As I prepare for this weekend’s series finale of Battlestar Galactica (and contemplate life without that brilliant show, one of the greatest of the last two decades), I’ve been thinking about some of the great series finales of the recent past. Here are some of my favorites, counting down from ten!
10. Cheers — “One For the Road” — Diane Chambers (Shelly Long) returns in an attempt to re-kindle her romance with Sam (Ted Danson) in this extra-long finale. To be honest, it’s been years since I’ve seen this one, but my recollection is of really enjoying it. Bringing back Shelly Long, who was pretty much the star of the show (along with Danson) for the first half of its run, was a brilliant idea. And the final scene is perfect — Sam waving away a customer while saying “sorry, we’re closed.” Sniff!
9. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — “What You Leave Behind” — I am giving props here to the entire 10-hour, 9-episode “final chapter” of this, the greatest of the Star Trek series. The show finally becomes what it has always flirted with: a true serial, as seven seasons worth of storylines come to fruition over the course of this magnificent final epic run of episodes. The Dominion War escalates, a secret section of Starfleet’s complicity in attempted genocide is revealed, and Captain Benjamin Sisko must finally fulfill his destiny as Emissary of the Prophets (a story thread begun in the series’ pilot episode). The show was notable for its enormous cast of recurring characters, and everyone gets his/her due here (with quite a number of popular characters meeting their demise!). The show gets bumped down a bit on my list because the actual final two-hour episode isn’t quite as great as the episodes leading up to it (it looks like they used up their special effects budget, as one of the major battle sequences is composed almost entirely of recycled footage, something that eagle-eyed fans like me noticed). Still, the melancholy tone (so unusual for a Trek series) and the sad, final shot of Jake Sisko looking out the window for his lost father as the camera pulls back and the station slowly fades away into the blackness of space is just perfection.
8. Justice League Unlimited — “Destroyer” — Classic DC Comics villain Darkseid launches a full-scale invasion of Earth, and even the combined might of practically every character (hero & villain) who ever appeared on this amazing animated show are powerless to stop him. In an epic battle atop the ruins of the Daily Planet building, Superman ultimately falls before the might of Darkseid. (That sequence, by the way, is a showcase for the stupendous character designs and action animation that made this show so great.) Ultimately, it is Lex Luthor himself who offers Darkseid a deal in order to spare the Earth. Has Lex actually done something heroic, or has he doomed the entire universe to save himself? In a surprising move that I just love, the show does not answer this question.
7. Mystery Science Theatre 3000 — “Danger: Diabolik” — As the Satellite of Love hurtles back to earth, the gang takes the time to heckle one last movie. And what a movie. This 1968 Italian film follows the elaborate exploits of a supremely skilled thief who likes to dress in skin-tight black leather and lives in a gaudy underground lair. However silly you think this film is, rest assured it is even sillier, particularly the ludicrous ending. All in all, this is a classic MST3K installment, and having Mike and the robots finally escape the satellite, only to get an apartment and spend their days watching old movies, is brilliant.
6. The Office Special — This conclusion to the original British version of The Office jumps ahead three years after the last episode of series two. Many of the folks from Wernham-Hogg have moved on (although Tim and Gareth are still there), but pretty much everyone is re-united for a Christmas party by the original documentary crew. This 90 minute special captures everything that was great about The Office — no show captured cringe-worthy moments of painful humiliation quite as well — while also providing a lovely, emotional ending for Tim and Dawn.
Click here for numbers 5 through 1!