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Recap / The Outer Limits 1995 S 3 E 13 Dead Mans Switch

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The Control Voice: Young idealists often dream of having the power to save the world. But would that dream become a nightmare if saving the world could also mean destroying it?

When aliens are spotted heading for Earth, five people are hidden in bunkers around the world and told to man dead man switches for a doomsday device, just in case the aliens are hostile.

The Control Voice: Our destiny is controlled by the choices we make. Those choices can turn an ordinary man into a king, or reduce him to little more than a pawn. With the fate of the world in your hands... what would you choose?

Dead Man's Tropes:

  • Bottle Episode: Almost all of this episode takes place in an underground bunker.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: A fleet of alien spaceships are seen heading toward Earth. Knowing they might be evil, a Doomsday plan with a Dead Man's Switch is prepared, with five people in individual bunkers sharing the responsibility to prevent the doomsday plan from being enacted (should it become unnecessary) by regularly pressing a button to keep the doomsday device from turning on. The five people in the bunkers are gradually killed off in a variety of ways. The brief hope for peace is extinguished when a second fleet of colonization ships is found and the button pressers lose all contact. They die in their separate bunkers one by one until the last one remains. He finally decides to let it happen when he gets a message from his commander telling him they defeated the aliens with a new weapon. He stops the Doomsday Device at the last second and is told to keep pushing the button until they can disarm it. The last scene shows the aliens who used the commander as a puppet, eating his brains over the glowing red ruins of Washington DC.
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  • Dead Man's Switch: After an alien fleet is detected approaching Earth, a Doomsday Device is prepared by linking every nuclear, chemical and biological weapon in existence. Five people are placed in five bunkers around the world. When an alarm sounds, they have 30 seconds to hit a dead man's switch to disarm it. If none of the five do so in time, the doomsday device will detonate.
  • Monumental Damage: Washington, D.C. is in ruins after the alien attack. The White House, the Capitol Building and especially the Washington Monument are severely damaged.
  • No MacGuffin, No Winner: Humanity sets up several people in underground bunkers to ensure Earth becomes this, by launching all of our nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, if the incoming aliens are hostile.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: This episode has a very brief scene of literal Puppet Masters. The protagonist is down in a secure bunker, where he must push a button every few hours to prevent Earth's last-ditch Doomsday Device from going off. The protagonist's commanding officer is talking to him via video from Washington DC, assuring him that the alien genocide it was meant to avenge is over and they'll relieve him soon, he just has to keep pushing the button until his bunker can be reached. In the episode's final shot, it's seen that the General is a corpse amidst the burning ruins of DC, and spindly sea-spider-like aliens have their limbs stuck into him through a gash in his back, working him like a ventriloquist's dummy.
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  • Wham Shot: The general stumbles with an alien on his back, falling to pull back a curtain and revealed the ruins of Washington D.C.

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