COUNTDOWN: Top 5 Sci-fi Two-part Episodes

Tony Wilkins counts down the top 5 storylines that were so good they deserved to cover two episodes.


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They are probably the three words we hate the most especially when we are really in to a particularly gripping storyline but when watched back to back we get tv movies of our favorite sci-fi shows. For this list I have chosen episodes with a strict link between more than one episode.

So let’s go


 

5. War Without End (Babylon 5)

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A story told across three different points in history and says farewell to a previously significant character needs more than one episode. “War Without End” was a fascinating story for many reasons not just because it was Sinclair’s last episode (minus the reuse of a few of his scenes in “In The Beginning”). The episode really helped build up the mythos of Babylon 5 and shed some light on the history of the previous Shadow War. It was also interesting to see the Babylon 4 storyline from an opposite angle to the one we saw in the first season episode “Babylon Squared”. Scene stealer had to be finding out the truth behind the saying “A Minbari not born a Minbari” and its consequences explored later.

4. The Menagerie (Star Trek)

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What do you do when the studio executives tell you your pilot episode is too cerebral and philosophical to make good TV? Simple, you rework the show in to a little more of an action packed affair then include the footage from the original episode in to a Hugo Award Winning two-parter. It’s hard to imagine it in the day of the internet but back when this two-part episode was aired in 1967 nobody knew they were watching scenes from the failed pilot intermixed with a new second storyline about Spock hijacking the Enterprise. It has become one of the most iconic episodes being parodied several times including the Star Trek tribute episode of Futurama. It really says something about the original pilot and the potential it could have had. It was so ahead of its time that everyone agreed that it played more like a TNG episode.

3. Chiggy Von Richthofen (Space Above and Beyond)

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OK – strictly speaking these are two separate main stories that are played out against the backdrop of the appearance of an alien “ace” however if you watch them back to back you start to see that the writers were trying to keep the link alive throughout. In the first episode we can see the start of McQueen’s obsession with the enemy ace as he pushes his senior officers for the truth while in the second episode we see Vansen still mourning the loss of Captain Oakes so there is continuity there. Now that’s out of the way; these were some of the most thrilling episodes of this whole under appreciated series. In the second episode especially you have this overwhelming sense of dread as you watch the pilots flying off to face the seemingly unstoppable enemy. That’s the type of thing that grips you and makes good TV. A nice little touch in these episodes is that for the first time we see non-US pilots in the form of the Finnish pilots. Not since the pilot episode are Earth forces so badly beaten at the hands of the alien Chigs and worse still Elroy-L predicts that soon the new enemy craft will become the standard enemy fighter. Scary…

2. Resurrection Ship (Battlestar Galactica 2003)

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Series 1 of Battlestar Galactica was outstanding. While it offered some great sci-fi action scenes the truth was the show was about the survivors who represented the last of their people and culture. It was an apocalypse story and every good apocalypse story needs its military officer who starts good but quickly becomes the villain. For BSG in season 2 cue Admiral Cain played by the hugely talented Michelle Forbes. While she made her appearance in the episode “Pegasus” this two-parter that followed immediately after it presented her as perhaps a greater threat than the Cylons because she was the enemy within. Worse still she actually began to persuade characters to support her. Starbuck’s line at her eulogy “We were safer with her than without” showed just how divided opinion was. There’s a part of me that would have loved to have seen more of Cain and I was thrilled we got the TV movie “Razor” to explore her a little more but the truth was we never could have kept her in the fleet and she had to die for writing purposes. To show just how great the drama was in this episode as Adama and Cain faced off with one another I haven’t even mentioned the spectacular battle to destroy the Resurrection ship yet. It was amazing but this show was first and foremost about the great characters and this storyline was among the best.

1. The Best of Both Worlds (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

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No two-parter has developed such notoriety as the The Next Generations third season cliffhanger. Now that the TNG crew’s journey is over these episodes are now often referred to as “Star Trek First Contact Part 1” because when watched back to back they are a thrilling 88 minute movie. Season 3 was make or break for Star Trek’s second incarnation. In truth the series barely survived its first two seasons and now it had to up the ante or be cancelled. This episode and a few others showed just what this series was capable of. The cliffhanger of finding out Picard had been assimilated had every Trekkie talking because it was unclear if Patrick Stewart would be coming back to the show. The addition of Lt Cmdr Shelby even made some believe that she was going to become the Enterprise’s new first officer with Riker becoming Captain. Shelby added a wonderful dynamic to this episode and the conflict between her and Riker was priceless. After three years of him trying to jump on any piece of skirt that beamed aboard here was a woman who was every bit his match. While we couldn’t have done with more of Admiral Cain in BSG we really could have done with more of Shelby. She offered so much and when we talk of characters returning would it have been so hard to have her reappear as an aide to Admiral Nacheyev or even an intelligence officer role much like Worf in DS9? An effort was made to revive her in name only in DS9 as the captain of a starfleet ship on the frontlines in the Dominion War but because of legal reasons the “Captain Shelby” that was mentioned had to be reworked as another character. Bloody waste.

Here’s a crazy idea – what if Shelby was chosen as Voyager’s captain instead of Janeway? I know it would have never happened for the same legal/financial reasons but that  would have been epic.

Thanks for reading…..

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2 thoughts on “COUNTDOWN: Top 5 Sci-fi Two-part Episodes”

  1. TNG’s Best of Both Worlds has to be one TV’s all time cliffhanger’s. at least top 5, and not just for sci-fi reasons either. The season 3 cliffhanger as you said showed what TNG could be and was by the time the seventh season had ended.

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