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Why Am I Ticking?

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A character unwittingly becomes a walking, talking bomb through Applied Phlebotinum. They can have explosive devices implanted in them by the villain, or in other cases, they are the bomb due to applications of combustive or out-of-control super powers.

Whichever way, they're extremely hazardous to the health of the people around them, made all the more urgent by the fact that they may not even know that they're the threat.

In Video Games, this type of effect is frequently employed by bosses (and sometimes by players) as a Herd-Hitting Attack. Expect Ludicrous Gibs if the character blows up.

Not to be confused with Action Bomb, which is when a character blows themselves up as a form of attack. See also Explosive Leash and Strapped to a Bomb. May take the form of a Typhoid Mary, Walking Wasteland, and/or Poisonous Person. When used by a villain, it has a high chance of being their Moral Event Horizon. If the ticking is literal, it may be due to playing Grenade Tag with a Sticky Bomb. If overhearing it affords others a chance to run for cover when the walking bomb approaches, this trope overlaps with The Croc Is Ticking.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The 80's anime version of Astro Boy has Astro fall in love with a robotic atom bomb called Nuka. It ends about as well as you'd expect.
  • Bleach's Mayuri Kurotsuchi turns his subordinates into living bombs. This is the least of his many offenses.
  • Blue Drop: When they attacked, the Arume had girls float down from the sky and then blow themselves up while smiling. This is a completely voluntary process, though the Arume don't like it when you don't go through with it.
  • Chargeman Ken! has one of the most infamous (and memetic) uses of this trope in an episode where the evil aliens turn a kind-hearted scientist into a human bomb. When Ken finds out he gives a perfunctory apology, then dumps the scientist out a trapdoor onto an enemy spaceship, blowing them to Kingdom Come.
  • In Cromartie High School, a simple time bomb is attached to Mechazawa, but the situation devolves to the point where the students give up in disarming the mechanism in Mechazawa and deliberately move on to other things like figuring out how the heck Hideki Takahashi's antenna things work.
  • In a one-shot episode of Detective School Q, a bomber claims that he has planted three bombs in the school. He is captured before the second bomb goes off, and claims that the third will kill Dan Morihiko. The bomber had planted the bomb on Dan's assistant during the confusion of the second explosion, in the belief that she will still be standing next to him when the timer expires.
  • The 2003 anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist has State Alchemist Zolf Kimblee who, quite differently from his original manga counterpart, uses his alchemic powers to turn people into living bombs by rearranging the chemicals in their bodies. Eventually, he got bored with killing the enemy and started blowing up his own allies just so that he could see them explode. By the time he's released from a military prison by the series' resident General Ripper, he's become little more than a Psycho for Hire who likes making people blow themselves up.
    Kimblee: Don't worry, you still have plenty of time. I transmuted it into a material that absorbs oxygen very slowly. So you can enjoy the precious time you have left... before you explode.
    • Alphonse also lands in this trope when he basically becomes a walking unstable Philosopher's Stone as a result of an Emergency Transformation after meeting Kimblee, who did the same thing to him.
    • Also in the Manga/Brotherhood version when Kimblee turns the warden's wristwatch into a ticking time bomb. Subverted in that it turns out to be just a toy.
  • Gantz warns characters who stray from the combat zone with a beeping sound. Then their heads explode.
  • In a post-series interview, Gundam SEED director Mitsuo Fukuda said that they considered a plot where Flay was implanted with a bomb and died outside the Archangel with Sai.
    • Actually happens in ∀ Gundam. When nuclear warheads are dug up and fought over, causing most of them to detonate, Loran takes the two remaining ones and stores them in the missile silos inside Turn-A's chest until he can safely dispose of them. Until that moment comes many episodes later, he has to worry about the warheads going off if Turn-A is struck in the chest.
  • Hunter × Hunter: Genthru from the Greed Island arc has the power to attach time bombs to whoever he wished by simply touching them and saying "Bomber". Activating the countdown, however, requires him to explain how his power works to his victims.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • In Part 4, Diamond is Unbreakable, Big Bad Yoshikage Kira's Stand "Killer Queen" has the power to change any object into a bomb as its primary ability, which he can detonate at will by moving his finger as if pressing a trigger. This includes people. Aya Tsuji is killed this way. The explosion usually consumes the victim without a trace true to his nature as a Serial Killer. Late in the story, Kira develops Killer Queen Bites the Dust, a literal Time Bomb implanted into an individual that automatically explodes anyone who tries to learn Kira's identity from them, at which point a "Groundhog Day" Loop occurs and the previous morning is repeated. The person actually carrying the bomb, however, isn't harmed by Bites the Dust.
      • The exact way this works is actually very unusual. Killer Queen touches an object to mark it with its power then afterward if someone touches that object they explode.
    • In Part 7, Steel Ball Run, Oyecomova's Stand "Boku no Rhythm wo Kiitekure" has the ability to manifest pins on anything that he touches, including water, smoke and of course, people. Once these pins are removed the item to which they were attached explodes with the force of a small bomb.
  • The protagonist of Rumiko Takahashi's first published story, "Those Selfish Aliens", is kidnapped left and right by various organizations, cults, and aliens — each of which plants a bomb inside him to annihilate their enemies. By the end, he's literally a walking, talking Doomsday Device that can destroy the galaxy if he so much as trips, so the entire armed forces of the world (and the aliens) have to protect him from everything and anything.
  • Zambot 3: Killer the Butcher would have the Gaizok kidnap a bunch of people, modify them into bombs, and then release them back into human society. Eventually, the timers will run out and boom. This is one of the most depraved acts that you could possibly imagine... And the mildest atrocity that The Butcher committed.
  • In a DVD-exclusive episode of 009-1, Mylene/Agent 009-1 wakes up after having sex with a handsome dark-skinned musician and is told by him that he knows she's a spy, and that he has put a bomb inside her body and will detonate it if she tries anything. Though it turns out that he didn't actually put the bomb in her, it was in his own head, which blew up when he hit the detonator. Mylene, who had started to feel genuinely attracted to the guy before said revelation, cries and mourns him because she thought they would've been happy together.

