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Plot-Demanded Manual Mode

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"The heat of the sun has melted through the navigation system. You will need to manually navigate it into the aperture."
H.U.E., Final Space, Chapter 8

Many mission-critical vehicles, machines, or devices operate autonomously under the control of a Master Computer, requiring little to no human intervention during routine use. When said device experiences a catastrophic Plot-Driven Breakdown, a human will inevitably need to activate an Override Command to save the day. Unfortunately, Genre Blind designers will often mount the manual controls in a hazardous or completely inaccessible location, never expecting them to have to be used.

In most cases, the task is extremely risky and the plot will feature the characters' attempts to activate the override without harm to themselves. If the task is guaranteed to be deadly, see Someone Has to Die.

When a bomb doesn't go off as planned and prompts a character to go after it for a manual detonation, see Unplanned Manual Detonation.


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Failing Autopilot:

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in Y: The Last Man when airline stewardess Beth II tries to land the aircraft after the male pilots die in the Gendercide. The plane crashes, killing all but three of the passengers. She later realises that the automatic landing system had already been set and if she'd just left the controls alone they would likely have landed safely.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Operation: Z.E.R.O., Numbuh One plans to drop the Moon Base on Grandfather, but the battle to get control of the base destroys the targeting system, so he has to aim the base manually.
  • WALL•E: Captain McCrea takes command of the Axiom by shutting off the mutinous AUTO and driving the ship himself.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ad Astra: Just as the Cepheus is landing on Mars a Surge knocks out their electronics. The protagonist has to take over from the acting captain who has frozen up under pressure and land the rocket on manual.
  • During the climax of The Dark Knight Rises, Batman uses his Cool Plane the Bat to haul a fusion bomb away from Gotham City. He has to fly it manually because he says the autopilot system is malfunctioning. He flies the bomb out over the ocean where it detonates and presumably kills him. Later, while completing work on the Bat, Fox discovers that Wayne had fixed the autopilot function months before and may have escaped before the bomb detonated.
  • In I, Robot, Spooner deactivates his car's autopilot when the traffic control network puts him between two trucks full of homicidal robots. While it helps him survive the subsequent ambush, no-one believe him afterwards as it looks like he got into an accident after driving recklessly by going manual.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Captain America: The First Avenger: Steve Rogers has to manually pilot the Hydra bomber plane into the ice because it's carrying several nuclear warheads programmed to target US cities and he has no way to deactivate them in time.
    • In The Avengers (2012), during the attack, when Nick Fury orders the Airborne Aircraft Carrier turned south, the navigator tells him the computers are still rebooting. Fury doesn't have patience for that.
      Fury: Is the sun coming up? Put it on the left!
  • In Slipstream (1989), the villain attempts a Short-Lived Aerial Escape from an unstoppable android intent on revenge, but the android just smashes his way into the flight cabin, rips out all the controls and starts to choke the pilot to death. At this point his Thou Shalt Not Kill programming takes over and he decides to Save the Villain instead, but the plane is crashing and he's destroyed the controls. Oops! So the android maneuvers the plane by physically pulling on the control cables. Unsurprisingly, the airplane crashes.
  • In Spy Kids, Carmen and Juni have to use a one-man speed jet to reach Floop's castle, but the autopilot fails mid-flight. When Carmen switches to manual mode, Hilarity Ensues when Juni takes over without having fully read read the instruction manual.
  • Star Trek: Insurrection: While doing the 'Riker Maneuver', Commander Riker apparently believes leaving this highly dangerous maneuver to his highly qualified bridge crew isn't wise, so he steers the Enterprise using what looks suspiciously like a computer game joystick.
    Riker: Computer, access manual steering column! Transfer helm control to manual!
    • Spoofed in Sev Trek: Pus in Boots when the joystick is missing because Data is using it to play Pokémon.
  • Inverted in Sunshine when the Master Computer takes control of the Icarus II spacecraft from the astronauts, because it has been programmed to prioritise the mission. Exposure to sunlight has started a fire in the garden that provides their oxygen, so the computer turns the Icarus II so the heatshield is fully facing the sun, killing the captain who is on the heatshield doing repairs. The astronauts try to re-establish manual control to prevent this, but the captain refuses to give his permission.
  • During the climax of Thunderbirds Are Go, the pilot of the Zero-X volunteers to stay in the cockpit and steer the damaged ship while the other crew members retreat into the escape pod. Downplayed in the pilot doesn't have to manually steer the craft, but it's just that he can do a better job at keeping the Zero-X steady than the automatic pilot.
  • In Total Recall (1990), Quaid is chased by the bad guys and gets into an Automated Automobile but since he cannot name a valid destination, the robot driver refuses to go anywhere. Cue Quaid ripping the robot from its chair and driving the car himself.

