Tales of the Gold Monkey: e06 – Trunk From The Past

Firstly, an apology: Thursday is Tales of the Gold Monkey day, but, like other posts on this blog, I don’t watch, blog and post instantly, but schedule certain series. You’d think that after 61 years I would have learned how to count up to seven, even across one month’s end into another, but clearly I still have difficulties with simple arithmetic, which is how I managed to schedule last week’s post for Wednesday instead. I feel a proper fule!

Returning to our regularly scheduled feature, episode 6 made up for last week’s sidelining of Sarah by making her the focal point of a story that, with glorious improbability, wore its ‘Son of Raiders of the Lost Ark‘ atmosphere on its sleeve by transporting Ancient Egypt, dead Pharaohs and death curses to the South Pacific!

This was set up by an extensive flashback, kicking off the episode, set in 1937 Cairo. Archaeologist Professor White, father of our lovely Sarah, translates hieroglyphics into a succinct curse: He who seeks the tomb of the Pharaoh Ka seeks death. The Professor is duly unimpressed, even when the balcony doors slam shut and the light goes off, that is, until he is attacked and stabbed in the chest by a tall, strapping lad in a seriously impressive Anubis helmet.

Meanwhile, in the street, a cab disgorges a sneezing Sarah, her allergies activated by the dust of the excavations and sneezing uncontrollably, and Ted Harrison, her father’s assistant. Oh, and her fiance. We’re prepared for this as it”s a big point, understandably, in the pre-credits foretaste, and the two do appear to be close.

Sarah arrives in Daddy’s room to find his stabbed body on the ancient Egyptian trunk and the Anubis-lad crouched over the body. Being an American spy, she grabs her gun and blasts Anubis off the balcony, which brings Ted running, only to imply she’s had a shock-induced hallucination: there’s no body in the street.

Cut to one year later, and having formed our own conclusions about that engagement given that Sarah is in the Maravellas and playing up to Jake, we cut to our heroic plane-flying team, flying in dense cloud, at tight, with every instrument flopping wildly. They’re delivering a heavily wrapped trunk-shaped package to Sarah. Funnily, when the package breaks loose from its moorings and slides to the back of the Goose, the instruments go back to normal. Only the audience notices this…

So Jake, Corky and Jack deliver the package to Sarah in the Monkey bar, and she goes all little-girl excited over it, believing it to be the dresses she’d requested of her Aunt Helen, but it’s not. it’s the trunk, the one her father was stabbed to death on, and her instant reaction is horror, revulsion and fear.

Jake takes the trunk back to the Goose where Corky, having checked all the instruments, has discovered they’re all 100% ok, which doesn’t explain why they simultaneously went haywire (we know, don’t we, audience?). Meanwhile, Sarah, having retired to bed, is woken by a dream: or is it a dream? The first part of it may be, a vision of her father’s murder, but the second part is altogether more real. This is her father, warning her to be careful. There is no fear in Sarah, only great loss.

Come the next morning, Sarah is explaining the background to Jake, including a somewhat ferocious defence of her father’s pet theory – ridiculous of course but Daddy was convinced of it – that Ka, worried about Tomb-raiding in the Valley of the Kings, had his pyramid built ‘across-the-water’: seriously across the water, in the Maravellas.

Let’s swallow this one whole: this is not the kind of series where adherence to realism is the name of the game. Enter Ted Harrison, greeted with enthusiasm and serious kissing by Sarah that gets Jake’s back up even before Ted reveals himself as Sarah’s fantasy. Technically, that’s true. The engagement has never been formally broken off, though Ted’s attitude towards Sarah being a woman and therefore not capable of standing up for herself is one of the reasons Sarah has, more or less, rejected him.

Ted’s sent the trunk because he’s at last found Professor White’s notebook, though it’s all written in code that only Sarah can break, though she requires twin moments of inspiration from first Corky then Jake to get the passkey. And it’s Jake that spots that the base of the pyramid in the trunk is a star map, identifying a remote island in the northern Maravellas, in the Japanese Mandate.

