There were signs when season nine got under way that Big Bang had become more of an indoor firework: going through the motions but never really throwing out any sparks.
But after its winter break, the Friends-with-PhDs returns with renewed vigour – and a real cracker of an episode. Sci-fi fans will have a broad grin at the Star Wars-style “opening crawl” to update us on the Caltech colleagues, while the stage is set for one giant leap for Sheldonkind
Genius and social cluster bomb Sheldon Cooper isn’t prone to flamboyant displays of happiness. We know what puts a spring in his step, of course: a well-prepared milkshake, say, a baffling string theory equation, perhaps, or a mint Star Trek: the Next Generation action figure. But the smile on his face at the end of this week’s episode is undeniably genuine…
It all starts when Sheldon (Jim Parsons) ponders three birthday-gift ideas for his back-on-again girlfriend Amy – and one of them is an absolute jaw-dropper. Let’s just say the audience “woo” rating is through the roof.
The rest of the story is taken up with fever-pitch excitement from Sheldon’s spoddish cronies over the opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. See the reaction the gang’s friend/tormentor Wil Weaton receives from the cinema audience for dressing “inappropriately”.
The geeky gags are tempered by the dry, old-school timing of Bob Newhart, reappearing to Sheldon as a Jedi mentor. He may be 86, but the more Newhart is invited back to the show, the happier I’ll be.
There’s lots of delicious detail: look out for the failed attempt at harakiri-by-lightsaber, for example, or how the girls confuse Sheldon during his door-knocking ritual.
And there’s a sweetness to all the nudge-nudge that reminds us how special Big Bang can be when firing on all cylinders. Never forgetting its duty to make us laugh, the show nevertheless has real affection for its characters.
Like a total eclipse or a meteor shower, this episode is a must-see.
Don’t miss The Big Bang Theory – tonight at 8:30pm on E4