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Kidnapped Scientist

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I was wondering where I'd put that CHCl3.
Clank: You'd be surprised how often scientists get kidnapped.
Scientist: Actually, this is mein third time. I'm starting to get used to it.

An occupational hazard of having a specialized talent in demand is that sometimes "demand" can be taken literally — a professional such as a scientist or engineer is kidnapped and coerced into working for the bad guys, under threat to their life or the lives of their loved ones. Although there should be some obvious inherent risks to letting someone hostile to your plans work so intimately with them, doing things no one else in your organization fully understands, the success rate for this method seems to be pretty high — at least until the heroes get around to rescuing them, until the villain decides that they've outlived their usefulness, or until the scientist takes advantage of everyone's ignorance to sabotage the evil plan or craft a weapon that allows him to escape.

Note that this is not the same as kidnapping someone for information, using them as a Living MacGuffin, or having someone Made a Slave for menial (or sexual) tasks — but having a professional work intimately with the most delicate aspects of a plan, requiring highly specialized skills.


Subtrope of An Offer You Can't Refuse. Compare Reluctant Mad Scientist, Kidnapped Doctor, and Forced Creativity. Also see The Worm Guy, a more benign (usually) version.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Megumi Takani lost her family in the war, and was trying to move on with her life to study their trade (medicine). She was promised an apprenticeship, but ended up being forced to produce opium (and concoct stronger and more addictive varieties of the drug, such as Spider's Web) for Kanryu Takeda.note  More than once, she has attempted suicide over the guilt, but Kenshin convinced her to pick up her medical studies and focus on healing as many people as possible.

    Comic Books 
  • Getafix, druid of Asterix's village is kidnapped quite often for his knowledge of the super-strength magic potion.
  • Professor Calculus in Tintin has been kidnapped on two different occasions.
  • Doctor Will Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, gets kidnapped during 52 and taken to Oolong Island so he can build a new Plutonium Man for Intergang against his will. He's even less happy when they take his medication for his Manic/Depressive Bi-Polar disorder with delusional episodes (since going off his meds last time was what caused him to create the first Plutonium Man) but he ultimately outsmarts them and brings down their whole scheme.
  • In Athena Voltaire and the Immortal Power, Werner Lang is a German researcher, but would no longer be working with the Nazis if he had any say in the matter. However, the Nazis want his research, and Athena is sent to rescue him.
  • Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol 1 57 contains an interesting play on this trope- The eponymous scientist in this case (Marla Madison) actually agrees to help once Will o’ the Wisp’s situation is explained, forcing Spider-Man to instead focus on fighting off Raxon Oil’s guards.

    Fan Works 
  • A Fandom-Specific Plot for Phineas and Ferb involves at least one of the titular duo being kidnapped and forced to use their talents for evil. This usually necessitates a rescue by Perry.
  • Fantasy variation in The Parselmouth of Gryffindor, where the Alizor King wants to keep Hermione and her friends prisoner so they'll teach him magic.

