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Lotus Eater Machine / Live-Action TV

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Lotus-Eater Machines in live-action TV.

  • On The 4400, Alana's Promicin ability is to create worlds inside hers and another person's head. The future people use this to romantically set up her and Tom Baldwin by creating a world for them where they've been married for a few years and nobody but them even remembers the 4400. Eventually Tom figures this out and he and Alana have to choose to leave the fantasy world after spending most of a decade together happily married.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: During the second half of Season 4, Dr. Radcliffe abducts May and sticks her in a Matrix-like machine to keep her out of the way while her LMD copy infiltrates SHIELD. Interestingly, he has some trouble keeping her in it — first, he tries to place her in a simulation of a calming spa retreat, only for her constantly on edge mind to latch onto the repetitive nature of the setup. To compensate, he puts her into a simulation of breaking out and fighting her way free, on a loop, but she keeps getting better at it and lasting longer. So, finally, he puts her in another simulation where she relives her mission to Bahrain, but this time with a happier ending. This finally placates her enough to keep her contained. He later decides to see if he can plug the entire world into this system, which he calls The Framework.
    • The Framework later becomes a very interesting Subversion when several other characters, Coulson, Mack, and Fitz are placed into the Framework and For Want of a Nail comes in. Each person inside has their one greatest regret taken away, creating an Alternate Timeline showing the consequences of those regrets not happening. May doesn't kill the girl in Bahrain. However, the girl is still evil and goes on to to murder an entire school, and May suffers a Cynicism Catalyst. All the other character have similar things happen to them, and the result is that the world of the Framework is one where HYDRA took over America, Inhumans are hunted like monsters, and the main characters are either happily working for them or too scared to oppose them. Oh and, Daisy and Ward are dating. Not so idyllic anymore is it?
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  • The main character of Angel has a curse where if he's ever truly happy, he loses his soul and becomes a vampire serial killer. In "Awakening", for plot reasons, the good guys needed this to happen, so they hire a somewhat nefarious looking shaman to cast the spell that would accomplish. The shaman, however, is revealed to be an assassin, and attempts to kill Angel, leaving the spell un-cast, though Angel and company decide they have to face the Beast regardless. Over the course of the episode, it plays out just like a normal episode, with gains and losses, things happening, until the Beast is actually defeated and everyone is happy. Then... everything starts getting freaky as too much happiness results, with far too many good things happening, culminating in a rewind back to the supposedly "failed" spell, which actually worked. The entire episode was a hallucination of Angel's, creating a day when everything fit together perfectly in such a way that it culminated in a moment of true happiness. His soul was taken from his body, and we come face to face with Angelus.
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  • The 100th episode of Arrow, part of the "Invasion" crossover with the rest of the Arrowverse, has Oliver, Sara, Thea, Diggle, and Ray kidnapped by the alien Dominators who put them all into a machine that lets them share a dream world where Oliver never went on his yacht trip and ended up stranded on Lian Yu. Robert and Moira Queen are both alive and together with Robert about to become mayor; Laurel Lance is still alive and engaged to Oliver while Ray is engaged to Felicity; Diggle is the Hood, aided by Felicity; Malcolm Merlyn's wife was never murdered so he never became a villain (or no one knows he's a psycho at least) and his son Tommy is alive; Sara never became a killer and travels the world. Eventually, they all start having flashes of memory of the real world and face a pack of foes trying to get them to stay before escaping. The actual final obstacle to them leaving isn't the villains however, but Laurel who has no idea what is going on, only that her fiancé and sister are seemingly abandoning her on the eve of her wedding.
  • Sally from Being Human (US) gets trapped in a fantasy world within her mind by her alter-ego, Scott. In the dream, Sally and Scott are engaged and living together in a refurbished and decidedly more pleasant version of Sally's house. Zoe the medium must enter the dream to fish Sally out of it before "Scott" kills her, Aidan and Josh.
  • In Beyond the Walls there is the little house inside the big House at the lake, where Lisa is reunited with her dead little sister who doesn't want her to leave.
