Part 5 Laputa
BLACKADDER NARRATES: So we had come to the city of Laputa. (View of BLACKADDER standing on a balcony. View recedes, to show more of the building his apartments are in, in the center of the city, eventually receding to show the entire city flying over land at a fairly decent height.) The entire city was built upon a plate of outrageously stalwart steel, with a gigantic magnet in the center providing the lift. (Zoom back in to BLACKADDER, following him as he turns to enter the building and progress through a few halls) The people of the flying island lived in an intellectualocracy. The paths to power were not through heredity or popularity, but through sheer cognitive might. (walks past various alcoves where men and women spread blueprints, worksheets, flowcharts, tapestries and maps; arguing, discussing, lecturing and pontificating) The upper levels of social leadership were vulnerable to being so caught up in their reasoning that they must be roused from their intellectual pursuits by base interaction with physical reality. (Passes a man clearly lost in thought. A companion dope-slaps him, he returns to reality with a start.)
(view changes to a meeting room of some sort…two men in robes covered with stars and musical notations stand on either side of a table. Each has a flapper attending (young, clean, dashing men with rattles. I kind of picture what look like art students, to provide a later marked distinction against BALDRICK.)
BLACKADDER NARRATES: In fact, I was to learn that the greatest among them were unable to even complete a conversation without consistent taction. (flapper shakes his rattle lightly against smartMELCHITT’s mouth. He gives a start and begins speaking)
smartMELCHITT: So, (other flapper rattles against smartPERCY’s ears. He starts, then focuses on the speaker.) I believe I have determined the most appropriate avenue for investigation into the problem of the profligacy of pigeon feathers in pigeon nests. (flappers alternate when the speaker stops, tapping smartMELCHITT’s ears and smartPERCY’s mouth, indicating that it’s his turn to speak, and the other’s turn to listen.
smartPERCY: Oh? Excellent (flappers.)
smartMELCHITT: Yes. I’m introducing a measure in Council to fund research into using pigeon feathers as memo pads. (flappers)
smartPERCY:That should be quite effective. (flappers)
smartMELCHITT: Yes. (flappers)
smartPERCY: Brilliant. (flappers)
smartMELCHITT: Thank you. (flappers)
(I hope the reader has percieved the visual humor inherent in the use of flappers as punctuation in all conversations. This action continues throughout Blackadder’s stay in Laputa, which must be remembered because there’s really no point in my tediously recording every use of the riduculous maracas, except where necessary.)(Incidentally, I just imagined the possibilities if Kirk had ever traveled to Laputa. At every pause while Shatner was trying to remember his next line, or his next word, flappers would lean forward to rattle him and everyone else in the room, then jerk back as he continued talking again.)(Anyway, back to the floating city.)
(BLACKADDER enters the room, bows to the two men at the table, they both nod in return.)
smartMELCHITT: Welcome to Laputa, traveler.
(When he starts speaking, the flapper leans over and shakes the rattle next to BLACKADDER’s ear. He looks at him oddly, but brushes it off)
BLACKADDER NARRATES: It was a mark of high courtesy on the part of the local leaders that they not only assumed my intellectual capacity such that I would need the services of a flapper, but also tasked their own flappers, usually family retainers, with providing the reminder necessary for my interactions.
smartPERCY: Yes, enter and tell us of your lands, and the lands you’ve seen.
(When the flapper tries to indicate it’s BLACKADDER’s turn to talk, he pops the rattle against his mouth. BLACKADDER turns and punches him in the face.)
BLACKADDER NARRATES: Tragically, no one explained either the tradition or the courtesy to me in anything resembling a timely manner.
(BLACKADDER walks into a ballroom. A couple dances on the floor, the others stand about the edges. A beautiful woman is partnered with a man dressed with the star/music decorated robes of the city leaders. A flapper, with rattles on his feet and grasped in his hands, dances furiously behind the scholar, tapping his feet and hands to direct him through the dance.)
BLACKADDER NARRATES: During my time in Laputa, I noted a marked tendency for the intellectocrats to ignore or even outright forget their women in favor of more cerebral pursuits. Though some made a distinct effort, the slightest mischance would drag them away to distant realms of calculation.
(the flapper, approaching terminal exhaustion, sweats, huffs, and falls to the floor behind the dancers. The scholar stops dancing, gazing at a stone in his wife’s ring.)
smartGEORGE: Hmmm. I wonder….if a six-pointed star were to be turned inside out, and the resulting shape welded to a flattened pyramid, with the ends set into a counterclockwise spin...
