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DigificWriter January 11 2013 07:11 AM

Best Alternate-Reality Episodes
Hi, all. I just finished watching the FRINGE episode "Brown Betty", which got me thinking about my favorite Alternate-Reality episodes from various TV shows, and I in turn thought I'd come here and start a discussion on the topic. I thought I'd start off by listing my Top 10 favorite Alternate-Reality TV episodes, and then inviting others to post their favorite episodes of this type. Here's my Top 10:
10. The Wild Wipeout (Power Rangers Ninja Storm) - I grew up watching Power Rangers and, despite being way too old for the series' target demographic, still enjoy it to this day, with The Wild Wipeout being one of my favorite episodes from the franchise. The thing that makes this episode one of my favorites is that it inverts the traditional PR formula by transplanting one of our heroes - the Ninja Storm Blue Ranger, Tori Hanson - into a universe where her and her teammates' traditional enemies are the good guys and her teammates are the bad guys.

9. Spin the Bottle (Felicity) - For most of its four seasons, Felicity was a fairly standard 'teen/young adult soap opera' in the vein of 90210, but J.J. Abrams and Co. took a major chance and literally shook up the series for its last four episodes by introducing the concept of time travel and sending Felicity back to the start of her Senior year of college. Of the final four episodes, my absolute favorite has to be Spin the Bottle, which sees the return of my favorite character from the series, Amy Jo Johnson's Julie.

8. Everything Old is You Again (Las Vegas) - Las Vegas is, for me, one of the most under-appreciated television shows in all of TV history, and Everything Old is You Again is the perfect example of why. The best parts of the episode are getting to see Sam as a call-girl and Ed Deline starting a fight with mob flunkies.

7. Lifetime Piling Up (One Tree Hill) - The thing that initially drew me to One Tree Hill was the polar opposites dynamic between Nathan and Lucas Scott, and, although OTH later featured other 'alternate-reality' episodes, the series' first, Lifetime Piling Up, remains my favorite because it completely inverted the aforementioned polar opposites dynamic, flip-flopping Nathan and Lucas' backgrounds and revisiting events from the first two seasons of the series from a new perspective.

6. The Wish (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) - I'm willing to bet that I'll get responses telling me that this episode should be ranked higher, but, as good as it is, I personally happen to think that both Tabula Rasa and Normal Again are better (for reasons I'll get to in a bit), although The Wish is notable in that it actually presents us with a universe that could have conceivably continued to exist beyond the confines of the events depicted in the episode itself, which neither TR or NA do.

5. The End in the Beginning (Bones) - Making the fourth season finale of Bones an alternate-reality tale was a heck of a gamble, and it ended up paying off in spades. The best thing about the episode is that, for the first half of the story, there's absolutely zero indication that you're watching an alternate-reality tale.

4. Tabula Rasa (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) - This is my absolute favorite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6, and the reason it's my favorite is that it delivers the perfect combination of humor and darkness, perfectly encapsulating the themes of S6 and serving as a rather neat foreshadowing of where the season's story arc ultimately ends up heading, at least in terms of characterization.

3. Birthday (Angel) - It took 3 seasons, but Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt finally gave us the Angel equivalent to The Wish, and ended up creating an episode that is actually BETTER than The Wish in nearly every regard, and would actually be the best Buffyverse alternate-reality episode if it weren't for the awesomeness that is Normal Again (more on that in a bit).

2. Brown Betty (Fringe) - I really can't figure out why this episode was panned by some people because it's Joss Whedon-level brilliance, perfectly encapsulating the thematic and mythology elements that were introduced in the previous 39 episodes - as well as delivering a bit of foreshadowing as far as certain characters and character relationships are concerned - while delivering a one-off, standalone story that new viewers can easily tune into without feeling exceptionally lost. It's also a treat to see/hear Anna Torv, John Noble, Jasika Nicole, and Lance Reddick burst into song.

1. Normal Again (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) - I absolutely LOVE this episode. Joss Whedon takes the 'character hallucinates that they're really in an asylum' story trope that's been explored in numerous other television series and does things with it that feel totally fresh and new, while also making it relevant to the ongoing narrative of the season in which it occurs, which is something that most other episodes of its type don't. It is for that reason that I think it's the best of the Buffyverse alternate-reality episodes.

DonIago January 11 2013 07:41 AM

Re: Best Alternate-Reality Episodes
No "Yesterday's Enterprise" ?

I very much love "The Wish". In fact, I started paying attention to Buffy in early S3, and "The Wish" may have been the episode that cemented my interest in the show. The slo-mo sequence at the end is one of the finest sequences of the series IMO.

It's a shame Firefly never had a chance to do one.

While "Parallels" probably doesn't quite count, it remains one of my favorite episodes of TNG.

"Perfect Circles" from Six Feet Under has a sequence where one of the main characters jumps through several alternate timelines, and even after things settle down the show has jumped forward in time enough that for awhile you feel like you're still watching one of them.

SG-1 had a number of alternate timeline episodes and even a movie that may merit consideration as well.

DigificWriter January 11 2013 08:54 AM

Re: Best Alternate-Reality Episodes
I' d forgotten about Yesterday's Enterprise.

Re: Parallels, I personally wouldn't count it, nor would I count the Fringe episodes set in or dealing with the ' Red- verse' or anything from Fringe' s fourth and fifth seasons, but others might.

I know Smallville had a number of alternate-reality eps, but I haven't seen any of them, although I'm really intrigued by Noir and Apocalypse.

Edit: I also wouldn't count any of the SG1 episodes that dealt with alternate universes. SGA's Vegas definitely counts, though.

