Howard and Raj are still fighting, so Howard dis-invites Raj to Halley's birthday party. However, when Stuart pulls out as party planner at the last minute, Raj agrees to plan the party, which doesn't turn out too well due to Halley being asleep, Bernadette being on bed rest, and no people turning up. When Howard and Raj get into a shoving match in the party's bounce house, they end up letting out their frustrations, but also having fun and reconciling. Leonard is depressed upon receiving his successful brother's Christmas card and attempts to make a list of what he and Penny accomplished this year, not coming up with much. This prompts them to think about their plans for the future, so they decide to go on trips and achieve more out of life together before starting a family. Sheldon cooks Amy a Little House on the Prairie-themed birthday dinner, which gives them both food poisoning. They eventually recover enough to attend Halley's birthday party with the others, where they have fun in the bouncy castle and then have sex in Howard and Bernadette's house.
Star Trek in particular is frequently referenced and Sheldon identifies strongly with the character of Spock, so much so that when he is given a used napkin signed by Leonard Nimoy as a Christmas gift from Penny he is overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude ("I possess the DNA of Leonard Nimoy?!"). Star Trek: The Original Series cast member George Takei has made a cameo, and Leonard Nimoy made a cameo as the voice of Sheldon's vintage Mr. Spock action figure (both cameos were in dream sequences). Star Trek: The Next Generation cast members Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton have had cameos as themselves, while Wil Wheaton has a recurring role as a fictionalized version of himself. Leonard and Sheldon have had conversations in the Klingon language.
Although the original pilot was not picked up, its creators were given an opportunity to retool it and produce a second pilot. They brought in the remaining cast and retooled the show to its final format. Katie was replaced by Penny (Kaley Cuoco). The original unaired pilot has never been officially released, but it has circulated on the Internet. On the evolution of the show, Chuck Lorre said, "We did the 'Big Bang Pilot' about two and a half years ago, and it sucked ... but there were two remarkable things that worked perfectly, and that was Johnny and Jim. We rewrote the thing entirely and then we were blessed with Kaley and Simon and Kunal." As to whether the world will ever see the original pilot on a future DVD release, Lorre said, "Wow, that would be something. We will see. Show your failures..."
David Saltzberg, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles, checks scripts and provides dialogue, mathematics equations, and diagrams used as props. According to executive producer/co-creator Bill Prady, "We're working on giving Sheldon an actual problem that he's going to be working on throughout the [first] season so there's actual progress to the boards ... . We worked hard to get all the science right." David Saltzberg, who has a Ph.D. in physics, has served as the science consultant for the show for six seasons and attends every taping. He sees early versions of scripts which need scientific information added to them, and he also points out where the writers, despite their knowledge of science, have made a mistake. He is usually not needed during a taping unless a lot of science, and especially the whiteboard, is involved.
Professor Proton, Sheldon's favorite childhood show, is being rebooted. After unsuccessfully auditioning for the part, he goes to Wil Wheaton for acting tips for his second audition. However, Sheldon is later dismayed when Wil is offered the role instead. Talking it over with Arthur in his dreams, he is still upset to see his idol replaced and considers Wil an enemy again. Meanwhile, Howard gets a vasectomy while Bernadette is on bed rest. Penny offers to take care of Halley for them, but they insult her by expecting her to be irresponsible. Halley ends up saying her first word by calling Penny "Mama."
Turning to total viewers, “Manifest” was the biggest gainer overall, on average adding 6.1 million viewers per episode. ABC’s “The Good Doctor” was second with an average viewer lift of just under 6 million. “New Amsterdam” (5.2 million viewer lift) and “A Million Little Things” (3.5 million viewer lift) were also among the top gainers in this measure, as was ABC’s “Whiskey Cavalier” (3.2 million viewer lift).
