AMC’s The Walking Dead has returned for it’s fourth season. I still find it quite weird that zombies have become so popular in the last few years but honestly, it’s a pretty great time for me as I’ve loved zombie fiction in all it’s forms over the years (books, films, games, TV, etc). If it features an undead corpse trying to get at someone’s brains, I’m there. However, as I was thinking about the undead’s rise in popularity (and from the grave, hoho), I couldn’t help but think of some of the appearances zombies (or at least zombie-like creatures) have made in other television shows over the years. So using this flimsy excuse, I decided to research zombie appearances in shows from the past. This meant re-watching zombie episodes from some of my favourite shows so that I could get this article just right. And people tell me I don’t suffer for my art!
Also, just to cover my ass. As I mentioned above, some of the examples may not actually be technically counted as zombies, but as they exhibit zombie-like tendencies, you know, like mindless aggression in their quest to take a bite out of someone, I felt they deserved a mention.
Obviously I have to start with the best episode from The Walking Dead and for me, the opener of season three has yet to be topped. We really get a sense of just how well adapted to the zombie apocalypse the survivors have become in the opening sequence, as they efficiently and silently taking down zombies in their search for supplies. Add in the fact that they then spend most of the rest of the ep laying waste to a prison yard full of walkers and you can’t go wrong… unless you get bitten in the leg that is.
All right, before I get lynched, yes I’m aware there was a gag zombie sequence in Stargate’s 200th episode and that ‘Whispers’ may be closer to a true zombie episode, but come on, ‘Infection’ has zombie Wraiths. Not content with sucking the life out of you through their palms, an experiment leaves Wraiths capable of eating food for nourishment. Obviously, their first instinct is to chow down on the Atlantis team (which features the core members and a few disposable ‘red shirts’ to act as zombie fodder) even though the Wraith hive they’re all trapped on is slowly breaking apart around them.
The Simpsons – Dial Z for Zombies
The ‘Treehouse of Terror’ episodes are Simpson episodes that I can watch over and over again and never get tired of. And though they’ve used Zombies a few times, ‘Dial Z for Zombies’ still has to be one of the best. When some black magic (used to resurrect poor Snowball I) goes awry, the Simpsons are forced to take on zombified versions of their neighbours, including Flanders (‘He was a zombie?’) and Homer even gets to shotgun some historical figures who appear for absolutely no reason other than as an excuse fpr Homer to kick undead ass and quip afterwards. Is this the end of Zombie Shakespeare? Yes, yes it is.
‘The River’ was a short lived ‘found footage’ show that never really got the chance to find it’s feet, probably because some of the episodes were quite hit and miss. However, the seventh episode of season 1 was definitely a highlight. Not only did it finally reveal the mystery behind the disappearance of Dr Emmet Cole (which was the entire focus of the show), it also featured the group coming across an abandoned research station that was performing some dodgy tests. Tests which turned people into zombie-like cannibals. And unfortunately, this included the mysterious Kurt Brynildson’s (Thomas Kretschmann ) lover. As the old saying goes, ‘The ones that you love the most are usually the ones who eventually try to eat our face’ or something like that.
Simon Pegg’s Tim plays too much Resident Evil 2 and then daydreams that he’s being attacked by zombies… which he obviously dispatches with the unstoppable combo of his trusty shotgun and his trusty quips. Not only was this scene one of the main inspirations for Shaun of the Dead (which let’s face it, is a pretty big feather in it’s cap), but as a gamer who has played games too late into the night, it is quite fun to watch. Although in my case, it’s usually after playing a Silent Hill game that I start to feel like there’s something waiting outside the house to get it’s hands on me.
Poor Buffy. Being a teenager can be hard, especially when your friends and family are mad at you. Thankfully, there’s no better bonding experience to remind you all how much you love each other than taking down zombies together. That’s why it’s such a nice coincidence that her mother has gotten herself an African mask to display in the house, a mask that comes with it’s own zombie raising demon inside it obviously. Dammit Joyce, always read the small print when you bring ancient artefacts into the house.
This was quite a hard choice. Obviously the episodes featuring victims of the Croatoan virus were candidates for this spot but in the end, I had to go with this episode. The episode starts with Death bringing back dead townsfolk, including Bobby’s wife. Which seems nice at first, (who wouldn’t want to be reunited with lost loved ones?) but slowly goes tits up when the resurrected people stop playing nice and decide taking a bite out of their loved ones is a better idea. I really love this episode as one: it has zombies and two: it gave us a deeper understanding of why Bobby does what he does.
I was unsure if I could mention this or not as it’s actually a complete five episode mini-series rather than a single ep. However, as it’s pretty much essential viewing for any zombie fan, I thought I’d allow it. The show takes place in the Big Brother house (and in a nice touch, has many former British BB house-mates in the pilot) and follows the current house-mates as they discover that they’re surrounded by the undead… and even worse for the vain wannabe celebs, that they’re not on the air any-more. Featuring some great zombie violence, a good cast, an abundance of social satire (Romero would definitely approve) and British sweetheart Davina McCall as a zombie, it has everything you could want in a zombie TV show. I don’t know if it made it over to the states but trust me, if you’re a fan of zombies, you’ll love this.
House. M.D. is usually cutting down his colleagues with witty barbs and sarcastic comments. However, in this strange dream sequence, we get to see him take great delight in cutting down his colleagues (including Foreman, Chase and Cameron) using his ‘Axe-cane’ and by converting his cane into a pump action shotgun. It’s pretty pointless but a hell of a lot of fun. I just wish he had said ‘This is his Boom (Walking) stick’.
Unfortunately the zombie aspect of this episode may be overshadowed by the fact that it features Mulder and Scully finally kissing… and about time too. However, it’s also a crossover episode with the cancelled series, Millennium, and sees Mulder and Scully meet up with Frank Black whilst trying to stop a Doomsday cult who have decided that unleashing zombies upon the Earth to kick start the apocalypse is a good idea. Hint, it’s really not.
Community is a sit-com set in a community college that managed to have a zombie outbreak episode that somehow fits in with the continuity of the show (seriously, if you aren’t watching it, get on it now). The outbreak starts during a Halloween party which has been catered with ‘experimental’ military surplus that slowly starts to turn the students into zombies. Narrated by George Takai (who you just have to love), this episode fits in as many zombie gags and pop culture references as possible within it’s twenty minute runtime.
Any other zombie episodes from your favourite shows that I missed? Any of my choices you disagree with? Let us know in the comments section.