"Roswell That Ends Well
" is the nineteenth episode of the third production season of the TV show Futurama
. This episode, which won an Emmy Award
, originally aired on December 9
as the season premiere of broadcast season four. It was written by J. Stewart Burns
and directed by Rich Moore
. The episode centers around an accidental time travel event that results in the main characters visiting Roswell, New Mexico
As the crew kicks back to enjoy a supernova
from point-blank range, Fry
puts a non-microwaveable metal popcorn
container into the ship's microwave
. This causes a reaction between the microwave radiation and the "gravitons
and graviolis" from the supernova that blasts the ship into 1947. On their return to Earth, they find a complete lack of a Global Positioning System
, causing them to crash-land
in Roswell, New Mexico
Refusing to wear a seatbelt unlike the rest of the crew, Bender flies out of the front of the ship upon crash-landing and is smashed to pieces. The crew and Bender's disembodied head go to seek out a way to return, leaving Zoidberg
behind to pick up the pieces. Zoidberg is captured by the U.S. military and taken to Roswell Air Base for experimentation. The military also "reconstructs" Bender's body in the form of a small flying saucer.
Meanwhile, the microwave needed to return to the future has been destroyed and replacements have not been invented yet. A microwave antenna from the army base would work, but Farnsworth gives stern warning against using it: they must preserve causality or risk changing history and doing damage to the future. While disguised as a soldier, Fry visits his grandfather, Enos, who is stationed at the base and engaged to Fry's grandmother (and who slightly resembles Fry). Near-accidents cause Fry to become obsessed with protecting Enos from possible harm as Fry will cease to exist if he is killed. Desperate to keep Enos safe from possible harm, Fry inadvertently brings about Enos' death by leaving him in a "safe" house—which, unknown to Fry, is located in the middle of a nuclear weapons testing range; however, Fry stil exists...
Fry encounters and consoles his would-be grandmother Mildred. Mildred latches on to Fry, who deduces that since he is alive, Mildred must not have been his grandmother, and the two end up having sex. When the rest of the group finds him, Farnsworth insists that Mildred is indeed Fry's grandmother. Fry realizes that he is now his own grandfather and completely freaks out before Professor Farnsworth gives up on noninterference.
The crew storms Roswell Air Base, overpowers it and steals the microwave dish. Fry and Leela rescue Zoidberg from an alien autopsy while the Professor grabs Bender's body. Bender's head falls out of the ship and is left behind in 1947. Back in the 31st century, Fry laments the loss of Bender, until he realizes that his head must still be active. The crew returns to Roswell's ruins with a metal detector where they find Bender's head, none the worse for wear, and reattach it to his still-mangled, hovering, "UFO" body.
This episode provides an important link in the story arc of Philip J. Fry
. By becoming his own grandfather, Fry received a unique genetic
abnormality which causes him to lack the Delta Brainwave
, believed to be present in all other intelligent lifeforms, robots, and certain trees. This genetic condition made Fry immune to the influence of the creatures known as the Brainspawn
, who travel through the universe
, eliminating all forms of thought and intelligence so that they might be the sole possessors of all knowledge. Fry was thus able to defeat the Brainspawn in the episode “The Day the Earth Stood Stupid
”, but it was not until the Season four episode “The Why Of Fry
” that Fry’s abnormality was explained as being due to him having done "the nasty in the past-y" (Or, "Past Nastification").
This episode was later referenced in the movie Futurama: Bender's Big Score
when Fry talks to the professor about time travel, Fry says "What about the time we went back to Roswell." Unsurprisingly, the Professor does not remember the ordeal in question.
In one scene, Dr. Zoidberg undergoes a live alien autopsy, in which one of his four hearts is removed, among other organs. This is later referred to in A Taste of Freedom, when he states that two of his three hearts (one having been removed) are having heart attacks.
The writing team came up with the idea for this episode when they were planning the three plot lines for "Anthology of Interest II
". As the idea developed they eventually had so much material for it that they broke it out as a separate episode. The reason the concept was originally under consideration for the "What if..." scenario was that when Groening and Cohen originally created Futurama
they decided there would not be any time travel; however they changed their mind and decided to go forward with the idea. The writers did not want to create a situation that would leave fans wondering why the Planet Express crew could not simply travel through time on a regular basis. For this purpose they chose to have it occur during a supernova as that was deemed to be a suitably rare occurrence.
In this episode director Rich Moore used screen position and character movement to mimic the time travel aspects of the plot. In the planning stages it was decided that actions that played to screen left would represent events from the past or a setback to the plot. Likewise, screen right indicated progress or moving past their problems.
Broadcast and reception
The episode won an Emmy Award
in the Outstanding Animated Program (Programming Less Than One Hour)
category in 2002. Rich Moore also won an Annie Award
for "Directing in an Animated Television Production" in 2002 and in 2006 IGN
ranked the episode as the sixth best Futurama episode. In 2001 executive producer David X. Cohen noted that this was one of his favorite episodes of the series thus far. Sci Fi Weekly
gave the episode an "A" grade and noted that it was "a half hour of pure entertainment". This episode is one of four featured in the Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection
, marking it as one of Matt Groening's favorite episodes from the series. Claudia Katz
, producer of Futurama
, has also stated that this is one of her three favorite episodes of the series. Although the episode was well received by critics, it continued to do poorly in its time slot. The original airing was in 83rd place for the week with a 3.1 rating/5 share.
TV critic Rob Owen perceived the episode to have touched upon many of the plot devices and themes commonly seen in time travel
stories, most notably the Back to the Future
movies. The episode also shares much in common with the episode "Little Green Men
" of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Much of Enos' character is taken from The Andy Griffith Show’s Gomer Pyle
, such as his accent and use of Pyle’s trademark “Gol-ly!”.
Much of the plot of this episode references the Roswell UFO Incident with the Planet Express crew as the alien invaders, particularly Dr. Zoidberg, and Bender being mistaken for the alien spacecraft.
When at the cafe, Professor Farnsworth orders "A Soylent Green, with the slice of Soylent Orange and some Soylent Coleslaw". This is a reference to the 1973 Science Fiction movie Soylent Green.
In the final scene, Bender, having been left behind in the Roswell desert, is recovered by the crew over a thousand years later, unchanged and in the same place. When Fry and Leela appear, he tells them "I was enjoying it until you guys showed up". This might be inspired by a similar scene in Douglas Adams' The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, in which Marvin the robot is stranded in the restaurant's parking lot for millions of years. Like Bender, he shows neither surprise nor enthusiasm at finally being rescused by his former crew-mates. Bender's stranded head also evokes the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Time's Arrow", in which Data's head is left in a San Francisco cave for hundreds of years. Bender's line "And you are outta here!" after Fry watches Enos get killed by the nuclear explosion is a reference to Dennis Miller's line, "That's the news and I am out of here!" from his tenure as Weekend Update anchor on Saturday Night Live.