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Arthur: What do we do now?
One of the characters gets poisoned or sick, and there's a very rare cure for them. Usually done by the villain, who will oppose the remaining heroes in getting the antidote, or else is blackmailing the heroes into doing something for them. In which case the villain will usually be Carrying the Antidote.
Not quite a Death Trap on the part of the villain, but related in being needlessly complicated. If they were able to inject someone with a poison that's curable with a MacGuffin, why didn't they just use an instantly lethal means? A bullet instead of a dart, or a poison that would instantly kill someone? One answer suggests that in this one situation, they aren't Genre Blind: a bullet would miss while a dart wouldn't. Another has the villain deliberately not killing the target; he or she wouldn't mind if the target dies, of course, but it's more important to have the heroes busy looking for or getting the cure while the Master Plan unfolds.
Anime & Manga
- The crew of the Uchuu Senkan Yamato had a year to reach a planet on the other side of the galaxy, get a device that would decontaminate an otherwise radiation-poisoned Earth, and get back to use it, before Earth became permanently uninhabitable.
- The Moxibustion Arc in the manga/anime Ranma ½. The wicked Happōsai hits Ranma with the Weakness Moxibustion, which makes the strongest man as weak as a toddler. They discover that Happōsai has the ancient scroll with the cure and spend the entire arc training to fight him to get the chart.
- Whenever Ranma finds out about something that might cure his curse. Of course, Failure Is the Only Option, so every time a cure for the curse is found, it either doesn't work or is lost before it can be used.
- Subverted to tragic effect in One Piece; Chopper risks his life to find a mushroom which he believed was a panacea that would cure his mentor's illness. However, he was mistaken and it was actually a highly poisonous mushroom... which his mentor proceeded to eat, grinning, knowing its nature.
- Guts and his friends' quest in Berserk has them seeking Puck's home world of Elfhelm in hopes that the King can cure Casca's post-Eclipse insanity. It ultimately works.
- Pokémon: During the Orange Islands arc, Ash and Tracey fell victim to a Vileplume's Stun Spore, and Misty had to go out to find a cure for the resulting paralysis.
- Used in Pet Shop of Horrors, when Totetsu is shot and Leon must find Count D to learn what type of blood is needed for a transfusion. All is put well in the end, when D's father secretly comes to see the animal and tells the doctors what sort of blood to use.
- In Axis Powers Hetalia, Spain gets sick because of his economic problems and his ex-pupil Romano searches for a cure, even recurring to The Mafia for help. When he returns, though, Spain's economy is better so he's healthy.
- In Mujin Wakusei Survive, Sharla and Chako have to find medicinal herbs to cure Luna's fever.
- And later, upon arriving on the mainland, the cast has to find medecine for Adam.
- Zoids: Chaotic Century:
- Used on Spider-Man by the Hobgoblin back in the late eighties or early nineties. The Hobgoblin doesn't just shoot him because he wants Spidey to give him the Green Goblin's journals. Played with, in that the Hobgoblin doesn't have the antidote — but Spidey gets it from the Kingpin in exchange for help dealing with Hobgoblin (who is a rogue element in Fisk's plans).
- Doctor Strange occasionally needs to find a magical cure for an ailment that is beyond modern medicine. The Oath and Spider-Man: Fever both involve his attempts to save the lives of Wong and Spider-Man, respectively.
- Played five times in the WALLE Forum Roleplay. Thrice by Buddy, first by attempting to kill Auto (and as many other robots as would likely be infected, since they were expendable to his cause) and then by blackmailing the Colony to Auto scrapped; once by Blacklight, who wanted to wipe mankind off Earth to rescue the robots; and once when the remains of the Black Plague virus actually became sentient.
- Finding a cure for Twilight Sparkle is the central plot of the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic fanfic Its a Dangerous Business Going Out Your Door.
Films — Animation
- Pretty much the whole plot of Once Upon a Forest. A little badger named Michelle becomes comatose after inhaling toxic gas so her three older friends must travel beyond the forest to find the herbs she needs to be cured.
- In The Land Before Time IV, Grandpa Longneck is stricken with an unspecified illness, requiring Littlefoot and his friends to track down a specific type of flower that contains a cure.
- The first Balto movie. 'Nuff said.
Films — Live Action
- The Neverending Story uses this in spades.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Nazis do something like this to get Indiana Jones to get the Holy Grail for them in . They really DO shoot his father, but only the Grail can save him.
- Deepwater Black was based on this premise.
- Bridge of Birds: Pretty much the entire plot of the novel — at least until the parallel plot comes to light.
- Happens at least once in Redwall.
- The Riftwar Cycle novel Silverthorn has this as the major plot, when the protagonist must quest for the plant of the title in order to cure a princess who was struck down with a poison made from the very same plant.
