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An episode focused primarily on otherwise minor characters, using their point of view to give an outsider's perspective on the central plot or characters. Not coincidentally, the principal actors are needed a lot less for this sort of episode than in a typical episode. Lower Deck Episodes usually arise when the crew is behind on their film schedules and have to shoot two episodes at the same time. The main character/s are seldom entirely absent, since they have to get their Mandatory Line in somewhere.

Named for "Lower Decks", episode #167 of Star Trek: The Next Generation, an episode that is notable for both revisiting the life of a minor character from an earlier episode and killing off that same character before we actually see the changes previous events have wrought.

See A Day in the Limelight for a secondary character given the spotlight and Villain Episode for villains. See Breakout Mook Character for full spinoffs for mooks. Compare Elsewhere Fic. May overlap with The Greatest Story Never Told. An entire series of Lower Deck Episodes (within a larger 'verse) is an Innocent Bystander Series.

Examples of Lower Deck Episode include:


Anime & Manga

  • When Hayate the Combat Butler does these with recurring minor characters, the fact is usually stated enthusiastically by said characters. Sometimes with the main characters complaining that they've been pushed to the sidelines. Of course, this is a given since the series has No Fourth Wall.
  • The entire concept behind the OVA Gundam 08th MS Team.
    • Slightly averted by the fact that the titular 08th MS Team are in possession of the very powerful RX-79[G] units, a limited production mobile suit based on usage of the spare parts of the RX-78 program. They are harder to maintain than the mass production RG-79 GM, but that is easily outweighed by them being second only to the RX-78-2 itself in the Federation arsenal.
  • Shinkon Gattai Godannar has an episode dedicated entirely to the Bridge Bunnies and maintenance crew. (mostly centering around the bustier female member of the maintenance crew as she got called for an arranged marriage that she later turns down, IIRC)
  • Most of Pluto by Naoki Urasawa is told from the perspective of Gesicht, a one-shot character from the original Astro Boy series.
  • The One Piece anime has two episodes of "filler" based on the cover story arc of Koby and Helmeppo training to become great marines. Since this is canon (and plays important to the story later) it's hardly considered filler, and was a nice break from the previous chaos.
    • The manga does this frequently, with little side-stories that play out on the title pages, telling us of the exploits of seemingly minor characters from previous storylines. Sometimes these are just for fun, but sometimes they can turn out to be surprisingly important to the main story.
  • Now that the action of Mahou Sensei Negima takes place primarily in the Magical World, an occasional chapter looks back at the characters left behind in Japan and the UK. For like two pages each time, at least.
  • The episode of Fullmetal Alchemist that focuses on Mustang's team.
  • Batman Gotham Knight is an anime movie designed to bridge the gap between the films Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, made up of a series of vignettes by different animators. One of the vignettes shows a group of kids discussing/arguing about what they saw when they witnessed Batman fighting someone.
  • Episode 18 of Rental Magica featured mainly Daphne and Sekiren, showing what they were up to when Itsuki and Adilicia dealt with a demon problem the episode before.
  • Persona 4: The Animation has episode 13, which gets Nanako's perspective on Yu's summer vacation.
  • Chapter 480 of Bleach which largely focuses on Ryuunosuke Yuki and Shino, Afro-San's replacements.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena utilized this for the second season during The Black Rose Saga. Each of the Black Rose duelists were minor characters (save for Wakaba, who's a supporting character, and Kanae, who debuted in the arc) with ties to the Student Council members. The episodes were dedicated to watching them sink lower and lower into despair related to the Student Council, until they were easy prey for Souji Mikage.


