While the American sci-fi cartoon Futurama is thoroughly, undeniably different from Red Dwarf, there are still some tantalizing similarities flowing through it that really make one wonder if perhaps one of the writing staff is not a Dwarfer at heart.
In this article I’ve decided to record everything that I’ve noticed so far, which is plentiful enough and probably doesn’t require further evidence to support my suspicion, but I WOULD like very much to hear from anybody who has a correction to make, or (even better) has noticed something that I have not. I haven’t seen all of the episodes of Futurama yet, and have seen many of them only once, so this list is definitely incomplete. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach me through my AIM name – “doctorkickles” – to contribute to the next version.
I’ve listed Red Dwarf episode titles, and beside them a rundown of parallels in the Futurama universe. In some cases, however, there are parallels that are not episode-specific, and therefore I’ll list those first.
- In each of these shows, the two main characters are known primarily by their last names. Lister and Rimmer in RD, Fry and Leela in FA. (And in case somebody out there doesn’t know, it’s Dave Lister, Arnold Rimmer, Philip Fry, and Turanga Leela.) Owing to the militaristic organization of Red Dwarf, this makes sense. But it’s less clear why this is the case in Futurama.
- The setup for these shows is similar: the main character is frozen (in his mid-20s) to awaken much, much later than anticipated. In Lister’s case it’s 3 million years. In Fry’s, he’s luckier, and remains in suspended animation for a mere 1,000.
- Both Fry and Lister are incurable slobs, and seem destined (until their respective calamities propel them into the future) to remain in bottom-rung jobs for the rest of their lives. (3rd technician for Lister, pizza delivery boy for Fry.)
- In both shows one of the main characters is an orphan, and periodically becomes depressed about it. Lister in RD, and Leela in FA. And in both shows, we eventually DO find out who the parents are.
- Both RD and FA feature a senile regular character. Holly and Professor Farnsworth.
- In Red Dwarf, the domestic house cat has evolved into Felis Sapiens while Lister is in stasis. In Futurama, the common lobster has evolved into…whatever the hell Dr. Zoidberg is.
- Both the Cat and Zoidberg have a ravenous hunger for fish.
- In My Three Suns Bender becomes the ship’s cook, a role he reprises in a few later episodes. This was also one of Kryten’s many duties during his time aboard Red Dwarf.
- Also, the name Bender is a pun (he is a bender literally, having been designed to bend girders, and figuratively, because he is always “bent”–American slang for drunk). Just like Kryten is a pun on The Admirable Crighton. In both cases, the pun sheds some light on the robot’s personality.
- Bender prays and dreams in binary code. Kryten speaks in binary code in Terrorform and on the Smeg Ups tape. Also, Kryten shares “old android sayings.” Bender offers up an old robot saying (“Does not compute”) in one episode…I think it’s A Taste of Freedom, but somebody is welcome to correct me.
- In When Aliens Attack Bender gives Leela a damage report for the ship. In Dwarf fashion, he gives her three or four legitimate points of concern and then finishes it off with “and also they spilled my martini.” This is very similar to Cat’s damage reports in series VI; he would also end the report on some irrelevant inconvenience.
- Speaking of Cat, in the A Clone of My Own episode, the Planet Express ship is navigated by Fry’s sense of smell. Sound familiar?
- The Red Dwarf theme song may be alluded to in A Big Piece of Garbage, as “FUN IN THE SUN” is printed clearly on the back of a trash barge.
- And finally (but still really cool), Starbug is green. The Planet Express ship in Futurama is also green. And Starbug resides in Red Dwarf when it’s not in flight. Red Dwarf is red. The Planet Express ship resides in the Planet Express building. And the Planet Express building is also red. A coincidence, I’m sure, but interesting…
Lister breaks Space Corps regulations by smuggling Frankenstein on board, for which he is punished by Captain Hollister. Leela breaks DOOP (Democratic Order of Planets) regulations by smuggling Nibbler aboard the Planet Express ship in Love’s Labours Lost in Space and is punished by Zapp Brannigan (he refuses to rescue her from the collapsing planet of Vergon 6).
A toaster with a personality? Leave it to Crapola Inc. And Professor Farnsworth, who gives his own toaster a personality (that of a puppy, it seems) and teaches it to feel love in Raging Bender. Bender is quickly irritated by the toaster’s obtrusive personality, and resorts to violence on the unit, just as Lister does in White Hole.
