In which Skeletor tries to persuade a sentient comet to attack Castle Grayskull.
Welcome to the first of hopefully 130 look-backs at He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. This being the first episode, we’ll take a moment or two to examine the opening sequence, seen at the start of every episode. If you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume that you have some degree of familiarity with – possibly even affection for – He-Man, but for the benefit of those who have stumbled in here accidentally and have been captivated by my eloquent prose, I can here reveal that the opening sequence is an excellent introduction to the world of He-Man.
A slightly stern but kind-looking fellow in a white shirt and a fairly camp pink jacket appears out of the murk, and intones that he is Adam, Prince of Eternia and defender of the secrets of Castle Grayskull. He introduces us to his fearless friend, Cringer (who is a cowering green and yellow tiger), and then explains that one day, apparently just for the hell of it, he held aloft his magic sword and said, “By the Power of Grayskull!”
This turns out to be a complete game-changer. Prince Adam disappears in a flash of white light and is replaced by a version of himself with a much better tan, much bigger muscles, much neon-oranger hair and far fewer clothes. This, it transpires, is He-Man, the Most Powerful Man in the Universe®! Being honest, it’s not a great disguise, He-Man looking much the same as Prince Adam aside from the above-mentioned changes, but it seems to be good enough for the halfwits that inhabit Eternia, so that’s all we ask, I suppose. Incidentally, Cringer becomes Battle-Cat in this transformation, which essentially equates to putting some red armour on.
The opening sequence concludes with the information that some individuals called the Sorceress, Man-at-Arms and Orko are aware of He-Man’s secret identity, and that together they defend Castle Grayskull from the evil forces of Skeletor, who is He-Man’s arch-nemesis and possibly the finest villain in television’s history. Crucially, we are not told what the secrets of Castle Grayskull are, nor why the evil forces of Skeletor want them. This information is hinted at throughout the series, in a masterful display of the art of the slow reveal, until it all finally clicks together in what has to be one of the greatest series finales in the history of television. (Not really. We never find out, and the series finale is rubbish, even by He-Man’s standards.)
I have now used up nearly half my word count describing the opening sequence, leaving me much less room to discuss the plot. Don’t worry – the plot is hardly complex. We open with two of Skeletor’s cronies, Evil-Lyn and Beast-Man, trying to break into Castle Grayskull. Surprisingly, due to something called the Cosmic Comet, they actually manage to open the door, but perhaps less surprisingly, He-Man is directly inside. He dispatches both villains in short order, throwing them into a puddle of mud, where Beast-Man sits up and says something that is probably “Yuck!” but sounds very much like something less suitable for a Saturday morning cartoon.
He-Man and Man-at-Arms receive a telepathic communication from the Sorceress, who warns them that Skeletor intends to use the Cosmic Comet to destroy Grayskull, or Eternia, I can’t remember which. It tends to amount to one and the same. The Sorceress can’t be bothered to tell them any more though, instead directing them to Zagrez, the Wizard of Zagrez Mountain and the keeper of the Cosmic Comet.
We cut to Eternia’s Palace, where King Randor implies that Prince Adam is a waste of space. He gives Adam, Cringer and Man-at-Arms permission to go to Zagrez Mountain, and sends a dreadful flying magician called Orko, and the Captain of the Guard, Teela, with them. At the mountain, they meet Zagrez, who has a really annoying voice. Zagrez explains that he accidentally killed another comet which was the Cosmic Comet’s friend, and this turned the Cosmic Comet evil. This makes sense in He-Man, and frankly we’ll be asked to swallow greater implausibilities than this, so if you’re having trouble with this, you’d possibly better accept that this series is not for you.
Meanwhile, at Snake Mountain, we are introduced to Skeletor, who immediately uses his whinging nasal voice to explain for the more brain-dead viewers that he and his pals are evil. He, Beast-Man and Evil-Lyn cast a spell to capture the Cosmic Comet, after which they decide to deal with Zagrez before assaulting Eternia. This proves to be a mistake, since it simply prompts He-Man to get involved, in a long and boring sequence which demonstrates He-Man’s ability to defeat rock monsters.
At Castle Grayskull, Zagrez has come up with an idea. It has to be said, it doesn’t sound like a very good idea, but at least he’s trying. He suggests that the best thing to do is to make a new Cosmic Comet and fill its heart with good. This is achieved surprisingly easily. As the evil Cosmic Comet approaches Castle Grayskull and Skeletor prepares to have a jolly good cackle, He-Man tells Zagrez to forget his previous mistake and get on with it so the episode can finish and He-Man can go down to Wetherspoons.
Thanks to everyone having faith in Zagrez, he is able to send the new good Cosmic Comet into the sky, where it crashes into the evil Cosmic Comet and shows it the error of its ways. Both Cosmic Comets say thanks to our heroes, then fly off, rather pointedly putting Skeletor’s stupid airship into a tailspin as they do so. Hurrah! There’s a closing scene at the Palace, involving a stupid magic trick, but since we see enough of those over the series, I see no reason to dwell on this one.
In today’s adventure…
The moral segment tells us that Zagrez was afraid to try something because he’d failed once before, and thus didn’t have faith in his abilities. If you’ll believe it, it’s not a good thing to give up if you fail. Who’d have thought it? The ironic thing is that the moral segment is delivered by Man-at-Arms, who doesn’t have any abilities to lose faith in.
Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance
“Don’t worry, he’s safe.” Yes, because that’s not in the least evasive. Come on, He-Man, give us something more plausible like “He’s gone back to the Palace” or “He’s nipped to Tesco to get some Advocaat.”
In this section, I shall keep track of the insults dished out by characters, so you can use them in your everyday lives. This week, everyone is relatively polite to each other, except for He-Man calling Beast-Man “Furface”, which admittedly doesn’t sound too insulting, but for whatever reason it does cut Beast-Man to the quick.
Does it have the Power?
Well, in short, no. It’s a perfectly average episode of He-Man without any particularly distinguishing features. There’s little entertaining banter between He-Man and his nemeses, no ludicrous displays of ridiculous abilities on anyone’s part, and too much time-wasting fighting rock monsters (the latter of which is, admittedly, a fault with a good 50% of He-Man episodes). Zagrez is also really annoying. I wouldn’t bother with this one.