In which Prince Adam meets a man with an even worse dress sense.
I had seen virtually every episode of He-Man at least once before embarking on this lunatic mission to review the entire Masters of the Universe canon. Contrastingly, I believe I have only ever watched one episode of She-Ra – something to do with a zoo, as I recall – so the next 93 reviews will be a voyage of discovery for me as well as for you. Of course, memories may well come back to me as I watch, though hopefully not because I repressed them the first time.
According to information I have painstakingly stolen from the internet, She-Ra was first introduced in a feature length film which was released to cinemas, called The Secret of the Sword. These were subsequently edited into the first five episodes of the She-Ra series, and they begin with this episode, Into Etheria. The opening sequence, unlike that of He-Man, tells me virtually nothing about the series set-up, but I assume this is because all will be revealed over the course of these first five episodes. If not, I flatter myself that I have sufficient intellectual capacity to fill in the blanks myself.
We open in the familiar environs of Castle Grayskull, though less familiar is the sight of the Sorceress in skimpy nightwear, having a terrible dream about a robotic skull-faced lunatic called Hordak kidnapping a baby named Adora. Waking with a shriek, the Sorceress sees a power sword – like He-Man’s, but different – floating down from the ceiling, and indicating that she should take it through a yellow portal.
The Sorceress doesn’t take it through the portal, obviously. It might be dangerous, and she’s useless. Besides, she’s got someone to do that sort of thing for her. And so it is that Prince Adam and Cringer are summoned to Grayskull, given the new power sword, and told that he needs to find someone on the other side of the gate. The Sorceress further elaborates that she has no idea where the gate goes, and she won’t tell Adam who he’s looking for. Adam agrees to go, but it’s plain that he’s thinking, “Christ, she’s been nipping at the crème de cassis again.”
They find themselves on a completely mental planet, where all the plant life is a vile shade of pink. Adam, with the aesthetic sense that has led him to wear that hideous pink waistcoat all these years, comments, “Nice place, eh, Cringe?” Cringer retains sufficient brains to not respond. Unexpectedly, once oriented, Adam’s first move is to head for the local pub, where he settles down for a quick meal. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get to take a bite before three large grey robots enter.
These robots are identified as Horde Troopers, and it seems that their objective is to push everyone in the pub around, and then sit down at a table. They are clearly what passes for evil masterminds around here, so of course it takes all of three seconds for Adam to start a barney with them. He is rescued from ignominious defeat by a gentleman called Bow, who surpasses even Adam in the competition for Campest Dresser in the Universe.
We now get a scene where we are introduced to all the baddies, which is amusing in that everybody uses each other’s full names quite extensively, to ensure the viewer gets the hang of it. This is admittedly subtler than the equivalent scene in He-Man’s Diamond Ray of Disappearance, in which Skeletor may as well have been reading out a Toys R Us catalogue as he listed his henchmen. Anyway, you may be interested to know that the chief baddy is that Hordak dude from earlier, and serving him we have a hovering witch called Shadow Weaver, a weird bug-eyed monster called Mantenna, a sexy cat woman called Catra, and a humanoid leech called Leech. There’s also another woman, dressed in typical Filmation style (i.e. virtually nothing) but she’s not important enough to get a name yet. At the end of the scene, Hordak emphasises how evil he is by transforming his arm into a giant cannon, and destroying a bit of his own fortress.
Bow takes Adam to a place called Whispering Woods, and informs him that he is welcome to join the Great Rebellion. We are now treated to a scene in which we meet all the goodies. The leader of the Rebellion is called Glimmer, a pink-haired sickly-sweet loon. Also present is a small green thing called Spragg, and a flying koala-owl crossbreed called Kowl. Finally, we meet an incompetent witch called Madame Razz, and her talking broomstick. Prince Adam’s dead eyes reflect his despair at being lumbered with these halfwits.
