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One-Shot Revisionism

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A term coined by Justin B. Rye in his essay "Star Trek: Mark Two", which points out various inconsistencies in Star Trek and ways of avoiding them for a hypothetical remake.

One-Shot Revisionism occurs when a writer notices an illogical trope or plot device and attempts to avert it. More often than not, the attempt only draws further attention to the lack of logic of the convention — "if X didn't happen here because of Y and Z, why does it happen every other time?" — and at the same time makes it harder for other writers to Hand Wave the whole thing away. Especially bad when the plot device in question has been used multiple times in the same Canon where the one-shot revision is set.


The important thing about One-Shot Revisionism is that it works; generally the only problem with it is that it draws attention to all the other times it theoretically could and should have been used but wasn't. This distinguishes it from a Voodoo Shark, which doesn't even work on its own terms.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The revised JMS origin for Spider-Man which says that a "spider-totem" made him fated to get the power, and explains why Spider-Man has a lot of villains who are themed around animals. Of course, this just calls attention to the fact that lots of other superheroes also have a gallery of themed villains with no explanation whatsoever.
  • Another such explanation was given by writer Mark Gruenwald in Quasar; that all superheroes and villains in the Marvel Universe are the result of a cosmic being's influence, and that "themed" beings are naturally drawn to each other. This also counts as One-Shot Revisionism, as the idea's never been acknowledged by other writers; of course, since this was in Quasar, it's likely no-one knows about it.
  • An untold story of the Crisis on Infinite Earths comic book series was published in 1999, featuring Earth-D, a perfectly racially mixed world. On it, all the aliens pointedly did not have human racial features. What makes this trope is that it makes it harder to forget that the aliens still had most human features not associated with race.
  • When Legion of Super-Heroes introduced their first member of African descent, they chose to say he came from a island of separatists that's normally not in this dimension and only appeared on Earth periodically. Unfortunate Implications abound, which is a strange thing for the writers to have come up with considering they had a member who was green and another who had antennae.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Ocean's Twelve, Tess, played by Julia Roberts, is brought into a plan to impersonate the real life Roberts in order to sneak past security. This is further complicated when she has to interact with other celebrities like Bruce Willis who know the real Roberts personally. Considering that the film series features an All-Star Cast, it's quite humorous to imagine that there are apparently a bunch of lookalikes for A-List celebrities out there who all happen to work together as master thieves.
  • In Star Wars, Space Is Noisy is just a convention that fans accept, along with the use of the convention of sound traveling at the speed of light, as being imaginary sound effects for the viewers' pleasure. The Expanded Universe goes further and Hand Waves that these sound effects are for the pilots' use as well. Attack of the Clones tried to portray space more realistically, only to stop halfway: there is sound in space, but it travels slower than light!

  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry's friends take a rare luck potion before the Death Eaters show up at Hogwarts. This justifies the Death Eaters' Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship and it's suggested afterwards that many of Harry's friends would have died had they not taken the potion. However, the Death Eaters having bad aim was played straight in the climax of the previous book. In the case of the Battle of the Ministry, the members of Dumbledore's Army who were there were using the twisting corridors as well as their smaller size and youth to their advantage; outpacing the Death Eaters as well as using extensive cover and tactics to avoid taking casualties. Even then, however, they still lose several members (Hermione, Ginny, etc.) to the Death Eaters as they attempt to escape.
  • Seven Sorcerers by Caro King averts Nobody Poops... exactly once in the beginning when Nin, fresh from the normal world, asks for a pause to relieve herself. Afterwards, one could think humans in Drift don't have to use toilets. (Magical being get a pass as they are literally based on imagination).

