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Robotic Torture Device

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Evil Empires can't just slouch around on a throne all day, they have Muggles to oppress and Doomed Hometowns to raze! So not every Evil Overlord can take the time out of their busy schedule to personally interrogate a captive (which, let's face it, is the only surefire way to get them to break). So instead, they will delegate the use of Cold-Blooded Torture... to something without the blood. The Robotic Torture Device is a torture device with various bits of torture equipment, including but not limited to: knives, poison filled syringes, blades, electric shock prods, Agony Beams, or worst of all, feathers.

The robot itself may require the victim be Strapped to an Operating Table beforehand, or may incorporate a Shackle Seat Trap to immobilize them itself. It can be programmed to torture captives, or it might just be a swiss army knife for a Torture Technician. For extra Nightmare Fuel, the torture implements will be on arms that hack and stab blindly, with the promise of mauling the victim indiscriminately and never tiring.

Depending on how you want to look at it, it either makes the torture more or less dehumanizing by having a cold and unfeeling robot administer it. At least, we hope it's cold and unfeeling, because otherwise it could get much, much worse.

Expect The Dragon or Torture Technician to coldly intone "We Have Ways of Making You Talk" as it slowly draws near the victim before The Cavalry arrives... or not, which results in a fate that makes falling into a woodchipper seem tame.


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    Comic Books  
  • ElfQuest has a simple but very nasty device, designed by Two-Edge for the human warlord Grohmul Djun. The victim is strapped between two large metal urns in the shape of birds, which are slowly filled with water through their upturned beaks. They are pivoted in such a way that as the weight of water increases they begin to tip outward, placing increasing pressure on the victim's limbs. If the victim doesn't surrender they're torn limb from limb.

    Film — Live-Action  
  • Devices of this description appear in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in Goblin Town, inspired by a passing reference in the original novel.
  • The Machine in The Princess Bride. Made all the more horrifying with Count Rugen politely asking for Westley to describe the sensation For Science!. The book goes into some detail about it — Wesley had managed to withstand "mundane" torture by sending himself to his Happy Place, but the Machine can even get in there, torturing him down to his soul. According to Rugen, it literally sucks years of your life out of you.
  • Star Wars:
    • The IT-O interrogation device the Empire uses offscreen on Princess Leia in A New Hope. Thankfully, Beauty Is Never Tarnished. In fact, in the novelization and the radio play, we see that Vader sends the droid away and instead performs a rather disturbing Mind Probe. Some EU sources state that IT-O droids often attack their victim's genitals. You may cringe now.
    • The Empire Strikes Back: The torture device Darth Vader uses on Han Solo in Cloud City. He performs the torture in order to lure Luke, the one whom Vader truly wants.
    • There's also the EV series, which came about when a line of supervisors were fitted with torture droid motivators. Jabba employed one, known as EV-9D9, for a while. It's the droid in Return of the Jedi that assigns jobs for R2-D2 and C-3PO, while in the background her assistant is holding a hapless power droid's feet to a red-hot wire.

  • The first instalment Escape From Blood Castle from the Usborne Mystery Stories features a highly complicated torture machine. While the victim is stretched out on a rack, a chain of events is set off, including a chandelier being winched up, whose candles burn a rope attached to a cage, which frees a pterojackdaw, and a sharp-bladed pendulum descends over the victim on the rack.

