Parodies and spoofs are commonplace in our entertainment, with writers deciding it would be hilarious to playfully poke fun at their influences and works of art they deeply admire.

In the case of Futurama, there are perhaps more references to movies, shows, and books that are entrenched in popular culture than you could possibly count. Occasionally, the reference is as simple as a throwaway joke. On the other hand, some installments of Matt Groening’s animated sci-fi sitcom have served up episodes so indebted to classic movies that you can’t ignore them.

(L to R) Lauren Tom as Amy Wong, Phil LaMarr as Hermes, John DiMaggio as Bender, Billy West as Zoidberg, Katey Sagal as Leela all standing in an open doorway in Futurama
Futurama | Official Trailer | New Season July 24 | cr. Hulu YouTube

With the return of the show on Hulu and Disney+ more recently, trailers teased that there would be an episode inspired by Dune, and it turns out that episode is the fourth of season 11, Parasites Regained.

Dune is, of course, the iconic 1965 novel by Frank Herbert. It’s more topical recently, however, due to the cinematic adaptation from director Denis Villeneuve. The first part was released in 2021 and the second is scheduled to premiere on Friday, November 3rd 2023.

In the story, we have Dune, the desert planet of Arrakis, and its people believe that Paul Atreides is the Messiah of their prophecies that will lead them to freedom. In the latest adaptation, Paul is played by Timothée Chalamet, and it turns out that Futurama’s take on Dune has its Messiah too.

Diving into the wild new episode, Leela is frustrated to learn that Nibbler has worms that are gradually decreasing his intelligence; they’re essentially feeding on his brain. So, the Professors hatches a crazy scheme to shrink the Planet Express crew down and send them into Nibbler’s litterbox.

Once inside, the spoof of Dune begins, with Bender, Leela, Fry, and the others meeting a group of dung beetles. “It’s pronounced Dune,” one of them corrects when Leela says dung. “The ‘G’ is almost silent.”

A handful of Dune jokes follow, and it’s established that Nibbler’s parasitic worms are basically sandworms, enemies of the dung—sorry, Dune—beetles too. There’s even a nod to the epic score of Denis’ movie during a transition.

After learning that the beetles also believe a mysterious Messiah will come to save them, they set off to slay the sandworms with a guide to accompany them on their journey.

With the Planet Express team’s water guns loaded with Ivermectin, they begin squirting the sandworms, who you’ll recognize as the same kind of worms who inhabited Fry during the season 3 episode Parasites Lost. However, Nibbler arrives in a shrunken spaceship and the Dune beetles declare that he’s the Messiah from their prophecies, although the illustration shows that they believed he’d have blue eyes and blonde hair.

Nibbler gives a grand speech, explaining that everything is interconnected and all the creatures play their part, urging the beetles and Leela’s team to leave the sandworms be. So, they return home with Nibbler in tow and his intelligence is clearly at its lowest.

Leela decides that she will only comprehend Nibbler’s speech once she’s sampled pure uncut glitter from the land of the beetles. This is basically the spice of the litterbox, so to speak. She does, and emerges from the chamber saying “Everything Nibbler said was true.”

“Duh, he’s the Messiah,” the beetle tells her. Yet, Leela explains that the sandworms should be making Nibbler smarter, but they’ve been weakened by sub-parasites. Once that’s taken care of, Leela is reunited with her adorable pet with his intelligence intact.

Although that’s one adventure over, here’s to hoping for more pop culture-inspired episodes to come.

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