Follow TV Tropes

Following

Power Incontinence / Live-Action TV

Go To

Power Incontinence in live-action TV.


  • On The 4400, After taking the promicin shot, Danny gets the ability to spread promicin through the air. He can't stop it without dying himself, and he ends up killing an enormous amount of non-promicin-tolerant people.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • When Skye turns into an Inhuman halfway through season two, she has no idea how her powers work, just that things start shaking apart whenever she gets upset (And getting upset about things starting to shake apart makes it worse). She nearly dropped the team's base on their own heads before May tranquilized her in one incident, and her first attempt at conscious control resulted in her breaking her own arm. She gets it under control in the final quarter of the season.
    • Advertisement:
    • Shortly before she decides to go by her birth name Daisy Johnson, Skye causes a Mass Super-Empowering Event by pushing a Quinjet full of contaminated Terrigen Crystals into the ocean, since it's either that or her mother committing genocide against non-Inhumans. Predictably, the Inhumans that undergo Terrigenesis in said Mass Super-Empowering Event have about as much of a grip on their powers as Daisy did initially. Joey Gutierrez, for instance, gains the ability to manipulate metal, but this initially manifests as him causing the metal to melt; before Daisy rescues him, he melts pretty much everything metal, including his bicycle, a scaffolding structure, his pursuers' guns, and numerous cars.
    • In the episode "Heavy is the Head", Elemental Shapeshifter Carl Creel loses control of his powers after touching the Diviner, a device that kills ordinary humans by turning them to stone.
  • Angel
      Advertisement:
    • Illyria initially has full control over her time manipulation powers, but the mortal body she's in isn't strong enough to contain them, so she eventually loses control and comes Unstuck in Time. She has to be depowered to prevent her from exploding and taking out at least the entirety of Los Angeles.
    • Also Gwen, who has the power to channel electricity, but unfortunately, lacks the power to not channel electricity.
    • Also Angel himself, when in Pylea - he gets stuck as a supervampire due to the different laws of physics of that dimension.
  • Crash McLarson of The Aquabats! Super Show! is a Sizeshifter who becomes giant when his emotions get the better of him. He's not a very emotionally stable person.
  • One major reason mundane humans distrust telepaths in Babylon 5 is not only that said telepaths can theoretically pry into your mind — they also cannot turn off those abilities. While a deep scan (memories, subconsciousness etc.) requires a deliberate effort, telepaths are constantly, unconsciously surface scanning, i.e. snapping up what people are currently thinking. The only way to avoid is for telepaths to constantly occupy and distract their minds with other stuff. In season five, Byron's renegade telepaths explicitly reject that as an oppressive measure forced on telepaths by mundanes.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bewitched had Esmeralda. When she sneezed, strange objects would temporarily appear, and hilarity would ensure. Also, when she became nervous (and she was nervous a lot), she would become invisible.
  • Tommy Dawkins from Big Wolf on Campus falls under this trope. The poor guy has no control whatsoever over when he transforms into a werewolf whether it be from emotional stress, a full moon, or extreme pain. Though he can transform at will to fight evil. He just has a bit harder time changing back.
  • The Boys (2019):
    • The downside of having sex with a superhero? Many have a tendency for losing control of their powers near or during climax. Depending on the power, this can have bad consequences for their sexual partner.
    • A-Train also starts losing control of his super-speed powers thanks to abusing Compound V. He runs through Robin while hopped-up on the stuff, then nearly blows his cover in the race with Shockwave by not quite being able to stand still.
    • When Starlight gets angry electronics around her tend to start short-circuiting. She also accidentally cracked several TV screens when someone was sexually harassed her. Her eyes also light up when she orgasms.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • In "Earshot" when Buffy is accidentally infected with a demon's telepathic powers and can't stop reading minds, she nearly goes insane.
    • This seems to be mostly averted with Buffy's powers of strength, as most feats of superhuman strength seem to be deliberate, as if literally flexing a muscle. Every once in awhile, however, she damages something because she forgets to restrain herself.
    • Also Willow after the development of her addiction to magic and especially after Tara’s death. At certain point even a minor magic practice triggers personality changes in her and locks a “dark personality↔dark magic” feedback loop.
