What time is it? It’s Venture Bros. time! Also, per the title, it is 20 Years to Midnight! We’ve got celebrity guests, not-quite-the-Fantastic-Four, an ancient judgment on mankind, a lengthy Contact parody, Jonny Quest, and Brock Samson wearing the most adorable shirt ever. Time is of the essence, so let’s get to it!
“Do not speak to me! Do not alter your normal human behavior in any way! You know not the elaborate criteria by which you are about to be judged. Ignore my presence and go about your earthly business!”- The Grand Galactic Inquisitor
A spaceship lands near the Venture Compound and out steps a mysterious alien being. Inside, Brock finds a box of stuff, covered up for nearly twenty years. It includes an old video camera with a message from Jonas Venture. He explains that he built a machine, and the future of the planet hinges on it being activated only once. Jonas scattered the components across the globe to keep them safe. The device has to be activated at exactly midnighton May 4th of Doc’s 44th year. Which is the next day. As Doc takes notes, the alien arrives. He explains that he’s the Grand Galactic Inquisitor, and he’s there to judge the human race. But they should ignore him and go about their business.
–Everything about the Grand Galactic Inquisitor cracks me up – his elaborate design with the robes and antlers, his weird Dalek-style voice shouting “Ignore me!”. And he’s just a sidebar to the plot! I also find it hilarious that not only does the box contain a t-shirt that just has a picture of a cookie on it, but that Brock is immediately compelled to put on the too-small shirt.
The Inquisitor is, as far as I can tell, a parody of Marvel Comics’ Uatu the Watcher, who simply observes human events without intervening. (Except when he does.) There’s also a bit of the Celestials in there, since they actively judged mankind.
“I wakes up one day, and there’s this little feller standing there, and he tells me it’s his boat now, ‘cause your Pa ate him up when he was wee.” – Pirate Captain
Doc, Brock, the boys, and the Inquisitor take the X-1 to Spider Skull Island for the first piece of the machine. Doc sneaks in to find the piece, while Doc and the boys try to take back the X-2, the boat that Jonas Jr. took. There, they find the fake ghost pirate captain, who’s been hired by JJ. JJ turns over the piece of the machine, and offers to help track down the rest of machine. They agreed to split into three teams.
–Doc gave Spider Skull Island and the X-2 to Jonas Jr. back in the Season Two premiere (“Powerless in the Face of Death”), and the pirate captain first (and last) appeared in “Ghosts of the Sargasso”. For a character who’s never been given a name, he’ll be making a lot of appearances in the future. Also, the bit about Doc writing a letter to the Herculoids where he criticized them for not fighting in Vietnam is a favorite. (The Herculoids were weird sort-of-cavemen-and-dinosaurs who started in a short-lived 60s Hanna-Barbera series.)
“He’s got Space Invaders in the lounge! AND he’s got a lounge!” – Dean Venture
Hank and Dean head out on the X-X-1 (JJ’s much better redesign of Doc’s jet). The captain and JJ go out scuba diving, and reach a diving bell by a middle-aged and angry Jonny Quest. Brock and Doc (plus the Inquisitor) take the X-1, and Doc has a dream where he and his father are naked and attached by an umbilical cord, and Jonas is flying Doc like a kite.
–This is a short break, but man. First, Hanna-Barbera mainstay Jonny Quest is introduced into Venture continuity (and identified by name). As of Season Three, they had to start calling him “Action Johnny”, but the character design remained. For a few glorious moments, though, he was Jonny Quest. (He’s voiced by our first celebrity guest of the episode – Brendan Small of Home Movies and Metalocalypse.) And that dream of Doc’s is one of the most upsetting things I’ve ever seen, and it’s so dead-on as to Doc’s mental state. Let’s be clear about it: Naked Doc is flying happily, tethered by an umbilical cord. We then see that on the other end of the cord is naked Jonas. Only the cord is coming out of his crotch. A naked Jonas Jr. wants a turn, so over Doc’s protests, he rips the cord loose and runs away, dragging Doc behind him. Yeah, you just watched that happen.
“Toys Colonel Gentleman Wishes He Had When He was a Lad, But They Hadn’t Been Invented Yet: Micronauts, Scooby-Doo Monster Game, Which Witch?, AT-AT Imperial Walker, Stay Alive: The Survival Game…” – Colonel Gentleman’s diary
Hank and Dean arrive at Colonel Gentleman’s home, but they find him dead in his bed. Hank accidentally breaks Gentleman’s walking stick, which contains the piece they’re looking for. In the diving bell, Jonny holds JJ and the captain at gunpoint demanding to know if they’re cops. JJ gets the piece of the machine by writing him a fake prescription and then feels guilty about it.