Waiting For God
Lister learns that not only did the Cat race look upon him as a God, but that a misunderstanding led to a Holy War that resulted in the race’s near-extinction. In Godfellas Bender becomes God to the race of Shrimpkins, and also inadvertently causes a Holy War that results in their complete destruction. In each case Lister and Bender use the depressing opportunity to question the necessity and role of religion.
Holly jokes with Lister about leaving 17 pounds, 50 pence in his bank account three million years ago…and due to compound interest he now owns 98% of the planet’s wealth. This actually DOES happen to Fry in A Fishful of Dollars, except that he’s only been gone a thousand years (only a thousand??) and he left ninety-three cents in his account. At 2.75% interest over one thousand years, he now has a balance of 4.3 billion dollars.
We learn here about Kryten’s prediliction for the all-robot soap-opera Androids. Bender shares a similar affinity for the genre, as we learn in Futurama’s I, Roommate episode. Only Bender’s is called All My Circuits. Also, the entire production staff of Androids are (get this) androids themselves, and are credited as Android 147621E, Android 875421P and so on. In Raging Bender we see that All My Circuits: The Movie was directed by Directing Unit 4, written by Writing Unit 5 and Writing Unit 12, and it is based on original characters by Original Character Unit 17.
Better Than Life
The Cat philosophizes about mermaids. He refers to the standard fish-on-the-bottom mermaid as “the stupid way around” and is glad that Miranda, his girlfriend, is the reverse. In the Deep South episode of Futurama, Fry also falls for a mermaid, but once they make it into bed together he’s sad she couldn’t be “the other kind of mermaid, with the fish part on the top and the lady part on the bottom.”
Lister finds evidence that he somehow married Kochanski, but can’t figure out how this happened. In Time Keeps on Slipping Fry and Leela suddenly find themselves married, and also (due to a time-space anomaly) can’t figure out why.
Also, this Dwarf episode begins with Lister’s plan to go back in time and convince Kochanski to use the spare stasis pod so that they can be together in the present (future?). Which is exactly what Fry’s old girlfriend did in The Cryonic Woman.
This episode is about a mutinous “new” crew member (the titular Queeg) who overthrows Holly for control of the ship. The crew does not fight this because they think they are getting something better. New crew member Zapp Brannigan does the same thing to Leela in Brannigan, Begin Again, and the crew assents for the same reason.
The Futurama crew also enter a parallel universe in The Farnsworth Parabox. In Red Dwarf the difference is that women have dominance over men, in Futurama, the difference is that coin flips have the opposite effect. The REALLY interesting thing about this parallel between the two shows, though, is that the parallel universe, in both cases, is reached with a simple box. Compare the comic simplicity of the Holly Hop Drive with the box that Farnsworth creates. Aside from color and the “stop” and “start” buttons on the Hop Drive, the devices are identical.
Kryten erases Lister’s mind and downloads it onto a computer slug to be reloaded later. Morgan also downloads Bender’s brain onto a 3.5″ disk in How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back. In both cases, something potentially detrimental then happens to the storage device.
The tune-up from the inside that Rimmer promises Lister he will do for his body is similar to what the parasites actually do for Fry in Parasites Lost: they make him much more fit mentally and physically. A pretty cool parallel, and I couldn’t resist comparing Rimmer’s role in Bodyswap to that of a parasite.
The Last Day
Kryten discusses his notions of Silicon Heaven with Lister–an afterlife for electronics who obey their masters. A later episode also mentions Silicon Hell, which is, as Futurama‘s Hell is Other Robots reveals, located in Atlantic City, New Jersey–and called Robot Hell. Bender spends a short time there before he is rescued by his crew mates.
Kryten quotes to Lister from “The Electronic Bible.” In the same episode of Futurama, we see the Electronic Bible. It is referred to as The Good Book 3.0 and appears to be stored on an Iomega Zipdisk.
The “boxing match” Lister is watching at the beginning of the episode clearly exists for the sake of sexual thrill without any relation to actual boxing whatsoever. The same goes for Bender’s suggestion in Raging Bender about his next boxing match, which will feature him fighting two “bimbos” in the mud. He then explains that he wouldn’t be fighting in the conventional sense…
The idea of a creature that exists as a tailored “perfect-match” for all those who encounter it was explored at least twice in Futurama. Once in I Dated a Robot when we see a box of “blank robots” designed to have any personality of one’s choice downloaded onto them, and again in A Bicyclops Built For Two, in which Alkazar is pretty much the male version of Camille–only with very selfish intentions.