Madame Razz brings news that, as vengeance for Bow and Adam defeating the Horde Troopers, the Horde have placed the entire village under arrest. The rebels return to the village in time to see Catra, Mantenna, Leech and that other woman (now given the name of Scorpia) loading the villagers into a slave transport ship. The baddies are under the command of a blond woman, identified as Force Captain Adora. It’s worth noting that Cringer is oddly animated in this scene with his mouth hanging wide open and shaking his head from side to side, as if he’s having an involuntary spasm of some sort.
The rebels attack the Horde, and are as incompetent as you might expect. Sighing heavily, Adam turns into He-Man and defeats every single one of the Horde pretty easily – although unexpectedly, he needs a bit of help from Spragg to defeat Mantenna. As He-Man faces off against Force Captain Adora, he suddenly realises that she is the one the Sorceress sent him to find. He is then shot in the back by a Horde Trooper, largely so that the words ‘To Be Continued’ can flash dramatically across the screen.
In today’s adventure…
I am led to believe that She-Ra normally dispenses moral lessons in the same way He-Man does, but this episode doesn’t come equipped with one. Therefore, I’m ideally placed to suggest my own: if you’re going to send the only competent defender of your planet through a mysterious yellow gateway, it’s at least courteous to tell him who you want him to find and why. That way, he might not be quite so surprised when it happens and therefore might not get shot.
This first episode of She-Ra features pretty much everyone except She-Ra. Let’s see – we’ve got Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, the Sorceress, Man-at-Arms, Bow, Glimmer, Madame Razz, Kowl, Broom, Spragg, Adora, Hordak, Shadow Weaver, Mantenna, Leech, Catra, Scorpia, a load of Horde Troopers, and various other background characters.
Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance
Tricky, this one. Given Adam made the change towards the end of Part 1 of a five-part story, there’s a chance we might get the excuse next time. We certainly didn’t get one this time.
Of course, once we get into the series properly, I will make a subtle change in the title of this category. But on the off chance that you don’t know who She-Ra’s secret identity is yet, then I won’t spoil the surprise.
Plenty of insults flying round this week, though curiously they’re pretty much all dispensed by the goodies. The bard in the pub kicks things off by calling a Horde Trooper a “miserable wretch”. This is followed by Kowl calling Spragg a “ninny”, and Spragg then refers to Cringer as a “pussy cat”, which doesn’t go down well. Glimmer says that the Horde Troopers are “fiends”, while Bow decides that “sucker face” is the best description for Leech. Similarly, Spragg defines Mantenna as “bug-face”.
The only insult from a baddy comes from Scorpia, who addresses He-Man as “muscle man”, which is nothing he’s not heard before. He-Man retaliates with the stinging, “You’re not much of a lady.”
Does it have the Power?
Again, it’s difficult to judge, given it was originally intended to be watched as part of a much bigger feature film. My critics might say that therefore I ought to watch the whole thing in one go, but my response is that I don’t think my nervous disposition could stand it. My initial impression, unfortunately, is not too favourable. Glimmer barely gets any screen time, but I already loathe her with a passion, and Madame Razz too has potential for Orko-level irritation value. Bow is a complete nonentity, albeit one with an appalling dress sense, and the less said about Spragg the better. Oddly, Kowl seems to be okay, so far.
As for the baddies, Hordak is potentially very annoying; maybe he’ll get his own character later, but for now he seems to be doing a low-budget Skeletor impersonation. Shadow Weaver – who was no more than a pair of yellow eyes in darkness, dressed up in a red cloak – seemed interesting but got the least screen time. Mantenna and Leech look like they’re going to be the Beast-Man and Trapjaw of the operation, basically bumbling fools who very occasionally get things right. Scorpia’s voice made her sound incredibly dull-witted. Catra was good though: pleasingly nasty, with the surprising ability to turn herself into a panther.
It’s not easy to say much about the plot, but it seems to have got us where we want to go, without being too innovative. The last minute twist, when He-Man learns that Adora is the one he’s looking for, is quite surprising – or would have been in 1985 anyway. Altogether, I’ll give it a cautious thumbs up, continue to the next episode, and pray that Glimmer gets better.