The Big Bang Theory season 8 episode 17 review: The Colonisation Application

The Big Bang Theory needs to solve its Emily problem, and do it fast...

This review contains spoilers.

8.17 The Colonisation Application

The Big Bang Theory has always done an admirable job introducing new characters, to the point where it’s hard to even remember a time when the central group was one of five rather than the seven-piece (plus, periodically, Stuart) it is now. That said, I think we all know that something isn’t quite working with Emily and, even worse, the show doesn’t seem all that bothered with fixing the issue.

This episode marks only the third or fourth time we’ve seen Emily in this entire season, and unfortunately, it’s when she’s around that the glaring problems with her development (or lack thereof) are highlighted the most.

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Although Raj works well as the single friend in the middle of a group which is pairing off one by one (aka the Joey), he deserves love too, and there aren’t many Big Bang Theory fans who don’t want to see the character happy. Emily, though, isn’t a character in her own right, and that just makes things worse.

While Penny, Amy and Bernadette were either immediately or eventually well-rounded personalities all written to fit into an established group, Emily is still just ‘Raj’s girlfriend’, and that’s not enough for anyone to care about her for longer than a three-episode arc. The effort to have her share a storyline with the other female characters ended up badly, with a rivalry formed between her and Penny that hasn’t been addressed since, and there’s not even much evidence that this relationship is a good one for Raj.

Her characterisation amounts to her making inappropriate jokes about death/murder, and him not knowing how to react. That repeats itself here, and continues to be uncomfortable and unfunny. Maybe she really is a serial killer with a dead body in her closet, and that’s where the storyline’s been headed all along.

To contrast this, the episode also had Sheldon and Amy buying a turtle. It’s the kind of delightful, ordinary adventure the couple does brilliantly, but wouldn’t work at all if the audience didn’t feel like they knew both of them so well. Sheldon being willing to buy a pet with his girlfriend is just another step in the series of personal leaps he’s made this season and, for those of us rooting for them, regardless of the argument about his trip to Mars, seeing them act as two parts of a single team is just plain wonderful.

The other two couples were supporting players, with Leonard and Penny attempting to spice up their love-life with erotic paints from the ‘dirty store’ and Howard helping Raj out over the phone while Bernadette does their taxes. The latter is a necessity in that they’re relegated to the background following two heavy weeks of Wolowitz stuff, and the former is a little taste of what a married Leonard and Penny might look like.

The Colonisation Application, then, was one of those episodes that pairs everyone off into their couples and wallows in their dynamic for twenty minutes. It’s fine, but doesn’t have any of the unpredictability that makes big group episodes so much fun.

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Maybe we need one of these in order to make Emily click, pairing her off with Howard for example, but, until then, she might be better off as an unseen presence, only mentioned in passing as she has been for much of season eight so far. 

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, The Intimacy Acceleration, here.

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