"War Is the H-Word"
is episode seventeen in season two of Futurama
. It originally aired in North America
on November 26
. The episode parodies several war films and shows, including Starship Troopers
enlist in the Earth Army to take advantage of the 5% military discount to buy chewing gum
. Within seconds of their enlistment, Earth declares war on Spheron I, a planet that commanding general Zapp Brannigan
describes as devoid of any natural resources
and possessing no strategic value.
Concerned for her friends’ safety, Leela attempts to enlist, but is unable due to the Army’s men-only policy (similar to the situation of Mulan). Leela sneaks aboard the Nimbus disguised as a man under the name of Lee Lemon (Leela Man), and Brannigan finds himself attracted to this new soldier.
The troops are deployed to Spheron I and discover that the enemy is a race of sentient spherical creatures. Fry is told to hold back an assault while his fellow soldiers recharge their weapons by turning a crank that plays Pop Goes the Weasel (similar to how a Jack-in-the-box is operated). When the enemy charges, Fry blows a hole in the ground with his weapon and hides in it while his squad is decimated. Bender opens his chest plate and throws himself on a bomb, absorbing the explosion. After the battle, Brannigan sentences Fry to become Kif’s assistant while Bender, now a hero, is treated at a field hospital.
As the soldiers regroup at camp, Richard Nixon’s Head sends Bender, now an officer, and Henry Kissinger’s Head to negotiate with the Spheron leaders. Leela overhears Nixon and Brannigan discussing the true plan: while Bender was recovering, Nixon had a bomb implanted inside Bender; the weapon will detonate with enough force to destroy the entire planet when Bender says his favorite word, “ass”.
Leela and Fry steal a helicopter and fly to the negotiating hall; in the process, Leela reveals her identity, to Fry’s amazement and Brannigan’s overwhelming relief. Fry stops Bender from accidentally activating the bomb; however, Bender realizes that he now has the power to force the Brain Balls to do anything he wants, including surrender. The spheroids reveal that Spheron I is actually their home world, and it is the humans who are the “evil invading aliens”, but Bender simply demands that they “get the Hell off [his] planet!” Without argument, the spheres all bounce into the sky and disappear.
Back at the Planet Express office, Professor Farnsworth and Zoidberg confess that they were unable to remove the bomb from Bender’s body. Instead, they reset the bomb’s trigger, taking it from the list of words that Bender almost never says. Despite Bender’s pleas, the crew refuses to tell him the new trigger word but prior to the credits Bender correctly guesses "antiquing". After a last second boom and flash, Bender states that he's OK.
Broadcast and reception
In 2006 IGN.com
named this episode as number seven in their list of the top 25 Futurama
episodes. The episode was particularly praised for its parodies of MASH
and other military movies. Douglas Pratt
noted that while the episode was mildly predictable, overall it was still an inspired episode.
- The title is a bowdlerization of General William Tecumseh Sherman's famous quote “War is Hell.”
- The war with Spheron I and in particular the balls (such as the "Brain Balls") are references to the film Starship Troopers and the Bugs from that film. Other references include the war promo on television that parallels public service announcements used in the movie.
- The gambit of a robot containing a bomb activated by the speaking of an unknown trigger phrase stems from a Philip K. Dick short story.
- An extended series of jokes inspired by the TV series M*A*S*H occurs when Bender is evacuated to a mobile hospital:
- Bender is treated by a robot doctor named iHawk, which is a parody both of Alan Alda’s portrayal of “Hawkeye” Pierce (voiced by Maurice LaMarche) from M*A*S*H, and of the Apple line of iDevices.
- A “Suicide Is Painless” soundalike appears in the score.
- Todd Susman provides the voice of the unit’s P.A. announcer, as he did in M*A*S*H.
- The alienese on the tent translates as M*E*A*T rather than M*A*S*H (confirmed in the audio commentary).
- In the operating tent, Dr. Zoidberg comments on the joking banter of iHawk, remarking "This is how it starts, first with the jokes, then comes the heavy stuff," referring to the increasingly dramatic and political nature of the character as the M*A*S*H series progressed.
- The relationship between Zoidberg and his alien nurse, and iHawk mimicks the relationship between Frank Burns, Margaret Houlihan and Hawkeye.
- At the beginning of the episode, Fry contemplates the following gum brands:
- A sign outside a convenience store reads “Free bag of Ice-9 with 6-pack,” a reference to the fictional substance Ice-nine featured in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle.
- Zapp Brannigan briefs the troops in front of a large Earth Government flag, a parody of the opening scene of the movie Patton.
- The piñata lightsaber scene parodies the scene where Obi-Wan Kenobi trains Luke Skywalker in Star Wars.
- Nixon says he wants Bender fixed "like Kennedy fixed the 1960 election." There were accusations that Kennedy had gotten the electoral vote of Illinois through either voting fraud in Chicago or the intervention of the Mafia.
- The list of Bender’s most frequently uttered words is presented in the same style as David Letterman’s Top 10 lists.
- Zapp's supposed disability of "Sexlexia" is a play on the learning disability dyslexia.
- In the Spanish version of the episode, Fry does not sing "Walking on Sunshine." He instead sings:
- Cada vez que me baño, "every time I shower,"
- Me hace daño; "it hurts"
- Por eso me baño "that's why I shower"
- Una vez al año "once a year"
- Leela disguisung herself as a man in the army may be a homage to the Disney movie Mulan, which is based loosely on the legend of Hua Mulan.
- During the meal, Brannigan refers to Lee Lemon as "the shining star of Brannigan's Rough Rangers", parodying Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders.
- As they are sitting down to eat you can see a poster saying "Round Hips Sink Ships". This is a play on the WWII saying "Loose Lips Sink Ships".
- Earth President Richard Nixon says to Zapp Brannigan, "Slow down, Starsky," which is obviously a reference to Starsky and Hutch.