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Gone Horribly Right

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There's fearless, and then there's reckless.

"We dreamed of creating the world's strongest Pokémon... and we succeeded."


You'd think the opposite of Gone Horribly Wrong would be a good thing, right?

You'd be wrong. Maybe even dead wrong.

Rather than have something unexpected happen that sabotages the program, the researchers have everything proceed in an orderly fashion. The results are everything they hoped for — better, in fact. Unfortunately, they've succeeded too well, and it's this success that dooms them. The result turns out to be too intense, too powerful, or the researchers didn't fully consider the consequences of what they wanted to do. Or, maybe they just made an awesome stealth device...that they can't find because they can't see it.

Sometimes the results are a runaway chain reaction that threatens to destroy the facility/city/region/country/continent/world/universe, a weapon that not only annihilates its target but has high (or total) collateral damage, or a Psycho Prototype that obeys orders only too well. Other times, the instigators find out the result was something they shouldn't have attempted in the first place. The Potential Applications were so exclusively in the evil/destructive side that the project had no possible use but to destroy.


Things that have Gone Horribly Right might not be immediately apparent. The researchers may create and market an entire product line based on their Super Prototype that only later turns on them, or over-performs its duty like, say, a genetically engineered plant that has a high CO2 consumption out-competing every other plant on the planet and causing massive fires to keep feeding. Usually, this is paired with a Fantastic Aesop that (heavily) implies the intended use or goal of the research is to blame.

This trope may be most succinctly captured in Jurassic Park, and directly spelled out in Aesop fashion, with Ian Malcolm's line "Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should."

A Sub-Trope of Literal Genie, putting it in the scientific category as opposed to Be Careful What You Wish For, which is when what the character wanted falls in their lap through coincidence or magic rather than their own planning and hard work. A Supertrope to The Genie in the Machine, where the machine does exactly what you told it to. Since Love Potions never work, any one that "works as intended" will usually end up in this category. Often overlaps with Dangerous Forbidden Technique. Compare with Springtime for Hitler, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?, Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! or Hoist by His Own Petard. Didn't Think This Through often follows the realization of this trope. May become a Game-Breaker. A form of invisibility that the creators now can't find because it's invisible could be considered Useless Useful Stealth. Sometimes goes hand in hand with A Lesson Learned Too Well.


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Other Examples:

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  • A UPS ad from the nineties features a very small company opening for business. The dozen or so employees hover over their brand-new website, then celebrate when the first order comes in...dozens of orders...thousands! Then they stare in dawning horror as the number of orders rapidly rises to tens and then hundreds of thousands.
  • Stride chewing gum's first ad campaign was about the company growing increasingly desperate because their gum's flavor lasts so long, all their customers are still chewing on their first piece of gum, forcing them to halt production and find ridiculous ways to force people to spit out their gum and chew more.
  • One very ill-advised campaign for mental health awareness in the early noughties featured a video advert that would play quiet whispering sounds while you browsed the webpage it was on. Only finding and hovering over the advert would reveal it as the source: an attempt to raise awareness about paranoia.
  • A lost ad for Sprite in 1996 features a little girl drinking a Sprite. She enjoys it, but then a sugar cube falls out her ear.
  • An ad for the Dutch insurance company Centraal Beheer has a box marked "FRAGILE" being transported to a harbor. After numerous near misses, it's finally loaded into its destination... the R.M.S. Titanic.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 96, Wolffy is separated from his wife Wolnie when she gets sick with the flu and has to be quarantined. Wolffy, not happy with this prospect, seeks to make himself sick to be with his sweetheart, and finally falls ill after consuming a virus of his own creation. Problem is, by the time he's made it into quarantine, Wolnie has already recovered, meaning the two are still separated.

    Audio Plays 
  • In The New Albion Radio Hour, the city-state of New Albion is controlled by a brutal authoritarian government. The leader of a voodoo cult/resistance cell figures out a way to cripple the government's soldiers by transmitting a hypnotic song into their helmets. Unfortunately, once the soldiers are enthralled they start singing along, which infects everyone near them until the entire city is trapped in a trance, leaving only a few people conscious enough to try and fix things.

  • Wyatt Cenac says that he gets so irritated with his friends trying to set him up with the only other black person they know, that he decided to say that he's into weird fetishes. Until they said he should meet another person they knew.

