Tugs Episode Review: (2) Pirate
By Yoamiwaii, Jan 29 2020 03:30AM
[Article By: Amiwaii]
It’s been a long time coming, but let’s plough on with my next TUGS episode review, this time focusing on the episode, ‘Pirate’.
As with all these reviews, please be aware that the article does contain profanity and other content not suitable for a younger audience. Readers discretion is advised. Oh, and full on spoilers. Mustn’t forget those!
In this week’s episode, there be pirates, matey! Well, in a show about boats, there had to at least be one episode about pirates! Oh yeah, and Ten Cents ends up at the centre of a stolen barge debacle, which needless to say, pisses him off quite a bit. Pirate chasing, ahoy!
To get my forward note in before we start, this episode has both TV and VHS cuts mentioned, the latter being 20 minutes long opposed to the 15 minutes of TV run-time. There might be things in this review that relate to one or the other, though primarily I will be focusing on the VHS version. Anyway, let’s get the episode underway!
The episode opens with Ten Cents as the only Star Tug back at the main dock, being the first to return from a long day of tug-related work. Unfortunately, if he thought he was going to rest his propeller, he was going to be in for a world of disappointment. Captain Star has some engineering parts that need to be delivered to Scuttlebutt Pete (a dredger, for your information), so he can start work in the morning. As Ten Cents is the first back, he is unfortunately saddled with the job. I love the name Scuttlebutt. I didn’t realise originally that it was slang for rumour/gossip, but also a nautical term for a cask that serves water. It can be colloquially connected to the concept of an office water cooler, which was seen as a place people congregated for a casual tête-á-tête or candid group dialogue. You learn something new every day! So yeah, you can guess what kind of character Scuttlebutt Pete is going to be!
Ten Cents doesn’t look too happy to be roped in, as he knows he’s got to deal with the Z-Stacks. And if summoning them from the seventh layer of hell, we cut to Zip and Zug, looking a bit grubby, but then we expect nothing less of these underhand stooges. The latter snarks at Ten Cents as he approaches, calling him ‘goodie two screws’. Wow, it’s a good thing I know screws are to do with propellers because, damn, that seemed to venture into very dangerous territory for lewd minds! Ten Cents, not giving two toots about Zug’s lame insult, asks him where he wants the engineering parts leaving. Zug tries to stir the pot by telling him he’s too late, though Ten Cents is having none of it. He’s tired, he’s had a busy day, and he knows the score. I’m surprised he didn’t grow a pair of hands and just bitch slap the pair into next week. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have this blessed skill, so just resorts to threats of taking the parts back. Zug instructs him to moor it up by the old quay, ‘if [he’s] not too worn out’. Ten Cents gives them filthy looks as he sails off (in place of the middle finger he can’t physically do), leaving the two Z-Stacks to cackle away to themselves. The comedy value of Zip and Zug is simply wonderful. They are proper sleazeballs, the dim underlings who can wise crack with the best of them, but are also regularly the butt of the joke. They are definitely in their element in this episode. I do find Zip the more entertaining of the two, as he’s just such a lovable moron.
Ten Cents finds a place to moor his parts in a pretty dodgy looking part of the port, strangely calling the barge an ‘old tub of guts’ as he does so. We can either put it down to a case of exhaustion, or accept he’s losing his mind. Hopefully it’s the former. To further crush Ten Cent’s diminishing sanity, the nearby dilapidated warehouse starts to make ominous creaking sounds. He’s pretty certain someone is there, and he’d be right, but the other mystery boat is keeping out of sight. Ooo, ominous. Ten Cents calls out Sunshine and Big Mac’s names, in case it’s them; I guess they’re supposed to be working in the area or something, that’s all I can figure! But why would they really be lingering in a dilapidated warehouse? Some of my potential theories are Not Safe For Work, so we’ll leave it right there.
With nobody answering his calls, he starts to suspect he’s hearing things. It’s just at that moment that Sunshine arrives. Ten Cents assumes, for some reason, that whatever he heard originally was actually Sunshine, and asks why he didn’t answer – though, Sunshine came from a completely different direction to where the warehouse is, so I have no clue how Ten Cents landed on this assumption. Sunshine is confused to what he’s on about (like the rest of us), but when Ten Cents mentioned he called, Sunshine says he probably just didn’t hear him. As the mystery boat watches on, Ten Cents thinks he’s probably just tired and they agree to head home together.
We then get a brief passing by a new character, Grampus, the mini submarine. He’s such an interesting looking chap, with his goggled eyes and his mouth at the nose of the sub. He doesn’t get a proper focused introduction, but I kind of like that they do this, as it feels natural for them not to make a big song and dance about him just yet, and just let us see that our main characters already know who he is. Grampus bids them goodnight, as do they, before the two tugs sail off.
