Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Monkey Challenge: You Win Some, You Lose Some

First of "The Thirteen Lost Episodes," You Win Some, You Lose Some gives us the most obvious difference with the episodes that came before as soon as the title sequence finishes and the episode itself begins. While the titles are identical to the previous (season 2) titles, including the opening narration, once the episode gets underway the story's narration is taken over by Burt Kwouk.

Apart from this, all the other changes are subtler. The rest of the regular dubbing cast are back and - with the exception of Sandy, who sounds a little different - you wouldn't have thought a day had passed since they made At The Top Of The Mountain, never mind 24 years.

There is a theory (which I don't have positive evidence for either way, but which seems plausible to me) that at least part of the reason why the final 13 episodes were not dubbed and broadcast back in 1980 was because they contained scenes or subject matter that was thought unsuitable by the BBC for the family-friendly timeslot that Monkey was shown in.
For evidence against this we just need to look back to Mothers, which contained pretty strong stuff and yet was considered acceptable.
Evidence for... well, we'll see as we cover the episodes themselves. This episode does contain several scenes of suicide and attempted suicide by hanging, including Pigsy trying to hang himself and Monkey giving him a helping hand!

There is also a shift in the language used - Sandy says "turd" and the villain-of-the-week says "shit" - which reflects the change in timeslot from the BBC's family-friendly (though that didn't stop Monkey calling people "poofters" - times change) to Channel 4's late-night 'Cult TV' slot.

The plot is sledgehammer-unsubtle about the evils of gambling. The pilgrims come to a village where all the men have lost everything they own to the villain-of-the-week, a con-artist. Some of the men have killed themselves because they have lost everything.

Pigsy and Sandy are the next victims, coming back to Monkey and Tripitaka wearing rags, having gambled away everything they owned.

The middle of the story is a comedic section involving a plan to win their money back by having Monkey turn into a die and then rolling the numbers they want. This goes well at first - despite their blatant shouting the number repeatedly at the die cup - but then Monkey gets disorientated from having been shaken about so much that he rolls the wrong number.

This wacky interlude over, its back to the serious plot again. Though the way they chose to work what happens next leaves me scratching my head and wondering WTF?

The con-artist wants to gain the power of sorcery from a demon, and thinks he can trade Tripitaka for this knowledge. So far so typical for a Monkey plot. But he doesn't just go and capture Tripitaka, he first goes to Pigsy and plays a game against him where Tripitaka is Pigsy's stake. Then, having 'won' Tripitaka, he goes straight off and captures him.

What was the point of that? How does that even work? Who in their right mind is going to think it is 'OK' for this guy to kidnap Tripitaka just because his thick-headed disciple wagered him away? Maybe I'm taking this plot-point too seriously, but Pigsy does then go and try to hang himself. Monkey is only too happy to assist him when he hears what has happened.

So the guy gets his sorcerous powers and becomes a demon, and this leads on to an inevitable final confrontation with Monkey involving cloud-flying. Do you want to bet on who wins?

Remember kids - gambling is bad.

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