Episode 12 – DeadLoch
Funny how many of these episodes open up with some member of the Humanitarian Environmental Analysis Team sitting on their ass, watching television. Team lead Dr. Nick Tatopoulos has “monitor duty” this week, joined by recovering Larry Cohen fan Dr. Elsie Chapman. The two watch a video from Dr. Hugh Trevor of the Pisces Research Institute…in Loch Ness, Scotland. Per the usual cryptozoology cliches, Dr. Trevor’s only managed to catch a fleeting glimpse of Nessy after the creature’s alleged attack on the Institute.
“They should’ve hired a real actor,” Dr. Nick says. “This guy’s embarrassing.” And when a 90210 vet craps on your ability, you really should go back to drama school. “And is that thing made of…rubber?” Har-dee-flippin’ har, doc. Making things even funnier, the “actor” Dr. Nick’s critiquing is played by the realest “real” actor this series has seen so far: Roddy “Cornelius” McDowall, in (no, really) his last screen role.
After the credits…and the obligatory shot of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, establishing we are, in fact, in New York…we get a quick Godzilla cameo to remind us he will, in fact, star in this episode of his own show.
G-man’s cursing the Harbor, letting gulls pick breakfast out from between his scales and I wonder how many of those birds are going to drop dead in a few weeks from all the exotic forms of cancer they’re catching, hanging out on Godzilla’s flank? How many gull bodies have to wash up on the shores of Jersey, Brooklyn or H.E.A.T.’s own Staten Island base before somebody (one of
Col. Maj. Hicks’ superiors, perhaps) decides to put Godzilla down for good? How many gulls will feed and grow strong off the no-doubt-abominable parasites that make Godzilla’s hide their home? Will New Yorkers wake up one day to find themselves invaded by a giant flock of seagulls? They barely survived the last invasion of human-sized ones, back in the 80s. Will The Series steadfastly refuse to answer all these questions?
Pretty much. But you know how it goes: the more you live, the more you love, and I love the fact that Dr. Nick (you know…the dude who inadvertently wound up adopting a giant monster after he helped kill its…let’s be gender-neutral and say “progenitor”) is skeptical about Nessy’s very existence. Nick theorizes tourism’s taken a recent hit up at the Loch…and given a new daikaiju pops up about once a week in this universe, that actually makes a lot more sense than episode writer Steve Hayes probably intended.
As does Elsie’s reaction, which is priceless, mirroring my own: “Nick, we’ve seen stuff in the past month that I never would’ve believed in before.” She’s right. Why just last week, we saw all five of them running around fucking Antarctica without so much as a skull cap to keep their damn fool heads warm. Then there was that dino-bird with the feathers made of sand. The Audrey 2s of Tropical Island #2214. And that little alien invasion a few weeks back…
Yeah, you know what? This whole conversation sucks. Why are Elsie and Nick even wasting time with this old argument? Make perfect sense in our universe, because all our giant monsters remain contained to fiction. These people, though…
Hell, if I were the leader of “the World’s Number One Monster Hunting Team,” I’d make Loch Ness one of my first stops on the World’s Number One Monster Hunting Team World Tour. Bring all those cryptozoologists into my new fold. They can all rebrand themselves as “daikaijuologists” and never again endure the snickers from jumped-up partisans of “real” Science who mistake “debate” for “contemptuous dismissal” and “rationality” for “a slavish worship of empiricism that’s as fundamentalist as any doctrine.” Especially since no one bothers to actually read the scriptures of their chosen demigod, John Locke.
Hell, whenever I bring up Locke’s name these days, most people think I’m talking about Terry O’Quinn’s character from Lost and I have to tell them, No, damnit (and damn you, J.J. Abrams!). I mean the author of three Letters of Toleration, Two Treatises on Government, and The Reasonableness of Christianity, as Delivered in the Scriptures. (How’s that for a holy trinity of “rational” Enlightenment thought?)
Turns out Elsie’s a functional cryptozoology nerd, like a lot of paleontologists with capital-R, Romantic streaks, back in the days when people actually cared about Nessy’s existence. The chance to scientifically prove such a thing is too much for Elsie to pass up, and her enthusiasm proves contagious. It quickly infects Nick’s research assistant, Randy (who once again proves himself to be a sniveling Judas) and team coward Dr. Mendel Craven.
