Episode 096 – Battlecat

In which Man-at-Arms releases an ancient demon and blames everybody else.

This episode begins with an extended sequence in which Man-at-Arms, Teela and Adam all properly lay into Orko for being irresponsible and generally annoying. If their vitriol were directed at anyone else, I’d call it a massive case of going overboard, but when it’s Orko, he deserves anything that anyone chooses to throw at him. Once that’s done with, Orko decides to mess about in Man-at-Arms’ lab to create a potion to make Cringer brave.

Battlecat 1
Prince Adam: “Jesus Christ, this is pretty scary for pre-watershed fare.”

Well, I was as shocked as any of you when this doesn’t work. Instead, Orko conjures up a seriously terrifying transparent cat demon, which luckily is pretty stupid and is consequently easily trapped in a bottle. Predictably, Man-at-Arms is livid, and after shouting about it for a while, decides that the best thing to do now is to tell – at length – the story of how Adam first met Cringer. This is a random choice, even for Man-at-Arms’ customary inexplicable behaviour, so I can only conclude that he’s completely lost it.

The story begins with a roughly 12 year old Adam heading off on a camping trip on his own, because nothing bad could ever happen on Eternia. Sure enough, Adam quickly comes under attack from a sabre-cat, but he drives it away using a device that imitates animal noises. Once the sabre-cat leaves, Adam finds Cringer, who is still a kitten and possibly the cutest cartoon cat ever. Cringer is injured, so Adam brings him back to the Palace and asks Man-at-Arms to save him.

Battlecat 2
Cringer: “Adopt me. Please adopt me. I am the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen.”

Because Filmation couldn’t be bothered to animate a character called the Palace Vet, Man-at-Arms successfully restores Cringer to health. Cringer earns his name when he takes fright at a crowd of the most hideous children I’ve ever seen, for which I can’t say I blame him. He is also terrified when the disembodied head of the Sorceress appears to have a chat with Adam, which again is reasonable.

Years pass, until one day Melaktha and his archaeological team find a temple in the Tikon Jungle which is over 100 centuries old. Marlena suggests that Man-at-Arms goes on the expedition to investigate, because he is the most skilled person on Eternia at deciphering ancient writings. Excuse me? So Man-at-Arms is the Palace inventor, vet, and poly-linguist? Couldn’t they have given this skill to someone else – you know, someone like Stratos, who doesn’t seem to have any abilities?

Battlecat 3
Man-at-Arms: “I reckon if I stand here in this pose, looking at the paper seriously, everyone will think I’m doing some difficult translation work rather than just reading the Daily Star.”

Anyway, Adam, Teela and Cringer all tag along on the expedition, and quickly get some hints that the temple is super evil. Shortly before nightfall, Adam and Teela find a doorway to the temple, which has been bricked up. They inform Man-at-Arms, but he tells them to wait till morning before investigating. This does not suit Adam and Teela, who return to the door and succeed in opening it very slightly, before giving up and trotting off to bed.

In the morning, despite translating the ancient writings on the temple as meaning “WARNING – EVIL!”, Man-at-Arms decides to blast open the door. This releases a big blue demon thing called a Gedge, and the combined might of Teela, Ram-Man and the Palace Guards fails to slow it down. Adam thus decides that He-Man is needed and, seemingly on a whim, during the transformation he points his sword at Cringer, who becomes the mighty Battle-Cat. Genuinely, this move seems to be prompted by him thinking, “Hmm, I wonder what will happen if I shoot this energy at the cat?”

The Sorceress appears in a vision to explain that to defeat the Gedge, He-Man will have to be clever, which is precisely the sort of useful advice she’s always giving. I seriously doubt He-Man was thinking, “To defeat this monster, I’ll have to be really stupid.” Anyway, He-Man does some stuff which barely qualifies as clever in my book, and successfully reseals the Gedge in the temple. It’s worth pointing out that Man-at-Arms tries his damnedest to seal He-Man and Battle-Cat inside as well, so I’m sure He-Man will be keeping a close eye on him in the future.

