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Professor Membrane

Invader Zim Episode
Backseat Drivers from Beyond the Stars
Backseat Drivers from Beyond the Stars (Title Card)
Previous: Tak: The Hideous New Girl
Next: Mortos der Soulstealer
Episode No: Episode 21
Production No: 21
Airdate: Australia:
December 20, 2003[1]
United States:
June 10, 2006
Writer(s): Jhonen Vasquez

"Backseat Drivers from Beyond the Stars" is the 1st episode of the second season of Invader Zim. It first premiered on December 20, 2003 in Australia. In the United States, it was first released as part of the Horrible Holiday Cheer DVD on October 12, 2004 and it made its TV debut on Nicktoons on June 10, 2006. It is the 21st episode overall.


SPOILER WARNING OF DOOM: This section or article may contain spoilers!

Brain leech

The Brain Parasite.

Zim's newest plan for Earth conquest is almost ready, and he wants the Almighty Tallest to come see it since the Massive is nearby planet Earth.

However the Tallest don't care and hang up on Zim with the pathetic excuse of being attacked by an "enemy vessel."

"The latest plan" just so happens to be a monstrous Brain-Eating Parasite that sucks out and eats the brains of humans, and GIR must keep its levels under control to prevent it from escaping since Zim is determined that Red and Purple get "front row seats to the end of all mankind."

In Case You're Wondering..

Dib tells Zim he's also piloting The Massive.

Meanwhile, Gaz hears Dib explaining that he has been working on Tak's Ship in his garage, and is now able to use the onboard computer to decipher Irken text. Also, since Dib placed a spy bug in Zim's Base during "Tak: The Hideous New Girl," he can steal information from Zim's computer.

Gaz leaves, restraining herself from harming her brother. Using these resources, Dib listens in on a call Zim makes to Prisoner 777 on Vort, and watches in horror as Zim asks the Vortian scientist for schematics and a command chair to the Massive, allowing him to remotely control the ship and bring the Tallest to Earth.

However, the Tallest have problems of their own to take care of: a resistance group under command of the Vortian scientist and engineer, Captain Lard Nar, that has vowed to destroy the Irken Empire - imaginatively named the Resisty. Normally, their ship would be no match for the Massive; but right before the Tallest’s ship blows up the Resisty, Zim takes control of the Massive. This causes the Massive’s laser to miss, and allows the Resisty to pursue the Massive and attempt to destroy it while it is defenselessly floating away under Zim’s remote control.

Zim maintains control of the Massive for only a few minutes, however, before then Dib butts in and starts flying the Massive in the opposite direction. Zim and Dib fight for control of the ship on Earth, while in space the Tallest are thrown wildly about inside the Massive, while the Resisty shoot at them.

About to Crash in a Star (Backseat Drivers from Beyond the Stars)

The Tallest nearly getting killed.

At some point during all of this, Zim's computer warns his master that the brain parasite's levels are dangerously out of control. Zim abandons the fight for the Massive momentarily to see why GIR wasn't doing his job.

On the way to the leech room, the computer informs Zim that someone is at the door. Zim brushes it off as a minor annoyance and orders the Roboparents to take care of it, and continues to where GIR is.

Zim finds GIR lying in a pile of mashed potatoes, and quickly puts the little robot back to work. But before Zim can go back to fighting Dib, the computer tells Zim that the Roboparents are malfunctioning horribly, and are now playing catch with the little boy at the door. Zim then changes GIR's orders and has him fight Dib in his place, while Zim goes upstairs and takes care of the Roboparents.

To his horror, Zim sees that the entire neighborhood is staring at his fake parents, who have now begun trying to “eat” the little boy. Panicking, Zim throws the unharmed but shocked boy into the crowd and pushes his Roboparents back inside.

Robodad, however, gets mad at Zim and yells at him for being rude. Both parents start chasing after Zim, who runs back to the control room where GIR and Dib are trying to control the Massive. After laying down a force field in the doorway to keep the Roboparents out, Zim takes the controls back from GIR, and commands him to take care of the leech once more.

True Location of Invader Zim (Backseat Drivers from Beyond the Stars)

Tallest Red discovered Zim's behind The Massive's horrible hacking.

After a few more minutes of fighting between Dib and Zim, Zim finally realizes that Dib is using Tak's ship to control the Massive, and, once his Computer locates Dib's spybug, Zim remotely reactivates the security programming in the Irken ship. Tak's downloaded personality interface locks Dib out of the ship and starts attacking him, leaving Zim free to gain full control of the Massive.

Back on the Massive, Red figures out that Zim is controlling the ship by establishing a link with the ship's power core. To fix the problem, Red has the Massive's pilots switch power cores with the Resisty's ship. Now the Resisty are the ones being pulled toward Earth, but Zim doesn't realize it. Lard Nar orders the ship's shrinky-self-destruct to be activated, and the Resisty evacuate, promising to return again.

