Futurama, Season Six, Episode Nine, “A Clockwork Origin”

Written by: Dan Vebber
Directed by: Dwayne Carey-Hill
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

“You people are as loud as you are ignorant!”

This one is a bad and annoying idea that is executed way better than it has any right to be, to the point where I genuinely considered bumping it up to Essential because it just kept finding the funniest jokes out of its premise. The episode goes beyond the show’s endearing apathy and right into trying to find a middle ground between two opposing viewpoints, which is something I do not respect on principle and for which Creationism is almost on-the-nose as an example why. Creationism is obviously bullshit with only shoddy, easily dismissed arguments and I don’t feel bad in the slightest that its adherents feel upset that I think so; the episode’s conclusion that it might be possible that a divine being set evolution in motion is so obviously the only correct way to factor anything even remotely resembling the idea into how things actually work that I consider spending twenty minutes on the subject an inherent waste of time.

I do, however, think being funny is one of the highest callings there is, and this episode uses its premise as a vehicle for some of the finest jokes we’ve seen in the CC season so far. It helps, of course, that being both a scientist and cranky as hell are deep and beloved parts of the Professor’s personality; him being a crusty asshole comes off less like the show having an axe to grind and more like an excuse to show the Professor being angry. Some of the ‘glory of science and knowledge’ of “The Late Philip J Fry” is within this episode, where some basic prehistory and archaeology is used as a jumping off point for basic Futurama humour (favourite quote along these lines: “Java Man! Piltdown Man! Manfred Man!”). Even the episode’s satirical jabs are inherently absurd images; I absolutely love having the defender of Creationism be an orangutan (Terry Pratchett would have been spinning in his grave if he weren’t still alive at the time of original airing), and the episode’s one big jab in the eye of Creationism is the increasingly detailed explanation of all the ‘missing links’ between humanity and our ape-like ancestors. 

“Not what we’re looking for! Throw it in the soup!”

On top of this, the majority of the episode combines that love of knowledge for its own sake with the classic Futurama premise of robot versions of non-robot things (with a delightful amount of Bender caring about things that remind him of himself). The progression through a biopherical history with robots is a minor version of the End Of The Universe sequence in “The Late Philip J Fry”; I think my favourite detail is the sound of the trycicletops revving its engine. We also get the joy of the characters reacting in-character to these plot turns – Fry is the secret MVP throughout with so many killer one-liners, but Leela isn’t too far behind him (“I’m gonna miss Spencer.”). What we have here is an episode that, like many good fun Futurama episodes, finds a way to be intellectually stimulating as well as funny.

Title Card: This time, it’s personal
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

“Ah, the oil is as sterile as my milkman-trusting father.”

The Cubert and Zoidberg subplot is the weakest part of the episode, but it’s still pretty funny and a better combination of random characters. Having a pathetic character like Zoidberg trying to take a paternal role is inherently funny and the fact that it’s based on almost nothing makes it even funnier; it’s just the plot doesn’t really go anywhere (although “I’m serious! He’s a terrible person!” is fantastic).

“Why don’t you ask your Mom! She’s coming over for a sex visit!”

The title is a dual reference to both film and book A Clockwork Orange and On The Origin Of Species by Charles Darwin. When the crew first discover the robot dinosaurs, the plesiosaur has Godzilla’s scream and the T-rex has the T-rex scream from Jurassic Park. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the ‘god’ of Pastafarians. Amongst the bones the Professor finds apparently include Manfred Mann. Bender’s ‘robot fossil’ is apparently partially made from a Garfield toy. Cubert drops a reference to Star Wars, and the ‘ascent of bot’ painting contains R2-D2. USB Today is a reference to USA Today. Superior Gort mixes the Supreme Court with a character from The Day The Earth Stood Still. Fry’s fan dance is a reference to Uhura’s fan dance in Star Trek. Much of the trial plot riffs on the film Inherit The Wind. The crew’s clothes getting ripped is a reference to the film One Million Years BC. The nanomachines combine the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Evolution” and the Michael Chriton novel Prey. The image of the robots having ascended is a reference to the novel Childhood’s End. 

Iconic Moments: “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.” | “This is a cool way to die!”
Biggest Laugh:

Next Week: “The Prisoner Of Benda”. “This is wrong, Washbucket. Oh, it would be sweet for a while, but in the back of our minds, we would know that I’m a man and you’re janitorial equipment.” / “In another city, we could be anyone we want.” / “Go. Go now before I ask you to stay.”