Battlecat 4
The Sorceress: “No, He-Man. No matter how miserable you look, I will not buy you another ice cream.”

Man-at-Arms ends this rambling and irrelevant story by attempting to tie it in with Orko’s actions at the beginning of the episode, claiming that the Gedge wouldn’t have got out if Adam and Teela hadn’t ignored his instructions. This is entirely untrue. Yes, Adam and Teela did open the door a crack, but the Gedge didn’t get out until Man-at-Arms rocked up with his massive charges of dynamite and blew up the door. Still, Orko nods and pretends to have taken in the lesson, but I’m sure next time he’ll be happily meddling again.

 

In today’s adventure…

Orko and Man-at-Arms talk about poisons this week. They show us a big bottle with a massive skull-and-crossbones on it, and inform us that we mustn’t touch bottles that look like this, of which there were absolutely loads in my house when I was growing up. This lesson might have sunk in more effectively if the animators hadn’t chosen to draw Man-at-Arms with his mouth hanging open in a really gormless smile for this scene.

Battlecat 5
Man-at-Arms: “Don’t worry about me, I’m completely out of my mind.”

Anyway, the real lesson of this episode, quite clearly, is that if you are in a position of authority – like Man-at-Arms – and act quickly to shift the blame to someone else, you’ll get away scot free. I can’t believe his blatancy in trying to make out the whole business with the Gedge was Adam and Teela’s fault, when it was definitely him and his explosives obsession that caused the problem.

 

Character checklist

Oh, you know the drill by now. It would barely qualify as a He-Man episode if it didn’t have Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Orko, Man-at-Arms, Teela and the Sorceress in it. It’s also got King Randor, Queen Marlena, Melaktha, some random woman, a load of horrible children, some Palace guards, some workmen, and a surprise appearance from Ram-Man, who we haven’t seen in a while. The Gedge is in it too, but who the hell gives a monkeys about that?

Battlecat 6
Gedge: “Sorry for being such a rubbish monster.”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

No one asks and no one cares.

 

Insults

It’s been a long, long time since we’ve had an episode with no insults in it, but this one qualifies, unless one counts the beastly bullying children shrieking “Cringer! Cringer!” at Cringer.

 

Does it have the Power?

Apart from the outstandingly cute scenes of Cringer as a kitten, there’s not much going for this one. While I do appreciate the efforts to fill in the background of some of our characters, I don’t really care about the first time Cringer became Battle-Cat, especially not when it’s because of a massively boring monster like the Gedge. It’s almost as if they wanted to do an episode about the first time Adam became He-Man, but chickened out and compromised with Battle-Cat.

Battlecat 7
He-Man: “Hey, homies, check out my new wheels.”

In its favour, the episode does start off looking like it’s going to be a dreadful episode about Orko, and it skirts round that pitfall pretty neatly. But Man-at-Arms seems to have only a very flimsy excuse for relating the Battle-Cat story in the first place, and frankly he’d have been better off not telling it, because the behaviour he exhibits in the story is frankly reprehensible.

In short, I suppose I’d better recommend watching it, because at least you’ll know a bit of Adam and Cringer’s history. But it’s only a grudging recommendation, because it’s pretty boring history. If you do skip it, then don’t worry, I won’t blame you. But Man-at-Arms will.

Episode 066 – The Cat and the Spider

In which He-Man learns about cultural vandalism the hard way.

Adam and the royal archaeologist, Melaktha, have discovered an ancient temple in the jungle, a temple that used to belong to a race of Cat People, now believed extinct. As they explore the temple, Melaktha steps onto an extremely obvious trapdoor and falls into a pit, the walls of which begin to close in around him.

Luckily, Melaktha has been knocked unconscious, so Adam can turn into He-Man without being detected. Once Melaktha is rescued, He-Man takes him outside and opts to steal all the glory by exploring the temple himself. As he does so, he engages in some serious historical vandalism, destroying the floors and walls of the temple to allow himself easier access. I bet when Melaktha finds out, he won’t be pleased.

