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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9 thoughts on “Episode 113 – Happy Birthday Roboto

  1. //a see-through chest inside which cogs turn//

    Classic detail of “humanoid robots” in fiction sicne Elektro the Moto-Man on 1938 World Fair.

    // a robot from the planet Robotica.//

    Yeah, another common problem of fiction cartoons: planet naming. The Earth wasn’t named Humanika, to be exact…

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  2. Considering this episode – I rather fond of it. Both Roboto and Modulok are actually pretty good as new characters; especially the second, who have really unusual and fresh design, and seems to be pretty competent villain. He handles the whole situation pretty well, and while I’m not sure about pragmatism to stole Man-at-Arms brains, Modulok defeat actually came from the situation which he could not predict; that the heuristic parts of Roboto programming would be capable of owerwriting his actual software.

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    1. I agree with you – Modulok is pretty cool. I was never a big fan of Roboto but then I never particularly liked robots in general. And yep, Modulok was just unfortunate to lose here – if life was fair, he’d have won.

      Thanks for the info on Elektro – I’d never heard of him and have just looked him up. Very interesting!

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      1. You are welcome!

        P.S. Must admit, that I have a soft spot for early automatic – from XIX to the first half of XX century. Stuff like wire-guided torpedoes of 1880s, remote controlled target ships of 1920-1930s, early robots of 1940s…

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  3. I must admit I really like the character modulok as well, although he appeared for about 5 seconds in here, there, skeletors everywhere, his main two episodes were this one and mistaken identity, while I would say mistaken identity is the better episode there’s no question that modulok is far more evil in happy Birthday roboto this is one real plus about this episode it’s a so so episode for me neither great but certainly not terrible either, modulok wants to give man at arms a brain transplant so he can use his intelligence how creepy is that! One comment I’d say about modulok which i thought was very interesting indeed is he’s actually “human” originally before he became modulok we learn this in the episode mistaken identity, yes a pretty cool character, also another bit of interestingness trivia about modulok he was the only one of skeletors henchmen that defected to work with hordak in the she ra series..

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    1. He’s definitely an unusual character, with more of a backstory than most of Skeletor’s team. I agree his switching allegiance to the Evil Horde is particularly interesting – though as I recall he doesn’t do terribly well there either. Doesn’t he get demoted to chef or something?

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  4. Yes owen you are correct I think the she ra episode is gateway to trouble, modulok started out working for skeletor building a device to open a portal so he can bring all his evil henchmen to etheria! In this episode modulok took even more abuse from skeletor than even beastman gets this is what makes his mind up to escape from skeletor and stay in etheria serving hordak, but yes unfortunately for him in the end he doesn’t have any better luck with hordak either so he demotes him to a horde chef poor old modulok!!

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  5. I do enjoy Modulok as he’s quite an independant and cunning villain, not just another ‘bumbling henchman’™. He also talks rather like Boris Karlof, which supports a theory I read somewhere that the Evil Horde were patterned after Universal movie monsters.

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    1. Yep, I quite like him too, which is odd as normally I like best the characters I recall from when I was younger. Don’t remember Modulok at all though!

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