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Explosive Instrumentation

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Circuit breakers are for pansies.

Warning! All control consoles double as Firework Storage Lockers. On detonation of fireworks, please leap dramatically to the floor and feign unconsciousness.

Explosions look cool. As a result, in the future (and sometimes in the present) there are no such things as fuses or circuit breakers, and every control panel, sensor, and shield has C4 built into it. That way, if the Readings Are Off the Scale, the user will be sure to notice. Also, no matter how deeply buried inside a ship its bridge is, you are guaranteed a shower of sparks and a deadly explosion when the enemy gets through its shields, or if some other disaster befalls the ship.

Long considered an unrealistic but effective way of showing battle damage when you don't have the budget to mess up a miniature or — in modern works — create damaged versions of CGI models. Realistically the console would be separated from the destructive effects of high power circuits through various means of protection and would not harm its operator under any scenario. Worst case scenario the controls should simply stop working, or the screen should just turn off.

A Super-Trope to Readings Blew Up the Scale.

Compare No Water Proofing In The Future, Holographic Terminal (which doesn't explode — just get spammed with pop ups). Often the result of Tim Taylor Technology. Should require No OSHA Compliance, although that point is rarely touched. If someone is actually causing the technology to explode involuntarily, that's Walking Techbane. Squat all to do with musical instruments going kaboom, or the 1812 Overture. Thus, this trope has nothing to do with Orchestral Bombing.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The infamous scouter devices in Dragon Ball Z exploded each time they measured a rapid increase in a power source, something that happened regularly during the course of a battle. For a device held on the eye by people regularly fighting powerful enemies, the scientists probably should have reduced the amount of explosives apparently used for its capacitors.
    • One particularly ridiculous example was in a filler scene, when several of Freeza's mooks were watching the fight between Goku and Freeza on a computer, when the scanner explodes and wipes out everyone in the room. Even though they were on a different planet. And they were most likely super-powered Ki fighters.
    • Portable models ceased use for the most part once Frieza actually started fighting with Vegeta, given the power levels were starting to get flat-out ridiculous.
    • After decades both in- and out-of-universe, this is finally addressed in Dragon Ball Super: Broly, where the latest model of scouter will just stop trying to measure power levels if they get too high. Guess Freeza finally got tired of paying to replace the damned things.
  • Surprisingly, for the all the Spiral Power gauges in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann overlap, they turn out to be surprisingly durable as they usually just shift to a new color (each full meter apparently requiring exponentially more to fill than the last). One only broke in the final episode when a Beam-O-War with twice the power of the big bang is knocked back, send the meter overlapping so much as to be every color in the rainbow and the meter literally continues to rise off the gauge in mid-air.
  • In AKIRA, control panels blow up when Tetsuo takes out SOL.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, when the Book of Darkness started taking control of Clyde's Hestia, The Bridge had random explosions thrown in just in case the visual of the Book's tendrils spreading all over the rest the ship didn't seem threatening enough.
  • Several years before the story of Mobile Fighter G Gundam started, a Neo-Egyptian Gundam and its pilot were destroyed when this trope took place in the cockpit. In the "present", the DG Cells take over the Gundam's remains and the pilot's corpse...
  • Used, oddly enough, in Pink Innocent. Kokona shakes a laptop, only for it to burst into flames in her hands, eventually burning down an apartment.
  • In the second chapter of the series Rebuild of Evangelion, when Mari Illustrious Makinami activates the "beast mode" of her EVA, the energy countdown in the NERV room has problems like a stream with a wrong codec, although it's only a timer.
  • The extra edition Naruto Shippuden episode "The Directive to Take the Nine-Tails" begins with a scene straight out of Frankenstein, with Orochimaru as the Mad Scientist doctor. The lightning strike used to bring his creature to life overloads the machines they're using and much exploding ensues.
  • Played for laughs whenever Clemont's inventions explode in Pokémon, with everyone being somewhat singed and their hair exploding into afros.

