Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ducktales, Pilot Episode: "Treasure of the Golden Suns," Part Five: "Too Much of a Gold Thing"

Okay, don't expect me to update at this rate regularly; I was just feeling enthusiastic--also, these are quicker to write than the comics entries because they're more limited in scope and I'm not messing around with images or anything like that. Still, I'll probably go through the series at a fairly brisk pace.

This concluding episode in the serial isn't without its flaws, but I'm happy to say that it ends the serial on a more or less high note. It begins with Scrooge hot on the trail of the gold at this here Valley of the Golden Suns, with Sinister Foreigner having reemerged and also hunting it down. The episode creates a parallel between Scrooge's lust for gold and that of Sinister Foreigner (yeah, I know he has a name, but it pleases me to just refer to him as Sinister Foreigner all the time)--fairly sophisticated, you might think, but, well, not really; what this amounts to is that Mrs Beakley ceaselessly and melodramatically maunders about how Scrooge is in the throes of the TERRIBLE GOLD FEVER. Subtle it ain't. I thought the show might make a connection with "The Fabulous Philosopher's Stone" and suggest that he might turn into gold if he keeps this up, but it never goes there. Nor is it at all clear why this particular quest rather than any other should trigger this TERRIBLE GOLD FEVER. Hey, I admire the effort, but I have to say the execution is kind of on the lackluster side.

Anyway, our heroes find the treasure, and the TERRIBLE GOLD FEVER reaches its height. And here, we see what I would call a genuinely great moment; certainly the best in the series so far: Sinister Foreigner overtakes them and lowers them into a pit of lava to do away with them; as they get to the bottom, it becomes clear that it's actually a pit of molten gold, and in Scrooge's ecstasy at this revelation, we see that the ultimate satisfaction of his lust would be to immolate himself therein. It's really just a momentary thing, but it is authentically frightening.

Then, the episode ends somewhat anti-climactically, as Scrooge is cured of the TERRIBLE GOLD FEVER, not by Learning What's Really Important but simply by realizing "holy shit, I'm going to DIE"--and suddenly, and very implausibly, he's totally cured and A-okay with giving up all this loot. Also, the show doesn't have the guts to kill off Sinister Foreigner by having him fall in the molten gold himself, in spite of the fact that that's obviously what's dramatically called for--I guess you can't kill off a character, let alone in so gruesome a fashion, in kids' TV (though a number of Disney movies have dealt their villains comparably unpleasant fates), but it disappoints nonetheless.

I don't want to overstate the episode's flaws, however, because for the most part it was very good; an appropriate climax and definitely the best so far. Makes me look forward to what the future holds in store.


  1. I would assert that discovering that it's better to be alive and impossibly rich than to be turned into duck molten gold fondue counts as Learning What's Really Important.

  2. Maybe, but that's not exactly exalting, is it? I mean, if the show wanted to be cynical about it that would be one thing, but it's pretty clear that the real problem with the TERRIBLE GOLD FEVER is supposed to be that it causes him to forget the importance of family &c, and if the change of heart comes about not because "oops--I forgot that some things are more important than money but rather because "if I pursue this it will have negative consequences on my physical well-being"--well, that makes it quite a different sort of show than I think it's trying to be. Perhaps I of all people shouldn't be putting that much weight on intentionality, but this just seems to me to be the result of the writers screwing up.

  3. You'll get lots of What's Really Important—with all the subtlety of a charging, defrosted giant walrus—later in the series. Often.

    Molten duck fondue sounds great, except I guess you couldn't eat the gold.

    I'd have liked to see L. Capitan meet his fate in the molten metal, too. (...yes, internal documents make clear that "L. Capitan" is really the spelling of his name; it couldn't be "El Capitan" when there was a pun to be made, even though we never *see* the name in writing in the show, so there's no way we can know the pun is there!)

  4. Mmm...maybe I should be careful what I wish for. Still, this just seemed clumsy.

  5. ...actually, I should clarify that I was not bemoaning on a philosophical level the lack of sentimentality; just that if they ARE going for such a thing--and they clearly were, here--they shouldn't botch it as they did.