Bender, the robot, revolts against technology. It’s cool, he’s made of wood now.
Mom (Tress MacNeille) demonstrates a new robot at the Roboticon 3003 trade show, Robot 1-X (Phil LaMarr). Bender (John DiMaggio) is selected to compete against 1-X, only for it to be revealed that the robot is better than him in every way. Moreover, the robot is kind and helpful, which drives Bender into fits of jealousy and frustration. When the Professor (Billy West) buys one, Bender decides to get an upgrade to make him compatible with them. Upon seeing that the upgrade literally changes the minds of any robot that does it, Bender breaks free and runs away, heading out to sea.
Bender gets stranded on a tropical island and quickly starts to run out of fuel. He is revived by a group of obsolete robots who refused to upgrade at various points in technology development. While he’s skeptical of their regressive ways at first, he quickly not only adopts their ideals, but embraces them more zealously than they do. He demands a downgrade, resulting in him now being made out of wood and powered by steam, despite how insane that sounds. Determined to force the rest of the world to embrace his new low-tech philosophy, Bender returns to civilization to declare war.
He and the other robots commit various acts of eco-terrorism before Bender finally reveals what we knew all along: He just wants to destroy Robot 1-X. He and the others attack Planet Express with a catapult, but they end up missing and hitting the ship, collapsing it onto the rest of the crew. The ship’s fuel catches on fire, endangering them further. Bender tries to save them, only to find that his body has been consumed by termites to the point of disabling him. The crew point out that the only way to save them is to ask Robot 1-X for help. Swallowing his pride, he asks the robot to aid him and saves the crew. Bender finally admits that Robot 1-X is great. It’s then revealed that Bender is actually just back at the upgrade and that everything else was a dream generated to make Bender accept Robot 1-X. He questions reality, asking if it’s possible that he’s just the product of someone’s imagination, before accepting that “reality is what you make of it” and walking off into a fairy world.
This is the second episode of the season where the end reveals that pretty much all of it was a dream and somehow neither of them really disappointed me. The former, “The Sting,” used the fact that it was a dream to mess with Leela’s emotions and the storytelling process in general, while this one uses it to make an odd point about the nature of memory and perception. Bender finds out that all of his experiences in this episode were completely fabricated and it causes him to have a massive existential crisis about the fact that he can’t trust anything if memory is malleable. He then moves on to a higher plane and indicates that if he can create false beings to occupy his false memory, then he could very well be a false being created by another person. Eventually, he just accepts the fact that he would never know the difference and moves on, choosing to define reality himself. Despite the fact that it only occurs in the last 2 minutes or so of the episode, this is a surprisingly big journey for the show to send a character on.
There have been lots of films that have dealt with the concept of how memory and perception shape reality, ranging from Dark City to Memento to An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, but this one actually most reminds me of the film Brazil by Terry Gilliam. At the end, the protagonist of both end up choosing to abandon reality and escape to a better existence in defiance of what’s being forced on them. In Brazil, it’s torture and lobotomization by an insane government, here, it’s an upgrade that forcibly changes his brain. I’m not sure it’s an intentional invocation, but I still find the comparison appropriate.
The idea of an island of robots that have regressive attitudes is a very Futurama-esque twist. It’s a satire of the common social issue that everyone believes that all the societal changes they adopted are appropriate, but any further changes are seen as too radical to be accepted. In this case, it’s tied in with the common complaint that people have as they get older that technology has changed too much to be kept up with. Plus, it results in a wooden robot, which is just hilarious.
Overall, it’s a pretty solid episode.
Lisa, the waterwheel robot (Tress MacNeille).
Lisa is a robot who, for some reason, is powered by a waterwheel and who appears to forget that fact constantly. Every time she runs out of water, she screams and indicates that she thinks she’s going to shut down forever by not finding a water source. This is such an insane concept for a robot and it’s only made more perfect by how Tress MacNeille goes from calm and reverent to panicked and insane at the drop of a hat. It helps that, despite how much it constantly causes her trouble, she tries to represent her unique feature as a point of pride. Just a great concept all around.
See you next week, meatbags.
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NEXT – Episode 69: The Farnsworth Parabox
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