Cat 1
He-Man: “If only it were still the 19th century, the British Museum would pay me handsomely for stolen antiquities.”

He-Man works his way through to the temple’s inner sanctum, where he loots a small jade cat statue. Turning back into Adam, he returns to Melaktha, who voices his intention of studying the statue in greater depth at the Palace. Eavesdropping outside is a Cat Person, who runs off to the King of the Cat People to alert him to the theft of the statue of the Grimalkin. The King sends a sexy Cat Woman called Katrina to recover the statue.

Skeletor is watching on his spy-globe, and decides relatively randomly that he would like the statue for himself, and sends his new mate Webstor off to the Palace to get it. Both Webstor and Katrina arrive in time to have a tussle with Teela; Webstor is the ultimate victor, departing with the statue. As He-Man gives chase in the stupid robotic chicken vehicle that we last saw way back in Orko’s Favourite Uncle, Katrina tells Teela that the statue has the power to release a monster called a Grimalkin.

Cat 2
Skeletor: “I’ll just check my order, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t want this tacky cat statue from my Tesco online shopping.”

Webstor delivers the statue into Skeletor’s bony blue hands, and Skeletor occupies himself reading books trying to work out what powers the statue might have. He is interrupted by the burglar alarm, which has been set off by He-Man and Battle-Cat casually walking into Snake Mountain. To my distinct surprise, Skeletor manages to capture Battle-Cat in a pit and knock He-Man out, but he then makes the mistake of simply putting He-Man in a forcefield cage.

Battle-Cat digs his way out of the pit, emerging outside Snake Mountain where he meets Katrina, who refers to him as “big boy” and offers her help. As these feline friends rescue He-Man, Skeletor gives up on his books and just pumps power into the statue, resulting in his unleashing the Grimalkin, a gigantic demon which not surprisingly fails to acknowledge Skeletor’s authority.

Cat 4
Grimalkin: “Where’s my breakfast?”

The Grimalkin grows to such a size that it bursts through the walls of Snake Mountain, emerging into the open. Katrina reveals that only the power of the storm can stop the Grimalkin, so He-Man finds a handy salt deposit, pausing only to indulge in a quick science lesson and explain that when salt particles are introduced to moisture-laden clouds, rain is produced. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it certainly works here when He-Man hurls a massive block of salt into a cloud.

The rain seems only to aggravate the Grimalkin, so He-Man uses another power of the storm: specifically, he uses himself as a lightning rod to channel electricity onto the demon. This produces the desired effect, and the Grimalkin shrinks back into its statue form. The episode ends with Katrina promising to come back and see that handsome fellow Battle-Cat again someday.

Cat 5
Katrina: “My heavily implied sexual interest in Battle-Cat raises some disturbing anatomical questions.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Katrina and Adam deliver today’s moral, which is exactly the same as last week’s moral: don’t judge other people on how they look, or by their race or religion. It’s slightly tenuous this week, linked into the story by saying that Katrina didn’t trust the people of Eternia because they looked different – but I’d say she didn’t trust them because they broke into her temple and stole her statue. On the other hand, I don’t think a moral segment saying “don’t loot archaeological digs” would have been enormously relevant to the episode’s intended audience.

 

Character checklist

Our first season two outing treats us to appearances from Prince Adam, He-Man, Cringer, Battle-Cat, Teela, Orko, King Randor, Melaktha, Skeletor, Webstor, Katrina, the King of the Cat People, a random Cat Person, and the Grimalkin.

Cat 3
Teela: “Not tonight, He-Man, I’m a bit put off by the mental image of Battle-Cat and Katrina getting it on.”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

“He’s safe,” He-Man reassures Melaktha. This seems to be He-Man’s favourite excuse, and to be fair, it does seem to work every time, but only because everybody on Eternia is completely witless.

