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Destruction Equals Off-Switch

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The reasoning behind an Overclocking Attack — when a control console is destroyed, anything that it controls is automatically switched off.

This of course makes little sense when you think about it. Try switching your radio on, then pulling off the tuning knob. All you end up with is your radio stuck on whatever station you tuned it into. Every system should remain stuck like this after the control console is destroyed, but it never is.

This even happens with systems where it would make little sense to turn it off upon destruction. Why would you include a fail-safe that automatically — for example — lowers the shields of your starship when the console that controls the thing defending your starship is destroyed? And why wouldn't aforementioned vital system not have a secondary control console somewhere, or at least a Shield Dimmer Switch?

Ironically, the only systems that don't do this are usually also the ones that will cause a disaster if they can't be shut down, such as the main reactor.

It never sets off an alarm, either. Destroying an Insecurity Camera doesn't trigger some kind of automatic defence system, facility-wide alert or even notify the janitor. It just turns off the camera. Apperently nobody is watching the monitors for these cameras either, since they don't seem to notice when one suddenly goes offline.

This is most often a major flaw of the Big Bad's Doomsday Device and/or Supervillain Lair. But even the good guys fall victim to this with their extremely poor McGuffin-guarding security systems. Most often goes hand-in-hand with Computer Equals Monitor and Made of Explodium.

Not to be confused with Inventional Wisdom, where a literal switch brings about destruction of idiotic proportions. See No Ontological Inertia for a similar (and more illogical) trope.

Needless to say, while this trope can occasionally work in Real Life as in the few examples below, sometimes it is more dangerous to outright try to destroy something to "turn it off," especially if the something in question involves explosives/petrochemicals, other dangerous chemicals, radioactivity, or something similar. Trying to destroy an enclosed radioactive source, for example, may only increase the danger by opening the source and leading to an uncontrolled and immediately fatal release of radiation, and trying to destroy a suspected bomb will often make it explode. Meth labs are another example - even moving any of the components of a meth lab or being in its presence can lead to fatal or chronically injurious poisoning and/or an explosion, as many police officers not trained in safe chemical cleanup have unfortunately found out.

Compare Shoot Out the Lock.


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     Anime and Manga  
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Subverted on Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Kenzan catches Saiou's Brainwashed minion after he has used a laptop to fire a missile from a Kill Sat, so he figures the best way to fix things is to destroy the laptop. It's not until after he's done so that someone tells him he's in fact destroyed the Off Switch.
    • Something similar happened at the end of the Virtual Nightmare arc — by destroying the console, Marik unintentionally destroyed the off switch.
  • Used at the end of the A Certain Scientific Railgun anime, where Ruiko Saten smashes the consoles controlling the Big Bad's psychic-power-limiting device, thus allowing her friends to use their powers and defeat the villain.

    Comic Books 
  • In Convergence: Adventures of Superman, several Kryptonian criminals attempt to invade Earth through a dimensional portal. Though, the dimensional gate collapses right away when Supergirl smashes the machine that generated the portal.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: While dealing with the Drydock spacestation, the controlling AI of which has gone completely insane, Charlie-27 makes his way to the central control room. He notes that if Martinex was there, he'd know how to turn it off, but Charlie doesn't, so he goes for smashing the console with his Super-Strength, which works just as good.

     Fan Works 
  • "Kid Icarus Uprising 2: Hades Revenge" includes an example of this when Cloud Angle and Pit 2 are fighting each other atop a satellite of terror. Cloud finds a computer with information on the satellite, and smashes it. This apparently destroys the attached laser cannon.
  • Predictably subverted in the Dirty Pair fanfic "Big Bang" by Ryan Mathews. Kei, Yuri and an interdimensional agent named Daved have to stop a cult from trying to create an artificial black hole on a planet. Daved goes after the cult leader, and asks Kei to shut down the machine that is about to generate the black hole. He assumes she understands that it needs to be shut down in a careful, controlled manner in order to reverse the already active processes and avoid letting loose unimaginable forces that will tear the planet apart. ...did I mention that this is Dirty Pair?

