Futurama Season 11 Firmly Establishes The Series In The Canon Of Christmas Horror
In the 31st-century setting of "Futurama," the holiday season has been altered somewhat. Christmas is now called Xmas, and traditional Christmas fir frees have been replaced by palm trees. Gift-giving is still a tradition and, as of the show's most recent episode, "I Know What You Did Next Xmas," so is the cooking of a holiday turducken. People still wait for Santa to arrive, but not for the usual reasons. It seems that in 2801, humanity decided to build an efficient, gift-distributing Santa Claus robot, capable of delivering many thousands of megagifts every second. Sadly, the Santa robot went rogue, punishing all children it deemed naughty ... to death. And, given Santa's ultra-stringent standards, he kills just about anyone on sight. Every Xmas, the citizens of the 31st century crouch in their armored homes, hidden from the evil Santa's missiles and explosives. Think Christmas via "The Purge."
To date, Robot Santa has appeared in four episodes of "Futurama" and one of the "Futurama" features. He was initially voiced by John Goodman, but Bender actor John DiMaggio took over after his first appearance.
In "I Know What You Did Next Xmas," Professor Farnsworth uses a time machine to fix Santa's evil malfunction once and for all. He goes back to 2801 and attempts to adjust Santa's handy-dandy "naughty/nice" gauge, ensuring he never becomes evil. Later in the evening, Bender and Dr. Zoidberg decide to take the professor's time machine back only one year to kidnap Santa and murder him in a fit of Holiday resentment. Shockingly, the pair are successful. While the other characters enjoy their turduckens, Bender and Zoidberg busy themselves finding a place to hide Santa's corpse.
The show is very funny, but also refreshingly horrific. This episode could be a Christmas horror classic in the making.
How does the timeline shake out in "I Know What You Did Next Xmas?" Perhaps it's better not to think about it. The causality loops are nonsense, and nothing really shakes out, logically. Just know that Bender and Zoidberg have murdered the "bad" Santa, and have to desperately dispose of the body.
Bender's story is kicked off by a mysterious Xmas card in his stocking, bearing the titular warning. Bender initially dismisses it, giving over to his pervasive laziness. Later in the evening, both Bender and Zoidberg are left alone in the Planet Express building, as each of the other characters has a family to go home to. After drinking some of Zoidberg's dumpster nog, they make their murderous decision. Neither character seems to value life terribly highly. Their vicious crime and subsequent hiding of it is as funny as it is ghoulish. They attempt to sink Santa's body in the bay and, when that doesn't work, propose eating him. Bender seems a little too eager to slice up Santa and start chowing down.
Later in the episode, the Professor's clone Cubert (Kath Soucie) finds himself hogtied among a pile of turduckens (never mind how). For a brief moment, it seems that he, too, will be part of the Xmas feast.
The final twist at the end of the episode is goofy, and also doesn't make a lot of sense. Professor Farnsworth even announces, "Allow me to speak for everyone when I say: wha-?" But never mind. The important part is Bender's bloodlust and Zoidberg's utter lack of moral concern. This is a Hitchcockian thriller writ large. It's "Rope," only with Santa Claus, drunk robots, and lobster men.
One of the central gags of "Futurama" is that the future will be as idiotic as the present. Humanity may have access to miracle technologies, and hundreds of fascinating alien species may be part of our society, but at the end of the day, we're still dolts. In the 31st century, we'll still be horny, greedy dingbats with no greater understanding of ourselves than we have right now. We'll build sentient robots, but they'll be crass alcoholics. We'll be able to clone dinosaurs, but we'll use them as cheap carnival rides. And we'll be able to solve world hunger, but evil corporations will continue to hoard wealth and misallocate resources.
With that quotidian idiocy will come a certain moral decay. Seen regularly on the streets of 31st-century New New York are coin-operated suicide booths, encouraging the population to off themselves on a whim. Human life, "Futurama" seems to say, has little value in the future. Indeed, characters have died or been in peril on the show before, only to have ostensibly good friends suggest lunch is nigh in response. "We have to save Bender!" someone might yell. "Why?" will be the response.
The characters on "Futurama" love each other, but they also kind of hate each other. There is a bubbling resentment undergirding most of the show, and it bubbles to the surface when a horrid crime is committed ... like when Bender and Zoidberg casually murder Santa and suggest eating his corpse. This is a fun combination of "Rope," "The Purge," "I Know What You Did Last Summer," and a handful of "The Terminator" thrown in for good measure. What a treat.
New episodes of "Futurama" premiere every Monday at midnight PST on Hulu.