Episode 003 – Disappearing Act

In which Orko first demonstrates his ability to hash things up.

This week, we open with possibly one of Skeletor’s most dastardly plans – he forces a volcano to erupt, which he expects will devastate the Eternian Plains and make everyone flee. Once everyone flees, Skeletor will make his move on Castle Grayskull. Clever, eh? A flawless plan, in fact, except for one factor – He-Man, who is immediately on hand to stop the eruption by shooting the volcano. This upsets Skeletor so much that he decides it’s time to use the Invisibility Helmet he just happens to have lying around.

In the meantime, we are treated to an extended vignette in which Orko is trying to clean his room by magic. Naturally, this goes wrong and the end result is that he makes Prince Adam’s magic sword vanish. This is bad news – without his sword, how will Adam ever become He-Man again? The situation becomes even more dire when Man-at-Arms arrives and says Skeletor’s Doom Buster is in the woods, meaning Skeletor himself must be nearby.

Disappearing Act 1

And so it proves. Skeletor is nearby. He’s also invisible. Despite being invisible, he’s hiding behind a curtain, which is considerate of him, because it means Adam and Orko can see him when he moves. There is a very short one-sided confrontation, in which Skeletor freezes Adam and Orko, takes Adam to the Banshee Jungle, and informs Orko that if our heroes want Adam back, they’ll have to send He-Man to collect him. This seems like a bad idea, since as far as Skeletor knows, the likely outcome here is that He-Man will indeed show up, punch Skeletor, rescue Adam, and that’ll be the end of it. But advance planning has never really been Skeletor’s strength.

Man-at-Arms, Orko and Cringer consult the Sorceress, and learn that the sword has been transported back in time. Orko and Cringer are dispatched to the past to get the sword back, and it doesn’t take them long to discover that Adam’s sword is now in the possession of a distinctly dangerous looking large fellow, who seems to be using it to trim his fingernails. Despite attracting the attention of a huge collection of odd creatures, Orko and Cringer surprisingly competently retrieve the sword and return to the present.

Disappearing Act 4

Adam, in a cage in the Banshee Jungle, uses a plot device called a “bleeper” (possibly the least imaginative name for a machine in any animation ever) to attract the attention of his mate Stratos and also – less welcome – a horde of wolfbats. Once the wolfbats are dealt with, Adam tells Stratos to go away and find Man-at-Arms, who has been set to work building a remote-control He-Man. As soon as Stratos finds Man-at-Arms, he is told to go away and find Teela. I get the impression that no one really wants Stratos around.

Disappearing Act 2

Man-at-Arms, Orko and Cringer take the sword to Adam’s cage. Instead of passing it through the bars to him, they helpfully place it just out of reach outside the cage. Once Adam points out he can’t reach it, Orko passes it through the bars like he should have done all along, and Adam congratulates him on righting his initial mistake. Yeah, well done, Orko. Anyway, once he’s in possession of the sword, Adam becomes He-Man and heads off to dole out some justice.

Disappearing Act 5

In the meantime, the remote control He-Man has been leading Skeletor on a merry dance through the jungle, but this comes to a sorry end when the fake He-Man’s face falls off. Even Skeletor is not fooled following this. The whole sorry saga comes to a satisfying end when He-Man literally huffs and puffs and blows Skeletor and Beast-Man down. Beast-Man is captured and Man-at-Arms claims he’ll be taken to a prison mine, which sounds excitingly like slave labour and calls to mind the possibility of war crimes. Skeletor, on the other hand, does a perfect forward roll, but this doesn’t deter He-Man, who somehow contrives to get those beastly wolfbats from earlier to chase Skeletor away. Beast-Man seems to find this rather funny, or as funny as someone who’s about to be taken away to a life of hard labour can find anything.

Disappearing Act 3

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms explains that He-Man used his brain to beat Skeletor, which is better than using his muscles. It’s a fair point, but one which applies to any number of stories. A more appropriate moral would be that Orko tried to take a shortcut to tidying his room, and look how that worked out. We could have learned that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. But thanks to Man-at-Arms choosing an irrelevant moral, I never learned that important lesson. And now just look at me. I might sue Man-at-Arms.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

It would be bizarre if anyone offered one this week, given the whole point of the episode was that he didn’t disappear.

 

Characters featured

A new section here, requested by the good folks of He-Man.org. This episode features, in no particular order, Prince Adam, He-Man, Skeletor, Beast-Man, Man-at-Arms, Orko, Stratos, the Sorceress, Teela, some farmers, and a selection of monsters from Eternia’s dim and distant past.

