Futurama Fridays – S4E11 “Where No Fan Has Gone Before”

Futurama finally drops the pretense and just brings back Star Trek… with Welshie.

SUMMARY

Fry (Billy West) learns that Star Trek was banned in the future because it had previously become a religion that had caused a series of wars. Remembering that he met him in the pilot, Fry goes to see Leonard Nimoy’s head at the Head Museum. Nimoy eventually admits to missing being Spock and missing all of his co-stars, so Fry, Leela (Katey Sagal), Bender (John DiMaggio), and Nimoy head into space to find the rest of the Star Trek cast. The crew heads towards Omega 3, the planet where the Star Trek tapes were disposed of, only to crash on the planet. 

File:StarTrekWars.jpg
 In nomine Spock, et Bones, et Kirk.

The crew emerges to find a ton of sets from the show, as well as the cast, having been rejuvenated and given new bodies. It’s revealed that the planet is ruled by an alien energy being named Melllvar (Maurice LaMarche). He murders Welshie (David Herman), Scotty’s replacement, to show the crew that he is serious. With the cast complete (minus James Doohan, the guy who played Scotty), Melllvar announces he’s hosting the biggest Star Trek convention of all time.  Melllvar is apparently the second biggest Star Trek fan of all time, next to Fry, something that infuriates him. Ultimately, he tries to get the cast to enact his fan script, distracting him.

File:Melllvar's Mom.png
It also turns out that he lives in his mom’s basement and is 34. Weird for a deity.

The Planet Express crew leave the planet, then return to rescue the cast, only for them to fail and Melllvar to question if the Planet Express crew, as actual space heroes, is more worthy of his fandom than the cast. He orders them to fight to the death, but that falls apart quickly when the crews agree to work together after Melllvar is called to dinner by his mother. However, in order to escape, the cast has to jettison their bodies and become heads in jars again. Melllvar pursues them and they end up being captured by Zapp Brannigan’s (West) ship. After a hearing over the Crew’s possession of the banned Star Trek tapes (and cast), the chase continues until Fry convinces him that basing his life off of a show is not worth it. 

The trial is the framing device and it’s a great reference itself.

END SUMMARY

So, ever since Leonard Nimoy appeared in the pilot, everyone probably felt like this episode was inevitable. Futurama was definitely a product of Star Trek, has made a ton of references to the series, and basically never shied away from talking about it until this episode, in which it spontaneously is declared banned in the future. The idea that Star Trek fandom becomes so insanely dedicated that infighting leads to entire wars is… well, actually pretty accurate. I mean, have you seen how much people fight over what the best series is? There are people who would sooner get their eyes ripped out than admit that Picard was a better captain than Kirk and people who would rip the eyes out to get someone to say that. This is after the franchise has only been around for 50 years. Give it time, this episode might become more true, which is sad for a franchise founded on the idea of a Utopian future for humanity.

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Shots fired at John Travolta.

I love how much work this episode put into making as many references and jokes to the series as they could. The writer of this episode, David A. Goodman, actually got a real job writing for a Star Trek show because of it. In a bizarre twist that I keep bringing up, Matt Groening, the show’s creator, couldn’t really contribute to this episode, because he had never seen Star Trek. I find it hilarious that someone who created a sci-fi show wouldn’t have seen something so central to the genre. It’s like writing a fantasy show and never having read or seen Lord of the Rings

File:Where No Fan Has Gone Before.jpg
Sulu has some rockin’ abs, but Groening didn’t know why.

The only person who refused to appear in this episode from the original Star Trek cast is James Doohan, the original Scotty, which is why he’s replaced with a surrogate named Welshy. Because of this, the original title of the episode was “We Got Everyone But Scotty.” DeForest Kelley, the original Bones McCoy, appears in the episode but doesn’t speak, due to him being dead for several years. Weirdly, we haven’t gotten a firm explanation why Scotty refused to appear in the episode, but it’s been made clear that it was a very firm rejection. They even joke in the commentary that it was a “no way” as opposed to just a “no.” 

Overall, this was a solid episode that paid tribute to another great show. 

FAVORITE JOKE

Yeah, there’s so many this is going to have to be a countdown:

3) “He’s Dead, Jim”

When all of the Star Trek fans are being killed off, it’s revealed that they were killed in the manner most typical of virgins: Thrown into a volcano. In the grand tradition of Star Trek, every time someone is killed, one of the people says “He’s dead, Jim,” the catchphrase of Bones McCoy from the original series.

Image result for futurama volcano

2) Balok’s Puppet

At the end of some of the closing credits of the original Star Trek show, they would show an image of a puppet used by the character Balok (Clint Howard) in the episode “The Corbomite Maneuver.” It was a fairly iconic image for a while because of this. In this episode, there is a picture of Lt. Kif Kroker done in the same style as that image during the closing credits.

File:Kifbalok.jpg

1) George and Walter Share

So, during filming of the second season of Star Trek, Geoge Takei had conflicts that kept him from appearing in about half of the episodes. Because of this, they brought in Walter Koenig to play Pavel Chekov and gave him most of the stuff that Sulu would have done in the outlined episodes. Since budget was pretty small on Star Trek, Takei and Koenig ended up having to share a dressing room and, when they were in an episode together, would sometimes have to share scripts until the final was ready. If you’re asking why someone couldn’t just copy another script, that’s the same question this episode forces you to ask when Melllvar, an all-powerful being, can’t materialize another fan script. 

