
  • Battlestar Galactica Online: You can take command of starships that should need multiple crewmen, but no mention of those is ever made.
  • Farscape has ships operated by a pilot grafted on them, and some one-man crafts and fighters. However, the Luxan fighter has a pilot and gunner seats; D'Argo asks Crighton to pilot for him when he needs to go shoot something with it.
    • Leviathans and Pilots are arguably a subversion. A Leviathan is a Living Ship and can fly just fine by itself, but it needs a Pilot if it ever wants to carry passengers since it can't maintain things like life support on its own.
  • Ships in The History of the Galaxy books can operate with any number of crewmembers or even without them due to the fact that AI modules are factory produced in great numbers. This could be one of the reasons why a 7-kilometer flagship cruiser can function with a crew of 150 (most of the maintenance is done by droids). In one novel, a single woman (with no combat experience whatsoever) commanded a fleet of highly-advanced warships set to full AI control. She used most of them in a suicide run against a heavily-defended world.
  • The trope is invoked in Sergey Lukyanenko's novel Competitors, where a Moscow freelance journalist is transported (sort of, he stays on Earth, but his duplicate is sent) to a space station far from Earth to pilot a ship in a Real Life recreation of an online space sim. He can explore the stars, mine asteroids, settle on a colony, engage in piracy, join the patrol, fight alien hordes, etc. When he gets his first ship, he notes that the ship only has one set of controls, which are ridiculously simple for anyone who has ever driven a car (there are even gas and brake pedals) and were obviously designed for an average human. In fact, most of the precision maneuvering is done by the ship's computer, and the control are there to let the computer know what the pilot wants. Even giant higher-level ships are only designed with one person in mind, which results in the Old-School Dogfight being the primary form of combat. Later, when the alien Bugs attack the station, the protagonist's wing is ordered to pretend to retreat and then strike at the Bugs from behind. The protagonist observes that this should be impossible in a normal space setting, where ships would have rear-facing turrets manned by people (or Bugs). However, it works perfectly, and he concludes that the Bugs are also engaging in this trope. Close to the end, however, a group of people rigs one of the larger ships to have multiple specialized consoles, averting this trope.
  • The backglass for Stern Electronics' Flight 2000 pinball depicts a fleet of Sleeper Starships flying through space, each with a single Human Popsicle within.
  • Zigzagged with H'rulka ships in the Star Carrier series. The 20-kilometer vessels are actually several ships docked together, each crewed by one 200-meter Living Gasbag. Except the H'rulka is really a colony organism.
  • The titular character in George R. R. Martin's Tuf Voyaging singlehandedly crews the thirty-kilometer-long Old Earth Ecological Engineering Corp biowar seedship he calls the Ark. It originally had a crew of 200. He is able to do it through the centralized computer system on the bridge, vast amounts of automation, and self-repairing gear.
  • Generally averted in Perry Rhodan, where most ships tend to have crews of some reasonable size and even fully robotic ones usually feature at least mobile sub-units capable of some level of independent operation and reasoning if not an outright crew of independent robots altogether (Posbi "fragment ships" are a good example of the latter). However, ships constructed by sufficiently Higher-Tech Species sometimes play this trope quite straight — famously, the classic "spore ships" built to spread life and intelligence throughout the cosmos for one faction of the setting's Powers That Be were designed to have a single pilot handling the whole 1126-kilometer diameter sphere and overseeing its operations.
  • It's possible to reduce crew requirements in Traveller with Fire Control, Evade, and Intellect programs. But they are rather expensive and limited by the capabilities of the ship's computer.
    • It is also possible to temporarily "prize crew" a ship with just one or two talented people, who between them can pilot the ship, and (if the ship needs to go to another solar system) plot an interstellar jump and operate the Faster Than Light engines. This does not include maintaining the ship, which tends to limit this approach to a month at most before the ship must reach port (and be maintained by staff at the port). Getting into combat while prize crewing a ship not designed for solo operation is a bad idea.
    • Small but Faster Than Light capable ships, such as the Type-S, do not need dedicated maintenance personnel. Many use this same trick to operate indefinitely with crews of one or two. These ships are usually not designed for combat; if they have weapons at all, they are often just enough to give their crews false confidence against heavily armed (and bigger) pirate or naval ships.
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones ships built by Applied Sciences and Robotics can run with 10% of their normal crew complement, but their computer rating is drastically diminished if they do so. The bioships of Transcendent Technologies Inc can also run with such small crews, but to do so the helmsman has to fight to maintain control.
