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Lost in Transmission

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"How are we going to get to the Moon if we can't talk between two or three buildings?"
Gus Grissom, during the fateful Apollo 1 test

This trope is about that scene where someone is receiving or has found some important piece of information only to have connection lost

—connection reestablished— then the battery gets plugged into —connection lost—

—connection reestablished— except the coconut gets in the way —connection lost—

—connection reestablished— and then the goat —connection lost—

—connection reestablished— then I said "But you're the second one!!" Gosh, everyone was so —connection lost—

—connection reestablished— but undoubtedly, the most important part is when connection lost

—unable to reestablish communication; connection terminated—

There are a couple of variations on this trope:

  1. Some list of important information is being conveyed. Whether because of technical reasons (network failure, radio static, the tape breaks, the computer has experienced a psychotic break from reality, etc) or unintentional stupidity, some of the information is lost. Inevitably it is going to be the most important piece of information. It's the one single piece required to complete the task you are being given or prevent you from being killed while performing the task. The last clear part of the message will invariably be something like "Under no circumstances should you ever..." or "It's vitally important that you..."
  2. A variation where the audience is left in the dark, but in-universe everyone is clued in. The Planet Terror example below is this type. (Similar to Relax-o-Vision, but where that is obviously intentional, this is made to look purely accidental.)
  3. You have some kind of communication or tome of information, part of which is missing or has been either intentionally or unintentionally redacted, leaving something much more mysterious, suggestive and/or humorous than the original could possibly have been. What you're left with is an accidental list of Noodle Implements with no instructions. Or a non-sequitur without the information that would have naturally linked Point A to Point Z and you are left wondering just exactly how the heck Point A and Point Z could possibly be connected.

There is no reason not to mix these variations in the same instance, as with the article intro.

The keys to identifying this trope and distinguishing it from others are:

  1. You aren't simply missing necessary information to be discovered as with a puzzle or in the context of a mystery.
  2. It's not a case of misunderstanding what was said or a translation error.
  3. The most important is that the recipient knows there is another piece and there is no way for them to get it; communication has effectively become a one-way street and they are getting all they are going to get without the chance to ask "Can you please repeat yourself?"
  4. It's nearly always used for the funny.

Be sure your example meets the above qualifications before adding it. If it's a misunderstanding or if the recipient doesn't realize they don't have the full message, it's not this.

In a best-case scenario, you are left going "Huh?" in a worst-case scenario you are left holding a pair of wire snips and a dead cellphone saying, "Hello? It's still ticking. You just said 'Never ever do...' Never ever do what? Are you still there? It's started to make beep-beep noises now. Hello?"

Can be caused by Sound-Effect Bleep if there is No Fourth Wall.

If people involved in a Noodle Incident reminisce, you can wind up with a Type 2 for outsiders listening in.

Compare Orphaned Punchline and Noodle Implements. His Name Is... and Conveniently Interrupted Document are subtropes. Contrast: Lost in Translation (where the information is all there, just interpreted wrongly) and Fake Static (where the recipient pretends he didn't receive instructions he doesn't want to follow). See also Distress Call, Electronic Speech Impediment, Translation: "Yes", and Corrupted Data.

Oh, and when using this trope, never, everMySQL error A113– dbconn() – network connection lost. Please try again later.


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  • Future Shop had an advertisement that would start with an employee answering questions, which in this case, was answering how to restore files on a hard drive after a crash, but it would get interrupted by an announcement of a sale at the store.
    "Dear Future Shop, my hard drive just crashed with all my files on it. How do I get it back?" Don't worry, all you need to do is...
    [cuts to announcement of a recent sale at the store]
    Be sure to follow those 4 crucial steps and you'll get your files back.
  • A T-Mobile commercial that debuted in August 2021 during the Little League World Series had New York Yankees teammates Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge face-chatting with the former at a restaurant and the latter on the field at Yankee Stadium. Stanton asks Judge for tips about how he approaches his major league at-bats, to which Judge replies that at night he imagines himself back in little league and being able to crush those pitches. However, the spotty reception due to the network not being T-Mobile's means the advice Stanton heard was going to actual little league games and facing 12-year-old pitchers. Cut to him actually doing that and crushing homers easily, with the general sense that this whole thing is silly.
  • In a mid-2021 TV advertisement for T-Mobile, two friends are on a video call. One of them expresses nervousness about this upcoming dinner and says she doesn't know what to wear. Her friend tells her, "Just wear something not too crazy. Remember: it's a business dinner, not a costume party." The spotty network causes the sound and video to skip, becoming, "Just wear something crazy. Remember: it's a costume party." So her friend winds up wearing a late-medieval/Renaissance getup to a dinner where everyone else has dark coats and white shirts.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Doraemon: Nobita and the Animal Planet has the attempts of Chippo, the gang's new canine friend from the Animal Planet, to summon for help when the Nimuge alien invades using the transceiver from Doraemon's Expedition Gadget given to him earlier in the adventure. Unfortunately, the signal gets silenced by another attack, leading to Doraemon, Nobita, and the gang to return to the Animal Planet.
  • In the second season of Star Blazers (Space Battleship Yamato), Trelaina's message to Earth is almost completely lost in a radio-jam by the Comet Empire, to the point that it is mostly "ip ip eh" noises mixed in with several word-halves, and yet Wildstar still senses it is important.
  • In Digimon Adventure, when Tai returns to Earth and is separated from the rest of the group, he gets a staticky message from Izzy telling him he's better off not returning. What can be heard makes it sound like everyone's in danger, but the astute viewer will note that Izzy's voice is unusually subdued. Several episodes later, we hear the other end of it: He wasn't exactly himself at the time, and he was trying to convince Tai of the meaninglessness of action in general.
  • When Miyoshi congratulated Hasebe for his sister's upcoming marriage in Episode 9 of Servant × Service, she was interrupted by some loud noises just as she was saying Kaoru's name, causing Hasebe to misunderstand that his crush Lucy was the one getting married and throwing him into a Heroic BSoD. Thankfully for him, he managed to clear that up by the end of the episode.

