You know how sometimes you just don’t feel yourself? It happens a lot in sci-fi
1 Freaky Friday (1976)
The Cause: None given, although it is Friday the 13th...
Who Gets Swapped? A mother and daughter.
The Verdict: It’s hard to believe that Jodie Foster made Taxi Driver in the same year that she appeared in this silly comedy for Disney. Being Jodie Foster, however, she’s just as believable as ordinary teenager Annabel as she was walking the streets of New York as the troubled Iris, and a decent script – adapted from the children’s book by Mary Rodgers – doesn’t hurt matters.
Freaky Friday is probably the most memorable of all bodyswap stories simply because it’s been remade twice over (most recently with Lindsay Lohan), and it also sparked off a rush of imitations – Vice Versa and 18 Again , to name but a few. It’s basically pure wish-fulfillment fantasy for kids, rather like Tom Hanks’ predicament in Big was. See, you can swap your life with the grown-ups, but you’ll soon learn that you’re better off as a kid, because grown-ups have troubles of their own. The same happens in reverse with Jodie’s on-screen mum, Barbara Harris, who thinks her daughter has an easy life until she gets a load of it.
The moral is a huge, klaxon-accompanied message saying, “Awoogah! Be content with what you have and stop complaining! Awooogah!”
Personally, we can’t help wondering what would have happened if Foster had swapped film characters instead: her little Annabel switching with Iris in Taxi Driver . Now that would’ve been an interesting mix-up...
“Out Of Their Minds”
The Cause: An alien weapon interfering with a forcefield. Side-effects ensue.
Who Gets Swapped? Crichton ends up inside Aeryn; Aeryn is in Rygel; Rygel is in Crichton; Chiana is in D’Argo; D’Argo is inside Pilot; Pilot is in Chiana. Still with us?
The Verdict: Could this be the big daddy of all bodyswap episodes? Farscape was never a show to do anything by halves, and so – unsurprisingly – their token bodyswap story was so unashamedly ridiculous it ran through every joke in the switcheroo joke book. The tiny, irascible Rygel, for instance, ends up inside Crichton and can’t figure out how to pee, requiring instructions. Crichton, meanwhile, is so happy to have boobs that he has a little scene all to himself where he delights in making them jiggle. (We find out later that Aeryn didn’t mind – and she did some fiddling with Crichton’s body to make up for it – so all’s well that ends well on that count.)
And as for Chiana... watching Anthony Simcoe, in full Luxan warrior get-up, trying to mimic Gigi Edgley’s sinuous, cat-like movements (a head-tilt here; a hip-wiggle there) is a scream. Even if the rest of “Out Of Their Minds” wasn’t a blast, Simcoe would still walk away with the entire universe as a prize for his work here. We can only imagine what this must have been like to film...
The Cause: A woman with the ability to swap bodies at a touch.
Who Gets Swapped? Kelly with a coma patient called Jen.
The Verdict: Swapping a character with one who’s in a coma should be a riot. After all, if you’ve been lying there staring at a hospital ceiling for months, you’re going to want to have some fun the minute you can jump up and run around again, aren’t you? If it was us, we’d be out partying to Bacchanal proportions!
But we’re a little short-changed in this episode, because the formerly comatose Jen, once safely ensconced inside poor Kelly, merely wants to keep hold of her boyfriend. The only fun she has is when they get jiggy with it to celebrate her return – though it’s hardly sexy, because the whole time you’re thinking, “Eww, that’s not her body, this is rape!” (Weirdly, nobody seems to care much about that, least of all Kelly upon her return – did she ever find out?) And once Mr Boyfriend has rejected her, Jen merely sulks and sobs. Bit of a waste of time, if you ask us.
Thankfully things improve when the rest of the gang discover the swap has happened and a slapstick hospital rescue of Kelly-stuck-in-Jen’s-body ensues. So, hardly a groundbreaking example of bodyswapping, but we do like how Jen squeezes Kelly’s body into clothes two sizes too small for her and doesn’t give a damn.
4 Lost Girl
The Cause: A Trickster causes bodyswapping after spiking everybody’s beer.
Who Gets Swapped? The entire cast, too many to list.
The Verdict: This episode only aired the other day in the US, so don’t read on if you’re watching at UK pace and want to avoid spoilers! An escaped fae mental patient causes mayhem for Bo and her pals by feeding them his blood and making them play musical bodies. Okay, so some of the switches are less interesting than others: does anybody really care who swaps with Dyson’s British girlfriend? We barely know her anyway. But the entire episode is made by two people: Bo’s human sidekick Kenzi and cop/werewolf Dyson.
Watching the usually kittenish Ksenia Solo reining in her fun side to glower as Dyson is interesting, but nothing beats the sight of Kris Holden-Ried camping it up as he impersonates Kenzi. And it’s Ried who steals the show with just one line. As Kenzi finds herself inside Dyson, she checks the contents of his trousers and yells, “I got the wolf junk!” And you’ve gotta love the moment when barman Trick realises what’s happened and mutter world-wearily, “I’ll get the name tags.” We reckon he’s been watching Farscape and knew what was in store.
5 Stargate Universe
The Cause: Communication stones – an alien device that allows people to swap bodies, even across the vast reaches of the universe.
Who Gets Swapped? The entire Destiny crew at one time or another.
The Verdict: These stones popped up in earlier iterations of Stargate but were only put to full use in Stargate Universe , as the crew of the lost starship Destiny use them to contact their loved ones back home. When two people touch the stones at the same time, they instantly swap bodies, meaning that the person on the Destiny would wind up back on Earth in another body, and the person from Earth got to visit the Destiny in deep space.
And thus whole new world of storytelling opened up, mainly in the form of moral quandaries.
Moral quandary #1: Should the Destiny crew tell their loved ones back home that they’re visiting them in someone else’s body, or should they just “be” that person and not freak them out?
Moral quandary #2: With the Earthbound body filled with someone else, is it right for them to find their girlfriend/boyfriend and have sex with them? (This happened a lot and nobody seemed to care. Hmm.)
Moral quandary #3: What if someone swaps bodies and wants to stay on Earth rather than return to the Destiny? Or vice versa, such as when the Earthbound body is paralysed and the one on the Destiny isn’t?
Plus there’s the whole can of worms that opens if one of the people using the stones is killed: the other one dies too. Awkward...
“Intimate Stranger” & “Ten Little Warlords”
The Cause: Evil Callisto makes a deal with Ares to take over Xena’s body and strand Xena in Tartarus.
Who Gets Swapped? Xena and Callisto.
The Verdict: Back in the Warrior Princess’s heyday – in this case, season two in 1996 – any guest appearance from Hudson Leick as the nutty, lethal Callisto was a treat. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, we got to see a lot more of her than was intended in this two-part tale. Lucy Lawless injured herself while filming for an appearance on The Jay Leno Show and some emergency rewriting was called for. The next thing we knew, the simple bodyswap between Xena and Callisto in “Intimate Stranger” was stretched into the next episode, too, as Xena found herself (handily) trapped in Callisto’s body while Lawless got some time to recover.
It may have been an accident that caused it, but “Ten Little Warlords” is actually a cracking episode, mainly because the close relationship between Xena and Gabrielle was tested by the fact that Xena was wearing the body of the psychotic murderer who killed Gabrielle’s husband. AWKWARD. Throw in Ares, the God of War who’s just lost his powers and is feeling sorry for himself, and you’ve got one of the best episodes of the show’s run... and Leick did a pretty impressive job as Lawless, too, somehow managing to make her tiny frame as imposing as the real Warrior Princess’s.
7 The X-Files
“Dreamland I & II”
The Cause: Some kind of alien gubbins.
Who Gets Swapped? Agent Mulder and a Man In Black named Morris Fletcher.
The Verdict: Who would ever have thought that swapping Agent Fox Mulder with a member of Spinal Tap would be a good idea? But it was, with knobs on. Michael McKean and David Duchovny have the time of their lives in this two-parter that has them switching bodies after an alien “ship” apparently passes overhead, although it’s not the method that makes this such a corker as it is the madness that ensues.
