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Recap / Futurama S 6 E 9 A Clockwork Origin

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This time, it's personal

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, led by 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 flee inside 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 a plesiosaur and Tyrannosaurus rex attack the crew, but a robotic Triceratops (dubbed "Tricycle-tops" by the professor) saves the crew. A robotic Pteranodon takes Fry to its nest, where it is about to feed Fry to its robotic young. As the crew attempts to rescue Fry, they are ambushed by a robotic Dimetrodon and the same robotic Tyrannosaurus, 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. 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 robot 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). 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, however 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).


  • Aesoptinum: The nanobots, which exist solely to convince Farnsworth that evolution could have been set in motion by an external force.
  • All Cavemen Were Neanderthals: The robot cavemen, or "NANDerthals" according to a display at the Museum of Natural Robo-history, have muscular builds and speak in grunts.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology:
    • Invoked. Dr. Banjo unveils a (highly-inaccurate) mural of Homo farnsworth "frolicking with dinosaurs at the moment of creation".
    • Played straight when the lost missing link is named Homo farnsworth, despite predating the genus Homo as it's supposed to be the transition between apes and Darwinius masilae.
    • Speaking of which, Darwinius masilae is described as descended from apes, and its illustration shown on the holographic evolutionary chain looks like a generic ape. The real creature was an early lemur relative that predated the first simians.
    • Homo habilis is listed as an ancestor to Homo erectus, when recent studies suggest it was a sister group.
    • The term "missing link" is used, when "transitional form" would be a more accurate term.
    • Played for Laughs when Farnsworth identifies two of the missing link fossils he uncovers at the Tanzanian dig site as Piltdown Man (a supposed human ancestor that was discovered to be a hoax, and a very infamous one, at that) and Manfred Mann (a rock singer), along with a misplaced Java Man.
    • Justified with the evolved mechanical lifeforms. Most of them resemble highly-stereotypical depictions of the extinct organisms they're meant to represent, but given that they're mechanical beings descended from nanobots designed by an Absent-Minded Professor, one wouldn't really expect otherwise.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The crew are saved from being accused of creationism by the jury, the judge and indeed every robot on the planet evolving into energy beings overnight, and deciding their petty squabbles don't matter.
  • Behemoth Battle:
    • The robotic Triceratops rams into the robotic Tyrannosaurus and pushes it into the lake, where it gets into a fight with the robotic plesiosaur before all three get into a brawl.
      Fry: Throw down, dinosaurs of the land and sea!
    • Another one occurs later on, between a robotic Dimetrodon and the robotic T. rex.
  • Brick Joke: Early in the episode, Bender forges a "fossil" (a spring with googly eyes on it) to prove robots have evolved as well. Later, the spring is seen on display at the robot museum.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Fry, grabbed by a robot Pteranodon, calls out “This is a cool way to die.”
  • Cheating with the Milkman: Referenced when Farnsworth compares the sterility of the water to his milkman-trusting father.
  • Clothing Damage: The nanobots, after becoming trilobots, devour the ship, Farnsworth's new house... and most of the crew's clothes.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Finding a fossilized dog, Hermes assumes it belongs to Fry, like Seymour, and destroys it before Fry can notice.
    • The solar flare causes Fry's hair to turn into a Fry-fro again.
    • The robotic dinosaurs getting wiped out by a solar flare mimics to how their organic counterparts on Earth got wiped out by a Giant Brain as shown in "The Why of Fry".
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Brett Blob almost beats up Cubert for dissing his mom.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Fry loves pineapples, but even he won't eat it on pizza. This coming from the same guy who loves the other hated pizza topping (anchovies).
    • Even Zoidberg ends up disliking Cubert, calling him a terrible person.
