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Doing in the Scientist

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"Xavier Pendragon: An alchemist who uses Hapkido Cane Fighting. He was burned at the stake due to the fact that his powers, based on science, were actually dark magic. To be fair, they had a point, since this guy can shoot a magic dragon out of his staff which can bite people, along with turning them to gold, and, in one of the weirdest moves in fighting game history, swap characters with his opponent."

This is where a story element that was originally explained by 'science' is retconned into being due to magic or supernatural forces. This tends to be poorly received (though not always) because it throws the established "rules of The 'Verse" out of the window, but it is often the response to the problem of Unscientific Science.

This is often seen in "updated" superhero origins. Once upon a time being on the range during a Gamma-bomb test, or being bitten by and/or spliced with a radioactive spider, sounded semi-plausible. Nobody thought it could work (hopefully...) but it sounded vaguely like something that could happen. However, Science Marches On and now there are some things that no scientific origin can plausibly excuse. Magic, on the other hand, can (by definition) do anything the author wants it to. Sure, it loses a lot of realism but sometimes that's what you're after — maintaining Willing Suspension of Disbelief through a simple handwave that doesn't try to be scientific is often less taxing than trying to swallow nonsense about something that really exists.

A supertrope for Magic-Powered Pseudoscience, when it applies to revealing that seemingly-scientific Phlebotinum was powered by the creator rather than Techno Babble.

This is the inversion of Doing In the Wizard.

Justified in-universe if The Magic Comes Back. If magic is the whole basis for a civilization's technology, see Magitek. Contrast How Unscientific! (a supernatural episode in an otherwise non-supernatural universe) and Magic Versus Science (when magic and science/technology are enemies). May lead to Mundane Fantastic (where magic is so common it's not even considered unusual), Magical Realism (magic is present in an otherwise non-magical setting), Beethoven Was an Alien Spy (the retconning of a historical figure as a supernatural being), and Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane (when the new magic falls short of full confirmation and alternative explanations have not been discounted). Can be the result of a show becoming Denser and Wackier.

If it happens to in-universe retellings of past events and people, but the events and people themselves remain non-supernatural, it is Legend Fades to Myth and Shrouded in Myth, respectively.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ah! My Goddess: All those machines Skuld makes are ultimately revealed to be the result of one of her latent goddess powers, not mechnical genius.
  • Devilman starts off with the demons being explained as simply powerful shapeshifting creatures from Earth's distant past whose ability to "possess" people came from absorbing them on the cellular level not unlike The Thing (1982). Then God himself shows up.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has gone into this full-force with JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run, where it is revealed that Stands, at least in that continuity, are caused either by coming into possession of the remains of a Saint's body it's most likely Jesus's or travelling through a cursed, ever-changing-location, region in the United States. This is strange seeing that Stands received the opposite treatment in the previous continuity, although it should be noted that many of the Stand Users in both Stardust Crusaders and Diamond Is Unbreakable gained their Stand by being struck with a magic arrow.
  • Monster Musume: At first, all the monstergirls' biologies were carefully explained using real-world science. Then Lala was introduced and eventually revealed to be an actual psychopomp, at which point other explicitly supernatural characters and elements began showing up in the series.
  • In Naruto, both Orochimaru (as well his disciple Kabuto) and Madara Uchiha believe that the Rinnegan is obtained by combining both Senju and Uchiha DNA; which is backed up by Madara himself gaining it after integrating Hashirama Senju's DNA into himself. However, it's revealed later on that the Rinnegan is actually obtained by having the chakra of the Sage of the Six Paths, either by receiving it directly from the man himself, or recreating it by combining the chakra of his two sons, who Hashirama and Madara are reincarnations of.
  • Outlaw Star: Gene's caster gun looks like futuristic super science but it's revealed to be a really old model that was formerly used by mages. It can counter Tao magic because the two are based on a similar principle. That's why it's called a Cast-er.
  • Paranoia Agent: Lil' Slugger is not a human delinquent. He's a supernatural phantom unwittingly created by Tsukiko to escape responsibility for the death of her dog.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Kyubey is a Sufficiently Advanced Alien, not a magical creature, and he wants to prevent the universe's heat death by breaking the second law of thermodynamics. However, he does this by performing genuine miracles and drawing out real magical potential in human girls so he can collect energy generated by emotions; none of these are governed by thermodynamics or any kind of science and that's why they suit Kyubey's purpose.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, after extended use of duelling using shock-collars, Kaiser develops heart problems. This was initially explained as overuse of the shock collars, but the reason was done away with in favor of the dark power of his deck, which he stole from his mentor.

