An alternative reality episode that's an excuse to put the characters in period costume. The term is almost exclusively the property of episodic TV and film. The Wild West
and The Roaring Twenties
/ the Genteel Interbellum Setting
are popular destinations. In SitcomLand, it is usually either a Dream Sequence
after a character falls asleep in front of the TV, or a flashback told by an older relative about the characters' identical ancestors
. It's also a popular type of Alternate Universe Fic
In theater, the term exclusively means "a person who makes costumes." You wouldn't call a play a costumer (unless it was about Edith Head
), you'd call it a "period play." See also Costume Drama
Anime and Manga
- Pucca has episodes consisting of episodes where the entire cast is in the Wild West, or in Canada, or Holland, or even in ancient Greece.
- The "Boss Luffy" Fillers in One Piece, which takes all the Loads and Loads of Characters of the series and place them in a setting that's reminicent of ancient Japan.
- Unlike their cartoon counterparts, Mr Peabody and Sherman (as well as Penny) wear appropriate period clothing when needed to be while in the past.
- In the children's book series The Magic Treehouse, the two main leads, Jack and Annie get teleported to various locales and time periods throughout history. In most adventures, after they're finished warping, they find themselves in appropriate clothing of the time. When they went to ancient Rome, they wore togas. When they went to the North Pole, they had fur coats. And so on.
- The Dick Van Dyke Show: Rob has an Wild West dream while having dental work done.
- The Odd Couple: Felix tells the story of how his and Oscar's fathers knew each other in the 1920s.
- Happy Days was a repeat offender, going back to such times as the First Thanksgiving, Prohibition and the Cunninghams' immigrant ancestors (it was a musical episode, too).
- Gilligan's Island: Pretty much all of the "dream" episodes.
- ABC once had sort of a "time travel night", with the cast of Sabrina the Teenage Witch superimposed over the 1970s and the cast of Boy Meets World in World War II.
- Red Dwarf
- An interesting example where Kryten's struggle with a complex computer virus is shown as a Western with him cast as the drunk sheriff. The others eventually go in and help him as Western heroes. Related to the trope below, because in the beginning, Lister is playing a total immersion video game in the style of Film Noir.
- Another notable example is "Jane Austen World", which is exactly what it sounds like. Except for Kryten arriving to break things up with a T-55 tank.
- "Entering the King Arthur simulation with a book of cheats and attempting to seduce the queen of Camelot?! I haven't been this embarrased since my groinal box fell into mister Rimmer's soup!
- The third season finale of Northern Exposure was a Whole Episode Flashback to the founding of Cecily.
- The Prisoner episode "Living in Harmony" is another Western-themed Costumer.
- Variation in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Halloween": Thanks to magic, the characters literally become the figures whom they dress up as — Buffy is a young 18th century aristocrat, Xander is a soldier, and Willow is a ghost.
- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess were rather infamous for having episodes set in the show's future (our past, natch), starring identical descendants or equally-identical Spiritual Successors of the title characters.
- Let me count the Star Treks:
- Star Trek: The Original Series: Not counting the times they were actually on another planet dressed as Nazis or Gangsters, the TOS Ur-example is "City On The Edge Of Forever", though the Depression-era costumes were deliberately not gorgeous.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation had "Time's Arrow", a two-parter, the episode where Q made them act out Robin Hood, and the Dixon Hill holodeck stories (see below).
- Deep Space Nine had Bashir's James Bond holofantasies, the Ferengis visiting 1947, a holo-1963 where Vic Fontaine lived; and of course, the Tribble episode, where the Gorgeous Period they visited was the Original Series.
- Voyager had the pulp-inspired Captain Proton!, WWII Occupied France with Alien Nazis, an Irish village, and Beowulf on the holodeck. The actual time-travel "period piece" ep is a subversion, as the period was today, so they probably gave the costumers the day off and went to work in casual clothes.
- Then when the Q Continuum got into a civil war and Voyager's crew got pulled into it, the Q's universe was dressed up as the American Civil War because its real appearance would have been too much for mortals to take.
