A fan first asked Cohen about where he conceived of the name for Dr. Zoidberg. Cohen revealed that he drew the name from “Zoid,” an unreleased puzzle game that he had worked on back in the 1980s. An online Lost Media wiki compared “Zoid” to the popular 1981 Taito arcade game “Qix,” and that Cohen hoped that Brøderbund, the company behind “Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego?” would purchase and develop it. Once the name “Zoidberg” was established, Cohen pointed toward the character, keen to use Zoidberg’s alien species specifically to address his “Star Trek” problem. He wrote:
“[W]hen Matt and I were first working on the premise of the series, we thought it would be useful to have a doctor on the crew. My idea for Dr. Zoidberg was based on something that always bugged me about the original ‘Star Trek.’ Namely: I always thought that if I were Mr. Spock, a Vulcan, I would not feel very comfortable having a doctor of another species operating on me. So the idea was that Dr. Zoidberg would be knowledgeable only about the bizarre anatomy of his own species.”
Once Zoidberg’s biological cluelessness was established, the character could expand to be even more revolting. Not only was he a bad doctor, but eventually he was also massively impoverished. He lived in a dumpster and ate garbage. He smelled bad, his body was riddled with parasites, and he never had any romantic prospects. Dr. Zoidberg went from being a scary, clueless lobster to being utterly clueless and pathetic in every possible way. For Cohen, this was great character development.