Episode 5: “Terror of the Terra-firmians!” 10/7/17
Starring: Huey Duck, Webbigail Vanderquack, Lena, Dewey Duck, Louie Duck, Bentina Beakley, and Launchpad McQuack
Costarring: Magica De Spell (in shadow form)
Featuring: The Terra-firmians
Setting: The Duckburg Underground
Plot: After seeing a scary movie, the kids go exploring the Duckburg subway system in search of the Terra-firmians while Mrs. Beakley and Launchpad effort to retrieve them back to safety.
Science vs. Faith and Nature vs. Nurture… our heroes get to the bottom of these age old questions while plumbing the depths of the Duckburg underground in search of the Legendary Terra-firmians*. This all happens as the show slips into the skin of horror**, influenced by a showing of a late night monster movie. This spooky backdrop heightens the stakes and mood of our dueling philosophies as Dewey and Webby squabble over the existence of the fabled cryptids while Lena’s struggle between good and evil rages within. It’s not so much about which end wins out but how we get there and what these conclusions reveal about our characters.
Huey’s Junior Woodchuck Guidebook has all the answers… except for when it doesn’t. It’s in that gray area where Webby’s spastic notebook comes in handy. Covered in glitter and filled with crayon doodles, “The Secret Files of Webby Vanderquack” deals in conjecture and what might be where the JWG is all about hard facts and what is. Webby, who lived a sheltered existence up to this point, uses her imagination to take her beyond the walls of McDuck Manor in creating a world defined by conspiracy theories, mythical creatures, and the unknown. Huey is the more grounded of his brothers and finds comfort away from Dewey’s moods and Louie’s quirks in the structure and order of the Junior Woodchucks. In this way, he and Webby are complete opposites which is why they butt beaks over the existence of the Terra-firmians. Despite the fact that Huey has already come across a pirate ghost and an ancient dragon***, he still clings to reason and what he can see with his own two eyes. He isn’t dogmatic with his beliefs though and proves to be a true scientist as he documents his encounter with the Terra-firmians as “science-fact,” adding his findings to the JWG. Huey and Webby’s conflict has a happy ending and never gets too contentious because both are less concerned with being right as much as they are both enthusiastic and relentless seekers of truth – they just take a different network of underground tunnels to get there. As Webby puts it, “the only way we know is to find out together.”
We still don’t know a whole lot about Lena, her background, or her endgame. We know she’s Magica De Spell’s niece as well as being a “mysterious rebel playing by her own rules.” We know that she carries some part of Magica in her talisman and is trying to get close to the McDuck family for nefarious reasons. But why? Sure, Magica is Lena’s blood but she’s made cynical comments about family in the past so there may be a crack in her allegiance to her sinister aunt. In comes Mrs. Beakley… as the show’s resident hard/bad-ass with a background in espionage (and probably the military), she’s immediately suspicious of Webby’s new friend and proves to be the perfect foil to Lena’s teenage rebellion and undercover, ulterior motives. In fact, it’s when Beakley’s life hangs in the balance that the aforementioned crack in Lena’s evil façade and relationship with Magica is exposed. When she uses sorcery to save Beakley from getting crushed by the subway car she may be revealing her true nature. Or, as she explains to Magica, is this merely a play at the “long game?” Lena is powerful, no doubt, but is her true inclination to use these powers for good or evil? Under Magica’s influence and tutelage, we know she’s been raised, at least partly, in a dark environment that encourages skullduggery, malfeasance, and revenge. This inner conflict is what ultimately will shape Lena’s character going forward along with the Magica story arc**** as a whole.
Where Huey and Webby reach a satisfying détente in their conflicting viewpoints, Lena’s story isn’t near finished and is hurdling towards a messier and potentially catastrophic conclusion. There are no two ways about it, Lena is either good or evil. Will she unleash the evil that is Magica DeSpell on the McDuck household and join her aunt in the subsequent reign of terror that follows? Or, will she be a part of the good in resisting and defeating her? There’s reason for optimism though because, in the battle between nature and nurture, nature is an instrument of free will where nurture relies on outside influence. And, the power within always holds an edge over the power without.
(*) The Terra-firmians made their first appearance in 1956’s Uncle Scrooge comic book, “The Land Beneath the Ground,” by Carl Barks. In this story, they are two competing factions called the Terries and Fermies who hold contests to see who can create the largest earthquakes. They are located beneath Scrooge’s Money Bin so he, Donald, and his nephews go down below to investigate. In 1987, they also appear in the episode, “Earth Quack,” which is a retelling of the original story.
(**)That’s two episodes in-a-row now where the show dabbles in genre after “The Beagle Birthday Massacre” paid homage to the grunge, B-Movie urban thriller, The Warriors.
(***) The monsters (Captain Peghook, the Headless Man-horse, and Macchu the Dragon) the nephews and Webby accidentally unleash in the series’ Pilot.
(****) Will this throughline be as prevalent and overarching as Della and the Spear of Seline is shaping up to be or will its end come much sooner? Or, even better, will they be connected somehow???
This makes it back-to-back episodes sans Scrooge.
The movie they see is The Beast with the tagline of “They can be Anyone. They are Everywhere” and is “Based on an Actual True Novel.”
Other movie posters at the theater are Blood Suck, UFO, Duck House, and Prepare.
Webby’s detailed notes on the Terra-firmians mirror their backstory from both the Uncle Scrooge comic and the original DuckTales.
Personally, I probably best remember the Terra-firmians as the End Boss of the African Mines level in the classic 8-bit DuckTales video game.
Advertisements for Flintheart Glomgold’s various products are on the walls of the old subway car. They include Glomgold Steaks, Glomgold Air, Glomgold Water, and Glomgold Illustrated.
Launchpad is fantastic here as the episode’s unrelenting source of comedy. And, while he’s more over-the-top dim here than he ever was in the original series, he still establishes his capability as a gearhead and expert mechanic in repairing the abandoned subway train… that he ultimately crashes.
You may notice that, in both colour scheme and character, the Terra-firmians are analogues for Webby and the nephews.
The Terra-firmian’s description of the kids as “bill-faced creatures of the land above” is a play on the title of the comic from their first appearance: “The Land beneath the Ground.”
One of the best parts of the series thus far is how they use their ensemble cast to pair off different members in various situations. This does well in developing character by placing them in varied situations and environments. For example, in just this episode, we get Huey/Webby, Lena/Beakley, and Dewey/Launchpad.