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30-Second Blackout

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Terrorist: [lights go out, hostages panic] SIT DOWN! STAY WHERE YOU ARE! [lights come on] What was that?
Skellen: The shortest power cut in English history, I should think.
Who Dares Wins (1982)

A piece of Applied Phlebotinum goes awry or an EMP is triggered. It could be an accident, or by design. In any case, the whole city, or possibly even the entire surrounding region, goes dark.

About 30 seconds later, the power comes back on and everything is back to normal. Of course, this isn't very realistic. As was evidenced by the Northeastern U.S. Blackout of 2003, when a blackout of that magnitude occurs it takes hours or days simply to restart all the systems, even if no elements of the power generation or distribution infrastructure were actually physically damaged. While brown-outs may be brief, they generally only affect a small area, and anything that actually disrupts power generation or transportation will take significantly longer. It takes several hours just to get three generating stations running, then there's synchronizing with other generating islands, and slowly switching in load being careful that you don't overload the generation you have and accidentally cause another system collapse.note  In real life, it can easily take more than a day to restart an electricity grid after the initial blackout.

Contrast Power Outage Plot.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Possibly justified in Code Geass by the Gefjun Disturber, a device that retards the natural superconductive properties of Sakuradite. As soon as the Disturber is deactivated, anything it was affecting starts right back up.
  • In an episode of Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Evangeline saps the energy from the entire city's power-grid to power her transformation into an 'Adult Form', allowing her to use her vampiric and magical powers unhindered. It only lasts for 5 minutes or so, though, and the second it runs out, the entire city flicks back on.
    • In the manga, the blackout was already scheduled, it was something they did twice a year for maintenance purposes. It was originally scheduled to be four hours long, but at the climax of the battle, the power comes back on 7 minutes and 27 seconds earlier than scheduled.
  • Justified in one episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion. In order to defeat an Angel, all of Japan was deliberately blacked out so the electricity could power a mecha-sized beam rifle. It takes a whole day (near literal 24 hours) just to set that up, and that was blindingly fast. The series doesn't say how long it took to restore the national power grid back to its usual status, but by the next episode everything is normal.
    • In a later episode, though, a blackout shuts down Tokyo-3 for around the length of the episode with the power in the city only fully coming back by nighttime. Turns out it was a planned shutdown.

  • In the original The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Klaatu has a small demonstration where he deliberately, briefly shuts down all power except hospitals and planes.
  • The film Déjà Vu (2006) has one whenever anything is sent into the wormhole.
  • In Ex Machina, Caleb gets temporarily locked in his room when the main power goes out one night, and shortly after comes back on. These short, unexplained power failures continue happening, sometimes during Caleb's sessions with Ava. It turns out that Ava is causing the outages herself, and is using them to talk to Caleb without Nathan watching them.
  • The protagonist and his zombie-killing team suffer through one of these in Juan of the Dead, while cornered by a swarm of undead. It's done as a Tempting Fate / You Just Had to Say It gag, but even so, possibly a justified trope considering the movie is set in Havana, a city which does not have the world's most robust electrical grid.
  • An alien power generator's activation causes one in The Last Mimzy.
  • The Matrix Revolutions has Neo & Trinity shutting down a power station so Neo can get to The Architect without the building exploding, but they can only shut the power down for less than 6 minutes.
  • This happens in Men in Black II when Jack Jeebs' illegal deneuralyzer has a power surge while trying to restore K's memories.
  • An electromagnetic pulse weapon used by robbers in Ocean's Eleven. According to dialogue, though, this is all it was supposed to do. (Note: Real EMPs do not work like this.) In the original, they blew up the power lines.
  • Lex Luthor's experiments in Superman Returns.
  • This sets off the plot of Yesterday, in which a 12-second worldwide blackout occurs that causes the existence of The Beatles, as well as several other pop culture icons, to be erased entirely from the minds of everyone on Earth except for Jack, the protagonist.

