Episode 113 – Happy Birthday Roboto

In which Roboto and Modulok make their grand entrances.

Following a strange radio signal, He-Man and Man-at-Arms come across a crashed spaceship in the desert. The pilot is still slumped over the controls, and Man-at-Arms deduces that the signal is coming directly from him. On closer investigation, they discover that the pilot is a robot. He’s a pretty cool robot too, with a long horizontal slit instead of an eye, and a see-through chest inside which cogs turn. However, he is damaged, so Man-at-Arms decides to take him back to the lab to fix him.

Roboto 1
He-Man: “This is one of your less impressive sex dolls, Man-at-Arms.”

Once the pilot is repaired, he identifies himself as Roboto, a robot from the planet Robotica. Nice and subtle, as always. Roboto expresses a desire to explore Eternia, a request which King Randor happily grants. Man-at-Arms and Adam show Roboto back into the lab, promising to start the tour of Eternia the following morning.

Unfortunately, a three-legged individual named Modulok has got wind of Roboto’s arrival, and decides to make use of him. He breaks into the lab, kidnaps Roboto, and takes him back to his lair for a speedy reprogramming job. His aim is to erase Roboto’s personality, and to use his power for nefarious purposes.

Roboto 2
Modulok: “Luckily I have other hands available.”

Once the reprogramming is complete, Modulok takes Roboto on an outing to Station Zeta, Eternia’s top research facility. Roboto breaks in, and ties up the scientists while Modulok helps himself to the various inventions. Unfortunately for him, Man-at-Arms and He-Man use their scanners to track Roboto’s radio signal, and arrive at Station Zeta as well.

Modulok starts using the machines at Station Zeta to attack He-Man, and He-Man responds by breaking all the machines. Let’s not forget these are the cutting edge of science, the latest developments from Eternia’s top minds. I’m sure they’ll be very pleased with He-Man. At least Modulok wanted to steal and use the machines, even if it was for evil. He-Man’s just a vandal.

He-Man easily incapacitates Modulok, but Roboto manages to put He-Man out of action, and imprisons him in an exciting glowing cylinder, while Man-at-Arms is tied to a chair. Roboto then frees Modulok, who begins work on a somewhat surprising project to build himself an extra head, into which he will transfer all of Man-at-Arms’ intelligence. He-Man is deeply concerned about this prospect, even though the animation at this point inexplicably makes it look like Man-at-Arms is laughing his head off.

Roboto 3
Modulok: “I’m not sure you understand the gravity of the situation, Man-at-Arms. Stop laughing.”

Speaking in the slow and careful tone he usually reserves for the village idiot, He-Man tries to persuade Roboto that Modulok’s reprogramming is a bad thing. Against all the principles of computing, he is successful, and Roboto attacks Modulok and releases He-Man. He then suffers a short-circuit, and has to be taken back to Man-at-Arms’ lab again, where he is repaired. Then the entire royal family stand around claiming that it’s Roboto’s birthday and that he looks like Man-at-Arms. Just for clarity, he looks absolutely bugger-all like Man-at-Arms, unless you’re completely off your face on hallucinogens.

 

In today’s adventure…

Teela puts in an appearance to tell us that whenever we see someone who needs helping, we shouldn’t think about it, we should just do it. She sounds extremely angry as she says this, perhaps because she’s been left out of the episode until this fairly irrelevant moment.

Roboto 4
Teela: “I had far more to offer than this stupid moral.”

 

Character checklist

The new guys on the scene are of course Roboto and Modulok, but we’re also treated to appearances from our old friends Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Orko, King Randor, Queen Marlena and Teela, though that latter only in the moral, as noted above. There’s also a short cameo for three scientists.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

The first of today’s transformations comes with no excuse and very little in the way of provocation. The second has substantially more provocation, but still no excuse.

