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Poll of the Month - Show in A Bottle

Genkos Adea

Show in a Bottle  

18 members have voted

  1. 1. Which Trek bottle show do you think was the best?

    • The Naked Time (TOS): Intoxicated hijinks and hilarity ensue
    • Remember Me (TNG): Beverly Crusher is the centre of the universe
    • The Drumhead (TNG): “I've brought down bigger men than you, Picard!”
    • Duet (DS9): Judgement at Nuremberg in space
    • Someone to Watch Over Me (VOY): My Fair Lady in space
    • Shuttlepod One (ENT): Tennessee Williams in space
    • Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad (DIS): A refreshing mid-season palate-cleanser
    • Another one. Let us know in the comments!

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This month’s poll celebrates the bottle show, a Star Trek production hallmark since the franchise’s earliest days. The term “bottle show” refers to an episode produced with a limited budget and a self-contained storyline. Such episodes are designed to minimize production costs by using existing sets and not involving major guest stars.

Bottle shows were prevalent from The Original Series through Enterprise. Producers purposely sprinkled these budget-conscious episodes throughout each season to free up dollars for more expensive episodes, such as those featuring heavy special effects, location filming, new sets, or big-name guest stars.

Bottle shows have largely gone the way of the dodo since the franchise returned to television in 2017. Shorter seasons mean less need to pad them out with low-budget episodes. In addition, serialized storytelling makes it harder to plop one-off episodes mid-season without disrupting the main plot. In the case of the animated series, the entire season is written before the actors are even brought into the recording studio, and there are no sets to build, rendering bottle shows obsolete.

A well-done bottle show serves strong storytelling and character study instead of flashy visual effects. When done poorly, however, a bottle show feels like pointless filler, shoehorned into a Trek season to meet the 26-episode requirement in the cheapest way possible. Some of the most disappointing Trek episodes, including “Shades of Gray” (TNG), “Elogium” (VOY), and “A Night In Sickbay” (ENT), were conceived as bottle shows. Unfortunately, this means the term has developed an undeserved reputation as a euphemism for bad.

Despite their limitations, some of the most memorable moments in Star Trek have come from bottle shows. The tight focus of the episode forces the writers and actors to get creative with dialogue and character interactions. Bottle shows are an opportunity for the cast to showcase their acting skills and for fans to learn more about their favorite characters. We have bottle shows to thank for Jean-Luc Picard’s chilling monologue that begins, “With the first link, the chain is forged…,” and Beverly Crusher’s meme-able moment, “If there's nothing wrong with me, maybe there's something wrong with the universe.”

Even though they’re a mixed bag, bottle shows are essential to the Star Trek legacy. They offer an opportunity to tell stories that might not otherwise be told. They force the writers to think creatively and the actors to flex their muscles. They can also be a refreshing chance to have some fun and make an episode that is pure entertainment, free from the constraints of the series’ larger narrative.



Edited by Genkos Adea
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I enjoy any and all bottle shows dealing with Kira Nerys and her interactions with Cardassians. Duet was amazing in that regard, especially since Kira (to me) was a fairly unlikeable character in the beginning. Duet was the first time the show proved to me that they were handling her character intelligently, which cemented her as one of my favorites come the excellent Season 3 episode "Second Skin".

I would, however, if we dismiss the valuable component of significant character development, go to bat for the season 3 episode 'Civil Defense' as a contender in the poll. While nothing very major in terms of character happened in this episode, it was a great 45 minutes of entertaining storytelling, and seeing more Gul Dukat is always welcome. The humorous way the episode introduced his attraction to Kira left something to be desired - as Nana Visitor herself stated - but it was (as far as I remember) the first time we truly saw Garak and Gul Dukat go head-to-head, and that made me very excited for more focus on Garak and what part he'd played in Cardassia - and Gul Dukat's - past.

I also remember enjoying "The Doomsday Machine" episode from TOS. I think that is one of the eeriest episodes of TOS I can recall - especially since I'd encountered the Doomsday Machine in STO not long before watching the episode - which definitely enhanced my viewing of the episode as a first time viewer.

Also, yes, I love Cardassians as a species, and I enjoy bottle show episodes immensely XD

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This was tough. I voted for Duet, because it's my favorite episode of DS9 and I feel like I'm obligated to vote for it on any list it appears. But Remember Me was close second. A very good episode that still gives me chills thinking about it!

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TNG's "Lower Decks" is considered a bottle show, and that is one of my all time favorite episodes. Then there's "A Night In Sickbay," a touching episode about a man and his dog.

But, "The Offspring" is my pick for this one.

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