  • Black Mirror: The titular 80's beach town in "San Junipero" turns out to be an incredibly advanced virtual simulation where the consciousnesses of the dying can be uploaded, making the place an Artificial Afterlife. The living can visit the sim for 5 hours every week, and no more as it's implied prolonged exposure is dangerous. Turns out to be quite a heartwarming example.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Normal Again" plays with this. Usually, finding oneself in a mental institution is not anyone's idea of "paradise" — but it might as well be, in contrast to what all Buffy had to contend with at that point in the series. Buffy's younger sister Dawn even accuses Buffy of not caring about her — when it's revealed that Buffy's parents are still together and alive, but Dawn doesn't exist. To be certain, the institution seems like the decent enough place — albeit with the doctors being a bit amoral and unprofessional (They practically encourage Buffy to kill her friends.). The ambiguous ending of the episode has led to a lot of Fan Wank and Epileptic Trees.
  • Charmed (1998) featured a magical version, with the Source using it on Piper to retrieve a spell to remove the sister's powers, which had been removed from the Book of Shadows, and existed only in her head.
  • Chuck: In "Chuck vs Phase Three", Chuck is captured by a Belgian scientist who traps him in a nightmarish world where all of Chuck's friends and family members try to force him to flash in order to extract the Intersect from him, which is partially suppressed by a device Chuck's mother used on him to keep him out of harm's way. When Chuck is still unable to flash, The Belgian moves to Lobotomy in order to remove all of Chuck's thoughts and emotions leaving nothing but the Intersect. Fortunately, he awakens at the end of the episode when Sarah manages to communicate with him in his near-death state.
  • Doctor Who has had a few of these:
    • "The Keys of Marinus": The TARDIS crew arrive in the apparently utopian city of Morphoton and are presented with luxurious gifts. It transpires that this is all an illusion, and the reality is much more austere. Barbara realises this after the brainwashing on her fails, and the episode thereafter alternates between the illusion that everyone else sees and the grimy reality that Barbara has become aware of. For instance, Susan shows Barbara a beautiful new dress that she's been given, then a cut to Barbara's POV shows her holding a bundle of dirty rags.
    • "The Family of Blood": The Doctor has rewritten his personality to be that of an ordinary human named John Smith. When the titular Family comes after him, he finds the item that will allow him to restore the Doctor personality... but receives a glimpse of a full, happy life with his love interest, who he'll never truly be able to connect with as the Doctor.
    • "Forest of the Dead": Donna ends up in one of these after a teleporter accident. She, like the thousands of others "saved" by the Library, ends up in a recreation of 21st century Earth, and ends up marrying a man and having two children before she's rescued. However this does take place in the span of less than ten minutes.
    • "Amy's Choice": The Dream Lord traps the TARDIS crew between two scenarios and forces them to choose which one is the dream, and which the reality. One is Rory's fantasy (married to Amy, baby on the way, successful Doctor in Upper Leadworth); one is the Doctor's (on the TARDIS, facing mortal peril). To make it trickier, Upper Leadworth is being invaded by the alien-possessed elderly who can reduce people to ashes. It turns out neither is the true reality; as the Doctor ultimately points out, the Dream Lord only has power over dreams.
    • "Asylum of the Daleks": Oswin Oswald is a human who lives in an asylum for insane Daleks, hiding from them and living on soufflés. Right? Wrong. She's been turned into a Dalek and set up that reality inside her head because she couldn't cope with her transformation.
    • "Last Christmas": The modus operandi of the episode's monsters, the Dream Crabs. They latch on to your head, put you into a dream state, then gradually suck out your brain. They put everyone in several layers of dreams within dreams, just in case you escape a layer. The final count for our heroes is five layers of dreams.
    • "It Takes You Away": The Solitract, a lonely sentient universe, creates a portal to the real universe. After people from the main universe travel through the portal, it creates illusions of their lost loved ones to discourage them from returning home.
  • Dollhouse: The feared "Attic" is revealed to be an inversion of this. It's a giant neural network where people that the Rossum Corporation deemed to be a threat are hooked up to use their brains for their computational power. The person who's plugged in experiences their worst nightmares playing out in front of them, such as their friends dying and being unable to help, fighting an endless, hopeless battle against an enemy that never gives up, or being fed your own legs for dinner. The oldest person who was trapped inside, Rossum's former co-founder, had been travelling from one personal nightmare to the other to Mercy Kill as many people as he could and hopefully stop Rossum.
