Kill all humans! That’s right everybody, finish blasting yourself with hot resin and grab your ceremonial kill-a-ma-jigs and let’s go a-huntin’ for humans!
Look. I know. Four posts isn’t a huge amount to have grown tired of doing this on a regular basis. But it was my birthday the weekend before last and that got in the way of my usual schedule of doing nothing and threw me completely off kilter and by the time I’d missed the Tuesday post I thought ‘well I can’t have these things be oddly numbered now, can I?’ and just decided to call it a week off. I’m sorry, I know I hurt you. It will probably happen again. On with the show!
Episode: S1E05 | Aired: April 20 1999
Director: Peter Avanzino & Carlos Baeza | Writer: Evan Gore & Heather Lombard
Opening Title Gag: ‘Featuring Gratuitous Alien Nudity’
Our episode this time out opens with the first appearance of Madison Cube Garden (a lovely example of the kind of clever-yet-dumb humour this show is all about), and because it’s the future an outdoor sport is taking place inside the (new) world’s most famous arena. And what sport might that be? Blernsball, of course! It’s kinda like baseball, except that it is nothing at all like baseball, featuring as it does giant bungee tethers, golf holes, multi-ball cannons, hover-cycles, explosions and giant spiders.
What a game. I would make some kind of comment about how blernsball is absolute nonsense, but I have zero doubt that somewhere on the Internet exists a comprehensive rulebook of blernsball and that more than 0 people have made a legitimate attempt to play in real life. Zero doubt.
In the midst of all this chaos Bender begins to make one of his famous anti-human rants, complaining about how robots are oppressed, citing the fact literal batting machines and ‘The Pitch-o-Mat 5000’ aren’t allowed to play professional blernsball, and instead must act as servants to humans. He’s going to be varying degrees of right in this episode, as well as those to come, frequently undercutting his moments of salience with things like this:
Coincidentally to the point you’d think a team of professionals wrote the whole shebang, Hermes summons the crew back to Planet Express for an urgent delivery… to Chapek 9, a planet occupied entirely by robot separatists who kill all humans on sight. This of course means Bender will have to make the delivery while Fry and Leela wait on the ship, something Bender takes none too kindly to, claiming they’re getting the robot to do all the work.
Like I said, Bender is varying degrees of right here. Obviously he’s farcical in his arguments, but there is an observable level of racism going on here at times, particularly from Fry who asserts the planet is uninhabited. Robots literally do not count as sentient life to him. What a tool.
He even repeats the statement after being corrected behind Bender’s back! Seriously, it’s a good thing Fry is going to spend the next 100+ episodes being the sweetest boy to ever not exist because he’s talking his way into my bad books right now.
Anyway, Bender grumpily heads off with the package and is immediately taken hostage, forcing Fry and Leela to abandon their decorating of the ship for Robanukuh as way of an apology, and don hilariously awful robot disguises in order to go and rescue him. Seriously, look at these things:
Amazingly enough, the disguises don’t get them shot on sight, though they must pass a test in order to gain entry to the robot city. It is as follows:
Which of the following would you prefer:
A) A puppy
B) A pretty flower from your sweetie
C) A large, properly formatted data file
They correctly guess C), but because this is the greatest show ever made, the flower would also have been acceptable.
Now inside, the pair barely manage to avoid being trampled by a mad rush of robots but have no clue how to go about finding Bender. Unfortunately Fry jeopardises the whole thing when nature calls…
Great gosh-darn scene.
Improvising their way out of this sticky situation for a moment, Leela sneezes and gives the game away, forcing them to flee into a nearby movie theatre which is playing a joyous horror movie. I LOVE that with all the advances in technology over the course of a millennium, this is the height of special effects:
The robot audience are justifiably terrified of the human with his mighty digestive system and… ability to breath fire. It’s honestly a pretty great little parody of old b-movie monster flicks and thus Fry and Leela stay until the end, so caught up in the powerful narrative they forget all about Bender’s potential impending doom.
Actually hold that thought because it’s time for the daily human hunt, featuring a very special guest who is celebrated for his irrational hatr… you know what, you’re an adult, you know where this is going.
