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JNT

On a Web forum that I will not mention, a viewer on a voyage through Classic Who asked a question, before he set forth through season 18. He understood that JNT was a topic of some controversy, and wanted to know what he was in for over the next nine seasons. Is it that everyone hates JNT? What’s the deal with this era, exactly? My response:

It’s a tricky and complicated question, and to answer it we need to be careful about what exactly we’re talking about. Are we criticizing JNT as a person? Are we talking about his creative judgment? Are we talking about his approach to being a producer? Are we using JNT as metonymy for the show itself under his watch? All of these are different questions, each with a complicated and inconclusive answer.

The easiest and least troublesome topic is the show that he presided over. To that end, obviously everyone has their own view but these days you’ll see a fair consensus that JNT’s Doctor Who both began and ended well; it’s the stuff in the middle that’s up for debate.

Others have said the same here, and to my view it’s true; broadly speaking, seasons 18 and 25-26 are amongst the best Doctor Who that’s hit the TV. They’re the most consistently authored portions of the classic series, with strong views about how to use the show as a platform to communicate ideas. You get that in bits and pieces elsewhere, particularly with writers like Malcolm Hulke, but it’s rarely this focused before Davies comes around.

Part of the reason for this is, as Homunculette says, JNT’s approach to his job. And here we’re starting to get a little dicier, in that we’re starting to approach JNT as a person. But we’ll come to that slowly.

More than any other producer on the show, JNT kept rigidly to the letter of his role. He was not a creative person, by any stretch of the imagination, and his only input to the show’s content tended to be superficial: how things looked, how they were presented, what kinds of gimmicks might get people talking and increase viewership. JNT came up through the system, as a floor assistant, floor manager, and so on. When he took over the show, it was because he had put the work in and it was his time — not because he had a creative vision. The BBC was concerned about giving him the job, so for his first season they set up Barry Letts to oversee. From season 19 on, though, JNT was on his own.

With JNT’s focus almost exclusively on the practical nuts-and-bolts of balancing the budgets, networking, and getting the show made, with a growing side shift of promotion, that left the burden of the show’s “content” almost exclusively with the show’s script editor. So from a creative standpoint, under JNT the script editor basically is what we would now call a showrunner, except with little tangible executive power. They were solely responsible for the show’s creative vision.

Ergo, under JNT the show is only ever as good as the script editor. Beyond just the high-level vision and practical talents, the script editor’s relationship with JNT, and their ability to cope with the logistical demands of the job, tended to determine the show’s ultimate quality. Bidmead had a strong idea for what to do with the show, and was able to both cope with and incorporate JNT’s odd executive decisions and to push back when JNT’s decisions weren’t going to work in the show’s best interest. Cartmel had one of the most intense visions of anyone who has had creative control over the show, had a very strong knack for finding and nurturing talent, and had the fortune of landing his job in an era where JNT had pretty much checked out, allowing Cartmel to proceed without the degree of weird micromanagement that Bidmead and Saward faced.

Eric Saward is… a very polite man, and a reflective one. He’s also a perpetual victim. You listen to him long enough, and somehow through all his self-effacing eloquence he has an explanation for how everything is someone else’s fault. This negativity and lack of ownership comes through in his work; where Bidmead or Cartmel would find a way to work with and incorporate JNT’s dictums, Saward would just push back, say, “Oh, that’s awful,” and then fold and stand away, with the attitude of “Okay, you brought this on yourself.”

You do this enough, on enough levels of production, and it’s going to affect what ends up on-screen. And boy howdy, does it. Increasingly, as Saward’s resentment grows over the years. This is not to say that Saward is without talent or virtue, and that nothing good ended up resolving under his tenure, but for whatever reason there’s a lack of creative guidance here. Whatever coherent voice comes through tends to do so accidentally, and it’s not very pleasant.

Which brings us to JNT as a person. Accounts here vary widely depending on who’s speaking, but it’s fair to say that JNT was a strong personality. He had his views and his notions, always presented as a strong, definitive objective yet often based on a whim or whoever talked to him last. (E.g., he cast Colin Baker as the Doctor after enjoying his company at a wedding reception.) Again he had no understanding of the creative process, which could make him paranoid about what writers and artists were “up to.” He was terrified of someone trying to sneak a message into the program that he didn’t understand, that might make for a PR disaster.

