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New Powers As The Plot Demands / Live-Action TV

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People gaining New Powers as the Plot Demands in live-action TV.

  • American Horror Story: This is prominent throughout both Coven and Apocalypse. While the mythology initially establishes that most witches develop one or two active powers, the girls of Miss Robicheaux's Academy tend to develop powerful abilities at random. By the end of Coven, most of the witches demonstrate the majority of the Seven Wonders.
  • Believe: Bo's Psychic Powers tend to do whatever is needed for the plot like lighting up a tunnel in the "Collapse" episode or creating the illusion of a wall in "Revelation" without any hint that she could do that beforehand.
    Tate: I didn't know you could do that.
    Bo: I didn't either.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer's season 3 episode "Lovers Walk", Willow and Xander have been kidnapped by Spike. Oz manages to locate them with his highly refined werewolf sense of smell... while in his human form, which had never been shown to possess any supernatural abilities prior to this. It freaks both him and Cordelia out.
    • In the Seventh Season, a flashback reveals that Buffy sent a telepathic message to Willow and Xander to trick the girls into thinking they were losing so they could fight the Big Bad later and defeat him in front of the Potentials to prove a point. Previously, it had been shown that Willow had been able to send telepathic messages, but she was the one with magical powers, not Buffy. To further make this an Ass Pull, it makes no sense in the story because Buffy truly had been getting her butt kicked by the vampire prior to that point, and even her eventual victory over it seems hard-won.
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  • This is done very intentionally in Carnivàle, which revolves around two leads who are introduced with vaguely defined supernatural powers. At the beginning, we're aware that the protagonist Ben Hawkins possesses healing powers, and that the main antagonist Brother Justin Crowe has the ability to mentally control people. Then as the series goes on, it gradually becomes clear that neither of them have any real limits on their powers, and that their abilities include (but are not limited to) astral projection, weather control, telekinesis, manipulation of illusions, and the ability to turn water into blood. Not surprising, considering they're from the same bloodline that produced Jesus...
  • Doctor Who:
    • The series' star is an alien with nebulously defined abilities. Oh, dear:
      • The First Doctor started out with no powers. Season 3 introduces his special abilities — he is shown to be able to resist the effects of a time-destroying weapon that ages his companion to death, remember very long algorithmic sequences, control people using his life force, and hypnotise his companion (using fairly conventional hypnotism techniques and a Ring of Power). Season 4 introduced his superhuman physical robustness (allowing him to survive in the Antarctic) and his ability to regenerate, although at that point it was said by the Doctor to be "part of the TARDIS". (This last was a consequence of Real Life Writes the Plot, as William Hartnell was leaving the series and the writers had to come up with an Author's Saving Throw to keep the show going with a new lead actor in a way that made sense to viewers.)
      • The Second Doctor was told he was "more than human" due to the effects of time travel itself, with Jamie's time traveller DNA being more valuable to the Daleks than the (then) non-travelling Victoria's. In "The Abominable Snowman", his telepathic abilities were increased to the level that he can mind-meld with Victoria, though the procedure is at this point very dangerous and can only be used if he absolutely has to. We also learned of his enhanced life span.
      • The idea of the Doctor having two hearts was not revealed until the first episode featuring the Third Doctor. Prior to this, there were several episodes explicitly indicating the Doctor had only one heart. The Third Doctor also suddenly knew martial arts and possessed strength greater than what he should have.
      • Three also revealed out of nowhere that he had Super Reflexes ("The Daemons"), allowing him to safely operate his Cool Car at even mind-boggling speeds (this might explain the stuff in "The End of the World", below).
      • The Fourth Doctor reveals he has a "respiratory bypass system" in "Pyramids of Mars", meaning he can go for much longer without needing to breathe. He also now possesses telekinesis ("City of Death"), experiences sudden visions of the future ("The Deadly Assassin") and can hypnotise most people effortlessly just by getting them to look into his eyes (though to be fair, the Master had previously displayed a similar ability). He also picks up some bizarre, uselessly specific powers to get out of plot corners that will almost certainly never come up again — the ability to shatter windows with a shout ("The Power of Kroll"), the ability to breathe helium without it affecting his voice ("The Robots of Death") and the ability to shut down his body processes and go into a state of temporary biological death ("Shada"). Some Expanded Universe stories (e.g. The Death Pit) even have him able to read anyone's mind without even trying if they're thinking loudly enough, and contemporary-to-the-series comics have him able to psychically detect his companion's pain to the point where the villain specifically tortures Sarah so her pain can send a signal to the Doctor. In "City of Death" he gains the implicit ability to fly for a gag — never used again, of course. Though almost certainly for the best.
