Review By Paul Mount, 4.5 out of 5

As THE SIMPSONS rolls on and on (now entering its fifteenth year!) it? time to bid a sad farewell to its younger, less illustrious brother. Matt Groening? wonderfully inventive FUTURAMA managed to stagger through four seasons before biting the bullet in the US and here? the last eighteen episodes to remind us just how clever and fast-paced this show became in its last season.

Whisper it quietly but here we see FUTURAMA in full flight, perhaps even more outrageously funny than THE SIMPSONS itself. The characters are their relationships are by now well-established and Groening and his team are able to play not only with the characters themselves but also the show? own history and its beautifully realised world of the future, a world full of rocket packs, robots, spaceships and all the paraphernalia associated with pulpy SF. Like THE SIMPSONS, FUTURAMA has steadily increased its cast of subsidiary characters – the Planet Express regulars (Fry, Leela, Bender, Professor Farnsworth, Zoidberg, Amy, Hermes) are supplemented by a group of wonderful supporting players. The ludicrous Captain Zap Branigan and his breathless assistant Kif are already semi-regulars but Season Four gives us occasional appearances by such creations as the Hedonism robot (my personal favourite) and Calculon the robot TV star. There? really not a duff episode among the bunch here and the laughs come thick and fast. The stories are genuinely inventive (?he Why of Fry?takes us back to the first episode and the real reason Fry was thrown into cryogenic suspension), based on concepts handled better than in many hardcore science-fiction shows and series. The relationships are growing too; ?eela? Homeworld?introduces us to Leela? parents (not, incidentally, space-aliens as we? always been led to believe), Amy and Kiv? romance becomes distinctly bizarre in season opener ?if gets Knocked up a Notch?(which is pretty self-explanatory) and ?he Sting?and the final episode ?he Devil? Hands are Idle Playthings?reveal hidden depths to Leela and Fry? arms-length relationship.

Other highlights include ?here No Fan Has Gone Before?a savage and hilarious take on ?tar Trek?fans (featuring most of the original series cast voices), the oddly-touching ?urassic Bark?where Fry finds the fossilised remains of his 20th century dog Seymour (the end credits sequence will bring a tear to your eye!) and ?bsoletely Fabulous?where Bender becomes wooden. Even better are ?he Farnsworth Paradox?where a secret box leads to alternative Earths and ?hree Hundred Big Boys?where the Planet Express crew have very different takes on how to dispose of a three-hundred dollar tax rebate.

FUTURAMA season four is practically indispensable if you?e ever bought into this madcap Universe. It? just a shame not enough people did to keep this brilliant series on air for a few more years. As Fry observes, pointedly, in ?here No Fan Has Gone Before?it? ?nother quality science-fiction show cancelled before its time.”

THE DISCS: Colourful transfers and a nice stereo soundtrack and complemented by cast and crew commentaries and the occasional deleted scene and storyboards.

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