    Film — Animated 
  • In The Great Mouse Detective Ratigan rather unusually kidnapped a toymaker, in order to build a life-size automaton double of the queen.
  • In Stitch! The Movie, Jumba is kidnapped by his old partner Dr. Hamsterviel as ransom for his 625 experiments. Closer to the spirit of the basic trope, in Leroy & Stitch, Jumba is kidnapped again, this time in order to create a new genetic Super Soldier ("Leroy") for Hamsterviel to make an army of clones of.
  • April and the Extraordinary World: One of the reasons why scientific progress has been retarded is renowned scientists such as Einstein and Fermi mysteriously disappear just as they are becoming famous. The scientists are being held prisoner by the Big Bads to work on their secret project.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Lord John Whorfin demands that Buckaroo surrender to him or Penny Priddy will be killed. After Buckaroo does so, he's tortured to make him tell how to complete the missing circuit in Whorfin's oscillation overthruster.
  • Professor Fenton is kidnapped by that Hun swine Otto von Bruno for nefarious purposes in Bullshot.
  • The opening scene of The Dark Knight Rises shows Bane kidnapping Dr Leonid Pavel, a Russian nuclear physicist, from a CIA transport plane. He later forces the doctor to convert a prototype fusion reactor into a neutron bomb.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Fantom captures German scientists and their families. He forces the scientists to build advanced technology (like tanks and assault rifles) and reverse engineer the secrets of the League's members by threatening their families if they don't cooperate.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Iron Man: Tony Stark and Dr. Yinsen are abducted and told to build the Jericho missile by the Ten Rings or be executed. They Take a Third Option.
    • The Avengers, Astrophysicist Dr. Erik Selvig is kidnapped and brainwashed by Loki to help build a portal device powered by the Tesseract
  • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: "Cobalt" takes a Russian nuclear scientist's family hostage to force him to work for Cobalt.
  • No Time to Die has Dr. Valdo Obruchev—a Russian scientist who defected to MI6—being snatched by a SPECTRE commando team because Blofeld wants to get his hands on the weapon he's making. In a subversion, Obruchev is actually working for the real Big Bad of the movie, and plays along because it's convenient for their plans.
  • The Pink Panther Strikes Again has the now-evil and insane Dreyfus capturing a scientist (and his Beautiful Daughter) to build a disintegration ray.
  • The capture of Jorn in Robot Holocaust, which sets off the plot.
  • Rogue One: Galen Erso is forcibly recruited by the Empire to design the Death Star. Initially, he refused to cooperate (they killed his wife and attempted to kidnap his daughter to force his compliance) but after realizing they would still eventually complete the project without him, he changed his mind. Pretending to be a broken man, he secretly used his position to sabotage the Death Star by sneaking in a critical flaw that could be exploited to destroy the station.
  • In The Super Inframan, Princess Dragon-Mom kidnaps the scientist in the film who created Inframan. This leads to an unintentionally hilarious scene of the scientist on a boat, being taken to Princess Dragon-Mom's hideout, surrounded by the film's hilariously silly-looking monsters.
  • The film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze has Shredder and the Foot Clan kidnapping a scientist that was involved in the development of the Ooze responsible for transforming the Turtles into their present state so he could force said scientist to create an army of mutants. The scientist reluctantly obliges, but uses infant animals and contaminates the ooze so that they retain a child-like intelligence resulting in Tokka and Rahzar. After being rescued by the Turtles, the scientist works with them to formulate an anti-mutagen based on the contamination so that the two mutants can be turned back to normal.
  • Top Secret! does this to Professor Flammond.
  • In Wild Wild West, Dr. Loveless captures America's top scientists in the fields of physics, hydraulics, and explosives and forces them to build a 80 foot tall mechanical spider that can belch out fireballs.

  • In Piers Anthony's Prostho Plus, a group of space aliens with poor hygiene kidnapped a dentist.
  • In the Snarkout Boys books, Uncle Flipping is a mad scientist who in every book is kidnapped by the bad guys so that his inventions can be used to further their evil schemes.
  • A twist in The Tightrope Men by Desmond Bagley, which takes place from the point-of-view of a man brainwashed and altered by plastic surgery into taking the place of the kidnap victim. In a Dramatic Irony his ordeal is All for Nothing as the scientist is drowned when the speedboat used to kidnap him strikes another vessel in the dark and sinks. The doppelganger then has to continue playing the role to find out who was behind the kidnapping.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alias: Omnidisciplinary tech guy/Gadgeteer Genius Marshall is kidnapped for information twice. The first time he says he can recreate the computer code they're looking for, and uses his coding skills to send a message to SD-6. He's kidnapped again for similar reasons in the Grand Finale.
  • On The Americans, the Soviets kidnap dissident and physicist Anton Baklanov so he can help create a stealth airplane for them.
  • In one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike kidnaps Willow and Xander to force then-novice witch Willow to cast a love spell on Drusilla.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Time Warrior": A Sontaran kidnaps scientists from his future to make them repair his spaceship.
    • "The Ghost Monument": The Doctor finds a message in an Abandoned Laboratory from the scientists who used to work there, who were kidnapped, and their families held hostage, and forced to build horrific weapons for their captors.
    • "Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror": Nikola Tesla gets targeted for abduction by the alien Skithra because as Insufficiently Advanced scavengers, they refuse to develop the skills to repair their stolen technology and, stuck at the early 20th century, judge Tesla the best mind on Earth to be able to repair their ship and weaponry.
  • In the 70s and 80s Kamen Rider series, a highly common plot of the week was a scientist being forced to build some doomsday device or plague or whatever, either by kidnapping the scientist (and it's his kid who runs into the Rider by dumb luck) or the scientist's loved ones (then it's the scientist who runs into the Rider by dumb luck.) Note to scientists: if you ever get kidnapped by any Nebulous Evil Organization run by the disembodied voice of Gorō Naya (and there's a lot of 'em!) do not expect them to actually keep their deal.

