Ever since 1966, has there been a better way to explore what ails the human body than the ridiculously unwieldy process of shrinking yourself down into a miniature spaceship and seeing it first-hand? The Fantastic Voyage’s plot has become one of the most beloved tropes of popular culture, and here are 11 of our favorites.
11) Lost in Space, “Trip Through the Robot”
Perhaps the earliest Fantastic Voyage-esque homage, considering this episode aired just a year after the movie came out, but with a twist: instead of being shrunk down, Will Robinson and Dr. Smith find themselves at normal size, going inside an enlarged version of the family’s robot assistant, who’s on the brink of being destroyed by a mysterious mist that’s somehow ailing him.
10) Iron Man: The Animated Series, “Iron Man on the Inside”
Remember the ‘90s Iron Man cartoon, complete with Tony Stark’s incredibly questionable mullet? The series fizzled out after just two seasons, but it got into some very weird stories (mainly as an excuse to sell a zillion iterations of Tony’s armor), including Tony betraying the members of his then-current D-List superhero team from the comics, the Force Works, causing them to disband. In this episode, Tony is forced to go inside the body of Hawkeye—who’s no longer on speaking terms with him after Force Works was disbanded—to operate on him after a fight with Ultimo saw the archer nearly paralyzed by falling debris. It includes a pretty terrible moment where Tony’s armor is almost devoured by Clint’s liver, because he’s Iron man, get it?
9) The Magic School Bus, “Works Out”
Magic School Bus, bless its heart, managed to do this kind of story a bunch of times during its run, only one of which was an adaptation from the books. This one, however, takes the class inside Ms. Frizzle’s own body for a look at how her bloodstream works after exercise. Even after all their science-y adventures together, it seems like a real bad idea to let a bunch of young kids get shrunk down and put inside your own body with no supervision while you’re distracted with taking part in a teachers-only athletics event, but hey, Ms. Frizzle probably knows what she’s doing.
8) Teen Titans, “Crash”
This adventure sees Beast Boy transform into the smallest “beast” he can, an amoeba, to go inside the biological portions of Cyborg’s body after the hapless hero accidentally infects his best friend with a computer virus. Sometimes-foe Gizmo is also brought along for the ride as no Titan actually trusts Beast Boy to get the job done, but he’s promptly forgotten about after Beast Boy multiplies his amoeba self to save the day. Poor guy.
7) Teen Titans Go!, “Body Adventure”
Not to be outdone, Teen Titans Go! also got in on the fun. Cyborg is the same person who needs to have someone shrunk down and inserted into him, but this time it’s mainly because Robin is desperate to go on a “body adventure” after previously missing out on the first one. This being Teen Titans Go!, it’s mostly about discovering how gross the inside of the body is, and ultimately the team fails to cure Cyborg of his deadly disease... a common cold.
6) Doctor Who, “The Invisible Enemy” and “Into the Dalek”
Both classic and new-era Who have taken on this trope, both with weird twists. In “The Invisible Enemy” there’s no shrinking; instead, microscopic clones of the Fourth Doctor and his companion Leela are forced to go inside the Doctor’s actual body to stop a deadly virus. It’s weird and kind of trippy and ends with the virus actually jumping out of the Doctor’s body and becoming a big monster, but the episode is actually best known as the first appearance of K-9 the robot dog.
The more recent “Into the Dalek,” as the title suggests, sees the 12th Doctor and Clara shrunk down with a team to examine the innards of a faulty Dalek. It’s a decent episode, but mostly worth it for the Doctor’s quip when he realizes that he’s being asked to be shrunk down to go inside his “patient’s” body: “Fantastic idea for a movie. Terrible idea for a proctologist.”
5) Batman: The Brave and the Bold, “Journey to the Center of the Bat”
The fact that this story takes place inside the body of the Caped Crusader is almost ancillary to what makes it brilliant, which is that in order to combat a mysterious disease ailing Batman, the Atom and Brave and the Bold’s hilariously big-headed Aquaman are the ones shrunk down to enter the Bat-bloodstream. What follows is a delightful double act between the straight-man Atom, who’s just there to science the shit out of the situation, and Aquaman, who sees the duo as being on a grand adventure that just happens to take place in Batman’s innards.
4) Rick and Morty, “Anatomy Park”
Of course Rick and Morty’s done this—and hell, it turned into a Jurassic Park homage while they were at it, too. Rick’s latest experiment puts an elaborate theme park (including his favorite ride, “Pirates of the Pancreas”) inside the body of a homeless man named Ruben. But the rampant diseases inside Ruben quickly break loose, killing him and trapping a shrunken Morty inside the corpse. Being Rick and Morty, it ends with Rick sending the body out into space and enlarging it so Morty can escape, showering bits of viscera across America.
3) Archer, “Drastic Voyage”
This is perhaps one of the straightest Fantastic Voyage parodies on this list, as the team is tasked with getting inside the brain of famous scientist Doctor Zoltan Kovacs in an attempt to save his life. This is Archer we’re talking about, though, so it inevitably devolves into farce as the team gets inserted into Kovacs’ foot rather than his brain—and even after completing their mission, manages to still accidentally have their ship expand while inside Kovacs’ tear ducts, killing him and the medical team monitoring them. Fun fact: This is actually the event that sees the team fired from the CIA and blacklisted from espionage, leading the series to get wackier and wackier premises with every season.
2) The Middleman, “The Clotharian Contamination Protocol”
Each episode of the criminally underwatched 2008 TV series The Middleman is laden with pop culture references, so the Fantastic Voyage homage in this episode—where Wendy is shot inside the android body of the Middleman’s android assistant Ida to stop a virus of deadly nanobots from corrupting her systems and exploding out onto the world—is just one of many. But it’s also a surprisingly tense episode of the beloved cult series (and the penultimate before its untimely cancellation), and includes some sweet moments in the relationship between Wendy and the Middleman himself. It’s mainly worth it for basically being Die Hard inside a robot’s body, though.
1) Futurama, “Parasites Lost”
Fry eats a gas station egg salad sandwich, and things naturally go awry from there as an army of parasites set up shop in Fry’s insides. Instead of shrinking the team, Professor Farnsworth simply creates miniaturized robotic versions of them all—apparently shrinking molecules is really expensive—to clear Fry’s body of the parasites, only for the crew to discover the parasites have not only cleaned up Fry’s interior, but made a ton of other improvements, turning him into a better person who Leela begins to fall for. Not just a great parody, but one of Futurama’s first touching explorations of Fry and Leela’s relationship.