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The Necromancer, Evil Sorcerer, Mad Scientist, or Big Bad tests or demonstrates their latest weapon; not on beer cans or inoffensive paper targets like any decent gun-nut would, but on live human beings!

Definitely a subtrope of Kick the Dog. See also Unwitting Test Subject, Innocent Bystander and Disposable Vagrant. Professor Guinea Pig is when the thing being tested isn't a weapon, and the Mad Scientist uses it on themself. Guinea Pig Family is when the Mad Scientist uses their family. Note that this trope does not necessarily apply to humans only, any living thing can qualify.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Samurai Gun: The evil Shogunate test their Steampunk gatling gun on a bound woman with large breasts.
  • In Death Note, L uses a death row prisoner to "test" and locate Kira. Kira, obviously, has to use humans to test the capabilities of the Death Note.
  • In Gunslinger Girl, after Raballo dies, Claes becomes unsuited for field work, so she's relegated to being the test bed for each new iteration of cyborg technology.
  • 7 Seeds does a non-weapon version of this. Nobita gets picked up by Team Summer A and gets unknowingly used as a guinea pig by Ayu, to see which of the unfamiliar plants and fungi that are growing around the place are edible.
  • Golgo 13: In the anime episode "The Masterpiece Assault Rifle", a Mad Scientist develops the next generation of assault rifle. To establish its reputation he hires two mercenaries to use it against Duke with his trademark M-16. Needless to say, this is not a good idea.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul:Re, CCG has begun to develop their own Half-Human Hybrid soldiers as the answer to increasing Ghoul threats. The Quinx are advertised as "humans with an installed Quinque", but are essentially modified half-Ghouls just barely clinging to their humanity. As the story progresses, the unethical nature of the project has become more clear. The organization is not only using minors for their experiments, but it's revealed that Saiko's mother sold her daughter to the project in exchange for financial compensation. Several characters comment on how this shows that CCG really isn't any better than the enemy they fight.
  • In The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, one case involves the group investigating a company in China that produces artistic mannequins made from actual human bodies. As it turns out, the company is a front for the descendants of Unit 731 (mentioned in the Real Life section below), who continue to perform experiments on humans. After capturing the protagonists, it's revealed they plan to keep most of them to test a deadly virus on.

    Comic Books 
  • Wanted has the supervillains abducting people for target practice.
  • A Love Like Blood: Vampire scientists develop new diseases in secret laboratories to ease the process of feeding, such as a hemorrhaegic fever that causes humans to bleed out within minutes.
  • Supergod. The Chinese government creates Maitreya, a Deity of Human Origin, and assembles a warehouse of political prisoners under guard so he can demonstrate his power over spacetime and matter. Instead Maitreya opens the door to let the prisoners escape, while simultaneously demonstrating to their captors that Evil Is Not a Toy.
    Reddin: He instead fashioned the guards into a vast musical instrument of entrancingly beautiful tone, then configured all the officers and scientists into a self-supporting worm-like structure and fired them into space using the musical instrument, where they journeyed as a biological probe of brains linked in a parallel that reported information about the solar system to Maitreya via quantum entanglement — until the structure, starting to break up, was identified as Comet Shoemaker-Levy and eventually smacked into the surface of Jupiter. Terrible, really.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: The Golden Age Dr. Poison tested her biological weapons on humans, and tested other things on human captives as well, rather like what Imperial Japanese scientists and doctors were doing in real life at the time.


    Films — Animated 
  • The Incredibles: Syndrome pays "retired" superheroes to come to his Island Base, supposedly to stop a rogue robot. Actually, he's using them to test the robot's abilities, constantly upgrading it with each defeat until the superhero is killed.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • In The Amtrak Wars by Patrick Tilley, the Iron Masters demonstrate the new firearms they're selling to the Plainfolk by shooting dead several condemned prisoners. When one samurai misses the target, he's used in the demonstration as well. Afterwards the protagonist Steve Brickman comments on how brave the men were in facing death. One of the Plainfolk replies dryly that considering the alternative, it was the best fate they could have hoped for.