The scene switches to night, and the change of atmosphere is gloomy, as the warehouse-dwelling tug sneaks through the fog to stop by Ten Cent’s barge. Look, he’s wearing an eyepatch! You know what that means? A pirate! And he appears up to be up to no good! Look at that name, too! ‘Sea Rogue’! Clearly a wrong ‘un, am I right? Right?! But anyway… Sea Rogue seems to be pleased with his find, as he was after some engineering parts. He hitches his rope to Ten Cent’s barge, and disappears into the night as quickly as he came. How he manages to hook his rope without a human involved, as we never see any, I’ll never know! Are we imagining people involved? Or are they able to throw ropes accurately by some sort of boat magic? Or telekinesis? Answers on a postcard.
The next day, Zip and Zug rock up to find that the barge is nowhere to be seen. Not impressed, they head off to confront Ten Cents, who was on his way to the Star Dock to see Captain Star, who had called him in for a word. The Z-Stacks are pretty smug at sticking it to the Star Tug, though seem less bothered about the actual issue at hand, rather just wanting to get Ten Cents into a whole heap of trouble. Ten Cents protests that he delivered the barge to the Old Quay and that they saw him do it. He then accuses them of moving it to wind him up, which isn’t such a far-fetched idea knowing those two – but alas, we know it’s not them who ran off with it. Zip is quick to counter-accuse him of doubling-crossing them, which gets Ten Cents all fired up, demanding he take that back. Zip hilariously seems to back-peddle quite flustered in response. It seems Zip didn’t quite have the proverbial balls to take Ten Cents on in a war of words.
Before the spat can get any more heated, Captain Star intervenes, as they’re pretty much outside the Star Dock shouting the odds. Zug tells the man behind the megaphone that Ten Cents didn’t deliver the barge the night before, which ends up with a sort of brief ‘did not!’, ‘did too!’ exchange before Captain Star has to step in like a dad dealing with squabbling toddlers. Star informs the Z-Stacks that he’s already had a complaint from the client and sends them on their way, leaving Ten Cents to get reamed out for his supposed failure. The barge is missing, never delivered. Captain Star voices his disappointment with Ten Cents, as he expects more from him. Despite the Switcher’s protests, Captain Star has to accept the client’s word on the situation, and as punishment, he puts Ten Cents on dredger duty with Scuttlebutt Pete, which clearly seems like an undesirable situation. He pleads for Captain Star to listen, but he shuts him down with little consideration and sends him away.
So, wait… in the last episode – ‘Sunshine’, in case anyone has forgotten – Captain Star was preaching about morality, about not jumping to conclusions before knowing the facts, and telling his Tugs to be honest and true. Where the hell was any of that just a moment ago?! It feels like double standards at play. I know that in business that there’s the whole ‘the customers always right’ thing, but should that come before reason and a proper investigation? Why assume straight away without extensive facts that Ten Cents has screwed up, especially when he delivered the barge to one of the dodgiest looking areas in Bigg City Port? He just outright punishes Ten Cents without listening to him. So how can he even think to demand loyalty and honesty of his Tugs, and then not practice what he preaches? Fucks sake, Captain Star! It just beggars’ belief that he would just react like that to one of his most trusted Tugs. Poor Ten Cents!
Moving on, we’re introduced to Scuttlebutt Pete, the dredger, who’s, well… dredging. He’s soon joined by a deflated Ten Cents, who greets him apathetically. Scuttlebutt is quick to bring up the lost barge that Ten Cent’s has supposedly lost, clearly wanting to sink his teeth further into the latest gossip floating around Bigg City Port. Ten Cents isn’t even surprised that Scuttlebutt Pete knows about what’s happened and has been sharing it about the harbour. I suppose when all you do is drag up crap from the bottom of the sea all day, you need something to keep yourself entertained, even if it’s off the back of someone else’s misery.
I did smirk at Grampus just rising up out of nowhere with, ‘I’ve heard a rumour’. Good lord, is everyone so starved for entertainment in the harbour that they go nuts for every potential bit of gossip that comes their way?! Sunshine pops over to join the water cooler gang and confirm that rumours are Scuttlebutt’s speciality. Ten Cents remains rightfully grumpy that the missing barge has become quite the talking point. Scuttlebutt claims he was only trying to help by letting everyone know about the missing barge to get Ten Cents in the clear. Yeah, sure, Scuttlebutt…
Ten Cents is fuming that anyone would think he’s not in the clear. Loyalty and trust are in short supply today, it seems. Zebedee and Zak sail by, getting a kick out of teasing Ten Cents about the whole debacle, which riles the latter up even more – I can only imagine the profanities he’s dying to shout after them. Sunshine jumps in to calm Ten Cent’s down, though he does have the unenviable task to pass on word from Captain Star to his friend that he has another job for him, which he’s not going to like. More work with the Z-Stacks! Thanks, Captain Star, kick him while he’s already down!
