Beginning today, Comedy Central will be streaming five full Futurama episodes that will change every two weeks. Exciting, right? Yes. But the best part is, each collection of five episodes will have a theme and be selected by someone from the show. To kick things off, it's executive producer David X. Cohen with his list of the five nerdiest episodes. Just click the episode titles and enjoy. Take it away, David!
As everyone knows, Futurama is not a show for nerds. It is packed to the gills with sex, violence, and robots… subject matter which can only be described as "cool". Nevertheless, after weeks of painstaking research, I was able to identify five episodes of this extremely cool series that might — just might — manage to cross over and appeal to nerds as well. Here, then, in no particular order, are my five nerdiest episodes of Futurama…
This is the only episode of Futurama — in all probability, the only episode of anything, anywhere, ever — in which, at the climax of the episode, the characters prove a mathematical theorem that saves the day. In the story, the characters have all switched brains using a non-reversible brain-switching device, and they need to get each brain back to its original body. The theorem states that there is always a way to move the brains through various bodies until they are all back with their original owners, as long as you first introduce two additional people (with their original brains intact) into the group. The theorem, which can be viewed as a problem in the branch of mathematics known as "group theory", is actually correct. It was constructed by the writer of the episode, Ken Keeler, who has a PhD in Applied Mathematics. (He probably didn't realize at the time he got the degree that the "application" of the applied math would be to cartoon writing.)
I was a big fan of the original Star Trek as a kid, and Star Trek has been a big influence on Futurama, so I was extremely excited when we set out to do this episode about Star Trek fandom run amok. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, George Takei, and Jonathan Frakes all appear as guest stars. Shatner and Nimoy came to the studio and recorded their parts simultaneously, so it was one of the more memorable Futurama recording sessions. They were not aware that our entire writing staff had packed into the engineer's booth like clowns in a clown car, and as soon as the session was done, everyone exploded out and imposed on them for photos and autographs (so our point about overzealous fans was well made). The episode was written by huge Star Trek fan and expert David Goodman, who later parlayed it into a job writing for the actual "Star Trek Enterprise" series.
This episode is actually the first part of the feature-length Futurama DVD entitled "Bender's Game". But I think it also stands on its own as a solid episode, as long as you aren't too perturbed by Bender being left in a state of complete insanity at the end of the show. I have selected this one because its plotline of Bender playing too much Dungeons & Dragons brings back memories of my own very cool, not-at-all-nerdy teenage years. Dungeons & Dragons was huge at the time, at least in my basement, and the popular fear of the day was that kids would go insane from playing it too much. Hence the origin of this episode — a stern warning to all who would risk having our nation's youth spend their free time in the safety of their own homes, using their brains and imaginations to a worrisome degree.
I have to include this one since it features Al Gore and his team of, quote, "Vice Presidential Action Rangers — a group of top nerds whose sole duty is to prevent disruptions in the space-time continuum". This heroic team of guest stars consists of physicist Stephen Hawking, Dungeons & Dragons creator Gary Gygax, Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols once again, and chess-playing supercomputer Deep Blue, along with Gore himself, who was still Vice President of the United States at the time… so you might think he'd have had more important things to do. But no, he had his priorities straight: Futurama first, national security second. Gore has subsequently become a semi-regular on the show, having now appeared a whopping four times — edging out co-star Stephen Hawking, who will be making his third appearance in this season's upcoming episode 6.26, "Resurrection".
This sci-fi extravaganza features a multitude of cardboard boxes, each containing an entire universe. The Planet Express crew ends up in a mad chase from one parallel universe to another to another, desperately searching for the one box that contains their home universe. The episode culminates with two universes being pulled through each other in a space-time "eversion" (look it up). At the time we wrote this episode, we were slightly afraid that it would be too mind-blowing for the home audience. But as is often the case, we underestimated our fans — they were completely on board with the insanity, perhaps even retaining a small quantity of unblown mind in reserve for the next week's episode.
Futurama's one-hour season premiere airs June 23 at 10/9c with two back-to-back new episodes! Then, starting June 30, the show will be part of "The Thurs-Dimension" with new episodes of Futurama at 10/9c followed by new episodes of Ugly Americans at 10:30/9:30c.