The reset button technique
(based on the idea of status quo ante
) is a plot device
that interrupts continuity in works of fiction. Simply put, use of a reset button device returns all characters and situations to the status quo
they held before a major change of some sort was introduced. Often used in science fiction television
series, animated series
, soap operas
, and comic books
, the device allows elaborate and dramatic changes to characters and the fictional universe that might otherwise invalidate the premise of the show with respect to future continuity
. Writers may, for example, use the technique to allow the audience to experience the death of the lead character
, which traditionally would not be possible without effectively ending the work.
Effective use of this device depends on the audience being unaware of the continuity status, or successful suspension of disbelief that continuity is or will be interrupted, and the eventual communication of the status of continuity to the audience. It is usually employed as a plot twist that effectively undoes all the happenings of the episode. Common uses of this technique draw liberally from science fiction and metaphysical ideas, perhaps contributing to its widespread use in those genres. Examples of the reset button technique include dream sequences, alternate-history flashbacks, daydreams, time travel and hallucinations.
Episodic shows are not examples of the reset button technique, but merely lack of continuity.