10 great TV bottle episodes

Top 10 Juliette Harrisson 29 Nov 2012 - 18:23

Juliette counts down ten of the best TV bottle episodes, featuring Red Dwarf, Star Trek, and Doctor Who...

This feature contains spoilers.

According to the folklore of the Internet, the term ‘bottle episode’ comes from Star Trek. Every now and again, to save money, an episode would be produced which required minimal special effects and guest stars and no sets other than the ship, so they called these ‘Ship in a Bottle’ episodes (or so goes the story). 

Since then the term ‘bottle episode’ has come to mean an episode using minimal locations, guest stars and special effects. There are two reasons to do a bottle episode. One is for dramatic effect, putting your characters into a confined space and letting your actors and scriptwriters play. The other, usually more pressing, reason is to save money by not paying for numerous guest stars, location shoots or sets. 

The ‘bottle episode’ as a concept is really an American thing; British television works so differently that it doesn’t really apply, with shows written in advance and filmed all at once. (Deep apologies to the rest of the world – I know you’re all out there, but I really only know about British and American TV). The concept is also less relevant to many cheaply produced British shows like Blackadder II, which is an entire bottle series, with no location shooting, a few small indoor sets and one or two guest actors per episode. 

Exactly what constitutes a ‘bottle episode’ can vary according to the nature of the show. The fantastic episode Ice might be considered a bottle episode of The X-Files, for example, because it requires only one new set and a handful of actors; The X-Files regular cast and standing sets are so small that a true bottle episode would be nothing but Mulder and Scully talking in Mulder’s office (although actually, that sounds awesome). But technically, to be a bottle episode, excluding necessary framing devices or tags, the episode should feature regulars and recurring characters with no more than one guest actor, on standing sets only. 

Of course, what really matters in a great bottle episode is the strength of the writing and the acting. The name could almost refer to the tendency for bottled up emotions to become un-bottled, secrets to be revealed, and generally for everyone to start shouting at each other around four fifths of the way through these episodes. In dramas, we expect to see emotional breakthroughs and revelations that will affect the characters for a long time to come (essentially, we want a teeny tiny Greek tragedy). In comedy – well, in comedy we really just want to laugh till we snort juice out of our collective noses, but it won’t hold together without some kind of emotional, character-based undercurrent.

All this pent-up emotion and necessary artistic creativity can make bottle episodes the best episodes of all – these ten are particularly successful. 

10. ER, ‘Secrets and Lies’ 

The ship in the bottle: Four key characters plus new boy Gallant are stuck in a lecture theatre waiting for a seminar on sexual harassment.

Bottled up emotions? The sexual harassment seminar isn’t just a plot device for keeping these five in one room, coupled with an amusing way to start the episode – it’s also the biggest theme of the story, in which Gallant finds himself stuck on the edge of a complicated love quadrangle between Susan, Carter, Abby and Luka.

Do they cheat? The first quarter or so of the episode proceeds as normal, with some eccentric patients brought into the ER while the staff gossip about Corday having left Greene, in case anyone missed last week’s episode. But once the five are shut in that room together, the whole of the rest of the episode plays out in there, up until the last few minutes when they go out into the street. ER did many, many episodes that took place entirely (or very nearly) within the hospital and several that had other ‘bottle’-like features, notably season eleven’s Time of Death, which followed the last forty-four minutes of one guest character’s life in real time. But Secrets and Lies stands out because it breaks the ER mould by dropping the patients in favour of exploring the relationships between the doctors, something the show usually did in the context of medical treatments. Whether or not that’s a positive development may be debateable, but this is a fun episode and provides a nice break from the usual routine, especially given the downbeat major story arc of season eight.

What’s great about it? Carter and Luka have a sword fight, and then they quote Hamlet (Luka does so in Croatian). There is nothing about that sentence that is not awesome. At the end of the episode, Susan breaks it off with Carter because they have no chemistry, stopping just shy of hitting the fourth wall, but providing probably one of the most convincing-because-true TV break-ups in history.

