Episode: 309 "They Put a Moonlander on the Earth!” 9/28/20
Starring: Penumbra, Webby Vanderquack, Dewey Duck, Launchpad McQuack, Flintheart Glomgold, and Gibbous
Costarring: Della Duck, Zenith, Timmy Jenkins, and Louie Duck
An Appearance by: Johnny Ottoman
Introducing: Good Boy and the Safety Inspector
Setting: Duckburg (McDuck Manor, Duckburg Pier, and Morning Joe)
One of DuckTales’ strengths is that it always manages to circle back to the characters and plot points that could just as easily have been forgotten or ignored. In this episode, we get to say “oh yeah, the Moonlanders… so, that’s what happened to them after their wayward invasion of the Planet Earth!” But it’s not just a superficial “check-in.” Nor is it a rote, fish-out-of-water story. Captain Penumbra’s and her fellow Moonlanders’ tale is deeper than that - it delves into the concept of assimilation, the experience of an immigrant/political refugee, as well as the transition from military life to that of a civilian.
Since being marooned on Earth, Penumbra has established temporary residence in McDuck Manor’s backyard. But she’s become increasingly aggravated by her delay in returning to the Moon, due in part to her struggles in reassembling her rocket ship. Meanwhile, unlike Penny, fellow Moonlanders Gibbous and Zenith have successfully assimilated to Earth life, completely shedding all semblance of their Moon culture. And, they have no intention of ever returning to their homeland either. They, along with a number of other Moonlanders, have put down roots - they throw parties, own pets, wear 90s clothes, and own smart phones. Gibbous has even taken employment as Flintheart Glomgold’s assistant. However, this proves to be problematic as he’s begun going so far as to parroting his boss’ inflammatory and inaccurate rhetoric against the Moonlanders, referring to himself and his people as “moon scum.” There is, indeed, such a thing as over-assimilation.
When you’ve spent the entirety of your life as a hammer, everything is a nail. Poor Penny can’t even part with her Moon armour, let alone enjoy a cup of coffee with friends or play with slinkys. She’s even turned the simple pleasure of having fun into something she must “conquer.” Like so many others from military backgrounds, Penumbra is struggling with transitioning from the life-or-death, task-oriented intensity of war and combat to that of the mundanity of life. If she can’t be the “fearless protector of her people” who is constantly fighting and “destroying her enemies” then who is she? All of her friends keep accusing her of being scared and they’re right. But Penumbra is also suffering from a lack of purpose and direction which is a far cry from the strictly regimented and structured existence of a career soldier.
It’s not until some sage advice from “best friend Webby” about leaving her comfort zone, exploring the world around her, and accepting the duality of her own identity (all with the support of her friends and family) that Penny has an epiphany of sorts and actually breaks her self-imposed hunger strike, allowing herself to indulge in some of Earth’s finest delicacies - hamburgers and ice cream. Then she finally finds her purpose thanks to Glomgold who, like another deplorable, millionaire conman from our world, attempts to divert blame and attention from himself and onto Penny, an innocent immigrant. It’s not fighting that Penny loves, it’s protecting her friends where she finds her proverbial “barrel of monkeys.” Penumbra quickly springs into action with the help of pals, old (Gibbous) and new (Launchpad), to thwart Glomgold and save the “Little Dellas.”
When we see Penumbra next, she’s hanging out with both Earth and Moon friends alike. She’s abandoned her war helmet and is wearing an “I Survived the Glomwheel” t-shirt while also still donning her Moon gloves and wrap. It looks as if she’s learned to strike the delicate balance between assimilating to Earth life without abandoning all semblance to her culture. When the episode begins, Penny is angrily attempting to reassemble her rocket ship. At it’s end, she’s revealed that she’s dismantling it with the help of her best friends, Della, Webby, and Launchpad. I think it’s safe to say that Penumbra has become the newest member of the McDuck extended family.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk more about Launchpad’s role in all of this. He may seem like a dim man-child (he is) but he’s also got heart and a surprising amount of maturity. When his crush on Penny goes unrequited, LP shifts his attentions towards maintaining a friendship. A lot of guys in this situation would hold a grudge and show hostility towards Penumbra but Launchpad does the opposite (though, evidence suggests that LP may have learned this behaviour after implied rocky relationships with exes, Ziya and Oceanika). Then, even though it’s obvious he still has feelings for her (did you see the way he looks at her as she’s flying towards the Glomwheel?), his efforts are rewarded when Penny goes so far as to make clear her admiration for him as well as firmly establishing their budding friendship.
On Ottoman Empire, Johnny is still hosting solo with him and his brother, Randy, still yet to reconcile.
Gibbous and Zenith finally get ther dog, a rottweiler named “Good Boy,” in what’s a callback to “The Golden Spear!” (S2, E11). When the couple imagines what it would be like to go to Earth, Gibbous says “we can get our very own dog!” with Zenith replying “and dress it in slap bracelets!” - AND THEY DID!
This is the first mention of Zan Owlson since quitting her post as CEO (not assistant) of Glomgold Industries to become her own billionaire in “The Richest Duck in the World!” (S2, E23) (although, she did briefly appear in “Moonvasion!” (S2, E24/25)). I’m guessing she’ll make good on her aspirations and likely become a new rival for Scrooge.
Gibbous’ physical appearance has to be based on that of famed character actor, Ned Beatty, right?
While not appearing, Palus is mentioned as one of the Moonlanders who has remained on Earth and also has become quite the party-hoster.
Much like last week’s episode, Webby once again takes up the mantle of the “best friend” who helps a friend through a personal crisis.
Also similar to “The Phantom and the Sorceress!” (S3, E8), we get another musical montage that is reminiscent from that of an 80s or 90s movie
The Shromp Shromp Express makes another appearance coming off of last week’s introduction. Albeit, it’s a different location, at the pier, and has been graded as a B by the city’s health inspectors.
It’s just a throw-away gag but Penumbra’s double take at the anatomically correct ducks juxtaposed with the anthropomorphic Dewey and Webby is a joke that’s 86-years-in-the-making.
The Hamburger Hippo, where Penumbra has her first dozen hamburgers, was also a chain of quick-service restaurants in Darkwing Duck.
Despite everything that happens, Gibbous looks to have retained his employment with Glomgold as his assistant.
Among the press gathered around Timmy Jenkins is a female, adult Dewey - blue sweater, same hairdo, and strikingly similar face.
Penumbra drops a subtle hint that her romantic proclivities lie with, not males, but females. We’ve already been introduced to Violet’s dads as DuckTales’ first gay characters but it’d be awesome to have a more prominent character, such as Penny, also provide that perspective and representation.
It’s not lost on me that Timmy Jenkins, a pig, hogs all the press. Timmy also first appeared in "Daytrip of Doom!" (S1, E3) in a non-speaking role as a background character at Funso's.
Speaking of the media, it’s notable that they’re a minor point of Dewey’s “Dew-saster Day” C-Plot yet, there’s no appearance from Roxanne Featherly.
At episode’s end, Lunaris’ ship can be briefly seen in the sky, still acting as the Earth's "second moon."