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Exposition Beam

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Hopefully nothing dramatic happens while neither's looking, otherwise they'll have to do it all over again.

Lady Trieu: The pills, they're passive-aggressive exposition. If you want her to know who you are, just tell her.
Will: She's not gonna listen. She has to experience things by herself.
Lady Trieu: It's still too cute by half.

When Backstory or other crucial information needs to be delivered quickly from character to character (and we do mean quickly, Talking Is a Free Action is not in effect), some characters will use telepathy, holograms, or direct-to-brain downloads to inform others. This also has the benefit of making even the staunchest skeptic at least give the expositor the benefit of the doubt, especially when they have up until this point been living under the Masquerade.

It's worth noting that the differences between this and brainwashing are few. If instead of real memories they beam Fake Memories, coupled with Laser-Guided Amnesia, then the receiver may just think they've only been targeted by an Exposition Beam that served as Epiphany Therapy.

Interestingly, this happens so quickly it functions like a justified case of Talking Is a Free Action.

The acquisition of information may be shown through a Regained Memories Sequence. Compare Upgrade Artifact, which gives a character whole new abilities, Pensieve Flashback, where a flashback is fully visible to the characters, and Storyboarding the Apocalypse, where a villain will have their planned doomsday appear in surreal slide show form.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • When reporting back to the Big Bad after his first appearance in Bleach, Ulquiorra plucks out one of his eyes and crushes it into shards of dust, which everyone present absorbs to see what he's seen.
  • In the first episode of Code Geass R2, C.C. undoes Charles's Geass and restores Lelouch's memories of being Zero by kissing him.
  • Later chapters of D.Gray-Man have the Noah of Wisdom, Wisely using one of these to show Kanda's memories to Alma Karma, in an attempt to wake him up, and accidentally making Allen and Road watch the backstory too. This being DGM, it rapidly becomes clear why Kanda won't talk about his past.
  • When Goku finally reaches Namek in Dragon Ball Z, he's able to initiate a mind-meld with Krillin to catch up on the arc's events in this way. This ability has never been mentioned before and never will be again.
    • Korin and Master Roshi use similar powers after Goku's first fight with Tao Pai Pai and during the first tournament, respectively.
  • The Laughing Man on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex does this with the Major to instantly convey everything he knows. In this case it's technology, since they both have cyberbrains.
  • Part of Pakunoda's Nen ability in Hunter × Hunter is the Memory Bomb, which lets her fire memory bullets into people's heads to quickly transfer information to them that she has learned.
  • The Book of Darkness in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's did an accidental one to Hayate when it awakened and took control of her, letting the latter gain insight on what had been really happening behind her back and figure out how to put a stop to the entire mess.
  • Mekakucity Actors: Used at the last possible moment when Kuroha has Mary convinced she must turn back time to save her friends, and Shintaro and Ayano combine their powers to give Mary the memories of all past time loops, so she would know what to do next. Cue Villainous Breakdown.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi invokes this when Negi decides to tell Asuna about his past. It's then subverted, as the resultant Pensieve Flashback takes longer than if he would have just told her. Of course, actually watching what happened is much more interesting and the in-story time may well have been shorter.
  • In Sailor Moon:
    • In the first season, the Silver Imperium Crystal acts as this by restoring the Sailor Scouts' memories of the Silver Millennium period.
    • In the second season, Luna pulls one of these on each of the Sailors in order to restore their memories.
    • She does not, however, do so for Tuxedo Mask (as parodied in Sailor Moon Abridged).
  • In Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Lag Seeing has a unique power, apparently from the Spirit Amber in his eye, that enables him to view and show others' memories by firing heart bullets. Typically, this results in him learning the conflicts behind a letter sender, and helping someone else realize the truth (for example, that Jiggy Pepper didn't abandon his friends, but worked to build a church in their Yodaka town). He also sometimes ends up showing his own past, such as when he showed Gauche his mother's abduction.

