Futurama has returned! To celebrate, we’ve put together a list of the ten best episodes of the Matt Groening sci-fi comedy that pays tribute to all those awesome things we all like – 1950′s sci-fi, Star Trek, comics, and social satire. Let’s get right to the list shall we?
Top 10 Best Futurama Episodes
10. “Where the Buggalo Roam” Season 3, Episode 1
What’s not to like about this third season episode? During a Mars Day celebration, the Wong family has their entire herd of “buggalo” (giant lady bugs that have cow-like markings on their exo-skeletons) stolen by native Martians (who are a futuristic allegory of the native Americans. When the Wongs need help, Kif, the green, squishy second in command to Captain Zapp Brannigan, steps up to be the hero. When he fails and the Wongs’ daughter Amy is kidnapped, Zapp is brought in to negotiate with the natives… Poorly. Between the cute buggalos and Kif being the star and Brannigan’s horrific negotiating skills, this episode is brilliant on several levels.
#9. “Amazon Women in the Mood” Season 3, Episode 1
Another third season gem in which Kif and Zapp go on a double date with Amy and Leela and end up crashing on a planet of Amazon women led by the all-knowing Femputer (voiced by Bea Arthur). I’m sure feminists would despise this episode, but the immature jokes by Fry, Zapp and Bender are truly classic. As punishment for trespassing, the Fry, Zapp and Kif are sentenced to perform snoo-snoo (sex) with the Amazons. The pure size of the women compared to the normal human males result in exhausting, painful intercourse and hilarity for the viewers. If you want to see Zapp Brannigan at his absolute best, this is the episode for you.
#8. “Mars University” Season 1, Episode 11
Man, what doesn’t this episode have? An intelligent chimp and ROBOT HOUSE!!! A tip of the hat to the classic comedy Animal House is the inspiration for much of this episode as the Planet Express crew go to Mars to check out Mars University. The professor has created a hat that makes a normal monkey super smart and the rivalry between Fry and the monkey is immediate. The monkey later has to save everyone from falling over a waterfall, damaging his super intelligence hat. Only then does he realize that average (or slightly below average) intelligence is far better than being a know it all jerk.
#7. “Fry and the Slurm Factory” Season 1, Episode 13
In this spoof of the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the crew wins a trip to the Slurm Factory to party with product icon Slurms MacKenzie. What they discover is the horrifying secret of the addictive soft drink… The drink is made by excretions from a queen slug’s butt. The episode is gross and hilarious – especially as we watch Fry unable to stop sucking down the drink even after he knows what it is. From the factory design to the head of the factory dressed in a velvety purple coat and top hat to the Drunka Lunkas, if you’re a fan of Willy Wonka, you’ll love this parody.
#6. “Godfellas” Season 3, Episode 20
This episode shows Futurama’s intelligence and wide ranging ability to incorporate just about anything into the futuristic, animated pop culture of the show. For the most part, this is very similar to an episode of Twilight Zone. After accidentally blasting Bender out of a torpedo bay while taking on space pirates (Bender crashing through the pirate ship emerging through the other side gripping a bag labeled as SWAG is one of the funnier images in the series), Fry and Leela go in search for their lost friend while he drifts aimlessly and helplessly through the vast reaches of space. He finds a civilization of tiny beings have grown and built a habitat on his torso. They worship him as a god and he does his best to reward their diligence with usually disastrous effects. After the civilization destroys itself in his name, Bender finds a supreme being that is a series of twinkling stars. Bender has come face to face with God itself. God offers Bender advice as to what went wrong. God’s own words about when you’ve done something right it appears you’ve done nothing at all is very philosophical and an interesting take on the possibility of a higher power. The episode takes great care with the subject matter with no derogatory comment or attempt to make fun of religion itself and shows just how smart the writers are.
#5. “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings” Season 4, Episode 18
This was the final episode to air in the series’ original Fox run. Fry is desperate for Leela to return his affections for her, so he makes a deal with the Robot Devil to switch hands in order to play the holophoner properly to express his love in an artistic way. We goes on to produce an opera that was sure to make her see his real feelings. However, the Robot Devil wants his hands back because Fry’s hands tend to spend too much time touching himself, but Fry sticks to the deal. The Robot Devil later makes a deal with Leela because Bender accidentally made her deaf. The deal, of course, is designed to force Fry to give up the robotic hands. The episode is sweet and funny and whenever you can have the Robot Devil, Bender hurting people and not caring, and Hedonism Bot in the same episode and still have a connection to Faust, you got a winner on your hands (no pun intended).