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who
    • In "Bang-Bang-a-Boom", pop star Nicky Newman is revealed to have had a tiny bomb slipped to him, disguised as an asprin, but capable of going off with enough force to blow up an entire space station; the Doctor and Mel have to render Nicky unconscious and stop him performing in the Intergalactic Song Contest in case his stage fright causes enough internal shifts to set the bomb off.
    • In "I, Davros: Guilt", a Thal saboteur sets a bomb and Mission Control transmits him the arming sequence...and then informs him that his family will be recompensed and the Thal government appreciates his sacrifice. He barely has time for an Oh, Crap! before it goes off. Later Davros decides that the Council of Twelve have outlived their usefulness and informs them that he's going to detonate the tiny bombs he's planted in their bloodstreams via their anti-radiation injections.

    Comic Books 
  • The Fourth Doctor became a living bomb in his first American comic-book outing, a colored version of the Doctor Who Magazine story "The Star Beast." A small gang of aliens knock him unconscious and surgically implant the remote-controlled bomb into him. When he escapes, he spends the rest of the story complaining of a stomachache, until he realizes at the cliffhanger that he is the bomb. This being the Doctor, he swiftly thwarts the signal with a piece of lead roofing.
  • This was done in the last Cybertron Scenes of G.I. Joe vs. the Transformers II, issue four. A refitted Starscream (now a Cobra Nightraven) has escaped to rejoin Shockwave, who became Decepticon leader after Megatron's defeat (Vol. 1) and disassembly (Vol. 3). Just as Shockwave is about to take a seemingly repentant Starscream back (since he wanted to "come home"), a recording begins to play, where Cobra Commander tells of Starscream's faults. Shockwave senses a trap, but the next scene has the room he, Starscream, and several other Decepticons were in destroyed as it was revealed in the last words of the recording, "But it's nothing the forty-five pounds of plastic explosive I lined his housing with won't fix."
  • In Iron Man story "The Big Bang Theory", the armor's software has been tampered with, turning it into a bomb.
  • At the climax of Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, Lex Luthor sends his “ally” Hope to fight Superman, only for an injury during the battle to reveal wiring in her gut. Luthor promptly activates a self-destruct mechanism built into Hope to try and frame Superman for her death, revealing the entire story was all a deranged scheme to tarnish Superman’s reputation. The poor woman doesn’t even realize what’s happening until she hears beeping...
  • The Strikeforce: Morituri character Jason Edwards, pseudonym "Revenge", was pretty much halfway between X-Men's Gambit and Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)'s Solf J. Kimblee. He made matter degrade into energy, at varying rates and intensities, with a touch. When confronted with a speedster (capable of breaking the speed of sound on foot), he just had to wait until the speedster next punched him. The speedster exploded moments later.
    • Earlier in the series, as the Morituri become more successful at repelling the Horde, they try to terrorize humanity into submission by secretly implanting bombs into unsuspecting humans and detonating them in public.
    • Technically all of Morituri are this since they can all die explosively at any minute. Most noticeably the death of one causes a hull breach in the ship they're using to take the fight to the Horde fleet.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW): Just as the Turtles think they’ve saved Slash by breaking him free of Agent Bishop’s mind control, they get a horrifying revelation; while Bishop had Slash under his control, he implanted a low-yield nuclear device in his body as a failsafe in case Slash fell back into enemy hands. With no way to disarm the device within its time limit, the heroes are forced to drop Slash into the middle of the ocean (at his own request) so that he won’t harm anyone as he explodes.
  • Recurring Wolverine character Elsie Dee appears to be a little girl (with a highly annoying speech impediment) but is actually a robot stuffed with bombs, and set to go off when she happens to get near Logan.