- Star Trek: Enterprise had Alien Nazis. Again. Although that time, they were alien Nazis on Earth, working with actual Nazis.
- They also did a "time travel to the present day" episode. Same effect as Voyager.
- Had several dream episodes set in The Wild West town of Serenity. Cue chuckles from Firefly fans.
- The two part episode where Mac found himself back in a pseudo medieval Scotland, primarily to set up The Reveal of Mac's first name. It's Angus.
- A season-two episode of Power Rangers had the Pink Ranger teleported back to the Wild West, where she met the predictably-dressed identical ancestors of the rest of the team; when they got Ranger powers, their Ranger suits were largely the same, but featured scarves/bandanas, fringe on the gloves, and restyled boots.
- Suddenly Susan also went back to the Wild West.
- Continuing with the Wild West, When Cordell Walker would tell stories about Hayes Cooper, one of the first Texas Rangers, he would imagine Cooper looking very much like himself.
- While they've never done full episodes, How I Met Your Mother has featured such scenes in at least two episodes. In The Goat, when we learn how Barnabus Stinson came to write the Bro Code, and twice in the Sexless Innkeeper when Barney and Ted recite their poems.
- I Love Lucy did this once. As to be expected, Lucy's dream is full of Crowning Momentof Funny.
- Not counting the 1920's "Charleston dance" outfits or the Pilgrim outfits for the silent school film (beause every family has outfits like these just for fun), Bobby Brady had a dream where his family lived back in the late 1800's and was on board a train being robbed by Jesse James.
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, trying to get their bar recognized as a historical site, told the story of colonial days, and how their Identical Ancestors cracked the Liberty Bell.
- Doctor Who:
- There's a few examples during William Hartnell's tenure, as he often visited historical periods where monsters weren't a problem and the only alien was he himself - a conceit abandoned afterwards:
- "The Aztecs", where Barbara gets mistaken for the Aztec god Yetaxa. Susan trains as an Aztec priest, Ian as an Aztec warrior, the Doctor gets an Accidental Engagement to a local woman and Barbara starts trying to manipulate the civilisation's politics. Not too much in the way of Gorgeous Period Dress apart from Barbara's absolutely awesome god ensemble.
- In "The Romans", the cast has been living as ancient Romans for several months before the story begins, so they're all very integrated in the time period, know how to act and dress the part, and how to live the Roman lifestyle. The result of this is that the drama they get involved in doesn't have the usual element of trying aggressively to blend in and disguise that they are time travellers - the plot concentrates on their attempt to get out of the time period by manipulating the social roles they've ended up in (Barbara as a house slave, Ian as a gladiator, the Doctor as a Wandering Minstrel with his adopted granddaughter Vicki).
- "The Crusades" has a lot of medieval Costume Porn, with the entire cast dressing up, Vicki getting both a girl's and a boy's outfit throughout the story, Ian getting knighted and swordfighting the Saracens...
- Deconstructive Parody in "The Gunfighters", where Steven and Dodo dress in gaudy wild-west costumes and start affecting incredibly bad American accents, with the result that everyone from the real time period thinks they're insane. The Doctor, who sticks with his conventional English accent, blends in perfectly simply by adding a cowboy hat. In fact, a bit too perfectly - he gets mistaken for Doc Holiday, who has a gang after him.
- "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" is a shameless example of this, as it attempts to pastiche Hammer Horror movies (particularly The Terror Of The Tongs) and Sherlock Holmes at the same time. Both the Doctor and Leela spend the whole story in Gorgeous Period Dress (oddly, the Doctor's bohemian-Holmes Cosplay outfits being the most splendid) and the Costume Drama production values are terrific. It's one of the best-looking episodes of the Classic series ever made... apart from that horrible giant rat.
- Not a whole episode, but in an episode of Hu$tle, there was a flashback about a financial criminal at the beginning of the 20th century, in the style of a Charlie Chaplin silent movie. The criminal was "played" by Hu$tle protagonist Mickey Stone, with clothes and hair like Chaplin.
