Sci-Fi Saturday #12
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Earlier this year, we quietly passed the milestone of original Futurama being off the air for fifteen years. I know the show found a second life in reruns and then the reboot (which wrapped up on Comedy Central about 5 years ago - the series finale aired in September 2013), but I can't help but feel nostalgic for those original seasons. Futurama fandom was one of my first forays into the world of science fiction, so I have to credit the show for informing a lot of my current interests. This week I thought I'd look back at the original four seasons and pick my fifteen favorite episodes out of the 72 that aired between 1999-2003.
15. "Parasites Lost" (Season 3, Episode 2)
In a Nutshell: Fry eats a truck stop vending machine egg salad sandwich and gets worms. The Planet Express crew shrink themselves down and travel inside Fry's body to expel the parasites.
Why I Love It: Classic sci-fi storyline + lots of bathroom humor.
Hermes - "Soon he'll be stronger and more flexible than Hercules and Gumby combined!"
Zoidberg - "Gumbercules? I love that guy!"
14. "The Sting" (Season 4, Episode 12)
In a Nutshell: The Planet Express crew is sent to collect honey from giant killer space bees and Fry gets stung and dies (or so we think). It turns out that Fry was stung trying to protect Leela, who still ended up with most of the venom, sending her into a coma. The whole episode was Leela's coma dream (don't worry - in the end she wakes up and everything is fine).
Why I Love It: This is a totally weird episode, tonally and narratively, but it shows how much Fry and Leela love each other and also features killer space bees. How could I *not* pick this episode?
Fry - "Why am I sticky and naked? Did I miss something fun?"
13. "Roswell That Ends Well" (Season 3, Episode 19)
In a Nutshell: Fry puts Jiffy Pop in the ship's microwave and sends the whole crew hurtling back in time. They land in Roswell, NM in the 40's where Fry's grandpa is stationed with the army. Through a series of blunders, Fry becomes his own grandpa, Zoidberg is dissected by curious scientists, and Bender is 'discovered' as a UFO.
Why I Love It: Time travel hijinks will always appeal to me and I love Fry's goofy-ass grandpa (sorta) Enos.
Professor Farnsworth - "Ohh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. 'I'm My Own Grandfather'! Let's just steal the damn dish and get out of here! Screw history!"
12. "Godfellas" (Season 3, Episode 20)
In a Nutshell: After Bender is accidentally ejected from the Planet Express, he thinks he is doomed to drift through space, alone for eternity...until a meteor covered with "shrimpkins" lands on him and he becomes their god.
Why I Love It: Narcissistic Bender learns a lesson + an omnipotent, omniscient god that just really doesn't give a crap (much like I imagine an actual god would be).
Bender - "I was god once."
God Entity - "I saw. You were doing very well, until everyone died."
11. "The Why of Fry" (Season 4, Episode 10)
In a Nutshell: Fry must save the universe from the 'brainspawn' after finding out that he was sent to the future to fulfill this purpose (falling in the cryogenic tube was no accident).
Why I Love It: This is a very continuity-heavy episode, but the payoff is worth it. I also love that this twist, four seasons into the series, was actually planned from the very beginning.
Fry - "Scooty Puff Jr. Suuuuuuuucks!"
10. "The Luck of the Fryrish" (Season 3, Episode 4)
In a Nutshell: Fry's older brother Yancy was always upstaging him, so you can imagine how angry Fry is when he finds out that his brother was the first man to land on Mars. He thinks Yancy stole his name *and* his dream of travelling into space. In the end it is revealed that it was Yancy's son, named for his missing uncle, that accomplished so much.
Why I Love It: Unexpected feels and a glimpse into Fry's life before being cryogenically frozen.
Fry (reading the inscription on Phillip J. Fry's grave): "Here lies Phillip J. Fry, named for his uncle, to carry on his spirit"
9. "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid" (Season 3, Episode 7)
In a Nutshell: Giant brains attack Earth and Fry is the only person who seems immune to their stupefying powers. Nibbler is revealed to be a hyper-intelligent creature with the ability to speak, helping Leela escape the brainspawn and telling her all about their evil plot.
Why I Love It: Making Fry the smartest guy in the room for this episode leads to some excessively silly moments, plus this episode features the first appearance of Hypnotoad. ALL HAIL HYPNOTOAD.
Giant Brain (reading Fry's story) - "I am leaving Earth now for no raisin!"
8. "Jurassic Bark" (Season 4, Episode 7)
In a Nutshell: Fry's fossilized dog, Seymour, is found and put on display in a museum. When Fry's protests lead to him getting the dog back, Professor Farnsworth tries to clone the creature until Bender's jealousy makes things go awry.
Why I Love It: So. many. feels.
Fry (to protesters) - What do we want?
Protesters - Fry's dog!
Fry - When do we want it?
Protesters - FRY'S DOG!
7. "The Farnsworth Parabox" (Season 4, Episode 15)
In a Nutshell: Professor Farnsworth creates a box containing a parallel universe that is popular with (probably evil) duplicate versions of the whole crew.
