Follow TV Tropes


Scientist vs. Soldier

Go To

"Scientists are a bunch of romantics. Military men always consider the risks first."
Colonel Shikishima, AKIRA

A common character relationship in Science Fiction and Disaster Movie that centralizes a Brains Versus Brawn conflict, although this doesn't mean it can't appear in other genres. The Scientist wants to study and understand the unknown, or discovering/inventing something new, while the Military either tries to exploit it, or destroy it (out of fear of endangering the populace).

Depending on the work, one side may be portrayed as more sympathetic than the other.

  • With a Mad Scientist, he'd be delving into Things Man Was Not Meant to Know (For Science!) against the military's advice and warnings against it. When the Mad Scientist eventually succeeds (or having its projects Gone Horribly Wrong or Gone Horribly Right), and unleashes some unholy horror on the unsuspecting populace, the military has to go clean up the mess. The message is that Science Is Bad. Alternatively, the scientist may be well-meaning but misguided, reveling too much on his scientific curiosity and thinking on the benefits or how awesome the threat to the world is to not see the dangers.
  • In works revolving around Science Heroes or Armies Are Evil, the military will be seeking ever-more-ridiculously-insane Weapons of Mass Destruction, with the scientists (who tend to aim for their creation to be used for good) constantly warning that they don't know what they're dealing with, and trying to stop them (often through illegal sabotage). Or, when dealing with an unknown entity or facing some kind of disaster, the military will often try to destroy it in the most over-the-top manner available, while the scientist would call out the military for being rash and try to see if the thing/situation in question can be handled more peacefully or precisely (as an example: in the event of an incoming asteroid, the Military Man will just want to toss all the nuclear missiles in the world at the thing, while the Scientist will agree on the use of nukes, but will insist that precision is needed or else it will not work (so someone will need to go up to the asteroid to drill a hole to place the nuke in). The Military Man will inevitably become the Commander Contrarian and either have Teeth-Clenched Teamwork, decide that the situation is useless and try to abort (by any means necessary) or will jump the gun and try to set off the device in a time and place where it will be totally useless, forcing the Scientist into a Race Against the Clock to put the device on the correct location before time runs out. If the threat instead is a monster or a person, expect the military man to offer nothing but Attack! Attack! Attack! or Murder Is the Best Solution, with little else changing from the previous example in terms of plot).
  • If the discussion becomes political, expect the Scientist to stand by the side that protecting Humanity and the creation of a greater world for everybody is what is important and politics be (need be) damned, while the Military Man will cite secrecy regulations and the need to maintain technological superiority over the nation's enemies until his face turns blue. If the Military Man is the one in the right, he will be the one to state that "The World Is Not Ready".
  • In a First Contact scenario the scientist will most probably be the one who advises a peaceful, careful and thorough approach to meeting the aliens while the military man will offer nothing but varying degrees of Gunboat Diplomacy, possibilities of starting an interstellar war be damned. In stories in which the scientist is the bad guy, they will usually go for a "vivisect first, mass-produce discoveries later, apologize never" approach while the military man, while maybe trying to keep things under cover, will at least listen to reason (especially if the alternative is an intergalactic war starting on his watch). If the aliens are a threat, the scientist also is almost inevitably too awed by seeing actual aliens in the flesh to notice the warning signs, and by then it's 50/50 about how the scientist will react (or if they survive).

Other times, however, both sides may be gray and equally be right or wrong regarding the MacGuffin/entity/issue in question. They may not realize that each others' side might have good points and can work with each other, or they may not realize that they endanger the Macguffin/entity in question and made the issue more complicated than it should be by opposing each other.

One side may be portrayed as Properly Paranoid. The scientist might be a Mad Scientist, Reluctant Mad Scientist (or worse, Kidnapped Scientist), The Worm Guy, an Ignored Expert or a Playful Hacker (or worse, The Cracker), while the military might have The Gunslinger, Sociopathic Soldier, General Ripper, Insane Admiral or Reasonable Authority Figure involved.

Compare The Complainer Is Always Wrong.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The trouble in AKIRA comes about because of the military trying to use psychic powers as a weapon. The main conflict between scientists and the military is represented by the head scientist of the Akira Project and Colonel Shikishima. The head scientist is very much interested in the potential that the psychics have, while the Colonel is concerned about the risks that trying to mess with such power can have. When Tetsuo goes off the deep end, the Colonel changes his focus from trying to control the power to ending a threat to the city.
  • One Piece: In the flashbacks, Caesar Clown was an assistant scientist to Dr. Vegapunk, who works for the Marines. It was discovered that Caesar was building Weapons of Mass Destruction considered too extreme for the Marines, so they issued an order for Caesar to be fired. When the Marines came to pick him up, however, he had prepared a potent, massive gas bomb that he triggered, causing mass deaths and forcing the survivors to flee from the island they're on, Punk Hazard. It also leaves gas that persists 4 years to the present, which he survives in thanks to his gas powers.

