Inspired by a recent post on SyFy Portal (The 10 Scariest Episodes On Sci-Fi TV), I wanted to spend this Halloween enjoying back-to-back episodes of the scariest sci-fi television. Generally, television is not scary: they’ve got to be sensitive to the kiddies in the audience, plus the standards for content are much stricter. You’re not going to get the blood-drenched gore or oozing, monstrous horrors that you might find on the big screen so the frights are more low-key. Some shows like X-Files and Supernatural are more horror-oriented so it’s easier to find scary episodes of them than of the shinier space-dramas. Plus, there are scary episodes in other types of dramas as well (such as the Twin Peaks episode where we get to see Bob hiding behind the couch — stop, I can’t even think about that without getting scared), but I wanted to stick with sci-fi. All things considered, I was pleasantly and surprisingly creeped out by the end of the evening. Here’s what I watched:
Star Trek: TNG — Schisms (episode 6-05)
Members of the Enterprise crew cope with lack of sleep and other strange phenomena and begin to realize that many of them have been abducted by unknown entities for experimentation during the night.
OK, this episode was not scary, and I was hard-pressed to find an episode of Star Trek that was. Nevertheless, it was a good start if for nothing other than the scene where the little abductee support group of Geordi, Worf, Ryker, and guest-star-female use the holo-deck to rebuild the setting of their shared nightmare piece by piece. When they add the clicking noises and Geordi looks like he’s going to retch as he remembers it all, I get a bit queasy myself.
Doctor Who — Blink (episode 3-10)
A largely Doctor-free episode. Sally Sparrow finds an old derelict house with a message from the past written for her on its walls. The Doctor’s warning tells her to beware of the weeping angels. What follows is a mystery about cause and effect and time-travel as well as a how to escape from pursuit by stone statues.
I love this episode so much. If you are not yet a fan of the new Doctor Who, you really need to watch this episode because it will likely convert you. I remembered it being really scary, but it’s mostly the one scene where Sally and her friend are pursued by the weeping angels — that scene had my heart racing. Never have statues been so terrifying.
Buffy — Hush (episode 4-10)
A group of cadaverous monsters called The Gentlemen come to Sunnydale and magically steal everyone’s voices. At night they float around town carving out the hearts of their victims. Buffy and the gang figure out what’s going on and wordlessly save the day.
If you’ve heard of any Buffy episode, it’s likely to be this one. The fact that no one speaks for a large part of the episode makes it quite an achievement, but is it scary? While I think it might be a scary idea that people are rendered helpless merely by being unable to speak, it is still the creepiness of The Gentlemen that made this episode scary (that and the music). While dressed impeccably in black suits (like undead undertakers), they are truly gentlemen who knock on your door before entering (and killing you). The juxtaposition of that politeness with their faces which look like corpses bearing huge twisted grins is extremely unsettling. Even though I know it’s just TV, I had an eerie feeling answering my apartment door after watching this episode (fortunately it was only two cute little trick-or-treaters).
The X-Files — Home (episode 4-02)
A trio of creepy mutants (the deformed, grunting kind; not the cool X-Men kind) bury a baby in the ground during a violent thunderstorm. FBI Special Agents Mulder and Scully come to the small town to investigate and discover a reclusive family with a history of inbreeding. After the local sheriff is killed, the investigation takes a very dangerous turn.
When I first saw this episode over 11 years ago, I immediately declared it the scariest thing I had seen on TV (so it easily topped my list this time ’round). Everything from the repulsiveness and animalistic brutality of the Peacock brothers, to the horrific disfigurement of the mother, to the disturbing combination of violent murder with the golden oldie “Wonderful Wonderful” by Johnny Mathis gives me chills even as I type this. I think maybe one viewing of “Home” per decade is about as much as I can take.