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Percussive Shutdown

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"If in doubt, break it."
Adam Jensen, Deus Ex: Black Light

When all else fails, sometimes the easiest way to turn off a thing that needs to be turned off is to break it.

Characters occasionally come across situations where a device in their vicinity that is integral to the plot; more specifically, integral to derailing the plot, and it has to be prevented from doing so. But such devices rarely come with an "off" switch, so what are the intrepid heroes to do?

Why, smash it to bits, of course! When there is simply no better option available, you might as well.

Not that this isn't a viable option—even outside of fiction, damaging something to the point of nonfunctionality is technically an effective way to turn something "off", in a manner of speaking. Of course, this isn't advised if you intend on using it again, so perhaps it is best not to immediately resort to bashing the bejeezus out of things that need to be deactivated.

Compare Percussive Prevention when this tactic is applied to a character rather than an object. Contrast Percussive Maintenance, which is using violence to get stuff working again. Can overlap with Percussive Therapy if the continued failure to deactivate the stubbornly functioning device becomes a source of frustration for the character. Supertrope to Shoot the Television and Ring-Ring-CRUNCH!. Compare Cut the Juice for a more conventional shutdown procedure.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Fan Works 
  • Switcheroo AU: In "Jailbreak", Spinel's method of getting Peridot's ship to turn around is by stomping on the control panel.

    Films — Animation 
  • Inside Out: The emotions Anger, Disgust, and Fear have realized that giving Riley the idea to run away was a mistake, and are trying desperately to correct the mistake by removing the idea bulb. But it proves to be unmovable. So they try smashing it. But it also proves unbreakable.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Subverted in The Avengers. When Tony first encounters the portal generator, the first thing he tries is blasting it with his repulsors. This does absolutely no damage to the device; it does however create a shockwave that knocks Selvig back to his senses, giving Selvig an opportunity to explain how the generator can be de-activated.
  • In Sing Street, the evil school's principal wants to finish a dance at the gym by turning the lights back on. The former school bully prevents this by smashing the light switch, making it impossible to do so. Everyone cheers and the dance continues.
  • In Star Trek, this gets double-subverted — the heroes were planning to sabotage the giant laser drill with explosive charges, but made the mistake of letting the Red Shirt carry them. For a moment it looks like they'll have to use their brains... until Kirk grabs a couple of guns dropped by mooks who don't need them anymore and Kirk and Sulu simply open up on the drill at point-blank range. It gets lampshaded in the novelization.
    Kirk: I found the off switch!
  • Inverted in Weird Science. When Gary attempts to shut down his Magical Computer with a baseball bat after it connects with a government mainframe during a lightning strike, the bat breaks instead of the machine.