    Comic Books 
  • Alpha Flight: Sasquatch originally had the same origin as the Hulk (with a bit of babble about the aurora borealis to explain why he wasn't green). Then it turned out he actually gained his power from one of the Arctic demons Snowbird was born to fight, and that he wasn't shapeshifting as much as switching bodies. He later gained the ability to change under his own power, but this too was magical and explicitly so.
  • Animal Man: Animal Man once gained his power from being experimented on by aliens. This was later revealed to be a plot made by the Totems of 'the Red', counterpart of 'the Green' from Swamp Thing below.
  • Blue Beetle: The Blue Beetle was originally a case of Doing In the Wizard; in the Dan Garrett stories, the Scarab was magic, and his successor Jaime Reyes assumes that it's magic for a while, only to learn that it's actually alien technology tampered with by magic (or something). As of DC Rebirth, however, they've flip-flopped again, and now it's an alien magical artifact. After all, there's magic in space, too.
  • The Flash:
    • Each Flash originally gained their powers due to a Freak Lab Accident, but later the origin was retconned into the accidents connecting them to a mystical entity called the Speed Force.
    • At one point, Flash's powers were stated to be the result of interference by Mopee, a magical extradimensional imp responsible for several origin stories, including some Marvel ones. This has been ignored since.
  • The Incredible Hulk: Immortal Hulk introduces the One Below All and reveals all gamma rays are emanations of him, explaining why gamma mutations are based on the person's psyche. Zig-zagged in that Puck notes gamma is both magic and science — it can be measured and understood scientifically, but when it makes "Metaphor people" it is behaving magically. It's all a matter of perspective.
  • Marvel 1602: The AU miniseries, which takes place in an Elizabethan version of the Marvel Universe, does this for practically all of the Marvel superheroes' origins. The Fantastic Four, for example, get their powers after wandering into a magical sea storm that turns them into physical avatars of the four elements; this universe's Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk after being hit by a blast of mystical energy from a tear in the fabric of space; and this universe's Peter Parker gets his spider-based abilities after being bitten by a spider that's hit with the same blast of energy. Played with in the finale, which reveals this anomaly only exists in the first place due to a malfunctioning time machine, but the parallels are also due to the presence a time displaced Steve Rogers shifting the universe to emulate his present by recreating the origins of his contemporaries.
  • The Savage Land is a portion of Antarctica that still has a tropical climate and dinosaurs. In the mainstream universe this is because of aliens that used machines to keep things that way. In the Ultimate Marvel universe, those dinosaurs are there because of the Scarlet Witch's reality-warping powers.
  • Scarlet Witch was originally created with the same background as most of the X-Men, as she was a mutant. In her case, she could manipulate probability. As time went on, writers had her pick up magical training to make her code name more literal, and in a 1998 Avengers story, she discovered that her powers were never purely science-based, but an ability to manipulate "chaos magic." Though her powers and backstory have been retconned several more times, the comics have stuck to the idea that her powers are some form of magic, and the "chaos magic" explanation was eventually adopted by the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Peter Parker's superpower origin used to be a radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker and mutated him. Then in The Amazing Spider-Man (J. Michael Straczynski), J. Michael Straczynski went back and said, "The radiation gave a mystical spider-totem spirit a chance to infuse Peter Parker with its power." In this case, it was because fans and writers had gradually become more aware that radiation doesn't work that way, although that said the Scientist is Not Quite Dead — Spidey didn't entirely buy the magic angle, and has shown enough scientific understanding of his power to poison a magical enemy who assumed he was just like any other totemic hero. Storylines involving the mysticism angle still come up from time to time.
    • Around the end of The Other arc, Peter discusses this with a South American shaman who says that the answers aren't mutually exclusive. He says that a scientist would say that the sun rises in the morning because the Earth spins, while a mystic would say the sun rises because it is meant to, and they're both right, it's just different perspectives. In this sense, the Wizard and Scientist are different sides of the same coin.
    • Lord Chaos and Master Order claimed to have orchestrated all the events of Peter Parker's life so that he'd be able to fight Thanos.
    • The Fever mini-series said the radioactive spider belonged to the race of extradimensional Arachnix that was sent to Earth by a wizard.
    • Spider-Man: India (2004) went with magic from the beginning. Pavitr gets his powers from a yogi, and his versions of the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and Venom are demons that possess humans.
  • Swamp Thing: Swamp Thing started off as a man who had turned into a plant-monster after getting splashed with chemicals, but under Alan Moore's stint as writer he was retconned to be a mass of walking plant matter that thought it was a man. Eventually, he discovered his connection to the mental dimension 'the Green', and found that he was only the most recent in a long line of plant elementals. That second part was inspired by a series of experiments involving the memories of planarian flatworms which has since been discredited.
  • The Supergirl-Batgirl Plot: As impersonating Supergirl and Batgirl -and later, Black Flame and Catwoman-, Mr. Mxyzptlk and Batmite must pretend their reality-warping powers have some scientific basis, so that "Black Flame" claims she drank a super serum to gain powers and used a mind-control ring to confuse Superman, and "Catwoman" states Batman's weird behavior was induced by a special brand of catnip.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW): The series plays with this trope. Splinter and the turtles are still animals mutated by Ooze, but they turn out to be reincarnations of a Samurai Lord, Hamato Yoshi, and his four sons, respectively.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In an inversion of her Doing In the Wizard in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), it's confirmed here that the reborn Mothra remembers what happened to her previous incarnation in Boston after it laid her current incarnation's egg, in contrast to how Ghidorah's shed skins and regenerated heads only share pre-severing memories with their counterparts and separately make new memories afterwards. This heavily implies there's more to Mothra's Born-Again Immortality than just an advanced Genetic Memory.
  • It is very obvious that the writer of Doors to the Unknown is very well versed in the lore of Dungeons & Dragons as well as Worm. They also show a remarkable degree of insight into nuclear and subatomic physics. Up to the point of having an actual real-life scientist show up, and discuss some of his work with Valigan. Also, whenever a real-world location appears, everything is perfectly mapped out to the real layout of the location (as can be seen during the battle with Leviathan).
  • Throughout Know Thyself: the Prelude, a lot of the unusual circumstances surrounding Harry that were revealed to be magic in the Harry Potter canon are passed off as Harry being a Child Prodigy at manipulating the false reality of the Matrix just like every other redpill, until Harry discovers that he can teleport in the Real World too, implying that it really is magic.
  • My Miraculous Academia: To help deflect from Izuku's "quirk" altering clothes (a fact he has no explanation to), Momo makes a passive remark about how sometimes quirks seem to only exist to frustrate scientists.
  • In One Piece canon, Devil Fruits are treated as Fantastic Science. In Voyages of the Wild Sea Horse, Ranma and his companions simply refer to Devil Fruits as "magic", goaded by the fact their Dimensional Traveler Umok, The Imp and a self-proclaimed wizard, explicitly calls the energies within Devil Fruits "magical" and even says that the energies in Zoan Devil Fruits seem similar to the energies of Jusenkyo curses.
  • In Fallout: Equestria, the zebras fought to the planet's destruction because they believed that Princess Luna was an Apocalypse Maiden connected to an evil entity that had fallen to the planet as a meteorite. That turned out to be completely false, with the meteorite being ordinary (radioactive) rock. Recursive Fanfiction Fallout: Equestria - Project Horizons instead runs with the core concept of "what if the zebra beliefs were right?" There is a soul-trapping magical abomination residing in the Hoofington region whose material form is the metal from a fallen star, and the story is largely about building up to our heroes learning that this is the case and trying to destroy it.
  • The fan novelization Breath of the Wild, which adapts the game of the same name, changes the nature of multishot bows that Link uses. Instead of them being a sign of incredible skill on the part of the archer, it's instead the result of magic imbued into the bow that divides the arrow. It takes far more skill than the game implied to do a multishot without magic, something that Link can't even do.

