Futurama actually generates a mathematical theorem for a single plot device.
Bender (John DiMaggio) finds out that Emperor Nikolai of Robo-Hungary (David Herman) is visiting New York and plans a scheme to rob him involving all of the Planet Express crew. They aren’t interested, but he finds out that Amy (Lauren Tom) and the Professor (Billy West) have built a mind-swapping machine and uses it to put his mind in Amy’s body to do the first part of the heist. The Professor puts his mind in Bender’s body so that he can live out his dream of extreme sports and Amy puts her mind in the Professor’s body so that she can eat without ruining her figure. Leela (Katey Sagal) then switches with Amy so that she can get discount tickets at the movies in the Professor’s body, which leads to Fry (West) finding her unattractive and her accusing him of being shallow.
Bender, in Amy’s body, gets captured by Nikolai, who reveals he wants to be normal. So, after dragging in Zoidberg (West), Fry, and Scruffy’s robot washbucket (Tress MacNeille), Nikolai and Zoidberg (in the Washbucket and Fry) try to be roommates, Fry goes to date Leela as Zoidberg, and Bender becomes Nikolai. Meanwhile, the Professor, in Bender’s body, joins a circus as a stuntman and Amy (in Leela) switches with Hermes (Phil LaMarr) so that she doesn’t wreck Leela’s body with her overeating. Fry and Leela, as Zoidberg and Farnsworth, have a contest to disgust the other… until they end up making out. Bender then gets attacked by Nikolai’s cousin Count Basil (Maurice LaMarche) who is trying to steal the throne.
Zoidberg and Nikolai blow up Fry and Bender’s apartment, the Washbucket (in Amy) tries to seduce Scruffy (Herman) but is rebuffed, and the Professor uses a cannon to save Bender at the United Nations. After everyone agrees to switch back, the Professor realizes that, due to the machine not allowing people who swapped to swap back directly, he needs help from the Globetrotters to solve the problem using math. They end up solving it and realize that no matter how mixed up the swaps are, they can always get back to normal by adding two more people. Everyone gets back to normal… and Bender realizes that he forgot the crown he stole in Nikolai’s body.
This is the only episode of television, to my knowledge, which had a theorem written and published solely for the purpose of resolving the plot and I admire the show immensely for that. The “Futurama Theorem” was developed by writer Ken Keeler, math PhD and massive nerd, and it proves, conclusively, that no matter how many mind switches occur using the mind-switcher in this episode, all parties can be put back in their original bodies using two additional blank people. Essentially, you use the two spare bodies as placeholders for minds while you just change each of the bodies down the line. Keeler also illustrated that, to resolve the situation in the show using the method, you’d only need 13 swaps to get everyone back. Of course, as nerds watch this show, numerous proofs of more efficient paths to solutions have arisen and the Infosphere seems to indicate the minimum number is 9.
In terms of humor, this episode does a good job of intertwining all of the plots in a humorous fashion which works perfectly for the theme. I like the Professor’s discussion with Big Bertha in which he offers to put her into a new body which isn’t broken, but she refuses because every scratch on her body is a memory. It’s not exactly a message of “be happy with what you have,” but more saying “don’t forego who you were.”
Overall, I think this is a solid episode.
In a rarity, I think the best joke in this episode is actually the Title Caption, which reads “What happens in Cygnus X-1, stays in Cygnus X-1.” The structure of the sentence is based on “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” which was itself based on the old musician and professional athlete motto of “what happens on the road/tour, stays on the road/tour.” The gag is that Cygnus X-1 was one of the first sources of X-rays from the Cygnus Constellation, which led to a bet between Stephen Hawking and Nobel Laureate Physicist Kip Thorne over whether or not it was caused by a star becoming a black hole. Ultimately, Hawking lost the bet after it became extremely likely that Cygnus X-1 does contain a black hole. In other words, whatever happens in Cygnus X-1 likely happens inside of the event horizon of a black hole and will not be able to escape (although black holes do emit radiation sometimes).
See you next week, meatbags.
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