  • Eureka:
    • Given an interesting twist in an episode (apparently a take-off of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Remember Me") where the entire populace of Eureka is slowly disappearing around Sheriff Carter, consumed by strange glowing portals, leaving him as the only one who even remembers them existing in the first place. Turns out he's hooked himself up to a prototype virtual reality psychoanalysis machine, which has trapped him in its illusion in a somewhat overzealous attempt to force him to come to terms with his fear of losing his daughter (at the time, the subject of a custody dispute between himself and his ex-wife). He breaks the spell by taking her to the edge of town and leading her into one of the portals, at which point the machine declares him cured and allows him to wake up.
    • In the first three episodes of season five, Allison, Zehn, Fargo, and the rest of the Astraeus crew are trapped in a virtual reality where the ftl drive malfunctioned and sent them four years into the future. In the real world they're missing for a month and after Jack, Henry and Jo rescue them the corrupt senator responsible is imprisoned in a VR of Jack's office, all alone, with no way out.
  • Farscape: Crichton is twice made, by different factions, to hallucinate that he is back on Earth. The second time, he quickly realizes it's not real, but can't figure out how to wake up, and the dream steadily becomes more and more surreal. When he finally makes it back to Earth by sheer luck, he initially assumes it's another mind trick. Oddly, the question he asks as a test when he makes it back to his own world and time is one that could have been answered by either of the previous two.
    • The first one involved him realizing something was wrong when everything was exactly like when he left, as if he had gone back in time. He becomes increasingly aggravated at how everything is the same once he realizes this and manages to break out once he enters somewhere he has never been (ladies room) and finds a glowing wall, he is then spoken to by the creators of the hallucination.
    • In "John Quixote", Crichton and Chiana are trapped in a virtual reality game. Something that blurs the line between this trope and Cuckoo Nest a bit is that, initially, they're quite aware of the nature of the world, however as Near the end of the episode, Crichton apparently escapes and returns to Moya. He finds that, as he as feared since Scorpius came aboard Moya, Scorpius has gone crazy and betrayed them. Except, no, it was the game still, preying on Crichton's long-standing fears. Then, it turns out the game was designed by Stark, who was blaming John for Zaahn's death earlier in the series. The game was specifically designed to do this to Crichton, and only him. One interesting difference in this case is that, at the start of the next episode, Crichton actually mentions this and wonders if he really did escape at all. Typically, this possibility is almost entirely ignored outside of the episode it takes place in.
  • Game of Thrones: The warlocks of Qarth attempt to lure Daenerys with a vision of her dead husband and stillborn son in the House of the Undying in the second season finale, "Valar Morgulis".
  • In one episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Hercules goes to The Underworld on a mission. He decides to take a detour to the Elysian Fields to visit his dead wife and children. He's heartbroken to find that they weren't even aware that they were dead, an illusionary Hercules was with them the whole time, and they were living out their "lives" as a happy family.
  • On Heroes, Matt Parkman's father Maury is a living lotus-eater machine. Unfortunately for his victims, he doesn't trap them in pleasant scenarios, giving rise to his In-Series Nickname: "the Nightmare Man".
  • House: In the season 2 finale, House gets shot twice, after which he wakes up in a hospital bed next to the guy who shot him. Due to an experimental treatment House can walk without a cane and is working on a case that gets increasingly bizarre. It turns out House actually in a sort of dream hallucination world as a result of the trauma from the gunshot wound, and he breaks out by pushing the limits as to what his mind can accept as his hallucinated team begs him to stop, at one point even pointing out how much better off he is.
  • Kamen Rider Zi-O: Another Decade has the power to abduct people and put them into pocket dimensions called Another Worlds, where they live out their greatest wishes on an infinite loop. Every person he traps thusly gives him the power to summon an Alternate Universe version of a Kamen Rider (usually villains from The Bad Guy Wins universes) who serve as his loyal minions.
  • Legend of the Seeker:
    • In an episode, Richard gets put under a spell by Darken Rahl's wizard, in which Richard wakes up back in his village with his father still alive and nothing amiss. He's with his girlfriend, who is actually Rahl himself in disguise. Rahl's goal is for Richard to tell "her" his "dreams" of being a Seeker, including where he hid the MacGuffin. Thanks to Zedd and Kahlan, Richard manages to see through Rahl's disguise and snap out of the spell just before being lost to it for good.