For the 146,000th consecutive time the hunt comes up empty, despite Bender’s incredibly helpful tips on spotting humans (between 3 and 25 feet tall, made of a hairy, oily goo wrapped in a T-shirt) and so everybody gives up, with Bender choosing to investigate an abandoned robot adult book store (an obvious breeding ground for human activity), conveniently isolating him where Fry and Leela can go and ‘rescue’ him. Thing is, Bender has finally found a home, free from under the crushing boot of humanity, free to be treated as an equal, nay, a superior being. Utterly rejecting them, Bender literally turns his back on his friends, adamant they see him as no different than a toaster. Bender 😦
Resigning themselves to leaving without him, a temporarily undisguised Fry and Leela are of course immediately discovered by the hordes of robots and put on trial for being human. Sorry guy and doll, even if you had a defence attorney (they do not), they’d struggle to get you off that charge. After an initial hiccough with the judge, they’re found guilty and sentenced to years of menial labour.
Except they’re not. Chapek 9 is in fact ruled by a council of Robot Elders, and they are amazing. In fact, they’re probably going to be a lock for best one-off character for a good long while on the strength of the character design and beginning every sentence with ‘Silence!’ Even to each other. They instead want Fry and Leela killed, and furthermore insist media darling Bender be the one to do it.
Obviously Bender can’t go through with it, admitting that while he may hate humans, these two in particular aren’t guilty of crimes against robotkind and are in fact his friends. He goes on to reason that humans are in fact no threat, but the elders are well aware, using humans as scapegoats to distract the populous from a crippling lug-nut shortage, insisting they die anyway for what they know. Thankfully, Fry is able to apply some knowledge gathered from the movie they saw earlier:
See! If they’d not stayed to the end, they’d be dead now! But instead they’re able to flee while the Elders bicker about the truth to the claims that humans can breath fire. The robots make one last effort to stop them, but Bender finally remembers to deliver the package that brought them here in the first place. You’ll never guess what’s in it.
* * *
This is the first episode of the show so far that I just flat out do not care for. Episode 2: The Series Has Landed is just less good than the others, this one I just am not into. And that’s somewhat strange because it contains some of my favourite individual moments of the whoel show, but as I’ll keep saying, we’re looking at the merits of the overall episodes, not their best bits.
- I, Roommate
- Space Pilot 3000
- Love’s Labours Lost In Space
- Episode 2: The Series Has Landed
- Fear of a Bot Planet
It may also be worth nothing that Peter Avanzino directed the two episodes currently occupying the bottom of the list. At some point I may attempt to quantify the quality of output by the various writers & directors. Today is not that day. Luckily Mr. Avanzino will redeem himself in future episodes.
* * *
“We’re close enough that when you knock a player down with a beer bottle, he stays down.” Is a great joke. The whole robot test bit is a great joke. But Leela’s inability to experience 3-D in a movie theatre is an outstanding joke.
Uses of Bender’s Antenna
You may recall that Bender’s antenna caused severe TV interference in I, Roommate, and may have wondered what it’s actually for. Well, it’s function changes as often as Bender’s alleged components, and I’ll be keeping an eye on it, starting with this episode in which Bender uses it to dispense butter for popcorn during blernsball.
I’m starting to itch for the glory days of Billy West, John DiMaggio and Maurice LaMarche goofing off together. For now they’re just stilted and commentary-ish. Whatever. Enjoy.
- Blernsball got its name from David X. Cohen adding Blernsday to the calendar during production after the staff noted how pressed for time they were.
- Rejected names for the show included Doomsville and Aloha Mars.
- Chapek 9 is named after Karel Chapek, the writer who is thought to have invented the word robot. Written by nerds. Nerds I tells ya.
- The episode’s plot is partially inspired by a favourite short story of Cohen’s in which people crash-land on a planet full of robots and must hide, only for it to turn out the planet is populated exclusively by other humans who have crashed and disguised themselves as robots to avoid their death, and that in fact there are ZERO robots on the planet. Neat!
8 – Dave Herman (Snack Clerk, Robot General, Robot Leaving Theatre #2, Robot at Human Hunt, Robot Mayor, Robot Judge, Robot in Jury #1, Robot Elder #3)
6 – Billy West (Fry, Professor, Zoidberg, Robot Leaving Theatre #1, Robot In Jury #3, Robot Elder #1)
5 – John DiMaggio (Bender, Robot Construction Worker, ‘Human’ Monster, Robot Foreman, Jimmy)
4 – Phil LaMarr (Hermes, Blernsball Commentator, Robot Doorman #1, Rusty)
3 – Maurice LaMarche (Robot Doorman #2, Radio Newsreader, Robot Elder #2)
3 – Tress MacNeille (Wendy, Female Robot at Human Hunt, Robot in Jury)
2 – Lauren Tom (Amy, 21st Century Girl)
1 – Katey Sagal (Leela)
1 – Tom Kenny (Resin Robot)