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Humanity on Trial

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"You will now answer to the charge of being a grievously savage child race!"

The Sufficiently Advanced Aliens are not pleased. The human race has been warring, polluting, nuclear-bombing, and not looking both ways before crossing the street. So now, they've come to put humanity on trial.

This usually involves plucking out a certain person or group of people—coincidentally, our protagonists—and putting them in a metaphorical court, to testify on behalf of the human race. Sometimes, there are individuals plucked from all ages of humanity's past (with the usual Time Travel cliches in effect).

Sometimes, it's stated that this is happening because we've started traveling out into space, or because we've just discovered nuclear power, but often the Powers That Be have just decided it is time.

Sometimes this will happen before humanity even knows said aliens exist and have yet to make first contact let alone any knowingly hostile movements against them. Not that this helps. Arguing "we didn't know any better," even if true, will only be used as further proof of our inherent arrogance and selfishness. When presented this way, it often seems that the only "crime" we are guilty of is simply existing in the same universe as them while not being "civilized" enough for the aliens' liking. Also, we stink so there's that too.

The hypocrisy of wiping out a fellow sapient species just because it suits them is rarely addressed, and this is especially hypocritical if the aliens list this among humanity's crimes. It's often justified with Humans Are the Real Monsters, being the only sapient race in the whole universe that does dirty things like lying, murder, war, etc. The accusing aliens may have long ago overcome such behaviors (though one sympathetic advocate might ask, "Were we so different, at their age?"), but they may even drop the bombshell that they never suffered from them in the first place, and have always been a utopian, perfect race that never as much as littered. The accuser also ignores the oddity of punishing an entire species for crimes against itself.

One way to avert the hypocrisy is to make the accuser species self-consciously no more moral than the humans on trial. They're not thinking of destroying us because of any particular ideology, but because we are a potential threat. This can be treated with varying degrees of sympathy—you might be alarmed by the sudden appearance of strange ape-like beings in your backyard too, especially when at least a few of them can be proven to be violent and even fratricidal.

Sometimes an "act of self-sacrifice" by one of the protagonists will "prove" that humanity deserves to exist. If the aliens didn't know that this was possible, then they really Didn't Think This Through. And since this is the case more often than not, the whole "trial" device frequently gets a distinct tint of Idiot Ball.

If the plot has humanity not playing along and actually fighting back, then the accusers often downgrade to Scary Dogmatic Aliens. Otherwise, the verdict is usually that Humans Are Special (occasionally, the accusers actually suspected this all along, and just wanted to make sure we live up to our potential). Then again, considering all the criminally irresponsible "parenting" some Neglectful Precursors do, one wonders why they aren't the ones on trial.

Compare to Outsourcing Fate, another case where Powers That Be force certain individuals to represent the universe, but by actually putting them in charge.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bokurano: Humanity isn't simply put on trial, they are tossed into a Deadly Game against the alternate versions of themselves. The Powers That Be found the version in the multiverse that is the embodiment of what they think humanity is, and then tested the version of humanity we know from the manga by watching them in their battles with the alternate version.
  • In the manga Read or Dream the paper sisters are put to the test of selecting a book from their (considerable) collection that can demonstrate to the alien creators of Earth that their real estate is being put to good use. While 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' and 'The Complete Pictography of Cute Puppies' fail to sway the alien judge, a timely rant on the unfairness of such a judgment by Anita fortunately does.
  • The Super Robot Wars series is filled with these.
    • In Super Robot Wars: Original Generation: Divine Wars, the alien forces are sufficiently impressed by the warlike nature and telepathic abilities of Earthlings that they put humanity to a test. This test is passed, and so they attempt to recruit and clone the best (available) human soldiers to act as shock troops in their military.
    • In Super Robot Wars Compact 2, the Einst are disturbed by how warlike the Earthlings are and seek to kill them all and replace them with a new species with Kyosuke and Alfimi as its Adam and Eve.
    • In Super Robot Wars 3, the Inspectors also seek to destroy all Earthlings before they become too much of a threat. Of course, with the Inspectors there is a slight subversion: It turns out their leader, Wendolo, is just a psychopathic murderer who wants to use the trope as an excuse to commit genocide.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, the second to last villain in the series and former Spirit Detective, Shinobu Sensui, seeks to unleash the most powerful Demons from Demon World and thusly rid the Living world of Humanity because of how Evil humans are. However, he flat out states several times that he sees this as Humanity's "Trial", with he as the Prosecutor and his replacement, the current Spirit Detective Yusuke Urameshi as the "Defense", their battle being the trial itself. He continues to use the "Trial" terminology throughout the entire arc, so much so that when he believed he had beaten Yusuke, he even said "The Trial of Humanity, the Defense Rests". The whole situation actually becomes rather ironic when Yusuke is revived and it's revealed he has Demon Blood, and has been revived as a Demon. Thus, the final battle of this "Trial" for the fate of humanity has a Human as the Prosecutor, and a Demon as the Defense. It would later be revealed that Sensui's motives weren't exactly for the Trial, he just wanted to go to Demon World and be killed by a Demon, and the "Trial" Motive was only a side-effect, however it was still very present and he did discuss it to great lengths.
  • This is the premise of Osamu Tezuka's work, the Amazing 3, about aliens who come to earth in the form of a duck, a horse, and a bunny to decide if they should blow it up or not.
  • In Macross Zero, the Protoculture turned out to have left behind an intelligent superweapon that would do this if and when humanity achieved spaceflight. Unfortunately, it happened to wake up in the middle of the Unification War (where the UN was forcibly absorbing all countries on Earth into a One World Order). Interestingly, it reverses its decision to annihilate mankind when it sees an example of the potential for love humans possess, and ends up sacrificing itself to save the surrounding area from nuclear devastation. The Protoculture did this because they had seen firsthand what would happen if a warlike race spread through the galaxy (referring to themselves), and they were not about to let their descendant races (of which humanity is one) make the same mistakes.
  • What Furfur and Zepar pull in EP 6 of Umineko: When They Cry, towards two Battle Couples: Jessica/Kanon and George/Shannon. It was to see if their love would survive anything.

