Futurama does so many things well that fans will never run out of highlighting what they love most about it. Whether it’s the winning humor, pitch-perfect characters, or everything in between, there’s something that will resonate with everybody.
If you’re a sci-fi fan, then Futurama is likely to strike a far bigger chord. Indeed, one of the elements of Matt Groenining’s unforgettable animated sitcom we love most is its approach to spoofing and parodying some of the most beloved titles of the genre. The writers have taken aim at monumental sci-fi works such as Star Trek, Starship Troopers, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and most recently Dune.
Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel is one of the most celebrated of its kind and has branched off further and further into popular culture across the decades. Cult filmmaker David Lynch adapted it in 1984 and Denis Villeneuve also made a blockbuster of it in 2021, with Dune: Part Two set to follow in 2023.
Hulu’s Futurama revival offers its take on the story in season 11 episode 4, Parasites Regained, in which Bender, Leela, and Fry are shrunken down and sent into Nibbler’s litterbox to destroy the worms that are decreasing his intelligence. This becomes a riff on the sandworms and so forth, and it’s hilarious to see who the “Messiah” of this Dune—or Dung, rather—story is.
While audiences have reacted well to Futurama taking on the sci-fi masterpiece, it turns out that the writers got to making fun jokes for Dune fans many years before season 11.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to season 2 episode 6, The Lesser Of Two Evils. It’s the episode with Flexo, a bending unit that looks identical to Bender if not for his goatee. During the installment, the crew is tasked with delivering an atom made of the element Jumbonium to a Miss Universe pageant being held on the planet Tova 9. There are a number of aliens competing and on the far left you can see Miss Arrakis looking out to the crowd. Of course, Arrakis is the fictional desert planet from Dune and its most integral location. It’s the land of the sandworms and the Fremen.
In hindsight, it’s pretty funny to see that Futurama has been nodding at Dune ever since February 2000, which is when this episode came out.
It doesn’t end there though, as the season 7 installment 31st Century Fox shows Fry wearing
a tailored fit that looks just like the stillsuits that Paul Atreides (played by Kyle MacLachlan, who voices one of the beetles in Parasites Regained) wears in the 1984 adaptation, echoed again by Timothee Chalamet’s version of the character in the more recent movies.
With Dune being so influential, there was no way Futurama was going to miss out on having its fun with fans of the book or adaptation, but for those tuning into the recent episode, it’s cool to consider just how early the Dune jokes began.