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Doomsday Clock

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Yet another reason to get rid of Daylight Savings Time.

"Please don't stop it's lonely at the top
These lonely days when will they ever stop?
This doomsday clock ticking in my heart"
The Smashing Pumpkins, "Doomsday Clock"

This handy metaphor is pulled out of the writer's bag of tricks whenever we need to be shown that time is of the essence in a particular dilemma. It is almost as good as a Magic Countdown for getting across the message that time is running out. Expect the minute hand to be mighty close to the 12 at the top of the clock.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago actually keep one as a prop... of DOOM! When it was originally introduced in 1947 the clock symbolized how close the world was to nuclear war, with the metaphor supporting it being: talks have broken down, and once midnight hits, the attacks start. And we are all DOOMED. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the original metaphor is (supposedly) obsolete, and it was expanded to catastrophic destruction of any sort, provided it's on a global scale. The Bulletin's website specifically mentions Global Warming and bio-engineering as possible causes of DOOM in addition to nuclear war; however, given they can never go a year without also mentioning "global nuclear weapons modernizations" it's most probable that the simple existence of nukes remains a big Author Tract for the Bulletin.

It's also worth noting that the Bulletin evaluates every January every year to discuss whether events in the previous year warrant bringing the minute hand closer to midnight, moving it farther away, or keeping it at the same time.

As of January 2024, it is 90 seconds until midnight. That said, in the 75 years that the clock has existed, the furthest it's ever been till midnight (1991, after the end of the Cold War) was 11:43PM, so keeping track of it can cause people to think “Too Bleak, Stopped Caring”: if it's always so close to potential doomsday that WWIII could erupt in the time it takes to drive into town on a routine errand, why bother get worked up about the precise location of the minute hand?

This is a subtrope of When the Clock Strikes Twelve. It may overlap with Timed Mission. Also see Death's Hourglass and Clock of Power. For the DC Comics mini-series crossing over with Watchmen, click here or the "Comic Book" icon above.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, when Polnareff first appears as an enemy, he uses his rapier on Avdol's flames to draw a clock on a flipped table, claiming that he could kill Avdol before its hand reached the 12. But Avdol uses his manipulation of fire to get rid of the clock, calling Polnareff out on his arrogance.
  • One episode of Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine had the clock as a background element, as it centered around a Central American leader traveling to New York to make a speech to the UN. As fears that his speech will escalate Cold War spread, and people try to kill him to keep him from making it, the clock edges closer to midnight. Then he makes it to New York and instead gives a speech that de-escalates international tensions, and the clock rewinds.
  • Laid close to the Twelve Zodiac Houses in Saint Seiya, is a tower whose clock has blue flames where the numbers would normally be. When Athena gets hit by a cursed arrow, the flames tell how many hours remain until the arrow ends up killing the wounded goddess. Once every hour, one flame is extinguished, so the main characters have only twelve hours to travel through the twelve houses, defeat the Gold Saints patrolling said houses, and convince the head honcho to remove the arrow from Athena's chest. In the end, all twelve flames in the clock disappear, but Athena manages to lift the curse and the arrow with her cosmic energy.

    Comic Books 
  • One Sunday strip of Brewster Rockit: Space Guy! had Agent X bring aboard the Doomsday Clock, itself a physical representation of the time to doomsday. Brewster, having missed this explanation, thinks the clock is off and sets to the proper time of midnight. This causes nuclear explosions all around Earth in the background.
  • A recurring motif in Watchmen with the clock gradually ticking towards midnight until the end. It is also mentioned directly with the clock being at five minutes near the beginning. Ironically, because of the deterrent posed by Dr. Manhattan at the beginning of the story, this is actually further from midnight than the real-life clock was in the early to mid-1980s (his departure moves the clock up significantly). The clock is seen more often as the most well-known symbol of the series: the Comedian's smiley-face badge. If you look at it with both eyes pointing up, the bloody smear resembles a minute hand pointing at 11 on a clock. This was actually the entire point of the design, to dress up something happy to something terrifying, with one tiny change.
    • Doomsday Clock, as a sequel of sorts to Watchmen by DC Comics, uses the imagery in its title, but less so in the actual comics.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Justice League (2017).
    Bruce Wayne: Well I wouldn't rely on the Tribes of Men. We tend to act like the Doomsday Clock has a snooze button.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • The story "Four to Doomsday" was released when the real life clock was at four minutes. Possibly a coincidence.
    • The story "Kinda" has an apocalyptic dream sequence that features a multitude of Doomsday Clocks of different technological types.
    • In "The Pyramid at the End of the World", every clock on earth displays the doomsday time, beginning at three minutes to midnight and advancing throughout the episode as the event that threatens to wipe out all life on earth unfolds. The closest the clock gets to midnight is 23:59:40.
  • The Heroes episode "Seven to Midnight" revolves around stopping a nuclear bomb from going off in New York City. At the time it was aired the clock stood at seven minutes.
  • Lost reveals in later seasons that the repeated number sequence, 4 8 15 16 23 42 is in fact a component of an insanely accurate Doomsday Clock: the Valenzetti Equation, which predicts the extinction of mankind, with the Numbers serving as the input.
  • NCIS episode "Murder 2.0" had the Doomsday Clock, at the time set to five minutes, used as a clue to indicate the next murder would take place at 11:55 p.m.
  • The second to last episode of Supernatural season 5 is called "Two Minutes to Midnight". "Midnight" in this case referring to the The Final Battle between Lucifer and Michael, AKA the Apocalypse.