    Comic Books 
  • In Astro City, this is the purpose of the Incarnate, to determine if humans are fit to join the Continuum, and to destroy the planet if not.
  • In one Disney Ducks Comic Universe story, Donald Duck is taken by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens (who mistake him for a sports champion who happened to be in Donald's vicinity) to represent Earth in an intergalactic tournament that will determine whether or not Earth will become part of their collection of miniaturized planets. He keeps losing each part of the competition horribly to the other champions, which include much stronger, faster, and intelligent aliens and robots. The way he eventually wins is ingenious: He claims that no form of life can sleep longer than him, which the other contestants challenge by going into hibernation for centuries or millennia. The judges angrily revoke the contest and send Donald back to his home world when they realize that they'll have to wait 50,000 years before they can declare the winner.
  • The Celestials of the Marvel Universe go around seeding life on worlds. Occasionally they visit and judge them with their own mysterious criteria. Those races that don't pass the test die. And yes, humanity is one of those races, and the Celestials did almost execute them. And nothing's stopping them from making a repeat visit down the line either. At least until the Beyonders come and massacre the Celestials. Then LOGOS arrives to finish the job. If that wasn't bad enough for the Celestials, their ancient enemy Knull reawakens to settle some old scores and wins. Then the Celestials' little protectors, The Eternals, go and make their own Celestial thanks to Iron Man and Mister Sinister, and it decides to judge humanity over its sins.
  • In "The Trial of Superman", Superman is put on trial for the destruction of Krypton as the last Kryptonian. The minor detail of him being an infant at the time was considered irrelevant. Eventually, there is a crisis where the alien Judges begin fighting amongst themselves and Superman saves the day. However, the judges will not exonerate him; instead, they compromise by sentencing him to effectively "community service", namely he has to continue his Never-Ending Battle for Truth and Justice.

