Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982) – Legends Are Forever & Escape From Death Island

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Jake Cutter (Stephen Collins) flies into danger in this week’s installment of the Bellisario gem, Tales of the Gold Monkey.

The first episode, Legends Are Forever, aired 20 October, 1982 and saw the introduction of an old flying buddy of Jake’s, the legend seeking Gandy Dancer (William Lucking). It was penned by Bellisario, Reuben Leder and Milt Rosen, based on his story.

Jake gets ‘persuaded’ to help out a relocated tribe of Watusi who are suffering from malaria. His old buddy Gandy, however, may have ulterior motives, as it seems this tribe may hold the treasures of King Solomon’s Mines.

Gandy bears an uncanny resemblance to a character that shows up in Magnum in Season 3, apparently Bellisario liked the character idea and was hoping to create a backdoor pilot for him…

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It also features the song Yellow Rose of Texas, which recurs in another Bellisario series, my favorite, the premier episode of Quantum Leap.

Jake, Jack, Gandy, Corky (Jeff Mackay) and Louie (Roddy McDowall) all fly to the island inhabited by the Watusi, as well as more hostile tribe they are at war with. Corky and Jack stay with the Goose, but the rest make the ascent to the village, but not all of them will be coming back down.

This episode perfectly married the 1930s sense of high adventure and melodrama with a real sense of loss.

And I often find myself wondering how amazing this series would have been if it had been allowed to continue.

Escape From Death Island, which aired 27 October, 1982, was written by Stephen Katz and Peter Elliot, shows that despite the series trappings, it’s not afraid to deal with heavier material.

Jake, Jack and Corky are flying to a remote island that is under French rule. They’re flying a distraught gentleman, Arthur Fromby (Gerry Gibson) to the location because the island now serves as a prison, and his son, Eric (the always sadly underused Xander Berkley).

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Once there, they discover that Eric is in a deteriorating condition due to being locked in a low box, and left out in the sun all day. Arthur tries to help him escape, with Jake and Corky helping, but they are all caught, and made prisoners.

Working all day in the blistering sun, everything seems to be set up to sap anyone of their will to live, let alone their desire to escape, but Jake and company aren’t giving up hope yet. They’re going to escape, and get Eric out if they can.

Of course, the heroes escape, but none of them are unscathed, and even Louie, is unable to help them despite his position as the French Magistrate in the islands.

The pair of episodes show that the series could tell a variety of genre of stories within its world, and with such a likeable cast, it’s desperately sad that ABC cancelled it at the end of the season. Not due to ratings, but the show, at the time, was just too expensive for them.

… you know, maybe it’s time to relaunch it… There could be something there…

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