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Love’s Labours Lost in Space

July 6, 2012

Original airdate: April 13, 1999

Written by Brian Kelley; Directed by Brian Sheesley

“Love’s Labours Lost in Space”, our first Leela-centric episode, is the best episode of Futurama so far. It’s got a great plot, a tonne of jokes and introduces three further key characters, including one of the show’s absolute best. Yes, this is the first appearance of the peerless and utterly hilarious Democratic Order of Planets (DOOP) Captain Zapp Brannigan, the most pompous buffoon in the known universe. And it’s Zapp who provides the first opportunity for Leela to drop being ‘Captain Responsibility’ for a while, and get to do something (or, rather, someone) monumentally stupid.

The episode continues the exploration of Leela’s loneliness first set up in the pilot. Not only are most guys put off by her one eye, but those who aren’t fail to meet her high standards (“If you rule out every guy with a lizard tongue or a low IQ or an explosive violent temper, of course you’re gonna be lonely”). Amy resolves to take her out to “The Hip Joint”. But while Amy, Fry and even Zoidberg score some action, Leela is again left alone.

The Professor announces the crew’s next mission: a tax-deductible piece of charity work, rescuing the animals of Vergon 6, a sunny little doomed planet set to collapse following decades of mining for dark matter, the universe’s premier spaceship fuel (great sub-conscious exposition there). Leela can’t wait to save them. On the way they run in to Zapp, whose reputation of military prowess may meet Leela’s ideal partner criteria. Zapp is of course actually a complete moronic coward.

Zapp instantly falls for Leela, who is still smitten by his reputation. But their relationship soon turns sour when Zapp reveals that the incomprehensible DOOP order “Brannigan’s Law”, forbids interference of the animal-rescuing kind and locks Leela, Fry and Bender in the brig. In another masterstroke, Zapp decides the only way to conquer his female ‘adversary’ is to seduce her. His attempts at this are laughably terrible and as Leela tells him as much he begins to cry; through his pathetic sobs, he bemoans the loneliness of a captain’s life. Maybe it’s only with hindsight, but this feels like the first emotional moment of the series that is not deep or sincere, and I’ll assume this was intentional. But Leela sees herself in Zapp’s plight… and ends up sleeping with him. As said, this is the first time Leela’s done something stupid, or in her words, “for a split second my common sense was overwhelmed by pity.” But “a split second is all it takes” for the ‘Zapper’.

Taking Leela’s regretful disgust as a sign she’ll be back for more, Zapp lets the Planet Express crew go down to the planet to rescue the animals. All are present and accounted for and Leela finds a small, three-eyed critter not on the list, which she names “Nibbler”. Nibbler turns out to be a ravenous monster who devours all of the other animals, but he takes a shine to Leela and she decides to keep him as a pet. Suddenly the planet starts collapsing and the ship’s out of fuel! Who will save the day now? Zapp Brannigan? Leela doesn’t want to go crawling back to him but since Fry and Bender insist on living so much, she calls him and “sexfully” begs for his help. Zapp agrees, but only if Leela gets rid of Nibbler, which she of course refuses. But the day is saved as Nibbler is revealed to crap dark matter. They escape just in time, some of the animals survive the implosion (somehow) and Leela is no longer alone.

I really don’t know how to end this other than to say that “Love’s Labours Lost in Space” is the best episode yet, one of the best of the season and indeed the whole series. I can see why IGN ranked it second. I’ll finalize a top-ten when this thing is eventually done, but if this isn’t in it, I’ll be surprised. Plot, characters, jokes, words, colours – all the key elements are there and all are executed to perfection. And is that not what man yearns for in TV? I’m asking you a question!

