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"This is a bad experiment! We are bad people!! WHY DID WE USHER FORTH THE GREEN APOCALYPSE!?"

Stock Phrase used whenever that nasty old "science" inevitably messes up royally.

The basic setup is simple: You have an outpost, a laboratory, a factory, or other facility dedicated to the research and production of technological marvels, staffed with flighty scientists and ambitious persons pursuing a goal with the aims of profit, peace, or other potential applications. Oh. And did we mention that the research is on cheating death? Or that the forest that those free market capitalists are clear-cutting just happens to be rumored to have an ancient Indian Burial Ground somewhere within it?

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Well, let's see here.

In the course of their reasonable, maybe even noble quest to advance scientific knowledge, make a profit, help humanity, design a doomsday device, or otherwise undertake a high risk/high reward venture, something will have gone horribly wrong.

The variations are endless. Perhaps the non-polluting energy source actually taps into the delicately balanced forces locked in a Cosmic Keystone or drains the planet's Life Energy. Or the hunger-killing super-wheat is actually a super-weed that destroys all ecosystems. And that's for purely peaceful things. Weapons of any sort will have things go horribly wrong on a cataclysmic scale. The "completely loyal" robot workforce has a programming flaw that makes them revolt. Maybe the Super Soldier program inherently causes insanity, mutation, or plain old megalomania.

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These researchers will observe lax safety standards, laxer morals, and be prone to test things out on themselves or unwilling visitors. The Corrupt Corporate Executive will callously and maliciously disregard all warnings, even for basic safety and good PR.

Expect these people to send out a Distress Call or chronicle the debacle in an Apocalyptic Log, be visited by a group whose car broke down, or have things go wrong when the stockholders/government oversight committee comes to view their achievement.

If someone In-Universe is overconfident enough to ask "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?" unironically, expect something to Go Horribly Wrong the moment the question is asked out loud.

This is comparable to a Freak Lab Accident, except at the beginning of a story. Heck, a lot of Speculative Fiction serves no purpose but to have something Go Horribly Wrong.

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See also Came Back Wrong for when an attempt at bringing someone Back from the Dead Goes Horribly Wrong. For when the experiment would be successful but is deliberately sabotaged, see Spanner in the Works. In more cynical works, this may leave the character thinking "What Have I Done?". When Gone Horribly Wrong results in a project or product being scrapped immediately after its debut, it's a Disastrous Demonstration.

Of course, it can always get worse.