- The Futurama episode "Roswell That Ends Well" had Fry donning army fatigues to avoid suspicion in 1947... and the Professor in a 30s zoot suit and Leela in a 50s poodle skirt. Though not the first time at all, there was the time they dressed up as robots in "Fear of a Bot Planet".
- An episode of Darkwing Duck starts off on the high seas and details the exploits of the good Pirate Darkwing Dubloon.
- This happens twice in Kim Possible. The season 2 finale that has a dream sequence involving most of the major characters a century ago in Generation Xerox. Then we have the fourth season Cap'n Drakken where a school camp takes place at a recreation of 17th century, where everyone has to dress and act the part so there can be an escuse for the Piratesofthe Caribbean Shout-Out.
- Family Guy released made-for-DVD parodies of each movie in the original Star Wars trilogy with Chris as Luke, Peter as Han, Stewie as Darth Vader, etc.
- The Smurfs Season 9 episodes had the time-traveling Smurfs automatically dress up in clothes that are appropriate for the time period and/or geographical location that they enter.
- Narbonic has a long-running Sunday feature involving Victorian versions of the characters and an Edgar-Rice-Burroughs-esque space travel plot.
In a nearly identical trope, the characters will find themselves in a Sam Spade-like Film Noir
, complete with a Grizzled Gumshoe and a Classy Dame. (Fun Fact: Did you know there are more Film Noir
parodies than there are actual Film Noir
- NYPD Blue (in a reviled episode)
- Married... with Children
- Family Matters "Farewell, My Laura." Steve writes a short story about himself as the hard-boiled detective Johnny Danger.
- Step by Step
- Moonlighting: "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice" (Film Noir) and "Atomic Shakespeare" (take a guess)
- Small Wonder (Jamie's videotaped book report)
- Happy Days (During the post-Shark Jump years, Richie & the gang remember a story about the Cunningham family, featuring the gang in, of course, period 20s gangster dress, with Richie as an inquisitive DA, and the Fonz as the head gangster.)
- Boy Meets World
- Star Trek: The Next Generation (Dixon Hill)
- Lois and Clark did this in the episode Fly Hard, as terrorists try and break into the Daily Planet Perry recites the story of gangsters where the newspaper now stands. Clark, Lois, Perry, Lex and Jimmy play the part of mobsters and corrupt cops during the flashback sequences.
- Blue Heelers has a story of an old film fan who may have come across old crooks. The end credits has the actors dress as old cops, gangsters and dames to a 1930s rag time version of the theme song.
- Phineas and Ferb in the episode "Finding Mary McGuffin" has this. After watching their father's old Film Noir movies, Phineas and Ferb decide to find Candace's lost doll using that style. They also parody other detective movies and shows. Lampshaded when an old man they are questioning says, "Aren't you a little young to know all these detective shows." and Phineas says "Yes. Yes we (puts sunglasses on) are.
- The Young Justice example mentioned above.
- Film Noir detective is one of the options for the Camden Lock's interrogation simulator in the Hyperdrive episode "Convoy". In fact, most of the options use literary or film detectives as the interrogators.
- The Fringe episode "Brown Betty," from season two. Walter Bishop smokes some special dope, and then entertains Olivia's niece Ella by telling her a story in which Olivia is a hard-boiled private detective in a world of Anachronism Stew (a 1940s/1950s aesthetic, but with mobile phones and computers).
Yet another variation is to have the cast reenact the events from a famous period play or work of literature.
- What's Happening!! and Fame: the TV Series both had characters who got hit on the head and imagined themselves in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
- Moonlighting had a No Fourth Wall episode, where a fan of the show is forced to do his homework instead of watching the latest episode of the show, so he reads "The Taming of the Shrew", but imagines it with the cast of Moonlighting.
- Married... with Children had the entire cast playing out the roles of characters in a bodice-ripper romance novel. (With Steve Rhodes cameo-ing as a singing pirate who likes to torture people with Gilbert and Sullivan songs.)
- The Simpsons had an episode like the Married... with Children example , as well, with Ned Flanders playing the role of the "manly man" to Homer's jerkass love rival. This has happened again with the episode "Tales from the Public Domain", three stories which involve the characters in familiar old woks.