  • In Contraband Rocket, a 1956 sci-fi novel by Lee Correy, rocket geeks Resurrect the Wreck of an atomic Retro Rocket and take a trip to the Moon with it. Various components break down and the pilot considers using this trope not because the autopilot has stopped working but because the radar has, preventing the computer from getting reliable information. In the end he leaves it on and the rocket lands safely, despite a hair-raising moment when the computer does a sudden course correction.
  • In Limbo by Bernard Wolfe, during World War III, the protagonist steals an aircraft in an impulsive act of desertion. The Master Computer controlling the aircraft sends the airplane back to the airfield just when the enemy launch a nuclear attack on it. Facing either death from radiation poisoning or execution, he has to take an axe to the controls, thus damaging the autopilot and invoking this trope.
  • The Night's Dawn Trilogy: In The Neutronium Alchemist, the intelligence agents pursuing Dr. Alkad Mzu have to switch to manual driving when the electronic-warfare abilities of the Possessed glitch their Automated Automobiles.
  • In Spaceship Medic by Harry Harrison, a solar flare is heading towards a damaged spacecraft, and the only defense from the radiation is to evacuate everyone to the engine room, then turn the spaceship so the heavily shielded part is facing towards the solar flare. Unfortunately the officers who know how to program the ship to do this are dead, and the control circuits are nowhere near the engine room, so someone has to remain exposed to the radiation to operate them. The pilot works out an improvised radiation shield by putting himself in a spacesuit, then flooding the room with water, but then the spacesuit starts running out of oxygen before the flare has passed.
  • In the graphic novel of The Stainless Steel Rat for President, the title character and his family have stolen a spaceship only to be hit by a missile as they're returning to the planet.
    James diGriz: The auto-guidance has had it and the motors are shot. We're out of control and burning up!
    Jim diGriz: You're not trying hard enough son. This rustbucket is so old it actually has wings. We can glide down.
    James diGriz: Manual aerodymanic re-entry? That hasn't been done for centuries!
  • In the Action Prologue of Starship Troopers, the Roughnecks' shuttle is late to lift off because they're waiting to extract wounded; this causes them to miss the carefully preplanned and calculated rendezvous.note  Captain Deladrier instead takes manual control of her corvette Rodger Young and plots a flight course to dock her ship and the shuttle. On the fly. No calculations. By sight, instinct, and a steady hand.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blake's 7:
    • In "Breakdown", Zen switches itself off rather than pilot the Liberator through a Forbidden Zone. Jenna has to do the job manually, but it's pointed out by Avon that the Liberator is designed for computer control, so this trope will get them killed if they don't get the computer back on-line, due to cumulative minor errors by the pilot.
      Vila: What was all that about? Everything is running smoothly.
      Blake: That was because everything was balanced before the computers went off line. Try and adjust something, and you unbalance something else. Try and adjust that, you unbalance two more and before you know what's happened, the ship is out of control.
    • In "Orbit", the Villain of the Week sabotages an autoshuttle carrying Avon and Villa. Avon reprograms it for manual flight, but the saboteur is unfazed as it's the kind of move he'd expect Avon to make and he's already made allowance for it.
    • In the final episode, Scorpio is crash-landing on a planet, so the crew has teleport off, except for Tarrant, who insists on Going Down with the Ship.
      Tarrant: If I leave the controls for a second, she'll flip over and break up!
      Avon: Slave, take over the flight controls!
      Slave: I am most humbly sorry, Master, but I can find no flight controls.
      Tarrant: It dropped below his tolerance a couple of minutes ago. It's only a computer, Avon. It takes talent to fly a dead ship.
  • Come Back Mrs. Noah: When the Britannia Seven first starts to launch by accident, the crew try to turn on the autopilot but the computer just produces a jug of coffee. So the crew are talked through the manual procedure which involves pushing Billions of Buttons that they inevitably mess up (there's only one of them trained to pilot the ship, and he was seated down the back and didn't hear most of the lecture).
  • Doctor Who: In "Praxeus", the Doctor notes that the autopilot on the alien shuttle they need to launch to save the world may be faulty. They then have to run back into the TARDIS when the engines ignite, only to realize that one of them has stayed behind. He's not a main character so it looks like he'll perform a Heroic Sacrifice, but the Doctor manages to materialize the TARDIS around him just as the shuttle explodes.
  • In the premiere of Farscape, Pilot is too busy trying to hold Moya together to concentrate on John Crichton's Spaceship Slingshot Stunt, so D'Argo demands to be given "maneuverability" that so he and Aeryn Sun can operate the controls together.
  • For All Mankind: Molly Cobb is cast adrift in space and the situation is changing too fast for the simple computers of the era to come up with a solution. Gordo Steven back in Mission Control has to talk his wife Tracy through a manual procedure to navigate the Apollo spacecraft close enough to locate her.
  • Halo (2022): In the pilot episode Master Chief and Kwan Ha remove the AI on their Condor so The Chief can pilot it manually. Unfortunately they're immediately disabled by an EMP pulse, causing their ship to crash.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Caretaker", a much larger spaceship is hammering Voyager. So Chakotay sets his even smaller vessel on a collision course, but his guidance system is disabled so he has to pilot it manually. He has Voyager put a transporter lock on him to beam him out at the last second.
  • By the time of Ultraman Decker, the GUTS Falcon and Nursedessei have become fully automated. However, episode 1 shows a Spheresaurus neutralize both vehicles with an EMP, forcing the Nursedessei to return to manual operation and the GUTS Falcon to be modified for a pilot to operate it from the cockpit block, as it used to be operated by VR equipment instead.