  • In Shards of Honor, Aral and the crew members loyal to him are shut in a small room with a loudspeaker blaring out mutineer propaganda, so he tells Bothari to silence it. Bothari does this by shooting the loudspeaker with a plasma rifle. Looking at the melted remains, Aral points out that they might have wanted to be able to use the communicator themselves.
  • In the Discworld novel Going Postal, the Mail Sorting Engine (which, due to its creator being infamous for making Achievements in Ignorance, had a central flywheel with Pi being exactly 3 instead of 3-and-a-bit), is a Reality-Breaking Paradox which continues spitting out letters from alternate universes even after being turned off. Until a Post Office employee grabs a crowbar and begins beating the machine with it until it finally stops spitting out letters.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: Na'toth's rescue of G'kar from an assassination attempt combines this with Percussive Therapy. She comes across G'kar helplessly restrained by "pain-givers'' from dispatching the assassin on his own. After convincing the assassin she's been sent as back-up, she starts beating up G'kar. Moments later, G'kar is able to knock out the assassin unobstructed, where before the attempt would have killed him. Then he and Na'toth share words.
    G'Kar: That hurt.
    Na'Toth: Ambassador, it was the only way to disable the pain-givers. I had to hit them as hard as possible, as often as possible and still make it appear as though I were beating you into another incarnation.
    G'Kar: And you didn't enjoy it in the least?
    Na'Toth: I didn't say that.
  • The Bionic Woman episode "Doomsday Is Tomorrow". With the doomsday device's countdown running out, Jaime tries to stop the explosion by destroying the circuits of the ALEX 7000 computer that's controlling the countdown.
  • Castle: During a particularly tense two-parter episode, Castle and Beckett have been chasing a group of domestic terrorists attempting to set off a dirty bomb in town. Eventually, they do find the bomb, but with only seconds left on the timer.... With no time to pick a wire to cut, Castle just yanks all of them at once... this works.
  • Attempted at least twice in Eureka by Jack.
    • In the episode "H.O.U.S.E. Rules" he takes his prized signed baseball bat to the nuclear generator that powers the smarthouse when it threatens to vaporize Zoe with a laser. He doesn't so much as crack the generator's housing.
    • Later in the Season 4 finale he nearly shoots the FTL Ion Reactor that's about to send The Astraeis (with unplanned passenger Allison on board) to an unknown location, he then "thinks better" and instead beats it with a pipe. It manages to shut down the batteries but too late to stop the launch. (Moral of the story: Jack doesn't like it when technology threatens his loved ones.)
  • Mr. Bean once opted to turn off a light by shooting it, in order to forego the effort of getting out of bed to do so manually.
  • Torchwood: On both occasions where resurrection gauntlets are used to bring characters back to life, they end up going out of control and sucking the life out of hosts with no way of being turned off. So Jack just shoots them.
  • Happens on NCIS "Kill Screen", when Team Gibbs has to shut down a supercomputer that can breach the DoD's firewalls and erase all of their data, and it has a timer counting down to when the breach will be complete. McGee's computer skills aren't fast enough to shut it down electronically in time, and cutting the power source does nothing to stop it, so Gibbs pulls out his gun and puts a few bullets inside the computer to kill it.

    Video Games 
  • In Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, Rosa Cosette d'Elise shuts down a freaking space elevator (the ISEV, to be exact) by smashing up a set of transmitters on the top of its windbreak, also disabling the Active Protection System of Arsenal Bird Justice in the process.
  • In Horizon Zero Dawn, a sidequest ends with Aloy finding a lure that a merchant had brought into a city, causing Glinthawks to attack. When the merchant stammers that he doesn't know how to shut it off, Aloy gives him a contemptuous look before stabbing it with her spear.
  • In Mass Effect 3, if Vega is assigned to shut down any technical equipment, his method consists of "fiddling with the wires" before kicking it until it stops working.
  • In Digital Devil Saga 2, the Karma Society attempts to stop the protagonists' progress by breaking the control consoles for their electronically locking doors. Unfortunately for them, Roland's Shock and Awe powers allow him to use those consoles anyways.
  • When Mr. Shifty has to shut something down, this is how he does it.
  • In Mega Man Legends after Megaman Volnutt gets electrocuted and restrained by a trap from Megaman Juno, Teisel and Tron come in and decide to help Megaman out of the trap.
    Teisel: [looks at one of the pylons] Hey Tron! How do you turn this thing off?!
    Tron: Oh? This? Like this! [gives it a hard kick]

    Web Comics 
  • In Girl Genius, Agatha deals with the "Lion", a device designed to permanently shut off her sentient castle, by smashing a large portion on top with a crowbar. She later revives the Lion by modifying the remains a bit when the castle's broken condition means it is trying to prevent her from getting treatment for a fatal illness in its attempt to keep her alive as she "just broke the big flashy bits".

    Western Animation 
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: After Sendak takes the castle and captures Lance and Shiro, Allura and Keith are stuck outside after the particle barrier is activated, leaving Pidge the only Paladin still at large on the inside. Allura directs Pidge to the castle's star drive chamber, in order to shut it down and prevent Sendak from getting away with the castle, and also the Lions. Unfortunately, the drive activates before Allura can go through the proper shutdown sequence, disrupting communications. With no other options, Pidge just says "whatever" and smashes the controls with her bayard, preventing the launch.