The Statue Of Liberty Saved Fry's Life In A Futurama Gag We Never Got To See

"Futurama" is set a thousand years from our present. The show begins in the year 2999, as the world of tomorrow celebrates a happy New Year, and has since moved forward to correspond to the year the episode was aired — the latest, semi-satisfying season 11, reviewed by /News here, was set in 3023. (As for the characters not aging, chalk it up to cartoon logic or, if you're a real stick in the mud, futuristic medicine.)

This means that the show is set in New New York City (in the state of New New York). In "Space Pilot 3000," while our everyman hero Philip J. Fry (Billy West, who voices so many other "Futurama" characters that he lost track once) slumbers in cryogenic suspension for a millennium, the metropolis outside is destroyed twice by alien invaders. Late in the pilot, Fry, Bender, and Leela find themselves underground in the ruins of old New York City; the place Fry once called home is the foundation upon which his new one rests.

Despite the thousand years of destruction and rebuilding, New New York still has a Statue of Liberty (though who knows if it's the original or a replica). In the "Futurama" title sequence, there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot of the Statue (holding a ray gun instead of a torch) which the Planet Express Ship zooms past. In "The Late Philip J. Fry," Fry, Bender, and the Professor are sent into the far future, where New New York lies in runs: Fry sees the crumbled Statue of Liberty and re-enacts the ending of "Planet of the Apes" (itself inspired by "The Twilight Zone").

On a commentary track for "Space Pilot 3000," the creators reveal that they originally had plans to feature the Statue of Liberty more prominently in that premiere.

The Statue of Liberty in Futurama

In New New York, (flying) cars are still used, but public transportation has been revamped entirely. Instead of subways, people ride around in giant pneumatic tubes built into the city architecture. When Fry tries out the tube system for the first time, the viewer sees that the Statue of Liberty is incorporated into the system; instead of its torch, it now holds up a section of the tubes in its raised hand.

This shot only lasts about two seconds. But according to series co-creator (and "Space Pilot 3000" co-writer) David X. Cohen on the aforementioned commentary, one draft of the script had a longer, more involved joke with Lady Liberty. In the final version of "Space Pilot 3000," Fry wakes up at Applied Cryogenics, the still-in-operation company where he was frozen. Now, the company is in charge of acclimating cryogenically frozen people to the future. That's how Fry meets Leela (long before, to the writers' shock, they fell in love); she's in charge of processing him.

In an earlier draft, though, Fry was instead sent to Ellis Island for processing (in real life, this is where immigrants would be processed in the 1900s — these days it's a museum) and had a mishap with the Statue of Liberty (located on the neighboring Liberty Island). Cohen explained, "[Fry fell] out of the head of the Statue of Liberty and the statue moved and caught him. These are all the things you missed, viewers." Evidently, when the Ellis Island trip was excised from the script, this joke went with it.

Fry's future in Futurama

"Space Pilot 3000" introduces the audience (and Fry) to a New York City that's familiar yet different. The Statue of Liberty is one of New York's most famous landmarks, so showing how it has evolved (whether as part of a futuristic tunnel system or how it has become animatronic) is low-hanging fruit.

This joke is far from the only way that Cohen and his writing partner Matt Groening revised the "Space Pilot 3000" script. Fry's character, in particular, went through changes beyond just what parts of New New York City he stumbled through. In the commentary, Cohen and Groening discuss how in one "very early" iteration, Fry was not a pizza delivery boy. Instead, he was the night watchman at the cryogenics lab, which is an obvious way to explain how he might accidentally end up frozen. When they changed him into a delivery boy who was delivering pizza to the lab on New Year's Eve, that became the thrust of his character. Fry spends "Space Pilot 3000" trying to avoid wasting his second chance at life by being stuck as a delivery boy again (and fails — but in the end, he doesn't mind).

Groening recounted, "We went through a lot of agony to figure how we were gonna get this show off the ground, figure out what the premise was and that [Fry is] a delivery boy in the future [became] what the whole series is about." Cohen also noted this is why they changed their original plans and made Leela the Planet Express Ship's captain instead of Fry: "It seemed more fun to have him be an underdog."

As wild as Fry's adventures have been on "Futurama," they could have been a whole other flavor of weird.

"Futurama" is streaming on Hulu.