Compare with Gone Horribly Right, where the project in question does whatever thing/task it was intended to do, often with flying colors, but, does it in a way that is really, really, really, really fear-inducingly horrible enough to make its creators want to stuff it into a can and bury it, anyhow. An Epic Fail is this being Played for Laughs.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Responsible for quite a few supervillain origins. For example: Norman Osborn creates a compound that grants super-strength and healing powers. And turns him into the insane Green Goblin.
  • Daredevil's attempt to reform the Hand as its new leader in the Shadowland storyline failed horribly after the Hand's true leader, the demon known as The Beast, possessed him.
  • Empowered's superteam was looking for an easy win for the PR, so they try to bring down the obscure villain Willy Pete. It doesn't go well at all.
  • Flashpoint: Barry Allen's attempt to recreate the Freak Lab Accident that made him a super-hero goes horribly wrong and burns all of his skin off.
  • The Incredible Hulk: The New Mexico experiments with Gamma Radiation went very wrong for Dr. Bruce Banner.
  • In the Marvel Universe, there have been attempts to recreate Project Rebirth for decades ever since Dr. Erksine was killed just after enhancing Steve Rogers into Captain America. Unfortunately, they have all backfired, most often creating supervillain maniacs and monsters like the 1950s Captain America and Nuke.
  • Morbius tried to cure his fatal blood disease but the experiment turned him into a living vampire instead. Later he attempts to cure his vampirism but only makes himself more bat-like, setting himself on the path to Death of Personality.
  • Robin (1993): Strader Pharmaceuticals develops a drug designed to give the user super-strength. It of course ends up being a Psycho Serum that turns the users homicidal in addition to giving them strength and slowly and horrifically breaks down their bodies killing them.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • Doctor Finitevus' first use of his Chaos Siphon suit turned him into a Mad Scientist and bleached his fur.
    • Thrash The Devil had been told echidnas were evil for turning the race of Tasmanian Devils into dog-like Devil Dogs for ages. He then goes and banishes what's left of the echidna race to another dimension out of pure spite.
  • Spider-Man: During the Six Arms Saga, Peter, having had enough of being Spider-Man, creates a potion intended to strip him of his spider-powers for good. Rather than nullifying his powers, the potion increases them, causing him to sprout four extra arms.
  • Superman:
    • Cyborg Superman (Hank Henshaw) has two (in a meta sense) in his origin story. His backstory is modeled after that of the Fantastic Four, which already involves a trip into space going Horribly Wrong. If that wasn't bad enough, the expied origin story goes more horribly wrong when, instead of developing useful powers, two of Henshaw's teammates die horribly as a result of their mutations and his wife commits suicide, either because of what she's become or from seeing what's happened to her husband. Henshaw himself winds up as a disembodied soul inhabiting technology, goes insane, and spends most of his time trying to die.
    • How Luthor Met Superboy: Twice, teen Lex Luthor creates new inventions that are meant to help Smallville (a sun-reflecting weather tower that lets crops grow in winter and "super seeds" that create fruit trees near-instantly) as a way of one-upping Superboy; however, they both have some major design flaws that nearly cause them to destroy the town (the weather tower almost burns everything to a crisp and the trees created by the seeds start growing uncontrollably), forcing Superboy to intervene to save everyone. As a result, Lex is regarded as a menace by the town and his hatred for Superboy grows.
  • The Ultimates: The Hulk's physical abilities are all what Banner designed them to be, but something went wrong, causing the Hulk to be the bestial Id-driven monstrosity it is; Banner designed the Hulk to be as smart as it is strong.
  • X-Men storyline Fatal Attractions (Marvel Comics): During a writer's meeting, Peter David suggested Wolverine has his adamantium stripped from his body... as a joke, parodying the extremes the franchise had gone to. To his horror, the other writers kept spinning it.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes; Calvin once asked Hobbes to touch up a part of his haircut he didn't like. The end result was Hobbes shaving Calvin bald in his efforts to cover up his mistakes.
  • In this political cartoon, a woman is telling her friends she donated a Bible for kids to the local daycare center, and is excited to see what they learned from it. In the background, the kids are crucifying the daycare teacher and pointing spears at her.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Batman: Under the Red Hood, Ra's al Ghul hires The Joker to distract Batman while he goes off to set up one of his usual plans to eradicate most of mankind. He didn't expect the clown to go and murder Robin. It gets even worse when he uses the Lazarus Pit to resurrect him, turning him into a man filled with a lot of pent up rage.
  • In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Flint Lockwood creates a device that makes it rain food. At first, everything is fine, but through constant overwork, the machine develops a mind of its own, and starts sending down bigger and bigger food, threatening to destroy the world.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Alien: Resurrection had scientists clone Ripley in hopes of creating a Xenomorph for potential military applications. Things go horribly wrong when the cloning gave the aliens more grey matter than the scientists, allowing them to escape and wreak havoc.
  • Battlefield Earth. Beyond the obvious reference, how else can you describe the plot from the Psychlo perspective? You have a planet completely under your thumb, and one greedy mid-manager does an experiment on a subjugated race, which ultimately results in it gaining the knowledge and power to wipe out your home world and all of the occupying forces.
    • And the reason he bothers is he's so desperate to go back home that he's willing to do anything to get the money to buy his way out of the trouble he caused himself, making this trope also apply to the government official who exiled him to Earth in the first place.
  • The reason they have to drill into The Core: secret government experiments with a giant earthquake-causing weapon has somehow ruined the Earth's EM field by causing the core to slow down and eventually stop.
  • Crack In The World: Scientists try to tap magma from the Earth's core by detonating a nuclear bomb deep underground. This turns out to be a very bad idea indeed. Considering the fact that you can tap magma from the Earth's core at one of the hundreds of active volcanoes all over the surface of the world, they probably deserved to have it go horribly wrong.
  • Nearly every other movie based on a Michael Crichton story follow this trope, with the exception being The Great Train Robbery.
  • The Dark Crystal is set 1,000 years after the urSkeks, a hyper-advanced species, made the ill-advised and arrogant (if somewhat noble) decision to try and eliminate their darker natures; a decision that literally caused a near-apocalypse-level event. This single choice wrought, in its 1000-year aftermath, the fracturing and increasing corruption of the Crystal (and by extension the entire landscape), the eventual near-extinction of one race, the decimation of a second, and the creation of beings of pure evil that ruled over the planet for an entire millennium who certainly didn't improve things. Oops?
  • Das Experiment is based on the Stanford Prison Experiment, but goes further. Within just a few days the guards are terrorizing and humiliating the prisoners to keep order, right up to abusing their position of power to commit murder and rape. The head scientist was even aware how quickly the experiment was escalating, he just chose to ignore it For Science!.
  • In Deep Blue Sea, scientists try to cure Alzheimers by harvesting the brain matter of super-smart genetically modified sharks. What went horribly wrong? Well for one thing, experimenting with really aggressive sharks, underwater, on a platform in the middle of the ocean, with no way of easy escape might not be the best idea ever ... A shark fucking ate Samuel L. Jackson, for one thing.
  • Event Horizon is about a brain-twistingly successful attempt at Faster-Than-Light Travel... that then promptly Went Horribly Wrong. Really, REALLY wrong.
  • The Fly. Teleportation experiment is upset by a literal fly in the ointment. And then it happens again. Twice. And then David Cronenberg gets hold of the idea and does it twice as well and ten times as ugly.
  • In Simon Braun's The Greatest Movies You'll Never See, Jerry Lewis' The Day the Clown Cried is described this way. Put in simple terms, Lewis had told the producer who offered him the project that he wasn't the right person for it, and then he made the movie and proved it.
  • In the 2008 The Incredible Hulk film, the army's experiments with Gamma radiation gives birth to the Hulk, and Thunderbolt Ross and Emil Blonsky's experiments with the super-soldier serum leads to Blonsky becoming the Abomination.
  • Jurassic Park. A zoo which houses dinosaurs? What could possibly go wrong here?
  • The premise of Mean Creek is that a group of kids devise a plan to get revenge on an overweight, troubled bully named George on a boating trip, effectively humiliating him in the process. However, George ends up being accidentally pushed off of a boat and into the lake below. He is unable to swim and drowns.
  • In Pixels, humans send into space videos of them playing then-popular computer games as a message of peace. The aliens who receive it believe it to be a declaration of war to be fought with those games.
  • Omni Consumer Products "improved" police robots went Horribly Wrong in both RoboCop (1987) and RoboCop 2.
    • Murphy succeeded, but only because he's a special case. As shown by failed cases in the second film, most cyborgs don't handle their new existence well. Of course, using a drug-addicted criminal as a cyborg-policeman is probably not the best idea.
  • The big reveal of Serenity involves an experimental chemical named Pax. Given the name's meaning, you can guess what it was supposed to do, and for the most part, its problem was that it worked too well. But on a small segment of the population... You know the Reavers? Yeah, this is where they came from.
  • In Son of Godzilla, an experiment trying to control weather plans to start by freezing the tropical island it's happening on. Well, radio interference prevents the detonation of a specific device at the right time, resulting in a massive heat wave, tropical storms, and the already rather large (ten feet long or so) praying mantises living on the island growing to Kaiju proportions.
  • Species: They try to grow an alien child. Then they try to dispose of it when the experiment is shut down. Not happening.
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: Believing that there was still good in her husband, Padmé tries to speak to him. She even claims that she loves him. She's right, but Anakin takes his wife's message for Blatant Lies and attacks her. Thanks, Palpatine.
  • The Terminator series. Because it's SUCH a good idea to make computers smarter than you then hand them military control. How come the only one smart enough to keep the Terminators from learning too much is Skynet? And yet Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles reveals the existence of machines who have decided to fight Skynet on their own.
  • Total Recall (1990): a routine implantation of false memories at Rekall goes haywire.
  • The Time Machine's The End of the World as We Know It is triggered when humanity starts excavating more living space into the moon with nuclear weapons. When the hero uses the titular machine to go forward a few years, he finds himself in a dystopia and the fragments of the moon in the sky are getting bigger and bigger...
  • X-Men: First Class:

