Literally "God from the machine", Deus Ex Machina originally referred to Greek plays, where the "gods" would be lowered onto the stage in order to provide a quick resolution to the story. Today, Deus Ex Machina refers to any improbably and/or overly convenient character or mechanism that comes out of nowhere saves the character(s) from their doom.
For a hilarious send-up of Deus Ex Machina, check out the spaceship scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian.
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