Episode Title: "Möbius Dick"
Writer: Dan Vebber
Director: Dwayne Carey-Hill
When you've watched enough "Futurama," there comes a point when you can tell pretty early whether the episode is going to be a winner or not. "Möbius Dick" won me over within just a few seconds with its dramatic opening shot, soaring music and the intriguing notion that there was a Planet Express crew long before our favorite characters joined the company.
As Professor Farnsworth (Billy West) explains, fifty years ago he assembled the best team he could find in the parking lot of Homeless Depot; which included the primitive robot Lifter, the gorgeous girl, Candy and the intrepidly bland captain, Lando Tucker. Not to mention a younger and much more popular Dr. Zoidberg, who inexplicably has a full head of hair in the crew's imagined flashback. The entire sequence seemed like it was a take off of "The Right Stuff."
Somewhere near a dreaded region of space known as The Bermuda Tetrahedron, the entire crew was lost save for Zoidberg, whose hair went white at the horror that he saw. To mark the 50th anniversary of their disappearance, the Professor sends the crew near The Bermuda Tetrahedron to retrieve a commemorative statue in honor of their predecessors. But rather than go to their certain deaths, Leela (Katey Sagal) decides to simply fly around the Tetrahedron.
After forcing the alien workers to resculpt the statue from scratch (to fix a grammatical error), Leela makes the rash decision to cut through the Tetrahedron to make it back to Earth in time for the memorial for the original crew. Along the way, the crew encounters a dangerous fourth dimensional space whale and Leela becomes obsessed with killing it for swallowing the statue, making them late and ultimately disabling the Planet Express ship to the point that it resembles a 19th century sailing ship.
During the prerequisite "Moby Dick" references and Leela's fast decent into insanity (ala Captain Ahab), "Möbius Dick" begins delivering comedy gold, from Fry's (West) reluctance to be in a starship graveyard "at night," Bender's attempted mutiny (while blaming it on Fry) and Leela's own mutiny with herself as she acts out the parts of her own crew. Not to mention the Tickle Me Elmo's Fire and the cameo appearances of Oceanic Flight 815. the Jupiter II and Discovery One, among several others. I really love geek humor references.
There's also a short sequence in which it seems like the crew is about to break into song while turning the damaged Planet Express ship into a space worthy vessel again. While watching the episode, I even wrote this in my notes, "Yes.. a jaunty tune!" But alas, there was no musical number. However, the chase scenes with the space whale were genuinely exciting and well animated. And the show delivered upon its fourth dimensional promise by dragging the crew there and giving us the trippy visual of Bender's infinite conga line... with himself!
But ultimately, the crew is lost within the belly of the whale... except for Zoidberg, who survives yet again in an escape pod with stark white hair and little memory of what happened. Inside the whale, Leela finds her friends stuck in the infinite time loop of the whale's digestive track and she herself is soon merged with the whale so it can feed off her obsession.
On Earth, the Professor, Zoidberg and the grieving families hold a funeral for the current and old crews until the whale comes to Earth and crashes into the Planet Express building. Leela emerges and reveals that she has gained control over the whale thanks to her overriding obsession to complete the delivery on time. And not only are her friends alive and freed from the whale, but so are the original Planet Express crew and... the Fourth Doctor, making his second appearance this season! That was awesome.
This wasn't a perfect episode of "Futurama," but it was pretty close. And it did a lot to renew my faith in the series after a few average episodes during the second half of this season. "Möbius Dick" had the ridiculously over-the-top story and hilarious jokes that made me love this series in the first place. I just hope we see more of Lifter, Candy and Lando in the future. Now that Planet Express has a defined history, it would be cool to revisit those characters again. "Heyyyy!"
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.