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Brannigan, Begin Again

August 2, 2012

Original airdate: November 28, 1999

Written by Lewis Morton; Directed by Jeffrey Lynch

I said in the “A Flight to Remember” review that every Zapp Brannigan joke is essentially the same but that I couldn’t care less because they’re so ridiculously funny. And our first true Zapp focused episode only serves to reaffirm that view. Futurama is a world of weird losers, morons and suckers. There’s no bigger moron than Zapp, which means the people of Earth are the show’s biggest suckers. They worship him as a war hero; his reputation is built on easy victories against much weaker foes or people who are not dangerous at all, and whose actual leadership and tactical ability consists of massacring his own men while he hides behind a chair. That such a repulsive, blowhard buffoon could have so much fame and power without anybody questioning his very obvious failures and inappropriateness for the job is one of the things which makes this show so great.  But in “Brannigan, Begin Again”, Zapp’s moronic inability to do anything right finally catches up to him; with hilarious consequences.

The Planet Express crew deliver a pair of over-sized ribbon cutting scissors to the opening ceremony of the new DOOP headquarters, near the Neutral planet. This is much to consternation of Zapp, who in some typical craziness distrusts the Neutrals because he fails to understand that neutrality is not a cover for a surprise attack. Zapp is supposed to be cutting the ribbon at the event and ends up using the Nimbus’ laser to do so; but this of course also ends up destroying the entire headquarters. Zapp is (eventually) court marshalled and stripped of his rank of captain, as is Kif after Zapp blames him as well. So we get to see Zapp (and Kif) without the power and station they don’t (and do) deserve. Madness, of course, ensures as, after a Midnight Cowboy experience, Zapp and Kif are employed by Planet Express. This feeds into the episode’s additional plot trait of Fry and Bender’s minimal work ethic and their annoyance at Leela expecting them to do anything. The mother-child relationship Leela has with her fellow crew members really comes through. Fry and Bender feel Leela is being “mean” and nagging them, and like kids jump at the first chance of parental rebellion. This comes in the form of Zapp, who proposes they launch a mutiny after Leela makes than deliver pillows to the hotel on the ultra-high gravity Stumbos 4 by hand after they disobeyed her and broke the hover-dolly, tempting Fry and Bender with beer and underpants in exchange for their complete loyalty. Zapp takes controls on the grounds of Leela’s failure to prevent a mutiny (some hilarious circular logic there). As captain, Zapp decides the only way to regain his position at the DOOP is to destroy the Neutrals. It’s a plan that makes sense to him and him alone (“In the name of all that is good and honourable, we’ll call the Neutral President with a message of peace, then blast him”). It’s also a typically suicidal plan: Zapp plans to crash the ship into the Neutral headquarters, killing them and the crew, after ejecting to safety himself (“What do you think I meant by loyalty?”). This shows Fry and Bender how important Leela is to them: they need her to keep them (and Bender’s banjo) alive. By actually doing what Leela tells them, the crash is averted (“And no one will have to punish anyone for the mutiny!”). Zapp takes credit for Leela’s actions and is reappointed captain; Leela goes along with it just to get rid of him.

So yes, another good episode, with a nice, tight (very Star Trek-spoof) plot (Zapp’s desire to defeat the Neutrals is nicely set-up in act one, and so forth) and some good characterization for the main trio, with Fry and Bender learning to appreciate how good a friend and captain Leela is. A few jokes fell a little flat; a few were noticeable not as sharp as this show usually delivers, but the majority were excellent. But it’s the characters who stand out again, and that’s a pattern for this show, and for a science-fiction cartoon, that’s pretty fantastic. And on the simple test of how much of what they say makes me laugh out loud, Zapp is pretty much at the top.

