Friday, November 19, 2010

The Ten Greatest Cult TV Endings in History


Television series are designed, pretty much, with the hope that they last forever. 

No one involved with the production of a TV series wants to ponder too much or too deeply about how a given program might end because the name of the game in Hollywood is to run for years and years....or at least 100 episodes, for syndication purposes.

And yet, across the long years, cult television has nonetheless provided the audience some utterly remarkable endings, or final episodes.  Some of these goodbyes have made dedicated viewers weep; other endings have proven terrifying...and inescapably dark.

Not that long ago, cult TV series usually shuffled off the air without any kind of definitive ending or closing punctuation whatsoever. 

We never saw the Robinsons get home in Lost in Space.  We don't know how the five year mission of The Enterprise finally ended, on Star Trek.  We never found Sanctuary with Logan, or Evoland with Varian and his friends in the Bermuda Triangle.  The Alphans never discovered that elusive new planet to call home on Space:1999, and we don't know if Buck Rogers ever found those "lost tribes" of Earth.

Still, in some senses, those older programs that ended without any narrative closure are really the lucky ones.  Lately, the series finales of popular serialized programs such as Battlestar Galactica, Alias, and Lost have only ended up polarizing viewers and creating schisms, at least to to some degree, in fan affection. 

When there's the promise of a "plan" at the beginning of a journey and that promise is repeated week-in and week-out for years, audiences do expect a pay off; and they expect it to be one that plays fair, and make sense.  I think expectations are pretty high for serialized programs, and they are generally difficult to meet.

After gazing across some fifty years of cult television initiatives, the titles listed below are my choices for the "ten greatest series endings" in history.  Some of these selections were not meant to be final chapters at all; they were but cliff-hangers to be resolved...but the resolution never came

Contrarily, some of my choices were indeed designed as last chapters, and function ably (and emotionally) as such.  Closure comes, and it satisfies.

Another selection below is merely ambiguous.  That doesn't make it a hedge; it just makes it delightfully opaque, in the tradition of the preceding series.

My ten choices are based on several criteria: how well the endings represent the nature of the series; whether they challenge perceptions, if they are inventive (but consistent), and how artfully they are executed.

Now, given that this is a list involving endings of TV series, many, many spoilers are discussed below.  Please be aware of that fact going forward...and read accordingly.


10.  V: The Series: "The Return" (1985)

In 1985, the NBC series V battled the CBS powerhouse Dallas in the ratings on Friday nights.  It was a losing proposition, and the sci-fi series about reptilian alien visitors invading Earth faced an uncertain future (and eventual cancellation).

But for the season's final -- and series-ending -- nineteenth episode, writers David Abramowitz and Donald R. Boyle threw what amounted to a remarkable Hail Mary Pass.  The Leader (of the Visitors) came to Earth to declare an abrupt end to inter species hostilities and to marry the Star Child, Elizabeth. 

So "The Return's" final scene witnessed a mesmerized Elizabeth -- in wedding gown -- stepping aboard the unseen Leader's shuttle, while the evil Diana (Jane Badler) informed Lt. James (Judson Scott) that she had secretly placed a time bomb aboard. 

Meanwhile, Elizabeth's human lover, Kyle (Jeff Yagher) stowed away on the self-same shuttle, hoping to be reunited with Elizabeth, the love of his life. 

"The Return" and V: The Series ended on that crazy, cliffhanging note, with the camera majestically retracting, up, up and away -- forever -- from the series leads. 


What did the Leader really look like behind that glowing light on the shuttle?  What were his true motives in coming to Earth?  Would Diana's violent plan succeed (killing the Leader, Elizabeth and Kyle?)  And what about true love?  Would it triumph over the desperate need for interplanetary peace?

You can't get much more epic than that.

To this day, the breathless cliffhanger ending of V has never been resolved. Yet "The Return" understood something vital about V that other installments of the one-season wonder failed to capitalize on: it was a soap opera played out on a grand level, with only modest sci-fi trappings.  The best episodes all played on soap opera plotting and characterization, not on hard science concepts.

