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Tie Me Kangaroo
Down, Court

Season 1, Episode 9

Episode Details

Plot Summary | Ongoing Story and Character Developments
Unanswered Questions | Memorable Lines | Glitches
Trivia, Inside Jokes and References | NotePAD

Plot Summary

The ship is passing through an ionic storm with Catalina at the helm. Harlan and Cat fight over the controls. Harlan ultimately gets them out of the storm safely, but in the process, he causes them to lose part of an incoming message. The message is from themselves in the future, and warns them about Spung, but it is so distorted that they cannot decipher it.

Cat is frustrated with Harlan's overbearing and irresponsible behavior, and complains about it to the other students. She decides to hold a board of inquiry to charge Harlan with "crimes against future Stardogs."

Cat examines Radu, who testifies that the whole crew gets blamed for Harlan's pranks. Cat then takes the stand, to be examined by Suzee, and tells a version of the events that is grossly distorted in her favor. Harlan tells his own grossly distorted version of the events.

Meanwhile, Davenport has begun itching for no particularly good reason. She suspects the kids are pulling a prank. Goddard thinks she's being paranoid, but then he also begins itching.

Later, in the galley, Davenport's skin begins to peel off, revealing green skin below. Thelma reports that Davenport is turning into a Spung. Goddard appears, and he is also turning into a Spung, both physically and mentally. Davenport also begins to think like a Spung. They go off in search of the children.

The Goddard and Davenport Spung find the kids wrapping up their trial. The kids escape, but don't understand why Goddard and Davenport are turning into Spung.

They determine that they have passed into a parallel universe, where there is nothing but Spung, and they have become subject to that universe's physical laws, under which they too will become Spung. They must return to their own universe. They decide to return to the ionic storm, thinking this is a gateway home. But when they get there, there are two gateways. Both gateways are collapsing, and the crew are beginning to turn into Spung.

Harlan and Catalina argue over whether to go right or left. They try to analyze the message, but it keeps disappearing every time they go right (Cat's choice). Cat realizes that the message is disappearing because they are going the wrong way: when they go right, they go toward a future where they will not survive to send the message, and therefore the message disappears.

They go left, arrive in their own universe safely, and the adults are back to normal.

Ongoing Story and Character Developments

  • We begin to see some hint of the spark between Harlan and Catalina. Even though they are bitter rivals in this episode, watch them interact, especially when they are trying to escape from the Goddard and Davenport Spung: each wants to protect the other.
  • The kids are beginning to grow up. This is the first time we see them resolve a problem entirely on their own.

Memorable Lines

Harlan: When there's trouble, people turn and say, "Harlan Band--
Cat: --stop making trouble.

Harlan: Mr. Radu, did you know that when you enter a room, the hair on the back of my neck stands up?
Radu: Yes. I hear it.

Harlan: Hey! How can he be a witness and on the jury?
Bova: We believe in recycling.

Davenport: I'm itching!
Goddard: That's not usually the kind of problem that requires a command decision, but OK. Scratch it!

Goddard: I want you to get a dictionary...
Davenport: A dictionary. Uh... all right.
Goddard: Then look up the word 'paranoid' and see if your picture is next to it.
Davenport: Commander, you're not funny!
Goddard: I hear that a lot.

Harlan: Judge Bova, I want to be a witness.
Bova: Go ahead. It's not like we know what we're doing!

Cat (in Harlan's imagination): Suzee! Help! Tell me what to do! Tell me what to think! Tell me what to wear! I didn't bring any ionic storm outfits with me!

Davenport (upon learning she is turning into a Spung): The commander! We must tell the commander!
[Goddard enters room as a partial Spung]
Thelma: He already knows.

Bova: Is it possible that I could turn into a dish of tapioca pudding?
Thelma: Yes, it is possible!
Catalina: Thelma, you think anything is possible, don't you?
Thelma: Almost! It is an exciting cosmos, isn't it?


  • None identified.

Trivia, Inside Jokes and References

  • The episode was written by Jerry Colker, who also wrote Forever Young.
  • The episode title is a reference to the song Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, a children's song by Rolf Harris. It is also a reference to the expression kangaroo court, which is a way of referring to an irresponsible, perverted court with irregular procedures and no interest in true justice.
  • The bit where Cat and Harlan tell different versions of the same story is vaguely reminiscent of Akira Kurosawa's 1951 the Japanese film classic Rashomon (based on two short stories published in 1915 by the Japanese author Ryunosuke Akutagawa), in which several witnesses describe the same crime (played out for the audience to see), and the basic facts are the same in each version, but the behavior of the characters is colored by personal bias.
  • Harlan's testimony flashback about the way the incident occurred is the first time that we see the colored shirts that became standard later in the series. Up to this point, all of the cadets wore yellow shirts. Also note that in Cat's testimony, the students are all in full uniforms, while in Harlan's, they are in the colored shirts and pants. I'm not entirely sure what that tells us about the characters, but it seems to say something.
  • In Harlan's testimony flashback, when Harlan back-flips in to save the day, it looks like they're using a stunt double (at least, they seem to go out of their way to have him flip behind an object, then pop up). I was surprised by this, because Walter Jones definitely has the athletic skill to pull off that stunt by himself. There is a stunt double credited for this episode, and it is the same one credited as Radu's Stunt Double in Who Goes Where? and Nowhere Man.
  • Thelma describes their transformation into Spung as the result of "The Lister Effect," apparently a reference to the character Lister on the BBC science fiction series Red Dwarf.
  • Following is the full text of the message from the future, determined from a combination of repeated listenings, lip reading and educated guesses:

    This is a warning. Repeat: This is a warning. You are going to turn into Spung. Repeat: Spung. You must get out quickly. There is only one possible exit. Listen to Harlan. Left is the way to get out. Right isn't. Go left.

Unanswered Questions

  1. How far in the future did the message come from? (Note: The Nickelodeon FAQ sheet indicated that the message is from five years in the future; however, that was not established within the episode).
  2. How and why did the future selves send a message back to this time?
  3. Why isn't Harlan present in that future message?

(Notes from co-creator Peter A. David)

Nickelodeon believed that this episode was an example of everything they thought wrong with the series: they thought it was too confusing, too talky, too cerebral, and placed too much emphasis on the adults.

However, Cinar turned around and submitted the episode for consideration for a Cable Ace Award for Kid's programming...and as a result we indeed were nominated for an Ac, thard.

Episode Details provided by Tracey Rich.
This page was last updated on September 2, 1997.