Comicbooks

  • Used in PS238, which is set in a Superhero Academy. In the 'Return of the Rainmaker' arc, rather than focusing on the aspiring superheroes of the main school, the focus shifts to the "Rainmaker" program - children with metahuman powers not fit for superheroics. In true Chekhov's Gun style, each of the children ends up having to put their unusual abilities to creative use before the end...
  • One issue of Roberta Gregory's Naughty Bits focused on a week in the life of New Age co-worker Sylvia, while main character Midge (aka 'Bitchy Bitch') was on vacation. While her relentlessly positive attitude is a source of annoyance for the perpetually cranky Midge, here we see her as a much more three dimensional character who is just as much, if not more so, stressed out by her job as Midge is.
  • Arguably the main point of the Astro City series, which tend to focus on the viewpoint of minor characters in a Superhero universe, witnessing Crisis-level events from the sidelines or behind the scenes.
    • It all depends on which story one is reading. Remember, the very first issue had the POV of Samaritan, the World's Greatest Super-Hero. And several stories and arcs since then have featured heroes and villains of varying degrees of importance along with the mere mortals. Heck, Confession deals with the growth of an angsty kid into the scourge of the underworld...one just doesn't realize this until the coda!
  • Kurt Busiek's "Marvels" can be called this for the Marvel Comics Universe.


Fan Fiction

  • The Homestuck fanfic "Outsiders" is about the meteor apocalypses upon two planets, as seen from the viewpoint of a completely mundane and unrelated bystander human and bystander troll.
  • The Harry Potter fanfiction The Ollivander Children looks at the Second War against Voldemort from the point of view of people who never meet Harry Potter and have no chance of fighting Voldemort, much less defeating him, and their particular struggles in the war.
  • "Anthropology" has two chapters set during Nightmare Night and Hearth's Warming Eve, shown from Lyra's perspective. Naturally the holiday festivities are all an elaborate plot to hide the existence of humans.


Film

  • After appearing as minor characters in several movies and a TV series, Jay and Silent Bob finally took center stage in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
  • In response to the Bruce and Lloyd's expected break away popularity, in the Get Smart movie, the spin-off movie Get Smart's Bruce And Lloyd: Out of Control was released, focusing on their escapades while everybody is distracted by Maxwell Smart's adventures.
  • Lower deck installments are often included as a special feature for the DVD/Blu-Ray release of Hollywood films, particularly animated films. In addition to Out of Control mentioned above, the makers of Madagascar produced several shorts centered around the penguins, Despicable Me included shorts revolving around the Minions, and Cars included stories told by and featuring Mater.
  • Cloverfield is basically a lower deck version of every monster movie ever made. We dont see the perspective of scientists nor any important military figures. Because of this, we have little to no information about the monster and where it came from. The whole movie revolves instead about the nameless crowds of people who trying to avoid getting squashed by the monster.


Literature

  • The 87th Precinct novel He Who Hesitates by Ed McBain is narrated by the criminal (and is the only one of the novels to have a first person narration) and the reader only gets to see the cops of the 87th Precinct as they appear to him.
  • The Doctor Who novel "Who Killed Kennedy" (available for free online-reading at the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club webpage) takes a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead approach to the early Third Doctor era, notably the Master episodes, from the POV of a Times reporter whose career is sent into a tailspin when he attempts to uncover the truth about UNIT, and later gets recruited by the Doctor to stop the Master from interfering with the past during the Kennedy assassination.
  • Bean from Ender's Game gives the Ender's series a fresh perspective by having an entire book, "Ender's Shadow" based on him during the same time-frame as the original book.
  • Wicked is this to The Wizard of Oz, and is also a Villain Episode, at least the novel.
  • The Warrior Cats Expanded Universe manga stories Ravenpaw's Path and Tigerstar and Sasha are this, focusing on minor characters amidst the clan wars.


Live-Action TV

  • The fifth-season Babylon 5 episode "A View from the Gallery" took the idea to its logical extreme by focusing on janitors on the space station, characters we'd never seen before and never saw again.
    • The episode also hangs some lampshades. Ever try to figure out the purpose of those vaguely mop-like things are you see random crew members using in the background? So do they.

 Bo: Well, what does it do? It's not a cleaner.

Mack: I don't know. Maybe it strengthens the metal or something.