  • You can try this in Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator, despite it being designed for a crew of six. In theory, you only need Helm (most of the time) and Weapons (briefly, switching to it to actually fire then back to Helm while you reload): ignore Science since all unknown contacts are probably hostile, ignore Comms except when you need to change starbase production, leave Engineering settings at default, and do without a Captain since you know your own orders. To say the least, this is more difficult (at the same difficulty level) than playing with a full crew (assuming they are competent and cooperating).
  • The Protoss Carrier in StarCraft is, as the name implies, an Airborne Aircraft Carrier that can carry eight additional fighters inside (in the game, at least; the numbers might actually be larger). There normally seem to be large crews, but if there is an emergency (or a Heroic Sacrifice), it can all be helmed and controlled apparently by ONE Protoss. With his mind, no less. The fighters are supposedly mostly autonomous robot vehicles that receive targeting information and group launch/recall orders from their carrier (and manufacturing factory), making this a bit more plausible.
    • The Dylarian Shipyards mission in StarCraft: Brood War has the UED embark on an operation to hijack a fleet of Battlecruisers from the Terran Dominion. Only one pilot is needed to commandeer each stolen Battlecruiser in-game, though this is likely a case of Gameplay and Story Segregation which is fairly common throughout the StarCraft games in general.
  • FTL: Faster Than Light splits the difference. One person can control the ship by themselves, but without additional crew at the various duty stations for weapons, shields, etc they function noticeably worse. And that's before they start taking damage.
  • The nature of crew as damage points in Star Control means that at the end just one crewman (assumed to be her captain) can be controlling the entire ship. This becomes odd in some ships such as the Earthling Cruiser or the Spathi Eluder that show two crewmen in the animations, and continue so even in that case.
  • Halo 4 has the Mantle's Approach, an enormous Forerunner vessel piloted by one Forerunner, the Didact. This is justified since the Forerunners are Sufficiently Advanced Aliens with near-godlike abilities.
  • The title ship in Queen Emeraldas is crewed by a single person, her eponymous captain, possibly justified by Emeraldas being one of the two legendary pirate captains of the Leijiverse and by the ship having an advanced AI (whose personality, however, is apparently a copy of her captain's, too). Metaphorically, this serves as a constant reminder that for all her power, Emeraldas is forever consigned to loneliness.
  • An egregious example in SDI. The US sends one guy up to command the SDI platform that defends the entire country, and it's not only his job to direct the lasers and shoot down the warheads, but to personally fly a fighter out to shoot down attacking Soviet planes and repair the satellites, and later to take the fighter on a flying mission to the Soviet platform to rescue his Capulet Counterpart. You'd think they might send up specialists in the various tasks, but no: the player has to do it all, running between the fighter and the control room to ensure he's on time to stop each wave of missiles.
  • In Rodina, there's only one person to control the 100-metre-long Vanguard gunship: you, the player. All the more annoying when the ship's interior catches fire and there's only you to run around and put out fire from all those fancy extraneous surfaces.
  • Isaac Asimov
    • Foundation Series:
      • "The Traders": The three characters from the Foundation; Ponyets, Gorm, and Gorov, all have personal ships. If Ponyets's estimations of his ship is accurate (and assuming he doesn't have an exceptional ship), then they can also outfly and outfight more than one crewed ship at a time, so long as that ship isn't of Foundation design.
      • Foundation's Edge: The Far Star is piloted solely by Trevize, and is known as a personal carrier.
    • Robot Series' "Risk": The Parsec, an experimental hyperdrive, is designed to respond to only one control, operated by a positronic robot.
  • Interstellar singleships in Orion's Arm are spaceships capable of traveling interstellar distances while being piloted by just one person. They're usually crewed by one to five people.
  • The White Base in the original Mobile Suit Gundam was short-handed even before Char first tried to blow the ship up in the first episode, killing most of the officers and a good part of the crew. As a result, they have to make do with whoever's left and informally impressed civilian refugees. Among other things, the CO is an Ensign, the helmswoman is a civilian shuttle pilot, the communications officer is a nurse who happened to be on the bridge when the previous one died, and the Guntank operator was selected because he had a license in handling construction tractors.

  • Averted in the MMO-FPS World War II Online. More of a Simulator than a true FPS, driving tanks and boats required multiple crew members for multiple respective positions; The driver is, in fact, unable to shoot, has poor viability, etc. The player can swap between positions easy, however, but that doesn't lend much good in battle when one well-aimed shell can take you out.