    Films — Animated 
  • Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within bounces back and forth between this and Doing In the Wizard in its backstory, but in the end this wins out. Bonus points for it being the crazy scientist whose theory does in the science. The invisible "aliens" turn out to be ghosts from a long dead world accompanied by a fragment of their planet's Life Force, and Earth's Gaia spirit turns out to also be real.
  • Both The Good Dinosaur and Home on the Range started as fairly mundane Wild West stories before being turned into cartoons about Funny Animals interacting with people.
  • Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch. After they are too late to save Stitch from his malfunction and he shuts down, Lilo's tear brings him back to life. Pleakley asks Jumba for the scientific explanation. Jumba proudly states (as if he knew any other way to state things) that there is no possible scientific explanation, declares it a miracle, and celebrates.
  • At the beginning of Moana, Tala's stories are dismissed as nonsense and problems like the decrease in the fish population of the lagoon and the disease in the coconut groves are assumed to have scientific solutions (clear the diseased trees for a new grove in a different location and rotating fishing grounds, respectively). These don't pan out and Moana has to return a magical artifact to a goddess so this goddess can restore life and prosperity to the islands.
  • The main premise of Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is the gang's reaction to finally facing with the supernatural, after so many years spent debunking hauntings as hoaxes and criminal plots.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • After Earth was inspired by a real story involving a father and son having a car accident in the woods and the son going to look for help. It was changed to a father and son crashing a spaceship in a future Earth where everything has been designed or altered by aliens to kill humans. The monster Ursa? Likely first conceived as a grizzly bear, Ursus arctos horribilis.
  • Beowulf (1999): Despite the Setting Update to The Future After the End, Beowulf is changed from a mere human to a superpowered half human, half demon warrior.
  • Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice suggested that contaminated corn has been causing hallucinations that appears as demonic activity to anyone near it. Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest ignores this, and in turn ramps up the supernatural powers used by the requisite Dark Messiah child leader.
  • The early Slasher Movie Don't Go in the House ended with a The End... Or Is It?, which revealed that the voices that had been driving the villain to kill and which the viewer had assumed to be hallucinations were actually a real supernatural force of evil that had moved on to bait someone else.
  • Played with in Hellraiser: Hellworld. The Lament Configuration? An online puzzle. Pinhead? Literally called a franchise icon. Hellworld? An exclusive, debauched party. It's all just a game, until things get real and cenobites start showing up and the bloodbath begins. Then the wizard is done in a second time, as it's all the means a mundane killer uses to pick off the protagonists after drugging them with hallucinogens so they'd see what he put in their heads. Then, the wizard rises from the grave to kill the scientist, as the original killer opens the Lament Configuration and the franchise icon puts in his obligatory appearance.
  • Much of the early Marvel Cinematic Universe was based on Doing In the Wizard, and later installments instead focused on bringing characters closer to their comic origins.
    • The Avengers: Tony suggests that the Hulk (A.K.A "The Other Guy") is not triggered by Bruce's heart rate per se, but that the Hulk deliberately manifests to protect Bruce in dangerous (i.e. heart-pounding) situations. Thus, it is an ally to be embraced instead of a monster to be caged. The events of the movie support this view. Bruce tells The Team that Hulk at one point prevented a suicide attempt, and later it emerges in the final battle because Bruce told it to.
    • Doctor Strange was the first film in the franchise to explicitly have magic. Previous films were, at most, Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane. This movie pulls no punches drawing a hard line between magic and science, and never attempts to explain the sorcerers as anything else.
    • After two films stating that the Asgardians are actually just Sufficiently Advanced Aliens instead of gods, Thor: Ragnarok contradicts this and establishes that no, they really are Physical Gods, and Loki, Hela, and Thor are repeatedly addressed as God of Mischief, Goddess of Death, and God of Thunder, respectively. Thor realizing Mjölnir was only a conduit for his powers rather than their source is a major plot point. In Loki, the titular character's abilities don't work in the TVA's Anti-Magic field, while advanced technology still does.
    • WandaVision: In previous movies, Wanda's powers were given a "scientific" explanation (psionic abilities granted by HYDRA experiments with the Mind Stone). Here, her powers are explicitly identified as magical, and they follow the rules of other magic. It's theorized that Wanda was born with a modicum of magical talent, which awakened into the infinitely powerful Chaos Magic by exposure to the Mind Stone. Wanda denies this explanation at first, sticking with what HYDRA told her, but she later accepts her identity as the Scarlet Witch.
  • Mortal Kombat (2021) does this to characters who used technology to get their powers in the games- Sonya and her wrist lasers, Jak and his mechanical arms, Kano and his cybernetic laser eye- and has them derived instead from Arcanas, special magical abilities.
  • In Oz the Great and Powerful, a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, Oz is a real place. Dorothy just saw all the parallels between people she met in Oz and people she knew earlier and assumed it was All Just a Dream. (Note that this only applies to the movies; in the books it's always clear that Oz is a real, magical place.)
  • The Prestige has an odd variant of this that falls somewhere between this trope and Doing In the Wizard. From the beginning, the movie is presented as a fairly mundane Period Piece about a pair of Victorian stage magicians battling over trade secrets for their magical acts. Naturally, we assume that all of their magic tricks can be explained away as clever illusions, even when both men come up with magic tricks that apparently let them teleport instantly from one side of a stage to another. Neither trick is magic, per se, but one of them turns out to have been accomplished with a replication/cloning device invented by Nikola Tesla, unexpectedly pushing the movie into science fiction territory.
  • The final scene and sequels of Flesh-Eating Zombie movie [REC] reveal that the rabies-like virus responsible for the zombies is actually a form of transmissible Demonic Possession.
  • Scooby-Doo (2002) includes actual demonic creatures controlled by the pissed-off Scrappy Doo, rather than the typical "Scooby-Doo" Hoax.
  • The Death Star from Star Wars, while always an extremely powerful superweapon, was originally known as a "technological terror" distinct from the ways of the Force, something the Legends continuity ran with. When the Continuity Reboot rolled around, the new Expanded Universe refined the concept of "kyber crystals", Force-powered crystals which not only power lightsabers but also were used to power ancient Sith superweapons — as well as to power the Death Star's superlaser. In other words, the Death Star was retconned from being pure technology into being Dark Side magitek — something which puts Vader's "the ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force" into a new light.

