This season we start getting episodes focused on the other Planet Express employees and this one features the Decapodian Doctor, John Zoidberg.
Amy (Lauren Tom) and Leela (Katey Sagal) guilt the Planet Express crew members into joining a gym. While there, Dr. Zoidberg (Billy West) starts to become enraged, attacking everyone and having to be restrained. It’s determined that Dr. Zoidberg has entered the mating period of his species, so Fry (West), Leela, and Bender (John DiMaggio) take him back to his home planet of Decapod 10 so that he can participate.
When they get to the planet, Zoidberg gets to work trying to attract a mate but fails miserably. He then sees Edna (Tress MacNeille), a high school classmate of his who is, by Decapodian standards, apparently super hot. She rejects him, but Fry offers to help Zoidberg win her hearts through the human male art of lying. Zoidberg pitches woo outside of her apartment using Fry’s words and it seems to work. Later, after Leela hears some of Fry’s lines being pitched by Zoidberg, she tries to explain away how terrible they are, but it turns out that Edna’s been loving them and now she’s enamoured with Fry. She attempts to seduce him and Zoidberg catches them. Assuming the worst, Zoidberg challenges Fry to Claw-Plach, a fight to the death.
At the fight, Fry gains the upper hand but refuses to kill Zoidberg. Zoidberg responds by cutting off Fry’s arm, which Fry then uses to beat Zoidberg mercilessly until they notice that all of the Decapodians have left. Zoidberg catches sight of Edna, who is now mating with the Decapodian Emperor (David Herman). It’s then revealed that Zoidberg’s people die after mating, something that nobody had brought up until now. Zoidberg apologizes to Fry and attempts to reconnect his arm… poorly.
This episode is a send-up of the Star Trek episode “Amok Time,” in which Spock experiences the pon farr, the Vulcan mating drive. Basically, it makes him crazy aggressive until he gets his freak on. Much like Zoidberg with Edna, Spock’s intended mate has someone she prefers and she invokes ritual combat to avoid her commitment with Spock, but she famously surprises everyone by picking Captain Kirk to fight rather than her mate. Kirk agrees right before he learns the fight is to the death. The fight leads to Spock not mating. Like I said, a lot of this episode comes from that, blended with elements of Twelfth Night and Cyrano de Bergerac.
The scene of Fry coaching Zoidberg to seduce Edna below her window is a direct copy of Cyrano de Bergerac’s most famous scene. If you don’t know that play, then maybe you saw the movie Roxanne which has the same sequence, but with Steve Martin as an added bonus. The difference is that in this version, Cyrano is Fry and therefore not a master seducer but a complete and utter idiot. However, since Edna’s planet doesn’t have seduction, even Fry’s advice, which is basically “pretend you don’t want to bang her,” works perfectly. The fact that she then falls in love with him just creates a horrifying love-friendship-triangle much like the one in Twelfth Night.
The focus of the episode is Zoidberg and I think it must have worked out well for the viewership numbers, because he definitely starts to be present more in the series after this. Not that he wasn’t around before, but the amount he’s allowed to have the spotlight in scenes increases. Personally, Zoidberg is one of my favorite characters, since he’s basically a collection of comedic tropes mixed together: Wacky doctor, failed comic, super-poor person, incompetent surgeon, etc. I especially love that they consistently maintain that he IS a good doctor, maybe even one of the best, but only for non-human patients, which doesn’t help Planet Express much.
The fight between Fry and Zoidberg is hilarious. Bender taking bets against Fry, Fry using a nutcracker as a weapon, Zoidberg cutting off Fry’s arm in the middle of Fry’s speech about friendship, all of it is perfectly timed. I also love that they play the “Decapodian National Anthem,” which is the theme music from the Star Trek episode mentioned above, “Amok Time.”
The end of the episode is brilliant, since so many marine species actually DO die after mating. It also makes it clever in retrospect that the Emperor of Decapod 10 established that he has taken a vow of celibacy, since the civilization wouldn’t want such frequent changes in leadership. When first mentioned, it seems to be a throw-away line, even when we later see the Emperor choose to mate with Edna. At the time, it just appears that the Emperor is breaking his vow, but shortly after we learn that he actually dies from this, meaning he’s essentially eliminating the leadership of the planet to get laid.
I’m not going to be highbrow about this. I still chuckle whenever I hear the exchange:
Professor: We, by which I mean you, will have to rush him to his ancient homeworld, which will shortly erupt in an orgy of invertebrate sex.
Fry: Oh, baby, I’m there!
Leela: Fry, do you even understand the word invertebrate?
Fry: No, but that’s not the word I’m interested in. No need to pack pants, people! Let’s roll!
I just love the idea that Fry becomes so excited by the concept of an orgy that he doesn’t think about the fact that he knows that Zoidberg is a crab-like alien. I frequently reference this one by telling people “No need to pack pants.”
Overall, this is just a great episode that has a lot of solid jokes. Loved it then, love it now.
Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.
PREVIOUS – Episode 17: Xmas Story
NEXT – Episode 19: The Lesser of Two Evils
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