  • Averted in the sandbox war MMO Foxhole. Light and medium tanks need a crew of three: A driver, gunner, and a spotter/commander. Battle tanks have Five spots: A driver, a gunner, a spotter/commander, a machinegunner, and an engineer. The gunboat similarly has 4 spots to control its many weapons, and many other vehicles (armored cars, half-tracks, jeeps, etc) need more than one crewmember if you want to drive and use its weapons at the same time.
  • Lampshaded in Armored Core: For Answer. The megacorporations in the game world used to rely on Humongous Mecha which played this trope straight until they figured out that it was too dangerous to leave that kind of firepower in the hands of a single pilot. Consequently, they started building Military Mashup Machines with hundreds of crew instead.
  • The video game Megafortress illustrated this literally - there are several different stations all simulated (pilot, weapons officer, EW officer, etc), but it's up to the player to hop around to all the stations to control them. This can be tricky when you're trying to turn around to bring some weaponry to bear while firing a missile at the MiG heading at you while trying to get the bomb bay doors closed and fiddle the ECM settings. Never mind the engine that's on fire from the last hit and the fact your attack radar is still on, broadcasting your position to the world.
  • Several vehicles in the Star Wars: Battlefront games have multiple crew slots. The Assault Gunship has five: pilot, copilot, left, right & tail gunners. Only a pilot is required to drive and fire the main weapons, but a solo operator can switch rapidly from slot to slot if he wants to.
    • Taken to an extreme with the snowspeeders from the Hoth map: in the first Battlefront, a single player can fly one towards the Empire's AT-AT's, switch to the rear turret, fire the cable at its legs, then immediately switch back to the pilot's seat and tie it up. Quite understandably, Battlefront II added a forced delay between firing the cable and switching seats, making it nearly impossible to take an AT-AT down that way without two people.
  • Airplane!: Ted Striker flies a modern jet airliner by himself, a task that normally takes a crew of three (pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer).
    • The film sort of hangs a lampshade on this with what confronts Striker when he first enters the cockpit: a slow pan across a literally endless array of dials, levers, switches, and knobs. The Boeing 707 seen (but not heard) in the movie can be flown for a short time with a crew of one (the pilot). For longer flights, you need a flight engineer to keep an eye on the airplane's mechanical systems, and if you want to reach your destination, you add a third: the navigator. Modern jetliners only need a crew of two, the flight engineer's position having been given to computers.
    • It's long been a standing joke in the airline industry that the flight crew will soon be reduced to just a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog, and the dog will be there to bite the man if he tries to touch the controls (though one has to ask what kind of dog would (literally) bite the hand that feeds it).
  • There were real-life attempts to create one-man armored fighting vehicles back during the 1920s and 1930s; they belonged to a class of vehicles known as "tankettes." The French, for example, wanted to create a sort of infantry replacement; one man would drive the vehicle and take care of everything, and he'd also be armed with a machine gun. In practice, it was unworkable, and the concept was abandoned. To be perfectly fair, during the past century there has been a significant trend towards smaller crew sizes, due primarily to automation.
    • However, the minimum crew size in a turreted vehicle is still three, because the only crewman who can realistically be replaced is the loader. And most western armies have avoided autoloaders because a good human loader is much more reliable, faster, and more flexible. An autoloader can't help change a track, pull maintenance, stand guard, or sub for another crewman, either. He also serves as an extra pair of eyes to watch your back when he isn't loading.
    • Also, an autoloader can break down. Or, in the case of some Russian tanks, inadvertently load the gunner's arm instead of a shell. And then break down.
    • Furthermore, reducing the crew to just one is probably inadvisable simply for morale reasons.
  • How a Humongous Mecha show plays this trope is usually a good indication of how Super or Real it is.
  • In the Ace Combat series, when you choose any aircraft with a crew of 2 or more (F-15E, F/A-18F, F-14, etc...), you still control all of its functions yourself as if it only needed one person. However, when you look at the actual plane's model, you can see a guy in the back seat, presumably doing his job alongside the pilot - which gets silly when, for plot reasons, someone is forced to eject from their plane but only one parachute is seen.
  • Air Force Delta Strike does this for its 2-man fighters as well.
  • As does H.A.W.X., though for at least one mission in the first game the guy in back is actually acknowledged (he's the one training you in the game's main gimmick).
  • Before it entered beta, this was weirdly subverted by Vector Thrust, where nobody was flying the planes.