  • Flashman presents a brace of pistols to an Afghan chieftain, and witnesses one of them being tested on a slave by the Big Bad. Even the amoral Flashman is shocked.
  • In King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard, the king of the Kukuana people asks Allan Quartermain to show the effects of his rifle upon his assembled warriors. Quatermain replies by telling the king he would be glad to do so if the king volunteers to be the subject of the experiment. At which point it is decided to use an ox instead.
  • In Outbound Flight, the Vagaari commander gets his hands on the battle droids stowed away in Car'das's stolen shuttle. Droids of any kind are completely new to this sector of space. One of the first things he does is test their firepower on Geroon slaves.
  • In The Migax Cycle, Mililabs lures in human test subjects by luring desperate people into contracts with them.
  • In The Master Sniper by Stephen Hunter, German sharpshooter Lt. Colonel Repp tests his StG44 rifle with newly-developed infra-red scope — first on some Jewish prisoners, then on an American patrol at the front lines — before carrying out the assassination he'd been tasked with.
  • The main character's father of The Switch is the CEO of a major pharmaceutical company, popular because none of his products are tested on animals. They're not just tested on humans, though; they're tested on homeless children that nobody will miss.
  • In Galaxy of Fear: City of the Dead, a Mad Scientist tries to make zombie soldiers, which of course means Grave Robbing. But his zombies are smarter and more useful the fresher they are, so he murders a twelve-year-old boy wandering through the graveyard and then tries it on him.
  • Similarly to the Galaxy of Fear example above, in Herbert West–Reanimator, the success rate of Dr. West's research on the "freshness" of the corpses used as test subjects. Thus, in the chapter "The Scream of the Dead", West just walks out, finds the first best nobody that wouldn't be missed, drugs him, kills him later on the table and then instantly injects the serum into him.
  • In Firestarter, a government organization called The Shop tests an incredibly dangerous Psycho Serum called Lot Six on volunteering college students, who are told that half of them will be injected with a small dose of harmless hallucinogenic drug and the other half will be injected with water.
  • In the Discworld novels, Unseen University routinely tests things on student volunteers, whether they volunteer or not. It's considered that this isn't unethical as long as the students don't know, and since it's the only way in which having students around benefits the faculty, it's probably what they're there for.
  • In the Gatling series, Gatling is paid to test weapons under battlefield conditions. This includes using them on human targets, although he prefers to ensure his targets are people who deserve it.
  • The Forever War starts with the recruits watching a lecture tape on "eight silent ways to kill a man". The protagonist thinks afterwards that some of the actors must have been convicted criminals who had been brain-wiped, as they were really killed.
  • In Old Virginia by Laird Barron, a team of CIA black ops agents is assigned to guard scientists studying a Humanoid Abomination, but it turns out to be a field test to see if 'Virginia' can defeat Professional Killers like themselves. Though even that's a subversion, as both scientists and the black ops team are being offered as a Human Sacrifice to the Eldritch Abomination that Virginia serves.
  • This is The Reveal in Terminal by Colin Forbes. A Swiss clinic is testing a Deadly Gas to be used against a Soviet invasion. They force terminally-ill patients at the clinic to wear a Soviet gas mask and run downhill while they shoot mortar bombs filled with nerve gas at them. When the hero is captured and used in a similar matter, he runs uphill towards the mortar, so they can't take the risk of firing for fear of their own gas.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Professionals: In the episode "Killer With A Long Arm", a Cold Sniper hired for an assassination sights in his custom-made rifle on a scarecrow, but is witnessed and has to flee the scene without checking the zero. So the second time he tests the rifle by gunning down a man on a golf course. If there was a reason for him to use a live target other than just to be a dick, it was not adequately explained.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus. The Funniest Joke in the World was tested on a low-level military grunt.
  • The basic idea behind the Mads' experiments on Joel and Mike in Mystery Science Theater 3000 — find the perfect movie to crack the test subject's resistance, then release the movie on an unwitting populace.
  • An example of the good guys using this is in V: The Final Battle. The dust used to kill the Visitors is tested on an alien prisoner. Then, while the others are busy arguing about whether they should find a human collaborator to test it on, one of the human scientists willingly steps into the chamber instead.