    Audio Plays 
  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who Companion Chronicles audio drama "Tales from the Vaut", a century old phonograph record in the UNIT vault contains a warning from the Doctor's companion Steven Taylor. Unfortunately, it deteriorates before it can explain exactly what it's a warning about.

  • Used by Rowan Atkinson in a comedy routine:
    Atkinson: I am Zoltan from the Planet Bonk. I come to you to warn you of the means you must take to avoid the destruction of your civilisation. Schlaketizzyonnymazzim. Pardon me, my translator module seems to be malfuncfuncfunckukdfowegyfgsdyioyuefh ... Duracell ...fhrhfjkdgvfhfiouhwdcklsdjfhsdlfsdf... ack to the shop. I have very little time. Here are the three warnings you must heed to avoid the destruction of your civilisation. Sackittomeg. fhweruifhkwwyerguiphiwe, fhwuiefrhuiowe. Secondly, Doctor David Owendfweuqif, rhuioghfa, sfgyfasdfgasdklh2djiolarge bucket of manure. And thirdly, beware the one who calls himself Princess Diana. Farewell, and may your lives be weruif3rhfuibklvqbnefipuqrefhwjklasdjklsdjklucking hell!
  • Bob Newhart applies it in one of his routines, where he imagines a small-town cop talking one of his deputies through defusing a bomb using the instruction manual:
    Newhart: It says here 'Under no conditions...' oh, someone spilled coffee all over this thing...

    Comic Books 
  • In Issue #1 of Godzilla: Rulers of Earth, Steven Woods is asking what the name of the kaiju they're dealing with is. The response through his static-y radio is "<skrt>zilla, sir. Sighting <skrt>zilla!" So Woods assumes they're calling it "Zilla." A few seconds later, both he and the newly christened Zilla find out that the person on the other end was trying to warn him that Godzilla was approaching…
  • The end of the first issue of The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye has a transmission arrive claiming to be "from the future", pockmarked with static. The list of cryptic instructions that they not open the coffin or go to Delphi gets through mostly intact, but the final instruction just trails off into pure noise after "For the sake of the Cybertronian race itself, please don't-" In season 2, we get to see some of our heroes actually send the full broadcast while time travelling for other reasons, and Cyclonus yells at them because nearly everything they said to avoid had a net positive outcome.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Bloom County, Opus wakes up from a nap and turns on the TV only to learn that he's just missed a report on three things that have been determined to cause sudden, fatal nose warts in penguins. Opus screams at the TV, begging for the news anchor to go back and repeat the story, but the news anchor cheerfully signs off. Then as Opus stands there, staring at us aghast, the anchor adds, "Shouldn't have been napping."
  • In this Dilbert strip, the Pointy-Haired Boss calls Dilbert and says "Go through my desk and look up the billing codes". Due to poor cell phone reception in the Boss's area, what Dilbert hears is "Go throw my desk off the building." Due to the fact that nobody likes the boss, Dilbert and Alice do just that the next strip.
  • FoxTrot: Deliberately invoked by Peter in one strip. He phones his mother and asks "Would it be alright if I...saved for college?" with a suspiciously long pause in the middle. After his mother agrees, he is shown with a Playstation and explaining to his friend Steve that he'll claim he actually asked "Would it be alright if I buy a Playstation with the money I saved for college?" but the signal on his crappy phone dropped out partway through. That way, his mother will also buy him a new cellphone.

    Fan Works 
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) fanfiction Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): One of the soldiers sent into the zombie-infested, derelict Elaborate Underground Base where Alan Jonah was keeping Ghidorah's severed head is sent to scout out a service tunnel, keeping in touch with the rest of the team via comms, until he gets winded and loses track of his surroundings, implicitly via the Brown Note that Ghidorah is exuding. Then this happens:
    Çavusgolu: Golf? We just lost your video feed. What's going on?
    B3-Golf: (Takes slow breaths.) I, uh... just got a little winded there. My ears are ringing. (Sniffs the air.) Smells like... rain?
    Çavusgolu: Fall back to the m— [Communications disconnect.]
    B3-Golf: Hello? Command? (Muffled patting.) Shit. Fall back to... (Pause. Looks around.) the fuck'd I get here...?
  • In Calvin and Hobbes II: Lost at Sea, Rupert and Earl's crew attempt to record a conversation with a cassette player, but this starts happening when its batteries start running out.
  • In Mass Effect: End of Days, during the first contact with Citadel races, the first thing the Alliance does upon emerging from the Relay is isolate the present Council ships just in case. All the Council receives is a barely discernible image of a 5 km ship outside the windows.