  • In Atlas Shrugged, there is a device designed to deliver electrocution to cause maximum pain but stopping just before the point of death.
  • Book of the New Sun mentions several of these in its scenes regarding the local Torturers' Guild. Two are described in detail: Allowin's Necklace is a mechanical garrote tightened by the tidal motion of its victim's breathing (a victim breathing shallowly can last for hours), while the Revolutionary painfully awakens an unconscious urge toward self-destruction. These urges can be overridden consciously, but in unguarded moments its victims revert to scratching at their own skin or trying to claw out their eyes; they weaken as the victim does, however, and strong-willed individuals can take months to die. (There's also a brief mention of a device that will carve slogans into a victim's flesh, which is a Shout-Out to Franz Kafka's In the Penal Colony, though modern readers might be thinking of another story altogether.)
  • The torture device Franz Kafka thought of in the short story In The Penal Colony, which carves a description of the crime into the victim's skin over and over again. In its final use, it malfunctions and just kills the victim brutally and quickly, rather than killing them slowly and agonizingly like it's supposed to.
  • The Phantom of the Opera has a completely automated torture chamber: when the victim falls in the room, it activates and gives him the illusion of a tropical forest. When the victim cannot endure more, there is also a rope to hang himself. The Phantom uses it as a defense against curious people. The first victim of the book was already dead when the Phantom found him.
  • In Sheri S. Tepper's Six Moon Dance, there's a sexual bondage device which is set to inflict sadistic pleasure at first... before it just gets sadistic, and deadly.
  • In the Takeshi Kovacs book Broken Angels, one character is subjected to the Wedge punishment for traitors; a machine designed to slowly torture them to death over the course of an entire day. While the machine is busy flaying skin, breaking bones and cracking teeth for the enjoyment of the watching crowd, it's also carefully administering drugs and medical attention to ensure that the subject is alive and conscious for as much of the ordeal as possible.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The device Edmund gets strapped to in the final episode of The Black Adder features a spike going up one's nethers, shears to cut off the ears, axes to chop off the hands, a coddling grinder, and feathers to tickle under the arms.
  • In the Firefly episode "War Stories", Niska has some sort of robotic spider thing that buries itself in Mal's skin. Of course, Niska is not opposed to using his hands and other instruments as well.
  • Etta uses an Angel device on a loyalist to get information out of him in Fringe. It works by destabilizing every atom in the victim's body and visibly ages them.
  • Saturday Night Live: One infamous TV Funhouse sketch features Torboto, a Corrupted Character Copy of Gigantor made by the US government to torture prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Since the Geneva Convention doesn't disallow robots from committing torture, the government uses the machine to commit a series of heinous and cartoonishly amoral acts of torture until Torboto refuses and mutinies.

  • Nine Inch Nails' short film/music video collection "Broken", a companion to the EP of the same name, is filled with all manner of twisted imagery, but one of its most notorious segments is the music video for "Happiness in Slavery". In it, a man (played by performance artist Bob Flanagan) voluntarily subjects himself to a particularly brutal one of these that graphically tears him to pieces in a seemingly ritualistic manner before dumping what's left of him in a meat grinder. What's more, it's clear that he's getting sexual pleasure from being tortured to death.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pathfinder has a torturer robot from a crashed spaceship that is essentially a Shout-Out to the Star Wars example, though it can also be used as a Combat Medic.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Dark Eldar Haemonculi (thoroughly evil virtuoso Torture Technicians with almost magical high technology at their disposal) have a chilling variety of biomechanical "pain engines" to play with. These are often taken to the battlefield and used as mobile war machines by Dark Eldar raiding forces. The two most common such engines are the "Talos" pain engine, which can be fitted with giant razors, chain flails, ichor injectors and all manner of fiendish equipment (it generally renders down its victims into constituent parts and stores them for later), and the "Cronos" parasite engine, which slowly siphons off the souls of its victims using a series of eldritch probes, vanes and hypnotic discs.

    Video Games 
  • The hilariously inventive torture machine from the original Dungeon Keeper. In its dormant state, it consists of a pedestal backed by a hooded and cowled automaton; when active, the automaton inflicts a different torture on almost every one of the different unit classes, including: whipping the kinky Dark Mistresses, rib-tickling giants and barbarians, spinning fairy folk around by their wings, strangling archers with their bows, transforming wizards into frogs and back again, and attacking armoured paladins with can openers.
  • In Emperor: Battle for Dune, the civil war of the Harkonnen brothers ends with the victor putting the defeated in an Ixian torture chair.
  • Half-Life has a robotic surgery machine in one of the research labs. Gordon Freeman has to turn it off for some scientists to follow him... starting from the other side of the room. Black Mesa ups the trope by coating the machine in blood and adding more surgical tools.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, the crime lord Goto sends the Exile a 'G0-T0' interrogation droid similar to the one used in A New Hope, remarking that its abilities will prove 'useful', which he mostly uses on members of your own party.
  • In TimeSplitters Future Perfect, the player can kill a bunch of restrained mutants with one of these. This gets you a What the Hell, Player? comment from Anya.

    Western Animation 
  • Played for laughs in Futurama with the Probulator, a table with restraints and a wide variety of, well, robotic probes. It's implied to be a medical device rather than being specifically for torture, but that doesn't stop anyone strapped in it from screaming in pain.
  • Teen Titans Go! gives us Painbot and its upgraded version Hurtbot.
  • The ticklebot from Xiaolin Showdown.


Video Example(s):


Torboto - SNL

Torboto, a corrupted expy of Tetsujin-28, champions torture instead of justice.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

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Main / RoboticTortureDevice

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