Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ducktales, Season One, Episode Sixty: "Till Nephews Do Us Part"

Well! The season closer is...interesting. Good? Let's stick with "interesting." Certainly one of your more bizarre episodes; but not in so half-assed a way as many a Ducktales joint. That's not to say it's DEVOID of half-assed elements: for instance, there's this dumb thing where apparently nobody knows what ASAP stands for, resulting in this dialogue between Scrooge and Duckworth: "ASAP?" "As soon as possible!" "Oh, of course, sir! For a moment I thought you were calling me a sap!" Seriously, people, that would barely be acceptable coming from Launchpad. But Duckworth? Now granted, this episode is goofy in some intentional ways, but that doesn't entirely obviate the need to keep characters acting in believable ways. We never really enter "Uncrashable Hindentanic" territory here. Also: "'Trespassing?' What does 'trespassing' mean?" Come the fuck ON.

So anyway, the plot: Scrooge falls in love with a rich woman, Millionaira Vanderbucks, who looks like the lady from "Spies in Their Eyes," and they have a courtship filled with a non-stop cavalcade of money-related terms of endearment. But oh no! She just wants his money! And…she's really, really obvious about this, and the kids find out, but Scrooge will not be turned from his purpose of marrying her! They try, but fail, to scare her off with a treasure-hunting trip to Malaysia, in a sequence that's sort of misogynistic but also sort of amusing but, on the third hand, also sorta dumb: like, they convince her that there's a Terrible Creature after them, and the only way she can ward it off is by…carrying all their luggage? Really, now.

In any case, all this amounts to nothing, because Scrooge is still determined to marry her. There's a big wedding scene, which features cameos from fuckloads of prior Ducktales characters, whom I didn't keep track of due to honestly not caring that much (though I was certainly glad to see Donald make a brief appearance); then there's the most surreal ending I could've imagined, in which Goldie bursts out of a cake and chases Millionaira off with a shotgun. Really truly. And then she attempts to murder Scrooge for "two-timing," which I tend to feel tarnishes the Goldie mystique a little bit. The idea that he's required to remain eternally faithful to her, in spite of having left her fifty-odd years ago, is a bit much. I mean, even Florentino Ariza in Love in the Time of Cholera had his flings. Crikey.

The season certainly could've ended in a worse fashion, but I won't say this was any kind of series highlight either. The second "season" is just straight-up two five-part episodes in a row. My experiences with multi-part Ducktales episodes have been mixed at best, so we'll just have to hope for the best.

Stray Observations

-The bit where the kids are incapable of pronouncing "relics" correctly ("relish") is pretty dumb, but it DOES have a good pay-off in the Malaysia segment. Scrooge: "I found the relics!" [brandishing a jar] "And it IS relish!"

-Beakley is totally blasé about the kids being sent off to military/finishing school, but when it's suggested that SHE might be fired, hoo boy, look out! This strikes me as a mean and not-too-believable interpretation of her character.

-The romance would be better with a medley set to "Daisy Bell." Just sayin.'


  1. I was wondering why Scrooge was so attracted to her, when they have so little in common but love of money. Then I realized: she probably has the smell of money all over her, and THAT'S what he's attracted to.

    I think we have to remember that this is the Ducktales universe, not the Barks/Rosaverse. In Ducktales, Goldie and Scrooge meet again in "Back to the Klondike," where Scrooge learns that Goldie didn't rob and abandon him decades earlier, and Goldie learns that Scrooge didn't take the gold and abandon her decades earlier because Scrooge thought she skipped out on him, and the Villain of the Week actually stole the gold. The episode ends with them kissing and the train blowing smoke hearts, much to the disgust of viewers. Since then, Goldie's appearances have only been in a Cinderella dream-sequence and as a locket-wearing statuette. After Scrooge gave her a gold claim and made out with her, it's possible for her to think that they're in a long-distance relationship.

    And come on, didn't seeing Glomgold running away screaming make you smile a little bit? Come to think of it, why would Scrooge invite Glomgold to his wedding? Was he angling for a wedding present?

  2. Okay! I can't do this blog anymore, lol. I guess you had to experience "DuckTales" in your youth to fully appreciate it. It's just difficult to see post after post ripping apart something that had an extremely positive impact on my creative sensibilities.

    This was a show that didn't talk down to me as a kid, that respected my intelligence, that introduced me to so many classic voice actors, that got me started on my love of the Ducks, animation, etc.

    Also, it is regarded as one of the greatest animated series of all time, and its historic significance in the entertainment industry is profound. It's also important to realize that this show was never trying to be Barks, nor was it trying to continue Barks in the way Rosa did. As the pilot episodes show, "DuckTales" is set in an alternative Duck universe just as Van Horn set the Ducks in his own universe.

    It's also important to realize that some of the plot contrivances you pick apart--contrivances that may not be acceptable in other genres--are acceptable here since this is a cartoon. (That said, other genres have plot contrivances that wouldn't be acceptable in a cartoon.)

    I'm not optimistic about your reaction to the second and third seasons. I think you may loathe these episodes even more, especially since the goofiness quotient is amped up and the logic quotient is dialed down in many of the great amusement...if you dig that kind of amusement. Many of my favorite episodes come from the second and third seasons.

    Anyway, this blog is very well-written. But this combined with the new DT comic-book's an assault on my nostalgia, man! :-)

  3. I'm sorry to hear that. I think the record will show that I have been quite positive--effusive, even--about those episodes that I have considered good. Fact remains, though, a hell of a lot of them have been really, really not good, and to pretend otherwise would just devalue what the creators are capable of when they actually get their shit together. I am well aware that nostalgia is a powerful force--I'm as subject to it as anyone--but it makes a pretty lousy guiding editorial principle.

    And...I'm sorry to say this, but the show egregiously disrespects the intelligence of you and me and kids everywhere when it cranks out insulting bullshit like "The Duckman of Aquatraz," "The Money Vanishes," "Superdoo," "Down & Out in Duckburg," "The Right Duck," "Luck o' the Ducks," "Take Me Out of the Ballgame," "Once Upon a Dime," and "Ducky Horror Picture Show"--episodes where the creators didn't bother to put in the effort to respect the characters' integrity and/or use coherent plotting.

    Part of the reason that I get so indignant about this is because I can't stand it when people make crap kids' entertainment because, hey, they're just kids; they don't know any better. Fuck that noise--and given that the show has actually shown itself to be capable of putting together some really great episodes that need no rationalization ("Hero for Hire," "Raiders of the Lost Harp," "Double-0-Duck," "The Uncrashable Hindentanic"), rationalizations like "it's just a cartoon" or "it's just a kids' show" hold even less weight.

  4. GeoX: I agree. As a 13-year-old viewer, my opinions episode by episode were amazingly close to yours. I liked the smart ones, couldn't stand the dumb ones.
    In many ways, as a first-time viewer I felt DuckTales succeeded in spite of extremely powerful instincts to be a traditional 1980s SatAM cartoon. The poorer episodes slide into that abyss.

    Pete: Sorry.

    Christopher: You BET he was. Since Glomgold is only a few inches of string behind Scrooge in net worth, Scrooge needs to craftily engineer every possible wealth transfer his way.

  5. Hey GeoX,

    First, I want you to know that there's a reason I check this and your other blog several times a week. You are a smart, intelligent, and gifted writer with keen and witty insight. I'm really not done with this blog. I'll be back time and time again, bracing myself as I willfully subject the favorite show of my childhood to your withering and fiery critiques. :-)

    Starting out, I just wanted to say that because I'm hoping you weren't insulted by what I previously posted. It certainly wasn't intended as such.

    Second, you make several good points regarding so-called kids' programming and the constraints of nostalgia. Each of those points is greatly appreciated. The DT shows you listed in your reply as being sub-par are indeed sub-par. And the shows you listed as being outstanding are indeed outstanding. I might quibble with the degrees of bullshit for some of these shows. I'm kinda like the Dante of Shit. Like his Inferno, I believe there are different levels of shit.

    The nature of the television beast is a wicked thing. Virtually every quality series is several parts crap, several parts brilliance, and several parts mediocrity. David's observation that "...'DuckTales' succeeded in spite of extremely powerful instincts to be a traditional 1980s SatAM cartoon" is sound.

    Fred Allen's oft-quoted observation about television, "Television is a new medium. It's called a medium because nothing is well-done," also still applies in some ways.

    Third, I would encourage you to consider the historical context of "DuckTales." This (and "The Adventures of the Gummi Bears") was a pioneering show. Intelligent children's programming had been absent from the airwaves for a solid 15 years (there are those who will vehemently argue this, of course).

    In many ways, "DuckTales" was figuring itself and its niche out as it was going along. It's easy to look back with 20/20 vision, especially with the perspective of such triumphs as "Darkwing Duck," "Animaniacs," "Batman: The Animated Series," etc. At the time, though, even the worst of "DuckTales" tended to be better than the best of anything else.

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, GeoX!



    P.S. Hey David...apology accepted. (Just kidding!) :)

  6. No offense taken! Given how vehement some of these entries are, vehement replies are entirely in order. I'll even concede that my lack of nostalgic attachment to the series is something of a mixed blessing--it may allow me to look at it more "objectively," but the fact remains, everything exists in a cultural context, and that's has to be taken into account in order to fully conceptualize it--not that that means excusing bad episodes.