    Fan Works 
  • Dreaming of Sunshine features Shikako, who uses this in at least two fights. When fighting Kimimaro she is unsuccessful, probably due to exhaustion and Kimimaro's great power. Later, during the Second Chunin Exams, she accomplishes it successfully against her kidnappers and blows one's head clean off.
  • Limitless Potential: In Chapter 24, the Shitapper pirates are left stranded at sea after the Maverick Hunters bring down their ship. They start hearing some beeping sounds coming from their upgrades, and only have time to realize they're about to self-destruct. The next scene reveals that it was Dr. Fujiwara who set them up.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Cars 2, Mater gets a time bomb bolted to his engine (initially without his knowledge) as part of the villain's plan to kill Lightning McQueen. It backfired.
  • Riddick in Dark Fury has a small bomb implanted into his neck. During the big fight scene he cuts it out with a knife and throws the activated bomb at his captors. Bad ass.
  • In the beginning of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, the Rogues manage to capture Flash inside the Flash Museum. Zoom details his plans.
    Zoom: I'm going to bring this shrine to your ego down on your head, along with 10 square blocks of Central City and everyone around.
    Captain Cold: What? What are you talking about? We didn't bring any bombs.
    Zoom: Oh, but I did. [tiny bombs attached to Captain Cold, Captain Boomerang, Top, Mirror Master, and Heatwave start ticking]
    • Fortunately for them, the Justice League arrives and disarms the bombs.
  • A unique variant in the "Stink Bomb" story of the movie Memories: a hapless employee at a pharmaceutical company accidentally ingests some funny red-and-blue capsules (instead of the blue-and-red ones that would have cured his flu.) As a result, he constantly emits from his sweat glands a HIGHLY toxic gas that can kill any animal instantly and short out electronics. Worse, its range, toxicity and density increase as he gets more stressed out, which is kind of a problem when the Japanese Self Defense Force and the American military send whole fleets to catch him. He doesn't catch on that there's anything wrong with him until literally the final second of the story.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Alien: Resurrection, the survivors find one of the evil scientist's victims, a man who has been implanted with an alien embryo. Considering that a monster is going to burst out of his chest in a matter of hours they're wary of taking him along and constantly on alert to kill him if it happens.
  • The villainess of Angel With The Iron Fists is taken out in this manner, where after making a getaway on her escape boat, it's revealed that the "hidden" Time Bomb is actually on her boat's bottom deck. Cue an explosion a long distance away.
  • The kids in Battle Royale have exploding bomb collars attached to them that go off if they stray into areas of the island that are marked as off-limits, or just generally if they do anything to piss someone with a detonator off.
  • Birds of Prey (2020): At the climax, Sionis is holding Cassandra at knife point, when she pulls out a grenade pin, revealing that she slipped one on him when he wasn't looking. She then shoves him away and Harley kicks him off the pier, leaving him to blow up just before he hits the water.
  • The movie Casino Royale (1967) had Woody Allen, as Jimmy Bond Jr., being tricked into swallowing an explosive pill, which then explodes and blows up the casino.
  • In a more literal sense of the trope name, Casino Royale (2006) has a terrorist who sets off a bomb he believes to be attached to a fuel truck next to a prototype jumbo jet. Unbeknownst to him, however, Bond had attached the bomb to his belt during the preceding fight scene. He gets just enough time to locate the source of the beeping before he goes boom.
  • In Cyborg 2, the evil corporation that makes the titular cyborgs has developed an untraceable chemical that can be put into any cyborg, turning them into a remote-detonated bomb. The main character is an assassin gynoid built just for this purpose and doesn't take it very well. At the very end of the film, the Big Bad Corrupt Corporate Executive gets tired of trying to capture the heroine and decides to just transmit the command code to blow her up. However, instead of activating the heroine's bomb, The Mentor (Jack Palance!) starts ticking... which is bad news for the Big Bad, because the bad guys had just captured The Mentor and he's tied up just a few feet away from the Big Bad. The Mentor sneers "Looks like you kissed the wrong ass goodbye!" then blows the Big Bad sky high.
  • In The Dark Knight, The Joker plants a cell phone-triggered bomb in — yes, in — one of his henchmen as part of his Gambit Roulette to be captured by the Gotham police, kidnap Lau and escape. The henchmen in question had already died from the implanting before the Joker triggers it though.
  • This was how Snake Plissken was roped into all the shenanigans of Escape from New York, although in his case he not only knew the bomb was there but had a handy-dandy countdown timer. Used again in the sequel, only with a virus instead of a bomb. And still with a countdown timer to exactly when the virus would kill him. Subverted there, because the virus was just a "fast, hard-hitting case of the Flu".
  • An earlier Bond film, For Your Eyes Only, has 007 battling a man wearing a heavy JIM suit underwater. Bond attaches the demo charge from the MacGuffin (as a bonus, it's actually ticking) to his diving suit, and he can't remove it with his hands due to how stiff the suit is so he has to resort to ramming the back of his helmet against tables and walls. However, the bomb detonates before he can remove it.
  • Occurs in the film Godzilla vs. Destoroyah after too much radiation causes Godzilla to become a ticking nuclear bomb that will destroy all life on earth once he goes into meltdown. Luckily for everyone, Junior absorbs most of the radiation and mutates into a full-grown Godzilla.
  • When Tae-go commandeers a Japanese jeep and throws the driver out in The Good, The Bad, The Weird, he stuffs a lit stick of dynamite down the back of the driver's pants. The driver has a few seconds to realise something is horribly wrong before he blows up.
  • In Hard Target, Chance drops a primed hand grenade down Fouchon's pants and then tosses him away.
  • This is the basis for the plot of the movie Impostor, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. The main character of the story is suddenly arrested and told that he's not the man he believes himself to be: he's really an Artificial Human that is designed to be indistinguishable from the original except that, when he encounters the proper "trigger", he will explode. He doesn't believe it, escapes from his would-be executioners, and tries to find evidence to prove that he isn't an impostor. At the end of the movie, he discovers that he really is an impostor, and then promptly explodes.
  • Live Wire has a rather nightmarish example in the toxin the bad guys develop. It looks like ordinary water, but whoever ingests it goes into convulsions, and their bodies graphically start to tear apart before they go up in a massive explosion.
  • If enough time to say "No fair!" is enough to be a time bomb, then we should certainly count the unluckiest pirate from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. You know, the one who got a lit grenado shoved between his curse-bared ribs, then was pushed back out of the moonlight so his flesh re-formed and rendered it inaccessible.
  • Mission: Impossible III: the female agent near the beginning, and later Ethan Hunt. Admittedly, it was a small bomb, only enough to turn their brains into mashed potatoes, not enough to 'gib' them.
  • In Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Mrs. Smith slips a bomb into Mr. Smith's dinner jacket. He discovers it in time when a bystander asks him if he "knows he's ticking".
    Mrs. Smith: It was only a little bomb.
  • Resident Evil: The Final Chapter: During her Final Battle with Dr. Issacs, Alice is beaten down, but then laughs and reveals that during the struggle, she removed the pin from a grenade he was carrying. Issacs has just enough time to realize what happened before a hole gets blown out of his side.
  • Done earlier in (Roger Corman Presents) Suspect Device, which starts off looking to be a rip-off of Three Days of the Condor, but the main characters turns out to be a robotic bomb programmed with a set of mostly consistent memories based off the designers... and decides that he really doesn't like the people who made him that way.
  • In Swordfish, the opening scene involves a heist wherein hostages are collared with proximity-triggered claymore bombs. Police manage to drag a hostage away, not knowing this. But she does.
  • In Touch of Evil, no one takes any notice of the woman passenger in the car who keeps saying, "There's this ticking noise in my head." It's actually not in her head at all; it's in the trunk.