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 64: The Why of Fry

NEXT – Episode 66: The Sting

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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26) The City on the Edge of Forever (Star Trek)

startrekcast.jpgOkay, so, this is Star Trek. You already know it. I don’t know how much I have to say about it, because it’s been such a staple of American, and even just human, culture for the last few decades that I imagine almost every person alive, even if they haven’t seen the show, still knows of its existence. They probably even know some of the names of the crew of the Enterprise, like Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Vulcan Science Officer/X-O Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Doctor “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Hikaru Sulu (George Takei), Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), and, of course, Scotty (James Doohan). Since most of the people who would read a list of best episodes are nerds, instead of a summary, I’m going to tell you what I think Star Trek is about.

Green Women.jpg
No, not hitting on alien women.

Star Trek takes place after WWIII, the Post-Atomic horrors, the Eugenics Wars, and the first contact with an alien race (although exactly when, and in what order, they took place changes by series). But, after all that, humanity finally manages to get its collective sh*t (mostly) together, and stop fighting among themselves. Humanity stops being primarily concerned with beating other people, and instead reaches the point of self-actualization, where instead of having to worry about fighting for food or shelter or prestige, everyone just works towards advancement for the sake of advancement. Despite the fact that it requires three near total global tragedies to come about, this is still probably the most positive prediction for humanity. Because of this, the show had an inherently optimistic attitude behind it at any time, and the writing usually reflected that. Even when the episode contained something morally gray, there still usually was a statement at the end reflecting that it still will contribute to a better future. In the future:

everything is awesome.jpg

This episode went the other way.

Ellison meme
Oh, good, I get to re-use this!

“The City on the Edge of Forever” was written by Harlan “seriously, I’m on this list several times, look me up” Ellison, and he basically crafted it as the anti-Star Trek episode, which makes it one of the most memorable. Of course, because it was Ellison, the guy who got fired from Disney after 4 hours because he couldn’t stop talking about making Disney-themed porn, most of his script had to be “adjusted” to get onto the show (i.e. had to remove everything that would have made the fan-base violently ill), but the result still contains his fingerprints.

SUMMARY

StarTrekGuardian.jpgThe episode begins with McCoy accidentally dosing himself with a drug that makes him paranoid and delusional, causing him to beam down to a nearby planet. The team follows, and encounters a giant stone ring that talks and has a portal in it. The rock, called the “Guardian of Forever,” explains that it can take anyone to any time and place with ease. Before they can contemplate the impact of this discovery and the possibilities of all of time and space, McCoy, still insane, runs through the Guardian. Images begin to fly at Kirk and Spock, who records them. At that time, the crew lose contact with the Enterprise, and find out that the Enterprise, and the Federation itself, no longer exist. McCoy has changed history. As the first Act ends, Kirk remarks “We’re totally alone.”

keeler.jpg

Kirk and Spock follow McCoy through time into New York in the 1930s, hoping to undo whatever broke time. During their search, they find the proprietress of the 21st Street Mission, Edith Keeler (Joan Collins). Keeler is a kind woman, dedicated to preservation of human life and to peace throughout the world. Essentially, she’s part of the Federation before there was a Federation. As the episode progresses, Kirk and Keeler grow closer, until Spock, having found out that the Guardian’s images are the alternate future playing out, reveals that Keeler is supposed to die soon, but also that, in the alternate timeline, she survives. Looking into it further, Spock finally discovers that, should Keeler live, she will create a peace coalition that will delay FDR from entering into WWII, which will lead the Nazis to develop the atomic bomb first and winning the war. While they don’t know exactly when she’s supposed to die, scans show that McCoy will save her from a car accident. Meanwhile, Kirk has fallen in love with Keeler, even though he knows that her life will destroy the future.

StarTrekKeelerKirkFinally, after finding McCoy, Kirk witnesses Keeler step out in front of a vehicle, and has to stop both himself and McCoy from saving her. She dies, violently, and McCoy, not knowing about the alternate timeline, screams at Kirk “Do you know what you just did?” Spock replies only “He knows.” After the three return, appearing back in the future only a moment after they left, the Guardian of Forever offers them access to any part of space and time, allowing them to answer almost any of the questions that humanity could ever ask. Uhura, finally being able to contact the Enterprise again, asks if the crew is ready to beam up. Despite the fact that they’ve literally just been given access to all of time and space, Kirk instead ends the episode with the famous line: “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

END SUMMARY

As I said before, this is the anti-Star Trek episode. It ends not with wonder or optimism, but with a firm rejection of it due to the emotional toll laid upon Kirk through the episode. That’s part of the reason that this episode resonates so firmly, because that’s a more natural response than the typical Star Trek ending. But also, this episode stands as a reminder that sometimes we cannot move forward without a cost. In this case, the cost was a woman dedicated to a peaceful world. In the case of the future of Star Trek, it’s that humanity has to suffer so much that it decides to transcend natural instinct.

PREVIOUS – 27: M*A*S*H

NEXT – 26a: Rick and Morty

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Here it is on CBS:

http://www.cbs.com/shows/star_trek/video/620094838/star-trek-the-original-series-the-city-on-the-edge-of-forever/

Here it is on HULU: