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"A prologue in a horror film! What's the worst that could happen?"

A measurement of time which appears to have originated at Television Without Pity of how long it takes from the start of the episode to the first body turning up. A show such as CSI will have a very short Start to Corpse time, with something like Poirot occasionally exceeding half an hour of a two-hour program. A similar concept is the Start-To-Cure time, made most famous by House; although the name is a little misleading, it's a measure of the time it takes from the start of an episode to the first specific treatment that would act as a cure if the unlucky patient indeed had the disease it was a cure to. In mystery novels, this is a page count.

If the Start to Corpse time is short, it's often in the form of a Downer Beginning.

The name is based on the computer gaming equivalent, the Start-To-Crate time.

Not to be confused with an actor starting to "corpse", or crack up when they're supposed to have a straight face.


Anime & Manga


  • This would also be true with horror movies, depending on if we're following the main lead from the start or if we get a scene with some extras getting killed at the start it's around 20mins in for many horror movies.
  • The Big Chill also managed an StC of zero with the opening credits showing the dressing of the corpse for the funeral.
  • Sunset Boulevard. The corpse is the opening shot.


  • With the cover having a skeleton on it, and being called SKULduggery Pleasant, you'd expect a fair few deaths. A guy dies on the first page.
  • The Charlie Chan mystery The Black Camel gave us one chapter in the POV of the murder victim before she got quickly killed off.
  • The eponymous murder in Murder in Lamut takes place around three-quarters of the way through the book. Just about everything in the earlier chapters is the three main characters enduring the politicking of various nobles competing for an honor that anyone familiar with the series already knows will be given to somebody who doesn't appear in this book.

Live Action TV

  • Columbo averaged fifteen to twenty minutes from Start to Corpse because it took that long for the murderer to commit the murder. This applies to both one-and-a-half-hour and two-hour editions.
  • Law and Order and spinoffs average about 30 seconds, as the Cold Opening shows either someone finding a body or the actual murder.
    • Law and Order SVU averages out to a significantly longer StC time, however, as many victims are sexually assaulted or kidnapped - not murdered (yet.) Not only that, but in some episodes - no one is killed at all!
  • The 1970s film version of Murder on the Orient Express had a Start to Corpse time of less than five minutes because it started with some of the Armstrong tragedy. The TV-movies run closer to a half-hour.
  • Castle has the shortest time of zero. The first shot of each episode is the corpse.
    • No longer true in season 2.
    • Now it depends on whether it goes Law and Order cold open, or with a Castle family moment open. Either way, the wait time isn't very long.
  • Similarly to Castle, The X-Files would almost always open a show with an unfortunate victim dying in some mysterious way in the first scene.
  • In episodes where Red Shirts die in Star Trek: The Original Series, the first death usually happens within the opening five to ten minutes, sometimes a little longer.
  • Psych often has the corpse show up near-exactly midway through a story about a crime that is not murder (to the point that it often feels tacked-on: corpses thrown Just Because into a story that doesn't really call for one at all and was more interesting before the standard murder investigation stuff took over.)
  • The first person on screen in any episode of Supernatural is usually dead within a minute.
  • In a 2-hour episode of Foyle's War the murder can be as late as 45 minutes into the episode.
  • Bones almost always has a cold open showing a random person discovering the body within the first few minutes.
    • The show actually developed a bad habit of just opening with Booth and Brennan already on the scene discussing the recent developments of the interpersonal subplots of the cast (read: exposition). They got over it thankfully.
  • Varies on Midsomer Murders, from 30 seconds to around 15 minutes.
  • Police Squad! may be the only show with a negative time, as the special guest star is killed off during the opening credits.
  • In The Mentalist, the victim is nearly always dead already at the outset, and often the episode opens at the scene of the crime. So, pretty much 0 seconds.

Video Games

  • The video game The Last Express has you encountering the corpse of your dead friend almost immediately after boarding the train. Even better, you are already wanted by the police and you are the first person to find your friends body.
  • Yahtzee Croshaw's adventure series The Chzo Mythos developed a modest running gag out of this. While the first episode, 5 Days a Stranger, passed several days before the first body was discovered, subsequent installments reduced the delay ominously until Trilby's Notes, which began with an exceedingly gruesome murder in the first scene.
    • Amusingly, his novel, Mogworld has the protagonist die in the prologue.
  • Stuart Ashen spoofed this with Quickest Game Overs ever?, in which he showcases some of the games with the quickest Start-To-Your-Corpse time.
  • In Police Quest: Open Season, the corpse of Hickman is discovered immediately at the beginning. A minute later, you find another corpse in a dumpster.
  • The first episode of Umineko no Naku Koro ni has a start-to-corpse time of roughly four hours, taking its time to introduce the 18 people on the island and a few pieces of the Jigsaw Puzzle Plot before getting down to the main murder mystery.
  • In Persona 4, Saki Konishi's corpse is found on a TV antenna 2-3 hours into the start of the game, which is still before gameplay starts properly. Saki herself discovered the reporter Yamano's body in the same manner before that, but it is not shown.

Web Comics

  • Bearmageddon's STC is fairly high. It initially seems like another 'slacker' comic until we spot the mangled police cruiser.
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