  • Possibly the Ur-Example is the genius inventor Daedalus from Classical Mythology who was kept prisoner by King Minos both for his further work and to keep the secrets of his former work, i.e. the Labyrinth.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Villains & Vigilantes. Characters are only allowed to have a certain number of insightful ideas (Invention Points). Villains therefore kidnap scientists and other experts and force them to use their Invention Points to create new technology for the villains' use.
  • Champions supplement The Blood and Dr. McQuark. The brilliant scientist Dr. McQuark was kidnapped by the villain group VIPER and forced to create new technology for them. He pretended to go along with them while hoping for rescue. Just when VIPER's patience ran out, Dr. McQuark was rescued by the superhero Radion.
  • GURPS Supers supplement Supertemps. When Harold Wilkesom created a prototype of a weapon that could silently throw metal playing cards, he was kidnapped by the villain group TRADE and forced to continue his research on it. When he learned he would be killed when it was complete, he used the prototype to escape.
  • Sometimes, in Shadowrun, an extraction job is helping a scientist who wants to change to a new company. And sometimes, it's this trope - kidnapping somebody from their current employer because somebody else wants their knowledge and/or skills.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout 2: Downplayed by Vic the repairman, who is first found being held captive by slavers using him to construct a radio, except that it wasn't so much that he did the job unwillingly as that he'd been paid for it it, failed to get it right the first time and was held prisoner until he could finish it properly.
  • In Evil Genius the player can kidnap specialists including scientists and interrogate them to unlock new minion types.
  • Happens all the time in Metal Gear, including (but not limited to):
  • Used partially in Mega Man 4. While he is not the victim of the kidnapping himself, but rather his daughter, Dr. Mikhail Cossack is blackmailed by Dr. Wily to build him an army of robots to defeat Mega Man and take over the world.
    • Played straight in the next game with Dr. Light.
    • The fifth Mega Man Battle Network game used this as well, with Dr. Yuuichiro Hikari kidnapped by the Nebula syndicate for the duration of the game.
  • Happens within the first 20 minutes of Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness. Professor Krane is kidnapped by a couple of Cipher Peons to forcibly help with their Shadow Pokémon research.
  • In the Twinbee series, more often than not the plot is set in motion with Dr. Cinnamon being kidnapped.
  • The Trash-Men in InFAMOUS kidnap engineers to help them interfere with the power supply and construct their giant tower of junk.
    • And in inFAMOUS 2, Dr Wolfe, the inventor the the Ray Sphere is kidnapped and forced to work for Bertrand.
  • Occurs semi-regularly in Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series, most notable examples being Dr. Ignatio Moebius and Dr. Alphonse Giraud. Thing is, Nod scientists are treated very well and have practically limitless resources, so it is not uncommon for kidnapped scientists to pull a Face–Heel Turn, which is implied to have happened with Dr. Giraud.
  • A coercion version occurs in BlazBlue. Litchi Faye-Ling, a talented scientist who used to work for the even more genius Kokonoe, has a certain breakthrough research. The bad guys, Hazama, wanted that, so they coerce her to joining 'on her own will' by dangling the cure for her actual target, her friend-turned-monster Lotte Carmine/Arakune, someone she felt that it was her duty (out of grief and guilt) to save. It's clear that she disliked the prospect of working with the bad guys with aims for world destruction, but she ended up having to do it, unless she wants danger to happen to Lotte if she just leaves him be without her supervision (they also had him in custody).
  • Arcanum:
    • There's an in-universe short story about some poachers who tried to hunt the mythical Stillwater Giant. They had planned to kidnap a gunsmith to maintain their weapons, but settle on the story's narrator, a chemist, instead.
    • Late in the game, this is revealed to be a key component of the Big Bad's evil plan: he enslaved the Black Mountain clan shortly after their banishment, and has forced them to construct a technological portal which will rip a hole in the Sealed Evil in a Can he's trapped inside.
  • Captain Skyhawk: Every fourth mission has you rescuing an apparently kidnapped scientist from an enemy battle station.
  • The Big Bad of Professor Layton and the Unwound Future has a team of these working to fulfill his goals. In a twist, it's never made entirely clear if the scientists are actually aware that they have been kidnapped.
  • Raven Beak kidnaps Quiet Robe in Metroid Dread after the former kills the latter's tribe. He needs Quiet Robe alive long enough to learn how to control the Metroids.
  • The climax of Another Code R is Ashley attempting to save her father from Ryan, who kidnapped him to strong-arm her into getting full access to Another's abilities.