  • In Justice Society of Japan, right after Kallen starts developing superpowers, a DNA scanner explodes when trying to identify her identity. Justified later on, when Lightning explains that some kinds of magic react violently when examined too closely by science.
  • In No Gods, Only Guns, Mister Torgue's hacking works this way. He refers to it as "'splode-hacking" and says its extremely effective, because the enemy's IT department can't stop your hacking when you blow up their faces.
  • Guilty Sparks: When Zek and Varvok stage their mutiny against the Covenant armada and their ship The Fallen Serpent takes a pounding that causes all manner of damage inside the bridge due to firepower they're taking. The lights are out and emergency lighting is on, the bridge's glass viewport has been shielded over by the shutters and they're flying blind outside of their remaining sensors, coolant vents are bursting open from the heavy hits and power cables are exploding from feedback and leaving holes in the walls. The only things still working, ironically, are the monitors themselves and only because they put the upgraded safeties in that cause them to turn off rather than explode dramatically, which both Zek and first mate Retz have a Gallows Humor Lampshade Hanging about.
  • A realistic version in Rocketship Voyager. The fire in Sickbay that kills Voyager's medical staff is caused when an instrument panel that has been battleshorted overheats and starts a fire.
  • In Night Terrors, after a minor, insignificant explosion of something-or-other in the TARDIS console, Rory wonders just how the Time Lords managed all their Abusing the Kardashev Scale for Fun and Profit if they never came up with the idea of a circuit breaker.
  • Fledglings, or: Everything's Better With Penguins: The Character Analysis Devices used by Agent Tawaki and his partners tend to explode at the slightest provocation, to the point of being a Running Gag. During the sporking of Tawaki's missions, Anis comments that the narrative is exaggerating the combustibility of the CADs because they typically only explode if exposed to really obnoxious Suvian presences.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Abyss: When the nuclear submarine crashes into the wall of the underwater canyon, fires break out in the control room instrument panels.
  • Alien. When the Nostromo lands on the planet, the bridge equipment starts exploding in showers of sparks and minor fires. The bridge crew starts spraying the equipment with fire extinguishers to put out the fires.
  • Given its source material, this obviously happens in Galaxy Quest. Both in the movie and on the movie within the movie. A possible case of Fridge Brilliance here in that the Thermians based their design exclusively on what they saw in the "historical documents", meaning they deliberately avoided standard safety practices in order to let the consoles explode, just like on the show. Same reason they have a room meant as an obstacle course.
  • GoldenEye. The eponymous Kill Sat fires an EMP burst that knocks out any electronics that aren't specially shielded. Given that this is a Bond movie they can't just have the lights go out, so it causes every single metallic surface to arc massive electrical sparks everywhere, and every single control panel and monitor to dramatically explode in huge showers of sparks forcing the Bond Girl to make a dramatic leap for cover. The same happens to the dashboards in the fighter jets caught in the EMP blast, causing them to crash into each other and also explode.
  • In Invasion of the Bee Girls, when the hero confronts the bee girls just as they're about to transform his girlfriend into one of them, he shoots a panel of instruments. This causes pretty much the whole lab to blow up.
  • The Last Witch Hunter: Belial's attempt at kidnapping Chloe starts with him blowing up all the lights in her house. As she has entire chains of lightbulbs instead of curtains, it produces this effect.
  • Pearl Harbor had Truth In Movies with a fighter having a cockpit fire in flight due to a leaking oil line. See Real Life below for why this could (and DID) happen in the period.
  • In Plan 9 from Outer Space when one of the aliens pulls off a control panel to use as a club (alien technology beyond human imagining!) it unleashes a shower of sparks and sets their ship on fire.
  • Taken to its logical extreme in Scanners when Vale starts psychically hacking a room full of computers, and Keller unplugs all the computers, thinking that the shock will erase Vale's brain. It turns out that Vale is way too bad a dude for that to work, and instead, the computers all explode simultaneously, in so spectacular a fashion as to kill Keller. And then Vale's phone melts and the phone booth explodes.
  • As with the small-screen entries, the Star Trek film series features this trope in abundance:
