“Saddlesore Galactica” remains one of the most maligned episodes of The Simpsons, even two decades after it first aired, but there is a reason why this particular episode of the series is so ridiculed. The Simpsons has produced more than seven hundred episodes in 33 seasons of the show, so it’s more than fair that some of them are considered unsuccessful. However, “Saddlesore Galactica” (season 11, episode 13) stands out as a Simpsons outing that is hated by both fans and critics, and there is a specific reason for this.
Usually, when the Simpsons series causes anger from both fans and critics, the reason for such a disorder is easy to understand. Sometimes, as in the case of the infamous episode with Armin Tamzarian, The Simpsons mess with well-established characters and their backstories, and fans are not interested in these changes. In other cases (especially in later seasons of The Simpsons), the series annoys viewers by revisiting the past of the titular family, for example, the much-disliked picnics depicting Homer and Marge Simpsons as teenagers in the 90s.
However, sometimes the Simpsons releases a series that fans and critics hate, even though it does not commit any of these serious sins. There are plenty of critical episodes of The Simpsons that don’t revisit the story of either The Simpsons or supporting stars, but many of them, such as the Lady Gaga and Elon Musk episodes, rely on sycophantic cameos of celebrities playing themselves. What is rare is an episode of The Simpsons without a major celebrity cameo, without a revision of the canon and without a new backstory for a supporting actor who still manages to provoke the incessant anger of fans and critics. Despite this, the Simpsons episode “Saddlesore Galactica” is often cited as the moment when the show jumped the shark and highlighted its single worst outing ever. So, what caused all this hatred from fans and critics, and is it deserved?
Explanation of the “Saddlesore Galaxy”
Released in 2000, “Saddlesore Galactica” is a funnier—than-usual episode of The Simpsons in which Bart buys Duncan’s horse, which soon becomes a champion racehorse. This angers some underground jockeys, who are portrayed not as ordinary (albeit miniature) athletes, but as a secret race of elf-like magical creatures. If this feels more like the Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror segment than the average episode of the show, it’s because the episode’s plot is much sillier than the stories the Simpsons explored in earlier seasons. However, in the context of season 11, “Saddlesore Galaxy” is not an exceptionally strange episode. It’s certainly a surreal exit, complete with an unexpected cameo by Bill Clinton. However, this particular episode of The Simpsons angered fans much less because its plot was atypically silly, and more because of where the inspiration for its story seemed to come from.
“Saddlesore Galactica” Self-Referential Joke about The Simpsons
An early joke in “Saddlesore Galactica” features a recurring Simpsons character. The comic book guy notes that the Simpsons family has already bought a horse in Lisa’s Pony (season 3, episode 8), only for Homer to publicly ridicule him for caring about this discrepancy. . Some critics and fans resisted the joke, considering it an insult to veteran fans. In fact, it’s a pretty hard joke to defend, since Homer is presented publicly as level-headed and reasonable (which is never good for a sitcom dad), and the comic book guy is presented as an obsessive loser for noticing that the whole premise of the episode is derivative. However, a weak joke is just an instant scene, and it’s not the reason for most of the negative reviews that have hit this episode, especially when the Simpsons faked obsessive fans much more thoroughly (and more comediously effectively) in the earlier “Dog Mutiny.” (season 8, episode 14).
Was Saddlesore Galaxy really that bad?
Like many early episodes that are blamed for the end of The Simpsons’ Golden Age, Saddlesore Galaxy turned out to be stronger than expected after re-viewing. This bizarre story has its moments, and it’s certainly weird enough to negate any comparisons to Lisa’s touching Pony, although it’s a weaker outing than that poignant episode. Dumb evil jockeys are an inspired creation, even if they barely fit into the Simpsons universe, and the plot moves fast enough to justify uncharacteristic jokes like Homer’s smug taunts of a comic Book Guy. However, the inspiration for the episode’s inventive, surreal silliness is also more apparent on re-viewing, and therein lies the real problem with “Saddlesore Galactica.”