In literature, a cliffhanger was a literary device where a story ended in a precarious situation.

Chapters of serials from the 1930s often ended in cliffhangers. According to Tom Paris, this was to bring people back into theaters. He designed cliffhangers into the chapter ends of his holonovel The Adventures of Captain Proton, including one that stated "Chaotica fires his fiendish death ray! Certain death for Proton, as his rocket ship bursts into flames!!!" Harry Kim pointed out that the recap was inaccurate and that they did not burst into flame at the end of the last adventure. Paris stated that cliffhangers were "the lost art of a hyperbole." (VOY: "Bride of Chaotica!")

Star Trek itself has of course used many cliffhangers, using them as the last episode of the season more often then not. The cliffhanger at the end of "The Best of Both Worlds" is one notable example, and has been cited by some as a factor in the popularity of cliffhangers in serious television today.

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