    Live-Action TV 
  • From Star Trek, taken from the aforementioned essay:
    • The "Kirk Maneuver" in the second movie: a ship "diving" and then "resurfacing" before the attack. It's a clumsy break from the 2-D Space convention, still unconvincing (why resurface?), and making it impossible to just discount 2-D Space as a TV convention that doesn't reflect how the space battles "really" went.
    • In the sixth movie, there is the one time when a ship loses artificial gravity. Which only highlights the fact that it breaks much more rarely than it should. In fact, in the Voyager episodes "Year of Hell", the ship is scarred and barely holding together, but never does the gravity give out. Expanded Universe material justifies it (sort of) with the explanation that artificial gravity is built to be almost impossible to disrupt in Federation starships because most Federation member races are really uncomfortable in zero-G and work far less efficiently. This makes sense considering most of them only go out in zero-G conditions for bare minimum qualification trials. So while other factions' vessel designs use a centralized gravity generator, Federation gravity is plated into the floors so that any disruptions are local. Life-support and Deflector Shields are apparently harder to decentralize.
    • Image lag effects in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Battle". Why do they happen only this time and not every time there's a disruption in faster-than-light travel?
    • The "Star Trek Phase II" fan-film web episode "Blood and Fire", based on a rejected Next Generation script, is a one-shot revision of the complete lack of homosexuals in the Star Trek universe. So now instead of zero homosexuals in the universe, there are exactly two, which is almost worse.
    • The Expanded Universe novels have started being pointedly casual about mentioning this or that character with a same-sex partner, possibly to compensate for the above. It can sometimes come over as trying too hard.
    • In the TNG episode "The Wounded" we see a space battle at 250,000 km, which is decided by one ship using their superior weapon-range to engage the enemy at a distance where they can't return fire. This makes all those occasions where ships fight nose-to-nose all the more dumb.
    • The TOS episode introduced the subcutaneous transponder a device implanted under the skin to enable them to beam up the landing party should they be out of communication. Considering how many times they'd have their communicators confiscated, it's a wonder it has never mentioned before or since. Incidentally, the device was never used for that purpose. It was removed and used to fashion a laser from a light bulb to escape a cell.
  • Stargate SG-1 has such a moment associated with the pilot episode, "Children of the Gods": The novelization of the episode has the characters lampshade Aliens Speaking English, which confirms that yes, the aliens do speak English after all; it's not merely translated for the audience's benefit after Daniel reconstructs the local language and teaches it to his teammates off-screen.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Masque of Mandragora" attempts to explain Aliens Speaking English as Translator Microbes for the first time in the series ever, when Sarah Jane suddenly notices that she can understand some Italians. (Chatting to people from outer space goes entirely without notice for decades of show history, but Italians are apparently a leap too far.) The story even uses this as a hint that something is badly wrong with Sarah's mind simply because she noticed it happening.
    • In the new series, the Doctors' appearance is up for open criticism from the other characters, who often mock his dress sense and accent. This only really serves to draw attention to the times he showed up wearing sillier clothes and sillier accents in the Classic series without anyone mocking him for it — having a Northern or Scottish new-series Doctor is almost as (apparently) hilarious as their mildly unusual outfits, but no-one makes fun of the Fourth Doctor's ridiculous scarf and peculiar voice or the Third Doctor's lisp and questionable frilly clothing.
    • The new series goes out of its way to address the uncomfortable power dynamic between the Doctor and the companion, by making him more dependent on her than she is on him, and by cutting back a lot of the creepy subtext of the Doctor's paternalism, as well as inserting romantic elements. The trouble is that the uncomfortable relationship is still there by sheer function of the way the show works, only now it's presented as a romantic ideal, whereas the original series tended for the most part not to sugar-coat how difficult travelling with the Doctor could be. It also ends up providing the retroactive interpretation that a lot of the No Hugging, No Kissing Classic Doctors might have been hugging and kissing the companions more than we see on screen.
    • The story "Midnight" took on the oft-used idea that the Doctor could show up with no history, no credentials, and a lot of knowledge which he refuses to explain, be detained for two minutes, and then be treated like an authority because there's a crisis going on. In this one story, these traits actually make everyone else suspicious of the Doctor as would happen in reality. (Some Classic era stories did touch upon this — both "The Tenth Planet" and "The Faceless Ones" deal with it heavily — but since the Revival series omits sequences of the Doctor stumbling around, getting captured and convincing the natives that he's helpful, the Classic series didn't have to rely on this conceit as a Necessary Weasel to the same extent.) In the modern series the usual explanation is that having somebody normal to vouch for him puts people at ease; in this case Donna was elsewhere.
    • "Resurrection of the Daleks" is a Classic series attempt at "Midnight". The Doctor has no credentials, his witty jokes fail to charm anyone, and the more he attempts to explain that he knows what he's doing the more he ends up looking like he's responsible for the problem itself.
    • There have been a couple of attempts to nerf the Sonic Screwdriver, by explaining that it doesn't work on anything with a "deadlock seal" (which showed up fairly often for a while, but seems to have been abandoned), or anything made of wood. Which means that he can use it to hack an alien computer millions of years in the future, but can't open a modern bedroom door. One radio adventure featuring the Fourth Doctor (possibly adapted from one of the lost episodes) also featured a slightly more sensible version; the Sonic Screwdriver can shift the tumblers inside a lock, but can't exert enough force to move a really stiff and heavy door-bolt.
  • Power Rangers RPM did a lot to decrease some of the worn out clichés of the series and even came up with some decent hand waves for others. Such as the rangers' morphing call being a voice reading security device. However it does still cause some head scratching when the rangers need to shout POWER RANGERS RPM! when using the Megazord finisher (and even then, not every time).

