Episode: 312 "Let’s Get Dangerous!” 10/19/20
Starring: Darkwing Duck/Drake Mallard, Launchpad McQuack, Dewey Duck, Huey Duck, Louie Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Bradford Buzzard, Quackerjack, Megavolt, Dr. Reginald Bushroot, and Liquidator
Costarring: Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera/Gizmoduck, Zan Owlson, and Black Heron
Featuring: Gosalyn Waddlemeyer and Dr. Taurus Bulba
Introducing: Dr. Thad Waddlemeyer and W.A.N.D.A.
A Cameo by: Bonkers D. Bobcat
Setting: St. Canard (Dr. Bulba’s Lab, Darkwing Duck’s Secret Headquarters, Cranky Frank’s)
“You have to tear things down first before you make something new - that’s innovation!” These are the words of blowhard, supervillain-hiding-in-plain-sight, Dr. Taurus Bulba, in bloviating on his latest invention, the Ramrod. And it’s not so dissimilar to what the creative braintrust behind our favourite animated series is doing - albeit, not as wanton and reckless. Unlike the aforementioned Ramrod, the show isn’t merely conjuring something from nothing, nor is it destroying the past like Bulba would suggest. What it is doing, though, is innovating. The world of Darkwing Duck is being reimagined and canonized within that of DuckTales by pulling matter from past incarnations… or other dimensions - LIKE THE RAMROD!
We’ve known something like this was coming since Launchpad’s superfandom of show-within-the-show, Darkwing Duck and its star Jim Starling, was revealed in “Beware the B.U.D.D.Y. System!” (S1, E11). And then, when the corresponding fall/rise of Starling/Mallard was chronicled in “The Duck Knight Rises!” (S2, E16), it was a fait accompli. Now that we’ve finally crossed the Autubon Bay Bridge from Duckburg and into St. Canard, we have fully entered the realm of the Purple Protector himself, Darkwing Duck.
It’s easy to get lost amidst the overwhelming deluge of references and meta-storytelling (and, I promise, we will) but there is an actual story here. On paper, former actor and budding vigilante, Drake Mallard, has it all. Since bringing the Darkwing Duck character off the screen and into the streets, he’s systematically reached all the benchmarks in becoming a hero:
But since donning the cape, Darkwing Duck has been presumably spending most of his nights perched atop St. Canard’s skyline, scanning the city for any opportunity to “get dangerous” but to no avail. The thing is that DW doesn’t have any actual crime to thwart. Since new mayor, Zan Owlson, took office, she’s managed to clean up the streets of St. Canard’s and, with that, rid itself of its ignominious title of the “supervillain capital of the world.” Without bad guys, DW has no one to lock beaks with nor does he have anyone to help. However, all that changes once Darkwing is confronted by displaced youth, Gosalyn Waddlemeyer. Her plea for help pulls him into a multi-dimensional conspiracy backed by a criminal organization whose fiendish plot threatens not only all of reality but Scrooge McDuck and his family as well.
Gosalyn’s grandfather, Dr. Waddlemeyer, was once Bulba’s lab partner and helped create the aforementioned Ramrod. But a falling-out between the two resulted in Waddlemeyer’s disappearance, leaving Gosalyn an orphan and determined to expose Bulba and find her grandpa. On the McDuck side of things, Huey is growing suspicious of Bulba and the Ramrod himself and soon uncovers their secret. The machine is using one of Isabella Finch’s Missing Mysteries, the Solego Circuit, to suck objects (and people) in from other dimensions (which are really just windows into every work of fiction) and into their world. Once Bulba’s deranged scheme is revealed, he goes full villain and uses the Ramrod to pull in the supervillains from Jim Starling’s Darkwing Duck to wreak havoc on St. Canard.
With Quackerjack, Bushroot, Megavolt, and Liquidator on the loose, DW finally has his stable of villains to contend with. But his biggest challenge proves to be balancing fighting the bad guys with keeping Gosalyn safe and reuniting her with her grandpa. In fact, he’s exhausted himself from staying up all night with Fenton, trying to figure out how to find Dr. Waddlemeyer. While DW burns the candle at both ends, Launchpad captures the plight of the hero best; “Anyone can do the right thing when it’s easy, but it’s what you do when things are hard that makes you a hero.” And Gosalyn more than proves her mettle in that regard by destroying the increasingly erratic Ramrod rather than further risk everyone else’s lives by searching in vain for her grandpa. Although the new crime fighting trio didn’t succeed in their ultimate goal, they have hit their stride as a team and, more importantly, come together as an “adventure family.”