#4. “Parasites Lost” Season 3, Episode 2
After eating a truck stop egg salad sandwich, Fry’s body is infested with worms. Instead of them making him sick or killing him, they actually makes him smarter, stronger, and nearly indestructible. While he woos Leela, including his first shot at playing holophoner, the rest of the crew use microscopic copies of themselves to enter his body and wipe out the worms. Leela, realizing that they are helping Fry, stops them, but she messes up by telling how much she loves what he’s become. Fry goes into his own body and flushes out the worms, but all the articulation and class leaves with him and his budding romance with Leela ends as fast as it started. What makes this episode so great is the dialog. You can almost point to any episode of the series and pick out five or six brilliant lines, but this episode gives everyone the opportunity to say silly and stupid things so every member of the crew gets in on the comedy.
#3. “Bender Should Not Be Allowed on TV” Season 4, Episode 6
An actor on Bender’s favorite soap opera, All My Circuits, malfunctions and after an open casting call, Bender lands the part. Refusing to play a comatose character, he interjects life into the part by becoming outlandish and saying whatever he wants. He becomes a huge star causing younger viewers, like Hermes and the Professor’s children, to be just like him by stealing, smoking and saying things that Bender would say. After coming to the realization that his actions are damaging to the viewers, Bender has a change of heart. This episode plays a satirical angle on special interest groups who wish to censor entertainment, but none of that is as impactful as Bender’s own prophetic plea to the angry viewers – “And so I ask you this one question. Have you ever tried simply turning off the tv, sitting down with your children… and hitting them?”
#2. “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” Season 4, Episode 11
Not even Star Trek conventions have had as much luck bringing back as many characters in one place as Futurama. Fry learns that Star Trek, one of his favorite shows growing up, has been outlawed due to a fanatical religion that was created around the “teachings” of the original series. All tapes of the original 79 episodes and the first six movies, along with many of the actors, were put into a spaceship and blasted off into space. Only Leonard Nimoy’s head remained on Earth. Fry and Nimoy team up to find the other actors who landed on a planet and given their bodies back, complete with their costumes from the show. However, they are unable to leave because of a creature made out of gas claims to be the greatest Star Trek fan in the galaxy and wishes to keep them as part of a collection. Later, Fry and the gas creature face off in a trivia contest, but when Fry wins, the enraged creature forces the crew of Planet Express and the Enterprise to face off in deadly combat. Of course Kirk sleeps with Leela, but the two crews come together to find a way to leave. It turns out the gas creature is nothing more than a middle aged nerd who still lives with his mother. This particular episode should be watched by every Trek fan because it is littered with several references to the show and the behind the scenes personality conflicts of the actors. Among the actors who play themselves – William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig. Even Jonathan Frakes (Commander Riker from the Next Generation) makes an appearance as himself.
#1. “Jurassic Bark” Season 4, Episode 7
It’s no secret that Futurama, like it’s predecessor, The Simpsons, has injected a lot of emotion into many of the episodes. Neither series could have gotten the following they have with only characters who are mostly unintelligent going from episode to episode without some heart. Even if either series was intelligently written, it’s hard not to survive without some way to get under viewers’ skins and going for the heart. This episode is prime example. Fry discovers the petrified remains of his dog, Seymour, who he found as a malnurished and unloved puppy when he was a delivery boy at the pizza joint he worked at. The professor offers to clone Seymour so Fry could be reunited with his long lost dog. A jealous Bender succeeds to thwart the process, but Fry comes to the realization that the Seymour he loved had many years after he left to live a happy life and what he would have gotten in return would not be the Seymour he loved. During the episode, we do see how Seymour lived after Fry’s disappearance: As the years passed, Seymour followed Fry everywhere he went. When Fry was frozen, Seymour tried so hard to get someone to go to the cryogenics lab to unfreeze him. When that didn’t work, Seymour waited for Fry to come back to the pizza place for years until he finally passed away of old age and loneliness. Many of us have had pets and almost all of us have lost pets we dearly loved. If we haven’t yet, we will someday. This particular story plays on those heartstrings we have for our loyal companions and how sometimes take for granted that pets we’ve given up or lost ended up happier. Fry may have thought Seymour had a happy life after he left, but he never knew that Seymour only ever wanted to be with Fry. There’s an unknown tragedy that Fry will never know how much Seymour loved him and losing the opportunity to bring him back forever ends that love felt between the person and his loyal dog. This is easily my favorite episode of the series and it chokes me up, as an animal lover, every time I see it. As much as I’ve always loved The Simpsons, this episode of the sister series is better written and executed than almost all of those 400+ episodes.
I know I couldn’t cram every episode of Futurama into this list, but tell me what some of your favorites are if I’ve missed them!