  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978), the Magrathean missiles bearing down on the Heart of Gold are also jamming Eddie the computer's sensors, meaning he can't take evasive maneuvers. Zaphod calls for manual control (which the book describes as a series of control panels sliding out of the wall... along with a bunch of packing material since they've literally never been used before). Subverted in that nobody actually knows how to fly the ship manually, and there probably wasn't much they could do even if they did (although Trillian manages to evade the missiles temporarily using a technique she picked up "going round Hyde Park Corner on a moped"). Luckily, Arthur comes up with a third option.

    Theme Parks 
  • At the end of the Mission: Space ride at EPCOT, an autopilot failure means the riders are told they need to use the joysticks to pilot their ship in. (As with the other controls, nothing happens if the riders fail to operate them properly.)

    Video Games 
  • Super Robot Wars: Kai Kitamura is an Ace Pilot who favors the weak, mass-produced Gespenst machines, but can control their movements manually instead of relying on patterns preprogrammed in, making them more acrobatic and capable of pulling off complex maneuvers like judo throws. It's implied that the Jet Magnum and Gespenst Kick attacks found in some models are based on movement data recorded by Kai, and he's also developed upgraded versions like the Jet Magnum S and Jet Phantom.

    Web Animation 

    Web Videos 
  • Key of Awesome's Space Girl is trying to Abandon Ship, but her ship's computer keeps debating the issue. Space Girl threatens to use the Manual Override, and we're shown a bank of levers marked with everything from SELF DESTRUCT to PULL IF COMPUTER IS IN DENIAL.

    Western Animation 
  • Final Space: In episode 8, the Galaxy One has to fly into a sun in order to reach the dimension of the titan Bolo. It's a potentially suicidal move since the slightest error would result in the ship crashing into the sun and burning up. H.U.E., the ship's AI, tries to do it, but the sun's heat destroys the navigation system, forcing Gary to fly the ship manually. He barely manages to pull it off.
  • One episode of Kim Possible has the titular character working along a talking self-driving car to save the car's maker. During the climax the car gets damaged and cannot self drive, so Kim has to do it herself. Also in this episode Kim was having confidence issues due to her driving classes.
  • Subverted in an episode of The Simpsons: Future-Kearney is a cab driver who must take future-Maggie to the hospital. When his cab automatic driving computer malfunctions, Kearney takes his driving gloves, but they turn out to also be automatic, and he orders them to drive.