  • Phoebe of Charmed (1998) is practically the queen of this trope (not that the other sisters are entirely innocent): She doesn't have any sort of control over her premonitions until ~season 6 (and even then she never learns how to turn it off), the flying power she accidentally stole from the dragon in season 2 was unreliable to say the least. She also had a hard time controlling her empathy power at first, but soon got over that, though she didn't have nearly as much as a rough ride as Prue did when she [temporarily] became an empath. Also happened to Piper "Exit Strategy", where her ability to freeze time is upgraded to Stuff Blowing Up too. Plus, Paige has struggled with this in her orbing ever since she was a high-schooler.
  • Until he learned to control it somewhat, Chuck suffered from this with the Intersect. Even now in the fourth season, where he pretty much has a handle on it, he will still flash involuntarily on non-combat Intersect entries, i.e. his flashing on Heather Chandler, Sarah's Alpha Bitch in "Chuck vs. the Cubic Z". The flashing is always involuntary. However, he's gained enough control over it able to hide it from people who don't know he's the Intersect, whereas at first he would automatically blurt out whatever he flashed on, then try to cover it up.
  • Doctor Who: In "Love & Monsters", the Abzorbaloff seems to be unable to avoid absorbing whoever he touches: first off, he warns the members of LINDA never to touch him while in his human guise by claiming he has eczema, and when his cane is broken, the loss of the field it was projecting keeping him together causes him to fall apart and be absorbed into the ground.
  • A major problem that Firefly's River Tam suffers from is a complete inability to control her empathic Psychic Powers. Coupled with a physical inability to control her emotions thanks to her amygdala being stripped out, horrific mental scarring from what was done to her at the Academy, and mind-breaking secrets she picked up from government officials, the poor girl is more or less a complete mental wreck.
  • In The Flash (1990), the first time Barry used his Super Speed was when he was trying to catch a bus. Before he knew it, he was running faster than anything alive and unable to slow down until finally hitting water... many miles away. He still ran on water for a few dozen yards before the water absorbed his momentum, and he nearly drowned before crawling to the beach and passing out from low blood sugar. He fairly quickly gains control over his speed, though. In a later episode, the same problem plagues an attempt by a Mad Scientist to replicate the Flash's ability. Unfortunately for him (and his test subjects), while he's able to replicate Super Speed, he can't replicate the Required Secondary Powers like heat/friction resistance and the ability to slow down. Thus, his subjects run until they burn up and disintegrate. In yet another episode, a drug dealer hits Barry with a Fantastic Drug that causes his molecules to vibrate so fast that he accidentally passes through a wall. It's possible that he would have eventually learned to control the "phasing" ability had the series continued (his comic book counterpart did).
  • The Flash (2014):
    • A recurring plot point is that the Reverse-Flash's powers are in flux, sometimes disappearing at random and causing him to look very unstable when using them. It's later revealed that this is happening because his connection to the Speedforce is failing and he's searching for a way to stabilize it so that he can use his powers all the time.
    • The same series has Plastique's powers going through this. She can make anything she touches explosive, which would be handy if she actually had any control over it. As is, any random object she touches with her hands has the potential to become explosive; her first encounter with the Flash ends with her accidentally blowing up the shirt he's wearing.
    • There's also Blackout, who can absorb and give off electricity. On the night of the particle accelerator explosion, he was hit with the wave and knocked unconscious. His friends tried to resuscitate him, and he woke up and saw their charred bodies. He accidentally electrocuted them. He also needs to constantly feed on more energy.
    • When Wally first gets Super Speed powers in the episode "Killer Frost", he suffers from this, not able to get his brain working as fast as his body.
    • Played for Laughs of a grotesque sort in the episode "Elongated Journey Into Night": Ralph Dibny's Rubber Man powers are initially not in his control, resulting in his limbs winding here and there around STAR Labs. And never mind when he sneezes... Fortunately this is fixed by episode's end.
  • Pretty much all of the Cortexiphan kids on Fringe have problems with this when they grow up. One has cell-regenerating powers that given everyone he meets cancer, another has uncontrollable magnetic powers and so can't be near anyone with metal fillings, etc. A later episode shows that those who have been taken into custody have been placed into a special institution where they are trained to control their abilities. There's still one guy who refuses to be near any Muggle, as he can't turn off his telepathy.