    Fan Works 
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Olympian Journey: When Hestia turns the fight over Athena's essence into a challenge over which side she'll join in the greater conflict, several lesser gods tied to Athena set up a Courtroom Episode to settle it. Eris and Origami are allowed to argue for why Hestia should aid Eris in gathering all the godly essences to restore divine dominance over the Earth (on the grounds that Humans Are the Real Monsters), while Prometheus, Jade, and Captain Black argue for why Hestia should help the heroes stop Eris (on the grounds that the gods deserved to be overthrown and humans are better off running themselves). The trial is technically unresolved, as the Pocket Dimension it's taking place in dissolves due to the simultaneous fight with the Athena-possessed Uncle, but Hestia ultimately decides to join the heroes.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), where Klaatu actually had authority to judge Earth. In the original, Klaatu's mission parameters exclusively covered delivering the message. The message being that humanity could either join the galactic civilization or stay on Earth. If we stayed on Earth, then we would be left alone. But if we decided to join, then we would be expected to obey their rules, and be annihilated unless we gave up our warlike ways.
  • The mostly forgettable Zarkor the Invader subverts this somewhat in that the alien representative explaining the test to the chosen human brushes away his questions on the morality of this test with a quick "We're powerful enough to do whatever we want."
  • In The Abyss, aliens with the ability to manipulate water considered washing humanity away for all its warmongery and cruelty. They even raised huge tsunami waves all around the globe and held them erect for a while just to make their point perfectly clear, but changed their minds when Bud willingly sacrificed himself on a One-Way Trip to the depths in order to save the aliens from a nuclear warhead sent down by an Ax-Crazy U.S. Navy SEAL. (It's debatable whether the nuke would have hurt them, but still...) They even saved Bud's life as a "thank you."
    • As well as the lives of everyone else still on the underwater station. It's even commented on that they apparently were able to take care of decompression concerns.
  • This turns out to be the plot of The Box. The plot didn't really work out very well, in part because the aliens had to screw up everybody's lives before the test even started. They involve themselves in the test, purposely rig the samples, interfere in the experiment, and try to destroy the results when it doesn't turn out they way they want it to. If you tried to pull even a fourth of this stuff in a college lab course, you would fail the class.
  • Every thousand years, Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon (1980) tests every inhabited planet with natural disasters and if they show signs of recognizing an alien did it, he wipes them out, because it means they have become advanced enough to be a potential threat to his empire. Hence, Zarkov doomed Earth by flying into space to confront Ming.
  • The Council of Superior Species from Absolutely Anything are testing Earth for membership by giving one man godlike powers for ten days, seeing how he acts and will destroy Earth if he fails. They've done this to several other planets and the Council only has four members. A twist is revealed in that, while the aliens are testing humanity's character when given omnipotence, they want to see amoral, utterly selfish behavior.

