This review contains spoilers.
7.1 The Bots and the Bees
Within two seconds of even just the credits starting to the latest season, we are reminded just how funny and just how bloody clever Futurama can be. And just how on the ball it is too.
The “Not Sure” squinting eyes Fry internet meme becomes the opening subtitle gag (“Not sure if new episode/ Or just rerun of episode I watched drunk”) – this joke alone tells me I am watching greatness at work. Thankfully the rest of the episode reaffirmed and validated this belief.
Even more pleasing was the hurried rallying of the troops superhero-style to Planet Express at the start of the episode which will have you stopping your player, rewinding and geeking-out. But why the excitement?
The Professor has some of his trademarked Good News for his team: a new soda machine has been installed. Of course, this being Futurama, everyone’s delighted. None more so than Fry who reacquaints himself with his addiction to Slurm. The drink vending bot, named Bev (short for “beverage”), riles Bender with her sassy ways and sharp, erm, tongue.
But it takes a threesome with Robo Sluts (“I like a little romance with my orgy!” says one, “I could bake a potato in my cleavage” says the other) to finally turn Bev and Bender into a couple, giving way to an hilarious, and robotically erotic fight scene between the pair. Resulting in…, a tiny baby Bender!
His first words, “Wipe my tiny little metal ass!”, confirm Bender’s involvement; though he has to have explained just how it happened (hence the episode title, The Bots and the Bees). The notion of where robot babies come from could be a Phillip K Dick short story (ruined for screen by someone or other) and here it’s suitably treated with laughs and gags.
Bender becomes unexpectedly attached to his son, Ben, and this gives rise to another great musical montage from Futurama – this time featuring some Bender and Ben bending bonding bits. Sadly, for his offspring, he cannot bend despite bending being his dream. The final act sees the return of Bev and some unusually touching and genuinely moving scenes as Bender helps Ben fulfil his potential.
As a season opener The Bots and the Bees is a classic, introducing the audience to a a couple of new characters, possibly due for a return at some point. Voiced by Wanda Skyes, Bev displays the Curb Your Enthiusiam‘s actress’ normal feisty, and amusing, traits. A very welcome addition to the already impressive voice cast.
Writer Eric Horsted, behind such brilliant episodes as I, Roomate and War is the H Word (to name but two of many), delivers a gag-filled twenty-one minutes and a story almost unbecoming of the show. But, thankfully, lines like “That’s my bastard!” confirm that Futurama won’t lie down to sentiment and remains all about the punchline.
7.2 A Farewell to Arms
Now and again Futurama remembers that Fry and Leela are in a relationship. Refreshingly, the makers of the show don’t feel the need to mention or reference it continuously but occasionally we’ll get a story that focuses on sci-fi’s cutest two-dimensional couple.
A Farewell to Arms is one those tales. Fear not, however, emotion-phobes as their romance is set against the apocalyptic backdrop of the end of the world in a Mayan calendar 2012 prophecy parody.
After Fry manages to lose his lucky pair of pants (and his only pair) the crew head off in search of them only to find a huge pyramid beneath Central Park. With it comes a warning, written in ancient Martian and deciphered by Amy (fact-fans will remember she’s from Mars).
The message proclaims that the sun will burn up the planet in the year 3012 causing alarm bells to ring with Fry as he asks: “3012, why does that year sound so familiar?”, to which the Professor responds, “Because that’s the year that this is!” Hermes is slightly more laissez-faire pondering, “Is it just me or is the world ending more often these days?”
Sadly, for our planet’s fleeing population, all ships are grounded as the electronics have been rendered ineffective by the sun’s activity. And so the final days of Earth begin as the solar flares begin to take affect. Delivering a well-rounded geekazoid punch, Leela laments, “Well, it wasn’t a bad life. If only I could get back that time I spent watching Tron: Legacy.” Pow!
Thankfully, the pyramid turns out to be a rocket that has no electrical parts and can fit 30,000 people on it – cue a Deep Impact-style population cull. Step up the Contrabulous Choosematron – a machine that picks its passengers, based on certain criteria (whatever they may be), to take to Mars.
Surprisingly Leela finds herself not chosen (they only need one pilot – Zap Brannigan) but Fry gallantly gives up her seat for her. Throughout the episode Fry’s noble gestures don’t pay off for his love and this is no different as when the ship lands on Mars they find it was a warning not for the Earth but a warning not to come to the red planet as it was to be attacked by solar flares.
The finale is a chucklesome parody of sci-fi armageddon as Mars travels towards Earth pitting the upside-down characters on the traveling planet beside their Earth counterparts (which I’m sure may have some nerdatrons proclaiming that could never happen). There are still a few shocks in store as Fry tries to save Leela (I’ll let you discover those for yourselves) but, needless to say, equilibrium is happily restored.
A Farewell to Arms is another touching episode, despite Fry’s line to Leela, “I wish I could remember with my boobs,” surrounded by science-fiction end-of-the-world staples. Even when Futurama revisits familiar themes and retreads old ground, the animated show still kills in the laughs department and elicits an “Aw” or two from the viewer.