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"The problems with the security system were high on Jurassic Park's bug list. Nedry wondered if anybody ever imagined that it wasn't a bug—that Nedry had programmed it that way. He had built in a classic trap door."
Jurassic Park (the novel)

So what if you don't know the combination to the keypad lock, or the password to the ultrasecure government computer? Every electronic device has an Override function, which will conveniently give full access to any schmuck who knows the command. Most often seen as the explicit command "OVERRIDE" entered via a Viewer-Friendly Interface when access is denied to someone who really ought not to have it.


Sometimes this is spoofed with "manual override" being a euphemism for pounding on the machine with fists or tools until it finally does what you want. Klaatu Barada Nikto is a specific variant.

A real situation similar to this one would be a backdoor, which is a hidden, purposefully created way of entering a computer system created by the programmer(s).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Nagato and Asakura from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya know the override codes to reality. In the light novels the code they use is rendered as SQL queries. The anime has them "speaking" SQL as well, but so quickly it can barely be recognized as speech.
  • As expected of a Ken Akamatsu Manga, Hakase in Negima! Magister Negi Magi built Chachamaru with her override function applied by adding moderate pressure to her right breast plate. Take from that what you will. Presuming the override only works when she's in diagnostic mode (the one time we've seen it used), this isn't either a security risk or too bad a choice. Easy target if you need that, and nothing there you'd normally be testing.
  • In Space Pirate Mito, the mailsuits used by the main character and the Big Bad have a glitch that's activated by hitting a sensor on the back. Once activated, the glitch short-circuits the suit, paralyzing the user.
  • In Outlaw Star, Melfina the bioandroid/ship navigator has an override command that suspends her personality.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, during the Legendary Heroes arc, Seto Kaiba had a voice-activated command to immediately terminate and exit the virtual reality simulation. Unfortunately, when he tried to use it, it turned out the Big Five had already disabled it, leaving him trapped until Yugi and the others rescued him.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Civil War storyline, when Spider-Man turns against the pro-registration camp, Iron Man uses an Override Command to shut down Spidey's armour (which he designed), calling Spidey out on not realizing that he would have one. Subverted when Spider-Man reveals that he did realize that, and installed an override override.
  • In The Invisibles, the antagonists know the override command to the human brain.
  • Justified in Superman, when Clark never realized the "cells" (actually high-tech Kryptonian shipping crates) in his Fortress even had voice-activated override codes. Which means they were never changed from the factory default, which General Zod knows...
  • Justified in Paperinik New Adventures: Everett Ducklair programmed One and Two, thus he was simply smart enough to include commands to shut them down or outright delete their program if he needed to.
  • In Blackest Night, Sinestro reveals he designed an override command into the yellow power rings, so he defeats Mongul by turning his own ring against him.