And by ending the program on that exaggerated, over-dramatic, gut-busting soap opera note, V reached an apex of storytelling audacity and drama that -- for most of its run -- eluded it.

9. Surface: "Episode 15" (2006)

"It's a new world," a stunned scientist, Laura Daughtery (Lake Bell) declared during the explosive denouement of NBC's one-season cult-TV show, Surface in 2006.

This pronouncement was voiced from atop a church steeple as a dramatic CGI pullback revealed that Wilmington, North Carolina -- and indeed the whole South East sea board -- had been devastated and flooded  in a "tele"-tsunami caused by the series' giant, man-created sea monsters.

It was a portentous moment. The Earth had changed...forever (and yes, this change was clearly meant as a metaphor for global climate change).

By culminating on a catastrophic and apocalyptic note, Surface ultimately proved to have the courage of its nutty convictions. It would have been tempting to end on an easier, less-expensive note, one that wouldn't turn the Earth's surface upside down.

But instead, the writers and creators of this inventive short-lived series (The Pate brothers) chose the hard way, and followed-through with a narrative about the price of continuing damage to our environment.

Thus the series -- in the grand tradition of the best science fiction -- serves as a precautionary tale about ambitious scientists, corporate interests, and government agendas pushing ahead of personal responsibility.

The big loser, suggests Surface's ending...is the Earth herself.

And after the BP Oil Spill last year, who can really doubt that's a true observation?


8. Mystery Science Theater 3000: "Diabolik" (1999)

In the final scene of Mystery Science Theater 3000's last episode, Mike Nelson takes his place between 'bots Crow and Servo...on a couch, in a tiny apartment. 

Though finally free of the Forresters (Clayton and Pearl) forever -- not to mention TV's Frank, Bobo and Brain Guy -- these former-denizens of the Satellite of Love nonetheless find themselves taking up old habits, namely skewering an old movie.  They wanted to escape this fate for so long and yet, here they are. Doing the same thing; just in a new way.

In this case, that old movie being skewered is The Crawling Eye, the first movie that Joel, Crow and Servo riffed on when the series transitioned to Comedy Central a decade earlier.  So the ending in "Diabolik" is both full-circle -- back to the beginning -- and also an acknowledgment that the experience of riffing on bad movies is universal. 

You don't need to be part of some mad scientist's experiment to do it.  You just need a sofa, two buddies, and a TV set.

This ending is funny because also -- at least subtly -- it playfully acknowledges there are better uses for your time. Mike and the Bots seem to be living on the edge of poverty here, barely scraping by. By comparison, the bot Gypsy -- who ran the Satellite of Love and took care of everyone there -- has become a multi-millionaire founder of a company, ConGypsCo.  Sometimes actually making something, actually building something, is better than mocking the efforts of others.

So you have everything here -- in these final moments -- that made Mystery Science Theater 3000 special to so many people.  There's a tribute to how it all started; an ending that suggests the task of calling out bad movies is universal and will thus continue unabated, and even an embedded critique of the very process through which the show achieved such cult popularity.

7. Millennium: "Goodbye to All That" (1999)


Back in 1999, you probably couldn't find many Millennium fans who were entirely satisfied with the way the series ended after three fantastic seasons. 

And, at face value, the conclusion of the 67th episode is, in a sense, maddening.  The Millennium Group has not been stopped or even outed, and Emma Hollis (Klea Scott) betrays her beloved mentor, Frank Black (Lance Henriksen).

Given this situation -- plus the apparent murder of Peter Watts (Terry O'Quinn) -- Frank takes his gifted and imperiled young daughter, Jordan (Brittany Tiplady) and hits the road...not to be seen again until an appearance on The X-Files.

And yet "Goodbye to All That" indisputably culminates with one of the most beautiful, expressive and artistic compositions I've ever seen on television. 

It's a picturesque view (pictured above) of Frank and Jordan fleeing for hopefully greener pastures.  In Frank's SUV, they are on a long road which symbolizes the road to the future.  There are storm clouds roiling overhead, representing the terror of the approaching Millennium (and Y2K!), but also -- importantly -- sunlight is starting to break through one patch of clouds. 