    Films — Animation 
  • BoBoiBoy Movie 2: In an emergency transmission when the TAPOPS station is under attack, Koko Ci sends the heroes a coordinate and says to follow its attached instructions. The data for the latter gets corrupted after a crash-landing at the desired planet, so all they know to do is search for Hang Kasa. Only when they see the full uncorrupted message later do they realise that they were never meant to train under Hang Kasa, just get information on how to defeat him, as they were once friends.
    Koko Ci: BoBoiBoy! Get away from here and head to Planet Quabaq! This is Hang Kasa. Find him, and find out how to defeat Retak'ka. According to old intel, Hang Kasa was an old friend of Retak'ka's.
  • The Loud House Movie: As the Louds arrive in Scotland, Lori tries to do have video chat with Bobby over their smartphones. However, the area's poor wifi disrupts the connection, and Bobby ends up thinking that Lori was breaking up with him.
    Lori: Oh, I was just saying how much I love Scotland.
    Bobby: Ba-a-a-be!
    Lori: Wait, you're breaking up! I can't hear you!
    (cut to Bobby's end)
    Bobby: Babe, I can't hear you!
    Lori: I love Scot... Bre-e-e-e-eaking up... you!
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, as Gallaxhar is telling his life story and being cloned (when he's downed into the cloning machine, we can't hear him) at the same time.
  • Recess: School's Out, of all places, has this occur: After TJ escaped from his makeshift cell with Prickly and into Benedict's office (formerly Prickly's office), TJ manages to report that he located Prickly and that he discovered Benedict's plan from a mural, which was to get rid of Summer Vacation. TJ then tries to supply his friends with a plan... but was unable to even start talking because at that moment, the ugly bald guy grabbed the walkie talkie, and likewise caused the communication to go dead.
  • Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf: A humorous variant with Dracula's "Bat Laser" holographic transmitter. His words get through just fine, but the hologram failed to include his pants in the image, leaving him standing there in his boxer shorts.
  • Toy Story: Used to dramatically delay the reveal of Andy's newest, coolest toy, both from the other characters and the audience. Sarge tries to radio back to the other toys, but a bit of static makes it impossible to understand what he's saying. Rex gets so anxious that he shakes the table—which makes the radio fall so its batteries come out. The toys take so long to get the batteries back in, they only get the radio working in time to hear Sarge's warning that Andy is coming back up to the bedroom.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blazing Saddles. As Bart approaches Rock Ridge, Gabby Johnson's shouts are obscured by the tolling of a bell, and are misheard by Sam Johnson as "The sheriff is near". It doesn't help that Gabby's normal speech is peppered with "authentic frontier gibberish".
  • Crimson Tide: The main conflict revolves around the differing opinions of the captain and the executive officer after they receive an interrupted emergency message that begins "Nuclear missile laun...". Having previously been ordered to launch their nuclear weapons, the captain feels they must launch immediately while the executive officer wants confirmation first. There's a Race Against the Clock on both sides to prevent what they both see as an unthinkable outcome.
  • In Disney's RocketMan, Randall explains what the Martian dust storm they're experiencing is like to NASA. As the video jumps, Julie looks more and more concerned at what he's saying, implying that even with the full transmission it wouldn't have made much sense.
    Randall: It reminds me of a French Canadian - tennis racket stuck to the back of - only snow goose - bubbling out of my sister's - Brazilian donkey! I don't think I can make myself any clearer!
  • In Event Horizon, the distress signal sent by the eponymous starship contains the Latin phrase liberate me ("save me"). It was later realized that the message was actually libera te tutemet ex inferis ("save yourself from Hell").
  • In the form of Plot-Based Voice Cancellation, Kill Bill volume 1 delays the audience finding out The Bride's real name, Beatrix Kiddo. Slightly funny and disturbing when you realize Bill had been calling her Kiddo all along, which until the reveal seemed like a term of endearment.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail. 'Here may be found the last words of Joseph of Arimathea. He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the Holy Grail in the Castle of aaarrrrggh'.
    Maynard: He must have died while carving it.
    King Arthur: Look, if he was dying he wouldn't bother to carve "aaargh", he'd just say it.
    Galahad: Perhaps he was dictating.
    King Arthur: Oh shut up!
  • This exchange from Ocean's Eleven, where Rusty is instructing Linus:
    Rusty: ...Don't use three words when one will do, don't shift your eyes, look always at your mark, but don't stare; be specific, but not memorable; be funny, but don't make him laugh. He's got to like you, and then forget you the moment you've left his sight. And for God's sake, whatever you do, don't, under any circumstances —
    Livingston: [off screen] Rust, can you come here a sec?
    Rusty: Sure thing. [leaves]
    Linus: ...
  • In Planet Terror, we get a "Missing Reel" screen. During the missing reel, it's implied, we'd have gotten to see Rose McGowan totally naked, plus the entire plot surrounding Ray's mysterious origins would have been explained. Hilariously, when the film comes back, everything is on fire, and we'll never know why.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark has this trope with an unusual form of "transmission." There's a gold talisman that has instructions to find a temple. The antagonist tries to steal it from our main characters, but grabbed the talisman while it was so hot that it burned his skin. The result was that he had a copy of the talisman, and its readable instructions, seared into his palm. It looks like the bad guys will find the temple first, searching where the man's scarred skin says to search. However, the main characters then learn that the talisman actually has instructions on both sides; the bad guys' gruesome "copy" only has one side.
    Indy and Salah: They're digging in the wrong place!
  • Played straight in Screamers.
    There's a new kind of screamer. Do not let it into the perimeter, over.
    I missed that last part, over... (static)
  • Subverted in The Spanish Prisoner, where several points of fact, detail, or exposition are obscured by environmental noise or bad camera angles as a deliberate signal to the audience of the movie that they are Macguffins.
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. One of the villains' allies decides to tell Kirk and McCoy the master plan "since they're going to die anyway", but they are beamed to safety by Spock before they get to hear a word of it.
    Kirk: Dammit dammit dammit to hell! Of all the— son of a— Couldn't you have waited two seconds? They were just about to tell us the whole thing!
    Chekov: You vant to go beck?
    McCoy: Absolutely not!
    Kirk: [whispering] It's cold.
  • Superhero Movie plays with this trope when Rick Riker receives a message from Professor X and it keeps buffering so the important info is lost and it sounds like something else.
  • In Triangle, Sally's Distress Call received by Greg on the Triangle cuts off before any vital information could be exchanged.

