The vast majority of telefantasy episode titles are functional, descriptive and workmanlike, littered with such oft-used phrases as 'The Return of…", “The Revenge Of…”, “Doomsday” and "The Escape". But occasionally shows come up with titles that fire the imagination or even make you smile. Similarly, some just make you cringe. Certain shows are masters of the bizarre episode title (The Avengers, The Middleman), while others are just plain lazy or reliant on bad puns (Smallville, Charmed, Sliders).
So here are SFX’s pick of the best and worst episode titles ever. To be fair, the Best list could have been filled with The Avengers and The Middleman, so we've limited each show to one entry in each list. Except one show… as you'll find out.
THE TOP 25 BEST EPISODE TITLES
25 “Apocalypse Nowish” Angel
Other shows have tried adapting Coppola’s war epic for their own uses (Charmed’s “Apocalypse Not," Medium with "Apocalypse… Now?”). But the little extra twist Angel gives it is by far the best example we've seen.
24 “The White Lightning War” The Six Million Dollar Man
Summons up images of Steve Austin facing off against Zeus. Which isn’t what happens, but it‘s still one hell of a title.
23 “Nubbins” Sanctuary
Just a brilliantly dopey word. We need more episodes called things like "Bobbins”, “Piffle” and “Balderdash”.
22 “A Priest, a Doctor and a Medium Walk into an Execution Chamber” Medium
Sadly we never get the punchline.
21 “An Unearthly Child” Doctor Who
Sometimes simple works. Three words that suggest so many possibilities.
20 “My Maharishi Is Bigger Than Your Maharishi” Life On Mars USA
Maybe, just maybe, it’s trying a little to hard to be wacky, but it’s still a wonderful head-scratcher of a title.
19 “Criss Angel Is A Douche Bag” Supernatural
Who cares if it’s barely relevant to the episode (Angel doesn’t appear) – a great, gutsy tonal mission statement of a title.
18 "Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me" Millennium
Clever inversion of a cliché.
17 "Conversations With Dead People” Buffy The Vampire Slayer
A slight hint of pretentiousness (it sounds like the title to a collection of essays by a lesser known member of the Bloomsbury Group) but an intriguing hint of pretentiousness.
16 "Electric Twister Acid Test" Sliders
Knowing Sliders, you somehow feel the episode could never live up to a title like that. This is much, much better than the show’s usual efforts, which usually relied on sticking the word "slide” into the title (“This Slide Of Paradise” being a typically cringeworthy example).
15 “Dim Sum, Lose Some” Pushing Daisies
In the "Worst" list, we'll be naming and shaming some truly awful puns, but this one is sheer genius.
14 “The Psychobombs” UFO
Perfect marriage of two disparate concepts into one cool concept.
13 “So What's The Purpose Of A Platypus?” Saving Grace
12 “I Sing The Body Electric!” The Twilight Zone
Surely this must have inspired Gary Numan?
11 “The Girl Who Was Death” The Prisoner
Hyperbole in action.
10 “Demon With A Glass Hand” The Outer Limits
Trust Harlan Ellison to come up with a title that suggest something both schlocky and yet philosophical, that promises SF with a clout.
9 “Seven Serpents, Sulphur and Salt” Ace of Wands
Best example of alliteration ever in an episode title.
8 “A Vintage Year For Scoundrels” Adam Adamant Lives!
So British. So right.
7 “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” The X-Files
Eschewing its love affair with foreign language titles (“Excelsis Dei”, “Die Hand Die Verletzt”, “Teso Dos Bichos”), The X-Files occasionally came up with some memorably cheesy titles, usually for episodes written by Darin Morgan.
6 “Bring Me The Head Of The Hulk” The Incredible Hulk
You've gotta watch that, haven’t you?
5 “We’re So Screwed” Farscape
Farscape episode titles were all over the shop, from bad puns (“I Shrink Therefore I Am") to multi-part missives (“ Look at the Princess (1): A Kiss Is But a Kiss”). But this one is short, punchy and to the point, with a dash of self-effacing humour: almost a mission statement for the show. It could only have bettered by an episode called, “Uh-oh!”
4 “The City On The Edge Of Forever” Star Trek
Amongst some fairly mundane episode titles, original Trek could often offer up examples that sounded almost like poetry, such as "For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky” and "The City On The Edge Of Forever". Admit it, even if you’ve never seen this episode, its title is conjuring up wonderful images in your mind’s eye.
3 “?” Lost
Well, some show had to have the balls to do it. And, let's be honest, Lost could have used this title for any episode…
2 “The Flying Fish Zombification” The Middleman
Often The Middleman simply indulged in unashamed silliness in its episodic nomenclature, and never offered up a dull title (“The Ectoplasmic Panhellenic Investigation", “The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome”). But the promise of zombie fish? Who could resist that?
1 “Look (Stop Me If You've Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellers...” The Avengers
With so, so many to choose from, The Avengers is a magical sweet shop of exquisite episode title wittiness (“The Forget-Me-Knot", “Homicide and Old Lace"), but this mini epic is the Citizen Kane of its genre.