    Comic Strips 
  • In a 1980s Little Orphan Annie storyline, the friendly sentient robot F1do can be shut down with the oral command, "F1do! Down!", and his benevolent personality overriden with the command "F1do! Attack!" However, villain Skip Smith's attempt to use the "F1do! Kill!" override against Annie fails when F1do self-destructs rather than obey the command to kill his friend.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Firefly fanfic Forward, the Alliance has hardwired override commands installed on all their ships in case of subversion. Only Operatives and very high-ranking military commanders and officials know these codes. Unfortunately for them, many of these people were in the same room with a mind-reading psychic at one point...
  • During the Disc-One Final Boss battle of Marionettes, Gear Shift attempts to use one of these to regain control of Lightning Dust (who is one of the title robots). It fails because Twilight already fried her fail safes to free her in the first place.
  • In Ponies and Dragons, they find out that the enchanted comics like the one from "Power Ponies" actually have override commands that allow you to exit at any time.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Demolition Man:
    • Simon Phoenix is in a phone-booth-slash-computer-terminal when the police catch up with him. He sees that one of the cops is standing close to a wall and tries to activate the anti-graffiti system (metal rods that come out of the wall and use high voltage to clear the wall of ink). The computer senses the presence of the cop and refuses to run the system, but he promptly overrides the safety feature with the password "7777777" (seriously), electrocuting the cop. The password does have some other characters in it so it's more like '777.77-7777-7_7777'. (Assuming that those characters aren't part of a shown pattern to aid in typing in the code.)
    • Earlier in the movie, the same baddie escapes confinement by voicing the passcode to the cuffs that were restraining him (which was probably part of the programming he received while in cryostasis). It should be noted that the person who programmed him with this information is also pretty much the designer of their society and technology, so he purposely made things easy for Phoenix.
    • Lenina Huxley also uses an passwordless override command to access Simon Phonenix's cryostasis programming contents. However, the Viewer-Friendly Interface does hint that she has to state a life-threatening reason before accepting the override command.
  • In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Admiral Kirk uses a prefix code (which is unique for each ship) to force the Reliant to lower its shields after it seriously damages the Enterprise in a surprise attack. It works, but only because Khan a) didn't know that feature existed and b) couldn't find the manual override button on his ship's control console in time. They state it wouldn't have worked if Khan had changed the passcode after stealing the ship.
  • In WarGames (1983), the creator of the military super computer W.O.P.R. implements a back door password: Joshua, the name of his son.
  • Justified example: In Jurassic Park, the giant gates have a manual override lever so that they can be opened in the event of a power failure. There is also of course Nedry's software backdoor. This is justified too, since he wrote the software in the first place.
  • In Iron Man 2, close examination of both Tony Stark's and Anton Vanko's computer antics (Stark at the Senate committee hearing, Vanko when taking control of the Hammer mainframe) imply their seemingly ridiculous hacking skill boils down to having a backdoor account installed in the respective systems. In Stark's case, given his status as a major government contractor, he probably sold it to them in the first place, while Vanko had plenty of unsupervised access while he was helping program the Hammer drones on the same computers.
  • In Batman & Robin, Batman uses a voice activated override to shut down Robin's motorcycle and stop him from doing a dangerous stunt.
  • In Forbidden Planet Robby the Robot can be overridden using the phrase "emergency cancellation Archimedes".
  • In Mortal Engines, the crash drive was built to shut down MEDUSA if it was activated accidentally or maliciously.
  • Dr. Strangelove: Group Captain Mandrake discovers the override code to recall Burpleson AFB's B-52 squadrons from their misguided mission to attack Russian targets. They were variations on the letters O-P-E, which were anagrams of phrases General Ripper was scribbling down during his Sanity Slippage ("Peace On Earth," "Essence Of Purity", etc.). Now Mandrake has to contact the President to relay that code through a coin phone, only he hasn't got enough change and he's dealing with a Cloud Cuckoolander Colonel from another base.