  • Fingore: When the Planet Express Crew is digging for fossils, Amy accidentally chisels off one of her fingers. It ends up in Fry's soup.
  • Grey Goo: Professor Farnsworth's nanobots quickly start evolving into more complex forms after being turned loos to purify the new planet's water. They eventually emerge from the waters as a wave of macroscopic "trilobots", which swarm over and quickly consume the Planet Express spaceship and the crew's cabin and supplies.
  • Hollywood Evolution:
    • According to Bender, the nanobots evolved so quickly because robots are so much more efficient than living things.
    • Leela finds a missing link that's half-man, half-Toucan.
    • The reason nanobots evolve in the first place is arguably consistent with Real Life evolution — they reproduce extremely fast, and replication errors could provide "mutations" for natural selection to act upon. The final result, however, makes pretty much every mistake in the book:
  • Homage: To classic dinosaur movies (particularly ones set in Hollywood Prehistory) when the crew experiences a mechanical version of the age of dinosaurs.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Farnsworth suggests to Dr. Banjo that just because they haven't the last missing link doesn't mean it doesn't exist, to which he responds "Things don't exist simply because you believe in them. Thus sayeth the almighty creature in the sky!"
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Witnessing the solar flare, the Professor says only puny, mammal-like robots cowering in caves would have survived it. Bender then emerges from the cave they'd been sleeping in, oblivious to what's just happened.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: When the Professor tells the protesters to "get on your turnip trucks and go home", it cuts to the Moon Farmer standing by a truck filled with turnips, who grumbles about the insultingly accurate stereotype.
  • Ironic Echo: "I don't want to live on this planet anymore." Said first by the Professor and then later by Dr. Widnar.
  • Kick the Dog: The episode ends with Zoidberg telling everyone that, after a subplot about the two bonding, he hates Cubert. Remember, this is Zoidberg we're talking about.
  • Meaningful Name: The episode title is not just a Shout-Out to A Clockwork Orange, but references the pseudo science of Intelligent Design where creationists compare God to a watchmaker whose creation is perfect which fits the episode's theme. The episode thus sides with evolution being real, but also points to the fact that God can still coexist with it as shown by Fransworth planting nanobots that evolve, this being the position of Theistic Evolution believed by most religious people today who accept all scientific and naturalist theories as the way God works.
  • Meek Mesozoic Mammal: Discussed. The crew gets attacked by robotic versions of dinosaurs, other Mesozoic reptiles, and a Dimetrodon, which are then wiped out by a solar flare bringing out an electric surge that short-circuited them. The Professor proclaims that "only puny mammal-like robots cowering in caves could survive such a catastrophe", just as Bender comes out of a cave annoucing that he had taught himself to knit during the time.
  • Moving the Goalposts: Dr. Banjo does this on the Professor at Wozniak Nerd Academy, latching onto the absense of a missing link between apes and Darwinius masilae as proof that life was intelligently designed (basically a Creaturist equivalent to God of the Gaps) while dismissing the literal dozens of missing links Farnsworth presented.
  • Not Helping Your Case: When Bender tries to make an insanity plea for Farnsworth, Farnsworth insists that he isn’t insane and tries to explain that he created all the robotic life on the planet. He then follows it up by saying he lived in a cave and that Fry is his uncle.
  • Parody of Evolution: The robot museum has an exhibit similar to the stock "march of progress" illustration, showing the evolution of robots from a spring with googly eyes, through R2-D2 and robo-monkeys, to modern robots.
  • Pineapple Ruins Pizza: Everyone refuses to eat pineapple pizza, even when there's no other alternative.
  • Running Gag: Bender insisting robots on Earth are the product of evolution, rather than research and development.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The afore mentioned "I don't want to live on this planet anymore." when said by the Professor. Then by his robotic equivalent.
  • Shaming the Mob: Farnsworth attempts to do this against the creationist mob. It doesn't work.
    Farnsworth: You people are as loud as you are ignorant! Now get back on your turnip trucks and go home!
  • Shout-Out:
    • The episode's title is a reference to A Clockwork Orange.
