As fans of science fiction and fantasy we know that certain types of episodes are repeated from show to show. What favourite programme of ours hasn’t had time loops, alternative dimensions, duplicates, doppelgangers or dream sequences? Some such as Sliders even use one of these troupes as its central premise.
I have a soft spot for body swapping episodes. I like actors impersonating their colleagues. It doesn’t just open the door to unintentional comedy, but it allows us to see actors in a new light.
The following are five examples of the good, the bad, and the indifferent of body swapping.
Farscape: Out of Their Minds
One line synopsis: Moya’s new shields don’t quite work the way they should, as it causes the crew to switch bodies at random.
Why switch around bodies once, when you can do it multiple times? This episode sees a premise, body swapping, the line to where other programs have taken it, and rushes past it like Wile E Coyote running over a cliff. If you found yourself in someone else’s body wouldn’t you do some investigating?
The funkiest part of the episode, in the “We have to keep it clean as this is a family fanzine”, is everyone having a picture of who they really are on lanyards. It makes it easy for viewers to remember who is who, and it is a typically Farscape touch.
Red Dwarf: Bodyswap
One line synopsis: Rimmer convinces Lister to body swap so that he can get Lister’s body in shape using the diet and fitness plan he had while alive.
Why would anyone trust Rimmer? You know that his middle name is Judas right? He’s been a hologram for a while so aren’t we surprised that he does the almost impossible in treating Dave Lister’s body worse than Lister would.
What makes this unique, are that the voices are swapped along with the personalities. So when Rimmer is in Lister’s body we hear Rimmer’s voice, not Craig Charles impersonating Rimmer. This works surprisingly well, even though at times the dubbing isn’t brilliant. The dodgy dubbing of course, adds to the comedy of the episode.
Eureka: Jack of All Trades
One line synopsis: Zane messes around with the Matrix, which causes Jack to hot swap between bodies.
Did they have a Colin Ferguson impersonation contest one day, and it got the writers thinking that it would work as an episode? While being played for laughs, there is a serious undertone to the episode concerning letting go. Watch how Fargo and Allison are dealing with things in very different ways.
The funniest part is when Fargo and Carter are switched, and Allison is faced with a no win dilemma. Her reaction when everything is resolved is certainly worth the price of admission. Of course the ending is very sweet, and hmm potato ring!
The Prisoner: Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling
One line synopsis: Number Six is sent to find Professor Seltzman, but only after going through a procedure that only the good professor can reverse.
It feels strange seeing the Prisoner working as an agent for the Village. We do get to find out a little bit more of his life pre-village, such as him having a fiancée. What? He was going to marry the boss’ daughter. Really?
The twist at the end is quite cool, and fits with how previous episodes had finished. Unfortunately, this episode as a whole doesn’t quite work. This episode was filmed while Patrick McGoohan was filming Ice Station Zebra, and it shows. I do kind of feel sorry for the actor playing the Colonel, as even though the mannerisms are good, he simply doesn’t have Patrick McGoohan’s charisma.
Quantum Leap: Shock Theater
One line synopsis: Sam leaps into a patient in a psychiatric hospital and begins to channel the personalities of previous leapees.
Body swapping is the central theme of Quantum Leap, normally with Scott Bakula playing the person he has leaped into, but really being Dr Sam Beckett. The difference here is that he acts the real personality of half a dozen people we’ve met before, without it being Sam Beckett acting like them.
All of them are a treat with the last one being especially moving. You will notice the difference in body language and accent between each personality. This is probably my favourite serious take on body swapping. It works as a great review of what Quantum Leap is, and is an episode that you can show to someone who has only seen a few previously.
Extra Bonus – Fringe: Stowaway
One line synopsis: Bell is in possession of Olivia’s body, until a bell rings anyway.
Not technically a body swapping episode as this is a possession but I would be remiss by not mentioning it. I haven’t decided yet if Anna Torv’s impersonation of Leonard Nimoy is either really bad or the greatest piece of performance art in the history of television. It is certainly memorable.