  • Robert A. Heinlein:
    • Have Spacesuit Will Travel included one of these at the climax. We got to see what they did to those found guilty - their planet was removed from this universe, without its sun. The tribunal also admits that the point is not "justice" but neutralizing species that might become a threat to galactic society. In a twist, the protagonist saves humanity by (among other things) threatening the tribunal with revenge should they take action against Earth. The overall impression Earthlings give is more or less "kids from a rough neighbourhood that need good teachers", so the teacher is assigned.
    • Stranger in a Strange Land. Mike, a human raised by Martians, is sent back to Earth to grok humans and gather that information for the Martians. Humanity is never aware they're on trial, nor are the reasons made clear (though it's closest to the "dangerous neighbor" rationale), and Mike isn't fully aware himself, though some of his friends suspect something. It's revealed that the Martians already destroyed the original fifth planet and its inhabitants, creating the Asteroid Belt and making Jupiter the new fifth planet. Luckily Martians can take hundreds of years to make such a big decision, by which time humanity (with Mike's help) may be too powerful to destroy.
  • Subverted in John Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged. Galt puts the society's morality on trial, not humanity.
    "It is not man who is now on trial and it is not human nature that will take the blame. It is your moral code that's through this time."
  • The kids' novel series My Teacher Is an Alien by Bruce Coville had the ultimate origin of the alien teachers as a Federation-esque organization who was studying Earth. They had to decide what to do about Earth: welcome us, blockade us, conquer us or destroy us...
  • Subverted (somewhat anviliciously) in a short story from Bruce Coville's Book of Aliens. A race of aliens declares that two representatives from Earth would be chosen to decide the planet's fate, these being the two the aliens chose to be the best from the planet. The protagonist of the story wonders just who will be chosen, until the end of the story when it turns out that the aliens pick a pair of dolphins. The story ends before we find out the aliens' decision. Which is just as well, considering how evil dolphins can be to each other.
  • The last half of the book This Is The Way The World Ends consists of the last five surviving men being put on trial for the nuclear holocaust by future humans that will never get to live. Testimony includes such things as a young boy who would have been on the first trip outside our solar system, if the world hadn't ended.
  • In The Urth of the New Sun Severian travels to a parallel universe where he is judged by godlike aliens in hope of convincing them to do something about Earth's dying Sun. The trial turns out to be the journey to the parallel universe, so humanity's fate was already decided before he even got there. Also, Severian himself had the power to re-start the sun all along, he just didn't know it, so the parallel universe's inhabitants didn't save the sun of Urth for him/us, they just provided him with the journey necessary to realize his own power. And they sent him back in time to the right era for his mission to be successful.
  • The Red Star (1908), the semi-obscure sci fi novel by Russian scientist Alexander Bogdanov. In the novel, humanity is put on trial by Sufficiently Advanced Martians.
  • In Jack Vance's Planet of Adventure cycle, the hero is tried as a stand-in for the Terran race. He wins on a technicality, and is promptly attacked by the outraged plaintiff anyway.
  • Ted Reynold's short story "Can These Bones Live?". The human race has ceased to exist. One female human is brought back to life and ask to choose one extinct race to bring back to life. Two of the possible choices are humanity and another race which was incredibly pure, nice, generous, etc. - basically a race of saints. She chooses to resurrect the saintly race and is rewarded for her altruism by humanity being resurrected as well.
  • Dream Park: In the Fimbulwinter Game from The Barsoom Project, the adventurers are put on trial for humanity's sins by humanity's sins, in the form of nasty insect-like holographic vermin.
  • Played with in "Ben-Harran's Castle". Humanity is not on trial, Ben-Harran, a powerful alien who supposed to be in charge of the Milky Way, is - for not brainwashing humanity to be peaceful.
  • In one of his journeys Stanisław Lem's Ijon Tichy from The Star Diaries represents Earth before some kind of parliament of an interstellar Federation. The Earthlings are found guilty of killing and consuming living organisms, both animals and plants, which is highly immoral by the Galactic norms. But Earthlings are viewed not as criminals, but as miserable cripples and victims. The real culprits are an ancient (but extant) race whose starship left organic waste on a planet poorly suitable for life, allowing such a perverted life to evolve. Then Ijon Tichy wakes up.
  • In The Rapture of the Nerds by Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow, Huw is forcibly uploaded to the Cloud so that she can try to convince the Posthuman Planning Committee not to disassemble Earth into more computronium and upload everything with a nervous system. Unfortunately the opposition substitutes a rootkitted instance of her, they expose the hacking eventually. But then it turns out that Posthumanity is being evaluated by the Galactic Federation and they also need her to make a case for them before they're labeled a threat and exterminated.
  • In Halo: Hunters in the Dark it's not so much humanity on trial as literally everyone in the galaxy. 000 Tragic Solitude, the Ark's monitor, is convinced that the sentient species of the galaxy will never change their ways, and will forever war with themselves or others, or (more importantly) unleash more Flood and destroy more Forerunner installations. The sentence is death, first to humans, then eventually to the rest of the galaxy.
    • This is somewhat of a subversion as sapient life's 'advocate' Olympia Vale slowly realizes that Tragic Solitude is completely psychotic and pretty much immune to any kind of logic or reason, so instead of arguing with it, Vale's allies take a more direct approach; the Spartans just smash Solitude's remote processors while the Sangheili's Huragok takes over the Ark's systems.