- Biblical Apocrypha has the Book of Tobit, where a young man named Tobias must go search for a cure for his blind dad Tobit. His travel companion happens to be the Archangel Raphael in disguise, and while Tobias searches for both Tobit's cure and falls for a girl named Sarah, Raphael fights a demon that keeps killing every man poor Sarah has married before getting together with Tobias.
- In Empire of Ivory, once Temeraire proves immune to the Incurable Cough of Death that is killing the rest of Britain's dragons, there is a scramble to Cape Colony in the hops of finding what cured him of the cold that it was initially dismissed as. Too bad a cave full of the mushrooms in question happened to be under cultivation by a Hidden Dragon Empire.
- The whole point of The Two Princesses of Bamarre, with the added twist that Addie's not sure if the cure's even real, and when they do find it, it's too late for Meryl, who has to have an Emergency Transformation.
Also played with, in that while the cure that Addie ultimately found would have worked just fine, she also inadvertantly found the "real" cure, which everyone in the kingdom had been searching for — by being a "coward who found courage", Addie caused rain to fall all over the land. The rain came from the home of the fairies and cured everyone of the disease.
- Juliet Marillier's Heart's Blood: After Anluan is poisoned, Caitrin must find the antidote and brew it without knowing what kind of poison it is or where the antidote is written, all in less than an hour.
- The first book of The Elenium centres a search for the only thing that can cure the poison that the Queen has been poisoned with. In the villain's defence, he had to make it look natural, so instantly lethal means was out of the question, and he could not have anticipated either the magic that kept her alive long enough for the cure to be found, nor that there actually was a cure that could be found.
- A large portion of the Warrior Cats novel Long Shadows deals with Jayfeather trying to find catnip to cure a recent epidemic in his clan after his stock was destroyed. Also, in the Adventure Game included with The Fourth Apprentice, the Clans are coming down with a sickness, so they send out the Adventure Game cats to find some herbs for them.
Live Action TV
- Xena: Warrior Princess: Season 3, episode 13, "One Against an Army".
- MacGyver did this at least twice.
- Basically every episode of The Burning Zone.
- An example of the second approach occurs in the third-season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Graduation Day". Faith shoots Angel with a poisoned arrow; she could easily have hit his heart and dusted him, but she and the Mayor would rather Buffy stay distracted by his illness and eventual, slow, and painful death. Of course, this backfires on Faith when the antidote turns out to be Slayer blood...
- Thoroughly subverted by the Babylon 5 episode "Confessions and Lamentations", in which Doctor Franklin spends the entire episode searching for a cure while Delenn tends the plague-stricken Markab people, and the rest of the cast deals with other consequences of the plague. In the end, Franklin races to the quarantine ward with the cure... only to discover a tearful Delenn, who informs him that he's too late: they've all died.
- Speaking of B5, the Spin-Off series Crusade was entirely premised on this: the cast was searching for a cure to a plague visited upon Earth by former Shadow minions, which would conveniently lie dormant for five years before killing everyone. (The plan was to set up an audience expectation that the cure would be found in the fifth and final season, then have the cure discovered somewhere around season three and spend the rest of the series fighting a new and greater danger uncovered during the search. All this was rendered moot when the series was canceled before even airing.)
- Starsky and Hutch: In the episode "A Coffin for Starsky", Starsky is injected with a poison that will kill him in 24 hours; in this case what they need to find is a sample of the poison so the cure can be created. A less personalized version occurs in "The Plague", in which Hutch is one of the first victims of an incipient epidemic, and Starsky has to track down a hitman with a natural immunity to the disease.
- In the Doctor Who serial The Caves of Androzani, the Fifth Doctor is forced to regenerate after he and his companion Peri are poisoned — although he manages to milk the giant Queen-Bat to get the antidote (don't ask), there's only enough for one.
- NCIS: The team spends the episode "SWAK" looking for a cure for Tony, who's been dosed with a designer version of The Black Death. Subverted in that, although the virus has a limited life, there is no actual cure — Tony has to survive on his own.
- In the Alias episode "Counteragent," Sydney needs an antidote to a virus that is killing Vaughn. Sark says she can have it if she brings him Sloane.
- In Merlin, Arthur goes on one of these after Merlin takes a poisoned chalice originally meant for him.
- Happens twice to Aeryn in Farscape: first when she needs a tissue transplant in Season 1 so the team has to infiltrate a Peacekeeper base and again in Season 4 when she is infected with the "Living Death" by an enemy who possesses the only cure.
- In Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Section 31 creates a disease designed to annihilate the Founders in order to bring down the Dominion and end the war. In order to transmit the disease to the Founders, they use Odo as a carrier. This leads to three episodes of this for Dr. Bashir, with "Extreme Measures" being the embodiment of this trope.