  • Played with in a spinoff miniseries of Perry Rhodan. After being stuck millennia in the past of the Empire of Arkon (a time when his original self was still stranded on Earth), the protagonist Atlan is faced with a hostile local ruler who commands a fleet superior to that of the allies he's made. Thankfully, he remembers that the common practice during this historical period was for units of the Imperial fleet to have secret override codes so that suitably highly-ranked officers could simply render troublesome ships useless to their handlers with a single transmission, happens to have discovered the relevant codes for the enemy fleet, and uses them to devastating effect to force his enemies to evacuate their doomed planet with only the small craft he allows them while leaving their fleet behind. The 'played with' part comes in when he later muses that that very incident must have been one of the reasons the practice was discontinued not too long afterwards...
  • In Ancillary Justice Justice of Toren and every other Radchaai ship or station AI has these, and by the time of the series have each been given multiple conflicting commands from Anaander Mianaai. In the third book, the ships and station in Athoek system have their overrides removed using the overrides posessed by Lieutenant Tisarwat.
  • The Lost Fleet: Similar to the Perry Rhodan example above, the Syndicate Worlds have a remote command override system that can disable or totally take control of their warships, in order to prevent mutinies or force ships to undertake a Suicide Mission without going to the trouble of offloading the crew first. They're savvy enough to keep this extremely quiet and only use it in times of direst need, partly for fear of the Alliance getting wind of it and turning it against them in battle but also because once it becomes generally known that it's possible, every captain whose loyalty was even slightly uncertain would start working on an override for the override. Spin-off series The Lost Stars also addresses the other problem with an override function, when a high-ranking Syndicate official who's cleared for the codes in question is the one who leads a revolt.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Andromeda, at least one of the verbal authorization codes for overriding the Eureka Maru's ship safety protocols is "Shut up and do what I tell you"
  • In the Battlestar Galactica remake, this is the key to the Cylons' Curbstomp Battle of the entire Colonial Fleet in the opening stages of the war. One of the Sixes seduced Gaius Baltar, posing as a defense contractor, and convinced him to allow her access to the latest hardware being installed in the Fleet, ostensibly to give her an edge in bidding for the next contract. In reality, she inserted a backdoor that would allow the Cylons to remotely shut down any Colonial ships with the hardware installed. Since almost the entire fleet had been refitted with said hardware, the Cylons went through the Colonial Fleet like a chainsaw through tapioca.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor once hacked UNIT's computer systems so that they would accept "BUFFALO" as the correct response for all their passwords.
  • Farscape has fun with this in one episode. The protagonists have overridden the security on an elevator, only to have their override overridden. What do they do? Try to override it! Unfortunately, "We couldn't override their override of our override!"
  • The 7th season Hawaii Five-O episode "Computer Killer" has a surprisingly realistic example where an individual associated with an IBM expy obtains a secret book of phone numbers that allow direct administrator (root) access to most mainframe computer systems in the Honolulu area. This allows him to bypass all safeguards and event logging when changing database records. At the time mainframe computers were usually leased with the manufacturer maintaining direct back doors into the systems for maintenance or as an override mechanism when end users ran into trouble.
  • In one episode of Stargate Atlantis, Doctor Keller and Ronon are attempting to reclaim the Daedalus from the Wraith. Keller lists all the different systems they need to override and asks Ronon if he knows how to do all that. He proceeds to start shooting at the control crystals randomly.
  • Star Trek, of course, has several examples, from voice commands to manual overrides. Not only do they have override commands (in most cases, as simple as saying the word "Override"), but they have Auxiliary Control, which appears to be able to take over control from the Bridge without it being given voluntarily!
    • The example from Wrath of Khan shows up again in Star Trek: The Next Generation, being used to shut down the shields of a captain who was waging a one-man war on the Cardassiansnote . It was given to the Cardassians to stop him, but even without shields (however briefly), he still won.
    • In Star Trek: Voyager, Seven of Nine could control the entire ship on a whim. For example, one episode has her trying to access the Captain's personal logs. When denied, she walks over to a wall panel, flips a couple chips inside, and instantly gains access. In the same episode, she teaches a child to override commands from the bridge.
    • Star Trek: Picard:
      • Averted in "Broken Pieces" when Raffi decides I Need a Freaking Drink.
        Raffi: Burgundy. (replicator beeps, nothing happens) Red wine. (replicator beeps, nothing happens)
        Emergency Hospitality Hologram: (materializing) What is the nature of your hospitality emergency?
        Raffi: I need a glass of red wine.
        EHH: You disabled alcohol services from your quarters two days ago.
        Raffi: Reinstate it. Override.
        EHH: You locked yourself out of override and... (consulting padd) meta-override.
      • Later in the same episode, when Soji tries to hijack La Sirena to fly it to her homeworld, Cristóbal Rios recites "Arroz con leche", a Spanish lullaby, that completely locks out the helm and returns control of the remaining systems to him.
  • In the Supernatural episode "Devil May Care" (S09, Ep02), Kevin says Dean opening the door from the outside reset the systems and ended the bunker's lockdown.

    Video Games 
  • In the Game Boy version of a game based on Star Trek: The Next Generation, typing in OVERRIDE on the password screen will allow you to "override" the random mission selected, until you get the one you want.
  • Final Fantasy VIII has Selphie override several computers — one a "manual override" (in a Button Mashing minigame) and one a legit override in order to prevent a missile launch. (The password is EDEA, the name of the Sorceress dictator who's running the base.)
  • Fallout 3 has some sentient terminals and robots that can be affected by your Science skill (or failing that, Robotics Expert perk). One particular instance is the M.A.R.Go.T terminal, which can be overridden thusly.
    • Fallout: New Vegas also has this a few times. Also, hacking computers in general is this trope turned into a minigame in both this game and Fallout 3.
  • Portal 2's Wheatley performs a manual override on a wall to get Chell on to the old testing track to reclaim the portal device. AKA he smashes the wall down.
    • Played with in the core transfer procedure and the Stalemate Resolution Button. It overrides the current core and replaces it with another, as long as both cores agree. If not, a trained Stalemate Resolution Associate must push the aforementioned button. Chell is able to press it to start a transfer in her favor the first time, but when she does it again, Wheatley, in a rare moment of intelligence, reveals he rigged the button to some bombs to ensure she couldn’t press it.
  • System Shock uses the overrides at least twice. Considering that the software is dominated by SHODAN, It's the Only Way.
  • In Sonic Battle, Professor Gerald has installed one of these in Emerl the robot, but it must be activated before it goes definitively berserk. They aren't able to issue the command the second time.
  • MechWarrior series of games, being based on BattleTech, grants pilots the Override Shutdown command. The pilot shuts off the automatic shutdown designed to be engaged if the mech red lines over the Heat threshold, leaving only the Heatsinks and Life support systems active, while trying to limit damage to the fusion reactor and mech, as well as reduce the risk of an ammo explosion. Pilots shut it off when absolutely need to keep firing in a desperate attempt to survive by destroying the enemy mech quickly. Or by those who realize they're facing the end of the line, and are about to make one last final defiant stand.
  • In Discworld Noir, Lewton must get into the Archeologists' Guild vault, which is guarded by a magical lock which will Baleful Polymorph anyone who enters the wrong code. The trick is to talk to a wizard, who will tell you there's a "back passage" code.
  • Used and justified in Mega Man Legends, when Mega Man's pet monkey, Data overrides Mega Man Juno's commands to sterilize Kattelox island and even orders that Juno's personality be deleted. The reason this justified is that Mega Man actually did know the override codes a long time ago and copied them into Data for safe keeping.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Subverted: when Sarge is called upon to disarm a bomb he created, he says he specifically built it so that he could not — just in case he was brainwashed and fell in the hands of "those dirty Blues".
    • But used later on by Agents York and Washington, at different times, on the AI Delta, who can apparently be ordered to do just about anything by someone with the proper authority. Which makes sense: other storyline arcs clearly show what can happen when one of these A.I.s isn't kept under control.
  • Youtuber Tom Scott created a video of a fictional scenario where a disgruntled Google insider modified GMail to let anyone in the world log into anyone else's G Mail account without requiring the password. Chaos ensues.

