It’s been over a year and a half since the UK was treated to a DVD release of Matt Groening’s sci-fi animation set in the year 3000, but Futurama Season 6 has finally arrived.
There’s plenty here to satisfy long-term fans of a series in which historical figures are brought back to life as heads in bottles and robots puff on cigars mainly to annoy non-smoking humans.
Delivery boy Fry adopts a monster that sucks the skeletons out of living creatures, one-eyed mutant Leela hunts for a four-dimensional whale and misanthropic robot Bender attains a god-like status after upgrading his processing power.
In one stand-out episode Professor Stephen Hawking (yes, really) gets to make another cameo appearance.
There are lots of in-jokes for the more cerebral cartoon viewer as well, clearly thrown in by the writers (some of whom studied at Harvard) to show off their knowledge of maths and physics.
In one great gag, an incomprehensible equation is revealed to the audience with a dramatic music sting, the drama obviously ruined by the fact that no normal person would immediately understand it.
In its trademark way, Futurama Season 6 mixes intelligent sci-fi with wonderfully stupid characters and gross-out humour.
“Every time I burp a new galaxy is born,” says Bender, after learning to manipulate the universe. “Two if I’ve been eating broccoli.”
However, moments of genius aren’t as plentiful as they were in previous offerings. One cringeworthy moment, for example, involves Fry altering history so the British win the American War of Independence, which means that the Brits who rule America in the future all speak like 19th century chimney sweeps. It’s a very conventional joke for a series that’s earned a reputation for being fresh and original.
But Futurama’s commitment to silliness more than makes up for this. In a series that contains a high speed car chase with Erwin Schrödinger, it’s easy to forgive the occasional joke falling flat.
By Lawrence Smith