It’s Season 7, time for a retirement home!
Fry (Billy West) wins the Delivery Boy of the Year Award and is angry when the Professor (West) doesn’t care. The crew realize that the Professor’s parents, Ned and Velma (David Herman and Estelle Harris) are still alive at the Near-Death Star, the place where all old people go to die. It turns out that the old people are kept in a Matrix-like Virtual Reality, and Fry, Leela, and Bender (Katey Sagal and John DiMaggio) meet them in a virtual retirement community. Fry enjoys spending time with them, but ends up deciding to take them with him. On Earth, the Professor is angry at the pair and refuses to talk to them as they interact with Fry. It turns out that when he was young, they never played with him or paid attention to his science. They even moved to a farm and limited his ability to study science until he ran away.
When finally confronted, Ned and Velma explain that they moved to a farm because they were worried that they would lose the Professor like his older brother. They explain that he was a scientist and a nutjob who they ended up having to commit to an institution. Unfortunately, it turns out that they are talking about the Professor. They thought he was their second son, Floyd, who the Professor had never met (and who may have come by years earlier only to be kicked out by Bender). Ned and Velma go back to the Near-Death Star, but the Professor joins them to play in Virtual Reality.
This is a pretty middle-of-the-road episode of Futurama, but that’s still pretty entertaining. It fleshes out the Professor’s backstory, something that, due to his excessive age, has had a lot of parts to it, but we’ve never gone back this far. It’s both funny and sweet that his parents reveal how much they had done for him while thinking that he was their other son. I’ll admit the reveal that the newly-discovered brother, Floyd, is probably dead somewhere was pretty dark, the fact that no one seems to care saves it. Also, they do a great job of making the Professor’s parents mirror his mannerisms in a way that make it seem like they’re family.
The best part of the episode is the shots they take at The Matrix. The crew, when going into the Near-Death Star, pull apart the central premise of the film, that robots use people as a power source, by saying that it actually works, despite the logical flaws. It’s one of the more biting shots at other science-fiction works in the show’s run and I can only assume it came about because someone really couldn’t look past the stupidity of the “human batteries” premise and enjoy the gun fights.
Overall, like I said, it’s not a top-tier episode, but it’s not the bottom of the barrel either.
As much as I love the shots the show takes at The Matrix, my favorite joke is still when chasing after the Professor as he heads back to the family farm where Bender shouts “Faster! Faster! Okay, Stop Short!” which leads to Fry being shot forward from Ned’s scooter. The reason why this works is because earlier we see Ned and Velma on parallel scooters. Velma is voiced by Estelle Harris, who played George’s mother on Seinfeld. During one episode, Estelle reveals that her husband, Frank, has a move called the “stop short,” which is when you slam on the breaks so you can reach your hand out to stop the other person from flying forward and potentially feel them up. This episode subverts it by revealing that now Velma is nowhere near them and instead Fry is the one who goes flying. Still, it’s a neat reference.
See you next week, meatbags.
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