If you’re not a fan of AMC’s Breaking Bad — and let’s face it, you totally should be — then you missed one of the funnier moments in recent TV history. During a scene in which Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) is hanging out with two of his stoner friends, one of them — the appropriately named “Badger” (Matt Jones) — delivers such an epic bit of spoken-word Star Trek fan fiction that the Internet simply had to celebrate it. And so we get the above bit of animated brilliance.
For those of you at work or somewhere you can’t watch the video yet, here’s the basic setup. Badger tells Jesse and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) how, during a particularly slow period of their five-year mission, the crew of the Enterprise decides to throw a pie-eating contest. The field soon narrows to only three contestants: Kirk, Spock, and Chekov. They’re neck and neck, but Spock’s the odds-on favorite because he has “perfect Vulcan control of his digestion.” Soon Kirk pukes, and it’s just Spock and Chekov, but Chekov continues to hold his own. See, the wily Russian has a secret plan, and a co-conspirator helping him win the day. Unfortunately, it soon goes horribly wrong…and I’ll let the video tell you why. Otherwise…
The hilarious segment got the animation treatment courtesy of Matt Czap and the folks at Vulture. They also spoke to some of the show’s writers about how they came up with the scene, and it turns out the tale of the Enterprise’s pie-eating contest has been a staple of the Breaking Bad writers room for years. Peter Gould, who wrote Sunday night’s season premiere containing the Trek story, says showrunner Vince Gilligan has been talking about the Enterprise content since the first season. “We talk about Greek tragedy in the writers’ room,” says Gould, “but there are a lot of geeks, so there’s a lot of geek tragedy, too.”
The idea to put Gilligan’s story into the mouth of stoner extraordinaire Badger came about during the early days spent writing this last half of Breaking Bad’s final season. It evolved, as it does in the episode, from a debate about Star Trek’s iconic transporters, specifically one between Gould and writer Gennifer Hutchinson. It’s an argument I’ve had with my friends as well: does the transporter genuinely transport “You” from place to place, or does it just kill you and then reassemble a duplicate — but different — version of “You” at your destination. Personally, I’m with Bones: those things are death machines.
Badger and Skinny Pete’s argument in the episode is lifted more or less verbatim from the back-and-forth between Gould and Hutchinson. Gould, who grew up as a real “Trekkie,” says he was in the naysaying role of Skinny Pete. As Gould explains, “I don’t want to go on a transporter because it’s essentially taking you apart and putting you back together. But Genni made a pretty good argument that that would mean there were literally 100 Captain Kirks.” The writer says neither side won that argument, but they did wind up with an amazingly funny scene, so I’d counter that everybody won.
But the truly brilliant element of the scene is that it’s not really about the silly Star Trek story at all, or at least not entirely. Instead it’s about watching Jesse, masterfully played by Aaron Paul, surrounded by the banality of his clueless friends while he is mired in depression and regret. “It’s such a great scene, but you watch it and you realize, ‘Wow, that scene wasn’t anything about us,'” says Baker. “It was all about Jesse. It was just to show Aaron Paul’s greatness at work without saying a word. We’re Muzak.”
It’s a perfect example of how the very best writing accomplishes multiple things at the same time, and another reason why Breaking Bad is one of the best damn shows on television.