  • The Dexter novels, after a couple of books which appeared to be non-magical crime stories, suddenly threw in literal Christian demons and tried to claim that Dexter was demonically possessed. This did not go down well with many of the fans.
  • The Exile's Violin: Despite all the talk about how alchemy is nothing more than chemistry+mysticism and general disbelief in magic, the Exile's Violin has real magic power and the 'alchemically enhanced' swords that previously defeated it are the only weapons that can stop it.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Early on, Alister's advisors say they 'stopped believing in magic years ago' and insist that the dragokin powers are not magic despite being bestowed on the princesses by a dragon god. Shortly afterward, Gothon uses teleportation magic to launch a sneak attack: Its purpose is to capture Ben and steal his definitely magical powers to travel between worlds.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • Simmons initially thinks that Will's stories of "It" and the Monolith planet having "moods" are just symptoms of his long isolation and that there is a scientific explanation. When she sees "It" for herself, and that a gorge suddenly became much wider when they needed to cross it, she decides otherwise.
    • Certain characters in-series think there is some sort of scientific explanation for Robbie's Ghost Rider powers, either "enhanced" like Steve Rogers or Inhuman like Daisy. However, Robbie later claims that he literally sold his soul to the Devil (or rather, a previous Ghost Rider) and the show's creators have confirmed that he's explicitly supernatural.
      Jeffrey: Is he Inhuman?
      Coulson: Claims he made a deal with the Devil.
      Fitz: Which is nonsense.
      Coulson: You know, the rationalist in me wants to agree, but the skull on fire presents a pretty compelling argument for "Hail Satan."
    • Fitz spends much of the fourth season trying to find rational explanations for ghosts, demons, and magic books. While he does occasionally make progress (such as when he and Simmons find a cure for the ghost insanity), the Ghost Rider and the Darkhold continually confound his attempts to understand. He finally stops trying to classify Ghost Rider as a normal Gifted when he witnesses the Spirit of Vengeance jump out of Robbie and into Mack in order to escape Hell, and several times he is forced to summarize the Darkhold's abilities as "no, that is not possible, I don't care that it's happening right in front of me, it's not possible."
  • Babylon 5 toyed with the idea that at least some of the First Ones' powers were magical for a long time, but always also left it open that it was just the tech of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. Then The Lost Tales depicted what appeared to be an actual Christian demon (it was implied that the entity's actual nature was more complex than that, but it was still strongly suggested to be genuinely supernatural).
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) began as hard science fiction and slowly acquired more and more religious/fantastic elements: precognition, incorporeal beings, restoration of destroyed objects and resurrection from the dead. The series ended with the characters putting the events of the series down to divine intervention, although strictly speaking the viewers are left to make up their own minds.
  • While Buffy the Vampire Slayer is mostly focused on magic and demons, a few antagonists, like Warren, the original Ted and Professor Walsh, used sci-fi tropes. Word of God says they could pull off things like semi-sapient robots and invisibility rays because they're actually magical savants fueled by the Hellmouth (or something). The Hellmouth attracts demons and encourages weirdness of all kinds, sometimes spontaneous (“Nightmares”, “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”, “I Only Have Eyes For You”, “Where the Wild Things Are”), sometimes in the form of mad science.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit": In contrast to the series' usual tendency to offer scientific explanations for various Eldritch Abominations, although the Doctor clearly doesn't believe that the Beast is Satan like it claims to be, he gets rather cagey when pressed on what he thinks it actually was. He eventually admits that he can't dismiss it with a scientific explanation as easily as he normally would.
    • "Under the Lake"/"Before the Flood": The Doctor denounces "ghosts" as nonsense. Then he changes his mind and says that yes, they really are the souls of dead people. They're not something scientific like Auton duplicates, flesh avatar clones or digital copies "floating about the Nethersphere". He's ecstatic to meet a "proper ghost". And then the story does in the wizard by revealing the "ghosts'" true nature.
  • The episode "Dreams in the Witch House" of Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities, almost based In Name Only on the short story The Dreams in the Witch House by H. P. Lovecraft, changes Walter Gilman from a physics student who thinks the Witch's magic is some kind of undescribed science allowing her to travel within dimensions, to a believer in Spiritualism who wants to contact his dead twin sister, whom he saw die and rise as a ghost when he was a child. The episode also adds a Magical Native American capable of taking people to the spirit world with a drug, and a prophet woman that can enter the spirit world on her own and has seen that Walter must die to allow the Witch back in the world of the living. Because the Witch is also said to be dead from the beginning and having been hanged in Salem, while in the story she vanished from gaol and it is not until much later that her skeleton is found. Finally, the episode ends with Brown Jenkin assuming control of Walter's body after killing him, rather than just doing the latter.
  • Life on Mars (2006) hints that the Time Travel is just in Sam Tyler's head from the opening narration ("Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time?"), and the series strongly suggests that it is all Adventures in Comaland as it progresses, with random bits of the modern day/real world slipping into Sam's '70s world. The scripted finale confirmed this by having Sam wake up from said coma, finding his new life so empty that he decided to commit suicide, after which the screen switched to black. However, the aired finale turned this scene on its head by adding a scene after where Sam meets his friends from the '70s, thus turning the coma dream into an Afterlife Antechamber. Later on, the sequel Ashes to Ashes had a new different character thrown in the same place, and revealed that Nelson and Gene Hunt, of all people, were spirit guides helping recently deceased cops.
  • Lost:
    • The series danced with a scientific explanation for everything in Seasons 4 and 5. Season 6, meanwhile, reverts back to fantasy, focusing the plot around two people who seem to be immortal demigods (one of whom has even been theorized to be an outright genie, since he claims to be able to grant wishes to his followers and who is being kept on the Island like a cork keeps wine in a bottle) while introducing rules about not being able to kill somebody if they speak to you first, a healing spring that turns you evil when it's grimy, and so on.
    • The show played with the idea of science vs. faith, as epitomized by Jack and Locke respectively. There are scientific explanations for many of the things that happened (plane crashed, the time travel, etc.), and though Jacob guided the events of the whole show, it doesn't mean the actual events lack a scientific reason as to how they happened. Put simply, the writers deliberately wrote the show so that most events were a blend of the scientific and the faith-oriented, and very few things were purely one or the other.
  • Once Upon a Time is a predominantly Fantasy-based show, so characters that exhibit faith and association in science (or at least the Science Fiction-based science native to alternate worlds) are few and far between. The biggest distinction (or rather, the lack thereof) made with science and magic in OUAT is that both science and magic have a give-and-take "Power at a Price" law that predicates the universe. While magic users are fully aware of this principle, (with "magic comes at a price" being Rumpelstiltskin's catchphrase) and will either warn others of this or arrogantly try to have others pay that price, science-users like Victor Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll believe in progress's inherent goodness and end up screwing themselves over in the process, not learning a thing. When this fallout inevitably happens, then they will reluctantly come to rely on magic, such as when Victor acquires a magically-removed heart to finish his experiments to resurrect his dead brother, and later asks Rumpelstiltskin to use his magic to reattach his severed arm.
  • Quantum Leap's series finale revealed that God was not controlling Sam's actions but there were other non-technological based Leapers who were guardian angels thought dead or disappeared, and that most of the things previously thought to run on science actually ran on magical miracles. However, all along it was suggested that his constant leaping was not due to the machine he built but some outside force.
  • After Runaways caught a lot of flack for trying to turn the Staff of One from a magical staff to nanotech, thus robbing Nico Minoru of her most appealing aspect (being a Japanese-American teenage witch). Season 2 does course correction by going the opposite way and establishing that the Staff of One is magic, even connected to the Dark Dimension, and the previous explanation was a cover-up. They also reveal that the Gibborim are in fact a real entity, after it seemed they were Adapted Out for another scientific replacement with Jonah.
  • According to the Opening Narration of The Sentinel, the fight for survival in the jungles of Peru heightened his senses, but the episodes attributed it to Magical Native American powers.
    • The French opening narration walked around this by being more "open" to the magical interpretation.
    • It's also stated by Sandburg that each tribe had its own Sentinel, a person genetically-predisposed to hypersensitivity, designated as its protector. In this case, Jim is the protector of his "tribe" - the city of Cascade.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine gets closer to this than any other incarnation. The Prophets of Bajor live in a separate plane of existence and watch over the people of Bajor, who worship them as Gods. As far as everybody else is concerned, they're Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who live in a temporally non-linear plane of existence. The series never comes down hard on what they are but had something of a Tone Shift. Sisko, Jadzia Dax, and Gul Dukat all start out as either aloof or skeptical to the Prophets' or Pah Wraiths' divinity, but end up embracing it to some degree in the end. Also, in the last seasons of the Dominion War arc, a lot of Action / High Fantasy tropes (The Chosen One, Final Battle, Evil Counterpart) start to overtake the slow-burning character growth and social realism. There's no Sci-Fi explanation for what's going on much of the time. "What You Leave Behind" feels much more like Return of the King than "All Good Things".
  • Supernatural:
    • Anything thought to be science ends up being magic or because of magical entities. The kicker for any fan of this trope is that science is also useless in the show itself (i.e. most monsters can only be killed in specific magical ways, if they can even be killed at all).
    • The show has a Running Gag about how All Myths Are True... except the seemingly down to earth Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti, who most versions would have as mere animals, but here is complete hogwash. Then in one episode, Dean and Sam are presented with fresh prints leading to a tall, hairy humanoid... that is revealed to actually be a giant teddy bear animated by a magic wish well.
  • In The Vampire Diaries it turns out that Jonathan Gilbert's inventions don't work, but were enchanted by Emily unbeknownst to him to fulfill their intended function. This didn't cause backlash, seeing as magic is already established and the alternative is a 19th century, clockwork powered vampire detector.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000 see-saws back and forth on this one with Orks. Depending on the Writer, Orkish technology is either real technology they're able to build and use due to it being built into their genes, or it's pure magic powered solely by their belief it will work. Sometimes humans are able to use it with no trouble other than it being a bit crude, other times even simple things like guns turn out to just be full of metal scraps that couldn't possibly do anything.
  • This trope is played in-universe in Mage: The Ascension. The Technocratic Union is a group of magical scientists who are attempting to do in the Wizard, while Traditions are more "wizard-like" and try to do in the Scientist. In short, the Technocrats (at their best) push for a scientific, rational worldview and the Traditionalists (again, at their best) push for a mystical, spiritual one. Both of the major factions are, to a great degree, trying to influence human society into accepting their point of view in order to solidify reality with their own vision. The irony in part stems from a serious case of Grey-and-Gray Morality.
    • As stated on Doing in the Wizard, in Mage, the Wizard and the Scientist are metaphorically the same person, whom we could call Humanity. Humanity uses the lab coat, the abacus, and the computer some days, the cloak, the chicken entrails, and prayer the next, all in a pointless argument with itself. The most common resolution to the game's Meta Plot is that the Wizard and Scientist get it together and help Humanity Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.