JNT’s judgment tended to reflect what made for an easy production and clean books, and not having to deal with tempermental artists and things that were beyond his understanding. So, for example, regarding the end of season 21, he considered Caves of Androzani something of a disaster because of Graeme Harper’s unconvential behavior, Saward’s commissioning of an established writer who had more political pull than JNT, and generally a sense that the whole production was out of control. Meanwhile, he thought that The Twin Dilemma was the best thing he’d ever overseen, because it was produced with no fuss, it came in under budget and to technical standard, and it reflected well on him with upper management.

So, he was a tempermental person of questionable judgment and fitness for his job. He was loud and assertive, and due to his own prioririties often focused on the least helpful of all possible topics. Like when he demanded that Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, and everyone stop wasting time researsing for the show because he wanted to do a highly public Christmas panto. Promotion always trumped production, and production always trumped creativity.

He became obsessed with the growing fan community, and started to weigh decisions based on how they would go over with the convention crowds, the fanzine editors, the letter writers, and particularly the alpha fan hangers-on; the people who would regularly come by and hang out in the viewing gallery at Television Centre to schmooze with cast and crew and watch the show being filmed. The Ian Levines and company.

Which brings us to Marson’s book. JNT was of course openly gay at a time when this was still socially, even legally, dicey, and so understandably he indulged in the gay community that surrounded the show at the time. Which is neither here nor there, except that when you’re in a position of power and you use that position as a tool to exert that power over those who are vulnerable… it creates a problem.

It’s unclear that JNT was ever explicitly predatory, though he certainly enjoyed the fruits that his position brought him. However with his partner, Gary Downie, there is no mistake. He was a sexual predator, who used his position on the show to actively, aggressively pursue underage boys. Richard Marson includes in his book an anecdote from his youth where he personally had to run into an empty room and hide under a table to escape from Downie. Marson plays off his own experience for the surreality of the moment, but throughout the book he makes a damning case against Downie, all the time sketching JNT as an elusive, all but unknowable figure behind all that bluster.

So, the JNT era of Doctor Who is… controversial. As is the man who oversaw that era. My suggestion is to keep JNT in mind as a background notion, but in viewing those last nine years of the show to focus more intently on the script editor. The show’s whole creative model shifted over that period, and you can’t look at it in the way you’d look at any other period of the show, or draw conclusions the exact same way. More so than any other period of the show, before you make up your mind about what you’re seeing, there’s a tangle of asterisks to consider. Why are you seeing what you’re seeing? Why was it made the way that it was? Well, let me tell you a story…



Half-Baked

Bad-ass title sequence aside, the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era is the period that nearly broke Doctor Who. Same as the Lennie Briscoe era of Law & Order. It’s where the show found its successful formula, settled in, and learned to coast. This is Doctor Who at its most dangerously comfortable. (Note how many people perceive this era as “correct” Doctor Who, and extrapolate or compare its tendencies to the show as a whole.) It’s not until circa 1987 that the show started to get systemically weird again, in a way that let the show continue to grow and breathe and live (Much like seasons 18-20 of Law & Order!), and led into its modern-day incarnation. (Unlike Law & Order!)

It’s not that the era is awful; it doesn’t do much for me, but there are some nice parts (Deadly Assassin, say). If I’m hard on it, it’s less about the era in itself than about the negative influence it had on the show going forward. Like, if after Hinchcliffe and Holmes left, the show had gone in a wildly different direction again, then fine. Things change; they move on. We try things, then we try something else.

But this is where the show achieved a sort of stasis, both in terms of its future creative momentum and its public perception. It’s not even the most interesting stasis they could have picked for the show. Yes, let’s rip off a popular horror movie and put the TARDIS in the middle. Inspiration incarnate. What galls me is how quickly this became What Doctor Who Is, and anything that varied from the formula was wrong. It’s so daft that even the serials within the Hinch/Holmes era that don’t match the template (e.g., Android Invasion) are considered awful, no matter what neat ideas they may bring to the table. They’re different, so they’re wrong.

Which, for a show like Doctor Who, which more than any TV program I can think of, embodies and glorifies change, is very nearly a profane mode of thought.

Again, it’s not like the Hinch/Holmes vision is invalid. It’s as worth exploring as anything, and resulted in a few epiphanies (Deadly Assassin, again). But then it had to keep moving, and it didn’t. It started into a downward spiral of trying to maintain or replicate or work against these few months of production. All of Doctor Who became a precursor to or an attempt to return to this supposed glory period, when the show had become so very small and isolated. It nearly destroyed everything.