  • In The Belgariad's second part, a crucial piece of prophecy is garbled under an ink blot. Garion figures out something is there because the previous and subsequent sentences can't possibly go together. The important pieces of the prophecy are written on top of one another, and sealed with magic such that only exposing it to the light of the Orb of Aldur will allow them to be read. Garion works this out when he realizes he keeps getting irrationally angry and looking away if he studies the blot for too long.
  • The message from the future which the four heroes of Dinoverse receive while in the Cretaceous period starts with the one saying the message claiming he doesn't know how much time he has to tell it, and cuts off as he's about to tell them what they most importantly should not do.
  • In Discworld, Nanny Ogg's Cookbook is censored at regular intervals for being deemed obscene by the editors. Her chapter on "of manners and convenances in bed" is almost completely covered by the editors' memos, and only weird, out-of-context fragments are readable for added Noodle Implement.
  • The Ebenezum trilogy: The oracle is a team of three women, each of whom gives one part of the prophecy. One of them sick and is unable to announce her part. However they order the three, the missing woman's part of the prophecy is the important one.
  • Galaxy of Fear: The Hunger has a record of a Lost Colony. A woman on her deathbed, previously noting that she wasn't going to log much anymore since the datapad was running low on power, starts to explain what they had had to do to feed the children when its battery dies. Years later the heroes bring new batteries and get to view the entries, but the last one still cuts out.
  • Older example: Douglas Hofstadter's book Gödel, Escher, Bach comments on the sentence "This sentence no verb." His later Scientific American columns on self-referential sentences take the idea further, and includes the contribution from David Stork that "It goes without saying that..."
  • Halfway through Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry observes Professor Slughorn's memory of talking to a young Lord Voldemort in a pensieve. At certain points the image suddenly turns grey, and we hear Slughorn saying things that he didn't say — he modified the memory to cover up telling Voldemort about Horcruxes. Ironically, once the true memory is revealed, it turns out Slughorn mostly confirmed what Voldemort had already learned. What Voldemort wanted to know was if it was possible to create multiple dark objects to keep himself alive by killing seven people.
  • In the novel Heir Apparent, the main character lampshades this trope. She gets stuck in a virtual reality game with no chance of getting out unless she wins, and the arcade owners send in a video recording of a worker there to give her advice on winning. He informs her of the situation, but is whisked away before he can complete the sentence "And whatever you do, don't...." The main character dryly notes "But naturally, I couldn't make that part out."
  • Brazilian novel O Homem Que Matou Getúlio Vargas (released in English as Twelve Fingers) has a Truth in Television technique of lowering the water level of the prison's toilets so when someone speaks into one toilet, it can be heard in the others. An inmate is listing the ones that we will be sent to a prison ship. He only says the protagonist's name before someone flushes and people are unable to hear the rest.
  • House of Leaves makes use of this occasionally. For example, two of Will Navidson's dreams are recounted, and the third dream is said to be very unsettling and key to understanding his actions. Naturally, Johnny misplaced those pages.
    • There's also the chapter where Navidson sends samples from the house to be scientifically analyzed, which seems like it would have answered a lot...except Johnny accidentally most of those pages.
  • German Writer Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), in his "Ideen", had a whole (single page) chapter where all text is blacked out, as by an official censor. The only text left are the three starting words "Die deutschen Zensoren" (the German censors) and somewhere halfway the word "Dummköpfe" (blockheads, idiots).
  • Towards the beginning of John Dies at the End, when John is giving David instructions through a psychic connection channeled through a bratwurst phone:
    "It's wearing off. Don't talk, just listen. Go inside and —" static "— and as long as you absolutely remember not to do that, you'll be fine. Good luck."
  • Without warning a U.S. guided missile destroyer receives orders to carry out a nuclear strike on the Soviet city of Orel and its nearby ICBM silos in The Last Ship. After the captain radios his report that the launch was carried out, a reply from the Navy is hopelessly garbled halfway through the message, leaving the ship without orders and without any idea what's happening. (It's the last ship because, as they soon learn, a nuclear war has left most of Earth uninhabitable.)
  • The entire plot of Ellen Raskin's The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) revolves around this trope. "Noel glub C blub all... I glub new...." Said by a drowning man (who survives but then vanishes), and the main characters spend the rest of the book trying to figure out what it means.
  • The Book of Mazarbul in The Lord of the Rings is read out with all the missing bits included as ellipses. Tolkien also inscribed the relevant pages to show the missing burned parts.
    "we have barred the gates but doubt if [...] can hold them long. If there is [...] no escape it will be a horrible fate to suffer [...] We cannot get out. We cannot get out... fell there bravely while the rest retr [...] Mazarbul. We still ho[...]g ... but hope u[...]n[...]Óin's party went five days ago but today only four returned.
  • In The Rising of the Shield Hero several shrines on the Spirit Turtle contained warnings and explanations from past Heroes. Key phrases and words had been lost over time, destroying the most critical information. Naofumi later suspects this to have been done by the entity behind the waves to deny future generations vital knowledge.
  • In the Star Wars Legends book The Jedi Path, the prophecy of The Chosen One is conspicuously redacted. Luke suspects that Palpatine is responsible.
  • In the Warrior Cats book Rising Storm, Whitethroat is injured, and Fireheart questions him about Runningwind's death. But just when Whitethroat opens his mouth and begins to speak, a monster roars past so Fireheart can't hear him, and when Whitethroat tries to speak a second time, he dies.
  • In The Westing Game, this trope occurs when Sam Westing's will is revealed. One character makes a stupid joke during the reading, and none of the heirs realizes that they've missed a crucial clue as a result until much later. Turns out the trope was deliberately invoked, as the joker has a hidden agenda and distracted everyone on purpose.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: Eleven's instructions to Rory in "The Big Bang". The last word turns out to be "trouble".
    The Doctor:'re not indestructible, so for God's sake, not matter how bored you get, stay out of [teleports away]
  • In Due South Season 2 Episode 1, Ray and Fraser are on their way to Canada when Fraser deduces that their "pilot" is actually an escaped prisoner. When Ray admits that he brought his gun on board and suggests they take over, Fraser adds a caveat:
    "On the other hand, there might be a struggle. He might refuse to cooperate, in which case we have to fly the plane ourselves. Now, this might be possible with some assistance from Air Traffic Control. And I did read a flight training manual in my grandmother's library. There were a couple of pages missing, but I'm sure nothing vital."
  • Played for laughs in the Hancock's Half Hour TV episode "The Radio Ham". Our hero is a ham radio operator who receives a Mayday call from a sinking yacht, but is unable to write down its position because events - a power failure, an angry neighbour and a blown circuit - keep preventing him. Eventually the yacht is saved by one of Hancock's regular correspondents, much to his disgust, and he gives up the hobby.
  • Lampshaded in Knightmare:
    Hordriss: It looks just like— [he vanishes]
    Pickle: Oh, would you believe it? Why does that always happen when you get to the best bit?
  • The Australian The Late Show (1992), Tony Martin and Mick Molloy were discussing Thai porno movies, and the station kept having "transmission problems" just as they got to the "interesting" parts.
  • This occurs frequently on Lost. The Swan Orientation film alone had multiple instances: some information lost due to film problems, some due to Radzinsky snipping it out. In season 5, a time flash occurs just as Daniel is trying to get Desmond to help him: "You have to find my mother. Her name is —." Most times the subsequent episodes complete the info.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus:
    • Episode 30 has a Running Gag where periodically the skit would cut to a bizarre set of instructions being read that included the phrase "and paste down the edge of the sailor's uniform, until the word 'Maudling' is almost totally obscured." Near the end of the show, the scene cuts to BBC Newsman Richard Baker at a newsdesk talking and making increasingly strange hand gestures, however there is a voice over preventing us from hearing what he is saying. Finally the voice over ends and the normal audio concludes with Richard saying "... until the word 'Maudling' is almost totally obscured." Bonus points for never knowing what the instructions are supposed to be for to begin with.
    • Another Python gag that uses this trope comes from the How to Irritate People special.
      John Cleese: For example, have you ever heard about the two blondes who went to a nudist colony... [the audio cuts out for a few seconds, then] well, I didn't know he played the violin.
    • Also: "In the event of an emergency, it is vitally important that you *static..........................* AS THE WARNING BUZZER SOUNDS!
  • In Not the Nine O'Clock News, Rowan Atkinson plays Zak The Alien who breaks into a BBC transmission to warn the earth about impending doom. He gets as far as "Beware the one who calls himself Terry Wogan. He is a Zuon from the planet Tharg and cannot be trusted..." before his universal translator breaks down. It keeps breaking down.
    gibberish - bloody Duracell!
  • Primeval: Narrowly subverted in Season 3, Episode 5. Sarah urgently calls Jenny's cellphone to warn her that burning the fungus creature to try and contain the fungus will backfire catastrophically, but since Jenny and the team are hunting the creature underground, interference stops Jenny from getting the message (instead, Jenny thinks Sarah is telling her to press forward). Sarah manages to get the words through to the other end and Jenny manages to call off the rest of the team when they're seconds away from using flamethrowers on the cornered fungus creature.
  • The American pilot for Red Dwarf ended with Lister being visited by his own future self. Future!Lister had only a few moments to convey a very important message, but everybody nattered about irrelevant details until there were only a few seconds left. The message Future!Lister finally managed to delver consisted only of "You've got to—"
  • In the Supernatural episode "Dog Dean Afternoon", the spell allowing Dean to Speak Fluent Animal wears off right before a dog can tell him about the secret origin of the dog species.