Out-voted, it’s officially off to Scotland…because it’s Democracy Day around H.E.A.T. HQ. Nick starts off in contemptuous dick mode but, after some time killed in lame attempts to establish this episode’s B-plot, Our Heroes descend into the Loch via Dr. Trevor’s submersibles. Trevor makes the mistake of calling out their depth at 160 fathoms. Meaning this Loch Ness is about three hundred feet deeper than the Loch Ness in our universe. Which is supposed to explain why Nessy’s managed to stay hidden, despite being enormous…but even in this universe, that sounds pretty damn lame. The “real” Nessy barely rivals the (original) King Kong in size…so it’s fitting Godzilla‘s producers put Nessy on Kong’s old 1962 workout.
Cutting communication with Dr. Trevor (who insists that pretty much everything they’re doing is a waste of time, establishing himself as ee-vil), Nick and Randy break off to explore the Loch. They naturally find Nessy, who naturally swats them aside like the pair of insects they are, critically damaging their sub. A picture-perfect daikaiju action sequence follows, showing that you can wrest drama from the cold grip of Davey Jones. While their sub fills up, Nick (being smart) grabs an air tank, while Randy (being stupid) grabs a speargun…and gets himself knocked unconscious…somehow. IITS. And it’s in the script because this forces Nick to engage Action Hero Mode so he can rescue Randy (again), hooking a ride to the surface via that speargun and one of Nessy’s tail fins.
Ashore, Randy pulls the same gag everybody does in these half-serious CPR scenes, faking unconsciousness so he can steal some kisses from team badass Monique Dupre. “Uuf,” she says, realizing this. Trust me: it’s French for Ugh. “I should throw the little one back, no?” As a great robot once said, “Yea-essss.”
But before I can start planning Randy’s funeral, Nessy breaks the surface, menacing Our Heroes and prompting Godzilla to come stomping out of the nearby forest. And here’s where I start to have real problems with this series. Specifically, its overall gutlessness.
I’ve mentioned this before, but “DeadLoch” really shows the limits of casting Godzilla as a globe-trotting Designated Hero. All his films had to do to paint him in that role was drop another monster on Japan. Antagonists came to him, not the other way around, and in doing so they left Godzilla free to be his good ol’, morally-ambiguous self.
This series, on the other hand, ripped whole sections out of Gamera’s playbook. Hence Our Heroic Monster’s “friendship” with Dr. Nick, and his habit of just appearing when- and wherever he’s needed. Since he can’t fly, Godzilla’s forced to develop Slasher Movie Protagonist powers of Offscreen Teleportation. Without them, Godzilla’s role would be substantially less heroic and H.E.A.T. might actually have to deal with some fallout from their dragging a giant monster around all over God’s (and everybody else’s) country.
Not many people know this off the top of their head, but Loch Ness is actually connected to sea on either side of Scotland. It accounts for about twenty-six miles of the Caledonian Canal, which still a major aquatic trade route today, almost three hundred years after it first opened.
Godzilla could’ve entered from the Atlantic side (as H.E.A.T.’s boat probably did), scaring the shit out of all those tourists at Fort William and Corpach. But that would’ve required him to destroy several canal locks on his way up, leaving God knows how much collateral and ecological damage behind. Coming in from the North Sea side would be even worse, since that end’s guarded by Inverness, a town of over fifty thousand. Some of whom are probably dead now, assuming Godzilla took that route. “Assume” is all we can do, since the episode does nothing to address the Unfortunate Implications of Godzilla’s sudden appearance. Why bother to think through your “original” stories (or even do the least bit of research on their various real world elements) when you’re just going to rip-off Gorgo anyway?
Yes, it turns out Dr. Trevor’s captured the crytopzoologist’s Holy Grail: a live specimen. It’s Nessy’s spawn and, as Dr. Nick says, “You had to know she’d be ticked.” Sure, but Dr. Trevor has the Movie Scientist’s ability to suspend all moral judgments and most of his common sense…especially with all the truckloads of cash waiting to be made off Nessy’s newborn.
Thankfully, Dr. Trevor didn’t count on Randy’s ability to push the “Broadcast” button on Pisces Institute’s PA system, which sends the cries of Nessy’s newborn all the way across the Loch. Breaking off her running underwater battle with Godzilla, Nessy intercepts Dr. Trevor’s submersible as it attempts to flee with her newborn’s cage literally in tow. The two monsters face off in the shallows and you think, Alright! Final showdown! And you’d be right.
