Author Topic: Gateway Episodes  (Read 614 times)

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Offline nacho

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Gateway Episodes
« on: June 04, 2015, 04:29:18 PM »
I feel like I need to start collecting the definitive guide to Gateway Episodes for otherwise unapproachable shows!

I was rewatching a DS9 episode last night -- In the Pale Moonlight.

The episode, set late in the sixth season, finds the Federation on the ropes in the Dominion War. Their only hope is to bring the neutral Romulans into the battle on their side. This has been plaguing Sisko, who is our main general in the war, for some time, so he finally decides to manufacture a reason to bring them in.

His plan involves station anti-hero and former spy Garak. The two of them set up a fake incident where the Romulans are led to believe that the Dominion is planning a surprise attack. This is, of course, a ruse within a ruse and, all along, Garak's plan was far more brutal (and effective).

The episode is notable because Sisko decides to follow the darker path, and there are no real repercussions from it. He gets away with what is, essentially, a horrific war crime.

The entire episode is told -- with Avery Brooks staring into the camera -- as a log entry, with flashbacks to the important scenes. It opens with a monologue, features frequent expository monologues throughout, and ends with a particularly strong monologue where Sisko takes credit, blame, and says that he can live with it, though the monologue deliciously turns into him trying to convince himself that he can actually live with it.

Thanks to the monologues, you don't really need to be privy to the larger story arc. Plus, this is Star Trek and 90s sci-fi, so that larger story arc is barely cohesive to begin with. Good guys been fighting against bad guys, good guys need not so good but not so bad guys to help them out. The end. The episode is watchable, enjoyable, and understandable as a standalone piece, which is saying something when you're six seasons into an ensemble show and it's the turning point episode for the entire series.


Offline nacho

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Re: Gateway Episodes
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2015, 05:00:41 PM »
Doctor Who's "Blink" has probably been established as the best example of a gateway episode.

It's one of a very few examples of a "Doctorless" episode. We follow fan favorite Sally Sparrow on her adventure against the then-new and very scary monsters, The Weeping Angels. The Doctor helps her out, somewhat indirectly, through an easter egg on every DVD in the world where he says the same lines over and over again, none of which really make sense until we hit the second act and the second part of the dialogue (Sparrow) is filled in.

We see the Doctor a couple of times throughout, more or less to establish that he's stuck in time beyond what his message on the DVDs says. At the end, the Doctor that Sparrow runs into is a past version of himself and has no clue about the events that transpired in the episode.

Blink stands tall as a straight-up horror episode. We get the Angels, we get a haunted house, and we get a plucky Last Girl Standing type. It's a brilliantly crafted episode that takes you out of the Doctor Who universe and drops you into a one-off story with a one-off character.

In retrospect, I also wonder if Blink is responsible for the attitude that the show would eventually adopt -- how the Doctor, as a lonely god and mysterious wanderer, is simply passing through the story and destroying the lives of the people he encounters.

 

Offline nacho

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Re: Gateway Episodes
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2015, 10:10:14 PM »
Farscape is also easy. The best Gateway episode is Kansas -- where Crichton and crew make it back to Earth...except it's 1985. Crichton has a side-story here to deal with. He's accidentally catapulted everyone into the past, sure, but he knows the future. He must figure out how to stop his dad -- a big time astronaut -- from being a part of the 1986 Challenger mission without fucking up too much of the timeline. To do this, he decides to manipulate his younger self.

It's a very emotional episode -- future Crichton knows that his mom is soon to be diagnosed (and die) of cancer, and he's not sure if he can set things right and get everyone back to where and when they belong.

Meanwhile, his fellow fugitive (and very alien) crewmates get to try on their comic chops as they explore Earth on Halloween. In the process, what's made us love every one of the cast for the last four seasons gets to shine. This is, essentially, a "slow-down episode" in the midst of a hot, heavy, action-packed, and super complicated final season. It's the last bit of comedy we'll see from the show. After this episode, we enter into a long finale arc that was grim, desperate, and unresolved until we got the tie-up Peacekeeper Wars movie a few years later.

For the fans, in the middle of a very heavy season, and what had become a very heavy show, "Kansas" was a breath of fresh air. For the newcomer, as a Gateway Episode, "Kansas" is a brif glimpse not only into each of the characters, but also how they interact. In what is, easily, the least approachable show of the genre, it's this episode -- again, as with my DS9 example, towards the end -- that tells the newbie everything they need to know.

This is a choppy clip that's a medley of some of the best moments:


Offline nacho

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Re: Gateway Episodes
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2015, 11:27:25 AM »
I turned this into a front page article, with a few more examples...

Offline nacho

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Re: Gateway Episodes
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2017, 08:44:11 AM »
I feel like I need to start collecting the definitive guide to Gateway Episodes for otherwise unapproachable shows!

I was rewatching a DS9 episode last night -- In the Pale Moonlight.

The episode, set late in the sixth season, finds the Federation on the ropes in the Dominion War. Their only hope is to bring the neutral Romulans into the battle on their side. This has been plaguing Sisko, who is our main general in the war, for some time, so he finally decides to manufacture a reason to bring them in.

His plan involves station anti-hero and former spy Garak. The two of them set up a fake incident where the Romulans are led to believe that the Dominion is planning a surprise attack. This is, of course, a ruse within a ruse and, all along, Garak's plan was far more brutal (and effective).

The episode is notable because Sisko decides to follow the darker path, and there are no real repercussions from it. He gets away with what is, essentially, a horrific war crime.

The entire episode is told -- with Avery Brooks staring into the camera -- as a log entry, with flashbacks to the important scenes. It opens with a monologue, features frequent expository monologues throughout, and ends with a particularly strong monologue where Sisko takes credit, blame, and says that he can live with it, though the monologue deliciously turns into him trying to convince himself that he can actually live with it.

Thanks to the monologues, you don't really need to be privy to the larger story arc. Plus, this is Star Trek and 90s sci-fi, so that larger story arc is barely cohesive to begin with. Good guys been fighting against bad guys, good guys need not so good but not so bad guys to help them out. The end. The episode is watchable, enjoyable, and understandable as a standalone piece, which is saying something when you're six seasons into an ensemble show and it's the turning point episode for the entire series.


I wanted to bump this because of that io9 article about most rewatched ST episodes. The best two minutes of Star trek right here!