The sunlight, naturally, is representative of hope; the hope that people like Jordan ("we're all shepherds,") can construct a better world than the conspirators of the Millennium Group did.

Are all your questions about the Millennium Group and its nefarious plans answered here, in "Goodbye to all That?"  Not in the slightest

But this beautiful image, of a man and his daughter facing the open road, and a future of  sunlight or storms (or likely both), is evocative of something telling about the human condition.  We don't always get all the answers we seek.  Sometimes, we just have to look forward to better days; sometimes we just have to hope for sunshine. 

By ending in vague, but visually gorgeous fashion, Millennium once again shares that important idea with its audience.  We can't tell you what's going to happen folks; or even why things are like this.  We're just going to go out with this message; that tomorrow brings new possibilities.  Good or bad.  It's up to you, and children like Jordan to determine the specifics.


6. Twin Peaks: "Episode 29"


David Lynch's TV masterpiece Twin Peaks ends in the most horrifying, nihilistic fashion imaginable.  I still get goosebumps thinking about it, actually. That bright beacon of goodness and integrity, Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) enters the sinister Black Lodge...and loses himself to Bob, the murderous spirit who killed Laura Palmer.

Much like the Millennium ending, Twin Peaks ends without much narrative closure and opts instead for a powerful, resonant image; though in this case it is one devoid of hope.  After losing himself in the labyrinth of the Black Lodge, Bob-as-Cooper comes back to our world and bloodies his head against a mirror. 

The mirror is seen cracked in spider-web formation; and the Bob Spirit form is seen in the twisted, broken reflection.  This is order overturned; Evil triumphant.  Bob-as-Cooper snickers and laughs, undiscovered.  The Evil is loose in the world once more. 

This is nightmare fodder, pure and simple, and it reflects one of Twin Peaks' dark central themes.  The program is all about a descent into total chaos and madness from which there is no escape and no reprieve.  This evil -- this chaos -- gets inside of you (like it did Laura's father; like it does Cooper) and it changes you.  It destroys you from within and exposes you to madness, paralysis, loss of reason, stabilitiy and everything else that makes you human.

Knowing David Lynch's thematic predilections, we could rightly expect nothing else but a dark ending for Twin Peaks.  But this -- Cooper lost, replaced by a monster -- is just about the darkest ending conceivable.

 
5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Chosen" (2003)


In Buffy the Vampire Slayer's final episode, Spike (James Marsters) sacrifices his life to save the world, the "First" Evil and his army of super-vampires are defeated, the Hellmouth is destroyed, and the mystical powers of the Slayer are passed from one individual --- Buffy -- to hundreds of young women the globe around.

For the moment, forget about Spike's long-deserved redemption and tragic goodbye (an achievement soon undone by Angel, Season Five), "Chosen" is a deeply affirmative message of individual and collective "girl power," always a strong subtext of the series anyway, but a magnificent note to go out on.

It isn't just Buffy who has the power to defeat Evil...but all womanhood too, or so this episode informs us.   When a woman somewhere is beaten or teased, the episode reveals in emotional montage, she may summon that "Slayer" strength within...and fight back.

This is also an appropriate place to end the personal and heroic journey of Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar). For seven seasons, she has carried the "weight of the world" on her shoulders as The Slayer, and longed to lead a normal life. Now, finally, she has the opportunity to...live. "Just get to be like a person. How does that feel?" Faith asks her.

To Buffy the Vampire Slayer's everlasting credit -- since words would never do --  Buffy doesn't answer in dialogue. Instead, the camera pushes in for a lovely close-up of this iconic hero, and her forehead uncreases...the pressure finally slipping away, finally receding.  Her lips curve upwards into the smallest, most gorgeous, most innocent smile.

Cut to black and it's all over.

This hero has completed her journey, and Buffy's reward is that she gets to finally rejoin the human race...and "Chosen" reminds us how precious that gift is.