    Real Life 
  • Happened in Faith 7, the final Mercury mission. Astronaut Gordon Cooper had to do a lot of the re-entry steps manually because the onboard computer controls started malfunctioning.
  • Apollo 11's lunar module had to be taken under manual control and landed by Armstrong because the computer was sending it toward a boulder field.
  • USAF pilot Kim Campbell manually landed her A-10 Thunderbolt after the hydraulics were disabled by Anti-Air gunfire.

Failing Auto-Target:

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Captain America: Civil War: When Iron Man's targeting systems are damaged in the final battle, he raises his visor and aims the missile launcher attached to his arm with the Mark One Eyeball.
  • In the climactic scene of Moonraker, James Bond and Holly Goodhead use a laser-armed space shuttle to locate and destroy three globes filled with nerve gas sent to kill off the entire world population. As per Rule of Three the first two are destroyed easily, but as the shuttle enters the atmosphere the automatic targeting starts to malfunction from the heat and vibration, so Bond has to aim it manually using a fold-out joystick.
  • A New Hope: Luke has to turn off his targeting computer and use the Force to destroy the Death Star. Technically, he doesn't have to, but Obi-Wan suggests it and the pilot who'd previously tried the computer assisted shot failed (the shots didn't go into the exhaust port all the way) implying it wouldn't work.
  • Star Trek (2009):
    • At the beginning of the film, Kirk's father gets put in command of the Kelvin as it's attacked by the Narada, and ends up ordering everyone to abandon ship. He's about to escape himself when the computer informs him that the automatic controls have been destroyed. He stays and performs a Heroic Sacrifice, manually shooting down torpedoes being fired at the escape shuttles and finally ramming his ship into the Narada.
    • Later on in the film, the computer is having difficulties locking onto a falling Kirk and Sulu, so Chekhov rushes from his station on the bridge all the way to the transporter room so he can manually lock on for a Teleportation Rescue.
  • During the Battle of the Mutara Nebula in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the auto-targeting locks for the weapons systems are inoperative because the nebula interferes with the ship's sensors. Sulu tries to fire phasers at the Reliant, but an inconvenient jolt causes his shots to go wide. Similarly, Khan is forced to blind-fire at the Enterprise. It's only at point-blank range that either ship can score any hits.
  • Inverted in the Star Wars parody Thumb Wars. During the trench run on the Death Star, Obi-Wan Kenobi's voice urges Luke to use the battle computer, because hitting small targets is what a sophisticated weapons computer is designed to do.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Masks", a sentient alien artifact is slowly changing the Enterprise. The targeting system goes off-line as a result, so Worf and Geordi attempt to manually program a photon torpedo to destroy it, until the interior of the torpedo is revealed to be crawling with snakes created by the artifact.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In the climax of "Future's End", Captain Janeway has to crawl into a photon torpedo tube and launch it manually because most of Voyager's computer systems have been knocked out. She ends up being scorched by the exhaust gasses, though not seriously as the Doctor was on hand to treat her.

    Video Games 
  • Devil May Cry 5: Nero can normally target enemies easily and then automatically aim at them when he attacks. When he activates the "Tomboy" Devil Breaker, however, it increases his attack power dramatically at the cost of him being unable to automatically aim.

Manual Opening (or Closing/Unlocking/Activating):

    Comic Books 
  • The second Superman/Spider-Man Team-Up offers an example. The regulating computer for Dr. Doom's reactor has been damaged in the final battle with the heroes, and without it, the reactor will melt down. Superman's the only one who can hold the reactor's core, so he dives underground and leaves Spider-Man to deal with the damaged computer. Fortunately, Spidey figures out which lever to throw (and in what direction, thanks to his patented Spidey-Sense) just in time to avert the cataclysm.