    Video Games 
  • Each Knights of the Old Republic game contains exactly one situation where an NPC will scold you for being a Kleptomaniac Hero. Others will completely ignore you looting their possessions under their nose, which gives you no dark side points either. Except the Tusken Raiders, who will not merely scold you but shoot you on sight...
  • Dragon Quest:
    • In Dragon Quest II, when the Kleptomaniac Hero opens a locked door in Midenhall, the guard initially reacts the way you'd expect somebody to when someone breaks in to loot a chest. However, he then recognizes the Prince and apologizes.
    • Similarly, in Dragon Quest III, your hero is the son/daughter of Ortega. When you break into the treasure chamber of your liege's castle, the guard recognizes you and says that he respects your father too much to stop you. He still mildly calls you out for it, particularly since the king will actually give you permission to raid the treasury late in the game...
  • Some campaign missions in Starcraft take place on space stations or in other places where natural resources you need to build a base and train troops would not be realistically found. Because this is a strategy game, they are provided anyway with no explanation. However, in one mission in the second game, your Mission Control mentions how you were lucky to find resources because this particular space station is very old and has undergone bombardings by resource-rich asteroids. So... what about all the other space stations?
  • The Azuregos quest chain in World of Warcraft, while hilarious, features the only appearance of a Spirit Healer in-story (a named one at that, in love with a dragon!), which makes it harder to Hand Wave the Spirit Healers away as a mere case of Gameplay and Story Segregation and brings up questions why only the players can use them, and why any characters dead in lore don't just resurrect themselves at the nearest graveyard.
    • The first volume of the Chronicle made the Spirit Healers fully canon as part of expanded lore on the universe's equivalent to Valkyries. The explanation is now that there are a few of them without masters who occasionally guide the dead back to the land of the living, which still makes one wonder why they never choose to save a canon character, but leaves open the excuse that it's up to their whims.
  • In Dink Smallwood, the title character can engage in Comedic Sociopathy, both by abusing Videogame Cruelty Potential, and through scripted events. This is subverted a few times:
    • In the starter town, if Dink hits one of his neighbors, she screams and runs up and down. Makes sense, but why does everyone else stand still when taking a beating?
    • Dink can choose to kill his wife-beating uncle. A hard battle, depending on when the player decides to do it, but winnable. Why, then, can't he hurt anyone else with his attacks (other than enemies/ducks)?
    • Dink can try to rob a tavern, in which case, the waitress will call two golden-armored halbardiers. If the player chooses this course of action when he first visits the tavern, the halbardiers are too powerful, and will undoubdetly kill him. But, if the player tries the robbery out after some Level Grinding, he can beat them, at which point, nothing happens, the dialog tree remains the same, and threatening to rob the place again causes two new halbardiers to show up.


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