Space Ghost: Coast to Coast returns with new episodes in November, including “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” which guest stars William Shatner. Three Toon Zone reviewers look at the episode and find that they have one more thing to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.
Space Ghost: Coast to Coast is a true original. Plopping a massive cartoon library and a massive interview library into a blender and hitting “liquefy,” the show in its first season in 1994 spun the disadvantages of no budget and no viewership into an ingenious comedy that struck a tone with the channel-surfing, sound-bite generation. Space Ghost was almost a parody of the postmodern age itself, mocking the deluge of information we are subject to as well as our inability to process it. The new Adult Swim comedies are very, very funny shows, but they all owe a lot in one way or another to SG: C2C, the granddaddy of them all, and the constant reruns have been an unfortunate reminder that we’ve seen nothing new from this CN pioneer since 2001.
But soon that’s all going to change, with new episodes of this nine year-old franchise coming down the pipe. And by the time Space Ghost uttered only his fourth line in “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” featuring William Shatner, I was laughing hard, and I didn’t stop until the credits rolled. I also was reminded why SG: C2C is one of the most quotable cartoons on television.
“Outer space shows are for children and stupid people!” Space Ghost declares to a bewildered Shatner. The show only goes downhill (in a good way) from there, as Space Ghost fights a heating engineer, Zorak plays the theremin, Moltar makes a startling revelation, and much, much more.
Gone is the weird-for-the-sake-of-weird gimmickry that marred some of the later episodes like Flipmode, and the dialogue and visual tricks are as clever and as quick as the series ever delivered. Shatner acts his part wonderfully, alternately bemused and bewildered.
It sounds frightening, but I grew up with Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, and I’m very happy that new material is on the air again. The show is today’s Monty Python, a bizarre, silly satire that is still the most anarchic show on television. And one of the funniest.
Believe me, that’s a good thing.
That’s the question I found myself asking after the latest episode of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast. It was one of the most insane, random fifteen minutes of animation I have ever witnessed. Which, being a Williams Street show, is about par for the course. It also means it’s freakin’ brilliant.
“In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, the first new episode of the series since 2001, is a return to form for the show, which in recent years allowed the bizarre to overshadow the sharp humor — WS has even returned the opening credits to their classic style. This episode features all the hallmarks of a great SG: C2C episode: bizarre storylines, bewildered guests, and some extremely quotable lines. It even borrows the unexpected gross-out humor that has marked recent episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, with several priceless scenes at the end involving a hook and a cranium.
Oh, and if you’re a fan of Sealab 2021, watch out for some familiar-looking handymen.
I’m not going to spoil anything about this episode for you, because seeing the plot unfold in its bizarre glory is half the fun. Space Ghost: Coast to Coast has returned to being one of the most insane shows on television.
And that’s a good thing.
The long-anticipated confrontation between William Shatner and Space Ghost is the stuff of fanboy dreams. Think about it. Captain Kirk and Space Ghost: two icons from sixties television, now so deep into self-parody that you can’t tell where straight acting ends and self-mockery begins. Spam in a can and ham in a cape. I’m not sure you can even tell them apart anymore, although I think Shatner is the one who is less animated.
“In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” the new Space Ghost: Coast to Coast episode that finally brings these two face to face, is not as dizzying as you might hope. Aside from a blissfully bizarre soliloquy about the joys of riding a donkey barebacked, Shatner is so dead-pan that it is hard to tell if he is in on the joke or not; nor does he say much. But his air of wounded forebearance gives him a surprising dignity as he fends off questions like “So, Bill, blue boobs or green boobs?” Space Ghost himself seems baffled by his guest, as though he suspects that looking into the monitor is like gazing into a mirror, and he quickly departs to run an errand for Zorak. Given the way the show is made, it may be that Shatner simply didn’t give the writers the kind of material they needed to make this story soar. But what they come up with works well enough, thank you.
On its own terms the episode is a joy to watch, being a return to classic Coast to Coast form as Space Ghost, Zorak and Moltar goad and battle each other under the bemused gaze of their human guest. There are the usual odd riffs, the descent into vaudevillian crosstalk, and more than a bit of gross-out humor. In pushing the envelope in its more recent seasons, Space Ghost: Coast to Coast set up the glories that would come in Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Sealab 2021. But it’s good to have the old warhorse back with a new episode that feels remarkably like the very first ones. In a way, it’s like coming home to the original Trek series again after visiting some of the farther reaches of the galaxy. And having on hand the original Captain – who sometimes seems unsure if he’s confronting a cartoon lunatic or the return of Khan – makes the closing of the circle feel both right and complete.
“In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” premieres on December 7 at 11:30pm (ET/PT) on Cartoon Network.