"The term bottle episode is used in episodic television to refer to episodes which are produced using the least money, and restricted in their scope to use as few new - or no - non-regular cast members, effects and sets as possible. Most bottle episodes are shot on sets already built for other episodes, frequently the main interior sets for a series, and they consist largely of dialogue or scenes for which no special preparations are needed."[Wikipedia]
Hangover, One Night and Metamorphosis all, to some extent, appear to be bottle episodes or at the very least, episodes with small budgets. Hangover was shot completely within preexisting sets with one guest star in scenes that could be shot quickly. One Night was shot largely within one or two rooms and within preexisting sets, albeit with several guest stars (Declan!). Metamorphosis was shot primarily within preexisting sets with some CGI, no guest stars.
I’m sitting there falling asleep during One Night, rolling my eyes during Metamorphosis and ranting that I could so come up with a more interesting story than “Will gets turned into an Abnormal. Again.” I reasoned to myself that there were probably budgetary issues behind the scenes affecting the writing, because I try to make excuses for the writers – usually to no avail. I said to myself “Let’s see if it’s really that difficult to write a bottle episode.” So I challenged myself to come up with some story ideas, attempting to have them take place entirely within the Sanctuary and featuring few to no guest stars and CGI. I came up with a few ideas, although not all of them work for bottle episodes necessarily:
Idea #1 – After Kate snaps during [INSERT REASON HERE], Magnus forces her to have a therapy session with Will that fills the audience in regarding her past criminal activities. (budgetary issues: calls for flashbacks that would require additional locations, guest stars and some CGI. Not a bottle episode).
Idea #2 – Magnus and company are forced to make a hard decision when an Abnormal who is dangerous due to no fault of its own comes in and they need to euthanize it for everyone’s safety. Angsty moral dilemmas ftw. (budgetary issues: requires at least one guest star and some CGI, but would probably qualify as a bottle episode. Additional problem: probably way to dark for this show after they toned it down from the webisodes, but that’s not the point)
Idea #3 – Bigfoot’s mother/aunt/cousin comes to visit/persuade Bigfoot to come back home/ask for a favor/whatever. Xenophobia ftw as Will, Kate and Henry don’t quite get along with the relative who isn’t as used to humans as Bigfoot is. Played with equal parts comedy and seriousness. (budgetary issues: requires at least one guest star. Could pass for a bottle episode)
Idea #4 – A day in the life of the Sanctuary. (budgetary issues: well, let’s see, CGI like woah, additional cast that demonstrates that there aren’t just five people running in the place. This could be a problem).
Idea #5 – In the Dark: A brutal thunderstorm knocks out the electricity, plunging everyone into darkness. While Henry tries to fix the power, Helen and the rest of the team find out that the power outage wasn’t the result of the storm, but rather some pretty clever thieves. (budgetary issues: guest stars, it might cost more to shoot in the dark, idk shoot me I’m not a producer).
After I came up with two-three good ideas within ten minutes… I take back everything I thought about them having budgetary issues. No, their only problem is bad writing, pure and simple. I would so rather watch Team Sanctuary outwit a group of thieves than Will going on another date with Abby McAnnoying (oh I can’t wait for next week) or turning into a lizard (Will they save him? I DON’T KNOW!!) Sanctuary has done good bottle episodes before (Haunted is a fantastic example) so there’s really no excuse.
In general, the lack of extras is really getting to me. They’re losing out on so many stories they could tell with extras and recurring cast, both other people working at the Sanctuary and the residents. More characters would flesh out the feeling of the Sanctuary, plus it just makes sense that there are more than five people running the place and where are the residents?
So basically if I have to conclude anything it’s that yes, budgetary issues make it harder to come up with good stories, but I just sat down for twenty minutes and came up with this stuff and I think it’s more original than Will turns into a lizard. And there is never an excuse for bugs that make people go crazy because they're ugly.