    Music 
  • "Barrett's Privateers" by Stan Rogers: The singer's character is convinced by the lure of easy fortune to join a privateer ship whose condition is somewhat less than perfect even before departure. Three months of deterioration are described in awful detail and only then do they engage their first target, which turns out to be armed far more heavily than they are. It all ends horribly, with only a single crippled survivor.
  • Sting's "Something the Boy Said". At the end of the song, all the characters who started out so blithely and fearlessly are dead except for the singer and even he is too terrified to look behind him as he leaves the scene of the disaster, in case he sees his own corpse.
  • The US Army paratroopers' song "Blood on the Risers". The young paratrooper readies for his first jump and does everything right except for checking his static line (the line attached to the airplane itself which releases the main parachute automatically). Normally a reserve parachute is used should the main parachute fail. The trooper falls in a bad position, deploys his reserve parachute in panic, gets tangled, and bounces. "To bounce" is skydivers' lingo, meaning "to land at unsurvivable speed". The rest is best left to the reader's imagination. "Risers" are the four straps which connect the parachute lines to the harness.
  • 10cc's song "Blackmail" is about a man capturing photos of a woman in an illicit relationship, threatening to tell the world and her husband all about it. The woman gets put in Playboy and, partly because her husband isn't as bothered as he probably should be, the blackmail attempt ends up making her a movie star.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, the Garbage Wrestling promotion, the wrestling promotion that has destroyed its own wrestling rings with explosives, finally came to a gimmick match too dangerous to finish in the May 6th, 1992 No Rope Barbed Wire Fire Death match featuring Atsushi Onita and Tarzan Tarzan Goto vs. The Sheik and Sabu. The wrestlers bolted from the ring as the ring itself started melting and the 60 year old Sheik was rushed to the hospital for third degree burns (but not before trying to see the match to the end from outside of the ring, berating Sabu for throwing water on him and preventing Sheik from throwing a fireball at the fleeing Onita and Goto). Such was this match's infamy that a disqualification was later declared in WWC when a fireball was thrown in one of Sabu's barbed wire matches.

