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I don't like when they encounter something amazing in Engineering or wherever and call up to the bridge and say "Captain, you'd better get down here." Explain what it is! THAT IS WHAT PEOPLE DO. I don't call up my friends and say, "Utahraptor, you'd better get down here." and he says "Why?" and I say "Oh Utahraptor, if only we had descriptive language; if only I could describe something using my words. But you know as well as I that I can only point and say, lookit."
T-Rex on why this trope bugs him, Dinosaur Comics, #1270

A giant bug-eyed monster has just appeared in the engine room, and is asking to borrow a cup of sugar. Someone on the bridge calls down and asks what's going on.

Now, if this were a real space ship, your duty would be to give a short, concise description of the problem. To do otherwise would be irresponsible to the point of criminality.

But this is TV, and we need The Captain in this scene. That is why you Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer. Instead, you say something like, "You'd better come see for yourself," or the ubiquitous "Sir, I think you'd better (come) see this...," giving the character a reason to enter the scene, with the added bonus of allowing a surprised reaction to the crisis when he arrives. It can be argued that words simply fail the one doing the calling, due to them being stunned at how weird it is.

Of course, there's the option of you giving out a description, then the Captain responds "What!? I'm coming down there to see for myself!"

Variation crops up in most Space Opera. Though less common in other genres, it still occasionally shows up as a way to perform the Room Shuffle in response to an unexpected guest or sudden crisis (Often phrased as, "There's No Time to Explain, just get here right away!"), or to hold off The Reveal until the moment of maximum drama.

Examples of Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer include:

Anime and Manga

  • A too-flustered-to-explain variant occurs in the first season of Strike Witches, with Lynette unable to explain to Mio that Yoshika is fondling Shirley. For the most part, though, the show avoids this.

Comic Books

  • In Ex Machina, Mayor Hundred's chief of staff drags him to the Brooklyn Museum of Art to look at a painting of Abe Lincoln with the word "nigger" across his face, claiming he needed to see it for himself.


  • In Alien, Ash calls the others about Kane and tells them "It's simpler if you just come and see him." Actually, it would probably have been simpler to just say that he woke up.
  • Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan. Without Kirk's knowledge, Spock went down to Engineering and took a lethal dose of radiation while saving the ship. Kirk calls down to Engineering.

 Kirk: Engine Room? Well done, Scotty.

McCoy: Jim! I think you'd better get down here.

Kirk: Bones?

McCoy: Better...hurry.

    • This is justified as McCoy doesn't want to alarm the entire bridge crew by announcing out loud that Spock is dying.
      • Of course, Kirk being Kirk, he interprets McCoy correctly, then shoots up out of his chair, chokes out, "Saavik, take the conn," and takes off at a dead run to the reactor chamber. Way to be subtle, Captain. It is, of course, one of the most moving moments in film history, however.
      • Lampshaded by SF Debris in one of his reviews in that the Enterprise is less advanced than a teenage girl, because she at least could have whipped out a cell phone and taken a dozen pictures to message the captain with.


  • Subverted in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, where the Greystones' servant says he has to show something to Drawlight. He says it can be seen from the edge of the canal... and then he kicks Drawlight into the canal.
  • In The Princess Bride, Buttercup's parents do this to each other just to be jerks. "You look; you know how."

Live Action TV

  • Star Trek in its various incarnations is far and away the most common user, most notably when Commander Riker is ordered to report on a situation and all he can come up with is, "Trouble."
    • Ditto on Star Trek Deep Space Nine when Major Kira commanding the Defiant returns through the wormhole where, on the station, Commander Sisko asks the major what she found. Kira, visibly terrified says, "Trouble!"
  • This seems to happen to Stephen Colbert offscreen. Experienced fans know that "We have some footage - now, I have not seen this..." is the cue for an immediate fit of rage and/or tears when the clip actually rolls. Why doesn't anyone tell him what's in these clips?
  • Fairly Egregious in Doctor Who: "The Stolen Earth", as, independently and all over the world, Sylvia Noble (Donna's mum), Sarah Jane Smith, Martha Jones, and Captain Jack Harkness all desperately try to find out what's just happened to the entire planet, only to have whoever's nearby insist that they have to see it for themselves.
    • Subverted in "The Time of Angels": Christian and Bob request clarification when told to "Come and see" by a squadmate: "It's not a school trip. Just tell me." It is, in fact, the Weeping Angel - using their companions' voices. It still kills them.
    • It happens all the time in Torchwood, too.
  • Abby from NCIS has been known to continue this even while Gibbs is standing right in front of her.
    • Abby's excuse for wasting time explaining technical details of her forensics before getting to the useful information also justifies explains this. She works alone in her lab most of the time, and even though she doesn't want an assistant, she still likes to have company.
    • Ducky does it as well. Why simply tell Gibbs about the results of his autopsy when he could show him in gory detail?
    • And McGee and his technobabble...

 Tony: Oh, twenty bucks says McGee's about to say something nobody understands again.

McGee: The GPS coordinates came bundled in a proprietary packet. Since it was a beta, I thought-

Gibbs: I'm starting to think you can't help yourself, McGee.

  • A rather cruel example comes from the Inspector Morse episode "In Service of All the Dead", when Morse and Lewis climb a belltower. Morse is badly winded by the climb and clearly suffers from terrible vertigo (he can't bear to look up or down, or even move around). Lewis, by contrast, is skipping around happily when he sees a corpse far below and tells the elderly Morse that he'd best come see for himself.
  • Inverted in Stargate SG-1. In "Fallen," SG-3 come across someone who appears to be one of the natives of Vis Uban, but turns out to be an amnesiac Daniel Jackson, post-descension. The next scene involves SG-3 showing up and informing Jack O'Neill that "we found something you might want to see," but rather than making him go anywhere, it turns out that they actually brought Daniel along with them so he immediately enters the scene. It's not even drawn out for drama; the audience clearly sees that it's Daniel in the same instant that SG-3 recognize him initially.
    • The show still isn't adverse to the odd "Sir, there's something here you should see" though.
  • Shows up occasionally on Firefly, usually with Wash calling Mal up to the bridge.
  • Shows up in Lost.

 Jack: You wanna tell me where we're going, Sayid?

Sayid: It's better that you see it for yourself.

Jack: No, I'm not so sure it is.

  • Eureka, pilot episode. "That's not all we've found — better come take a look."
  • As pointed out later on in the comic quoted at the top of this page, television news frequently follows a version of this trope, so as to keep us hooked.
  • Babylon 5: it is ALWAYS "Captain, I think you need to see this" or "you'd better get down here". They really need to work on adding some security to those links.

Western Animation

  • Parodied in (what else?) The Simpsons: In the "lemon tree" episode, Nelson bursts into Mrs. Krabappel's class and says, "Everyone come quick! No Time to Explain!" All the children start to run across town, but have to stop when Nelson needs a drink of water. Someone asks if it wouldn't be faster just to tell them what happened, and he snaps, "No! I said there was no time to explain and I stand by that!"
  • In one episode of Batman Beyond Terry says he can't return to the cave immediately because something has come up. When Bruce asks what, he is told to look out the window as it is something he has to see for himself (In Terry's defence it is The Bat Signal so he probably thought Bruce would get a kick out of seeing it above Gotham again).