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No Off Button

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Perhaps it's some sort of Doomsday Device or an Artifact of Doom. Maybe it runs on some sort of perpetual energy. Possibly there are actually two phlebotinum devices interacting with each other and destroying the world, but if you turn off one device the other one will grow strong enough to kill everyone on earth anyway. Or it's a Clingy MacGuffin or Clingy Costume and it's draining your life force, but if you remove it you'll blow up. No Off Button is simply the reason a particular piece of dangerous Applied Phlebotinum can't be turned off or destroyed, such as it lacking an off button.

Failsafe Failure is closely related, and involves examples where there is an "off button" or other form of Override Command in place, but it doesn't work.

Compare Irrevocable Order.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Naruto, the Akimichi pepper pill puts your metabolism into overdrive, converting calories into tremendous power. But it keeps going even when your body has no fat left to use up.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy story "Double Neggative" (spelled that way), Mandy steals Grim's cosmic egg—which if broached will cause a global apocalypse—and lets Billy take the blame. At the end, Mandy reveals the egg is in her dress pocket. She taps it to ensure it's safe—and breaks it.
    Mandy: (eyes bulging open) Uh oh.

    Film — Live Action 

  • In Robert Sheckley's short story The Laxian Key, a pair of ne'er-do-wells find a machine that produces some substance in unlimited quantities but can only be turned off with the eponymous "Laxian key" (which they don't have). When the substance begins to flood their home (and they get a bill for the machine draining power from the city grid), they try to sell the machine to an alien race who feeds upon it, but are almost blown to pieces by the alien navy. It turns out, these aliens, as a result of inventing the machine in the first place, already have several such devices... and, apparently, enough morons to turn them on. As a result, all of their homeworld is covered with it, so they tell the heroes to come back with the Laxian key and ask any price for it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Agent Carter Howard Stark invented a heated jacket for use in subzero temperatures. Unfortunately, it is powered by a chemical reaction that is very hard to stop. Even worse, once the jacket operates for a few minutes, the clasps holding it shut start fusing together which makes it impossible to remove the jacket before the reaction reaches a critical point and the entire apparatus explodes. Howard abandoned the project but kept the prototype in storage. When the bad guys steal it, they use it as a bomb.
  • On one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there was a lightning wielding gauntlet that could only be destroyed through a specific ritual.
  • Happens a couple of times on Charmed, such as when Billie put on Hippolyta's Belt and became a superheroine. The belt was killing her and the only way to remove it was through a specific spell found only in Magic School's library.
  • Happens pretty much every week on Eureka. A big piece of tech is endangering the town, and Jack Carter asks something related to the easiest way to shut it off ("Why don't you just unplug it?"). Oh guess what, if you turn the device off, the town'll catch on fire, or something along those lines.
    • This is a town where a boiler in the house is more likely to be a nuclear reactor, requiring a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics to fix.
    • In one case, Fargo accidentally activates a personal shield from a project that was specifically shelved because of this flaw. They only way to shut it off it to kill Fargo. Luckily, they do it in such a way as to quickly revive him after.
  • Not having an off button is listed as a feature in the SNL parody commercial for the Woomba, a robot for cleaning women's genitalia. The product is shown Going Horribly Wrong during the actual commercial.
  • In Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, the body-swapping device didn't have an off-switch (or at least it was never discovered) so every time someone activated it, he had to destroy it.
  • On the various Star Trek incarnations, Holodecks have some kind of independent power source, so whenever they go haywire and stop responding to commands, they usually can't simply pull the plug.

  • A certain Bawdy Song about a sex machine with a Bloody Great Wheel includes the ominous rhyme, "And now we come to the tragic bit, there was no way of stopping it".

  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978) radio series, there's a malfunctioning clone machine which keeps starting new clones when the previous clone is only partly done. Its operators can't turn it off because if they did, they'd be liable for murdering the clones that are in mid-cloning when the button got pushed.

  • BIONICLE: The Great Beings built the Baterra to kill anyone wielding a weapon they saw (emphasis on the weapon). The Baterra soon got out of hand, and the Great Beings tried turning on the off-switch... which didn't work.

