In “A Farewell to Arms,” the second half of last night’s two-episode season premiere of “Futurama” on Comedy Central, a select group of Earth’s residents fled to Mars after an ancient prophecy wheel was discovered that seemed to indicate this planet was about to be destroyed by solar flares. Really, this was just another typical day in the 31st century, where the world always seems on the verge of destruction — fitting for a series that often spoofs sci-fi standards. Here’s a rundown of some of the other times the Earth almost ended on the Matt Groening-created series:
“A Big Piece of Garbage”: Season 1, Episode 8
Thanks to Professor Farnsworth’s invention of the Smelloscope, which allows people to sniff for distant cosmic objects, the Planet Express crew discovers a giant ball of garbage hurtling toward New New York City. It turns out to be 20th-century trash returning home after having been shot out into space a thousand years ago, and to save everyone from being annihilated by a gob of America Online floppy disks and coffee grounds, Fry has to teach the refuse-free future how to litter in order to create an equal-sized garbage ball that they can shoot back at the incoming one. Problem solved! Or at least delayed for another millenium or so.
“When Aliens Attack”: Season 1, Episode 12
The warlike residents of Omicron Persei 8, a thousand light years from Earth, invade because a long-ago broadcast of the “Ally McBeal”-like “Single Female Lawyer” (about, as Omicronian Emperor Lrrr explains, “an unmarried human female struggling to succeed in a human male’s world”) was interrupted by what turns out to have been an act of klutziness by 20th-century Fry. It may be one of the worst reasons ever to attack and threaten to destroy a planet, but who can fault a dedicated fan? Since videotapes were destroyed in 2443’s second coming of Jesus, the Planet Express crew ends up re-enacting a version of the show based on Fry’s vague memories of it, proving that watching a lot of TV can actually help you save the world.
“Mother’s Day”: Season 2, Episode 14
When Mom, the beloved corporate overlord of Mom’s Friendly Robot Company, decides to become “supreme overlord of Earth” because she’s feeling bitter about an ages-ago affair that went sour, she decides to doom the human race to extinction for Mother’s Day so that “everyone will hate it as much as I do.” She uses her powers as manufacturer of the world’s robots to start a robot rebellion that sends people screaming through the streets as giant androids tear down buildings, TVs attack and Bender… acts normally. It’s then up to Professor Farnsworth to rescue everyone with a feat of elder love.
“The Day the Earth Stood Stupid”: Season 3, Episode 7
Giant floating brains turn out to be Earth’s greatest nemeses in the universe of “Futurama” — we first see them in this episode, in which the Brainspawn attack the planet and render everyone an idiot with their stupidity rays. Only Fry is immune, but he’s never been the brightest bulb in the basket in the first place. He does, however, have enough knowledge to divine where the leader of the invading force resides by thinking about where brains would obviously hang out — at the library. Fry traps the Big Brain in a story of his own creation (“a crummy world of plot holes and spelling errors”) and makes him leave the planet “forever, for no raisin” — one of the show’s great line deliveries from Maurice LaMarche.
“Time Keeps On Slippin'”: Season 3, Episode 14
In order to grow a mutant basketball team to compete against the Harlem Globetrotters (they “came to terrify and humiliate” us, not entertain us with their sports comedy antics), Professor Farnsworth sends his crew out to gather chronitons particles, causing his creations to mature faster but also making time start skipping forward, leading to the possible early end of the universe. Fortunately, the Globetrotters also possess brilliant scientific minds, and are able to help figure out a way to use one of the professor’s doomsday devices to stop the time skippage — though nothing can aid Fry in his quest to figure out how he can win Leela over romantically.
“The Why of Fry”: Season 4, Episode 10
The Brainspawn are back in this episode, this time working to collect all knowledge in the universe and store it in the Infosphere, their massive memory bank, after which they’ll destroy everything else (why keep the hard copy when you have a digital backup?). And once again, our hapless delivery boy Fry is the only one who isn’t affected by the Brains’ powers, for reasons we finally learn. Fry turns out to be the “most important person in the universe,” though he and the Nibblonians are the only ones who know it — and for all that heroism, Fry does for once get a kiss from the one-eyed object of his affections.
“The Beast with a Billion Backs”: Season 5, Episodes 5-8
It’s love that could potentially destroy the galaxy in this straight-to-DVD feature that was broken up into four season-five episodes. A lonely Fry sneaks through a rift in the universe and meets giant tentacle monster Yivo on the other side, who takes over his mind by attaching an appendage to his neck. Soon everyone is worshiping the tentacle at its own behest, until Leela discovers that the alien is actually mating with everyone on Earth simultaneously. It promises to “start over as friends and see where things go” and starts wooing our universe with dates and promises of commitment to persuade everyone to head to Yivo’s dimension forever — hey, there doesn’t always have to be mass destruction for the world to end.
“That Darn Katz!”: Season 6, Episode 8
Finally, “Futurama” comes up with aliens even more adorable than Nibbler — in this Amy-centric episode, a race of evil but irresistible intelligent talking space cats who’ve been living among us since Ancient Egypt plots to harness the Earth’s rotational energy and send it, via the Great Pyramid of Giza, to their home planet of Thuban 9. They use the technology from Amy’s doctoral thesis and their powers of hyper-cuteness to build an invention that stops the Earth from spinning, leaving one side freezing and the other too hot until she comes up with a way to fix things (or at least restore them to a reasonable approximation of how they were before). Chalk up a win for dog people everywhere.
“Benderama”: Season 6, Episode 17
Eric Drexler’s nanotechnology, end-of-days, “grey goo” scenario gets reimagined in this episode, in which Bender creates increasingly smaller copies of himself while consuming more and more of the planet’s matter. Before everything gets too close to being consumed by a grey Bender goo, the duplicates run out of alcohol and expire — only a few survive and work their way down to molecular scale. It’s not quite the destruction of all matter, but they do turn all of the Earth’s fresh water into alcohol, making the world’s population too drunk to deal with the giant angry alien (voiced by Patton Oswalt) that arrives looking to offer an apology — which is dangerous in its own, goofier way.