Quotable: ‘How did I make a fool of myself?’ (Carter)

‘Well, you participated in a duel for one thing’ (Susan)

 

9. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, ‘Duet’ 

The ship in the bottle: The episode doesn’t leave Deep Space Nine, and a lot of its run-time is devoted to conversations between Major Kira and a mysterious Cardassian.

Bottled up emotions? Kira doesn’t exactly keep her emotions bottled up here, though she does try, but her Cardassian prisoner plays his cards pretty close to his chest.

Do they cheat? There are a fair few extras and bit-part players around, and they make use of all the standing sets, but the episode takes place entirely on Deep Space Nine, making it a bottle episode in the classic Star Trek sense.

What’s great about it? Duet is a fairly basic Holocaust metaphor, but it’s well done and it adds some nice layers to Kira’s character at a fairly early stage in the show. The final revelation concerning her Cardassian prisoner is intriguing, and it’s interesting to see her attitude towards him soften to a perhaps surprising degree.

Quotable: ‘Enough good people have already died. I won't help kill another’ (Kira)

8. Breaking Bad, ‘Fly’ 

The ship in the bottle: Walt refuses to get on with the job in the lab until he’s vanquished a fly.

Bottled up emotions? And how! Walt has something of a breakthrough concerning his feelings about the direction his life has taken, but when he tries to tell Jesse the truth about Jane’s death, in the end he can’t quite manage it.

What’s great about it? This episode does something that plot-heavy, high-death-count shows often forget to do; it takes some time to let the characters process the things that have happened to them and the things they’ve done since the show started. It also does so in a consistently interesting and entertaining way, using fly-point-of-view camera angles to shake up the style and direction, as well as emphasising the metaphorical significance of the fly itself (which could be read any number of ways; I like to see it as symbolic of Walt’s guilty conscience).

Quotable: ‘We make poison for people who don't care. We probably have the most un-picky customers in the world’ (Jesse) 

(I was also very grateful for the possum/opossum conversation, because I’ve been wondering why Americans say ‘opossum’ for years).

 

7. Doctor Who, ‘Midnight’ 

The ship in the bottle: The Doctor, a few tourists and their hostess are trapped on a small craft on a deadly planet with a mysterious creature that seems able to control their speech and movement.

Bottled up emotions? There are lots of bottled up emotions here, the most powerful being the Doctor’s unusually deep fear and his guilt following the Hostess’ sacrifice (a theme which would continue to be prominent throughout the rest of Russell T Davis’ tenure as producer and on into the Moffat era).

Do they cheat? Technically, Midnight isn’t a bottle episode, because Doctor Who doesn’t really do bottle episodes – like The X-Files, it has two or three regular characters and one standing set, so they’d have to be pretty extreme. But what it does do is ‘Doctor-lite’ episodes, which feature much less of the Doctor than usual, in order to fit in all thirteen episodes plus a Christmas special into the filming schedule. In 2008, the ‘Doctor-lite’ episode was companion-heavy, location-heavy, special effects-heavy all-round-brilliant episode Turn Left. It was preceded by this ‘Companion-lite’ episode, set within a single one-roomed location featuring a small guest cast plus the Doctor, talking. Which required two weeks to film and ended up costing more than usual due to the actors’ time and the special requirements of the set.

What’s great about it? The more traditional Turn Left is a classic, with its high emotion and fabulous ending, but Midnight is Russell T Davies’ masterpiece. The dark counterpart to the (considerably less successful) Christmas special Voyage of the Damned, Midnight is an exploration of the nasty side of the human psyche. There’s nothing new about that, but the genius of Midnight is that it achieves its effect by relying entirely on script and performance, using human emotion and (not quite) human speech to reveal the seedy underbelly of human character. It also undercuts the Doctor’s usual (occasionally annoying) sense of superiority and unpacks just how maddening that can be for everyone around him…

Quotable: ‘The Hostess. What was her name?’ (Doctor)

‘I don't know’ (Hobbes)

 

6. Red Dwarf, ‘Marooned’ 

The ship in the bottle: Lister and Rimmer are marooned in a crashed Starbug with nothing to eat but dog’s food (or Pot Noodle) and nothing to burn but Rimmer’s model soldiers or Lister’s guitar…

Bottled up emotions? Neither Lister nor Rimmer is ever particularly bottled up, and this is no exception. It’s also the second episode on this list to feature a conversation about when everyone lost their virginity, the first being ER’s Secrets and LiesRed Dwarf’s is more fun to watch, because at least Lister’s declaration that he lost his virginity at twelve is played for laughs and one assumes that his partner was also young, whereas Carter’s story in Secrets and Lies (he was eleven) sounds like child abuse and is intensely uncomfortable.

