In Futurama's Into The Wild Green Yonder Lies A Subtle Nod To The Show's Pilot

The 2009 "Futurama" movie "Into the Wild Green Yonder" — the show's fourth and final — was, one might recall, supposed to the be definite end of the series. "Futurama" was notoriously canceled in 2004 thanks to flagging ratings, but gained new life through DVD sales. The series was initially resurrected in the form of four straight-to-video movies released in 2008 and 2009, a quartet that was intended to signal the franchise's farewell. Of course, when those four films also sold well, Comedy Central stepped in and resurrected the series for a second time. As of this writing, the show has been canceled and resurrected a third time. New episodes are currently on Hulu. 

Of course, the makers of "Futurama" didn't know in 2009 that they would come back, leading them to give the finale of "Green Yonder" an appropriately epic feel. The story of "Green Yonder" deals with cosmic energies, extinction, and the mass creation of life in the galaxy. There is a shot at the end of the movie wherein hundreds of "Futurama" characters have been gathered in one place (a shot that was so complicated it incurred fines). 

The writers also wanted to slip in a few moments of series-wide symmetry that only the most hardcore of "Futurama" fans would recognize. Notably, the very first episode, 1999's "Space Pilot 3000," and the final scene of "Green Yonder" both contain dramatic countdowns from 10. 

"Futurama" co-creator David X. Cohen, in a 2009 interview with MovieWeb, encouraged fans to look out for something that referred to "Space Pilot 3000," although he was coy about what it was. He revealed was it was on the "Green Yonder" commentary track. 

The final countdown

Cohen said: 

"There is a little secret towards the end of the movie, a very subtle visual, I don't want to give anything away, but it harkens back to something we did in the pilot. There was a real subtle secret thing that we stuck in the pilot that a lot of fans noticed and we've kind of done a related thing here at the end of this movie." 

The plot of "Green Yonder" climaxes at the public demolition of a violet dwarf star. Leo Wong (Billy West) intends to demolish 12% of the Milky Way to make room for a galactic golf course. Distressingly, the demolition will destroy a nearby asteroid that has mysteriously become the host of a brand new incredible biome. Fry (West) was secretly trying to prevent the demolition, but may actually be the one to press the TNT plunger and destroy the asteroid himself. The crowd begins to count down from 10, and Fry panics, hoping to psychically locate a mysterious supervillain before time runs out. (Oh yeah, Fry has mind-reading powers now.) 

The final countdown, it seems, was a bookend for the opening scenes of "Space Pilot 3000." In the pilot, Fry was delivering a pizza to a cryogenics lab just minutes before the New Year's Eve countdown to the year 2000. People from around the world are all seen gleefully counting down to the new millennium. When the countdown reaches zero, Fry falls into a cryogenics tube and is flash-frozen. He is thawed on New Year's Eve 2999, setting up the premise of the series. 

The first countdown, a thousand years ago

Not incidentally, the end of "Space Pilot 3000" also features a countdown to the new millennium, but this time for the year 3000. The opening countdown in 1999 featured numbers spoken in multiple Earth languages. The countdown in 2999 added in a few mysterious alien languages as well. During the 2999 countdown, Fry and his new futuristic compatriots were in a spacecraft, fleeing the cops. Just as they were leaving Earth, the new millennium began and fireworks exploded all around them. The cops were distracted by the fireworks and were unable to shoot Fry down. They fled into the cosmos.

This, too, was mirrored in "Into the Wild Green Yonder." After Fry, Leela (Katey Sagal), and the rest of the "Futurama" regulars foiled the star demolition and exposed the villain, they once again had to flee into the cosmos. In their haste, they piloted their ship directly into a wormhole, uncertain as to where it might lead or what their future might be. As they did a decade before, they escaped into the stars. As the ship entered the wormhole, a burst of light filled the screen, very similar to the burst of light that starts every episode of "Futurama." Cohen and the other showrunners were laying it on pretty thick.

Of course, that secondary "finale" of "Futurama" is now 15 years old. There has also been a tertiary finale, 2013's "Meanwhile," which closed out the show's third miraculous run. Does David X. Cohen have any more ideas as to what kind of finale — or finales — lie ahead? One can only see the end of time so many times.