Then the episode throws us a real curve ball. Godzilla snaps the cage off its tether, leaving Nessy free to chuck Dr. Trevor out of series for good. Instead of eating Baby Nessy (call it a “mid-fight snack”) Godzilla frees the newborn from its cage. Mom Nessy even pauses to scream a Thank you at Godzilla, who responds with a roar we’re meant to interpret as You’re welcome.
Because it’s not enough that this Godzilla be a heroic monster: he has to be a conscientious and polite one, too. Dr. Nick must be raisin’ ‘im up right between episodes. Whenever we check in with H.E.A.T. during their “down” time, Godzilla’s either sleeping in his cave, splashing about New York Harbor, or mauling some poor part of the Atlantic fishing fleet. Nick must fit the etiquette lessons in on weekends.
As you could probably guess, this is another filler episode that steals its A-plot from an old monster movie. The B-plot (Mendel’s either taken in by a canny Highland huckster, or allows himself to be taken in because his doing so drives Randy, the Kid From New York Who Thinks He Knows Everything, absolutely batshit. “If you’d said your name was ‘Schwarzenegger,’ he would’ve called ’em ‘the MacSchwarzeneggers.”) proves so inconsequential it’s completely abandoned after two bad jokes.
I couldn’t be happier. Ripping Gorgo off could present this team with a conflict fit to test all its manifold skills. Like that trash-eating ooze back in Talkin’ Trash, the Radioactive Island from Hive, El Gusano Gigante, or even (god help us) the Crackler. These monster-of-the-week plots forced everyone to pull their own weight, allowing them all time to show off…which, translated into TV-speak, means, “develop themselves as characters through their actions onscreen.”
The Gorgo plot’s different. More rigid, it calls for A Monster, it’s Spawn, and some variety of Evil Capitalist or another. Here we have the Scientist, Corrupted By Greed: Dr. Trevor, whom McDowall voiced with his usual prim-and-proper skill. But here comes the eternal refrain of one-shot guest stars and villains everywhere: he barely gets any screen time, so he never comes into focus as a character. What we do see is so flat and boring that, even if this series could kill humans, I don’t think Dr. Trevor deserved anything more than an anonymous background death.
Would’ve been great to see Drs. Trevor and Nick spend a bit more time together. They might not know it, but they do quite the job representing the major strands of daikaiju movie Science.
The Elder Scientist, Trevor, seeks personal glory and the enhancement of his own position as head of the Pisces Institute. The physical structure – and the people inside it – are nothing compared to (as Nick says) “the greatest scientific discovery since Godzilla.” Monsters can wreck the whole shoreline as far as Dr. Trevor’s concerned…so long as he has the newborn, he can afford a new everything. Detached from his subjects, secure in the cocoon of his expertise, Trevor cannot see his doom until it literally sneaks up behind him and bites him in the ass.
Dr. Nick, representing a Younger generation of Science, can see right through the problem. And not just because he’s seen Gorgo (which obviously wouldn’t exist in this universe). The world has yet to rob “Nickels” of his idealism. Looking back through the first season, so far, it’s the one real virtue he’s displayed. Sure, he’s courageous enough to take up the monster hunting life, but that could just be stupidity in disguise. Instead, Nick seems to draw strength from a peculiar mix of pragmatic optimism and a total lack of scientific objectivity.
After all, this is the guy who said, Wait…maybe we shouldn’t kill the giant, fire breathing lizard. Seems to have taken a shine to me. Oh, don’t worry, I checked: not only is he unequivocally a “he” this time, turns out I totally fucked up on that whole “born pregnant” thing. What? I was nervous. My girlfriend was there, it was our first time on TV together, and Godzilla’s brothers and sisters were chasing us all over the Garden…you know how it is.
Here he tells Trevor, “You had to know she’d be pissed,” which is a hilarious thing for one so-called Scientist to say to another. It’s perfectly natural, coming from Nick, but I can almost see Dr. Trevor reel away from all the assumptions in that sentence. He should’ve said, I’m sorry, Dr. Tatopolus, but not all of us can be monster-whisperers. Perhaps I should’ve rolled around in some of Nessy’s roe and let her infant imprint on me? Seems to have worked wonders for you.