by Nick DeNitto
The seventh and final season of Futurama resumed on June 19 with two new episodes on Comedy Central. The animated show, which has achieved cult status over the years, has always cleverly blended realistic science, humor, and intelligent social commentary, and these two episodes were sparkling examples of that formula.
The first episode, “2-D Blacktop”, found the elderly Professor Farnsworth leaving Planet Express and becoming a drag racer. He wins over a crew of street tough racers by mastering a “Dimensional Drift”, which allows him to momentarily enter the fourth dimension in order to somehow win races. This inter-dimensional fun allowed the writers to introduce viewers to Edwin A. Abbott’s “Flatland”, a remarkable mathematical-fiction novella.
Written in 1884, “Flatland” was Abbott’s attempt to satirize the social hierarchy of Victorian times. By replacing human beings with various two-dimensional shapes, Abbott pointedly described the mistreatment of the lower class and women by those of higher social standing. What endured most of all from “Flatland”, however, was Abbott’s innovative view of dimensions.
“Futurama” played with Abbott’s ideas by placing its characters in a two-dimensional world and explaining how life would be different if we only had two-axes to live in. For instance, since everything exists on a flat surface, you would only be able to see people and objects as straight lines of differing length. Walking around someone would be impossible, unless you physically climb up and around them.
They also pointed out the faulty logic of those that do not believe in something simply because they cannot picture it. The two-dimensional inhabitants of Flatland refuse to subscribe to the notion that a third dimension might exist. As we know, a third dimension is very real. So what is there to say that a fourth might not be real as well? Or a fifth, and so on. These ideas are more accepted now, but consider them in the context of 1884.
The second episode, “Fry and Leela’s Big Fling”, brings back Guenter, a talking monkey from the second season. While Amy, Bender, and Dr. Zoidberg make a delivery to Guenter’s planet – Simian 7, the residents of which are all primates – Fry and Leela desperately seek a romantic getaway. The couple think they’ve found a romantic paradise with nobody around to interrupt, but it’s revealed to us that they are actually exhibits in the Simian 7 zoo. This opens up an opportunity for the “Futurama” writers to make jabs at the caging of wild animals for our amusement.
These two episodes are a promising start to “Futurama’s” swan song season, though they aren’t likely to be ranked as classics.