    Comic Books 
  • The Incredible Hulk: General Ross and Bruce Banner's relationship runs in this. While at the beginning of the comic (waaaaayyyyy back during the Cold War) they were somewhat on the same page (because of Banner creating the Gamma Bomb), later on various Retcons and reboots showcased that Banner is a man who wishes to improve the quality of living of mankind (the Bomb was just a way to get funding for his more benign experiments) while Ross never wanted more than weapons. As well, the situation with The Hulk divides Banner and Ross more: when they both want it gone, Banner wants to find a scientific solution and Ross wants to put a bullet on Hulk's head (obviously Banner doesn't want the latter because he is The Hulk, and some stories have shown that even on the times when Banner would stand there and allowed himself to die, The Hulk wouldn't let him), and on other times Banner knows very well that the Hulk is an uncontrollable being while Ross wishes to find some way to weaponize him, even if it means making Banner a slave.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage): The Fugitoid invents the teleportal as a means of instantaneous long distance travel. The Federation and the Triceratons want to use it as an instantaneous bomber; for instance, by putting a nuke in a planet's core. Eventually the professor decides it better to destroy it so no one can use it at all, than risk it being turned into a weapon.
  • Matt Hawkins' Think Tank is an entire series that explores all the moral permutations of this trope; from the ex-Child Prodigy turned adult prodigy protagonist being too blinded by scientific curiosity to realize what he's building to him realizing it and rebelling to him becoming resigned to the dichotomy and attempting to gradually change things from the inside. The military by contrast remains gung ho all the way through.
  • Tintin: In The Calculus Affair, Colonel Sponz has Professor Calculus kidnapped, because he wants to use one of his inventions as a weapon in war. Calculus refuses to cooperate though, and burns his blueprints rather than let them end up in the wrong hands.
  • General Ross is doing this again in Ultimate Fantastic Four. In a twist, his relationship with Reed is rather good, because Reed is just amoral enough to propose military applications for his work if he thinks it will help him get funding or smooth over his mistakes. Ultimate Reed eventually gets so frustrated about nobody considering non-weapon applications of his inventions that he pulls a Face–Heel Turn and tries to take over the world.
    Ross: I agree to One. Simple. Test. And you trash a shuttle, wreck Vegas, and reveal yourselves to the public in a way we cannot hide or go back from, and for what? For what, Mr. Richards?
    Reed: This is a hand-held death ray, General. Pretty easy to reverse-engineer and produce.
    Ross: ...I love you, boy.

    Fan Works 
  • Some Bait and Switch (STO) stories allude to an Inter-Service Rivalry between the Federation Starfleet's military and scientific functions, exemplified by occasional arguments between Captain Kanril Eleya (a Prior Enlisted career soldier who majored in naval weapons at the Academy) and her science officer Commander Birail Riyannis. Who wins varies.
    • In "An Anomalous Nightmare", Eleya fires on a Negative Space Wedgie that's crushing the ship, over Biri's objections that the NSW is a never-before-encountered life form.
    • In A Voice in the Wilderness, Eleya wants to blow away an apparently abandoned Borg installation from orbit just to be safe, but Biri convinces her to hold fire so they can send away teams to investigate and possibly learn something useful.
    • Beat the Drums of War has Starfleet Science provide a solution to a military problem, forcing an incoming Iconian invasion fleet to Tele-Frag by opening a gateway into a black hole instead of the Sol system. The admiral who died in the attempt is put up for the Medal of Honor at the end of the story.
  • The Night Unfurls has Shamuhaza versus Kyril. The former delves into the Eldritch Truth and conducts inhumane experiments on innocents, while the latter leads an army to go clean up the mess.
  • Star Wars vs Warhammer 40K has this dynamic in Season 1 between Dr. Shina and Jedi General Renphi during the Galactic Republic's First Contact with the Imperium of Man at Pzob. After a Brainwashed and Crazy clone captain hyperspace rams his Star Destroyer into the Imperial refugee ship Atlas of Steel, Shina advocates for the Republic fleet to immediately retreat into hyperspace since the Imperial warships clearly outmatch them and any hope for a peaceful first contact has been irreparably damaged along with the Atlas of Steel. Renphi, however, doesn't heed her suggestions, optimistically believing that it's still possible to salvage the situation by rescuing the crew of the attacked refugee ship, thereby hopefully deescalating hostilities. When Shina protests his decision, Renphi has her forcibly escorted off his flagship's bridge under armed guard and locked inside the ship's lab alongside her science team. Shina ultimately turns out to have been right as Renphi's rescue operation is mistaken for a slaver raid by the Imperials and the captain of the Atlas of Steel reacts by overloading his ship's Warp core and causing it to self-destruct in a Taking You with Me moment. With the total destruction of the Atlas of Steel, the Imperial Fleet immediately attacks and massacres the Republic fleet at Pzob, starting a new galactic war.