    Films — Animation 
  • One of three huge circuit breakers of Titan A.E. won't reset, which means Cale's plan to reroute Drej energy will fail. Fortunately, a Heel–Face Turn by Captain Korso results in this man making a manual bridge between the contacts.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • When David Bowman from 2001: A Space Odyssey gets locked out the spacecraft Discovery, HAL refuses to open the bay door, so David has to manually open the door.
  • In Aliens, the wires for the colony communicator to summon the shuttle have been cut, and Bishop has to crawl down the tunnel to align it manually.
  • Alien 40th Anniversary Shorts: In "Harvest", the Escape Pod can only take two people and there are three survivors, so Mari manually overrides the command so it will launch. However, it's then revealed that Mari has placed two alien eggs on board to impregnate the two survivors, and she's actually doing this so the escape pod will launch regardless of its biocontainment protocols.
  • In The Andromeda Strain, Dr. Mark Hall has to run the gauntlet of the central core's self-defense safeguards to reach a point where the Self-Destruct Mechanism can be deactivated.
  • Avengers: Infinity War: In order to restart the forge on Nidavellir so that they can make the Stormbreaker axe, Thor has to hold the forge's lens open because the mechanism was crippled during the last use. Eitri notes that taking the full force of a Neutron star would be a suicide mission but Thor is willing to take the risk because facing Thanos without the axe is just as much of a suicide. Needless to say, Thor succeeds.
  • The iconic image of Major Kong Riding the Bomb in Dr. Strangelove didn't occur because of a death wish on Kong's part. The broken electrical wiring controlling the bomb bay doors was located just over the bomb, so in order to reach it to repair the wiring he was sitting on the bomb, He finally managed to make the repairs just as the plane was over the target, so when the doors opened and the bomb was released he was still sitting on its nose.
  • Subverted in Interstellar:
    • Dr Mann tries to manually dock with the spacecraft after TARS shuts off the autodocking system. He ends up killing himself because the shuttle isn't forming a proper seal, so when he opens the hatch Explosive Decompression blows him out the airlock.
    • In order to escape from the black hole, TARS and Cooper manually control the Lander and Ranger craft to act as boosters for the Endurance, because the navigation computer has failed. We discover their actual reason is so they can do an Emergency Cargo Dump so the Endurance will escape the black hole's gravity, whereas they will be pulled into it.
  • Jurassic Park: In order to manually restore the power that Nedry foolishly shut down, Dr. Sattler must sneak into the utility bunker that routes power to different parts of the park. This provides for a convenient Trapped-with-Monster Plot situation when Dr. Sattler finds herself alone in the bunker with a dinosaur.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the Nautilus is sinking from a bomb explosion, and controls to seal off the area where the hull is breached aren't working. Mr. Hyde needs to swim down and release the hatch manually.
  • In Passengers (2016), Jim has to go outside the starship and open the fusion reactor's outer vent door because the electronics failures across the ship disabled the internal controls. To make things worse, the door closes the second he takes his hand off the lever, requiring him to stay out there in the plasma stream while Aurora opens the inner door.
  • Space Cowboys:
    • The Russian satellite's propulsion system is malfunctioning and it's free-falling towards Earth, which wouldn't be a problem if said satellite wasn't also carrying a dozen armed nuclear warheads. In order to prevent the oncoming disaster, the terminally-ill Hawkins straps himself on the satellite, points it towards outer space, and fires up the missiles' propulsion systems, guiding it away from the planet.
    • Team Daedalus manage to "land" the "Space Shuttle", but only after the computer is disabled and they have to do it manually. The younger generation astronauts find this nigh-unbelievable.
  • The Spy Who Loved Me: Bond and Anya are trying to escape the Collapsing Lair as it sinks beneath the ocean. Fortunately, Bond noticed an Escape Pod earlier, but when he pushes the button to open the door, it won't open. He then sees a handwheel that he has to turn first, while water is pouring in on them.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the Enterprise crew's stolen Klingon bird of prey is sinking into San Francisco Bay. Kirk needs to swim underwater and manually open the hatch to release the whales, as the automatic systems won't respond.
  • Star Trek: First Contact: The magnetic locks holding the deflector dish have to be disabled manually because the Borg are blocking the computer commands to do so. This means walking outside the hull in spacesuits and battling the Borg drones who are reconfiguring the dish.
  • Unbroken: After the bomb doors fail to close due to flak damage, a member of the B-24 Liberator crew has to walk out onto the catwalk across the open bomb bay (while enemy fighters are attacking) and try to close them. However the hydraulics turn out to be damaged, making even the manual crank useless.