There are other weird things that crystallized here as The Way Things Are Meant To Be, even though they never really were before. Like, the way old-school fans today muse and scoff about the notion of story arcs and long-form storytelling. Doctor Who stories are all supposed to be self-contained! That way you can watch them in any order and nothing matters! But… until season 13, that was never the case. In the 1960s, serials all ran into each other; characters often harked back to events from weeks earlier, even if it was a different story entirely. The Hartnell era is full of rather complex character development. The Pertwee era makes far less sense out-of-sequence, as stories are constantly referring to what happened before, and B-plots develop over the course of multiple seasons. (See the Mike Yates thread in the last couple of seasons.) The Doctor’s situation, and its relation to the Master’s situation, are in a state of continual development. It’s all vibrant, alive. Then after Barry Letts moved on from his supervisory role in season 12, the show just became a movie-of-the-week thing, with little to no context. And, Bidmead and Cartmel aside, this largely became the status quo for the remainder of the original run.

Then there’s the cast makeup. Pertwee had changed the dynamic by turning the Doctor into an individual action hero — the star of the show, rather than the anchor of an ensemble cast — but he still was surrounded by an expanded regular or semi-regular cast, to flesh out storytelling as needed. This is I think an element that allowed the Pertwee era to be so much more sophisticated, on a narrative level, than what had come before: it had more roles to employ, in a greater number of capacities — and you didn’t necessarily have to use them all, every week. It’s even more of an ensemble than it was before. Hinchcliffe and Holmes strip that right away, especially after the Letts legacy of season 12, and again basically boil the show down to the bare necessities and divorce it of any greater context or narrative potential or significance. One Doctor, who now is very clearly the show’s hero rather than a catalyst for the main character(s), and one lady who’s largely there to make the Doctor look smart and give him someone to talk to.

To my view, this is just as damaging a systemic collapse as the absolution of continuity. We’re going down a path to an unsupportable level of stasis, which will lead to the exact kind of irrelevance that plagued the show throughout the 1980s. Granted, someone of greater creative talent could still elevate the show, as happened in seasons 18 and 24-26, then again from 2005. But if you will, the entropy had now set in. Everything else would be a struggle, and the show’s end was ordained. What had to happen in 2005, for the show to work again, was to strip away most of the damage done during seasons 13-14, and return it to a model more closely aligned to the last time the show worked under its own steam — namely the Pertwee era. Which Davies has made a point of declaring, over and over, what he was doing. Making a new Pertwee era. Ergo his quoting the start of Spearhead at the start of each new series.

The Pertwee era was, more often than not, about something larger than itself. It used Doctor Who as a platform for social, political commentary. Explorations of colonialism, capitalism, indigenous rights, apartheid, consumerism, the military industrial complex, environmentalism, early feminism, isolationism. Dicks and Letts go on the record that they felt there was no point in telling a story unless it was about something. And then there’s the Malcolm Hulke influence.

By comparison, the Hinch/Holmes goal was to “scare the little fuckers,” as phrased on one of the DVD extras. And it largely approached this narrow goal through borrowed glory, hollowing out existing horror stories and putting the TARDIS in the resulting cavity.

This is not as sustainable a mission. It’s a smaller view. It’s an easier view. It’s a safe template because it means you can just plug things in without having to worry about any greater significance.

This is the era when Doctor Who began its descent into irrelevance because of its conscious self-isolation from structural and thematic elements that would allow it to meaningfully grow or adapt.

This is where the cult of No Meaning finds its roots.

No continuity in MY Doctor Who!

No character development in Doctor Who.

No cultural commentary.

No political commentary.

The Doctor must be the sole hero.

The sole assistant must keep to her place.

The show must not challenge my preconceptions or make me think about anything other than plot.

Doxtor Who is entertainment only. It must not try to engage me in a discussion. It must hew to my specific desire.

This is poisonous.

From here, development becomes a simple question of how “light” or “dark” the show can afford to be, which leads to decisions like putting Eric Saward in control for half the 1980s.

Though you lose a few nice trinkets here and there (The Deadly Assassin, season 18, Douglas Adams), the show would be so much better off to just regenerate Pertwee into McCoy. I honestly don’t think you lose much, and you retain the momentum built up through the first 11 years, that the following 12 so thoroughly squandered.