  • Able Team. When Carl Lyons is captured by the Unomundo organization he pretends to do a Face–Heel Turn, planning to escape when he has a suitable opportunity. Later when sneaking around their headquarters he breaks into a room which has X-Rays taken of his neck, showing an implant the size of an AAA battery, in the same position as a surgical scar which Carl assumed was a result of his injuries when captured. There are also a series of photographs of a South American peasant with a similar scar, before and after his neck is blown open. Later when the rest of Able Team arrive to rescue Carl, they have to cut out the device with a shard of mirror glass (in case the bomb is magnetically triggered).
  • In Brian W. Aldiss's short story "All the World's Tears", those people refused permission to breed by the Mating Center are modified so that if another person so much as touches them, they explode.
  • In All Capable to Bear Arms (a Russian Alternate History thriller with a lot of Mind Screw and Black Comedy) by Sergey Lazarchuk the protagonist secret agent deduces that his radioisotope-powered heart implant is really a nuclear bomb that will destroy all his team and any evidence if something goes wrong. He's wrong. Actually he is programmed to kill his team and destroy all evidence, because nukes are too easy to detect.
  • Apprentice Adept In Blue Adept, the hero is forewarned that the villain will try to force a magic bomb that will destroy him if he returns to Phaze (the world of magic) with it. The bomb turns out to be a bullet, which the villain shoots into the hero, who realizes Just in Time what it really is.
  • In Consent to Kill, Mitch Rapp equips a (drugged, so he is not aware of it) terrorist with a suicide vest, and then sends him out to be reunited with this father (who had been funding Islamic terrorism for years, including using his son in attacks). This greatly confuses the allies of the father, who take quite a while to figure out that this wasn't a rival Islamic terrorist group.
  • Simply by nature of their physiology, swamp dragons in Discworld are highly combustible. They extract flammable chemicals from everything they eat- and to do this, their digestive tract reconfigures itself with every bite. If anything goes wrong, they blow up- and if they're lucky, the explosion will be connected to one of their two outlets, and they won't die. Now, they only ever get this explosive indigestion if they're nervous. But they all know that if they ever let their nerves get to them, their bodies will explode. In short, Terry Pratchett is an evil, evil man.
    • The swamp dragons are deconstructions of standard fantasy dragons. The first time they were major plot elements was in a book where a standard fantasy dragon was the villain; the contrast makes the point that a dragon without massive amounts of magic fueling it would lead a hapless short life but just might manage some awesome tricks before his end. Sure, Pratchett is an evil man, but there's more to swamp dragons than just that.
    • In The Last Hero it's implied that swamp dragons are descended from moon dragons, which are basically perfect for their habitat as they have natural rocket propulsion. Pratchett isn't an evil man, the dragons just work better in space.
    • The swamp dragons, the jargon used, and the people who breed them are a spot on caricature of horses and "the horsey set" who breed them.
      • Horses are animals whose primary purpose seems to be the conversion of piles of money into manure. There's a reason horse-racing is known as 'the sport of kings'. It's wildly expensive and incredibly finicky.
      • Horses' other purpose is to get sick in almost uncountable ways. Overexertion will kill them. (Riding a horse to death). So will lack of exercise. Their diseases fill books. Break a leg and it's off to the glue factory. They have to have the proper mixture of feed, water, and exercise every day. In short, swamp dragons have nothing on horses.
      • Except maybe a tendency to die explosively. As Vetinari himself points out, (albeit not in comparing them to dragons) horses "...they very seldom explode. Almost never, in my experience, apart from that unfortunate occurrence in the hot summer a few years ago."
      • Actually, given that one of the big 'dragon-breeding' groups is known as the Cavern Club, it may be more of a reference to "the pedigree dog set".
  • The aliens in the sequel to The Fifth Wave, The Infinite Sea put bombs in little children's throats then send them into groups of unsuspecting survivors, often saying "my throat hurts" then, when the bomb detects carbon dioxide from the breath of a human being looking at him or her, they die in an explosion big enough to turn a barn into a smoking crater. This becomes a very important plot twist when the main characters encounter Megan, a little girl that Sammy/Nugget met on a bus bound for Camp Haven, with such an explosive device attached, and deployed to ensure their demise, they were able to remove it and use it on a Silencer pursuing an injured Evan, were it not for Evan, they would not have known the threat she inadvertently posed until it was too late
    • The removed bomb was instrumental in defeating Evan's Pursuer, Grace, when Poundcake blew into the bomb, sacrificing himself to take the aforementioned Silencer down with him in a fiery green demise
  • The Franny K. Stein book Frantastic Voyage has Franny create a grape-sized doomsday device powerful enough to destroy most of the Earth as a security measure in case her ideas are at risk of falling into the wrong hands. Her dog Igor unwittingly eats the doomsday device, requiring Franny to travel inside Igor to deactivate the doomsday device before it's too late.
  • Stephen Donaldson's Gap series featured Kazes — people who had been kidnapped, drugged, brainwashed, operated on, given false ID and sent to their victims' offices for a brief visit: FEWER internal organs, more explosives.
  • Subverted in children's series Hank the Cowdog: Hank hears a clicking sound and thinks there's a bomb, but it turns out to just be Drover's teeth chattering because he's scared.
  • Philip K Dick's awesome short story "Imposter" features a man trying to prove that he is not a living bomb. At the end, he realizes that he IS the bomb, and it's the realization that causes him to explode.
  • Oliver Twisted: Played with in the climax, the body of Bill Sikes, after being possessed by his victim's Vengeful Ghost, blows apart from the inside out, with tendons and gore spreading across the rooftop.
  • Podkayne of Mars: Pod's little brother Clark is bribed to smuggle a "gift to the captain" on board the spacecraft. However Clark isn't an idiot (why not just give the gift to the purser?) and breaks into the package from underneath and disarms what turns out to be a small nuclear weapon. That he decides to keep.
  • A subplot in Sewer, Gas & Electric involves a greedy capitalist who has been fitted with an explosive collar. It will go off in twenty-four hours, killing him, unless he manages to earn $1000 by begging in Grand Central, and feed all the bills through a shredder attached to the collar. Naturally, people are less likely to give him money when they see what he's doing with it...
  • "Cortex Bombs" are mentioned, but not actually featured, a few times in William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy. In Neuromancer Case goes to the Finn to get a scan for implants and Finn asks if he's paranoid about bombs note  While in Count Zero the med team on a corporate defection operation states that cortex bombs are an occasional occupational hazard of these things, but the current fashion is to get them addicted to designer drugs administered by a modified insulin pump.
  • In the Star Wars Legends novel Conviction, C-3PO is unknowingly fitted with a bomb inside him in an attempt to kill Queen Mother Tenel Ka of Hapes, to whom he is the designed translator.
  • The Eternal Emperor of the Sten series has a bomb implanted in his body with a dead man switch, to preclude an autopsy and preserve his mystique.
  • The War Against the Chtorr
    • While on his first mission into a Chtorran nest, the protagonist catches the Sergeant Rock character trying to sneak a radio-detonated bomb into his backpack. After some argument the bomb stays, given that the Chtorrans kill by eating you alive.
    • An Offscreen Moment of Awesome is how the United States defeats a Fourth World invasion. Turns out the US sold the invading countries most of their weapons or the electronic circuitry used in those weapons, but said nothing about the trojan horse software that enabled them to sabotage or even detonate those weapons on command.
  • In Graham Mc Neil's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Nightbringer, a drug-addict cartel leader explodes a few minutes after ingesting a Dark Eldar poison from a tampered-with drug inhaler.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Happens in one of the later seasons of Alias, when Will is abducted and has a small bomb implanted in his head. Neither he nor Sydney realize the bomb is there until it starts ticking, making this trope quite literal.
  • In the Season 5 premiere of Angel, Wolfram & Hart's client threatens to detonate a virus bomb hidden somewhere in L.A.; it turns out to be inside the client's own son.
    • Illyria was also one of these in a later episode.
  • Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future had a rare heroic example of this. When confronted with a questionable ally, Power locked an explosive cuff on him and informed him that it would be detonated if he tried to run or turn traitor. No surprise the series was produced by JMS.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Victory of the Daleks" gives us Professor Edwin Bracewell, who was created by the Daleks to back up their proof of them being his "creations". The Daleks also created Bracewell as a bomb, should things start to go wrong. Thankfully, the Power of Love manages to stop him from detonating.
