Episode 90 – Shades of Orko

In which Man-at-Arms tries to steal Bow’s thunder.

My enthusiasm for this episode is slightly muted before I’ve even hit play, simply because of the title. I can’t think of a single episode with the word Orko in the title that hasn’t been below average at best. Orko’s Missing Magic was the best of the bunch, but only in that it wasn’t a complete atrocity. On the other hand, Orko’s Favourite Uncle was an atrocity, and so was its sequel, The Return of Orko’s Uncle. Orko’s Return was tedious, and Orko’s New Friend was terrible. The only episode I’ve vaguely enjoyed with Orko in the title was the hard-to-find “lost” episode, He-Man Loses Patience And Rips Orko’s Head Off. Though I may have dreamed that one.

Still, let’s see if Shades of Orko can buck the trend. I mean, we all know it can’t, but let’s at least try, shall we? It starts promisingly enough, with Shadow Weaver summoning some shadowbeasties to attack the village of Thaymor. Bow brings this news to She-Ra and Glimmer, but before they can get on with defending Thaymor, one of those beastly portals opens, and Orko pops through. He is accompanied by Man-at-Arms, which is surprising, not to mention irritating, since I bid Man-at-Arms a fond farewell three episodes ago and now I’m going to have to do it again.

She-Ra: “Get off my planet.”

These two have come to deliver some electric forceshields, but get roped in to help against the shadowbeasties. The forceshields prove to be quite useful in the battle at Thaymor, and it’s amusing how surprised She-Ra sounds when she exclaims, “It works! Man-at-Arms’ forceshield works!” It definitely seems that she has prior experience of Man-at-Arms’ rubbish inventions.

Once the battle is won and the shadowbeasties repelled, Shadow Weaver herself teleports in, and performs an unexpected spell to remove Orko’s shadow. I can hear the She-Ra voice actress fighting not to snigger at the sheer ludicrousness as she says sternly, “Give it back”. Needless to say, Shadow Weaver does not comply, and teleports out again to Horror Hall.

Orko: “Stop right there before I pelt you with eggs or something equally hilarious.”

Just to give this slightly stupid premise a bit of mild peril, Man-at-Arms reveals that by nicking Orko’s shadow, Shadow Weaver has also stolen his magic. I don’t want to be accused of victim-blaming here, but Orko’s lost his magic on at least two previous occasions that I can recall: the afore-mentioned Orko’s Missing Magic, and also in The Magic Falls. It seems to me that he doesn’t really look after it all that well, and shouldn’t expect He-Man and She-Ra to gallivant about recovering it for him all the time.

Anyway, we now cut to Horror Hall, where Orko’s shadow has done a runner and is flying all around the place, leading Shadow Weaver, Grizzlor and some weirdo Horde robot on a merry chase. This bit of the episode goes on and on for literally five minutes without anything of note happening.

Grizzlor: “Sorry to waste your time like this.”

Back in Thaymor, our heroes are still standing exactly where we last saw them, having made apparently zero effort to get Orko’s shadow back. They all seem to think it’s absolutely impossible to get to Horror Hall, despite them having walked or flown there on several previous occasions. Instead, She-Ra indulges herself in a needless conversation with Light Hope, who reveals that though She-Ra can get the team into Horror Hall, it will be up to Orko to get them all out. This seems like a stupid arbitrary rule drawn up to give the episode some tension, but okay.

Using some why-the-hell-not magic, She-Ra opens a portal to Horror Hall, and the assembled crowd of dimwits pile through. Once inside, it doesn’t take long for them to locate Orko’s shadow, which reattaches itself to Orko with very little fanfare. Instead, the episode focuses at this stage on She-Ra having a long and unnecessary fight with various Horde baddies, until Orko uses his reacquired magic to separate Shadow Weaver from her own shadow. After this, our heroes stand around in Horror Hall laughing their idiot heads off at this hilarious reversal in Shadow Weaver’s fortunes. Then the episode just ends there, without Orko having to fulfil Light Hope’s stupid prophecy about getting everyone out of Horror Hall.

She-Ra: “Man-at-Arms, why are you hunching like that?”

In today’s adventure…

Loo-Kee is in Whispering Wood near the start of the episode. He’s lying on his back and looks like he might be dead, but no such luck. He informs us that when Shadow Weaver took Orko’s shadow, that was stealing, and stealing is always wrong. I am reminded of a moral dilemma that was presented to me in my Psychology A-level class: Jack has a wife who is ill, and a drug can save her. However, Jack and his wife cannot afford the drug, so Jack breaks into the pharmacy, steals the drug, and uses it to save his wife’s life. Is this act of stealing wrong? Admittedly, this is rather deep, and not a topic into which I would expect Loo-Kee to delve, but still.