  • The Jonathan Coulton song "Chiron Beta Prime"
    That's all the family news we're allowed to talk about
    We really hope you'll come and visit us soon
    I mean we're literally begging you to visit us
    And make it quick before they -MESSAGE REDACTED-
  • This song is about a billboard that had been pasted over with innumerable new advertisements. The top layers had begun peeling off, leaving words from underneath exposed. When putting the whole thing together, you had a wonderful medley of nonsense made from mixing up phrases from all the various ads.
  • Hugh Laurie's "All We Gotta Do" is all about this. He has the answers to all the world's problems... which he unfortunately mumbles.

  • One episode of I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again featured an experimental "stereo" broadcast. Listeners with ordinary radios (i.e., everybody) only got to hear half of what was being said.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978), a Grebulon ship (which is on an exceptionally long-haul flight across the galaxy and whose crewmembers are in stasis) suffers this with their orders after an asteroid ripped through their ship which destroyed the system which held their identites and their mission plan. The only instructions they end up with are to land a safe distance from something and monitor it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu supplement Cthulhu By Gaslight, adventure "The Yorkshire Horrors". An account by a Roman legion scribe of an attack by Cthulhu Mythos monsters and cultists has two parts that are hard or impossible to read. The first possibly refers to "walking trees" (actually Dark Spawn of Shub-Niggurath). The second is a stain of blood or perspiration that covers up part of the narrative.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Module S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. The PCs can acquire an Apocalyptic Log document of a party that previously entered the title area. It has a number of smudges, stains, blotches and smears that cover important words and phrases.
    • Module O2 Blade of Vengeance. Two items have missing information: Druinder's letter and the last page of the hermit's book.
    • Ravenloft supplement Chilling Tales, adventure "The Taskmaster's Leash". The PCs receive a letter from Dr. Rudolph von Richten that has been crudely censored, with all of the segments that indicate what's really going on blotted out.
  • This certainly never, ever happens as a standard hosejob in a game of Paranoia. Your mission briefing will never come out of a Computer printer garbled, a transbot will never roar by when The Computer is telling you the location of your briefing room, important details are never Deleted For Security Reasons, your mission will never get accidentally mixed up with the week's food vat assignments... The Computer Is Your Friend, Citizen. Have a nice daycycle!
    • "Troubleshooter, congratulations on being assigned to test the experimental Personal Fuel/Air Explosive Knapsack and Lunchbag! You will be held fully accountable for any damage caused to the device or facilities due to misuse of the device, Troubleshooter. The Computer is your friend!" Then the player should realize the instruction book has been almost entirely blacked out with "CLASSIFIED INFORMATION" stamps.
    • "Troubleshooter, you have been assigned an urgent mission! Please report immediately to Alpha Complex Sector A-squeeeeeeeee-Bouncy Bubble Beverage, now available in Soylent Orange flavor! squeeeeeeee-failure to report on time will be considered treason."
    • Paranoia XP supplement The Underplex. The Signal Interference table has an entry for "Mild static punctuates the communication, obscuring occasional words."
  • Silent Hill RPG. In Alchemilla Hospital the PCs can find a videotape. When played it has an audible message in a female voice.
    “Still has..., eyes do...tting a skin is...when I cha...blood and...ooz...Why? Wh...I won...please..”