 

Insults

Both He-Man and Man-at-Arms refer to Modulok as a “fiend”, which is actually pretty accurate. He’s a rather scary-looking monster who seems to draw inspiration from medieval paintings of hell. Modulok’s insults are equally fitting: he calls He-Man a “muscle-brain” and Roboto a “stupid robot”, the latter of which I can definitely sympathise with.

Roboto 5
Modulok: “I do look like a fiend, so maybe if I put a different head on, I’ll look better.”

The other insults in this episode all occur in a lengthy and completely unnecessary scene in which Orko is trying to get into Man-at-Arms’ lab, and a robot lab guard is trying to stop him. The lab guard calls Orko a “pest”, and in retaliation, Orko calls it a “rust-bucket”, a “junk pile” and – unless I misheard – a “metal pus”. I suspect I did mishear.

 

Does it have the Power?

It’s another of the relatively regular action figure advert episodes, this time showcasing – in case you hadn’t guessed – Roboto and Modulok. The usual problem with such episodes is that the baddy always gets defeated with ease, and the goody is upstaged by He-Man, thus begging the question of why the viewer would want to buy either, since they’re both useless.

Happy Birthday Roboto mostly manages to avoid these pitfalls, by making Roboto actually capable of defeating He-Man (when he’s been reprogrammed), which automatically makes him relatively interesting. Modulok too comes across pretty well. As noted above, he looks really quite scary (though I must say, his voice acting doesn’t do him any favours), and he seems fairly competent – for a villain, at least.

Even so, it’s not the most enthralling of episodes, and I’d hesitate to really recommend it. But it’s not bad at all.

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Episode 112 – The Eternia Flower

In which we return to the rich and exciting storyline potential offered by the need to stop 5-year-olds taking cocaine.

Teela, Orko and Prince Adam are eagerly awaiting the arrival of some children named Jonno and Chad. Cringer is quite sensibly not looking forward to the appearance of these no-doubt dreadful individuals, but Teela tells him that he’s got to at least try to be nice. I hope this is the episode where Cringer reverts to his animal instincts and tears the children limb from limb.

Flower 1
Cringer: “I may look benign, but I’m well savage.”

It transpires that Jonno is at the Palace to receive the disturbingly titled Boy of the Year Award, but after dropping Chad off, he mysteriously flies off again. Knowing that the audience would be unable to contain their excitement as to Jonno’s destination, the writers wisely reveal that he has gone off to meet Count Marzo, last seen in The Once and Future Duke.

Marzo has evidently remembered how to be evil again, after forgetting at the end of his previous appearance. He offers Jonno the opportunity to sniff a black flower, so long as Jonno promises to arrange for Marzo to meet all the other children at the awards ceremony. Jonno strikes the bargain, and wanders off, happily inhaling the flower. Marzo helpfully explains to the camera that his plan is to make the children of Eternia so dependent on his flowers that they will do anything he tells them. This will somehow lead to Marzo ruling Eternia. Great plan. I bet He-Man won’t see through it.

Flower 2
Count Marzo: “This plan is so dull, even my sidekick looks bored out of his mind.”

Jonno shows up at the awards ceremony, stoned off his tits. He stands on top of a high wall and nearly falls off. He-Man arrives just in time, but instead of saving Jonno himself, he opts to pick Teela up and throw her onto the wall as well. Then it’s down to Teela to save Jonno, while He-Man stands at the bottom of the wall with a really odd smirk on his face.

Back at the Palace, Prince Adam finds the black flower in Jonno’s shuttle. Orko is able to identify it as a Black Nightmare, a plant from Trolla that can affect one’s mind. In some ways, it’s a bit like a drug, guys, and DRUGS ARE BAD. Orko reveals, however, that all the Black Nightmares were eradicated from Trolla years ago, and goes off to call his Uncle Montork about it. It had me worried for a moment there, but luckily, Montork doesn’t actually appear. Offscreen he informs Orko that Count Marzo must be responsible.