  • The Stand goes into detail about the enormous undertaking it would be just to get the power running in Boulder. It takes weeks of work from dozens of people to get everything running again. Especially since they initially didn't account for all the appliances left running when people died of Captain Trips. The grid was promptly overloaded on the first try, causing everything to go down again.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The A-Team episode "When You Comin' Back, Range Rider?", B.A. messes with the electricity in the V.A. hospital so Face can sneak Murdock out a window without setting off the alarm. The whole thing is only supposed to last ten minutes, and what we see lasts even less time than that. Then the lights come back on and everything is normal.
  • In The Cape episode "Goggles & Hicks", the titular assassins use an EMP-like device to shut off the power to the entire city for several minutes, so that they could not be tracked by the Cape's ally Orwell. When the device is turned off, the power is miraculously restored. No consequences are mentioned.
  • Crusade's Excalibur vessel has about a minute of blackout after using main guns at full power. See also Fate/stay night.
  • In the CSI episode "Dead Air", a news anchor is killed during a 20-second blackout. It turns out the killer caused the blackout by using a cellphone-controlled bomb to take out a transformer so he could kill the victim in the time it took for the backup generators to come online.
  • Scrubs had it, with Doctor Kelso encouraging everyone to stay calm because the emergency generator will kick in. Kelso is relieved when the lights come back on, because he had no idea if there was such a generator. This is a Justified Trope, since this is not "power coming back" but rather the delay before the emergency generators start. This can take anywhere from immediately to few minutes.
  • In the Firefly episode "Out of Gas", Serenity suffers a brief power outage during Simon's birthday party. Shortly after the power comes back on, the engine suffers a catastrophic failure, and the ship is left crippled and on fire.
  • NCIS averted it when an attack on part of the Washington, D.C. grid system took at least a day and a half to resolve, which caused a lot of problems, both serious and mundane, for the team.
  • Stargate SG-1 had a similar subversion to Evangelion, but with 80% of the United States blacked out to power a cloaking device so that the Ori ship didn't destroy the SGC and take over Earth. In an alternate universe.
    • The difference from a normal blackout is that the President warned the population to prepare.
    • Possible example from the teaser of "Avenger 2.0" when Felger's experimental plasma weapon shorts out and knocks out the base's electricity. After the titles, power's back. However, we don't know how much time passed between the teaser and act one. It's also possible all the weapon did was trip the main breakers, but that would make it a case of Artistic License - Electrical Construction: only the breaker the weapon was attached to should have tripped.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation suffers one of these aboard the Enterprise when the computer drains power to create Moriarty, a powerful computer-generated character, on the Holodeck.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Bread and Circuses," Scotty uses the Enterprise to disrupt the Roman capital's power grid for a few seconds. Naturally, the blackout happens just as Kirk's about to be executed on live television.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • This was commonplace whenever The Undertaker decided to interfere in a match. The lights will go out and, after his trademark deathknell and the lights turning back on, he would be standing in the ring, typically behind an opponent.
  • At the 2013 Royal Rumble, CM Punk, having won his last two title defenses due to interference from The Shield, was given an ultimatum not to have them interfere with his match with The Rock or else he would be stripped of the title. The Shield interfered anyway under cover of darkness by shutting out the lights and powerbombing the Rock into the announce table. Initially, the threat to vacate the title was made good on, but the Rock instead ordered the match to be restarted and he easily won the title.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, the electricity in Rogers High is knocked out just long enough for a select group of students to be impaled by snake-like apparitions. The power comes back on immediately afterwards. The implication is that the entire event was supernatural in nature.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A staple of Paranoia games. It's a classic for a reason, folks. To elaborate: In the GM section of the rulebook it is advised that every adventure includes at least one "darkened room", preferably somewhere in the second quarter of the adventure when everyone has already developed a grudge against a few other PCs, but doesn't yet know whose abilities will be vital in keeping the team alive.

  • In the Heights averts this; when the power goes out during the characters' stay at a night club, it takes them the rest of the night to find their way back home, a lot of the perishable food goes bad, and once it goes out at the end of the first act, we never see it come back, leaving it uncertain how long it took before they eventually got it returned. They even have a song about it.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VII has a moment like this when a giant Mako Cannon is fired; the entire Midgar is slowly blacked out as the power is sucked into the cannon. We don't really see whether or not the power comes back on right afterwards, but Midgar certainly isn't blacked out in any subsequent scenes.
  • In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, there's an optional sidequest composed of several sub-missions preparing for a big casino heist, Ocean's Eleven style. One of these missions involves planting remote controlled sticky bombs on the generators of the dam that powers the game's Las Vegas analogue, so they can be detonated and blackout the whole city during the heist. When it happens, the power stays off for a few minutes requiring the player to venture back upstairs and blow the casino's back-up generators. Despite this, the city has power about a minute later.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3:
    • If power demand exceeds power supply, all base defenses and superweapons shut down and all production times are doubled. Power can usually be restored in twenty seconds by producing another generator.
    • An infiltrator getting into a generator shorts out the entire supply for a while.
  • Watch_Dogs has the Blackout hack, which disables every electric device in the vicinity for about fifteen seconds. Despite showers of open sparks from streetlights and so on, everything flickers back to life, unharmed, when ctOS restores the power. You can also achieve the same effect by destroying a street-level transfer box.
  • SCP: Secret Laboratory has SCP-079's Blackout ability, which is unlocked upon reaching Tier 2 and turns out the lights in a room for 15 seconds. 079 is initially limited to blacking out a single room, but the cap is raised to two and four rooms at Tier 3 and Tier 4, respectively.

  • The infamous Rickroll blackout of MegaTokyo knocked the power out just long enough for the main crew to leave mostly unharmed for the next few panels.