The Big Bang Theory season 7 episode 22 review: The Proton Transmogrification

Review Juliette Harrison 2 May 2014 - 12:32

The gang celebrate Star Wars Day this week, but the death of a mentor hits hard...

This review contains spoilers.

7.22 The Proton Transmogrification

Sitcoms frequently use death to flesh out their characters a bit. If we only ever see a group of people dating or experiencing general hi-jinks, we can’t really get to know them. They have to experience set-backs, difficulties and loss, and death is the quickest and easiest way to explore those issues.

Some shows kill off a parent, which creates a tricky line to walk. Such a deep and serious loss is a difficult thing to portray in a twenty-minute comedy programme, especially when you have to squeeze in some laughs somewhere as well. Of course, in The Big Bang Theory’s case that wasn’t really an option anyway, because it’s Sheldon’s character they want to explore, his father is already dead, and we all love his mother far too much to kill her off. (The prime candidate for parental death on The Big Bang Theory has to be Howard’s mother, a joke that has got rather old over the years). Far better then, to kill off an occasional recurring character of whom the audience are sufficiently fond to feel some affection and sadness at their being passed on, but whose death would not be so horrifically traumatic as to change the tone of the episode substantially.

Of course, the other thing that made Professor Proton the perfect choice is that, thanks to Sheldon’s active imagination, we get to see Bob Newhart dressed up as Obi-Wan Kenobi. We’ve seen Sheldon’s vivid dreams before, and they’ve been used to incorporate major guest stars into the show without needing Sheldon to interact with the actual person (in Leonard Nimoy’s appearance as a talking Spock action figure in season five’s The Transporter Malfunction for example).

This is probably the best use yet of Sheldon’s dream sequences, as the episode is carefully timed to coincide with all the boys watching all the Star Wars films for Star Wars Day (May 4th, as in May the Fourth Be With You). Unable to cope with Howard and Raj’s suggestion that, since none of them actually like it, they should just skip The Phantom Menace, Sheldon works through his feelings about his beloved Professor Proton’s death by imagining Proton becoming one with the Force in the manner of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars. Talking with Obi-Wan Proton allows Sheldon to realise that he’s now lost all his father figures, and needs to mourn the man – but it also provides plenty of visual humour and opportunities for Bob Newhart to be snarky, so it works very well.

Elsewhere, Leonard and Penny are doing the will they/won’t they (get married) rounds again, but at least they don’t have a major crisis about it this time. And we did get to see them both more or less pull off the always challenging ‘funny-crying’ during the funeral sequence. The other four don’t have particularly substantial storylines, but we do hear a bit more about what got Amy and Bernadette interested in science, and we discover why you don’t see many spherical cakes, so their barely-a-D-plot doesn’t feel like a waste of time.

This episode continues to move Sheldon’s character forward incrementally, as he goes from rejecting Leonard’s initial (hilarious) attempt to hug him early on (but aware that Leonard’s heart is in the right place) to spontaneously hugging him later. It’s nice to see him move forward emotionally with someone other than Amy. We love Amy, but there are more kinds of love in the world than just romantic love and it’s good to see a celebration of Leonard and Sheldon’s friendship, even a small one. The incorporation of the real Star Wars Day is also fun, providing the boys with an opportunity for geeky enthusiasm that feels real and lived-in.

Most importantly, this episode was funny. From Sheldon’s observation that if he and Amy were in a sexual relationship, they wouldn’t be having sex that night, to Penny recognising Leonard’s ‘propose-face’, to everything Bob Newhart says or does, the episode pulls off the difficult death/comedy juxtaposition with aplomb. We can only hope that Obi-Wan Proton’s assurance to Sheldon that he’ll be there when he needs him means Newhart is able to make some more guest appearances in Sheldon’s dreams over the next three years.

Read Juliette's review of the previous episode, The Anything Can Happen Recurrence, here.

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Oh, I don't know if I can watch this, even if Professor Proton does return in Jedi form... :-(

The Star Wars bits were so boring, and so unoriginal, the fact they all hate Episode One, wow what a surprise, they couldnt think of another gag except ripping into Phantom Menace and no offence to Bob Newhart but every scene thats hes in, it just slows up the show so much and your waiting for it to end, I actually found myself waiting for the Penny, Leonard bits, this show has to change dramatically because this season is killing it, oh and yet another Big Bang mistake, Leonard regretted not learning a language, but was speaking fluent Spanish with Sheldon when they were playing physics fiesta

The show you should be watching is "Insert whatever program you feel does everything better than this" not TBBT... \facepalm
Now go and wash your mouth out with soap.

"Star Wars Day (May 4th, as in May the Fourth Be With You)"

Like there's a single person reading this page who actually needed that explained to them!

Without trying to be overly blasphemous, I didn't find Bob Newhart funny, but otherwise it was a great episode!

Good day, sir!

What kind of response was that? You sound like your in your 60's and your trying to be hip and and down with the kids. Get with the program Grandad, the show is crap, it used to be brilliant, the funniest thing on TV for years and now its unfunny, their doing the same gags every single week, and to bring back Borefessor Proton just adds to the torture, like i said no offense to the actor but he kills the show when hes on it, the show is done and there's nothing on tv to replace it that's the sad thing.

I totally agree with Rob that this show has become unfunny; in my opinion it went downhill after season 5. Every now and again I will watch the latest episode to see if anything funny/new has happened, but so far not much at all since season 4 ot 5. Definitely feels like the same gags each week. Also when I saw that the 'Borefessor' was on yet another episode (the most recent episode), I could not help but think "F##k, not this C#nt again!".


*And from my first comment; I also don't mean any offense to the actual actor that plays the Borefessor.

Next week, we finally get to see "Serial Apist II: Monkey See, Monkey Kill!"

Handbags... This is the tinternet son,all our views are equally worthless.

The last sentence of your comment seems to apply to both you and Rob. You both sound like real fun guys to hang out with, lol.


How I wish I can watch TBBT again, what happen in season7-22?

I love it when TBBT gets sentimental. Especially in regards to the Sheldon&Leonard relationship. Loved that scene!

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