By Ashley Amon and Andrew Daar
Season 1, Episodes 21 and 22, “Travels With Martin” and “Author, Author”
Original air dates: Apr. 14, 1994, May 5, 1994
Andrew: Frasier truly has come very far in settling back into his life in Seattle. He and Martin aren’t constantly bickering at each other, he has a strong friendship with Roz, and his conversations with Niles aren’t composed solely of disguised barbs aimed at belittling the other’s choices. The relationships aren’t perfect, and they never will be, as no relationship is perfect. But the way Frasier interacts with his friends and family has become solidly integrated into his character, rather than defining his entire being.
So it’s fun to see Frasier’s relationships tested in “Travels With Martin” and “Author, Author.” In the former, Frasier decides to invite Martin on vacation with him, but the each decide that, without some other people to keep them occupied, they’ll end up killing each other. “Author, Author” focuses on the brothers’ sibling rivalry when they are asked to co-author a book about sibling relationships. Perhaps the best sign of Frasier’s growth is his utter devotion to looking out for Martin’s happiness in planning vacation. After getting himself worked up about a spa vacation, Roz’s strong relationship with her mother inspires Frasier to invite Martin on his vacation, and he at no point tries to dissuade Martin from his Winnebago idea. Frasier was being honest when he told Martin that he could pick whatever he wanted to do, and he never complained (to Martin’s face, at least).
Frasier and Niles, on the other hand, either don’t have as strong a relationship or, due to how similar they are, can fall into darker arguments. I believe it’s the latter, because the two seem genuinely excited about working together on the book. Their problem is that, because they are very similar people, they don’t see the problems between them the way they see the problems between themselves and their very different father. They also have to deal with the envy they have for each other, which is not a factor in their relationship with Martin. Frasier and Niles love their father, but they don’t always respect him, and they almost never envy him. With each other, they worry that they’re not as respected as the other, that they’re not as well-known as the other, that they don’t have the same opportunities as the other.
Ashley, what did you think of the Crane family’s (including Daphne) interactions in their trip to Canada, eh?
Ashley: What could possibly go wrong on a family trip to our Neighbors to the North in an RV? Aside from avoiding the occasional wildlife and realizing just how terrible your French really is, most families would have an uneventful trip. Not the Cranes. First, they’re still so uncomfortable with each other that they can’t be alone with one member for too long. It grows from a trip for Martin and Frasier to both of them bringing a “buddy” to break the ice. Second, Niles only agrees to go because Daphne does. The Cranes’ drive into Canada is like an extended car trip: it isn’t necessarily about the destination (in their case, Mt. Rushmore) but the journey itself.
And what a journey! Daphne sticks out the most to me because the conflict surrounds her in “Travels with Martin”. She’s not yet a citizen of the US and isn’t supposed to leave the country. Their little jaunt over the border is a big deal as she can be deported. One of things I enjoyed the most about Daphne is that she became more English as she got nervous (“Let’s give it a bash!”). She attempted an American accent but could only manage one word. Having never been to Canada or Mexico I’m not familiar with what happens at the US border. Today I know it’s very different. But in 1994 when this episode aired, do you think the border patrol would’ve grilled Daphne? At that time American and Canadian citizens didn’t need a passport to cross the border. Even if Daphne spoke with her Mancunian accent I honestly don’t think anything would’ve happened to her. That’s assuming, however Frasier’s ethics didn’t ruin everything.
In “Author, Author” we see the first attempt at the Brothers Crane working together and sibling rivalry prevails. You’re right though, about them being so similar that they can’t see their problems. They enjoy working together and doing things together but in the end they still end up fighting each other like every set of brothers in history. I did enjoy Frasier’s obvious Freudian views coming out as he choked Niles (“You stole my mommy!”).
As an aside, when we get to season five, remember that Martin says he never had a brother.
Andrew: Frasier and Martin’s competing points of view regarding how to experience a road trip almost seemed like they should be reversed, and yet, at the same time, made a weird kind of sense. Frasier lives a rather structured life and knows what he likes, rarely intentionally deviating from his plan. Martin tends to be more taken with enjoying life rather than rushing to a destination. But on the other hand, Martin is very practical, which supports his desire to be as efficient as possible, covering as many miles as he can while he’s at the wheel. Frasier is quite the romantic, and the idea of an adventure, or not knowing where you will arrive, is quite intriguing.
I don’t remember my most recent experience crossing the Canadian border, but I have to think that the level of security would be slightly higher today. “Travels With Martin” has a couple other examples of how things we do evolve while remaining fundamentally the same activity. When Martin pulled out that giant camcorder and started making a video of the trip, I thought about how today we record everything with smaller devices. Recording mundane activities occurs more often today because recording devices are portable and built into machines that have become essential to our way of life, but it is not as new of a phenomenon as some people argue it is. In addition, Frasier tried to get Martin to put the camcorder down by telling him that watching life through his own eyes was the ultimate reality program. What constituted a reality program in 1994? The term has taken on a very specific meaning in the present day, referring to competition programs, makeover shows, and documentary-esque looks at people’s lives. Perhaps This Was TV can delve into 90’s reality. (Also, while we are on the subject of the camcorder, after going a few episodes without thinking about the creepy factor of Niles’ infatuation with Daphne, how did his recording of her sleeping register with you? I know we have discussed this before, but both the initial joke and the credits stinger, with her waking up horrified, didn’t sit well with me. On the other hand, I loved how pleased with himself Frasier was when he swerved the RV to get Niles to stop.)
Ashley: That camcorder. I grew up with a divine hatred of the camcorder (yes, dad, I’m talking to you). You’re right about how easily it is now to record mundane activites with the advent of the iPhone, Vine, etc. But recording these activities is never done for others, it’s done for your own self-glorification, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Clearly this vacation is imporant despite its awkwardness. Martin may not be able to handle a vacation with just Frasier, but adding Niles and Daphne makes it a family affair, and thus worthy of being recorded and remembered. And it’s memorable all right.
So about Niles: yep, this is creepy. Totally. I know it was added to the credits as humor but even when I saw it back in 1994, Young Ashley was thinking “How on EARTH does she not know?!”
However, do you think the writers of Frasier thought of Niles and Daphne legitimately becoming a couple in a future season? Personally, I don’t think so, which is why I often interpret Niles’ behavior as a vehicle for a lot of awkward humor. I don’t add any value to his peculiar attachment to Daphne early on because I don’t think it was initially meant to go anywhere.
Andrew: Based on how the show has portrayed their interactions so far, I think Niles and Daphne was less a “will they/won’t they” and more of a source of awkward humor/ an examination of what can happen as the result of a loveless marriage. Keep in mind how Niles backed off when the glockenspiel started working again, thus reminding him of his love for Maris, back in “A Midwinter Night’s Dream.”
And that’s why I love Frasier. It tries to examine the psychological reasons for conflicts. Niles and Frasier are so similar, sharing many of the same interests. But this leads to competition as each feels that the other receives some prize they deserve, conveniently forgetting about all of the success in their own life. And while they are rational enough to understand their psychological problems (Frasier points out that some of Niles’ anger toward him results from being second-born, something that Niles will never be able to change), they are ultimately human, and are limited by their flaws.
Frasier and Niles wrote a rather bawdy musical as kids which devalued the pursuit of knowledge. Ok…
Niles tie that he wears at Frasier’s apartment in “Travels With Martin” looks like it has blue lipstick kisses on it.
Niles gets so inspired by Frasier’s rousing speech about America that he puts on a baseball cap.