Rocket to Your Doom

I watched the most recent Simpsons, and I can’t say I’m too keen on the idea of the family visiting Rigel 7, home of Kang and Kodos, in a regular episode. This is especially true so soon after the Futurama crossover. Have they just stopped trying to give the show any semblance of realism? The memory wipe at the end means that the plot won’t affect future episodes, but still. I have a feeling I would have liked the individual jokes better if the premise hadn’t been so bad, but even the ones before the aliens appeared were mostly ones they’d done better before. In fact, a lot of the jokes just had the air of “hey, remember when we did this before?”, the potato chip bit being the most obvious but far from the only one. This isn’t any kind of slight at Kang and Kodos, whom I generally like.

First appearing in the original Treehouse of Horror (the only one where the “treehouse” in the title was actually relevant, at least as far as I can remember), they were part of Bart’s story based on the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man.” I haven’t seen this TZ, but I did read a short story with the same premise. Basically, some aliens come to Earth and seem very friendly, but eventually one human translates their language and finds out that their book To Serve Man is actually a cookbook. Yeah, the twist is a play on words. In Bart’s tale, the aliens give the impression they want to eat the Simpsons, but in the end it’s revealed they don’t. As mentioned in the commentary, however, most of their actions don’t make sense with this reverse-twist. Regardless, Kang and Kodos, and occasionally other members of their species, would appear in every subsequent Halloween special. It would often just be a cameo, but sometimes they’d play significant roles. The aliens’ names were Star Trek references: Kang was a Klingon leader and Kodos a ruthless human governor of a space colony. Their first appearance had them accompanied by Serak the Preparer, voiced by James Earl Jones and named after Spock’s father.

While the lack of continuity in the Halloween episodes meant that not every point about the aliens was consistent, they were always from Rigel 7; and there were often jokes about how, despite their mastery of interstellar travel and other science fiction technology, some of the devices they used were woefully outdated.

They demonstrated Pong as something that they thought would impress humans, invaded Earth with a slingshot and a club and were driven off by a board with a nail in it, abducted people with a lasso thrown from their ship, and in their most recent appearance still program in FORTRAN. Some other one-off jokes were also occasionally expanded upon. Despite their male-sounding voices, Kang once mentioned “my sister Kodos,” and a joke in the Futurama crossover suggests they’re both female. They refer to themselves as Quantum Presbyterians in “Starship Pooper,” and claim to be Young-Earth Creationists in “Gump Roast.” While they’ve made appearances in non-Halloween episodes as well, most of these are out of continuity. A possible exception is “The Springfield Files,” in which one of them appears as part of an alien lineup, but: 1) the fact that this episode is partially narrated by Leonard Nimoy calls its canonical status into question, and 2) more importantly, it’s an isolated gag.

There are all kinds of surreal things that happen on the show for a few seconds but are either unobserved or barely noted by the characters, and I don’t think stretching believability for the context of a brief joke should have any particular bearing on the usual continuity. It’s like when Lisa says cartoons don’t have to be entirely accurate and we clearly see Homer both sitting on the couch and walking outside. I had no problems with sentient killer robots making occasional appearances, but I wasn’t too keen on their being the focus of an episode a few years ago. On the other hand, there wasn’t any indication that the Shary Bobbins episode was an imaginary story within the context of the show, and that was well over a decade ago. Even the Halloween episodes generally no longer have the wrap-around stories that could have been part of accepted continuity, as when the individual segments were presented as the characters’ stories or dreams in the earliest seasons. This article I recently read discusses how the show has really been several different shows over its lifetime, and the realism has shifted considerably from one era to another. For that matter, it often shifts from one EPISODE to another. The one where Homer went into space was followed by one where he became friends with Ned Flanders, then after that Bart had a pet elephant. While both the space trip and Stampy have been referenced in later episodes, they had no particular bearing on the family’s standing. So maybe it can be the same way with recent outlandish episodes, but it seems that those earlier ones did a better job of justifying ridiculous happenings within the established framework of the show, which I don’t think the Futurama crossover or the most recent episode did. And they weren’t as funny, but that’s even more subjective.

This entry was posted in Cartoons, Humor, Star Trek, Television, The Simpsons and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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