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Jim Hacker: And where is the hotline?

General: Which one?

Jim Hacker: The one to Russia.

Bernard Wooley: The Red hotline, sir.

If there's a crisis between the USSR and the US in fiction, expect the President to phone up the Soviet leader.

Except it wasn't like that in real life. The Hot Line (also called the Red Phone) due to the possibilities of misinterpretation, only used a voice link between 1971 and 1978, but instead uses a telex machine - with each side writing in its own language and the other translating for themselves. The Hot Line, still in service, is regularly tested (Never mind that these days they could probably just DM each other on Twitter...)


  • Fail-Safe
  • 24 Season 6.
  • Dr. Strangelove (Not actually the Moscow-Washington line, but rather an ordinary phone. Which is even worse.)
  • Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 President Dugan has five of them.
  • Dilbert's company built one once. It looked like an ordinary telephone. Dogbert used it to prank call Gorbechev.
  • The Tom Clancy novel The Sum of All Fears (and The Film of the Book) shows the text-based Hot Line in action. It also shows how the operators tested the Hot Line back in the day: with poetry.
  • Averted in Thirteen Days. The Hot Line did not exist at the time (in fact it was created as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis), with messages going by coded telegram This resulted (as in the film), in the US spending 12 hours decrypting Khrushchev's offer to remove the missiles in return for the US not invading Cuba. While doing that, a second message arrived, being more threatening, demanding that the US remove missiles from Turkey in exchange for the USSR doing the same in Cuba. ExComm thought about it, accepted the first offer and accepted the second discreetly later.
  • Portal. Before entering GlaDOS's chamber, you see a red phone. In the commentary, the devs explain that it was a hotline for scientists to use in case of an emergency with the AI. They point out that the connection cord is cut, hinting at just how effective it was.
  • The TV series Yes, Prime Minister poked fun at the prosaic realities of the hotline - the phone only goes to a Kremlin switchboard... and the operator doesn't speak English.
  • In some buildings, such as college campuses, red telephones are meant to be a direct line to the security guards. Other universities set up stand-alone phones outdoors marked with blue lights.
  • The live-action Batman show had a hotline connecting Commissioner Gordon's office to Bruce Wayne's living room (Of course, Gordon didn't know where Batman's end of the line was located).
  • Seen in the revival series of Doctor Who, at 10 Downing Street.
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