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The CBS sitcom said goodbye on Thursday night after a storied 12-season run — and now that it’s really over, we’re feeling super nostalgic. Having already revisited the pilot episode, highlighted classic “Shamy” moments and ranked our favorite recurring characters, we’re closing out our retrospective coverage with a list of the 10 episodes that we feel are a cut above the rest.
Wil Wheaton brings William Shatner on his Professor Proton show to meet Sheldon, who gets so excited that he vomits on Shatner. Going to Wil to apologize, he finds Wil hosts a Dungeons & Dragons group with his celebrity friends including Shatner. Finding out Stuart is in the group and never told them, the guys make Stuart panic and quit. Wil secretly invites Leonard who discovers that the group also includes Shatner, Kevin Smith, Joe Manganiello and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Leonard tells Penny, who tells Amy and Bernadette, all three women having a crush on Manganiello. Because of that indiscretion, Wil kicks out Leonard and admonishes the guys for using him for his connections, and says that one of the worst things about being a celebrity is not knowing whether someone will like him for himself. To apologize, the guys invite Wil to play D&D with them at Leonard’s apartment, but Wil, secretly in the middle of a game with Penny, Amy and Bernadette and the group, politely turns them down, before allowing the girls to send them a photo of the events as payback.
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.
Raj meets with the woman his father set up for him, Anu. Her commanding personality and practical approach to marriage startle Raj but he agrees to go ahead with it. Howard criticizes him but apologizes; he just never expected Raj to give up on romance. Raj admits this to Anu so she proposes to him, and he says yes. Raj also sends out a relationship questionnaire to Leonard and Penny, which soon reveals that Penny does not think she ever wants kids, upsetting Leonard, who would like to have kids someday, and their friends selfishly badger them on the issue. After telling her father Wyatt who is also upset, Leonard tells Penny that he'll be okay with it, as he never thought he'd have her in his life. To get his mind off of it, Penny rents Leonard a Batmobile to drive in and have fun with for the day. Meanwhile, Stuart starts bringing home Denise at night, which is very uncomfortable for Howard and Bernadette. When they also try to have time to themselves, they wake up their kids.
Cosmologist Stephen Hawking made a short guest appearance in the fifth-season episode; in the eighth season, Hawking video conferences with Sheldon and Leonard, and makes another appearance in the 200th episode. In the fifth and sixth seasons, NASA astronaut Michael J. Massimino played himself multiple times in the role of Howard's fellow astronaut. Bill Nye appeared in the seventh and twelfth seasons.
Sheldon and Amy's paper is a huge success, but Sheldon is upset when he is not allowed to do interviews, while Amy gets all the attention. Denise asks Stuart to move in with her but he panics and flees. Raj sets up a doorbell camera app for Anu but sees her greet her ex-boyfriend. At a paintball match, all the feuding couples argue, with Raj saying he cannot trust Anu since he does not even know her, throwing the wedding into question. Stuart makes up with Denise by giving her a key to the Wolowitz house. Sheldon tries to do one interview with Amy but leaves when he is asked about the Russian scientists who had earlier disproved their theory.
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.
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.
Leonard and Sheldon are brilliant physicists—geniuses in the laboratory but socially challenged everywhere else. Enter beautiful, street-smart neighbor Penny, who aims to teach them a thing or two about life. Despite their on-again, off-again relationship in the past, Leonard and Penny have finally gotten married. Even Sheldon has found a female companion, entering into a "relationship agreement" with neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler, and he recently took their relationship to the next level by marrying her after a long courtship. In their free time, Leonard and Sheldon enjoy fantasy role-playing games with their ever-expanding universe of friends, including fellow scientists Koothrappali, Wolowitz, and Wolowitz’s adorable microbiologist wife, Bernadette, who is adjusting to life with their two children.