I feel like most of QI has been building to this episode.
Back in Series G, there was an episode where QI’s embodiment of ridiculous humor, Johnny Vegas, went toe-to-toe with QI’s then-supplier of interesting information, Rob Brydon, and the two ideologies clashed as the episode went on, while David Mitchell just sort of watched.
Tonight, Ross Noble, one of the most ridiculously funny people QI has ever had on, will be playing with Professor Brian Cox, one of the smartest men in the UK, one of the most charismatic informational presenters, and a guy who made Dara O’Briain look like the stupid one (which harkens back to Chris Addison’s Dara impression-‘So, WHAT YOU’RE SAYING, PROFESSOR COX, IS THAT IN A PARALLEL UNIVERSE, THERE IS A ME, WITH HAAAAAAIR”That’s right, Dara…’)
And then, on the other end, you have Sue Perkins there to watch.
The buzzers are funny tonight. Sue’s is a child’s voice saying ‘WHO DID IT, DADA?’ (which she says is ‘a million types of wrong, there’). Ross’s is a bunch of telephone sped up voices, which he unsuccessfully tries to imitate.
Alan’s is just a ton of Alan voices all played at once.
Brian: “…was that your internal dialogue?”
Alan: “I think so!”
Brian, on the rodent noise question, vouches for the animal language person: “my director on one of my documentaries got a phD from Oxford, studying frog communication.”
Stephen: “…he was a professor of French.”
Brian: “We sat out there in the Outback, and he was able to discern three words.”
Sue: “Was one of them ‘ribbit’?.”
Ross: ‘[the prairie dog’s] got that fact because he’s got Philip Scofield’s hand up his bum…”
Stephen: “Ohhh, THAT takes me back…”
The audience, of course, takes this the exact wrong way-
Stephen: “No, WHEN I SAY THAT TAKES ME BACK…”
Stephen explains that prairie dogs are able to distinguish height and color, but not gender.
Ross: “Apparently, if a transvestite in a tartan approaches, they explode…”
Stephen asks what the Pope’s librarian initially thought of Saturn’s rings, and Brian mentions that Galileo jokingly thought that the planet had ears.
Stephen: “No, I’m not talking about something SENSIBLE, I’m talking about the librarian for the POPE…”
And then…this bit:
Stephen: “He genuinely believed that after Christ’s ascension to Heaven…the rings of Saturn…were where he put his foreskin…”
Brian: “FIFTY THOUSAND MILES ACROSS! IMAGINE THE SIZE…”
Stephen: “They weren’t aware of that-”
Sue: “Gee, I need a place to hang this massive foreskin on…”
Brian, after hearing of said librarian’s dissertation: “This is how to interest teenagers in astronomy…”
(There’s a pretty stinging Mock the Week swipe that Alan has, but…I’m gonna let that slide, seeing as I rather enjoy that program…or at least Series’ 1-15 of it…)
Brian becomes the first NON-ALAN person to get the ‘Nobody Knows’ bonus, for saying that nobody really knows how the rings of saturn were formed. Right up his alley, too.
As Stephen congratulates the ‘true scientist’ for guessing the answer, Alan goes ‘AHEM’, and we cut and see he’s had his card up as well.
Stephen: “….well done, NOW…”
After Brian takes some time with some truly interesting information on the moons of Saturn:
Ross, earnestly: “Of all these moons…and this is the one thing I wanted to ask you, of all these moons, which one is MOOOST likely to be the home to Ewoks?”
[And the audience goes wild, of course, because this is a great moment.]
Brian, rebounding like a champ: “It would be, uh…TITAN, actually. It has a thicker atmosphere than the earth, so….you’d…need to be furry…”
Ross nods, approvingly, and starts jotting it down. I’m just glad these two polar opposite mindsets could work together to make something hysterical.
And then Stephen, being Stephen, goes ‘you’re just gonna have to destroy the one that has Jar-Jar Binks on it, I suppose…”
Stephen talks of astronauts seeing penguin poop from space.
Ross: “Yeah, they pile it up like toothpaste, and they put it together to spell out ‘Piss Off Spacemen’..”
It’s mentioned that helium’s the 2nd-most abundant gas on the planet. When asked why, Sue keeps perking up and going ‘squeaky voices’.
Eventually this gets her a KLAXON (“Making your voice go funny”), and she rears back in a Jo-Brand-esque arms-out stance. Like, her works here is done.
Okay, here’s why I like Brian Cox. Unlike somebody like John Sessions or Rory McGrath, Brian Cox has all of this knowledge not from the desire to pedantic, but from years of experience and studying. He’s lived all of this knowledge, in terms of astronomy and such, and he can take this knowledge and make it interesting, knowing full well that QI’s a comedy program as well as an informational show. His information enhances that of a given topic, rather than just being random, trivial knowledge. Hell, he might even rank higher than Gyles Brandreth in this regard.