Mulder, being Mulder, uses his new-found security clearance as Fletcher to infiltrate Area 51 – although he finds his new host’s troublesome family more of a revelation than any government cover-up. And while wearing the hunky body of a man years his junior, Fletcher decides to romance Mulder’s red-headed co-worker and completely make-over his apartment – including installing a water bed that somehow survives the weird time loop that ends the episode with everybody’s memories wiped.
Confident, sassy and not afraid to be out-and-out daft (such as the moment where Mulder-inside-Fletcher dances about in front of a full-length mirror), this is The X-Files , not to mention bodyswapping, at its best.
8 Star Trek
The Cause: An alien machine.
Who Gets Swapped? Captain Kirk and Janice Lester.
The Verdict: This little treat is notable for being the very last episode of Star Trek in its original form, and also for the fact that William Shatner was ill with the flu during filming, making his performance just that little bit more crazed. Which worked well, given the story...
It’s an early take on Fatal Attraction , if you will, with Kirk stumbling across a bitter, terminally ill ex who decides she’s going to teach him a lesson both for dumping her and for being a man in a man’s world. Yanking him out of his body and into her failing one, she sets about trying to command the Enterprise while Kirk tries to convince everybody that he’s not really a woman. Thankfully dear old Spock and McCoy know Kirk with a woman inside him when they see one, so everything works out okay.
Back when this aired (1969) the bodyswap cliché wasn’t quite as much of a cliché as it is now, but there’s a surprising amount of sexism on display that makes the episode a strange watch today. Although it’s a far cry from John Crichton gleefully feeling up Aeryn’s boobs in Farscape ...
The Cause: A magic spell.
Who Gets Swapped? Sam Winchester ends up in the body of a nerd named Gary.
The Verdict: “Swap Meat” is one of Supernatural’s many comedy episodes and, while it’s not the finest example of a laugh-a-minute script, it’s still pretty amusing. Watching Jared Padalecki pretending to be housing a teeny-tiny teenager overjoyed at finding himself in a body the size of Schwarzenegger is hilarious; while Colton James, as Gary-with-Sam-inside-him, manages to convey Sam’s frustration at being puny with a deft touch. There’s also a clever twist when demons discover they have Sam’s body in their grasp, which is handy because Lucifer wants it. Gasp!
The one thing that makes this episode a curiosity is that, while switching Sam with a stranger is funny, many fans were hugely disappointed the show didn’t switch Sam with his brother. A Dean and Sam bodyswap is probably out of the question now the series has done this – but wouldn’t it have been hilarious?
10 Buffy The Vampire Slayer
“Who Are You?”
The Cause: A metal supernatural doohickey.
Who Gets Swapped? Faith and Buffy.
The Verdict: The end of previous episode “This Year’s Girl” sees Buffy and Faith switching bodies after a full-on Slayer scrap, which leaves Faith completely Buffy-bound in “Who Are You?” We have to leave kudos for Sarah Michelle Gellar, who manages to sneak some of Eliza Dushku’s tics and quirks into her performance to make Buffy seem suitably “off”. Kudos also to the writers for giving her a scene in which she practices being Buffy in front of a mirror. It’s pretty freaky...
What makes “Who Are You?” an important example of body-swappery is that Faith, in Buffy’s body, seduces Buffy’s boyfriend Riley – sparking off some pretty weighty repercussions. Not only is Buffy pretty pissed when she finds out that her fella can’t tell the difference between her and her psychopathic evil twin, the fact she did something so abysmal finally flips a switch in Faith’s head and her guilt sends her running to Angel and her eventual redemption. So as far as switcheroos go, this one was darned important.
However, there’s another reason we love it: here’s the speech Faith (in Buffy’s body) gives to a very horny Spike... yeah, you know the one...
“I could be rich, I could be famous, I could have anything. Anyone. Even you, Spike... I could ride you at a gallop until your legs buckled and your eyes rolled up. I’ve got muscles you’ve never even dreamed of. I could squeeze you until you popped like warm champagne, and you’d beg me to hurt you just a little bit more. And you know why I don’t? Because it's wrong .”
Is it hot in here or is it just us?
And yeah, Whedonites, we know Angel did a body swap episode too – “Carpe Noctem” – but swapping Angel with some old bloke stuck in a nursing home is hardly the sexiest swap in the genre.