    Visual Novels 
  • The heroine of Starship Promise is held prisoner by a couple different antagonists who force her to work for them. On at least one occasion, she builds a secret failsafe into the device she's forced to work on.
  • In Virtue's Last Reward's backstory, Alice's father was kidnapped along with several other scientists and forced to research human cloning for the Free the Soul cult.

  • Charles in Antihero for Hire.
    "Think: Your power suits keep them alive and give them the edge. Back them up with bipedal weapons platforms and actually expendable robot troops. And of course... something to transport them to battle... What do you think? You in? (Note, this is a rhetorical question as I'm forcing you in under pain of murder. Sorry for any confusion)"
  • In the crossover comic between Flare and Spying with Lana, the two heroines work together to rescue a Belorussian scientist from the Corrupt Corporate Executive J. Reginald Butte.

    Web Original 
  • In Twig, Sylvester and Mary are forced to work without Lillian, their Academy supervisor in the prison-town of Warrick. Faced with a frustrating lack of access to bioscientific solutions, they perform a home invasion on three local scientist/guards and force them to help manufacture poison gas and enhancement drugs at knifepoint.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, the Mad Scientist Professor Nimnul was kidnapped by a mob boss so he could use Nimnul's shrinking ray to go on a crime spree. Ironic in that Nimnul was already evil, but he still hated not being given credit for the crime spree.
  • Terran Prof. Algernon from Exo Squad was captured by the Neosapiens early in the war and constructed a number of fantastic weapons for them (most notably, the GRAF Shield) until his recapture by the Exofleet. Being somewhat of a Mad Scientist, however, he is rather indifferent towards his employees and cares more about lab equipment than about who uses his inventions and to what ends.
  • Actually used by the good guys once in Gargoyles, when Goliath kidnaps Sevarius to find a cure for the mutants he'd created. Elisa calls him out on it and in the end Xanatos rescues Sevarius anyway. It's never made clear whether the serum Sevarius made was truly a cure or would have been a poison.
  • All the time in Inspector Gadget. It seemed like half of M.A.D.'s plans involved kidnapping scientists, although they just about never showed the unwilling ones actually working.
  • Subverted in Invader Zim where there is an entire race of kidnapped scientists... whose inventions always seem to go horribly wrong for some inexplicable reason.
  • Kim Possible: Played with in Duff Killigan's first (and only, as a solo villain) episode. Killigan kidnaps a scientist who had developed a top-secret missile-defense system... a technology that is now obsolete and readily available on the Internet. The golf-obsessed villain was actually after the now-retired scientist's quick-grass-growing formula.
  • The Simpsons: When Mr. Burns tries to capture the Loch Ness Monster, he kidnaps Professor Frink for help.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Plankton, tired of going to the trouble of stealing the Krabby Patty formula, once "kidnapped" SpongeBob (albeit in a completely legal way, since he tricked Mr. Krabs into betting SpongeBob's contract in a card game) to work at the Chum Bucket and make him one.
  • Star Wars Rebels: "In the Name of the Rebellion, Part II" has Ezra, Sabine and Chopper rescue a group of technicians who were kidnapped by the Empire during a mission with Saw Gerrera. The technicians decide to join the Rebellion at the end, and it is heavily implied that they were kidnapped to work on the Death Star.
  • Serling Roquette from Young Justice was kidnapped in order to produce a nano-robotic "fog" capable of stealing information and destroying the computers that held it. She's freed within the episode and later is instrumental in producing Cure-Tech.

    Real Life