      • In "The End of the World", the Ninth Doctor suddenly has the power to focus his mind and walk between the blades of a giant spinning fan. It can be interpreted as a Leap of Faith, but would have been nice if he'd remembered he had this power before Jabe died... He also announces in his first episode that he could sense the turning of the planet, time itself and other kinds of information that he'd previously had bits of the TARDIS to inform him of.
      • In the first appearance of the Tenth Doctor, the Doctor gets his hand chopped off in a sword fight. Luckily he remembers that he has enhanced Healing Factor shortly after a regeneration and grows back his hand (to be fair, no previous Doctor had ever suffered a major injury immediately after regenerating — however, the Eighth Doctor did display a healing factor when he was seen removing a tube from his chest soon after the change). He's able to use his mind-meld to selectively erase parts of someone's memory, and can tune into a single thought broadcasted by everyone on Earth via the Master's satellites and use it to de-age himself, dissolve his cage, levitate, form a shield bubble, and give him telekinesis. Another, particularly glaring instance of this is in "Planet of the Ood", when the Doctor is able to sense the enslaved Ood's pain through their telepathic field, yet when he encountered them before in "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit" he made no mention of sensing their telepathic field or the psychic entity powerful enough to possess multiple Ood and humans simultaneously, which you'd really think he'd be able to sense under the circumstances. He can also sense the presence of other Time Lords, an ability his preceding and succeeding incarnations notably lack, having interacted with disguised Time Lords such as the Master and the Rani while none-the-wiser.
      • The Eleventh Doctor's first episode shows him able to think so fast that time appears to freeze while he perceives things in the area he shouldn't be able to hear or see, which never comes up again (though it may explain the fan thing the Ninth Doctor did). In "The Lodger", the Eleventh Doctor headbutts Craig to telepathically implant information about who the Doctor was and why people should take his advice, never used before or since, even when it would help a lot.
      • Similar to Eleven's ability to slow down time, the Twelfth Doctor has the ability to create a virtual TARDIS inside his mind in which he can reason out challenges before executing a plan, while also interacting with a memory of his lost companion, Clara. His telepathic abilities now also include telekinesis, to the point where he is shown unlocking a door with his mind (even though this renders one of the major functions of the sonic screwdriver moot).
      • He usually has some kind of Hyper-Awareness that kicks in when someone's screwing with space-time continuum, and in earlier episodes he used to claim his knowledge of history was "perfect". Ten eventually confirmed that he knows which events in history "need" to happen to preserve the timeline ("The Fires Of Pompeii"). Whether or not he can use this for outright precognition tends to vary; in the TV movie, the Eighth Doctor loved giving people hints about their future, and Twelve also seemed to demonstrate this power once ("Kill The Moon"). Yet in "The Deadly Assassin", a fellow Time Lord declares precognition impossible.
      • At least part of the Doctor's changing abilities likely stem from the indication that different incarnations don't have exactly the same Psychic Powers.
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    • The Doctor's use of this trope pales in comparison to his sonic screwdriver, which has thousands of settings and started off being used to put in screws. A list of everything it has done would be as long as this page. The original series wrote it out as it was becoming omnipotent and the writers used it as a get-out-of-trouble-free card too much. The Movie brought it back, and the new series imposed some definite restrictions on its abilities so as to have a reason not to let the Doctor use it to get out of anything. It's still pretty handy, though.
    • Susan, the Doctor's granddaughter, suddenly displayed telepathic abilities in the Season 1 storyline "The Sensorites", actually predating the Doctor demonstrating similar abilities. In her case, it was a one-off demonstration as she never did it again on screen; explained as being the result of being on the Sense Sphere.
