Hero for Hire" and "Top Duck," the ep is primarily concerned with establishing Launchpad McQuack's relationship to the wider world. In "Hero," we saw the connection between LP and what one might call the "Duck 'universe' at large," as he grappled with the question of what the public image of a hero should be. "Top Duck," of course, laid out the relationship between LP and his family (which the series unfortunately allowed to lie in exactly the same location for the rest of its run). Now, in "Where No Duck," we get a close focus on LP's bond with his young pals HD&L and Doofus. The question before the house is, how does Launchpad deal with the newly-revealed existence of a rival to his position as "heroic role model"? As one might expect, after a decidedly shaky start...
...[R]ight from the beginning--well before we meet the Courage-actor and learn what a cad he is--Launchpad is seething with resentment towards the guy and fulminating about how he's a "phony." We are clearly supposed to sympathize with this. But for fuck's sake, of course he's not an actual space pilot--he's an actor. This idea that the two of them should be somehow in competition is completely idiotic. "If you ask me, real heroes don't need cameras and makeup," Launchpad mutters. No, you lunatic, but actors on TV shows do. You think he'd somehow be more heroic if he were a less telegenic actor? This boggles my mind with its stupidity.
To tell you the truth, I never got the impression that LP was unable to tell the difference between a play-acting hero and the real thing. I think that LP's real ire was directed at the boys for confusing image and reality so easily, and that he simply projected that indignation onto Courage (which, given Courage's unlikable personality, was quite easy to do). You might say that LP's antennae were prematurely picking up signals that Courage was not merely an actor playing a role, but a true moral coward, someone who would be perfectly willing to abandon others and try to save himself (not to mention his career in "stage, screen, and television") when legitimate trouble arrived. Perhaps LP had seen enough of Courage of the Cosmos to get an early sense of this.
a movie that debuted a dozen years after "Where No Duck"...
"Never GIVE UP?! Never SURRENDER?! This is CRAZY!!"
The decision to show "Where No Duck" in the first week of syndication was probably taken for several reasons. Launchpad's basic persona is on full display here, so it was entirely logical to make this the first half-hour ep to feature the crash-prone pilot. This is also the closest we ever get to a formal introduction of Doofus as both HD&L's friend and LP's "sidekick." Many of the independent stations running DuckTales in the third week of September 1987 would probably also have been running Star Trek: The Next Generation, which broadcast its premiere episode in the following week, so using a Star Trek parody right off the bat would have been an entirely believable exploitation of what would come to be called "synergy." I would like to think, however, that the "powers that were" at WDTVA also wanted to establish the fact that DT would be more than an action-adventure series -- that it could be, in fact, a laugh riot. They couldn't have picked a better way to illustrate this than by showing "Where No Duck." (One could argue that the later "The Uncrashable Hindentanic" is just as funny and a cleverer overall idea, but it is likely that that episode had not yet been completed.)
The best gags in "Where No Duck" are verbal, rather than visual. True, if one HAS to use corny aliens in a DT episode, then Overlord Bulovan and the Kronks are reasonably good representatives of the species, at least when it comes to physical appearance...
Pete Fernbaugh's excellent review for a thorough rundown of some of the more noteworthy ones. Here is a particular fave of mine:
I'll conclude by addressing the "five-year contract" business, another notion that seems to have gotten GeoX's knickers in a knot:
I actually remember seeing this episode when I was small, at a friend's house (hi, Dan!). What I remember most is the ending: Scrooge had threatened to fire the Courage-actor, who counters that he can't be fired because he's got a five-year contract, about which he gets all smug. At the end, it turns out he's been demoted to concessions salesman for ravenous kids, and when he wants to quit, Scrooge reminds him of his contract. Oh how we laughed at his comeuppance (though now I suspect this reveals an inadequate understanding of contract law). But nowadays, it just reveals to me another flaw in the episode: the reason the kids are with Courage-actor in space is that he wanted to get them involved and show them a good time to suck up to Scrooge so as to not lose his job. But what was the point of this if he was under the impression that his contract made him totally invulnerable? Gah!
First of all, I think that the main reason the "five-year contract" reference was put into the ep in the first place was as a tribute to the planned "five-year mission" of the original Starship Enterprise. But I also think that there's a way to resolve the dilemma that GeoX mentioned in his last couple of sentences. The "five-year contract" must refer to the fact that Duckburg Studios (and, after the business deal went through, Scrooge) is required to employ Major Courage in some capacity during that time period. When Courage moaned that Scrooge was "gonna give that pinhead pilot my job!", he wasn't worried about losing his employment completely, he was concerned with getting demoted to some lowlier estate... as, of course, he ultimately was, once Scrooge cancelled the show and needed someone to serve as a candy butcher at the new space museum. His attempts to butter up the Nephews were therefore meant to ensure that he could maintain the best possible job. Now, why anyone on the production end of things would agree to such a contract in the first place is beyond me -- either Courage was related to someone at Duckburg Studios, or he had a really good legal representative -- but that's not for me to explain.
(Greg) Weird that everyone in the studios is a pig furry except for Major Courage. Affirmative action perchance?
No, as Greg himself suggested earlier in his review, the use of "pig backups" was probably a reference to Duck Dodgers. Throw in The Muppet Show's "Pigs in Space" while you're at it.