    Video Games 
  • In Command & Conquer, GDI mission 6, the mission briefing is really short and staticky: "Use a GDI Commando to infiltrate the Nod base. *** ** destroy the *** so that the base is incapacitated. Get in, hit it, and get the *** out."
    • In the GDI campaign of Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn, there's a mission where you must sneak a Commando into a Nod base and blow up one specific building. Which one? Well, your mission briefing was over a black and white, fuzzy, static-filled channel: "Make sure you take out the - (bzzzzzzz) - and get the -(bzzzzzzz) - out of there!"
      • If you blow up the wrong building, you get to do a follow-up mission where you attack the base with a conventional force, but the enemy has had time to expand their defenses.
      • If you count the number of stars representing static in the objective menu you realise that only one structure has that specific amount of letters.
      • There are a number of ways of working this out. Probably the most common is "What's the hardest building in the base to attack?" followed by, "What's the most important building in the base?". Other possibilities include "What's the only building that could pose a threat to my One-Man Army?" and "What building is there only one of?"
  • In the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, this is deliberately invoked in certain Cortex communications in Crash 2. This appears to be because the script is exactly the same as the original game, which is a problem because certain aspects have been changed (for example, how to access boss fights, or the placement of items around the level entrances). Rather than re-record the dialogue, static was introduced that conveniently covers up any contradicting elements.
  • The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark: McQueen manages to make contact with the missing Dooley, and the connection holds while they exchange greetings but starts breaking up and then cuts out entirely right when Dooley starts giving useful information about where he is.
  • Dead Space 2: "Isaac it very important that you..."
  • God of War (PS4): The Witch in the Woods tries to warn Kratos and Atreus to "be very careful not to-" before she's fully expunged from Alfheim and separated from them, leaving them to retrieve the Light of Alfheim with what they have.
  • Half-Life:
    • Also from the Orange Box, in Half-Life 2: Episode Two, when Alyx (with you alongside her) tries to transmit a warning about an approaching Combine armada to her Dr. Magnusson from the radio tower, transmission interference cuts her off before she's able to convey it properly.
    • In the original Half-Life 2, after Black Mesa East comes under attack, Eli is giving Alyx instructions on how to escape!
      Eli: You've got to get out of here! Take Gordon! Head for the coast! Do NOT go through Rav-[transmission cuts out.]note 
    • Happens in Half-Life, in the level where you finally meet the Black Ops Assassins ("Apprehension").
      Barney: "Freeman, right? I've got a message for you. Make sure you..." <bang!> "Aaggghh!"
  • In Love & Pies, when Freya calls Amelia for the first time since the fire, she uses the payphone because she lost her phone. She warns Amelia not to investigate the Purple Fox, but is suddenly cut off before she could tell her what else to do due to poor reception.
  • Mass Effect: On Ilos, Shepard and team find an old console with an emergency transmission from the last days of the Prothean Empire. However, after fifty-thousand years it's decayed too badly to contain any meaningful information. Then the message changes to a different, utterly panicked voice.
    Act of desperation [...] the Conduit! [...] Called "Reapers" [...] Cannot be stopped! [...] CANNOT BE STOPPED!
  • This is how the events of the first Metal Gear started: Gray Fox was infiltrating Outer Heaven and scouting the various locations and the items inside, and reporting to FOXHOUND. He eventually stumbled on evidence that Metal Gear is being developed. However, he was caught, and he was about to say something regarding "Metal Gear", but the transmission was cut, with his last/only words before the cutting of transmission being "Metal Gear..."
  • One of the Marine logs in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes has it abruptly ending in static.
  • No Umbrellas Allowed: The news report of Prof. Choi's protests against AVAC is interrupted by the news of the reopening of the Bunker of Freedom, just before further details about AVAC's laws can be announced.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Princess Peach has found out what the villains plan to do with her (have an Eldritch Abomination possess her) - just as she's typing a message to inform Mario of it, the Big Bad walks in to take her away, and the message is sent incomplete, leaving the Reveal to the climax of the game.
  • Portal:
    • In GlaDOS' opening announcement:
    "For your own safety, and the safety of others, please refrain from *crackle* *static* Por favor de donde fallar muchos gracias de fallar gracias. *crackle* stand back. The portal will open in three... two... one..."
    • She does it again when explaining the safety instructions for the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, and there is also this pearl:
      "[what we said before] was a complete fabrication. We will stop enhancing the truth in three... two... *[static]*"
    • And under no circumstances should the portal device be ~BZZT~.
    • Portal 2 gives us this gem. For added laughs, it's played over a graphical depiction of a giant leopard-patterned turret invading the UN, which becomes a Brick Joke later.
      Announcer: If the earth is being governed by a manner of animal king, sentient cloud, or other governing body that either refuses to, or is incapable of, listening to reason, th... [recording slows to a stop]
  • In Rebel Assault II, the first mission Cut Scene has a static - ridden message from a freighter pilot, mentioning " weapons..." and generally foreshadowing. Several missions later, you recover the freighter itself and can receive the full message. The static is done so that if you know the full message, you can just tell most of it when reviewing the original.
  • Return to Zork: When you leave the mayor, Trembyle calls you through Tele-Orb: "That old bore... Oh, that reminds me. Did I tell you about that boar we ran into in the Forest of the Spirits..." and the orb goes out. When you replace the battery, Trembyle finishes the phrase "...use it wisely." The former is a useful hint, the latter is lost forever.
  • Wedge Antilles, during the Assault on Kile II mission in the first Rogue Squadron game, ends up having his transmission cut as he ends up shot down by an ambush of TIE interceptors.
  • Sonic Colors:
    Dr. Eggman: Remember, for your safety, please avoid (silence) as well as (silence) Never under any circumstances (silence) as it is actually a living being, and will bite your face off.
  • Shows up in some of the Apocalyptic Logs of the first and second System Shock games; specifically, the logs about SHODAN and her plans. Occasionally in the first game, SHODAN actively disrupts messages sent to you.
    Rebecca Lansing: "They're trying to jam transmissions! We have some new evidence about what happened. It looks as if Diego—" <BZZT!>"
    SHODAN: "I prefer a quiet station. Thank you."
  • The 8-bit game Starquake starts with a touchdown report that becomes increasingly garbled with each line. The last legible words stand for "computer malfunction". This is all the intro you get.
  • In Super Mario Galaxy, the yellow Toad sleeping on the Comet Observatory's garden will make comments while sleeping based on your progression, with the final one being "Bowser's weakness is... zzz..."
  • TRON 2.0 is loaded with this. For about three-quarters of the game, Jet's receiving incomplete, cryptic, and static-filled transmissions from Ma3a or "Guest." In "Guest's" case it turns out Alan is making do with an old arcade game and junk from the storage closet he's locked in. Unfortunately, the poor communication does kill Alan doesn't realize it's his son that's trying to help Ma3a and Jet doesn't get the message not to compile the Tron Legacy (no relation) code until it is way too late.
  • In Ultima VII Part 2 Serpent Isle, the Avatar is warned by a ghost during a seance that many angry spirits (who have been, ahem, helped along by the Avatar) are waiting for him in the next world, and that he must always remember...
  • In World of Warcraft there's an item called "Nat Pagel's Guide to Extreme Anglin'" that's missing every page but the last. What does it say? "... and so that's where you'll find the legendary sword of the Scarlet Highlord, Ashbringer. Ain't it amazin' what you run into in an ordinary day of fishin'?"