4. The X-Files: "The Truth" (2002)

Those who endlessly repeat the myth that The X-Files somehow got tired and old in its last two seasons, obviously weren't watching it during that spell to speak truthfully about it. 

Case in point, the final episode of the series: "The Truth." It not only featured a terrific demise for the most iconic villain of 1990s television, The Cigarette-Smoking Man, the episode also brilliantly summarized a decade's worth of conspiracy clues into one  relatively concise and clear-cut "courtroom" trial, as Mulder was prosecuted by the F.B.I..

But if you take away the brilliant narrative structure, what really makes "The Truth" sparkle so much is the final, intimate scene between partners and friends Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson). 

Importantly, it takes place in a motel room, which Mulder notes is the same locale where he first tried to convince his new, inexperienced partner, about  he world of aliens and government conspiracies.  So, much like the MST3K denouement, there's a "we've come full circle" aspect to this final episode.  The end brings us back to the beginning.

But the importance of the final scene, finally, comes in what Mulder "wants to believe."  He speaks to Scully in earnest, beautiful, thoroughly human terms:

"I want to believe that the dead are not lost to us," he says.  "That they speak to us as part of something greater than us; greater than any alien force.  And if you and I are powerless now, I want to believe that if we listen to what's speaking, it can give us the power to save ourselves."

This beautifully-worded, passionately-delivered monologue is the heart and soul of The X-Files: the universal human yearning to believe in something greater than what we see and hear around us everyday.  

The truth is not out there, it's in here...in the hearts of Mulder and Scully, and in the love they share for each other.  That too tells us something important.

When you can't believe for sure in Ultimate Knowledge; it helps to have someone you love very much who believes in you, and vice-versa.  That's the note that we leave this wonderful series on: that if Scully and Mulder can't believe in UFOs, aliens, or even God, they can take solace that they believe in each other. 


3. Sapphire and Steel: "Episode VI" (1981)

Sapphire and Steel shares with audiences another dark ending, and truly, those are the ones that often seem to resonate the most deeply.  When a movie features an unhappy ending, it's sad, of course, but there's not truly the same level of investment involved (unless, it's a series of movies, I would qualify). 

But a TV series is something you live with week-in and week-out -- that you invite into your very living room -- and when it takes all of your built-up affection, admiration and enjoyment and then goes dark...

...well, the results can be incredibly powerful. 

Sapphire and Steel is surely an example of that.  This series concerns two alien investigators, Sapphire (Joanna Lumley) and Steel (David McCallum) as they attempt to repair breaches in the fabric of time and space.  Dark, monstrous things seem to dwell outside this fabric, always trying to break in.  Our titular characters, these enigmatic, human-appearing "Elements," are reality's last line of defense.

In the final serial, Sapphire and Steel arrive at a small cafe and gas station isolated in what seems to be a pocket universe; in outer space itself.  They attempt to help the strange denizens trapped there, only slowly learning that unseen "Transient Beings" are operating against them.

Using her skills, Sapphire sees into the future and can see only desolate outer space.  "Hours will become days and months.  And years will become thousands of years.  There is nothing but space."

Later, Sapphire realizes she was seeing her own future with Steel.  This strange "box" is their eternal prison.  "This is the trap.  This place is nowhere, and forever" explains an enemy.

The last shot of the episode -- and thus the series -- finds Steel and Sapphire gazing out a window onto infinity...their view forever here after.  When the eerie theme music kicks in -- and you realize this is the end -- you'll get a terminal case of the shivers. 

Sapphire and Steel were so concerned with accomplishing their mission, with helping others, they could not see that they had walked into a trap...an eternal trap.  They were someone else's mission all along.  And that is amazingly creepy.

2. The Prisoner: "Fall Out" (1968)


This final installment of The Prisoner is one of the strangest hours of science fiction television ever produced, and also one of the finest. 

Our hero, Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) has been held in a mysterious Village for months, unable to escape.  He has been interrogated, tortured and prodded by a series of men -- always tagged "Number Two," -- but without success.  He never breaks, and  every one of his nemeses wants to know the reason behind his resignation from the British secret service. He...will...not...tell.