    Films — Animated 
  • One of the main plot points in the climax of Aladdin: The Return of Jafar. A genie's soul is bound to the lamp that it lives inside, so when Iago kicks Jafar's lamp into boiling lava, he explodes into a cloud of ash.
  • Averted in The Incredibles; in fact, it's the Omnidroid itself seeking to destroy its remote control, so it cannot be controlled by anyone else, and it's up to the Incredibles to try keep it safe until they can figure out how to operate it.

     Films — Live-Action 
  • Birds of Prey (2020). When Harley Quinn breaks into the police lockup to free Cassandra, she tries pressing buttons to open the cells to no avail, quickly loses her temper and starts banging the console with her grenade launcher until it fuses out. This causes a fire sprinkler malfunction, drenching everything in water. This somehow causes a malfunction in the cellblock doors, leading to a Battle in the Rain with all the inmates.
  • Star Wars:
    • Played straight in The Phantom Menace where the destruction of the droid control ship causes the entire army of battle droids to shut off, and even fall apart. Anciliary material explains the droids are built on the cheap and don't even have individual processing units, thus can't properly function without the ship feeding them orders.
    • Zig-zagged in A New Hope. When Luke and Leia are being pursued by Stormtroopers on the Death Star, Luke shuts a blast door and destroys the console specifically to make it harder for them to open the door again. Unfortunately, the controls for the bridge they need to extend across a bottomless gap were on the same panel.
  • Used with the Kill Sat control units in the James Bond movies Diamonds Are Forever and Die Another Day - the former a computer center that Bond beats with Blofeld's minisub until destroyed, the latter a Powered Armor-esque suit fed along with its wearer to a jet turbine.
  • Averted in WarGames: when Joshua is trying to determine the codes to launch America's nuclear missiles by itself, General Beringer asks why they don't just unplug the computer. McKittrick explains to him, and the audience, that the system would interpret a shutdown as the destruction of NORAD, and would carry out the last instructions, i.e., launch all missiles at the Soviet Union.
  • In Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, the villain taunts Casey Ryback about how there's no way he'll be able to figure out the access codes for his laptop to use it to deactivate his Kill Sat. Ryback just shoots it and this somehow deactivates the Kill Sat.
    • Well, being more specific, shooting the computer deactivates the program that made dozens of "phantom satellites" appear on the NORAD radar screen and prevent them from shooting down the Kill Sat until it destroyed Washington and instantly brings it back to NORAD's control, so they trigger the Self-Destruct Sequence Just in Time. Doesn't reduces the Fridge Logic one bit, though.
  • Zombieland: In the climax, Little Rock and Wichita are in the drop tower of the Pacific Playland amusement park, with a large horde of zombies below them. Just before their seats will drop down again, Little Rock shoots the control panel, shutting down the ride.

  • Averted in Ciaphas Cain The Greater Good. Jurgen clearly expects this trope to be in effect when he shoots the conference room door lock in the Mechanicus shrine, but the door stays locked.
  • Averted in The Power of Five Evil Star. An attack is led to destroy the facility operating a satellite so it can't enter a position that will destroy the world. The control for the satellite is destroyed, but too late the heroes realise that the satellite will continue on its path anyway, and they've stopped nothing. It's likened to 'destroying a gun after it's fired a bullet'.
  • Justified in Thunder and Roses by Theodore Sturgeon. The protagonist finds a Big Electric Switch that will activate a radio trigger to launch all the remaining nuclear missiles in the United States, destroying all life on Earth. He proceeds to systematically dismantle and demolish the trigger and its redundant power supplies.
  • Two examples from the Lensman series:
    • At the beginning of Gray Lensman, Kinnison kills Helmuth in the central dome of Helmuth's grand base, and then blasts the control panel to lower the dome's shield. This signals Grand Fleet, which had been firing on the rest of the base, that Kinnison has won.
    • In Second Stage Lensmen, Kinnison (who was now Mole in Charge of the Boskonian fleet) blasts the control panels for the Boskonian flagship's Bergenholm, disabling the Berg and thus stopping the flagship's FTL flight. This takes the flagship out of the forthcoming grand battle while Kinnison mentally duels Prime Minister Fossen.