Keith Carradine has appeared in three episode as Penny's father, Wyatt, first in Season 4. Katey Sagal, who played the on-screen mother of Kaley Cuoco's character in the 2002-2005 sitcom 8 Simple Rules, has appeared as Penny's mother in one episode of The Big Bang Theory. Jack McBrayer has appeared in one episode of The Big Bang Theory as Penny's brother, Randall.
When Penny tells Leonard he needs to be more assertive in making decisions for himself, he starts standing up to Sheldon over small things. His confidence makes him want to demand the university support his idea for a plasma physics project. He threatens to quit if the university refuses, alarming both Sheldon and Penny, who consider this to be a risky career move. Sheldon is conflicted on whether or not he is being selfish over Leonard's decision, but Amy suggests that the fact that he is worried over Leonard's motivation proves that he does care about him, which he acknowledges. President Seibert refuses the project, but in order not to lose Leonard, gives him co-leadership over a photon entanglement project, leaving Leonard proud of himself and Penny impressed. Meanwhile, Raj shows Anu his lab, and suggests one possible answer for something he's seen in space might be alien life. When someone mentions this at his observatory presentation, the scientific community starts mocking him as a conspiracy theorist. Raj points out scientists should consider all possibilities when seeking the truth, though this causes people to think he believes in the Loch Ness Monster.
After Neil Gaiman tweets about Stuart's comic book store, it becomes very popular, and the crowds upset Sheldon. Stuart hires an assistant manager named Denise and she impresses Sheldon with her comic recommendations. Amy goes to her for information on comics to connect to Sheldon but when she tries to tell him, he says he's talked enough about comics with Denise. The store's popularity causes Stuart to be unable to babysit for Howard and Bernadette's date night. They try to have another at home, but Stuart shows up so they hurriedly go out. Meanwhile, as Raj sets up a telescope, Penny sees a new comet. Raj takes sole credit for the discovery, angering Penny. Leonard tries to defend her but feels sorry for hurting Raj's career. Penny confronts Raj herself and he agrees to share credit after Penny doesn't give in like Leonard.
Howard dresses as Sheldon for Halloween at work, hurting Sheldon's feelings. When Howard does not apologize, Amy and Sheldon dress as Bernadette and Howard at Penny and Leonard's party, angering Bernadette. Sheldon and Bernadette later bond over their painful childhood memories. Leonard is upset that Penny does not seem to remember that their first kiss was on Halloween. Penny later admits she does remember, but does not like to think of their first kiss as an unromantic drunken hookup. She likes to imagine their first kiss was one they shared on Leonard's birthday, which pleases him.
Producers, writers and others, including recurring guest star Wil Wheaton, joined the festivities on set and — hardly a spoiler alert — more laughing, crying and hugging ensued. Lorre embraced a happy Parsons, then moved on to each cast member as if it were a reception line. Galecki shared long, emotional hugs with his colleagues. After trying to keep their emotions under control for so long, it was finally time to just let go.
Sara Gilbert as Leslie Winkle (recurring season 1, starring season 2, guest seasons 3, 9): A physicist who works in the same lab as Leonard. In appearance, she is essentially Leonard's female counterpart and has conflicting scientific theories with Sheldon. Leslie has casual sex with Leonard and later Howard. Gilbert was promoted to a main cast member during the second season but resumed guest star status because producers could not come up with enough material for the character. Gilbert returned to The Big Bang Theory for its 200th episode.
Leonard's mother Beverly visits, and he is thrilled when she takes an interest in his work. However, when he learns that she is doing research on him for a new parenting book, he is furious. He prepares to tell her how she let him down over the years, but instead chooses to accept and forgive her, and forgive himself for holding onto that resentment for so long. Beverley is touched that he forgave her and they share a genuine hug. Meanwhile, Anu gets a job offer in London. Raj prepares to fly out and propose to her, ready to follow her if she accepts. Howard stops Raj at the airport, saying there is a better match out there for him, convincing Raj to return home. Stuart and Denise are bothered by her creepy roommate Mitch, while Bernadette and Howard are tired of Denise constantly staying overnight with Stuart at their house. Stuart says he is ready to move in with Denise, and they say they love each other while convincing Mitch to move out.