 

Insults

Everyone’s favourite inexplicably muscle-y skeleton is up to his old tricks again, shrieking out insults every other sentence. Today, he calls Webstor a “spider brain” and twice calls him a “bug face”, and also dishes out “fool” and “muscle-bound buffoon” to He-Man. Webstor doesn’t take this abuse lying down, though only manages the ineffectual “bony” in retaliation. He-Man similarly doesn’t seem to have his heart in it when he offers “bonehead”. Elsewhere, Katrina and Webstor get in a slanging match, referring to each other respectively as “furball” and “spider breath”.

Cat 6
Webstor: “I’m just hanging around. Pretty confident no one’s ever made that joke about me before.”

 

Does it have the Power?

This is the first He-Man episode that I saw as an adult, so it has a special place in my heart as the one that started me off rediscovering this magical series. Even looking at it objectively, I think it’s a pretty good episode, though I don’t think it would make anyone’s top ten list. It’s Skeletor – as usual – who steals the show, lighting up every scene in which he appears with random outbursts of unpleasantness. The mystery of the apparently abandoned temple at the beginning is nicely atmospheric, and the use of the storm to defeat the Grimalkin at the end is pleasingly demented. Katrina is a well-drawn character, and it’s funny – and logical – to see her being interested in Battle-Cat rather than He-Man. In short, it’s certainly worth a watch.

Episode 050 – Temple of the Sun

In which I begin to suspect that Man-at-Arms has recently suffered head trauma.

Our story opens with a ragged man called Nepthu crawling through the desert towards the Temple of the Sun. Once he gets inside, he engages in a frantic search for a piece of gold called the Sun Scarab; when he finds this, he uses its powers to transform himself into a strong powerful individual, and announces his intention to rule the universe. As a demonstration of his power, he captures the Sorceress, who happens to be flying around in falcon form. It’s a typical Thursday on Eternia.

temple-1
Nepthu: “I’m sure this will end well.”

Meanwhile, over at the Palace, Man-at-Arms is demonstrating another of his miraculous inventions. This one’s called a “communicator”, and it works in exactly the same way as a radio. Eternia has been shown as possessing radios right from the very first episode, I’m sure. This is the second week in a row that Man-at-Arms has “invented” something that already exists. It’s entirely possible that at some point offscreen, he sustained a serious head injury, and this flurry of inventing things is just part of his re-education programme.

This fascinating and completely irrelevant scene is interrupted by Adam, who receives a telepathic communication from the Sorceress informing him that she is a prisoner in the Temple of the Sun. Cue inspiring music and the entry of He-Man – though curiously, Cringer demands not to become Battle-Cat and to come along in his usual form instead. This is an interesting idea, but unfortunately we only get about halfway through the next scene before Cringer decides to be Battle-Cat after all.

Our heroes arrive at the Temple without too much difficulty, where they are greeted by a whirlwind. He-Man employs a technique we’ve seen before and spins really fast in the opposite direction, which somehow enables him to throw the whirlwind into outer space. I feel the writers of He-Man should stay away from whirlwinds. It brings out their most mental side, which is saying something.

temple-2
He-Man: “If I think hard enough, I expect I can come up with an insane solution to this problem.”

The next hazard to be faced is a giant scorpion, which He-Man defeats by rubbing the desert sand so much that it heats up and forms a nice big pane of glass, behind which the scorpion is trapped. This bit genuinely seems to be included simply so that He-Man can explain to the audience that glass is made from sand, which is nice to know but seems completely random.

Meanwhile, Nepthu has occupied himself in creating a bunch of sand monsters, which he describes as being “as hard as rock and completely invincible”. If you want to nip off to Ladbrokes now to place bets on whether these monsters will defeat He-Man, I’m happy to wait for you to get back. The Sorceress attempts an escape, but Nepthu turns her into solid diamond and laughs crazily.

temple-3
Nepthu: “Snapped up a right bargain in Poundland today.”

Before Nepthu can be spurred to further mayhem, He-Man lets himself into the Temple and enters into a difference of opinion with the sand monsters. Once this is resolved to everyone’s satisfaction (except, obviously, Nepthu’s), Man-at-Arms manages to swipe the Scarab out of Nepthu’s hand. He-Man destroys the Scarab, returning the Sorceress to life and Nepthu to his ragged form. The episode ends with the revelation that Nepthu gets a job as a gardener in the Evergreen Forest.