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot
    • Jason once went through a Viking phase, and refused to eat his mother's broccoli stew, since he would only eat what the Vikings ate. He realized his mistake when his mom agreed to make him some boiled sheep's head.
    • In another strip Jason Fox mentioned to Marcus that the last time they went as fast as they did via tobogganing on a hill in the winter, they were thrown off the toboggan when they released the brake chute, so they learned from that mistake by taping themselves with a lot of tape so they can't be thrown off when they use the brake chute. It worked too well, however, as while they were successful in not falling off, their toboggan was shown flying through the air with them on it due to it being a windy day.
    • At one point, Andy plants 24 zucchini plants in the back yard, with the intention of getting and eating fresh homegrown zucchini. She got zucchini, all right...more than even Peter could eat.
  • Calvin and Hobbes
    • Calvin didn't want to clean his room, so he made an identical clone of himself and ordered the clone to clean his room. Naturally, the clone didn't want to clean Calvin's room either, so he ran off to cause mischief, knowing the original Calvin would be blamed. Later in the story, Calvin's clone gets a hold of the duplicator and starts cloning himself, with predictable results.
      Hobbes: He's a clone of you, all right.
      Calvin: What are you talking about?! This guy's a total jerk!
    • In the second clone storyline, Calvin makes a clone of simply his good side. The good version of Calvin does indeed do all the chores cheerfully and gets excellent grades — unfortunately, he also writes poetry and makes Valentine cards for Susie. Again, the original Calvin has to face the consequences.
    • The Snow Goons story. Calvin built a snow man with the intent to bring it to life. He succeeded... and it immediately tried to kill him.
  • In several early U.S. Acres strips, Orson uses hypnotism on Wade in order to remove his fears. It works all too well, and Wade goes from being a lovable coward to shortly being a fearless and reckless Jerkass who fears absolutely nothing.
  • In Prickly City, the solar-powered drone works right the first time, and targets Winslow.
  • Garfield:

    Fairy Tales 

    Films — Animation 
  • Astro Boy. The President wants to put the evil red orb inside the war machine to make it more aggressive and violent. Well, it worked...
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: The eccentric inventor's food machine really works! Unfortunately, it works so well that it starts churning out superstorms of food big enough to crush landmarks and bury cities, causing an apocalypse on a global scale.
  • Coco: Miguel's great-great-grandmother believed her husband walked out on them to be a musician, which resulted in her banning music from their family. In the land of the dead, she has refused to hear him out and has ensured he will be forgotten by their family by not putting his picture on their ofrenda. Then she discovers that he was murdered trying to come home and their daughter, the last living person who remembers him, is losing her memories of him, which means he'll soon be Deader Than Dead.
  • In the Sorcerer's Apprentice sequence of Fantasia, Mickey Mouse brings a broomstick to life to carry buckets of water to fill his master's cauldron. However, he doesn't know enough about magic to stop the broom once the job is done and the cauldron overflows. Mickey tries to destroy the broomstick with an axe, but each piece turns into a new broomstick with its own buckets.
  • In Firing Range, the inventor created an empathic tank that uses hatred and fear to avoid attacks and attack, respectively, for the purpose of revenge. It succeeds marvelously, shame he grew afraid of it too...
  • The Incredibles: Syndrome builds a robot able to analyze the combat style of its opponents and adapt to defeat whatever tricks they were using to fight it. This works very well for him until he tries to stage a fight with the robot, which realizes Syndrome was fighting it by use of a remote control...
  • In Meet the Robinsons, Lewis, feeling low after another family chose not to adopt him, bitterly complains that even his own birth mother didn't want him. Mildred, the director of the orphanage, tries to convince him that he doesn't know that—she may well have wanted to keep him but couldn't, for some reason. Unfortunately Lewis takes this mean that she definitely did want him, and that his only hope for a happy family is tracking her down.
  • In Megamind, Megamind sets out to create himself a new Super Hero Arch-Enemy, giving Metro Man's powers to another character and then, when this less-than-heroic superhero is not so keen to fight, provoking him by hitting multiple Berserk Buttons. While the "creating a hero" part Goes Horribly Wrong, the "creating an enemy" part works all right — only this time, the invincible guy after Megamind is not going to settle for just putting him in the Cardboard Prison.
  • Ratatouille: Chef Skinner gets Linguini drunk to make him divulge everything about Rémy. However, it works so well that all he ends up with is a drunk Linguini talking about the dish 'ratatouille' and how it doesn't sound like the name for a delicious dish.
  • In Toy Story, Woody decides to use R.C. to knock Buzz off the desk so that Andy won't see him and will take Woody to Pizza Planet instead. Well, R.C. knocks Buzz over—and the impact causes a chain reaction between the bulletin board, a ball, crayons, and a swing-arm lamp that throws Buzz out of the window into the shrubbery below. Not only did Woody not intend to actually hurt Buzz, the rest of Andy's toys turn against him for what looks a lot like a jealousy-driven murder.