    • While Star Trek: The Motion Picture doesn't have any consoles outright explode, Chekov's console gets sufficiently electrified by V'ger's energy bolt that he sustains a nasty-looking burn from it.
    • An unusual variation occurs in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan—during the Unwinnable Training Simulation, whenever a console sparks, whoever is operating it falls to the deck and plays dead until the simulation is over. During the actual battle—the Enterprise takes a torpedo hit from the Reliant and half the bridge seemingly explodes, but there are no obvious injuries that result from it. During the final battle, the Reliant itself has one console explosion take out Khan's right-hand man and then later another one kills almost the entire remaining bridge crew; however, the former happens after the bridge of the Reliant is struck directly by phaser fire, and the latter results from the Enterprise blowing off one of her warp nacelles, which is implied to kill everyone on the ship except for Khan himself (and even he only survives a few more minutes).
    • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock has a straightforward example when the Enterprise manages to catch Kruge's Bird-of-Prey off-guard with some torpedoes right after it decloaks, albeit the only actual casualty is Kruge's pet. Not long afterwards, we get a different variation when the Enterprise helm console blows up in a shower of sparks and flames; however, this doesn't injure Scotty or Sulu, who are manning the console, but rather signals that the ship's primary systems have just been irreparably fried. And not long after that, every console on the bridge blows up along with the bridge itself, as the result of Kirk activating the auto-destruct.
    • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier sees the transporter blow up after Klaa's Bird-of-Prey ambushes the Enterprise-A with a torpedo. From the scene on the bridge afterwards it seems that a console or two exploded, though not with any consequences worse than inflicting the odd concussion and mild burn.
    • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country follows in the footsteps of II and III, where console explosions do happen, but are just used to signify systems starting to break down rather than actively being dangerous to their operators.
    • Star Trek: Generations has perhaps the most over-the-top examples of this in the entire franchise, and certainly in the film series. In short, every Starfleet fatality in the film except for that of Captain Kirk is the direct result of an exploding console, with some of the explosions being so big that they launch crew members literally halfway across the bridge.
    • Star Trek (2009) only uses this in the teaser where the entire USS Kelvin is falling apart, thus somewhat justifying the trope. Otherwise it completely averts this, as do Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond.
  • Star Wars
    • Any time that this occurs inside the cockpit of an X-Wing or Y-Wing fighter, odds are that the pilot inside is about to die. One exception is in The Empire Strikes Back when Luke's T-47 Airspeeder is shot down in the Battle of Hoth. The fighter's instrumentation starts sparking and blowing smoke, and the fighter itself falls to the ground and crashes. However, Luke survives.
    • Happened in the destruction of the Droid Control Ship by Anakin Skywalker in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. This resulted in the deaths of all ship staff inside, including the Captain of the ship, who along with his fellow crew members were right in front of the computer when it malfunctioned and exploded as a result of the ship's destruction.
    • In Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, a battle droid on the bridge of the Invisible Hand gets killed by an exploded panel. The novelization tells of worse deaths to the crew.
    • Inverted in Return of the Jedi when an A-wing kamikazes into the bridge of a Star Destroyer, it causes explosions to break out in other parts of the ship.
  • Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen gives a meta-example with Devastator. Devastator is likely Industrial Light & Magic's greatest accomplishment to date. The scenes with him had such a massive level of detail that rendering him took the ILM equipment to its limits. "Took the ILM equipment to its limits" as in smoking (possibly igniting) and melting one of the motherboards of one of the computers rendering him. He was originally going to be play a bigger role, but the destruction of a very expensive computer put an end to that. According to some of the crew, Devastator had so many moving parts and was so complex and detailed to animate that his animation model was the cause of the critical failure.