Flower 3
Orko: “Yeah, yeah, it’s a Black Nightmare. This one time, me and Dree Elle did a fuckload of these in Amsterdam, and, well, anyway, let’s just say Interpol have advised me never to return to the Netherlands.”

Count Marzo next decides to kidnap Jonno and Chad, and takes them to a spot out in the desert to which he claims every child on Eternia will be coming that night. He wants Jonno to introduce all the children to the flower, and recruit them into Marzo’s army. Jonno has no problem with this, until Marzo gives Chad a flower. Chad promptly goes into the worst display of acting stoned I’ve ever heard, though I admit voice-acting a stoned child is a fairly challenging brief. Anyway, on seeing this, Jonno utters the phrase uttered by every child that guest-stars on He-Man: “Oh no! And it’s all my fault!”

I’ll admit, he reacts pretty well. He seizes a radio transmitter from Marzo, and broadcasts to all the children, telling them to turn back. Marzo isn’t pleased about this, so summons a pair of wolfbats and then does a runner when he sees Adam, Teela, Orko and Cringer arriving. Naturally, he escapes, but at least Jonno and Chad are saved.

I thought this episode would be over at this stage, but for some reason Adam is absolutely determined to pursue Count Marzo to the ends of the universe. Normally, he’s happy to let the baddies get away, but not this time. So we are treated to a brief but insane diversion to the planet Erronia, where Marzo is hiding. Marzo ends up being taken to a prison planet. Naturally, I was overjoyed at this outcome.

Flower 4
Count Marzo: “It’s so humiliating to have been arrested by Teela, of all people.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Teela wants to know if we know anyone who uses drugs. She wants to know their name, their address, their national insurance number, and whether they’ve got previous. She wants to know if we think this hypothetical drug user should be locked up for ever, and if we don’t think that, Teela wants to know why not. Teela wants to know if we use drugs, and wants to let us know that if we do, the firing squad is too good for us. Teela has our best interests at heart.

 

Character checklist

This sorry excuse for a Public Information Film features Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Teela, Orko, the Sorceress, King Randor, Queen Marlena, Chad, Jonno, Count Marzo, Count Marzo’s sidekick, and all the loopy attendees of the Boy of the Year Award ceremony.

Flower 5
Chad: “Don’t look so upset, Teela, you might win Boy of the Year next year.”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

We are treated to three transformations this week – just like we were the last time He-Man decided to Say No To Drugs. On both occasions, this is plainly because there’s not enough story to fill the time otherwise.

The first time, seeing Jonno is standing on a high wall and out of his mind, Prince Adam gives the best excuse he’s ever managed: “I’ll fetch something to reach him.” He gets out of sight and transforms, returning as He-Man. Brilliant excuse, with the minor drawback that when Adam doesn’t come back with a ladder or whatever, everyone will think he’s completely useless.

The second time, Adam tells Teela and Orko to chase Count Marzo, and once they’re out of sight, he transforms into He-Man. He’s overlooking the fact that Jonno and Chad are less than five metres away from him, so they are guaranteed to see this transformation. Admittedly, Chad is still stoned out of his skull, and Jonno is very concerned about him, so perhaps they didn’t notice?

Flower 6
Jonno: “I’m really sorry, He-Man. Look how repentant I am.”

The third time, there’s no attempt at an excuse offered, and on top of this, it’s completely inconceivable that Teela wouldn’t work out the dual identity situation. It’s so bloody stupid that I’m not even going to discuss it.

 

Insults

I think this episode must hold the record for the number of uses of the word “fool”, which really is saying something in a series this obsessed with fools. Marzo calls Jonno a “young airhead” early on, but thereafter it’s all about the fools. Marzo addresses his giant pink sidekick as a “fool”, then calls Jonno a “young fool” and a “fool boy”. Then Jonno calls himself a “fool” an astonishing four times, three of which are in the course of the same sentence.

 

Does it have the Power?

