Oh it’s good to have Futurama back. After an entire decade’s absence, it really is a miracle that it feels like Matt Groening’s animated sci-fi sitcom never left. Perhaps it just feels that way because the fandom has been unable to refrain from quoting it on the daily ever since its second cancelation in 2013.
Hulu rolled out the Futurama revival in July 2023, with Disney+ catering to fans in the UK. Season 1 episode 1 was fantastically meta, whereas the follow-up installment doubled down on nostalgic cameos and drop-ins from favorite characters.
What has been prevalent so far this season is social commentary, with the writers playing catch up to comment on all the things they’ve missed the opportunity to poke fun at over the last 10 years.
One of these things is Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that demanded thousands of headlines and discussions throughout the 2010s. After so long in the media limelight, Bitcoin surely needs no introduction, but maybe what it did need was the Futurama treatment.
Season 11 episode 3, How The West Was 1010001, gets straight on the task from its opening scene.
“News,” the professor enters announcing. “Bad. We’re bankrupt. I borrowed money to invest in Bitcoin. Then the price crashed and I sold at a huge loss. We’re ruined.” He then apologizes to the crew, saying that he didn’t realize they were watching TV. They’re tuning into the news with the familiar pair Linda and Morbo.
“Guess what’s back?” Linda asks them while seated next to her co-anchor. “Bitcoin.” Of course, this gets the professor’s attention.
Linda continues: “The virtual ‘money’ (she says making air quotation makes) is soaring once again, leading to a high-tech gold rush.”
Morbo comments that “prospectors are heading west, where cheap, filthy electricity beckons the desperate.” Rubbing his hands together at the promise, Professor says “This gives me a desperate idea.”
Leela asks “Haven’t you learned that Bitcoin is just a pyramid scheme for rubes?”
“Yes,” Professor admits. ” And my plan is to exploit those rubes. You see, the new mining chips are made from element 81, thalium, a rare element found out west. I plan to actually mine it, then sell it to to the bitcoin ‘miners’.” The robot mafia then show up, establishing themselves as the loan brokers that Professor owes money to.
As it unravels, the episode parodies the western genre, throwing in gunslingers and traditional iconography but skewered through the lens of Bitcoin and technology, with the professor making comments that the Planet Express team has traveled into “crypto country.”
Approaching a saloon town of sorts, they’re then welcomed into Doge City, which is a reference to Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency created by software engineers Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer as a joke.
Leading into plots about mining Bitcoin with kidnapped robot heads and an increasing emphasis on genre conventions, it’s a wonderfully imaginative and fascinating way to make fun of cryptocurrency while not relying on it to tell a decent plot. Commentary and story are things that the Futurama writers can mine with ease, and we’re glad they’ve been given the chance to do it again.
A new Futurama gold rush is upon us!