    Video Games 
  • Galactic Civilizations: Played with in the backstory. The Stargate designs the Arceans sent to the Terrans via FTL transmissions did not include an off switch anywhere. It is believed that the Arceans intended to invade through the Stargate and conquer the Terrans, and they didn't want the Terrans cutting off the invasion halfway through (which is exactly what the Arceans did when the Drengin tried this on them). The Terrans instead adapted the technology of the Stargate with fusion power and created a portable hyperdrive, rendering the whole thing moot.
  • Weaponized by Napoleon LeRoach in SPY Fox 2: Some Assembly Required, who has removed the off switch to his DogBot and hidden it somewhere in the World's Fair. It also requires an access code to work when installed.
  • In Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, the titular Mindbender only have a big ON/ON switch; throwing it seemingly does something (reverses the polarity?), but turning it off is impossible. Given that it's designed to induce stupidity, this is a perfectly sensible design choice. Fortunately, it can be destroyed by the Skolarian Device.

  • Skin Horse: Subverted. Unity is an undead bio-weapon that can animate a corpse into a super-strong, nigh-unkillable engine of destruction (and if it is killed, she can just get a new one), with a gleefully violent childlike personality. She has an attention span measured in milliseconds, and enjoys fighting people who try to give her orders. When the team runs into her creator, it's discovered that the verbal code "Blueberry Waffles" shuts down her aggression patterns. Not permanently, but enough to interrupt whatever violence she was perpetuating at the moment.
    Sweetheart: UNITY HAS AN OFF SWITCH!?
    Dr. Lee: You work with her and you don't know she has an off switch?

    Web Animation 
  • Played for laughs in Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse. Barbie can't remember why she stopped using her automatic cupcake maker until she tries to turn it off. It doesn't have an off button, and the kitchen is quickly filled with cupcakes.

    Web Original 
  • Protectors of the Plot Continuum: Shortly after getting recruited, Makes-Things invents a portal generator that automatically creates self-powering portals capable of creating more portals in short succession, but forgets to include an off switch. Despite the generator's subsequent destruction, the portals continue multiplying rapidly because they're running off their own power and eventually destroy the Flowers' home planet.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of League of Super Evil, Dr. Frogg creates a mind control device with only two settings: "On" and "More On"
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Marge vs. the Monorail", a shady dealer sells Springfield a monorail, and it ends up going out of control. Cutting the power is suggested, but the monorail is run completely on solar power. The monorail stops only when an eclipse happens... and then when the eclipse ends, the monorail keeps right on going.
    • In a mundane version, in "The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace", Homer decided to become an inventor, and one of his inventions can only be turned on:
      Homer: Now, here's my "Everything's O.K." alarm!
      [Homer flips a switch the device, and it begins to emit a high pitched, incredibly loud beep. The rest of the Simpsons cover their ears as Homer speaks up.]
      Homer: This will sound every three seconds, unless something isn't okay!
      Marge: Turn it off, Homer!
      Homer: It can't be turned off! [alarm fizzles out] But it, uh, does break easily.
  • The Sonic Boom episode "Double Doomsday" reveals that Eggman builds his devices this way.
    Sonic: Game over, Eggman! Shut off the doomsday devices!
    Eggman: [laughs] Shut off? Who puts an off switch on a doomsday device?
    Sonic: Hmmm... You make a valid point. [calls Tails] Bad news: there's no off switch.
    Tails: Well, yeah. Who puts an off switch on a doomsday device?
  • An episode of Taz-Mania guest-starred Marvin the Martian who sets up a device to destroy the Earth rigging it, so once it's activated, even he can't shut it off. After turning it on, he realizes he's made a slight miscalculation:
    Marvin: In 10 minutes it will all be over for you pitiful Earthlings. My ship will be here to pick me up in approximately one hour so.... Uh oh.
  • In a episode of Wabbit Wily Coyote invented a centrifugal force machine to get rid of the smell of skunk. Unfortunately for him, in keeping with his arrogant oversight, once he had Bugs turn the machine on he realized he didn’t give it an off switch. It only got worse when female skunks then climbed into the machine and overloaded it.

    Real Life 
  • Certain devices that rely on chemical reactions obviously can't be easily shut down once the reaction starts, unless you have control over the access to the reactants themselves.
    • Solid fuel rocket motors are perhaps one of the more consequential devices not to have an off button. Compare with liquid fueled rockets which can be both throttled and shut down by controlling the propellant flow, a solid fuel motor will burn at a predetermined rate until all the fuel is used up. In the case of the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster this severely limited the shuttle abort modes meaning the crew was basically stuck until the boosters had burnt out no matter what might start to go wrong.
      • Doubly a problem when nuclear warheads are attached to solid fueled rockets, although a Self-Destruct Mechanism can be employed.
    • Likewise hand grenades. When the lever is released, the spring-loaded striker strikes the primer, igniting the fuse. When it burns through to the explosive charge, Boom!
      • This holds true for most other fuse-detonated explosives too, unless the fuse is sufficiently long that you can safely cut it or yank it out.