  • This happens offstage in Out of the Dark, after an alien scout ship witnesses the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and decides that humans are far too savage and dangerous to allow to spread out into space. The galactic community then issues a colonization permit for Earth to another warlike race, hoping that they can "tame" humans before they get into space.
  • In Miloslav Knyazev's Alien Invasion: Republic Curonian Spit, aliens just wanted to check if people will try protect their territory in combat even if there is no way to win. If official government surrenders and some people are disagree with their decision, they have option of secession (they don't need make it official, they just have to be ready to resist). Countries can't help each other because they are separated by force field walls. Technical level of country uner Test is taken in account. Lithuania did not pass. Titular separatist republic did.
  • When the aliens are finally defeated at the end of the Ernest Cline novel, Armada, it's revealed The Federation orchestrated the whole thing as a test to see if Earth was fit to join.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of Charmed (1998), the Charmed ones clash with the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who are acting on the orders from the Source of Evil. One of the Charmed ones is trapped in Limbo along with the Horseman War, so the others form an uneasy alliance to try to free their respective comrades. However, when the Charmed ones learn that once reunited, the horsemen can bring about the Apocalypse, they go back on the deal, essentially sacrificing their sister, to avert the end of the world. This decision apparently amounts to "still enough good in humans", so the Source destroys the horsemen and withdraws until next time. Oh, and the Charmed ones managed to rescue their sister after all.
  • In an episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, the Archangel Michael personally descends to Earth to release the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and off the humans. Hercules sacrifices himself to try and stop them — "there is still good in humans" — so Earth is spared.
  • In Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger and its American adaptation, Power Rangers Wild Force, GaoGod/Animus (a sort of nature god) puts the primary Rangers on trial for the environmental crimes of humanity and takes away their powers, forcing the Sixth Ranger to keep the peace all on his own.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 subverts this in "Agent for H.A.R.M."; Mike is transported into a courtroom run by a Sufficiently Advanced Alien, and assumes he's on trial for all of humanity. The judge replies that no, it's all about him, and he shouldn't be trying to drag anyone else into this.
  • In Stargate Atlantis, the Atlantis expedition (represented by Sheppard's team and Mr. Woolsey) are put on trial by a tribunal representing the humans of the Pegasus Galaxy. To be fair, the expedition did screw up pretty badly more than once over the last few years: they woke up the Wraith early, created Michael, helped develop the Hoffan drug that Michael used to attack humans, and altered the Replicator base code to make them go to war with the Wraith (which unfortunately caused them to start wiping out human worlds in order to starve the Wraith). But, as Sheppard points out, the Atlantis expedition are the only ones effectively fighting against those threats, and that despite the losses they've suffered, the humans of Pegasus are closer than ever to finally being free of the control of the Wraith. In this case, it turns out that only one of the three judges actually cares about judging the Atlantis expedition fairly. The second judge lost her family to the Replicators and blames the expedition for it, and is dead-set on ruling against them no matter what (a conflict of interest that Woolsey notes should disqualify her as a judge). The third judge will be the deciding vote, but Woolsey eventually figures out that he's being bribed by a rival faction to rule against them. Woolsey's solution? Offer him a bigger bribe to rule in their favor.
  • Star Trek:
    • Q does this in both the first and last episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In the latter, it's implied that it was a False Crucible. Furthermore, self-sacrifice was not the thing that allowed the Q Continuum to acquit humanity, but Picard realizing an idea to save the day that took a new perception of time and existence in order to achieve. That potential to grow is what really interested them. In the latter episode, Picard points out that Q did this once; Q counters by revealing that the trial from the first episode and the one in the last episode are the same trial. It never ended (implying that the 7-year series was all part of the trial as well). This is indicated in Season 2; when the case in the pilot is brought up, Q replies "The jury's still out on that". Even in the finale, Q tells Picard that "The trial never ends", so the Continuum will keep judging humanity, which he references when he returns in Star Trek: Picard.
    • Zigzagged in Star Trek: Voyager. The first Q-related episode of the series, "Death Wish", has a member of the omnipotent race on trial, with Voyager defending him and his right... to commit suicide. So, it's a trial where the prosecution is bringing up examples to justify that the gods are necessary to humanity and thus humans shouldn't tolerate when a god wants to not exist anymore as a matter of his own personal choice.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): Thoroughly subverted in "A Small Talent for War". An alien race, claiming to have created us, announces that they're disappointed by our "small talent for war" and intend to terminate the experiment. The nations of the world rush to sign a disarmament treaty in time to change the aliens' mind... which turns out to be exactly the wrong thing to do. The aliens were breeding warriors, and what disappointed them was our small talent for war.
  • This happens in the Wonder Woman (1975) episode "Judgment from Outer Space", in which Wonder Woman must prove that the human race is capable of more than just hate and destruction, which really seems hypocritical — the alien race is going to destroy the entire human race because it can't seem to get along part of the time?