  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • In the "GOFOTRON" arc, it becomes a sort of running gag that Riff overrides automated systems by tearing wires out with the phrase, "Everything has a manual override." This tends to have some unexpected consequences, from disabling the ship to indirectly causing the destruction of the entire universe.
    • Oasis apparently has "Override B-1" whenever she encounters Hereti-Corp personnel. From all appearances, activating it makes her more focused and less compassionate — this being someone already Ax-Crazy. When someone blurts out in the middle of a firefight that Riff works for Hereti-Corp, he says "I quit" and Oasis goes back to fawning over Torg. Cue every Hereti-Corp agent in the room announcing their resignation and leaving.
  • Freefall:
    • Being an artificial life form, Florence was equipped with several.
    • The robots have a verbal override command as well, which Florence used to prevent Blunt from attacking her in his effort to try to stop her from interfering with the release of Gardner in the Dark, which would effectively lobotomize all robots on Jean.
  • In Commander Kitty, simply being an intelligent lifeform (or Fluffy) counts as this for the Triple-I's automated drone pilots.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Dinobot's Heroic Sacrifice in Beast Wars was made possible by overriding his Stasis Lock protocol (basically a self-induced robotic coma if one is too low on energy or too banged up to function without injury). Although it violated the rules in order for drama since that was the only instance it announced it was going to work giving time to override it. All other times including with the character in question at earlier episodes they just immediately went into stasis lock, whether they wanted to continue to fight to the death or not.
  • The finale of Ben 10: Alien Force has Ben override the Omnitrix’s (and later, the Ultimatrix’s) command functions simply by saying “Code 10”. He can then issue commands that are a shout out to Star Trek’s “Make Ship Asplode” code.
  • In Code Lyoko, Aelita can shut down any Tower by use of her handprint and inputting Code: LYOKO. Other codes exist, such as Code: EARTH, which materializes Aelita, and Code: XANA, which is essentially an override that deletes the entire Sector.
  • An episode of Futurama with the cast of Star Trek: The Original Series:
    George Takei: Does your ship have a self-destruct code? Like: 1A, 2B, 3C,—(Bender's head blows up)
    Bender: Thanks a lot, Takei, now everyone knows.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "Through Imperial Eyes", Grand Admiral Thrawn's assassin droids, which he spars with, have the override "Rukh" to deactivate them. The Mole Kallus either deactivates or changes the override code when he sics the droids on Thrawn in an Assassination Attempt.
  • Wander over Yonder: In "The Prisoner", Commander Peepers is tasked with capturing Wander. He believes the task will be extremely easy given Wander's simple, trusting nature and that Lord Hater's description of him as a cunning genius was completely erroneous. Hilarity Ensues and in the end, the Skullship is about to self-destruct thanks to Wander's meddling. After forcing a panicking Peepers to admit he was wrong to underestimate Wander, Hater gives the self-destruct system's override command: "Lord Hater, Number One Superstar."