Ten Cent’s next task is to take a fuel barge. “Now you do know what to do with that lot, don’t ya?” Zebedee absolutely relishes pushing the Star Switcher’s buttons. I just love his smooth albeit cheeky line delivery. Zak joins in on the provocation, joking that the Star Switcher will take it somewhere and it’ll disappear. The insinuation that Ten Cents could sell barge loads on the side doesn’t sit well with our hero: “You saying I’m a crook?”. Come on, guys! Enough is enough! But no, Zak and Zebedee jokingly carry on with their vocal prodding. Zak ruffles the metaphorical feathers more by saying how strange that ordinary people can suddenly turn criminal, with Zebedee adding on about the evil inside that suddenly comes out. Evil inside? What an ominous thought! But funnily enough, it’s a poignant line that’s very reflective of what happens in the story. The idea of good guys turning bad. But yet, the narrative certainly plays out that it’s not so clear-cut, as we’ll soon see! Ten Cents pushes aside the very notion, instead jabbing back that the two would know all about that. The two Z-Stacks laugh about Ten Cents not being able to take a joke, though the Star Tug is pretty clear that it’s a no joke situation as he storms off with the fuel barge. You feel bad for him. He’s an easy target, especially as his temper has a hairpin trigger.
Captain Star narrates that he’s worried about Ten Cents and that it wasn’t like him, given the situation. Well, Captain Star, if it’s not like him, then maybe you shouldn’t have been so quick to disbelieve him! How about the client take a little bit of responsibility for where their parts should be moored up overnight?! It wasn’t the most secure place to be leaving valuable goods after all!
Though, unlike Captain Star, Ten Cents has good friends on his side. Grampus, the little sub from earlier, finds his sleep disturbed by the snazzy music billowing out of the Bridge Café so heads off for a nosey about the harbour to see if he can help Ten Cents’ situation. Just to say, I love the Bridge Café’s music ditty, it’s got a funky beat!
There are so really spooky looking shots of the harbour at night. I love how detailed everything is, with the clusters of ships and cranes moored closely together. Everything feels wonderfully cramped, everything seeming as if it’s desperately vying for space in such a busy port. Grampus is in agreement with me that it’s creepy around there at night. You definitely feel something isn’t quite right. Grampus is then quick to spot something moving not too far away in the distance and decides to check it out. Of course, it’s the thief Sea Rogue, on the prowl once more.
As we pan in closer to the pirate’s position, we see some really awesome industrial details of the equipment and cargo on the quaysides. Man, you have to give so much credit to the people who made those detailed little models. The camera finally pans onto Sea Rogue, who shouts, “Avast you! Get out of here!” as he charges towards the camera, which is pretty damn unnerving. This is all shown to be from Grampus’ point of view, who is caught by surprise, and has to act quickly so not to be rammed. He submerges into the pitch-black water, only to surface moments later to watch the suspected pirate race off with his freshly stolen cargo. Grampus cutely spits out water in relief, which I must say is a particularly awesome gimmick. He notices that Sea Rogue’s latest acquisition was another of Ten Cents’ barges, and wonders where he’s taking it. Grampus attempts to pursue the barge thief through the mist, but loses him, and spends the rest of the night worrying about the identity of the crook. In the meantime, Sea Rogue plunders more barges throughout the night. There is a great air of mystery over the situation. We know who is culpable for the thefts, but we don’t know why. Well, we’re not far off from finding out the truth!
In the wake of the thief helping himself to all and sundry across Bigg City Port, Captain Star and Captain Zero decide they need to put their megaphones together and put a stop to the barge thief before anything else goes missing. They call a meeting, attempting to jam their combined fleets into the Star Dock, which I’ve already pointed out previously is tiny as fuck. The tugs are literally spilling out of the dock in a disorganised clump of combustible egos. The assembled group are grunting and groaning with confusion over why they’re all together, particularly Top Hat, who quite happily voices his disbelief at the two rivals joining together. Zorran grouses that ‘they’re wasting time’ as Captain Star tries to get some order in the ranks. The head Z-Stack further presses that it was only Ten Cents’ barges that were missing, pushing the blame solely onto Ten Cents, who is in the background looking thoroughly miserable. Zip and Zug try to get in on Ten Cents blame bandwagon, but Big Mac and Warrior are quick to put the little weasels in their place. Captain Star finally manages to assert his authority over the bickering tugs. He tells the fleets that he and Captain Zero have had a meeting over the seriousness of the missing barges, and they’re going to get to the bottom of it. Unbelievable that these heated rivals managed to hold a civil meeting together, but when needs must, I guess! Captain Zero takes the mic to indicate he has a scheme to catch the pirate. Top Hat bemusedly says he ‘expects he knows several’, followed by Big Mac’s ironically mentioning that they’re basically using a crook to catch a crook. Zorran acts offended at what they’re suggesting. Yeah, nobody is convinced one bit they’re not a bunch of shady bandits. You can easily see them setting fire to an orphanage and then demanding payment to put it out!
