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Certain genres of fiction depend on forcing the characters into some kind of enclosed space they cannot leave at will. The plot of these usually depends on the tensions among the characters and their efforts to get out.

The different settings of this kind are usually strongly associated with particular genres. Examples:

  • The submarine: Home to an entire sub-genre (owch!) of war films. Archetypal example: Das Boot.
  • The space ship/station: Often seen in sci-fi horror, like the Alien films or the System Shock games.
  • The underwater base works much like the above. The film The Abyss and the game Bioshock feature such locales.
    • A sub-type is the sunken/capsized ship on which the heroes are trapped in air pockets and must make their way out. The Poseidon Adventure is the archetypal example.
  • The Arctic base: Also similar to the space station. Seen in The Thing from Another World and its more-true-to-the-book remake The Thing.
  • The mansion isolated by adverse weather: Extremely common in murder mysteries.
    • There's also the train, appearing in Murder on the Orient Express and The Last Express.
  • The deserted/private/uncharted island: So common it's often passed over. Drop-in of viewpoint characters via shipwreck or plane crash is almost required.

Note that the setting of a Bottle Episode does not count as an Enclosed Space unless the characters are forced to remain where they currently are. Compare Locked in a Room and Locked in a Freezer.

See also Closed Circle.

Examples of Enclosed Space include:



  • The Michael Crichton novel (and movie technically based on the novel) Sphere featured the underwater base version.
  • I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream does this in an underground complex (inescapable because it's the only habitable place on Earth).
  • The only reason that the crime in Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express was not a complete success is that the train was blocked by immense snowdrifts, making movement impossible for several days and allowing Hercule Poirot to investigate and solve the crime.
  • Again from Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None / Ten Little Indians is set entirely on "Indian" Island, which is isolated from the outside world on account of bad weather and (?) a holiday on the mainland. As the people on the island are murdered one by one, the sense of terror in isolation grows.
  • One of the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels is set in a mansion where they are trapped not only by bad weather but by an alien god that can warp space and time.
  • After The Hole by Guy Burt. The characters intend to spend a few days locked up together in a basement at their school after term, as an experiment. Inevitably the person who's supposed to let them out doesn't come back... Also made into a film, The Hole.
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: Subverted because Nemo lets the Power Trio explore land where an scape would be more dangerous that Nemo's hospitality in the Nautilus.

Live Action TV

  • In an episode of RoboCop: The Series, the title character is thrown into a trash compactor by a group of thugs. He escapes through sheer force of will, although it takes a third of the episode to accomplish it.
  • The ICarly episode iSam's Mom features scenes of Sam and her mom (and later, Carly) in a small room in the psychologist's office while being forced to communicate and make up. In this episode we learn that Carly is highly claustrophobic.
  • The "Base Under Seige" version of the trope is common in Doctor Who, particularly during the Second Doctor's era (1966-69).
    • The new series episode "Midnight" features the Doctor and some tourists stranded in a train car which the can't leave due to the fact that the planet's surface is murderously uninhabitable. Uninhabitable, that is, except to beings who seem to come straight out of a nightmare.
  • Sanctuary uses this often, usually the monster-of-the-week is the thing that's trapped them, but they occasionally use the weather. Also seems to like cutting them off from their gadgets, which leaves them to outsmart whatever it is (before it kills them).
  • Lost counts as the deserted island variant for most of the series (especially the early seasons), and contains many, many more specific examples. The abundance of Dharma Initiative bunkers (commonly called "hatches") provide plenty of opportunities for characters to end up alone together. The most prominent examples of this take place in the Swan hatch throughout season two, particularly the episode Lockdown, in which the blast doors trap Locke and Ben in there. And even when people weren't physically trapped, they were often bound by the duty of regularly pushing the button.
    • And there's a deliberate in-universe example in the season three episode The Brig, in which Locke traps Sawyer and Anthony Cooper in the eponymous brig of the Black Rock, hoping they'll get to talking about their pasts, resulting in Sawyer murdering Cooper. It works.

Tabletop Games

  • The game Earthdawn justifies a large number of dungeon-like structures in the game world with its backstory of humanity driven into underground shelters by a rising tide of eldritch horrors swarming the world, a tide which has subsided enough to allow some of the survivors to venture forth -- and explore/loot the shelters of those who didn't make it.
  • Space Hulk places you in a space hulk, which is basically comets and spaceships smashed togheter, creating a dungeon in space.

Video Games

  • The Chzo Mythos makes use of this trope in all of its four component games. In the first, you're stuck in a mansion. In the second, you're stuck on a spaceship, in the third you are trapped in a Hell Hotel, and finally the fourth which takes place in a underground complex.
    • The third game, Trilby's Notes, is being rather sadistic about it. You can go outside the hotel, but if you try to walk away from it, you will always come back, presumably because of the evil influence inside the hotel.
    • If you play the tie-in Interactive Fiction for the fourth game, you will learn that there is a perfectly safe exit behind the locked door in the room with the security desk and the petroleum barrel. Theo, the Player Character, remains unaware of this throughout the whole game, and never gets around to asking Trilby, a character capable of cracking ANY lock, to open the door.

Web Comics

  • Fleep spends all but a few comicstrips confined to the interior of a concrete-enclosed phone booth.
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