    Video Games 
  • Though the units and techs are still history-based, Age of Empires III deviates from its predecessors in having a fantasy campaign about a highly fictionalized version of The Knights Hospitallers and their American descendants battling a secret society called The Circle of Ossus (implied to be descendants of The Knights Templar in supplementary material), for exclusive access to the Fountain of Youth (which exists, and does extend your life to superbicentenarian). This didn't go well with fans of the franchise.
    • The first expansion, The WarChiefs, addressed this criticism by having two more history-based campaigns (one set in The American Revolution and another in the Sioux Wars) and not mentioning the Circle of Ossus again, despite following other generations of the same family. However, the new Native American civilizations also got bonuses from ritually dancing around firepits and could recruit wild animals into their forces, which didn't sit well with some Native American groups.
  • Through most of Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway, Matthew Baker's dead squadmate, Kevin Leggett, appears in either flashbacks or as Baker's presumably PTSD-induced hallucinations. But then Legget appears as a ghost in the last cutscene, "Farewell is Goodbye".
  • The first episode of FAITH: The Unholy Trinity involves a man named John trying to exorcise a girl whilst dealing with a strange white monster. The game leaves these supernatural happenings ambiguous, with some hints that the girl is just mentally ill and not possessed, the monster being some sort of hallucination, and one possible ending implying John himself is outright insane. The second episode on the other hand completely discards all non-supernatural explanations, with the existence of demons being confirmed and that white monster turning out to be a human boy who was mutated by demonic influence. The third episode proceeds to bury the scientist by having a sorcerous cult, numerous high-ranking demons, and God Himself getting involved in the plot.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's leaves it ambiguous why the animatronics at the titular Suck E. Cheese's want to kill you; Phone Guy says that it's a programming malfunction, but several Easter Eggs imply that the robots are actually haunted by the spirits of murdered children. Five Nights at Freddy's 2 makes it clear that the supernatural explanation is definitely correct, as the death minigames show the story of how the animatronics came to be haunted. Fast forward to today, the Scientist has been ripped out of his grave and forced to make a memory clone before being shot in the back of the head once more.
  • Grand Theft Auto Online has an example that drives home the Crapsack World nature of the Grand Theft Auto universe. Starting with San Andreas, the Epsilon Program, the series' stand-in for the Church of Scientology, has been portrayed as a kooky, exploitative cult whose leader Cris Formage is a charlatan who's in it purely for the money and the women. In GTA Online, however, the first time your character gets killed, Formage appears to you in spirit form, where he demonstrates that his powers are in fact real and that the Epsilon Program is in fact the way to salvation. (From a gameplay perspective, this explains how respawning and Passive Mode work.) That's right. In the GTA universe, there is a One True Faith — and it's a New Age UFO cult whose leader uses his powers to secretly stalk people.
    Cris Formage: Welcome, brother, brother. Welcome. You see? They said I was a charlatan. A fraud, a nothing. But I am a miracle. Look and behold in wonder.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic takes place in the same world of Might and Magic, but purges all elements of Science Fantasy into a pure fantasy world. While magic in Might And Magic does exist; many parts of the world are the result of different crashed spaceships, multiple seemingly spiritual forces like demons are revealed to be Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, and many magical artifacts are advanced technology. In Heroes Of Might And Magic there are no more crashed spaceships, demons are now actual evil spirits from Hell rather than aliens from another planet, and all those futuristic gadgets are instead proper enchanted artifacts. The creators had plans to invert this in the third game by bringing in an alien faction, however extreme fan backlash made them see everyone preferred the wizard's version of the world and it has remained so since.
  • In Tales of Graces, it is shown that the Nigh-Invulnerable Nova monsters can be harmed by a special kind of energy given off by Sophie. Later, it's revealed that Sophie is actually a Robot Girl created by the people of a different planet... and then it turns out that the thing that powers her mysterious attacks is actually the mystical energy of the planet. Similarly, the laws of the world of Fodra were thought to be entirely natural until Lambda was discovered in its core.
  • Early on in Tales of the Abyss, it is revealed that there's a kind of cloning technology called "fomicry". How it operates isn't explained but it's assumed to be scientific. Turns out that's only half right: The process by which it is done is technological but the thing that allows it is actual magic, the energy given off by the local Crystal Dragon Jesus.
  • Tekken 4 took a sudden and drastic turn towards Doing In the Wizard compared to the supernatural and soft sci-fi themes in the first game. Most notably, the Devil possessing Jin and Kazuya was first referred to as "the Devil Gene" in this game and described as a mutation. Ogre, similarly, was called a "bioweapon" instead of an ancient warrior god. The only robot was Combot, a Clockwork Creature rather than the Ridiculously Human Robot JACK series, and there's only one "fighting animal"—Kuma, who is pretty much an ordinary bear. Following games in the series brought the supernatural elements right back, but also folded most of the scientific elements right on top of them. The Devil Gene, for instance, is revealed to be a genetically-inherited curse.

