I loves me a good cliffhanger. Those moments out of the blue at the end of a show where the story leaves you at a fork in the road, holding a sign that reads “What The Fuck?!”. It’s sad that in today’s TV and film, the very existence of the internet makes keeping these cliffhangers a secret very hard indeed. Well, hard but not impossible. But still… I thought I’d take a few minutes and look back over some of the cliffhangers that rocked my world (for good or bad reasons) over the last few decades. Let’s see if you agree, and by all means, add your own faves in the comments section.
Predictably, this blog post is going to be ABSOLUTELY FUCKING LITTERED WITH SPOILERS. So read on at your peril. Ahem.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
The Best of Both Worlds, part one – One of the big daddy cliffhangers off all time in my opinion. The story had the show’s second appearance of the Borg, so they were still a pant-wettingly terrifying threat at this time before being slowly neutered over the next 10 years. Patrick Stewart’s contract with the show was up, and he was in negotiations about returning but nothing was set in stone. So when Captain Picard was abducted by the Borg and made into one of them, it was amazing! The show had cannily set up Riker as the de-facto captain in his absence, and given him a feisty first officer… so when the show ended with Riker commanding his crew to fire upon and destroy the now-Borgged up Picard… well, you could hear the entire Trek fandom gasp. It was a truly epic ending to a series. Was Picard really going to be killed off? Was Riker going to take over as Captain? The summer-long wait for the next season was harsh.
The X Files
Anasazi – This corker of a cliffhanger cropped up at the end of the show’s second season, and was one of the first big ‘mythology’ episodes dealing with Mulder’s sisters abduction and the other myriad strands of insanity Chris Carter had cooked up. Ending with Mulder being trapped inside a boxcar full of dead alien bodies buried under the ground in New Mexico, we watched in horror as the Cigarette Smoking Man and his cronies torched the boxcar with Mulder inside. How was he going to get out?! The wait was spoiled slightly by a conclusion that can only be described as ‘weak-ass’. But still, an awesome cliffhanger.
Yeah, yeah, I know, Casualty… It’s a wicked cliffhanger okay! I don’t when it was, it was in the first 4 or 5 years of this slow-paced medi-soap, but a gunman had taken hold of Holby A&E, leaving staff nurse Charlies Fairhead to talk him down. It didn’t work, and the gunman shot Charlie in the chest. As the police then charge down the gunman, Charlie’s colleagues drag the shocked nurse onto a bed, and start to frantically operate to save his life. Would Charlie survive to the next series?! We all bloody well hoped so – he was the only likeable character in it until Josh the Paramedic showed up! Well, apart from Nurse Megan maybe.
Red Dwarf VI
Out Of Time – The crew of Red Dwarf have all been killed by their future selves, apart from Rimmer. With his ship disintegrating around, he aims to destroy the time machine that’s allowed all this to happen, when suddenly – Starbug explodes… An unusually action-packed ending for a Dwarf ep, it was pretty obvious how things would be resolved… that didn’t make the three-year wait any quicker mind you.
The Italian Job
Literally, your classic cliffhanger ending! And what’s not more, it never has been (and never should be) resolved! Utterly utterly brilliant!
Back To The Future 1 & 2
Part one’s ending was great, as they totally tease the audience with a glimpse of the future – even though the filmmakers acknowledge they were never going to resolve this cliffhanger, and if they’d known that the film was going to be a hit they’d have written a different ending! See through ties, food waste for fuel, flying cars… super fun! The cliffhanger for the second part is also brilliant, as it builds you up for the climax of the first film, but shows you what happened next in a moment of pure comedy!
New Doctor Who has pulled off some classy cliffhangers of late – the wonderful moment at the end of The Almost People where Amy’s true nature is revealed is a cracker, as was the ending to the previous years The Time Of Angels, with the Doctor giving his great speech about the one thing you don’t put in a trap… “me…” and then shooting off-screen. The best one though was the Tenth Doctor, getting shot by a Dalek at the end of The Stolen Earth, and begins to regenerate – and it ends! Gaaagh! Kept under wraps, totally secret and spiffingly good! Cracking ending.
And don’t forget, possibly the best cliffhanger ever committed to media of any kind has got to be…