    • There is also an inverse example in the second season, where Richard wanders into the Valley of Perdition, which traps him in a nightmare of banelings overrunning the entire world and killing all his friends... except Richard, leaving him the last person in the world. Somehow, he manages to snap out of this dream world as well, just in time to defeat Nicci.
  • Done slightly differently in The Legend Of William Tell when there is no actual machine. Instead a whole valley uses this. The heroes get everything they ever wanted, but the illusions all turn nasty and try to kill them, sometimes overlapping with one person's illusion going after another person.
  • In the Legends of Tomorrow Trapped in TV Land episode "The One Where We're Trapped On TV", it turns out the shows the Legends were trapped in were based on what they wanted out of life because Charlie is trying to protect them. Nate just wants to spend more time with his friends and Zari wants her brother Behran back, so the three of them get put in the Friends parody. Astra wants her mother back, and Constantine said that he wanted to make things up to her by watching over them living in a big house, so they become the aristocrats and butler in the Downton Abbey parody. Sara and Ava want to be co-captains for life, but not lose anyone else, so they become captains in the Star Trek: The Original Series parody, but with an all-android crew. And Rory just wants to be a criminal again, so becomes a villain in the same show.
  • On Lexx, Lyekka, who is actually a carnivorous plant monster, causes her prey to hallucinate achieving their deepest fantasy so they don't notice that she's consuming them.
  • Love, Death & Robots has the episode Beyond the Aquila Rift in which, just like in the novel it's based on, a Lotus-Eater Machine is used to keep the human protagonist from having to face the truth of his situation and going mad. It turns out to be one of the rare wholesome examples of this trope - given the actual reality he finds himself in, the virtual alternative really is the only way he gets to keep his sanity.
  • In The Librarians 2014 "...And the Happily Ever Afters", Flynn discovers that Prospero has magicked the main cast (and Moriarty) to live their ideal lives in a small town; Evie is the sheriff, enjoying having a stable life as part of a community; Jacob is teaching multiple subjects at the local university, finally getting the recognition for his knowledge; Cassandra is an ex-astronaut, encouraging others to share her love of science; Ezekiel is a maverick FBI agent, acting like he's the star of an action cop show; and Moriarty is the mayor, getting the power he wants, and also Evie's boyfriend. The spell's effect on Flynn himself is more subtle; it gives him more convoluted versions of the mystery to solve, while making him forget he doesn't do it alone any more.
  • The flash-sideways timeline in Lost is an interesting example because the inhabitants of the timeline created it themselves.
  • The circus in Maddigan's Quest visited a community that tricked them into drinking "mindweed", a substance that made them believe that the worms they're eating is actually a banquet and the rough sacks on the floor are feather beds.
  • The series finale of Metal Hurlant Chronicles has a man selling access to VR simulations. It's gradually revealed that the sims are secretly partially acted out (a fantasy of the customer, as a banquet guest in an earlier episode having sex with a nubile serving girl, is aided by a female employee actually having sex with him), ultimately ending in the customer beating his real-life boss to death while thinking he's still in the simulation. The Reveal is that the proprietor is actually in a simulation himself, one set up by a futuristic parole board to see what prisoners would do with their freedom.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • "Tempests": The protagonist's spaceship, carrying a vaccine for his dying colony, crashes into the heart of an Air Whale in a gas giant's atmosphere. When he goes outside to check the damage, he's bitten by a nasty, basketball-sized spider and passes out just as he returns to the airlock. When he wakes up, he keeps passing out and reawakening between a reality in which he's lying on a hospital bed with his family at his bedside, having already been rescued and now hallucinating from his colony's plague, and a reality in which he and the remaining crewmen are struggling to fix their ship, in which he's hallucinating from the spider venom, while another crewmember is being webbed up and parasitized by the spiders while babbling happily to herself. He eventually rejects the hospital reality as a Lotus Eater Machine (and reasons that if there's any chance the colony still needs to be saved, he has to take it), finds a way to escape from the wrecked ship and delivers the vaccine. At his moment of success, however, the view changes to reveal that the spiders actually overwhelmed the ship near the beginning of the episode, and now he and the entire crew are lost in their dream worlds while they're being webbed up and sucked dry. Both the good and bad realities were illusions.
