Sunday, October 11, 2009

Frasierquest 1.2: Space Quest

Martin interrupts Frasier's readingFrasier: Thanks, Niles. You’re a good brother and a credit to the psychiatric profession.

Niles: You’re a good brother too.

The only Frasier episode to share its title with a graphic adventure game, “Space Quest” is sort of the second half of the story told in the pilot. Frasier now has “my father, Mary Poppins, and the Hound from Hell” all living in his apartment, and he has to adjust to the reality that we so far only saw in the end credits last time. It’s actually, as the title suggests, kind of abstract; the entire plot boils down to “Frasier wants to find some peace and quiet to read a book”, the sort of thing you’d see in a silent movie comedy, but the meat of the episode is in the disruption Frasier sees to his routine- something an Aspie like myself can appreciate.

The episode takes place the day after “The Good Son”, with Frasier waking up to realize that hiring Daphne wasn’t a dream. With another new person in the house, and Martin finally settling in, Frasier finds his morning ablutions disrupted by pre-read newspapers and high-fat breakfasts, to say nothing of having to keep his robe firmly cinched. After going to work and trying to use his radio show to host a symposium on “intrusion”, Frasier tries to reclaim some personal space by finding somewhere to sit alone and get some reading done. Fate has other plans. He can’t do it at his booth because sportscaster Bob “Bulldog” Briscoe (Dan Butler, making his series debut) needs it because the transmitter failed at his regular spot, he can’t read in the park because it starts raining, and anywhere else he constantly gets interrupted by people he knows. Inevitably, he has to confront Martin about getting some peace and quiet in his own home.

In some ways this episode is the one that establishes the status quo as the status quo- all the characters are in place, and are free to bounce off each other. Daphne is bright and cheery, sometimes too much for Frasier’s temperament, while Martin, though not nearly as grouchy as he was, having made peace with his own disruption, just naturally has a way of getting on his son’s nerves. It’s interesting to see how John Mahoney plays the character differently already, establishing the Martin Crane we’ll see in the rest of the series. Eddie, of course, continues to stare, and Roz’s fun-loving personality gets fleshed out a little more via a phone conversation. Strangely enough, Niles is only seen at the Café Nervosa, Martin and Daphne only at home, and Roz only at the station- the characters aren’t quite in a moving-around phase yet, except for Frasier himself. There’s still a certain simplicity to the setup this way, and again it’s the foundation for future shakeups.

Frasier’s talk with his dad- introduced with the superb subtitle “Just a Couple of White Guys Sittin’ Around Talkin’”- is like a lighter, comical version of the argument in “The Good Son”. Frasier realizes that getting to be closer to his father will be work, and that everyone’s going to have to make a few compromises. It falls to the end credits gag to actually bring the story to its proper resolution, an interesting use of the format.

Overall this episode isn’t quite as memorable as the pilot, but it finishes the job, as it were. The second episode of a series is now usually the “first normal” episode, and “Space Quest” does a good job of setting the rhythm of Frasier’s world and the difficulties he’s going to encounter within it. We all like to have our little spheres of quiet and control in our lives, and it can be a struggle to get them; very few sitcoms address concepts like this, and it’s part of what makes FRASIER so fascinating.

Guest Caller: Christopher Reeve as Leonard

Written by Sy Dukane & Denise Moss
Directed by James Burrows
Aired September 23, 1993

Bulldog: Okay, where’s my Cosell tape? Someone stole my Cosell tape! THIS STINKS! THIS IS TOTAL B.S.! THIS IS- oh, here it is.

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