Do they cheat? Like the Blackadder example, the idea of a ‘bottle episode’ doesn’t really apply to Red Dwarf, as it would cover most of the first two series. But British telly does have an artistic equivalent to the bottle episode, designed partly to save money but mainly to spice things up a bit and provide an artistic challenge on long running soap operas – the two-hander, in which two regular characters sit and talk for an episode. Marooned was designed as a comedy version of this particular trope, putting Red Dwarf’s strongest and best developed characters together to stew for an episode. The other three regulars have a few lines at the beginning and at the end, but otherwise this episode is indeed held up by just these two, with minimal action and lots of talking.

What’s great about it? Although the episode doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know about Rimmer and Lister, it does succeed in highlighting those aspects of their characters that we’ve come to know so well. The whole series is about putting these two in a confined situation and watching them antagonise each other, but somehow in this episode Grant and Naylor managed to dial the tension up even further and make it work – and, more importantly, make it funny as well.

Quotable: ‘Abandon sh – oh, God. Now the siren's bust. Awooga! Awooga! Abandon ship!’ (Holly)

‘Mayday, Mayday! I wonder why they call it “Mayday” ? It's only a bank holiday. Why not “Shrove Tuesday”, or “Ascension Sunday”? Ascension Sunday, Ascension Sunday! 5th Wednesday after Pentecost!’ (Rimmer)

(The really funny thing about that one is that Lister actually knows the answer…)

 

5. Community, ‘Co-operative Calligraphy’ 

The ship in the bottle: Annie will not allow anyone to leave the study room until she finds out who stole her pen.

Bottled up emotions? Poor Shirley has her private life laid open to all when they find a pregnancy test in her bag. Opening up on a more physical level, everyone gets their clothes off, symbolising their current emotional nakedness (with the guys on display to the world and the girls covered up, which makes a nice change).

Do they cheat? The tag shows the puppy parade the Dean has been torturing our heroes with throughout the episode; otherwise it takes place in one room and features the regulars (except Chang) plus two recurring characters (the Dean and Annie’s Boobs the monkey).

What’s great about it? As a matter of fact, Co-operative Calligraphy isn’t Community’s best bottle episode – that would be either Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (the gang plus one recurring character play Dungeons and Dragons in the study room and just maybe save someone’s life) or Remedial Chaos Theory (the course of everyone’s lives depends on which of the group is sent to get the pizza at Abed and Troy’s apartment).

But Co-operative Calligraphy is the bottle episode about bottle episodes. ‘They’re wall-to-wall facial expressions and emotional nuance’ says Abed, and here he’s got to the heart of what a bottle episode really is, and why Midnight (not technically an episode on standing sets with only regular actors) is on this list and Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Conundrum,’ fun as it is (and set entirely on the ship with one guest actor and one recurring character plus the regulars) is not.

Quotable: ‘Attention students, the Puppy Parade is starting on the quad. Better come quick, with every passing moment these puppies grow older and less deserving of our attention’ (the Dean)

 

4. Star Trek, ‘The Tholian Web’ 

The ship in the bottle: Investigating mysterious events on the Defiant, the Enterprise first loses Captain Kirk, then becomes trapped in a web by some Tholians, all in a region of space that causes people to become violently angry.

Bottled up emotions? The region of space they’ve become trapped in is somewhere between releasing pent-up emotions and creating new ones from nowhere (unless Chekov has been harbouring a secret desire to go on a killing spree all along, which is entirely possible). But the most significant antagonistic relationship is of course that between Spock and Bones, which is the same as usual, but more so.

Do they cheat? The Defiant is the Enterprise’s sister ship, which means it’s the same set with darker lighting. There are a fair few extras running around, and a Tholian voiceover, but speaking parts for anyone beyond the main six cast members plus recurring regular Nurse Chapel are minimal.