  • The Bureau of Atomic Scientists has created a playlist] of songs mentioning or inspired by their Doomsday Clock.
  • "2 Minutes to Midnight" by Iron Maiden.
  • The Smashing Pumpkins, with their song "Doomsday Clock" from Zeitgeist.
  • Linkin Park's album Minutes to Midnight. The music video for "Shadow of the Day" from the same album also makes reference to the clock with 11:55 appearing at the beginning. The video runs slightly over four minutes, ending with mere seconds to midnight.
  • "11:59" by Blondie.
  • "The Call Up" by The Clash has the lyric "55 minutes past eleven".
  • Likewise, "Turn Your Back" by Billy Talent has the lyric "When the clock strikes twelve, tell me where ya gonna be?" at the beginning. The entire song makes reference to disasters occurring and hoping the world can change.
  • "4 Minutes (To Save the World)" by Madonna.
  • " One Minute to Midnight" by Justice.
  • Referenced in "I Hear Voices" by Kasabian:
    One minute to, uhh—
    One minute to, uhh—
    One minute to midnight

    My soul, you can have it 'coz it don't mean shit
    I'd sell it to the devil for another hit
    And midnight is coming and I wish that you were here
  • "Particle Man" by They Might Be Giants inverts the Doomsday Clock: Universe Man has "a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand - and when they meet, it's a happy land!"
  • "Look at Me (When I Rock Wichoo)" by the Black Kids mentions it in the refrain:
    When the clock says stop we're all gonna drop
    I don't care if we get caught
    When the clock says stop we're all gonna drop
    I don't care what you've been taught

    Video Games 
  • The Infinite Ocean, an indie game about an amnesic AI trying to avert a disaster, has a symbolic clock set at two minutes to midnight.
  • Used for a Timed Mission in Empire Earth 2, where the final confrontation between the US and the USSR happened in the Bering Strait. The clock starts at one hour, goes down by 10 minutes every time the Soviets destroy a unit or building, and goes up by the same amount whenever you kill a unit or building. They also have an invincible bomber flying around that regularly destroys one of your buildings with complete impunity until you hijack it.
  • Girls' Frontline: During "Poincare Recurrence", the Doomsday Clock can be seen edging closer to midnight as the Commander races to stop a Paradeus attack from occurring on Unity Day. They succeed, but the clock keeps ticking, and at the end of Chapter 4, it hits midnight, signifying that Carter's attack on G&K HQ has begun. Finally, at the end of the event, the clock moves one minute past midnight, cementing that the endgame has begun.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, the player has three days until the moon crashes down on Termina, with a giant clock tower counting down to this in the center of the Hub Level (which is appropriately named Clock Town) and a smaller clock display at the bottom of the screen.
  • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII features this as a central theme of the game, but plays with it: Regardless of what happens, Nova Chrysalia will be destroyed no matter what you do as the player. The clock signifies that you have thirteen (or, if you play really well, fourteen) twenty-four hour days left in to ensure that said world and all of the people living on it are reborn. If you accomplish the tasks at hand, the world will renew itself.
  • In Limbus Company, the protagonist Dante has had their head replaced with a "prosthetic" resembling the Doomsday Clock. The hands originally rested at roughly 11:45, but as of the fourth main story chapter, it's begun slowly advancing towards midnight.
  • Used in The New Order Last Days Of Europe for Sergey Taboritsky's Holy Russian Empire. The clock represents the regent's sanity. When the clock strikes twelve, Taboritsky finally sees through his myriad delusions and realises Alexei Romanov is dead and not coming back, and dies from the sheer despair. Things go From Bad to Worse for Russia from there.
  • In Pandora's Tower, while not a Doomsday Clock perse as the fate of the world is not at stake, but the humanity of one girl, there is a clock that ticks throughout the game while you are in the towers. As it depletes, Elena's humanity will slowly fade away as she's painfully transformed into a monster. If it runs out, you get a Non-Standard Game Over, though you can extend the time whenever you want by giving her flesh from the monsters of the towers.
  • While not an exact representation, Rise of Nations has an example clearly based on the Doomsday Clock. When a player researches nuclear weapons, a counter appears on his HUD. Every time any player uses a nuke, it goes down by 1. If it reaches zero, the game ends with everyone losing as the clock strikes midnight.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of Adventures of the Gummi Bears featured a Doomsday Clock built by an evil sorcerer, which would actually destroy the world if it ever struck twelve — unless, of course, it was destroyed first.
  • The title of The Venture Brothers episode Twenty Years to Midnight is a reference to the actual Doomsday Clock.

    Real Life 
  • In addition to the Trope Namer, there are also several similar clocks, albeit with slightly different purposes. For instance, the National Debt Clock in New York provides a running total of the US government's deficit and each American family's share of it.