Trivia and Quotes

  • “DOOP, what’s that?/It’s similar to the United Nations from your time Fry./Uh/Or like the Federation from your Star Trek programme.”
  • So many great aliens at the DOOP headquarters: the lizard and insect planets, the Amazonian planet (which we will of course revisit), the yarn people of Nylar 4 and the excellent Neutral planet: “I have no strong feelings one way or the other”
  • “It was almost the perfect crime, but you forgot one thing: rock crushes scissors… but paper covers rock… and scissors cuts paper! Kif, we have a conundrum.”
  • Great stuff in the court: the first appearance of the moronic Hyperchicken lawyer, “I’m going to allow this”, “The jury is instructed to disregard its own testimony,” that Zapp could actually initially have the charges dropped despite every single person in the court being a witness, that he could believe getting Leela to say she had sex with him was a viable defence, the jury working out and then straight back in. “Friends. You can take away a man’s title and his uniform, but you can never take away his integrity or his honour. Plus it was mostly Kif’s fault.”
  • “One day a man has everything. The next day he blows up a 400 billion dollar space station, and the next day he has nothing. It makes you think./No it doesn’t.”
  • This is the first substantive appearance for Kif, and it establishes his less funny wet traits over his sarcasm, persisting in following Zapp despite neither still being soldiers. But his reaction after actually being praised by Leela for his efficient work is great (even if him hugging her with ungloved hands contradicts a later episode. Or as it is Leela, maybe it doesn’t). He hates Zapp but he literally has no life outside of being his gopher.
  • Zapp’s desperation to have sex with Leela again, as she is apparently the only women he’s ever slept with, is so pathetically funny, particularly his volunteering for the non-existent spanking. The way he acts around Fry and Bender – as if he has never met them before and as if they have no idea of his relationship with Leela – is great. And him, Fry and Bender make an excellent trio of lazy idiocy.
  • As much as I love Zapp, the Professor can’t help but steal scenes as well: “Why you’re that disgraced star ship captain. Having him on staff will distract people from our horrendous safety record.” And literally minutes after hiring them “I’d like everyone to welcome our new employees! Which ones are new?/The green dude and the fat mon/I could swear I’ve never seen that robot before either/I’m Bender, you know, the lovable rascal/Oh yes, yes, my good friend, of course! #shrugs#” – Just classic Professor senility.
  • “What the hell happened?/Some breaking occurred, the dolly was involved, that’s about all we know.” Love the simple designs of the characters under high gravity, very nicely done. “This is all Leela’s fault/Yeah, if she had let us use the back-up dolly, we could have broken it and given up and gone home by now.”
  • “Throw her in the brig/We don’t have a brig/Then throw her in the laundry room, which will hereafter be referred to as the brig.”
  • “May I have a beer sir?/No, you’re loyal enough already. Meanwhile, I have a plan: we will single-handedly attack our arch-enemy, the Neutral Planet./Oh gees/Once the Neutral war machine lies in ruins, I’ll be a hero again, and the DOOP will reinstate me as captain/But sir, that plan makes no sense/Maybe not to you Kif, but if I recall correctly you were court marshalled in disgrace.” – Zapp’s self-absorbed, entirely dishonourable obliviousness knows no bounds. He really is the star of this one, which is amazing for a character with zero depth. “Fly the white flag of war.”
  • “All I know is my gut says maybe.” The final act is the highlight again with gold from Zapp, the Neutrals, Leela doing laundry in the laundry-brig and the fantastically animated child-like Fry and Bender begging Leela to save them (with Bender cowering behind Fry, and the silent head-shaking/nodding; it really defines their role in this one) “Let me guess: he cancelled naptime?…he ran out of beer?…so he’s about to kill us?”, “So it’s mutiny is it? I never thought I’d see the day,” Kif pitifully being forced to eject against his will be Zapp and Leela, “As your God is my witness”, “If I don’t survive, tell my wife: hello.”
  • “Your honour, it’s all true. My female incompetence, Zapp’s cat-like reflexes, the stuff that made no sense, all of it.” And the Professor’s disappointment that he won’t get to keep Zapp as captain.
4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2012 10:49 am

    Really enjoying the blog, sir. Brannigan Begin Again is one I often forget and overlook, but there are some great lines.

  2. August 5, 2012 2:33 pm

    [Leela] I don’t wanna die at the age of 25!
    [Bender] Honey, unless we hit a time warp, I wouldn’t worry about it.

  3. Death Zebra permalink
    September 9, 2012 12:28 am

    Kif wasn’t in his “receptive state” so his lack of gloves probably won’t have mattered.

    • September 9, 2012 4:09 pm

      Makes sense. Kif isn’t exactly a character made of total sense and logic at the best of times.

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