  • An old Mexican joke tells us that Pepito used to play pranks on his family. He would go to his relatives and say with an evil smirk, "I know everything." The relatives would bribe him to keep the secret. It worked perfectly well, until he said it to the milkman, who instead of bribing him, hugged him and yelled: "My son!"
  • An old Moon-Landing Hoax joke is that NASA did fake the moon landing...except they hired Stanley Kubrick to help them do so, and he immediately demanded that they shoot it on-location.

  • Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle":
    And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
    He'd grown up just like me
    My boy was just like me
  • GWAR created Gor Gor the Tyrannosaur to be a killing machine, but he occasionally gnaws on the band members.

    Music Videos 
  • Kate Bush's song "Experiment IV", which tells the story of a group of scientists contracted into a military experiment to create a sound-based weapon. In the original song the lyrics are somewhat ambiguous in regards to the outcome, but in the video, the scientists are unfortunate enough to succeed in creating the sound-based weapon, which proceeds to kill everyone working in the building (and it might have escaped). To make matters worse, the general who contracted the scientists actually seems pleased with the results, implying that he may actually attempt to implement it as a regular weapon.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The concept of "felix culpa" or fortunate fall in Christianity makes the temptation in the Garden of Eden this for the Serpent. The fall allowed God to bring good out of evil and set up the eventual birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

    Pro Wrestling 

  • In one episode of The Men from the Ministry Mr. Lamb is being depressed by the utter boredom of his life, and Mildred and Mr. Lennox-Brown decide to make him take dancing lessons so that he will find more joy in his life. He does find dancing very enjoyable, so much that he plans to quit his job in the Ministry and become a professional dancer.
  • Real Life: In 1964 the U.S. Federal Communications Commission adopted the FM Non-Duplication Rule, limiting owners of AM stations in large cities to simulcasting only 50% of their content on FM stations they owned. The idea was that, by requiring more original content on FM, a slow market for the technology would noticeably pick up.
    It did. After 1967, the year the rule went into full effect, a slowly growing FM sector boomed as freeform radio took off, primarily playing a lot of late 1960s rock that had fanbases but never got played on AM Top 40 radio, and by the late 1970s more people were listening to FM than AM. So much so that the FCC repealed the rule in 1986 because AM stations were struggling.note 

  • Cyrano de Bergerac:
    • Given his own company, the Gascon Cadets, disrespects him, De Guiche plans a Last Stand for them. Later in the play, De Guiche at last wins the respect of the Gascon Cadets, but the enemy army is already there… De Guiche will die Lonely at the Top, his only real moment of popularity would be among the men he sacrificed.
    • Cyrano loves Roxane, but he plans to help Christian win Roxane’s love. Christian dies and given Roxane will love his memory for years, that dooms Roxane and Cyrano to a loveless and shallow life.
  • Hamlet did reach his end goal of killing the king ...
    • Depending on the interpretation his madness may also be this by the end.
  • Hamilton did clear his name of embezzlement accusations. The way he went about it - releasing a pamphlet stating that he was not embezzling government funds to James Reynolds, but instead using his own money to pay the man off in exchange for allowing him to sleep with his wife - absolutely cleared his name because he had no reason to implicate himself in something just as bad if he was lying. Unfortunately, it nearly destroyed his marriage and inadvertently led to his son's death. At least he wasn't being accused of perjury anymore, right?
  • Elisabeth of Austria(-Hungary) got her way alright, traveling the world and doing whatever she damn well wanted, unburdened by the rigmaroles of court and a loving (the feeling quickly became non-mutual for her) but ineffectual husband. It, however, came at the cost of/resulted in:
    • The death of two of her children, Sophie by sickness due to a trip Sisi insisted she go on, Rudolf by suicide due to Sisi choosing non-interference in his issues because she had cut her bonds with the Emperor long ago.
    • Franz Joseph cheating on her and infecting her with a STD. He regretted it, but the damage was done.
    • Her turning into a bitter and cold Broken Bird, only able to find solace in the arms of Death. Takarazuka Revue's treatment has Death calling for Sisi as Lucheni stabs her, turning it into a suicide than a murder.