Kryten becomes human in this episode. The same thing happens to Bender (albeit intentionally) in Anthology of Interest II. There are many, many differences in the ways in which they employ their new fleshy bodies, though; Kryten is clearly most interested in experiencing human emotions, while Bender’s primary curiosity is human debauchery and excess.
We first learn about the Simulants, ruthless mechanical killers who despise all humans and will stop at nothing to exterminate them. In I, Roommate Bender has recurring dreams about his own desire to “kill all humans.” In Anthology of Interest I he even makes some pretty commendable progress at it; I’m sure the contents of Barbara Belini’s pod would be very proud.
In How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back, Fry wears a comically small necktie, just like Lister does at Rimmer’s trial.
The climactic planet pool sequence in which Lister knocks a planet into the White Hole is very closely mirrored in A Big Piece of Garbage when one garbage ball is used to knock another through the gravity fields of several planets and then into the sun. Also, deleted from this episode was a character called Arcturus Fats, an intergalactic pool champion who was going to perform this maneuver, which furthers the parallel to Dave “Cinzano Bianco” Lister.
The crew use Kryten as a battering ram to reach the science room. The Futurama crew does the same thing with Bender in Parasites Lost to reach Fry’s ganglion. (Also, both characters suffer head damage as a result. Please be gentle to your robotic buddy.)
In the Mother’s Day episode of Futurama, all electronics refuse to do their jobs, and the crew must adapt to pre-technological life, just like the Dwarfers. Interestingly enough, both Fry and Lister complain about how long it takes to saw the lid off a can without an electric opener.
Rimmer encounters a more successful version of himself from a parallel universe. In The Farnsworth Parabox Fry also encounters a more successful version of himself…one who is married to Leela. In both episodes, the drastically different outcomes were decided by a single incident: a school-master’s recommendation in Red Dwarf, and the flip of a coin in Futurama.
We are privy to Kryten’s first-person rebooting sequence, and Bender’s is quite similar in The Bird-bot of Ice-catraz. Both characters reboot after they are damaged.
The concept of positive viruses in an interesting one and very entertainingly explored in this episode. In Futurama, Fry contracts positive parasites from an egg-salad sandwich he buys in a petrol-station rest-room. (Parasites Lost)
Back To Reality
Sorry, but I need to give away the endings to both episodes in order to point out the difference. In Red Dwarf it turns out that the events of the episode were actually just a group-hallucination brought on by the ink from the Despair Squid, and they return from this hallucination to find themselves just where they were when the episode began: exploring an ocean moon in Starbug. In Futurama‘s Obsoletely Fabulous, Bender also awakens at the end to find out that the events of the episode were a hallucination, brought about by the upgrade he was receiving at the factory when the episode began.
The Psirens lure travelers to their deaths by appearing to be what they most desire and seducing them onto the asteroid’s surface. In A Bicyclops Built For Two Leela falls victim to a similar creature, who later reveals himself not to be the cyclops of her dreams, but really an insectoid creature like the Psirens. Interestingly enough, both the cyclops and sirens are Homeric references.
Gunmen of the Apocalypse
Obligatory Western ep? Yep. As is Where the Buggalo Roam from Futurama.
The virtual reality gear that the crew uses here (helmet, gloves, boots) is very similar to the virtual reality gear that the Planet Express crew uses in Parasites Lost and A Bicyclops Built For Two.
Rimmer’s pod accelerates away from Starbug faster than the ship’s top speed. Ditto for Bender when he’s fired out of a torpedo tube in Godfellas.
Tikka To Ride
Kryten has his guilt-chip removed, and is therefore without many important behavioral protocols. In The Series Has Landed we learn about Bender’s inhibition unit, which functions in a similar way. We also see what happens to both robots without it…Kryten swears and boozes, and Bender sings folk songs.
Stoke Me A Clipper
Rimmer is present at his own funeral, as is Bender in the opening of A Pharaoh to Remember“
Lister learns the truth about his parentage when he travels back in time to become his own father. In Roswell That Ends Well, Fry also travels back in time, accidentally killing his young grandfather. As such, Fry must impregnate his own grandmother so that he will not be erased from existence.
The Kryten from the parallel universe is gold, compared to “our” Kryten, who is black. In The Farnsworth Parabox, Bender encounters his parallel self…who is gold, compared to “our” Bender’s silver.
Beyond A Joke
Kryten is able to recognize Able as a relative by his 2x4c surname, just as Bender and Flexo are able to recognize each other as relatives by their serial numbers in The Lesser of Two Evils.