    • "The Refuge": The protagonist is stranded in the middle of nowhere in a blizzard when a rich man offers him shelter in his mansion, along with several other random people. Eventually, it is revealed that all of these characters are terminally ill people in stasis, with their minds uploaded into virtual reality to prevent their minds from atrophying. The rich man was the only one who remembered this, and since he is aware of the dream, he has seemingly godlike control over the environment and bullies the others around. The protagonist figures it out too and manages to defeat the rich man and free the others. They then make the blizzard go away so it is a true paradise. A technician informs the protagonist a cure was found for his condition, but he choses to stay until the girl he fell in love with in the simulation is cured as well.
  • The Person of Interest episode "6741", in which Shaw appears to escape from Samaritan, turns out to be this. It was all a mere ploy by Samaritan to try and find a way to access rival AI The Machine.
  • Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams: "Real Life" deals with two different worlds: A futuristic one with a woman cop where (aside from an incident that resulted in the deaths of fifteen police officers) almost everything goes well for her, and a slightly more modern day one with a man who is dealing with the murder of his wife where almost nothing works out. Each world is accessed via VR technology so eventually the protagonist isn't sure which world is the real one. The future world is the right one and she chooses wrong, because she feels her "fake" life is too perfect and needed to suffer for it.
  • Power Rangers Operation Overdrive has an episode where the Mercury Ranger is made to believe that his fiancée is still alive, he was never mutated into a Lava Lizard, and the entire season never took place.
  • The Prisoner (2009): The explanation for the existence of The Village and its inescapability is that it is a collective subconscious dream state. At the end the villain arranges to be woken up by killing himself so he can return to the real world, leaving the hero behind to lead the Village.
  • Quark. In "Goodbye Polumbus", Captain Quark is sent to investigate a planet from which no-one has returned, and finds it under the influence of a Lotus-Eater Machine in an evil Gorgon plot to lure away the top scientists and space captains. Quark finds himself tempted by a woman who looks just like one he fell in love with at the Academy, but he manfully resists and destroys the machine, only to find the beautiful woman he was smooching is actually an ugly alien. Quark hastily beams up before she can show her gratitude for freeing her people.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • "Better Than Life" features a Virtual Reality Game that can make all your deepest fantasies come true. In the end, though, Rimmer's deep self-loathing results in the destruction of everybody's perfect worlds. In the books, the game is almost impossible to leave, because in order to leave, somebody has to want to leave, and nobody ever does (also, it's hard for people to realize that they're in the game in the first place, as the game sets itself up in such a way as to prevent people from realizing that). As a result, the person's real-life body will eventually waste away and die. Somewhat of a spoof in the novel, as the Cat is so self-absorbed that nothing will fulfill his desires short of living in a mountain kingdom and being waited on by giant, topless, singing, dancing Valkyries, putting even Rimmer's incredibly indulgent fantasy to shame, while Kryten can come and go freely as he has no hopes, dreams, or desires besides getting a new squeezy-mop.
    • The novel version of "Better Than Life" ends with Lister having to make the decision whether to stay in the simulation or return to the hardships of traveling back to an Earth six million years in the future where he may well be the last human as he understands it. Talk about a Downer Ending. The second novel reveals that the Lotus Eater Machine digs deep into their psyche, bringing to light their deepest desires. Which, unfortunately for Rimmer (or fortunately, since it is what breaks them out of the fake paradise), revolves around his self-loathing. Rimmer's self-hatred ends up destroying the dream world. When they finally leave, they find that reality is suspiciously better than it should be (Lister's 2nd cup of coffee tastes better than the first, he drops a slice of buttered toast 20 times and it always lands butter side up, a TV dinner tastes better than its cardboard box, etc.) and discover that they're still in the game, at which point the game designer appears and congratulates them for figuring it out, then lets them leave.
    • It is later reversed in "Back to Reality" by a hallucinogenic venom from a Despair Squid that causes the group to, together, hallucinate a reality that drives them to the brink of suicide. They are only stopped by Holly forcing Kryten to release a mood stabilizer.