 

In today’s adventure…

He-Man considers the take-home lesson this week is that Nepthu used power for his own selfish ends, and thus wasn’t a very good leader. He-Man reminds us that being a good leader takes a lot of responsibility, but then seems to remember that the target audience of this cartoon isn’t a symposium for CEOs of multi-national companies, and correspondingly adjusts the direction of the moral by informing us that it’s also important to be responsible when following a leader – i.e. don’t do something wrong just because someone tells you to. Sage advice, actually.

 

Character checklist

There aren’t many characters to entertain us today. It’s only Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, the Sorceress, Man-at-Arms, Teela, Orko and Nepthu doing the rounds.

temple-4
Prince Adam: “Unfortunately my head appears to be detached from my body, and Man-at-Arms doesn’t have a neck today.”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

The writers seem to have settled into a comfortable pattern of only including Man-at-Arms and Orko in these stories, thus negating the need for Adam to explain himself to anyone.

 

Insults

The only insult this week is Adam calling Cringer a “big furball”, and he sounds mightily cross when he does so.

temple-5
Cringer: “How very dare you.”

 

Does it have the Power?

This episode is neither particularly good nor particularly bad – in fact, it’s almost wilfully average. The only part that’s even a bit interesting is the bit where Cringer refuses to become Battle-Cat and insists on helping by himself; there’s always a slight undercurrent of resentment from Cringer when he has to be Battle-Cat, and it was a fun notion for him to demand to contribute on his own merits. The problem is this is undermined almost immediately by him changing his mind shortly thereafter, before he’s had the chance to do anything. A bit of a missed opportunity, really.

Nepthu is not a very interesting villain, and without any background on him, his ambition of conquering the universe seems like it comes from nowhere and isn’t very convincing. The scenes of He-Man facing the whirlwind and the scorpion are nothing but time-wasting, as is the really odd scene of Man-at-Arms inventing the communicator. One nice touch was seeing Nepthu at the end of the episode actually happy with his lot, which is probably a first for a defeated baddy. On the whole, though, I wouldn’t really bother with this episode.

Episode 038 – Valley of Power

In which He-Man learns how to fly.

We begin this week with an unnecessarily long pan through space, finally centring on Eternia, and then another unnecessarily long pan across a valley, which is the titular Valley of Power. The Valley is defended by a pterodactyl-like bird called the Mother Roe, and there is an unpleasant man who wants to steal the Mother Roe’s eggs. Luckily, He-Man stops him. The End.

Oh, you want more detail? Okay, fine. Well, Adam, Teela and Cringer are out on a trip to the Valley, in order to drink from the magical fountain at its centre, which only springs once every thousand years. Teela  encourages Adam and Cringer to drink this water, which will make them as strong and powerful as He-Man and Battle-Cat. The irony here is not lost on Adam and Cringer, who engage in an elaborate exercise in taking the piss, Cringer in particular summoning up depths of sarcasm of which I didn’t think he was capable.

Valley 1

As our heroes arrive at the spring’s location, the unpleasant man manages to steal the Mother Roe’s egg, leading the Mother Roe to attack him. Teela saves the unpleasant man from the Roe’s attack by the questionable method of tripping him up, and he introduces himself as Danavus, which is a relief, since I can now use his name and not continue to refer to him as “the unpleasant man”.

While Teela and Danavus chat about the magical spring, the Roe attacks again, leading Adam and Cringer to run off and mutate into He-Man and Battle-Cat. They are too late to prevent Teela from being carried off by the Roe, so they charge off up the mountainside to the Roe’s nest, while Danavus sits in the now-flowing spring drinking the magical water.

