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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Big Bang Theory: “The Transporter Malfunction”

Illustration for article titled The Big Bang Theory: “The Transporter Malfunction”
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The hype around this week’s episode surrounds the cameo by Leonard Nimoy, but the Star Trek thespian only appears via audio, voicing Sheldon’s Mego Spock figure in a couple of dreams. It’s remarkably effective in conjunction with Sheldon’s conflict this episode: deciding whether or not to open a vintage mint in-box Mego Star Trek Transporter with real Transporter action (hot darn!). It’s a legitimate nerd problem, and one of the silliest. People preserve the original factory quality of a piece of memorabilia under the pretense of increasing its value, but is the collectors’ market really that lucrative nowadays?

By refusing to actually read a comic book or play with an action figure, the collector is avoiding what could be perceived as juvenile behavior, and the hobby takes on a bit more sophistication. It’s not about having every bit of Star Trek memorabilia because just you love it so much, it’s about an investment. I've never been able to embrace the collector mentality, largely for the reasons Dream-Spock brings up in this episode. It's simply illogical to buy something that is intended to be read or played with and to not do so.

Dream-Spock wants Sheldon to indulge his child side, but his influence garners disastrous consequences, putting Sheldon in an even more infantile position. Employing the use of Nimoy’s voice makes the entire plot work, because no one else could convince Sheldon to cross the line and open the Transporter. Director Mark Cendrowski’s attempts to get a Mego doll to emote with a limited range of motion lead to some amusing poses as Spock tries to convince Sheldon to do the right thing, and Nimoy’s voice carries such a sense of authority and grandeur that the gag never gets old. When Sheldon finally does opens his toy, the inevitable happens: He has a few moments of complete and utter joy, and then the toy completely falls apart because it’s almost 40 years old. I’m not much of a collector, but the Transporter breaking triggered a legitimate gasp from me.

The ever-conniving Sheldon decides to switch his toy with Leonard’s in a classic sitcom move, but he dreams of landing on what seems to be Tattooine where Dream-Spock returns to berate Sheldon’s behavior. (I'm no Trekkie, so if the backdrop is a legit Star Trek reference and not the only two-sunned planet I can think of, please let me know in comments.) Spock almost succeeds, and Sheldon switches back the toys, but then changes his mind just as Penny and Leonard walk through the door. What follows is an attack of Sheldon’s conscience, preventing him from lying to his friends and forcing him to confess the bizarre circumstance behind his betrayal. Leonard is fine with it and just asks for his toy back, and Spock teaches Sheldon a lesson he should have learned in kindergarten.

The Leonard Nimoy stuff is fun, but the highlight of this week’s episode is the Raj subplot I’ve been waiting all season for, dealing with his stereotypically gay portrayal this season. Under pressure to bring a date to Howard’s wedding, Raj suddenly decides to give an arranged marriage a try. In order to get there, Raj has to have a talk with his parents, and they quickly assume that he’s coming out to them. They’re surprisingly supportive, although they don’t want to hear the details, but Raj insists that he’s a metrosexual, which means he likes women as well as their skin care products.

Raj has been acting pretty gay this season, and it’s refreshing to see the writers address his behavior with a surprisingly clever story. Raj is set up with Lakshmi, an adorable Indian girl that is eager to get her overprotective parents off her back. There’s only one problem: Lakshmi’s a lesbian. She figures that another homosexual like Raj would have no problem entering a sham marriage, and confirms that most of the Indian community thinks Raj is gay. When he wears Unbreakable by Khloe and Lamar, can anyone blame them?


Raj would be a perfect gay man, if only he was attracted to men. And I still think that he very well might be. It’s not like we’ve ever gotten an intense look into Raj’s psyche, he could very well be a deeply in denial closeted gay man. After getting Raj a Yorkie puppy to keep him company, Bernadette says what everyone is thinking: “Metrosexual my ass.”  Now that the writers have addressed the possibility, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is explored further next season.

Stray observations:

  • All that Penny has in her fridge is a D-cell battery and jar of pickle juice.
  • I was going to post this no matter what, but the episode makes a reference to Bilbo Baggins, so it’s totally appropriate:
  • Penny doesn’t get a hug from Sheldon because then a hug wouldn’t be special. She gets a finger pistol.
  • No Amy this week, and for once, the show wasn't the worse for it.
  • Penny trying to convince Sheldon and Leonard to play with their toys by comparing the collectibles to her virginity: “Gotta tell you, it was a lot more fun taking it out and playing with it.”
  • Sheldon gets off on Quantum Physics: “It’s like looking at the universe naked (quiver).”
  • “Perhaps you should look with your eyes, and not your muscular Nebraska man-hands.”
  • “That’s what I always thought 1975 smelled like.”
  • “Oh dear. Two suns and no sunscreen.”
  • “My bologna like girls.”
  • Sheldon: “And Leonard, even though I don’t have one anymore. I hope you have fun playing with it.” Leonard: “And that’s a lie.” Sheldon: “Yeah, that’s a big fat whopper. I hope it breaks.”