Kevin Sussman as Stuart Bloom (recurring seasons 2–5, 7, starring seasons 6, 8–12): A mild-mannered, under-confident owner of a comic book store. A competent artist, Stuart is a graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, and though he is socially awkward he possesses slightly better social skills. Stuart implies he is in financial trouble and that the comic book store now also is his home. He is later invited to join the guys' group while Howard is in space. Stuart gets a new job caring for Howard's mother later. After Mrs. Wolowitz's death, Stuart continues to live in her home, along with Howard and Bernadette, until he finds a place of his own.
When Bernadette tells Howard that she is expecting again, he is once again floored with fear about raising another child, particularly when he learns it’s a boy. Howard, who isn't athletically inclined, worries he will not be able to relate to a son who might one day expect his dad to be the stereotypical father. Despite his best attempts to get out of it, Howard has a vasectomy to avoid any future surprises and is placed on bed rest, joining his pregnant wife at home.
The first and second pilots of The Big Bang Theory were directed by James Burrows, who did not continue with the show. The reworked second pilot led to a 13-episode order by CBS on May 14, 2007. Prior to its airing on CBS, the pilot episode was distributed on iTunes free of charge. The show premiered on September 24, 2007, and was picked up for a full 22-episode season on October 19, 2007. The show is filmed in front of a live audience, and is produced by Warner Bros. Television and Chuck Lorre Productions. Production was halted on November 6, 2007, due to the Writers Guild of America strike. Nearly three months later, on February 4, 2008, the series was temporarily replaced by a short-lived sitcom, Welcome to The Captain. The series returned on March 17, 2008, in an earlier time slot and ultimately only 17 episodes were produced for the first season.
Leonard gives an interview on public radio where he admits physics research might be at a dead end. The university is furious and, while trying to think of reasons to put in a retraction, he depresses Sheldon into thinking he might be right. Howard and Raj come over and end up just as depressed. Getting drunk with Penny, the men go to the grave of Richard Feynman and realize there is hope for physics as long as they believe in it. Leonard accidentally sends a drunken email to Human Resources. Meanwhile, Amy and Bernadette agree with each other to keep quiet about the success in their careers so as not to upset Sheldon and Howard. While bragging to each other, they end up arguing which of their fields is better.
On March 13, 2017, CBS ordered the spin-off Young Sheldon series. Jon Favreau directed and executive produced the pilot. Created by Lorre and Molaro, the series follows 9-year-old Sheldon Cooper as he attends high school in East Texas. Alongside Armitage as 9-year-old Sheldon Cooper and Perry as Mary Cooper, Lance Barber stars as George Cooper, Sheldon's father; Raegan Revord stars as Missy Cooper, Sheldon's twin sister; and Montana Jordan as George Cooper Jr., Sheldon's older brother. Jim Parsons reprises his role as adult Sheldon Cooper, as narrator for the series. Parsons, Lorre, Molaro and Todd Spiewak will also serve as executive producers on the series, for Chuck Lorre Productions, Inc. in association with Warner Bros. Television. The show's pilot episode premiered on September 25, 2017. Subsequent weekly episodes began airing on November 2, 2017 following the broadcast of the 237th episode of The Big Bang Theory.
Amy and Howard begin collaborating on a neuroprosthetics project, upsetting Sheldon and Raj, who feel they are not spending as much time with them. When they seek solace with an annoyed Bernadette, she exploits the situation to trick Sheldon into doing Howard's chores. Penny successfully employs the approaches recommended in one of Bernadette's parenting books to deal with Sheldon, but Leonard believes she is coddling Sheldon too much. Sheldon and Raj resolve the issue of missing their significant others by spending time together.