    • The three-part miniseries "Back to Earth" that aired in 2009. Act II and Act III get increasingly bizarre until they are revealed as a Lotus Eater Machine hallucination brought on by a hallucinogen that links all the affected characters in a pleasant dreamworld. After finding out, Lister is tempted to stay but ultimately he opts for the real thing.
  • Used in the episode "Out of the Blue" of Sanctuary. Will and Magnus find themselves in simulation of a different life, but periodically wake up from the hallucination, only to be put back to sleep by a group of scientists. At the end of the episode it's revealed that it was a benevolent treatment to help them recover from the poison of a psychworm. This newly-discovered abnormal is a giant worm creature that normally puts its victims in these sorts of hallucinations so it can devour them quietly.
  • Sh15uya takes place entirely within a Lotus Eater Machine, and although the viewers know this from the very start, the story revolves around the main characters figuring this out. It might not seem perfect at first (there's a three-way gang war going on, and violence is common) but as one character puts it, "Shibuya has everything that you young people want: the latest styles, fashions, entertainment, you name it." It turns out that the Lotus Eater Machine is being used to rehabilitate the cast from teenage thugs to model citizens.
  • In the first season finale of Sleepy Hollow, Abbie and Ichabod are faced with separate dream worlds when they enter purgatory. Interestingly enough, they are presented worlds in which they never encountered the supernatural- Abbie's dream is of her going to Quantico and Corbin and Andy still being alive, while Ichabod's is of him never defecting to the rebels and still having a good relationship with his father. The absence of supernatural-related characters such as Jenny and Katrina is palpable, since you'd expect them to be in Abbie and Ichabod's dreamworlds respectively.
  • Smallville:
    • Inverted in an episode where Clark is trapped in a nightmare world - he finds himself in an asylum, and made to believe that everything he has been through, superpowers and all, was paranoid delusion. He is rescued by the Martian Manhunter.
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate SG-1:
      • Inverted in "The Gamekeeper", where instead of being an idyllic paradise, the machine-created realm forces Jack and Daniel to repeatedly relive the worst moments of their past.
      • "The Changeling": Teal'c finds himself bouncing back and fourth between three realities: one where he's human, and he and the rest of the team are firemen; another where he's back on the base living fairly "typically"; and a third reality where he's lying, injured, in the middle of a field, surrounded by dead soldiers, and sharing his symbiote with his equally injured Old Master friend Bra'tac in a desperate effort to stay alive. However, he doesn't seem to remember the third one when he's in the other two realities, and when he's in those realities, he thinks the other one is a dream. The third reality is the real one, and his delirious mind is creating the two fake realities.
      • "New Order": The Human-form Replicator Fifth, who has an obsession with Sam, kidnaps her and sets up an idyllic fantasy existence for Carter, where she's happily married to (her boyfriend) Pete. Pete is actually Fifth, using his power over Sam's mind to disguise himself as Pete.
      • "Reckoning": RepliCarter captures Daniel Jackson and sends him into a similar false reality where he's talking to Oma Desala (actually the Replicator in disguise) to interrogate him for information about the Ancients.
    • Stargate Atlantis: In "Home", the characters think they've found a way to return to Earth, though it doesn't become apparent until about midway through the episode that their Lotus Eater Machine is individual and doesn't include the others. Each of their worlds was designed with everything they wanted to keep them from fighting back, but starts defying logic in ways that provoke their suspicion. Major Sheppard somehow figured this out early, and to test it, included in his mental fantasy a sweet apartment he had never seen, an attractive girl that he remembers (unsuccessfully) asking out, and two of his deceased friends showing up without explanation.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: This was the plot of the original pilot, "The Cage", though Pike sees through the ruse easily. However, another character trapped there doesn't want to leave the machine — and knows that it's all an illusion - as after having been horrifically mangled in a crash the aliens were able to restore the illusion of her original beautiful appearance. They give her a illusory Captain Pike to live with until the real Pike returns to the planet in a later episode made up of the original pilot.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • "Future Imperfect": Riker is trapped in a Lotus Eater Machine by a benevolent captor who just wants to be friends with him. When he realizes it the first time, it creates a second Lotus Eater Machine, in which he's a prisoner of a recurring enemy Romulan who was behind the first one as well. Both times inconsistencies/inaccuracies are what tip Riker off.
