The Lost Emperor, or Aardvarks Never Killed Anybody
Updated: Jan 26, 2022
During my research for this blog, I stumbled upon a number of scripts for sale via Neil Pearson Rare Books, an online shop linked, so it seems, to the actor Neil Pearson.
He has a number of original scripts available for sale, most of them from the sixth series, priced at a tidy £600 each. There are a few other Goon-related items - have a search around if you've got a bit of money to spend.
Here is an image of the original script for 'The Lost Emperor', episode three of the sixth series, as broadcast on 4 October 1955. Note that this episode is already agreed to be sent to the US network NBC for broadcast, on top of three scheduled airings on the BBC General Overseas Service, now known as the World Service.
At the time of writing, this script was still available to purchase here.
Somewhere among the lichen-backed mountains of Mongolia, entombed in a sacred dustbin, lies the fabulous treasure of Fred Jenghiz Khan. For twenty long years Neddie Seagoon has examined every clue that might help him to trace the treasure of the lost emperor. Then one day, while working as a heavily disguised part-time dustman at Bethnal Green Castle, he finds a portion of the dreaded international Christmas pudding bearing a secret inscription, indicating the whereabouts of the treasure. Seagoon sets off hot-foot for Tibet but is waylaid by two famous international criminal archaeologists who strike him down with a mummified Egyptian piano. He recovers and traces his way to the sacred dustbin, only to find that once more he has been thwarted-for all that remains is an international Italian Bootlace.
(from the Radio Times, issue 1664, page 24, published 30 September 1955)
As we're used to by now, this is only tangential to the script as broadcast but is nonetheless one of the more amusing of the Milligan/Sykes synopses.
'The Lost Emperor' tells the story of the Goons' search for the lost tomb and treasure of Genghis Khan, the legendary founder and leader of the Mongol empire. The introduction has a wonderful cinematic musical accompaniment, with reverb added to Sellers' voice as he tells of Genghis' last wish, to be buried " in some high forgotten mountain". Then, switching voices quickly, he continues:
Sellers (American): To this day, the tomb of Genghis Khan [pron. Jen-jis Karrn], with its untold treasures [pron. trez-yoors], remains undiscovered. He lies buried in some Mongol hillside where no human [pron. hooman] eye has ever set foot.
Neddie Seagoon is an archaelogist working late at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. He's just unwrapping some ancient Mongolian clay tablets that he believes could reveal the secret location of Genghis Khan's tomb when he is accosted by Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty. The dastardly duo are also after the tomb and its treasures.
There's a fun little gag that goes almost unnoticed by the audience when Grytpype asks: "Is this St Leonard's?" Seagoon responds that, no, it belongs to the London County Council (now defunct). Ba-dum, and indeed, tish.
The Old Palace at St Leonards was subject to a demolition order, but part of the building was saved - and now forms part of the V&A Museum. Talk about a niche reference.
Grytpype and Moriarty hold Seagoon at pistol point and force him to give up the Mongolian tablet that he has been studying, in the hope of finding Genghis Khan's tomb and its treasures.
Moriarty: I'll give you something to make you talk. Take that! Seagoon: A pound note! I'm English, money won't make me talk. I'll just point.
The pair make off, but not before striking Seagoon with the heavy side of a mummified Egyptian piano, prompting some protacted dramatic moans of pain from our hero.
The police are called, and Bloodnok and Eccles arrive to investigate.
Bloodnok: Describe these felons. Seagoon: You'll easily find them. They're carrying a Mongolian clay tablet in their pockets. Bloodnok: Splendid, with that description they won't get far. Eccles: Neither will we.
Grytpype and Moriarty have escaped to Singapore as they make their way to Mongolia.
Grytpype: As I was saying Moriarty, this clay tablet gives the exact location of the Emperors tomb. But as a precaution, I have had the entire inscription tattooed on the back of my false teeth. Just in case the tablet gets lost. By the way the man who did the tattooing was Doctor Fred Fu Manchu, Chinese tattooing artist. Moriarty: Thank you for telling the listeners the entire plot.
There's Fred Fu Manchu, pulling the Goons' strings like some comic - well, Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes, actually.
Grytpype exits to take a bath, but not before making an attempt at a running gag.
Grytpype: And if the phone rings, don't hesitate to answer it. Moriarty: Sapristi brains! You think of everything. Grytpype: Not everything, sometimes I don't think of aardvarks. Moriarty: You mustn't be so careless. After all aardvarks never killed anybody. Grytpype: I don't wish to know that. [Pause] Neither do the audience.
The failure of this joke becomes the running gag itself.
A parcel of laundry arrives for the two villains - but it contains Neddie Seagoon and Eccles!
Seagoon: Right! Now hands up again. Where's that rare tablet? Grytpype: Neddie, lower that finger. Seagoon: In the 40-foot mirror I rushed out and bought, I could see behind me Grytpype-Thynne standing up in the bath. Don't move Grytpype! Drop that towel. Grytpype: Right! There! Eccles: Ooohh. Greenslade: Ladies and gentlemen, now you know why this show can never go on television. We will continue with this delicate scene if the ladies in the studio audience will kindly put their hands over their ears.
There follows a wonderful scene between Eccles and Grytpype, where the latter persuades Eccles to stop covering him with a pistol ("Don't move, or I'll blow my brains out!") and instead concentrate on his lovely singing voice. Whereupon Grytpype then clouts him and Seagoon over the head and the villains make to leave.
Moriarty: Right. But the Mongolian clay tablet? Grytpype: Leave it behind, then they'll think we've forgotten it. Moriarty: But if we leave it behind, we will have forgotten it. Grytpype: Gad, Moriarty, you think of everything. Moriarty: Not everything. Sometimes I don't think of aardvarks. Grytpype: You mustn't be so careless. Moriarty: You're right, aardvarks never killed anybody. Grytpype: [Sellers starts laughing] It's going to kill us if we use it any more.
There follows a tale of double-crossing, as Moriarty makes off with Grytpype's false teeth and the map. Seagoon, Eccles and Grytpype hunt him down until there is a confrontation at the tomb - and suddenly Grytpype has his teeth back. The two villains brought Seagoon and Eccles to help them open the tomb.
Amid strains and cries of "aardvarks never killed anybody", the quartet force open the tomb, only to find what astute listeners probably thought was going to happen all along.
Moriarty: It's been ransacked. Who could have taken the treasures? Who could have known about this place? Grytpype: What's this card on the floor? Doctor Fred FuManchu, oriental tatooist. Moriarty: Foiled by Fred!
The Lost Emperor
Series 6, Episode 3
Broadcast: 4 October 1955
Written by: Spike Milligan Producer: Peter Eton Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/6lobF9SORUJAlm797F0m63?si=eb6baadfadc34e2d