  • The Six Million Dollar Man: In the episode "Population Zero", the villains try out their sonic device on a small town. The initial test just renders the population unconscious — the final test will kill them.
  • On Ugly Betty, Marc briefly became someone else's assistant. He did not enjoy it:
    Marc: Fabia doesn't believe in testing her products on animals, but she does believe in testing them on assistants.
  • Doctor Who: Davros tests his multiverse-destroying, matter-vaporizer gun on people collected from the streets of London. (The Daleks don't even have to hit anything, just turn it on and bye-bye multiverse.)
  • In Helix, while a team of CDC researchers were ostensibly sent to a remote research base to contain an accidental outbreak of The Virus, their army liaison tells a CDC teammember that he and his superiors suspect the outbreak may have begun as a deliberate effort to test a developed Synthetic Plague on human subjects that got out of control.
  • Game of Thrones: Just to remind the audience that Ser Gregor Clegane is a huge brutish killing machine when he reappears in Season 4, he's introduced using lowborn prisoners as living practice dummies. The prisoners are given weapons, but half-starved men with no training in swordfighting have no chance against the dreaded Mountain That Rides. So it's Laser-Guided Karma when a dying Clegane ends up under the 'care' of Qyburn, a disgraced former maester expelled from their order for conducting experiments on living subjects and eager to test out his theories.
  • "Star Trek'':
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: After Worf's spine is crushed and he is left permanently paralyzed in the episode Ethics a neurologist named Dr. Tobey Russel offers to perform a risky procedure that would completely heal him despite the fact that the success rate in simulations was only 37%, and Starfleet refused to sanction the procedure. After realizing that Worf would rather die than live with a disability, Doctor Crusher very reluctantly allows Russel to perform the procedure. At the conclusion of the procedure Worf flatlines, and only his very redundant Klingon biology allows him to survive and recover.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise. Our introduction to the evil Mirror Universe characters has them watching a demonstration of the newly-invented Agony Booth on a Tellarite crewman. When asked what the crewman did wrong, Mirror!Reed admits he doesn't really know. "Late for his duty shift I expect. Aren't all Tellarites guilty of something?"
  • In Gotham, Victor Fries tests his cryogenic techniques on humans, such as the pharmacist who'd refused to give him medicine for his wife without a prescription. He tells his ailing wife it's mice that he's freezing.
  • Murder Rooms: A quack doctor has a bullet-deflecting device he's trying to patent, and volunteers one of his servants for a demonstration. To the relief of the terrified woman, Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle convince him a demonstration is unnecessary.
  • Blake's 7.
  • In one episode of Freaky, a girl objects to the 'cruelty' that comes from running rats in a maze. Her science teacher and the other male student scoff at this and begin to eat the rats in the maze. Mortified, the girl runs for her life, only to find that the doors are not real and she cannot open them. When the girl is cornered by the teacher and student, she is lifted into the air by a giant green hand. It turns out that the school is actually a maze, with 3 aliens studying the students... including a female one that objects to the cruelty of running humans through the maze.
  • In the Airwolf episode "Fight Like a Dove", an Arms Dealer is demonstrating a new anti-aircraft missile on an approaching fighter plane. The people he wants to sell it to say they aren't impressed with a missile that blows up a target drone, but the arms dealer informs them the aircraft is piloted by a mercenary who has been promised a million dollars if he can beat the missile. Let's just say the mercenary dies penniless.
  • Roar: Longinus invents a gunpowder bomb and orders his servants (who have no idea what it is) to stand in a circle around the bomb until it explodes, to demonstrate to Queen Diana the weapon's ability to kill in all directions.
  • The Boys (2019): It's gradually revealed that not only are superheroes created by being injected with Compound V as infants (with the secret consent of their parents) but that experiments are being conducted on adults to create Super Soldiers. This is shown to have a high fatality rate even under controlled conditions (which many of the experiments aren't, as they're being done by criminals and terrorists).
  • Towards the end of The Heavy Water War, Werner Heisenberg is shown a file of concentration camp inmates who have been deliberately exposed to radiation to study its effects. The irony is the German nuclear project has long since been ineffective due to lack of support and Allied efforts to sabotage heavy water production.
  • The Expanse. This is The Reveal of Season One. Eros Station, a Wretched Hive of crime and unemployment on an asteroid far from Earth, is being prepared as a testing ground for the protomolecule, as the population is expendable and the conspirators figure no-one on faraway Earth will care.
  • In Highlander an Immortal walked into an antiques shop that sold assorted bladed weaponry. He asked the proprietor to show him an authentic sword that could stand up to the stresses of combat. The Immortal then tested the Toledo sword by stabbing the proprietor with it.

    Video Games 
  • In the first Soviet briefing of Command & Conquer: Red Alert, Stalin and his officers discuss the results of a test of Deadly Gas on a civilian village.
  • Occurs in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: Uprising, when FutureTech Corporation, the Allies' main Private Military Contractor, uses Soviet Prisoners for this purpose. The act is enough to push Dasha's Berserk Button, resulting in her calling up what few Kirovs the Soviets have left.
  • This was done many times in the Fallout universe, by the pre-War United States. Even something innocuous like the new soda flavor Nuka-Cola Quantum ended up killing most taste testers.
    • When America was working on the Forced Evolutionary Virus (eventually repurposed to create Super Soldiers for the war against China), they tested it out on political dissidents and military prisoners. Most died due to terrible mutations or becoming so stupid they forgot to breathe, but the most stable results were hulking brutes with a caveman's intellect. When the military force guarding the base running these tests found out about them, the soldiers mutinied and executed the scientists.
    • During the Sino-American War, Chinese-Americans were rounded up in concentration camps occasionally used for such a purpose. In the Old World Blues expansion for Fallout: New Vegas you can explore the "Little Yangtze" camp, whose bomb-collared prisoners have lingered on for two hundred years as ghouls.
    • Perhaps the most egregious example would be the Vaults themselves. Though marketed as the ultimate bomb shelters, most Vaults were secretly the testing grounds for sadistic social experiments, to see if humans could survive prolonged space travel to another planet, which was the American government's real plan for surviving nuclear war. Some experiments make a twisted sort of sense — an all-powerful Overseer, infrastructure requiring constant and inconvenient repairs, low-light conditions — but what about the Vaults with grossly imbalanced gender ratios? Or the Vault without clothing dispensers? Or the Vault assigned one man and a box of puppets?
      • In fact, in government and Vault-Tec records the Vault project is often referred to as the Vault Experiment — every Vault is part of the experimentation, whether for social or biological science, with the Vaults that seemingly escaped either having a slated experiment with fairly benign consequences or being one of the 17 Control Vaults (as in 'control group').
  • In The Sims 2, this is implied to be what Loki and Circe Beaker are doing with Nervous Subject in Strangetown. The house they have has a lab filled with science-y looking things (actually aspiration rewards) and Nervous lives in a basement room under the lab.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Mordin's former assistant uses humans as test subjects to develop a cure for the genophage. It's also what they initially think the Collectors are doing with the colonies they abduct. Actually, they're being used to make a new Reaper.
    • Mordin himself acknowledges the logic behind using human test subjects (humans are more genetically diverse than most other species and so make excellent lab rats), but disagrees with it on moral grounds. "Never test using species capable of calculus. Simple rule. Never broke it."
  • In Dragon Age: Origins "Warden's Keep", Avernus found a way to use Blood Magic to weaponize the Darkspawn Taint and prolong his own life to delay the Calling for two centuries. And all it took was using the other Wardens trapped in the Keep as test subjects. What little we see of the experiments is ghastly: cages, bloody knifes, electric torture, etc. By the time Avernus made his breakthrough, he was the only Warden left.
  • In World of Warcraft, the Forsaken are notorious for their signature plague. Initially designed to destroy the Scourge, the plague was prepared from fungal extracts, and of course, tested in Undercity on captured Alliance and Scarlet Crusade personnel in cages. Sylvanas Windrunner, Queen of the Forsaken, has personally tested it on two victims, a human woman captured from Alliance ranks and a Forsaken criminal.

    Web Original 
  • Implied in Season 1 of Within the Wires. People are sent to the Institute's "Extensive Studies Lab," but the Narrator of the Institute's "Relaxation Cassettes" tells a patient not to think about what's happening there.
  • SCP Foundation loves this trope; they transfer Death Row inmates to their facilities as Dnote -Class test subjects, who take the brunt of the casualties from constantly handling supernatural phenomena. Since standard procedure is to continue their death sentences at the end of each month, scientists constantly use them to test properties of supernatural objects, recording their typical death throes. Occasionally, a D-class inmate will become indispensable and will spend the rest of their life containing specific supernatural objects. The downside is, some D-Class are actually innocent, or are illegally abducted against their will because they meet specific criteria or are vagrants with no real ties to the world.

    Western Animation 
  • Exo Squad. J.T. Marsh (a military officer and good fighter) is captured by Neo Megas near the Antarctic Neo Lord breeding facility and pitted against a Neo Lord to test the latter's combat abilities. It is clear that Marsh was never meant to survive.
  • In Street Sharks, Dr. Paradigm figures out that using his gene-slamming technique on humans would let him eliminate some steps, so he he tests it on the first person available — Dr. Bolton. He also tests it on Bolton's sons and a few other people, before figuring out that gene-slammed humans can't be controlled. He's working on it, though.
  • In Batman Beyond, Derek Powers developed a chemical weapon. When the potential buyer asked about its effect on humans, Powers told him that local human testing laws weren't so "liberal" as those of the buyer's home nation, but Powers had footage of an "accident".
  • In Archer, a flashback shows Dr. Kreiger testing a new Bulletproof Vest on an ISIS intern. Unfortunately, as it turns out, said Armor Is Useless.

    Real Life 
  • The very prospect of it led to the development of bioethics.
  • Samurai would test their swords on criminals who'd been sentenced to death. It might have also been tested on a random peasant at night, a practice called tsujigiri. This was more common in the Sengoku period, but how common it actually was is up to debate.
  • The outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II, and the disregard for human rights of prisoners kept in concentration camps allowed Japanese and German scientists to conduct experiments otherwise prohibited. The scientific value of many 'experiments' - particularly those conducted by Dr Joseph Mengele, a depraved sadist with an honorary doctorate in (Aryan) racial theory - was dubious. However, much of the work did confirm or invalidate numerous theories about the workings of the human body e.g. the circulation of blood, human metabolic rates, survival capacity in extreme conditions and when wounded, the stopping power/lethality of various weapons and the lethality and most contagious means of transmission of diseases.
    • Unit 731 of the IJA is perhaps the best known example of these wartime research units, having run through an unknown number (somewhere in the thousands) of people of various Chinese and occasionally European ethnicities for use in the aforementioned research. Vivisection without application of anesthetic was advocated as it produced the most accurate results, and they were a bit short on that kind of thing (medical supplies) anyway. Field tests of disease delivery methods and resultant effects had terminal effects on some 200k to 600k Chinese civilians in urban areas designated for biological research.
    • The Nazis carried out scientific explosive decompression experiments in the death camps, with a view to working out survival techniques for submariners at great depths, or for aircraft crews in planes that were going ever higher and higher and subjected to diminishing air pressure. Unlucky and dispensable test subjects were placed in atmospheric chambers and subjected either to massively increased atmospheric pressure, or to the sort of atmospheric pressure to be found in deep space. Quite often they were used to test prototype high-altitude flightsuits and survival systems, and most of the conclusions drawn above were in fact scientifically proven by a regime that viewed some people as expendable lab-rats. While nobody wants to admit it, this Nazi research was in fact vital to post-war America and Britain, who reaped the benefits of Nazi science for their own military use whilst keeping their hands clean and staying morally spotless. Also, there's at least one Nazi surgery book that's become very handy for surgeons to use, as it contains the best anatomical drawings in the world. Better not ask in which circumstances it was made.
  • Possibly just a legend, but there is a saying about the Russian Mafia, they'll shoot you just to see if the gun works.
  • Richard Davis, the inventor of Second Chance body armour, would demonstrate his product for police departments by shooting himself while wearing the Bulletproof Vest, usually with a firearm provided by whatever agency he was demonstrating for.