But the biggest arc-altering development is F.O.W.L.’s role in all of this. It turns out that Dr. Bulba has been under the employ of Bradford Buzzard and his attempts to crack the Solego Circuit are all a part of F.O.W.L.’s master plan for world domination. Bradford wants all chaos to be reigned in and he sees the McDuck family’s constant adventuring as the biggest threat to his campaign. This shows that he’s a different and more dangerous kind of big bad than what the McDucks have faced in the past. Unlike Magica DeSpell and Lunaris, Bradford doesn’t consider himself a villain and actually sees himself as protecting reality from Scrooge and his family. Not much is scarier than a bad guy thinking he’s the good guy.
Now that Bradford is no longer working from a position of stealth within the hierarchy of McDuck Enterprises, he and his team of flunkies will likely be turning up the heat in their efforts to put an end to Scrooge and his family’s adventure seeking antics. Likewise, because of Bradford’s outing as the proverbial fox in the henhouse, Scrooge will almost assuredly set forth plans to go on the offensive against F.O.W.L. The race to retrieve the rest of Finch’s Missing Mysteries is about to reach a fever pitch.
But the bigger, series-altering question remains: will Darkwing Duck remain within the DuckTales incubator or will it leave the proverbial nest and soar on its own? There’s probably enough there now that DW has Bulba’s Supervillain Solutions to contend with along with the matter of reuniting Gosalyn with her family for them to spin him off proper into its own show. My only concern would’ve been “what would happen to Launchpad” but he has already confirmed that he will remain a part of both universes (as long as he doesn’t off himself sleeping while driving). But what does this mean for the strongly hinted at “Disney Afternoon’iverse” as a whole? With Solego’s Circuit firmly established as a canon-bending function of the show, the possibilities are endless. Any piece of fiction can be pulled/sent through a trans-dimensional rift and that is THRILLING.
So, how does all of this work? I guess we have to assume that Drake’s (former?) acting career is what’s bankrolling the various expenses of being a hero. He’s also indirectly being funded by McDuck Enterprises since Fenton is supplying the gadgets. In DD ‘91, it stands to reason that S.H.U.S.H. was supporting him financially. Although, it was never explicitly stated.
And, as fun as all of this is (and it really is!), can we talk about how ridiculous the whole premise is? I mean, imagine if Michael Keaton all of a sudden started dressing up like Batman in real life and started fighting crime.
One of the best pieces of retrofitting this episode does is in correcting the Launchpad issue. In DW ‘91, LP was DW’s loyal sidekick with nary a mention of what happened to his employment under Scrooge other than him referring to Mr. McD as his former boss. As a kid, I found all this very upsetting… was LP fired, is Scrooge dead, WHAT HAPPNED???
Speaking of Launchpad McQuack, I’ve oft complained about how overwhelmingly dumb they’ve made him in this series and how it’s taken away from the heart he would regularly display in the original series. But here, he’s finally seemed to perfect threading the needle between being hilarious and appropriately tender while still maintaining his dim jocularity.
In DD ‘91 Taurus Bulba’s appearance is similar enough to this new incarnation but there are many differences as well as a few similarities between the two worth noting. The old Bulba wasn’t a scientist, but more of a criminal mastermind. He was also Russian. Bulba wasn’t the leader of the Fearsome Four either, that job belonged to Negaduck (which he called the Fearsome Five). Similarly, he also served as the main villain in DD ‘91’s two-part-pilot, “Darkly Dawns the Duck,” and was also responsible for Dr. Waddlemeyer’s disappearance (although then, he was murdered by Bulba’s henchmen).
Former CEO of Glomgold Industries, Zan Owlson, is saying and doing all the right things as the crime busting mayor of St. Canard. But, lest we forget from whence we last saw her, she declared that she was leaving Glomgold to become her own billionaire. Last I checked, a local level politician doesn’t become that rich without a fair amount of corruption and chicanery. I don’t trust her.