    • "The Woman Who Fell to Earth": Alien headhunter Tzim-Sha has his data coil implant DNA bombs in the Doctor and her new friends as a means of eliminating them as witnesses. During the final showdown with the Doctor, he activates them, only to discover that the Doctor removed them earlier and tricked him into absorbing them into himself when he interacted with the data coil.
  • One episode of La Femme Nikita featured Nikita interrogating a captured informant, who had information about the identity of a suicide bomber with a bomb implanted inside their body, sent to destroy the agency. Nikita develops a bond with the informant, but eventually realizes that the informant herself is the suicide bomber, when a brain-scan shows a reaction when she looks at a reflection of herself in a computer monitor. The agency then seals the informant up in a metal blast coffin to die alone in the dark, while Nikita looks on.
  • Ratus of The Ferals gets this after gorging himself on cakes from a factory later discovered to have been targeted by terrorists. They were certainly more innocent times.
  • In Season Four Episode Two of The Flash (2014) titled "Mixed Signals", the villain of the episode, Ramsey Deacon, traps Barry in his now tech enhanced suit and sets off the Babble Protocol, a self destruct device put in place by Cisco.
  • The bad guys on Fringe created a pair of exploding pyrokinetics For the Evulz.
  • Get Smart. This trope happens literally when KAOS agents plant a bomb in android Hymie, then send him to a CONTROL conference. The bomb is revealed when Hymie steps up to the microphone to give a speech.
    Max: Hymie, what's that ticking noise?
    Hymie: It's a bomb, Max.
    Max: A BOMB? Why didn't you tell me?
    Hymie: I didn't want to alarm you, Max.
  • In an episode of Grey's Anatomy, a man comes into the ER after he accidentally shot himself, with a homemade replica bazooka. The shell remained inside the man, unexploded. A first-day paramedic had her hand on it, stabilizing the man and stopping the bleeding.
  • Heroes
    • This is the gradually-building character arc of radioactive-powered Ted Sprague in season one, culminating in the season finale "How to Stop an Exploding Man".
    • A third-season/fourth-chapter episode has Matt set up as a suicide bomber.
  • In an episode of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaigernote , the Monster of the Week wears a collar that provides him with a Beehive Barrier. After the Gokaigers discover its weak point, The Evil Prince fits the collar with a bomb in the hopes that it'll kill the Gokaiger. Also qualifies as Shoot the Dog (or worse) since the MOTW was Locked Out of the Loop and didn't know he was a suicide bomber.
  • Martial Law: Sammo gets knocked out once, and when he wakes up he's strapped to a jacket that is a time bomb.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • One episode found Hawkeye operating on a soldier which had a live grenade forced into his body during combat. Cue massive Oh, Crap! from the entire operating room when they realized what was happening. As noted under Real Life, this is very much a Truth in Television risk of modern combat.
    • In another, a wounded North Korean soldier was mistakenly brought to the ER without being cleared of weapons or ammunition first. Turns out he had a grenade on him, and tried to take the entire ER with him. Fortunately, Hawk was able to keep him from arming the grenade long enough for the soldier to be sedated.
  • The Season 3 finale of The Mentalist had the victim of the week being wired to an explosive device in order to force him to steal transaction records and deliver them to the man responsible for wiring him, a convenience store clerk at a gas station. Lisbin ends up enduring something very similar, although she survives after Jane managed to both get the drop on him and simultaneously kept him thinking that they are following his directions, and she survives.
  • In a The Muppet Show sketch, the Lunch Counter Monster eats a machine with a bunch of fancy equipment. At the end, the still-speaking device concludes that all of those parts are needed to perform its main-function; to be the most powerful explosive in the world. The Monster puts a hand to its ear as it hears a ticking before exploding.
  • Used in the Okinawa episode of The Pacific: The Japanese send a wave of panicking Okinawan civilians through the Marines' lines. One of them, a woman with a baby, is panicking and on the verge of tears, pleading for someone to take her baby from her. The Marines, none of whom understand her language, are confused...until she opens up her coat and reveals she's been wired with explosives. Woman and baby go up a second later.
  • Stargate:
    • Cassandra in Stargate SG-1. Done to Ry'ac, Teal'c's son by the Big Bad in yet another effort to wipe out Earth, even if it was a virus bomb instead of a nuclear bomb. Also, Teal'c plants an explosive in an enemy Jaffa's symbiote pouch when he's on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
      Ba'kad: Where are you going?
      Teal'c: I am leaving. You are about to explode.
    • And the infamous "tumor bombs" of the Stargate Atlantis episode "Sunday", in which malicious alien biotechnology causes some red shirts to become afflicted with... yeah. Sheppard and McCay both lampshade the ridiculousness of their situation. It's mainly a plot device to allow Beckett to perform a heroic surgery as his final act before getting killed off by the bio-bomb, though he does save the patient.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise:
    • The ending of the third season. Archer and Big Bad Dolim duke it out... and Archer plants one of the small bombs the crew were planting to take out the reactor of the Xindi version of the Death Star on Dolim's Awesome, but Impractical uniform (if Xindi-Reptilian uniforms were more like Starfleet ones, he coulda just yanked it off.) Archer presses the button and steps behind a pillar. Dolim looks down. Goodbye, Dolim.
    • Happened earlier with some religious cultists worshiping the Sphere Builders. In this case, the worshipers had chemically-triggered explosives implanted in their bodies. That one then led to a nice case of Why Am I Not Ticking when the crew manages to neutralize the chemicals.
      Archer: Go ahead. Try to blow yourself up. I'll wait.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Happens as part of a Batman Gambit to capture Voyager in "Basics". The crew pick up a dying Kazon in an escape pod with failing life support. The Doctor mentions that his injuries back up his story, though he has an unusually high red blood cell count. Still suspicious they place the Kazon in the brig, and at a crucial point in the battle his chemically altered body explodes, rupturing a plasma conduit and knocking out Voyager's defenses. Pedantic types may wonder why the ship's designers ran a plasma conduit so close to the brig. The answer is two-fold: 1) Voyager is a small ship and space is at a premium. Think of the difficulties you can have trying to route an IDE ribbon cable in a mini-tower PC case. 2) The ship's designers obviously didn't expect that prisoners would have a living bomb encoded into their blood chemistry. Seska, being a Magnificent Bastard, knew of both of these flaws and played them to the hilt.
  • Torchwood:
    • Captain John Hart had this happen to him twice in the second season. In "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", he falls victim to a trap set up in the MacGuffin and a bomb that is encoded to his DNA attaches itself to his chest. He'll explode in ten minutes, as Ianto gleefully follows him with his stopwatch. He clearly doesn't explode, as in the finale, "Exit Wounds", he reveals that a wristband has been "molecularly bonded" (read: fused) to his wrist that contains remote-detonated bombs to ensure his obedience to Jack's long-lost brother Gray, who still bears a bit of a grudge and is trying his best to kill Jack and his team. Keep in mind that Captain John was a guest star and thus had this happen to him every single time he was on the show.
    • In Children of Earth, the bad guys kill Jack, surgically implant a bomb into his stomach, and then set him free once he comes back to life to re-enter the Hub. The team gets all of two minutes warning before Jack blows up into itty bitty pieces, taking out the entire base.
  • Ultra Series examples:
    • Ultraman have the revived Red King swallowing six hydrogen bombs, ready to explode anytime, making him difficult to deal with since any attacks could result in the bombs going off and causing a meltdown. Ultraman deals with it by using the Ultra Mind to lift Red King into the air, and sever the monster's head, where the bombs are still lodged in it's neck, taking the monster elsewhere so it can detonate harmlessly.
    • In Return of Ultraman, a misplaced missile ends up being embedded in the tail of the kaiju Ghostron and poised to explode in a few minutes, which is further made complicated when Ghostron, rather than rampaging across some big city like most earlier monsters, instead chose to sit down outside a chemical factory with the missile's subsequent explosion risking a serious meltdown. For the episode's climatic battle, Ultraman Jack - rather than firing a beam attack at Ghostron - instead grabs Ghostron and lifts him into the stratosphere where the missile can detonate safely.
    • Giga Dread from Ultraman Neos is highly unstable and rigged to explode, causing difficulties when HEART and Ultraman Neos attempts to fight it. For the final battle, HEART instead uses a zero-gravity ray to disable Giga Dread so that Neos can lift it into space and have it explode without hurting anyone.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, the Mysterons' first attempt to murder the World President involves killing and cloning Captain Brown in order to turn him into a human bomb. The President narrowly manages to escape after seeing smoke rising from Brown's neck.
  • In The Ferals, Rattus believes he's swallowed a bomb that some terrorists planted in the cake factory Joe works in. (Joe had brought a pile of them home but Rattus convinced a sleepwalking Derryn to steal them, and scoffed the lot.) It turns out Rattus swallowed Joe's watch, which had been left beside the cakes... but then Derryn, sleepwalking again, shows up with the real bomb moments later.

