Episode Title: "The Tip of the Zoidberg"
Writer: Ken Keeler
Director: Raymie Muzquiz
There are times that "Futurama" embraces a tight continuity of its past in the great sci-fi tradition and there are other occasions in which the series simply ignores its previous episodes for the sake of a joke. After watching it twice, I'm still not sure which category "The Tip of the Zoidberg" fits into.
The episode starts off with an instant classic sequence in which Fry (Billy West) comes down with an illness that makes him resemble The Simpsons, Garfield, Kermit The Frog and even the mothersmurfing Smurfs! Dr. Zoidberg (West again) handles the crisis with his usual calm and assured demeanor… right before he maims Leela (Katey Sagal), de-Jengas the spine of Hermes (Phil LaMarr) and he even causes incontinence in Bender (John DiMaggio). By the time the crew can see a real doctor, most of them are down to only a few remaining body parts… even Scruffy (David Herman)!
This isn't the first time that Zoidberg's lack of medical knowledge (or even common sense) has led him to dismember his teammates. But this time, the Planet Express crew wants to return the favor. Or at the very least they want the Professor (West) to fire Zoidberg. However, the Professor refuses to even consider it.
In flashback, we learn the "real" reason that Zoidberg has lasted so many years in the Professor's employ. Decades ago, the Professor and Zoidberg went on a dangerous mission for Mom to find the legendary space yeti and retrieve its venom. During their landing in the swamp, the Professor and his mercenary team were exposed to a virulent strain of hyper-malaria; which could take years to incubate before giving them a painful death. Only the Professor and Zoidberg were left to take out the yeti; which almost cracked Zoidberg's shell until the Professor saved him and killed the yeti. In gratitude, Zoidberg offered to stay by the Professor's side and promised to kill him quickly when the hyper-malaria symptoms kick in.
In the present, it soon becomes clear that Zoidberg and the Professor have close friends for decades until the Professor finally calls upon him to act on his promise. I have to stop here and point out that this particular revelation just doesn't track with anything we've seen before. The Professor has treated Zoidberg with contempt for the majority of the series, just like every other character on the Planet Express team. I can buy that the Professor wanted Zoidberg around to fulfill his promise. But asking us to buy them as close friends really stretches the willing suspension of disbelief.
The friendship between the Professor and Zoidberg as revealed in this episode was moving at times when it was clear just how much Zoidberg values the relationship. It was more effective than the attempt to give Hermes and Bender an emotional bond during last year's episodes. And yet part of it just didn't ring true for either character. It felt tacked on to their respective histories and it didn't even seem to fit with the revelation from earlier in this season that Zoidberg was popular member of the first Planet Express crew.
As a viewer, I enjoyed the episode. But as a long time fan, my brain kept screaming "that wouldn't happen this way!" However, I do have to give the writer, Ken Keeler credit for making certain scenes like Zoidberg's easy switch to murder into hilarious vignettes. I was also especially fond of Zoidberg's successful attempt to kill the Professor by fright; which ends up being immediately reversed once the Professor is struck by the electricity currents Zoidberg had originally planned to use.
The Planet Express crew finally catches Zoidberg in the act of killing the Professor and they violently restrain him. Zoidberg escapes by "sand-crabbing" his way out of the building and the Professor angrily explains to them that his hyper-malaria has finally manifested itself and he wants to die before the disease painfully overtakes him. In guilt (and possibly a desire to make sure that the Professor doesn't have to suffer), the crew builds a stunning Rube Goldberg machine that will kill the Professor after an elaborately staged series of events that will make the entire crew responsible for the Professor's early demise.
Meanwhile, Zoidberg goes back to Mom's office confers with her on a first name basis (?!) before she agrees to supply the head of the yeti that the Professor and Zoidberg brought back. But Mom takes Zoidberg for everything that he's got… which in this case is a coupon for a free tanning session.
In what has to be Zoidberg's first accurate medical assessment on the entire series, he figures out that the Professor doesn't have hyper-malaria. Instead, the Professor is turning into a yeti himself from a scratch he suffered in the initial attack by the Yeti from years before. And for once, Zoidberg really does save the day before the Professor reaffirms his friendship with his incompetent doctor.
As a stand alone episode of the series, there was really nothing wrong with this installment once you get past the parts that don't match up with the rest of the series. It might have had stronger reaction if there was more of an emotional resonance to the script. However, it's hard to argue against Dr. Zoidberg finally getting a chance to be a hero.
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.