  • A bit of a Running Gag in Ark Royal is the crew noting that the consoles don't explode, usually when one of the idiotic Tagalong Reporters complains about the battles being boring.
  • Subverted in the Bernice Summerfield novella Jason and the Bandits, in which an Unreliable Narrator bemoans a pirate spaceship's lack of a Pointlessly Exploding Console, which ordinarily provides immediate tactile feedback that a ship operating under infradrive, rather than in normal time and space, has suffered damage. The pirate captain retorts that "The Pointlessly Exploding Consoles kill more people than they ever save."
  • In Cryptonomicon "the Finn" has an old CRT monitor explode in his face, almost killing him because a virus overloaded the vacuum tubes, blasting glass fragments into his face. This can, with a faulty monitor and much (un)luck actually happen, though the chances are insignificantly small because there are safety features to prevent exactly this. There hasn't been any actual cases where this has happened; it's only theoretical.
  • Legacy of the Aldenata: In When the Devil Dances, during the Posleen assault on the Rabun Gap wall one of the consoles in SheVa 14, supporting the wall's defenders, explodes after a plasma gun hit penetrates into the command center. A few paragraphs later it's even lampshaded by the SheVa's commander.
  • Lampshaded in Redshirts when the captain calls down to Engineering to get some surge suppressors on the bridge consoles and complains that there is no logical reason the bridge should look like a fireworks display every time the Intrepid gets into a firefight. Turns out it's because there's a Star Trek-like TV show intruding on the Intrepid's reality.
  • Star Wars Legends: After the ISD Freedom takes a full broadside including several ion cannon hits from the super star destroyer Lusankya in The Bacta War, one redshirt on the Freedom's bridge crew is mentioned to have been killed by an exploding console.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andromeda. Every time that ship is hit by anything at all several massive showers of sparks emit from multiple consoles. And yet the ship apparently suffers minimal damage, and is back running perfectly for the next impact (more sparks!).
  • Occasionally occurred in Babylon 5, especially in the prequel In the Beginning, where an Earth Alliance ship and a Minbari ship both suffer from things exploding and metal beams falling from the ceiling during the botched First Contact space battle.
    • To be fair, both ships were deliberately trying to do as much damage to the other as possible; besides, the Minbari were completely unprepared for the human attack, and the humans were completely unprepared for the power of Minbari weaponry.
    • Sparks would sometimes erupt out of consoles during space battles, i.e. "Endgame", "And Now for a Word", "Matters of Honor", but they are rarely deadly. When Starfury weapons fire and debris struck the blast doors of C & C in "Severed Dreams", it generated a strong enough impact that a screen/console near Sheridan did explode and erupt in flames and Sheridan is hurt, but it was caused more by the impact of the weapons and the debris rather than the exploding screen.
  • Battlestar Galactica (1978).
    • Also in Battlestar Galactica (2003) during the liberation of New Caprica. And pretty much every other major battle scene in which Galactica participates. Key word being 'major': when the Galactica takes a real pounding we see some of this trope, never more so than New Caprica and the finale, but the CIC is in the most secure part of the ship, and in usual engagements the most that happens is some shaking.
    • Justified in Flight of the Phoenix: The Cylon computer virus bypassed safeties to deliberately overload a console. Also, the resulting explosion isn't really that big.
  • Blake's 7.
    • In "Stardrive", the Scorpio clips an asteroid and something blows up on the flight deck. Avon orders the Master Computer to activate the backup system, only to be told that was the backup system blowing up.
    • In the final episode the console not only blows up, it then breaks loose and starts sliding around the deck with Tarrant still strapped in the pilot's seat! Then Scorpio crashes causing the flight deck to break up completely, sending Tarrant sliding down a buckled deckplate while screaming in terror.
  • The Chaser's War On Everything parodied the exploding Dell laptop incident (see Real Life section below).
  • Doctor Who:
    • The TARDIS console throws off at least one shower of sparks in almost every new series episode that shows it in flight. No one has ever gotten hurt. This is typically a lazy shorthand for "TARDIS travel is exciting"; the only way to tell the difference between that and an attack is by the expressions on the characters' faces.
    • "The Long Game": The Editor's monitors start sparking when Cathica forcibly takes over the computer system.
    • In "School Reunion", a bunch of computers being used by the brainwashed students explode when Mickey pulls the plug on them.
    • Subverted in "The Sontaran Stratagem", when the Doctor and a UNIT soldier leap dramatically from a crashed jeep before the Evil GPS unit controlling it explodes, and are rewarded with the sort of spark you might get from a cigarette lighter and a "pff" noise. "Is that it?" asks the Doctor, visibly disappointed.
  • In a season three episode of Eureka, this starts happening to the android dogs townspeople have been building for a contest. Especially egregious since it wasn't even an energy surge, but a case of extreme computer processing potential that caused them to go asplode.
  • Usually subverted on The Expanse.
    • Crew members do face danger at the controls, but it's mainly from high-velocity slugs cutting straight through their ships. In the assault on Thoth Station, the cabin of the Roci is memorably hit by multiple through-and-through cannon shots, including one that drills a hole in Naomi's display screen without shutting it down.