     Live Action Television  
  • Happens many times on the various Star Trek series with force fields. Numerous episodes have characters shoot a control panel and a force field shuts off. Why even bother having access codes to unlock??
  • As seen in Cutting the Knot, Stargate characters frequently disable things, or otherwise get literally alien devices to do exactly what they want, by shooting random control crystals.
  • Doctor Who.
    • Averted in the story "The Seeds of Death" where an Ice Warrior pulls a bunch of levers on a (very simple) control panel and then shoots it, so it'd melt and nobody could change the setting. As the system is otherwise undamaged, the Doctor is able to rewire a new setting.
    • Zig-Zagged Trope in "Mummy on the Orient Express". Clara suggests fetching the Doctor with his handy sonic screwdriver to get them into a sealed compartment, but the woman with her just smashes the lock's control panel with her shoe, which instantly opens the door. The door then closes behind them, and they can't get out because the panel is smashed. When the Doctor turns up with his sonic screwdriver, even he can't get them out.
  • Lois & Clark: In "Lois and Clarks", Tempus plans to destroy the world by launching a nuclear missile attack and tells the alternate universe Superman it cannot be stopped without the deactivation codes. Alt!Superman simply smashes the device that controls the missiles and it does work.
  • Batwoman (2019). Averted in "Prior Criminal History". When Alice attacks a pro-Batwoman rally with a swarm of infected bats, Batwoman finds the signal generator used to attract them and Luke Fox tells her to smash it. She points out that doing so will simply cause the bats to disperse across the city, spreading the infection as they go.
  • Halo (2022). In "Contact", Master Chief instructs Kwan to disable a certain component on their spacecraft while he disables another in a different panel. Unable to actually pull the indicated wire free, Kwan shoots up the panel, achieving the same effect.

  • Used as a last resort at the end of the Novacom arc of Adventures in Odyssey: Novacom blocked all methods to stop the uplink of their Mind Control radio waves. Although Whit and Tom find the machine, they can't turn it off; fortunately, the uplink is connected to a machine Novacom stole from Whit, and he stops it by making it self destruct. In this case, they were at least racing against a countdown and knew they had to destroy the machine before it sent its signal — destruction could prevent the operation from executing, but not turn it off if it started.

     Video Games  
  • Security cameras suffered badly from this trope in both System Shock games. Blowing them up reduced the security of a level, rather than set off the alarm. The idea being that the security cameras are what SHODAN was using to track the player: the fewer of them there were, the more ignorant SHODAN was of the player's exact whereabouts.
  • Averted in the No One Lives Forever series. Shooting cameras sets off the alarm.
  • PAYDAY 2 has a variation. Shooting one or two cameras in stealth won't immediately set off an alarm except in one heist where the bad guys already know someone is coming for them, but about 95% of the time a guard will be paged to investigate when a camera goes out; an alert will eventually be sounded if a guard sees that broken camera, if it's in view of another camera, or if too many cameras are broken. Destroying a camera after it's already spotted you won't make the operator on the other end forget that he's spotted you, either. Moreover, shooting cameras (in the difficulties where they're not replaced with indestructible Titan cameras, at least) can actually be detrimental in stealth, since almost every heist which can be done in stealth that includes cameras allows the group to buy a camera access device and/or break into their control room and kill the operator, both allowing you to use the cameras to tag patrolling guards and, in the latter case, making them completely harmless.
  • Dead Space: shoot the fuses, the door opens.
  • In Ghost Trick, a power failure caused when the electric chair that was being set up to execute Detective Jowd malfunctioned and exploded opened the doors of all the cells in the prison, setting the prisoners free. This is handwaved a few moments later, as you're told it's a security measure. In all fairness, none of the prisoners were dangerous in any way.
  • In Tales of Xillia, the team at one point needs to shut off two generators to open a barrier. When they get to the first one, they wonder how to turn it off. Alvin volunteers, making it seem he knows something about them, only to shoot the control panel, after which he smirks and Jude has a horrified look on his face. When the team visits the second generator, Milla smiles with approval, making Jude even more annoyed.
  • In Streets of Rage, the one way to remove any countdown is to find a console and smash it to scrap.
  • Subverted in the first Star Trek: Elite Force game. Protagonist Alex Munro finds his/her teammates caught behind a force field in the opening mission, and after being unable to deactivate the fields by using the nearby terminal normally, s/he decides to open them by shooting the console. All it does is cause a massive explosion that, were the mission not a holodeck simulation, would have resulted in all of their deaths.
  • The Karma Society in Digital Devil Saga 2 attempts to stop the party's progress by breaking the control consoles for the electronic doors. Luckily, The Smart Guy figured out how to use his Shock and Awe powers as a makeshift signal processor.
  • Inverted in Alien vs. Predator (Capcom), where they bust up the controls of an elevator to get it to start.
  • Streets of Rogue: If a building has a computer inside it, every locked door, safe, and booby trap in the same building can be instantly disabled by smashing the computer. It will also alert everyone inside the building, so watch out.