In "Fall Out," The Prisoner ingeniously moves from the realm of the literal-minded to the metaphorical.  The Prisoner survives an ordeal and finally meets Number One.  Who is Number One?  Himself, only wearing a monkey mask!  The Prisoner then escapes from the Village and returns to London, a free man.  Or so it appears.

Instead, however, the finale of The Prisoner visually suggests that Number Six remains imprisoned -- as we all are -- in a much larger "village:" the 20th century technological society of social security numbers, credit cards numbers and advanced data-gathering.

To get across this point, the word "Prisoner" even appears over an aerial image of London, as Number Six returns to his home, in his car.  Make no mistake, this is not a simple title card.  This is a "label."  The people who live here, like Number Six, are prisoners of the incipient Information Age.

In the closing shots of The Prisoner's final episode, Number Six is depicted again in a familiar pose, racing his sporty car down an endless road.  This is the self-same image that started the program some seventeen episodes earlier.  The inference is that though he now sees himself as free, he is still a prisoner in a society that makes him a number in a computer, rather than a man. 

The opening interrogation of The Prisoner, played each and every week during the opening credits becomes clear and newly meaningful with the advent of this finale, "Fall Out," as well.  When Number Six angrily asks "Who is Number One?" a voice responds "You are Number Six." 

This was thought by viewers to be an evasion, an establishment of McGoohan's identity as Number Six. 

To the contrary, after "Fall Out," the answer to Number Six's Question "Who is Number One," is, simply, "You Are, Number Six."  Number Six is Number One.  He's imprisoning himself.  He is both master and slave; both prisoner and jailer.

This is a perfect ending to a quirky series, and one that asks those of us who are supposedly "free" to question the level and depth of that freedom.  Are we just numbers?  If we aren't free, who are our jailers?


and


1. Blake's 7: "Blake" (1981)

The final episode of Blake's 7 begins with Avon (Paul Darrow) and his group of space-age rebels on the run. Their only base has been destroyed, and so they take their ship, The Scorpio, in search of their lost leader, Blake to the lawless world of Gauda Prime.

The Scorpio is badly damaged in a space battle and it crashes on the frontier world, leaving Avon's avengers without even modest transportation. They find Blake - scarred and battle-weary - but Avon fears that his old friend has sold him out to the Federation Security forces. Blake and Avon endure a final confrontation, and only one man survives.

Then, the Federation troops arrive to put down the insurrection once and for all, and there is a devastating shoot-out between Federation shocktroopers and the survivors of Avon's squad

This fiery, violent finale takes the conclusion of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid one step further. There's no polite freeze-frame here. No sir; not in this unsentimental, caustic (and brilliant) series. Instead, there's a slow-motion shoot-out and the dramatis-personae you have grown to care for over the course of four years....go down hard.

And that's after the stunning confrontation between Avon and Blake.

Basically, this is the Blake's 7 episode where your hopes come crashing down. All throughout the series, audiences have followed Blake on his "impossible" dream to topple a space-spanning Federation. At times, you might have actually believed that Blake - the idealist and hero - can accomplish this. Even though it seems an impossible task.

The final episode "Blake," makes you right your expectations. You were deluded, buddy.  There's no way this thing is going to have a happy ending.

In fact, the strange smile that forms on Avon's face just before the end of the episode may well be his final understanding of this fact. His bemused recognition that he too -- the ultimate cynic -- bought into a futile dream. You don't fight City Hall and win. You might disrupt it for a while, but you're just not going to beat a Galactic Federation. 

Blake's 7 remains true to its story line by expressing this idea with "Blake," a ballsy, gut-wrenching, truly apocalyptic finale. The series was always unromantic, and so the final episode lives up to that tradition.  It is cosmically unromantic.

Some fans hate the ending of Blake's 7, and I can understand why.

As fans, we always want to believe that "the adventure continues."  We want to believe that our heroes survive to fight another day. But that's really -- if you examine the program closely -- not ever what this program was really about.

Blake's 7 concerns desperate men fighting a desperate battle, and on this day - and in their last adventure - the law catches up with them. 