  • El Goonish Shive has an odd progression. At first, Tedd was a Teen Genius who invented a Transformation Ray gun. Then it was retconned to be Alien Technology, which was then retconned to be Magitek, which was then retconned to be full-on magic only possible due to the intervention of immortal beings in the area. "Take THAT Science Fiction!".
  • Gunnerkrigg Court featured robots for many chapters, before it was revealed that some - if not all of them - are magitek, and capable of operating without motors, actuators, or any visible power source. In retrospect, this helps explain how Antimony - who by her own admission doesn't know the first thing about how robots work - was able to single-handedly reassemble Robot S13.
  • Sluggy Freelance: It was originally implied that Oasis was the creation of Mad Scientist Dr. Steve, being either a robot he built or a human girl he Brainwashed and physically enhanced. Several years later, it's revealed that Dr. Steve didn't create Oasis at all; while exactly what she is remains unclear, researchers have labelled her "proof-positive paranormal" and stated "nobody made Oasis into a weapon but God." Fantasy elements have been part of Sluggy Freelance since day one, so this revelation isn't as jarring as it might be in other series. Subverted later when her "Pyrokinesis" and apparent immortality are explained as her being a satellite station housing her mind and being equipped with advanced weaponry.
  • Spinnerette laughed at the idea of anyone using magic (especially the kind inspired by a tabletop game) and thought "Spirit of the Tiger" was an euphemism for steroids. Then Mecha Maid tells her that the latter is not a euphemism and Alexis performs the Ritual of Lolth for real.
  • Wooden Rose: Eric originally attributed his wife's pregnancy to infidelity but when he saw that the child was a tree spirit, and that it came to term in a week instead of nine months, he had no choice but to accept that the supernatural was involved.