The Cosmology of Doctor Who

So we know that Doctor Who’s cosmology is different from ours. There, the Moon was (according to 1970s theory) an adopted planetoid… which was, in fact, an egg.

Bizarre thing is, Kill the Moon actually fits classic Who’s jump-the-gun science, that Chibnall said “duh” and perpetuated 40 years later. More than fits it; it makes sense of it.

In the Who timeline, where I guess Earth formed around a (coincidentally egg-laden) Racnoss ship, Gaia (early pre-Earth) must never have collided with Theia (another rocky planet in our orbit, that shattered on collision), as seems to have happened in our world.

What this seems to imply, then, is that in the Who timeline Theia must have remained in Gaia’s solar orbit, somewhere far enough back that the two never collided.

Why didn’t they collide? Possibly that Racnoss ship; it may have altered the early accretion of proto-planetary debris just enough to butterfly (er, spider?) effect away a different spacing and possibly greater mass for the two proto-planets.

Which is to say, the fuckery in Kill the Moon just happens to be consistent with the Silurian recounting of events (as RTD’s weird whimsy), which in turn makes Mondas plausible.

Thanks to Peter Harness, somehow a mountain of awful and/or outdated science balances out to plausible consistency.

All praise the Egg.



SR388: A Spelunker’s Nightmare

[ The following post is assembled from fragments of discussion from July 2014, October 2014, July 2016, and August 2017. ]

Long before that AM2R thing, which is exactly what a cynical observer would predict from a fan remake, I’ve often rambled about ways to do a sensitive update of Metroid II, that (unlike AM2R) honors the original game’s tone and thematic material and develops it even further, makes the game even more awkward and upsetting to play:

I still think the best way to tackle a remake is to consider the affect of the original, and try to recreate it. The original is claustrophobic, in part due to feeling lost — sameness, lack of a map — in part to the screen.

So, make light a scarce quantity. The world would be desaturated and have a big focus on environmental light sources — lava, certain bioluminescent plants or animals, Chozo technology. At times it’s hard to see anything. Sort of a Silent Hill aspect.

Samus’s suit may project a slight glow around her, reflecting on things. Generally the glow would extend about as far as the boundaries of the GB screen. Occasionally more or less. The glow from Samus’ suit would give things a sort of monotone hue. Maybe greenish, from her visor.

If you wanted to expand on the game, you could give her various kinds of light beam. Or make her suit glitch out. Maybe special heat and X-ray visors would be needed to navigate certain areas. Glitchily. It would be all grainy and prone to error. Make it go totally dark, for a scripted segment here or there, in the spirit of those segments where you have to blindly fumble around in ball form. Maybe you have to navigate by noise and touch. Maybe a sort of a sonar, so you can hear when the Metroids are getting close.

There might be an attempt at a map, but it doesn’t work right. Glitchy. Staticky. Suggests non-Euclidean space. Some key parts of the interior may not make any sort of euclidean geometric sense. They kind of don’t, already.

This would also play up some of the Zelda-style risk-and-reward progress limitation. You CAN go down there, but… should you?

Also see: Dragon Warrior, Phantasy Star II, Lost in Blue.

But, that’s if I were pressed to reinterpret the game. Insofar as its native form on the Game Boy, Metroid II is basically perfect. The worst I can say is that the control can get a little mushy at times. Speed up Samus’ movement by 125%, maybe tighten collision and response time. Little stuff like that.

Something I really dig about Metroid II is that as designed, it wouldn’t really make as much sense on another console. If you play through as an adult, with a modicum of design literacy in hand, it soon becomes clear to what extent the game actively uses its technical and conceptual limitations to say its own thing.

Unlike Super Metroid the world that it draws doesn’t feel like a playground set up for your benefit. It’s just there. If it’s confusing, then it would be, wouldn’t it. You’re invading this space that was never meant for a thing like you.

The game’s affect is just so subjective.The way the Spider Ball is used nails down how unfriendly the space is. This is a space where we really shouldn’t be, and it’s just by the skin of this overpowered miraculous thing that it works.

When you get to the cramped corridor forcing you to draw a visual parallel between Samus in ball form and the unhatched Metroid egg, there’s not a lot of space left (as it were) to question how expressive the design is meant to be.

It’s supposed to be claustrophobic. It’s meant to be disorienting and upsetting. You’re supposed to lose your way and freak out, the way you probably would in reality if you were dropped into an unmapped hole in the ground on an alien world. Or even ours. Even if mapped. It’s meant to be distressing, in no small part because you shouldn’t be there. The mission is wrong. You are playing the bad guy.

