With the death of Piccolo during the battle with Nappa, the earth Dragon Balls weren’t able to be used since they’re linked to Kami who is directly linked to Piccolo; if one dies the other dies. But Planet Namek is also known for having its own set of Dragon Balls. Vegeta heads straight there after his battle on earth and Krillin, Gohan, and Bulma set off to the same destination to wish back their friends that died thanks to Vegeta and Goku remains on earth because he’s the slowest recovering fighter of all time. What they don’t count on is Frieza beating them to the punch. As Frieza continues to collect the Dragon Balls, Vegeta perfects his plan to steal them right out from under Frieza’s nose. Vegeta pinpoints the precise time to take Frieza’s henchmen out one by one. The upside about Saiyan warriors is that they become even stronger whenever they recover from a battle where they’re severely injured. Vegeta does this so often throughout his time on Namek that he fully believes he’s a Super Saiyan. Meanwhile, Goku doesn’t realize just how strong one can become from training under 100 times normal gravity. Nearly everyone dies at some point in this saga, a planet is destroyed, Frieza brings in his extremely powerful goon squad led by a guy who can swap bodies with his opponents at will, and we learn that Piccolo can rent out his body like a two story apartment.
Your childhood memory often plays tricks on you and remembers things incorrectly. It may embellish certain things, which may make things like action movies from that time period seem better than they really are or how you hated a certain vegetable as a kid but adore it now. However, if you were familiar with “Dragon Ball Z” during one of its original runs, the Frieza saga is exactly how you remember it. Everything is so elongated and half the damn saga is spent waiting on Goku to get to Namek or Goku to heal from Captain Ginyu taking over his body or Goku and Frieza staring at each other and reminiscing about events that occurred three episodes prior instead of actually fighting each other. Not to mention all the episodes where both Goku and Frieza agree to cut to the chase and then continue to monkey around. In the meantime, you have Piccolo’s oddly humorous motivational speech he gives himself after fusing with Nail to keep you company along with Krillin’s awesome one-liners (“It’s times like this I think to myself why didn’t I become a shoe salesman?”) and Bulma volunteering to go to Namek only to turn around and do nothing but whimper about not having any mascara as soon as they get on the ship. Honestly, Captain Ginyu taking over her body and talking in a forced female voice is way more entertaining than anything she does on the green planet (or in the entire series for the matter).
When Frieza uses his Death Ball on Planet Namek, he says Goku only has five minutes before the planet explodes. It takes three hours for those five minutes to pass. In the last episode of season three, 260 days pass in less than 20 minutes (one Namekian year is 130 days and two pass as the Z Fighters use the Namekian Dragon Balls on earth). Frieza comes up with the “brilliant” plan to destroy Namek while he’s fighting Goku because he can breathe in space and Goku can’t. In the same breath, he recalls how he destroyed Planet Vegeta which is complete with flashbacks of showing Bardock breathing in space. Vegeta also doesn’t seem to have a problem breathing in space during the Garlic Jr saga. Remember how Bulma did nothing but moan on Namek? As soon as she gets back to earth, she hits on Vegeta and Porunga, the freaking Namekian dragon, in the same episode. Those near death experiences must have really done a number on her hormones.
Speaking of Porunga, isn’t it weird how he can understand English but the wishes have to be in the native language? Before Goku turns Super Saiyan for the first time, Frieza beats the tar out of him. Goku then has a nude Vegeta give him a pep talk. He’s also visited by Vegeta as a child in full armor, King Vegeta in full armor, and a fully clothed Bardock. But Vegeta insists on showing his naked butt to Goku while he lectures him about Saiyans. Then when Goku comes to, Frieza says Goku was daydreaming. So Goku must daydream about a naked Vegeta for motivation quite often by default.
Once everyone on planet Namek who was killed by Frieza is relocated to earth, Vegeta pummels Gohan to a pulp. He then talks a bunch of trash and leaves at the end of the episode. At the beginning of the next episode, he’s back leaning against a tree and everyone acts like it never happened. Vegeta then comes up with the idea of how to bring Goku and Krillin back to their realm. Then there’s Gohan who does nothing but make really stupid decisions and be the most stubborn kid in the universe. Goku tells Gohan to leave Namek three times to which Gohan finally obliges. He takes Piccolo back to Goku’s space ship, rounds up Bulma, and decides to go back and help his dad for no other reason other than because his mom contacted him from earth and was her normal griping and irritating self. After Gohan fights Frieza some more to no avail, Goku returns from one of Frieza’s attacks and tells Gohan that he should have left already and Gohan acts like he can’t leave without his dad once again. It’s like an Abbott and Costello act that lasts for 100 hours.
Sources: dragonball.wikia.com, thedragonballblog.blogspot.com, tumblr.com, imdb.com, wikipedia.org