  • Stargate SG-1 has done this a few times.
    • The 5th season episode "Proving Ground", about some previously unseen cadets in a Stargate training program (one of them had appeared in the 4th season episode "Prodigy", but three were genuinely new).
    • The appropriately-titled 6th season episode "The Other Guys", which was also a subversion of All Up to You.
    • The 7th season's "Avenger 2.0" featured the same characters from "The Other Guys".
    • The 8th season's "Citizen Joe", in which a mild-mannered (I know it's a cliche to say, but this guy was really mild-mannered) barber gets psychic images of the SG-1 team and tells the stories to his wife and friends -- thus also allowing for a Clip Show.
      • Also, when it's suggested that O'Neill should be seeing this guy's life just as this guy is seeing O'Neill's, O'Neill reveals that he was, all along. He found the guy's life relaxing and didn't mind.
  • The revived Doctor Who has such an episode in series 2 and 3 doubling as Bottle Episodes. Usually called "Doctor-lite" episodes in the fandom, these two, titled "Love & Monsters" and "Blink" focus on Muggles with only peripheral access to the Doctor's world, and how those characters react to High Weirdness without the Doctor around to explain what's going on. "Love & Monsters" notably had point of view shots of the central character referring to other episodes.
    • The 2005 Christmas special "The Christmas Invasion" has the newly-regenerated Tenth Doctor unconscious until near the end, with most of the action up until then focused on UNIT and the prime minister.
    • From the classic series of Doctor Who, there is "Mission to the Unknown", which doesn't feature any of the regulars at all, but leads into The Daleks' Master Plan.
  • The Torchwood episode "Random Shoes". It was actually narrated by the protagonist of the episode to differentiate it even further from the normal episodes.
  • Homicide: Life On the Street's final third-season episode, "The Gas Man," follows two new characters as they stalk main character Frank Pembleton and his wife around Baltimore. A variation on this trope, as it wasn't done to free up the main cast for other episodes, but as a screw-you to NBC for the show's constant near-cancellation.
    • Homicide used this trope to Brilliant effect quite often,most notably with the series of Episodes starting with Bop Gun and ending with Blood Wedding which showed Murder Investigations from the perspective of those left behind
  • The new Battlestar Galactica Reimagined has many a Lower Deck episode, often coupled with a Day in The Limelight. Episodes focus on the literal lower deck with Chief Tyrol experiencing the troubles the of fuel shortages and labor disputes. There are also Day in The Limelight episodes focusing on less important pilots. The movie, Razor, is almost an entire Lower Deck/ Limelight of The Pegasus, its former Captains, and its XO.
  • CSI had the lighthearted Breather Episode slash Bottle Episode "You Kill Me," about The Lab Rat Hodges (not himself part of this trope, being a credits-listed character by this point) running the other Lab Rats through elaborate (and absurd) murder scenarios as part of a CSI-themed board game he was creating. The previous episode featured the Put on a Bus departure of a main character, while the following episode concerned another main character breaking down after becoming addicted to prescription drugs.
    • Another episode titled "Lab Rats" features said lab rats trying their best to solve the season's Myth Arc. They didn't do a bad job either, actually identifying a fairly important clue about the killer's psychosis.
      • The lab techs got another episode titled "Field Mice".
  • Desperate Housewives season five featured a look back at the life of a previously seen character, handy-man Eli Scrugs (played by Beau Bridges), with the main characters remembering their most significant encounters with him, ending with a flash-back to Scrugs himself visiting Mary-Alice just before her suicide, which opened the series pilot.
  • The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Good Shepherd" was a Lower Deck Episode that literally showed the lower decks -- the dimly-lit, poorly-maintained areas where the real work of keeping a poorly-supplied refugee ship running was carried out. The three redshirts focused on were misfits who under normal conditions would have been transferred off Voyager long ago, were it not for the long walk home. (They don't get sole focus, though, sharing the episode with Janeway. On the other hand, their interactions with Janeway - and each other - make up the majority of the action, and their character development.)
    • "Learning Curve" was a similar episode, which focused on training Maquis crewmembers that, unlike Chakotay or Torres, had no Starfleet experience whatsoever. Tuvok plays as close to Drill Sergeant Nasty as a Vulcan can get.
  • Season 8 of Scrubs has "Their Story II", focused on and narrated by the interns that have been slowly introduced since the beginning of the season. As a result, it's remarkably similar to a season 1 episode.
    • The episode that followed "Their Story II", "My Full Moon", featured none of the main cast except for Elliott and Turk. They discuss their fears during a night shift while watching over the interns, who collectively get an equal amount of screentime as the two regular characters.
  • Remember WENN had an episode where Victor and all the actors disappear after the first few minutes (off to a convention in Harrisburg) and as a result Betty and and the minor station employees have to keep the programming going for a full day.
  • Double subverted in the Sanctuary episode Icebreaker. The episode opens with Henry (a supporting lead character), Declan (a recurring minor character), and a bunch of newbies on an isolated ship in the Bering Sea. The audience expects this trope when the characters reveal that Magnus and Will (the leads) are on their way but severely delayed by the heavy storm, but the trope is subverted almost immediately when Will and Magnus arrive. Double subverted when the real Magnus and Will show up at the end of the episode and reveal that the earlier pair were shapeshifting abnormals.


