Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ducktales, Season One, Episode Three: "Where No Duck Has Gone Before"

Wasn't it just totally, one hundred percent predictable that there would be a Ducktales episode of this title? Really, now.

The episode opens with Scrooge doing weight-lifting with bags of money as weights--can we assume that that "inspired" this two-pager drawn by Rosa and written by Gary Leach, which was published soon after and uses the same joke?

This episode introduces the character of Doofus, another Woodchuck. It doesn't provide any introduction or anything; he's just sort of there all of a sudden. He serves no purpose, in this episode at least. He…eats a lot, on account of being fat and all. And that's about the long and short of it. I don't think I'm ever gonna warm to him.

So the kids are big fans of a show called Courage of the Cosmos, a humorously cheap sci-fi thing with model ships on strings and a toaster for a communicator. The bit we see of the show is genuinely funny. I don't have much else good to say about this episode, however; it has some okay action, but it just piles nonsense on nonsense in a way that I really can't get over.

Turns out the studio producing Courage of the Cosmos is defaulting on their debts, and Scrooge takes it over. He goes down and orders the show to be made less cheesy-looking. Long story short, the kids, Launchpad and the captain in the show--Major Courage--get launched into space, and they have to survive and fend off aliens as the Major reveals himself to be not so heroic after all.

The biggest dumbness in this show is this: right from the beginning--well before we meet the Courage-actor and learn what a cad he is--Launchpad is seething with resentment towards the guy and fulminating about how he's a "phony." We are clearly supposed to sympathize with this. But for fuck's sake, of course he's not an actual space pilot--he's an actor. This idea that the two of them should be somehow in competition is completely idiotic. "If you ask me, real heroes don't need cameras and makeup," Launchpad mutters. No, you lunatic, but actors on TV shows do. You think he'd somehow be more heroic if he were a less telegenic actor? This boggles my mind with its stupidity.

I think the problem, really, lies with the writers not understanding the difference between actors and characters. It's a common thing in American politics; certain former presidents we could name used to always be compared to John Wayne or Gene Autry by people who appeared to have lost track of the fact that these were not actual cowboys; they were people who were paid to pretend to be cowboys. The same thing may be resulting in the confusion hereabouts. Notice how I always refer to the character as "the Courage-actor"--this is because the actor has no name; the show never differentiates between actor and character.

I actually remember seeing this episode when I was small, at a friend's house (hi, Dan!). What I remember most is the ending: Scrooge had threatened to fire the Courage-actor, who counters that he can't be fired because he's got a five-year contract, about which he gets all smug. At the end, it turns out he's been demoted to concessions salesman for ravenous kids, and when he wants to quit, Scrooge reminds him of his contract. Oh how we laughed at his comeuppance (though now I suspect this reveals an inadequate understanding of contract law). But nowadays, it just reveals to me another flaw in the episode: the reason the kids are with Courage-actor in space is that he wanted to get them involved and show them a good time to suck up to Scrooge so as to not lose his job. But what was the point of this if he was under the impression that his contract made him totally invulnerable? Gah!



  1. Kevin Johnson from Total Media Bridge here, I sometimes comment over on your comics reviews. (The Comment as section doesn't have the URL choice anymore...?)

    Anyway, while I'm looking forward to this set of reviews, I'll have to admit that a lot of what I read so far seems... I don't know, angry? I think these reviews seem to want the cartoon to be much more like the comics, when it all reality, they couldn't feasibly be.

    That being said, I do understand some of the frustrations you're showing for some of the weaker written bits - even if this was my favorite cartoon as a youngin'. I -will- justify Lauchpad's strange bout of jealousy due to a later episode where they reveal his own family upbringing. He has a thing for 'real heroism' based on his father's history.

  2. Not sure what the deal is with "comment as;" I certainly haven't messed with any settings.

    "Angry?" I wouldn't have said so; I'm finding them a bit of a mixed bag, but that's unsurprising for a kids' cartoon, and I've really enjoyed a good half of the episodes I've seen so far. If I'm complaining about Magica, it's not really because she varies from the comics; it's because the changes make no sense and her motivations are very poorly-defined. You could accuse me with some justice of complaining that Glomgold isn't more like he was in the Barks stories, I suppose, but heck, that's not a Ducktales-specific complaint--I harp on that endlessly in the context of comics, too. I'm not trying to be defensive or anything; I'm just not sure what you mean. Any specific examples of this anger you'd care to point out?

  3. Apologies: Angry isn't quite the word I wanted to use, although I'm having trouble thinking of the word I -do- want to use. Disparaging? Over-expectant? It just seems, I don't know, off.

    Not to say I don't enjoy these reviews, because I do. (And I do think they get better over time.) I would say that the show's philosophy is slightly skewed from the comics, and that difference seems a bit more problematic for you than myself.

    For example, previously, you took issue with Scrooge's about-face when confronted with near-gold-death while afflicted with gold fever.

    Consider, for a second, Scrooge's key to life - he got his wealth by being "smarter than the smarties, and tougher than the toughies". In that context - yeah, NOT giving into the inexplicable desire to live as a gold statue is why Scrooge stands out. It's not about the gold, but the acquisition and maintenance of wealth. So living is being "smarter than the smarties" and overcoming gold fever (which I assume is as powerful as the ring corruption stuff in Lord of the Rings) is being "tougher than the toughies." I buy it perfectly, not only as a characteristic of Scrooge but perfect as part of the narrative of the animated program.

    Another example: Magica as Russian I think works fine, the voice actress is good enough to pull it off. And the stuff about the dime is simply a MacGuffin: there no real need to explain WHY it works in her spells, but it just does: in fact, a future episode shows a time-traveling Scrooge discovering Magica possessing the dime and, indeed, taking over Duckberg (I forget if the world is included.)

    Her motivation is quite sound: at some point in her magically career, she discovered Scrooge's dime is paramount to global domination, probably because of the luck attributed to it (I believe a another episode shows Scrooge losing the dime and pretty much going damn-near poor). It's a Groundhog Day dilemma - it doesn't -need- a reason, so as long as the narrative works.

    Sorry for the wordiness. Just thought I'd overexplain myself. :P

  4. Chris Barat's rebuttal: "To tell you the truth, I never got the impression that LP was unable to tell the difference between a play-acting hero and the real thing. I think that LP's real ire was directed at the boys for confusing image and reality so easily, and that he simply projected that indignation onto Courage (which, given Courage's unlikable personality, was quite easy to do). You might say that LP's antennae were prematurely picking up signals that Courage was not merely an actor playing a role, but a true moral coward, someone who would be perfectly willing to abandon others and try to save himself (not to mention his career in "stage, screen, and television") when legitimate trouble arrived. Perhaps LP had seen enough of Courage of the Cosmos to get an early sense of this." In other words, Launch Pad must have watched quite a few episodes himself.