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In a previous review, I mentioned how even when Futurama misses a beat, it is still one of the most entertaining shows on television. I feel like that assessment applies to this episode. On it the surface it has all the makings of a classic Futurama episode. However, it never turns the proverbial corner and becomes something special. A Clockwork Origin attempts to tackle the rather large issue of creationism vs. evolution but eventually just skirts the question and offers up some good laughs amongst some uncharacteristic misses.
The best part of the episode by far, is the interactions between our characters, with the storyline being split up into two parts. The majority of our cast is on a far away planet witnessing evolution, but with robotic life, while Zoidberg and Cubert are back on Earth. The Cubert/Zoidberg story is solid and both characters are probably the two most divisive amongst fans. I usually do not like Cubert, I just find him a little too boring and whiney. However, the two play off each other nicely, with the boy finally getting a father figure and Zoidberg just happy that someone is listening to him. The last line of their arc is hilarious and achieves a level of dry humor that Futurama really strives for.
The other characters are stranded on an alien planet. Farnsworth decided that he does not want to live on earth anymore because of people’s rejection of evolution. This is where the new character Dr. Banjo comes into play. Banjo is an excellent inclusion and I hope he has a future on the show. He one of the more outlandish characters in the show, much like Morbo or even Zoidberg. But the main issue in the episode is the creationism vs. evolution debate and the way the writers (wisely?) refuse to pick a side. In the beginning it seems as though they are trying to tell you something, but by the end it becomes apparent that they are pandering to both sides. While this dichotomy may sound like a bad thing, ultimately the show raises some pretty deep questions. The flying spaghetti monster is hilarious however.
The belief in evolution does not make anyone in the show superior to those who don’t and the inverse is true. The writers were able to discuss an issue that has divided people in our time, all the while wrapping the narrative up in space lobsters and evolving robots. They do this well and the episode works best as social commentary.
Watching the Robots evolve from microscopic machines created by the professor, through the dinosaur age, cavemen age, and then into modern society, is both creatively interesting and humorous. By the end you see a different side of the whole debate with, oddly enough, Bender playing the voice of reason throughout it all.
A Clockwork Origins is a good episode that straddles the line of greatness. It never fully achieves that lofty goal, but as I have said prior, an average episode of Futurama is still one of the most entertaining half hours of television. I may be a bit too hard on the show, but it is simply because I have such high expectations.