Well, in its favour, this episode is big on continuity with previous episodes. Chad is the same character as the one from Double Edged Sword, Marzo has previously appeared in The Once and Future Duke, and we get a reference to Uncle Montork from various tripefests such as Orko’s Favourite Uncle. So if continuity is your thing, you’re in for a treat.

Flower 7
Teela: “Look, Jonno, if you keep on taking drugs you’ll soon enough have to deal with Gustavo Fring. And believe you me, you don’t want that.”

Equally, if ridiculously unsubtle drugs stories are your thing, then this is the episode for you. It’s not quite as bad as A Friend in Need, though it does come dangerously close, and it’s still fair to describe this episode as an utterly appalling waste of time. I remain convinced that the target audience for this programme (4 or 5 year olds in 1980s America) were not threatened by the use of illegal drugs, and even if they were, they wouldn’t refuse to take them simply because a cartoon muscle-bound oaf told them not to. The episode is boring and irritating in equal measure, and its message is unnecessary. So don’t bother.

Episode 111 – Double Trouble

In which we’re expected to care when some one-time guest star begins acting evil.

At the Palace, He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Teela and Orko greet Koldar, an ally of He-Man’s, who has come for a visit. I’m sure we’ve seen Koldar before, because I recognise his Viking helmet and gold armour, but I’m pretty certain he wasn’t called Koldar last time, whenever it was. Anyway, Koldar seems a pleasant enough chap, and comes equipped with a robotic horse called Shadowmaster, who can disappear into any shadow. This is a great ability, but not at all relevant to the episode.

Double 1
Orko: “Even this stupid horse hates me.”

Meanwhile, a powerful lightning strike at Snake Mountain opens up a secret passage, and Skeletor, Evil-Lyn and Beast-Man investigate. They find the Mirror of Morivad, a legendary device which can create an evil double of anyone. Skeletor immediately decides to use it to defeat He-Man, and with this in mind, sends Beast-Man off to create a diversion.

Beast-Man’s diversion – as usual – consists of him sending some stupid monsters to attack a settlement. While He-Man and his mates deal with the situation, Koldar is lured into a cave by Evil-Lyn, kidnapped, and taken to Snake Mountain, where Skeletor uses the Mirror on him. Skeletor then instructs the newly created evil Koldar double to steal the secrets of Castle Grayskull.

Double 2
Koldar: “Now I see myself, I must admit I look pretty stupid.”

On returning to the Palace, Evil-Koldar signs up for the next tourist trip round Grayskull. Once inside, he blows his cover pretty quickly by setting off a smoke bomb and doing a runner. As we cut to the commercial break, the camera zooms in on He-Man’s face, and I have to say, I’ve never seen him look this immensely pissed off before.

The Sorceress shows up at this point, and after He-Man explains that Koldar used to be an ally, she says she cannot help, because Castle Grayskull is supposed to be a safe haven for the friends of He-Man. While it’s no surprise that she can’t help (when has she ever?), her reasoning is deeply unsound, and though He-Man says, “I understand,” it’s quite plain that he’s livid at her weaselling out of helping yet again. He then indulges in a spot of hyperbole, claiming that he’ll search Grayskull for ever if he has to. Knowing He-Man, he’ll get bored after 30 seconds, and find a monster to have a fight with instead.

Double 3
He-Man: “See this, Sorceress? This is my ‘despairing-eyes-to-the-heavens’ face.”

Evil-Koldar soon locates a large face on a wall between two doors, which introduces itself as the Guardian of Grayskull. The Guardian explains that behind one door are the secrets, and behind the other is “what you deserve”. To get the secrets, Evil-Koldar must correctly answer the question, “Why do you want the secrets?”

Evil-Koldar’s response is typically megalomaniac – he says that he wants the secrets for the power they will bestow upon him, which will allow him to rule the entire universe. Needless to say, that is the wrong answer, and the Guardian instructs Evil-Koldar to open the left door. When he does so, he is disintegrated into tiny shards of glass. Watching smugly, He-Man somehow concludes that Evil-Koldar must have been a mirror duplicate, and heads back to the Palace.