Also, what’s even better is when Ross pitches a ridiculous question, Brian can actually use science to theoretically answer it, even if, after another iteration of this, Sue’s going ‘OW, MY BRAIN…’
Stephen: “When…is the present?”
Sue: “Ohhhh…I’m not gonna fall into that trap. WHO’S gonna say it?”
There’s a nice runner where whenever Brian says something intelligent, both Ross and Alan start taking notes, even out of context.
Alan: “the sun has exploded….we’ve eight minutes to live…”
After Brian says that all electrons are just the one electron going through time several times.
Ross: “I have a feeling that when you’re late for a meeting, you’re an absolute nightmare…’you were supposed to be here 8 minutes ago”well…actually…’ ‘OH, GOD, HE’S DOING IT AGAINNNN…”
Stephen starts lighting candles to start a new topic.
Ross: ‘Is this the point where we all have to kneel down and pray to Jesus’ foreskin?’
Brian makes a point about nitrogen gas being heavier than air, and pushing all the air to the top of the lift. So people can suffocate, even if it’s Nitrogen.
Ross: “Every Al Queda cell that’s watching this tonight is going ‘WE’RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT!”
Stephen talks of a professor dipping a fresh rose in liquid nitrogen, and smashing it on the table, saying it was shockingly beautiful. Nobody else on the panel seems to share this sentiment.
Stephen: “I think you’re humoring me. I think you want me to go back to foreskins.”
Ross: “No, I think it’s a hilarious Valentine’s Day prank.”
Brian: “Imagine if they did that on Saturn’s moon titan, where the atmosphere is so cold-”
Ross, fetching his notebook: “Hold on, TITAN? THAT THE ONE WHERE THE EWOKS LIVE! HANG ON! Basically you’re saying that you can SHATTER an ewok!”
Brian: “It’s got layers of liquid methane, because it’s so cold. It has the consistency of water, so there’s methane rain, methane snow. There’s a lake of methane that’s the size of Lake Superior.”
Sue: “Methane, which is essentially a fart? Liquid fart? I don’t wanna go there! Strike it off!”
Ross: “If I could stand on a planet, and throw an ewok into a lake of farts, that would be-”
John: “Well, you couldn’t because it’d shatter…”
Ross: “……EVEN BETTER!”
Stephen: “It’s your heaven. Everyone has their own heaven, and that’s yours.”
Ross: “Hang on, when you say ‘tossing ewoks into a lake of farts’…
Stephen, seeing where he’s going: “STEADY…”
Ross, smiling: “That’s EXACTLY what I meant…”
Ross: “You know what? After this show finishes, I’m off. I don’t care. You’ll never see me again. ‘Where is he?’ ‘He’s off tossin’ ewoks again..into his lake of farts.”
Stephen, trying to keep the show going: “What variety of lettuce did they serve on board the titanic?”
Sue collapses into that same Brand-esque ‘don’t care’ pose from earlier.
Stephen says there may have been 700 heads of lettuce because that’s just how much was saved.
Sue: “They SAVED the lettuce but not the people? FIFTEEN HUNDRED PEOPLE DIED! And they went ‘GET THE LETTUCE, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD…”
Stephen: “No, it was actually 7000 heads of lettuce.”
Ross: “No wonder the bloody thing sank, then. It was filled with lettuce…”
Brian: “Hey, lettuces float!”
Ross: “…THEN WHY DID IT SINK, THEN? WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?”
There’s a round where the panel has to complete slogans for areas of the UK.
Stephen: “Welcome to Northamptonshire, let yourself-”
Ross: “‘let yourself out..'”
Stephen: ‘Welcome to Tower Hamlets, let’s make it ______”
Alan: ‘…out alive.”
Stephen, on satnavs: “I’ve just done voice for them, so that-”
Ross: “What, does it go ‘Turn left- now the interesting thing about…”
Alan: “Did you do it as if you were talking to me? LEFT, MORON!”
Ross: “If you make a left turn instead of making a u-turn, does the [klaxon] come on, and ‘WAAAAH-WAAAH-WAAHH…”
Sue nabs the SECOND ‘Nobody Knows of the night, by saying that nobody really knows the correct definition of a galaxy. Man, everybody’s just intelligent all-around tonight, even Ross Noble…
Overall: A truly fascinating show, not only being truly informative and thought-provoking, but also being truly hysterical. Ross Noble’s interactions with Professor Brian Cox made for some of the funnier moments of the series, and Sue Perkins had some insanely funny moments herself, leaving Alan with the least extraordinary day. Brian definitely seemed like he was enjoying himself, and was definitely the right person for this show, capable of spewing knowledge, as well as being able to laugh at himself (and mostly at Ross Noble.)
Best Guest: Ross
Show Winner: Brian
Best QI Fact: Goat-webs
Best Runner: Throwing ewoks into a lake of farts.