Again, a perfect ending to a brilliant series.  With all due deference to Shakespeare, sometimes all's well that doesn't end well (for the characters, that is.)

14 comments:

  1. Fascinating picks! I would definitely rank TWIN PEAKS, BUFFY and THE PRISONER among my faves as well. Good call on SURFACE. I caught up with that show late, on DVD but enjoyed one weekend watching 'em all back-to-back and it's a shame that the show only lasted one season.

    I also like how ANGEL ended... an homage to BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID as Angel and the gang face uncertain, nay impossible odds but go out swinging. Very cool.

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  2. Great list! I agree on V, Twin Peaks, Buffy, The X-Files, and The Prisoner, although those are basically the ones I've seen! I haven't seen it since it aired, but I remember thinking the Quantum Leap series finale was interesting. That's just a vague memory, though. I remember thinking the ST:TNG finale around the same time was lacking, though I also have not seen that one in awhile.

    As for X-Files, when it was on I stopped watching after the 8th season, but I just rewatched it recently through Netflix and found that while I still thought the beginning of the 8th season was a bit of a drag, the rest of the series picked up quite a bit, and the finales for both seasons 8 and 9 impressed me greatly. I honestly wanted to see more with the characters of John Doggett and Monica Reyes, so I was a little bummed when I watched the last movie and found them absent.

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  3. An exciting list to read and two votes of confidence from yourself and J.D for Surface.

    I will need to add that one to my list. I've been interested for a long time but now with good reason to get it.

    Sadly, I need to add The Prisoner and Twin Peaks to that list. I've been watching Twin Peaks since J.D. write up. Millennium I have and look forward to investigating.

    It's been so long I look forward to revisiting The X-Files too.

    A terrific post idea John!

    Regards,
    SFF

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  4. Hello, everyone! Great comments there, all around.

    J.D.: We have very similar tastes -- our love for Twin Peaks, Buffy and The Prisoner -- awesome!

    I'm glad to hear you also got a kick out of Surface. I was really entertained by that show; I wouldn't say it was one of the greatest programs ever, but it sure as hell was fun. I was disappointed it was canceled.

    I thought about the Angel finale here for this list, and it was a close call. Good ending there too.

    sSlasherfan: The Quantum Leap finale was another one that was really on my mind as I assembled this list. I had a friend introduce me to it a couple of years back (I missed it on the initial run...) and I was very impressed. I have been thinking about going back and re-visiting that series, to tell you the truth.

    I agree you with you also about TNG -- the finale was all techno-babble and didn't much cut the mustard in terms of drama, so far as I was concerned. But I had it in mind composing this list just the same. (I thought about the end of DS9 too...).

    And I am so glad to read of your experience with The X-Files and the final two seasons. Doggett and Reyes were actually really great characters, and if people stuck around...I think they enjoyed the show as a kind of "next generation."

    I get so tired of reading how The X-Files went downhill, when point of fact was just that the show underwent a metamorphosis by necessity with the departure of David Duchovny. So thank you for affirming "the truth" in the vernacular of the series -- The X-Files was involving right up through the end.

    SFF: Definitely check out Surface when you have an opportunity (after Bionics, though!).

    It's about sea monsters and riffs on every Steven Spielberg movie ever made, but there's something fun about it, and the story is involving. You could cap off the whole series in a weekend with a little luck!

    The X-Files never disappoints, and ditto for Millennium and Twin Peak.

    So many shows, so little time, right? This year I've caught up on Weeds, Dexter, Alias and I'm half-way through Farscape, but I still have to see True Blood, the second season of Sarah Connor, etc...and I want to watch Space Precinct and 6 Million Dollar Man...

    Thanks everyone!

    best,
    John

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  5. Great list/read JKM. I have to check out "Sapphire and Steel"...I'm fairly well versed in most sci-fi TV but I don't remember this series. Did it ever run in the USA?

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  6. I'm glad you included Sapphire and Steel. That is an incredible series that is all but unknown here in the States.

