Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Classic Episodes (TV Review)

Any good show has a shortlist of classic episodes.  The ones that stand up above the rest.  In some cases, these might be the ones that you would show to an uninitiated person, who would like to know what this show is all about.  And because I love lists as much as the next guy, I'm going to pick one episode from a few TV series I've watched.

While it's generally best to watch a show in chronological order, so you can see the characters develop, there are usually episodes in the run of a series that are self-contained, and little to no background is required to enjoy them.  These are the ones I'd like to focus on.  In each case, there are others that might do just as good a job, but these are my picks.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Star Trek: The Next Generation has the advantage of having many self-contained episodes and few multi-episode spanning story arcs.  This makes the show easy to pick up and enjoy.  But when I think of the series, Darmok is usually the first episode I think of.

The execution of the theme is original, and totally what Star Trek is all about.  This story is fully diplomatic, it's just a matter of learning to communicate.  On one side is hand-to-hand combat with a shiny beast, and also stories around the campfire.  On the other side is... well, research.  Half this episode is just characters researching language, stories, and discussing their findings.

All you need know is the barest information about what the Federation is, and how they operate.  And not necessarily even that.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Now, I haven' gotten through the whole series, so maybe this will change, but I just saw the Dream episode of Buffy, and it was a really well done episode.  About 80% of the action in the episode takes place within four different dreams.  I loved the strangeness of it; I felt like it was not just a Hollywood version of what dreams are, but a much more realistic one.  One key detail is the way that the dreamers take the strangeness in stride, the way I've found I tend to do in my own dreams.

Information about the characters might help this episode, but it's true value is in the direction and cinematography, which can be appreciated on their own merits.

Doctor Who

This is one of those episodes.  It's self contained, well designed, really a fantastic episode.  Frankly, it's such a good episode that it might even spoil the series a little.  This is definitely the first episode I show anyone who is curious about Dr. Who.  Even if they don't end up liking the series, they will more than likely enjoy this episode.  It is well-executed, original and completely self contained.  The lead roles are one-off characters.  Outsiders, like the first time viewers, unfamiliar with the series they inhabit. 

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