    • Romana was a fellow Time Lord and when the role was recast after one season, she was shown to regenerate like the Doctor. However, her regeneration was treated comedically, with her "trying on" several different appearances before settling on one. The Doctor appears unfazed by this, which led to the assumption that Time Ladies have more control over their regenerations than males (a fact referenced obliquely during River Song's regeneration in "Let's Kill Hitler").
    • K-9 was written out of the series after he acquired so many abilities that it was difficult to come up with plots that couldn't be resolved in a few minutes by K-9. Some episodes deliberately incapacitated K-9 to take him out of the story.
    • The TARDIS in "Logopolis" suddenly grows a "cloister bell" that sounds when the TARDIS herself is in danger of dying. She never sounded the bell when she was ten minutes away from tearing herself apart in "The Edge of Destruction".
      • The series regularly gives the TARDIS new abilities as the plot demands, to the point where she could have her own page.
    • In their first appearance, the Weeping Angels' MO and abilities are straightforward: they displace their victims in time and feed off the resulting time energy, have Super Speed and Can't Move While Being Watched. In "The Time of Angels"/"Flesh and Stone", they can suddenly project themselves out of images (including in a person's mind), animate people's consciousnesses to communicate, and feed off all forms of energy. This is explained by the "Blink" Angels being "scavengers" who were already starving and possibly dying.
    • Clara Oswald has been accused of this from time to time, as one episode has her being a super-hacker, but the next says she has trouble using iPlayer (though this is explained in the plot as the former occurred while she was under the influence of a super-computer, but by the time of the latter that effect had worn off). One of the biggest examples cited by critics is, in reality, an aversion. In "Hell Bent", she is shown operating her own TARDIS without any problem, even though she had never been shown piloting the ship conventionally (though she once used her mind and on other occasion was able to actually ask the ship to do her bidding); however for long-time viewers this isn't a sudden ability, as one of her very first episodes, "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS", set a number of years before "Hell Bent" (possibly five or more due to a time jump the series has at one point) established that the Doctor was teaching her how to use the TARDIS and she is shown programming the console in "The Zygon Inversion".
      • The Zygons themselves in said episode and its first part get a fair share of this. Though their ability to duplicate humans long-term without incapacitated originals had been established before, their newest ability to electrocute anyone to the point of only dust and hairs remaining (not unlike the Silents from previous seasons) is a completely-out-of-left field ability to allow them easy Bloodless Carnage as opposed to more stealthy methods of killing in past appearances.
    • "Resolution" subverts the trope: Although the Dalek recon scout has a number of abilities other members of its species have never been shown to possess, it's established to be a rare Super Prototype which is much more dangerous than the average Dalek, and it has these abilities specifically to make it more capable of scouting out new worlds for its species to conquer.
  • Benton Fraser on Due South, which is lampshaded in Paul Gross' commentary on the final episode. By the end of the series, he is an excellent marksman, fluent in at least a dozen languages (most of them obscure Canadian aboriginal dialects), a skillful boxer, capable of putting himself into a trance indistinguishable from death, able to listen to concerts in his head by reading the sheet music and able to place the location of a plane by listening-in to the radio telemetry.
  • The alien entities from Extant initially could only give hallucinations and, in some cases, pregnancy. Later the hybrids show up and can use the hallucinations to control humans with increased growth rates and healing abilities thrown into the bargain. What's shown is that they're not very good at combating electronics hence the increased reliance on the in-universe robots "Humanics". Later the hybrids show the ability to come back from the dead, affect electronics, telepathically communicate to each other, the ability to break physical objects with their mind, see the future and transform existing humans into hybrids.
  • In The Fall Guy, Howie Munson had countless jobs before he joined his cousin Colt Seavers as a stuntman and Bounty Hunter. So whenever a special ability is required on a bounty-hunting job, Howie is suddenly the one who can pull it off because "I've worked as an X for (half) a year."
  • A number of abilities in The Flash seem to be of this kind. Some are used only once and then forgotten. For example, in Season 3, Caitlin uses her Killer Frost powers to make it snow on Christmas (it previously rained). It's not specified how she suddenly became the next Weather Wizard, and she never does anything of the sort again. In Season 4, Barry somehow gains the ability to pull other people into his frame of reference, such as when he has a long conversation with Iris, while a split second passes around them. When Iris asks how he did that, he tells her he doesn't know (previously, someone had to tell him he could do something first, and it usually took a try or two). Barry also somehow can move at superspeed without causing huge winds to throw random paper around him, if he really wants to.