    Audio Plays 

    Comic Books 
  • In House of M, the entire world is "reformatted", and everyone on Earth has their memory altered so that they don't remember the world as it once was. Conveniently, somebody finds a mutant whose power is to restore people's memories back to normal by touching them.
  • In JLA (1997), Martian Manhunter once shoves Martian piloting skills into Batman's brain so he could handle a Martian ship.
  • In Superman: Up in the Sky, Superman attempts to use the zeta beam — an intergalactic communications/teleportation beam from the Adam Strange books — to gain information on the whereabouts of a girl who was kidnapped and taken somewhere far into the depths of space. Sardath warns Superman that this is a terrible idea because an active zeta exists everywhere all at once, meaning that the information would not only be impossible to sort through, it would probably crush his mind and kill him. Fortunately, Superman isn't built like most mortal minds, and after experiencing various trippy and traumatic visions, he manages to guess the girl's location, as well as identify her name: Alice.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Battle for Terra, Giddy (the robot) gives Mala a direct to brain download of the English language so she can talk to downed pilot Jim Stanton, in exchange for her help in saving his life.
  • In Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants sequel that's how the elder caterpillar learns the plot so far - by reading the protagonist's memory in a fast montage.

    Films — Live-Action 

In General:

  • A lot of films about invading aliens or monsters use this trope to explain what's going on, given that the invaders aren't likely to offer an accounting of themselves to humans. Often this involves an accidental or intentional Mind Meld with one of the aliens/monsters, as per Independence Day, Slither, or Pacific Rim. Used as The Unreveal in Jeepers Creepers 3, in which two of the characters receive visions of what the Creeper actually is, but the audience isn't shown what they've seen.

By Movie:

  • In Battlefield Earth, the feral humans are educated with an alien device, nominally to assist them in mining valuable minerals but in reality giving them knowledge of the alien language, care and feeding of advanced weapons as well as the means to engineer their oppressor's downfall.
  • Dark City (1998) has an Exposition Syringe. Doctor Schreber wants to give John a fighting chance against the reality-warping Strangers, so he fills the Syringe with both exposition and a lifetime of experience in using his matter-manipulating powers. Carnage ensues.
  • In The Green Mile, John Coffey does this to Tom Hanks' character by grabbing his hand and showing him a vision of what Wild Bill did.
  • The pensieve in Harry Potter lets a wizard store their memories for safe keeping or for anyone else to see. More like an exposition chafing dish, but it generally serves the same function.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, as a reward for bringing back the skull to its body Irina wanted it to "show me everything." That did not end well.
  • Men in Black II has the Deneuralizer, which undoes what the Neuralizer does.
  • Men in Black 3: Griffin does this to the colonel to help him understand the importance of J and K's mission.
  • In Outlander, the spaceship's computer informs Kainan that he's crashed in ancient Norway, then somehow beams the Norse language into his brain via his eyeballs. The process is extremely painful.
  • Vulcan Mind Melds on Star Trek. A lot. Specifically, Spock Prime does it to Kirk on the ice planet in Star Trek (2009).
  • In Total Recall (1990), Kuato does this to unlock Quaid's locked memories. In a sense, the story itself is set in motion because the Fake Memory-implanting machines in the Rekall center jostle Quaid's hidden memories (or worked perfectly).
  • In TRON, and especially in TRON: Legacy, the identity discs contain the knowledge and personality of their user, and they can transmit this information to anyone holding it or through certain interfaces.. The plot revolves around Clu trying to get Kevin Flynn's disc so that he can use the information coded on it to invade the real world.
  • Underworld (2003): Vampires gain some memories from those whose blood they drink; if they feed their blood to another vampire, they can transmit specific memories, though the technique is difficult. Selene tries this when she wakes an elder from hibernation in an emergency and the elder is quite annoyed by how garbled her bloodborne debrief is.
  • Dr. Manhattan was given this as a superpower for the movie version of Watchmen, so that exposition could be delivered more quickly.