What’s great about it? This episode is a wonderfully creepy fifty-minute horror story, complete with dead bodies, nonsensical violent attacks and even a ghost. The disorienting shots from the point of view of those about to become ill and the dark lighting in the Defiant scenes may be designed to distract from the lack of any other sets, but that makes them no less effective, and stories about the violence within threatening to break out will always be darkly compelling. And Bones and Spock at loggerheads with each other is always entertaining.

Quotable: ‘Bones, Spock. Since you are playing this tape, we will assume that I am dead and the tactical situation is critical and both of you are locked in mortal combat’ (Kirk’s last message, recorded long before they entered a region of space that would make them want to kill each other). 

The best moment is silent: Bones produces a drink that should counteract the effect of the region of space, and Spock refuses to drink it until he sees Bones drink first.

 

3. Friends, The One Where No One’s Ready 

The ship in the bottle: Everyone is gathered at Rachel and Monica’s, running late for an important event at the museum.

Bottled up emotions? Monica finds dealing with an answerphone message from her ex-boyfriend… difficult. Joey and Chandler allow their emotions to run free in a manner wildly disproportionate to the actual problem.

Do they cheat? There are a couple of voice-overs on the phone and the tag is set at the museum function with a guest actor, but otherwise the whole episode takes place in Monica and Rachel’s living room and features only the six regular cast members.

What’s great about it? It’s hilarious. ‘Going commando’ has been absorbed into the popular vocabulary, and it’s hard to wash out a frying pan without hearing Jennifer Aniston’s squeaky cry of ‘You were gonna drink the fat!’ This episode is built on well-established character traits and feeds in small ways into on-going storylines (Monica is still having difficulty moving on from Richard; Rachel feels that Ross doesn’t show her enough respect) but mostly it’s just very, very funny.

Quotable: ‘Look at me – I'm Chandler! Could I be wearing any more clothes?’ (Joey)

 

2. The West Wing, ‘17 People’ 

The ship in the bottle: Bartlet tells Toby he has MS. Meanwhile, Sam, Josh, Donna, Ainsley, Ed and Larry try to write better jokes for the President’s speech at the correspondents’ dinner.

Bottled up emotions? Toby’s reaction to Bartlet’s confession makes Monica Gellar look like an oasis of zen-like calm. Elsewhere, Josh and Donna sort of mention the fact that they’re quite important to each other (and he’s better than her ex-boyfriend).

Do they cheat? The episode features three recurring characters (and is minus one regular) and takes place entirely on standing sets.

What’s great about it? The President refusing to apologise to Toby, repeatedly telling him, ‘I feel fine by the way, thanks for asking.’ Josh and Donna. Toby accusing Leo of carrying out a coup d’état. Ainsley explaining her objections to the Equal Rights Amendment. The President finally caving and apologising to Toby. The meaning of the title. And this episode is the start of an intense and uninterrupted run of episodes focusing on Bartlet coming out of the MS closet and culminating in the mighty Two Cathedrals.

Quotable: ‘I could have countered that, but I’d moved on to other things in my head’ (Sam, refusing to admit defeat)

 

1. Men Behaving Badly, ‘Watching TV’ 

The ship in the bottle: The gang wait for pizza and watch classic Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever.

Bottled up emotions? Tony’s new-found happiness now that he finally has Deborah is annoying everybody, including Deborah.

Do they cheat? Another British example, but this is unusually restrained in terms of set and guest starts, even for British television. There’s a voice off-screen telling them the pizza has arrived, and a very cheap special effect at the end; otherwise, the four regulars sit on the sofa. Tony’s tennis racket (part of his Braveheart costume) might have cost a  few quid. (The thirty-minute episode also takes place in real time – it starts a little way into The City on the Edge of Forever).

