Cliffhangers

SF television shows get the best cliffhangers. These are taken from a list on io9 – The best SF/fantasy cliffhangers ever shown on television – with some of my own thoughts. Geeky stuff, but I love it.

Angel, “Tomorrow.” Our ensouled vampire hero is stuck in a coffin under the ocean, and nobody even knows where he is — except his terminally misguided son, Connor. Meanwhile, Cordy is “ascending.” How are they going to get around this? Hopefully the resolution won’t involve an evil pregnancy… Oops.

Angel and Buffy were shows rife with the most surprising cliffhangers (and twist endings). This one did really stick in my mind though.

Star Trek: Voyager, “Basics, Part 1” Voyager may not exactly have been the greatest Star Trek show of them all, but this show definitely mustered some amazing cliffhangers, including the Borg-loving “Scorpion.” But this was the best: the crew is stranded on a primitive planet, with no technology at all. Solve that, Janeway!

I’m no fan of Voyager, but this was a neat cliffhanger. Oddly, Deep Space Nine doesn’t feature on io9’s list at all, despite the excellent ‘”Call to Arms” where the Federation abandoned DS9 to the Cardassians (and the darker “Tears of the Prophets” where Sisko leaves for Earth, maybe never to return).

Jericho, “Why We Fight” The cliffhanger that gave Jericho fans their rallying cry, “Nuts!” — the first season ends with Jericho about to go to war with New Bern, as the remnants of the United States military rush to intervene. Guns blaze as the screen goes dark — thank goodness we got to see how this turned out.

Jericho reminds me a lot of The Walking Dead. Both have the potential to get more interesting over time, though obviously Jericho was denied that opportunity. I’m wondering if it was even a coincidence that one of the key actors from Jericho featured in the first episode of TWD.

Doctor Who, “The Pandorica Opens” The entire universe is destroyed, plus Rory can’t help shooting his beloved Amy. And the Doctor is sealed inside an escape-proof box for all eternity, knowing that he’s failed to save everyone.

Neat cliffhanger, and a surprising resolution in the opening moments of “The Big Bang”, completely destroyed as that episode continues and we realise that there’s nothing more going on than a nonsensical paradox. In fact, the whole episode — and by extension the whole ‘crack in time’ series motif — ends up making no sense at all.

Battlestar Galactica, “Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2” One of the most daring cliffhangers of all time — we jump forward a year, and suddenly everything’s changed. And then the Cylons show up, when the humans are at their most domesticated and unprepared! Also notable: the endings of “Pegasus” and “Revelations.”

Stunning stuff. Sadly though it marked the end of the Cylons as an unstoppable deadly threat, and the beginnings of Cylons whining about religion and destiny. Still, there was the terrific “Exodus: Part 2” still to come, with Adama’s jaw-dropping ‘falling like a brick’ double-bluff and the destruction of the Pegasus. Probably the high point of the whole series.

Farscape, “Die Me, Dichotomy” Aeryn is dead, and Crichton blames himself. Not only that, but the surgery to fix Crichton leaves him aphasic and helpless, when Scorpius shows up and attacks the surgeon, leaving him unable to finish fixing Crichton. Scorpius leaves Crichton paralyzed, speechless and unable to take revenge, while Scorpius takes the memories on Crichton’s chip.

Farscape was a ballsy show. It was tough to wait for the resolution to this one – almost as tough as the wait after the terrible cliffhanger at the end of “Bad Timing”, made all the worse because the series had been cancelled. Thankfully, we got The Peacekeeper Wars miniseries to tie things up.

Babylon 5 — Shadow

Babylon 5, “Zha’dum” Sheridan hears Kosh’s voice telling him to jump, and he does — just as the White Star crashes through the ceiling. All the Shadow ships vanish, because, as Ivanova says, “He’s gone.”

The contrast between B5 and the starchy (and at the time pretty tedious) Star Trek was enormous. They say past is prologue… sadly, although we didn’t know it at the time, Sheridan jumping off that cliff at Z’ha’dum was also the show jumping off a cliff. Season 4 was a rush of hasty resolutions to wars and mysteries, leaving season 5 a tedious vacuum wit only the saving grace of the poetic final episode to come.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, “The Best Of Both Worlds, Pt. 1” And this is the cliffhanger most people mentioned, as well as arguably the best cliffhanger in television history. The episode does a great job of setting up the idea that Riker might be promoted as well as introducing a new XO, so you can believe that Picard might really be dying this time. (I would watch that show.) So when Picard is assimilated by the Borg, and Riker prepares to shoot his super-weapon at the Borg Cube… there’s no telling what might happen.

Yeah, I’d have probably picked this as my number one too, if only for nostalgic reasons.

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