  • Animorphs:
    • In the first novel, Tobias stays behind with Elfangor for a bit longer than the others and gets a blast of random information, including how Yeerk pools work. Elfangor also demonstrates the abilities to show the Animorphs mental pictures as well as talk to them telepathically. Other than the existence of Yeerk pools, none of this ever comes up again.
    • One book features the Iskoort, who buy and sell memories (among other things). It basically involves copying somebody's mind and then letting other people download it. The Animorphs plus Erek see some Howler memories and wind up selling their own to get by. These memories are later used to give the Howlers a species-wide Heel–Face Turn, since Crayak had previously kept them ignorant of other species' sapience.
  • In Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, where Brain Uploading is a reality, the keepers of Disney World are working on a more Exposition Beam-like version where you can go to the Hall of Presidents and come away with the impression of having been Abraham Lincoln.
  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore spends the year using his Memory Jar to show Harry parts of Voldemort (then Tom Riddle)'s childhood.
  • Heralds of Valdemar:
    • In the Owl trilogy, the protagonists are allies of a species of sentient, telepathic deerlike creatures called dyheli. Their Psychic Powers are such that their leader can download an entire language into a character's head, granting instant fluency. The languages conveniently come with memories for explaining context, and the ability is occasionally used with other information as well. The lesser Mindspeech used by Heralds and their Companions is usually straightforward mental communication, but they can read surface thoughts or implant memories more quickly than speech at need.
    • Need, an ancient mage spirit sealed into a Cool Sword, has a tendency to casually share memories, her own and other peoples', with others. This can include the traumatic experience of her own death. People tend to struggle briefly when the memories end as they reassert their individual selves, and some of them find the experience disturbing. Need likes to say that sharing memories is a lot faster and more efficient at getting the information across than talking about it.
    • In the Collegium Chronicles, the Companion Dallen Chooses a child slave who's profoundly ignorant of the world outside of the diamond mine where he'd lived. Rather than teach him normally with the help of various friends, as is a common plot in the series, Dallen elects to just telepathically convey a lump sum of information to him.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy: In the first book, Slartibartfast asks Arthur to hold a couple of wires, and he suddenly finds himself floating above Deep Thought in what he eventually realises is some kind of documentary. Parodied in the third book when Slarty uses the same technology to show Ford and Arthur a documentary about Krikkit, but can't figure out how to fast-forward past the adverts.
  • In the Humanx Commonwealth series, Flinx does this on several occasions when characters (for some reason) stubbornly refuse to believe his claims not only to know about an Unseen Evil approaching the galaxy from megaparsecs away, but to have seen it in person. Fortunately, his unique Psychic Powers enable him to carry doubters along for the ride, bringing them up to speed very quickly — when it doesn't destroy their minds. In fact, he earns a CMoA in Flinx Transcendent for doing this to the AAnn Emperor and his entire high council.
  • In the Relativity story "Tempest", Phanthro shows some of his memories to Matt using one of his future-tech gizmos. The memory he shows him is an alternate future in which Matthew's son dies... as a consequence of a disease wiping out half the Earth's population.
  • The female protagonist of Revelation Space has an implanted memory that activates at a suitable moment of the plot.
  • Skylark Series: Headsets are frequently used to transfer knowledge and skills directly from one brain to another, either as education, or as interrogation.
  • Under the Pendulum Sun: The semiotic moths can mentally transmit the knowledge from the books they've eaten. When a huge swarm in a Magical Library does this to Catherine, she's left reeling by the onslaught of random data, but is eventually able to sift out the answers to her questions before the information starts to fade from her mind.
  • The Zones of Thought book A Fire Upon the Deep has "godshatter", which is basically a massive Exposition Beam from Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. It would probably be super helpful if the seemingly random jumble of information didn't turn the person into an erratic, drooling savant for most of the time.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andy Richter Controls the Universe did it with food.