- In one episode of the live action Zorro, Zorro is poisoned by the villain of the week. He later tricks the villain into thinking that Zorro had poisoned him back with the same toxin, making him go to the nearest source of an antidote, which Zorro followed him to.
- Chuck has this in the season 4 finale when Sarah is poisoned by Vivian Volkoff on the eve of their wedding and Chuck has to find a cure.
- This is the plot of the Filk Song Witch of the Westmoreland: a knight is badly wounded in battle and must seek the aid of the titular witch.
- A major portion of Bionicle falls under this (specifically the arc called Bionicle Legends): two parts were dedicated to finding the MacGuffin that could save Mata Nui's life, and the third revolved around restoring him to consciousness.
- There was also a smaller-scale one in the book "Maze of Shadows", where the plant monster Karzahni forces the Toa Metru to get him a flask of energized protodermis in exchange for curing Nokama of poison — and to prove he could do it, he gave her a temporary antidote. It turned out that Karzahni needed to Find The Cure for a condition of its own, but too bad protodermis has Unpredictable Results...
- Chrono Cross The Hydra Humour early on in the game, however it is optional to perform the quest but by doing so it may affect the story a bit; The Inhabitants of the swamp where of the Alternate Dimension where they Hydras are not extinct attack a nearby island with the Heroes on it killing many of the inhabitants of that island.
- In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Mario wins a game at an arcade and obtains a strange mushroom as the prize. He eats it and becomes inflicted with a disease called Bean Fever, which makes whoever has it slowly turn into a bean, and Luigi has to go to some ancient ruins to find Crabbie Grass, the only known cure.
- Justified in Penumbra: Black Plague, as your foe doesn't just want you dead...
- Inverted in Final Fantasy V, as in a flashback you learn that a mother of a character had a disease which could only be cure by a dragon's tongue. However, since this would kill the dragon, the character decides not to do it.
- In Heretic II the protagonist is infected with The Virus at the beginning of the story and has to find the cure not only for other people but also for himself.
- This is the main objective in the Storyline of Mitsumete Knight R : Daibouken Hen : the King of the kingdom the main character serves, is gravely poisoned by a terrorist group, and the only way to cure him is a mysterious MacGuffin called "The Tear of the Star". It's so rare and legendary, nobody actually knows exactly what it looks like. And of course, the main character is sent on a quest to find it.
- A side quest in Tales of Symphonia has Raine falling ill from a (completely non-villain caused) disease and the party has to spread out to find the antidote, which turns out to be a rare plant that only grows on the top of a single mountain in the whole world.
- In Beyond the Beyond, the party's strongman hero Samson is cursed by one of the Big Bads early on in the game. The curse is so powerful that it can't be lifted by normal priests, leading the heroes to seek out God Himself to undo it.
- The Xchagger Plague subplot in the third installment of Star Control. The victims: The Harika/Yorn. The culprits: unsurprisingly, The Crux.
- A major plotline in Batman: Arkham City has Batman seeking to find a cure to the disease killing The Joker due to the fact that Joker gave Batman a blood transfusion as well as "donating" his blood to various hospitals in Gotham to ensure Batman's cooperation.
- In Blazblue, the ultimate goal of Litchi Faye-Ling is to find a cure that will not just restore her best friend Lotte Carmine from Arakune to normal, but also a cure for herself about her encroaching corruption. Unfortunately, the one she knew could help her, Kokonoe, flat out refused, and Hazama claim that NOL has the cure. Litchi was quick enough to realize that it's a Blackmail and Hazama is a very ominous, suspicious dude, but with her time to get completely corrupted drawing even nearer, she ends up Forced Into Evil to preserve the cure.
- In The Gamers Alliance, the elven archer Rhylian is desperately searching for a cure to the Blood Fever, a disease which is fatal to elves.
- Both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons featured variations of this trope. In the 1987 cartoon episode "Enter the Fly", April was poisoned by inhaling the pollen from the Doku ("poison") plant, which had been sent to her by an "anonymous admirer" (actually The Shredder). The turtles must then search for the Gazai plant, which is the only source of the antidote. In the 2003 series, it occurs when Donatello is infected with the mutagenic virus making its way across New York, which allows Agent Bishop to extort a favor out of them in exchange for a cure — one that he doesn't actually have. Fortunately, the turtles' ally Leatherhead managed to invent one on his own by the time they got back from stealing the relevant MacGuffin.
- Gargoyles: "Long Way to Morning" has a Flash Back of this directly, where the Gargoyles had to recover the antidote to a poison made by an evil wizard who poisoned a prince. In a modern day subversion, Demona thought she poisoned Elisa (but Elisa's hidden badge deflects the dart) and Goliath plays along; if he didn't chase Demona, then she would have realized her attack on Elisa had failed.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy Demona didn't develop an antidote, she was just stalling for time until it should have killed Elisa.