    Films — Animation 
  • Young researcher Milo Thatch gets his chance to find Atlantis: The Lost Empire by reclusive millionaire Preston Whitmore. Milo helps Commander Rourke and company locate Atlantis For Science!, vindicating Milo. Rourke, however, absconds with the Heart of Atlantis, intending to weaponize its power, and dooming Atlantis in the process. It comes down to a mano-a-mano between Thatch and Rourke.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Armageddon (1998): Once the asteroid appears, the Joint Chiefs of Staff want to toss the entire nuclear arsenal of the world at the thing. The scientists at NASA know that, unless the meteorite is drilled into at precisely 250 feet, any nuclear weapon launched at it or used on its surface will only cause some pretty fireworks. It takes some effort for them to make the Joint Chiefs of Staff understand, and when they decide that the plan to send astronauts to perform the drilling seems to have gone belly-up, they immediately take over the Space Center and try to remotely detonate the nukes, even after being reminded that a surface explosion is useless.
  • Arrival: Louise Banks (a linguist and the protagonist) is the Scientist and everybody else in her camp is the Soldier. When an alien race arrives to Earth and she is one of the many people assigned to a world-wide effort to make First Contact, she repeatedly mentions the fact that the (literal) Starfish Alien species is alien in terms of mentality (and they remain Inscrutable Aliens to the end) and what they think in and what humanity thinks of what they're trying to say is not going to gel without a hell of a lot of work in making sure that humanity isn't trying to attach the wrong context. Two random soldiers on her camp sneak explosives onto the ship in an attempt to get rid of the aliens that nearly kills her as collateral damage and when the contact team in China assumes that they have managed to catch the aliens into a confession that they are here to conquer (and, oh yeah, they use "weapon" when they mean "tool"), Banks has to race to convince everybody that the aliens had no clue that they're using the terms the team was teaching them in an erroneous fashion, in order to prevent the start of an intergalactic war.
  • Avatar: The Science Heroes Grace, Norm and ultimately Jake want to peacefully reach out to the local Na'vi and try to understand Pandora's unique ecosystem. The Big Bad Quaritch is a ruthless Colonel Ripper in charge of the private army of a mining operation, who wants to remove the Na'vi from the board and secure their resources. Quaritch takes over the operation and begins scoring initial victories over the Na'vi, but his ignorance of the aliens' goddess (which turns out to be real and a scientifically explainable Genius Loci) comes back and bites him and his military in the ass.
  • Bats: Zigzagged. Both the scientists (well, all but one of them anyway) and the soldiers want to destroy the genetically engineered bats, it's just that the soldiers want to do it in a No Kill like Overkill bombing likely to scatter the bats instead of wiping them out.
  • Bumblebee: Agent Burns (soldier) and Doctor Powell (scientist). Unusually for this trope, both off them are at least somewhat off the ball, being Wrong Genre Savvy right from the start and remaining that way for much of the movie: Burns is convinced that he's in a standard The War of the Worlds type Alien Invasion film and wants to destroy all Cybertronians regardless of faction, while Powell seems to believe he's in a Star Trek like universe and has made First Contact with an alien race whose technology will uplift humanity if they can only be convinced to share it. Also unusually for this trope, both eventually come to realize they're wrong. It helps that neither of them are actually the main characters - that's Bumblebee, an alien refugee fleeing from a genocidal new regime, and Charlie Watson, a human teenager who becomes his friend.
  • The Core: The military men in the story are the ones who made the titular center of the freaking Earth stop moving. They funded the developing of a Weapon of Mass Destruction that would trigger man-made earthquakes, and their only reasoning behind it is that if they weren't the ones developing and using the weapon, someone else would have done so anyway (and tried to destroy America with it), to not mention that using Project DESTINI to try to make the core move again was their Plan B. The scientists of the story not only point out how brain-dead stupid was to develop the Project in the first place, but that said Plan B has a serious chance of making things worse.
  • Combined with Working with the Ex in Cosmic Sin. James Ford is a former general who became disgraced and divorced after using a Doomsday Device to end a revolt. He's assigned to work with his ex-wife Dr. Lea Goss, who as a young student wrote a thesis advocating genocide in response to an Outside-Context Problem but is having second thoughts when faced with actual First Contact. Unfortunately this conflict comes to a premature end by having her be possessed by the aliens and start Evil Gloating about how they are Always Chaotic Evil.
  • This theme is front and center in Day of the Dead (1985), in which a bunker with a small group of soldiers and scientists continue to live and try to deal with the Zombie Apocalypse. Captain Rhodes, the leader of the soldiers, sees the only way to deal with things are to either put a bullet in the head of every zombie or to escape the post, in the belief that their superiors are likely all dead. Logan, the head scientist, wants to communicate with and understand the zombies, and has made some small progress toward doing so with at least one particular zombie, but it's likely that his efforts are doomed.
  • Dr. Strangelove: Admittedly, everyone is equally unsuited for addressing the threat, but the titular ex-Nazi doctor actually acknowledges the Cobalt-Thorium G bomb as horrific risk to all life everywhere, while General Buck Turgidson wistfully wishes that the US had one.
  • Epoch: Doctor Rand (scientist) and Captain Tower (soldier) are a classic example. The former wants to study the unknown object that just appeared while the latter is more concerned about it being a threat. Fortunately, both sides eventually find that there's something a lot worse than each other: spies and politicians, namely the NSA operative that sets a nuke to destroy the Torus under orders from Washington, something both Rand and Tower recognize will almost certainly fail and will only piss off the unknown object more.
  • Event Horizon: The crew of the rescue vessel just wants to find out what happened to the missing science team and then plans to blow up the derelict ship after realizing it’s become a conduit for a Cosmic Horror Story villain. The scientist accompanying them wants to preserve the ship and study its paranormal effects, and quickly finds himself experiencing a dangerous Sanity Slippage.
