There are many things that annoy us about science fiction: godlike beings, lazy time-travel paradoxes, actions that don't have consequences... but luckily, there's one thing that epitomizes all of them: the reset button. Whenever the unthinkable happens, you can be pretty sure science fiction will unthink it. Click through for the many evils of the reset button.

Here are the main types of annoying reset buttons in science fiction:

The temporal paradox. Someone starts diddling the time-space continuum, and just by coincidence, suddenly all sorts of appalling things happen. The two best examples of this are the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Year In Hell Part 2" and the Doctor Who episode "Last of the Time Lords." In the Trek episode, the starship Voyager is destroyed, only to be restored when a "time-ship" that has been altering history is wrecked. In Doctor Who, Earth's population is nearing "terminal extinction," until the Doctor destroys a "paradox machine" that his arch enemy the Master built. Once that's done, time rolls back a whole year, undoing all the Master's horrible deeds, while David Tennant makes some awful yay-faces:
The godlike being. In the Marvel Comics series Secret Wars, a bunch of Marvel heroes are transported to another planet, called Battleworld, where the only thing to do is merengue. No, wait, I mean fight. And in the penultimate issue, every single Marvel hero... dies! For reals! You see Mr. Fantastic's intestines stretching out all over the place, and Spider-man is all splatted. (Okay, it's not really that graphic.) But then the Beyonder takes back his amazing godlike power from Dr. Doom, who's stolen it, and in the process all the heroes are restored to life. (Several times, in the case of Captain America.) Truly, a mighty resurrection.



There's also the Star Trek (again) episode "Shore Leave," where McCoy dies, once and for all... until the magic shore leave planet fixes him up, good as new.

It was all a (virtual reality) dream. It's the "Bobby Ewing in the shower" version of science fiction. In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode, "Vanishing Point," Hoshi gets caught up in a transporter accident, and spends the whole episode dealing with strange illogical events and her crewmates act more and more out of character. And then she finds out that nasty aliens are planning to blow up the ship! Oh noes! But then she finds out the whole thing was just a dream she had during the few seconds the transporter was reassembling her. I also feel like we're told Trinity is doomed doomed doomed in Matrix: Reloaded, and then she's not... because Neo is teh extra awesome, and he can bend the laws of physics in the virtual world.

I tried really, really hard to come up with non-Star Trek examples of the reset button, but it was difficult. Sadly, there's a reason why Star Trek is so closely associated with this particular plot device. It's part of the essential conservatism of Trek, which sticks to the DNA of old-school television (putting the toys back neatly), with the possible exception of Deep Space Nine. It's the kind of sloppy writing and lack of consequences that gives science fiction a bad name among casual viewers.


Most of all, though, we hate the reset button because we envy it — it would be so awesome to have one in real life. It would come in handy in so many situations, to undo all kinds of horrible events, from the death of a loved one to that thing you really didn't mean to say in a business meeting. And yet watching someone wield the reset button isn't fun escapism, it's just annoying. Unlike, say, the transporter, which would be awesome in real life and is also fun to watch.