Episode 081 – The Arena

In which He-Man channels his inner Captain Kirk.

Responding to a distress call from Cestus III, Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise find the colony under attack by an alien race known as the Gorn. When the Enterprise pursues the Gorn’s ship into uncharted space, an advanced race called the Metrons intervene, decreeing that Kirk and the Gorn captain must decide the conflict by battling it out between themselves on a deserted planetoid. Kirk defeats the Gorn, but refuses to kill him, demonstrating the quality of mercy. Oh wait, sorry, that’s the Star Trek episode with the same name and exactly the same plot. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they say, and I’m sure Paramount’s lawyers agreed.

Anyway, in the He-Man version, Man-at-Arms summons King Randor and Prince Adam to his lab, and explains that he has made contact with an alien being. Randor says, “Oh Christ, he’s been at the absinthe again,” but it turns out that on this occasion Man-at-Arms is telling the truth. On his viewscreen, he introduces Orm, a glowing ball of light, who is a member of a race that has evolved beyond the need for a physical body.

Arena 1
Man-at-Arms: “Jesus, Adam, I know King Randor looks a bit bozz-eyed, but you don’t have to get quite so pissed off about it.”

Orm states that it is exploring the galaxy for other intelligent life, and – perhaps misinterpreting the intellectual capacity of King Randor – expresses a desire to come to Eternia. Randor gladly grants this request, and Man-at-Arms prepares a landing site. Adam takes a moment to transform into He-Man, just in case Orm isn’t as peaceful as he claims.

Meanwhile, a goblin called General Tataran offers Skeletor the services of his army for the conquest of Eternia. Skeletor is taken with the notion and offers Tataran a large payment for the use of the army. When they arrive at the Palace, they do not even appear to notice Orm, who is – if I must I remind you – an enormous ball of light much larger than the Palace itself.

In a rather odd animation choice, Teela, He-Man and Man-at-Arms decide that the best response to Skeletor and Tataran’s attack is to climb, Gollum-like, straight up a wall, from the top of which they survey the assembled goblin troops and siege engines, as well as the dinosaurs that Tataran has randomly brought along. As Orm watches, a pitched battle begins between the Eternians and Tataran’s army.

Arena 2
He-Man: “Erm, slow down a bit there, Man-at-Arms.”

Suddenly Orm intervenes. Proclaiming that the battle will cause too much waste and needless suffering, it decides that the conflict will be resolved by a fight between one warrior from each side. Ominously, it also states that it will determine the fate of the loser. On the other hand, it selects He-Man and Skeletor as the champions, so the whole thing ought to be over pretty smartish.

A good portion of the remainder of the episode is devoted to Skeletor conjuring up a variety of stupid creatures to attack He-Man, including an evil tree, a snake, a giant spider, and a walking puddle of something that looks like melted candy floss. Needless to say, He-Man is not defeated by any of these efforts, and eventually the giant spider turns on Skeletor instead.

Arena 3
Skeletor: “There is no way I could have seen this coming.”

He-Man saves Skeletor from the spider and yammers on about the sanctity of life, an act of mercy that favourably impresses Orm. It sends Skeletor and his army back to Snake Mountain after erasing their memories of the evening’s events, then congratulates the Eternians on having love in their hearts, and flies off back into space.

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms embarks on a confused monologue explaining that today’s conflict was resolved by a single act of compassion, that fighting is often not the right way to solve problems, and that sometimes it’s more courageous not to fight. He doesn’t explain when this is more courageous, or when fighting is the right way to solve problems. However, he does give us a dictionary definition of compassion, so he hasn’t completely wasted his time.

 

Character checklist

It’s very goody-heavy, this one. We get Prince Adam, He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Teela, Orko, King Randor, Queen Marlena, Stratos, Ram-Man, Orm, and lots of nameless extras. On the evil side of things, it’s only really Skeletor, General Tataran and the billions of goblins.

Arena 4
Man-at-Arms: “The great thing about going to Muse gigs is they really put on a good light show.”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

As with Disappearing Dragons a few weeks ago, we don’t see the transformation this week, which is rather pleasing. Despite the fact that Orm’s presence is an important diplomatic occasion which I feel Randor would expect Adam to attend, his disappearance goes completely unexplained.

 

Insults

Orm refers to Orko as a “little creature”, which, judging by his reaction, Orko takes as an insult. Orko later has a play-fight with an imaginary Skeletor, calling him a “bone-headed being” in the process. Skeletor does address He-Man as a “muscle-bound moron”, but reserves his main vitriol for his giant spider, which, in rapid succession, he calls a “filthy beast”, a “dim-witted animal”, a “stupid creature”, a “fool” and a “hideous beast”, all of which I have noted down for future use on the Doctor Who IMDB board when things get a bit heated.

Arena 5
He-Man: “Frankly, Skeletor just defeats himself sometimes.”

 

Does it have the Power?

Yes, this one’s pretty good, despite being a Star Trek rip-off. The main highlight is probably the battle between the Eternians and Tataran’s army, which lasts a good five minutes or so and has a very Star Wars-y vibe to it, with various ships and robots attacking each other. The sequence with Skeletor conjuring up endless magical opponents for He-Man in the arena is also really quite entertaining. All in all, I’d say this one doesn’t really put a foot wrong. It’s not a staggering work of genius, but it’s certainly worth a watch.

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2 thoughts on “Episode 081 – The Arena

  1. One of the best episodes in the series ! The word “epic” sometimes get used too often but it’s probably the most fitting word to describe this episode it has a very epic feel to it! Anyway I could easily go into huge detail of my reasons why I think this is one of the very best but I’m just keep it brief an mention the main few.. by far the best action packed episode in the series I almost forgot I was watching a he man ep! Om is a fantastic Alison character him watching the conflict of good and evil is done perfectly it’s a near perfect episode tons of characters tons of action, the last two main points and people who are huge fans of this ep like myself will know what I’m going on about the he man skeletor one on one fight is by far the longest in the series and it’s the perfect balance of great action with a few comedy sketches and some marvellous exchanges of dialogue between he man and skeletor, he man saving skeletor at the end shows om his goodness and as the morale explains exactly this at the end the battle was won by he mans act of compassion saving skeletor from the giant spider! The final point to end my thought that is the most important to mention to all fans is for once it shows king Randors guards being extremely brave in there fight with the goblins instead of running away, if there was one he man episode that you’d want to show she ra and hordak on etheria how brave eternia guards are this is the one! Overall of its kind I can’t find any fault with this episode an it’s one of my favourite of the series in my top ten a classic 10/10

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  2. Skeletor and he mans one on one fight is the best it’s like pay per view ! The picture on James eatock review perfectly sun up this episode with he man and skeletor side by side just before there epic battle! It foes have a star trecky feel to it but that’s definetly a good thing! The only character who maybe surprisingly wasn’t in this ep was the sorceress. Great ep tho none the less imo one of the very best. I wonder if skeletor really would of paid up the goblins if they had won.. I doubt it!!!!

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