It’s an alien invasion, but not the sort that decimates New York and ends with Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum saving the world with some questionable computer hacking.
No, this is something far more subtle. The Solomons may look like your average three adult sibling and single child family, eccentrically clueless on all things human, but in reality, they’re visitors from another world on a research mission, here to learn what it means to be an earthling.
3rd Rock from the Sun stars John Lithgow as Dick Solomon. Intrepid commander and hopeless romantic, Dick spends the vast majority of the mission pining for Mary Albright (Jane Curtin) as he tries to process the wild emotion we humans know as love.
Next in charge is Sally Solomon, played by Kristen Johnston, the mission’s chief of security and token female—having drawn the short straw. She spends the mission wrestling with the (at the time) delicate, human view of what it means to be a woman and her inherent volatile aggression.
Harry Solomon, played by French Stewart, is the transmitter. His functions are twofold: talk to the home world and be adorable. Harry begins a clueless wreck and never changes.
Finally, oldest alien but youngest human, Tommy Solomon (a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is both science officer and tasked with exploring the minefield of human adolescence. Often a source of sage wisdom, Tommy’s true genius lies in the many times his hormonal body overrules the advice he, himself has been preaching.
With a recurring cast of recognisable faces, including Wayne Knight (of Jurassic Park and Space Jam fame) as well as William Shatner (Star Trek TOS), 3rd Rock from the Sun is a laugh-a-minute sci-fi romp, easy to binge and a pleasure to experience.
Try as they might, the Solomons never truly grasp how to act as though they belong. Humanity, to them, is too confusing, too unsure. We surprise them time and again, but we disgust them, too. Although it’s never overplayed, the humour of 3rd Rock is at its best when the Solomons are trying and failing to grasp something that’s second nature to us. And in that sense, it’s almost pure indulgence comedy.
It allows us to experience the world through the eyes of functioning babies—complete infants able to express their immediate thoughts about something as simple as a saucepan. Is it a weapon? What does it do? Why is it here?
By the end of each episode, the Solomons have learnt a lesson or two. They sit on their roof, staring up at the stars, and reflecting on jealousy, or war, gender roles, or inequality.
Like most good sci-fi, 3rd Rock is constantly asking questions and looking for answers. It’s a sitcom with a lot of soul, timeless in its humour and wonderfully acted. French Stewart and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are the standouts of the series, with constantly exceptional delivery and comedic timing.
Ultimately, it’s a charming, complete series with memorable characters, wacky scenarios, and killer scripts. It’s a work of love, and the fun had by all involved shines through in the finished product. I implore anyone with a Netflix subscription to hunt this gem down, watch it from start to finish, and enjoy a classic.
You won’t regret it.
Created by: Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner
Written by: Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner
Directed by: Terry Hughes, Robert Berlinger, James Burrows
Cast: John Lithgow, Kirsten Johnston, French Stewart, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Wayne Knight, Jane Curtin, Simbi Khali, Elmarie Wendel
Number of Episodes: 139
Episode runtime: 25 mins