That’s not reading into it. In its closing moments the game tells you how you messed up, and Fusion‘s plot is based on this revelation. (Another irritating thing about Super Metroid is how it not only glosses over this failing; it compounds it. But Fusion gets the story back.) Fusion also gets the claustrophobia and tension back, in a shifted form, where Super throws them out in favor of Whee Shiny Perfect Action.

As far as how Metroid II uses the resources it has, the only thing I would treat differently is the lava. To quote one of many earlier discussions on the topic,

That goddamned lava. What is that? Of all the ways to limit progress. I mean… I can make up some silly theories that kind of work. But how arbitrary is that? At least it’s an apparent phenomenon of the gameworld, even if it’s triggered by discrete player-dependent flags.

Instead of progress clearly resulting from the player’s action it’s just, “What the hell was that rumble? Oh… there’s… a route here. Was it here before? I don’t think so.” Granted, it doesn’t affect me when I’m playing. It’s just in retrospect that it’s so incredibly clumsy and weird.

Of course the game is pretty linear, and it can’t let you miss a Metroid. If there were some narrative rationalization, maybe that would be enough. But then you’re in danger of needless exposition.

On reflection, I would add a horrible piercing screech after the extermination of each set of Metroids and before the earthquake and lava drain. Each time, as Samus strayed deeper into the caverns, the screech would get louder and longer, while the screen would shake with ramping violence. Toward the end, it basically would peak all of the sound output and leave the game a nauseating shaky-cam mess for minutes at a time.

This would serve many purposes.

  • It would make the game more disorienting and upsetting to play.
  • It would introduce the Queen early as Samus’s opponent.
  • It would establish the Queen’s growing pain and anger.
  • It would help to underline that maybe Samus isn’t quite doing the right thing here.
  • And it would resolve the structural weirdness around the lava, which as it stands is a VERY CONVENIENT and unexplained progress limiter.

All of this would be totally doable on the Game Boy. Pretty easy, even, in this engine. Everything’s already set up, pretty much. Just add a screech that gets louder and longer each time, and make the screen rumble longer and more violent each time. That’s all! But, it would make such a big difference to the game’s narrative flow, logical consistency, and thematic unity.

Would this change be on-the-nose, in terms of the game’s themes? Maybe. But done well, it wouldn’t be clear what was happening at first. It’d just add a layer of “huh?”, growing to “oh hell.”

Right now there’s little feedback to completing each wave, and the mild rumble has little impact, the lava drain nothing like an explanation. This would add at least a sense of intentionality to the design, which as designed leaves room for interpretation, yes, but also feels sloppy.

Significantly, all of the scream’s and the rumble’ thematic resonance becomes clear only in retrospect. You get ramping uncomfortable chaos as you burrow in, but aside from feeling increasingly intimidated, it’s only clear what’s happening when you finally meet the Queen, which snaps it all into focus.

Currently there is no clear moment of epiphany, and the Queen’s role consists of sitting there, unseen, until you burst in and kill her. The epiphany comes with the egg, which is great. Really great, actually. But its significance would be enhanced, coming out of the catharsis of that encounter with the thing that had been expressing pain the whole time. “Oh hell,” you’d think, “so that’s what has been happening all along. What… does all of this mean? What have I done?” And then, a baby Metroid imprints on you.

You’re still free to interpret however you like, but this gives a touch of emotional feedback and clarity to undermine any sense of bravado. And all it is is a screech and a more violent screen shake. That’s all it takes to snap it all into focus.



Walks like a Duck, Quacks like a Duck

So, yeah. DuckTales 2017 is, as many predicted, almost more of a re-adaptation of the Duck comics than of the 1987 show. It has the optics: Donald is present as a key team member, Scrooge is in his Comic colors, there are Ben Day dots all over the place. Whatever. But, Jesus.

I mean, seriously, this goes straight back to the comics. And not just Carl Barks. I mean Don Rosa. The first episode combs through Life & Times, with portraits of Scrooge’s parents, a lineage chart for the nephews that includes Hortense and Quackmore, and just generally way more awareness of and investment in the comic mythology, as focused and enhanced by Rosa.

