“Bort the Garj” reimagines the old cast as the crew of a spacefaring vessel with a renewed creative energy.
This Archer: 1999 Episode 1 recap for the episode titled “Bort the Garj” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous season by clicking these words.
At this point, the lifecycle of Archer is difficult to track; a once-peerless fusion of spy thriller and workplace sitcom, Adam Reed’s demented brainchild has since gone through so many drastic and wacky reimaginings that Archer: 1999, which reintroduces the old cast as spacefaring salvagers, seems like a logical next step rather than a complete retooling. Then again, that’s all part of the appeal. The show has always delighted in wiping the slate clean while retaining the running jokes and dynamics that fans have come to adore; using the framing device of a comatose Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) for an excuse to indulge in themed genre pastiches, beginning with a 50s noir and transitioning to a pulpy adventure serial, space, at this point, feels just about right.
And there’s a whole new slew of genre tropes and iconic properties to riff on now, from Battlestar Galactica to Firefly and Alien. But “Bort the Garj” quickly establishes that Archer: 1999 has left the usual fractious dynamics mostly intact, despite some expected changes to the characters. Cheryl Tunt (Judy Greer) is now an ace fighter pilot, bored at her own expertise. Pam (Amber Nash) is now a giant rock monster, basically a physical embodiment of her usual personality; Doctor Krieger (Lucky Yates) is a robot pining for humanity; while Malory Archer (Jessica Walter), Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell) and Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler) fulfill similar roles as they always have — mostly competing for Lana’s affections and getting annoyed by Sterling.
This sci-fi conceit — and a more explicitly episodic format — is clearly good for Archer, giving it a range of well-worn concepts to riff on while also retaining its innuendo-laced dialogue, violence, and near-constant insult swordfighting between the cast. The possibilities of the final frontier are clearly as exciting to the show’s creators and writers as they are to the audience, and that jolt of enthusiasm is just what the show needed when it looked as though its effectiveness was waning. With more silly space adventuring to come, the possibilities of Archer: 1999 are as limitless as the vast expanse of its setting.