    • In "Remember Me", Dr. Crusher gets trapped in a pocket dimension shaped by her own thoughts, in which the crew members disappear one by one and are forgotten by the rest of the crew, while weird portals (leading back to the real world) open up everywhere- eventually she's the only one left and the universe starts collapsing.
    • Poor old Riker is again trapped in one in "Frame of Mind". He's soon to be off on a covert mission, but reality isn't what it seems to be, continuously breaking. Turns out he already left on the mission, and was caught. The varied layers of "reality" were his mind fighting back against being probed.
    • And again, although subverted, in "Shades of Grey"; Rikar is infected with mysterious microbes, and Pulaski plugs him into a neural stimulator to keep his brain active to help fight off the bugs. Turns out the germs grow better when the patient has happy memories, and dark memories can be fatal to them.
    • "Ship In A Bottle". During one of Data's Sherlock Holmes holodeck adventures, Moriarty gains actual sentience. He then theorizes that he must have come to life, and he should be able to leave the holodeck, which he does. The rest of the episode is Data and Picard trying to figure out what's going on until they realize everybody on the Enterprise suddenly is left handed, like Moriarty. They manage to escape the program, and create a small subroutine so that Moriarty, still living in his dream, can dream it for as long as he wants with the love he found in his Lotus Eater Machine.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • In "Bliss", a Negative Space Wedgie in the form of a gigantic psychic creature (referred to as a "telepathic pitcher plant")note  tricks the entire crew into believing that it is a wormhole that leads to Earth, that the Doctor and Seven of Nine (who are both immune) have to be deactivated, then making them pass out and experience a supremely pleasant false reality in order to feast on them. Double Subverted for the characters Seven of Nine and Naomi Wildman, who are able to resist its effects because they have no particular desire to go to Earth. When they tried to escape, the creature was able to then exploit that desire and make then think they succeeded when they were still inside its stomach.
    • In "Waking Moments", telepathic aliens who exist primarily in a dreaming state invade the crew's dreams, forcing them to all join into a single group dream that seems totally real, in order to attack them. Only Chakotay, the Magical Native American, knows it is a dream at first, and uses his lucid dreaming technique to control the dream world. Chakotay is able, with the holographic Doctor's help, to threaten the sleeping aliens into waking the rest of the crew.
    • In "The Thaw", several aliens in suspended animation wait out a planetary disaster using such a system. Unfortunately their combined anxieties created a Monster Clown character who was the personification of Fear, tormenting them for its amusement.
    • In "Projections", the EMH gets trapped in a holodeck simulation and starts questioning his sanity to the point where he starts to believe he's a real person trapped on the holodeck and slowly dying.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In one episode, O'Brien is caught for espionage (he just browsed some files on some planet's "internet" where apparently it's hacking and illegal) and is instantly sentenced and given memories of years spent in prison, without actually serving the time. O'Brien angsts about what he supposedly did in "prison". While he understands that it was all fake, he still believes that his actions in the illusion were his own. Bashir explains that the reason he can't just erase the programmed memories from his brain is that it wasn't just an implant, it was an interactive (and incredibly accelerated) experience of spending decades in confinement. The place and people weren't real, but O'Brien's choices and actions within it were, including killing his friend/bunkmate of 20 years in a fight over a scrap of food after they had been starved for weeks on end.
    • In one episode, the crew was stunned to find that Starfleet had formed an alliance with the Dominion in exchange for technology and weapons. With the station now under occupation, Sisko gathers the others together for a coup — which turns out to be a VR simulation in a cave somewhere. The Dominion's agents were experimenting on Sisko to see how he might try to undermine them in the future.
  • Supergirl (2015) does an adaptation of For the Man Who Has Everything based around Kara instead of Superman. And in her case, it's arguably worse than the source material, in that unlike Clark, Kara actually remembers a life on Krypton, so it's even more poignant for her to find herself back there with her parents alive, her aunt Astra not a villain but a happy part of the family, and Kal-El being young and looking up to her. And thus, it's utterly heartbreaking when she has to fight off the influence of the Black Mercy and break out of the illusion.