Back on Earth, Zim decides to land the Massive on Dib's head. At first, Dib panics at the sight of the giant ship about to crush him, but is left speechless when it shrinks down to the size of an ant before exploding. Zim panics at what he thinks is the death of his leaders, only to be interrupted by Dib's taunting laughter, but really loses it when he discovers that the brain-eating parasite has woken up.


Zim attacked by the Brain Parasite.

Once the Massive's controls come back online as well as reparations being made, the Tallest call Zim in order to reprimand him for commandeering their ship, possibly with the intention of "blowing him up."

But when Zim shows up on screen, he is running around in great pain with the giant brain parasite attached to his head. GIR is eating mashed potatoes, and Robomom is taking pictures of Robodad holding the little boy from earlier. Horrified by the carnage, Purple leaves the room to vomit all over the donuts, much to Red's dismay.

End of Spoilers: There are no further spoilers for this section or article. You can breathe now.

Facts of Doom[]

Cultural References[]

  • In the very beginning when Zim is calling to the Almighty Tallest for a while, it may be a reference to the popular "Hey! Listen!" meme from the The Legend of Zelda video game series by Nintendo.
  • When Dib appears next to Zim, a blue button appears and says "New Player". This is a reference to multiplayer video games.
  • There is a scene in this episode that is similar to the arcade game Centipede, when The Massive appeared on screen as a long line that snakes around.
  • Prisoner 777 may be a reference to Jhonen Vasquez's Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, as 777 is Johnny C's address.
  • The premise for this episode seems to have been partially inspired by both the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Mechanic" and the movie Batman Returns, where the Penguin takes control of the Batmobile similar to how Zim took control of the Massive here.


  • This episode is featured on the Invader ZIM Volume 3: Horrible Holiday Cheer DVD.
  • In this episode, it is revealed that Invader Larb had succeeded in his mission to conquer the planet Vort. This was previously implied in "Megadoomer".
  • This episode did not air in the US until 2006, but it aired in other countries years earlier, such as Australia having it in late 2003.
  • Zim's rant towards the beginning of the episode apparently lasted for three hours according to Tallest Red, though only fifty one seconds of it are heard.
  • Though Tak is not directly involved in this episode, the A. I. programmed into her old ship has her voice and personality.
  • Ironically, Zim ended up using Dib’s spy bug against him to control Tak’s ship, causing it to throw him out. This in turn reactivates Tak's downloaded personality in the process, setting in motion the events of “Dibship Rising”.
  • This is Jhonen Vasquez's favorite episode of Invader Zim. This is also Rosearik Rikki Simons' favorite episode too.[2]
  • This episode has been said to arguably be the most popular episode of Invader Zim because of the humor and writing of the show.
  • In Latin America the episode was titled "Conductores Remotos Del Espacio Exterior" which the literal translation would be "Remote Drivers From Outer Space."
  • In the German translation of this episode, its name is "nervige Besserwisser", which translates to "Annoying Know-it-all's".
  • When Zim and Dib are piloting the Massive in the asteroid field, it looks brand new, when it is supposed to be damaged by the Resisty’s ship, and from smashing into various small planets and asteroids.
  • For some reason, the Irken Armada leaves the Massive behind once it loses control, instead of trailing it as it usually does. The Armada reappears only once when the Massive is being repaired.
  • This is one of the rare episodes in which Zim is seen actually taking off his human contact lenses. When the Roboparents force him back down into the piloting room, his wig falls off. He is seen with no wig, but his lenses on, which he then throws off before hopping back into the cockpit.
  • During the scene in which the Almighty Tallest are eating doughnuts while the Massive’s giant laser is being charged up, the doughnuts and crumbs seem to be suspended in zero gravity.
  • Prisoner 777 and the Resisty Computer are voiced by Wally Wingert, who is the voice of Tallest Red.
  • Rodger Bumpass, who is the voice of the anti-paranormal Professor Membrane, ironically also provides the voice for the goofy alien, Spleenk, of the Resisty.
  • Gaz showed some character development, as this is one of the few times where she half-willingly was going to listen to Dib and restrained herself from hurting him. This could be due in part because Professor Membrane asked her to listen to Dib in hopes that he would become "less insane."
  • The fourth wall is broken in this episode twice: first when Shloonktapooxis says "Woo! Anyone think that was cool?! Please respond!". The second was towards the ending when Zim was on the screen of Tak's ship and the camera moved from him to Dib and back to Zim again when he was gloating about the end of the human race.
  • In the Latin American version of this episode, Shloonktapooxis and Lard Nar were voiced by Carlos Iñigo and Ernesto Lezama, the voices for Rocko and Filburt from Rocko's Modern Life.
  • Before the “Shrinky Self-destruct" takes effect, Lard Nar tells the Tallest that they would meet again. For years, fans believed that this would have happened in the season two finale, until it was confirmed that the presumed plot for that episode (Dib allying with the Resisty and Meekrob against the Irkens) was never seriously planned for production.
  • It is unknown why Dib would run outside when Zim said he would “land the Massive on Dib's giant head” (it would be much harder to land it on Dib if he were inside, but he was panicking and probably not thinking).
  • When the Resisty's ship appeared to Dib, he should have realized it was the wrong ship because while he was fighting for control of the Massive, he actually saw a picture of it.
  • Beginning with this episode, the Irkens' antennae are drawn thicker.
  • In "Hobo 13", the Tallest tried to kill Zim and Bob by placing them on a ship and locking it on a collision course with a sun. In a maybe fitting form of unintended retribution, they nearly die here when the Massive is sent flying towards possibly the same sun.
  • this is the first time The Massive (and technically the Tallest) are on fire, the second and final time would be in Enter the Florpus.
  • While it was Zim who first hacked into the Massive's power core to pilot it, Dib was the one who nearly killed the Tallest by piloting the ship towards a star.
  • We learn in this episode that Irkens are capable of vomiting.
  • According to Eric Trueheart in his book, Zim’s famous near-45 second “My Tallest!” rant at the beginning of the episode happened because Richard Horvitz was told to “give us a few’” and he just kept going. Apparently he was waiting for Jhonen to stop him while Jhonen was waiting for him to finish. The final result was used almost in its entirety.
  • This is the first episode to premiere on Nicktoons Network.
  • The last time this episode aired on Nicktoons is February 23, 2021.