  • Power Incontinence is the whole premise driving The Greatest American Hero. It's somewhat self-inflicted: the aliens who gave Ralph Hinkley his power-giving super suit also gave him the instruction manual for it, but he promptly lost it (because this is a comedy and hilarity must ensue). And when he got another copy of the manual, he almost immediately lost it again trying out one of the powers described. Hilarity Ensues as he and his FBI agent side-kick make attempts to determine how to activate the suit's various abilities while fighting crime.
  • In Haven, this is the case with practically all of the Troubled; either the power is on all the time, or it tends to activate without their control when they get upset.
  • Many of the characters on Heroes deal with Power Incontinence in some form or other (and intelligence incontinence at times, but that's a separate rant).
    • A major plot point in the first season dealt with Peter Petrelli having to learn to control the powers he absorbs. Power Incontinence seems to be a long-term, almost systemic problem for Peter. When he's under pressure, he seems to get some power, but it's never exactly what he needs (unless he's used it in the past few minutes). If he has time to work at it, though, he can call up a specific power.
    • Also, Ted, a character with the power to create radioactive energy in his hands cannot control his powers, which caused his wife's cancer and subsequent death.
    • Maya, who accidentally kills everyone around her whenever she gets upset or separated from her brother.
    • Dale Smithers had to constantly blast loud Rap music to keep her super-hearing in check.
    • Sylar is willingly power-incontinent and kills people to get their power. He's regretful afterwards, but can't stop.
    • Elle, in her second appearance in Volume 3. Sylar apparently cures her with The Power of Love.
    • Meredith, when she gets injected with adrenalin and can't stop using her fire power.
    • Mohinder established that the seat of all these powers is the adrenal gland so pretty much any "hero" going through stress or trauma is potentially prone to this.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Stronger, being the first Kamen Rider with an alternate form, could use his Charge Up to become significantly more powerful. However, he must use the extra energy up within a minute, or else he will explode.
    • Kitazaki from Kamen Rider 555 turns people to ash by touching them. Gaining this horrible power at such a young age (the actor was 15, Kitazaki presumably the same) is probably among the reasons why he has become such a raving madman.
    • Kamen Rider Zi-O begins suffering from this as his Time Master powers start developing, to the point where sleeping is dangerous because his dreams start turning into new possible futures. At the same time, he starts to realize that this also applies to his more mundane talents: using other people as tools comes so naturally to him that he steps over the line from Guile Hero to Manipulative Bastard without meaning to.
  • On Legion, David is subject to this with his Psychic Powers before he realizes what he can do, resulting in him ending up in a mental hospital for schizophrenia. One incident of this is when he gets in a fight with his girlfriend and then destroys the entire kitchen using telekinesis. It's also implied that the voices he hears are actually other people's thoughts.
  • In Mahou Sentai Magiranger, after obtaining their Legend Modes, the siblings experience an overflow of power while in their civilian forms, which is resolved by the end of the episode.
  • Poor Morgana on Merlin (2008). She's had precognitive dreams her entire life, and even after being trained in magic, she still has absolutely no control over them and needs her magic bracelet to stop them, and even that occasionally fails. It's implied that this is the case with all magic users, as both Morgana and Mordred had no control over their magic when it surfaced.
  • Misfits
    • If you think it's tough to break up with someone, just imagine what it's like for Curtis, whose power is to rewind time every time he feels guilty. So he has to constantly find a way to break up with his girlfriend in a way that prevents her from pulling his guilt strings.
    • Then there's Kelly. Uncontrollable telepathy + poor self-esteem + poor impulse control = hitting people who think bad things about you for no apparent reason.
    • Not to mention Alisha. Her power to instill uncontrollable lust in anyone she touches sounds pretty weak on its own, but the fact it happens to anyone she touches and that she can't turn it off makes it more of a liability than anything else.
  • Pandora: As Tom's psychic powers increase in scope, he rapidly loses control of them, being unable to shut out other people's thoughts, and unintentionally unleashing telekinetic pulses when the stress gets to be too much for him.
  • In Power Rangers Dino Thunder Tommy Oliver got stuck in his Ranger form for a while after being freed from being frozen in amber. They managed to fix this, but at the cost of making him unable to turn off his invisibility power. It took a dangerous operation and a mental battle with his past selves to return completely to normal.