  • "Impress Your Creators" by Tub Ring is about an advanced alien race giving humanity a decade to shape up or be killed. Humanity has other opinions.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is the theme of the Sentinels of the Multiverse environment deck called the Celestial Tribunal. One of the cards, Representative of Earth, takes a hero card out of the box and puts it on trial; if that card's HP is reduced to 0, the game ends with Earth being destroyed. (Even if the hero on trial was Sky-Scraper or Tempest, who aren't even from Earth!)


  • Ayn Rand's play Night of January Sixteenth is presented as a courtroom case, where the jury is made up of audience members selected randomly. The play has two separate endings depending on the verdict that the jury reaches. In effect, Rand uses this to put the audience and their values on trial.
  • There's a play called Kangaroo Court which is an environmentalist Black Comedy in which a pair of humans are put on trial for various cruel and destructive things done to animals and their habitats. The judge is a cockroach who gloats about his species outliving humanity, the witnesses include a lab rabbit and a veal calf, and the couple's pet cat is implied to have Stockholm Syndrome.
  • In Firebringer, The Discovery of Fire turns out to be a test by aliens who created humanity to see if we're fit to survive.

    Video Games 
  • The Persona series uses this in a few of it's games:
    • The events of Persona 4 turn out to be this. As revealed in the True Ending, the goddess Izanami created the Midnight Channel and "sparked" the power of three Persona users representing emptiness, despair and hope in order to ascertain what humanity truly desired. Thanks to Adachi, who represented emptiness, having the greatest effect on the town of Inaba, she decides humanity wants oblivion and it's up to you, who represents hope, to beat the crap out of her in order to prevent her from turning everyone into Shadows.
    • In Persona 2 it turns out the events of these games and the original Persona were actually a version of this — a contest between the Anthropomorphic Personifications of human strength and weakness as manifested by humanity's collective unconscious to see which is truly more powerful.
    • Persona 5 is similar to the Persona 2 example above: It's revealed near the end of the game that the final boss and personification of control, Yaldabaoth, constructed a game to see if humanity would give into its sloth and a need for a higher power to control them, or see if they would be able to embrace the thieves' mission of overthrowing the corrupt establishment. Since humanity chooses to turn against the thieves (and thus give into sloth), he decides that at best, they need to be ruled by him, or else be utterly destroyed. That said, he did rig the game heavily in his favor; like, for example, imprisoning and impersonating Igor.
  • The last boss of Mega Man Battle Network 4 is Duo, a program that plans to destroy Earth because his mission is to "judge and destroy evil." After you defeat him, he decides to go away for awhile and come back later to see if we're still evil.
  • The point of the Reaper's Game in The World Ends with You: only one city is put on trial since the judge believes if said city is destroyed there will be no need to destroy the rest of humanity, and also because the rest of humanity is outside of his jurisdiction. However, Reaper's Games in general are meant to judge whether individual dead humans deserve a second chance.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The Patriots use Raiden's personality and actions to judge whether humanity is worthy of free will.
  • Devil Survivor: The entire crisis is God testing humanity to see whether they are still worthy of free will. If you screw up, humanity comes under the rule of God. If you really screw up, humanity is left in the ruins of its world with demons running everywhere. An unusual example in that the trial is also largely justified, given that humans not only struck first (and intentionally) but are risking taking down their own universe in the process.
  • In Devil Survivor 2 the crime and trial method is different. Dimension Lord Polaris has decided that humans haven't evolved fast enough, and is busy deleting Earth to make way for a better world. She is, however, giving humans a last shot and will undo the deletion or modify the world should they actually defeat her messengers, the Septentriones.
  • Orochi's reason for resetting existence in The King of Fighters was that humanity was corrupt and damaging to the Earth, but after getting the tar beaten out of him he decided to give humanity an extension.
  • In The Last Remnant, mortals have already failed their trial by abusing the power of the Remnants. The Conqueror, a humanoid Remnant, awoke to act as executioner.
  • Following the end of the Sin War, the Angiris Council of the Diablo universe held a vote on whether or not to destroy Sanctuary and humanity. Imperius, Archangel of Valor and Jerkass extraordinaire, was the biggest proponent for humanity's annihilation, as they were the offspring of angels and the demons he despises. Malthael, the Archangel of Wisdom, was completely apathetic about the decision and abstained from the vote, but it was counted against humanity regardless. Auriel, Archangel of Hope, and Itherael, Archangel of Fate, voted for humanity, but the deciding vote, the one that spared humanity from extinction, was cast by Tyrael, the Archangel of Justice and one of the only angels who actually gives a damn about the people of Sanctuary.
    • According to The Sin War Trilogy novels, the reason the vote was held was because several humans had begun to awaken their Nephalem powers, which gave them the potential to surpass even the angels and demons. The resulting Sin War was a three-way conflict between the angels, demons, and re-emergent Nephalem that threatened to destroy Sanctuary, until the leader of the Nephalem, Uldyssian ul-Diomed, released his full powers to drive out the angels and demons and heal the Worldstone, saving humanity at the cost of his own life. This act of sacrifice was what impressed Tyrael and moved him to vote in humanity's favor.
      Tyrael: I did call them abominations... and I was wrong! My vote is for them. For I would see what they might become... and marvel in it.
  • In Soul Calibur IV, Angol Fear is a servant of the macrocosmos who is sent to Earth to investigate the battle of the two swords, using them as a gauge to decide whether or not to destroy the Earth. She eventually comes to the conclusion that yes, Humans Are Bastards, but because there's other life on Earth which is peaceful and innocent, she decides to spare the Earth anyway. Or at least leave it up to her cousin.
  • In Onmyōji (2016), the Big Bad, Orochi, God of Evil, reenacts the trial ritual Top God Amaterasu once tried to execute him with on the world. If the scale used for the trial judges that the collective sins of the world are worse than Orochi's by the standards of Amaterasu's own laws, then a god killing artifact will activate to destroy the world. He does this, not to punish the world for its sins, but to make Amaterasu look like a Hypocrite. If he succeeds in destroying the world, he plans to make a new one in his own image as opposed to Amaterasu's, To Create a Playground for Evil. The trial finds the world guilty, but the heroes are able to sabotage the ritual before the artifact can finish its job, meaning that the world will be killed slowly enough for the heroes to search for ways to repair the damage.
  • In Princess Maker 2, the gods perform this in the backstory and the on-going plot. They decided humanity was too sloven and sinful, so they told Lucifon to wage war against them, but the player defeated Lucifon. With their plan foiled, the gods decide to give the player a 10 year old girl to raise till adulthood and will judge just how well or badly he does that job, to decide if his meddling means that humanity does still have merit to continue.
  • In Universe at War, the Masari awaken from their slumber under the Atlantic and are a bit peeved that we haven't been keeping our room clean, but because there's currently an Alien Invasion going on and they want us to serve a greater purpose later on, they let it slide this time.
  • It is eventually revealed that the whole entire plot revolves around one of these in Tales of Xillia 2. It has been going on for centuries and is reaching the point of no return when Ludger Kresnik gets involved, dragging the previous game's cast along with him. Oh, and one of the trial runners is rigging it. Whether they pass it or get off on a technicality (or you screw it over) depends on the player's choice at the end of the game.
  • In RuneScape, a particularly nasty example of this begins immediately after killing Sliske and seeing the Stone of Jas destroyed when Elder God Jas herself confronts you face to face, and ( after dismissing Zaros) ultimately tells you little more than that life is an unexpected aberration, and must prove its worth through action - though not how - or be destroyed. The Elder Gods ultimately decide that mortal life is too big of a threat to be allowed to live, but through the efforts of the World Guardian and the younger gods, all of the Elders are sufficiently weakened to prevent them from driving mortals to extinction.
  • In Fate/EXTRA CCC, after being corrupted by BB, the Moon Cell subconsciously polls all lifeforms on Earth to determine whether or not humanity should be allowed to live. Most of the animal life (including humanity itself) declared that humans are better off dead. Much of the plant life, curiously, voted to keep humanity alive. In the end, though, when all the subconscious votes are tallied, the decision is made to purge humanity from the Earth.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Season six revealed this has happened in the past, and we failed - thus why the world is called Remnant, and why the moon is shattered to pieces in the present day. It's also revealed that the Brother Gods (who enacted the first trial) warned that they would return one day and enact another trial, though they were 'nice' enough to say they would only come when summoned. This is the root of the Forever War between Ozpin and Salem - Ozpin is trying to unite the world in peace so it will pass the trial, and Salem is trying to summon the gods before then.

