“There is one disadvantage to gold: it’s very, very heavy!”
This episode of Ducktales has nothing to do with the steroid-taking, cancer-beating bicyclist. Armstrong in this episode is a robot invented by Gyro Gearloose that can perform household tasks, run Scrooge’s business, and fly better than Launchpad.
From that set-up, you should be able to distinguish what will happen with Armstrong the robot. Eventually, Armstrong goes crazy and rebels against Scrooge, Gyro, Launchpad, and the boys. I remembered this episode from when I was a child, which even if it’s not the most original episode says something about the storyline.
The film starts with the boys and Scrooge on a train that is blocked by a series of rocks. After a helicopter lands, Armstrong is introduced as capable of clearing the debris from the railroad tracks. This scene gets to the heart of why Ducktales is exciting: because Ducktales is a cartoon the show can get away with trains, a helicopter, and a very advanced robot in a couple minutes. This type of setup would be way too expensive for a live action show.
After meeting Armstrong, there are a series of scenes that show the robot flying better than Launchpad, cleaning the boys room, serving the family food, and generally excelling at the things that a robot would do well.
Armstrong then breaks into Scrooge’s vault and then snaps because much like Scrooge, Armstrong is blindly driven for his quest to obtain as much money as possible. This turnaround made the whole episode fall apart when I viewed the show as a kid and it still does watching as an adult. I’m not sure how the audience is supposed to reconcile that a machine would go crazy for some money. It’s totally an easy out by the screenwriter and a dial-it-home plot point.
After taking Scrooge hostage, Armstrong links up with communications tower and power stations. The only trouble is that the way that Armstrong does this is not how communication infrastructures work at all. It’s no wonder I was very confused about how the internet happened when I was a kid. What’s also confusing is why Armstrong is doing this in the first place. The only explanation I could make is that Armstrong is going to execute some type of Maximum Overdrive (1986) machine revolt and that in order to revolt successfully Armstrong requires a lot of money.
Chasing after Scrooge, Huey, Louie, and Dewey are attacked by toy tanks and helicopters that have come to life now that robots are self-powering. The three boys eventually deduce that Armstrong is behind the attack of the robots. After going to Gyro’s house, the three boys are attacked by Armstrong and escape.
A dejected and down on his luck Launchpad is asked to help by Huey, Louie, and Dewey. This scene makes you realize that Uncle Scrooge is kind of a jerk because Scrooge basically fired Launchpad as soon as Scrooge realized a cheaper and better way to fly.
After Launchpad decides to be the better bird and fly his plane in and rescue Uncle Scrooge, Armstrong launches a series of high-powered planes after Launchpad and the boys. If there’s a moral to this episode, it’d be something like be nice to your friends even when they’re jerks.
There’s not a terrible lot to this episode. It’s very much a “machine turns against master” plot from the very opening notes of the episode. While I liked this episode as a kid, Armstrong lacked interesting set pieces, unusual ideas, or memorable dialogue. I’m interested to see if the rest of the first season of Ducktales remains on such a low note or if things get more interesting as the plot (note: how is there a Ducktales plot?) grows more complicated.