Re-Hovery Mode

Futurama is on its final season for, what, like the third time? It’s a shame, but nothing lasts forever, even in the future. I’ve seen the first three episodes of this season, and they were pretty good. The two-dimensional world in “2D Blacktop” was a particularly good example of the show’s innovation, and I appreciate that they referenced Flatland, which I read a few years ago. For those of you who might not have read it, it’s a satirical geometric fantasy about a square from a two-dimensional universe who is shown the third dimension, but is jailed as a heretic when he tells his own people about it. I don’t recall if it ever mentioned how two-dimensional beings would eat.

Also fascinating to me is that, instead of making this its own out-of-continuity segment like they’ve sometimes done when experimenting with different forms of animation, it was somehow integrated into a plot about drag racing, and didn’t even seem all that tacked on. “Fry and Leela’s Big Fling” and “T: The Terrestrial” were…actually pretty similar in their main plot devices, as they were both about worlds where humans were treated as animals. Sure, they’re bound to reuse some ideas, but it does seem like they should have spaced these two out a little more. It’s always cool to see Lrrr, though, and this week’s episode was the most detailed look we’ve had at Omicron Persei 8. I do find it a little weird that earlier episodes showed Omicronians as just watching television shows that were broadcast on Earth 1000 years previously, but more recently have started viewing ones made into the thirty-first century. (Actually, there wasn’t any indication as to when that detective show was made up until an alien was shown on a board of suspects. Not that a detective show with aliens couldn’t be made today; I mean, isn’t that partially what The X-Files was?) It’s presumably related to the joke in “A Clone of My Own” about how the speed of light was increased in 2208, so a planet 1000 light-years from Earth would receive both broadcasts from the twenty-first AND thirty-first centuries simultaneously. Not that it’s ever explained HOW the speed of light could have been increased, but science fiction stories where it IS explained how faster-than-light flight is possible are never totally scientifically accurate either. Speaking of the Omicronians, their first appearance in “When Aliens Attack” had Lrrr deny the formula for immortality to Earth. So does that mean his people ARE immortal? Probably not, since they still have children. They do seem to be very long-lived, though, as suggested by the vet’s line about Fry likely to only live another eighty years. Maybe killing parents is so common in their society because they practically never die of natural causes.

Another throw-away line from a recent episode that I found interesting was Professor Farnsworth’s comment about how spaceships used to run on moon water. Of course, there is no water on the Moon, although since people live there in Futurama they must have either brought or made some. Dark matter was standard starship fuel earlier on in the show, but hasn’t been since Bender’s Game, and it’s not explained what they use in the show’s present day. We do know that cars run on whale oil (petroleum reserves having run dry years earlier), but that might not have enough kick to get a starship to a distant galaxy.

Speaking of transportation in the Futurama universe, flying traffic usually seems to travel in designated skyways, as in The Jetsons and Back to the Future Part II. This makes a certain amount of sense, as you wouldn’t want flying vehicles to crash into other things in the air, but it seems like it would be incredibly difficult to enforce. There are still roads at ground level, though; the crew is able to drive an antique Volkswagen Bus with wheels from (New) New York to San Francisco in “Bendin’ in the Wind,” although they encounter trouble when trying to go over the Golden Gate Hover-Bridge. (What would even be the point of a bridge if cars can fly? I guess they kept it because it was a landmark, but didn’t bother rebuilding the actual road after it was destroyed in some way or other.) The show is remarkably inconsistent when it comes to whether wheels are even in use on newer vehicles. Certainly, most things that are wheeled in our time hover in Futurama, including dollies and shopping carts. On the other hand, bicycles still have wheels (perhaps because it would be difficult to draw one without, although we do see occasional pedal-driven flying vehicles), the Professor has a wheelchair, and Bender is given wheels when he’s injured.

Fry’s having to reinvent the wheel in “Mother’s Day” was inconsistent with episodes both before and after it. One fan explanation I kind of liked is that it’s just the WORD “wheel” that became obsolete, and it came back into common usage after Fry showed up. I don’t know. I don’t mind the appearance of obsolete technologies in the future for the sake of a joke (Bender’s brain being downloaded onto a floppy disk was pretty funny), but I wish they were a little more consistent with the level of technology when it ISN’T being highlighted for humor.

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