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The Big Bang Theory Recap: O Captain Kirk! My Captain!

The Big Bang Theory

The D&D Vortex
Season 12 Episode 16
Editor’s Rating *****

The Big Bang Theory

The D&D Vortex
Season 12 Episode 16
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS

If this is Wil Wheaton’s final appearance on this series, he’ll have out on a high note.

Sheldon and Amy are guests on Wheaton’s Dr. Proton kids’ TV show, where he introduces the couple as real scientists who may be the next winners of a Nobel Prize. “That’s like winning the Kids’ Choice Award, but with more science and less slime,” he informs the kiddies.

Sheldon tries to explain super-asymmetry to the television audience, and, tiresome as this topic has become, this is a rare instance when it’s entertaining, because he can’t. Well, he can’t explain it in any way that the children will understand, and Wil and even Amy are looking pretty confused by his effort. It’s a fun little nod to the fact that this major breakthrough in Shamy’s collaboration, and what could become the high point of their career, is something most of us don’t really have a clue about.

What we all can understand is the big surprise Wil has arranged for Sheldon. The doorbell in Professor Proton’s lab rings, and the guest on the other side is … William Shatner, Star Trek legend, and therefore one of Sheldon’s heroes. Jim Parsons’s reaction to standing across from this Trek god is a delightful callback to season two’s “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis,” when Penny gifts Sheldon with a napkin used by Mr. Spock. (“I possess the DNA of Leonard Nimoy?!”) Sheldon was so excited back then that he showered Penny with the titular gift baskets full of soaps and body lotions. The sight of Captain Kirk, and the chance to get Shatner to call him “Science Officer Cooper,” gets Sheldon so excited he loses his lunch all over the actor.

Or, as Howard later taunts him, he “barfed where no man has barfed before.”

Sheldon believes Wil will make sure he gets a do-over with Shatner, though, because Wil “thinks the world of me,” he says. “One of the reasons I love you is you actually believe that,” Leonard tells him. Sheldon goes to Wil’s house to apologize for the hero hurl (doing his trademark triple-knock and doorbell-ring to get Wil to answer), only to find out Wheaton’s hosting a Dungeons & Dragons game night, with William Shatner as one of the players. When Wil realizes Sheldon realizes who’s in the house, he slams the door shut. And turns the sprinklers on.

Undeterred, a damp Sheldon rushes home to tell the guys about this new development, which sends them on a whiteboard and chart theory exploration of Wheaton’s career, to suss out who else he knows and has worked with, in hopes of guessing what other celebrities could be D&D-ing at his house.

“This is the rest of our night, huh?” Penny asks Bernadette and Amy.

Amy: “This is the rest of our lives.”

Charts and stalking Wil’s Instagram lead the guys to figure out Kevin Smith is one of the famous faces at the D&D game. They also spot a very unfamous, but familiar, face in a photo: Stuart. They pressure him into spilling details, filling him with so much anxiety that he calls Wheaton and tells him he doesn’t want to return for the next game. Howard then busts out his Shatner and Christopher Walken impressions in a call to Wheaton to try to recon info on the next game night, but the former Wesley Crusher is on to him.

With Stuart out, there’s an open spot for the next game night, so Wheaton extends an invitation. To Leonard. Only Leonard. With the stipulation that he can’t tell anyone, including Howard and Raj — and especially Sheldon — that he’s on the guest list.

Game night arrives, and a pan around the room reveals Wheaton, Shatner, Joe Manganiello, Smith, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Shatner and the NBA legend are arguing about one thing, Smith and Manganiello are arguing about using force or conversation to solve another issue (“Big surprise, Podcast here wants to talk,” the actor says), and when they ask Leonard what he thinks, all he can do is giggle and say this is the greatest day of his entire life.

“It’s all right, Leonard. One day you’ll meet a girl,” Shatner tells him.

Still giddy, Leonard returns home and can’t keep his secret a secret. He tells Penny about his all-star evening, and when she finds out about Manganiello, she rounds up Amy and Bernie and they head off to Professor Proton’s studio to get themselves invited to D&D.

Meanwhile, Wil kicks Leonard out of the game, and when he ’fesses to his friends he participated for one night before being dismissed, they all hightail it to Wheaton’s house to plead their cases for the now-open seat.

“No, no, no, and hell no,” Wheaton tells them, pointing to Sheldon on that last, most emphatic “no.” He’s upset they’re clearly only interested in the game because of his celebrity connections, and their immediate apologies don’t assuage his hurt feelings.

Later that night, Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj are playing a D&D game of their own and invite Wheaton. He’s busy, and when he hangs up the phone we see why. He’s got his own D&D game going, with the same crew as before, except with the addition of Penny, Bernie, and Amy.

Manganiello makes Wheaton switch seats with him after Amy keeps telling him she loved him in Magic Mike. Bernie tries to bond with Abdul-Jabbar by telling him she and her dad watched him win back-to-back championships.

Kareem: “And I watched you sniff Joe’s hair when he wasn’t looking.”

Penny, meanwhile, impresses Shatner when she talks about using her broadsword on the D&D ogre.

“I like your moxie,” he tells her.

“Aww, and I like your grandpa words,” she says, deflating his ego and making me think about why they stopped making those Priceline commercials where Kaley Cuoco and The Shat played a daughter and father seeking travel deals.

The women assure Wheaton they won’t tell their fellas where they’ve been, but he tells them maybe they should. In fact, maybe they should take a group photo, which they do, and immediately text it to the guys at home.

“We deserve that,” Leonard says when he receives the pic.

And this is the kind of episode I’d hoped we’d see in this run up to the series finale. Wheaton playing this “delightfully evil” version of himself for the last decade has been pure fun, and the often contentious frienemyship between him and Sheldon is right up there with the other best Sheldon relationship on the show, the one with Penny. Both are based on great chemistry amongst all the actors involved, and the fact that Delightfully Evil Wil and Penny are the among the only people who can really go toe-to-toe with Sheldon.

I’d love to see the writers squeeze in another Wheaton appearance before TBBT wraps, but again, if they don’t, this was a fine final appearance, because it suggests Sheldon and Wil will continue to be a part of each other’s lives, and Sheldon will continue to show up at Will’s front door, arrogantly and yet innocently assuming he’s always welcome.

The callback to Professor Proton was another good one as the show winds down, though a return by Bob Newhart is certainly on the wish list. It’s great that the series was finally able to lock in Shatner’s guest spot, since cast and producers and writers have made no secret of the fact that he’s topped their wish list for a long time.

And Dungeons & Dragons was a much appreciated throwback to season six’s “The Love Spell Potion,” in which Howard reveals his stellar impressions of Nicolas Cage, Al Pacino, and Christopher Walken during another D&D game. We got his Shatner and Walken here, and it’s evidence that a Howard Wolowitz-led spin-off series — something that’s rumored to be a prospect at CBS — might have just have possibilities.

Theor-ems

• Sheldon has a problem with the Kids Choice Awards: “Why would they let kids choose anything? They’re basically human larvae.”

• Sheldon, after Wheaton points out that kids are his show’s target audience: “Greetings, children. Toys … amiright?”

• Raj has written a piece of fan fiction: Captain Marvel-ous Mrs. Maisel. It is not about a superhero who finds her voice by doing standup (as was Bernadette’s suggestion). It’s about “a Jewish girl that flies.”

• “I was about to go all Wrath of Khan on the ogres,” Bill Shatner says during D&D. Kevin Smith makes him put “another” dollar in the (already full) “Star Trek jar.”

“Worth it,” Shatner says.

The Big Bang Theory Recap: O Captain Kirk! My Captain!