TemporalFlux January 11 2013 10:59 AM

Re: Best Alternate-Reality Episodes
I could name some Sliders episodes, but I don't think that in the spirit of the original question here. ;)

Guy Gardener January 11 2013 11:24 AM

Re: Best Alternate-Reality Episodes
Quinn met a girl version of him self and frakked her.


But then an evil version of the professor replaced the one they started off with and he just started acting like the regular professor after a awhile and the producers forgot about the switch... Where was I?

The last four episodes of Felicity were not a Gamble.

They were a fuck you.

JJ said "I'm finished! It's all been nice, but can I go home now?"

The suits countered "4 more episodes or we kill your puppy."


They just sprang four episodes on him after he had tied everything off and finalized all his story lines.

That's fucked up.

If he hadn't buckled with Felicity, they wouldn't have been able to prolong Lost so far past it's used by date.

DigificWriter January 11 2013 04:37 PM

Re: Best Alternate-Reality Episodes
Since I was hoping to get other people to talk about their favorite eps of this type, let's open the floodgates and say that any eps that involve alternate realities or 'what if' stories are fair game, even if I didn't put them on my list.

Edit: Guy Gardener, given that J.J. is immensely proud of Felicity and a bit of a control freak, I highly doubt that network execs forced him to do the final eps of Felicity the way that he did.

Gaith January 11 2013 04:45 PM

Re: Best Alternate-Reality Episodes
No "Mirror, Mirror"? :p

DigificWriter January 11 2013 04:53 PM

Re: Best Alternate-Reality Episodes
^ It didn't qualify with the way I was looking at the topic. :)

MacLeod January 11 2013 05:02 PM

Re: Best Alternate-Reality Episodes
Sliders was a show about alternate realties (what if the Soveits conquered America, the states reamianed British, what if you were a superstar etc..)

Mr. Laser Beam January 11 2013 10:23 PM

Re: Best Alternate-Reality Episodes
My favorite alt-episodes all involve Trek:

ENT "In a Mirror, Darkly"
TNG "Yesterday's Enterprise"
VOY "Living Witness"
TOS "Mirror, Mirror"
DS9 "Crossover"

Except for one that doesn't:

SG-1 "There But For The Grace Of God"

DigificWriter January 12 2013 01:00 AM

Re: Best Alternate-Reality Episodes
I don't think I've seen Living Witness but, based on the plot, it more than fits my original criteria for an ARE.

Fringe's Over There P1 does as well, at least structurally, belying what I said earlier about not counting any of the eps that dealt with or were set in the Alternate Universe/Redverse. The S3 premiere Olivia sounds, at least based on synopsis, like it might fit the criteria I was looking at re: AREs as well.

Guy Gardener January 12 2013 01:32 AM

Re: Best Alternate-Reality Episodes
Are we counting every sitcom parody of it's a wonderful life?

because I loved it when they did that on Benson. :)

Glee did a great It's a wonderful life last Christmas where we see how everything would have been frakked up if Artiie hadn't been in a chair.

There's this Episode of Mad About You were Jaimie and Paul defy the Greek and Roman gods (Who knew THEY were real?) saying that if they hadn't met when they did, their intense love would still over come every obstacle.

7 Days had a mirror universe episode and it was just a fricking cartoon.

I loved the Stargate Continuum Movie where Carter is saying "Blah, blah, yaddah yaddah, this is what we have to do to correct the time line" and Beau Bridges replies "I CAN NOT BELIEVE THE ARROGANCE OF YOU PEOPLE!"

Trekker4747 January 12 2013 01:41 AM

Re: Best Alternate-Reality Episodes
In the realm of sitcoms I offer "The One That Could Have Been" from "Friends." In this one-hour episode we're shown what life would have been like for the main cast had they made different decisions throughout the series at that point. Ross isn't divorced from his lesbian wife, Carol (the divorce was finalized off-screen before the start of the very first episode) who's cold and inaffectionate due to her repressed lesbianism. Monica is fat (as she was in the show's pre-history) and still a virgin. Joey never got fired from Days of Our Lives and is a celebrity soap star living in his own apartment as he was in a Season 2 story arc. Chandler had the guts to quit his job (as he threatened to do in another early season episode) and works as a freelance writer trying to sell a story to Archie Comics. Phoebe has a job at Meryl-Lynch and is a hard-nailed investment broker (an opportunity she claimed to have at some point in the past, though it was never addressed on screen, part of the story of the episode revolves around her having a heart-attack.) And Rachel never left her groom at the altar (as she did in the series pilot) and is a rich house-wife with a philanderer husband causing her to contemplate an affair with soap-star Joey.

A sitcom, sure, but for fans of the series it's a fun episode. The end result being the gang pretty much ending up as friends hanging out at the coffee house at the end of the episode, more-or-less in the same place as they are in the regular series. (Phoebe has gotten fired from her job, prompting her to calm things down, Rachel seems to have left her husband and joined the gang, Ross has discovered the truth about her life, and Monica and Chandler have hooked up after Chandler offered to help Monica lose her virginity.) The only problem is that Phoebe's story line feels forced, probably because there was no real major character point to focus on with her as there was with the others.

TemporalFlux January 12 2013 02:17 AM

Re: Best Alternate-Reality Episodes
It's a different take on the concept, but I've always liked the Voyager episode "Deadlock". It was a nice look at the Schroedinger's cat experiment with a twist on the outcome.

SiddFinch1 January 12 2013 04:18 AM

Re: Best Alternate-Reality Episodes

DigificWriter wrote: (Post 7519951)
^ It didn't qualify with the way I was looking at the topic. :)

How does mirror.mirror not qualify? Because of the real universe characters being in it?

The friends episode was a good one.

Farscape had the unrealized realities which was good but may not qualify the way you are defining it

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