On arrival, he is surprised to find Teela and Man-at-Arms hanging around in a corridor, shooting the breeze with Skeletor. It turns out, however, that this is a well-behaved version of Skeletor, created by the Mirror, thanks to the real Koldar tricking the real Skeletor. Good-Skeletor leads He-Man to Snake Mountain and they rescue Koldar. This done, Good-Skeletor returns into the Mirror, and smashes it for good measure.

Double 4
He-Man: “‘Ello ‘ello ‘ello, what’s all this then?”

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms explains that very few people are entirely good or entirely bad, which is a perfectly sensible bit of advice and fairly relevant to the episode’s events. He’s then interrupted by Orko, who tells us because no one is entirely good or bad, we shouldn’t judge people by the way they look. This is at least slightly relevant to the episode’s events, but completely irrelevant to what Man-at-Arms was just saying. It feels rather as though the episode was written by two people who couldn’t agree on what the moral should be, so they chucked them both in.

 

Character checklist

Being put through their paces today are Prince Adam, He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Teela, Orko, the Sorceress, Good-Koldar, Evil-Koldar, Good-Skeletor, Normal-Skeletor, Beast-Man, Evil-Lyn and Shadowmaster. The episode also features a rare appearance from Queen Marlena without being accompanied by her ever-present husband.

Double 5
Queen Marlena: “I don’t understand the joke, but I’m going to laugh along politely.”

 

Excuse for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Teela tells Adam early on to come along to meet Koldar, but Adam essentially tells her to get lost. When she does so, he transforms, and Adam is not mentioned again.

 

Insults

Fairly slim pickings this week: Koldar addresses Skeletor to say “you’re mad,” which instantly draws Skeletor’s usual comeback: “fool”. Later on, both Good-Skeletor and the real Skeletor call Beast-Man a “fool” simultaneously.

 

Does it have the Power?

This episode is a great deal of fun. While it might have had a bit more impact if it had been Teela or Man-at-Arms acting evil, rather than a rubbish new character like Koldar, it’s an enjoyable romp nonetheless. The highlight of the episode is an extremely funny scene towards the end, in which Beast-Man is given contradictory orders by both Skeletors. The one criticism I might have is that Good-Skeletor is accepted by He-Man, Man-at-Arms and Teela all too easily. One could argue that there wasn’t enough time in the episode to go into that, but I’d respond that if the episode was too long, you could cut that pointless scene with the Sorceress.

Double 6
Beast-Man: “I’ve literally never been this confused.”

One final point: this episode contains some outstanding dialogue from He-Man, when he booms at Evil-Koldar: “You’re trespassing in the Hall of He-Man.” I have to get a soundclip of that to be my ringtone. Just imagine the admiring looks of people on the train when that goes off.

Episode 110 – The Problem with Power

In which King Randor reveals that he thinks Skeletor is subtle.

This magnum opus begins at Snake Mountain, where General Tataran (last seen in the Star Trek rip-off The Arena) has popped by in response to Skeletor’s invitation. Skeletor has a cunning plan to defeat He-Man, which requires the presence of Tataran because as a goblin, he literally doesn’t have a heart – and thus, he doesn’t have a heartbeat. This seems very important to Skeletor, who declares that with this advantage, he can arrange for He-Man to defeat himself.

Problem 1
Skeletor: “Whassat, pal? Startin’ trouble?”

Shortly thereafter, word reaches the Palace that Skeletor has enslaved a village by the Crystal Sea and is forcing the inhabitants to build a giant construction. King Randor is worried, claiming that “it’s not like Skeletor to be so obvious in his actions.” Who the hell are you kidding, Randor? Skeletor is the very definition of obvious. His picture is next to the word ‘obvious’ in the OED. Despite his new-found and demented belief in Skeletor’s grasp of subtleties, Randor sends Adam, Man-at-Arms and Orko to investigate.

