Firstly I would like to preface this by saying that actual bar brawls are nasty things and that I in no way condone actual pub based violence. Having said that the barroom brawl has been a regular staple of action entertainment since westerns became popular and, done right, they can be entertaining action set pieces but can also play their part in advancing the plot. So with that in mind here are my top 5 sci-fi bar brawls. I have included footage where it is available.
5. Buck Rogers Vs Rafael Argus
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
The Plot to Kill a City Part One
Buck Rogers was full of the cheesiest fights on TV thanks to Gill Gerrard’s particular brand of Dad-fu. He fights like someone copying the moves from a film he watched once and, apparently, this makes him one of the greatest warriors of the 25th Century.
This particular fight is part of a plan by the Earth Defence Directorate to have Buck impersonate mercenary, assassin and all-round leather clad evildoer Rafael Argus. In order to do that the real Argus needs to be taken out of the picture so Buck tracks him down to one of the disco drinking dens that regularly appeared on the show where everything is covered in tinsel and all drinks are served in plastic beakers, because the future. Buck pretends to be the brother of someone Argus has killed and a fight breaks out between the two. It is low in the list because after the initial table flipping and shoving it quickly becomes a gunfight instead but it earns a place here for being a slice of silly fun.
Mal Reynolds and Jayne Cobb Vs Some Slavers
Being a sci-fi western Firefly was always going to have a few bar brawls. The first broadcast episode, The Train Job, opens with one as a piece of narrative shorthand to introduce the concept of the show. I’m sure that there are many who would place River’s rampage in Serenity over this. While that is a larger, more impressive scene in its choreography and direction it is a little one sided what with River leaving a trail of unconscious bodies in her wake. This scrap from the pre credits sequence of Shindig is much more traditionally brawly what with the deployment of pool cues.
Inara is watching Mal and Jayne playing pool with what turn out to be slavers, something that Mal is disapproving of. Mal has picked the leader’s pocket and when this is discovered Mal responds with a punch to the face and a fight breaks out. The highlight being the sight of Jayne, cigar still in mouth, throwing people about including the obligatory ‘throw man over the bar’ moment. It is a fun scene that sets up the theme of the episode. That Mal and Inara are from very different and possibly incompatible worlds.
Captain Jack Harkness Vs Captain John Hart
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
Rogue time agent Captain John Hart has arrived in early 21st Century Cardiff and is determined to have a good time. He walks into and takes over a local bar and then sends a message to his old partner, in every sense of the word, Captain Jack Harkness. Jack arrives and the two have a stare down that swiftly becomes an intense make out session and then a brawl.
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a strong opener for Torchwood’s second season and a lot of the reason for that is the chemistry between John Barrowman and James Masters. This isn’t just a bar fight, it’s foreplay between ex-lovers with a Blur soundtrack. It isn’t often that a bar fight could be described as erotic but this is one sexually charged punch up. You may need a cigarette after.
The Red Dwarf Crew Vs The Patrons of Nogard dna Egroeg Eht
Backwards was the first episode of the new, more colourful, louder version of Red Dwarf. It is essentially a one joke episode, the crew finds themselves on an alternative Earth where time runs backwards. The rules of how this works are pretty inconsistent but that really isn’t the point. It is an excuse for a lot of visual gags of people talking, driving and eating backwards. The culmination of which is the bar fight at the end that begins with Lister shouting “Un-rumble!” and filling a pint glass with beer from another bloke’s face.
What follows is the tidying of the bar via Lister being un-thrown and un-dragged through things until he eventually repairs a window and table with his body and replaces another man’s tooth. By the end the bar looks lovely and everyone is sat un-drinking and having a lovely un-evening. It is a well-executed comedy set piece and one of the most memorable moments in the show’s history.
The Crew of the USS Enterprise Vs The Klingons
Star Trek/Deep Space Nine
The Trouble With Tribbles/Trial and Tribblations
There is only one bar brawl in the oft quoted Wagon Train to the stars but boy what a bar brawl. Klingons have been granted shore leave on space station K7 and Captain Kirk has made it clear he wants no trouble. So when one Klingon starts to bad mouth Kirk to try and provoke the crew it is Scotty who has to calm the younger, hot tempered Chekov who wants to defend his Captain’s honour. Things take a turn when the Klingon stops attacking Kirk and starts besmirching the good name of the Enterprise. From the moment that Scotty asks the Klingon if he wants to rephrase his statement you can tell that it is all about to kick off and when the Klingon doubles down the Chief Engineer shows why you should never insult a Scotsman’s true love.
A proper mass punch-up breaks out with Klingons and Starfleet officers alike being thrown from pillar to post while shady merchant Cyrano Jones tries to exploit the situation to help himself to some free booze from the bar. This fight was made even more fun in the Deep Space Nine anniversary episode where the crew find themselves back in time and O’Brian, Bashir, Odo and Worf find themselves in the same fight. The sight of Kirk chewing out his sheepish looking officers for getting involved and Scotty’s admission that he started it and why is just the icing on the fighty cake.
So that is my list. I sure I will have missed some, I haven’t seen everything after all, so if you can’t see yours please mention it in the comments.