    "Eat this cupcake, it'll explain everything!"
  • Arrowverse Crisis on Infinite Earths: After the multiverse is destroyed and recreated, Martian Manhunter restores the characters's memories of their pre-Crisis lives in Part Five by touching their foreheads.
  • Vorlons (and other telepaths) in Babylon 5 can do this. Kosh hits Sheridan with one in the second season, and Lyta does it to Number One in the fourth season.
    Kosh: Sheridan. Learn.
  • The entire premise of Chuck revolves around a method to download large amounts of information into human brains via a series of seemingly random images flashing on multiple screens.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Galaxy 4", one of the Rills does this to show the companion Vicki how the Rills wound up stuck on the planet.
    • In "The Three Doctors", this is how the Third Doctor gets his past self up-to-speed on the situation.
    • "The Unicorn and the Wasp": One of these is a major element in the story's immediate Backstory: The villain, Reverend Golightly, is a Half-Human Hybrid who grew up unaware of his true identity. When he got really angry for the first time in his life, confronting two boys who were burglarizing his church, he began to transform into his true alien form, which activated a psychic recorder in the possession of his birth mother, Lady Eddison, that then beamed his true identity into his head. Unfortunately, because Lady Eddison, fan of the works of Agatha Christie, was (re)reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd at the time, it also accidentally brainwashed the reverend into believing that the world worked like one of Agatha's murder mysteries, leading him to begin killing at Lady Eddison's house party.
    • "The Next Doctor": It turns out that the title character believes himself to be the Doctor because of one of these. When Jackson Lake's family was attacked by the Cybermen, his wife was killed and his son kidnapped, but he managed to grab a Cyberman infostamp (a bit like a USB stick) to use as an Improvised Weapon. In the process, however, it backfired and dumped all of its information, about the Doctor, into his head. Combined with the mental trauma from what had happened to his family, this led Jackson to believe he was the Doctor and begin acting accordingly.
    • "The Lodger" involves the Doctor pretending to be human. When his flatmate catches him and demands to know what's going on, the Doctor telepathically fills him in by smacking their foreheads together. And since there's a lot of information to cover, he has to do it twice.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981), Arthur Dent is given this treatment during his trip to Magrathea.
  • The Legend of William Tell: Kalem persuades Will not to go back home by showing him his dog's memories of his parents being killed.
  • Smallville. In the episode "Relic", Jor-El stores his memories in a pendant that Clark calls a "type of journal". When Clark has it, touching something that Jor-El touched allows him to see parts of Jor-El's visit to Smallville in 1961.
    • Likewise, Lois & Clark has a literal exposition ball that tells Clark Jor-El's story when he'd holding it. Unfortunately, Lex gets ahold of it, thereby learning Superman's origin as an alien.
  • In Stargate SG-1, O'Neill gets an entire archive of Ancient knowledge downloaded into his brain in a matter of seconds. Twice.
    • The title artifact in The Ark of Truth used to turn the priors away from the Ori through their telepathic network is either a weaponized form of this or Brainwashing.
  • Star Trek:
    • The Vulcan mind-meld, a touch telepathy technique, is most commonly used to gain information from a subject who is willing to convey said information, but is unable to do so without assistance. Language is not a barrier.
    • In the Original Series episode, "The Paradise Syndrome", Kirk is afflicted with amnesia after accidentally activating an alien information beam out of sequence.
    • The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "The Inner Light" has the franchise's most extended example, when Picard was able to live an entire life as a member of an alien species whose sun went supernova. The last thing the species did was send a probe into space that would allow someone else to live as a member of their world so that their culture would live on in the person's mind.
  • Supernatural:
  • In Watchmen (2019), Will leaves “Nostalgia” pills, which contain all his life memories, for Angela to find and consume, so she can fully experience his life and Back Story of being Hooded Justice.