Why I Love It: Classic sci-fi premise, well executed, and each parallel universe the crew visits could be the basis of its own show (I would definitely watch hippie Futurama at least).
Alternate Universe Bender - "Bite my glorious golden ass!"
6. "A Fishful of Dollars" (Season 1, Episode 6)
In a Nutshell: Upon a sudden windfall of cash, Fry buys the last remaining can of anchovies in existence at an auction (along with a bunch of other 90's relics). Fry's plan to relive his past is going okay, until robotics magnate "Mom" tries to claim the anchovies for her own.
Why I Love It: Lots of jokes about the primitive time that Fry came from, a guest appearance from Pamela Anderson, and Zoidberg's anchovy-induced madness.
[Fry is listening to "Baby Got Back" on his stereo]
Leela - "Fry, you can't just sit here in the dark and listen to classical music!"
5. "Hell is Other Robots" (Season 1, Episode 9)
In a Nutshell: Bender becomes addicted to electricity, hits rock bottom, then repents and joins the church of Robotology. This isn't enough to stave off a visit from the Robot Devil, who takes Bender to Robot Hell for his sins until Fry and Leela come to save their friend.
Why I Love It: The Robot Devil (aka Beelzebot) is one of the all-time favorite side characters AND this episode features the Beastie Boys!
The Robot Devil (singing) - "Knee deep in electric slime/you'll suffer 'til the end of time/enduring tortures, most of which rhyme/trapped forever here in Robot Helllllllll!"
4. "The Problem with Popplers" (Season 2, Episode 15)
In a Nutshell: Fry, Leela, and Bender discover a tasty shrimp-like snack on a planet they visit and bring them back to sell on Earth. Things are going well in the 'poppler' business until Leela discovers that popplers are the larval form of an alien species - and they can talk!
Why I Love It: The damn poppler jingle has been stuck in my head for years now...and I like it.
Fry and Bender (singing) - "Pop a poppler in your mouth, when you come to Fishy Joe's/what they're made of is a mystery; where they come from, no one knows/you can pick em, you can lick em, you can chew em, you can stick em/if you promise not to sue us, you can shove one up your nose"
3. "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings" (Season 4, Episode 18)
In a Nutshell: By a strange twist of fate, Fry switches hands with the Robot Devil, allowing him to play the holophoner like a pro. He writes a holophoner opera for his love, Leela, before the jealous Robot Devil undermines his great work of art.
Why I Love It: If the show had never been brought back from the dead, this episode would have been a series finale I could be happy with. There are some hilarious moments, but it is also a very genuine and heartfelt way to wrap up Fry and Leela's relationship.
The Robot Devil - "Your lyrics lack subtlety! You can't just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!"
2. "Fry and the Slurm Factory" (Season 1, Episode 13)
In a Nutshell: When Fry and the crew win a free tour of the Slurm factory, they are disgusted to learn the secret of where the beverage *really* comes from (spoiler: a giant worm's ass).
Why I Love It: Parody episodes are usually my favorites, and this one totally nails the goofiness of Willy Wonka. It also introduces the greatest product spokesworm of all time, Slurms McKenzie.
Professor Farnsworth - Who are those horrible orange creatures over there?
Glurmo - Why, those are the Grunka-Lunkas. They work here in the Slurm factory.
Professor Farnsworth - Tell them I hate them.
1. "Anthology of Interest II" (Season 3, Episode 18)
In a Nutshell: Professor Farnsworth's what-if machine allows the crew to look at alternative realities, including one where Bender is turned into a human, one where life is more like a video game, and one Wizard of Oz parody where Leela finds her true home.
Why I Love It: Anthology episodes are always my favorites, and this one ups the ante from "Anthology of Interest I." I could watch this episode on loop for the rest of my life and never NOT find it funny.
Professor Farnsworth - "You don't need courage. After all, who needs courage when you have a gun?"
The Eyeslicer Halloween Special, playing selected dates between October 25th and 29th at Cinema Detroit
The Rocky Horror Picture Show, playing selected dates between October 26th and 31st at Cinema Detroit
A Brief History of Time, Detroit Film Theater, 1 PM [FREE]
Science Under the Dome: What Seismic Waves Tell Us About the Deep Earth, Wayne State University Planetarium, 7 PM [FREE]
Free Planetarium Show, Wayne State Planetarium, 7 PM & 8:30 PM
Young Frankenstein, Redford Theater, 8 PM
The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Landmark Main Art Theater [Royal Oak], midnight
Spooky Free Comic Book Day, Vault of Midnight Detroit, 10 AM - 10 PM
Attack of the Monsters, Redford Theater, 2 PM
The Tingler, Redford Theater, 8 PM
The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Landmark Main Art Theater [Royal Oak], midnight
A Quiet Place, Wayne State General Lectures [Room 150], 7 PM [FREE]
Frankenreads at WSU, Student Center Room 285, Public Reading: 9 AM-6 PM, Reception: 6-6:30 PM, Film Screenings [Frankenstein (1910), Bride of Frankenstein (1935)]: 6:30-8:30 PM