Does the entire canon of the Muppets fall into the genre of science fiction? When you consider the various alternate universes the Muppets seem to inhabit, the answer might be yes. If meta-fiction is the handmaiden of science fiction, then there are certainly some SF sensibilities pervading our favorite gang of witty and colorful creatures. Throughout the years, this sensibility has been somewhat acknowledged by the Muppet-verse via specific crossovers from science fiction celebrities. Here are six instances of science fiction icons with the Muppets!
Though the reoccurring sketch “Pigs in Space” was initially more of a Star Trek/Lost in Space parody than Star Wars homage, it nonetheless caught Star Wars fever when Mark Hamill guest starred on The Muppet Show. Episode 417 was simply titled “Star Wars” and featured Mark Hamill not only as Luke Skywalker, but also as Luke’s cousin “Mark Hamill.” Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 also got in on the action, fighting against a Gonzo version of Darth Vader called Dearth Nadir.
Rounding out the Star Wars action is Miss Piggy decked out in the Leia-buns. Because Luke Skywalker appears in this episode fully in character, it makes one wonder if the Muppets can be considered a part of the Star Wars universe. Further, because George Lucas is silent on this particular adventure of Luke Skywalker, does this then become more legit than the Star Wars Holiday Special? Maybe they should have just let the Muppets helm the holiday special to begin with.
While filming the first Superman film, Christopher Reeve made friends with Frank Oz and Jim Henson. Though not seen on The Muppet Show in the flesh until 1979, Reeve did do some occasional background voice work for the show. His first appearance was only a cameo a in a special titled “Muppets Go to Hollywood,” but he eventually returned as the guest host. An allusion to his super strength was made when Miss Piggy attempted to karate chop him in response to Reeve sticking up for Kermit. Naturally, the blow glanced off Reeve much in the way a bullet would bounce off of Superman.
James Bond (Roger Moore & Pierce Brosnan)
Between lasers, underwater cars, jetpacks, and spaceships, it’s hard to not see James Bond in a science fiction context. Agent 007 appeared with the Muppets twice; once in the form of Roger Moore during the original run of The Muppet Show, and then later as Pierce Brosnan in the mid-90s series Muppets Tonight. A recurring gag on The Muppet Show has the gang treating the guest actor as though they were their fictional alter-egos, which works perfectly with both Bonds. Even though this time it’s the actors themselves going undercover as their Bond personas. Why Connery never appeared with the Muppets is a mystery which may never be unraveled. (Zardoz Muppets anyone?)
Forever famous as Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter threw her lasso around The Muppet Show in episode 419. And though Lynda was as classy and graceful as ever in this episode, Miss Piggy truly stole the show in the sketch “Wonder Pig.” This is not only one of the funniest sketches from The Muppet Show, but also one of the most bizarre. Check out the clear Lewis Carroll reference towards the end.
Though he didn’t technically appear on the The Muppet Show, Patrick Stewart did enjoy this encounter with The Count on Sesame Street. While Stewart’s “Letter B” Hamlet sketch is more famous, I think this bit is pretty adorable. Further, it’s a shame Jonathan Frakes isn’t also involved with this sketch, if only to further confuse the wordplay surrounding the various numbers. Interestingly, if you picture Jonathan Frakes as The Count it makes perfect sense. Do it right now. Seriously.
Tragically, the man who coined the term “robotics” did not appear on screen with any Muppets, but he was interviewed in the 1983 issue of Muppet Magazine. Complete with jokes about the famous author’s equally famous sideburns, Dr. Strangepork of the Swinetrek questioned Asimov on a variety of subjects, including a basic philosophy of how space travel would advance. Asimov exposed a belief that only peace among human beings would allow for a cooperated effort to explore the cosmos. A few years later, Asimov would be consulted by Gene Roddenberry in regard to Star Trek:The Next Generation. Since “Pigs in Space” and the Swinetrek were modeled on Star Trek, it seems odd that no one from Star Trek was actually ever on The Muppet Show. This interview with Asimov might be the closest piece of connective tissue from the Trek universe to the Muppets. In any case, of all the celebrity interviews, Asimov might be the Muppets’ most prestigious journalistic achievement.
Secret Bonus: Gates McFadden
Though no Star Trek actor has appeared on The Muppet Show, Gates McFadden’s VERY FIRST MOVIE was The Muppets Take Manhattan. Before she was Dr. Beverly Crusher, Gates had a small role in this Muppet movie as Mr. Price’s secretary. Credited under her first name, Cheryl (Gates is the actress’s middle name), McFadden had worked with Henson before as a choreographer on The Dark Crystal, Dreamchild, and Labyrinth. Gates was not only “the dancing doctor” but apparently the doctor who made Muppets dance! Hooray!
This is far from all of the SFF icon connections to the Muppet world, just my favorite. Got any favorite Muppet Science Fiction cameos or connections? Tell me about them below!
[More info at Muppet Wiki]
Originally published in November 2011.