    Web Original 
  • In Atop the Fourth Wall, it was revealed that all the advanced fictional technology Linkara has been using (phasers and tricorders, morphers, pokeballs, etc.) are actually just toys that he's been enchanting using a magic book that can turn the image of something into the actual thing. Oddly, there's still genuine sci-fi stuff; its quite explicitly only the borrowed technology that was actually magic.
  • It was revealed near the end of lonelygirl15 that trait positives are actually the descendants of the fertility goddess Hathor, although this was left open to interpretation.
  • The SCP Foundation has always concerned the paranormal. At some point in the site's history, the concept of a unit of "realness" called the Hume was introduced to explain how objects gain their paranormal properties. However, SCP-3812 proved to be undetectable by use of Hume reading devices, which was variously theorized in-fiction to either be due to extremely high or low readings, or that its Reality Warper abilities are tied to an entirely different mechanism. This helped the writing community in general go back to treating the series as paranormal rather than high-concept science fiction.

    Western Animation 
  • In the pilot of Infinity Train, it seems like a shadow monster is raising the tides in Corginia, but the monster is actually just a spider's shadow and the tides are a result of a broken water pipe. Downplayed in the show proper, where the shadow is still a spider, but the tides are caused by the orbs that keep the worlds in the train cars together being removed.
  • In Kim Possible, Shego's hand blasts were at first implied to be devices in her gloves. Later it was firmly established to be a superpower given to her by a Magic Meteor.
  • The Owl House privides a variation, given that magic was known to be involved from the beginning. When Luz first discovers glyph magic in "The Intruder", it's implied that she ended up finding it thanks to her phone's camera managing to capture it in a freeze frame. However, the Grand Finale reveals that it was actually the Titan taking advantage of the properties of the In Between Realm to show her though the reflective surface of the phone's screen.
  • In the comics, Rahan often exposed alleged magic as fraud or misunderstood natural phenomena. However the 2009 cartoon series is a full on sword and sorcery work that gives Rahan a goblin-like sidekick and a legit witch as a nemesis.
  • In Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Mutagenic Goo that is a mainstay of the franchise is magical, rather than chemical, though with a hint of Magitek. The Mutants it creates were specifically turned into Youkai, though they're still called "mutants" to distinguish them from natural youkai (including the one who made the ooze, who still considers himself a scientist).
  • A weird case from Star Trek: Lower Decks, in which the Hysperians (essentially Renaissance Fair geeks who colonized a planet with dragons on it) rename the usual Trek Techno Babble to make it sound like it's actually magic (much to Rutherford's confusion).
  • Transformers has this in their origin story. In G1, the Autobots and Decepticons were manufactured by the Quintessons as slaves and weapons respectively (though prior to this story, super-computer Vector Sigma gave sentience to the Transformers while their origin was left unanswered). In later series it's said that they were created by an actual god, Primus, that is their planet. As in, their planet transforms into a god (This doesn't entirely count, however, as some continuities follow the Primus origin and some follow the Quintesson origin.)
    • The original Marvel comic from The '80s takes the cake by beginning with the explanation that Transformers evolved from naturally occurring pulleys, levers and gears and later saying it was the god Primus.
    • Meanwhile, at least one guide book says "Okay, Primus created them, THEN The Quintessons found them and modified them."
    • In the Japanese G1 continuity, the Quintessons created the Autobots and Decepticons, while the Oracle/Primus/Vector Sigma/Primacron's Assistant gave them sentience.
    • The Wreckers comic used that explanation to add that Vector Sigma was Primus' link with the Transformers, while the Oracle was a shell program created by the Quints to sever that link, manipulate Vector Sigma and send some fake prophecies.
  • In one episode of What's New, Scooby-Doo?, the ominous coral-monster that'd been lurking around the beach turned out to be an actual coral-based sea monster... which had nothing to do with the crime the gang solved as they investigated its presence!

    Real Life 
  • Obviously, science is a study of the real world and its laws but there have been many times the discovery of things have ended up being a lot weirder than the previously assumed explanation or that remain inexplicable.
    • Practically every new discovery is, for a time, a lot weirder than the previous mundane explanation. For example imagine what it was like when it was discovered sickness was not typically caused by airborne chemicals as previously thought, but by invisibly small harmful creatures.
  • The entirety of quantum physics has been a thorn in the side of individuals who want reality to follow a determinist path and has long since proven non-intuitive paths like reality being a function of probability, reality being made of waves versus particles, and not really working within time.
  • Sometimes when a new scientific theory eclipses an older one, the new explanation is significantly less mundane and sometimes even more poetic. For example tears were thought to simply be a signal that one is looking for emotional comfort (or that they have something in their eye). However it turns out tears really are liquid emotionnote , something a poet would likely approve of.
  • Roger Penrose, no stranger to Doing In the Wizard himself, pointed out consciousness may actually be irreducible as part of the universe (believing quantum physics may play a role in the event) so Artificial Intelligence may actually be impossible as a function of programming. This has not made him popular in some circles.
  • David Chalmers has made his career as a philosopher pointing out the "Hard Problem of Consciousness" which many scientists have challenged (but quite a few more have agreed with). Basically, we can tell how a brain works but there's no real explanation for how it gives rise to a person having a subjective identity.
  • The Catholic Church maintains a canonization board which includes a rotating group of atheist doctors invited to examine evidence of miracles in order to make sure any action they investigate for the purposes of declaring a new saint (they need two "proven" miracles) is actually inexplicable by science. Some of the miracles cited include a woman being healed of Parkinson's disease for John Paul II's canonization and the sudden healing of a club foot in India for the beatification of Thevarparampil Kunjachan.
  • There have been numerous attempts to disprove several Christian relics' more bizarre properties like incorruptibility, the Shroud of Turin, the Blood of Saint Jannarius, the Eucharist of Lanciano, and the waters of Lourdes. Sometimes, these tests prove fruitful while other times they simply raise more questions. In a surprising reversal of how it usually works, there have actually been cases of fraud among skeptics like the attempt by Garza-Valdes to state there was a image of an Aztec goddess painted under the Our Lady of Guadalupe shroud.
  • It's been said that a scientist's job is to destroy magic and turn it into science. It's been said that an engineer's job is to destroy science and create magic. There is a reason several engineers refer to themselves as Wizards. An engineer's job is to create solutions to problems that are usually intentionally obfuscating as possible within budgetary constraints, otherwise people can copy you/your employer. Most engineers are also taught to "black box" as much as possible to save time, again taking the known and making it the unknown. And at the end of day, an engineer should have taken simpler components and made them into something more complex, and therefore less knowable, even if they aren't trying to throw people off.
  • The theory of the evolution of species by natural selection was first formulated by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. One reason you don't hear as much about Wallace these days is that he outlived Darwin for 30 years and bought hard on the Spiritualism fad of the Turn-of-the-Century, becoming a prominent advocate for it and the non-material origin of the human mind.