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Unplanned Manual Detonation

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This trope is when a character plans to detonate a bomb remotely, but finds out that the remote control is broken. Then he has to go and rig it himself, while cursing quality assurance the whole time.

This is often used to set up either an Outrun the Fireball if the detonator can escape, or a Heroic Sacrifice if he cannot.

Compare to Cut the Fuse, a manual defusing of a bomb, and Hoist by His Own Petard, where an enemy bomb is (often manually) detonated against its original wielders. See Plot-Demanded Manual Mode for non-explosive versions of this trope.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Done twice in Zoids: Chaotic Century, thanks to the unreliability of Republic technology. The first time Moonbay is assigned to blow up a bridge used by the Empire and after she drops off the ton of explosives the detonator fails and Van has to use his Liger's guns to set them off. Another time Moonbay and Fiona stop a Republic general from sacrificing himself to blow up a base in a dormant volcano that is about to fall to the Empire and rig up a remote detonator, which fails, but Van and Irvine are able to bombard the volcano until it goes off with the Imperial forces inside.

  • Pacific Rim: The Jaeger program's final plan is to deliver a nuclear bomb through the dimensional rift in order to Seal the Breach and kill the alien invaders in their own home. However, the nuke is destroyed before it can be delivered, so Raleigh and Mako decide to use their Humongous Mecha's nuclear power source as a makeshift bomb instead. Then, after piloting the mech through the rift, the auto-self-destruct function doesn't work, so Raleigh's forced to trigger the self-destruct manually; the process takes long enough, he barely reaches his escape pod in time.
  • In the British propaganda movie The Silver Fleet (1943), a Dutch submarine engineer is forced to collaborate with the German occupiers but is secretly a member of La Résistance. After several acts of sabotage make them suspicious, the Germans insist he accompany them on the sea trial of the submarine he's designed. As there is no other means of destroying the submarine, he sabotages it in a Heroic Sacrifice during the trial.
  • In Dr. Strangelove, the American bomber plane tries to drop a nuclear bomb, but the mechanism gets jammed. Major Kong rushes back to dislodge the bomb manually, and eventually climbs atop it to put his full weight on it. This leads directly to Kong Riding the Bomb all the way down.
  • Armageddon: After flying debris from the asteroid damaged the nuke's triggering device, someone has to stay behind to manually detonate the bomb. The crew draw straws and A.J. is selected, but Harry takes his place, giving him his blessing to marry Grace.
  • The Core: Upon reaching the Earth's core, the crew discovers that one big nuclear explosion isn't going to cut it, so they devise a plan to split the bombs into multiple compartments, which they will then release in key locations. Unfortunately, Virgil wasn't designed to be able to jettison undamaged compartments, and the manual override switch is outside the ship. In an area exposed to magma. Braz volunteers to deactivate it, knowing it'll be a one-way trip.
  • Event Horizon: Needing an escape vessel because their own ship was destroyed, the surviving crew of Lewis and Clark decide to split the titular Event Horizon in order to use the front as a lifeboat, so they set explosives in key points. Before they can detonate them, however, they're attacked by visions of their dead friends that the Event Horizon is projecting into their minds and even a resurrected Dr. Weir. Captain Miller stays behind to fight them off and detonates the explosives, sacrificing himself.

  • Code Prime: Dreadwing ends up sacrificing himself to destroy an energon vein so that he can obliterate Airachnid's Insecticon swarm. Interestingly, this isn't due to the fuse for his explosive being damaged, but because a previous attack by Airachnid disabled his T-Cog, making him unable to transform and fly away, and in order to keep Airachnid from disarming/destroying the bomb, he would need to set the timer to a point where he could not run away in time.

  • Star Wars: New Jedi Order: Force Heretic III: Reunion (how's that for a title?) features a scene of this type involving a gigantic Booby Trapped signal transmitter. The bad guys manage to damage the explosives and one of the heroes has to go back and trigger the manual override — and since there isn't a delay, it'll have to be a one-way trip. A wounded character suspected of being The Mole volunteers on the grounds that his environment suit is damaged and therefore he won't survive the trip back to their base. After some deliberation, the heroes decide to send him in and he succeeds, destroying a large number of enemy warriors in the process, but leaving the question of who the mole was, if not him.
  • The Tango Briefing (1973) by Adam Hall. British spy Quiller must use a small nuclear weapon (what we'd now call a backpack nuke, though it's a US commercial design for blasting wells) to destroy a shipment of lethal psychotropic nerve gas on a crashed aircraft (the cylinders have cracked and the gas has filled the plane, so they can't just be removed). Unfortunately the timing device is smashed when Quiller parachutes in so he's ordered to detonate the device by hand (local military helicopters are in the area doing a sweep search, so there's no time to parachute in another device). Fortunately Quiller is able to field-improvise a means of pushing down The Button, involving wedging the bomb under the thrust levers in the cockpit, then capturing a rather startled vulture who, when it's finished flapping around in outrage, settles down on the most suitable perch...
  • A villain version occurs in the 1980 thriller The Fifth Horseman. Libyan agents try to explode a nuclear bomb in New York, but the scientist who built it has sabotaged the computer that will trigger the bomb (he built the bomb so Libya could have nuclear parity with Israel, not for terrorism). A Libyan agent kills him, then heads back into New York to set off the bomb manually, arriving just as the police protagonists track down the location of the bomb.
  • Double subverted in The Atrocity Archive as they're trying to defuse a bomb and the method by which they are defusing the bomb... is by blowing up the bomb . Or more specifically preventing a nuclear detonation by blowing up the conventional explosives that compress the plutonium core past the point of criticality out of order so the plutonium doesn't implode symmetrically and hopefully either completely prevent a chain reaction or reduce it to a fizzle which would release a tiny fraction of the bomb's full potential energy.note  They jury-rig a trigger but someone has to stay behind and pull it.

    Video Games 
  • Halo is quite fond of this trope.
    • In Halo: Combat Evolved, Master Chief detonates the engines of the Pillar of Autumn with rockets/grenades after 343 Guilty Spark stops Cortana's automated countdown.
    • In Halo Wars and Halo: Reach, Sgt. Forge and Jorge, respectively, detonate Slipspace drives as heroic sacrifices.
    • Also done with the Crow's Nest bomb in Halo 3.
    • And done again in Halo 4 with a HAVOK nuke. Master Chief's only saved by Cortana shielding him with hard light and teleporting him to safety.

  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • In the eye tree story arc, Hob rigs up an improvised bomb to help crack open a dome the Toughs are trapped in, but the detonator doesn't work, requiring firing at the bomb with a pistol to detonate it, resulting in his death.
    • In the first Credomar storyline, Lt. Bradley is forced to rig a shell from his tank's ammo loadout to destroy his disabled tank before it can crash into civilian property and cause great damage. He succeeds in blowing up the tank while bailing out, but his low-profile Powered Armor is destroyed in the process, leaving him Killed Off for Real when his body hits a building at an unsurvivably high speed.

    Western Animation 
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Rookies", the Rishi Moon base, a Republic communications post, is about to be destroyed by the clone troopers present to warn the Republic of an impending Separatist invasion (a strike force of commando droids had hardwired the base to send the "all clear" signal) when they learn that the detonator is broken. Hevy, one of the troopers, stays behind and, with a BFG, takes out a fair share of Droids before he's shot as he goes for the bomb. As the droids wonder if they take prisoners, Hevy crawls towards the bomb and manages to say "I... Don't..." before detonating the explosives, destroying the base.


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