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Science Foils

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A classic Five-Man Band only has one position for The Smart Guy who handles all its exposition and Applied Phlebotinum needs. This trope is about ensembles where this role is filled by not one, but two very different (but complementary) individuals, both in terms of personality and scientific disciplines. This allows them to cover a wide scientific background with slightly more plausibility than a classic Omnidisciplinary Scientist would, while also opening up new venues for amusingly nerdy squabbles within the team.


The Science Foils will often show signs of other tropes, such as Red Oni, Blue Oni, and frequently will be of opposite genders, to increase the contrast between them, especially if the female scientist gets the more humanities/life sciences inclined discipline (psychologist, biologist, biochemist) and the male scientist gets the "hard" sciences (math, physics). Very frequently overlaps with Those Two Guys, while a particularly inseparable scientist duo may even become The Dividual.

This trope does not apply to series where most of the main characters are some form of scientist or doctor or where The Smart Guy role rotates by roster and situation. The Science Foils function as the team's "Smart Guy" together , although one or the other may take the lead on a particular project or episode.



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    Comic Books 
  • The Five Swell Guys, the superhero team in Promethea, have two different members in the role of The Smart Guy: Stan "the mechanic" (who can build amazing machines out of scrap) and Marv "the team genius" (whose abilities are never really made clear). This becomes a plot point when Stan reveals he resents Marv's status as the team's smartest member, and created Painted Doll to kill him.
  • In the Disney Ducks Comic Universe, the role of The Smart Guy is usually divided between genius inventor Gyro Gearloose and master theoretician Ludwig Von Drake. This is in contrast with Disney animation from The '90s onward, which simplifies matters by making Ludwig an inventor and disposing of Gyro.
    • One notable Italian story is set entirely around the contrast between the two. Gyro and Ludwig get in an argument on whether theoretical knowledge is better than practical applications, with Gyro preferring application and Ludwig praising theory. They decide that the winner will be he who better survives a night in the desert, relying on his preferred type of knowledge. The story allows the reader to follow different paths, in the style of Choose Your Own Adventure, depending on whether they agree with Gyro, Ludwig or none of the two. The perfect ending is the one where Gyro and Ludwig make peace and put their abilities toghether.

    Fan Works 
  • Harp Flank And Sweets has Vinyl Scratch and Octavia act as the team scientists. One is more mechanical and the other is more of a programmer.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • One Isaac Asimov short story, The Billiard Ball, is centered on the rivalry between a theoretical physicist and a brilliant inventor. The two resent each other's accomplishments and are bitter enemies, yet the inventor's best work always comes from applying the physicist's theories.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson commissions Fitz and Simmons (two initially non-action genius scientists so inseparable the cast calls them "Fitzsimmons") to act as the brains to the rest of his secret agent team's muscle. While they're initially extremely similar in terms of personality, both get a serious case of Break the Cutie after the events of first two seasons, and start to clash over various things such as the Inhuman issue (Simmons gets Fantastic Racism and deems them monsters, while Fitz thinks it's a pretty extreme reaction).
  • While most of the cast of The Flash (2014) is some form of scientist (Barry is in forensics and Wells is a theoretical physicist), Caitlin and Cisco are the scientists specifically assigned to monitor help Barry with his powers. Caitlin is a straight-laced biologist while Cisco is a fun-loving engineer, so naturally they're constantly arguing. Despite this, they're very close.
  • MythBusters and shows based on them seem to follow this mold, except that the two guys are the main focus of the show. They tend to have largely overlapping but distinct areas of expertise, with personalities that make them a bit of an Odd Couple (and which may be exaggerated to give the show a semblance of drama). If Word of God is to be believed, they actually like each other even less than they appear to while on-camera.
  • Dr. Rodney McKay of the Stargate-verse tends to be placed in these kinds of relationships, acting as an Insufferable Genius Foil to the more humble scientists Samantha Carter (in his appearances in Stargate SG-1) or Radek Zelenka (as a regular character in Stargate Atlantis). McKay and Zelenka clash greatly because Zelenka is a Nice Guy who tries to exercise caution with his experiments and McKay is pretty much a Bunny-Ears Lawyer, with the "bunny ears" being an absurd amount of pompous Pride that makes him try to reactivate very risky Ancient experiments repeatedly throughout the series (and never seems to learn even when they literally explode on his face, and once even wiped out a solar system — McKay prefers to point out that it was only most of one).
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "11001001" an alien race called the Bynars are lifelong science duos.
  • The X-Files downplays the science aspect (mainly with Mulder), but its central duo, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully have degrees in psychology and physics (specializing in criminal profiling and forensics), respectively, but Scully's rationality frequently clashes with Mulder's flashes of intuition and belief in the paranormal.
  • Chernobyl: Legasov and Khomyuk are both scientists and part of the show's Power Trio, with Khomyuk's idealism about speaking the truth contrasting with Legasov, who only gets there after a lot of Character Development.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pandemic has two scientist specializations: the actual Scientist and the Researcher. The Scientist's role is to spend player cards to find cures faster, while the Researcher's is to hoard cards and pass them out to other players as necessary. The two of them make a perfect team despite vastly different functions.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Ork Killa Kans require the "expertise" of both a mek and a dok: the mek builds it, and the dok hooks up the grot that pilots the Kan.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed has Shaun Hastings (operations, historian and codebreaker) and Rebecca Crane (gadgetry and general computer expert), a pair of specialists who bicker constantly. Notably they invert the usual Mother Nature, Father Science relationship, with most of Shaun's areas of expertise being "softer" than Rebecca's.
  • The Lutece twins in BioShock Infinite are both brilliant quantum physicists, but Rosalinde is driven and creative in her research, while Robert is more cautious and mindful of the implications of their work.
  • In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Dr. Valen is an analytical scientist who believes that science is good and that all the ethical conundrums will sort themselves out eventually. Dr. Shen, meanwhile, is the constructive one (more like The Engineer, really, despite his doctorate) who nevertheless sermons caution and points out the dangers of carrying out scientific research without considering future implications.
  • In Dishonored, the Loyalists' resident science guy and inventor Piero Joplin is repeatedly contrasted by the Lord Regent's Royal Physician Anton Sokolov. Where Sokolov is an unkempt, bearded brute of a man who nonetheless rose all the way to the top of Dunwall academia, Piero is a clean-shaven and well-groomed unappreciated genius. Furthermore, the Outsider takes distinct interest in Piero, directly inspiring many of his inventions through visions, while dismissively ignoring Sokolov's repeated attempts to contact him. Late in the game, the two find themselves in a Rivals Team Up situation, however, and discover their skills to be highly complementary.

    Western Animation 


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