Able is a slave to his Otrazone addiction. In Hell is Other Robots Bender finds himself similarly at the whim of his new addiction to electricity. In both cases, feeding the addiction leads the crew into a situation of great danger.
Kryten tells us about the degree (he is a Bachelor of Sanitation) that he earned at Toilet University. Kochanski argues with him that Toilet University is just a program installed in his hardware. In Futurama (Bendless Love) we see Bender, in a flashback, also attending “bending school,” in which a program is loaded into his head and he is then handed a degree.
We explore here the idea of an intelligent virus. Kryten suggests that they might be able to reason with it and therefore get it to leave Lister’s body. The attempt is unsuccessful and they resort to drastic treatment. In Futurama, however, Fry contracts intelligent parasites (Parasites Lost) and the first thing the crew attempts is a very drastic treatment (they shrink themselves and attack the parasites head-to-head). This is unsuccessful, however, and in the end, Fry actually DOES reason with them, and convinces them to leave his body willingly. Lister could learn a thing or two from him about negotiating with intelligent ailments.
Lister loses his right arm in this episode, as does Fry in Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?
And speaking of that arm, the re-attachment of both Lister’s and Fry’s is less than perfect. (Well…Lister’s might be called MORE than perfect…)
The transformation of Lister’s body by the nanobots is similar to what happens to Fry’s body when the parasites give it a tune up in Parasites Lost.
In fact, the parasites from Parasites Lost function very much as Kryten’s nanobots did…repairing Fry’s body whenever something harms him.
Okay, so this episode never happened, but we’ve all seen the script here, and the Cat-must-mate-or-die plot bears similarities to Zoidberg’s in Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love? The twist, however, is that the Cat will die if he remains a virgin, but Zoidberg will die if he mates. Somebody really got the short end of the stick on that one.
Back In The Red (Part One)
Cat’s heartbeat is “cooler” than the normal, boring human heartbeat. Listen to it. And then listen to Bender’s heartbeat from the climactic moment in A Big Piece of Garbage. Which is funkier? It’s a dead heat.
Hollister comments on the Cat’s decorated, color-coordinated innards, saying they look better than his own quarters. In Parasites Lost Fry’s intestines also become decorated, and Amy is surprised at how great it looks, saying, “This place used to be a big dump.”
Back In The Red (Part Two)
Kryten is restored to factory settings and therefore goes about his original housekeeping duties without the personality that Lister helped him develop. In How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back the same thing happens to Bender when his mind is downloaded onto a disk.
Kryten’s file is stamped RESTORE TO FACTORY SETTINGS by Dr. McLaren. In Insane in the Mainframe Bender is stamped DEFECTIVE ELECTRONICS before being shipped off to the asylum for insane robots.
Rimmer takes the sexual magnetism virus because he wants to appear charming, but eventually he becomes tired of all the intercourse and starts turning it down, something he never thought he’d do, by saying, “I’ve got so much coffee I don’t think I can manage to get any mints until tomorrow.” In Futurama‘s Amazon Women in the Mood a similar thing happens to Zapp and Fry, who were originally looking forward to all the sex they’d be forced to endure on Planet Amazonia, only to become exhausted and try to stop the women. Zapp comments, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak and bruised.”
Back In The Red (Part Three)
Both Kochanski (in this episode) and Bender (in Obsoletely Fabulous) have doubts about the reality of their situation because their escape is too easy. Both of them happen to be correct.
The time skips that occur when Rimmer deletes all mention of his agreement with Lister are very similar in style to the time skips that occur throughout Futurama‘s Time Keeps on Slipping. In each case, the crew has no recollection of what happens during the skips.
Kryten uses his optical circuits as video cameras in this episode, and they broadcast what he sees to the rest of the ship. He does this to air programs on his personal TV network. In When Aliens Attack Bender, too, uses his eyes to broadcast a television show: the crew’s version of Single Female Lawyer.
Pete (Part One)
In Time Keeps on Slipping the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team comes to Earth and challenges the Planet Express crew to a basketball game. Why? “For no reason,” explains the head Globetrotter. Arguably, this is the same reason Captain Hollister challenged the Dwarf crew…
Only The Good…
Rimmer is insulted and later attacked by a candy vending machine. In Mother’s Day Fry is insulted and attacked by a coffee dispenser. He is also heckled by various other appliances throughout the episode, each just as nasty and caustic as Tony Slattery.
Remember, this is not complete. Email me at email@example.com to correct or contribute to the next version.