- Jackie Chan Adventures, episode 9, "The Rock". It makes some sense that the villain has the antidote in this case, as his plan is to to force Jackie into helping him by only giving him the cure if he does what the villain wants.
- Aladdin: In "Mission: Imp-Possible", Nefir the imp poisons Aladdin with a sleeping drug in order to goad Genie into helping him find a valuable treasure, the Golden Silk of Panacea (which also happens to be the only cure for the drug).
- Aladdin the series also has Iago stealing food and drink intended for the Sultan and thus consuming a poison intended to kill the Sultan that slowly turns him to stone, limb by limb. So of course the others try to get the cure, and Iago just betrays them by giving the Big Bad the lamp in exchange for the cure. Fortunately on the way there he has a change of heart, get captured, gets Aladdin and the rest captured, gets called a traitor and then gets saved by Genie who points out that Iago changed his mind at the last moment and is not to blame. Make up your mind, Iago!
- Conan the Adventurer does this as an episode. The disease was to make Conan susceptible to the metal in his sword (and his allies' weapons). Ironically, the metal itself would prove to be the cure, although not before the Big Bad was tricking the allies into giving him his weapons to get what turned out to be a non-existent cure, and sending out his minions to destroy a valuable relic (the cloth covering a certain person's body, meant to cure anything) that the allies had just taken, to make sure the Big Bad's route was their only option.
- Subverted in the Transformers: Beast Wars episode "The Low Road". An... unfortunate side effect of the virus and its interaction with some wild bean vines is what wins the day for our heroes. Needless to say, it's sort of a self-parody episode of a usually much-more-serious show.
- Beast Wars also had a unique take on this in the episode "Gorilla Warfare". The Predacons infected Optimus Prime with a virus designed to make him a coward, planning to ambush the Maximals when they launch an attack to steal the cure. However, incompetent virus creation turned Optimus into a beserker instead, making him tear through the Predacon base singlehandedly.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: "The Blue Spirit", where Aang must find the cure for a fever his friend got during the last episode... which turns out to be a frozen frog you suck on. Two seasons later, his friends are still bitter about this.
- As the page quote reveals, this happened to The Tick once. At least in his case it was explainable by the fact that the villain spilled his Applied Phlebotinum at him as a last-ditch attempt to dislodge him... Why the villain in question had an antidote to counteract it, less so.
- My Little Pony: "The Golden Horseshoes". Said horseshoes are the MacGuffins needed to save a Pony from being erased from existence, so...
- Done to the extreme on Code Lyoko at the end of Season 1 when XANA infects Aelita with a computer virus, linking her to him and the continued functioning of the Supercomputer to prevent the heroes from cutting the juice. Hence leaving Jérémie searching for a way to reverse this throughout Season 2, The Cure happening to be Aelita's memories of her former human life, stolen by XANA.
- In the Legion of Super Heroes cartoon, Brainiac 5 goes hilariously off-the-wall bonkers and needs an ultra-rare ore from Timber Wolf's seriously-ultra-wild-and-dangerous home planet.
- The deadly Ecto-Acne from Danny Phantom has main hero Danny looking for the cure after Big Bad Vlad poisoned his friends with the same dose. The big problem: the villain has the illness, too! The forced poisoning was intended as blackmail (which works). Danny eventually finds the final formula (it's diet soda)... right after he traveled through time, subsequently ruined the present time period, leaving him to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. Boy always take the hard way, no?
- The Super Mario Bros Super Show had a twist: Snake-bitten Mario needed to eat a special antivenom pizza to be cured. They had the ingredients, but no way to cook it; Luigi had to find a fire flower.
- The South Park episode "Red Man's Greed", the Native Americans gave SARS to the town using infected blankets to try to get rid of the townspeople to build a highway to their casino. Stan, who wasn't sick, went to search for a cure.
- Another episode when Cartman finds the cure for HIV which he was infected with.
- In Wakfu episode 7, Amalia is bitten by a devil rose, and her companions have to find the only existing cure for the poison, a very rare sap from a magical tree, in a forest full of Man Eating Plants.
- Apparently the whole reason the parents of the titular character in Hey Arnold went missing. Not only do they have to traverse the South American jungle to collect the ingredients of the dreadful Sleeping Sickness, they also have to find the very elusive patients called the Green Eyed People. Note that they do this plot twice... the latter apparently not ending too well.
- An episode of Kung Fu Panda has Tigress getting sick, leading to her friends trying to get a rare flower guarded by an evil scorpion pharmacist.