    Web Comics 
  • Spoofed in this strip from Something Happens.
  • Played with in The Thing Of Shapes To Come, Arthur's webcomic in Arthur, King of Time and Space. Aihok and Effex have been sent to judge if humanity is mature enough to have nuclear power. When asked what they'll do if we aren't, however, they reply that they won't need to do anything.
  • Subnormality: In strip #187, the pink-haired girl is summoned to speak on her galaxy's behalf before THE EMPEROR OF THE UNIVERSE, who threatens to blow it up after getting a complaint from the next galaxy over. He spares the Milky Way galaxy after rewriting reality to make himself everyone's obnoxious boss and clients.
  • Elcomic's "Test" involves a police officer encountering an "Auditor" sent to evaluate humanity. This seemingly all-powerful being explains that his duty is to evaluate whether humans are prepared to join the rest of the universe, need more time to evolve, or are simply too toxic to be permitted to live. The Auditor explains that he came disguised as a homeless person, and suffered so much abuse at human hands that he has determined the species should be exterminated. He extends a Sadistic Choice to the officer — kill himself to save the rest of humanity, or leave them behind and become a god-like Auditor. The officer turns the gun on himself, passing the Auditor's Secret Test of Character and proving humanity's ultimate worth.
  • In Irregular Webcomic! X, a semi-omnipotent representative of the X Continuum, [[puts humanity on trial with Paris as proxy. Paris suggests putting the sparrials on trial with Serron as a proxy, but X thinks a case that open-and-shut wouldn't be as much fun. Paris's defence is that she stops the non-humans in the crew getting into worse trouble than they would without her. X can't argue with that, so throws "a semi-omnipotent tantrum" instead.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-2055 is still picking its jury. The immediate problem for the Foundation isn't humanity being found "guilty", it's that the people who are chosen have to kill themselves in order to go to the next phase of selection and there's nothing the Foundation can do to stop the "trial".
  • Parodied in the video "L'assemblée Intergalactique" on French comedy channel Golden Moustache. A group of aliens are discussing what to do with humanity and come up with the idea of teleporting in some random humans and have them defend their race. Unfortunately, the two humans they beam in are in the process of catching their own farts in plastic bottles, so the aliens immediately decide to destroy the Earth.