    • Sometimes the trope is played straight, though; the command center of the MCRN Scirocco is a veritable fireworks factory during the Battle of Ganymede (With fatal consequences for poor Lt. Sutton).
  • Lampshaded on Farscape. When Moya's defense screen is destroyed, the controls for it explode leading Crichton to ask "Have you people never heard of fuses!?" Most alien technology seems to be highly unstable, to the point that when on Earth Crichton gave a group of human scientists a pulse pistol to examine. Somehow firing it destroyed not only their monitoring equipment, but the computers that were connected to them.
  • MacGyver (1985): The bad guy in "Slow Death" is killed when he ignores Mac's advice and attempts to start the train again. The sabotaged control panel explodes and kills him.
  • The few battle scenes, and any turbulence, in Red Dwarf usually involved random components exploding, sometimes knocking out the whole crew. Parodied in one episode where the 'Damage Report Machine' explodes in the Cat's face. Luckily, the crew is well-equipped with tiny fire extinguishers to deal with such events, probably a nod to Alien. This is also how the crew (sans Rimmer) go out in the season 6 finale.
    • In an early episode, Lister gets a premonition that he's going to be killed in one of these incidents. He survives, as it was actually his future son Bexley who dies in a similar instance.
  • Happens in one episode of SeaQuestDSV when the communications buoy gets struck by lightning.
    • Somewhat lampshaded in that deploying the communications buoy during an enormous hurricane was explicitly stated to be dangerous and run the risk of causing significant damage to the SeaQuest were something to go wrong.
      • Somewhat un-lampshaded in that this, the only time the SeaQuest was ever shown to deploy the communications buoy, was in the most dangerous conditions possible.
  • Space: 1999. In combination with ceiling beams and ductwork tending to fall down. And then once when a planet "almost" hit the Moon, the actual desktops all the controls were set in caught fire and burned with the friendly yellow flame of a small campfire.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • Stargate SG-1:
      • It started happening to the crews once they get Earth-made starships.
      • Parodied in "200". The gate's dialing computer has done it a few times, as did the gate itself, once zapping a poor Siler who exclaims, "Why does this always happen to me?" But then that scene didn't actually happen. Also lampshaded in that same episode, after the Star Trek "homage" sequence, Teal'c says, "I do not understand why everything in this script must inevitably explode."
    • In an episode of Stargate Atlantis, Michael throws a laptop in frustration, and it explodes in a shower of sparks when it hits the ground.
  • Star Trek, Star Trek and more Star Trek. Sometimes it seems like more people died on the bridge of the various Starships Enterprise from exploding duty stations than were killed on away missions. Occasionally, the bridge consoles will even explode before the shields get under 30%, which makes you wonder what the shields are for. Went hand in hand with Trek's Impact-TiltCam and Flying Bodies.
    • Word of God from some who worked on the show is that the production staff knew that it was more accurate to have things like the ship being hit by weapons fire indicated by the lights briefly dimming and someone reporting on the effect of the incoming fire, but Executive Meddling by the studio/network insisted on more 'visually interesting' explosions and sparks instead.
    • Star Trek: Voyager:
      • Weaponized during the Seska arc, during which several people were injured or assassinated by exploding console!
      • In "Prey", the Hirogen take out Voyager's port warp nacelle, causing the console to the left of Tom Paris to blow up. They then take out the starboard nacelle, causing the console to his right to explode. Good thing Voyager doesn't have a central nacelle, or he'd have copped it right in the face!
    • The technical manuals of the Star Trek universe try to handwave this as a result of the inherent danger of using speed-of-light transmission between consoles and systems for faster response time, though the fact that the human response time will void any benefit gained from such a design makes this highly dangerous setup dubious at best. Also, a case of bad science. Real world fiber optic cabling provides speed-of-light data transfer between networked devices, but the amount of actual energy in the fiber is negligible, not even enough to blind a person if they pull out the wire and look directly into the connector. So really the explanation is just Artistic License – Physics meets Rule of Cool.
    • On at least one occasion, a console was demonstrated to still be functional after exploding. That's some kind of durable design.
    • The very first battle on Star Trek: Discovery has the ops console on the Shenzhou explode when The Bridge takes a glancing torpedo hit, knocking its operator, Ensign Connor, to the floor with (non-fatal) burns.
    • Federation starships are said to be powered by "EPS conduits" - the electro-plasma system draws plasma off from the engines and distributes it around the ship as a power supply. Why have boring old electrical wiring when you can have pipes filled with actual lightning, or even freakin' antimatter?!
  • A slight tap to the Megazords in any Super Sentai / Power Rangers series will cause a rain of sparks to fall on the team in the cockpit. In particularly bad cases, it can go through the communications and hurt the command centers too.
    • Weaponized in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger's final episode, where Gokai Red and Silver shoot up the Big Bad's flagship and then pin him to the main console while it sprays sparks, fire, and electricity.