Captain Star silences the disgruntled Tugs, telling them they’ve decided to set a trap. Zero indicates that certain barges are being rigged with flares that will go off if the barge is even touched, never mind stolen. The plan is for the Tugs to be sent out in pairs, maintaining silence as they keep on the lookout for the thief, who they hope will fall into the trap by trying to steal one of the boobytrapped barges. While the two teams are putting their plans in order, Grampus is already out conducting his own investigations as he searches the area where he lost the thief the previous night. With some expert sleuthing, he manages to track down where the thief was likely headed, which turns out to be an abandoned warehouse. I notice that Bigg City Port has a lot of these dilapidated and abandoned buildings. It’s a proper gangsters’ paradise! (And I’ve now got that song in my head…) So anyway, Grampus manages to sneak into the warehouse unseen, and low and behold, there’s the thief, but the submarine is quick to find out that he’s not quite the villain he was expecting. Despite wearing an eyepatch and being called Sea Rogue, he’s merely a pawn rather than an instigator when it comes to the thefts. Sea Rogue is seen reporting to some even more suspect-looking boats with green eyes – well, lights – one of whom refers to Sea Rogue as ‘Patchy’. Never noticed that being said before a rewatch! They figure that Sea Rogue still owes them, and the latter is aghast, saying they’re going back on their word and that the quarry he brought them the night before was supposed to have been the last. Of course, like the dastardly villains they are, they’d changed their minds and want one more barge, or they’ll be playing their trump card. An unfortunate old tug is seen trapped in dry dock, who is later identified as Sea Rogue’s Uncle. If Sea Rogue doesn’t do what they say, they’re going to sink the old boat. What scoundrels!
Wait, hang about… his Uncle?! I just… how does that even work?! Is it an honorary familial title or do they automatically get some form of family connection through the company that builds them? Do they share the same parts, equivocal to sharing blood as in humans? I might have pushed the overthink button again, but seriously, I want to know how they can have a family bond? Did Sea Rogue have parents?! Okay, I’m just going to stop now. Actually, more importantly, I’d like to know how they got his Uncle into dry dock without human assistance? Then again, that’s easier to explain away over trying to work out how family relations work for boats. I know about the idea of 'sister ships', but how do we explain this? On a side note, I notice Sea Rogue’s Uncle doesn’t have a name either, he’s just called ‘Old Man’ by his ‘nephew’. Why not give him a proper name? I suppose just because he’s an extremely minor guest character, they didn’t feel that much of a need. A shame really!
Before I go on again, I’m honestly curious as to the story behind Sea Rogue’s predicament. Why has he ended up an unwilling dogsbody for the pirates? What did he do that made them take his Uncle hostage? What do the pirates even want with the parts he’s stealing for them? There is a whole backstory that would have been amazing to find out, but alas, it’s skipped over completely, so we can only assume for ourselves what actually went down. Anyway, on with the episode!
Grampus mutters to himself about the missing barges, almost getting himself caught when the real pirates almost hear him, but they quickly dismiss it. Sea Rogue entreats that it’s getting too risky, but they press him to get one more barge tonight, or else…
Sea Rogue’s Uncle pleads for him not to do it, but his nephew knows he has to. The final word on the matter is, “Deliver or he sinks”, and they turn off their lights, and that’s that. Umm, okay. Did they go to sleep or something? It’s just weird as Sea Rogue then converses with his Uncle in a way as if they’re suddenly not there. Grampus has seen enough to know the truth about the barges and makes a discreet exit. It’s a nicely executed twist that Sea Rogue isn’t the true villain, and that he’s actually being coerced into doing the dirty work so his Uncle isn’t murdered by the pirates. Bit dark, but hey, it’s the 80’s! Kids TV had a bit more freedom back then!
Going back to the plan to catch the thief, the Stars and Z Fleets have been paired up with their rigged barges. Top Hat has everything set up and wonders out loud about who he’s paired up with, though why he wasn’t told in this first place is baffling! Wouldn’t that have been sorted out at the meeting? Much to his chagrin, he is promptly greeted by Warrior, his tag-team partner for the night, who bumps into a buoy and apologises to the ‘little fella’. Oh my gosh, the buoy is wearing a cute little hat! Bless him! Ahem, anyway… Warrior happens to be the clumsiest of the Tugs, something Top Hat vigorously bemoans. Warrior is adorable in this scene; he’s just so damn excited about catching the crook, as if he’s taking part in some Scooby-Doo escapade! He just wants to be a hero! Top Hat throws aside his annoyance and declares to Warrior, that it’s a ‘wartime situation’. Is it? Because I think the first world war might have been a decade prior, Top Hat? Then again, there were a load of conflicts going on during the 1920’s, so yeah, take that as you will. Of course, Top Hat’s inspiring speech using the words ‘strategical’ and ‘tactical’, which pretty much go way over Warrior’s head in the first instance, who has to have the words explained to him, pretty much taking the wind out of Top Hat’s hearty declaration. These two characters perfectly play off each other during this exchange, with Top Hat’s inflated sense of self-importance clashing with Warrior’s simple-minded innocence. One of my favourite parts of this scene is Top Hat’s exaggerated cry of ‘AT THE DOUBBBLLLLEEE!!!’, which had me cracking up, just for the inflection he uses. I love that Warrior manages to use ‘strategical’ and ‘tactical’ in an assessment of their positioning, actually proving he can be witty and astute on the odd occasion.
