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Deep Space Homer

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"Deep Space Homer"
The Simpsons episode
A scene of news anchor Kent Brockman announcing his surrender due to the belief that Ants taking over the world
A scene where Kent Brockman is convinced that ants are going to take over the world. This scene inspired the "Overlord meme".[1][2]
Episode no.96
Directed byCarlos Baeza
Written byDavid Mirkin
Showrunner(s)David Mirkin
Production code1F13
Original air dateFebruary 24, 1994
Couch gagThe family runs to the couch, only to find an obese man sitting on it. They squeeze in to the left of him.[3]
Commentary
Guest appearance(s)
Seasons

"Deep Space Homer" is the 15th episode of the fifth season of the American animated sitcom The Simpsons first broadcast by Fox 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.

Plot[edit]

At the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, Homer Simpson believes he will win the Worker of the Week award. When a carbon rod wins instead, Homer 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. After he 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. 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. 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.

Production[edit]

The writer of Deep Space Homer; David Mirkin. Taken in 2012
"Deep Space Homer" is the only episode that David Mirkin (pictured in 2012) wrote for The Simpsons.

"Deep Space Homer" is the only Simpsons episode written by executive producer and showrunner David Mirkin; Carlos Baeza was its director.[4] 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.[4][5][6] The writers felt sending Homer into space was too large an idea, and Simpsons' creator Matt Groening said it gave them "nowhere to go".[4][5][6] Several gags were toned down to make the episode more realistic, including an idea that everyone at NASA was as stupid as Homer.[6][7] The writers focused more on Homer's attempts to gain the respect of his family.[4][6]

Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, and musician James Taylor guest-star as themselves.[8][9] 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.[4][6] 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.[4][6] The potato chip sequence was directed by David Silverman rather than by Carlos Baeza, the episode's director.[10] The chips were partly animated on an Amiga personal computer to smooth the chip rotation.[11]

Parodies[edit]

"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.[1] Homer watches an episode of the Itchy and Scratchy Show where Itchy tortures Scratchy in an EVA pod, referencing the film's Discovery craft.[4][6] 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.[3][12]

Broadcast and release[edit]

"Deep Space Homer" aired at 8:00 p.m. EST on February 24, 1994.[9][13] It finished 32nd in ratings for the week of February 21–27, 1994, with a Nielsen rating of 11.1,[13] the equivalent of approximately 10.3 million viewing households. It was the highest-rated show on Fox that week,[14] 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.[15]

"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.[16] The episode is also included in the Simpsons: Risky Business box set,[17] and is available to stream at the Simpsons World site run by FXX.[6]

Reception[edit]

Buzz Aldrin's Astronaut portrait. He guest starred in this episode.
Buzz Aldrin (pictured in 1969) received praise for his performance in the episode.

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.[5] 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".[18]

In 2011, The Daily Telegraph named the episode among their ten favorites for its cameos and jokes.[19] 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".[5][20] Aldrin and Taylor received praise for their performances; IGN[21] and Phoenix.com ranked Taylor's guest appearance among the show's greatest.[22]

The episode is a favorite of Silverman,[11] 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.[7] At the request of astronaut Edward Lu, a copy of the episode was placed on the International Space Station for astronauts to view.[5][23][24]

The Simpsons game Tapped Out held an event based on the episode where players train Springfield citizens for a space mission.[25][26]

Overlord meme[edit]

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.[5] The quote is commonly used to express mock submission[2][27] or suggest that a powerful entity or group, such as robots, might be capable enough to rule over humanity.[28] In 2007, New Scientist used the phrase when reporting the British government's research into aliens,[29] and in 2011, Ken Jennings, a long-standing contestant of the gameshow Jeopardy!, used it in reference to the computer Watson.[5][30]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The best Simpsons episode ever". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Overlord Meme". The Atlantic.com. Archived from the original on 2018-08-29. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Deep Space Homer". Simpsons Archive. Archived from the original on July 9, 2016. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Mirkin, David (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "Deep Space Homer" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Goertz et al. 2018, p. 36.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Deep Space Homer staff. Episode Commentary. The Simpsons at Simpsons World. Archived from the original on 2018-09-02. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Groening, Matt (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "Deep Space Homer" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  8. ^ Gale 2007, p. 2652.
  9. ^ a b Pearlman, Robert Z. (September 10, 2014). "Woo Hoo! Buzz Aldrin's Role on 'The Simpsons' Leads to Action Figure". collectSPACE. Archived from the original on 2014-09-14. Retrieved August 6, 2018 – via Space.com.
  10. ^ "3 Simpsons Showrunners Reflect on New Fans and the 'Classic Era' Myth". Vulture.com. September 23, 2014. Archived from the original on 2018-08-27. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Silverman, David (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "Deep Space Homer" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  12. ^ Booker 2006, p. 58.
  13. ^ a b "TV listings". tvtango.com. Tv Tango. Archived from the original on 2018-09-02. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  14. ^ Williams, Scott (March 3, 1994). "CBS skates to easy ratings sweep victory". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E.
  15. ^ "Nielsen Ratings /Feb. 14-20". Long Beach Press-Telegram. February 24, 1994. p. C5.
  16. ^ Butts, Steve (17 December 2004). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season". IGN. Archived from the original on 2018-09-02. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  17. ^ "SIMPSONS, THE – Risky Business (DVDs) | Rare Records". Rare Records. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  18. ^ Turner 2004, p. 69–70.
  19. ^ Walton, James (September 27, 2011). "The 10 Best Simpsons TV Episodes (In Chronological Order)". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2018-09-02. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  20. ^ Enwright, Patrick (July 31, 2007). "D'Oh! The top 10 'Simpsons' episodes ever". MSNBC. Archived from the original on October 14, 2007. Retrieved October 8, 2007.
  21. ^ Goldman, Eric; Iverson, Dan; Zoromski, Brian. "Top 25 Simpsons Guest Appearances". IGN. Archived from the original on June 22, 2006. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  22. ^ "The Simpsons 20 best guest voices of all time". The Phoenix.com. March 29, 2006. Archived from the original on November 16, 2006. Retrieved August 3, 2007.
  23. ^ "Deep Space Homer Information". The Simpsons.com. Archived from the original on September 14, 2014. Retrieved August 17, 2011.
  24. ^ Richmond & Coffman 1997.
  25. ^ "Tapped Out Event". Adweek.com. Archived from the original on January 23, 2018. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  26. ^ Torchinsky, Jason. "The Mystery Of The Space Shuttle In That Simpsons Episode Where Homer Went To Space". Jalopnik. Archived from the original on 2018-08-27. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  27. ^ Turner 2004, p. 300.
  28. ^ "I, For One, Welcome Our New Robot Overlords". NPR.org. Archived from the original on 2018-09-03. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  29. ^ "The British government welcomes our new insect overlords". New Scientist magazine. Archived from the original on September 12, 2007. Retrieved October 19, 2007.
  30. ^ Maerz, Melissa (February 16, 2011). "Watson wins 'Jeopardy!' finale; Ken Jennings welcomes 'our new computer overlords'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 17, 2011. Retrieved February 17, 2011.
Bibliography

External links[edit]