    You could argue that the final episode of series one of Space: 1999 fits the theme. (Given how different the two seasons are, it is easy to call this the finale of the series as it was originally conceived.) 'Testament of Arkadia' provides explanation for the experiences of that first season, and the final scene where John Koenig closes his personal journal and rests his pen on top is exceptionally poignant.

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  7. I concur with the crowd here : this was a fascinating and involving read. I confess that as the list went onward I kept wondering if 'Blake' was going to be the next to appear, so I was very pleased to find it. I recall my breath literally catching in my throat when the screen goes black in the final moments. I probably spent two days doing web searches to find out 'what happened next', simply because I didn't want to embrace the very obvious - that nothing for these characters was going to happen next. Very powerful stuff. I caught the series when local PBS aired it and probably turned 2 or 3 of my friends onto it as well.

    (a side thought : did Orac happen to survive? Or did it go down in the crash? I can't honestly remember. I used to have one of his more acidic dismissals to his humans as my computer's 'shutdown' sound)

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  8. By the way, loved your observations on those series that never had closure. Great point. Somehow, despite effort for a solid conclusion, they kind of work just fine.

    I think in some small way, I'm still floating around in their universes attempting to make sense of it all and it's kind of like life that way.

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  9. Hello, my friends,

    Thank you all for the kind words about my post on cult tv endings.

    indianhoop: I don't believe Sapphire and Steel ever ran here in the States, but it is available on DVD, the whole series. I highly recommend it.

    It achieves a lot with very, very little in terms of budget and special effects. The stories are cerebral and terrifying, the characters are intriguing, and the horror is expressed through accomplished, minimalist camerawork. I truly love the show and recommend it with the caveat that you realize it was made a long time ago, and special effects expectations have changed!

    Meredith: I am so glad you mentioned Space:1999. I really debated whether I could use "Testament of Arkadia" with this post, because I love that ending; and certainly at the time, it was closing a chapter of the Space:1999 experience. I realized, finally, that I couldn't use it because -- altered as it was -- the show did return for a second year. "Arkadia" was a great "see you in a year" but not final goodbye. But I do love that episode and deeply admire the artistry of it!

    Woodchuckgod: I believe Orac did survive the massacre of Gauda Prime, which would make an interesting point to continue the franchise on. Of course, what we love so much about this episode is the chilly, goose-bump finality of the thing. This is the end. And what a way to go! I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

    SFF: You voice an essential point there, I believe. You note that in a way, we're still floating around the universe of Trek, Lost in Space, BR, Space:1999 and the rest. And you're right.

    It makes me wonder if getting closure actually limits the long-life of these series, in some sense. Once the story definitively ends; we close the book. It's more difficult to go back.

    Whereas -- not knowing the end -- we always seem to want more Trek, 1999, etc.

    I don't hear anyone, for instance, calling out for another season of the hugely popular Lost, Alias or BSG right now. Those finales had the impact of actually chilling interest in the franchises. No one seems to want to go back (not even to Caprica...).

    Very interesting!

    Thanks to all,
    John

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  10. It's so funny. MST3K was so strapped for cash in those last seasons that in that final scene, all they did was dress up the off set kitchen a bit. If you look at where Crow is at, he's actually sitting in front of a fake facade that really is the MST3K bridge. That kitchen was Best Brain's real kitchen throughout all the years.

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  11. Hi Will:

    Hah! I didn't know about that, but it makes sense. I wondered where the scene was shot...

    best,
    John

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  12. Grayson5:48 PM

    Hey John!

    I love me some original Battlestar: Galactica finale.

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  13. Fantastic list and examination, John. Some of these I've not seen. Of course, it is great to see THE PRISONER, THE X-FILES, and MILLENNIUM's finales here. TWIN PEAKS and BUFFY's were great to see listed, too (I did catch these even though I've missed episodes in the 2nd season for the former and I'm still in the midst of catching up with the latter). Great post, my friend.

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  14. Anonymous8:11 PM

    Angel is still the ballsiest ending ive ever seen. buffy was ok but that grrrl power crap is really tired

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