  • Evolution (2001): The protagonists are local, second-rate scientists vying with the military for control over a cave where a meteor strike has caused an alien ecosystem to develop. The scientists mainly want to study the aliens (and earn Nobel prizes for their efforts) and are the most proactive in hunting down the rogue alien beasts that are attacking random civilians. The military, meanwhile, are concerned with containment of the site, but carelessness and lack of serious research results in numerous security breaches, and when they decide to destroy ground zero with napalm, they fail to realize this will only accelerate the aliens' evolution and make them more of a threat.
  • Dr. Strangelove's scenario is inverted (or at least played with) in the dueling movie Fail Safe: The "soldiers" in this scenario, the men from the U.S. Air Force that are struggling to stop the accidental bombing of Russia, are people who prepare for war because that's their job and patriotic duty but are understandably horrified at the concept of World War III happening (because they know perfectly well how apocalyptic it will be) and are willing to do anything (even work alongside the Russians) to prevent it, while the "scientist" Professor Groeteschele is a belligerent Warhawk who thinks war should happen because it's statistically likely that America would "win" and calls for a second wave with every other available nuke until he's put in place:
    "You have become no better than those you want to kill."
  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: Reed Richards and General Hager (implied to be former high school enemies) butt heads over how to stop the titular Silver Surfer from destroying Earth. Reed lets Hager know when he's making destructively stupid decisions, while Hager berates Reed for not being at his beck and call to design something to catch the Surfer and even goes as far as recruiting the far less trustworthy Dr. Doom simply because both of them can't stand Reed. Hager ultimately pays the price for his foolishness when Doom kills him to get the Surfer's board. (Note that in the comics, Reed was a WWII vet, which is mostly ignored today.)
  • Godzilla:
    • Godzilla (1954): Professor Serizawa is the "scientist" in question in the dilemma of the Oxygen Destroyer. He knows perfectly well that if he makes it known to the world that it exists, the governments will stop at nothing to make him manufacture it as a weapon of mass destruction. When the original Godzilla Threshold is crossed, Serizawa makes sure that the Oxygen Destroyer will be used once and only once by destroying all of his research and dying alongside Godzilla.
    • Godzilla (1998): Everybody agrees on the fact Godzilla needs to die, but Nick Tatopolus (the scientist), being The Worm Guy, theorizes that Godzilla has left eggs somewhere in the city and thus there should be someone looking for them just in case (among general "we need to know more of the monster to try to kill it more effectively" talking), while Major Hicks and everybody else high-up only care about blowing away Godzilla, right now (and to hell with collateral damage), and the eggs thing (which turns out to be correct, much to Nick's eventual peril) is a literal afterthought. The military also wants the whole situation to be kept top-secret at all costs (which is flat-out impossible, considering the devastation that Godzilla does on its very first day in town is a comparably worse disaster (in terms of structural damage) to befall Manhattan than the Real Life 1993 World Trade Center bombings and maybe the future Nine-Eleven attacks), so when sleazy newscaster Charles Caiman (thanks to Nick's ex-girlfriend Audrey) releases information that is classified but really is inconsequential, they get pissed that Nick supposedly leaked info and kick him out of "the project"... to kill the giant monster... that is still roaming the city at the very moment they kick him out.
    • Godzilla (2014): Played straight during Monarch and the US Navy's cooperation. Monarch didn't try killing the MUTO in its cocoon during the years they were studying it (allegedly with a reasonable explanation that they feared trying to kill it might release the absorbed radiation, although it's also implied they kept it alive so they could study it and out of admiration while they believed it was no threat), but they still play Admiring the Abomination straight when they cooperate with the military to see the MUTOs destroyed to save humanity. When it comes to Godzilla, Drs. Graham and Serizawa clearly admire him as a Physical God a great deal, whilst the US military operation led by Admiral Stenz has no such attitude towards Godzilla and prefers to attempt killing him with the MUTOs. True to its Green Aesop and how Godzilla fits into it as a force of nature, the film ultimately leans towards the Scientist side of the conflict, but despite the recklessness of the military's Nuke 'em plan which could make the kaiju problem worse, the military are not portrayed in an unsympathetic light, with Admiral Stenz ultimately being a Reasonable Authority Figure and the protagonist being a soldier caught up in the chaos.
    • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): More minor or in the background than in the 2014 film, but still very much present. This film very much leans more towards the Scientist side of the equation: the scientists are advocating coexistence with the Titans as they are ecologically essential to the planet, and while some Titans are hostile to humans others are indeed benevolent, and a benevolent Alpha Titans can potentially get all the others in line; the government and military meanwhile ignore and care little for Monarch's arguments, and are just trying to use any good excuse to take over and try killing all the Titans indiscriminately with a short-sighted lack of regard for the consequences or how that might backfire. The military even unleash an untested prototype weapon of mass destruction trying to accomplish their goal when they briefly take matters into their own hands, and they are arguably responsible for enabling Ghidorah's Near-Villain Victory that takes up the second half of the film. Interestingly, there's conflict between the government and military on this end; Admiral Stenz looks terribly uncomfortable with how the senators dismiss and laugh at Monarch.
  • Ice Spiders: Upon finding out that the genetically engineered giant spiders might be escaping from the lab, the main scientist drags his feet at even considering there's a problem (although his colleague is much more helpful) and tries to keep his man-eating creations from being destroyed, while the soldiers rapidly deploy to contain the threat and protect the nearby civilians and tend to ignore him.
