Sunday, 18 December 2011

Monkey Challenge: Stoned

While the last couple of episodes were missing any obvious scenes that may have been considered too strong for the original British TV run, this one couldn't be clearer - a scene where a demon child (so played by a child actor) is about to hang himself from a tree, and is only saved by the cavalry riding (I'm not sure that is the right word - it's Yu Lung, and he is the horse) to the rescue.

In a rarity for Monkey there are essentially two halves to the episode with two related mini-stories coming one after the other. In the first of these the pilgrims encounter a demon child who is depressed because he cannot do any magic tricks, such as turning the pilgrims into stone.

Monkey takes pity on the child and helps him to learn this one trick, and in short order Tripitaka, Pigsy, Sandy and finally Monkey himself are all turned to stone. The child is happy and rushes off to tell his father, and while he is away some passing humans find the four statues and make off with them.

In a lesser episode of Monkey this would probably be the main plank of the episode - how do the pilgrims, with only Yu Lung still at liberty, escape this predicament? I think it is to the credit of this episode that the situation is resolved speedily, with the plot never allowed to sag in the way it does in so many other Monkey episodes when they are seemingly struggling to fill the run-time.

The demon child finds the pilgrim-statues and Monkey (still able to talk... somehow) teaches him the counter-spell, so they are restored, to the amusing embarrassment of the humans who are in the process of trying to sell the statues.

The episode moves on to the second mini-story with the demon child wanting to come with Monkey (and the others) because he has been banished by his father for lying and for being unable to provide evidence that he can turn people into stone (because the pilgrim-statues were gone when the child's father went with him to see them).

The child suffers from toothache (and it's very well played - I found myself wincing in sympathy at his pitiful cries for someone to do something about the pain) and, lacking any other magics to cure it, Monkey shrinks himself to a tiny size and flies into the boy's mouth to deal with the problem the direct way.

The sets for the boy's mouth and the affected tooth don't really bear close scrutiny, operating in the same surrealist style as the giant Catfish-interior of Catfish, Saint and the Shape-Changer. Monkey encounters the source of the toothache - bacteria, now on the same scale as him, which he proceeds to beat up while listening to his theme tune. He then cements up the hole in the tooth, creating a 'filling.'

This is by far the most entertaining part of this episode. Once it is over there is just the matter of reuniting the boy with his demon father, who has become convinced that the boy has been kidnapped by the pilgrims (does he not remember that he banished the boy about 20 minutes earlier? Oh, who cares?) and who has captured the other pilgrims in Monkey's absence.

There is a neat final twist in the end, though, as when the demon father is about to decapitate Monkey, the boy turns Monkey to stone* and this makes the sword blow bounce off him. Of course the father is happy his son has learned some magic, and so all's well that ends well.

* All my comments from The Tenacious Tomboy about the series remembering its continuity are hereby rescinded.

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