Created By: Kohdok on March 15, 2012 Last Edited By: morenohijazo on February 28, 2014

Pilot Error

Something that occurs or appears in a Pilot Episode is never seen again.

Name Space:
Page Type:
Do We Have This One??

I can't come up with an interesting way to start this out, so I'll make it simple: Something that appears in the pilot episode of a series that seems to hold weight or importance is never seen again for the rest of the series. This might be due to the fact that the concept introduced in the pilot was from an earlier draft or that it didn't fit the style of the story, but they are still there.

Other quirks include an actor being replaced or a role being changed around. Sometimes these changes are dealt with or mentioned in a later episode, but often they are simply forgotten.


Live Action TV:
  • If the Mash movie were to be considered a Pilot to the television show, then the replacement of the majority of the actors for the TV show counts for this trope.

Western Animation:
  • In the Sonic SATAM series, the pilot had the enemy "Buzz Bomber", an enemy from the actual Sonic game, menace the heroes in swarms. After the first episode, they are never seen again.
    • Princess Sally also gets a severe design change after the pilot with no real explanation.
  • The titular heroine of Cybersix is seen consuming some liquid from a vial found from one of the mooks she just defeated in the first episode. She is never shown doing this again, although it is mentioned in the series finale.
Community Feedback Replies: 12
  • March 15, 2012
    "error" in the name makes this seem like a bad thing. Not a good name.
  • March 15, 2012
    It's a pun. Any other ideas?
  • March 15, 2012
    Well there is also Early Installment Weirdness, which seems to already cover this.
  • March 16, 2012
    This does seem to be covered by Early Installment Weirdness, unless you can explain why it's different, or somehow make it about something different.
  • March 16, 2012
    Early Installment Weirdness meets Aborted Arc? But only in the pilot episode?

    The pilot of Twin Peaks had a few examples of these, such as the first appearance of Audrey in which it's implied she's been out all night in a limousine, and exchanges her sassy red pumps for normal school shoes. It's consistent with her characterisation as a bit of a femme fatale, but we never get an explanation of what the heck she's up to, despite the fact that the only night spots in Twin Peaks become very relevant later.

    Oh, and the pilot of Sex And The City had Carrie running into a rather serious ex who she'd had a long term on and off relationship with... who we never see ever again. Which is kind of weird considering that the point of her character is that she's so introspective and analytical of her own dating history.

    Also, didn't the pilot of Buffy have a friend of Xander's who he (and we can assume, by extension, Willow) has been friends with since childhood. Then he gets killed and is never mentioned again?

    Here are some examples from Early Installment Weirdness that might help:

    The pilot of Father Ted is the episode in which Jack "dies" (the 6th episode broadcast) and there are notable differences — the parochial house is different, Dougal swears, Ted quotes James Joyce, and at the end they plot Father Jack's death.

    In the pilot of 3rd Rock From The Sun, Tommy and Dick use some kind of telepathy on each other so that Tommy can demonstrate the disgusting thoughts which puberty is causing him to have. For the remainder of the show's run, this ability is never mentioned again and the aliens appeared to lack any kind of "powers".

  • March 31, 2012
    • In the pilot for Seinfeld Kramer is a shut-in who hasn't left the building in years. During the actual show he isn't like that. He doesn't "change," that's just not his personality.
    • In the pilot for The Powers of Matthew Star (which was shown as the last episode of the series, confusingly enough) David - whose name was changed to Matthew for the actual series - doesn't know he's a Human Alien prince and is watched over by a school janitor with a robotic hand. In the series he does know and is looked after by Louis Gossett Jr as a high school science teacher, his guardian (and also secretly a loyal servant to the royal family).
    • The pilot-to-series process of The Inside changed practically everything except the name.

    I really don't think Film/MASH can be considered a "pilot" for Series/MASH
  • March 31, 2012
    If it counts as a pilot, the first Animorphs book had Jake using thought-speech as a human. Later, only those in human morph, like Tobias or Ax, could use it.
  • March 31, 2012
    The living room set in Hangin With Mr Cooper was recycled from Growing Pains. They even lampshaded the fact with Alan Thicke appearing on set with Coop to point it out. It wasn't until a couple or three episodes in that they got an entirely new set.

    The Simpsons' pilot was so badly done it was pushed back to the last episode of the season, and the feud between Klasky-Csupo and producer James L. Brooks it ignited is a thing of legend.

    Most pilots aren't even made available for broadcast for this very reason. They undergo severe retooling before air.
  • March 31, 2012
  • April 1, 2012
    @Kohdok, Technically it's covered by Non Indicative First Episode, but that trope needs work. Would you be cool if I took Non Indicative First Episode to TRS and link to this YKTTW there?
  • April 1, 2012
    • In the Pilot Episode of Monk, Randy Disher was referred to instead as Randy Deacon. No explanation is given for why his last name is Disher in all subsequent episodes.
  • February 28, 2014
    Yep, most of the examples listed are already listed on the wiki under Early Installment Weirdness. Motion to discard.