  • The Murderbot Diaries
    • Invoked in All Systems Red. The rocket that launches an interplanetary distress beacon has been sabotaged, but Murderbot tells the villains that the others intend to launch it manually, so they'll rush out there to stop them leaving their own base unguarded.
    • In Exit Strategy, Murderbot is caught in a Lock Down on the wrong side of the door with three hostile SecUnits. His human friends get the door open manually, and Murderbot (who's used to computer-hacking its way through systems) muses that it had no idea you could do that. "I'm a SecUnit, not an engineer."
  • In the Priscilla Hutchins novel Chindi, when the power gets knocked out on the Wendy and the doors seal automatically, Tor tries to open the door manually like he's seen in the sims, only the Artificial Gravity has been shut down as well, so when he tries pushing on the handle he just floats up into the air because he can't get leverage. It's further complicated in that he's a civilian passenger so even the simple manual instructions are something he has to talked through. For instance, Priscilla points out that the manual release levers don't all work the same way — some pull up while others have to be pulled outwards.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the 7 Days (1998) episode "Lifeboat", Frank has to manually prevent a reactor meltdown. He gets a lethal radiation dose, but, luckily, one of the alien devices Project Backstep has is intended to treat such cases.
  • Deconstructed in one episode of Andromeda. One of the ship's parts fails, so Beka and Tyr have to start manually performing the functions it was supposed to do while Dylan hunts down a replacement. Since these are mundane functions, they both start getting more and more bored as it drags on.
  • Chernobyl: In episode 2, a three-man team have to manually open the sluice gate to drain the water tanks underneath the Chernobyl plant. It's regarded as a suicide mission because the water is contaminated by radiation, which also kills their flashlights meaning they have to do the task in total darkness.
  • Dark Matter (2015): In episode 7, a saboteur has locked most of the crew in their rooms while the controls have been locked so the Raza will fly into a sun. Five is able to get to the Bridge, but while she can't access the navigational controls, she can access "non-essential" functions, so she switches the door controls to manual so the trapped crewmembers can open them.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Death to the Daleks", the TARDIS lands on the planet Exxilon only to find itself drained of power, forcing the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith to crank open the doors manually.
    • In "The End of the World", the restore switch for the space station's computer systems is at the other end of a platform blocked by giant rotating fans. The Doctor protests the rising heat will burn the wooden Jabe, but she insists on staying to hold down the switch that slows the fans. The Doctor makes it nearly to the end before Jabe catches fire and burns. He closes his eyes and concentrates, making it past the last fan and throwing the reset switch.
  • The Incredible Hulk (1977): In the episode "747", Hulk foils a group of jewel thieves aboard an airliner, and in the struggle, a bullet damages a hydraulic hose that controls the flight surfaces. As the plane arrives at its destination, the controls have lost so much pressure that they can't be operated by a normal person, ensuring that the plane will crash. A teenage boy, whose father is a pilot and was reading a manual, manages to convince Hulk before he turns back into Banner to take control of the plane, and with his strength, the plane manages to land safely.
  • In a Lenny Henry spoof of Doctor Who, the Doctor can't get the TARDIS to start, so has to resort to the dimorphic inertia system. His Companion promptly hands him a crank-start handle.
  • The Orville: The episode "Electric Sheep" has Ensign Charly Burke recount how she survived the destruction of her ship during the Battle for Earth. Her and her best friend Amanda ran to an escape pod, but the damage jammed the doors. There was a momentary disagreement over which of them would close the door manually from the outside with Amanda eventually doing it, giving her life so Charly would live.
  • In Stargate Universe, when the expedition ends up aboard the Destiny, which has been flying through space for millions of years, they find the ship in a state of disrepair, with many systems failing or not working and with damage from meteor strikes. One such damage is to a shuttle which is causing the air to slowly leak out of the ship. The solution is to close the doors, but the outer control are jammed. There are controls inside the shuttle, but anyone who uses them will be committing suicide. Senator Alan Armstrong, who's suffering from internal bleeding without adequate medical help, goes to the shuttle and closes the doors after saying goodbye to his daughter. She's forced to watch her father suffocate, but he ensures that she and the rest of the expedition survive.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series: In "Mirror, Mirror", the transporter is locked down, requiring someone to stay behind and operate the system manually. Scotty volunteers to stay, but Kirk orders him onto the platform. Fortunately, Mirror Spock arrives and restores normal transporter control, explaining that he was simply delaying the departure until he arrived.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Encounter at Farpoint", after the saucer and drive sections of the Enterprise are separated, Picard tells Riker to do the redocking manually — which is still fairly computer-aided, it's just a question of giving individual orders/instructions rather than pressing the "dock" button. This is a downplayed version as Picard was just testing Riker's skills.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In "Babel", Odo has to release the docking clamps manually to jettison a spaceship that's about to explode. The situation is made even more difficult because a virus has knocked out everyone except Quark, and Odo is unfamiliar with the procedure.
    • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Learning Curve", the manual overrides don't open the doors if they don't have power, which is the entire purpose of a manual override.
    • In the Star Trek: Discovery episode, "Such Sweet Sorrow, Part Two", a torpedo impacts the Enterprise but fails to detonate. Admiral Cornwell goes down to the impact site to try to disarm the warhead, but there is nothing that can be done. When Captain Pike goes there, she tells him that someone has to close the bulkhead to prevent the rest of the ship from going up when the torpedo detonates, but the impact has damaged the automated controls. So one of them has to stay behind and close the bulkhead manually. She orders Pike to go back to the bridge, since the ship needs her captain. After closing the bulkhead, the Admiral faces the torpedo and calmly waits for it to explode with her hands behind her back.
  • In the Stranger Things episode "The Mind Flayer", the lab goes into emergency shut down, locking the heroes in with the demodogs. Bob has to reach the basement to override the security codes with a manual input that will open gates for the group to escape.

