The Planet Express Crew from Futurama might be incompetent — but they’re also one of sci-fi’s most accomplished crews.
At first glance, the crew of the Planet Express of Futurama seem like a bunch of lazy jerks. And, for the most part, that’s a fairly accurate assumption. The crew is often driven by selfish goals, particularly when Bender usurps their plans for his own self-oriented ends.
The jokey nature of the series leans heavily into the dysfunctional aspects of the crew, and the silly ways they respond to the bizarre universe around them. But divorced from that tone, the Planet Express Crew from Futurama have actually survived more dangerous situations than perhaps any single other crew in sci-fi history.
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The Planet Express Crew are nominally a package delivery company. They travel across the cosmos delivering goods to various planets across the universe. The series has made multiple jokes over the years over how inept they are at this position. The Crew has a tendency to get sucked into various adventures while on the job, and have even destroyed their cargo at times, for little reason other than “eh, I don’t want to finish the job.” But they’ve also done a lot more over the years, taking charge in multiple wars (like in Season 5’s “Bender’s Big Score”). They’ve also been recruited multiple times by the Earth government (such as in Season 4’s “Crimes of the Hot”) and even performed firefighter duties while at the sun in Season 7’s “Inhuman Torch.”
The Planet Express Crew even has two fundamental forces of the universe among their number. Fry’s role as the Nibblonian Chosen One means he was crucial to the war against the Brain-Spawn in Season 3 and Season 4. He’s also responsible for the defeat of the Dark One in Season 5’s “Into the Wild Green Yonder” story-arc. The primordial malicious force had slaughtered untold beings, and Fry helped save an entire ecosystem from being destroyed. In fact, Fry has saved the entire universe multiple times. Meanwhile, Bender’s constant time-traveling across”Bender’s Big Score” means he’s become a crucial part of the timeline. Historical events only transpire with his involvement, ensuring his sheer importance to the time-stream.
Bender also may be one of the most physically capable robots in modern fiction. Constantly adaptable to any situation, Bender has survived multiple world-ending events — and even came back to life after possessing and then beating up God in Season 6’s “The Ghost in the Machine.” The rest of the Planet Express Crew are quietly as impressive. Leela has gone up against various creatures and warriors, always succeeding in combat. Zoidberg is an expert on alien biology and has casually cut off the limbs of his enemies. Amy has a wealth of talents on top of her doctorate in Applied Physics, giving her a precise edge that has saved the day before. Hermes is a former Olympic Gold Medalist and has been shown to operate at analytical speeds that outpace even computers.
Professor Farnsworth is also one of the most important inventors of his world, and is secretly the mind behind the modern robot. He even built the Planet Express Ship with a unique engine that moves the universe around it — theoretically making it the fastest ship in existence. This is all on top of each character finding ways to augment themselves in powerful ways. Ingesting enough caffeine in Season 4’s “Three Hundred Big Boys” resulted in Fry gaining super speed. He and Leela both briefly became superheroes in Season 4’s “Less Than Hero,” while Leela and Amy gained enhanced strength via Nectar in Season 7’s “The Butterjunk Effect.” Bender receiving upgrades in Season 6’s “Overclockwise” enhanced him to the point of predicting the future.
Across the course of seven seasons, the Futurama crew have survived multiple destructions of the universe, broken (and repaired) cracks in the timestream, and survived effectively every kind of threat imaginable. While they may not be the most competent space crew in modern fiction, they are quietly the most accomplished. It’s worth remembering just how absurd the characters of Futurama can be, and how their missions have defined their entire universe.
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