  • Thanks to being dosed with Cortexiphan as a kid, Olivia on Fringe can read minds, move things with her mind, heal rapidly, shift between universes, possess other people, set things on fire with her mind or control nanites in someone else's bloodstream and never usually displaying the same power twice. Basically whenever a power is needed on the show, Walter just goes "Thanks to the Cortexiphan you were given, it should be possible for you to [insert required power for episode here]."
  • This happens to the ghosts from Ghost Whisperer a lot. Sometimes it gets a brief explanation. Usually not.
  • Ralph Hinkley from The Greatest American Hero got new abilities as the plot required, sometimes completely forgetting he could do them by the next episode. This could be a possible subversion in the times that he wasn't sure how he'd done them in the first place, but doesn't explain how, in one episode, he suffers damage to his lungs (while wearing the suit that gives him the powers) from smoke inhalation, meaning his lungs are not protected by the suit. In another (later) episode, he's able to inhale a room full of tear gas without harm.
    • In other words, the show justifies this trope, with the reasonable explanation that the main character doesn't know what his suit can do or how it works. What it doesn't justify is continuity-problematic explanations for specific powers that the plot demands (such as that lung-protection thing) or the forgetting powers issue.
  • Heroes puts some interesting spins on this one:
    • Several characters demonstrate the ability to acquire new powers from other powered people. Peter Petrelli copies them, Dad Petrelli takes them, and Sylar rips them out of their heads (killing them, and he gets to use Peter's copying power later).
    • In general, the whole series operates this trope at a higher level. If the writers need a new power, they don't give it to an existing character, but introduce a new character with the desired ability. One of the benefits of Loads and Loads of Characters is nobody much notices a few more or less.
      • Ando is a particular victim of this trope. His power goes from power amplification that happens to look like red lightning to concussive blasts to tech manipulation to actual electricity.
  • Sam on iCarly eventually gained a skillset that included high skill at dancing, singing, painting, fighting, lock picking, speaking different languages and computer hacking, all without ever practicing because she's a lazy slacker.
  • Most Kamen Rider shows have this trope. Like the Sentai and Power Rangers example above, the later series feature this more prominently compared to the older ones, since newer series feature more Riders, more weapons and/or more transformations, compared to the older series.
    • The first one to get the ball rolling was Kamen Rider BLACK RX, which gave Kotaro two forms in the middle of the show, one gave him a Cool Sword and the ability to turn into water, and the other gave him a gun.
    • Kamen Rider Kuuga gains new forms when he battles an opponent he can't beat with his current slate of abilities — fighting a highly agile monster makes him develop an equally agile form, a flying enemy leads to him unlocking a sniper form with Super Senses, and he discovers a Mighty Glacier form just in time to battle a monster with explosive projectiles. While there are records of the original Kuuga using these forms and abilities, those passages typically don't get translated until the episode where Godai specifically needs to learn more about his powers.
    • Kamen Rider Kabuto gets most of his powers from alien technology, but on a few occasions pulls a new piece of equipment out of nowhere with no indication of where he got it from. On one occasion he gives a speech about how awesome he is, and apropos of nothing this causes a sword to fly out of the sky to his hand.
    • Kamen Rider Fourze has the supporting villain Kosei Hayami spontaneously gain the power to see an individual's Zodiarts potential seconds before his boss is about to punish his repeated failures. Since the entire plot is about the villains trying to find the Zodiarts who line up with the Western Zodiac, this new power lets them fit the remaining five monsters into the last 14 episodes.
    • Kamen Rider Ghost starts gaining new emotion-based powers after surviving the destruction of his Soul Jar. These changes are eventually revealed to be part of his transformation from a ghost into a deity.
    • Any show with minor collectibles in addition to the major form-changing powerups, such as Fourze, Wizard, or Drive, will show off each collectible and its ability at least once. Typically the Rider will have a handful of powers that they actually use on a regular basis, many that are only used to defeat a single Monster of the Week, and a few that are so bizarre that they don't even get used in battle and are simply Played for Laughs. These shows usually have a character whose primary job is to make new collectibles on a regular basis.
