FUTURAMA 7.03 ‘Decision 3012’

Leela backs a Presidential candidate with a secret as Bender forms an alliance with Richard Nixon.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Decision 3012"

Writer: Patric M. Verrone
Director: Dwayne Carey-Hill

Back in 1962, Richard Nixon infamously told the press "you won't have Nixon to kick around anymore." In "Futurama," Matt Groening and company keep finding ways around that even years after Nixon's demise.

In "Decision 3012," Nixon's preserved head in a jar is up for reelection in the Earth Presidential race and most of his opponents are barely even pushovers. Only Senator Chris Travers has any legitimate ideas about how the government should be run, but he's shouted down by an electorate that only wants platitudes, catchphrases and false promises. Leela (Katey Sagal) senses an opportunity to change things and she volunteers to act as Travers' campaign manager in the contentious election.

Yes, it's the obligatory parallel to this year's U.S. Presidential election. And while Travers initially resembles John Edwards, it soon becomes clear that he is the Obama character in this farce. Except Travers is white and he was born in Kenya without his Earth Certificate.

For the most part, "Decision 3012" soldiers along in a predictably way that isn't always funny. The Presidential campaign debates were amusingly close to reality, but it felt like the writer was trying so hard to hammer this political allegory into a single episode that he neglected to give it the sharp humor that it needed. To be sure, there were occasionally bizarre moments that were laugh worthy. However, this script was venturing into "Family Guy" territory with its fairly obvious beats and jokes.

Under Leela's direction, Travers is able to dumb down his message so that idiot voters like Fry (Billy West) can comprehend what he's offering them. And when Travers seems almost unbeatable, Bender (John DiMaggio) offers to help Nixon dig up some dirt on Travers. The only problem is that Travers appears to be squeaky clean and too good to be true. So Bender and Nixon simply invent a controversy about Travers' Earth certificate and try to force him to prove that he was born on Earth.

To Leela's surprise, Travers isn't forthcoming about why he can't produce his Earth certificate. Hoping to validate her candidate, Leela leads Fry and Bender to the hospital in Kenya where Travers was born, only to discover that he hasn't even been born… yet.

The time travel reveal was the most intriguing part of the episode, as Travers explains that he is due to be born the next day and that he hails from a future in which Nixon's reelection led to the death of humanity and a violent robot uprising led by none other than Bender himself.  West's performance as Nixon was definitely a comedic highlight, as Nixon seems to have lost all pretense that he isn't a werewolf without fur. But it was Nixon's "the Soylent Majority" line that won for the best joke of the episode.

Leela's solution is to broadcast Travers' impending birth to quiet his doubters, who seemingly accept the time travel explanation without questioning it. Shockingly, Travers wins the election without turning into a bigger monster than Nixon or harboring an even darker secret. But in the end, Travers fades from existence and he is barely even remembered by Leela because his victory in the election means that there was no robot uprising to necessitate Travers' trip to the past. Thus in the new timeline without the adult Travers, Nixon wins! Even if only barely taking the election while running unopposed. The message is simple: nothing ever really changes and "Nixon always wins!"

At first glance, it's a deeply cynical way to end the story while hinting that the dark future may still be around the corner for humanity. But I suspect that Nixon's victory wasn't about sending a message of hopelessness to the audience. Instead, I believe that the "Futurama" writers simply aren't willing to stop kicking around their favorite dead President.

"Decision 3012" feels like a missed opportunity. It's simply an adequate episode of a show that is usually great.