  • Kenny Everett's spoof Captain Kremmen of the Star Corps. In a plot possibly inspired by Philip K. Dick's "Impostor" (see Literature above), the evil Thargoid aliens surgically implant a bomb in Kremmen in order to destroy their enemies at a peace conference. The bomb is set to explode when Kremmen says the Trigger Phrase: "A bomb? In me? Don't be silly!" The bomb destroys the entire universe. It was All Just a Dream.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the BattleTech universe during the Word of Blake Jihad, a large group of B-list characters were killed off during a strategy session when former WoB POW Fitz Donner suddenly exploded. It turned out that when he'd been captured by the Blakists they'd stuffed him full of explosives and let him be "rescued" in order to get him into the same room as the people he killed.
  • Call of Cthulhu campaign supplement The Fungi from Yuggoth, section "By the Bay: Part II''. Cthulhu Mythos cultists detect Philip Jurgens as a spy and implant a small radio-activated bomb in his head. At a later time, the cultists detonate the bomb and his head explodes, killing him.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has the "quivering palm" attack, a special skill available to high-level monks, which sets up "vibrations" in the target upon a successful touch attack. It doesn't make a ticking noise, but for the next few weeks, the monk who made the attack can wish the target to die as a free action, and the target will die instantly. You may laugh now.
  • GURPS:
    • Bio-Tech has rules for "bio-bombs", people or animals born with bodies made of explosive compounds. In a weird variation, the same book lists cow milk that turns into an explosive when curdled as a near future technology.
    • A Pyramid article about a Dungeon Fantasy dungeon in which each room was a square chamber containing ten goblins, but with a twist. One room had the goblins compelled to fight the heroes, but screaming that if they were hit with a sharp weapon, they would explode. Nine of them were delusional. The tenth one wasn't.
  • Magic: The Gathering has a set of creatures called Bloodfire, which can be sacrificed to do a certain amount of damage to every creature that can't fly, every creature, or every creature and player. There's also an aura which grants the bloodfire ability to any creature. There's also Goblin Grenade, where a goblin basically walks up to the target while carrying a bomb.
  • Shadowrun had "cortex bombs" that were implanted into victims' heads or other areas of the body to compel obedience to the people who implanted them or ensure their death when desired. They ranged in size from "kink bombs," which weren't powerful enough to kill the bearer but were useful for taking out key pieces of cyberware, to "cranial nukes," which were powerful enough to take out the bearer and everyone in the bearer's vicinity and damage the surrounding area. The Super Nintendo adaptation fits the main character Jake with a mid-level bomb, just enough to make Chunky Salsa of his skull and take the goodies within his Neuro-Vault with it.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG has 'Number 40: Gimmick Puppet of Strings' effect, which places string counters on everyone on the field, even his allies, and causes them to blow up.

