'Tis the season for merry-making, presents under the tree ... and holiday-themed TV. You've got your Rudolph, your Frosty and your Charlie Brown, but if you're reading this, you probably prefer your seasonal television with a sci-fi or fantasy twist.
The holidays have made for some memorable television in the genre, and here are nine great examples from sci-fi Christmases past, in no particular order.
Happy holidays and happy viewing to all!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Amends"
This was a crucial episode in the character development of Buffy's boyfriend, Angel (setting the stage somewhat for his spinoff which would come the following year). Angel sees visions of the people he's killed over many centuries, and these ghosts urge him to kill Buffy. Wracked with guilt, he plans to face the sunrise -- in the midst of a heat wave in Sunnydale -- before a Christmas miracle occurs. This episode is also important in that it introduces the First, who would become the Big Bad of Buffy's final season.
Quantum Leap: "A Little Miracle"
Many holiday episodes do a takeoff on A Christmas Carol, and this one is no different. Sam leaps to New York on Christmas Eve, 1962, into the body of a Bob Cratchit type who has a Scrooge of a boss. In order to stop him from destroying a charitable mission, Sam gives the miserly boss his own Christmas Carol experience with ghosts trying to convince him to change his ways. Like many episodes of this classic series, it expertly blends comedy and pathos, with a heartwarming holiday message.
Watch it for free here.
The X-Files: "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas"
Six seasons into its run, The X-Files still had plenty of tricks up its sleeve, including this last of a few holiday episodes, which was highly-promoted by Fox at the time it aired. Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner guest starred as two ghosts in a haunted house being investigated by Mulder and Scully. The ghosts were in love and took part in a murder-suicide pact so they would never have to be apart, and as Mulder learned, they haunted a house every Christmas Eve. However, their intentions are not as good as they might sound. This was definitely one of the more memorable one-off X-Files episodes, with tremendous performances by Asner and Tomlin.
Arrow: "Year's End"
A crucial episode -- as every midseason finale is for this series -- which set up the rest of Arrow's first season. Oliver throws a Christmas party, having learned his family stopped celebrating when he disappeared. He also learns of what the Dark Archer is up to, and the Archer's true identity is revealed for the first time. This episode is also one of the first to suggest chemistry between Oliver and Felicity.
The Flash: "The Man in the Yellow Suit"
The title is of course a takeoff on Santa Claus, but referring to Reverse Flash, who faces Barry for the first time in this first season episode. It's the holiday season but the merriness is short-lived, as Reverse Flash is on the loose. The Flash has one of his first major battles against him in a stadium. This leads to a final scene, with the creepiest "Merry Christmas" ever, uttered by the man who is revealed to be the Reverse Flash.
Twilight Zone: "The Night of the Meek"
This second season episode features a drunk man dressed like Santa Claus -- a perfect image for this classic series. This being a holiday-themed episode, it has one of the happier endings of Twilight Zone history. Let's just say the fortunes of this drunk man take quite a turn. The drunk man, through a series of circumstances, gets to take on the role of the suit he's wearing in a very heartwarming way. Yes, even Rod Serling had some Christmas spirit.
The Real Ghostbusters: "Xmas Marks the Spot"
J. Michael Straczynski gave us one of the most clever takes on A Christmas Carol, as the Ghostbusters, having traveled to the past, accidentally bust the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. After they return to the present day, they find that Scrooge is now seen as a genius and Christmas is no longer celebrated. The foursome hatch a plan to spook Scrooge themselves and simultaneously attempt to bring back the ghosts. It's one of the best episodes of a beloved Saturday morning cartoon.
Pushing Daisies: "Corpsicle"
Bryan Fuller's short-lived series still has some devoted fans, and this is one of its finest episodes. Due to the 2007 writer's strike, this ended up being the first season's finale, taking place after Chuck learns the truth about her father's death. Paul Reubens has a memorable guest appearance as well, as a man with a powerful nose. If you've never seen this enchanting show before, this is a good episode to sample.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians," "Santa Claus"
Joel and the Bots took on the most famous bad Christmas movie in the cult series' third season, and it's still one of the best episodes ever. Crow T. Robot also comes up with the new Christmas Carol, "A Patrick Swayze Christmas." Two years later, Mike had his turn doing a holiday episode, riffing on the surreal Mexican kids' movie about Santa Claus fighting the devil. It's even weirder than it sounds.