Trivia and Quotes

  • This is Brian Kelley’s sole writing credit for Futurama, and is a kajillion times better than his Simpsons episodes (such gems as “Mom’s I’d Like to Forget” and others you forgot existed).
  • The discrimination against Leela is only ever played for laughs: In “Space Pilot 3000” both the cops insult her eye but she only reacts when they insult her nose; here, she’s thrilled when her date has no problem with her eye, before dropping him when she can’t accept his hideous lizard tongue.
  • Bender’s very literal gaydar. Though it may be getting interference from a gay weather balloon.
  • “Remember when those cyborgs enslaved humanity?/Umm, yeah, that rings a bell.”
  • I love the Professor: “A super-dense substance called dark matter. Each pound of which weighs over ten thousand pounds.” And “I didn’t say anything about animals. Now it seems the planet will collapse within three days. Incidentally, this will kill all the animals.”
  • Zapp was designed to be 50% Kirk, 50% Shatner. He’s such a moron, in every possible way, but people keep giving him responsibility and medals. Billy West is phenomenal as Zapp, but I would love it if they could have recorded/released Phil Hartman’s audition.
  • I miss incredibly sarcastic Kif. He really descended into a wet loser. I mean, that’s funny, but sarcastic Kif was better.
  • “Wow the Zapp Brannigan…Who’s the Zapp Brannigan.”
  • “In a game of chess, you can never let your adversary see your pieces.”
  • “Sir they’re headed straight for us./A well calculated move, straight out of Sun Tzu’s classic text The Art of War. Or my own masterwork: Zapp Brannigan’s Big Book of War. But the one thing their captain doesn’t realize and never will, is that/Sir they’ve docked with us and have come aboard./Then I’ve risked all and lost, Kif old man, I’ll be in the escape pod.”
  • “The Killbots? A trifle. It was simply a matter of outsmarting them./Wow I never would have thought of that./You see Killbots have a pre-set kill limit. Knowing their weakness, I sent wave after wave of my own men at them, until they reached their limit and shut down.”
  • Fry clearly hasn’t developed his feelings for Leela yet, not a hint of envy throughout this episode.
  • The unguarded contempt of Zapp’s crew for their captain is fantastic. (“You suck!”)
  • “I don’t pretend to understand Brannigan’s Law, I merely enforce it.”
  • “What just happened?/He’s throwing us in prison./Ah, dang. Can I get this wrapped up?”
  • “Have the boy lay out my formal shorts./The boy, sir?/You. You lay out my formal shorts.”
  • “Cham-pagn” – and so begins the joke of Zapp’s inability to pronounce foreign substances.
  • “All right, we don’t have much time to rescue the animals. The planet is supposed to collapse in approximately two hours ago.”
  • You really would never have thought Nibbler would become as important as he did based on his appearance here. But he did and his whole story does fit together nicely.
  • “Leave him alone! It’s not his fault that he’s an unstoppable killing machine.”
  • “The planet’s kerplooding!” – Fry’s leap off the ship here had me in fits.
  • Fry and Bender’s reaction to Leela sleeping with Zapp is fantastic: for once, their captain is wrong. “How could you Leela, I thought you had some standards? I mean, gees, he’s a dumb, gross gorilla./That’s enough, don’t you think I feel bad enough already?/No!/Alright, I’ll call. I mean if living is that important to you.”
  • “Birds don’t crawl./They’ve been known to!”
  • “Brannigan’s Law is like Brannigan’s Love: hard and fast.”
  • “Wow, way to tell that guy off. So what’s your secret escape plan?/Er, I guess to sit here and wait for death./Can do!”
  • Cripes, this one is so good. I didn’t even mention Fry and Bender’s steam subplot, the floating entity or the Lovenasium (complete with Zapp/JFK portrait). But now I have.
  • “Captain’s Journal, stardate, er/uh, April 13th/April 13th! point 2. We have failed to uphold Brannigan’s Law. However, I did make it with a hot alien babe. And in the end, is that not what man has dreamt of since first he looked up at the stars. Kif I’m asking you a question!/Uhhh.”
One Comment leave one →
  1. July 17, 2012 1:18 am

    I love how Leela mocks Zapp for “cham-pagn” without missing a beat. “I had no idea you were such a coin-a-seur.”

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