  • In one strip for Brawl in the Family, Navi asks Link why he's beeping when his health isn't low. Link has a gooey bomb stuck to his back, which is the source of the beeping... until it explodes, causing his health meter to start beeping.
  • Drowtales: Anyone who is 'tainted' is liable to lose control of the demon possessing them, turning into an Eldritch Abomination-type demon that can continue to infest others. Naal'suul was so badly tainted that she was always on the verge of losing control of her seed, and Laele'aell became a shambling mass of demons barely contained in a body. The only reason people do this willingly is that the seed (e.g. weakened demon) acts as a vaccine against stronger demons, especially among demon summoners. Unfortunately, the vaccines were intentionally botched by Snadhya'rune so that the bombs would go off in 25-50 years.
  • Schlock Mercenary uses this trope occasionally, marking the bomb-users down as way beyond any Moral Event Horizon:
    • The Creethlings send an ambassador, Ch'Vorthq, to negotiate peace with the Golbwerians, and hire Tagon's Toughs to make sure he gets to Golbwer safely. While the bizarre looking envoy was supposedly genetically engineered to be the perfect diplomat, the Toughs soon discover that he is actually composed of a living explosive, and was meant to kill the Golbwerian High Command during the negotiations.
      • After Ch'Vorthq is literally disarmed, he joins the Toughs as their cook, after having the missing limb replaced with a whisk.
      • Later on, he uses the control he was given over his explosive metabolism to turn his other arm into a hand grenade to use on some pursuing troops. He ends up with one whisk arm and one relatively normal robotic arm, as the crew cook and diplomat.
      • More recently the implant that was preventing him from exploding began to fail, resulting in Tailor having to perform an operation that's one part surgery, another part bomb disposal. On a body that is slowly burning to death.
    • A flashback reveals that somebody once used Tagon's girlfriend as the carrier for a horrific nanotech weapon in an attempt to kill his father, a senior military officer. Father and son survived; the rest of the family were collateral damage. A series of similar attacks all over the planet killed the majority of its leaders overnight as the start of a major war. Also, the incident destroyed the relationship between the father and the son for years.