  • The Moody Blues: The song Melancholy Man has a line in the chorus about how "A beam of light will fill your head, and you'll remember what's been said, by all the good men this world's ever known." As the song seems to be about The End of the World as We Know It, the implication is the beam is some kind of holy light sent by Heaven/God

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pathfinder has the spell Mindlink, which can instantly communicate up to 10 minutes' worth of information to a willing subject with a single touch.
  • Telempathy in Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution can be used to share memories and sensory input with others and can function as this trope.

    Video Games 
  • Baldurs Gate 3: The Illithid parasites in the party members' heads let them share memories with each other, as well as anyone else who's been infected with the parasites. Often subverted, however, as most of the non-party members who have the parasites are Absolute cult True Souls, and thus your enemy and some of them will probe your mind looking for information, making it necessary for your character to figure out how to lie to them telepathically.
  • In Diablo III, Tyrael shows Leah the events that lead to his self-exile, including the part where he tore off his own wings.
  • One village in Dragon Quest VII has been completely Taken for Granite, which makes the usual Talk to Everyone difficult to achieve... until you figure out how to experience their Flashbacks.
  • The gameplay of the first Echo Night has this as a major gameplay feature. Stranded on a Flying Dutchman populated by shades, Richard must experience their memories in order to determine how to solve puzzles and help them rest in piece.
  • In Eternal Darkness, whenever one of The Chosen Many claims the Tome of Eternal Darkness, immediately imparts them with the knowledge of all their predecessors' past experiences and learned spells.
  • In Flashback, Conrad retrieves a backup copy of his memory through this very method. It's even on the title screen.
  • In Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] During one of the dream segments in The World That Never Was Sora sees Roxas, who proceeds to transfer EVERY SINGLE memory from his life over to the poor kid just by grabbing his hand. It nearly gives poor Sora a seizure.
  • Played with in Mass Effect. The Protheans left behind artifacts that did this to warn of the Reaper threat, but fifty thousand years and incompatible physiology left nothing behind but fractured images and incomplete information that made the newfound messenger sound like a crazy person. Naturally that "crazy person" is Commander Shepard.
  • The "official" Transcendence victory in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri begins with blasting all the knowledge cranked out by Humankind from prehistory to 2600 into Planet's nascent Hive Mind in an attempt to make it intelligent enough to regulate the native life's growth.
  • In StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Zeratul informs Kerrigan of the existence and coordinates of the Zerg's ancestral homeworld Zerus by grabbing her face in his hand (while she's trying to beat him half to death) and psychically implanting the knowledge directly into her brain.
  • World of Warcraft: Instead of describing his vision of the destruction of Argus to his friends, Velen shares it telepathically.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, the Flashback Lights are a cross between this and Upgrade Artifact. They also are an example of the darker type mentioned in the trope description, as the lights only implant Fake Memories and even whole fake Ultimate Talents.
  • Fate Series: Whenever a Servant (a Heroic Spirit of a legendary figure) is summoned, the Holy Grail provides them with vital information like the native language and some basic knowledge of the modern world.

    Web Animation 
  • The House of M examples is parodied in the form of "Layla MacGuffin" in this web animation by Matt Gardner.
    "My name is Layla MacGuffin, and I have the power to advance slow moving plotlines!"

    Web Comics 
  • Hero Antagonist Michael Kappel from Collar 6 takes advantage of a Psychic Link between himself and some of his worst enemies to mentally tell them his life story. The experience leaves them more than a little rattled but inclined to sympathize with his intentions. Then Laura shares his memories with the entire world...
  • In El Goonish Shive, the Uryuoms can transfer any language (but only languages, no other type of knowledge) to or from anyone else by rubbing their antennae on the other person's forehead.
  • In The Order of the Stick, the bard Elan has a spell called Summon Plot Exposition.

    Western Animation 
  • Used in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Return of Harmony" to undo the effects of Discord's corrupting influence; Twilight Sparkle first gets a load of flashbacks to moments of friendship via letters being returned to her, which undoes her own Break the Cutie, then uses magic to force those flashbacks on her brainwashed friends to free them.
Rick and Morty: In the season 5 finale, Rick gives Morty a brain scanner to quickly explain his true backstory as well as the origin for the Council of Ricks.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Pearl has frequently used her gem as a Mental Picture Projector to explain things (plans, events, concepts related to Gems) visually. This reaches its heights in "A Single Pale Rose", where Pearl, physically incapable of communicating Pink Diamond's true fate to Steven (Rose Quartz having supposedly shattered Pink), sends him into her gem to "find her phone". There, Steven meets various other versions of Pearl who also send him into their gems and further into the past. This culminates in Steven finding himself in Pink Diamond's palanquin, where he observes Rose instructing Pearl to shapeshift into her and pretend to shatter (but really just poof) Pink. Cue Rose shapeshifting back to her true form — that of Pink Diamond, revealing the two to be one and the same.
    • Garnet can temporarily bestow her Future Vision on contact. In "Jail Break", she uses this to show Steven where Amethyst and Pearl are.
    • In "Same Old World", Lapis shows Steven how she was trapped in a mirror by projecting images into water.


Video Example(s):


Clark's Origin

Due to Clark unable to understand what the hologram of Jor-El is saying, the Jor-El hologram gives Clark a vision showing Krypton's destruction.

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Example of:

Main / ExpositionBeam

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