 

Insults

Yet another rough ride for Beast-Man, who is called “Furface” and “Fool”, both by Skeletor. What’s more, in neither case did it seem particularly deserved.

Disappearing Act 6

 

Does it have the Power?

Yes, definitely. It’s a clever storyline, presenting a rather interesting dilemma – what if it’s literally impossible to do what needs to be done? Admittedly, the solution offered seems to be to go back in time and get your sword back from a giant, but there’s a limit to how these episodes relate to real life. Anyway, we are given three separate storylines running at the same time, giving each of our heroes something to do, and Skeletor and Beast-Man are entertainingly threatening. And when He-Man eventually does appear, it’s with a sense that in this case, it’s well-earned. Plus there’s that great bit at the start where we learn you can stop volcanoes erupting by shooting them with big-ass lasers. What’s not to like?

5 thoughts on “Episode 003 – Disappearing Act

  1. Well… WEEKS later, and I finally get onto my third review (there’s me hoping to cover the whole series… this could take some time, and I’m not even up to the ‘actual first’ episode, “Diamond Ray of Disappearance”, yet.

    Anyway, “Disappearing Act” is a decent enough episode. Correction, it’s a very good episode. For whatever reason, despite how good it actually is, it’s never touched any of my Top 10/Top 20 etc. lists I’ve loved to compile over the years, and it doesn’t have those little touches to make it a stand-out favourite, but it certainly is the early Filmation He-Man that I love, not the far more slapstick and “What were they smoking?” episodes that would litter later season two.

    Maybe one of the reason this episode has never quite touched a ‘personal favourite’ with me, is that there’s a few conveniences mangled into the plot (which admittedly, isn’t too uncommon with this series!). For some reason, when Adam and Teela rush into Orko’s room to hear what all the commotion is when he’s magic-wand-room-cleaning fiasco unsurprisingly goes awry, Adam has his Power Sword in his hand, conveniently ready for Orko’s out-of-control wand to magic it away. Having his Sword pulled out, especially in front of Teela, and especially when he’s not about leg it away to transform into He-Man, is very uncommon and struck me as a very convenient plot point.
    Likewise, the way Man-at-Arms’ new beeper device (yeah, great name) is introduced prior, and Adam just happens to have it when he’s chained up in the cave later… again, a typical Filmation convenience.
    Then again, maybe the sole reason that this decent episode does have a ‘personal favourite’ status with me is simply down to the fact the whole situation is bought about by Orko shenanigans. And we all know there’s only so much Orko shenanigans that can be allowed before the episode takes a kick in the knackers as a result.

    Interesting to note is that this episode was effectively remade for the 2002 series as “The Courage of Adam”, the first episode after the three-part / feature-length opening (and will be familiar to the more casual fan as it was this episode that was supplied, on both VHS and DVD, packed in with various 200x toys and suchlike). There were various changes made for that episode and, invariably, the episode’s climax involved 200x Skeletor conjuring up a typically OTT bone monster, but the overall plot is pretty much identical. It’s unusual in that the 200x very much generate it’s own episode plots, “Courage of Adam” is the only real direct remake of a Filmation story. I do like the 200x series but don’t have the love for it as I do with both Filmation and vintage He-Man, so I’d definitely rank “Disappearing Act” as the superior of the two, personally.

    Man-at-Arms’ construction of a robot He-Man is intriguing, although ultimately the episode feel a little too rushed for this to fully play out to it’s maximum possible effect. Which brings up a niggle I have – when robo-He-Man is completed, Man-At-Arms sets the Attak Trak on auto pilot with robo-He-Man inside to act as a decoy for Skeletor and Beast Man. Which begs the question, considering Attak Trak is on autopilot… Why robo-He-Man had to be constructed in the first place? If it was Attak Trak doing the driving, Duncan could have save a load of time and just put a simple He-Man dummy in there, sod the remote controlled robot bit. …Oh wait, I forgot, Filmation logic, not to be questioned. Sorry.
    Interestingly, in the 200x version, “The Courage of Adam”, the robot at one point changes colour a few times, including, briefly, the colours of Faker. The story arc intention apparently was that Man-At-Arms would throw this robotic He-Man onto the junk heap after it had served it’s purpose (I bet Roboto is quaking in his boots!!) afterwhich Skeletor / Tri-Klops would have stolen it and developed it into Faker. The series was cancelled too early into it’s second season for this planned storyline to emerge.
    I have to say I like the vague vintage way of Faker purely being a creation by Skeletor better. Either way, it sure as hell is a sinister moment when robotic He-Man’s face mask falls off, revealing that creepy robotic face underneath!!

