EPISODE REVIEW: Futurama: “A Clockwork Origin”(Season 6,Episode 9)

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Despite announcing this review would be delayed, my shindig ended early, so I was able to do it after all. Tomorrow's "Eureka" delay really will be delayed, however. Moving on...

Hoo boy. Lots of controversy tonight, kids! And it was a good episode, too!

Creationists - led by the simian Professor Banjo - are protesting the teaching of evolution in schools. Professor Farnsworth attempts to argue Banjo into submission, but is forced to admit there is one insignificant missing link. He and the gang head to Africa to find it, and they do, though Amy loses a finger in the process. She gets it back later, though, because this is a family show. Back in New New York, Farnsworth presents “Homo Farnsworth,” a joke so amazingly obvious that I’m assuming no one got it.

Unfortunately, Professor Banjo is now the head of the museum, who insists that the earth is only 7000 years old. Disgusted, Farnsworth has the gang find him a completely lifeless asteroid to live on. He uses some nanites to purify the water, but they get out of hand and evolve quickly, and eat most of the women’s clothes so that Amy looks like Raquel Welch from One Million Years BC (Grrrrowl!), and Leela looks like Leela with torn up clothes. When they wake up in the morning, they find the Trilobots have evolved into dinobots, who are killed when a solar flare EMPs them. The next day, Mamalbots and Cave Androids have evolved, and the day after that there’s a modern homosapienbot civilization.

A female bot finds Farnsworth and the rest, and puts them on display at the science museum, where Farnsworth infuriates everyone by announcing that he created all life on this world. They throw him in jail for “Crimes against Science,” and while the jury is deliberating they evolve beyond the need for physical bodies, call corporeal life “A bunch of yokels,” and leave. Our yokels go home.

Back on earth, Farnsworth shows Banjo the slides, and the creationist admits he’s watching proof of at least one case of evolution, though clearly evolution caused by an outside agency. Farnsworth admits that it is *possible* that some outside agency caused human evolution, and everyone lives sarcastically ever after.

The End

Subplot # 1: Qbert is abandoned and raised by Dr. Zoidberg, who teaches him how to cower.

Subplot # 2: Bender argues - and apparently believes - that Robots evolved, and were not created.

OBSERVATIONS

“Go back to Roboklahoma!” Best line in the episode. Second best line, when Fry is carried off by a Robo-Pterodactyl: “This is a very cool way to die!”

I genuinely liked this episode. It was fast, it was funny, it had a point about intolerance on both sides of the “Evolution” question, and it ultimately came to a conclusion that was pretty much exactly like my own.

Full disclosure: I’m a Christian, I’m a Conservative, and I believe in Evolution. I didn’t always. I spent decades making straw man arguments and avoiding all the evidence to the contrary because I felt my soul depended on it. Eventually a friend of mine who believed in Evolution said, “Look, no one’s saying God didn’t do it. You believe He did it all at once, and if so that’s impressive; I believe He did it over millions of years, but either way God did it, so all we’re really arguing about is what kind of tool kit He used.” The scales fell from my eyes, and I realized he was right. Evolution doesn’t rule out God in any way, shape, or form, and pretending it does is a gross misrepresentation of fact, even if it *is* the exact gross misrepresentation that irritating atheists use all the time. But it’s wrong when they say it means there is no God, and it’s just as wrong - and more than a bit derivative - when we say it means the same thing. Since when do we listen to them, anyway? Just because THEY say a fact means “A” doesn’t mean it is. “A” is simply a fact, but meanings are the purview of philosophy and theology, not Archeology.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying “I believe God created evolution.” Much to my surprise, tonight’s episode concluded that such a thing was possible, though it couldn’t be proved. And of course it can’t, that’s what faith is all about, after all.

The episode was cleverly structured and well-told. Farnsworth starts out as an utterly intolerant science-prig, who ends up causing the very thing he said was impossible, and as a result he gets punished by utterly intolerant science-prigs of his own (Indirect) creation. This forces upon him a degree of open-mindedness, which, in turn, forces a degree of open-mindedness on Professor Banjo, so, at the end of the day, everyone wins.

While I’m sure this episode will really, really, really upset many of my fellow conservatives, rest assured the conclusion that God is plausible will really, really, really upset many anti-theistic liberals. So there’s that.

This episode has a lot of similarities with the Outer Limits episode, “Wolf 359” in which a civilization evolves from nothingness into a superhuman civilization in a matter of days. This, in turn, was parodied by The Simpsons Halloween short, “The Genesis Tub” (Treehouse of Horror VII - “Oh my God! I’ve created Lutherans!”) which was made by the same folks - more or less - who made this one.

Bender’s argument that Robots could have evolved - and the entire course of Roboevolution on the asteroid - is similar to a recurring theme in a lot of Stanislaw Lem’s science fiction. Most notably, in “The Cyberiad,” a book so smart it makes me feel bad about myself - that Humans created robots who create humans who create robots, and no one really knows where it all started, nor where it’ll finish. “The Invincible,” also by Lem, is a more serious work that deals with a first contact between humanity and a cybernetic ally evolved ecosystem. More recently, we’ve seen just this in the RDM Battlestar Galactica franchise, in which humans create robots who then evolve to human form, repeatedly and cyclically. I certainly hope Lem’s estate got some royalties for that.

Samuel Butler’s 1872 novel “Erewhon” deals with a society that abandoned steam engines and other modern technology in the twelfth century AD because they feared it would evolve and spell the end of humanity. Ironically (And I use that word correctly), Butler intended his lengthy arguments in the book to mock biological evolution, which he strongly disagreed with, but in fact his arguments are entirely logical - and as we know, technology *does* evolve - so he ended up making exactly the point he’d hoped to ridicule.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Probably not. That’s a shame because it *is* a really good episode, and unlike the gay marriage episode a month back which took the solid left position, this one is entirely, staunchly, and refreshingly moderate.

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