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"After a riveting adventure in the Alpha Quadrant in 'Pathfinder', we end up spending an entire episode watching Janeway personalise her own talking dildo in a mock Irish town."
Doc Oho on Star Trek: Voyager, "Fair Haven"

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, The Roaring '20s or the Genteel Interbellum Setting, and film noir environments are popular destinations. In SitcomLand, it is usually either a Dream Sequence (sometimes in the form of a Whole-Plot Reference) 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.

See also Costume Drama, Cowboy Episode, Dress-Up Episode, Out-of-Genre Experience.

Note: 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."


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The "Boss Luffy" Fillers in One Piece, which takes all the cast of the series and place them in a setting that's reminiscent of ancient Japan.

    Comic Books 
  • In G.I. Joe vs The Transformers II, some Transformers are cast back in time to the 1970s and 1930s, acquiring period vehicle modes.
  • Kitty's Fairy Tale, a reimagining of the X-Men in an Arabian Nights-esque bedside story.
  • In the Young Justice 80 Page Giant, a Reality Warper reimagines the team into a Wild West setting and a World War II epic, among other things.
  • Another Reality Warper did the same thing to New York City in an X-Men story.
  • Many of DC Comics' Elseworlds stories are like this, notably Justice Riders (the JLI in The Wild West).
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Two separate storylines saw Diana, Steve Trevor and the Holliday Girls tossed into multiple historical periods with their outfits changing into elaborate ones to match the era.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Avalon Rising was a one-shot comic book that had the Doctor stuck on a planet with a technology and culture level very similar to medieval Europe, and telling the young squire he befriended stories of Voyager's adventures, which the squire visualised in terms he was familiar with, turning the crew into an order of knights on a sailing ship.

    Films — Animation 
  • Unlike their cartoon counterparts, Mr. Peabody & Sherman (as well as Penny) wear appropriate period clothing 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: Rob has an Wild West dream while having dental work done.
  • The Odd Couple (1970): 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 the Cold War.
  • 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 (1967) 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.
  • JAG, of the "identical ancestors" variety.
  • 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 (a demented social experiment by an Earth scientist) or Gangsters (inspired by a textbook on Prohibition which some yahoo left behind on the planet), 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 set in 1890s San Francisco; the episode where Q made the crew dress up in tights and act out Robin Hood; Data's holodeck adventures as Sherlock Holmes (see page image); and the Dixon Hill holodeck stories (see below).
      • And the episode "A Fistful of Datas" featured Troi, Worf, Alexander, and of course Data in a holo-recreation of The Wild West.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had Bashir's James Bond holofantasies, the Ferengis visiting 1947, a holo-1963 where Vic Fontaine lived, Sisko's vision of life as a black science-fiction writer in the 1950s; and of course, the Tribble episode, where the Gorgeous Period they visited was the Original Series.
      Dax: (petting a TOS-era tricorder which is bigger than her head) I used to have one of these! I love classic 23rd century designs.
    • Star Trek: Voyager had the pulp-inspired The Adventures of Captain Proton, an Irish village where the crew goes to unwind, and Beowulf on the holodeck. The actual time-travel "period piece" episode is a subversion, as the time period was contemporary 1990's Earth so they probably gave the costumers the day off and went to work in casual clothes.
      • In "The Killing Game", the Hirogen take over the ship and brainwash the crew into thinking they are characters in their holodeck programs, specifically La RĂ©sistance in Nazi-occupied France. This gives them an excuse to put Captain Janeway in a white tux and have Ice Queen Seven of Nine as a sexy wartime chanteuse.
      • 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. And Q is playing a Union Captain, despite being the guy who seceded from the Continuum and triggered the whole grisly war in the first place. But then, John DeLancie dressed up as a Confederate officer probably would not play well.
    • 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.
      • And then there was the episode with T'Pol's Identical Foremother being stranded on Earth during The '50s.
    • Star Trek: Strange New Worlds puts the crew in fantasy Renaissance attire for "the Elysian Kingdom."
  • MacGyver (1985):
    • Had several dream episodes set in The Wild West town of Serenity.
    • 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 Mighty Morphin' 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.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger: Continuing with the Wild West, Cordell Walker would tell stories about Hayes Cooper, one of the first Texas Rangers, and 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.
    • Also happened in "The Broath" and "Desperation Day", both set in Ancient Rome.
  • 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.
  • Speaking of studio tours, the cast of Diff'rent Strokes also got to wear period clothing (Wild West, Keystone Kop, and others) while they too were in an studio tour audience participation movie. This was actually based on an actual studio tour audience participation movie that Universal used to have back in the 70s - 80s.
  • 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 (known as "pure historicals" in fandom) 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.
      Tom Baker: The BBC is very good at period drama but not very good at giant rats.
  • Not a whole episode, but in an episode of Hustle, 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 protagonist Mickey Stone, with clothes and hair like Chaplin.
  • Smallville did it twice: once in a flashback to the early 60s, and once later when Jimmy was dreaming a Film Noir scenario.
  • The time-traveling Legends of Tomorrow frequently dress in garb appropriate to the period to which they have traveled. At one point it's mentioned their bill for historically-appropriate costumes adds up to 1.7 million dollars!
  • The Flash (2014) featured a musical crossover with Supergirl and Flash trapped in a noirish 1940's-era scenario.
  • The Partridge Family has "Don't Bring Your Guns To Town, Santa," in which the bus breaks down in a ghost town on Christmas Eve. While Keith and Reuben try to fix the bus, the others listen to the town's one inhabitant tell a story about the town's heyday, starring Shirley as the owner of a G-rated saloon, Keith as the ineffectual, guitar-strumming sheriff/historian, Laurie as a schoolmarm, Chris and Tracy as two local children, Reuben as a balloon-popping outlaw who tries to steal the town bell, and Danny as the reformed gambler who wins it back.
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir had two, both set during the Victorian era when Captain Gregg was alive:
    • In "Medicine Ball", Mrs. Muir has a mystery illness. The captain does not trust the doctor, so he gives her some of his medicine. She dreams and finds herself in a party in the captain's time period.
    • In "The Ghost of Christmas Past", the captain gives the Muirs, Martha, and Claymore a dream of when he was alive 100 years ago (they all play parts), loosely based on Scrooge.

    Web Animation 
  • 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.

    Web Comics 
  • Narbonic has a long-running Sunday feature involving Victorian versions of the characters and an Edgar-Rice-Burroughs-esque space travel plot.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 excuse 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 (1981) 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.

Noir Episode Examples:

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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
  • Jesse
  • Moonlighting: "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice" (Film Noir) and "Atomic Shakespeare"
  • 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)
  • Smallville
  • Lois & 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.
  • 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).
  • The Lucifer episode "It Never Ends Well For The Chicken", which is framed as Lucifer telling a story to Trixie about a previous adventure he'd had and using the various other characters in the series as stand-ins for the actual people.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.

Whole-Plot Reference Examples:

  • In Ulysses 31, there's a Time Travel episode in which 31st century Ulysses finds himself in Ancient Greece in a plot straight out of The Odyssey when his counterpart from the era returns to Ithaca. He impersonates him to fool Penelope's suitors at one point.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.)


    Western Animation 
  • 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 works.

Alternative Title(s): Costume Trash