Character checklist

On Etheria today, we have Adora, She-Ra, Glimmer, Bow, Orko, Man-at-Arms, Light Hope, Loo-Kee, some villagers, Shadow Weaver, Grizzlor, Leech, Rattlor, Mantenna, and the weird Horde robot.

Mantenna: “Bet you’d forgotten I can do this.”

Insults

There’s some fairly vicious stuff flying around today. Orko kicks off by referring to the entire Horde as “meanies”, and gets more specific by informing Shadow Weaver that she’s only “got half a mind”. Shadow Weaver retaliates by calling Orko a “miserable excuse for a wizard”, a “little bozo” and a “little pest”, and she goes on to refer to Grizzlor and the weirdo Horde robot as “fools”, “buffoons” and “worthless bumblers”. Finally, Mantenna gets in on the act by telling Grizzlor, Rattlor, Leech and the weirdo Horde robot that they are “dullards”.

Oh No, Bow!

When She-Ra opens the portal to Horror Hall, Bow instantly chirps up to say, “Hurry up, that portal won’t stay open for long!” What the hell do you know about it, Bow? Have you been taking evening classes in magicportalology? Thought not. For all you know, that portal might stay open until half past three this afternoon, until this time next April, or until some nebulous time in the future like when the UK exits the European Union. There’s just no way to know. Now shut up.

Special mention must also go to Man-at-Arms, who in the final fight scene observes Bow being shot with a freeze ray and shouts, “Oh Bow, no!” He then blunders into the freeze ray and gets frozen himself. In many ways, Man-at-Arms is just as useless as Bow, though admittedly he isn’t such an arrogant cock.

Man-at-Arms: “It’s difficult to say exactly how I thought this might help.”

Does it have the Power?

I’m going to have to be completely honest: this one does buck the Orko trend rather well. It’s relatively imaginative for Shadow Weaver to steal a shadow, even if that does ultimately mean the repetition of the missing magic plotline seen a few times previously. It’s also good to see Man-at-Arms again; this one feels like a much better send-off for him than his brief cameo appearance in The Inspector. I’m not going to do my teary-eyed farewell for him again though.

On the production side of things, this episode treats us to some unusual and effective animation work; Shadow Weaver is often depicted from ground-level, looking up at her, which is a great way of making her seem imposing and intimidating. There’s also a fantastic panning shot from Grizzlor, through the weirdo Horde robot and Rattlor to Leech, which is used when She-Ra is cornered by these four, and it’s pretty scary. We also get some new music; I particularly liked the dramatic drum-roll which greets the fade-in after the commercial break.

Leech: “Pretty sure this is going to be my last appearance, so I’d like to thank all my fans for their support over the years. I do have fans, right?”

There are annoying things about this episode, such as Orko, though he’s not as bad as he could be. She-Ra too is her usual irritating self, Light Hope is a moron, and Glimmer is as useless as ever. For some reason, Bow really got on my nerves this week, and I can’t help thinking it’s not healthy to get as annoyed with a cartoon character as I sometimes do with him. Still, I shan’t be seeing him much more, and I may well miss him once we move into the uncharted territory that awaits us after the end of She-Ra…

The He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special

In which the Christmas spirit comes to Eternia. And Etheria. But mostly Eternia.

Merry Christmas to you all. I’m sure that, like me, you’ve spent every Christmas Day for the last 30 years watching the Christmas Special on repeat until your mind melts. However, it has come to my attention that there are a few unfortunate souls who haven’t yet been introduced to this classic of Christmas television, so I will here summarise the plot and then review it.

In the Royal Palace, King Randor and Queen Marlena welcome a vast phalanx of Eternia and Etheria’s foremost freaks of nature to celebrate Adam and Adora’s birthday. There’s Moss-Man flirting outrageously with Queen Angela, Snout Spout hanging out with Fisto, Stratos hulking ominously over Castaspella, and Glimmer being studiously ignored by Cringer. Sy-Klone is also present, though he seems to have been relegated to the role of a waiter. Don’t worry about all these names; they’re only here as background action-figure advertisements, and they don’t do anything important. It’s a lovely panning shot, but let’s get with the story.

Cringer: “You’d better not come near me with any of this nonsense.”

Prince Adam and Man-at-Arms have skived off from the decorating in order to build a Sky Spy, a rocket which Man-at-Arms claims will allow them to learn of Skeletor’s every move. Of course, it’s not long before a combination of Orko’s innate stupidity and Man-at-Arms’ exceptionally poor design work means that Orko accidentally launches the rocket, with himself inside.

