Reset Button Suicide Mission

A major disaster strikes: Cthulhu stomps through a gate, a critical bulwark to civilization is destroyed, or some person central to reality is killed. The lead characters have a plan for how to unwind time to fix it: building a time machine, performing a magic ritual, or something similar. In the process of pursuing the necessary MacGuffins and dodging mooks, the ranks of our heroes dwindle, but they lay down their lives willingly, knowing that as long as the plan succeeds everything will be put back... including them. That foreknowledge of the coming reset is key to this trope.

This is a mashup of Reset Button and Suicide Mission, obviously enough. In general this is also a subset of Dwindling Party, though it's possible that the characters may sacrifice themselves as a group. In contrast with Climactic Battle Resurrection, where the return of deceased characters to life is the prelude to a massive battle, in many cases of this trope nobody has any idea anything happened after the original disaster is undone. However, don't be surprised if some characters have Ripple Effect-Proof Memory to remember it all in the end.

Related to Expendable Alternate Universe; in this case, it's an expendable alternate timeline, but the effect is the same: it doesn't matter who has to die because, once the mission is complete, the dead characters won't be the "real" ones.

Since this is a Death Trope, expect spoilers.


Examples:

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    Films — Live-Action 
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past: The X-Men in a Bad Future send Wolverine into the past with Mental Time Travel to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, and perform a heroic last stand to protect his body and buy him enough San Dimas Time to succeed. They all die, but history is changed just in time to save Wolverine's body from destruction, and when he wakes up back in it, he's in a new timeline where they all survived (as did a bunch of other people who'd died in the old timeline).
  • Edge of Tomorrow double subverts it. Cage has the ability to rewind time by a day every time he dies through most of the movie, effectively making his whole mission this. But near the end, he loses the ability to reset, and leads a team to finish the Omega Mimic once and for all, sure enough, with them dying to the last man. But by killing the Omega, he regains the ability and shifts back two days, with the Omega retroactively dying and preventing the whole plot.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "The Wish" Cordelia wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale, which transforms the city into a Villain World. Giles, Oz, and a few other people have banded together to fight the vampires, and when Giles learns about Cordelia's wish and discovers the cure (which involves destroying the wish-giving demon's enchanted amulet) the ragtag gang infiltrate the Master's lair to do so. A version of Buffy eventually shows up and they attack together. By the time Giles manages to destroy the ring every other main character who wasn't already dead is, including Buffy who gets offed by the Master himself. Then Giles smashes the amulet and the world returns to normal.
    Anayanka: You trusting fool! How do you know the other world is any better than this?
    Giles: Because it has to be. (smashes amulet)
  • Seven Days: This is a regular occurrence, where the team will work to send Frank back in time. In the second episode 98% of the world's population, including all the main characters except Frank, die due to a virus outbreak/attack. They work to get Frank and the sphere back in time, knowing that if he succeeds they'll all be fine.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In the episode The Visitor, Benjamin Sisko is trapped in subspace by a Negative Space Wedgie and periodically comes back for a few minutes at a time into the life of his son Jake, at ever increasing intervals. Jake abandons his writing career and spends his whole life trying to find a way to save his father. Eventually he determines that the tie between them can only be severed at the point of Jake's death. He poisons himself so that he'll die at the exact time of Benjamin's next visit, sever the tie, undo about sixty years, and put Benjamin back a few seconds before the anomaly, giving him time to jump out of the way.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In the episode Yesterday's Enterprise the Enterprise-D sacrifices itself to cover the return of the Enterprise-C back to its original time in order to prevent the alternate timeline it emerged into from occurring.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: In the episode Twlight, an alternate future is shown where Humanity is all but wiped out by the Xindi, due to Archer losing his ability to form long-term memory, and thus not being able to lead the Enterprise crew to stop the Xindi from attacking Earth. When it is discovered that the parasites causing Archer's illness can be eliminated from the past by eliminating them from the present, the surviving members of the crew (after most of them are killed when the bridge is destroyed) attempt to complete Archer's treatment in order to change the past. As the ship is invaded, they gradually get killed off - until Archer realises that if he is destroyed, so will the parasites, thus using his dying moment to trigger the ship to self-destruct, destroying him and thus the parasites, and resetting the timeline.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • In the episode "2010", the heroes attempt to send a note backward through time to prevent the covert sterilization of humanity by what were believed to be friendly aliens. All four of them are killed, but they manage to send back a cryptic clue which eventually prevents involvement with the aliens, and thus the timeline that lead to their deaths.
    • In the final episode "Unending" the titular SG-1 are trapped between two Ori battleships. Samantha Carter freezes time outside of the ship. They grow old on board and eventually Carter works out a way to escape — the twist being, they use the projectiles as an energy source to go back in time (or something like that), but one of them has to stay old. They choose Teal'c, the Token Non-Human, since he ages very slowly, and the ship is blown up by the laser. Luckily, it works, so Teal'c is sent back in time to put in a special program Carter wrote, allowing them to escape.
  • Warehouse 13: At the end of Season 3 the Warehouse is destroyed, important supporting characters were all dead, and the world was coming to an end. At the start of Season 4 the heroes can rewind time by 24 hours if they get the right magical goodies, but a secret society takes exception to it. The heroes drop like flies, but no problem, it'll all be fixed in the rewind.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition: In the main quest "In Hushed Whispers", the Inquisitor and Dorian are propelled into a Bad Future where the Big Bad has won. Their former companions and Leliana then sacrifice themselves to return the Inquisitor and Dorian back to the present, preventing this future from ever occurring.
  • Ghost Trick: After being stuck on a submarine Sissel and Missile say their farewells to Lyne to hitch a ride on a torpedo towards a separated room that contains Yomeil's body so that they can rewind time one last time and undo the death that started it all.

    Web Comics 
  • Schlock Mercenary: One story arc revolved around trying to undo a false-vacuum collapse that will obliterate space itself. The same disaster made time travel possible when ordinarily it isn't, so Kevyn is chosen to go back in time with the information that will prevent the disaster (and incidentally prevent the death of Captain Tagon). The physics of the time gate requires those left behind to keep it open as long as possible in order to send Kevyn as far back as possible; they all die doing so to give Kevyn a chance.

    Western Animation 
  • Justice League: one episode sees Batman, Wonder Woman, and John Steward travel to a Bad Future, where they team up with the future League to prevent it from ever occurring in the first place. Many of the future League members die in the battle, but the proper timeline, as seen in Batman Beyond, is ultimately restored.
  • Averted in Code Lyoko, where it's explicitly said that even the "Return to the past" ability of the supercomputer's can't bring back the dead. Doesn't stop it from being activated when people are on the verge of being killed, though.
  • Avengers Assemble: In one episode, the Squadron Supreme uses the Reality Gem to create a reality where they're heroes and the Avengers are bad guys. Being aware of this by the time it seems he'll have to sacrifice himself to save the day, Iron Man does so in the express belief he'll be restored along with the original reality. He's proven right.

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