    • On display in the robot natural history museum is, among others, R2-D2.
    • A talking orangutan doctor that uses pseudoscience to deny the veracity of anything that doesn't fit his religious views, Dr. Banjo is Dr. Zauis in all but name.
    • The robo-plesiosaur grabbing Fry in its jaws is similar to the Brontosaurus attack in King Kong (1933), as well as Helstrom's death in Son Of Kong.
    • A robotic Pteranodon carries off Fry in its talons and dangles him over its hungry offspring in a nest, similar to a scene in One Million Years B.C..
    • This isn't the first work to feature a confrontation between a mechanical T. rex and Dimetrodon.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Dr. Banjo averts Animal Gender-Bender by possessing the flanges or cheek pads of fully-grown male orangutans.
    • One of the fossils the crew finds in Tanzania is an Elaphrosaurus, a long-necked theropod dinosaur that did live in that location. The episode gets extra credit for mentioning the correct age (the Jurassic) for the species.
  • Skewed Priorities:
    • When the trilobots devour the Planet Express ship, Leela complains that her sunglasses were in there.
    • The Planet Express crew has plenty of food to eat when stranded on the planet... but it's pineapple pizza, so they don't want to touch it.
  • Take a Third Option: The episode ultimately concludes with this as for all the discussion on Creation vs. Evolution, the episode sides with evolution being real but does not discount the possibility that it was set on motion by a Creator. Farnsworth observes evolution done in days, but it was ultimately set by him planting nanobots, whose evolved forms accuse their master of creationism when all he did was give it a push. This position is called Theistic Evolution and is what most religious people believe, asserting that the natural evolution was God's way of working.
  • Take That!:
    • The episode's Central Theme is based around the argument of Evolution vs. Creationism. While Evolution is untouched (before the Mechanical Lifeforms start evolving, anyway), the episode's stand-in for Creationism - Creaturism - is portrayed as blatantly pseudo-intellectualist. Dr. Banjo, a scientific professional that believes in Creaturism, claims his beliefs to be "undisprovable science", consistently moves the goalposts when it comes to the many missing links between man and ape, and either latches onto an absence of evidence or uses non-permissable evidence (like a commissioned mural of Homo Farnsworth with a dinosaur that he likely commissioned himself) to prove his own point.
      Protester Parent: I don't understand evolution and I have to protect my kids from understanding it! We will not give in to the thinkers!
    • While the episode doesn't outright state God exists, it does snark at people who think evolution is the argument against Him instead of being the way He worked. Farnsworth is persecuted by the evolved nanobots he planted who accuse him of creationism, even though he and the audience know he was responsible for their evolution and makes the accusation look silly.
    • Fry's initial analysis of the pool of minerals is that it looks like Diet Dr. Pepper. Professor Farnsworth assures him it's "not that bad"... just toxic.
    • The crew refuses to touch Pineapple Pizza, a food commonly mocked.
  • Temper-Ceratops: The robot Triceratops, or "Tricycle-tops", attacks both the robot Tyrannosaurus and robo-plesiosaur without provocation.
  • Terror-dactyl: The robot Pteranodon that carries off Fry to feed to its young.
  • T. Rexpy: Naturally, the first robo-dinosaur the crew encounters is a robot T. rex.
  • The Triple: In his vein of missing links, the Professor finds "Java Man, Piltdown Man and Manfred Mann".
  • Thememobile: The Science Mobile... by which the Professor just means the Planet Express Ship.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Farnsworth's only response to Leela discovering a fossil that appears to be a missing link between man and toucan is to dismissively grumble "Not what we're looking for, throw it in the soup!"
  • We Are Not Going Through That Again: In a Call-Back to "Jurassic Bark", Hermes finds a fossilized dog that he assumes to be one of Fry's. After the sheer emotional turmoil of that episode, Hermes gets rid of the fossil as soon as he can.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Zoidberg earns Cubert's respect by teaching him to do this when dealing with bullies.


Video Example(s):


The Missing Link

Dr Farnsworth and Dr Banjo engage in a Evolution vs Creationism debate regarding the missing link between man and ape.

How well does it match the trope?

4.95 (19 votes)

Example of:

Main / MovingTheGoalposts

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