    Puppet Shows 
  • On an episode of The Funday Pawpet Show, Simba is dared to eat an entire pack of the new Listermint breath strips when they were first introduced. Not a pretty sight.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pretty much the entire point of Fiasco.
  • Happens all the time in Genius: The Transgression. The number one cause is letting one of the Muggles touch your machinery. As these wonders don't really work on actual science, which gets imposed when this happens, this tends to drive them haywire instantly in many, many fun ways.
  • Everything wrong with the universe in Mage: The Awakening is a result of someone lighting some blue touch paper he shouldn't have, and breaking the universe as a result. The False Awakening is a good example — it resulted from an impatient mage's attempt to force her Sleeper boyfriend to Awaken, and exists as a contagious form of twisted ascension that drives its bearers to destroy themselves and large chunks of the scenery. It can be cured by a true Awakening, but if these were easy to induce, there wouldn't be False Awakenings...
  • Any given mission in Paranoia will inevitably go horribly wrong, as will all the experimental gadgets. In fact in Alpha Complex getting a new pair of boots can go horribly wrong. This is as it should be, as the universe runs on unleaded high-octane Rule of Funny.
  • Each Lineage in Promethean: The Created started with one human trying to raise the dead for whatever reason — companionship, curiosity, slavery — and getting bitten hard in the ass by this trope. Prometheans themselves can fall prey to this trope, as they need to produce another Promethean in order to complete their Pilgrimage — and if they screw it up, they spawn a number of Pandorans that will turn on them and try to eat them alive.
  • Happens all the time in Ravenloft, where These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know seem to be a required course in any university science program.
  • Rocket Age: The Planet Killer Rocket for the Ancient Martians. The mutated slug controlling Dr Ritterbach would count as another.
  • How Florida got drowned in Trinity, as recounted in "America Offline": a young Aberrant (a superhuman) with power over the oceans was concerned about climate change in Florida, her home state, and attempted to stabilize the Gulf Stream. Unanticipated resonance resulted in massive ocean waves that killed millions of people, including the Aberrant herself.
  • Happens every now and then in the backstory of Warhammer 40,000. Not infrequently, the result is the Imperium destroying the planet where it has gone wrong.
    • Someone asked along the line why, 40,000 years in the future, the Imperium seems to not have any robots at all, at most an automated defense array or like that. Because, tens of thousands of years in "the past", they DID have robots all over the galaxy...until they decided they didn't want to be slaves any more and started a war that almost annihilated the human race and all but destroyed humanity's entire technological base. Thus started a ban that, millennia later, has been incorporated as sacred law into the tech-worshiping religion of the Mechanicum. That's basically the best case scenario when something goes wrong here.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Natalia and Noelia summoned the Steelswarm to fight the Fabled, but that backfired as Natalia lost her life.
    • Happened again when Avance tried to revive Emilia using the power of Photomirror/Soulmirror. The ritual turned Avance into the monstrous Levianima.

