Futurama, Season Seven, Episode Two, “Möbius Dick”

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

“I remember it like it was interesting.”

This one is hard to rank because I think very little of its idea and emotional arc but very highly of the execution. I feel like this one forces an emotional arc that doesn’t feel natural to Leela, trying to turn her into a cliche Captain Ahab, and I know that’s the joke – the reveal being that the whale is warping Leela’s personality with its presence – but it doesn’t strike me as true. We’ve seen Leela get obsessed and proud before, but it’s always been rooted in her values and sense of self; I find myself thinking of the first act of “The Sting” because that’s a very good story about Leela doing something dangerous just to prove she can under a veneer of professionalism. By comparison, this story feels more arbitrary and so it’s harder for me to be invested. Which is kind of a funny thing to say about Futurama, but even its nonessential stories – in which we know, for example, that Fry won’t stay under the sea with his mermaid girlfriend – tend to get me at least invested in the moral choices the characters make. This twists the characters too much for too little payoff emotionally.

On the other hand, this is a goddamned powerhouse of funny lines and situations. This has some good old-fashioned Futurama off-hand absurdism, with my favourite being the runner of Zoidberg and hair. That whole arc is one of my favourite kinds of comedy runners, where it looks at first like an offhand joke about a cliche (flashback to a bald character having hair) which is twisted (aside from Zoidberg being a lobster, Amy apparently independently imagined Zoidberg having hair) and then, once forgotten, is twisted further (Zoidberg randomly grows hair). This episode is also packed with typical Futurama breaking of language (“Relax, friends. PANIC, JERKS!”). What fascinates me is how needlessly beautiful it is, too, and how much this factors into the comedy. The space whale is genuinely spectacular and awe-inspiring and much of the imagery is either beautiful (like the time slipping) or gross (like Lando Tucker being half-digested), which gives weight to the story that it can undercut with lines like “I saw it lactating earlier!” or an infinite number of conga-lining Benders.

“Things look bad enough without having to look closer at them.”

This is something I find deeply appealing about the CC era; the higher budget and greater creative freedom let them create more beautiful imagery for the show, and I honestly think that did make it funnier when it was on its game. It was never gonna be something like The Venture Brothers where the comedy came from sincere melodrama fused with an absurd situation, but it is sincere enough in its sense of beauty to create a spectacular atmosphere that it can break with funny dialogue.

Title Card: Featuring Sparky, the invisible elf
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

“This is just how I wanted to remember him.”
“Too bad! Coz he’s still alive!”

Not only does this episode not guest star anyone, it’s the first in which Maurice LaMarche plays no characters and therefore does not appear in the end credits.

“Oh no! My deal is doing the thing!”

The title and much of the plot is a reference to the book Moby Dick. Lando Tucker combines Lando Calrissian from Star Wars and Commander Tucker from Star Trek: Enterprise. The Bermuda Tetrahedron combines the Bermuda Triangle myth with the Route Of All Ages from the show Andromeda. Tickle Me Elmo’s Fire combines the Sesame Street character with the electrical weather phenomenon. The time in the 4th dimension is filled with references to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Fry mangles a reference to Jonah in The Bible with a reference to Disney’s version of Pinocchio. Amy’s mother drops a reference to The Joy Luck Club. Tom Baker’s version of The Doctor of Doctor Who can be seen emerging from the space whale. The sequence of people emerging from the whale is a reference to the return of the abductees in Close Encounters Of The Fourth Kind. Leela refers to Amy as Sailor Moon. Zoidberg does an impression of The Fonz from Happy Days. The inside of the whale riffs on the Sarlacc of Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi. 

Iconic Moments: “A dedicated young man with no characteristics.”
Biggest Laugh:

Next Week: “Law And Oracle”. “Congratulations on your big bust.” / “You too.”