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DuckTales gets back to basics for better or for worse, but Della does provides an intriguing dynamic

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That Huey and Louie aren’t at all in this episode is odd. As I mentioned yesterday, one potential fallout from this DuckTales “bomb” would be the lack of breathing space from the emotional impact of Della’s return. So to jump right into a new, “regular” adventure in the next episode does provide a bit of whiplash, especially without Huey and Louie involved along with their mother. It makes sense to provide an episode that focuses mainly on Della and Dewey, since Dewey was the primary triplet to search for any and all information on her, and therefore has the most emotional connection to Della at stake. Plus, Dewey is the most eager triplet to leap head first into adventure, to learn and absorb as much as he can about living (and surviving) that kind of life. The Dewey and Della dynamic is the strongest selling point of “Raiders Of The Doomsday Vault,” which otherwise returns to superficial threats from Glomgold, sighing and annoyed muttering from a world-weary Scrooge, and continued, winking commentary on adventuring.


This iteration of DuckTales has gotten comfortable with that kind of approach, and while I’ve voiced my concerns with it, at the very least the show can usually provide a solid story to keep some entertaining moment going. “Raiders Of The Doomsday Vault” has kind of a weird set-up though. It involves Scrooge, with Della and Dewey coming along, pitching to the children of Ludwig Von Drake for a contract to repair the kooky scientist’s doomsday vault way out in a frozen wasteland. Winning contracts is definitely good business, but is this the first time we’ve seen Scrooge do, like, business-business? It’s almost funny to see Scrooge do something normal (back in the pilot, he was utterly uninterested in the minutiae of his business ventures). Then we learn that inside the vault are seeds for planting crops and other items to survive any single doomsday scenario (vampires, werewolves, what have you), but there’s also... seeds for a money tree. Yes, a tree that grows money. Again, that seems to be part of the overall “joke” here–there’s absolutely no point for a money tree in a post-apocalyptic world–but the absurdity of this never gets pointed out.

Scrooge shrugs off the money tree (which... is weird, but I’ll allow it), but Della and Dewey jump at the chance to see it. This excursion provides an opportunity for Della and Dewey to bond, and it is a sweet and emotional ride, watching the two work together to get through all the obstacles thrown at them. It’s also disturbing: the episode very much depicts Della placing her son in these various predictaments as reckless, dangerous, and completely ill-advised. She lets Dewey fly the Sunchaser (er, Cloudslayer), only for him to immediately crash it. She has him crawl into random vents, only to almost get flattened while Dewey has to figure out which wire to cut to save her. DuckTales has often baked in a clear “this stuff is dangerous!” sentiment into it tales, which often takes the thrill away from the overall story, but at least here, there are personal stakes: Dewey misguided desperation to win his new mom’s love and approval; Della’s reckless and impulsive dives into adventure fusing with her need to spend time and catch up with her son. Those two concepts coming together is clearly isn’t healthy for either of them, especially over something as unnecessary as a money tree (which, thinking about it it now, is the whole point!).

It all culminates in an intense final sequence, in which Dewey crawls up a series of containers to grab those money tree seeds and Della watches and encourages–even though both of them know deep down that this is nuts. Dewey cracks first, admitting that he can’t do it before almost falling to his death. Della saves him, which doubles as a visual thematic symbol of Della always being there for him no matter what, imparting the wisdom that the prone-to-adventure sibling has no need to prove himself to earn her love. Della doesn’t quite get the same message though. Scrooge is the one who calls out Della’s impulsive nature–after a series of amusing but typical Glomgold buffoonery gags while the fake-Scotsman is handcuffed to the real Scotsman. That entire ordeal triggers Scrooge’s anger to the point that he unloads on Della (the most patient among us would break after dealing with two brash hot-heads), but it’s not a moment that takes hold in Della’s psyche. She leads Dewey and Scrooge on a tree-skiing slide down towards an exit, an exit she claims she saw on Scrooge’s map during his earlier presentation. It’s a moment meant to show Della isn’t as reckless as she seems, but it doesn’t really absolves of her carefree, careless actions, especially in how it put Dewey in so much physical and psychological danger.


“Raiders Of The Doomsday Vault” is a (relatively speaking) low-key, normal episode of DuckTales–fun, if slight, and a bit muddled on the messaging. Della continues to prove herself to be a perfect addition to the cast, and the small moments between Della and Dewey are truly heart-warming. Everything else in the episode is on par for the course, which, for what it’s worth, does has the benefit for easing its audience back into a rhythm after that earlier whiplash.

Stray observations

  • Della and Dewey singing “Stand Out” from A Goofy Movie was such a great moment, especially since I’ve been rocking this shirt a few times while on my vacation (with tour dates on the back!).
  • I was really confused with all the Dewey-puns that Dewey kept using. I sort of like the idea of the Dewey developing a new, random quirk–a kind of forced reaction to establish a unique and personal connection with his mom. But I don’t think it worked, especially since it’s never commented upon.
  • Corey Burton voices the eccentric Ludwig Von Drake, who is fun enough and feels true to the character but is forced to communicate through pre-recorded messages. There is a fun, weird bit where video-Von Drake reacts to Della pressing, then punching, the frozen colored buttons.

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About the author

Kevin Johnson

Contributor, The A.V. Club, with a clear preference for all things cartoons; check out his main blog at http://www.totalmediabridge.com.