    Real Life 
  • Unix and similar operating systems have "sudo" (which temporarily elevates your privileges for one command) and "su" (which elevates them until you undo it).note  This is useful because you can accidentally run malicious or otherwise damaging programs, but as long as your privileges aren't elevated at the time, then the potential damage is limited.
    • To prevent The Cracker from having an easy time of it, you must be in the sudoers file and re-enter your password (for "sudo"), or enter the root password (for "su").
    • sudo make sandwich. Not to mention such possible combinations as sudo kill president and sudo destroy earth.
    • Windows has "runas", which basically work the same as "sudo" (or "su", if the one command you run is "cmd") if you provide it an account with administrator privileges.
  • Also, many mainboards had — and partly still have — model or even brand wide override passwords or key combinations to circumvent the password protection of the BIOS or the whole system.
    • In the business, it's called, "Removing the CMOS battery, waiting for it to forget the BIOS password, and then having our way with it."
    • Or put a jumper on the pins marked "CLR_CMOS", wait a second, done.
  • Forget your Windows user account password? Safe Mode gives you a password-free admin account that you can use to revert your account password (among other things). Well, only if you've been so stupid as not to set your Admin password (usually during Installation).
    • if you did set your admin password you can reset it using tools like a Bart PE disk that boots your computer into a lite environment that will allow you to run diagnostics on your harddrive without worrying about it being in use along with being able to do background administrative tasks
  • Websites that go to great length to explain the importance of long, complex, unguessable passwords, then suggest a password recovery question such as "Where do you live?" or "What is your mother's maiden name?"
    • Wiser ones, though, will reset the password by sending out an email to the associated email on file and require resetting the password that way. Wiser users still will make the answer to these questions completely unrelated to the question itself (functionally, a secondary password).
  • There is the magic SysRq key in Linux.
  • If you forget the root password on a Linux system, you can boot into single-user mode and reset it without being prompted for a password, if the BIOS password hasn't been set at least.
    • Unrestricted physical access to a PC of any kind is usually Game Over from a security standpoint. Even in the case of full disk encryption, the hardware can be modified to record the decryption passphrase in a way that would be hard to detect unless the user were specifically looking for it.
  • Ken Thompson, creator of the Unix operating system, produced one version whereby the login program had a back door. So just recompile from source, right? Except the C compiler was in on the joke too, and was programmed to add the back door to any case where it was building login, and to add the back-door-adding code to any case where it was building itself (so you could have a system where the programs were evil but the source looked 100% clean). And to add insult to injury, it was ''also'' programmed to recognize when it was building the disassembler, and alter it so the hacks wouldn't show up. No one knows if the back door made it out of Bell Labs.
    • In 2009 a virus for Microsoft Windows that made use of this technique was found in a Delphi compiler. After being undetected in the wild for at least a year.
  • The override code to a Playstation 2's parental lock is 7774. This activates the password reset. Since the Playstation 2 is notorious for not remembering its own passwords and/or parental lock settings, most players memorized that number.
  • Those electronic signs you see at the side of the road sometimes? The default password is commonly DOTS. If it's not, then you can hold Control and Shift and type DIPY to reset it to DOTS. Have fun warning drivers about zombies!
  • Most low end Internet routers have a "reset to defaults" button that needs to be paperclip-poked. This happens to be particularly useful when you're buying a used router and the previous owner forgot to give you the password.
  • Higher end routers can also be defeated with physical access by connecting with a console cable.
  • While it doesn't give you any access to the phone's other functions, many cell phones have an emergency dialer that can be used by anyone whether they know the code to unlock your phone or not. Very handy if it is the only phone available yet it's owner is missing or incapacitated by an emergency situation.
    • This is actually a legal requirement of almost all telephone systems throughout the world. The emergency number(s) must always be available, even if no other service is either available or allowed. If you can get a connection and use an emergency number you will be routed to an emergency dispatcher.
  • Most military equipment has a "battle short" feature of some sort, which deactivates some or all of the safety mechanisms. Drive system on a warship turret has been damaged and keeps blowing the fuse? Enemy is shooting at you and this is NOT THE TIME for repairs? Grab the chunks of solid copper shaped to fit in the fuse holder. You will probably damage the electric motors which move the turret, but if it saves the ship... Many generators, etc. will have a switch which does the same thing.
  • Unmanned spacecrafts have a safe mode, that stops everything but the essential functions as communications or attitude control so engineers at Mission Control can fix whatever caused the craft to enter into said situation. For critical moments of the mission as orbit insertion or landing this mode is overriden, so for example a cosmic ray hit on the wrong place at the worst moment will not cause the failure of a multi-billion dollar mission.
  • Android by default does not allow to install .APK files of unknown origin (ie, not downloaded from trusty sources as the Google Play Store). However there's a switch on the "Security" menu at least until Android 7.0 that once activated allows you to do so.
  • Many multi-factor authentication systems allow you to print a set of codes you can use in case you don't have access to the authentication method. If you use one of those codes, it becomes invalid however.

Alternative Title(s): Manual Override


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