Well, here we are, at the end of the first season of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. 65 episodes is a very long season, but they evidently worked themselves pretty hard in that Filmation office. I thought it might be a good idea to stop at this point and have a quick look back at the best and worst episodes of the season.
There have been some really good fun episodes. Looking back at the titles, it’s hard to pick an absolute favourite, so I’m going to go with five (and even that’s difficult – there’s no space for The Shaping Staff or Golden Disks of Knowledge, among others):
5. House of Shokoti, Part 2 – Definitely the creepiest episode of the season, and probably the entire run – and also notable for having a baddy actually able to incapacitate He-Man for a while, at least.
4. The Dragon’s Gift – A great twist at the end in which He-Man demonstrates clearly the importance of life for all living things really elevated this episode to one that makes you think (especially if you’re a child).
3. The Dragon Invasion – A fantastic early episode featuring a diabolical plot from Skeletor, in which he actually succeeds in getting into Castle Grayskull, and showcases his scheming side to perfection.
2. Evilseed – This one was lots of fun, including a threat against which He-Man and Skeletor had to team up to defeat. Skeletor was absolutely hilarious in this episode.
1. The Region of Ice – One of the funniest outings, and I suspect not always intentionally. He-Man’s fights with Beast-Man and Trapjaw were ludicrous, and he was talking nonsense the entire time. It was like He-Man on speed.
Well, yes, there have also been an awful lot of these. Many episodes this season were happy to settle into an unobtrusive mediocrity, but several really pushed the envelope. These are my five choices for worst episodes of the series:
5. Wizard of Stone Mountain – Mostly boring, and occasionally a little bit sleazy and borderline misogynistic, what with Teela being treated as a prize to be fought over.
4. The Return of Orko’s Uncle – I’m actually surprised this is the only Orko-centric episode to make my bottom five, but it is definitely the worst of the lot. Montork and Orko were infuriating, and the villains were stupid beyond measure.
3. A Friend in Need – Hey kids! You want drugs? A Friend in Need is here to tell you that you definitely don’t, and it’ll make the point with all the subtlety of a hammer to the head.
2. The Remedy – This one barely had any story; it was just scene after scene of He-Man doing He-Man-like stuff, strung together seemingly at random, resulting in an excruciatingly dull episode.
1. The Starchild – A not-at-all subtle divorce allegory which quickly devolves into endless scenes of He-Man and co. running round the Palace bellowing “Starchild, where are you?” Seriously annoying and definitely bottom of the heap.
(Honorary mention: The Once and Future Duke – This was almost offensively rubbish, but the other episodes on the list just squeeze it down into 6th place.)
I don’t think I need to tell you that my favourite character is Skeletor – definitely my favourite character in this cartoon, and quite possibly my favourite in all of fiction. His sarcastic and vicious humour never fails to entertain me, and his increasingly insane plans are never short of hilarious. I’ll never understand why he didn’t feature every week.
Continuity between episodes was never particularly a strong point for He-Man, but a couple of ongoing stories did manage to sneak in. Primary among them was Adam’s situation. Regarded by his parents and especially by Teela as a lazy no-hoper, there’s occasional flashes of the frustration he feels by being – in secret – the defender of Eternia. Prince Adam No More and Quest for the Sword are probably the best episodes to turn to for exploration of this theme, though there’s shades of it in Pawns of the Game Master as well.
Another ongoing plotline, if you can call it that, is the regular visits to and from Trolla, with Dree Elle and Uncle Montork putting in relatively regular appearances. But I’m going to gloss over that, because it’s one of the most infuriating aspects of the programme.
Onward and upward…
So, with stock taken, I think we’re ready to proceed to Season 2 …