  • It Came from Outer Space: Astronomer John Putnam is the Scientist to the sheriff's Military Man (though the latter isn't literal) and the main conflict is over whether the alien can be reasoned with or must be killed.
  • Jaws gives us Captain Quint (a former Navy man) as Soldier and Matt Hooper as Scientist. They have the same goal, but have a mutual skepticism about the others' methods. Compare their actions the first time they see the shark: Quint goes to the radio and assures the harbor that they're alright, because he wants it all to himself. Hooper tries to get a photo and begs a terrified Brody to pose for it to get some scale.
  • Jurassic World: Owen Grady is training the raptors to get a better understanding of them. Vic Hoskins wants to use trained raptors as war animals. This extends even higher up the chain. Owen seems to be the only guy in the park willing to treat the dinosaurs with the respect they deserve as powerful wild animals. Others are trying to engineer weapons like the Indominus Rex. Played with in that Owen actually is an ex-military man, while those who want to weaponize the dinosaurs are not. He takes something of a "The Reason You Suck" Speech from the Big Bad of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom for it, when said villain asks him if he even once considered that his research could be used to weaponize the dinosaurs and blaming him for their use as bioweapons for not realizing it. Owen's taken aback by it.
  • In Man of Steel, the Kryptonian military dictator Zod is pitted against Jor-El, who is a Kryptonian scientist. Zod wants to save Kryptonian civilization with what basically amounts to fascism (conquering other worlds and only allowing "worthy" bloodlines to exist) while Jor-El acknowledges that Krypton is done for and wants to build a peaceful bridge between the remnants of their species and Earthlings.
  • Mars Attacks!: The scientists of the film (Professor Kessler being the face of them) posit that the Martians, being a more advanced civilization, must be pacifistic and need be approached in the same way, while General Decker recommends going to Martial Law (while the aliens are just floating around Earth and not done any contact) and instantly recommends the use of nukes ("Annihilate! Kill! Kill!") when the Martians prove themselves hostile (although maybe just overreacting to the dove, which the scientists use to convince the President to try a second contact). It turns out that the Martians are homicidal bastards on top of being technologically advanced, and humanity is screwed no matter what.
  • Meteor: The main conflict between Dr. Paul Bradley (and his friend Harry) and General Adlon is that Bradley created the "Hercules" satellite (an orbital nuclear missile silo) in order to protect Earth from possible asteroid strikes (like the one that is coming towards Earth), while the general was one of the men who advocated putting it on Earth's orbit... only pointing down towards the Soviet Union instead. After Dr. Bradley and Harry figure out that there is not enough firepower on "Hercules" alone to prevent the asteroid from destroying Earth, they enlist the help of the scientist who helped develop "Peter the Great" (the Soviet counterpart to "Hercules", which is also in orbit and pointing down towards the U.S.). None of the scientists have a problem helping each other, but the military men on both sides are absolutely raging about it (Adlon being the most belligerent of all).
  • Python: Parker is an NSA agent rather than a soldier, but otherwise, this describes his relationship with Dr. Rudolph (who keeps urging him to Just Think of the Potential! and constantly sabotages his efforts to kill the snake) in a nutshell. Ironically, Parker's death causes Rudolph to have a My God, What Have I Done? moment and work to kill the python.
  • Young maverick prodigies Mitch Taylor and Chris Knight from Real Genius build an awesomely powerful laser For Science!, which they believe will only further their studies as sponsored post-graduates. When their mentor reveals his intent to remand the laser to the military, Mitch and Chris engineer a Disastrous Demonstration.
  • Stargate: While archaeologist Daniel traveled through the titular stargate to learn about what's on the other side, Colonel Jack O'Neil was sent through with a nuke, with orders to use it against anything that could pose a threat.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The scientist David Marcus is distrustful of Starfleet, as he considers scientists to be pawns of the military. He worries that Starfleet will use the Genesis device he co-created as a Weapon of Mass Destruction. He particularly dislikes Admiral Kirk, who he thinks murdered everyone who was left on board the Regula-1 space station.
  • Super 8: The Air Force want to keep the burrowing alien under wraps and consider it a threat, not necessarily without reason. Dr. Woodward, who has rather more insight into the situation, wants to help it return home.
  • The Swarm (1978) has the military wanting to use pesticides that would damage the environment while entomologist Dr. Brad Crane keeps suggesting other methods. Unfortunately, the threat of the killer bees is so over-hyped (at one stage, they cause the explosion of a nuclear power plant) that Crane's continuing refusal is hard to justify.
  • The Thing from Another World: The head scientist in this scenario (Dr. Carrington) wishes to preserve and make contact with the titular alien creature (and also tries to breed mini-Things by using the dead carcasses of the station's sleigh dogs, denies any deaths as "accidents" and sabotages attempts to kill the Thing by the others), because he assumes that the alien has great wisdom and knowledge that it could share with mankind (just because it's an ancient alien). On the flip side of the coin, the main characters — military men, as well as the scientist's Girl Friday, a reporter and (by the end of the movie) Carrington's fellow scientists — clearly see the writing on the wall (that the Thing is a murderous brute that will kill everybody that gets in arm's reach) and aim to kill it first.
  • Wild Wild West: Artemus Gordon, U.S. Marshal, and James West, U.S. Army, are effectively a steampunk MacGyver and a steampunk James Bond. One is a Gadgeteer Genius who Doesn't Like Guns, the other is a career soldier now in intelligence whose working style is described by his superior as "shoot first, shoot later, shoot some more, and then when everybody's dead maybe try to ask a question or two." Naturally, they don't take to each other at first. By the end, West has finally learned that there's something to Gordon's contraptions after all, while Gordon has finally started carrying (and using) a gun.

