To begin the second group of episodes we come to The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #10: The Springfield Files. This episode first aired January 12th 1997. I viewed this episode at home on DVD, Thursday February 25th 2010 by myself. In this episode the couch gag features the family flying into the room on jetpacks and taking their seats on the couch. Maggie is the last in line and does several loops around the room before landing in Marge’s lap.
“Hello, I’m Leonard Nimoy. The following tale of alien encounters is true. And by true I mean false. It’s all lies. But they’re entertaining lies. And in the end isn’t that the real truth? The answer is no.” This is how The Springfield Files begins. Leonard Nimoy sits behind a desk in a study and preparing to tell our story gives us the previous speech. This sums up the attitude of The Simpsons. Nothing is sacred and nothing is serious. Not really.
It’s Friday afternoon and Homer, Lenny and Carl sneak out of work early and off to Moe’s Tavern. Homer drinks until the wee hours of the morning and after failing a breathalyzer administered by Moe the bartender he is forced to walk home. During the walk Homer is constantly besieged by frightening stimuli that turn out to be non-threatening until finally he encounters a glowing alien that tells him “Don’t be afraid.” Homer responds by screaming in terror and fleeing for his life.
When he arrives home and tries to relay his experience to his family they don’t believe him and attribute his story to drunkenness. He fares no better when passing his story along to co-workers and the local police. However, Agents Mulder and Scully of the FBI take notice of his story as printed in the local paper, and decide to investigate. After he is unable to pick the alien he saw out of an FBI line-up, and is put through a battery of tests, the agents observe Homer as he retraces his exact steps from the night he saw the alien. When Agent Mulder identifies himself as an FBI agent, Moe goes into the back room and interrupts two men who are hosing down a Killer Whale. Moe tells them, “They’re onto us. Get him back to Sea World!”
The investigation of the site of Homer’s encounter leads nowhere but Agent Mulder vows to keep searching for the proof of alien life. After swearing this oath Moe and his cronies can be seen in the background carrying the Killer Whale. When they notice that Mulder has spotted them Moe yells, “Cheese it! The feds!” and the men run off with the whale. Homer is dejected until he discovers that Bart believes his story. They resolve to return to the clearing on Friday night and wait to see if the alien returns. After spending all night waiting, finally the alien appears. Unfortunately Homer accidentally scares the alien off but Bart recorded the entire scene on video.
At this point we return to Leonard Nimoy who ends the story. However, he is informed that there is still ten minutes left in the program. Nimoy goes to “get something from his car” and drives off. After Homer’s video appears on the local news, the town becomes convinced that the alien is real. The following Friday night the entire populace turns out at the clearing to get a glimpse of the alien. It does appear and just when the townspeople are about to lynch it, Mr. Smithers arrives and reveals that it is not an alien at all but Mr. Burns. According to Smithers, Mr. Burns goes through a series of medical procedures to cheat death each week that leaves him disoriented and alien in appearance. After Burns briefly reverts back to normal Dr. Nick gives him another injection of morphine. Delirious and jovial the old man leads the town in song.
This episode has plenty of what The Simpsons is famous for. It features three guest stars of note which are David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson (as their X Files characters Agents Mulder and Scully) and Star Trek and science fiction legend Leonard Nimoy as himself. In addition several fictional characters from other series appear in the alien line up scene including, Kang or Kodos (Simpsons characters), Alf of the show of the same name, Chewbacca of Star Wars fame, and Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0701263/trivia)
While there are dozens of references to movies, television and other popular culture the most directly referenced show would be The X Files. When this episode aired The X Files were in their fourth season and near the height of their popularity. This cross-over exhibits the advantages of being a cartoon show on a major network with access to its other hit shows and the stars thereof. Gillian Anderson as Scully is generally identical to the character from the live action show. She is smart, skeptical, and infinitely patient with Mulder and his out-there theories. David Duchovny as Agent Mulder on the other hand plays an exaggerated version of his X Files character that is ready to leap at anything that could suggest that we are not alone in the universe.
This episode actually features many more references than those I’ve focused on. Several more can be found at (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0701263/movieconnections). While very entertaining this episode offers very little in terms of solid plot or character development. It is mostly a vehicle for its guest stars and their characters. This is a very funny but very average episode of The Simpsons.
The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #10: The Springfield Files
Rating: 3 out of 5