What’s great about it? Before Brit-com The Royale Family created an entire show from the concept, the idea of an episode based entirely around four people watching television sounded ridiculous, but this is funny and consistently entertaining from start to finish. The real stroke of genius was choosing The City on the Edge of Forever as the viewing material (without actually showing the screen). Every viewer knows what Star Trek is, whether they sympathise with Deborah (who has no idea what’s going on), Dorothy (who has been forced to watch it for years) or Gary (who loves it). The episode itself is sufficiently memorable that all viewers with a reasonable knowledge of Star Trek will know exactly what’s going on. That gives the audience the sense that we’re watching the episode with the characters, participating in a chat in which we, the viewers, are just being a bit quiet. There is some character development on the go for Tony (it’s quite nice to see him happy, though even better to see his usual brilliant sad-sack act come out as everyone is meaner and meaner to him) but mostly this is just a very well-scripted half hour of comedy. (Maybe I’m just biased because I grew up thinking a Captain’s Log was an actual log just like Gary did…).

Quotable:

Tony: How far have we got?

Deborah: Well, the one who over-acts has just jumped through this big doughnut-thing, and it’s all gone dark, so the chubby one and the one with a face like a sad donkey have jumped through the doughnut as well.

Gary: (rolling his eyes) Bones has crossed through the Guardian of Forever’s time portal and interfered with the course of history thereby eradicating the Enterprise, so Jim and Spock have gone back into history to un-freeze time.

Deborah: That’s what I said. 

(As a female Trekkie, I object mildly to the episode’s implication that men like Star Trek and women don’t, but just this once I’ll let it go). 

Bubbling under: Yeah, I left out Firefly's Out of Gas. Wanna make something of it?

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There was a few BSG bottle eipsodes. One with Helo and Baltar was very good.

You've missed perhaps one of the greatest episodes of any British comedy

I know its not 'genre' but One Foot In The Grave Rearranging the Dust where they're basically waiting at a solicitor's for 30 minutes. There was part of another which was the Meldrews and Mrs Warboys are stuck in traffic.

"A day out turns into a nightmare for the Meldrews and Mrs. Warboys when the Bank Holiday traffic comes to a standstill on the motorway and they spend 4 hours trapped in their car staring at a horse's backside. Attempting to lighten the mood with some music, Victor makes an unpleasant discovery about his car mechanics ... This episode is real time and is entirely set in the Meldrews' car on the motorway."

Some awfully good choices - my personal favourite though would be Babylon 5's Intersections In Real Time from Series Four, with the really freakily scary interrogation of Captain Sheridan.

Doctor Who had a textbook one in the very first series, the two episodes of The Edge of Destruction, with 4 regulars and the TARDIS set and nothing else, all about the relative strangers getting to know and (sort-of) trust each other when the TARDIS breaks down.

Good call, OFITG did quite a few of those. There was another one I think called The Trial which was entirely a one-man show featuring Victor in his house, being Victor.

Lister's first girlfriend was older than him. She was described as having a job at the perfume counter at a department store, and in the books it is confirmed that she "took advantage" of him.

I was quite surprised a truly fantastic bottle episode was missing from here.....

Spooks - Season 2 episode 5 "Germ Warfare" - A normal day at thames house starts with a simulated training exercise, an alarm bell ringing to signify a major incident. When the alarm is silenced then rings again, everyone dismisses it but soon become to realise that what they thought was a training exercise may now have become real life. With the grid under quarantine, 95% of the episode is confined to the grid, whilst the world outside may be dealing with the consequences of a major VX attack, the loss of government and the monarchy, the team are stuck with minimal eyes and ears to what's going outside, culminating in a truly electrifying and intense episode!

The greatest 'bottle' episode in tv history is Hancock's Half Hour 'The Bedsitter' - half an hour with one actor in one room.

That's possibly my favourite Friends episode.
I'd also like to add Hole from Bottom which takes place entirely at the top of a ferris wheel.

I thought Mad About You's "The Conversation" was a terrific bottle episode too.

No mention of Babylon5 and the 'Intersections in Real Time' episode, which was mostly Sheridan under interogation?

Otherwise Eastenders regularly had 'two-hander' episodes. I still remember the Dot and Ethel episode, which ended in Ethel's death.

What about that Psychoville episode that was a homage to 'Rope'?

Only Fools And Horses did a pretty good (British-style) one too, when the Trotters got locked in the office at a supermarket overnight due to a robbery gone wrong. A quick Google search reminds me that it was called The Longest Night!