    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • Used to a great extent to ensure that humanity isn't exposed to [REDACTED] or [DATA EXPUNGED] with regards to the creators of █████ and ████████.
    • SCP document "MTF-E5 'Reddawn' Agent Handbook" - image of Chapter 7 is almost entirely covered by previous page except for endings paragraph which conclude "With that said, you should now have better [slightly obscured: understands of the proper] methods for taking care of baby in midst of battle. [...]" and annotated "I hadn't thought of it that way, but this makes sense."
  • Previously on LOST, a parody WoW Machinima has this at the end.
  • Look to the West takes the form of transmissions from a scouting party in an Alternate Universe sent home, consisting mainly of excerpts from local history books. As the story goes on, more of these history books have parts censored. Part #100 of the story has constant breaks in transmission with static: this is not explained until the end of the chapter, in which we learn the scouts were attacked by locals and their transmitter destroyed partway through transmission, corrupting parts of the file.
  • Oxventure: In the 2022 Halloween Dread episode, the characters are on a camping trip deep in the forest when their guide is attacked and almost killed, leaving them to fend for themselves. Madison tries to raise help on the radio, and manages to briefly get in contact with search-and-rescue before the radio dies, but most of the conversation is lost in static. The last thing that comes through is "...whatever you do ... moving. It is imperative ... stay put ...", leading to a discussion about whether it was more likely to be "keep moving, don't stay put" or "don't keep moving, stay put". (In the event, it's a moot point; they have to keep moving, because the creature that attacked their guide isn't finished with them.)
  • Potter Puppet Pals has the "Elder Swear", the most ancient and powerful insult ever invented. It goes like this:
    Your mother is a [series of beeps]ing [series of beeps] lorem ipsum [series of beeps] agmidum venium [beeps] fragna [beeps] hippopotamus [beeps] Republican [beeps]ing Daniel Radcliffe [beeps] with a bucket of [beeps] in a castle far away where no one can hear you [beeps] soup [beeps] with a bucket of [beeps] Mickey Mouse [beeps] and a stick of dynamite [beeps] magical [beeps] alakazam!
  • This trope accidentally instigated a Memetic Mutation. To explain — the meme comes from a discussion thread about Higurashi: When They Cry, asking about Hanyuu's horns and specifically why none of the characters ever seem to notice them in the timeline she is brought into the world as an otherwise normal human girl as a ploy by Rika to finally get out of her "Groundhog Day" Loop — they remain visible at least to viewers. One poster had written "Why doesn't anyone her horns?", presumably omitting the word "see" by accident, and the board took off with it; the most (in)famous iteration of this was "I'd her horns" (this being the Internet, the reader is left to decide what word is missing). Even the mods got in on it: "Guys, you can't just verbs out of your sentences."
  • A similar meme briefly arose after an imageboard user posted a message stating "I accidentally 93 MB of .rar files" and asking if it was a bad thing.
  • This image.