(his wife, ELIZABETH, rolls her eyes as he begins to mutter, then leaves him on the floor to aim for the punchbowl. BLACKADDER meets her there.)
BLACKADDER: Excuse me.
BLACKADDER: I was wondering if you might answer a question for me?
ELIZABETH: What would that be?
BLACKADDER: How is it, that men with such a reputation for high intellect could be capable of treating such a lovely lady with anything less that rapt attention?
ELIZABETH: Perhaps you’re just not smart enough to appreciate what it is that smart men find worthy of their attentions?
BLACKADDER: I am smart enough to know that if a beautiful woman were to part of my life, keeping her happy, to prevent her straying would be the worthiest use of my talents.
ELIZABETH: Are you insinuating that either women in general or I in particular have a difficulty with navigation?
BLACKADDER: Oh, by no means, ma’am.
ELIZABETH: Then are you suggesting that women are to be kept in harems or herds, with attendants to prevent them from wandering from the protection of the herd, or the direction of the master?
BLACKADDER: Again, my dear, I can only hope to convince you that it is not my intended suggestion.
ELIZABETH: Then what exactly do you mean by this term: straying?
BLACKADDER: Wel, you’ll have to forgive me. I’m not as practied in the intellectual pursuits as some, nor graced with skills in the communicative arts.
ELIZABETH: Then how ever do you get a point across?
BLACKADDER: I depend heavily on demonstrations, milady.
ELIZABETH: Do tell?
(BLACKADDER and ELIZABETH recline in bed together, naked but for a bedsheet)
ELIZABETH: Oh. THAT straying.
ELIZABETH: Yes. I see. Now, one may not require a flapper to get through the afternoon, but one does wonder what one’s response might be if a husband, perhaps even mine, were to enter the room in the next two minutes, as is his habit and schedule?
BLACKADDER: Well, I can think of a number of appropriate responses to such a happenstance.
ELIZABETH: Can you explain? For that matter, can you explain rather quickly, else you need merely wait a minute and you’ll have the opportunity for a demonstration?
BLACKADDER: Easily. I should think that-
(smartGEORGE enters, followed by a sweaty but recovering flapper)
smartGEORGE: Darling, I was wondering about dinner this evening, and whether we might instruct the cook to shape the pies to resemble color wheels? (the flapper taps his ears in time for his wife’s reply)
ELIZABETH: Certainly, darling. Primary only, or secondary colors, too?
smartGEORGE: (after the flapper taps his lips) Oh, through tertiary, I should think. (by now, the flapper has noticed BLACKADDER. His eyes widen and he starts to move the rattle to smartGEORGE’s eyes. Just then, a shot rings out and the rattle shatters. Flapper looks from the stub of his rattle to BLACKADDER, holding a smoking pistol. Flapper departs with alacrity.)
ALACRITY: Whoa! Where we going so fast?
smartGEORGE (reaches to pick a stone from the ex-rattle from his teeth): Oh! A little less force, if you please. Well, if that’s settled, I have a meeting to discuss an attempt to write an opera based on the Music of the Spheres. Taa-taa! (he departs)
ELIZABETH: I see. A most satisfactory demonstration, sir.
BLACKADDER: I’m glad you liked it.
(view of BLACKADDER in a gallery, strolling past groups of scholars in various debates)
BLACKADDER NARRATES: I was directed to meet with their cultural experts, who merely from listening to me describe my travels, were confident in their ability to recreate the path by referencing their knowledge of the people and places I described.
(On a large map of the world, two scholars draw lines while BLACKADDER talks. When finished, they step back. View changes to show map covered with what resembles a cross-section of a plate of spaghetti.)
BLACKADDER: Yes… Um, I’ve never been to Russia, Ceylon or Las Vegas. (takes up a marker) And you completely missed Lilliput (draws island), Blefuscu, and Brobdingrag.
CARTOGRAPHER: Oh, and we’re supposed to take your testimony that such places exist?
BLACKADDER: The entire map of my travels is based on my testimony.
CARTOGRAPHER: Are you a professional cartographer?
BLACKADDER: Um, not as such.
CARTOGRAPHER (erasing BLACKADDER’s lines): Then how would you know where you’ve been?
BLACKADDER NARRATES: While I wasn’t able to completely rise to the academic level of the intellectocrats, I felt no envy for their capacity after noting their vulnerability.
(comes to a table of scholars sitting around a table piled high with food. BLACKADDER reaches for a particularly tasty looking roast)
SCHOLAR1: It occurs to me, though, that the alphabet would make more sense if the letters were in a more easily understood order.
SCHOLAR2: You mean, rather than alphabetical order?
SCHOLAR3: Yes, I understand. If we were to graph the positions of the tongue in producing each letter’s sound…
SCHOLAR4: Oooh! And list those sounds, and thus the letters associated with them, in order of complexity by the number of bends in the tongue..
SCHOLAR5: Or, in order of the muscular effort required…
SCHOLAR1: Interesting…Um, excuse you?
BLACKADDER: Excuse me?
SCHOLAR2: This food is expressly provided for the members of the Committee for the Logical Enhancement of the Existing Alphabet by Means of Rational Review.
SCHOLAR3: Which does not include you.
BLACKADDER: Ah. So perhaps you could tell me: where does the white go when snow melts?
BLACKADDER: White clouds drop white snow. But when the snow melts, the water is clear. Where did the white go?
SCHOLAR4: It…(all the scholars’ eyes glaze over, heads drop to one side. The flappers look at each other and start to lean in to waken their charges.)
BLACKADDER: So, flappers. Can I invite you ladies and gentlemen to what looks to be a particularly scumptious meal?
(He sits down. Flappers look to each other again, then begin picking up food.)
BLACKADDER NARRATES: In addition, I was in a unique position to notice the similarities between the extremes of intellect.
(smartGEORGE and BALDRICK play some card game. Money is in a pile between them, and they add coins at various intervals while moving the cards around. smartGEORGE’s flapper alternates between his master’s eyes, lips and hands. BALDRICK has a flapper, more of a pirate-looking back alley thug. He just smacks BALDRICK in the back of the head every so often.)
smartGEORGE: Fascinating. I never knew there were so many types of dung.
BALDRICK: Oh, of course. Different animals, different diets, different amounts of light to clean up by…you’d be amazed.
smartGEORGE: Oh, I am. I must address myself to an immediate investigation of the subject.
BALDRICK: You really should, sir.
smartGEORGE: Um, perhaps after lunch.
BALDRICK: Well, you certainly don’t want to get too into the subject before.
smartGEORGE: Right. So, tell me, in your country have they solved the question: what is the sound of one hand clapping?
BALDRICK: Oh, yeah. It takes two hands to clap.
smartGEORGE: Yes, but what’s the sound of one hand clapping?
BALDRICK: If you only gots one hand, it isn’t clapping, is it?
smartGEORGE: How pragmatic. But that doesn’t answer the question, does it?
BALDRICK: That’s the trick of it, sir. If you can’t answer a question, then make that your answer.
smartGEORGE: Well, I’ll accept that there are times when the very format of the question precludes a straightforward answer, but zen koans are more unanswerable questions designed to provoke thought.
BALDRICK: So, if you think about why you can’t answer the question, you’re provoked.
smartGEORGE: I…hadn’t thought of it that way.
BLACKADDER (on a couch some distance from the card game, intertwined with ELIZABETH, passionate smoochies): There’s probably a good reason most humans haven’t thought of it that way.
BALDRICK: Don’t see why not. No matter how much thought you put into making a problem, most problems can be solved with a big enough brick.
smartGEORGE: Ah! The brute force method. More pragmatism.
BALDRICK: No, I cleared that up with a ointment Mrs. Miggins gave me.
smartGEORGE: Oh, good for you. Say, I appear to have won. (places cards on table)
BALDRICK: Looks like you did. (Gestures. His flapper swings and smashes smartGEORGE’s flapper to the ground. BALDRICK sweeps up the coins on the table (the pot, his stack, remaining coins on smartGEORGE’s side.). Gives a third to his thug. Pulls a rattle out of his pocket, touches smartGEORGE’s ear)
BALDRICK: Fancy a game of cards, sir? (touches mouth)
smartGEORGE: Why, that sounds excellent. Allow me to send for a deck. And some cash.
(External view of the flying city traveling over the land)
BLACKADDER NARRATES: During our visit to Laputa, we learned that part of the executive power available to the king lay in the very ability of the city to navigate to areas of dissent.
(city slides over a small town. Smoke rises from a number of buildings, chaos runs in the streets, screaming, smashing, etc.) As a rather obvious expedient to the solution of rebellion, it bore the advantage of very short chains of communication between the king and his subjects (a balcony on the side of the supporting plate of Laputa holds a party of officials, BLACKADDER at the back, with aides lowering baskets to the milling throng below. They wave signs (“Laputa? Refuta!”) and toss garbage in the baskets) while still presenting minimal risk to the kingdom’s leadership. It also tended to present very permanent solutions (Laputa smashes down on uprising, flattens village and inhabitants). But one city had many strong and lasting grievances, and prepared long and well prior to raising arms and voices against the king’s rule. (Laputa floats near a city about as big as Laputa. A number of strong towers rise up above the buildings: metallic, strong, and pointed.) Metallurgists aboard Laputa discerned that strong towers were in place throughout the city, probably capable of piercing the very bottom of the royal city before it were able to inflict grievous harm on the inhabitants in the usual manner. It was feared that even if Laputa were victorious in this encounter, the city would be weakened and vulnerable in any future strife.
smartPERCY: Your majesty?
smartPERCY: Metallurgists have discerned strong towers in place throughout the city, probably capable of piercing the very bottom of Laputa before we could inflict grievous harm on the inhabitants in our usual manner.
smartMELCHITT: But we would probably be able to smash the city anyway, correct?
smartPERCY: Yes, sire, but it is feared that even if Laputa were victorious in this encounter, the city would be weakened and vulnerable in any future strife.
BLACKADDER: If I might suggest…
smartPERCY: Oh, silence you unflappable disintellectual. Far greater minds than yours have examined the problem and see no solution.
BLACKADDER: Ah. I see. But if I might ask, if one were to solve an insoluble problem, would that prove he had the greater mind?
smartMELCHITT: Of course it would. But if the problem’s insoluble, what hope would this hypothetical solutionist have?
BLACKADDER: None, sir, of course. Excuse me. (turns and leaves. A spiral staircase outside of the throne room leads down to the magnet room. A huge stone in a system of gimbals points to the ground. Four workers with drive wheels control the gimbals to aim the rock, thus moving the city. A scholar stands behind the four, as the Officer of the Rock, at a podium with needle displays. He sees BLACKADDER enter)
OOTR: Here, now! You can’t be in here. This is official city property.
BLACKADDER: Right. Now listen carefully. As I was going to Saint Ives…
(BLACKADDER eases the drooling OOTR to a seat. Head tilted way back, he mumbles ‘times forty nine sacks…’ BLACKADDER turns back to the control board.)
BLACKADDER (scanning control board): Alrighty, then. Let’s try something.
(View from outside, Laputa slowly lowers towards the city. Citizens scream, then run towards the huge spiky towers. The city descends to just above the spikes, pauses, then slides to one side. As the shadow leaves, the sun shines on the dissidents, who cheer. Much happiness until Laputa clears the last tower. Then it drops ten feet and returns. The leading edge of Laputa’s plate knocks the towers over, smashing down amidst the buildings and citizenry. When the last tower is bowled over, Laputa centers over the city again, and smashes downward It destroys every building down to the first floor, then stops. Slowly rises again. Frightened citizens crawl from the rubble and start crying their surrender. King and other nobles assemble on the balcony)
smartMELCHITT: I say, that turned out a bit of alright.
smartPERCY: Yes, sir. Excellent plan, sir.
smartMELCHITT: Yes, I suppose it was.
BLACKADDER NARRATES: As is the way of things, the King took full credit for the defeat of the rebellion, and the merciful pause to allow their surrender (smartMELCHITT waves to crowds from the balcony) and the solution of the insoluble problem (smartMELCHITT walks through the gallery, receiving the acclaim of the scholars). I was given the thanks of the realm (smartGEORGE rolls a handful of jewels into a leather bag, hands it to BLACKADDER) and one hour to clear the premises. (as he puts the bag in his pocket, three burly guards escort him to an elevator of sorts. A basket descends to the ground below the city, BLACKADDER and BALDRICK lowered to Earth with a few bags).
BLACKADDER: Well, let that be a lesson to you, Baldrick. Never let your social betters find out that you’re smarter than they are.
BALDRICK: Oh, I don’t need that lesson, sir. The Baldricks have known for generations. Why do you think all our clever plans are about as smart as a duck decoy made of flint?
BLACKADDER (spins to fix BALDRICK with a lowered eyebrow and a piercing stare…)
Blackadder travels through the skies,
Upon the city of Laputa,
But ‘cause he thought to improvise,
The king has given him the boot-a.
Blackadder, Blackadder, successful at ad hoc,
Blackadder, Blackadder, but now he has to walk!
Part 1: Lilliput
Part 2: Blefuscu
Part 3: Brobdingrag
Part 4: Lorbrulgrud
Part 6: Balnibarbi
Part 7: Glubbdubdrib
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