  • Ned in Pushing Daisies suffers from this. It doesn't cause many problems in regard to actually bringing stuff back to life, but it does mean he can never directly touch his dog or his girlfriend or they'll die. Well, he's also forced to be vegetarian, for somewhat squicky reasons. And he can't eat his own pies. And there was the incident with the bearskin rug. But the "not touching his girlfriend" thing is the worst of it.
  • In The Sentinel, Jim often has trouble controlling his senses. The biggest problem is when he focuses too much on a single sense, the others "zone out". In the pilot, he focuses his eyes on a flying frisbee and is nearly run over by a truck, which is honking at him. One of Blair's responsibilities is to watch out for "zone outs" and other problems. When Jim is shot in one episode, the wound makes it impossible for him to function, as the pain is excruciating, having been magnified by his tactile sense. Blair helps him to tone the pain down using meditation techniques. After all the wax is flushed out of his ears, Jim can't focus in the office, since every tiny sound is like a thunderclap to him. Blair brings him a pair of earbuds that generate white noise, helping Jim filter out the sounds.
  • Sherlock:
    • Although not magical or a superpower, Sherlock's constant deductions about his surroundings cause trouble for him in "The Reichenbach Fall". After he is thrown out of a courtroom for contempt because he annoyed the judge by analyzing the jury and refused to stop commenting on the lawyers' questions before they asked them, John tells Sherlock that he told him "not to be clever." Sherlock irritably replies that he can't just turn it on and off.
    • As of "The Empty Hearse", his brother Mycroft shows traces of the same. Sherlock tosses him a hat a client left, asking him to do deductions about his owner. Mycroft refuses, but before he realises he's already started describing the owner.
  • Smallville
    • Clark Kent has trouble finding the "off-switch" to his newly-discovered eye beams. (Or as Chloe snarked, "Premature ignition".)
    • And he later suffered from Super Breath sneezes.
    • And earlier, from dream-floating (even though he technically "can't fly" due to producers' mandate).
    • He also had to learn to filter out noise to avoid being overwhelmed from his super hearing, which required about thirty seconds of training.
    • There was also an episode where solar flares caused his powers to alternatively super-charge without control and cut out. At one point, he ended up running all the way to Reno by trying to jog... only to end up having to take the bus back.
    • When he gained Mind Control powers, his Compelling Voice makes everyone does exactly as told... including himself.
    • Many meteor freaks also suffer from Power Incontinence, like Sean Kelvin who sucks heat out of everything he touches.
  • Star Trek has a couple instances where telepaths lose control of their powers and begin projecting their own emotions onto other individuals.
    • TNG: "Sarek" has the title character begin transmitting his emotions (yes, Vulcans do have them) onto the Enterprise crew due to the Vulcan equivalent of senior dementia, a condition called Bendii Syndrome. This jeopardizes negotiations Sarek has spent almost a century setting up. A mind-meld with Picard enables him to regain control long enough to finalize the treaty.
    • DS9: "Fascination" has a less serious case where, due to a viral infection, Lwaxana Troi starts to make latent crushes and attractions between the regular cast crop up (Kira and Bashir start making out, Jake Sisko gets a crush on Kira, Kira's boyfriend Vedek Bareil pursues Jadzia who in turn pursues Sisko). Troi's crush on Odo, who wasn't affected at all, started it all.
  • Supernatural: Chronos, the Greek God of Time, is the only deity shown who had next to no control over his powers. He's like a Darker and Edgier Sam Beckett: warping through different time periods seemingly at random after spending some length of time in one. The only way he can manipulate the coordinates is through human sacrifice. So when he wants to keep himself anchored to a specific period because it's home to the mortal woman that he fell in love with, a lot of people end up dying.
  • Ea, the eponymous heroine of the Dating-Sim story turned TV-Miniseries Toumei Shoujo Ea ("Invisible Girl Ea") was turned invisible by the Random Men in Black before the series starts. This would be a pretty awesome power, except for the fact that she cannot turn it off and several common things both disable it and cause her pain — including static electricity, bright light being reflected off a mirror, and being touched (like, say, by clothes). Trying to find a way to remove her powers so she can live a normal life is a focus of the series.
  • In True Blood, it takes a great deal of effort for Sookie Stackhouse to block her telepathic powers.


Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report