    Video Games 
  • The Halo: Reach level "Long Night of Solace" revolves around Spartans Jorge-052 and Noble Six boarding a Covenant Corvette in order to plant a makeshift slip space "bomb" on board and use it to destroy the titular Supercarrier. After initiating the docking procedure to the carrier, Jorge tells Six that the timer on the bomb is fried, meaning one of them would have to set it off manually. The level's final cutscene consists of Six watching helplessly while in free fall as the corvette and the midsection of the carrier, with Jorge still aboard, is teleported into oblivion.
  • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. The Aurora Unit instructed Samus to assemble the Theronian bomb so they could drop it on top of the Leviathan Seed shield to breach it. In order to do this, Samus has to Ride the Bomb and disable the engines manually.
  • Portal 2: The opening ride ends with Wheatly performing a "manual override" (via Ramming Always Works) to dock the sleeping compartment. The actual docking port was a few hundred feet below, presumably in working condition.

    Western Animation 
  • Justice League:
    • In "The Enemy Below", the controls on the Doomsday Device are destroyed, so Batman goes inside for a manual reset while John provides a defensive field for him.
    • "Starcrossed" sees Batman Colony Drop the League's orbital station, the Watchtower, onto the bad guys' main base on Earth. Because the Watchtower wasn't actually designed for this thing, he's forced to stay behind after everyone else evacuates to manually guide the descent until he passes out from the heat and is pried out of his seat in the last second by Superman.
  • The Simpsons: In the episode "King-Size Homer", Homer makes himself obese so he could work from home. His job is to release gas from the plant's boiler to avoid buildup that would lead to a catastrophic meltdown, which he does from a computer workstation set up in his house. When he slacks off and gas starts to build up, he has to run to the plant and release the valve manually. He barely makes it when the tank blows, but fortunately, his fat body blocks the hole in the tank.


