Because Futurama has had about the most irregular airing schedule in the history of television, it can be easy to lose track of what the show “should” be doing in its sixth season. Because it’s been either starting or stopping for the better part of a decade, not to mention trying something completely different with its movies, the show hasn’t really had time to settle down and do what a mature sitcom (or show of any sort) would do by now.
In fact, the Futurama season that most resembles that of a typical aging series is its fourth from way back in 2003. There the show delved deeper into character relationships and backgrounds, growing its internal universe. Since then it’s rarely had time to do so because it’s been so busy simply re-establishing itself and as a result it’s suffered a bit. Fans still remember those early storylines and wish the show would push beyond the status quo. There have certainly been some great episodes in season six, but they’ve rarely pushed it beyond what we’ve seen before. What we usually end up with are what I’d call typical episodes, something I’m perfectly happy with given my love for the show, but I’d rather it continued growing.
“The Tip of the Zoidberg” was in fact the first episode in a long while to give us real, meaningful backstory for Futurama’s characters. We’re shown in flashback the meeting between Zoidberg and Farnsworth as two employees of Mom’s evil corporation. When hunting for a particular breed of space yeti, their group of yeti hunters catches a virulent strain of hyper-malaria and becomes convinced that Farnsworth must have also caught the disease. The pair reaches an agreement where if he exhibits the symptoms, Zoidberg has to kill him.
Back in the present day, Zoidberg screws up an operation so badly it incapacitates the entire Planet Express Crew and they want him removed. When Farnsworth declines their request, they begin investigating why exactly he’s so reluctant and eventually learn of his death pact with Zoidberg, which has now been called in. But they’ve already locked away the doctor, and upon his escape are left to killing Farnsworth themselves.
The first half of season six spent a lot of time on less common cast pairings but these were usually more surface arrangements, zany but never particularly lasting. The bond we see between Zoidberg and Farnsworth, however, not only feels real, it also helps explain quite a lot. It’s a clever way of adding to Futurama’s backstory and manages to humanize Zoidberg, who while always beloved is frequently left without much humanity… err… decapodianity.
This wasn’t an episode of particularly great sci-fi (although it was there in the background), nor was it an emotional rollercoaster, but instead it played an important part in adding to the Futurama world again. I’m hopeful that the show will keep this in mind in the future and build off of it in the way it did with, for instance, Nibbler’s backstory. The Futurama of old was great at world-building, and while this has been largely missing after the movies, “The Tip of the Zoidberg” was a pleasant return to form.
•“He’s the best there is… in the budget category.”
•I’m pleased with the return of owls… and rats not being totally extinct here. It’s a nice way of addressing some of the show’s weirder continuity issues.
•Most objects are still just objects—not aliens that look like objects.
•“What started out as a pleasant afternoon of drugs and surgery has not gone as planned.”
•“I’ve never seen such a gruesome shark attack, especially this far inward.”
•“I’ll be in the swamp blowing the smirk off a toxic yeti.” – It’s lines like this that make me love Futurama
•“Zoidberg doesn’t abandon a friend, apparently.”
•“Do you need a slave, or maybe a butler?”
•“Is this one of those no means yes deals?” “Yes and no.”
•That was a really lovely rendition of “Mr. Sandman.”
•So Mom’s first name is Carol. The truth finally comes out.
•The Murderator’s design was spectacular. The animators did some great work there.
•“I’ll be damned—it did make him a double yeti.”