    Western Animation 
  • Æon Flux: From the episode "The Demiurge", a rare example that doesn't involve transmitting equipment. Trevor Goodchild is speaking with an underling when he suddenly recalls a vital piece of information. What he says is "Wait, I remember!" — and what he says next is drowned out by the sound of an explosion behind him.
  • In an episode of Donkey Kong Country Diddy and Funky are in Funky's biplane and are told by DK over the radio NOT to read a certain piece of paper that has a terrible spell on it. Unfortunately due to static the "not" part gets cut out of the message.
  • The Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law episode, "Sebben & Sebben New Employee Orientation / Juicer Instruction" video has a number of instances where the audio or filmstrip skips, skipping a piece of information that was about to be disclosed, or connecting two unrelated topics in the middle of the narration. As well as, of course, cutting away from the Employee Orientation into how to use your new juicer.
  • Futurama:
    • In the first episode to feature the soap opera All My Circuits, Calculon reveals his terrible secret at the exact moment that Bender walks in and his antenna disrupts the broadcast. He leaves the room intending to go and complain, and the picture comes back. Calculon says "To reiterate, my terrible secret is-" and then Bender returns and disrupts the transmission again.
    • The chronotons from the episode "Time Keeps On Slippin" start to cause "time skips" where time suddenly lurches forward. One time skip jumps to Fry and Leela's wedding, then another immediately jumps to their divorce, leaving Fry to wonder how he managed to get her to marry him in the first place and then what he did to cause the divorce.
  • An episode of kids' show Martha Speaks has the kids and Martha hiding a tape recorder to record the plans of what they think are a couple of criminals getting ready to rob a bank. They retrieve the recorder later and take it to the police. When they play the tape, just as the criminals are starting to discuss details, the tape has been recorded over with Martha singing pop tunes. (No explanation over how she managed to get time to record herself singing between the time they retrieved the tape and arrived at the police station.)
  • In the Metalocalypse episode "Mordland", static interrupts band mascot Facebones during several important parts of the Fan Day safety briefing.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "It's About Time", Future Twilight keeps getting interrupted by Present Twilight (who is geeking out over the fact that she apparently will learn time travel) and doesn't get to reveal her intended message before getting dragged back to the future.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer suffers a mental version of this: "When the fire starts to burn, There's a lesson you must learn. Something something, then you'll see: You'll avoid catastrophe!" D'oh!
    • Kent Brockman is also fond of this one:
      Kent Brockman: ...which if true, means death to us all.
    • A scene from the Treehouse of Horror segment "The Ned Zone", when Ned tries to warn Homer at the power plant not to push a button that could blow up Springfield. Ned tries speaking through the intercom.
      Ned: Don't do it! Don't do it! You'll kill everyone.
      Transmission: [hiss] it! [hiss] it! [hiss] ...kill everyone!
  • In an episode of Sushi Pack, Tako goes with his newly-discovered cousin to a family reunion. After he's gone, the rest of the Pack start to worry that this reunion is a trap, and go investigate in their underwater craft. When they spot a couple of octopi, Kani turns on an eavesdropping device, but it cuts out at a crucial moment, making it sound like the family reunion is indeed a trap. It turns out the reunion was actually a surprise party honoring Tako's achievements as an octopus and a member of the Sushi Pack.
  • In the Teen Titans (2003) episode "Stranded" (in which the entire plot is about various miscommunications), the Titans are in their Combining Mecha-like ship and trying to shake off the Monster of the Week which is latched on to the hood. Robin orders them not to separate — twice — but a radio malfunction misleads the team into separating.

    Real Life 
  • In the Tenerife airport disaster, when a KLM 747 started an (unauthorized) take-off roll on a foggy runway occupied by another 747, both air traffic control and the other 747 radioed a warning - but because they were transmitting at the same time, the radio signals ended up blocking each other out, and so the KLM crew heard only static and didn't realize they needed to abort the takeoff.
  • If you've ever seen copies of those documents concerning the military's UFO research, you'd wonder if someone didn't just block out 80% of the text just to screw with you. It's in weird places too. Half a paragraph will be blocked, only to pick up on stuff like " which, the witness responded, 'I don't know WHAT they would want with my cattle, that's why I called you.'" The SCP Foundation's use of oddly placed [DATA EXPUNGED] probably owes something to these.
  • Railway platform announcements, as immortalised by this Usenet signature:
    Bing-Bong. Brimish Rull regret that mumble maz bem dermumble a mir mumble mumble bimble late. Passengers mizzing to mumble rimble mumble are advised to momble mar at murmble. Thank you mor mumble mimbling Brimble mum. Bing-Bong. — Gaz
  • Bill Cosby mentions something similar in one of his routines; during a conversation with an old wino, the wino mentions that he's the guy who announces the bus schedule.
  • The Wikileaks cables get like this sometimes.
  • Happened with the very first picture transmitted from the surface of Mars: The Mars 3 probe failed about a quarter of a minute after landing and only managed to transmit a partial image.
  • Famously happened to the third game of the 1989 World Series — as ABC's sportscasters were recapping the events of the preceding games, a massive earthquake began, cutting the announcers off as the feed from Candlestick Park was lost ("I tell you what, we're having an earth-" *static*). Fortunately, they were unharmed and managed to reconnect by telephone (with Al Michaels declaring it had been "the greatest open in the history of television, bar none!"). ABC went to rain delay programming before Ted Koppel was able to begin continuous coverage of the quake.


Video Example(s):


Twilight Sparkle

When the Mane Five come together in front of the Unity Crystals, their magic merges with the crystals to reveal a message from Twilight Sparkle, the legendary Princess of Friendship from the previous generation of the My Little Pony franchise.

How well does it match the trope?

4.5 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / GreaterScopeParagon

Media sources: