Silly and very droll debut by a London paleontologist who likes pirates and has obviously grown up on old Monty Python reruns.
The story of the high seas, daring, romance, ham, and men who like to dress up in women’s clothing begins in the 1850s near the Galapagos Islands, where a crew of jolly—very jolly—pirates loll about the beach all day, planning sumptuous Ham roasts and toying with astrolabes (or possibly sextants—they can never quite get them straight). Worried that discipline is getting slack, the Pirate Captain decides to take his men to sea and set upon the first vessel they find, which happens to be the Beagle, with Darwin aboard. After ransacking the ship for not much plunder, the pirates agree to spare Darwin’s life in exchange for a trip back to London with him and his trained chimpanzee, Bobo. Darwin expects to make a fortune off Bobo on the music-hall circuit, though he faces stiff opposition from the dastardly Bishop of Oxford, Soapy Sam Wilberforce, who has invested heavily in P.T. Barnum’s traveling freak show and dislikes competition. The bishop has gone so far as to kidnap Darwin’s brother Erasmus in hopes of persuading Darwin to cancel the show. Back in London, Darwin puts the pirates up at the Royal Society, passing them off as scientists. Bobo takes the West End by storm (his enactment of The Journal of the Plague Year is a great smash), and the pirates are soon the toast of the town. They manage to save Erasmus, vindicate Darwin, and thwart the bishop’s scheme for extracting the life force from nubile young women (hint: the machine won’t work on men in drag). They even manage to invent a dirigible and go a fair way toward getting Darwin laid. All that’s missing are some silly songs and Terry Gilliam animations.
Completely juvenile and thoroughly enchanting.