Arriving to find that Skeletor’s new structure is an enormous dimensional gate, Adam notices that one of the support beams looks weak, and opts to transform into He-Man – presumably in order to offer his services to Skeletor as a skilled construction worker. While He-Man is transforming, Skeletor occupies himself in disguising General Tataran as a human worker, equipping him with a forcefield to protect him from harm, and instructing him to stand near the weak support beam.

Problem 2
Skeletor: “Oh, is that the time? Got to dash, I’m late for my lunch date with Evil-Lyn.”

He-Man approaches Skeletor and trades the usual pleasantries, until Skeletor shoots at Orko, thus provoking He-Man into attacking. Skeletor dodges round the weak support, dishing out taunts mercilessly until He-Man punches the support beam in frustration. The disguised Tataran activates his protective forcefield and allows himself to be crushed by a huge falling rock.

He-Man unearths Tataran and checks for a heartbeat, but of course cannot find one, and concludes that he is dead. Skeletor – now disguised as another villager – claims that Tataran was his brother, and denounces He-Man as an irresponsible killer. The rest of the villagers join in, and turn their backs on He-Man, who walks sadly away.

Problem 3
He-Man: “This situation is actually a bit more serious than a facepalm, but there we go.”

Orko tries to persuade He-Man that it was an accident and that such things happen. He-Man, however, is utterly devastated: he believes that because he acted unthinkingly, a man has died. This is a violation of a promise he made when he first became He-Man: to do the right thing and to protect the innocent. He sends Orko away, and mooches off to Castle Grayskull, where he stands on the topmost tower and concludes that, having broken his promise, he is unworthy of wielding his power. He draws the power sword, turns back into Prince Adam, and drops the sword into the abyss surrounding the castle.

Problem 4
He-Man: “Every other piece of work about this episode includes this picture, so who am I to argue with tradition?”

Some time goes by – exactly how much is unclear – and word reaches the Palace that Skeletor has rebuilt the dimensional gate, big enough to bring an army of goblins through. Randor suggests calling on He-Man for help, but Man-at-Arms explains that He-Man is not available. An all-out assault by the Palace Guard is ruled out, in favour of Teela going on a stealth suicide mission with a mesotronic bomb to destroy the gate. As he watches his friend go, Adam realises the full ramifications of his rejection of He-Man’s power.

Meanwhile, Orko has discovered the truth about Skeletor’s deception, but on his way to inform He-Man, he is captured and taken to Snake Mountain. Finally escaping, he returns to the Palace and tells Adam. Adam flies straight to Grayskull, retrieves the sword from the abyss, makes his transformation and finds time for a barney with a giant spider. He then heads to the dimensional gate, arriving just in time to save Teela from the mesotronic bomb blast, and then carry her off into the sunset.

Problem 5
He-Man: “I have definitely earned this dramatic end of the episode.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms thinks that the most relevant take-home from today’s adventure is that we should always wear a seatbelt when we’re in a car, and we should never play with matches because we might destroy our toys, our home, our family and ourselves. Really and truly? After this downright excellent episode teaching us the importance of using power responsibly, the writers felt that wittering on about seatbelts and matches was the point to hammer in? I despair sometimes.

 

Character checklist

The stars of today’s outing are Prince Adam, He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Teela, Orko, the Sorceress, King Randor, Queen Marlena, Skeletor, General Tataran, Trapjaw, some other goblins, a load of villagers, and a giant spider.

Problem 6
Trapjaw: “Hey, Skeletor, check this guy’s funky dance moves.”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

On the first occasion, Adam evidently feels that because only Man-at-Arms and Orko are in immediate proximity to him, he doesn’t need to offer an excuse. He seems to be overlooking the fact that he makes his transformation while standing on a ridge in full view of the entire village and – more importantly – Skeletor. Even so, he gets away with it.

