I don't know that there are enough nerdy superlatives out there to describe last night's Castle. "The Final Frontier" was pure, unadulterated, in-jokey fan service for sci-fi dorks everywhere. It was 44 minutes of non-stop references, sight gags, nods, winks, and whatever else to whatever cheeseball sci-fi you may have loved growing up. It was also quite possibly the dumbest episode of Castle since last year's zombie fiasco. However, in this case, I mean "dumb" as a compliment.
This is the kind of silly, silly, SILLY stuff I like when I watch Castle. Sure, it's hokey as hell, but now that Stana Katic has finally morphed from gruff straightwoman to willing goofball, the series has effectively become a showcase not just for Nathan Fillion's comedic talents, but for a bonafide comedy duo. My favorite thing by far this season is that Beckett's uber-tragic back story has given way to some honest-to-god quirkiness and a surprisingly game attitude for whatever Castle might be into this week. So when "The Final Frontier" brought Castle and company to a sci-fi convention, Beckett wasn't just standing around, grimacing at all the nerdspeak and cosplay. In fact, we learned that Beckett has her own nerdy history she's been covering up all these years.
Her past nerdiness pertained to a barely-seen fake sci-fi show called Nebula 9, a campy, Farscape-esque space series featuring an adult captain and a crew of cadets gallivanting around the galaxy as the last remaining remnants of humanity. Beckett apparently loved this show in college. So much so, in fact, that she used to dress up as one of the show's sexier stars. You can imagine how Castle might react to such a discovery.
Nebula 9 had been off the air for years, but a small, dedicated fanbase still kept up the cause, even going to the trouble of hiring the show's former captain (Eureka's Ed Quinn, clearly having the time of his life) to do a "fan experience" event, where fans could dress up as the cadets and act out a scene with the actor portraying their hero. Unfortunately, the experience was ruined when the body of the event's organizer was found on the set, with a giant laser hole through her chest.
Yes. A laser. Somebody shot this poor woman with a genuine laser, a revelation that both Castle and Beckett responded to with appropriate levels of confusion. Since when are phasers real? They're not, of course, but in the world of Castle, no nerd fantasy, no matter how ludicrous, can ever be out of the realm of possibility. So as we learned, the real-life phaser came from a local Bronx electrician, played by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Armin Shimerman. It turned out the guy had made himself a little business creating real-world versions of sci-fi weaponry. Everything from Klingon bat'leths to lasers that could actually blow a coaster-shaped hole in someone's chest. The liberal inside me was outraged by the thought of this unlicensed weapons manufacturing, but the nerd in me thought it was kind of the coolest thing ever.
Shimerman was just one of a few major sci-fi influences on this particular episode. Most notably Jonathan Frakes, Commander Riker himself, directed it, and even made a near-unrecognizable cameo as Richard Castle's number one fan. And then there was Quinn, hamming it up as actor Gabriel Winters as Captain Whatshisname from Nebula 9. It takes a lot of ham to out-ham Nathan Fillion, but Quinn pretty much did it. He was equal parts Tim Allen in Galaxy Quest and Troy McClure as he smirked his way through smarmy line after smarmy line. That he never broke down into some fit of self-loathing realization made his character even better. By the end of the episode, he was still bragging about threesomes with cosplaying fan girls—even the ones who gave him the clap.
The only knock I have against "The Final Frontier" is that throughout most of it, I could barely remember what was going on with the mystery. The positive side of that is that I was too busy laughing to care. And the ending did wrap things up in a wonderfully stupid way that I certainly was not expecting. And no, I'm not just talking about Stana Katic as the sexy alien cannibal. Though that was pretty good, too.
– While Beckett's nerdy past was something of a revelation, I doubt anyone out there was surprised to learn Ryan is a fantasy geek. I bet his D&D; games are hilarious.
– "I played a lawyer in a well-regarded film that never came out. I think I know something about the law." —Ed Quinn, killing it.
– Jonathan Frakes has only directed one other episode of Castle, all the way back in 2009. It was called "Kill the Messenger" and I barely remember it. This one I don't think I'll have much trouble remembering.
– Finding out Alexis enjoys cosplaying at sci-fi conventions was funny, but Castle's reaction to her wearing an outfit that highlighted her womanly curves was just about perfect. Their "conversation" about it later was similarly priceless.
– It's terrifying to me that our nation's gun laws haven't caught up with the recent surge in black-market laser pistols being used in violent crime. I urge you on this Election Day to vote for the candidate who will help stem the tide of laser-related violence in our country.
– The Stana Katic grumpy disappointment face (see above) forever. FOREVER.