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|First appearance||"Love's Labours Lost in Space"|
|Voiced by||Billy West|
|Occupation||Captain of the Nimbus flagship|
|Significant other(s)||Turanga Munda (ex-fiance)|
Zapp Brannigan is a fictional character in the animated sitcom Futurama. He is voiced by Billy West, but was originally intended to be voiced by Phil Hartman, with West taking over the role after Hartman's death. The character is based on the Star Trek captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner. The show's executive producer David X. Cohen has described Brannigan as "half Captain Kirk, half actual William Shatner".
Brannigan is a 25-Star General in the Democratic Order of Planets, and captain of its flagship, the Nimbus. He is first introduced in the fourth episode of the series, "Love's Labours Lost in Space", in which he plays a major role. In the episode, Brannigan becomes enamored with Leela, whom he attempts to woo for the remainder of the series. Brannigan is portrayed as a respected military hero in the eyes of his superiors and the general public, but strongly disliked by his own crew, most notably his long suffering second-in-command, Kif Kroker. Though famed for his bravery and strategic genius, it soon becomes very apparent that he is sexist, vain, stupid and often very cowardly and inept. Most of his military battles were successful because of significantly weak or non-hostile enemies or even pacifists. Brannigan is also completely indifferent to military casualties, and it is implied that most of his victories have been pyrrhic, achieved only by sacrificing soldiers in vast numbers.
Role in Futurama
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Brannigan is a senior member of the military of the Democratic Order of Planets (D.O.O.P.) though his title varies; he has been referred to as a "25-star General", Captain, "General Major Webelo", "Rear Brigadier", and "Commodore 64." He is arrogant, completely incompetent, chauvinistic, and stupid.
Soon after first meeting him, Leela has sex with him. He mentions this encounter repeatedly in later episodes while remaining convinced that Leela lusts after him despite her vocal (and often violent) opposition to the idea.
Brannigan's Law forbids interfering with an undeveloped planet, a parody of the Prime Directive from Star Trek. Brannigan himself does not pretend to understand it, he merely enforces it, and even fails to uphold it on at least one occasion. Brannigan's Law is officially called Directive B10.8:1. According to Brannigan, "Brannigan's Law is like Brannigan's love: hard and fast".
In "Brannigan, Begin Again", Zapp was stripped of his command and court-martialed, after his attempt to cut the ribbon of the new Democratic Order of Planets (D.O.O.P.) headquarters with his battleship's laser cannon (as opposed to the oversized ceremonial scissors specifically delivered for the purpose) resulted in the headquarters' destruction. During the court-martial hearing, Zapp implicated Kif as being mostly responsible for the disaster and Kif, also, was immediately court-martialed, before being able to say anything in his own defense. Zapp and Kif soon found employment with Planet Express, and shortly after mounted a mutiny aboard the Planet Express Ship, usurping the captaincy from Leela, much to her chagrin. While orchestrating the mutiny, Zapp told Fry and Bender that all he expected from his crew was "complete loyalty". It is soon revealed that by this, Zapp meant a willingness to die in a pointless kamikaze attack on a neutral planet. It is revealed in this episode that Zapp feels most hostile towards neutral parties, as, "With enemies you know where you stand, but with Neutrals? Who knows? It sickens me." When Zapp's bizarre personal mission was foiled, Leela lied in the ensuing military hearing in order to avoid having to continue to work with him, giving him full credit for averting the disaster that, in reality, he almost caused. Consequently, he was reinstated as captain of the Nimbus.
The Nimbus, BP-1729, is the flagship of the fleet of the D.O.O.P. under Brannigan's command. The Nimbus is an extremely large vessel, capable of blockading or besieging entire planets single-handedly, and of transporting armies large enough for the pacification of the planet, all without the aid of support vessels. It is a parody of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Original Series. At one point the Nimbus was destroyed by the Decapodians and was either rapidly rebuilt or replaced by another ship that had been renamed, similar to the destruction and replacement of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) with the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-A). It was again severely damaged in Bender's Big Score, only to be repaired within the month and return fully operational in The Beast with a Billion Backs. Brannigan's quarters aboard the Nimbus (which he refers to as his "lovenasium") are garishly decorated in velour and contain a hovering heart-shaped bed, hanging over which is a portrait of him in a pose mocking Aaron Shikler's posthumous portrait of John F. Kennedy. The ship was once again destroyed while pursuing the Planet Express ship, by crashing headlong into the road surface outside the Planet Express building, immediately after the Planet Express ship suffered a similar fate.
Brannigan is widely revered in military circles for his numerous victories over hostile aliens. However, almost all of these victories tend to come from using excessive force to subdue comically weak opponents, or the use of tactics that rely on large numbers and wanton disregard for the safety of his men. These include:
- Carpet bombing Eden 7 ("Brannigan Begin Again")
- Defeating the pacifists of the Gandhi nebula ("When Aliens Attack")
- Conquering the Retiree People of the Assisted Living Nebula ("A Flight to Remember")
- Single-handedly defeating the "weak and womanlike" Spiderians of Tarantulon 6 ("Three Hundred Big Boys").
- Driving the native population of the planet Spheron 1 off of the planet (although it was actually Bender who accomplished this feat, not Brannigan) ("War Is the H-Word").
- Defeated the Killbots in the Octillian system ("Love's Labors Lost in Space"). He was able to win the battle when he realized each Killbot had a preset kill limit. Zapp sent wave after wave of his own men until all of the Killbots had reached their limits and shut down.
Brannigan is based on the Star Trek captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner; Brannigan and Shatner meet face-to-face in the episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before". The creators of the series envisioned Brannigan as similar to what Shatner himself would be like as a starship captain. Cohen describes him as being "half Captain Kirk, half actual William Shatner", and that the initial premise for the character was "What if the real William Shatner was the captain of the Enterprise instead of Kirk?". In the episode "Amazon Women in the Mood" the DVD audio commentary describes Zapp Brannigan's reinterpretation of "Lola" as a spoken word song as a reference to what William Shatner did with "Rocket Man". Brannigan also wears a girdle to appear thinner and in another episode nearly loses his toupee, seemingly a parody of similar accusations aimed at Shatner. Originally Brannigan was to appear fatter in every shot throughout the first episode in which he appeared, but the animators were so disgusted by his ultimate appearance that the idea was dropped.
Brannigan's DOOP uniform is very similar to that of Magnus, Robot Fighter but he bears no other relation to that character.
Zapp Brannigan is voiced by Billy West, though he was originally intended to be voiced by Phil Hartman. Hartman insisted on auditioning for the role, and "of course, just nailed it" according to creator Matt Groening. However, due to Hartman's murder, West was given the role. On a Futurama DVD commentary, Groening reveals that Zapp's character and mannerisms were established in West's original audition for the character, and any similarity to Phil Hartman or his other well known cartoon characters (Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure) is simply coincidence. On the other hand, in an interview for the website TV Squad, Billy West states that his Zapp Brannigan is an imitation of Hartman and also "modeled after a couple of big dumb announcers I knew."
- Booker, M. Keith. Drawn to Television: Prime-Time Animation from The Flintstones to Family Guy. pp. 115–124.
- Cohen, David X.; Groening, Matt; Kelley, Brian; Sheesley, Brian; Moore, Rich; Vanzo, Scott; DiMaggio, John (2002). Futurama: Volume One DVD commentary for the episode "Love's Labours Lost in Space" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
Oh, the gut was supposed to grow and grow over each scene, but it got a little too grotesque, so we had to pull it back a bit.
- Joel Keller (2006-06-15). "Billy West: The TV Squad Interview". Retrieved 2007-10-25.
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