While this weekend’s box office will no doubt be dominated by Neil Burger’s YA dystopian thriller Divergent, the second-biggest opening will be James Bobin’s sequel Muppets Most Wanted, hands down. (Or, technically, hands up inside a Muppet.) And while that film’s plot revolves around mistaken identities and criminal elements, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on just how sci-fi-friendly the Muppets have been over the years. How is there not an asteroid named after Jim Henson yet?
It would be extremely difficult to go back into all of the Muppet iterations to find every single science fiction reference made, so we won’t be talking about the serialized “Trash Gordon” segments of Sesame Street, the Henson puppets in Farscape, or the multitude of alien characters that have populated Henson’s works over the years. These entries are more specific in their nature and were, admittedly, a lot of fun to relive while putting this story together. The Muppets, much like the best sci-fi, are absolutely timeless.
So without further ado, Pi-i-i-i-i-igs I-i-i-i-i-i-n Spa-a-a-a-a-a-a-ace! Okay, so this is actually an entire fourth-season episode of The Muppet Show, which featured not only Mark Hamill, but his “cousin” Luke Skywalker, along with R2-D2, C-3PO, and Chewbacca. The episode revolves mostly around the Scottish Muppet Angus McGonagle getting bumped for the Star Wars crew, along with Miss Piggy dressing up as Leia and Gonzo standing in as Darth Nadir. Classic comedy all around.
Now let’s get a little animated for these two episodes of the Muppet Babies cartoon that served as one of my best friends when I was a kid. Let’s not forget that a TIE Fighter is seen in the opening credits of each episode. The first, titled “Gonzo’s Video Show,” features Gonzo using a super-modern camcorder to put together a homemade version of Star Wars. And the next, “Muppet Babies: The Next Generation,” serves as more of an all-out spoof of George Lucas’ seminal flick, along with some Star Trek references.
To close out the Star Wars-related portion, here is the classic Sesame Street episode where C-3PO and R2-D2 hold Gordon hostage and threaten to kill…wait, that’s not what this is. Enjoy it anyway.
Sesame Street also used to run a recurring segment called “Spaceship Surprise,” which served as a parody of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Does it hold up as well as that series does? Well…
Spock himself actually showed up in “Muppet Magazine” for an interview.
As did legendary author Isaac Asimov.
Of course, some of the greatest segments The Muppet Show and the modern era of Muppet-dom have given us are the Muppet Lab clips with Bunsen and Beaker generally making a mess of everything. In the name of science! Check out a slew of those sketches below.
Nor can we forget their feature-length sci-fi effort Muppets From Space a film that has aged arguably better than any of the other films produced after Henson’s death. Maybe I just like Gonzo a lot. Here’s a trailer, since we can’t technically show you the whole shebang here.
Finally, here are our two favorite robots ever to appear in the Muppet universe. The first is Digit, the absolutely frightening half-bot who served as MuppeTelevision’s Technical Director on the short-lived series The Jim Henson Hour. I don’t know why they decided to turn nightmares into Muppets, but it happened.
And the last clip is of Vendaface, which is technically a vending machine and not a robot, but it’s seemingly sentient and pretty hilarious in its attempts to give the characters facelifts.