11 thoughts on “What Was the Best TV Flashback Episode?

  1. Season Five of Buffy’s episode “Fool for Love,” which gives Spike’s origin and his nicknames William the Bloody and Spike when someone says “I’d rather have a railroad spike through my head than listen to that awful stuff.”

  2. a toss-up between
    Farscape – “The Way we weren’t” – a serious episode (contrasting the craziness of the previous episode) exposing the guilty secrets of some of the characters

    and Coupling (UK version) “Remember This” – which has a series of flashbacks of an office party – often showing the same scene from different character’s points of view reflecting differences between their recollections due to personal bias (or alcohol)

  3. I have to go with a choice that will most likely be obscure to anyone reading this. But, at the top of my flashback-episode list is “Confetti Check A-O.K.”, from the British television series U.F.O. (ITV, 1970-1).

    Those familiar with the show know the atmosphere of most of the chapterplays was taut and grim. And that description fit the personality of the lead character, Commander Straker, squared.

    “Confetti Check A-O.K.” goes back ten years in the fictional conceit of the series, and shows how Ed Straker, having just retired as a colonel in the U. S. Air Force, is upbeat and optimistic. He’s a newlywed and looking forward to life with his new wife.

    That plan gets de-railed before the honeymoon even begins, when the government authorities of the world discover the imminent threat of alien invasion. Circumstances conspire to make COL Straker the man the governments insist take charge of developing the Earth’s counter-force before the alien attack begins in earnest.

    The knowledge of the alien threat is withheld from the public, to prevent mass panic, so Straker must build his counter-force organisation, SHADO, in secrecy.

    For the better part of this episode’s hour, we see how the intense pressures of his responsibility turn him hard and withdrawn. We see the long hours and need for secrecy destroy his marriage, until finally, she abandons him, taking their infant son with her.

    (Man, this show knew how to grind its hero down. Earlier in the series, we saw an episode in which Commander Straker was forced to make a command decision which resulted in the death of his son.)

    It was a masterful deconstruction of a man’s life, leaving him with nothing but his mission and sense of duty. And it added a tragic subtext to every staggeringly difficult decision that Straker had made over the course of the series.

  4. And, if you want to break it down by genre, then under the category of “Situation Comedies”, the best flashback episode has to be the third-season opener of The Dick Van Dyke Show—“That’s My Boy?”

    It’s one of the funniest pieces of comedy writing ever—as evidenced by the fact that the line “Hi! We’re Mr. and Mrs. Peters!” results in one of the greatest laugh-so-hard-your-eyes-bulge-out moments in television history.

  5. Oh, my gosh, I remember seeing that episode for the first time. I remember reading something or hearing commentary to the effect that episodes were usually pretty tightly scripted so that even with audience reaction, they rarely had to edit, but that episode was the exception: the audience was laughing so long and so hard, they had to edit out a large chunk for time.

  6. . . . the audience [to “That’s My Boy?”] was laughing so long and so hard, they had to edit out a large chunk for time.

    I have a couple of books about The Dick Van Dyke Show, and that’s what they report, too.

    About a week ago, I viewed that episode again for the umpteenth time, and I laughed at that moment almost as hard as I did when I saw it ‘way back when. As great as that moment is, it can’t help but overshadow a half-hour packed with funny lines:

    “Honey, h-how much do you like that baby?”

    “We were running a series of tests.”

    “And miss seeing the look on your face?”

    I know, they don’t read all that funny But, in the context of the plot, they’re hilarious.

  7. “And miss seeing the look on your face?”

    That was a beautiful cap to the series of jokes that led to the moment in question. You’re absolutely right that that was a really good episode overall.

  8. I vote for the two-part St. Elsewhere episode “Time Heals,” which covers the whole history of the hospital, introduces the doctors and staff members, and includes a medical mystery through a family’s ties to the place over the decades.

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