Theater


Videogames

  • Half-Life: Opposing Force and Half-Life: Blue Shift follow the events of the first Half-Life from the point of marine Adrian Shepard and security guard Barney Calhoun respectively. While Barney went on to a supporting role in Half-Life 2, fans are still waiting to find out what happened to Shepard.
    • Taken to the extreme in the Point of View modification, with the player controlling a Vortigaunt.
      • There's actually a minor mod in which the player is a vending machine that is passed at one point in the game.
  • Halo 3: ODST begins roughly halfway through Halo 2 and ends with the beginning of Halo 3. It follows the story of a group of ODSTs trying to fight their way through the ravaged city of New Mombasa. (Which was ravaged back in Halo 2, though the player didn't get to see much more than that.)
  • The Touhou Gaiden Game Great Fairy Wars features Cirno as the only playable character, setting out not to thwart some incredibly powerful being from messing with the natural order of things, but as revenge against the local Terrible Trio for wrecking her house (even though they didn't actually wreck her house). And the obligatory Bonus Boss fight is basically an inversion of stage 1 or 2 of every Touhou game ever, a pitifully weak character getting pulverised by one of the main characters.
  • Resident Evil 0 follows Bravo Team member Rebecca Chambers in the 24 hours before the first game.
    • Resident Evil 5 has two DLC of these, "Lost in Nightmares" the prequel to the game, and "Desperate Escape" shows Jill and Josh escaping the Tricell facility, taking place while Chris and Sheva fight Wesker.
    • Also, Resident Evil Outbreak follows a group of civilian survivors during the Raccoon City Zombie Apocalypse.
    • Hunk's 4th Survivor scenario in Resident Evil 2.
  • Enter the Matrix.
  • Medal of Honor: Underground focuses on Manon Batiste, the player's advisor from the first game.
  • The expansion packs to Grand Theft Auto IV.
  • Although not shown in the game, the game soundtrack for Mega Man Zero 3 includes one such audio episode.
  • F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin involves an SFOD-D squad near the end of the first game. The expansion pack's protagonist is a Replica Red Shirt who gets possessed by Fettel.


Webcomics

  • Round 6 of Fite leaves Lucco and Guz, the main characters thus far, to focus on Ricci, who had only appeared briefly before then.
  • One chapter of Gastrophobia is focused primarily on the Cuckoos and Lord Nightsorrow. It's called "Not Everything's About Phobia".
    • Except that it turns out Phobia has the thing that Nightsorrow's looking for. Oops, it ultimately came back to Phobia after all.
  • Act 5 Act 1 of Homestuck, aka Hivebent, focused entirely on the trolls, who had previously been secondary characters only known by their screennames, while doubling the main cast. Some of those trolls remained side characters, while others... did not.


Web Originals

  • Arguably, any Loading Ready Run video featuring Kathleen and her kooky friends is one of these since they deviates from the usual cast and location so drastically. (Includes "Job Hunt" and "Stuck In A Car With Your Friends".) They're usually made due to filming constraints. Namely, the fact that Graham's in Prince George at the time.