Valley 2

Unfortunately, the stolen egg hatches at this point, and the Baby Roe grows to full size in a matter of seconds. This is probably due to the magical powers of the spring, but it could just be because the episode is mental. Whatever the reason, Danavus proclaims that the Baby Roe is under his complete control, and proves it by using the Baby Roe to snatch He-Man and take him for a joyride through the sky.

Then I’m afraid to say the episode pauses for breath, choosing between going for the sane but dull route or whether to completely lose its mind. Needless to say, it opts for the latter. The Baby Roe drops He-Man from the sky, so He-Man grabs a couple of its feathers and, in his own words, “quickly learn[s] how to fly”. Right. Well. We’ve seen some really special moments on this show up to now, but I think this surpasses them all. Luckily, He-Man himself acknowledges that this was a stupid moment, and addresses the audience via Battle-Cat: “I wouldn’t advise anyone to try it.”

Valley 3

Not to be outdone by He-Man in the implausible acts arena, Battle-Cat reveals a hitherto unsuspected talent for talking to birds in their own language, and forms a truce with the Mother Roe, who agrees to carry to Teela to the Palace, where Danavus is now headed. Once there, Orko makes an unwelcome appearance, and he and Teela sit about on the Palace roof until He-Man and Battle-Cat arrive to take charge.

He-Man despatches Orko and Teela off to Castle Grayskull to get help. The Sorceress mixes a potion made from such infuriating ingredients as “a pinch of baby love” and “some motherly understanding”, which will revert the Baby Roe to its baby form. After a despair-inducing interlude in which Orko drinks some of the potion and briefly reverts to babyhood, Teela carries the potion back to the Palace.

Valley 4

Meanwhile, He-Man and Battle-Cat have successfully grounded Danavus and the Baby Roe. He-Man applies the antidote, which oddly doesn’t make the Baby Roe smaller but does make it more friendly. The Roes fly off happily, and Danavus claims to have learned his lesson. This doesn’t stop He-Man clapping him in handcuffs and laughing like a lunatic.

 

In today’s adventure…

He-Man offers an environmental message, reminding us how Danavus upset the natural order in the Valley of Power, and advising us to enjoy the countryside, but to leave things as we find them, so the next person can enjoy them too. It would be nice if someone had told him that last week, when he spent literally 5 minutes chopping down loads of vegetation in the Vine Jungle. But in principle, very good.

 

Characters appearing

As is evident from my review above, it’s Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Teela, Orko, the Sorceress, and Danavus who put on today’s show for us. It’s also the Mother and the Baby Roe, if you think they count.

Valley 5

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance:

To make up for previous occasions when she clearly couldn’t care less, this week Teela is incredibly concerned about Adam and Cringer’s disappearance. He-Man says, “Don’t worry, they’re all right,” which is normally more than enough to satisfy her, but she needs further reassurance about five minutes later, when He-Man reiterates the point with, “Don’t worry about Adam and Cringer, we won’t leave until we know they’re all right.”

 

Insults

He-Man refers to Danavus and the Baby Roe as the “Menace of the skies”, which is fair enough. More surprisingly, he starts sticking the knife into Battle-Cat on the return journey to the Palace, telling him that “An Eternian snail can move faster than this.” Battle-Cat is understandably not amused.

I also have a comment which may be considered insulting: what the Jesus Christ is wrong with Danavus’ teeth? He’s got way too many upper ones and no lower ones. While we’re at it, his eyes have no soul. He’s dead inside. He’s terrifying.

Valley 6

 

Does it have the Power?

As an environmentally friendly message it’s all very well, and it’s not boring for the most part. In fact, I quite appreciate it for being one of the first episodes yet to give some real character to both Cringer and Battle-Cat. Sometimes though, this cartoon strains credulity too far, even for the outlandish premise on which it’s based, and this week’s completely insane – and utterly unnecessary – sequence in which He-Man learns to fly is a case in point. The episode then briefly strays into a scene that literally no one would want to see when it makes Orko into a baby – though it steers itself out of this dreadful dead end pretty quickly. Other than these issues, it’s a reasonable outing, but I wouldn’t be hurrying to recommend it to anyone.