    Oh, Stratos also appears in this episode, but doesn’t have much to do. After the beeper has attracted, he’s sent off “to find Teela” – and neither he nor Teela appear for the remainder of the episode. Perhaps the writers not having much interest or inspiration with Stratos (odd, cos potentially he could’ve been a fairly cool character) would explain his gradual fading into the background of the series, whereas Ram Man, who they clearly had far more fun writing for, would remain pretty consistent throughout the course of the series.

    The overall story of the episode is decent, though it maybe does feel that the 22 minute run-time does limit things slightly and things are too rushed to play out the max (Orko and Cringer’s venture into the dark past to retrieve this missing sword also feels too easy and rushed). Personally, fun as the “hey, let’s destroy a volcano” opening by Skeletor is, I feel this whole sequence wasn’t really needed for the story and could have been dropped to allow a couple of minutes extra run-time elsewhere in the episode. So, decent plot, but maybe a bit too rushed and patchy (in Act II particularly, there’s a hell of a lot of very brief scenes and zipping back and forth). Maybe THAT’S why this episode doesn’t quite make my upper ‘personal favourites’ list!

    So overall, decent episode, yadda yadda yadda, you get my gist by now. 🙂 I’ve give ‘Disappearing Act’ a reasonable 8/10. Next up, finally, the first “proper” episode of the Filmation series, “Diamond Ray of Disappearance”…

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    1. …One minor point I forget to mention, was the moment where the real He-Man finally shows up, and blows Skeletor and Beast Man flying backwards with his ‘super breath’. The episode ordering of the series is all over the places in terms of production numbers/broadcast ordering, but in terms of production number, this is the first time we see He-Man using one of his “previously unmentioned superpowers” that Filmation would randomly toss in occasionally.
      It’s only a minor moment here and doesn’t really affect the story as a result, but as the series would progress Filmation would occasionally mix in more and more of these bizarre powers… running at the speed of light, turning himself into a human tornado, etc. It was bad enough that most of these strange powers had never been mentioned previously (and typically, never were again), but they were usually so ridiculous and bizarre that they could sometimes seriously damage a story as a result.

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    2. I didn’t know about that potential Faker story arc from the MYP series. Could have worked, but I feel it would have been odd dragging up the robot He-Man from a very early episode, especially since The Courage of Adam really wasn’t very good – better not to remind viewers of that! It would probably have been easier for the writers to just have Skeletor create his own version of Faker.

      On re-reading my review of Disappearing Act, I think I’ve been perhaps more generous than I would have been later in the series. It’s a pretty disjointed episode really – albeit with a strong idea at its heart – which doesn’t do any of its plotlines much justice: both the robot He-Man and Orko and Cringer’s trip back in time stories are a bit rushed. And to be honest, the robot He-Man’s swift failure doesn’t really cement Man-at-Arms as the competent weaponsmith he’s supposed to be.

      Agreed on Stratos – why is he in this episode at all? He similarly shows up without evident purpose in two weeks, in She-Demon of Phantos. He’s a quite regular presence in the early days of the series, but I agree he never gets interesting. On the other hand, he doesn’t get annoying, like Ram-Man does.

      Nice review anyway, look forward to more!

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      1. This is one of those episodes of he man that I really enjoyed very much watching as a kid but seeing it back through “adult eyes” it does expose a fair few problems, I wouldn’t call this one of the worst he man episodes there are some really entertaining moments too but I feel the same the words disjointed is very fitting a description for disappearing act, it had the potential to be so much better but I stress again inspite of its faults this isn’t a bad episode either-cringer was preety brave to retrieve the power sword from the monster I thought! has anyone noticed cringers voice is so much deeper in season one come the 2nd season alan hoppenheimer seemed to give cringer a much more higher pitched screetchy voice which I personally didn’t like…

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  2. Hmmm. I just thought that this episode might explain, why Skeletor never considered Adam to be He-Man. Since he does not knew about the Sword’s disappeareance, the whole situation with the robot replica have only one explanation to Skeletor: that robot was used to distract him while He-Man saved Adam.

    Because if Skeletor assumed that He-Man IS Adam, the whole robot distraction didn’t make any sense for him. I point out again: Skeletor knew nothing about the disappearance of the Sword, and thus could not imagine why He-Man might need a delay. From his point of view, if Adam was He-Man, he would just transform as soon as he was out of sight, and would not need the robot to distract Skeletor.

    So, actually, it was an important logical point: Skeletor became convinced, that Adam could NOT be He-Man.

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