Deep Space Homer
|"Deep Space Homer"|
|The Simpsons episode|
|Episode no.||Season 5|
|Directed by||Carlos Baeza|
|Written by||David Mirkin|
|Original air date||February 24, 1994|
|Couch gag||The family runs to the couch, only to find an obese man sitting on it. They squeeze in to the left of him.|
"Deep Space Homer" is the 15th episode of the fifth season of the American animated sitcom The Simpsons. It was first broadcast on the Fox network in the United States on February 24, 1994. In this episode, NASA selects ordinary man Homer Simpson for a space mission, hoping to boost public interest in spaceflight. However, chaos ensues when Homer's incompetence destroys the navigation system on the space shuttle.
Carlos Baeza directed "Deep Space Homer", and it is the only episode of The Simpsons written by executive producer and showrunner David Mirkin. Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin and musician James Taylor guest-starred as themselves. The episode contains several parodies of the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
As some Simpsons staff, including creator Matt Groening, feared the concept was too unrealistic, some jokes were pared down and greater focus was placed on the Simpson family. The episode was well received, with many critics and fans calling it one of the best Simpsons episodes. There is a copy of the episode on the International Space Station for astronauts to view.
At the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, Homer Simpson believes he will win the Worker of the Week award, since it is a union requirement. When a carbon rod wins instead, Homer becomes enraged and feels that no one respects him. Meanwhile, NASA decides to send an "average shmo" into space in response to a drop in its Nielsen ratings. Their research includes watching an episode of Home Improvement in which Tim Taylor accidentally kills Wilson by running him over with his lawnmower. After Homer calls to complain about a boring space shuttle launch, Homer believes he is in trouble for making the call, and blames barfly Barney. NASA employees ask Barney to be their astronaut, promising him the respect of his peers. Homer rushes to take credit, and NASA takes them both to train and compete for the astronaut job.
At Cape Canaveral, Homer and Barney compete at various training exercises. Under NASA's alcohol ban, a sober Barney develops superior skills and is selected to fly with astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Race Banyon. However, when Barney toasts his victory with a non-alcoholic drink, he assumes he has consumed alcohol, reverts to his alcoholic self, and escapes with a jetpack. However, the jetpack runs out of gas and Barney lands on the roof of a pillow factory before falling on the street and being run over by a marshmallow truck. Homer is selected for the space flight but becomes nervous and runs away during preparations for takeoff. His wife, Marge, convinces him to return. The shuttle launch achieves good ratings.
Homer smuggled potato chips aboard the shuttle. Due to the weightlessness of space, the chips disperse and clog the instruments. As Homer eats them, he flies into the ant farm and the loose ants destroy the navigation system. Newscaster Kent Brockman, reporting on the mission, mistakes the ants for giant aliens about to enslave humanity due to them appearing enormous through a wide-angle lens. James Taylor, who radios in to sing, suggests they blow the ants out the hatch. Homer fails to put on his harness and is nearly blown into space. As Buzz pulls him inside, Homer accidentally bends the handle, preventing the hatch from closing. Defending himself from a furious Race Banyon, Homer pulls the carbon rod from a wall and inadvertently uses it to seal the hatch.
The shuttle returns safely to Earth. Although Buzz champions Homer as a hero, the press only celebrates the carbon rod; it appears on the cover of Time and receives a ticker-tape parade. At home, a disappointed Homer is honored by his family. Bart writes the word "Hero" on the back of Homer's head with a marker, then tosses the marker up. This leads to a parody of the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey in which Homer, now the Star Child orbiting Earth, is hit with a satellite bearing the FOX logo.
"Deep Space Homer" is the only Simpsons episode written by executive producer and showrunner David Mirkin; Carlos Baeza was its director. Mirkin based the story on NASA's cancelled Teacher in Space Project where ordinary civilians were to be sent into space to increase the public's interest in the space shuttle program. The writers felt sending Homer into space was too large an idea, and Simpsons' creator Matt Groening said it gave them "nowhere to go". Several gags were toned down to make the episode more realistic, including an idea that everyone at NASA was as stupid as Homer. The writers focused more on Homer's attempts to gain the respect of his family.
Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, and musician James Taylor guest-star as themselves. Concerned that Aldrin might consider his line "second comes right after first" an insult, the writers wrote an alternative line, "first to take a soil sample", as a backup. However, Aldrin had no problem with the original line, and it remained in the script. Taylor recorded his 1970 single "Fire and Rain" with altered lyrics for the episode. He also sings Carole King's 1971 "You've Got a Friend". His original recording session is included as an extra on the DVD. The potato chip sequence was directed by David Silverman rather than by Carlos Baeza, the episode's director. The chips were partly animated on an Amiga personal computer to smooth the chip rotation.
"Deep Space Homer" contains several references to Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The scene where Homer floats in zero gravity and eats potato chips includes "The Blue Danube" waltz by Johann Strauss II, used in 2001. Homer watches an episode of the Itchy and Scratchy Show where Itchy tortures Scratchy in an EVA pod, referencing the film's Discovery craft. Bart throws a marker, which rotates in slow motion before a match cut replaces it with a cylindrical satellite, parodying a transition in the film that includes the use of the tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra.
Broadcast and release
"Deep Space Homer" aired at 8:00 p.m. EST on February 24, 1994. It finished 32nd in ratings for the week of February 21–27, 1994, with a Nielsen rating of 11.1, the equivalent of approximately 10.3 million viewing households. It was the highest-rated show on Fox that week, but did not perform as well as the prior week's episode "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy", with a Nielsen rating of 11.6, equivalent to 11 million viewing households.
"Deep Space Homer" is included on the DVD and Blu-ray of the show's fifth season, with commentary by Simpsons' staff Groening, Silverman, James L. Brooks, Mirkin, Conan O'Brien, and Jim Reardon. The episode is also included in the Simpsons: Risky Business box set, and is available to stream at the Simpsons World site run by FXX.
In 1994, British film magazine Empire declared "Deep Space Homer" a "contender for the greatest episode ever", listing it as the third-best Simpsons movie parody. In 1998, TV Guide listed it in it's list of top twelve Simpsons episodes. In his 2004 book Planet Simpson, Chris Turner cited the episode as one of his five favorites. He described the sequence with Homer eating potato chips in the space shuttle and the speech by newscaster Kent Brockman, who believes alien ants have taken over the shuttle, as "simply among the finest comedic moments in the history of television".
In 2011, The Daily Telegraph named the episode among their ten favorites for its cameos and jokes. In 2017, MSNBC named "Deep Space Homer" its fourth-favorite Simpsons episode, describing Homer's realization that Planet of the Apes is set on Earth as "pure genius". Aldrin and Taylor received praise for their performances; IGN and Phoenix.com ranked Taylor's guest appearance among the show's greatest.
The episode is a favorite of Silverman, but contains one of Groening's least-favorite jokes: Homer's face morphs into those of Popeye and Richard Nixon while exposed to g-forces, which Groening felt made no sense in context. At the request of astronaut Edward Lu, a copy of the episode was placed on the International Space Station for astronauts to view.
Kent Brockman's line "I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords", uttered when he believes alien ants have taken over the shuttle, is the source of an internet meme. The quote is commonly used to express mock submission or suggest that a powerful entity or group, such as robots, might be capable enough to rule over humanity. In 2007, New Scientist used the phrase when reporting the British government's research into aliens, and in 2011, Ken Jennings, a long-standing contestant of the gameshow Jeopardy!, used it in reference to the computer Watson.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: "Deep Space Homer"|
- "Deep Space Homer" at The Simpsons.com
- "Deep Space Homer episode capsule". The Simpsons Archive.
- "Deep Space Homer" on IMDb
- "Deep Space Homer" at TV.com