     Western Animation 
  • Averted in Teen Titans, in which Raven and Terra are arguing whether to destroy a control panel in order to shut off a device that's going to destroy the tower if they don't stop it. It ends up getting destroyed by random battle damage... which makes the device go faster.
    Terra: Okay, maybe smashing the computer was a bad idea...
  • Averted in The Batman - Batgirl sabotages the doomsday device, the countdown stops...
    Villain: What happened? Did we lose power?
    Henchman: No, the countdown timer's disabled. The device is still operational.
  • Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures has a particularly egregious case in the final episode. When the crew use Questworld to track down a reality warping demon, it takes over the system, leaving Johnny trapped. His father saves him by taking an axe to the laptop. Never mind that based on everything established about Questworld so far, a stunt like that could potentially kill anyone connected.
  • Danny Phantom believed in this trope during the Christmas Special. In that episode, the Ghost Writer had used his keyboard to put a spell on Danny to teach him An Aesop and Danny destroyed the keyboard hoping it'd break the spell. In return the Ghost Writer told him the only two ways to end the spell would be somebody writing "the end" on the keyboard, which was no longer an option (Nice Job Breaking It, Hero, indeed), or Danny learning the aesop.
  • Archer: Archer often tries this on armored doors. With only one exception it results in Brett getting shot. The other exception resulted in Cherryl's brother getting shot, but that's because Bret was miles away.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series Supergirl smashes the Doomsday Magnet, and Superman gives her a disapproving look. "What did I do wrong?" Supergirl asks, and Superman reminds her that the Magnet already did its job and pulled a comet so it will smash into the Earth. They could have reversed the polarity and repelled it, but...
  • In an early Code Lyoko episode, Ulrich, Odd and Jeremie's class (and the first two though Odd jumps off before things really get out of hand) are trapped on an electric bus that XANA has possessed. Jim cuts some wires, hoping to turn it off but no luck. The driver tries to open the door so everyone can jump off... only the doors don't work anymore.
  • Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures: Dr. Buttocks makes a device that attracts a ghosteroid that'll destroy Pacworld while leaving the Netherworld unharmed. Upon noticing a miscalculation, Buttocks finds out the Netherworld will be destroyed as well and his boss tries to stop this by destroying the device only to be told that Betrayus just destroyed their only way to repel the ghosteroid.
  • Surprisingly averted in Transformers: Rescue Bots, a show ostensibly for younger viewers. In the episode "A Brush with Danger," a triggered fire-suppression mechanism, which removes the oxygen from a room of rare books to protect them, does not unlock and open the doors when Heatwave smashes the control panel; Boulder even says "and now it will never unlock."
  • In Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Grimlock and Strongarm are trapped in a carnival ride in the episode "Adventures in Bumblebee-Sitting!", which is resolved by Strongarm shooting the ride's control panel. The ride doesn't just stop, it goes through its full leveling off, slowing down cycle.

  • Recommendation to avert: The Evil Overlord List recommends that a Supervillain Lair's doors should lock if the controls on the outside are destroyed, and open if the controls on the inside are destroyed.
    • And to treat every security camera malfunction as enemy action, regardless of how flaky the system is.
  • A very common example - maybe a full subtrope? - is automatic doors controlled by some sort of scanner or keypad box on the wall. Shooting the control box will always make the door open. Unless it's a door you want closed in the face of an advancing enemy, in which case shooting it makes it lock shut.