  • In World of Warcraft the Catapults used during Wintergrasp fights have space for only one driver/gunner. The Demolishers also has a driver/gunner but have space for two passengers who can fire their own ranged weapons (bows, guns, etc.) from their seats. The Siege Engines have a ram controlled by the driver, a turret-mounted cannon that requires a separate gunner, and two passenger spots. Similar vehicles exist on the Isle of Conquest, Ulduar, and other in-game locations.
  • [PROTOTYPE]. While Alex has learned how to pilot APCs, tanks, and helicopters by consuming people trained to do so, he can somehow operate them all by himself. The guy does have the ability to shapeshift into basically anything... it isn't a far stretch to assume he just fills the entire vehicle with himself and can then easily operate all the switches, buttons, and levers as he pleases.
  • Inverted on Top Gear: In a crossover challenge with German motoring show D Motor, the presenters had to drive double-decker cars, with one person on top steering and a second person on the bottom operating the pedals and gearshift, thus turning a vehicle that normally is Crew of One into Crew of Two.
  • Trains can run with a Crew of One, it's called DOO (Driver Only Operation). A diesel or electric locomotive only really needs one pair of hands to operate all essential functions, but a second crewman is often carried to provide a second pair of eyes on the track ahead and/or to take over when their colleague's mandatory rest period is up.
    • Real Life Subversion: Docklands Light Railway runs trains with a crew of nought. Though the onboard Passenger Service Agent is trained to become the Crew of One and drive the train if computer operation fails.
  • Both used and averted in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. The Bomber is justified as only having enough space for one man. The Tank needs three people to run it, though gameplay usage does not act as such. The Machine Gun is clearly meant to have a driver and gunner, but you get separate parts of the mission for using both and during the latter the thing is on autopilot or something. The Naval Weapon clearly is meant to have a gunner and driver too and this time Ezio has to switch between the two positions as necessary.
  • Almost all fighter aircraft have a one-man crew, who both flies the aircraft and operates the weapons. Some, however, have two crew members with one performing each task, such as the F/A-18E Super Hornet, F-15E Strike Eagle, and MiG-35.
    • Many exceptions to this are electronic warfare variants of what are otherwise single-seat fighters (themselves often based on a two-seat trainer variant). The second person runs the (much more extensive) electronic warfare equipment. There are also fighters that only exist in two-seat configurations, which often carry much more elaborate electronics packages than single-seat aircraft do (since there's another person there to operate the more complex systems), such as the F-14 and A-6.
    • The electronic warfare variant of the A-6, the EA-6B Prowler, actually has the room to seat four people (the pilot and three electronic countermeasure officers), though closer to the trope it's not uncommon for Prowlers to fly without a third officer. The EA-18G Growler, an F/A-18 variant meant to replace the Prowler in Navy use, drops the crew down further to just one officer for the same workload.
  • Can be seen in Half-Life 2 with both dune buggy and air boat. Being piloted by one fellow is reasonable enough, but that same fellow being a simultaneous driver and gunner? Not so much. Multitasking capabilities aside, there is a certain minimum of available arms required to perform both tasks, which can lead to only one conclusion: Gordon Freeman has an extra set of invisible hands. This would also explain how he can climb a ladder while reloading a gun or firing it at an enemy behind him.
  • Averted by all multi-crew vehicles in the Tribes games. Even the Hover Tank has a driver and gunner, to say nothing of the larger aircraft where there is always a pilot who only handles flight and a tailgunner whose main duty is chucking flares at incoming missiles. Bombers have a weapons officer to handle the onboard ordnance and gunships have four passenger slots whose occupants can use their own infantry weapons to rain Death from Above; a single-man gunship is just a big fat target but a fully loaded one with everyone sans the pilot wielding mortars and missile launchers is a flying fortress. If you want to switch positions, you have to physically disembark the vehicle first.
  • An example from Real Life. Sterling Marlin became one of these during the 2002 Daytona 500 NASCAR race, climbing out of his car during a red flag stoppage to look at his right front fender. Unfortunately, according to NASCAR rules, this is illegal, and he was sent to the back of the lead lap when the green flag came back out. The worst part is that he was leading the race when that happened!
  • Sergey Lukyanenko's Competitors novel mentions this absurdity several times in relation to starships. Humans on the Platform build these ships using matter synthesizers (i.e. replicators) based on plans in the station's database and available raw resources. While there are plenty of small fighter-type ships, even the giant ships have only one standard control console. Also, the entire thing has controls similar to a car, including pedals for acceleration and braking, in order to allow any human to use them. This is justified in that the station and the plans were created by aliens to be reminiscent of a web-based space exploration game (the game actually exists in Real Life). Later on, though, a group of rebels modifies a large ship to function as a command ship of sorts with multiple consoles jury-rigged so that the ship would have an actual crew.
