Love’s Labors Lost in Space
The first truly great episode, and the introduction of the best supporting character on the show, Zapp Brannigan. He is joined by one of my least favorite Futurama characters, Kif Kroaker. Kif is not so bad as a foil to Zapp, but he is so pathetic that later episodes that give him the spotlight annoy me. This is also the first episode that really follows the usual space hoping nature of the show. Sure they went into space at the end of the first episode, but they had no destination and in episode 2 they went to the moon, but that took less than ten seconds. Here they finally go to an alien planet, and the universe of the show has opened up. Between Zapp’s first appearance and they fun adventure of the plot this is probably the best episode of the first season.
The Episode starts by highlighting Leela’s romantic troubles with a trip to a nightclub. After a series of amusing failures it cuts to the next day as Farnsworth sends the crew to save some animals as charitable tax break. As they leave, enter Zapp Brannigan, who rambles idiotically and after welcoming the Planet express crew on to his ship, imprisons them for trying to save the animals because that is a violation of Brannigan’s Law. While trying to arrange their release, Leela is seduced by the incredibly pathetic Brannigan. He then allows them to leave, trusting in his love making prowess to force her to return to the ship. After failing to actually rescue many animals, in fact they only rescue Leela’s new pet Nibbler, the crew tries to leave the planet only to discover they are out of fuel. Zapp will not save them unless they put Nibbler out, which Leela will not do. Just before the planet “kerplodes” Nibbler literally craps out some fuel and they escape.
So first things first; For those of you paying attention in the first episode, this is not the first time you’ve seen Nibbler. He helped cause Fry’s accident that sent him to the future and his shadow can be briefly glimpsed in that scene. Next is Zapp. This character was made for the late great Phil Hartman. If I understood the audio commentaries correctly, he had already done some dialogue before he was killed, but because they wanted to continue to use the character they had Billy West do the voice. And Billy really made it his own. Zapp is a man in love with the sound of his own voice and relishes every syllable. It is even better when he suddenly turn sadly pathetic when his seduction of Leela fails. They really let Zapp dominate the episode and every line out of his mouth is gold. Still, Fry and Bender get some really good scenes and Zoidberg has some funny stuff near the start. Leela as usual plays the straight man, and as much as Zapp steals the show this episode is really about her. It highlights that though she is the voice of reason for the crew, she is only really marginally better than the rest of them. The whole thing comes together as the first truly great episode.