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20px-Cquote1.png You quit being banished?
Almighty Tallest Purple

Invader Zim Episode
The Nightmare Begins
Title 01
Previous: Pilot
Next: Bestest Friend
Episode No: Episode 01
Production No: 01
Airdate: March 30, 2001
Writer(s): Jhonen Vasquez
Rob Hummel

"The Nightmare Begins" is the 1st episode of the first season of Invader Zim. It first premiered on March 30, 2001, on Nickelodeon.

Plot Summary[]

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

The great assigning hall

The Great Assigning

The Irkens are an alien race that desire universal domination. Their leaders, Almighty Tallest Red and Purple, have just begun assigning the Invaders their missions for Operation Impending Doom II in the Convention Hall planet, Conventia (The Great Assigning).

However, the most dreaded and infamous Irken ever to live, Zim, arrives in hopes of getting an assignment of his own. Zim was banished from the Irken Empire and sent to work on Foodcourtia when he blew up the other Invaders during Operation Impending Doom I. "Quitting" his banishment once he hears about the new Operation, Zim begs for an assignment and the


Zim's first day at Skool.

Tallest reluctantly send him to a planet outside the reaches of the Empire of no real interest to the Irkens, which turns out to be Earth. After receiving a poorly-constructed SIR Unit made out of garbage named GIR, Zim begins his long journey to his "mission". Little does he know, however, that an Earth child has tuned into the meeting on Conventia, and is now alert for an alien invasion.

Six months later, Zim finally arrives on a planet called Earth. He lands and creates a human disguise for himself, and a dog costume for GIR. Zim then sketches a picture of a "normal" human house into a capsule with a drill, which bores into the Earth and creates a huge underground base, waking up the entire neighbourhood in the process. Zim then enters his new base and searches for a place to learn about the weaknesses of the planet. Ultimately, he decides to join the local Skool.

His disguise fools all of the students, except Dib, who tries to prove to his classmates that Zim is an alien. However, they don't believe him, so Dib attempts to capture Zim himself with Alien Sleep Cuffs. After a lengthy chase, Zim calls GIR and has him take him back to the base. However, GIR leaves a trail of smoke behind that Dib follows. Zim hides inside his house, while Dib stands outside and vows to expose Zim for the alien menace that he is.

Shock from discovery

The Tallest received Zim's first mission report.

However, the robotic gnomes in Zim's front yard destroy Dib's cuffs in the middle of his rant. Slightly discouraged, Dib decides to return home, but says that he will be back, Zim, unconcerned about the human, dusts himself off.

Later, he contacts the Almighty Tallest (who are shocked that he is still alive), informing them that he is working hard on his mission and would take care of the humans before the Irken Armada even reached the planet. As the transmission ends, the two Tallest look at each other with dread in their eyes.

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

Home Media[]





Facts of Doom[]

Cultural References[]