Western Animation

  • Phineas and Ferb - "Isabella and the Temple of Sap" is a Lower Deck version of "Bubble Boys," showing Isabella's Fireside Girls troop getting the sap needed for her crush's project at an abandoned amusement park. The sub-plot even has some fun with this by featuring her dog Pinky on a secret agent mission rather than Perry (who does make a little cameo).
    • "Not Phineas and Ferb" centers around Irving trying to convince his brother that Baljeet and Buford are Phineas and Ferb. The only things Phineas and Ferb do in the episode are watch a movie and show up in the backyard just in time to make Candace look insane.
  • BURN-E shows what BURN-E was doing while WALL-E had his adventures on the Axiom.
    • Similarly, Jack-Jack Attack shows what was happening with baby Jack-Jack and babysitter Kari while the rest of the Parr family was off playing superheroes.
      • This was actually intended to be part of the movie, but was cut for pacing reasons.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars had Rookies, a clone-focused episode with the main characters as supporting characters. Its predecessor, Star Wars: Clone Wars managed to have episodes entirely without Jedi, but that's only because the episodes were 3 minutes long.
  • In South Park:
    • "A Million Little Fibers", in which pot-smoking sentient towel Towelie runs afoul of Oprah Winfrey's talking genitalia.
    • "Butters's Very Own Episode" focuses on Butters, a minor recurring character up to that point. This is an interesting case in that, after that episode, Butters became a much more prominent figure; these days, he gets more screen time than anyone aside from the main four (and way more lines than Kenny). It is also notable for coming out of completely nowhere; it was the last episode of a season, and the preceding episode ended on a massive cliffhanger.
    • And let's not forget their "re-telling" of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, in which only Pip plays a role (the leading role, that is). All others are completely absent.
    • Referred to in another episode focusing around Jimmy, where Stan says that the plot looks like one of those misadventures that spiral out of control, and that they should just keep out of it. We don't see the regulars again until the end of the episode where Stan shows relief that they stayed out of it.
  • A second season episode of Gargoyles features Vinnie, a disgruntled ex-Faceless Goon who blames the gargoyles for his unemployment. While plotting his revenge, he narrates clips of his prior encounters with the gargoyles, interjecting his own POV.
  • Teen Titans has an episode which focused on the Titans East house-sitting for the main five when they were off in the Arctic fighting the Brotherhood of Evil.
    • There was also the episode that focused on the Hive Five, a group of teen super-criminals that were primarily background characters or Villains Of The Week before.
  • "The Invisible Hand of Fate," a third season episode of The Venture Brothers, primarily centers around Billy Quizboy.
    • Typically, Venture Brothers subverts this by making the lower deck episode extremely important to the overall plot. The ep gives us backstory info for nearly every major character, and reveals how Brock became Dr. Venture's bodyguard.
      • Billy gets a second episode ("The Silent Partners") in season four. It's also highly plot-relevant (it sets up the season finale.)
      • It also turns out Billy was directly involved in Phantom Limb acquiring his deadly powers.
  • Any episode of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic starring the Cutie Mark Crusaders is pretty much this. One episode, "Hearts and Hooves", doesn't have ANY main characters except for a small speaking cameo from Twilight Sparkle.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, the episode "Task Force X" is told from the villain team Task Force X's perspective. The only notable member of the Justice League to make an appearance is the Martian Manhunter, and he nearly thwarts their mission on his own.
  • A sequence of Aqua Teen Hunger Force episodes centers on Carl and the Aqua Teens' landlord Markula. The Aqua Teens themselves are absent, having been cocooned by military spiders in the Mojave Desert.
  • The episode "The Big Scoop" in The Fairly Odd Parents, third season, was Chester and AJ's version of what happened in "A Wish Too Far." When they notice Timmy's sudden popularity, at the same time required to write for the school newspaper, they investigate to find out how he got popular. The voices were redubbed due to different voice actors for Chester and AJ, and the animation was also changed, possibly to match the pace of the dubbed version.
  • The framing device for the Recess direct-to-video special, Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street" is this for the three main teachers, taking place right after the Christmas Episode "Yes Mikey, Santa Does Shave". In the episode itself, Principal Prickly only appeared in two scenes, Miss Finster appeared in the same amount of scenes but had even less dialoge, and Miss Grotke only appeared for a few seconds.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes has an episode, "To Steal an Ant-Man," which consists almost entirely of Iron Fist and Luke Cage (who had never appeared in the cartoon before this point) fighting criminals. None of the Avengers appear except for The Wasp, who only does so during the first three minutes, and ex-Avenger Hank Pym, who had enlisted the two Heroes For Hire to hunt the man who stole his former crimefighting equipment. Hank gets some additional Character Development in this episode, giving it some connection to one of the show's main plots.
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