    Web Original 
  • How to Hero claims that supervillains love to turn people into living bombs.
  • In Red vs. Blue, Church literally asks "why am I ticking" after his idiot teammate accidentally activates a hidden bomb the other side had planted inside Church.
    • Also, the hissing of active plasma grenades in the Fireworks Safety PSA. Nobody ever figures out what it is until Caboose says "It's a grenade".
    • "Is it a spider? Get it off!"
  • Mechakara in To Boldly Flee after he eats a grenade Jewwario throws at him this comes back to bite him and Ferdinan Terl in the ass seeing as he starts beeping after indulging in The Dog Bites Back and was about to exact vengeance on Terl and Zod alike when they crash, barely survive the crash and go up in an explosion after quoting Shakespeare's TO BE.
  • Yogscast: In this TTT episode Zylus hears beeping when Ben walks near him so he tells Ben to get away from everyone because there is a bomb on him. Ben does so only for Zylus to realize that he can still hear beeping.

    Western Animation 
  • In a crossover episode of Batman Beyond, Mad Stan puts a bomb on oblivious Zeta and sets him loose in Gotham.
  • In one episode of the Claymation series Bump in the Night, main character Squishington goes on a gorge-fest with the lights off and, feeling ill the next morning, discovers he's ticking. He tentatively suggests that it might just be a clock, only for main character Mr. Bumpy to declare that nobody would be stupid enough to eat a clock, even in the dark, before cheerfully reasoning that it must be a bomb. Hilarity Ensues before Squishington finally hiccups/vomits up the source of the ticking... an alarm clock. Which promptly explodes, scorching, but otherwise not hurting, the two.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Wishology: Timmy tricks Destructionator into consuming all the bombs he had stuffed into Earth, then revealing he'd stolen the detonator while they were fighting up in space. Destructionator barely has time to react before he explodes.
  • Parodied in Freakazoid!, in a short where The Lobe has our hero Strapped to an Operating Table, and saws off the top of his skull "to see what makes him tick". He reaches into Freakazoid's open skull... and pulls out a time bomb, which soon explodes in his face.
  • Bender unknowingly has a bomb implanted in him in the Futurama episode "War is the H-Word". It's set to explode if he utters the word "ass", which is his favorite word. He's then sent along with Henry Kissinger's head to a peace summit with the intent of blowing up the enemy high command along with the rest of the planet... long story short, he repeatedly averts the use of the word in question for no apparent reason. When Bender DOES find out, however, he cackles evilly and puts it to good use: blackmail. They eventually change the trigger word to one they would never expect Bender to use. Antiquing. Of course he says it.
  • An episode of Inspector Gadget featured Gadget racing to find a MAD-planted bomb hidden in an amusement park. Unbeknownst to him, he's been carrying the bomb all along. It's concealed inside a cheap carnival prize he won at the start of the show.
  • Men in Black: The Series: Frank the Pug accidentally eats a small bomb that, when detonated, creates a miniature black hole in its range. Quoth Frank, on realizing it: "I'm gonna get sucked inside myself!"
  • In The Smurfs (1981), Sassette was introduced as one of these when Gargamel caused the blue clay that she and Smurfette were made of to be explosive upon exposure to the noonday sun, but she was defused by Papa Smurf after she was turned into a real Smurf.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Dying for Pie", Squidward gifts Spongebob a pie that turns out to be a bomb, which will explode when it lands in his lower intestine several hours after being eaten. Mr. Krabs had seen that same scenario played out eleven times in the past. Subverted at the end of the episode, when it turns out Spongebob hadn't eaten the pie, but it blows up when he accidentally throws it into Squidward's face.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • "Holocron Heist": Cad Bane plants a bomb in his droid, and activates it when he needs a distraction to escape.
    • "Kidnapped": When Zygerrian slaver Darts D'Nar discovers that the Jedi have deactivated all of the bombs he'd planted around the city of Kiros while Obi-Wan distracted him by allowing himself to be beaten up, D'Nar reveals that he still has one bomb left, attached to the back of his tactical droid, and makes an immediate escape while Obi-Wan is distracted dealing with it.
    • "Sabotage": After a bombing at the Jedi Temple, the cause is discovered to be nanomachine explosives unwittingly fed to a civilian Temple employee by his wife.
  • In "Beauty of the Obese, Part 2", Stripperella has to save Enorma Ray, a supermodel that has been booby-trapped. Literally. As in, her breasts are ticking time bombs. With actual sound effects, no less!
  • An old Tom and Jerry short had Jerry impersonating an escaped white lab mouse who had consumed a highly unstable explosive and could detonate at the slightest touch, just to mess with Tom's head. Naturally, the real lab mouse eventually shows up too.
  • Transformers:
    • From Transformers: Prime. After Makeshift disguised as Wheeljack gets tossed back through the ground bridge to the Decepticons, he gleefully states he knows the location of the Autobot base...only for the bomb that was strapped to his ass to start beeping.
    • Also from Transformers (this time the '80s cartoon), Megatron punishes Swindle for selling his teammates for parts by planting a bomb in his head. He has to retrieve and repair his teammates in order for the bomb to be deactivated.
  • The Venture Bros.:
    • Hank becomes a living bomb in the episode "Ice Station Impossible" after exposure to the experimental "Goliath Serum" which boosts the metabolic rate of living things to explosive levels. An ant exposed to it in a test film detonates with enough force to destroy a tank, so you can imagine the destruction potential with a human being. Rusty and his fellow scientists seemingly make a cure before Hank explodes. Professor Impossible claims all they made was ranch dressing and the serum just doesn't work on human. It's unknown what actually happened, but Hank did show all the expected symptoms.
    • Subverted in Home is Where the Hate Is. The Monarch plants one of Sgt. Hatred's miniature explosive devices at the base of Dr. Venture's spine. After bragging to Hatred that Venture will soon explode in his home (thus violating the Guild of Calamitous Intent's bylaws and ruining his career), both are shocked and terrified when the unknowing Venture joins them in the hot tub they are sitting in. They brace themselves for the blast, but it turns out to be little more than a bubble of air that Venture dismisses as flatulence.
  • Young Justice (2010): In "Satisfaction", Speedy wraps a length of detcord around Mercy's robotic arm while fighting her. She has just enough time to realise why he is looking smug before he presses the detonator.

    Real Life 
  • Suicide bombers are a disturbingly common and particularly depraved phenomenon. Not all of them are voluntary, fitting the trope more precisely.
  • In one particularly jarring case, this was used in a bank robbery attempt.
  • There was once a soldier who got hit by a rocket. It was stuck in his body, and both the soldier and the bomb were still live. The surgeons risked their lives (and their clean pants) to remove it from him.
    • Explosives being lodged in living soldiers is a fairly common problem in modern warfare. Sometimes the doctors risk their lives, others are left to die from the wounds because it risks the lives of many other injured men and doctors who could save far more lives. At least one case involved a surgeon wearing heavy body armor.


Video Example(s):


Timmy vs The Destructinator

Timmy is able to trick the Destructinator into eating the bombs he stuffed into Earth after discretely swiping the detonator.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / WhyAmITicking

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