Futurama, Season Six, Episode Five, “The Duh-Vinci Code”</b>

Written by: Maiya Williams
Directed by: Raymie Muzquiz
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

“But you’re my family! Who will hug me if I achieve things?”

Ah, here we go! I was tempted to bump this up to essential immediately after watching it because it’s even better than I remembered. Beloved commentor Mr Ixolite dismissed this episode as sloppy trend-chasing, I presume due to its plot drawing heavily on The Da Vinci Code. But I always found this resonant with the way “Time Keeps On Slippin’” riffed on Space Jam*, using the barest elements of the plot as structure for jokes that eventually cascades into a wacky semi-serious scifi premise. This is the most the series has ever engaged with Fry being stupid, which is consistently one of the most fruitful sources of comedy the show has ever had, and while its engagement with this on an emotional level never really clicks into something special until its final scene, I do enjoy the sincerity and clarity. I am constitutionally averse to lessons in fiction, but I appreciate this as an exploration of bullying someone based on their intelligence and the way people can respond. It’s pretty basic “how would you feel if someone did it to you?” stuff, but it functions pretty well.

*There’s even a similar distance in time between the airdate of either movie and the episode that riffs on them, and I would argue The Da Vinci Code had lost much of its cultural relevance long before the movie came out.

I also enjoy its take on the adventure format. The show has always been wonderfully inventive with its scifi trappings in a way I hadn’t considered until now – the technobabble is hilarious, of course, but the concepts it delves into are genuinely awe-inspiring and compelling. Any two-bit hack could write some preposterous hogwash and say how dumb it was (and many have), but Futurama uses the idea of Da Vinci leaving codes and strange inventions to create a wooden Italian robot, a wooden spacecraft, and a non-wooden planet of supergenius aliens. It’s assisted in this by the sensual animation that I presume comes from a higher budget – there are so many more details and yet the designs are still as clear and iconic as ever, something else that tempted me to bump it up to essential. I particularly enjoy the Rube Goldberg way the spacecraft is put together, which pays off with it majestically floating through the cosmos.

“Didn’t we used to be a delivery company?”

Title Card: Put on 3D monocle now.
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

This episode also has a lot of great dialogue that continues the spirit of the show and, indeed, has affected my way of putting words together as much as the original run of the show (I particularly have a lot of affection for “No! Noooooooo! But possibly yes.”). This is the episode in which we learn that Dr Zoidberg’s doctorate is apparently in art history, which made me laugh. There’s a really great gag continuing the on-again off-again nature of Fry and Leela’s romance in which he asks her to join the ‘mile deep club’ and she initially and casually accepts, and I point to things like this to explain why I like their relationship in these seasons. It gets to have its cake and eat it too in that it can tell jokes and plots about Leela rejecting Fry as well as jokes about her suddenly accepting him, which are themselves funny after four seasons and four movies of rejection. 

“That flying machine’s about as aerodynamic as a sofa!”

The title and much of the plot riffs on The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. The episode opens with a parody of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Biff is a reference to the character(s) from Back To The Future. Fry falling into the doomsday device is a reference to Modern Times. Farnsworth poking Fry in the eyes with his modified finglonger is a reference to The Three Stooges.

“Looks like eating rocks wasn’t as dumb as you said!”

Iconic Moments: N/A
Biggest Laugh:

Next Week: “Lethal Inspection”. “I can’t run anymore! I’ll have to skip!”