  • In Contact, Science Hero Ellie is contrasted this way with the secretary of defense, who is constantly wary that the aliens' attempts at communication could be some kind of Trojan Horse or other attempt to subvert human freedom. His concerns are reasonable and always taken seriously, but in the end Ellie's optimistic view of alien intentions is closer to the truth.
  • Both The Hungry Plague novels follow scientists working with soldiers during the Zombie Apocalypse. The Boy on the Bridge has the military leaders caring only about dominance and merely using the scientists' efforts to distract people. The common soldiers have more integrity but view the scientists as naive, judgmental, and unlikely to accomplish something, while the scientists seem them as too callous towards killing Hungries, and likely to exploit their discoveries by breeding the hungries children like cattle and slaughtering them to make a vaccine which will only provide short-term relief. By the time of The Girl With All the Gifts, the dynamic has evolved, but Dr. Caldwell bosses around her soldiers guarding her with a certain sense of entitlement, while caring little for their sacrifices, while the soldiers are hardened and dismissive of the scientists' efforts, believing them to be unnerving and inefficient.
  • In Invasion: Earth, there is some conflict in the novel between Colonel Rob Hayward and the linguist Nadia Adrianova, the people chosen by the U.S. and the Soviet Union to make contact with the friendly aliens that arrived to Earth, seeking resources (radioactive material) to help fight a hostile race. The former, naturally, sees everything from a military viewpoint, while Nadia is a civilian. At the end, Nadia admonishes the military for destroying an alien ship and bluffing The Mothership into leaving the system, when humanity could've extended a hand of friendship to the aliens. On the other hand, the alien ship she was talking about has just threatened to drop radiation bombs on cities, and the aliens have already wiped out two cities, killing over a million people, and the fortress could have done the same. Fact is, the military may have been right here, given the aliens' intentions (turns out, both sides are hostile — a team of con men Planet Looters that have pulled the "invasion" scheme before and have no problem doing it for real if push comes to shove).
  • Averted in Island in the Sea of Time (Series) — Commodore Marian Alston, the head of the Nantucket Army, gets along just fine with Ian and Doreen Arnstein, Nantucket's premiere science geeks. It probably helps that Alston's partner Swindapa is something of a scientist herself.
  • Sphere: Everybody else on The Habitat vs. Barnes. While he makes certain good points (like insisting on Jerry's "real name" because there is no way that an alien hundreds of years old can have that as a real name, and so it must be hiding something), he still disregards the potential of a First Contact to instead try to focus on looking on technology that could be applied as a weapon.
  • A major theme in The War Against the Chtorr, as the protagonist is both soldier and scientist and can therefore see both arguments (the scientists want to study the alien invaders, but that means allowing their ecology to gain enough of a foothold to understand how it works. The military want to burn the Chtorr before they can get a foothold, but this approach is inherently flawed, as without better knowledge of the Chtorr the war is hopeless anyway). He's not alone in this viewpoint, but it just tends to make the shouting matches even more confusing.
  • Wild Cards: Dr. Tachyon, part of the scientist caste on his home world, chafes against army officials when he first arrives on Earth. It's exacerbated in his case because, back on Takis, the scientist caste is in charge of the military (for the record, his planet's culture isn't so much "enlightened" as very, very alien).

