By: Tiffany Vogt
Every now and then television decides to pay homage to other cult classic television shows, and if you saw a few of the recent episodes of CASTLE, SUPERNATURAL, and PYSCH, then you were in for a treat.
In the November 15th episode of CASTLE entitled “Close Encounters of the Murderous Kind,” Richard Castle and Detective Kate Beckett investigated the murder of a young research scientist who was killed in zero gravity conditions. All signs pointed towards an unearthly abduction and THE X-FILES Easter-eggs were carefully placed throughout the episode. And while there was a UFO encounter and abduction — it was by government agents, not aliens. There was also a fun nod to THE X-FILES companion series MILLENIUM, with Lance Henriksen making an appearance as the leader of an alien abduction support group, who wrote the book, “Taken By the Fourth Kind.” Whether it was Castle whistling THE X-FILES’ theme song or a cameo of a cigarette-smoking man, the show did a fun job giving homage to THE X-FILES.
Then in the November 19th episode of SUPERNATURAL entitled “Clap Your Hands If You Believe,” it also dabbled with an homage to THE X-FILES. It even modified its opening credits to mimic the opening credits of THE X-FILES and inserting a tagline which read, “The Truth Is In There.” Similar to CASTLE, the ultimate culprit behind the string of abductions was not little green men of the alien kind, but rather little green men of the fairie kind. Given that SUPERNATURAL is based in a reality where demons, angels and all sorts of alternate-life forms do exist, aliens would not have been impossible, but the show mockingly poked at that notion by opting for a more old world tale. It also recruited Robert Picardo as their leprechaun villain, which was a fun nod to both the STAR TREK and STARGATE series, and used David Bowie’s song “Space Oddity” as a backdrop to one of their fight scenes. So while the crop-circles, bright lights, and mysterious abductions were classic X-FILES mythology, it was all the more fun as the Winchester brothers tried to figure out if alien life did actually exist, and if not, what was the real culprit. Agents Mulder and Scully would have been proud.
Finally, in the December 1st episode of PSYCH entitled “Dual Spires,” fake psychic detective Shawn Spencer and his partner Gus traveled to a mysterious little town where the inhabitants mirrored the characters of the television cult classic TWIN PEAKS. In PSYCH’s case, they opted to not simply craft a typical homage, they cleverly cast several of the original actors from TWIN PEAKS in guest-starring roles for their quirky tale of murder and deception. While revisiting the world where everyone is pie-obsessed, haunting music, and everyone has a deep, dark secret, PSYCH lovingly brought its comedic storytelling into a world that entranced the television audience 20 years ago. Everything from the body wrapped in plastic down by the lake to the Log Lady and the startling hair color change of Ray Wise’s character invoked cherished memories. PSYCH sought not only to laughingly share its love for TWIN PEAKS, it wanted to emulate it. It was a true homage — a love letter to a series gone but not forgotten.
Over the years, nearly every television show finds a way to weave in bits and pieces of other television shows — whether it is in an outright homage or through the use of punch-lines. But these three recent examples were particularly fun as they sought to remember two cult television shows that captured our hearts and minds for a time.
The fact that three prominent television shows chose to salute two cult classic sci-fi shows is telling. In the 1990’s, no two shows were more idolized than TWIN PEAKS and THE X-FILES. Each rose from obscurity and went on to become iconic symbols of science fiction (though many would describe TWIN PEAKS as horror-fiction than science fiction). What was it about those two series that lent themselves so well to homage?
For one, they were outrageously over-the-top. Both THE X-FILES and TWIN PEAKS took the idea that there were other types of life forms besides our own that were intervening in our world and shaping it for their own purposes. Both were daring looks at worlds that we cringed from and were scared could possibly exist. As much as we may be intrigued by the idea of alien life or demonic life, we fervently hope that it does not. Like a car wreck — it was fascinating and while we could not look away, we were grateful that it did not actually exist. And like nightmares, it was something for which we were glad to have woken up from and then sighed with relief to know that it was not real in the first place.
Despite the unnerving fascination with that which scares and repels us, THE X-FILES and TWIN PEAKS have lived in infamy even after they were long gone. To see both series so prominently featured in homage was a wonderful walk down memory lane. It was done with love and laughter. CASTLE and SUPERNATURAL’s nods to THE X-FILES were told in a spirit of fun as they invited us to remember a sci-fi series that challenged us to believe in extraterrestrial life. Of the course of the 10 years that THE X-FILES was broadcast, and with so much in our world that is unexplainable, it seemed easier to go along for the ride and stop being the doubting Scully and succumb to the lure of being the believing Mulder. So when CASTLE attempted to lure us back into the world of “believing” all things are possible — even alien life — we were nearly ready to jump back in. We wanted to believe even as our brains were telling us it was impossible — and we laughed along with them, when it was proven to have a more earthly solution.
Thus, SUPERNATURAL’s tale was perfect timing in preying on our susceptibility. It made it all the more fun as we were about to run right along with Dean in the cornfield shouting “UFO, UFO — close encounter!” It was hysterical what was really going on there. SUPERNATURAL can have little winged people, but not little antennaed people? The hypocrisy was hysterical. It is always fun when a TV show can poke fun at itself.
And last, but not least, after seeing how charming a visit it was on PSYCH, I am sure there are quite a few of us who would willingly venture back into the hazy, surreal world of TWIN PEAKS once again. We may still not be sure if a person or spirit killed Laura Palmer, but being invited to dance with the quirky characters populating a seemingly idyllic community and dream of cherry pie has captivated us again.
A good homage makes us laugh. A great homage makes us yearn to wind back the clock. Kudos to CASTLE, SUPERNATURAL and PSYCH for offering homages that make us wish for the impossible.
Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to The TV Addict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).