–Not much to say here, but we actually haven’t seen the last of Colonel Gentleman. It’ll be a long time before he pops up again, though. Also, the DVDs have a deleted scene detailing another one of the lists from his diary, “Colonel Gentleman’s List of Hollywood Actresses Who Need a Smack in the Mouth”.
“Real human affection, eh? Perhaps a pill, or a burst of gamma radiation…” – Professor Impossible
Doc and Brock arrive in New York– the final piece is somewhere in the foundation of Impossible Plaza (built on the site of the old Venture World Headquarters). Inside, Sally and Richard Impossible are arguing whether a robot makes for a good nanny for their newborn son, Rocket. She finally leaves, followed by the bodyguards Richard assigned. In the subway, Brock knocks out the guards and Sally meets up with Doc. She thinks he’s there for her, but of course, he’s just there to get to the last part of the machine. Ned and Rocket meet up with Hank and Dean in the park, but they’re captured by Richard’s goons. (Except for Rocket, who crawls away.)
–The Impossibles are back! Richard is one of Doc’s biggest scientific rivals, and they’re a (very) thinly veiled take on the Fantastic Four. They last had a significant role in Season One’s Ice Station Impossible. (It was revealed at the end of that episode that Sally was pregnant.) And here’s our second celebrity guest, Stephen Colbert as Richard Impossible! (This is just before Colbert got crazy famous. In Season Three, Jackson Publick voices Richard Impossible. And now Bill Hader has taken over, and that dude’s got one hell of a Colbert impression.)
BROCK: “This is just… wrong, man. Even for you. Look at her.”
DOC: “I have watched you pull a man’s eyes from his head and make him dance like a marionette with his own optic nerves.”
BROCK: “At least I didn’t break his heart.”
DOC: “You don’t know that.”
Doc manipulates Sally to let him into the Plaza. Richard is waiting for them, having taken the rest of the team captive. He’d found the last piece years ago, and now he’s assembled the whole thing because he can’t trust a guy like Doc with it. Sally realizes that Rocket is lost, and JJ calls in HELPeR to free them. (The robot’s just been waiting in the X-1 with the Grand Galactic Inquisitor, who would still like you to ignore him.) The Inquisitor finds Rocket, while HELPeR shuts down the security system and gets a hug from HUGGY, Richard’s affection robot.
–So, HUGGY is based on HERBIE, who replaced the Human Torch in the 70s Fantastic Four cartoon. (And not because of that old urban legend that CBS was afraid kids would set themselves on fire – it was a licensing thing.) Appropriately, the Impossible’s Human Torch stand-in (Cody) is the only one who doesn’t appear in this episode. This is also one of the few times where HELPeR is involved in an adventure and doesn’t get damaged. He gets a hug!
“Of all the intolerable bugaboos!” – Richard Impossible
Richard and Sally continue to argue. Finally, Brock grabs a hunk of Impossible’s face and stretches it out. Brock and JJ nail his stretched-out face to the walls. Richard expands and forces everybody out the window, but the group ends up using his body as a bungee cord. Brock ties Richard’s torso to a subway train, incapacitating him in the most confusing way possible. The Grand Galactic Inquisitor and Rocket catch up to them at exactlymidnight, when the machine activates. It opens a portal, through which Jonas Venture emerges and promptly shoots the Inquisitor in the head.
–Here’s the thing that strikes me – Professor Impossible is actually kind of scary in this scene. He’s using his stretching powers to hurt people, and it’s freaky. In Season Four he goes full villain, but he didn’t manage to accomplish much. Still, he’s a convincing antagonist here.
“That would have been better? If I showed up like that out of nowhere? Look at you – you practically crapped your pants! Except him. He crapped his pants!… Just thank your lucky stars that somebody in this universe is looking out for you! Ungrateful little half-monkeys.” – Fake Jonas Venture
Doc and JJ are overwhelmed to see their dad again, and after a little speech, he admits that he’s not really their father. Just an alien who took that form because it would be easier for them to accept. He reveals his true form and horrifies everybody, then leaves in a fit of pique. In the tag, Sally introduces herself to JJ, and there’s clearly an attraction. Richard’s body dangles helplessly like a windsock, and that’s our episode!
–I love this last bit – it’s a straight-up parody of Contact, where the aliens appear to Jodie Foster in the form of her father. Nobody had thought about Contact for ten years at this point, but that didn’t stop Jackson and Doc! We haven’t seen the last of Sally and J.J., by the way.
This is a good episode – good use of the supporting cast, a solid plot and a fantastic subplot. This is one a lot of people will point to as their favorite. “IGNORE ME!” (Hee!) Next week, we catch back up with the Monarch, Dr. Girlfriend, and Phantom Limb!