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Bones, Agent Booth, a former military sniper, initially shows a lot of disdain for scientists, and this fuels much of the early Unresolved Sexual Tension between him and Dr. Temperance Brennan. As the series goes on, he develops more respect for scientists.
  • Goes back and forth in Chernobyl, with politicians often taking the traditional "soldier" role. Legasov and Khomyuk, the scientists, push against the party men for either trying to downplay the disaster or choosing bad solutions for political expediency. However, Khomyuk pushes against Legasov himself because he's done his own share of covering up and doesn't want to stick his neck out anymore. Local political leaders (like Bryukhanov, Zharkov, and Garanin) are prone to ass-covering and try to discredit the scientists, but Shcherbina, the apparatchik in charge, is initially resistant only because he doesn't understand the stakes. Once he does, he becomes a Badass Bureaucrat and at one point has his own nuclear meltdown on the Kremlin when their propagandizing fouls up a key part of the decontamination efforts. As for the actual soldiers, they are shown as Reasonable Authority Figures, with General Pikalov personally driving a shielded truck up to the reactor to take an accurate dosimeter reading, and regular soldiers like Bacho being as humane as they can in their unpleasant duties.
  • Almost any Doctor Who story featuring a military force that isn't outright evil will use this to create conflict at some point between them and the Doctor. The Third Doctor and his good friend Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart have this kind of relationship in spades. The Doctor tries to save the day with science while the Brig just wants to send in men guns a-blazing.
  • The Farscape episode "Terra Firma" has John Crichton argue with the US government over access to Moya and her crew. John wants the advances he's brought to be for the benefit of all humanity, but the US wants to gain an edge over Earthly enemies (John missed 9/11). John's father Jack Crichton, the Director of Extraterrestrial Affairs, initially agrees with the government but eventually changes his mind.
  • Jeremiah:
    • In the flashbacks in "Firewall", Major Quantrell, the final military leader of Thunder Mountain, and Markus Alexander's CDC scientist father come over blows regarding their attitudes toward what to do during a global pandemic. Quantrell wants to lock down Cheynne Mountain and try to ride things out without making any effort to combat the Big Death. Dr. Alexander is convinced that this won't keep the plague out and wants to let his infected wife inside under quarantine conditions to keep working on a potential cure that he doubts he can find otherwise (not that his chances of finding it anyway are super good).
    • The military forces of the Valhalla Sector want to recreate the Big Death (and a vaccine to protect themselves against it) to kill all of their enemies. Devon, the original reluctant creator of the pathogen, wants no part of this and tries to undermine his leaders/captors, with flashbacks showing that several of the other scientists in the bunker felt the same way]].
  • In Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, former marine Det. Elliot Stabler has been known to butt heads with the unit's resident shrink, Dr. George Huang.
  • MacGyver (1985): MacGyver is quite possibly the patron saint of Science Heroes, as well as being someone who never uses guns and never kills people. As a result, he'll end up butting heads with the military from time to time, especially in scenarios where it wants to use as much raw force as possible to resolve a problem, and Mac has to race against the clock to resolve it first or at least remove the people who are about to become collateral damage. The pilot episode is an example of this: a government research lab is sent into lockdown after an explosion causes an acid leak, the military plans to bomb the place to eradicate any dangerous materials before they have a chance to spread, leaving Mac with a very short window in which he's supposed to force his way into the lab and rescue any scientists who may have survived.
  • Monarch: Legacy of Monsters: In episode 3, in the 1950s, Monarch shows the United States military proof of Godzilla's existence and convince them that he needs to be lured out because he's an existential threat to humanity. But whereas Monarch wanted to lure Godzilla out so they could study and learn about him, the military instead want to try and vaporize him with a nuclear bomb without understanding him first.
  • Stargate SG-1: In any given crisis, the scientists want to either make contact (if it's an alien species) or at least be given the opportunity to find a solution to the problem, while the military is more prone to considering the worst-case scenario, viewing the unknown as a threat, and being willing to go in guns blazing and shoot/nuke the problem as dead as they can. This is best embodied in the main cast by Jack O'Neill on the soldier side and Daniel Jackson on the scientist side (Samantha Carter, an astrophysicist and career Air Force officer, is both, while Teal'c, a defector from an alien army that tends more towards Warrior than Soldier, is arguably neither).
    • Given how long the show lasts, the issue is treated with a lot more nuance than is often the case. Each side's preferred approach is correct in certain situations, but unsuited to others. Enemy Mine is an episode that vindicates the scientists, as the SG-11 commander and the Pentagon brass are too eager to move into a planet with a valuable mineral deposit without regard to signs of a native population, despite repeated warnings from Daniel and others, and end up on the verge of war with an enemy far more numerous and better armed than they'd realized. Prodigy is an episode that vindicates the soldiers, as Carter and a younger counterpart of hers are left arguing about whether a dangerous natural phenomenon on an alien planet will pass in a few hours or only become worse, until O'Neill cuts the argument short to say that it doesn't matter who's right, because he can't afford to risk the latter scenario. Ultimately, each "side" is acutely aware of how important the other one is, even if its methods and thought processes can be frustrating as hell.
    • Unlike most examples of this trope, the science in the equation is often social science; Daniel Jackson is an archaeologist by trade, who quickly becomes a de facto anthropologist as well as the team diplomat. Hence, the preference for first contact and diplomatic solutions, though he's well aware that not all problems can be solved peacefully and ultimately just as willing to fight for his principles (and his homeworld) as the soldiers.
    • Finally, this trope often branches out into Soldier vs Soldier and Scientist vs Scientist, as the more sensible versions of both roles (especially if they're members of the main cast) will often butt heads with more stubborn and narrow-minded versions of themselves (especially among guest stars). Colonel Makepeace, Doctor Lee, and Doctor Rothman especially can all be considered counterparts to O'Neill, Carter, and Jackson respectively, who have more of their worse traits and fewer of their good ones.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series has the starship personnel who are supposed to be combined scientists, soldiers and diplomats. Naturally, according to the individual, one side or the other dominates, and several episodes have the philosophical clash between the command team on how to handle the current threat. One example is "The Devil in the Dark", in which the Enterprise team is up against a 'monster' which has already killed several civilians. Kirk, the Soldier, naturally wants to take out the creature with minimum danger to his men and thus orders them to shoot to kill. Spock, the Scientist, is not quite so sure that the creature is a monster and argues that they must try to capture it alive. Kirk wins the argument and tries to keep Spock out of the search for fear that he would hesitate to shoot and get himself killed. Of course, this being Star Trek, Spock turns out to be right — the 'monster' was a hive mother protecting its eggs which were being destroyed by the oblivious human miners, and once they get to communicate with the creature, it's easy to reach a mutually beneficent agreement. Slightly subverted in that, when Kirk gets trapped with the 'monster', he notices that it is reluctant to attack and doesn't shoot. Spock, on the other hand, once he realizes that his captain is trapped with the creature, changes his tune, asking Kirk to shoot it.
    • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Little Green Men" was deliberately set up to parody this arrangement. You've got a soldier who sees the alien as a threat, and a scientist who believes they can speed us on the path to great scientific advancement. Neither is right: the alien in question is just Quark, who's looking to swindle them.
  • Parodied in a That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch. A scientist is visited by a militaristic politician to view his inventions, which include a giant laser, an enormous robotic scorpion that fires bullets out of its tail and mind-controlling ants. The scientist insists that he designed them all to help people and further world peace (the laser beam, for example, is a barcode reader. The fact that it's called the "Giant Death Ray" is just because his name is literally "Professor Death"), and whenever "military applications" are mentioned, he freaks out and starts destroying the machines.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: When it comes to Necron Tomb Worlds, the Adeptus Mechanicus are Scientists (study them), and the Imperial Guard are the Military Men (nuke them from orbit). In this case, the "scientists are right" bit could not be more averted. Of course, considering the sheer scale of the setting, inversions are possible. The Imperial Guard may be the Scientists (look at all that Plunder) with the Mechanicus as the Military Men (all alien tech is evil and must be destroyed). In such cases, the Scientists are still wrong (the Necrons will relentlessly hunt down anyone who steals their stuff).

