A Clockwork Origin
|"A Clockwork Origin"|
|Episode no.||Season six
|Directed by||Dwayne Carey-Hill|
|Written by||Dan Vebber|
|Original air date||August 12, 2010|
|Opening caption||"This time, it's personal"|
"A Clockwork Origin" is the ninth episode of the sixth season of the animated sitcom Futurama. It aired on Comedy Central on August 12, 2010. In the episode, Professor Farnsworth leaves Earth after being frustrated by anti-evolutionists' belief in "Creaturism", a form of Creationism. He and the Planet Express crew arrive at a lifeless planet and the Professor introduces nanobots into the environment. The nanobots rapidly begin evolving into mechanical organisms, allowing the crew to witness a whole new evolutionary history that unfolds before their eyes.
Professor Farnsworth finds out that his clone Cubert was unable to go to school due to the large mob of Creationist protesters outside. Outraged, he quickly takes the Planet Express Ship to Wozniak Nerd Academy, where he finds himself arguing against anti-evolution protesters at Cubert's school. He is forced to argue with Dr. Banjo, a hyper-intelligent orangutan who believes in "Creaturism," a form of creationism. In an attempt to prove evolution did occur, the Professor excavates the lost missing link, which he dubs Homo farnsworth. At the Professor's presentation of his findings at the Museum of Natural History, Dr. Banjo depicts Homo farnsworth anachronistically riding a Stegosaurus in an attempt to support his Creaturist beliefs. The Professor becomes fed up and resolves to leave Earth. He takes the rest of the crew with him to an abandoned planet to live in solitude, but leaves Cubert in the care of his godfather, Dr. Zoidberg, back on Earth. During this time, Dr. Zoidberg tries unsuccessfully to win Cubert's affection.
After the crew helps the Professor set up his home on the new planet, he inserts nanobots into the nearby pond to clean the water. However, in rapid time, the nanobots group into larger organisms, forming into trilobots that devour the ship and everything else. The crew is stranded and flees into a cave. The next day, the crew goes outside and sees a newly grown mechanical forest. The nanobots have continued to evolve rapidly into flora and fauna. Robotic versions of an Elasmosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus rex attack the crew, but a robotic Triceratops (dubbed "Tricycletops" by the Professor) draws them away. A robotic Pteranodon takes Fry to her nest, where she is about to feed Fry to her robotic young. As the crew attempts to rescue Fry, they are ambushed by a robotic Dimetrodon and the same robotic T. rex, but a solar flare short circuits the dinosaur robots, causing a mass extinction of every robot creature except for "small mammalian robots" that were hiding in caves, including Bender. Within two hours, using the remains of the dinosaurs, the Professor manages to build a solar powered working space ship to help them return to Earth.
The next day, the crew wakes up to find both Leela and Amy kidnapped by caveman-like robots. The Professor makes a slingshot to fight the robot caveman. It takes him twelve hours to make the slingshot. The next day, they find that Leela and Amy are free, because the robot cavemen have since evolved into a completely civilized, modern robot society. They encounter a robot naturalist named Dr. Widnar, who is astounded to find her theories on organic creature evolution proven, and presents the crew at the Museum of Natural Robo-History. While giving a speech to the crowd of robots, the Professor states that he is proud of the nanobots' growth after he dumped their ancestors in a pond a few days ago. The robots, who believe unquestioningly in robot evolution, are angered by Farnsworth, and a Robo-Farnsworth states that their Earth took eons, not days, to be created. The Professor explains that relative to them, it was eons, but in reality, only a few days had passed. As proof, he shows a picture of a robot (Bender) riding a robotic Stegosaurus at the start of their creation. Just as Dr. Widnar resolves to leave her planet similar to what the Professor said, the angry robots then arrest Farnsworth and put him on trial for "crimes against science". Bender represents him in court and in his arguments, states that the Professor is not arguing against evolution, but only claims a small role in beginning it by providing the materials necessary (the nanobots). He also tries to declare Professor insane. The jurors leave to deliberate overnight.
The crew wakes up to find that the robots have now evolved into a state of incorporeal transcendent higher consciousness. They are no longer concerned with the Professor any more, finding corporeal beings altogether irrelevant. The crew then takes their makeshift spaceship home. There, the Professor explains his findings to Dr. Banjo. The Professor and Dr. Banjo reconcile their differences, acknowledging that both theories have some plausibility and even some correlation. Dr. Banjo argues that what the Professor witnessed was evolution, but evolution set in motion by an intelligent creator. The Professor agrees that it is possible, however unlikely that Earth evolution was set in motion the same way. However, they quickly prove to have not learned the lesson of tolerating others' views and beliefs, laughing off Bender's theory that this "creator" entity may be a robot, saying "And who created that robot? Some magic bearded robot in the sky?" despite having already proved his point in the episode (and this last is supported by the fact that Bender met God in person).
The title are references to the books A Clockwork Orange and On the Origin of Species. It could also be considered a reference to William Paley's Watchmaker analogy, a teleological argument found in his work Natural Theology. The episode includes several cultural references related to depictions of evolutionary history and the debate between evolution and creationism. The crew's encounters with the robotic dinosaurs and Amy's two-piece cavewoman outfit are parodies of the 1940 fantasy film, One Million B.C. The trial held in the episode also parodies the Scopes Monkey Trial. During the anti-evolution rally, a Flying Spaghetti Monster—a satirical symbol —appears, arguing against evolution.
Broadcast and reception
"A Clockwork Origin" originally aired August 12, 2010 on Comedy Central. In its original American broadcast, "A Clockwork Origin" was viewed by an estimated 1.926 million viewers with a 1.3 rating/2% share in the Nielsen ratings and a 1.0 rating/3% share in the 18-49 demographic, nearly identical to the previous week's episode, "The Late Philip J. Fry".
The episode received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Merrill Barr of Film School Rejects gave the episode a mixed review, calling it "[a] 50/50 episode of Futurama." He stated, "There were parts I loved, and parts I hated. That is all." He also criticized the Zoidberg and Cubert subplot saying, "while on his own Cubert is a funny character, paring [sic] him with a character like Zoidberg is a bad idea." Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode a B+, saying, "It mostly worked, but I was mildly disappointed by the end, because I keep waiting for the episode to move from good to great." Sean Gandert of Paste gave the episode a score of 7.9/10, writing "'A Clockwork Origin' was still a good, fun episode, but was a more disposable piece of entertainment than the show can be at its absolute best."
Robert Canning of IGN gave the episode a strong, positive review, rating it a 9.0/10. Canning praised the episode's pacing as the season's best describing "A Clockwork Origin" as "a very funny, very solid episode." Danny Gallagher of TV Squad gave the episode a positive review as well, saying "It's far from the best episode of the season, but that's still saying a lot for a show that has managed to find new ways to stay fresh while it's been in the can for so long." He also called the robot dinosaur world a perfect parody of One Million B.C..
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- Canning, Robert (August 13, 2010). "Futurama: "A Clockwork Origin" Review". IGN. Archived from the original on 16 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-13.