There was a time, circa 1980-something, when the concept of the Star Trek “universe” didn’t really exist.  There were three seasons of the original day-glo Original Series Trek, a pretty lackluster-and-weird debut season for TNG, followed by a season of growth and a very nice run of episodes from Next Generation.  But when the Borg came forward to steal away Captain Picard and transform him into Locutus, it was (to be blunt) pants-wettingly shocking.  This would NEVER have happened to Captain Kirk, let alone Starbuck or Luke Skywalker!  And as the episode ratcheted up the tension, Commander William T. Riker stepped forward, calmly speaking to his security chief, and gave the order to destroy the Borg ship with their Captain on board…  followed by a summer hiatus.  Would they continue with the adventures of now-Captain Riker’s Enterprise?  Would the Borg take the ship and assimilate its crew?  AND WHAT ABOUT NAOMI???  It was one of the most effective cliffhanger moments in my memory, a kick in the gut followed by a swift uppercut of gobsmackery and the realization that we wouldn’t know how it ended until September!  Though the resolution wasn’t nearly as effective as the setup, part of me wonders if (short of both ships blowing up) there could ever have been ANY resolution as dramatic as the fade-to-black moment itself.

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) has never been known to let the beat…





…DRROOOP, asking: What’s the greatest cliff-hanger of all time?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. RAM-evilspaceknight
    February 27, 2013 at 10:56 am — Reply

    Where we’re going we don’t need roads…..

  2. kaptaran
    February 27, 2013 at 11:16 am — Reply

    umm… Critical Hit # 188 ;)

  3. Arbor Day
    February 27, 2013 at 11:24 am — Reply


    wait for it….

  4. February 27, 2013 at 2:06 pm — Reply

    Who shot Mr. Burns.

    The series finale of Farscape also comes to mind.

  5. tidge
    February 27, 2013 at 2:10 pm — Reply

    Twin Peaks: “How’s Annie?”

  6. Mark
    February 27, 2013 at 2:48 pm — Reply

    Well you have done one of the two
    B5 last ep of Year 3
    “Jump… Jump Now”
    three words… two acts and 8 MONTHS of pre internet waiting…
    that Summer was hell on teen Mark and they don’t deal with with the cliffhangers in the first ep of Year 4

    Damn you JMS

  7. comicfan1974
    February 27, 2013 at 4:00 pm — Reply

    I agree It’s hard to compete with the Twin Peaks ending, but maybe the never revealed fate of Sapphire and Steel? Are they still stuck in space, trapped forever?

  8. Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
    February 27, 2013 at 4:18 pm — Reply

    Cheers season four.
    Sam: What the Hell, will you marry me?
    The resolution is blunted by afterknowledge, but both options (including marrying a future Trek captain) were immensely plausible when the line was uttered.
    Bonus points – it kicked off one of the best sitcom series seasons ever. IMHO

  9. aerohalen1
    February 27, 2013 at 4:19 pm — Reply

    not for a good reason,but the series finale of the Sapranos.i was ready to call my cable company to see if something went wrong.

  10. February 27, 2013 at 7:00 pm — Reply

    Battlestar Galactica season 2 finale. Cylons all up in their business.

  11. February 27, 2013 at 7:04 pm — Reply

    You had the best one in the example :)
    Runner up?

  12. Robert A Range
    February 27, 2013 at 7:15 pm — Reply

    Now and Again! If you don’t recall, it was a Captain America-ish show about John Goodman getting hit by a subway and brought back as a supersoldier. In the season finale, he runs from his handler, bursts into his wife’s house, and pushes her and their daughter out the back door. Seconds later, the handler and a butt-load of soldiers come pouring in the front door looking for them.

    It wasn’t renewed.

  13. Bob
    February 28, 2013 at 6:01 am — Reply

    This was one of my favourites and hooked me as a fan for ST:TNG!
    I also have to agree BattleStar Galactica was great.
    And an honourable mention to the single biggest TV Cliff Hanger:Who shot J.R.?

  14. Dan
    February 28, 2013 at 8:55 am — Reply

    the most immediate example would be the current BBC sherlock series.

    one of my favorite “part one of two’s” (not necessarily a cliffhanger in that you’ll find out the second part to a pivotal act in the next episode) was the Two Face origin story from Batman: The Animated Series. the stormy night, the breakout from his hospital room, his wife calling to him, and he slowly turns to reveal the scarred side as lightning strikes, and then you just see the open window with the rain pouring in, and then TO BE CONTINUED. brilliant setup.

  15. AllenBT
    February 28, 2013 at 2:49 pm — Reply

    I have mixed feeling about how successful Back to the Future, Part II was as a movie, but its up there for me. No Marty was ***Spoiler*** left in any immediate danger, so it wasn’t as tense as some cliff hangers, but he was stranded in 1955, and I had to wait 6 months to see the resolution in Part III.

    More frustrating, was the fact that I knew they had filed Part II & Part III side by side, and excepting some post production work, there was really no reason they couldn’t have release both as a double feature. But they were going to make me wait, to ratchet up the tension.

    This was also the first movie sequel cliff hanger, at least that I can remember. Great story beat and tremendous marketing move. Also innovative to film the two features side by side, something else that I don’t think was that common at the time.

  16. ChrisInTX
    March 2, 2013 at 10:43 am — Reply

    I would have to point to the series finale of Quantum Leap (May 1993)… It was truly a gut punch to the fans. After all of Sam’s selfless acts, his final fate is left unanswered. It was an incredibly awesome episode and the point in my life where I learned that the good guy doesn’t always win.

  17. Oldcomicfan
    March 3, 2013 at 9:22 am — Reply

    I have to agree that your example was the best cliffhanger ending of all time. Mr. Worf, FIRE….!!! But the resolution was a severe disappointment. Fizzzle. Oops. No effect. This episode set the stage for television season ending cliffhangers to come (though the practice goes all the way back to Saturday Morning movie serials. These were usually cheats, however, showing the hero’s demise in a gruesome, unescapable disaster of some kind – only to begin the next episode showing his miraculous last minute escape by jumping out of the car/plane/rocket/train just before it blows up). Who Shot JR or all the others I can think of just didn’t hold a candle to “Mr. Worf, FIRE!!!” It was one hell of a climax! Or nearly a climax. Given the fizzle that was the opening scene of the next season opener, somebody needed to slip the scriptwriters some Viagra or something. Talk about your Episodus Interuptus. For this I waited the whole summer? Why couldn’t they have done something like having the weapon actually work and blow away half the Borg ship – but also short out all the systems on the Enterprise – leaving the crew unable to exploit their advantage – and while they work to bring life support and weapons back on line, the cube regenerates and the Borg fly off. It would have had the same effect, storyline wise, but have been a much more dramatic season opener.

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