Needs a Better Title
One character, usually the hero but occasionally a sidekick, finds themselves zapped to a parallel timeline, a Bad Future
, or witnessing a chain reaction that causes everything in their life to violently unravel. While trying to set things right, many major characters will brutally die or be captured, including the hero himself. A Reset Button
will be employed at the last possible moment, often just before everyone dies, that will render the whole scenario nonexistent as if it never happened or was All Just a Dream
, with only a couple of characters remembering it at all.
Most Nightmare Scenarios involve the villains running the world
, or at least the hero's hometown. Some good guys will be working for the enemy
, and some bad guys will have joined La Résistance
Sometimes overlaps with It's a Wonderful Plot
, For Want of a Nail
, and Set Right What Once Went Wrong
(and probably others.)
If it's one episode or issue of a series, expect tons of cameos from B and C-list characters (some of whom have already died in the regular timeline), making this a small dose of Continuity Porn
- The X-Men have visited this well often, starting with the classic "Days of Future Past." "Age of Apocalypse" is an epic example.
- "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" is a borderline example for Superman, with the reset button being the John Byrne reboot.
- This was the premise of the JLA story "Rock of Ages," by Grant Morrison. Some of Metron's dialogue further suggests that this kind of thing happens on a regular basis in the course of Darkseid's attempts to rule the universe.
- At the tail end of Heroes Reborn, each of the four titles added one additional issue that teamed up the exiled Marvel heroes with Wildstorm, collectively titled "World War 3" where the human race was on the brink of losing a war with a Skrull/Daemonite alliance led by Doctor Doom. The final battle involves destroying the machine Doom was using to keep this hellish intersected reality in place.
(May need spoiler tags.)
Live Action TV
- "The Wish" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- "All Good Things" from Star Trek: The Next Generation is a partial example, as is "Yesterday’s Enterprise."
- "…And Jesus Brought a Casserole" from Dark Angel is an inversion; the ending where everyone lives happily ever after turns out to be a dream, and the season ends with our heroes suffering massive failure and death that can't be undone.
- "Five Years Gone" from Heroes
- "Year of Hell" from Star Trek: Voyager has elements.
- "Pandora" from Smallville.
- Subverted in Dollhouse: After getting a glimpse of a Bad Future caused by the brainwashing technology being weaponized by the Rossum Corporation, the heroes think they've accomplished this in the final episode of Season 2 when they blow up the Rossum mainframe and kill the founders. Unfortunately, the Time Skip in the Lost Episode "Epitaph One" had already made it clear that they can't. Once the technology exists, it will inevitably be recreated and deployed.
- Initially Inverted and then played partly straight in Doctor Who with the episodes "Utopia," "The Sound of Drums," and "Last of the Time Lords." Initially, the villain transports beings from a far distant Bad Future through time to create a monstrous present-day with himself as ruler of the Earth; later, the Doctor and his allies manage to undo the villain's manipulations and revert time to moments before he conquered the world. Interestingly, the more distant Bad Future is implicitly left uncorrected, suggesting its inevitability.
- The M.A.N.T.I.S. episode "The Eyes Beyond."
- Depending on the player's knowledge of the game and choices -- or with the help of New Game+ -- encountering and preventing this can be achieved in various ways in Chrono Trigger.
- "Over the Edge" from The New Batman Adventures.
- "Future Tense" from Gargoyles.
- "Armageddon" 2-parter from Mighty Max.
- "Once and Future Conan" from Conan the Adventurer.
- The Justice League story "Hereafter" is built on this idea, with a time-displaced Superman being sent to the future where a belatedly repentant villain who destroyed the world works to send him back to the present to thwart his own ruinous schemes.
- And arguably used again in "The Once and Future Thing."
- A Darkwing Duck episode had Gosalyn being abducted to the future by Megavolt and Quackerjack's Time Top; her disappearance turned Darkwing into a monstrous Knight Templar dishing out Disproportionate Retribution to all of St. Canard, and only her return to the present could fix things.
- This is the end goal of the protagonist of Samurai Jack. If he can go back in time, he can preclude Akuma's global rule in the show's Bad Future.