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So. There's a research scientist, usually out in the field somewhere and usually by himself or in a small tight-knit team. He's really into whatever most frequently obscure and seemingly useless research he's doing, when all of a sudden some big burly military guys come out of nowhere, put a stop to aforementioned research and carry him off against his will for their own purposes. Where he will usually find something even more fantastic than what he was doing, and somehow mildly relevant.
Whenever one of these characters is pulled in, they typically describe vague and often ludicrous hypotheses as theories and are actually offended when proof is demanded of them. Always a Designated Hero, and usually opposing them is proof of being Designated Villain. Narratively, this is also used as quick character development for the scientist (and sometimes for the people who take him). Usually they are the Only Sane Man who proves time and time again that their suggestions are invaluable to success of their project.
The trope is named after Niko Tatopoulos from the 1998 Godzilla film, who is referred to by the military personnel as "the worm guy", as they took him from Chernobyl where he was studying earthworms. And they couldn't pronounce his actual name.
Not to be confused with The Worm That Walks.
- Ultimate Marvel's version of the Falcon is introduced in a downright awesome version of this trope: he's in the Amazon when the military guys come for him by helicopter, and then he unveils his wings and flies up to meet them. He's treated a bit more respectfully than usual, though he does have to stand his ground to get the Black Widow's first name. The relevance of his research to the mission is that he was searching for ways to communicate with the afterlife, and hypothesizes the situation might have to do with broadcasts from beyond death, which turns out to be true, albeit in a slightly less literal manner.
- The whole point of Global Frequency was to link up a wide range of Worm Guys so that there was always someone on hand who knew what to do when rogue cyborgs went berserk, or a Soviet sleeper agent risked opening a wormhole in San Francisco, or London has to be saved by Le Parkour, or whatever left-over Cold War super-science threatens the world this time.
- The trope's namesake, Niko Tatopoulos from the 1998 Godzilla. He was researching the growth rate of earthworms, by himself, out in the field, and suggests Godzilla was created from nuclear fallout on absolutely no evidence. He also gets cross when ignored about his Godzilla eggs nest site theory, which then turns out to be correct. The quintessential worm guy.
- Daniel Jackson in the Stargate movie--taken away from a lecture (where the lectured walked out on him) so that he can decipher the stargate. He's not interrupted while doing his research, but it's along the same vein.
- Alan Grant in Jurassic Park - taken from his paeleontological dig for a preview of living dinosaurs, as The Powers That Be wanted a paelontologist to endorse them.
- However, he wasn't making hypotheses based on little to no evidence. That was Malcolm's job.
- ~Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within~: Dr. Ross is the Plant Lady.
- Volcano - the two (female) earthquake scientists are called out to the field to create an explanation why a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power employee was cooked to death in a manhole in McArthur Park.
- The Day After Tomorrow with Dennis Quaid's character.
- The Swarm
- The Core with Aaron Eckhart's character, and with the guy who invented Unobtainium (no, really, that's what it was called!).
- Nicolas Cage in The Rock, is a special case. He is an FBI agent trained to disarm chemical weapons so he is hardly a civilian. However, he was never trained to do so while fighting a highly experienced team of rogue Marine Recon soldiers. He also never had to deal with a weapon that could kill tens of thousands of people.
- Sean Connery's character also counts. He is only brought in because he has very specific knowledge of the location where the weapons are held
- The drillers in Armageddon are a blue collar version of this.
- Same as the drillers in The Abyss.
- Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, although he's called out of class at the university, rather than the field.
- In The Andromeda Strain, the doctors in the Wildfire team were rounded up by the military and taken to the facility. One of them was even pulled out of surgery.
- Granted, they had agreed to this beforehand. They'd just agreed to it years earlier and had no idea what they were getting involved in and what had become of the original plan...
- The original Jurassic Park novel is pretty much the same in this respect as the film.
- The book makes it clear, however, that Alan Grant is an experienced doctor of palaeontology and respected in his field, including an apparently well-received book for kids about Dinosaurs. He's pulled into it because his main financial backer wants an endorsement to his creations' authenticity: Grant is never 'the worm guy'; more 'the famous expert we need to tell people this is the real McCoy'. Malcolm (who is a mathematician and was involved as a consultant on the risk-factor calculations) comes much closer to the trope considering how Hammond dislikes him and his initial predictions of doom and gloom about how unstable the entire system is, until events prove him completely right.
- Norman Johnson in Sphere, a psychologist carried off by the millitary to study aliens.
- In fact, most of the characters in Sphere.
- And also State of Fear. Is it weird that this trope is repeated in so many Michael Crichton novels?
- Throw in the historians of Timeline, though in this case they were ripped from their research by the corporation that was funding it, to work on something related on why they were funding it.
- And EVERYONE in Next... sigh...
- In Animorphs, Marco's dad is working on a research project that leads him to discover Zero Space. A Wham! Episode results: the Yeerks attempt to capture him to work for them, forcing Marco to reveal The Masquerade to his father and drag him into hiding to escape.
- Robert Langdon in Angels and Demons is (allegedly) an art historian example.
- Perfectly describes Kim Delaney's character in the miniseries 10.5.
- The aforementioned Daniel Jackson is taken further in the show: Stargate SG-1 turns him into a full-on case of You Have to Believe Me. Apparently, he's been ranting about aliens all along, and, shockingly and surprisingly, he's been met with disbelief.
- The short-lived series Threshold concerned an entire task force of Worm Guys, taking on an Alien Invasion via Infection.
- In the 2008 Fox series, Fringe, Walter Bishop is a Trifecta: Omnidisciplinary Mad WormGuy. Literally mad, BTW: he's been in an asylum for 17 years as the story opens.
- Another 2008 series, Sanctuary features forensic psychiatrist Dr. Will Zimmerman. In the pilot, he discovers evidence that a mysterious boy is linked to a murder case. When his own colleagues refuse to listen, Zimmerman ends up being hired by the titular organization.
- This happens in Lost when associates of the rich and powerful Charles Widmore are sent out to round up a team which is meant to travel to the island and capture Benjamin Linus. This team includes a physicist who spent his whole life studying time travel and a paranormal investigator.
- Dark Skies has this happening to a young Carl Sagan.
- Dr Liara T'soni in Mass Effect. She gets recruited by the crew of the Normandy whilst out in the field on an Ancient Prothean dig-site. After rescusing her from a group of Saren's mercenaries are attempting to do the same, she is brought on to be their resident Prothean expert. In a nice subversion, when Shepard confirms her theories on the Prothean extinction are indeed correct, which have earned her ridicule amongst her peers, she shows skepticism how Shepard themselves has any evidence. Shepard then reveals their experience with a Prothean beacon that downloaded a repository of their knowledge directly into their mind as well as a warning about the Reapers.
- Milo Thatch in Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Although he was planning on resigning his position anyway, fed up with not being taken seriously by the board of directors at the museum.