    Web Animation 
  • Madness Combat: The Auditor started creating magnified soldiers to combat Jebus, Hank, Sanford and Deimos. An "agent magnification chamber" was constructed to speed the process up, and for all we know it worked: Mag v4's were seen in action less than five minutes after the incomplete v3 was killed. What the Auditor didn't expect was the possibility that Deimos would use the chamber on Hank.
  • In Red vs. Blue, Project Freelancer's bad ideas worked much better than their good ones. There's a reason why in the present day its operations consist largely of recovering its agents' armor and enhancements.
    • In order to get enough A.I. to properly test (they were only provided with one), they tortured it until it fragmented. The resulting fragments worked great paired with elite Freelancers... and included two (Sigma and Omega) who were not only disloyal, but actively malevolent.
    • The point of pairing soldiers with A.I. was to create an unstoppable super soldier. They got what they were aiming for in The Meta (Originally Maine with the aforementioned Sigma), whose primary goal was killing other Freelancers and taking their A.I. and enhancements.
    • Top Freelancer agents were encouraged to compete amongst each other, which stoked interpersonal issues that resulted in Freelancer teams falling apart.
  • RWBY:
    • The White Fang was originally a peaceful Faunus Rights group under founder Ghira Belladonna. Its current flirting-with-terrorism state is because Sienna Khan took over and implemented a stance of using violence when necessary. The Vale cell's no-buts-about-it downright terrorism is because Sienna encouraged its leader, Adam Taurus, to embrace his violent tendencies. Adam, once given the okay for killing, became far more violently extremist than Sienna was willing to condone. Adam eventually kills Sienna in order to take over the White Fang and make her an Inspirational Martyr by framing humans for her death, completing the White Fang's transition from a Faunus Rights group to a Faunus Supremacy group.
    • In Volume 6, Team RWBY encounter a type of Grimm called the Apathy. Unlike most Grimm, the Apathy are not ferocious beasts, but act more like zombies. They drain the will and aggression of any within the area until they just give up and wait to die. A farm head named Bartleby had the "brilliant" idea of trapping two Apathy in his cellar, under the premise that the Apathy would keep everyone calm and therefore not attract anymore Grimm. Unfortunately, the rest of the Apathy pack followed him back, and their presence made everyone on the farm so tired and listless they basically died in their beds.
      Maria: Bartleby's plan worked. No-one was angry... or sad... or scared. No-one was anything. And then... no one was left.
  • Camp Camp: Max spends Season 1 trying to break David out of his The Pollyanna nature. In the season finale, he succeeds... and promptly goes into My God, What Have I Done? mode because a broken David is kinda completely terrifying.
  • During Cornerstone, Smiffy of Hat Films attempts to troll Sjin, Rythian and Hannah Rutherford by posing as a Creeper. They panic and then kill him.

    Web Original 
  • In Elfslayer Chronicles, the DM established that in her world, Humans Are Bastards and you Can't Argue with Elves. This backfired on her when a player annoyed by the elf posturing decided that his character, a human, would not be an exception to the rule and therefore have no reason to play along with the DM's plot of helping the elves. Oh, and he would also be a total Magnificent Bastard who used the elements the DM introduced to turn the campaign into an Xanatos Gambit of getting away with sabotaging the party's mission via murdering the guy who they were supposed to escort back home to stop a war.
  • Starwalker Earth: The new drive works perfectly. It can modify the gravity around a star to open a door to another star by going outside the universe. This has two effects: It turns the drive into a time machine and it damages the stars it flies through.
  • In Pay Me, Bug!, Grif Vindh wound up with the score of a lifetime, through more than a little blind luck. Of course, blind luck doesn't do much for one's reputation, so he spun a yarn involving him breaking into Ur Voys (The Empire of the Radiant Throne's most secure facility) single-handedly, stealing the contraband, and smuggling it out right under the noses of The Radiant Throne's Swords. Unfortunately for him, a certain black-ops division of The Alliance of Free Worlds' military hears the story. They also want to steal something from Ur Voys, and they're not above blackmailing someone of Vindh's "skill" to get it for them.
    Grif Vindh: If I'd known the Alliance was going to get wind of this, I'd have thought of a much less self-aggrandizing lie.
  • Several man-made SCPs collected by the SCP Foundation have this as their origin story. Mostly those made by The Factory, Dr. Wondertainment or Prometheus Labs (though the former two are so enigmatic that it's hard to tell what they were trying to accomplish).
  • One hypothetical situation on Atomic Rockets had a computer virus intended to sabotage missile anti-countermeasure computers by allowing them to "endlessly self-modify their programming" results in the missiles gaining sentience and declare themselves a sovreign nation. And they all lived happily ever after-the newly sapient weapons force a cease fire agreement between the warring factions and go on to become galaxy-wide diplomats.
  • On the now-defunct WWWF Grudge Match website (devoted to Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny fights), every so often, particularly when both combatants were very much The Scrappy, fans would clamor for the "All Killed And Mutilated" button to be incorporated. The people running the match were generally loathe to do so... but they finally caved when the match was a to-the-death match between Scrappy-Doo and Jar-Jar Binks, refereed by Carrot Top. The staff commentators even warned against voting for "All Killed And Mutilated." Not surprisingly, many people ignored it... and it turned out that picking to kill both Scrappy and Jar-Jar resulted in Carrot Top winning. As noted in the comments for the match, this caught many people by anguished surprise. This was likely all planned by the site runners, as the next match was a Tournament of Champions, seeing which of the year's previous winners would then kill Carrot Top.
  • The story for artist Keith Thompson's "The Warden" sees this happen with the Changeling Tale. The Warden was a young faerie left in the crib when the Fey Folk stole a human child. However, his human parents proved to be impossibly patient and loving, and he came to love them in return. Once he reached adulthood, he stayed with them until they passed away, and then set out to make the Fey Folk feel every bit of the sorrow they had ever inflicted on humanity.