On the second occasion, Adam is alone in the abyss with the giant spider, so I think we’ll forgive him for not offering an excuse in this scenario.

 

Insults

Not only is this a fantastic episode for its story and its message, it’s also brilliant if you hate Orko’s guts and want to see Skeletor ripping him to shreds with such cutting remarks as “little vermin”, “worthless wizard” and “foolish Orko”. He also finds time to call He-Man a “fool”, all the goblins “cowards”, and sneeringly address Man-at-Arms as “tin-hat”, while positioning his clawed blue hand in the campest possible pose.

Despite only appearing in one scene, Trapjaw manages to antagonise General Tataran to the extent that he is addressed as a “walking can-opener” and described as “not too bright”. Skeletor himself is the recipient of a number of unkind comments, including “evil creep” from Orko and the slightly odder “evil face” from Teela. Orko also says that Skeletor is “silly-looking”. Advice to cartoon producers: it’s best not to draw attention to this sort of thing.

Problem 7
Skeletor: “Silly-looking? Takes one to know one, Orko.”

 

Does it have the Power?

I’m not sure if it’s possible to be intimidated by a He-Man episode, especially if you’re 34 years old and reasonably sane, as I consider myself to be. Nonetheless, if such intimidation were possible, it’s definitely how I felt as I approached this episode. It has a staggeringly high regard among the dedicated fans of the show, and if that weren’t enough, it’s the only episode of the original Filmation He-Man series that I’d never seen before. High stakes indeed.

I’m happy to report that it’s absolutely superb, aside from the very minor quibble about the completely off-topic moral. This is the sort of story that could only be produced in the 80s, with a hero who is so completely heroic. Most fictional characters now have greater shades of grey, and heroes have dark sides. A modern day He-Man would probably have considered Tataran’s death to be an acceptable loss; he’d have felt bad, but wouldn’t have been so completely destroyed as He-Man is in this episode. It’s interesting that a story with such a moral quandary actually only works with a hero who is so black-and-white.

Problem 8
Prince Adam: “This is more of a double-facepalm situation. That seems about proportionate.”

So here we have He-Man being provoked into angry destructive rage, and – to all intents and purposes – killing someone. (The fact that he actually didn’t is, I think, immaterial – it’s eminently plausible that he could have, and in fact, apparently early versions of the script specified that he did.) Was He-Man’s response proportionate? He considers himself a failure for having caused one death – but in rejecting his powers, he was likely to cause many more. It’s actually a He-Man episode for which you can debate morality, and presents the conundrum remarkably well.

I genuinely wonder what I would have thought of this if I’d seen it as a child. As an adult, all I can say is that this has to be the best episode of He-Man ever produced. Incredible stuff.

Episode 109 – Orko’s New Friend

In which we meet another of Orko’s nice friends, which as usual is a real treat.

The episode gets off to a very unpromising start, with Adam, Teela and Orko waiting in the Palace courtyard to greet Squanch, who is an old friend of Orko’s from Trolla. Orko warns Adam and Teela that Squanch has an “active imagination”, which is duly interpreted as “a compulsive liar”. Sure enough, Squanch embarks on a blatantly fictitious story – but is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of the Intergalactic Police.

I had hoped that the Intergalactic Police might arrest Squanch (and possibly Orko too, if it’s a really good day), but sadly, they’re only there to deliver a warning to Prince Adam: two criminals called the Slavemaster and the Jawbreaker have been tracked to Eternia. They proceed to give a detailed description of what these two lowlifes do, but since it’s fairly evident from their names, I shan’t bore you by spelling it out.

New Friend 1
Policeman: “The only reason I haven’t arrested you yet, Orko, is because I can’t bear the thought of having to take you away in my spaceship.”

Adam and Teela pop off to tell King Randor about the Slavemaster and the Jawbreaker, while Orko and Squanch have an argument about Squanch’s perpetual lies. They patch things up, however, when they discover the Slavemaster’s ship parked in the forest. Unbelievably, they decide to try to capture the Slavemaster themselves, rather than fetching He-Man, which all too quickly results in Orko’s capture.

