Futurama: S03E05: The Bird-bot Of Ice-catraz
Bender and Fry are kicking back in front of the tube, conspicuously consuming and generating vast amounts of waste, when Leela comes in on an environmental kick. She chastises them soundly for being wasteful and contributing to the now universal environmental crisis. Cue the entrance of the Professor with their latest delivery assignment: hauling a tanker (the Juan Valdez) full of rich Colombian dark matter to the outskirts of the galaxy. The catch is that they must pass dangerously close to the penguin preserve housed on Pluto.
Penguins Unlimited, a protest group led by another of the endless Waterfall clan, Free Waterfall, Sr. have already organized outside the ship. (You may remember Free Waterfall, Jr. as the vegan hippie activist from episode 2.15 The Problem With Popplers.) Rather than be involved in endangering the penguins, Leela joins the protesters. Bender is appointed captain and in turn re-christens Fry as Wiggles, his beloved first mate. Zoidberg rounds out the crew, happy to be included in anything.
Along their way across the galaxy, Bender abuses his power as captain. Big shock there! He demands fealty from his crew even as he belittles them. Fry is already ticked off that he wasn’t chosen to replace Leela, and it doesn’t take much for him to abandon his first mate post and his friendship with Bender. Bender stops drinking and true to his robot physiology becomes “sober” and unable to captain the ship properly.
This, of course, leads to the moment foreshadowed since the opening scenes: Bender crashes into Pluto spilling his payload of dark matter into the penguin preserve. He and the other two morons, er, members of the crew are convicted and sentenced to help the activists clean the preserve. Leela plugs away at her overzealous activism as the offenders shirk their duties. Bender sneaks away from the guards when they share a moment of brotherly(?) love, dons a tuxedo and hides out amongst the penguins. When Fry and Zoidberg hear of Bender’s escape, Fry uses his piloting skills to clumsily take off in the Planet Express ship to look for Bender.
While hiding, Bender is attacked by a killer whale, lands on his head and is knocked offline. He reboots in penguin mode since they are the only life form available for reference. Bender spends the next few days acclimatizing himself to life as one of the tuxedo-ed vermin for which he previously held such contempt. He frolics, he capers and *gasp* even becomes a mother!
Meanwhile, the activists discover that the dark matter is acting like penguin Spanish Fly and their population is growing at an alarming rate. The only humane thing left to do is to hunt the penguins down to prevent their starvation and suffering. Leela is aghast at the thought of killing the penguins and even more so by the fact that the so called humane activists are actually enjoying the hunt. She reluctantly joins the hunt, if only for the good of the penguins.
Leela manages to find a large group of birds and shakily shoots one. Appalled by her actions, she rushes to try and save it only to discover she has hit Bender. He reboots again in the proper mode with Leela as a reference point. The penguins all still flock to Bender and he uses his influence to convince them to attack anything that isn’t one of them when the hunting party threatens.
All is going according to plan until Bender takes off his tuxedo jacket and the penguins turn on them. He and Leela make a run for it and are caught between bloodthirsty penguins and a hungry killer whale. Fry and Zoidberg bring in the ship to collect Bender and Leela from the jaws of defeat (literally) at the last moment, leaving several penguins to become an afternoon whale snack.
As the crew heads back to Earth, Leela resumes the mantle of captain, Fry forgives Bender for basically being himself and Zoidberg goes back to being social pariah numero uno.
Oh, but the poor penguins! Doesn’t anyone care about what became of the penguins? No? Me neither.
A perfectly acceptable episode filled with lots of little jokes and visual references to pop culture and the like. It may not be an award winner or the best of the season, but it takes its place in the top third at least.
I give this one a dapper 6.69 out of ten
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Futurama reviews are © 2006 Chrystal Litchford.
Not for reproduction without the authors express permission
Futurama names, characters and everything else associated with the series are the property of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.
Images courtesy of The Leela Zone