Space Pilot 3000
So I am starting my reviews each individual episode of my personal favorite TV shows with Futurama. Futurama is, as all the smart people know, the best animated series from the last decade by a significant margin. And it all started with this episode: “Space Pilot 3000.”
It starts by setting up how horrible Fry’s life is at the end of the 20th century, as well as how dumb Fry is, though he is somewhat more intelligent in this episode than he is in some of the later ones. Phillip J. Fry’s life really is pathetic; he is a pizza delivery boy whose employer discourages tips, his girlfriend is leaving him/cheating on him, and in the first few minutes of the show his delivery bicycle is stolen. When he find out that his delivery is a crank call, he opines that he thought at this point in his life he would be making the crank calls, surely a lofty goal for one such as him. When he falls into a cryogenic freezer and wakes up 1000 years later and his only reaction is joy it is completely understandable. Fry’s dumb guy routine is used in many cartoons, but it works best for Fry because the writing is significantly better than similar concurrent shows (i.e. Family Guy and later seasons of The Simpsons) and , at least for me, because he is not a father, so there is not that pang of discomfort from the misplaced responsibility. (Note: I have a bone to pick with the portrayal of fathers on TV but that is a post for a later day)
Soon he meets up with the cycloptic female lead, Leela, who is the groups’ voice of (occasionally half-hearted) reason. The realization that she is an alien leads to the best quote of the episode. Fry fearfully asks “Has your race taken over the Earth?” and Leela tiredly replies, “No, I just work here.” After Fry runs away from her, we meet the third lead character, the show’s breakout star, the lovably despicable Bender Bending Rodriguez. The two keep running until near the end of the episode when they meet Fry’s only living relative, the deranged mad scientist inventor Hubert Farnsworth. The plot is thin, but is the pilot and it has to set up the stars of this show, which it does really well.
The animation in this episode is not quite up the standards of some of the later episodes, but it is not noticeably poor. Though it appears in every episode, I’ll mention it here, but the title sequence is one of my favorite bits of animation I’ve seen on television. The music is great too, future-y sounding but not overly strange or in any way off putting. The voice actors have clearly not settled into their roles just yet, but it is the first episode and they are never bad. Some of the concepts put forward, most notably the career chips, are mostly forgotten, but overall its just a really good start to the series. The difference between a good Futurama episode and a bad one is the plot, because the jokes are always there. This episode is suitably funny, but the plot is all understandably set up. It is certainly not the best Futurama episode, but it is also not the worst.