“Attack of the Saucer Morons” (5A) is one of the few episodes of Invader Zim which is directly satirical. I say ‘directly’ because it is not parody in the sense of certain aspects of reality being replicated under alternative means; rather, it is a segment which is wholly concerned with invalidating government cover stories and civilian hysteria over alien encounters.
Here we see Zim scouting the city taking notes on defenses and fortifications which the city may or may not have. He investigates police vehicles and determines that their defenses are lacking. But not before colliding with a bee and crash landing, as one is apt to do in such a situation. Scurrying away from the crash to return home and retrieve the Irken equivalent of a tow-truck, Zim returns to the crash site only to find it surrounded by UFO cult fanatics; however, as he had his back turned to the ‘tow-truck,’ now disguised as a floating pig, it was captured by the UFO fanatics. While attempting to free his shuttles from captivity, Zim’s true identity is discovered. Making a last ditch attempt to flee, Zim calls GIR to retrieve him by disguising himself in a mechanical suit; GIR’s costume? ‘Man from the government.’ His excuse to take Zim? Zim is government property, of course, being a ‘weather balloon,’ after all. So Zim and GIR make off with the shuttles only to crash once more, this time in the middle of a UFO convention. End scene.
The satire comes in heavily and wonderfully. The much clichéd excuse ‘it is a weather balloon’ does its job superbly in this episode by how the trope is used; Zim, clearly not mechanical in any fashion, is obviously not any kind of balloon. And yet, the people, with only a tiny bit of skepticism, eat it up. In terms of making jabs at the state, this episode performs very well while utilizing just a little bit.
Much of the same can be said for the UFO fanatics. Though they have their views vindicated by Zim’s existence, their ignorance and hysteria are aptly roasted by their zest to discover the meaning of Zim’s crafts. So, of course, they project their phantasies onto the vehicles, believing them to be symbols of covenant from a peaceful race attempting to communicate; then, just as Zim is fleeing, a woman throws herself onto Zim’s craft and begs him to ‘take her with [him].’ The implication for having such a wish granted being, of course, a torturous probing of her body and mind.
It is really an episode concerned with how projections circulate: just as the UFO fanatics project their Hippie-esque desires onto the hostile space craft, so does Zim project his hatred of Bees as human weapons. It is notable that a bee is responsible for downing his craft at both the episode’s introduction and conclusion. Zim’s desire to retrieve his space craft is partly fueled by his desire to remove the menace of the bees before the Irken fleet arrives. And so Zim’s fanaticism is paralleled to that of the UFO hunters. Each an absurdity in its own right. Each a satire of proactive desire.
At the end of the day, however, this is one of my least favorite Zim episodes. For some reason I just could never ‘get into’ the narrative here, despite it being well written. I guess this is because the idea of an alien crash landing and then being forced to disguise himself while retrieving precious materials is trite in itself. It is boring. To make it work the writers need to go above and beyond; this simply is not likely to happen in a fifteen minute sketch, and certainly did not happen here. So though the episode is still decent and ably made, it is nothing more than good in a line-up of episodes which have more creative ‘oomph’ to them than an everyday rescue mission.