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.