  • In Sabaton's music video for "Steel Commanders", the band members' Centurion tank takes a glancing hit to the turret from an opposing M103 heavy tank, knocking the band out and causing sparks to spew throughout the cabin.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech traditionally has "neurofeedback" — whenever a 'Mech suffers an ammunition explosion, the pilot's neurohelmet, a critical part of the user interface (but one which isn't connected so much to the ammo bins as to the machine's gyroscope, which can in turn take damage without causing any similar fuss) basically delivers an electric shock directly to their grey matter.

    Video Games 
  • Remotely hacking cameras in 007: Blood Stone leaves them smoking.
  • Hacking electronic locks in Batman: Arkham Asylum causes them to pop with a burst of sparks when you get them open for some reason.
  • Explosive-rigged computer terminals appear in Fallout 3 as a booby trap. Subverted, in that it's literally just a computer case filled with grenades, in this case.
  • Systems and subsystems in FTL: Faster Than Light cause an extra point of hull damage when destroyed by boarders or fires.
  • GoldenEye and its Spiritual Successor, Perfect Dark, nearly any kind of computer, console, or keypad you can shoot at blew up in a spectacular fireball. In fact, some already exploded objects would explode again if shot a few more times.
  • In Half-Life, computers, panels, and various other mechanisms throughout Black Mesa have a tendency to explode whenever the player is in close proximity. One computer manages to explode even before the resonance cascade. Another computer's keyboard shorts out violently after being tampered with in Blue Shift. Lampshaded in Freeman's Mind where Gordon both complains about it and blames the explosions on going with Cyrex processors, the lowest bidder.
  • Hardspace: Shipbreaker: A slight variation in that the workstations involve burst not into a fiery explosion, but into massive arcs of lightning zapping everything in the vicinity (including you) if you accidentally whack them too hard against something while pulling them off; however, the results will be just as painful. Most electrically-powered equipment will react similarly.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, you can hack into computers and cause various part of the ship/base to blow up; pipes, fuel cells, etc. Given the option, you can even blow up the console you're using.
  • In Mass Effect 2, a few nameless crew membersnote , as well as ME1 Mauve Shirt, Pressley, fall victim to this in the opening cutscene as the Normandy gets torn to pieces.
    • Possibly justified in that the ship is being shredded by incredibly advanced weapons, which may cause the ship's systems to behave in unusual manners. It could also be related to other explosive material in the wall near the cockpit, as that is the only time we see an actual exploding instrument panel, every other explosion in that scene is just an explosion.
    • Samantha Traynor's scene in the "Citadel" DLC features a strategy game with painful static as a key component. Apparently, "neural feedback" is an acceptable way to discourage players from being careless. When Traynor beats her arch-enemy T'Suza, the latter goes completely rigid.
  • In Resident Evil 6, during Jake's campaign, a C-Virus zombie unintentionally destroys a control panel in the Seabed Laboratory. This somehow sets off a chain reaction that destroys the entire facility, causing it to cave in (in a very explosive manner).
  • In the Star Control series, the Life Meter for the ships is supposed to literally represent crewmembers, implying their deaths via exploding fuses in lieu of any damage to the ship itself. This is used in Star Control II to put a cap on ship repair early on (the space station you recruit from only has a few thousand crew), and one quest in the game actually involves finding a race of rapidly reproducing allies to replenish your crew.
  • Depending on the player’s choices in Sunrider Mask of Arcadius, Ava Crescentia can be severely injured by an exploding console. The sequel reveals that she survived, but she had to be fitted with a bionic eye and cutting-edge medical technology was needed to regrow her right arm.
  • In Team Fortress 2, the Engineer's buildings don't collapse when they take excessive damage - they explode into surprisingly-harmless bits of shrapnel. Justified, since the Engineer does have a radio detonator in his inventory for demolishing his buildings. They must actually have bombs in them.
  • Team Fortress Classic and its Fan Remake Fortress Forever also feature exploding Engineer constructions - however, being full of ammunition to either dispense or launch these devices tend to detonate a little more violently.
  • X-COM: During missions, you frequently end up boarding alien UFOs that are chock full of valuable, salvageable, and explosive equipment. A stray bullet striking the navigation computer could cause a chain reaction of everything in the room exploding in a shower of stun damage and smoke. Conveniently, alien commanders tended to hide out in rooms full of computers and consoles. Alternatively, you can just clean up the area outside the UFO and then camp out at the entrance until about turn 20. Then the AI logic guiding behavior of alien characters causes them to go on the offensive... right into your firing squad. For best results, throw a smoke grenade to prevent the aliens from shooting your guys.