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin: The Series: While not all of humanity, a god-like being known as the Ethereal judged Agrabah this way. It asked the rulers what made their civilization "great" and threatened to destroy it if they couldn't answer. It rejected every answer they gave and decided to commence with the destruction, until Princess Jasmine risked her life to save a citizen. It was then satisfied and decided that they learned the intended lesson: that the people were what made Agrabah great. The very same people it was planning to mass murder.
  • American Dad!: Parodied. Roger the alien believes that the other aliens gave him the privilege of deciding whether humanity should be destroyed, but they actually lied to Roger, and only used him as a crash dummy for their ship.
  • Bugs Bunnys Lunar Tunes: Marvin the Martian tries to get Earth destroyed by filing charges against it in court, with Bugs Bunny being brought in for the defence.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers had "12 Angry Animals" with a yeti and a court of animals putting the Planeteers on trial for the crimes of humanity. It was exceptionally anvilicious in a series full of moral anvils.
  • God, the Devil and Bob begins based around this premise: God mentions to the Devil that he might destroy the world, and being sporting, lets him choose humanity's potential savior (Bob). Later episodes portray Bob as more God's prophet/errand boy spreading good, however.
  • Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (2023): The Beyonder’s motive in the series is that he was sent to Earth to study humans and determine if they are worthy of continued existence. He picks Lunella Lafayette to teach him about mankind.
  • The Simpsons: In "Gump Roast", Kang and Kodos decided to judge humanity. They were about to destroy the Earth after seeing Homer's Jerkass memories, but Lisa asked them to see Maggie's. This caused them to vomit through their eyes, but the sight of all the celebrities caused them to spare the Earth in exchange for getting to attend the People's Choice Awards.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series: In "The Magicks of Megas-Tu", humanity is put on trial by the Megans for the crime of being xenophobic jerks. The trial is actually for "humanity and those who would aid them" in order to account for the nonhuman crew members. Humanity initially had its sentence suspended after the first trial (held on Earth), because the Megans felt they were no real threat. Once they manage to find the hidden Megan homeworld, the case is reopened. This time, humanity is found not guilty after Kirk risks his life to protect a Megan who had been sentenced to a Fate Worse than Death for associating with them. When asked why they didn't just consult the Enterprise's records to discover for themselves that humans were capable of things like a Heroic Sacrifice, the Megans reply the records could have been faked.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: Played for laughs in "Veritas", where Q kidnaps the bridge crew of the Cerritos, puts them in chess outfits, and pits them against playing cards with hockey sticks. Between football goalposts on a chessboard. With a dancing and singing soccer ball who spouts riddles in order to determine whether humanity should be saved... somehow.
  • The Venture Brothers: Parodied when the Grand Galactic Inquisitor arrives to judge humanity, based on criteria that humans apparently cannot possibly fathom. He insists that they not alter their behavior in any way (famously shouting "IGNORE ME!"). To this end, he follows the cast around on a completely unrelated adventure and continues insisting that they ignore him, despite being twelve feet tall and equipped with a loudspeaker on his chest. Turns out that the seemingly unrelated plot of the episode was an elaborate plan to summon another alien to shoot the Inquisitor in the head, thus apparently saving humanity. The cast still didn't consider the Inquisitor anything more than a nuisance, however.

     Real Life 
  • The IPCC climate reports on climate change and other forms of environmental degradation are the closest thing to this in real life.

"You just don't get it, do you, Jean-Luc? The trial never ends."