bottle episode

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Said to be from the term “ship-in-a-bottle episode”, the nickname given by the cast and crew of the television series Star Trek (originally broadcast 1966–1969) to an episode set entirely on board the starship USS Enterprise.



bottle episode (plural bottle episodes)

  1. (originally US, television) An episode of a television series designed to be inexpensive and restricted in its use of sets, effects, cast members, etc.
    • 1996 February 12, Janet A. Dornhoff, “What are they filming now?”, in, Usenet[1], message-ID <4fno37$>:
      That's pretty much what a "bottle" episode is; one that uses minimal sets, guest stars, effects, etc, and/or uses lots of clips from past episodes, in order to make a much cheaper episode.
    • 1998, Cinefantastique, volume 30, Oak Park, Ill.: Frederick S. Clarke, ISSN 0145-6032, OCLC 1026580437, page 82:
      One of Wright's great strengths as a screenwriter and producer is his ability to design bottle episodes—shows filmed with the goal of saving money—and turn them into riveting, compelling dramas where the viewer forgets that they are watching a bottle show.
    • 2004, Roz Kaveney, “Writing the Vampire Slayer: Interviews with Jane Espenson and Steven S. DeKnight”, in Roz Kaveney, editor, Reading the Vampire Slayer: The New, Updated, Unofficial Guide to Buffy and Angel, 2nd revised and expanded edition, New York, N.Y.: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, I.B. Tauris, →ISBN, page 125:
      Even though they are moving, for large stretches 'Spiral' is a bottle episode.
    • 2018, M. King Adkins, “‘These are Their Stories’: Postmodern Spaces”, in Television Storyworlds as Virtual Space, Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield, →ISBN, page 122:
      By the 2000s, the airwaves seemed full of shows not just making reference to other pop culture "images," but wholly based on pop culture. [...] Community regularly turned episodes into extended homages to M*A*S*H, Doctor Who, and Christmas Claymation specials. In "Cooperative Calligraphy," the show presents a "bottle episode," during which Abed repeatedly reminds everyone they are in a "bottle episode," pointing out each characteristic of such episodes as it occurs.


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