Second Look: Frasier Season 1 Episode 2 – “Space Quest”

Frasier Space Quest

Frasier Season 1, Episode 2 “Space Quest”
Written by Sy Dukane & Denise Moss
Directed by James Burrows
Aired September 23, 1993 on NBC

While sitcom pilots are hardly elegant creatures, second episodes are often downright disastrous, existing in this narrative purgatory between the show’s conception and the foundation of what it is to become through its first run of episodes (which used to be 24, offering a bit of creative runway for a writer’s room to find itself). “Space Quest”, Frasier‘s second outing, is certainly no exception to the rule – but rather than bog itself down with the obligatory pilot regurgitation, it uses it as a springboard to further build out the dynamic between Frasier and Marty, which is already starting to pay meaningful dividends.

It’s certainly hard not to admire the show’s clear master of its format in only its second episode, using a simple setting – Frasier trying to find a peaceful place to read The Holotropic Mind after an upsetting disturbance to his morning routine – into a way to continue building out the world around Frasier. Each of these attempts to isolate himself allow for one character to enter the scene at a time (save for scenes with Bulldog and Roz, of course), using Frasier’s frustration with everyone as the thoroughline. Not only does it streamline the story and disguise some of its more overt Second Episode moments (most of which are in the first act, to its credit), but it provides a structure for the resolution, where Frasier finally realizes the variable is his supposed equation for happiness was himself, not the world around him.

Frasier Space Quest

“Space Quest” makes it clear most of Frasier’s frustrations with other people are misdirects towards his still-harbored frustrations towards his father – which, combined with the cold emotional tenor of his mother, provides a perfect storm for awkward harbored fissures between generations that have lasted offscreen for decades. And he knows this; Frasier didn’t just have his father move in during “The Good Son” to take care of him, he brought him into his home so they could finally forge the relationship they never had when he was a kid.

These things take time to develop, however, and the famous Crane patience shines through with both father and son, their conversation devolving into a mess of insults and accusations – until, after the timer rings, Marty reminds his son that it’s going to take a lot longer than a week before they have a loving, trusting relationship (also a plea to the audience, in a way, to give this show some leeway as it finds its sea legs).

Frasier Space Quest

We’ll have plenty of time to talk about Frasier’s Freudian underpinnings throughout the first season; in the show’s second episode, Frasier’s conversation with his father about his suicide attempt sets an important tone for the series to follow, a well to which the show could return many times, to deliver some of its most thoughtful observations of patriarchal responsibility, and the healing that takes place between a son and father at some point in their adult lives. “Space Quest,” for all its goofy handling of the secondary characters (each other character gets exactly one scene with Frasier), nails that moment, effortlessly establishing an integral emotional component, one that would remain at the show’s core throughout its lengthy run.

Of course, there’s not much else to the episode; one could spend paragraphs flouting the The Holotropic Mind’s reflection on the idea of self in the universe (in that it doesn’t really exist) and how that translates into “Space Quest” – but given I was able to explain it in a sentence, it’s nothing us, neither the episode itself, spends a lot of time on, more a nod to the show’s psychological curiosities than a braggadocious reference. As a Second Episode, “Space Quest” just really just needs to avoid tripping over its own feet to be a success – and it does that with surprising grace, a fantastic table-setter for the season to come.

Grade: B+

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Love Niles’ obnoxious, unnecessary Italian in the cafe, which brings out classic Frasier Frump Face.
  • Daphne notices Frasier’s open robe: “Six more weeks of winter, I see.”
  • Who doesn’t love a morning ablution?
  • Total ’90s male fantasy that a woman would be talking on the phone with her mother about her sex life in the extremely frank manner Roz does. Look how liberated those women are!
  • Bulldog gets his introduction, complete with signature line: “This stinks! This is total BS! This – oh wait, there it is.”
  • Kind of impressive The Holotropic Mind was worked into the thematic DNA of the episode, given it had only published a few months earlier, in May 1993.
  • Frasier is always great at the little touches, like the dialogue about the building custodian with a glass eye. “Which one is the real one?” “The one that’s brown.”
  • This episode’s caller (the one with agoraphobia) – none other than Superman himself, Christopher Reeve.
  • For those counting, this is our first appearance of Frasier’s sherry shelf!
  • Two classic Marty phrases this episode: “You’ve been sucking a lemon all week!” and “Aren’t you a little hot house orchid!”
  • You decide whether Frasier is doing his own rendition of Carmen, or if he’s just referencing Bart Simpson’s parody of the song.
  • The suicide attempt Frasier references while talking with his father is from Cheers‘ eleventh season, an episode titled “The Girl in the Plastic Bubble”. It’s dark!

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