Fry, Bender, and Professor Farnsworth unexpectedly get blown into the even farther future with no way to return.
Fry (Billy West) keeps showing up late to work and dates with Leela (Katey Sagal), resulting in both the Professor (West) and Leela getting frustrated with his behavior. Fry promises to make up for being late to Leela’s birthday lunch by taking her to a fancy dinner, despite it being the same night as Hedonism Bot’s (Maurice LaMarche) bachelor party. On the way to his date with Leela, Fry is grabbed by the Professor and, along with Bender (John DiMaggio), forced to test the Professor’s one-way time machine. He tries to record a birthday message for Leela as the Professor moves them one minute into the future, but the Professor trips and sends them to the year 10,000 AD, where the world has clearly been destroyed. Fry drops the message card.
The Professor points out that his time machine can’t go backwards, but they could just go forward in time until someone else invents a time machine that can. They jump forward in time, repeatedly encountering insane civilizations, but can’t find anyone who built a backwards time machine. They reach the year Five Million where the superintelligent population believes they can, but they’re destroyed by the Dumblocks. The year Ten Million has the machines enslaving mankind, to Bender’s delight, and the year Fifty Million has the world populated almost entirely by beautiful women who have a time machine. After the women offer to sleep with Fry and Professor, Bender activates the machine out of spite. This leads to a fight while the machine is active, sending the trio to the year One Billion, where all life has ceased on Earth and possibly the universe.
Meanwhile, Leela believes that Fry stood her up to go to Hedonismbot’s party, which resulted in a massive explosion. It’s believed that Fry, Bender, and the Professor are dead. Twenty years later, the company has become successful and Leela dates Cubert (Kath Soucie), but twenty years after that they’re divorced. In 3050, Leela is hit by the birthday message that Fry was recording when the machine went off, revealing that he hadn’t been responsible for missing the date. Leela realizes that she spent 40 years being mad at him for something that wasn’t his fault, so she goes to the cavern where they were going to have dinner and shoots a message into the ceiling. After a billion years of dripping, Fry sees the message in the cave, telling him that Leela missed him and that she loved their time together.
Fry, the Professor, and Bender get into the time machine and decide to just watch the universe end, but to their surprise, after the Big Crunch comes a second Big Bang. The crew watch the formation of the universe, the Earth, the Moon, the extinction of the dinosaurs, and the formation of humanity (stopping to kill Hitler). As they are about to reach the time they left, Farnsworth trips AGAIN, and they end up going to 10,000 AD again. So, they ride the time machine through the universe dying and being reborn yet again, this time ending at the right time… but finding out that this universe is 10 feet lower than the last one, resulting in the machine crushing this universe’s versions of the trio. Fry runs to meet Leela and Bender buries the bodies of the duplicates.
This is an interesting episode of Futurama, particularly when you realize that the show has already done multiple “classic” time travel stories, including the movie Bender’s Big Score. In this story, the crew can only go forward in time (but not space… relative to the movement of the Earth), which gives us a hilarious snapshot of all of the various futures to the tune of the song “In the Year 2525,” including a future where the world is frozen and people ride seals, a future based on the game Joust featuring Ostrich Knights, a future where a giant shrimp lures people with a hillbilly merman, and a future where the world is now enslaved by giraffes who eat all the leaves. I like the idea that humanity just perpetually destroys itself and rebuilds, because it is simultaneously depressing as hell that we never stop wrecking Earth and uplifting that we never stop going forward. I also believe that the reason life in the Universe is stopped at year One Billion is because life has evolved beyond the traditional universe at that point, because otherwise it’s weird that life is apparently gone everywhere.
The concept of the cyclical universe is particularly interesting, because that had been proposed as a model for the universe for much of the last century. Under the original “Big Bang” model, gravity is going to perpetually oppose the expansive motion of all of the particles in the universe, because every particle in the universe is gravitationally attracted to all of the other particles, albeit to an extremely small degree. Eventually, gravity would halt the expansion, cause a retraction, and the universe would collapse back in on itself… which would put us back at the singularity that led to the Big Bang. Sadly, this has probably stopped being as viable of a model following the Nobel Prize-winning revelation that the universe’s expansion is actually still accelerating… which came to be accepted about a year after this episode aired. The concept that time itself is cyclical still gets debated by the fandom, though. Either way, it’s a fun idea for the episode.
Aside from the premise, I have to say that the writing on Leela in this episode, while brief, is amazingly well-done. When she breaks down at the revelation that everything she’s done for the last four decades has been based on a mistake, it’s incredibly powerful, as is the revelation of her love message to Fry. It’s up there on my list of best Futurama moments.
Overall, just a solid episode.
There are a number of great tributes to time-travel films and novels in this episode, ranging from jumping one minute to the future like the original test of the DeLorean in Back to the Future to a future where humanity is split between the primitive and intelligent, as in the original The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. However, the best one, for me, is from a movie that doesn’t usually get grouped as a time-travel film series: The Planet of the Apes. When Fry emerges in the future, he mimics Charlton Heston’s famous scene at the end of the film when he sees the broken statue of liberty… followed by a number of duplicate statues, saying:
No! They did it! They blew it up! And then the apes blew up their society too. How could this happen? And then the birds took over and ruined their society. And then the cows. And then… … I don’t know, is that a slug, maybe? Noooo!
I find this especially funny because cows are extinct in the year 3000, so I have no idea how they took over the future.
See you next week, meatbags.
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NEXT – Episode 84: That Darn Katz!
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