  • Supernatural:
    • "What Is And What Should Never Be": After fighting a Djinn, Dean wakes up in a world where his mother is still alive and he and Sam are living normal lives. This included a slight inversion; rather than creating a perfect world for Dean, it granted him a specific wish, that being that the demon had never killed his mother. As a result, their father never became a monster hunter, all the people the Winchesters saved are dead and Sam and Dean have absolutely nothing in common. Eventually Dean realizes that, rather than changing the past, the Djinn just messed with his head to make him think he was in an alternate reality. Unusual in that Dean chooses to try and leave before he realizes that it's an illusion. Just believing that all of the people he and Sam saved are 'actually' dead now is enough to make him go for the Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Heaven works this way, with each individual soul (or pair of soulmates) occupying a personalized paradise meant specifically for them. Unfortunately, each soul (unless they have a soulmate) is actually alone in their Happy Place and any loved ones they interact with are just fantasies. These other people may not even be in Heaven. They could still be on Earth, in Hell, Purgatory, etc. However, at least one clever individual, Ash, figured out how to move between different people's personal paradises.
  • The Twilight Zone:
    • The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "A Nice Place To Visit," in which Rocky, the unsavory protagonist is trapped permanently in a Lotus Eater Machine where he has easy access to money, women, and everything else that he wants, that turns out to be Hell itself.
    • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Dreams for Sale", the workers in a future world are connected to a Dreamatron which creates a fully interactive dream for them, depicting idyllic or exciting worlds, when they are not on shift. Options include Country Picnic (experienced by Jenny), Jail Break and Caribbean Cruise.
    • The Twilight Zone (2002): The reveal of "The Pool Boy" is that the endless nightmare the main character finds himself in, where he's repeatedly murdered by a mysterious man, is actually a virtual prison that he was put in after being convicted of murder.
  • Ultra Series
    • In Ultraman Tiga, the plant-like Eldritch Abomination Gijera and its flowers produce a pollen that causes people who inhale it enter a dream-like state of blissful happiness. The catch is that the pollen is extremely addicting and the monster and its flowers only produce these sporadically, so when there isn't pollen available, people viciously fight each other in their desperation for pollen, eventually causing civilization to collapse and let Gijera's master destroy it without opposition.
    • The Planetary Parasite Solitura from Ultraman Mebius does this to those it assimilates into its form, putting them into a state of happiness as they are slowly and unknowingly absorbed into its consciousness. For this reason, it targets miserable, depressed, and unhappy humans, with its minions/offshoots tempting them with promises of paradise.
  • In an episode of the TV series of V (1983), Donovan is captured by the Visitors and wakes to find himself in the bedroom of an apartment where it is ten years in the future, the war has been won and the Visitors vanquished and he is living happily with his son and his wife, Julie. In reality, of course, Julie and his son are Visitors wearing shapeshifting devices to alter their appearance and the aim is to trick him into revealing the time and location of a resistance meeting - information that he would believe was no longer relevant ten years later. Donovan finally realises it's all a trick when the Visitors overplay their hand, leaving a future edition of a newspaper in his room which includes a picture of the Star Child still as a little girl. Donovan knows, but the Visitor's don't, that the Star Child evolved into a young woman at the start of the series.'d think that they'd have figured she might have grown up anyway ten years later, so why they still had her a child...!
  • Warehouse 13 A trap freezes our heroes into a trance where they experience their happiest place while the floor under them starts to crumble. Pete gets to make out with his girlfriend, making him realize that he truly loves her; Helena gets to play with her dead daughter, making her seriously freak out when she is forcibly thrown out of the dream; and Myka... gets to work on a hard problem at the Warehouse while her boss gives her praise and coffee. Well, that is just sad.
  • In an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena goes to The Underworld and is shocked to find her son, Solan, in Tartarus. Solan explains that he figured out the Elysian Fields' illusion, and begged to go to Tartarus because he was about to Go Mad from the Revelation.
  • The X-Files:
    • "Field Trip": Mulder and Scully are caught in a... (wait for it)... Giant Underground Fungal Organism which uses hallucinogens to keep them trapped while it tries to digest them.
    • "Amor Fati" also touched on this, where Mulder was offered a world where he had everything he'd desired, including his sister back, but the cost was the rest of the world going to hell. Ultimately, he got pulled out of the trance by Scully.
    • "Kill Switch" also incorporated this, though it was less of a utopia, and more like the Castle Anthrax scene of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".


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