The nightmare begins 1
  • This episode is longer than any other episode due to the longer opening credits.
  • As of the "Top 100 Greatest Moments In Nicktoon History", the episode is ranked #36 and #26 (because of GIR singing the Doom Song).
  • It is mentioned in "The Frycook What Came from All that Space" that Zim blew up every other Invader during his rampage on Irk, which is shown in the beginning.
  • Almighty Tallest Red has light pink eyes in this episode, and both Tallest are shown to have notably thicker torsos and slightly different colorations and appearances to their uniforms. Both of the Tallest were redesigned during the first season, and they appear as they do throughout the rest of the series in "Germs."
    • This episode marks the only time the Tallest appeared with their original designs.
  • Even though Zim drew the house with his left hand, Jhonen Vasquez stated that he isn't left-handed, but that he's advanced and therefore ambidextrous.
  • It is revealed in this episode that Invaders have self-destruct options on their gloves, apparently in case their cover is under threat. The option is only seen in this episode, as Zim never considers self-destruction again.
  • This episode ranked #36 on '100 Greatest Nicktoon Episodes'.
  • In "Backseat Drivers From Beyond the Stars", the background of The Resisty's Ship shows computer screens, with images on them from the control panel from the beginning of this episode.
  • The subtitles on Netflix for this episode spell Irken as Urkin.
    • Also when it says "Proceed to the docking ring", at the time it was available on the streaming service, Netflix subtitles misspelled it as "Proceed to the talking ring".
    • The closed captions on the DVD have an error when a student talks to another student behind Zim, in regards to Dib after Zim makes a comment about him being crazy. The child says, "Man, we almost believed him", when the captions say "Pam, we almost believed him".
    • When GIR is in duty mode, his eyes are red while his chest panel remains blue. This would be inconsistent in later episodes, where sometimes the panel would likewise stay blue, and other times would turn red along with the eyes.
  • When Zim said "The pants command me!" that may have been foreshadowing for the unmade episode "When Pants Ruled!", as the alien pants Zim would've made contact with would control humans, which hints that the episode was meant to air as part of season one but Nickelodeon told Jhonen Vasquez to "leave it be" due to it being too similar to an episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius being planned at the time, When Pants Attack, despite the fact that the Invader Zim writers came up with the idea first. Nevertheless, the idea eventually made it to Issue 8.
    • The "pants" line was also initially intended to be "radioactive rubber ants" instead, but because Johnen wanted to convey inperfection in Invader Zim, he had the take where the wrong word was use remain in there.
  • When Zim first arrives at Earth, the caption reads "Six months later." However, it never takes six months to arrive at Earth at any other point in the series, so the time card could just be for the amusement of the viewers, as not everything in a cartoon has to be realistic. If this is the case, another example would be in "Invasion of the Idiot Dog Brain", when a title card says that Zim has been waiting for GIR to exhaust himself for a whole year.
  • This episode re-aired on November 22, 2007.
  • Nickelodeon's executives initially objected to have the character of Dib wearing a trench coat because they thought that it resembled to the trench coats wore by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold during the infamous Columbine High School massacre. However, their efforts were unsuccessful and Dib's attire went ultimately unchanged.[1]
  • The skoolchildren climbing out the window is inspired by something that happened in real life. Steve Ressel said when he was in art school kid would be so eager to leave class that they would climb out of the window and climb on of the brick walks.

Changes and Cuts[]

The nightmare begins 3
  • The line "radioactive rubber pants" was originally "radioactive rubber ants", but Richard Steven accidentally said pants instead of ants. Jhonen Vasquez liked what he said better and kept the line.
  • Originally, Zim had to fight a monster called the Digestor as a test of his worthiness. He ended up defeating it by giving it the sandwich Tallest Red previously gave to him at Conventia.
  • In the scene where Zim is destroying Irk in the giant robot, the scene was originally going to be much longer with the robot break dancing while shooting lasers and destroying more of the city, but it was too long, and therefore shortened.
  • The milk carton in the fridge where Gaz claims that Dib will pay for drinking the last soda originally had a little girl on it saying "FIND ME!". It then changed to a picture of Rob Hummel and the text beneath it saying "Rob Hummel is Meat".
  • The sequence in which Dib pursues Zim across The City was originally longer, but was cut for time.
  • The ending where Zim is reporting in to the Almighty Tallest was originally going to be repeated at the end of every subsequent episode. It was likely cut because it would have been too repetitive.
  • Originally, Tallest Red was supposed to say the line "It's not stupid, it's advanced." to Zim. However, when the animation that was outsourced to South Korea returned, the crew discovered that they had accidentally animated Purple saying the line. Instead of wasting time sending it back to fix this one error, they just had Purple's voice actor Kevin McDonald record the line.

Things You Might Have Missed[]

Jhonen Cameo (The Nightmare Begins)

'Too ugly!'