Leaving those two behind, we head over to see a moody Ten Cents having to be mollified by best buddy Sunshine, who’s probably had enough of his whingy ramblings at this point. The latter assures the former he believes him when he says he knows that he has nothing to do with the barge thefts, and that Zip and Zug are just stirring the pot along with their fellow Z-Stacks. But it’s less about what the Z Fleet think for Ten Cents, it’s whether or not his team mates believe him or not. With any luck, Sunshine hopes they’ll catch the thief that night. Ten Cents seems determined to get his own back and sink the pirate for the trouble he’s caused him. While he’s simmering with revenge and a taste for blood – or whatever passes for that with boats – Grampus turns up, only to be told to get out of there as they’re laying a trap for the thief. Of course, the little sub has some vital information for the pair – that he knows the location of the pirate and the missing barges. Ten Cents is ready to dish out a big old plate of GBH, though Grampus points out the situation is a bit more complicated than previously thought. Ten Cents is pretty intent on getting retribution there and now, whatever the facts, just to prove his innocence. Dear Grampus, with the patience of the saint – and possibly secretly holding back the desire to throw a brick at Ten Cents’ face – begins to tell them everything he has come to learn about Sea Rogue.
Meanwhile, Zip and Zug – the not-so dynamic duo – are settling into their own hiding place as they wait to catch the thief. It’s another decidedly dodgy area within the port, but it suits its current occupants quite nicely. Zug backs into a ratty, old warehouse, deciding he should stay back out of sight while Zip plays look-out. The latter rightfully questions why he has to be up front, as it’s scary and he feels vulnerable. I’d feel the same, Zip! He suggests he go into the hiding spot and Zug takes his place instead. Zug however plays up to his companion that he would be much worse off in the hiding spot. You know what? There could be some truth in that. With a lack of manoeuvrability, especially in such a tedious situation, and effectively being backed into corner, you’d very quickly get into trouble. But then again, it’s obvious the Tug out in the open is more likely to get into a dangerous situation first, and Zug clearly just wants to save his own rear at the sacrifice of his friend. There’s definitely no honour among thieves!
Zip decides to sidle forwards, whispering a ‘psst’, which scares Zug witless, though Zip is quick to assure that it’s only him. Zug chews him out for moving against Zero’s orders, and he ‘nearly’ scared him. Nearly, indeed. He was quaking right down to his keel, the chicken! Zip points out if that’s only nearly, then he’d hate to see him really scared. Ha! Burn! Trying to save face, Zug sternly tells his cohort to get to his post. The only reason Zip even moved was because he wanted to see if it was better in the hidey-hole, because he didn’t quite believe the bullshit that Zug was peddling. Now in a stroppy mood, Zug says ‘it isn’t’ in a particularly childish way, and then tells him to stay where he is and shut up. What charming company you keep, Zip!
We return to Ten Cents, Sunshine and Grampus, as the latter finishes filling the two tugs in on the situation regarding Sea Rogue and the real villains, who will scuttle the ‘Old Man’ if he won’t continue to steal barges for them. Ten Cents seems to have put his axe away for the time being as they decide they need to get to Sea Rogue before the others do, as there isn’t time to explain the truth of the matter. Grampus will lead the way for his companions, though the shot straight after he tells them to follow him shows a point of view shot from the sub’s perspective as he submerges underwater. Yeah, I’m pretty sure they won’t be literally following him.
We head back over to check in with Zip and Zug. The former whispers his companion’s name to get his attention, only to be told to be quiet in case he gives them away. But Zip has good reason to be breaking the silence, as he’s noticed Ten Cents and Sunshine leaving their posts, which certainly garners their full attention. Zug is suspicious that Ten Cents is up to something and can’t be trusted. It’s hard to tell if Zug genuinely thinks Ten Cents has something to do with the barges going missing or he thinks the Star Tug knows something and is about to steal all the glory, but it certainly prompts Zug to lead the pair out in pursuit. Though, the mist is so thick, so Zug loses sight of them pretty quickly. He tells Zip to stay close or he’ll him behind. Zip sarcastically thanks him very much for his ‘obvious’ care and concern. True friends, huh, Zip? First, he’s happy to hide behind you like a human (uh, boat) shield, and now he’s more than willing to abandon you at a seconds’ notice. Zug is pretty much proving himself in this episode that he’s a monumental dickhead.
