As Sheldon and Amy start to plan their wedding, they use decision theory to limit the stress of choosing between their competing visions for the big day. After they begin to question each other’s decisions and make deliberately provocative choices, they decide to have a simple wedding at City Hall. As they wait their turn, Sheldon changes his mind and decides he wants a first dance with Amy at a real wedding.
Sheldon's mother Mary refuses to attend his wedding unless he invites his older brother George, with whom he is no longer speaking. Sheldon and Leonard fly to Texas to talk to George, who now owns a chain of tire stores. He refuses to attend and later explains to Leonard and Sheldon that the family sacrificed a lot to fund Sheldon's education, and he was stuck caring for their mother and sister Missy after their father died while Sheldon was in college. Sheldon never thanked him for this. Leonard takes George back to the hotel room where Sheldon apologizes for what he did and the brothers reconcile. George agrees to attend the wedding. Meanwhile, Howard and Bernadette's children contract pinkeye, infecting everyone except Penny, much to Amy's fury.
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.
In March 2017, CBS renewed the series for two additional seasons, bringing its total to twelve, and running through the 2018–19 television season. On August 22, 2018, CBS and Warner Bros. Television officially announced that the twelfth season would be the series' last. This stems from Jim Parsons' decision to leave the series at the end of the season if the show were to have been renewed for a thirteenth season. The series concluded with an hour-long finale consisting of two back-to-back episodes on May 16, 2019. A retrospective, hosted by Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco, aired at 9:30 P.M. ET/PT, the night of the finale, following the season two finale of Young Sheldon.
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.
The fourth season's second half began on June 30, 2011. Season 5 began airing on November 3, 2011, at 8:00 p.m. as part of E4's Comedy Thursdays, acting as a lead-in to the channel's newest comedy, Perfect Couples. Episode 19, the highest-viewed episode of the season, attracted 1.4 million viewers. Season 6 premiered on November 15, 2012, with 1.89 million viewers and a further 469,000 on the time shift channel, bringing the total to 2.31 million, E4's highest viewing ratings of 2012, and the highest the channel had received since June 2011. The sixth season returned in mid-2013 to finish airing the remaining episodes. Season 7 premiered on E4 on October 31, 2013 at 8:30pm and hit multiple ratings records this season. The second half of season seven aired in mid 2014. The eighth season premiered on E4 on October 23, 2014 at 8:30 p.m. During its eighth season, The Big Bang Theory shared its 8:30 p.m. time period with fellow CBS comedy, 2 Broke Girls. Following the airing of the first eight episodes of that show's fourth season, The Big Bang Theory returned to finish airing its eighth season on March 19, 2015.
Raj hooks up with a recently separated woman, Nell, after one of his lectures at the planetarium. Her husband, Oliver, confronts Raj at the planetarium and then breaks down over the end of his marriage. After comforting Oliver, Raj talks to Nell and convinces her to give her husband another chance. Meanwhile, after diving once again into string theory and sprawling his work across his and Amy's apartment, Sheldon approaches a reluctant Leonard and Penny and convinces them to let him use his old room to study for a three-day trial period with an agreement to be quiet and stay out of their way. Sheldon surprisingly sticks to this agreement, being a reasonably good guest, which shockingly frustrates Leonard to no end. After Leonard lets out his frustrations, Sheldon then renegotiates the guest tenancy agreement for an extra few days and resumes being his normal demanding self, much to Leonard's relief.
In scenes set at Howard's home, he interacts with his rarely-seen mother (voiced by Carol Ann Susi until her death) by shouting from room to room in the house. She similarly interacts with other characters in this manner. She reflects the Jewish mother stereotype in some ways, such as being overly controlling of Howard's adult life and sometimes trying to make him feel guilty about causing her trouble. She is dependent on Howard, as she requires him to help her with her wig and makeup in the morning. Howard, in turn, is attached to his mother to the point where she still cuts his meat for him, takes him to the dentist, does his laundry and "grounds" him when he returns home after briefly moving out. Until Howard's marriage to Bernadette in the fifth-season finale, Howard's former living situation led Leonard's psychiatrist mother to speculate that he may suffer from some type of pathology, and Sheldon to refer to their relationship as Oedipal. In season 8, Howard's mother dies in her sleep while in Florida, which devastates Howard and Stuart, who briefly lived with Mrs. Wolowitz.
One of the recurring plot lines is the relationship between Leonard and Penny. Leonard becomes attracted to Penny in the pilot episode and his need to do favors for her is a frequent point of humor in the first season. Meanwhile, Penny dates a series of muscular, attractive, unintelligent, and insensitive jocks. Their first long-term relationship begins when Leonard returns from a three-month expedition to the North Pole in the season 3 premiere. However, when Leonard tells Penny that he loves her, she realizes she cannot say it back. Both Leonard and Penny go on to date other people; most notably with Leonard dating Raj's sister Priya for much of season 4. This relationship is jeopardized when Leonard comes to falsely believe that Raj has slept with Penny, and ultimately ends when Priya sleeps with a former boyfriend in "The Good Guy Fluctuation".
Through the use of his vanity cards at the end of episodes, Lorre alleged that the program had been plagiarized by a show produced and aired in Belarus. Officially titled Теоретики (The Theorists), the show features "clones" of the main characters, a similar opening sequence, and what appears to be a very close Russian translation of the scripts. Lorre expressed annoyance and described his inquiry with the Warner Bros. legal department about options. The television production company and station's close relationship with the Belarus government was cited as the reason that any attempt to claim copyright infringement would be in vain because the company copying the episodes is operated by the government.
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..."
Kunal Nayyar has the flick Think Like a Dog in post-production and the upcoming Trolls World Tour in pre-production. Nayyar provides the voice of Guy Diamond in the movie series. Aside from that, however, the former Raj Koothrappali is looking forward to some much needed family time. "I'm going to go to India, spend more time with my parents," he told Parade in late April. "I left my country when I was 18, so it's important for me to go home and spend time with mom and dad, so that's the main focus right now.
Sheldon is annoyed that Amy does not have time to work on the super-asymmetry project with him so he talks President Siebert into getting her removed from her own project at the university. Amy is angry at both of them as she wants to still have her own identity outside the marriage. When confronted by Amy, Siebert apologizes to her but states that it will be difficult for the university to give her her project back. After talking with Arthur Jeffries in a dream, Sheldon apologizes to Amy and both of them talk about their fears in their marriage. Meanwhile, Raj does not want to have Howard join him in his show at the planetarium, thinking he'd just use his astronaut status to make it about himself. Raj eventually lets him join in and Raj and Howard spend the whole time complimenting each other, surprising Bernadette, Leonard and Penny.
After Sheldon reminds the guys about the time they mined Bitcoin without him, the guys go on a quest to find their suddenly valuable missing cryptocurrency. They realize the currency is on a laptop which Leonard gave to Penny when they dating, which she then gave to her ex-boyfriend Zack. After Leonard and Penny go to Zack's apartment, he shows them a seven-year-old video that Penny recorded on the laptop soon after she broke up with Leonard. Leonard is touched by the video which shows a drunk Penny lamenting the break-up of her relationship with him.