    Web Animation 


    Web Original 
  • The Protectors of the Plot Continuum use Canon Analysis Devices, which have been known to explode on hitting particularly massive breaches of canon. Though they melt sometimes too.
    • Once, a dramatic OOC moment set a device to explode, so the Agents threw it at the nearest Marty Stu.
    • Fortunately (sorta), they usually emit a loud BEEEEEEP beforehand, so Agents have chance to toss them. Heavy-duty CADs can take much larger disruptions.
  • So do irony meters when a particularly inane statement is made. Fortunately the Evil Atheist Conspiracy has developed a new model with an auto-shutdown mechanism.
  • The swishy French tailor from Beastmaster 2 puts out such an enormously gay vibe that it causes Dr. Insano's Gaydar to short-circuit and explode.
  • During the Bad Movie Beatdown review of Blade: Trinity, the line "cock-juggling thundercunt" caused Film Brain's Misogyny Meter to blow up.

    Western Animation 
  • In Exo Squad, a console exploding during the Exofleet attack on Enceladus in an early episode puts Admiral Winfield out of action for awhile.
  • In Futurama: Bender's Big Score, there was a space combat between the good guys ships and the Death Stars made of gold of the evil ones... who controlled them from Earth with a videogame. And when the good guys begin to destroy the Death Stars, the videogame exploded.
  • Lampshaded but not actually used in an episode of Generator Rex. Ceasar is admiring one of the bridge consoles on the keep, which he describes favorably except for the "random power surges."
  • In one Gravity Falls short, Soos' extremely outdated computer monitor explodes and catches fire while rendering a video.
  • In the Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero episode "Ultrahyperball", the rules of the titular sport are so complicated that they cause Sashi's mechanically-enhanced glasses to explode.
  • PKE meters in The Real Ghostbusters, when overloaded by psychic energy, explode quite spectacularly. Then again, so do overloading proton packs (which makes sense since they are portable nuclear accelerators). Not to mention Egon's various inventions. He even manages to overload a calculator with an offensive football play that would not only collapse the defense, but possibly all known space as well.
  • Parodied in the Australian Star Trek: The Next Generation spoof Sev Trek: Pus in Boots. Captain Pinchhard (Picard) tells Ensign Cannonfodder to "man that console that's always exploding". Later Lt Gaudy (Geordi LaForge) notices his console is beginning to spark, so he quickly "reroutes" the explosion to the expendable ensign's console.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "Rebel Resolve", Chopper exploits this while infiltrating an Imperial cruiser to steal information. After he hacks the Imperial database, the port he was using explodes behind him, keeping the officers from following.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, a fight between Superman, Jax-Ur and Mala damage the bridge's controls of a starship. It's so bad, that it causes a chain reaction of explosions that completely destroy the ship.
  • Transformers: Generation 1: This happens to nearly any invention that Mad Scientist Wheeljack makes. As long as it doesn't turn out to be sentient, that is.