Changes and Cuts[]

Things You Might Have Missed[]

  • You will find Bloody GIR in this episode. When Tallest Purple says "Hey, that's a Vort ship!", look very closely next to his head and you will see him there, although it is extremely small.
  • When Almighty Tallest Red is pretending to punch The Resisty's ship with a puppet of himself, the puppet's antennae are similar to Zim's in the pilot episode.
  • When Dib is establishing the link from his computer to Tak's ship, the picture on the corner of his computer screen is of Zim's ship instead of Tak's.
  • The button that activates the Shrinky Self Destruct on the Resisty's ship looks like Wobbly-Headed Bob, one of Jhonen Vasquez's other characters.
    Iz inmate777
  • Animation Goof: "Resisty Rocks!" is seen at one point written on the Massive before the Resisty are shown etching it on with their ship’s lasers.
  • When Dib is reading aloud about planet Vort, his eyes are going right to left, but when the camera zooms in, his eyes change direction to left to right.
  • Throughout the episode, the background of The Resisty's Ship has computer screens with images of the control panel from the very beginning of "The Nightmare Begins".
  • When the camera is about to show Zim maniacally laughing after he hijacks the Massive, look closely just a moment before: The pipes on the sides of Zim's house are missing.
  • Even though Professor Membrane often brushes off Dib's paranormal studies as nonsense, he apparently acknowledges that Dib has successfully raised the dead on at least one occasion.

Animation Errors[]

Zim Scared (Backseat Drivers from Beyond the Stars)
  • Throughout many parts of this episode, Zim, GIR, and Dib's colors pale down, and then get back to normal.
  • Although the events of this episode take place all on the same night, when the boy goes up to Zim's door, it is shown to be daytime. Another time is when Zim gets out of the garbage can to stop the Roboparents; a window above Zim that shows it is daytime. Then, just one second later when Zim runs outside, it is night again.
  • When Zim first gains control of the Massive and Tallest Purple is heard screaming, "What's happening? Why have we lost control?", Tallest Red's mouth is syncing this, which is a common error in animation that is expensive to fix. This was left in, although in the Latin American version, Red does end up saying the line.
  • Right after the Resisty leave and the Tallest are eating doughnuts, Red's tongue resembles a human tongue instead of an Irken one.
  • When Zim is running away from the Roboparents, before he runs in the trash can, Zim's lenses are gone, however, they are on him before and after that scene.
  • After Tallest Purple yells, "Hey, someone's making doughnuts!" and the camera cuts to Zim, he doesn't have a head shadow on the floor.
  • During Zim's rant at the beginning of the episode, just after one of the Massive's escort ships rushes by close to the camera, look at the ship in the background that's moving faster than the others toward the right of the screen. It passes through another ship as the camera begins to pan towards the Massive's interior.
  • When Zim enters the control room after escaping from the Roboparents, he takes off his lenses. In the next shot, they disappear from his hands.
  • When Robodad yells "C'mon son, let's go play in the toilet!", look closely: Robodad's hand is the same color as the door. In the next shot, the hand is back to silver.
  • When The Resisty's scary setup falls apart, Tallest Purple was on the right and Tallest Red was on the left when it was supposed to be Purple on the left and Red on the right.
  • After Tallest Purple mocks The Resisty's name, calling it “stupid”, when Lard Nar screams “See!? I told you it was stupid!” at Spleenk, the green lenses of Lard Nar’s goggles disappear when he closes his eyes.
  • When the camera zooms in on Dib while he pilots The Massive into the sun, he seems to have an Irken soldier's neck collar.
  • When Lard Nar turns his head away from the out of control ship to look at the camera in confusion, one of the frames of his head facing away from the camera remains in place in the background.

See Also[]