This is clearly going to be dangerous.Sarah has another vision of her father, warning her not to go, followed by an Anubis with raised dagger, which causes her to faint. Still, she won’t be left behind. Jake and Ted don’t like each other, and have already had one of those fist-fights that smash up the flimsier bits of the Monkey Bar and cause Bonne Chance Louie to stand firmly aside, totting up Jake’s bill (this one totalled 100 francs), but Ted takes things to an altogether dirtier level, saying that he doesn’t want Sarah going with them because he loves her very deeply. And what does Jake have to say to that?

Nothing, in fact. He backs down rapidly, to his own self-contempt, and is ‘rewarded’ by seeing Sarah and Ted holding hands in the back of the Goose as they head northwards. Somewhat maliciously, he has Corky fetch the pyramid stone back and forth, requiring the affianced pair to have to let go of each other’s paws every time. It’s bloody obvious what he’s doing and Sarah isn’t fooled for a moment, nor is Corky, though it does establish that the magnetised stone is what is buggering up the gauges.

That they’re in the right place is immediately obvious when the natives on the island wear Egyptian headdresses, divided skirts and speak Ancient Egyptian. Worshipping Jack as a God is another giveaway. And then, in the least surprising surprise twist of all time, Anubis himself, in headdress and costume, emerges from the Goose: it is Ted.

His rationale for all this craziness is that, through his Egyptian mother, he has been a worshipper of Amon-Ra, and a Priest, since he was four. Jack will be worshipped as a living God, Sarah – tricked out in a very fetching black fringe-and-page-boy wig with excessive eye make-up – will become his wife and a Priestess, and Jake and Corky will be invited to the wedding. As the sacrifice.

There’s a somewhat non-Egyptian pyramid in the woods (you can’t get the stone, you know, nor the slaves) with a locking mechanism that requires only the pyramid stone as capstone. This opens the tomb, and the execution is to be Jack and Corky thrust inside, with the capstone, to do a living death.

Which is when Jack saves the day. Our favourite one-eyed terrier has to be carried around in a little because, being a God, as he already knows himself to be, his worshippers can only stand if he is above their head-height. So, leaping from the litter, he forces everyone to prostrate themselves. Jake and Ted have a brief scrap inside the tomb, with the door descending: Jake gets out but Ted is doomed to a living death…

The coda takes place back on Bora Gora, with just Sarah and Jake. Her greatest sadness is that those oddly comforting appearances by her father were only trickery by Ted. But Jake reminds her that this is only true of the second one: the first took place before Ted reached the island. Sarah’s father is indeed watching over her. Whether or not he’s saying this because he believes it or because its gets Sarah melting into his arms for a prolonged snog, we don’t know, but the episode ends on a freeze-frame as a hand lighting a rather ornate pipe appears in the extreme foreground…

I’ve gone on about the plot at greater length than I usually do because, although the story is simple, and is perfectly matched to the show’s ethos of recreating Saturday Morning Cinema with its tongue only so far into its cheek, this episode demonstrated just how dense and detailed episodes can be. The plot is a spine upon which so many different vertebrae, comic and otherwise, can be hung. Touches are light, but are cleverly assembled to imply a depth greater than screen-time requires. Even in small touches, the episode can tease and imply about the established personalities of its cast, suggesting things about the times between episodes.

Sarah’s grief about her father and her self-reliance, despite the way that the show constantly undercuts it is mixed in with Jake’s evident devotion to her and the way that his rootlessness as a soldier of fortune prevent him from saying it in words. There’s a cameo from the Reverend Tennbaum, suspicious of Jake’s plans, as well he might be, but thrown off the scent by Jack revealing a hitherto-unsuspected ability to lie. Sarah’s evident delight at Jake’s childish interruption of the hand-holding. All of these, and more, are indicated by brief moments, kept spare and lean, and used as variations on the cliched set-up.

This was a another very strong episode, and an example of how to write a commercial, entertainment-only series and expand straightforward adventure into something more intriguing.

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