Squanch escapes and flies straight back to the Palace, but Adam, Teela and Man-at-Arms don’t believe his story. They are eventually persuaded to check, but when Squanch leads them back to the forest, the Slavemaster’s ship is gone. Adam and Teela are just gearing up to savage Squanch with some barbed remarks about lying, but Man-at-Arms discovers some evidence that Squanch is telling the truth.

Reasoning that the Slavemaster will want to capture powerful slaves, Man-at-Arms arranges a fairground show at which He-Man is the prize exhibit. He-Man demonstrates his strength to the awed crowd by lifting an enormous pair of concrete weights, over which Teela has artfully draped herself. By showing off thus, He-Man and Man-at-Arms hope to lure the Slavemaster into attempting to capture He-Man, and even if it doesn’t work, it’s certainly given the moronic inhabitants of Eternia a nice day out. It also helps to fill some time in this episode, which is proving quite devoid of substance.

New Friend 2
Teela: “He-Man’s out picking up women again.”

The Jawbreaker shows up at the fair and He-Man allows himself to be captured. He is taken down to the Slavemaster’s mines, where he joins Orko and a variety of other interestingly-animated slaves (an elephant wearing a nappy, in particular, drew my attention). Once there, He-Man runs riot and frees all the slaves, then captures the Slavemaster and the Jawbreaker, and they are despatched to their home planet to stand trial.

New Friend 3
Elephant: “I have escaped from a website catering to people with a very specialist interest.”

Finally, Squanch has a heart-to-heart with all of our heroes about his lying addiction, and admits that he just wants everyone to like him. I wish, just for once, He-Man would say, “Well, no chance of that, you div,” and stalk off. But no, as usual, He-Man reassures him that everyone does like him, just for being himself. He-Man is wrong. I can think of one person who actively despises Squanch.

 

In today’s adventure…

Orko reminds us that this episode has been a rubbish version of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, in case any of the stupider viewers hadn’t grasped the subtle complexities in the story. What did surprise me was the curious reluctance of the writers to use the word “lie”; Squanch is always “telling stories”, except right at the end when he admits he’s been “lying”. I assume the writers felt that it would emphasise the difference between stories and lies, but all it did was make me wonder why they were going to such lengths to dance around the word “lie”.

 

Character checklist

This claptrap subjects us to outings for Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Orko, Teela, Man-at-Arms, the Sorceress, Squanch, the Slavemaster, the Jawbreaker, the Intergalactic Police, and loads of background characters including the other slaves and some general inhabitants of Eternia.

New Friend 4
Slavemaster: “Remind me again, what’s the point of this episode?”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

We don’t even see Adam transform into He-Man today; he’s there in one scene and then it’s He-Man in the next. The best excuse we get is Adam’s musing comment, “This might be a job for He-Man.”

 

Insults

The Slavemaster kicks things off by calling his slaves collectively “fools”, a theme on which the Jawbreaker elaborates by calling Man-at-Arms an “old fool”. He-Man gets involved by referring to the Jawbreaker as a “metal-brain”, and the Jawbreaker retaliates with the unusual “flesh-face”. I’m pretty sure we’ve heard this odd turn of phrase before, but I can’t remember where and I certainly can’t be bothered to look it up.

New Friend 5
Squanch: “Here’s another insult: I’m a complete waste of space.”

 

Does it have the Power?

There are numerous things wrong with this episode:

  1. The title. Orko doesn’t have a new friend at all. He’s got an old friend. Both would be equally annoying, but they might as well have been accurate.
  2. The Jawbreaker. His dialogue makes him sound thick as bricks (“Right you are, boss – huh huh huh,” he says, in one memorable sequence), and his voice is a really odd and distracting blend of He-Man and Beast-Man’s usual voices.
  3. Everything else. God, it was rubbish.