The animated series that parodied ‘The Three-Body Problem’ years ago
(Credits: Best of Netflix / YouTube Still)


The animated series that parodied 'The Three-Body Problem' years ago

The recent Netflix adaptation, 3 Body Problem, is not the first adaptation of Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy.

Fanfan Zhang attempted to adapt the story about first contacts and alien invasions in 2015. But the film was ultimately shelved. In 2023, a 30-episode series was created for the Chinese streaming site Tencent Video. The series, now streaming on Peacock, opened to plenty of fanfare for being faithful to the novels it adapted. 

The Netflix adaptation, spearheaded by D.B. Weiss, David Benioff, and Alexander Woo takes plenty of liberties with the original story. But has been well-received so far, climbing to the top ten charts globally within its debut week. But there is another series that playfully adapted Cixin’s story, as Austen Goslin of Polygon figured out.

The animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers took a jab at Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy in season nine, episode nine, titled ‘UFO No You Didn’t’. The episode follows Tina, who reluctantly partners with her classmate Susmita for a science fair project. Despite Tina’s hesitation, Susmita suggests they send a radio signal into space to contact aliens. However, their plans are interrupted by classmate Henry, who warns them about the Dark Forest theory—which is where the second book in the trilogy gets its name.

What is the Dark Forest theory?

The term “Dark Forest theory” was coined by Cixin in his novel The Dark Forest, which is the second book in his Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy. It is a concept unique to Liu’s work and was not a pre-existing term in scientific or philosophical literature. It is a speculative concept regarding the nature of interstellar civilisations and the potential risks associated with contact between them.

This idea stems from the Fermi Paradox, which questions why we have not detected any signs of extraterrestrial civilisations despite the high probability of their existence. The Dark Forest theory provides one possible explanation for the paradox, suggesting that advanced civilisations deliberately remain hidden to avoid being targeted by others. After all, the hierarchical nature of ecosystems suggests that within the natural world, there is always a bigger predator lurking around.

However, ignoring the warning from Henry, Tina and Susmita proceed with their transmission. The episode concludes on a far more optimistic note than Cixin’s novels. Tina’s heartfelt speech about love, hope, and the power of co-existence contrasts with the existential threats explored in the books.

While you cannot stream Bob’s Burgers on Netflix, you can tune into 3 Body Problem instead.