Sheldon Cooper and the search for Spock brings magic to The Big Bang Theory

After an iffy start, season 9 of The Big Bang Theory hits a high by renewing its Star Trek connection…

The Big Bang and Star Trek worlds collide on a frequent basis, with guest appearances from Enterprising actors including LeVar Burton (who played Geordi La Forge), George Takei (Sulu) and, semi-regularly, “former child star” Wil Weaton (Wesley Crusher).

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But in one of the best Trek-flecked outings in 2012, a Tiny Spock, voiced with brilliant comedy chops by Leonard Nimoy, appeared to Sheldon in a dream.

The Spock/Sheldon association is not an accidental one. The quizzically eyebrowed human-Vulcan famously ran his life along logical guidelines and suppressed his emotions.

So Spock is the perfect role model for brilliant theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), who is both routine-obsessed and a struggler when it comes to emotional cues.

Nimoy’s death early this year was sad for fans of classic television in general and to the Big Bang universe in particular, and that’s what makes tonight’s episode, The Spock Resonance, so special.

Leonard’s son Adam appears, helping Wil Wheaton make a documentary about the character of Spock and his cultural impact. Naturally, Sheldon is over the moon when he gets to shake hands with “son of Spock”. As he enthuses, “It’s not every day I get to meet someone whose life’s journey began in my hero’s scrotum.”

And here’s where BB works its magic. Any Trekkie will tell you that Spock was no robot. In a eulogy scene from the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that no aficionado can recall without a lump in their throat, Kirk says, “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most… human.”

Some of that vibe is knocking about tonight when Sheldon, reflecting on his love of Spock, talks of a real-life relationship – neurologist Amy, with whom he has recently split – and shows more emotion than we’ve seen for some time.

It’s a zinger of an episode (if, once again, uncomfortably short – just over 17 minutes minus the ads). There are big laughs (we’ve missed those), poignant moments, and a nice subplot for Howard and Bernie, plus not one but TWO guest stars. Apart from Adam Nimoy, our own Stephen Merchant turns up briefly in an important role – you’ll see more of him next week.

Welcome back, vintage Big Bang!

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The new series of The Big Bang Theory airs tonight at 8:30pm on E4