  • Keef appears in this episode, albeit as a background character. The back of his head can be seen as Ms. Bitters is introducing Zim, as well as when Zim is making his introduction speech, and after the camera pans to Dib, although he's drawn slightly differently. He is seen again when one of the Skoolchildren talks about Dib being insensitive, and once again, one of the first children running out of the building as the bell rings. He appears a total of four times.
  • When Ms. Bitters says, "Go home now", a stick figure drawn in the corner of the board can be seen.
  • The dark blue planet in which all the arrows point out from on the screen behind the Tallest has been confirmed as Irk, the Irken home planet. The arrows symbolize the planets marked for "Galactic Conquest".
  • The disguise that Zim deems as being "too ugly" is series creator Jhonen Vasquez, and the disguise Zim deems as being "too stinky" is series director Steve Ressel.
  • After Zim puts on his disguise, GIR's eyes flash for a few milliseconds.
  • This episode marks the first time in the series in which someone broke the fourth wall. In this case, when Dib pointed out to Zim, the camera moves over to Zim then back to Dib. When he says "Right there!" more clearly, the camera then moves back to Zim and freezes there.
    • The second time the fourth wall is broken is when the words Weird and Sitting fly in front of Zim's face, and his eyes follow the words.
  • During this episode, Invader Skoodge is shown in various scenes with and without his PAK.
  • When the announcer in the beginning is mentioning the gift shop, a billboard can be seen flying by with the picture of the green monkey that is in Zim's house, suggesting he went to the gift shop and got it there.
  • On the ice cream truck, it shows an Irken shaped ice cream.

Inconsistencies and Animation Errors[]

  • If no one heard of Earth prior to Zim's arrival, then the Computer in Zim's Voot Cruiser shouldn't have been able to identify the planet at all.
  • The milk carton in the refrigerator says "Rob Hummel is Meat," but after Dib falls into the sink, it has a picture of a kid with "Find Me!" written below the picture, even though this was originally cut out.
  • When Zim gets his disguise, the legs of his pants are pink, and they keep changing color throughout a majority of this episode, though more frequently in the second half of the episode.
  • In one scene, Almighty Tallest Red has one ring around his waist, but his waist has three in every other scene.
  • When Zim makes a comment on GIR’s intelligence, his legs vanish temporarily.
  • When Zim is asking Ms Bitters about Earth's defenses, Zita can be seen in the background, even though she sits behind Zim, and the given angle wouldn't allow her to be seen.
  • When Zim contacts the Tallest to report on his progress, there is a scene that is showing the Massive, the Irken Imperial Flagship, but none of the smaller ships are around it, despite the fact that the Massive is always escorted by many other smaller ships.
  • Once the Great Assigning ends, when Almighty Tallest Red says lasers his teeth are the same color as his skin.
  • When Zim lands, the symbol on his Voot Cruiser keeps changing from the one-eyed symbol to the two-eyed symbol and then back again.
Irken Crowd
  • When Dib is going up to the board to compare and contrast humans from Zim, his glasses temporarily disappear.
  • When Dib is going up to the board to compare and contrast humans from Zim, he draws Zim with his antennas and without his wig, despite having not yet seen Zim without his disguise and therefore having no way of knowing what he really looks like without it.
  • When Zim arrives at Skool, Ms. Bitters' dress changes from purple to black several times.
  • GIR's antenna is almost colorless when he is first presented to Zim.
  • When GIR says "I saw a squirrel" and acts like a squirrel, he has teeth, as in the rest of the series, he doesn't (this happens again in "Attack of the Saucer Morons").
  • When GIR first puts on his dog costume, he has a collar on him, but when the camera angle changes to his back he doesn't have it on.
  • When Tallest Red spills his drink, his fingers are dark brown instead of green.
  • Near the end of the episode, as GIR falls on top of Zim, Zim falls off-screen, but GIR disappears.
  • When GIR says "I saw a squirrel," his tongue is blue.
  • When Zim gets attacked by the dog he is seen losing both boots, but he only ever puts one back on, despite having both on for the rest of the episode.
  • When Zim says "Insolent fool boy! It's a skin condition." his PAK is missing.
  • When Dib comes up to Zim after school, he appears to be wearing a skirt.


Main Article: The Kevin Manthei Invader Zim-phony Special

  • In the Beginning

From the beginning of the episode until right before the Tallest appear.

  • Smackdown Source

During the Tallests' introduction.

  • Zim Is Late

As Zim is flying toward Conventia.

  • Zim Enters Conventia

As Zim pushes his way through the audience to get to the Almighty Tallest.

  • To Earth

As Zim is flying to Earth in his Voot Cruiser, before GIR sings the Doom Song.

  • Entering Earth's Atmosphere

As GIR observes what the "earthenoids" consider to be normal.

  • Zim's House

When Zim first enters his house.

  • Our First Chase

As Dib chases Zim through the city

  • Dib Doesn't Quit

As Zim reports to the Tallest at the end.

  • Leader Report

See also[]