The next part is a VHS only bit, showing quick cuts of the pirates laying plans for their escape. They drop a cover over Lillie Lightship, put out lights in lighthouses – how they do this without any humans about, I don’t know. I’m guessing we have to imagine they have a crew that are doing this, otherwise I’m wildly assuming that they’re telekinetically lobbing rocks at the lighthouses until they bust the lights – either way, I’ll take it! And lastly, muffling a bell buoy so he won’t see or hear them as they sail on. I feel bad for the little bell buoy, as he gives them such a chirpy little greeting, and gets a blanket to the face for his efforts.
We see that Ten Cents, Sunshine and Grampus are hiding just outside the old warehouse. They know the villains have returned and are waiting to spring their trap to capture Sea Rogue. They don’t have long to wait at all. Out of the mist comes the unsuspecting Sea Rogue. I’m not sure how aware he is of the Stars and Z-Stacks laying traps for him throughout the port, but he has managed to elude capture thus far and not encountered the rigged barges, as he is still desperately trying to find one to pilfer. I highly doubt he would be completely unaware of the attempted sting against him, but it’s a bit odd that nobody had clocked him yet, unless he’s just being super careful.
Ten Cents comments that it’s too spooky for his liking, which I can agree. The spooky metre is definitely reached full capacity! Wouldn’t want to be in their position, no sir-ee! I can’t help but sympathise with Sunshine when he said he still wishes he worked back up-river. I can’t say I blame him. It must be a real change of pace going from the simple country life, to getting involved in some pretty unnerving operations in the unforgiving city. But involved he is, as Sea Rogue coasts closer towards their hiding place. Ten Cents clocks the sound of the approach of the disheartened Sea Rogue, who figures the Tug fleets have rumbled him, which indeed they have. This is quickly confirmed when Ten Cents shouts out, startling him, and ambushes the unwilling thief to port, making it clear he’s cornered and can’t escape. Sea Rogue concedes he’s not trying to escape. You kind of feel for him, knowing that he’s trapped in a completely hopeless situation on all fronts.
I notice here that when Ten Cents rammed Sea Rogue, they’re not really touching. This is down to the fact that the models are supported on trolley devices under the water to move them about and make it appear as if they float. Being wider than the models, it’s the case that in close quarters, these trollies are going to impede the models actually touching each other. It is a somewhat noticeable goof, but not really one I get hung up on.
What I do get hung up on, is the fact that Ten Cents shouts really loud when he ambushes Sea Rogue, and they’re right near the pirates’ warehouse! How did the bad guys not hear the commotion going on outside?! Did they sacrifice hearing in favour of having those huge, stupid green lights for eyes?!
Despite that vocal blunder, Sunshine congrats Ten Cents on apprehending the pirate. Sea Rogue quickly protests that he’s not a real pirate (I guess he’s just cosplaying one?!). They confirm that they already know he’s not, informing him that Grampus knows everything and has seen the real pirates – “Those two green-eyed things”, as Ten Cents calls them. Well, he’s not wrong – they are weird looking motherfuckers! They even confirm that Grampus had seen Sea Rogue’s Uncle when asked about him. Sea Rogue tells them that they’re holding his Uncle to ransom, to make him steal barges for them, though he still thinks they might sink him even if he gets one more barge like they asked. Ten Cents – looking a little less smugly triumphant, and more understanding – parleys ‘help us to help you, and we’ll sink them’, which Sea Rogue is more than happy to agree to. It’s a huge risk for him to realistically take, as he knows the pirates are dangerous and have the upper hand with a hostage, but I can’t blame him for jumping at the chance for help, as he’s pretty much – by all accounts – had to deal with this situation on his own before now.
Sea Rogue hears the sound of approaching boats, and wonders who it is. Ten Cents calls for them to hide, as they can’t be too sure whose approaching through the fog, and they scarper. It’s quickly confirmed to be the blundering Zip and Zug, still on the hunt for Ten Cents. Zip is pretty damn nervous, but gets shouted at by his companion to be ‘quiet’ when voicing his concerns. I honestly just feel so bad for Zip. He shouldn’t have to put up with this shit!
Ten Cents figures that Zip and Zug are stupid enough to go in the warehouse, which leads him to an idea of how to potentially save Sea Rogue’s Uncle. It just kind of relies on things conveniently going their way – that the two Z-Stacks unwittingly go into the warehouse, and then the pirates will chase them off. As such, he sends Grampus to the warehouse just in case everything does opportunely happen as such so he can rescue Sea Rogue’s Uncle. How he’ll do that, I have no clue! And yeah, with plot convenience on their side, everything does work out the way they hope.