  • Diesel and electric locomotives usually require just one operator. This would have meant firing countless thousands of firemen when steam engines were being retired, so the locomotive men's brotherhood lobbied for all heavy locomotives to carry a crew of two.
  • Uncommonly inverted by Metal Fatigue, a Humongous Mecha RTS developed by the late Psygnosis. The Combots are controlled by a crew of several men, explicitly shown to consist of a team of at least three pilots. In spite of this, the Combots are also explicitly shown to be Motion-Capture Mecha, at least for the primary pilot. However, the non-Combot vehicles, including missile cars, tanks, and hovertruck worker units, appear to be crewed by a single individual due to a sheer lack of space—a complete 180 of the usual expectations in humongous mecha settings.
  • Numerous vehicles in the G.I. Joe action figure line. While many had extra places for gunners and other crew, some only had one. Notably, the franchise's first tank was like this, even though in the comic it was shown to have space for a driver and radioman.
  • BattleTech normally has just one pilot (a MechWarrior) to control a BattleMech, albeit assisted by the mech's computer for movement and aiming. However, some models designed for field commanders, which utilizes a special, expanded cockpit called a Command Console that adds a second seat for a commander so that they can focus on directing the battle while the pilot fights. The disastrous Clan Jade Falcon attempt to reintroduce the LosTech land-air-mechs resulted in a mech with two cockpits - one for an Aerospace pilot, the other for a MechWarrior - which controlled the LAM's different movement modes due the Clan method of training not allowing a single warrior to train in both. The bullheaded Clan warriors rarely cooperated, resulting in a complete disaster that was abandoned after their first trial. Across a weight class, the only BattleMechs to reliably avert this trope are the Superheavy Tripod 'Mechs from the Dark Age era, who all require a minimum of 3 crew members to operate; a pilot, a gunner, and a commander. Each of them are capable of performing the tasks of both of the others, but each crewman who's incapacitated causes the mech's performance to suffer.
  • Far Cry 2 has a bit more of a realistic take on this than other games. For land-based vehicles, the player has the usual button dedicated to switching between the driver's seat and the mounted gun, but there is actually an animation of the character climbing between the two positions rather than instantly teleporting between them when the player presses that button. For boats, the player instead has to manually move between the driver's seat and the gun because they're further apartnote .
  • Halo:
    • While UNSC planes (space or otherwise) can be flown by one pilot, most of them do seem to operate with a full crew. It's mostly Spartans with their advanced neural interfaces who can operate them solo, like when the Master Chief pilots a Pelican gunship in Halo 4.
    • Averted by most vehicles with a turret; for example, you can't operate the gun on a Warthog jeep and drive it at the same time. This is justified in that the gun controls are physically located in a different part of the vehicle.
  • Various points, most notably Salmon Run, in Splatoon 2 feature cannons where the sole crew is both gunner and loader, loading the cannon from the crew's own ink supply. Reloading the crew's ink requires exiting the cannon. While in a cannon, the screen gives tunnel vision to focus on what the cannon is aiming at, leaving the crew vulnerable to a foe sneaking up from the side (and the cannon is a relatively big target). In Salmon Run, any golden eggs freed up by the cannon's shots will be some distance from the cannon, meaning it is optimal for only one of the four players to crew a cannon, supporting the other three who collect the golden eggs.
  • Lampshaded in Valkyria Chronicles 4. The codex entry for Grenadier's default mortar makes a big deal of how recent advancements have turned a formerly crew-served weapon into a single-operator man-portable device, and the effects this has had on how they're deployed on the battlefield.
  • Downplayed but still present in the Call of Duty: World at War mission "Black Cats", where you man the guns of a PBY Catalina during a shipping raid that is running at only half its intended crew for no particular reason, forcing you to clamber between multiple gun positions at several points across the mission because two of the four gunners are AWOL. Amusingly, this applies to one of the remaining NPC crewmates more than it does to you, as he's apparently forced to take on the roles of flight engineer, navigator, and radio and radar operator all at once.
  • Rambo: First Blood Part II. Rambo controls a Huey from the co-pilot station, which is perfectly understandable given how they work, but then somehow fires the door-mounted miniguns from the co-pilot station, despite that door-mounted guns of any variety on a helicopter universally require someone to manually operate them.