    Video Games 
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: While Emmerich likes to pretend to be the sympathetic scientist, he's psychotically greedy and murderous; at the same time, military leader Venom Snake tends to be much more reasonable and pragmatic, depending on how you play him. Venom also has the loyalty and trust of Kazuhira Miller and Code Talker, both who are scientists themselves.
  • Star Trek Online: "Day of Honor" has the Gorn science officer of the Klingon flagship IKS Bortasqu' complain to the player that his superiors are most interested in things that grant a military advantage, so he doesn't get much opportunity to do the pure research he prefers.
  • War Wind: In the sequel, The Human Onslaught, the humans who were brought to the world of Yavaun are divided between the Marines, who want the conquer the world, and the Scientists, calling themselves the Descendants, who want to find a way to return to Earth.

    Web Original 
  • Parodied in The Angry Joe Show during the Civilization review when a scientist and a warrior (they're actually both Angry Joe) argue whether or not they should progress their military or their science.
  • SCP Foundation: The Foundation has this relationship with a rival Men in Black organisation called the Global Occult Coalition — while the former devotes great resources to studying anomalies and building containment chambers which neutralise their threat, the latter tend to shoot first and ask questions later. Infamously, the GOC once discovered a chair which teleports to anyone who needs a seat, and reacted by blowing it up... which just created a cloud of splinters that teleports inside people. For their part, the GOC dislike the Foundation's utilitarian approach to protecting humanity and claim that the soldiers responsible for the chair incident were in breach of protocol. The Foundation's own soldiers, the Mobile Task Forces, are proudly loyal to their scientist command and have nothing but contempt for the GOC, who they regard as stupid thugs.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in a flashback in the Futurama episode "Mother's Day". Back when Prof. Farnsworth was young(er) and worked at Mom's Friendly Robot Company, he presented his latest invention, a cutesy toy cat for children called Q.T. McWhiskers that projects rainbows out of his eyes. When Mom reveals she intends to make the toy eight feet tall, replace the rainbow projectors with atomic lasers, and sell it to the military as a weapon, the Professor is outraged — not because his peaceful invention would be used to kill people, but because "things 8 feet tall aren't cute".
  • In an episode of Recess, it turns out that the school janitor Hank is a brilliant mathematician. When this info spreads around, Hank gets job offers from a university professor, a military general, and a NASA scientist, all of whom wish to use his expertise in different ways, but he decides to just stick with mopping floors in an elementary school.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "Get Schwifty", we have Rick the Scientist vs. General Nathan the Soldier, arguing over whether to appease the Cromulons by producing a hit single or else blow them up. Rick turns out to be a hundred percent correct, anyone surprised?
  • South Park:
    • In "AWESOM-O", the government scientist sees the "robot" (actually Cartman in a cardboard costume) as a living thing with feelings and a soul, while the military just wants it dissected to acquire its perceived technological marvels (which mostly consist of Cartman managing to conceive thousands of nearly similar Adam Sandler movie scripts). In the end, the scientist rips out his own organs to bring home the point that it's not our body that makes a human human.
    • Oddly enough, Cartman and Kyle's dad are the "scientists" in "Die, Hippie, Die" (that is also a parody of The Core): they are the ones who recommend a non-violent solution (by "digging" to the center of the hippie crowd and playing a Slayer tape to spook the hippies off), while the military men recommend nuking the crowd (and South Park) off the map.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks has an interesting variation with the recurring theme of the rivalry between Starfleet and outpost scientists: While the latter believe it's a straight example, Starfleet personnel consider themselves scientists as well as soldiers.

    Real Life 
  • Young US scientists led attempts to decouple universities from military-sponsored laboratories such as the Lincoln Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which by the late 1960s drew 98 percent of its funding from the U.S. Department of Defense in response to the Vietnam War. The more amoral scientists who decided they were not responsible with what the military did with what they made or found and did not get involved and some were proud to engage in morally questionable acts because of patriotism.