...about a millisecond later and pretty much exactly the same as it was before?
I've encountered this in at least three stories in the past few years: once in a children's fantasy series (novels), once in Doctor Who, and once in a ten book epic that started out decades ago (1977!). Is it a thing now? Is it the zeitgeist? Is there a zeitgeist?
It's like a few years before that, I noticed a couple of "why do the dead not die?"* type of fantasy books, a sort of modern day approach to the traditional harrowing of hell.
But probably it's me seeing meaning in what are merely coincidences.
So yeah. While the "destroy the universe" thing is an old, old trope, I used to associate it with the rebirth of a new universe. After Ragnorak and the Fimbulwinter, the survivors creep out of the woods and start a new life. The New Sun finishes off the old Urth and brings in a new age. The dinosaurs march off to their doom but then new species rise up and multiply. The elements cycle around in each age, yadda yadda yadda. The point is, it's not the same freaking universe all over again!
Do people not want to let things go?
Why do the dead not die?
It must be something in the air.
Argh. I myself did the apocalypse thing for my 2008 NaNo! (I used the biblical Book of Revelation... and Norse mythology, because... uh... I can't resist Norse gods.) Did I do that "recreate the same universe" thing too? *facepalms* *goes to reread the last chapter* Oh yeah. I had it split between three main characters. One gathered up all the dead human souls and went off to start a new universe somewhere (freed of the supernatural, a fresh start, old memories wiped), one stayed behind to rule the wreckage of old earth in the body of Baphomet, and one plotted with Odin to make an assassin to kill God. (And then Odin faded away.) I think. Heh.
I didn't hit the giant reset button in the sky! Instead of restoring from a backup, I reformatted and went back to factory settings? While the corrupted data files were carried off onto a flash drive somewhere. Go me. Or something. But clearly I'm an indecisive wimp. (Three endings? What the hell? I need to go back and revise that novel.)
I dunno. I just feel it's something of a cop-out to return everything back the way it was. It's especially bad if most people don't even remember that anything happened at all. It's the same with the "wipe their memories and return them to their old lives" endings. They're almost as annoying as "it was just a dream!" We went through all of that, but if no one can tell the difference, did it really happen? Maybe the universe ended in between the previous sentence and this one. Does it matter? It leaves the reader/viewer with that hollow aftertaste.
I guess people are scared of dying. I'm scared of dying! But that's why I want my fiction to be braver than me, so that I can borrow that courage.
Let's see how many more reset-apocalypses I come across in the next few years... It looks like P. C. Hodgell's Kencyrath series is going down that DESTROY! PRESERVE! CREATE! road. But hopefully it will be the "new birth" version rather than the "clone-memory-implant" version. But it's not as urgent an apocalypse as some I've seen, so who knows how many more books it will be before the Big Kaboom.
* Ursula LeGuin, in "The Other Wind". Because Ursula LeGuin is Teh Awesome. Yeah.