Saturday, 21 February 2015

Futurama Volume 8

Out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Futurama Volume 8 (also confusingly referred to as the 10th broadcast season, season 8 or the second half of season 7) and contains the last ever episodes of Futurama, and boy does the show go out on a high note.  Containing the usual mix of humour, obscure pop culture and scientific references, and heartfelt emotion this final volume of Futurama sums up why the show was such a big cult hit.

The boxset contains 13 episodes and unlike a lot of other long running animated shows in their final days, it doesn’t really have a weak link. The episodes are all great and they ensure the show will have a strong and devoted following even after it’s gone. Although saying that, there are a few particularly standout episodes with arguably the best one being ‘Murder on the Planet Express’. In a parody of Alien, The Thing, and Murder on the Orient Express the Planet Express crew are trapped aboard the ship with a shape shifting killer creature that slowly picks the crew members off one by one. The episode demonstrates the best parts of Futurama and is both extremely funny and incredibly clever, with the jokes about Scruffy the Janitor’s new expendable apprentice Jackie Jr. getting the biggest laugh. Another especially hilarious episode is ‘Assie Come Home’ which follows Bender as he searches the universe for his missing shiny metal rear end. It might sound like the sort of episode a show at the end of its run and out of ideas might produce, but it’s actually pretty well balanced between butt jokes and strangely genuine emotion. You wouldn’t think Bender getting upset over the loss of his shiny metal ass would be as sad as it is but credit to the Futurama team, who actually make it into a weirdly poignant episode. As well as this, the episode is chock full of the random and diverse sci-fi character cameos that Futurama creates so well, such as The Borax Kid and the hilariously over the top Hedonism bot.

As well as being hilarious, Futurama is also known for its episodes that tug at the audiences heartstrings. In the past we had the super sad ‘Jurassic Bark’ and the bittersweet ‘The Luck of The Fryish,’ and in volume 8 there are two more emotional episodes. The first one is ‘Game of Tones’ which as well as containing all of the amusing jokes we’ve come to expect of Futurama, also contains an exceptional emotional core and a great character moment for Fry. After an alien ship appears in outer space, broadcasting a mysterious melody that only Fry recognises, the crew must journey into Fry’s dreams to find out what it is. Along the way Fry is reunited with elements from his past including his ex-girlfriend Michelle (voiced by Sarah Silverman), his dead dog Seymour (hilariously voiced by Seth McFarlane in a nod to Brian in Family Guy) and most importantly, his mother. The relationship between Fry and his Mum hadn’t really been focused on up until this point and to address the fact that she effectively thinks her son is dead is good move for the show and it offers some closure to Fry’s character.

The second stand-out episode in Volume 8 is the final one, entitled ‘Meanwhile’. This episode is the definition of bittersweet as, on one hand, the episode is incredibly funny and happy and it gives the relationship between Fry and Leela a perfect ending. But on the other hand, it’s the last episode of the show ever, which makes Professor Farnsworth’s final line even more poignant.

The show is as well animated as ever and the various planets and cities are all perfectly realised and diverse. The writing is still top-notch and the jokes are as fresh as ever. A couple of moments feel slightly familiar (Bender losing his body in ‘Assie Come Home’ or Fry and Bender making another deal with The Robot Devil in ‘Calculon 2.0’) but this doesn’t make them any less funny. In fact the show remains the most hilarious and heartfelt animated show on TV right up until the end and hopefully, this will be how it is remembered in the years to come.

Futurama Volume 8 gets a well-deserved 5/5.


Tom Bumby

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