I am, I admit it, more than partial to many of the familiar tropes of sci-fi, and few please me more than the ‘body swap’ tradition. A longstanding theme in both TV and film – probably the best known example, the 1988 Tom Hanks movie Big, still stands the test of time – it gives actors a chance to have fun with established characters or lets grown men and women act like stroppy kids. What’s not to like? Here are some of my favourites – did I get yours?
This super smart movie is often ignored by the non-tween audience, who are deterred by the presence of High School Musical heartthrob Zac Efron. But really, you shouldn’t be: not only is Efron a fine comic actor (effortlessly channelling his ‘older self’, a delightfully deadpan Matthew Perry), but this is a teenage movie with adult appeal in the finest tradition of Heathers or Mean Girls. It’s also a geekfest of the highest order, packed with clever, knowing jokes and a light sabre fight that wouldn’t shame a Star Wars movie. Put aside your cynicism and enjoy.
Remember when Lindsay Lohan was a promising young actress rather than a tragic tabloid car crash? This 2003 remake of the 1976 Jodie Foster film is a delight, featuring Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis as the mother and daughter forced to literally step into the other’s shoes. Lohan is whip smart as the buttoned up mother, while Curtis has an infectiously good time as her wayward teen. Bonus points of having silver fox Mark Harmon as Curtis’ fiancé.
13 Going on 30
Those more used to seeing Jennifer Garner as kick ass mistress of disguise Sydney Bristow might be surprised at just how deftly she plays an awkward teenage girl suddenly transported into her adult life in this charming comedy. Mark ‘The Hulk’ Ruffalo provides rumpled romantic support, while Andy Serkis steals the show as a gay magazine editor. Worth watching for the ‘Thriller’ nightclub scene alone.
It’s hardly surprising that a show so often focused on demonic possession is so good at body swap episodes, but there have been some classics in its seven season and counting run: from the Season 1 episode Skin, where a shifter takes over Dean, to the Pulp Fiction inspired Slash Fiction in the latest series. Along the way we’ve had the trope played for both scary and comic effect: Sam amnesiac, murderous and possessed in the genuinely unsettling Born Under a Bad Sign, to swapping bodies with a horny teenage boy in Swap Met – so far though, the brothers haven’t swapped bodies, which I must admit I’m holding out for. Get on it, boys!
X-Files – Dreamland
For a show that could be remarkably po-faced, few programmes did unexpected comedy better than The X-Files, and the body swap two-parter Dreamland was a prime example of this, when a trip to Area 51 has some unexpected consequences. David Duchovny clearly had a whale of a time playing Mulder as opportunistically sleazy (a precursor to Hank Moody, perhaps?) and, in one of those small touches that fans love, his ‘swapee’ Morris Fletcher reappeared later in the run for a sly, blink and you’ll miss it, ‘do I know you?’ moment with Scully. Genius.
So, did I include yours? As a fan of the body swap convention, what have I missed? Let me know! And, as always, I’ll be back in a fortnight but should you miss me, feel free to pop over to Body of a Geek Goddess to say hi, or console yourself for my absence by cradling my book, Dark Dates, although I warn you, it is tragically short in terms of body swapping. I may have to work on that for the sequel.