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7 great Thanksgiving episodes from sci-fi TV shows that you should watch this year
Saddle up for the yam sham, fam.
The turkey is basting, the potatoes are mashing, and television shows are ready to dominate your lazy holiday spent on the couch. Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and though episodes of sci-fi or genre television that focus on the day are not as prevalent as holiday-themed episodes, there are a few that give you the warm feeling of a spoonful of stuffing. Kind of. They exist, we'll put it that way.
Before we retreat to our various corners and put on our meat pants, it’s time to go through seven of our favorite Thanksgiving television episodes. Some come from sci-fi, some are more fantastical, and others involve superheroes trying to be normal. Giving thanks? As Alf would say, “no problem.”
The Flash - “Oh Come All Ye Thankful”
Season 5 is well past the point when things started to get really weird on this series, but Team Flash celebrated the holiday anyway in the season's seventh episode.
It’s a brief gathering, because it is interrupted by the fresh hell going on that week. Barry (Grant Gustin) and Nora (Jessica Parker Kennedy) had to speed off without any trimmings.
When everything is set right for the moment, the team convenes again for their meal. Before this, however, Nora brought up some family drama when she tried to convince Barry to stop being the Flash. Crisis was coming, and Nora didn’t want Barry to end up as dead as the turkey.
Smallville - “Ambush”
Ten seasons in, and this show decided to show us what a Thanksgiving with Clark Kent (Tom Welling) and Lois Lane (Erica Durance) would be like. As the title suggests, it involves General Sam Lane (Michael Ironside) and Lucy Lane (Peyton List) ambushing Lois and Clark with an unannounced holiday visit. They are not there to break bread and give thanks; General Lane is there to size-up Clark and add extra drama to an already-tense holiday time.
General Lane is ready to make a “Vigilante Registration Law” happen, so Lois is torn between him and Clark. Thanksgiving highlights include Lois preparing dinner, Clark smashing firewood with his bare hands, and appearances from Rick Flag and Oliver Queen. By episode’s end, Sam is good with Clark. Clark asks him a question, and they all have Thanksgiving. The Vigilante Registration Act is passed right along with the cranberry sauce.
Amazing Stories - “Thanksgiving”
The first run of this anthology series (produced by Steven Spielberg) had a go at Thanksgiving in 1986. Kyra Sedgwick plays Dora, an 18-year-old girl who lives in a desert town with her stepfather, Calvin (David Carradine). He’s not one to be thankful, as he ruins a Thanksgiving entry in a Normal Rockwell calendar and cuts the strings on her guitar.
Everything changes when they discover mysterious people living in an old well. Calvin takes what they give, but Dora starts to give some of it back. Soon, Dora realizes that the people living in the hole are hungry and want food — but Calvin doesn't listen to her or care. By the end of the episode, destinies are sealed as Calvin may or may not have learned the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
Supergirl - “Livewire”
The characters on this show gather around for food and fun rather often, but this time they gathered for Thanksgiving in the show's fourth episode of its first season.
The main focus is the origin of the titular villain, who in this incarnation is a jaded DJ who wants vengeance on Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart). The Thanksgiving gathering of the Danvers family has some drama of its own, though.
Kara (Melissa Benoist) has recently emerged as Supergirl, and Eliza Danvers (Helen Slater) questions the wisdom of her in the role of burgeoning hero. She mostly blames Alex (Chyler Leigh) for letting it happen. It’s a Thanksgiving gathering full of family drama and, per usual with this series, the best scenes to come out of that are between Kara and Cat. The amazing Miss Grant didn’t previously know that "Keeeeera" (Kara) was an orphan. They bond over disapproving mothers, and the Kara/Cat dynamic is what we are most thankful for here.
ALF - “Turkey in the Straw”
In 1988, the third season of this show brought Thanksgiving to the Tanner house. Wouldn’t you know it? ALF already ate the turkey, and he ate it raw! Cats, turkeys, anything goes with ALF.
He’s also been leaving food out a homeless man named Flakey Pete. The episode turns into a two-parter when Flakey Pete confronts ALF and calls the “Alien Task Force” to turn ALF in and collect a reward. When he realizes that they might hurt the lovable ALF, he changes his mind and pretends that he is the alien.
The secret of ALF remains safe, as the Task Force brushes Pete off and eventually leaves because they assumed that he was just looking for a free meal. We’re thankful that ALF doesn’t get caught, but we have no gratitude at all for the villainous Alien Task Force. ALF is a silly character who is always getting into trouble, but he helps Pete without witness and without reward.
Star Trek - “Charlie X”
“On Earth today, it’s Thanksgiving,” Captain Kirk says in this episode. It was originally supposed to air in November 1966, but scheduling issues forced the airing to occur early — in September — as the second official episode of the series to ever air. It's also the first on Star Trek's many "creepy beings with powers" episodes.
The titular Charlie is Charles Evans, an awkward kid forced upon Kirk and his crew. While aboard the Enterprise, Kirk discovers that Charlie can make strange and, sometimes, violent things happen with his mind. Once Charlie crushes on and then stalks Yeoman Rand, the tension and stakes escalate. Soon, Kirk witnesses Charlie vanish his sparring partner with the power of his mind and the good Captain realizes they are in serious trouble with this kid. (Thanksgiving on the Enterprise is a THING!)
The “chef” of the Enterprise (voiced by Gene Roddenberry himself) gets on the comms to Kirk at one point and says, “I put meatloaf in the ovens. There’s turkeys in there now. Real turkeys!” Charlie laughs when he hears this.
The ovens would almost never be heard of again, as food replicators became the standard on the series. The episode also included Spock playing a lute, and Uhura singing. Unfortunately, it also featured Charlie slapping Rand on the butt. We’re thankful that Charlie never appeared on the show again. Star Trek must have called off Thanksgiving because of him.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer - “Pangs”
Oh boy, here we go. This wasn’t just an episode of Buffy, it was a crossover with Angel. Written by Jane Espenson for Season 4, it involved an army of Chumash, Sunnydale’s former Native American inhabitants, who interrupt Thanksgiving to right the wrongs done to them.
Because her mother is out of town, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) takes it upon herself to cook a Thanksgiving feast for her friends. Brit Giles (Anthony Head) joins in on the fun, as he has to be “a real American.” Spike (James Marsters) ends up being there also (tied to a chair), because he has nowhere else to go. (Spike tied up in Giles’ house is our favorite version of Spike.)
Once the Chumash attack, the group argues about the holiday itself and whether it should be celebrated at all. Xander (Nicholas Brendan) has syphilis, and Anya (Emma Caulfield) tries to grasp the day’s meaning, saying, “It’s a ritual sacrifice… with pie.” Giles refers to the Chumash as “Indians” and Buffy has to correct him. One of the Chumash transforms into a bear, and Spike (with an arrow stuck in him) screams for Buffy to "undo it, undo it!"
It’s a contentious episode; any Thanksgiving story that brings in undead Native Americans is obviously going to be. Is the entire holiday a sham? According to Buffy, it is. “But it’s a sham with yams,” she says. “It’s a yam sham.”
Enjoy your yam sham everyone, and give thanks.