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Bottle show

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(written from a Production point of view)

Bottle show is a production term for episodes which take place mostly on existing ship sets and do not generally involve major guest stars. The term itself is derived from the notion of "bottling up the action." (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, paperback ed., p. 253) Action and special effects are often minimised. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 65, 140)

Bottle shows are usually created due to budget and time constraints. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 94) Such shows are purposefully planned, every couple of episodes, so production can afford more expensive episodes, such as those filming on location or new sets. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, paperback ed., p. 253) While working on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Michael Piller explained, "We need to do bottle shows on this series in order to pay the piper. We need to do contained non-optical direct shows." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 239)

The concept of a bottle show is related to that of a clip show, in that both are methods of producing under-budget episodes. The clip show TNG: "Shades of Gray" is also considered a bottle show. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 94; Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission)

Despite the cost-saving involved, many bottle shows are popular among both fans and the production staff. Robert Justman remarked that many were "enormously compelling." (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, paperback ed., p. 253) Likewise, Robert Hewitt Wolfe commented, "A lot of these small shows turn out to be pretty good." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 140)

However, only a few bottle shows were produced for TNG, at least in the opinion of David Livingston. During the making of the series, he stated, "Very rarely do we ever just do a bottle show. There's always some kind of element that will be visually interesting." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 236)

The production of many consecutive bottle shows was, at times, frustrating for the cast and crew. Janeway actress Kate Mulgrew remarked, "You know, when you're in the bottle too long – by that, I mean... as you know, that means a ship show – you do three or four bottle shows back-to-back and everybody starts to get wacky." (VOY Season 2 DVD)

Bottle shows

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The following episodes are considered bottle shows:

Harve Bennett has likened Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan to a bottle show, noting that sixty-five percent of the film took place on the set representing the bridges of the USS Enterprise and USS Reliant. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, pp. 111-118)

Cinefantastique (Vol. 23, No. 2/3, p. 43) describes TNG: "Silicon Avatar" as being virtually "a shipbound 'bottle show'" except for the episode's uses of the Crystalline Entity and the installment's teaser.

Similarly, the reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 38) refers to VOY: "State of Flux" as virtually a bottle show, apart from location work for that episode's teaser and use of some leftover sets that were made to look distressed.

Star Trek: The Original Series 365 notes that many episodes in the third season of The Original Series were bottle shows. (p. 275)

Phlox actor John Billingsley remarked that, despite ENT Season 3 being primarily arc-based (due to its focus on the Xindi incident), it also contains "a few, kind of, you know, bottle-y shows. 'Bottle' not 'bodily.' Bottle shows that function within the arc, but allow you to have a little rest." ("Part Two: Front Lines", ENT Season 3 Blu-ray special features)

Episodes conceived as bottle shows

Both TNG: "The Next Phase" and "Power Play" were conceived as bottle shows but rewrites led to more special effects being used. "The Next Phase", which had scenes of characters running through walls, ended up as one of the most expensive episodes of the season. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 203) Likewise, all the action in "Power Play", according to Michael Piller, "instead of helping us get even, knocked us into the stratosphere." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 239)

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