[Warning: This episode contains spoilers for The Big Bang Theory]
Bob Newhart’s run on The Big Bang Theory as Arthur Jeffries, aka Professor Proton, is over. Or is it?
Bob Newhart returned to The Big Bang Theory Thursday, only to see his beloved Professor Proton character killed off early in the show. The episode started with the gang, in celebration of Star Wars Day, May 4th (a real nationwide holiday for those not in the know), deciding to watch all six movies in a row, much to the chagrin of Penny. However, when it’s revealed tha Newhart’s character dies off screen, the news leaves Sheldon, played by Jim Parsons, predictably shaken.
Later on, when Sheldon takes a nap, Professor Proton appears to him in a dream as his personal Obi-Wan Kenobi to help him grieve the loss. The Star Wars themed visit to Sheldon helps him come to terms with not only Professor Proton’s passing, but also his father and grandfather before him. It also opens him up to see that the friends he surrounds himself with in life are also his family. “Just make sure you appreciate those who are still there for you,” Bob Newhart tells Sheldon.
Showrunner Steve Molaro spoke with The Hollywood Reporter recently on the decision to kill Newhart’s character off on The Big Bang Theory:
“It seemed like we’ve never really seen Sheldon deal with grief like that, and when combined with Star Wars, where Bob could come back as Sheldon’s personal Oh-bi-Wan, it allowed us to tie two really cool events together: Star Wars Day and the passing of Professor Proton.”
He also wouldn’t close the door on Newhart’s return to Big Bang Theory in the future – albeit in slightly different form:
“Even though he’s passing away, using this device, he never really leaves the show, because he can live on in Sheldon’s conscience forever. I don’t think the character that Bob plays will be happy about that because the robes weird him out, but that’s how it would work. But the good news is Professor Proton doesn’t disappear; he can be on the show in a different form, like Obi-Wan is in the movies.”
And while Molaro told The Hollywood Reporter that there are no current plans for Newhart to return to The Big Bang Theory, in Star Wars form or other, should the producers find a compelling story, the answer would certainly be yes.
The Big Bang Theory currently airs on CBS on Thursday nights. The Big Bang Theory’s seventh season finale airs this month.