    Real Life 
  • In the days before electronics, aircraft fuel gauges were actually connected to a fuel line: breakage of such lines or other mishaps could and did lead to cockpit fuel leaks and fires in some accidents. Same for engine oil pressure meters.
  • Analogue era submarines had high pressure seawater running to various gauges in the control room. Concussion from depth charges or diving too deep could start these spraying with lethal force.
  • Steam engines (specifically the marine variety) required the operators to work in the vicinity of the boilers and/or steam delivery pipes, both of which could rupture when damaged (especially at gauges and valves) emitting jets of super-heated steam.
  • In the past several years, a number of computer models have been recalled because their batteries (google "hindenbook" or "dell notebook fire"), motherboards (sometimes due to a fallen-off heatsink) or other components were prone to literal spontaneous combustion. Seriously, there have been injuries.
  • Cell phone batteries have also exploded, sometimes with fatal results. The Galaxy Note 7's were infamous for this due to defective batteries and a thin layout.
  • The Sinclair Executive (one of the first pocket calculators) and the Sinclair Black Watch (one of the first digital watches) were prone to failures that would cause the batteries to overheat and explode. This nearly caused a diplomatic incident when one of the calculators exploded in a Russian diplomat's pocket.
  • Frequently sensitive military equipment will have an explosive self-destruct device, but the intent is to prevent intact capture and subsequent use and/or disassembling and reverse-engineering, not quite as battle damage feedback.
  • The NASA Apollo 1 mission, where a spark believed to be caused by a faulty connection in one of the control panels caused a flash fire made worse by the pure oxygen atmosphere in the command module. Sadly, this resulted in the deaths of astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. Likewise, a faulty wire was responsible for the oxygen tank explosion on Apollo 13.
  • Large fuses intended to handle high voltages and high currents can blow fairly spectacularly. However, such fuses are usually placed as far from personnel and equipment as is practical, for obvious reasons. Still, authors take note, this could easily be used as a lampshade in some cases. "Didn't the idiots that built this thing ever hear of fuses?" "That was the fuse blowing, now go replace it!"
  • Electrolytic based capacitors need to be installed with the correct polarity. If they aren't, then attempting to put any electricity through them will lead to a catastrophic break down that results in them popping. For this reason, such capacitors clearly mark the polarity of one pin.
    • In a related problem, faulty manufacturing can result in premature failure, called capacitor plague, which affected many electrical devices (most notably several brands of computers, but everything with capacitors could be affected) for years.
    • Also any semiconductor that's overloaded poofs. This is referred to by anyone who routinely works with electronics as "letting out the magic smoke." Once it leaves you won't ever get it back into the case.
  • A practice called 'Battle Shorting", in which overload protections (fuses and circuit breakers) are bypassed to prevent power loss during critical events. This is used when you'd rather set your facility on fire than lose power. The name comes from use of this in naval combat (where it really is better to have a fire than lose power to a critical system). NASA is known to have used it during launch of crewed ships.
    • An equivalent of that is also present on unmanned missions, when if the spacecraft's computer decides to go into safe mode in a critical part of the mission as orbit insertion, landing sequence, etc. it may signify more or less loss of objectives and even a failure of the mission.
    • Such a bypass is sometimes used in the pumps for fire systems, the rationale being that if the pump is triggered to activate, you already have a bigger problem than the risk of overloading the circuit. The pump itself usually doesn't have various safety features regular pumps do to prevent damage; a regular pump is supposed to shut down before it damages itself. A fire pump, if activated, is supposed to keep running even if it rips itself apart doing it.
  • Old-style cathode ray tube screens carry a very high static charge that can sometimes linger for literally years. When the static is forcibly discharged — usually by poking a live component with an earthed circuit tester — it is rare but quite possible for the screen to shatter violently and spray fragments of glass in all directions.
  • Old fixed-frequency CRTs could also explode if driven too far outside the frequency they where built for. In some computer systems, it was possible to do this with software (if the video hardware had a wider operating range than the tube). Newer multi-frequncy CRTs have safeguards to prevent this (they don't work and may be damaged by exceeding their specs, but they don't explode).
  • While not explosive in a destructive sense, when lamps in projectors die, they give off a very loud bang. Many people duck when this happens for fear that it actually is exploding. Sometimes, however, the force can damage the lens or other parts.
  • Happens with older lightbulbs, especially halogen ones, where the hot shards of glass can even start a fire in rare cases.
  • While not explosive per se, old fuse boxes in homes (from the '90s and earlier) can be very dangerous. If a circuit is accidentally completed between two of the junctions, an arc flash will occur. These flashes have been know to vaporize the steel screwdrivers in the hands of the people working on the boxes. You don't want to be near these flashes. This is yet another reason that the bottoms of screwdrivers are made out of non-conductive materials like plastic. If a circuit is completed by the screwdriver, the charge will just go through the steel and out to the other circuit instead of into the person's arm, saving their life.
  • A 12,000 volt transformer ignites, 20 minutes of Impressive Pyrotechnics ensues.
  • Overpowered loudspeakers can explode. Dave Grohl wrote in the foreword to Max Cavalera's biography that once his own studio was finished, he decided to take advantage of the control room's huge loudspeakers, similar to those used by festivals, by playing his favorite album by Max's old band at full volume. The whole setup just blew up - "$50,000 speakers ruined because of Roots..."


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Exploding Instrumentation


"Well, they were delicious"

While Gilligan is playing with a lie detector the Professor made, Mary Ann comes in asking Gilligan what happened to a couple of pies she made. When Gilligan denies taking them, the lie detector ends up EXPLODING.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / LieDetector

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