Futurama is an off the wall animated comedy series set in the year 3000 that follows the spaceship crew of a delivery company “Planet Express.” In the straight to DVD special “The Beast with a Billion Backs,” creators had a feature length time frame to work with and develop a story with deeper content than the typical thirty minute television episodes. “The Beast with a Billion Backs” follows a previous episode where there has been a tear in the universe. Fry, the main character of the series, is dealing with loneliness on a delivery and finds himself on the other side of the tear where he meets an alien tentacle. Fry returns to Earth along with the tentacle that is now attached to his neck, claiming the tentacle is love and all should join with the tentacle. With time most on earth accept the tentacle…until Leela (a member of the Planet Express crew) exposes the tentacles as reproductive organs. The owner of the tentacles, named Yivo, is an alien the size of a planet that admits to his intentions of using everybody on Earth for reproductive purposes, but claims he wants a second chance. What started as reproduction had turned to love. Yivo dates everybody on Earth and eventually asks them to marry him and come join him in his universe.
This episode parallels quite nicely with Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild”. One interpretation of the Terran and Tlic relationship is that of slave and owner; the Terran being used solely for their reproductive success. Similarly, Yivo seemed an alien threat posed to use all of earth for his reproduction. Given time Yivo became attached emotionally and by the time the humans were enlightened to the fact Yivo did not want to force anything upon them and just wanted to be together with them. While the Terran may have been taken in by the Tlic initially for their great potential and use in successful Tlic reproduction, I believe the Tlic and Terran became a more mutualistic symbiotic relationship. While the Tlic reproductive process is brutal we see very real emotional attachments develop between the Tlic mothers and the Terran carriers. One of the most exemplary of these is when the one word we hear Lomas say is the name of his Tlic; this in addition to Tlic’s concern and pressing need to get to her Terran as she arrives despite her sickness. At the end of the story Gan and T’Gatoi became closely emotionally bonded just as Yivo did in the episode of Futurama. Yivo asked the humans for marriage and Gan and T’Gatoi have a relationship that seems at least as strong and complex as a marriage.