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.
- 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.
- This is the main plot of Apollo 13.
- The Flight of the Phoenix (1965): After their plane crashes in the desert, the survivors build a smaller working plane (little more than a flying wing) out the remains of their crashed aeroplane.
- 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.
- Christopher's entire goal over the 20 odd years that has 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.
- 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.
- In Back to the Future Part III, the DeLorean's gas tank ruptures. 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 ships 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.
- Doctor Who:
- In the episode "42", the Doctor and his companion are trapped on a damaged spacecraft which is falling into a sun. They are separated from the TARDIS by the rising temperatures and must repair the spacecraft to escape.
- In the episode "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).
- In "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.
- In "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 as 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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 Transporter to navigate the wormhole which had swallowed the Moon, leaving them stranded.
- MacGyver (1985): In "Final Approach", MacGyver and four young people are stranded in the wilderness by a plane crash, and Mac must figure a way to repair the plane and get it airborne again.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- The Scott Adams game Strange Odyssey required the player to find equipment and repair his spaceship to escape a tiny asteroid.
- 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.
- The first ToeJam & Earl 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.
Toejam: You should never let Earl drive.
- In the E.T. Atari 2600 game, the alien must assemble a communications device to summon a spaceship, by finding pieces scattered around the game map.
- One way to get out of the zombie-stricken city in Rebuild 2 is to repair the helicopter, though it may not be the easiest way.
- The second half of Jet Force Gemini is all about finding the 12 missing pieces of a spaceship that can help the characters intercept a meteor Mizar plans to aim at Earth to impact upon it.
- Resident Evil 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...
- In The Smurfs 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.