    Theme Parks 

    Webcomics 

  • The Dummy's Dummy: This is the premise of the series; a master craftsman was cursed to create the opposite of his design's intentions. Instead of creating wonderfully joyful playthings, he created the perfect killing machines - and unwittingly sold them to children. When the bodies started piling up around the world, he realized he could make a hero by intentionally designing a monster - but it's implied that something is also fundamentally wrong with the main character, what with the curse and intentionally dangerous design.
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • Damien was created as an attempt to cheat a vague prophecy by fulfilling it in controlled circumstances — presumably, no survivors.
    • "Every properly trained wizard has heard of Abraham, the idiot apprentice who recklessly enchanted a massive diamond instead of selling it to pay someone more skilled to fix his cursed noble friend."
  • Happens about as often as one would expect in Girl Genius, given its mad science setting. Sometimes inverted, as some Mad Scientists will have their plan to take over the world go horrible wrong, resulting in them becoming happy well-adjusted individuals that are content to be lab assistants.
  • The Good Witch: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? when you give magic powers to a trans girl who's bullied by apparently everyone in town? Her turning into a psychopath in a "magical girl inheritance" trope gone awry.
  • Homestuck: Jade gave John four Infinity Plus One Swords attached to an Infinity Plus One Bunny for his birthday. She didn't count on it falling into the hands of Jack Noir, giving him the firepower to become The Starscream and promptly tear their Sburb session to shreds. And that's just the beginning of what led to their game session becoming unwinnable.
  • In Luminary Children, people tried to improve humanity by undoing mistakes in history with time travel. It went terribly wrong.
  • The Order of the Stick: Turning Xykon into a lich went very too well, but it was also partially done to give Redcloak some leverage on Xykon. That part of the plan... didn't work. At all well.
  • Pretty much anytime Riff begins playing around with Time Travel or dimensional portals in Sluggy Freelance, things go horribly wrong fast.
  • In Stand Still, Stay Silent, attempts to find a cure or vaccine to the Rash have been this, with humanity only finding products that cause quite unpleasant side effects and even the solution found Just Before the End killing people despite curing the disease, and making them into murderous ghosts without the people using it noticing due to the lack of mages at the time.
  • Many of the spells Anne performs in The Wotch (There's a whole arc titled "Consequences".) Cassie too, even the most innocent situations seem to have these problems.

