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The Great Repair

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On the plus side, this probably isn't that much more dangerous than piloting his regular Type 40.

Heinrich Dorfmann: Gentlemen, I have been examining this aeroplane.
Frank Towns: Yeah?
Heinrich Dorfmann: Yes. We've everything we need here to build a new one and fly it out. Now, if you'd like to have a look at my calculations, I don't know whether you can read my handwriting.

Freedom: seven letters that can start an avalanche of impassioned speeches and any number of revolutions. Also, something that characters and players are frequently deprived of in fiction. A frequent plot element used in stories is to trap the characters in an inescapable location. Well, mostly inescapable. The only means of escape is a damaged car, plane, ship, space ship, Time Machine, or weirder vehicle. In order to escape this Closed Circle they have to repair the vehicle, which won't be easy. (Otherwise, what would they do for the rest of the episode?) Usually this will require a chain of Fetch Quests for tools, parts, fuel, and potentially crewmembers.

If the vessel is large enough, they may well be trapped inside it and adrift at sea / space / Hyper Space / the time stream, often with the further inconvenience of dwindling supplies and leaks. For extra fun, there are enemies inside and outside the vehicle intent on killing them, and wherever it is they're trapped is about to get attacked and/or destroyed, so there's a time limit on escape as well.

Named after the film The Great Escape, where Allied POWs plan to escape their prison. See also Resurrect the Wreck.


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  • A variation of this features in the Titanic (1997) fic "A Matter of Time." Jack has the idea of using the ship's nets and various wooden material to create makeshift rafts as Titanic starts to sink, breaking up parts of the ship but increasing the number of survivors.
  • "We Are Not Shining Stars" transplants the characters of Firefly into the universe of Battlestar Galactica (2003). After the initial Cylon attack, Serenity was able to land on Caprica, and after making contact with Sam Anders' resistance, the crew are able to steal a Cylon FTL drive and link it up to Serenity, allowing them to take the entire resistance to the Colonial fleet (previously impossible as Serenity had no FTL of its own).
  • The Star Trek: Voyager/Stargate Universe crossover "Destiny and Voyager: Crossroads" sees the crews of Destiny and Voyager join forces to get them both home after finding a wormhole linking the Milky Way galaxy in the Star Trek universe to the galaxy that Destiny is currently travelling through in its own universe. The final plan sees Destiny take both crews back to the Star Trek Earth (which is a journey of only a few months at Destiny's maximum speed where Voyager would still need over thirty years); the Voyager crew help to repair Destiny en route as much as possible and then Starfleet gives Destiny a more thorough repair job once it's docked at a starbase. Starting with fixing its hull damage, the repair work goes so far as to give its FTL engines such a complete overhaul that Destiny can travel at three times more than its previous top speed and no longer needs to run for at least four hours followed by four hours' 'downtime'. Analysing Destiny also gives Starfleet ideas for various future upgrades of their own ships.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Titan A.E., after being stranded on a "drifter colony" made of the fused-together hulks of old spaceships, Cale gets the idea that one of the dead ships might be fixable. He and Akima set about repairing and restoring it in order to use it as transportation.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This is the main plot of Apollo 13, based on the real-life incident. After a major fault almost entirely disables a spacecraft heading to the moon, NASA frantically tries to find a way to save the three men aboard and bring them back to Earth. They succeed.
  • In Back to the Future Part III, the DeLorean's gas tank ruptures and all the gasoline is lost with no way to make more. Unable to get to 88 miles per hour, they're now stranded in 1885. They have to concoct a scheme to get their damaged time machine up to the magic speed and escape.
  • In Das Boot, U-96 sinks to the floor of the Strait of Gibraltar badly damaged after an attack, with stuck diving planes, cracked batteries, heavy flooding, limited oxygen, and at a depth well below the boat's rated limit. It takes more than 15 hours and heroic work by the crew to repair the boat enough to surface.
  • Part of the plot of the Australian 1989 horror film Dead Calm. A sailing couple find a drifting yacht and rescue the Sole Survivor. He turns out to be an insane killer who makes off with their yacht and the female protagonist, leaving her husband trapped on board the slowly sinking vessel, which he has to repair in order to chase after them and rescue her. He can't, and is reduced to building a raft and setting the remains on fire to attract attention. Fortunately his wife has (temporarily) overcome the killer and regained control of the boat so he can be rescued.
  • Christopher's entire goal over the 20 odd years that have passed in District 9 is to get enough fuel to escape Earth and return home to get help.
  • This makes up a fair bit of the plot of The Empire Strikes Back on board the Millennium Falcon.
  • Five Came Back: The pilots spend weeks repairing the plane, the only hope any of them have of escaping the jungle.
  • The Flight of the Phoenix (original and remake): After their plane crashes in the desert, the survivors build a smaller working plane (little more than a flying wing in the original version) out of the wreck.
  • Ghost Ship: After their tug the Arctic Warrior is sunk, the surviving members of the salvage crew decide that their best hope for survival is to patch the hole in the Antonia Graza's hull, pump out the water, free the rudder, and try to keep the ship from running aground on the rocks until rescue arrives.
  • Pitch Black. The survivors of a starship crash on a remote moon must move power cells to the skiff (a small starship) so they can refuel it and escape.

  • Eden starts off with a spaceship crashing on a planet. Thanks to the ceramite hull, the crew is unharmed and the ship still basically spaceworthy after the crash, but getting it in any shape to fly means working off a long, long list of repairs.
  • Falling Free has elements of this. The plot requires the characters to gain control of a space station, jury-rig it into something moveable, and then hijack an interstellar cargo vessel in order to escape. So technically they're building new stuff, but it keeps breaking while they build it...
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Space Cadet. After their ship sinks into the mud of Venus, the cadets must repair an old damaged ship, the PRS Astarte, in order to escape.
  • In Tau Zero, the deceleration module on a Ram Scoop starship is destroyed from an impact with an interstellar dust cloud. Unable to kill the ramscoop due to the radiation it protects the ship from and unable to perform an extra-vehicular activity to fix it for much the same reason, the crew is forced to continue accelerating as they work to modify the ship internally for deceleration, their tau steadily approaching zero as they build up speed.
  • In Torch of Freedom the heroes' transport, a rustbucket freighter Hali Sowle, blows a hypergenerator just as they escape with their lives, stranding them in hyper until they can make repairs to Bring News Back. And to add the insult to injury they had the required part, but had to throw it out to make room for some unexpected company, so now they have to improvise.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of Battlestar Galactica, Kara Thrace crash lands on a nearby planet after winning a dogfight with a Cylon raider. Her leg is broken, her Viper is kaput, and the sandstorm she's in makes rescue unlikely. The only way to escape? Find, repair, and fly the Cylon raider back to the fleet!
  • Doctor Who:
    • "42": The Doctor and his companion are trapped on a damaged spacecraft that is falling into a sun. They are separated from the TARDIS by the rising temperatures and must repair the spacecraft to escape.
    • "Voyage of the Damned": The Doctor is trapped on board a space replica of the Titanic in orbit around Earth, and must get it flying again to keep it from crashing into Buckingham Palace (vaporising London in the process).
    • "Planet of the Dead": The Doctor must improvise repairs to a city bus, severely damaged in a wormhole trip to a desert planet, in order to drive it back through the wormhole to Earth.
    • "The Doctor's Wife": The Doctor is temporarily barred from regaining even the most basic of access to his TARDIS by a powerful and malevolent alien. At one point, he has to follow it, so he uses what little time he has left to cobble together a very basic, very ramshackle TARDIS. It only consists of a control console held together by duct tape, spit, and faith, an implied power source beneath the console, and some improvised backdrop walls for barely-there shielding. Amazingly, though giving chase in this TARDIS is incredibly dangerous, even by the Doctor's standards, he narrowly pulls it off. That the consciousness of the Doctor's TARDIS (trapped in the body of a deceased lady) was a co-pilot to help him might have made the whole thing at least somewhat survivable.
  • Crops up in Farscape reasonably often, as Moya is prone to some extra forms of damage since she's a Living Ship. Also, all the main characters get their asses beat on a regular basis, so it can't be helped.
  • This is the plot of the Firefly episode "Out of Gas".
  • Averted in Gilligan's Island: The Professor immediately declares the Minnow unfixable... and then goes on to build an entire village out of bamboo, not to mention various forms of implausible technology.
  • In the final episode of Lost, the remaining survivors escape the island by repairing the Ajira Airways plane that crashed there over a season earlier.
  • MacGyver: In "Final Approach", MacGyver and four young people are stranded in the wilderness by a plane crash, and Mac must figure out a way to repair the plane and get it airborne again.
  • The Six Million Dollar Man episode "Little Orphan Airplane". Steve must repair an airplane that is his and his companions' only means of escape from a dangerous warlord.
  • On the second season of Space: 1999, the secondary plot of the episode "Space Warp" had Koenig and Verdesci salvaging the FTL device of an alien derelict and adapting it to their Eagle spacecraft to navigate the wormhole which had swallowed the Moon, leaving them stranded.
  • The Destiny in Stargate Universe is an Ancient exploration vessel that was launched millions of years ago and went unmaintained for much of that time, as the Ancients ascended at an unknown date after its launch. The survivors of Icarus Base spend the first couple of episodes just trying to get life support working properly, and Destiny's lack of maintenance remains a recurring problem unto the series' premature end.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series, "The Galileo Seven". An Enterprise shuttlecraft is pulled off course and crashes on an unknown planet. The crew is repeatedly attacked by primitive humanoids and there's dissent over Commander Spock's decisions while Scotty attempts to repair the shuttle.
    • Another episode of the original series ("The Enemy Within") has a part of the crew (including Sulu) stuck on a rapidly freezing planet while Kirk, Spock, and Scotty struggle to repair the ship's transporter to rescue them. All while battling Kirk's evil twin.
  • Subverted in The X-Files episode "Dod Kalm", where Mulder, Scully, and a couple of sailors are trapped on a derelict ship, try to get it to work again, but fail and have to wait for extraction. Mulder and Scully are the only ones to make it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Coop Multiplayer board game The Captain Is Dead, the ship starts with a damaged Jump Core, which must be repaired so the surviving crew can escape the hostile aliens. Alert cards cause additional damage, which must be repaired before the players can use the affected systems.
  • Classic Traveller Adventure 3 Twilight's Peak. In the Back Story, several starships crash-landed on a deserted planet. Using parts taken from the others, the crews repaired one of the ships well enough to escape.
  • In the Crapsack World that is Warhammer 40,000, the account of Fulgrim performing The Great Repair on the planet of Chemos made it such a beautiful shining beacon in the midst of darkness.
    "Dropped in a dying planet where resources are strained, he resolved to fix it all. Reclaiming old resource plants, increasing efficiency and eventually rebuilding the entire Chemos civilization, he turned a dying planet into such a beautiful splendor in mere 50 years. An unambiguously happy ending for the people of Chemos. Unfortunately, one ending is often a mere beginning to another story..."
    • Once upon a time, a group of Orks crash-landed on a desolate planet. The Greenskins worked hard to make their vessel space-worthy again, but as the project neared completion, an argument started over which of the Orks' two gods the ship resembled, Gork or Mork. The result was a merry civil war that all but destroyed what progress had been made, and even though the name Gorkamorka was chosen as a compromise, work on the ship stalled as Gorkers and Morkers continued to happily fight each other, as Orks are wont to do.

    Video Games 
  • During the events of Ashes 2063 Episode 1, Scav parked his EZE Tesla-Glide in a tunnel and proceeded into Atlanta on foot, unaware that it was in a section of the ruined city prone to flooding, and between episodes it's washed up in one such flood, ruining the bike. The main mission of the first Hub Level of Afterglow is to find replacement parts to get it running again.
  • In Commander Keen Episode I: Marooned on Mars, Keen must find the necessary parts to repair his Bean-with-Bacon Megarocket so he can return to Earth.
  • In Dead Space, repairing the deep-space mining ship Ishimura and finding out what the hell happened to everyone take second place to 'just' surviving.
    • The first third of Dead Space 3 is about finding a salvageable vessel in a massive field of debris and derelicts, then scrounging up enough spare parts to get it flying.
  • In the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial game, the alien must assemble a communications device to summon a spaceship, by finding pieces scattered around the game map.
  • As you rescue your friends in Far Cry 3, they gradually repair an old fishing boat found wrecked in a sea cave. Why they don't just use one of the modern, fully-functional boats or helicopters dotting the islands isn't addressed, but presumably they wouldn't have been able to travel rough seas or have the range needed to reach safe land.
  • In the Blenjeel level of Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, Jaden crash-lands near a wrecked freighter on a desert planet infested with giant sandworms that strike at anything walking or running across the sand. The player has to find four vital parts in the wrecked ship in order to repair their own shuttle, without becoming worm food.
  • Jet Force Gemini: The second half of the game is all about finding the 12 missing pieces of a spaceship that can help the characters intercept a meteor Mizar has sent on a collision course with towards Earth.
  • Kingdom Come: Deliverance: The core focus of the From the Ashes DLC. Following the storyline event of a large raid on the bandit stronghold of Pribyslavitz, the local lord, Sir Divish makes plans to rebuild and restore the hamlet after it's fallen into disrepair. He sets this task onto the protagonist Henry along with appointing him the local bailiff as well to oversee the reconstructions as well as to handle any disputes that crop up from the growing population. Henry's main tasks are creating enough structures to house a small but feasible population, finding ways for the hamlet to produce enough income to sustain itself, and restoring the dilapidated church as a community focal point. In exchange, Divish promises him a personal income for the renewed village's first five years of existence; however, if Henry (and the player) fails to succeed in these tasks, the villagers desert the would-be hamlet and Divish revokes his title.
  • Oo-Topos (1981, 1987). Your ship has been forced to crash land on an alien planet. You must escape your captors and repair your ship so you can escape.
  • Pikmin (2001): The game revolves around finding the missing parts of Captain Olimar's damaged spaceship after crash landing on a strange planet. What ending you get depends on which and how many parts you can salvage before Olimar's life-support gives out at the end of the 30th day.
  • Rebuild 2: One way to get out of the zombie-stricken city is to repair the helicopter, though it may not be the easiest way.
  • Resident Evil 3: Nemesis has a cable car in dire need of a power cord, oil, and a working fuse that the characters decide to use as an armored vehicle to escape the city. Too bad they forgot to check the brakes...
  • So uh, a spaceship crashed in my yard.: Mark is sent on a Fetch Quest for the three items Spaceship Girl ARIA needs to return to space.
  • Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon: The first part of the game has Anti-Hero Roger Wilco trapped in a giant freighter full of trash, where he has to find the parts to repair a starship in order to escape.
  • Strange Odyssey requires the player to find equipment and repair his spaceship to escape a tiny asteroid.
  • ToeJam & Earl: The first game game has the titular aliens crash-land on Earth, where they have to find all 10 pieces of their spaceship so that they can go home.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Smurfs (1981) episode "Never Smurf Off Till Tomorrow", six Smurfs are carried off by a hurricane inside a windmill into the chasm of an active volcano, which then crashes. Even worse is that the volcano is going to erupt soon, so Handy quickly devises a plan to convert the remains of the windmill into a primitive helicopter through which he and his fellow Smurfs can escape.