    Comic Books 
  • The Phoenix Saga goes crazy with this trope. The incident that turns Jean into the Phoenix is caused by the Sentinels damaging the space shuttle that the X-Men used to get to the space station she and a few other X-Men were trapped on. Making matters worse, they have no functioning pressure suits, there's a hole in the shuttle and there's a deadly solar flare heading their way. Jean is forced to perform a Heroic Sacrifice to save everyone.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The cranking-down-the-undercarriage version also happens in Memphis Belle, albeit they succeed Just in Time in that case.
  • Major Landon from Tora! Tora! Tora! is piloting one of twelve B-17s to Pearl Harbor, only to discover that he's flying "smack into the middle of a war." Too low on fuel to try for Bellows Airfield or Wheeler Airfield, Landon must land on the battered Pearl Airfield. Worse, his right side landing wheel won't deploy. A crewman tries working a crank to get this wheel down, but the mechanism is hopelessly jammed. The result is an ugly but survivable touchdown on two wheels.

  • Stewart Cowley's Terran Trade Authority universe features this trope during the Laguna Wars in Great Space Battles. The centrally controlled human battlefleet is vulnerable to the Lagunans' control-systems disorientation weapon and the manual backup systems are grossly suboptimal, so the mothball fleet of a previous era actually designed for independent manual control is hauled out of retirement.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow: In "City of Blood", the characters have to use a beached Japanese submarine from the Second World War. To blast it free they have to fire the torpedoes, only to find they're Kaiten manually piloted torpedoes meant for suicide attacks. Fortunately, someone who doesn't have Plot Armor is already dying of radiation poisoning and volunteers to make a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • MacGyver (1985): In "Rock the Cradle", Mac has to juryrig a way to manually lower the landing gear on a plane as Jack Dalton is bringing it in for a landing. He succeeds, but falls out the plane (he is wearing a parachute).
  • Happened in NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles. The two tech experts generally end up typing like a couple of crazed gerbils having a fit of sugar-rush and in the same time, trying to fix it. Once, there was an hostile outside takeover and a subversion: they just unplugged it all.
  • The Orville: In the episode "Domino", a superweapon is about to fire, wiping out all Kaylon in a 10,000-lightyear radius. Charly, who was the one to build the weapon in the first place (along with Isaac) tries to stop it from firing, but the multiple failsafes placed by the Moclans mean she has to constantly overcome them up until the end. She tells the others to flee and stays behind to work the controls. Her last thoughts are about her fallen best friend (and possible lover) Amanda, who also fell victim to this trope. Fortunately, Charly's sacrifice impresses the Kaylon enough to stop their genocide of all organics and agree to an offer of a provisional alliance with the Union with the possibility of a permanent membership in the future.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In "Emissary", Chief O'Brien has to work with an alien Master Computer that — being unfamiliar with the legendary Starfleet engineers — shuts down his Crazy Enough to Work procedure because it's too dangerous. O'Brien tells his team to do it manually, then informs the computer that they're going to have a talk...
    • In "The Siege", Kira and Dax have to bring out of mothballs a fighter built by the Bajoran Resistance which doesn't have any sensors, requiring them to navigate it and aim the weapons using just their eyes.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In "Episode 0" of Code 7, once you and Sam finally reach your ship so you can escape Schrödinger Station, you find out that automatic controls are disabled. Sam needs 50 energy for maintaining the Deflector Shields, so you have to distribute the other 50 between the engine (main thruster and attitude control unit) and life support (oxygen, pressure and thermal control unit).
  • In the Ganondorf fight in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Ganon's waves of darkness prevent Navi from using Z-Targeting, forcing Link to hit him with Light Arrows manually.

    Web Animation 
  • In Animator vs. Animation 4, the mouse cursor is destroyed and the animator has to use the keyboard to recover it.

    Western Animation 
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "First First Contact", Commander Ransom manually pilots the Cerritos through a dangerous debris field with Ensigns Mariner and Sh'Reyan calling out debris in the ship's path to him (the ship wasn't actually damaged in any way, but the natural EMP properties of the debris would fry their systems if they left the power on). Additionally, Ensign Boimler has to swim down into the depths of Cetacean Ops to free the last panel on the outside of the ship, nearly dying in the process.


Video Example(s):


Watcher Koranos

After ascending Tyrhold to wonder why the Beacon remains unlit and finding that the Keeper is dead, Koranos resolves to activate the Beacon manually when the controls aren't working. Resolving to bring the Dragons back home even as his stone body is cracking apart.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / PlotDemandedManualMode

Media sources: