Episode 8: “The Living Mummies of Toth-Ra” 10/28/17
Starring: Scrooge McDuck, Louie Duck, Webbigail Vanderquack, Launchpad McQuack, Dewey Duck, and Huey Duck
Featuring: Amunet, Sabaf, and Toth-Ra
Setting: Egypt (The Tomb of Toth-Ra)
Plot: Scrooge and associates’ Egyptian treasure hunt turns into a rebellion once they realize that the living mummies have fallen prey to a conman’s “pyramid scheme.”
This new incarnation of DuckTales is great but what’s been lacking is that classic, globetrotting treasure hunt episode that’s always represented the show’s central theme of “solving mysteries” and “rewriting history.” Sure, these storylines can be troublesome in today’s era of enlightenment (or #WOKEness) and outside the glare of the 80s where US imperialism was all the rage.* But you just can’t ignore the awe-inspiring adventure and rollicking good times of it all.
This is the exact kind of tale we get in “The Living Mummies of Toth-Ra.” Scrooge and his crew crash upon Egypt with hopes of discovering and absconding with ancient riches. Instead, they find a primitive civilization of affable “ancient miscreants” untouched by modernity… or sunlight, for that matter, and it’s up to our fair-feathered ducks to help (or condescend to depending on your perspective) their new, third-world friends who have been unable/unwilling to fight back against their dictatorial charlatan of an oppressor. Like I already mentioned… it’s problematic. But more than that – it’s FUN and a real throwback to the aforementioned formula that made those old DuckTales episodes of yore really sing!
We could dig deeper into an AMAZINGLY rich and wacky plot where burritos help spur a revolution, the real Toth-Ra reanimates, makes demands on Louie’s life and shoots lasers from its eyes, and Dewey leads the living mummies on a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” dance. But why expound on all that when we could bloviate on some long awaited character showcases for both Scrooge and Launchpad?
We’ve done an awful lot of hand wringing over Scrooge’s diminished role thus far but it’s here, in his khakis and pith helmet, that he finally returns to leading duck status while proving his skills and experience are more diverse and varied than a seven-layered burrito. Aside from Scrooge’s business acumen, archaeological finds account for much of his wealth** and it’s through this knowledge and savvy that he finally finds the elusive Tomb of Toth-Ra. Then, in his training and strategizing for the coup, Scrooge also displays an apparent military background and even goes on to deliver an impromptu, Patton-esque speech in rallying the troops. If that wasn’t enough, his hand-in-cane combat against Toth-Ra show that this old duck is still willing to scrap. Make no mistake, he’s in charge of this expedition and it’s neither his first treasure hunt nor his first rebellion.
Then there’s Launchpad reprising his role as Scrooge’s pilot and right-hand man who, despite his best efforts, manages to fall bass-ackwards into providing the spark that leads to the living mummies’ liberation. However, this version of LP leaves much to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, he’s HI-larious but his comedy is decidedly one note. We saw some of this in “Terror of the Terra-firmians!” but it’s even more stark here, leaving me with little doubt that this is just what his character is going to be from here on out. He’s always been a doofus but 80s LP exuded a certain warmth and heart that made him the fully-developed breakout star that Scrooge depended on and the nephews adored. With his broad, muscle bound build he even offered Scrooge some muscle and packed the occasional punch. I don’t feel any sense of connectivity or bond with McDuck and associates here. Launchpad just kinda floats through the scenes, lending a lot of laughs but not much else. I’m still reserving hope though – maybe a LP-centric episode could help flesh out his character.
This is the exact type of episode I’d like to see more of. As a kid, I always preferred the stories that took Scrooge and the boys outside of the sterile and relatively safe confines of Duckburg. I loved the mythos and world-building of exploring ancient civilizations, condescending to its people, and battling some sort of mystical monster. Launchpad’s role has always been a big part of these globetrotting, treasure hunting episodes too since Scrooge needs a pilot to get to these exotic locales while LP was always ready and willing for any opportunity that allowed him to crash land somewhere new.
(*) The Indiana Jones film franchise (of which was both inspired by and inspired Uncle Scrooge Comics/DuckTales) also benefited from that era of global policy where a know-it-all and violent American travels to foreign lands, unearths their treasures, and is the “good guy” because he’s clever, can take a punch, and is as handsome and charming as all get-out.
(**) Although, we’ve rarely seen Scrooge actually come home with many of his valuable finds since, in the end, the story often dictates that he’s forced to choose between his family’s safety or the treasure. And, in this episode, the trend continues when Launchpad is gifted the Golden Khopesh of Toth-Ra while Scrooge is left with the Taco Truck bill.
Toth-Ra is an ancient Egyptian god, pharaoh, and bringer of the sun
Amunet, the leader of the servants of Toth-Ra, is a jackal while Sabaf, the evil guard, is a lanner falcon.
The living mummies’ civilization sustains itself on crops of, what looks like, dried root, grazing cows (presumably used for their meat and milk) and an economy based on a market of sand.
Some of the featured treasures found in the Forbidden Tomb of Toth-Ra are the Ruby Ankh of Neferhotep (a real life Egyptian pharaoh whose reign took place during the mid-thirteenth century) and the ushabti Army of Xerxes III (“ushabtis” are ancient Egyptian funerary figurines while Xerxes III did not exist).
Sabaf evokes The Wizard of Oz or “the man behind the curtain” with his fake Toth-Ra set-up and aptly titled “pyramid scheme.”
Launchpad’s $9,000 order from the Taco Truck: 100 quesadillas, 55 tostadas, and 20 burrito especiales.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Webby and the nephews. Once again, Louie and Webby stand out, both story and character-wise, as the more crucial characters in this plot. They are the ones who immediately get separated from the pack and it’s Louie who accidentally brings Toth-Ra back to life while it’s Webby whose ability to read and understand hieroglyphics helps to make sense of all the craziness going on.