    Web Videos 
  • In one of the SMBC Theater skits, a woman designs a Lie Detector, a Reframing Detector, and a Change The Subject Detector because she is tired of first date bullshit. However, it works so well that by the end of it, it's revealed that her date is an unemployed, horny homeless guy living under his friend's van, and she made these in order to humiliate a man after her last boyfriend dumped her, and that she doesn't believe she could do better than the guy she's currently on a date with.
  • In Atop the Fourth Wall, Linkara's gun is powered by a soul of a little girl, who was tortured and killed in order to make the ultimate weapon for a cult. Needless to say, the gun killed the cultists, proving that they had, in fact, made the ultimate weapon.
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog:
    • Overlaps with Be Careful What You Wish For. Affably Evil Dr. Horrible dreams of joining the Evil League of Evil. To get in, he has to commit murder (which he doesn't like doing). He ends up compromising by planning to attack his downright evil hero nemesis, Captain Hammer, and kill him to get into the ELE. He gets into the Evil League of Evil, alright, when his plan goes pear-shaped and Hammer tries to kill Horrible with his own gun. The gun explodes and shrapnel kills the girl Dr. Horrible loved. Her death counts as the necessary murder to get in.
    • In a prequel comic, Horrible tries to beat Hammer by making a Super Serum using Hammer's DNA to give him the superhero's strength. It works... but it also reduces his intelligence to Hammer's level, resulting in Horrible and Hammer engaging in an unending slugfest until Horrible grabs the Idiot Ball again and restores his intelligence by using the antidote... while also leaving him the same weakling as before, allowing Hammer to pummel him.
  • Simon Lane, while playing a modded game of Minecraft, once decided to spawn in numerous nagas with the intention of trolling Duncan Jones and Kim Richards. They did their job too well, killing him numerous times and utterly destroying parts of the server.
  • At the end of the first season of The Guild Codex decides to help Zaboo stand up to his overbearing mother. Up to this point she's been trying to get rid of him for being a bit of a stalker. After his mother is "defeated" the team walks away smiling at their victory only for Zaboo to remark he's now free to spend his time with Codex. The final words of the season are Codex's realization and a loud "Oh, shi..."
  • The one-time enemies of Team Avolition, Rice Think, implemented a system on their Minecraft server that detected changes to individual blocks, theoretically alerting admins to abuse and griefing. In practice, all this meant was that Team Avo had to wipe the structures off the face of the earth.
  • LoadingReadyRun sees this happen twice with the Workplace two-parter. In the first part, the crew has to pass themselves off as professional consultants hired by Ian to bring a "new paradigm to beige" to stop him from getting in trouble. On succeeding, they realize the only fake part of this arrangement was their own lack of qualifications, and they're now expected to do it. In the second, Paul succeeds in creating "vantabeige," the purest form of beige possible and theoretical ultimate goal of Ian's company — which now no longer has a reason to exist, promptly cancels Taupecon and fires Ian, and is bought by Lockheed-Martin because they want to explore vantabeige's hypnotic effects.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Succeeded Too Well


We threw out his name!

SpongeBob took Squidward's advice to empty his mind of anything that isn't fine dining and breathing too well, and ends up forgetting his own name.

How well does it match the trope?

4.9 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / GoneHorriblyRight

Media sources:

Main / GoneHorriblyRight