    Web Original 
  • In Episode 666 of Bowser's Kingdom, Geno believes that the Zombie Apocalypse occurred because of the Parasol Corporation's attempts to create an unbreakable umbrella.
  • In the sequel series to Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72, an attempted American invasion of Cuba ends up a complete fiasco thanks to President Donald Rumsfeld's insistence on hiring Private Military Contractors. Highlights include Special Forces remaining behind because their transports aren't insured by the Pentagon, a missile from an F-16 dropping like a lead weight and then locking onto the plane that fired it, body armor so worthless that soldiers just discard it in the middle of battle, a rifle that jams worse than the Vietnam-era M16, you name it. The situation is so bad that Soviet leader Nikolai Ryzhkov initially believes the intelligence reports to be propaganda by the KGB until it's confirmed by President Mitterand.
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, the Emperor considers the Imperium in its current state this trope writ large. He believes that Malcador's Marines Errant turning into the Inquisition are also this. He's pretty much right.
  • Lampshaded in MSF High Forum, as Michelle quotes it word for word. "If I'm in hand-to-hand combat, things have gone horribly wrong."
  • The Onion: What Kind Of Powdered Chocolate Drink Mix Have We Unleashed Upon The World?
  • The group's decision to kill Zombie Pigmen in an effort to get more Wither Skeletons to spawn in PBG Hardcore Minecraft #2 ends up backfiring horribly, resulting in the deaths of two of the remaining three players, with Barry only surviving due to a conveniently-timed crash.
  • RWBY:
    • During the Faunus Wars, the humans were doing well enough and had vastly superior numbers — until the Battle of Fort Castle. That battle was led by the inexperienced General Lagune, who decided to use his superior numbers to attack the Faunus at night and achieve a decisive victory. However, he didn't realise that most Faunus can see perfectly at night. He did achieve a decisive victory — for the Faunus. He was captured and is now remembered in history classes as an Aesop about the consequences of lack of knowledge and research.
    • Sienna is the person who transformed the White Fang into a militant organisation, forcing Ghira to step down, but still sharing his goal of seeking peace, respect and equality. Adam embraced her cause so completely that he wants humanity enslaved to the Faunus, and believes Sienna is holding the Faunus back. Although Ghira was concerned about Adam's early violence, Sienna dismissed them and groomed Adam to become her right hand. This gave him a path to power, and by the time she realises what he's truly after, it's too late to stop him. In Volume 5, he murders her and frames humans to create an Inspirational Martyr, assumes command of the White Fang, and transforms it into a Faunus supremecy organisation. Just weeks later, he has pushed the White Fang into a confrontation with humans that they cannot win, exactly as Sienna feared. By the beginning of Volume 6, the White Fang is a shattered remnant of its former self, Adam is powerless to do anything but hunt down the woman he's obsessed with for one last attempt at revenge, and Ghira has resurrected his original plan to forge peace between Faunus and humans.
  • Starwalker: The star step drive has the unfortunate consequence of destroying stars and, by implication, entire systems.
  • Uno: The Movie is a Let's Play by Achievement Hunter with the idea of using the points system so that they would play to 500 points. It took nearly three hours to finish.
  • Lots of Whateley Universe examples, but how about the Russian program to create a nanotechnology Super Soldier? The best iteration had one functional survivor... who melted into goo a year later.
    • Or how about the bioengineering mad scientist who was found on a personal military submarine... or, rather, the people searching that submarine found around a dozen or two protozoan monstrosities, and no trace of the crew.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: This is what happens when the main characters try to fix things. Also, the backstory is portrayed as this.
    Shadi: But then something go horribly wrong.


 
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Alternative Title(s): Go Horribly Wrong, Goes Horribly Wrong, Went Horribly Wrong

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"Where Did History Go Wrong?"

At first, it seemed that Zim's plan to eliminate Dib using a time machine to change the past with rubber pigs worked. Unfortunately, due to unexpected events in the past, his attempt ends up making Dib a more dangerous threat than ever.

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