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A Flight to Remember

July 16, 2012

Original airdate: September 26, 1999

Written by Eric Horsted; Directed by Peter Avenzino

A space Titanic captained by Zapp Brannigan? What could possibly go wrong? Well it will be “A Flight to Remember” that’s for sure… haha… oh. Yes, it’s not quite “Love’s Labours Lost in Space”, but any Zapp Brannigan is good Zapp Brannigan. And this is another great character story, exploring the theme of love in a way that would make Shakespeare proud: we have the romance between the robot crook and the Countess bot, an entirely fake love triangle and the beginnings of the show’s two main relationships. This is also the first proper “whole-crew” episode, as Zoidberg, Amy, Hermes and the Professor are all involved. Many of Futurama‘s best episodes are when the entire ensemble comes along for the ride.

In return for not reporting the Professor’s countless violations of safety and minimum wage laws, the crew all receive a free vacation aboard the largest and most luxurious space cruiser ever built. I love the overly dramatic music as nobody cares that the ship is called Titanic. And why would you? It’s just a name. More of a concern is that Zapp has been appointed its honorary captain.

The episode is the first to have two largely distinct plots. Bender’s romance, which serves as a direct parody of Jack and Rose’s romance from the 1997 Titanic film, is probably the main plot. But the fake love triangle between Leela, Fry and Amy gets fairly equal screen time. So first there’s Bender’s plot, as he begins to court the fembot Countess De la Roca. This is initially with the intent of fleecing her, but love soon gets in the way. The Countess discovers that Bender’s pretence of being a rich, successful robot is a sham after he’s caught stealing drinks. But she doesn’t mind. This is a good, solid Bender plot and easily one of his most sincere relationships. While it’s never really played for laughs, their dialogue is not overly sappy and it provides more touching moments for the series. In the other strand, to attempt to keep Zapp away after her ‘mistake’ when last they met, Leela opts to pretend that Fry is her fiancée. Fry’s sudden luck continues, when Amy decides to use him as her fake boyfriend as well, to appease her grandchild-hungry parents. His fake relationship with Amy is the one most required, but Fry isn’t actually interested in her. As with the pilot, he and Leela decide to be lonely together, and almost kiss, before disaster strikes (“Talk about a mood killer”).

Like Titanic, the course of true love does not run smooth. Especially with a moron at the helm. Yes Zapp gets the itch for adventure and abandons the ship’s safe course, for a more high-speed, unshielded, all-terrain trip through a comet swarm (“Yes, comets, the icebergs of the sky”). This doesn’t go to plan, so Zapp plots an even better course, right next to a black hole. I know pretty much every Zapp joke is essentially the same – he’s a cowardly, pompous moron – and he’s a character with no genuine depth at all – but, man, that doesn’t stop him from being hilarious. The impending doom was well set-up throughout the episode and it’s paid off very nicely. The ship is about to be sucked into the black hole and everyone flees to the escape pods. Bender goes back to rescue the Countess (who I guess must have walked off, because she was with him in the previous scene). They reach the escape pod as the ship begins to break-up, Kif and Amy get together (in what here was just intended as a one-off joke) and Bender and the Countess make it just in time to grab on to the departing pod. But this makes the pod too heavy, so the Countess opts to let go and fall into the black hole, saving everyone else. Aw. This actually makes for a pretty depressing ending. You could see it coming, given the Titanic and Romeo and Juliet references throughout, and we never really got to know the Countess, but nevertheless. And it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Not that this is a bad thing. I like bittersweet.

This episode is the beginning of the show’s key Fry/Leela relationship (as well as the Amy/Kif relationship). Well, there is “My Three Suns”, but nothing is ever really addressed there. While it starts off as just a meaningless ruse here, Fry has evidently developed more than just platonic feelings for Leela by the end, and these are somewhat mutual. Although not fully addressed until later, and a lot later on Leela’s side, their origin is here. Overall it’s a nice, funny and sweet episode, with some good action in the last act, which balances and develops all the characters well (except Zoidberg, who says and does nothing but hold the airlock door open).

Trivia and Quotes

  • This episode aired four months after “Hell is Other Robots” and is the start of the show’s weird scheduling and classification. In the UK, Sky considers this the start of season two. But they’re morons.
  • “This is great, I haven’t had time off since I was 21 through 24.”
  • “The man who single-handedly defeated the retiree people of the assisted-living nebula.”
  • I love how limited the pool of men in the show is: Leela considers Zoidberg twice, and the Professor three times before grudgingly picking Fry.
  • This is seemingly before Zoidberg became a penniless loser, because the Professor actually let’s him stay in first class.
  • LaBarbara, Leo and Inez Wong – the cast expands even more. It’s something they’ve done well this season, the introductions are all spread evenly so no episode really feels overloaded with new characters.
  • “Wait, my cheating unit malfunctioned, you gotta give me a do-over!”
  • “We were planning on enjoying a relaxing vacation, but since you’re here, we’ll have to do some meddling!”
  • “Hey you’re not jealous are you?/What? No, no, of course not./Good, cos I consider my fake relationship with you a lot more meaningful.”
  • Hermes’ Olympic limbo flashback and subsequent limbo-phobia is just absurd gold: “No boy stop, it’s too low!” and the hilariously sickening spine crunch. And it’s a great set-up as well, as Hermes rediscovers his limbo skills to save the day (“Er, can somebody help me up?”)
  • I think I’m right in saying that this is the first mention of the fact that Earth is now unified under one (very American) government, as Hermes is competing for Earth.
  • “Attention everyone. As captain of this vessel, the terrible burden of naming a limbo contest winner is mine and mine alone./Shouldn’t you be steering between the comets?/And the winner is… Leela./But I didn’t even limbo./No matter. I know from personal experience how horizontal you can get.”
  • “As a gentleman I must warn you, if you so much glance at another woman I’ll be all over Leela like a fly on a pile of very seductive manure.”
  • Fry being asked to prove he’s in a relationship with both Leela and Amy – and resorting to the ‘help’ of Three’s Company, is great.
  • “Sir, remember you’re ‘course correction’?/No./Well it’s proving somewhat more suicidal than we’d initially hoped./Kif old friend, I don’t know which disgusts me more, your cowardice or your stupidity. We’ll simply set a new course for that empty region over there, near that blackish, holeish thing.”
  • Great music in this episode.
  • “Nothing remains now but for the captain to go down with his ship./Why, that’s surprisingly noble of you sir./No, it’s noble of you Kif! As of now, you’re in command.”
  • “You all go without me, I’m gonna take one last look around, you know for, er, stuff to steal./You’re going back for the Countess aren’t you?/Alright I am, but I don’t want the others to know. If I don’t come back, just say I died robbing some old man./I’ll tell them you went out prying the wedding ring of his cold dead finger.”
  • “Bender, you risked your life to save me!/And I’d do it again, and perhaps a third time. But that would be it.”
  • “Thank God there are plenty of escape pods. We won’t have to dress up like women and children.” – That the Professor could ever possibly think that ‘disguise’ would work is just fantastic.
  • “Don’t cry Bender, nobody really knows what happens in a black hole. It’s possible she’s still alive in another dimension somewhere. Right Professor?/Oh oh yes, absolutely! … Not a chance.”
  • And to ease our own depression, we end with something which increases Bender’s: “At least I’ll always have her bracelet. What do you think it’s worth?/It’s fake mon.”
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