I second, third and fourth that. A perfectly written and acted slice of comedy (and yes drama) that still stands tall today.

Brilliant article. The Goodies had a few bottle episodes. "Earthanasia" set entirely in their office with just the 3 regulars exposing their inner feelings during the countdown to the end of the world. "The End" has them trapped in their office which is encased in concrete and they grow old together. Others include "Lighthouse Keeping Loonies" & "Holiday".

Brilliant article. The Goodies had a few bottle episodes. "Earthanasia" set entirely in their office with just the 3 regulars exposing their inner feelings during the countdown to the end of the world. "The End" has them trapped in their office which is encased in concrete and they grow old together. Others include "Lighthouse Keeping Loonies" & "Holiday".

That sounds absolutely brilliant.

The phrase "going commando" was made popular due to Friends? Really? Live and learn!

"Like the Blackadder example".
There was no Blackadder example, you never mentioned Blackadder apart from when you said "Like the Blackadder example".
What is happening to this site. Do articles not get proof read?

I had only seen the Red Dwarf one and Friends and I love both of them. If the characters are good and likeable I think it's a perfectly good thing to do.

Another one that probably shouldn't be on here,but what about the

"Brian & Stewie"episode from Family Guy..stuck in a bank vault..

Another great one is from Ryan Murphys first television shows "Popular' the entire episode contained the female cast members all trapped in the school bathroom together while their all on their periods. Smly genius writing!

Actually what Lister says is that she was so good looking, she COULD have got a job behind the perfume counter at Lewis's if she wanted. We have no confirmation of the girl's age, even though we assume she's a bit older.

Agreed. Edge of Destruction was a great episode.

Ermmm... How about the first Doctor story "The Edge Of Destruction"? Surely that counts as it only features the main cast stuck inside the TARDIS. It's also the first time we get the suggestion that the TARDIS is a sentient spaceship.

The Peep Show episode The Nether Zone is a good one.

seconded, 50 minutes, 1 standing set, just the 4 regulars and as eerie as hell!

As soon as I saw this I was thinking "Out of Gas". Gorrammit.

Oh it is, I was just going to suggest that one - One foot in the grave is fast becoming one of my favorite sit-com, I never appreciated it when it was first on but it is sheer brilliance.

I only started watching spooks from about S6 I'm watching it from the beginning, and this very episode is next up, looking forward to it now!

I'm surprised that Cheers isn't mentioned anywhere in here as a 'bottle series.' Maybe I'm just old.

The majority of the episodes take place right there at the bar, leaving everything that happens outside to the dialogue, thus relying entirely on the script and cast. A nifty trick, if you've got the writing chops. But with regard to 'bottle episodes,' it's the episodes where they do go to second or third locations that go against the... ahem... "Norm!"

That said, it's that lethal comedic combination of bad ass writing and a terrific ensemble cast, better than the sum of it's parts, that makes Cheers one of the finest such marriages in the history of television.

Content, baby. Content.

Seasonal Beatings, the following episode, is also a very good bottle episode.

Don't know how you could forget "Homicide: LOTS---3 Men & Adena". Almost the entire hour episode takes place in the "box" with one guest star.

Yes they did - they mentioned it in the blurb before the list began - third paragraph down. Blackadder II was a bottle series rather than having individual bottle episodes and that is why they refer back to it and do not give it an entry on the list itself.

What is happening to this site's readers? Do articles not get read thoroughly before comments are left?

Apparently Friends also popularised the use of the word 'so' as an intensifier.

i.e. "That film was 'so' good" when the correct phrase should be "that film was very good"

The episode doesn't qualify because a true bottle show uses existing sets. The supermarket sets had to be built especially for that episode.

I liked that Buffy bottle episode. I'm not a big enough geek to know what it was called.

Remedial Chaos Theory >>>>> Advanced Dungeons and Dragons >>>> Cooperative Calligraphy.

Say what you will about Community, but say that they knew how to write an engaging bottle episode.