     Real Life  
  • Brake systems can work either way. In most passenger cars, any serious problem will cause the brakes to "fail open" and be unable to stop the car, because the system depends on hydraulic fluid reaching the pads to close them. But in locomotives and large trucks, the air brakes are designed so the system actively works to keep the pads open, which means any problem causes them to "fail closed" and bring the vehicle to an immediate stop.
  • These systems exist today. It's in the best interest of certain devices to "fail-open" or "fail-closed" in order to prevent damage to other connected devices. If power is lost to electronically controlled water valves, the valves may either "fail-open" or "fail-closed" (depending on the system) to protect the systems that they service. Likewise, electronically controlled steam valves have to "fail-open" so that steam pressure doesn't build up and rupture the pipes.
    • And simple secondary fail-safes are placed, usually being as simple as possible, in case of any kind of primary failure. For the steam pipe example, a burst disk that can only withstand a certain amount of pressure, a spring-mounted pressure valve where the steam pressure escapes when greater than the spring tension, or a thermal relief valve that uses a metallic rod that lengthens when heated to raise the valve cap.
  • Many functionally hot-pluggable buses aren't supposed to be, and in older computers yanking a keyboard cable (for example) could damage the motherboard. ROM cartridges are particularly risky, as apart from the ZIF socket on the original NES, most could easily damage the system from a voltage spike if a cart was removed. It is not unheard of, however, for the truly inept to even try to hot-plug ISA or PCI cards, or even RAM modules. Disaster is occasionally averted, but even when the poor shlub gets lucky a reboot is usually required.
  • A classic power switch works by bridging the connection when it's on. Most methods of destruction would leave a gap in the connection where the power switch used to be, thus disabling the device. Which is usually a lightbulb. A lot of work just to turn out the lights, isn't it?
  • Radioactive sources and/or anything that contains/uses a radioactive source are a strict aversion of this trope. The cladding and shielding of a radioactive source is what provides the most protection from both its radioactivity and its reacting with other material. Taking apart/destroying anything from a radiation therapy device to a nuclear reactor carelessly "to turn it off" or "to stop it" makes it more dangerous.
    • The Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima disasters are all fine examples of this - at Chernobyl, the containment was blown open by a steam explosion, leading to a massive release of radiation. At Fukushima, the earthquake itself damaged portions of the containment and the reactors, and it and the tsunami led to destruction of the cooling systems - which then led to corium overheating and melting through its containments. In Three Mile Island, that the containment was not completely destroyed in the accident was what prevented it from becoming a disaster on the level of Chernobyl or Fukushima. Another example, involving a radiation therapy device, is the Goiânia incident, where salvage workers opened a containment on a radiation therapy device, leading to far more and far worse exposures than had the device been left alone.
    • Nuclear weapons play this trope straight. A nuclear weapon is detonated by setting off explosives in a very precise pattern, so that all the radioactive material can react before being blown away by the explosion. Destroying the weapon will result in an incomplete nuclear reaction, or even no reaction at all, resulting in far less damage than if the weapon had gone off perfectly. Radioactive material will still be dispersed everywhere, though.
    • Similarly, some nuclear devices (for experimentation, enrichment etc.) are design such that any emergency situation that could potentially cause a nuclear explosion will cause a conventional one before it has a chance to.
  • As mentioned in the article introduction, drug labs (especially the notorious methamphetamine labs, but to a lesser degree MDMA and research chemical production) are something best left to professional chemical cleanup workers experienced in doing such. The reasons for this are many, but among others, exposure to the fumes or chemicals can do anything from poison someone to explode to cause cancer later on, that said labs are often set up in less than safe ways where moving something or creating even a static spark can cause an explosion, and that destroying something that is safely contained can lead to an explosion or poisoning. If you see one (or the leftover remains of one), the best move you can usually make is out of the area, as fast as possible.
  • In bomb disposal, projected water disruptors disarm a bomb by blasting it apart with pressure faster than the electrical components can detonate the explosive charge. In short, breaking it to stop it from exploding.