    • Kamen Rider Zero-One has a supercomputer equipped with a 3D printer that, at least in the first story arc, routinely analyzes Zero-One's battles and is able to whip up new weapons or Transformation Trinkets as countermeasures when needed. This even extends to making an exact copy of another Rider's upgrade item so both him and Zero-One can enhance themselves at once. But this actually leads to a plot hole when one of those trinkets gets stolen and is used by an enemy for most of the arc - why couldn't the computer just print a replacement?
  • Hardison on Leverage manages to do this with random skills as they become necessary to the team. As of season 4 he has: painted the office picture (this was actually done by the character's actor), become a lawyer, played a Stradivarius violin, taught himself how to be a forger, topping it off by landing an airplane. This is in addition to his normal roles as a computer hacker and Techno Wizard.
  • In the British series Misfits, they play this in various ways, the most blatant of which is the inclusion of a character whose power is the ability to give/take the powers of others.
    • Misfits usually justifies this as what powers a person gets is based on their personality and memories, and when the power is given to someone else it can reconfigure itself based on the same criteria. For example: a character suffering from regrets over his own actions gets the power to turn back time, but when this power is given to a Holocaust survivor he gets the ability to physically jump back in time to WWII. The power dealer guy might not count as he was introduced to create new plot threads, not to solve old ones. A proper example however is Curtis' Disability Immunity that is never mentioned before the episode it becomes useful and is never mentioned again afterwards.
  • In the Spanish series Los Protegidos the villains get new superpowered kids as the plot demands.
  • Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap develops a "Swiss cheese memory" as a side effect of his time travelling, which coincidentally allows him to remember or instinctively use some previously-forgotten ability that just happens be perfect for the situation at hand. Over the course of the series, he has been a pool shark, a piano virtuoso, a talented thespian, a martial arts master, a multi-linguist, and many others.
  • Smallville
    • Played with Clark Kent. Except for invulnerability, Super Speed and Super Strength, all his others powers (X-ray vision, heat vision, super hearing, Super Breath, in that order) come exactly as he needs them, although they are all established powers in the comics.
      • Played straight for Telekinesis in "Crusade", mind reading in "Echo" and Mind Control in "Persuasion". Apparently the Fortress of Solitude has many powers it can give Clark but the Jor-El AI doesn't want him to have too much too fast.
    • Chloe Sullivan. She initially develops healing powers to heal Lois Lane and then Super Intelligence which manifests as a machine-like ability to run search algorithms in her head. Although it is later revealed Chloe didn't develop super-intelligence so much as she gained it when Brainiac took up roost in her mind.
  • Spock was a master of this. In various episodes (and movies) of Star Trek, he suddenly demonstrated the abilities of mind-melding, the Vulcan nerve pinch, a light-protective nictating membrane, the ability to go into a deathlike trance at will, and a detachable soul that would allow him to later come back from the dead. Absolutely none of these were telegraphed before he absolutely needed them (as opposed to say, Wesley Crusher being told he had a great destiny by the Traveler long before he pulled the ability to stop time out of his ass.) This, plus his refusal to admit that his parents were the ambassador and his wife or that he had to have sex with his wife or he'd die, make it almost plausible that as of Star Trek V he could have had a long-lost half brother he never told anyone about. Almost.
  • Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager had Borg implants/nanoprobes that could allow her to do everything from sense otherwise-invisible aliens to raise the dead when required.
  • In Supernatural, the Special Children gain new powers, which may be justified as their powers are still developing and increasing, but these powers are often quite convenient for the plot.
    • Further justified with the explanation that these powers are dependent on how much demon blood the person has been drinking.
  • Super Sentai and its adaptation Power Rangers have been known to dabble in this area, depending on the series. The later series tend to do this a lot more, as they need to introduce more weapons and mecha for the Rangers compared to the earlier ones.
