Poll of the Month: Show In A Bottle

Poll of the Month: Show In A Bottle

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.

Click here to head to the forums now and vote in this week’s poll on which you would choose, or let us know your own! Be sure to leave a comment in the thread!

We are a star trek roleplaying game

We are a free, fun, and friendly community of Star Trek fans who write collaborative fiction together. It’s easy to join – we’ll teach you everything you need to know!

Latest Mission Reports

Latest Interviews

Latest News

OOC Activities

Looking for something fun to do? We have a whole list of fleet activities that are looking for members like yourself! Check out the Fleet Activity List today to see where you’ll fit in.