Ten Cents and Co. watch from afar as Zug leads an extremely reluctant Zip for a peek inside the dark warehouse. They quickly stumble across the stolen barges, and burst into rapturous cries of celebration, thinking they’re the heroes on the hour. Of course, the merriments are short-lived, when the pirates turn on their big green eyes and angrily confront the pair, who waste no time in beating a cowardly retreat. The pair reverse out, hollering like terrified babies, soon followed by the creepy pirates.
The Star Tugs remain out of sight, ready to spring the trap, hoping Grampus has a clear path. And indeed he has! There is a great shot of a trail of bubbling foam moving towards the warehouse, showing Grampus stealthily heading inside. A really nice effect! Well done, Clearwater!
Sea Rogue’s Uncle, now left alone, worries whether everything is okay, and gets quite the surprise when Grampus appears, the little submarine assuring him he’s there to set him free. Go Grampus! He’s definitely the MVP of the day!
The pirates continue to chase off Zip and Zug, with a great menacing shot of the two green-eyed Tugs coming towards the camera. The Star Tugs and Sea Rogue wait patiently for the right opportunity to launch their ambush, waiting just as the villains are almost at their position before they countdown into their heroic charge. The music that accompanies their triumphant advance is beautifully uplifting as they race courageously to stop the pirates in their tracks. With no resistance, the trio clash with the two pirates and their lights go out, pretty much signally their defeat. The whole goof of the boats not hitting each properly rears its head again when they ram the pirates.
Well, I must say, that was pretty easy… and the pirates pretty much lost all their menace in a matter of seconds. No angry retorts or attempts to escape. They just gave up. Kind of makes you wonder if Sea Rogue could have sneakily sought out help long before now if they gave up that effortlessly. Though, with how things were, that’s probably a risk he wasn’t willing to take. It is slightly funny that Sea Rogue does have an air of confidence now that the tables had been dramatically turned. But he deserves his confidence! They won the day!
As it seems, Warrior and Top Hat aren’t positioned too far away from where the pirates are apprehended, as the former hears the commotion and absentmindedly leaves his post. Though, he's not paying attention to the fact the rigged barge is right in front of him, despite Top Hat’s desperate attempts to warn him. It goes off spectacularly - and is very pretty too, like many sparklers going off at once! Top Hat’s sarcastic comment calling Warrior a ‘bright spark’ got a chuckle out of me. Perfect timing and delivery! Despite getting singed by the explosive flare, the two do manage to get their own moment of glory by escorting the pirates away the next morning.
Ten Cents calls a teasing remark after Warrior, warning him not to bump them too hard, in case they send up a flare, too. Cheeky, sod! But everyone gets a good laugh out of it anyway. With thanks for everything that was done for them, Sea Rogue – no longer considered the pirate he was thought to be – and his Uncle head off to go Up River. It’s sweet when Sea Rogue mentions about getting his Uncle home, the latter is quaintly delighted, saying ‘That’ll be nice’ in his doddery voice. He definitely deserves the boat equivalent of a cup of tea and a comfy armchair after his ordeal. In fact, they both do!
As Ten Cents sadly watches them go, Hercules shows up, asking if Sea Rogue and his Uncle were the ones rescued from the night before. Ten Cents confirms this, saying they helped find the stolen barges. Hercules informs him that Captain Star has said he’s done a great job, though Ten Cents humbly concedes he couldn’t have done it without Grampus and Sunshine! Good on you, lad! Credit where credit is due to all involved! Hercules congratulates them all for their good work, which Grampus thanks him for and heads off to get some rest. It’s a bit of a random scene, with Hercules acting in lieu of Captain Star to dish out the well-earned praise. I’m guessing they didn’t use Captain Star so he didn’t have to eat humble pie and fucking apologise for all the stuff that happened before! Captain Star needs to go back an episode to ‘Sunshine’ and take notes on what he previously said about jumping to conclusions! Also, where the hell was Hercules during this whole drama?! Why wasn’t he helping out? I guess he was the only one still being sent out to make money for the company while they all ran around searching for pirates. Oh well, he doesn’t get a lot of screen-time in the series, so a cameo is better than nothing! Then again, his appearance is cut from the TV version, because really, it doesn’t add anything significant.
Ten Cents notices Zip and Zug hanging out nearby and wants to have a word with them. With a bit of sarcastic flattery, Ten Cents says he doesn’t know what he would have done without the two Z-stacks help. It’s true in some respects; they were a useful distraction running away screaming like sissies, leaving nothing but a streak of piss in their wake (if that was even possible, but still funny to imagine!) Zug is quite happy to take any praise and credit, whether if it’s genuine or not. Zip declares shakily that they never really believed that Ten Cents stole the barges, though the latter finds that a little hard to believe. Sunshine asks if they weren’t just a little bit scared, and Zug, lying through his teeth, says nothing scares them. And for no reason I can understand, Zug just backs up randomly, with Zip clamouring for him to watch out for the barge behind him, which is one of the rigged ones, and it goes off in a pretty display of white sparks. It’s a bit of a contrived scene, only done so something could explode!