Scrooge and Donald carry something more like their comic personas. Donald is about 60/40 Comic Don versus Cartoon Don here — still recognizably the guy who you can depend on to throw walnuts at Chip & Dale out of spite, but also a more layered character. The Comic Donald is a simple, lazy, fairly unlucky guy way out of his depth in every part of his life. Part of his laziness seems to be a zoned-out avoidance because he can’t handle the life he’s been dealt. But, importantly, when he’s really needed he always steps up and is willing to get, you know, shot in the face if need be to live up to his obligations or protect the people he cares about. He’s a sympathetic character in the way that Cartoon Donald could never be. He also speaks like a normal person, with his own curious idioms and speech patterns, as opposed to an incomprehensible squawkbox. That cartoon element is still present in 2017 Don, because people would flip out if they changed it, but it seems to be played as one more of a million things that makes the poor guy’s life hell. He can’t even get a sentence out, and his lack of an ability to communicate only fuels his bad temper.

Scrooge, meanwhile, is back to being the largely self-centered, irresponsible figure he is in the comics. The first episode goes to great lengths to contrast the two uncles’ parenting styles; whereas Donald is paranoid and overprotective because of his own experiences with life, always on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop, always sleepy from his against-his-nature vigilance against the horrors of life that may at any moment pounce on his nephews, Scrooge just doesn’t give a damn. He has no regard for danger, and often stirs more trouble than he expects or immediately knows how to handle. But he’s sure he’ll think of something. Which totally Freaks Donald Out.

Long ago he used to assist Scrooge on his adventures, but by the time we catch up here he’d long since distanced himself from Scrooge, to the extent that the nephews barely seem aware that Scrooge was a relative.

Since this is 2017, there also seem to be some ongoing story threads. The very final shot of the pilot ought to be interesting, as it dives right into the biggest unexplained mystery in all iterations of the Duck universe. This is like “why exactly did the Doctor leave Gallifrey?” business. A thing that even Don Rosa steered way clear of touching, except in a passing manner in a late chapter of Life & Times.

It also is consciously DuckTales, in that it borrows from the earlier show’s iconography enough to call itself DuckTales. And then borrows from Darkwing Duck, and TaleSpin, and Goof Troop. More than just DuckTales, the show seems to be quietly setting up a new Disney Duck Animated Universe.

You’ve got most of the original DuckTales characters who aren’t useless or annoying (no Doofus or Bubba, I so hope — have yet to hear anything), but they’re remixed and employed in functional roles here. Duckworth is pretty much gone (though I’ve read he’ll appear in some form, later?), while the more-vital Launchpad and Ms. Beakley step into that void and split his duties. Beakley is more vital because she comes with Webby — who now, instead of being, uh, plot luggage, has been upgraded to an audience surrogate — so she’s been made a more general and much more capable personal assistant. Launchpad is just a general hired hand/chauffeur, no matter the vehicle or task. He’s incompetent at everything, but he’s game and presumably he’s inexpensive.

Then you’ve got the odd changes brought about by the 1987 series, which the 2017 one just runs with. Glomgold is not just Scottish (instead of South African, as in the comics); he’s so Scottish that he constantly talks about how Scottish he is. Which… come to think of it may be overcompensation. Is he genuinely Scottish? The way this is set up, I’d be unsurprised to see a long game in here.

Anyway. This is really well-done. The pilot at least is very smart and well-written. They seem to have thought this project through in insane modern showrunner sort of detail, with hints and seeds of future adventures and character development and revelations strewn all over. And nearly everything the characters do, every plot that they embark on, has its roots in character, and in the show’s basic themes (which are themselves rooted in character). You know how Buffy‘s monsters are all projections of the characters’ anxieties and the emotional things they’re going through that week? This is kind of like that, except with Barks/Rosa style adventures that illuminate family tensions and anxieties.

Like, in the pilot, Donald reluctantly leaves the nephews with Scrooge, whom again they’d never met and it seems like Donald has rarely if ever mentioned around them, issuing him (not them) a stern warning to behave while he’s off, because he needs someone to watch them while he goes off on a job interview. That interview happens to be with Glomgold, who Donald is dense or self-absorbed enough not to clock as Scrooge’s arch-nemesis. So while Scrooge gets carried away and winds up on an adventure with the nephews and Webby, Donald ends up becoming Glomgold’s own personal Launchpad. All of which is structurally really cool and which serves as a perfect canvas for exploring what’s going on within and between all the characters, and why it is that Donald is so pissed off with his uncle.

Which… may or may not have something to do with that final shot, again, and that unspoken mystery at the heart of Duckdom.