    • An interesting subversion occurs in Power Rangers in Space, in which Andros has been carrying his own Battlizer for a good portion of the season, using it only to power up his attacks and control the Delta Megazord. Eventually Carlos asks him why he's never used the highest power setting on the device, to which Andros replies that he worries that it may be too powerful. Later, in a battle in which he is unable to morph, the final setting is activated and he becomes the Red Battlized Ranger for the first time. Mind you, Andros isn't the one who activated it—it was pressed by a little girl nearby. For all she knew, the setting was too powerful and it could have blown them all up.
    • Conner in Dino Thunder for example, is able to access his Battlizer for the first time ever by just...wishing for it I guess... Generally, more technological based teams are better about this, with new weapons and zords being built and tested prior to use. Dino Thunder has this as part of the premise: the power source itself is mysterious meteor fragments. More powers are unlocked as the series goes by, and using the raw power of the gems into a very strong blast comes along later still. The Big Bad is finished off by being chomped by a dinosaur made of pure Dino Gem energy. However, that permanently depletes the Dino Gems (but of course, 'permanently' means 'until a Reunion Show demands their return.')
    • Mahou Sentai Magiranger made extensive use of this trope; all one of the Magirangers had to do was demonstrate sufficient courage or learn an important lesson, and they would be gifted with a new spell suited for whatever predicament they've found themselves in. Mind, this was because the spells were being granted to them by the Heavenly Saints, who were always watching over them. This carried over into Power Rangers Mystic Force, a bit differently: a book called the Xenotome would reveal a spell whenever the rangers earned it, and their Super Mode was granted by the Tribunal of Magic (roughly equivalent to the Saints; figures neutral to the Rangers vs. Underworld battle, far outranking the characters who had been Saints in Magiranger, but impressed by the Rangers' courage.) The Mystic Rangers were also often shown being taught magic by The Mentor and The Sixth Ranger during downtime, so sometimes a new spell was introduced with no fanfare in situations where it's likely they learned it offscreen.
    • Tensou Sentai Goseiger and its adaptation Power Rangers Megaforce: Whenever the narrative thinks the rangers learned the Aesop Of The Week, they gain a new set of Headers, which are items that can either combine with their weapons for more powerful attacks or enlarge to serve as a Mecha Expansion Pack.
    • Anniversary series Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger has this trope as a recurring plotline. The Gokaigers are the 35th Sentai and need to learn to use the powers of the previous 34 Super Sentai teams in order to unlock the greatest treasure of the universe. Whenever a member of one of the previous teams deems the Gokaigers worthy, they will unlock a new power for them. This mostly happens when the Gokaigers show Heroic Resolve against a particularly tough Monster of the Week or show another virtue associated with one of the older teams. The adaptation Power Rangers Super Megaforce plays this trope even straighter, by having the mentor Gosei randomly hand out new power ups or mecha whenever the rangers need them. A particularly ridiculous example is when he tells the rangers they suddenly gained the power to summon the Ninja Zord, despite the episode not featuring or even having anything to do with ninjas.
  • Sookie from True Blood has gained new abilities as well. She can shoot some kind of energy from her hand. She did it accidentally against Maryann and possibly less so against a werewolf who attacked her in season 3.
    • It's revealed that this power, as well as her telepathy, as the result of her being part-fairy. Her blood also allows vampires to temporarily survive in sunlight.
  • Ultraman, Ultraseven and the other Ultra Series heroes are the kings of this. Though they have a set powers base, many develop and use one-shot energy attacks for specific monsters that are never seen again, or, even, completely pointless in the face of a pre-existing energy attack. And each time they would re-appear in another series, they'd only have the very basic forms of Ultraman powers they were known for. However, the worst offender is Ultraman Jack from Return of Ultraman, who has the Ultra Bracelet — a weapon that can shapeshift into whatever is needed at the time: a shield, eye-slugger, blade, sword or Cross-Shaped Lance to stake an alien named Draculas.
  • Wonder Woman (1975): In season one she has the power of super-mimicry which she never uses in later seasons. Of course she does in season two develop the ability to contact Paradise Island via mirror (similar to the "mental radio" from the early comics), the power to spin up a wetsuit, the power to communicate with animals and the power to generate a burst of light to scare away sharks. In season three she adds motorcycle and skateboarding gear to the costume generation (including helmets and pads despite being invulnerable).


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