Zip and Zug apply themselves to their aptitude of running away, screaming, leaving Sunshine and Ten Cents to deservedly revel in taking the piss out of them, shaking their heads in amusement. And thus, the episode closes out into the credits.
Pirate definitely ups the ante in terms of the action. Throw in some mystery, misunderstandings, and a dash of dastardly villainy, and you have yourself a pretty engaging episode. I do wish there was more substance to the story, particularly in the case of Sea Rogue, and understanding the motivations behind the pirates, but that’s probably asking a lot from a twenty-minute episode of children’s television show. I mean, they’re pirates, and they’re stealing stuff – okay, so Sea Rogue is mainly stealing stuff for them, but you get what I mean! I still think the way Ten Cents gets treated by Captain Star is pretty rotten, not trusting in him and undertaking a proper investigation to find out the truth of the matter. But I suppose given the climate of TUGS, it seems trust and loyalty flipping on a dime might be a commonplace thing in this line of things, so you can’t always believe even the good guys. I enjoyed the Top Hat and Warriors' moments in this episode most of all, and it’s a shame in the TV version, this was pretty much cut out to reduce the time down from twenty to fifteen minutes. I tip my hat to the scriptwriters for those beautiful exchanges. All in all, the dialogue was pretty tight in this episode, with the voice actors doing a fantastic job of creating natural exchanges between the characters. Definitely some of the best in the series. I can forgive some of the minor goofs with the boats not bumping against each other, as they’re not especially jarring, though I can only hope they can disguise these issues better in other episodes. On a random note, this is the last episode that Captain Zero speaks in. From now on, he’s just a presence behind the scenes. To close out, I’d say while it’s not my favourite episode in the series, there is so many engaging elements in the episode, that I enjoy coming back to it to really appreciate what the story does.
My final rating for the episode ‘Pirate’: 7 out of 10 Stars!
★ Top Hat and Warrior’s moments were definitely some of the most entertaining in this episode, leading to the eventual barge explosion so they could splash out on some nice pyrotechnics. I definitely think these two need to be paired up more often.
★ The scene setting at night was extremely spooky, with the lingering mist over the quiet harbour area. It left a wonderfully unsettling feeling, especially in the scene when Grampus first went out to investigate. It really gives you a sense of something underhand going on. Kudos to the team for the intricate set details as well.
★ Ten Cents, Sunshine and Sea Rogue triumphantly ambushing the pirates was a feel-good moment! Especially accompanied by the music! There was nothing more satisfying than seeing Sea Rogue sticking it to the Pirates after everything they’d done to him and his Uncle.
★ Grampus has a fantastic debut in this episode. He’s depicted as such a friendly, reliable and quirky little chap. And his spitting attribute is a great design addition to his character.
★ Another duo that deserves credit is Zip and Zug for their camaraderie. They were a great polar opposite to Ten Cents and Sunshine’s brotherly interactions, with Zip usually being picked up by an uppity Zug. I think this episode really makes me like Zip. He’s such a lovable dunce.
★ The pirates design with the giant green lights was a pretty unnerving design choice. I suppose it saved them money not to have make special faces for them, but somehow it just works, as the lights just looked like horrifically oversized eyes.
★ Sea Rogue, who may look like a pirate, was great as a sympathetic figure who is forced to steal to save him Uncle from being sunk. I think it provides a good lesson to kids not to judge a book by its cover.
☆ I liked that the Star Tugs and Z-Stacks were forced to work together to combat the thieving, but they could have intermingled a bit more to make for some more humorous and unique interactions. It’s a small niggle, but I think it might have offered more on showing the two teams having to be forced to work together in the face of a crisis, because it just seemed like a forgettable, secondary point that we didn’t see put into action.
☆ I would have liked to have known a bit more about Sea Rogue’s story, how his Uncle came to be held hostage, and maybe something more about the Pirates’ themselves, particularly their motivations – but then again, you can just write the latter off as simply greed. It’s forgivable that they can only do so much in twenty minutes for children’s television, but it did feel a bit too glossed over.
☆ Captain Star’s lack of trust in Ten Cents flies in the face of his lecturing about not jumping to conclusions in ‘Sunshine’. They’re barely an episode apart and it seems like he doesn’t practice what he preaches. It just felt awkward that Ten Cents, pretty much acknowledged as one of the most trustworthy in the harbour, is so quickly eyed up as a potential villain. It seemed a little far-fetched to be fair.
See you in the next episode!
Images © Cardona/Mitton/Everybody else who has a slice of the pie
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