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My Three Suns

July 12, 2012

Original airdate: May 4, 1999

Written by J. Stewart Burns; Directed by Jeffrey Lynch and Kevin O’Brien

Our second “alien world of the week” episode* “My Three Suns” is one of Futurama‘s weirder stories. Another Fry-centric, while last episode focused on his dream of wealth, this explores what it would be like if he had a position of power. Considering that he’s a naive moron, the results aren’t great.

The episode starts by introducing Bender’s dream of becoming a chef. This will always prove difficult because, as a robot, he has no sense of taste. Together with ’emotional’ and ‘whiny/political’ Bender, with the introduction of ‘dream/career’ Bender, all of his additional character traits have now been established. Now, as said before, I have no problem with these three things and I really don’t want to create the impression that I’m moaning about Bender being out of character. That would be ridiculous – this is season one, so clearly everything here is meant to be his character and these things are all great and very hilarious. My problem is their amplification in later seasons to the point where they became annoying. But, at their core, they are great. Having Bender dream of doing something for which he is entirely ill-programmed/made is a great idea. Hermes makes Bender start pulling his weight around the office, so he becomes Planet Express’ cook. He, Fry and Leela go shopping for ingredients in Little Neptune and Leela has to rescue Fry from a street organ dealer. It’s the latter which sets up the episode’s main plot – Fry’s life-threatening lack of forethought and Leela’s exasperation that she always has to save him.

The Professor sends the crew on a delivery to the mysterious planet Trisol, deep within the “Forbidden Zone”. Bender cooks Fry, Leela and a tagging-along Zoidberg and Amy a meal, which, as expected, is terrible and almost entirely salt-based. As its name suggests, Trisol has three suns, and Fry, having just consumed a meal only 10% less than a lethal dosage of salt, is forced to walk across the planet’s scorching desert to deliver the package. He arrives in a deserted palace to find a bottle of cool, refreshing water sitting on the Emperor’s throne, which he proceeds to drink. Unfortunately, the bottle was not strictly water but the Trisolian Emperor. As custom dictates, Fry is immediately declared the new Emperor.

Leela sees Fry is out of his depth, as all of the previous Emperors have been assassinated/drunk by their successors, leading to an average reign-length of one week. In fact, if Fry fails recite the Trisolian Royal Oath flawlessly from memory at his coronation, he’ll be killed on the spot. But Fry doesn’t care, refuses to heed her warnings or accept her help and wants to keep living in the moment. Indeed, Fry seems to be doing okay, his solid state allows him to survive an assassination attempt and he successfully recites the oath and is crowned. But as the suns set and the Trisolians enter their glowing nocturnal phase, in a great twist, the previous Emperor is revealed to still be alive, inside Fry’s stomach. Amy suggests Fry cry him out, but despite Bender’s best efforts, this proves futile, so he persuades Leela to help. Fry is amazed she came to save him despite the way he treated her, so Bender tells him Leela has been killed by the Trisolians to trick him into crying. Leela arrives alive and well too soon for Bender’s plan to work, so proceeds to beat Fry in order to force him to cry the Emperor out. With help from everybody else, this succeeds and the Emperor is cried out, and celebrates by whaling on Fry with a chair.

Is this the beginning of Fry’s love for Leela? Whatever it is, it’s a sweet development in their relationship. Fry is an overgrown child and he needs Leela to save him from doom, and she’s happy to oblige. That’s been the core of their relationship right from the pilot. This episode is not exactly stacked high with memorable jokes, but it’s an enjoyable romp through another insane alien world.

*One could technically argue it’s the third, or even fourth, after “Fear of a Bot Planet”, “The Series Has Landed” and “Love’s Labours Lost in Space”, but I’m in charge here, so I’m only counting the first one.

Trivia and Quotes

  • Bender’s trip to the bot wash is the first cold open/pre-title skit which has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the main episode. This has always been one of the nicest things about Futurama, allowing the exploration of ideas that don’t fit into actual episodes.
  • Bam! It’s Elzar
  • “Is that a cooking show?/No, of course not, it was, er, porno! Yeah that’s it.”
  • Refreshing! Crack – this is the kind of stuff they cut out on UK TV airings. I mean seriously, do they think a minor joke in a show about a talking lobster doctor is going to make kids would to go out and buy crack?
  • “What’s this?/Ah it is X-ray eye, see through anything./Wait a minute, this says Z-ray/Z is just as good, in fact it’s better. It’s two more than X.”
  • “I’m capable of making my own decisions Leela. Did you ever stop to think I might be happier with gills?”
  • “Er, Professor, are we even allowed in the Forbidden Zone?/Why of course! It’s just a name. Like the Death Zone, or the Zone of No Return. All the Zones have names like that in the Galaxy of Terror.”
  • “That’s the saltiest thing I’ve ever tasted, and I once ate a big heaping bowl of salt!”
  • I love the understated brilliance of Fry and Leela’s reactions when Fry forgets to take the package.
  • “So after I specifically asked you not to touch anything, you drank a bottle of strange blue liquid? It could have been poisonous acid!/It could have been, but chances were equally good it could have been an emperor.”
  • “I humbly advise that as your first act you choose a capable Prime Minister. I suggest Gorgak, the previous appointee./I will be a forceful and effective administrator./You know Fry, I’ve often thought about becoming a Prime Minister./I gotta go with Bender./Yes! In your face Gorgak!”
  • The package was an English “Do Not Drink the Emperor” sign.
  • The Trisolians are one of my favourite aliens in this series. While they don’t provide massive amounts of jokes, the concept of a society appointing their emperor on the basis of who killed the previous one, and those people being made of water, is hilarious.
  • “Well, at least my assassin will get what’s coming to him.”
  • Fry’s classic parable of the grasshopper and the octopus should be taught in schools. “Then winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all of his acorns, and also he got a race car. Is any of this getting through to you?”
  • “Won’t that crush my bones?/Oh, right right, with the bones. I always forget about the bones.”
  • “I told Fry you were dead so he would cry out the Emperor, but you had to go and wreak it by surviving.”
  • “Come on, everybody help out Fry.” This is how to do truly funny physical violence; they’re beating him up for his own good. “Hey, save some for me!”
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