My favourite bottle episode is Porridge's "A Night In", a classic two-hander with Fletcher and Godber spending just another night locked in their cell. Nothing extraordinary happens, they just talk about life in prison and the crimes that led them to be jailed, but the writing and acting from Ronnie Barker and Richard Beckinsale (father of the rather well-known Kate) is so good the episode is both hilarious and moving at the same time.

I'm just going to leave this here: "The Bottle Job" from Leverage.

Just as a note: Classic Who did have a clear bottle episode, The Edge of Destruction,in the first season, which takes place within the Tardis with the Dr. Who cast and no one else.

Caligraphy does have my favorite joke of the entire show going for it though i.e. What Abed keeps in his notebook.

Also you missed the best part of that Abed quote "...I might as well sit in a corner with a bucket on my head."

Porridge, A Night In. A bottle episode, a two-hander, and an episode with no real plot, just two characters working through their emotions in a new and unpleasant context. If you want the simplest, most unencumbered bottle episode, which still manages to be both hilarious and affecting, go to this episode.

That episode lost all its impetus for me when it seemed that London was nearly destroyed, because it was instantly clear that it was a training exercise, since there was no way they were going to kill off London.

Earthanasia is wonderful, and full of that bottled up emotion mentioned in the article.

There's the Bottom episode where Richie and Eddie are stuck on a ferris wheel. In many ways Bottom is another 'bottle series', but that set was particularly miniscule and only featured the two regulars (plus a minor cameo by the Hand of God).

Agreed, Johnny Wishbone. I remember watching "The Edge of Destruction" when it was broadcast, and I rate it as nothing less than brilliant. It is a great notion that the Tardis itself was making minor things malfunction, such as the drinking water machine, in order to attempt to alert the Doctor and his companions to the fact that a major system-fault hade made the Tardis continue travelling backwards in time towards the Big Bang when all the instrumentation showed they had stopped safely. I read somewhere (possibly in a Dr. Who 25th anniversary encyclopedia) that it has long been held that the cheapest and most dramatic stage play is about a group of people trapped in a lift, and that "Edge of Destruction" was this concept made into a TV show. Perhaps "Elevator Episode" is a better title than "Bottle Episode"? Still, a great article. Many memories brought happily back.

Seinfeld's "The Chinese Restaurant" surely deserves a mention

"Ascension Sunday! Ascension Suday!"
Oh, my my.... xD

I'm glad someone noticed this- OFITG did those episodes so perfectly to ensure we stick through with Meldrew's pain for a whole 30 minutes. David Renwick is such an excellent writer.

Just realised the 'Fly' episode in Breaking Bad was directed by Rian Johnson- now that's even more geeky cool.

A mention for Tanith Lee's Blake's 7 episode "Sarcophagus". Two sets, regular cast only and no dialogue for the first 5 or so minutes. One of my favourites.

If it's the same one I am thinking of, it was called Older And Far Away and it was about Buffy's birthday party when the truth about her and Spike came out

Yup, that's it. Very good I thought.

Ouch! My pride!

It's still a good episode though :) When trying to look up another potential Fools bottle episode on Google the terms Bottle, Episode and OFAH continually bring up "Mother Nature's Son" - the one where they bottle tap water and sell it as mineral water!

"A Losing Streak", the one with the poker game, takes place entirely in the Nag's Head and the flat so that would probably count.

you forgot Cooperative Calligraphy from Community!! The only bottle episode all about bottle episodes.

I couldn't remember the name of the episode but that was the first one that popped in my head when I saw this article, cannot believe they missed it out! Really is a terrific and very bleak episode with from Sheridan's perspective no real beginning middle or end. Great stuff from my all time favourite show.

The Bottom Ferris Wheel two-hander was rubbish. The chess best one was the funniest...

Erm... If you want an *actual* Doctor Who bottle episode (well, 2 technically), what about the 3rd ever story, Edge of Destruction. Absolutely all of it was filmed on the Tardis set, it was done specifically to save money after the one off expense of the Tardis set and the over budget first 2 serials, and it's only cast was the 4 principle actors, no guest stars *at* *all*.

Just posted the same thing, lol...

*note to self, read replies before posting*

damn you got there before me

Can't have a top 10 bottle episodes list without The Sopranos - Pine Barrens.

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