I LOVE it when Scrooge immediately trusts Huey’s suspicions about the Ramrod and forces the issue with Bulba. A common trope is adults not trusting or believing the intuition of children (like DW didn’t initially with Gosalyn) until it’s too late. Here, Scrooge indulges his nephew without hesitation.
DW is kind of a doofus and a klutz but he is more than adept (and actually kind of impressive) at hand-to-hand combat as he gives his much bigger foe, Taurus Bulba, all that he can handle.
This isn’t Solego’s first foray into the Disney Afternoon’iverse, in fact, he’s the one who first made it a possibility. All the way back in 1994, Solego was the main antagonist in Disney Adventures 4-part-crossover extravaganza called “The Legend of the Chaos God.” While still a crocodile looking creature, he wasn’t just a “mad thinker” like in DT ‘17, but a sorcerer as well as the eponymous “Chaos God.” For the first time, one story manages to incorporate DuckTales, Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, and Goof Troop. Among the many interesting details the crossover reveals is that TaleSpin takes place fifty years before the other four shows.
We’ll wait on deep-diving into the rest of the Fearsome Four but we can get into Bushroot a little bit since his origin story is hinted at by DW and LP. Respected and renowned scientist, Dr. Reginald Bushroot, was about to have his funding cut so, in desperation, he performed one of his experiments on himself resulting in him becoming a hybrid plant-duck creature. This results in him becoming less evil and more just sad and lonely which drives him to insanity. He’s an incredibly complex and sympathetic character despite being a proverbial thorn in DW’s side.
Bonkers D. Bobcat of one of the less popular Disney Afternoon shows, Bonkers (1993), makes a brief cameo as a St. Canard police officer - meaning, we may be seeing more of him in the future. The premise of Bonkers the TV show was inspired by Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) where Bonkers, a toon, becomes a police officer in the human world once his former career in show business flames out.
In what’s a deeeeep cut, a static image of Ozzie, Stanley, and Tippi from the Fluppy Dogs (1986) appears while Gosalyn is scanning various dimensions in the Ramrod while looking for her grandpa. The Fluppy Dogs was a one-off, one hour special (that was supposed to be the Pilot for a full series but bad ratings nixed that plan) detailing the adventures of a group of pastel coloured dogs who utilize a crystal key to dimension hop (sound familiar?).
Both the Darkwing Duck movie poster as well as the lunchbox WITH the indentation from Drake’s face from “The Duck Knight Returns!” (S2, E16) can be seen displayed in DW’s HQ.
Megavolt’s Tronsplitter can also be seen stored in DW’s HQ. The weapon is responsible for zapping DW and creating the first incarnation of Negaduck, the black-and-white Negatron version.
The Liquidator isn’t just made of water, he’ll also help you liquidate your assets (after he destroys you home)! “Make money from home by having your home destroyed! Just ask me how!”
When Scrooge gets sucked into DT ‘87, he is seen throwing a tantrum and screaming “a sea monster ate my ice cream!” over and over again. This is in reference to the infamous scene from the four-parter, “Catch as Cash Can” when an irate Scrooge is informed that a sea monster gobbles up half his fortune of which is being transported by boat under the guise of being a shipment of ice cream.
Upon returning from DT ‘87, the nephews can be heard asking “what’s quackaroonie?” as well as commenting on how round their heads were. Quackaroonie was an oft repeated phrase by the nephews that more or less a catchall expression for “cool!” or “HOLY SHIT!”
LP and Gosalyn disguise themselves as C-string DW ‘91 villains Jambalaya Jake and the Bug Master. Jambalaya Jake and his pet gator, Gumbo, originally hailed from the bayou but relocated to the sewers of St. Canard to try their hand at being crooks. Bugmaster was Goslayn’s role model and newscaster Bianca Beakley (no relation to Bentina… that we know of) until she broke bad and began committing crimes as a means to boost her ratings.
LP and DW reference real DW ‘91 episodes, “Beauty and the Beet” as well as “Just us Justice Ducks” - the former featuring Bushroot’s origin story while the latter boasts the first appearance of the Fearsome Five.
Like in DW ‘91, there’s a bit of a one-sided rivalry between DW and Gizmoduck. Although here, while Drake is still the jealous one, he also has a close and very friendly relationship with Fenton (of whom he doesn’t know is Gizmoduck).