Skeletor is cruising about in the Collector, evidently simply looking for trouble, and the runaway rocket soon attracts his attention. Once Adam and Adora realise that Skeletor has noticed the Sky Spy, they become He-Man and She-Ra to stop Skeletor getting his bony blue hands on it. In this, they are successful: they inflict some gratuitous damage on the Collector, forcing Skeletor to turn and head for home. However, with his unerring talent for making a situation worse, Orko casts a spell on the Sky Spy which causes it to fly off into outer space.

He-Man and She-Ra – who as we all know can of course breathe, talk and survive in the vacuum of space – fly out of Eternia’s atmosphere and give chase.  On this occasion, however, the Sky Spy engages its warp drive, and our heroes lose track of it. They return to Eternia, unaware that Orko was on board anyway, though I have to wonder how far they’d care, even if they did know.

Prince Adam: “If I mash these controls enough, maybe I can arrange it so Orko will never come back.”

The Sky Spy crash-lands on Earth, and Orko emerges to immediately find two children about to be buried by an avalanche. He casts a spell to save them, and as a consequence of this idiotic act, we’re stuck with these bratty kids for the rest of the Christmas Special. They’re called Alicia and Miguel, and they are kind enough to explain to Orko all about Christmas. It turns out that Christmas is about presents, peace and goodwill towards men. There is evidently no goodwill towards women. Jesus is also conspicuous by his absence.

Orko: “Why are you kids so oddly fine with this?”

Back on Eternia, Man-at-Arms successfully tracks the Sky Spy to Earth, and at the same time, Marlena and Teela realise that Orko is missing. They put two and two together, and Teela says with undisguised glee, “Are you saying we’ll never get Orko back?” Man-at-Arms suggests using a transport beam to travel to Earth, but this will require the use of a kerium water crystal, which must be obtained from Etheria.

She-Ra returns to Etheria, where she meets up with Mermista. Mermista was apparently not invited to the party on Eternia, which seems a trifle harsh. Choosing to ignore this snub, Mermista agrees to help She-Ra acquire the water crystal, which is achieved by having a short and lacklustre fight with one of those ubiquitous dragon-like creatures, this one known imaginatively as the Beast Monster.

Mermista: “Yes, well, we’ll talk later about exactly how my invite got lost in the post.”

Once the crystal is in She-Ra’s grubby mitts, she is confronted by three tall robots which introduce themselves as Monstroids. It seems that someone at Mattel was well aware of the success of the Transformers, because these are second-rate rip-offs. The Monstroids imprison She-Ra in a forcefield, for no readily apparent reason, and then they fly off. Once they’re gone, She-Ra releases herself from the forcefield with ease. This little sequence is the very epitome of a pointless advertising scene.

She-Ra brings the crystal back to Man-at-Arms, who uses it to activate his transporter beam. As an aside note, I don’t know why Man-at-Arms keeps inventing things that rely on nearly unobtainable power sources. Off the top of my head, this transporter beam is one such example, as is the Palace radio transmitter in Three on a Dare (which needed rainbow quartz from Snake Mountain), and he also reveals that the entire planet needs Eternium in Double Edged Sword. Forward planning is clearly not his strong suit.

Anyway, once he turns on the transporter beam, a glowing light appears next to Orko and the children, which finally distracts them from the endless nattering about Father Christmas. They all walk into the light, which somehow – do not ask me how, because it defies logic – makes the entire Sky Spy disappear and rematerialise on Eternia. Orko introduces Alicia and Miguel to the inhabitants of the Palace, though he notably limits the introductions to the more normal-looking citizens. Snout Spout, Moss-Man and Sy-Klone are no longer anywhere to be seen.

King Randor: “Welcome to Eternia, where only perfectly normal people live. Yes, sir.”

With Alicia and Miguel on Eternia spreading the message of Christmas goodness, Horde Prime is disturbed. Or I assume he’s disturbed. He sounds like he’s talking underwater, frankly, so I haven’t really got a clue what he’s saying. He definitely summons both Hordak and Skeletor, and tells them to do something or another, which – based on what they subsequently go off to do – is capture the children.

Hordak gets there first, kidnapping the children with a tractor beam, and taking Orko too for good measure. Once he gets them back to Etheria, however, he is ambushed by the Monstroids, who have decided to capture the children to deliver them to Horde Prime and claim some kind of reward. Hordak gives the children up without a fight, and they end up locked up in a cell with Orko, who starts off on one of his infuriating “it’s all my fault” kicks. Yes it is, Orko, and it’s always all your fault. Why don’t you learn not to piss about with stuff that’s nothing to do with you?

Alicia: “Sure, sure, he’s really evil and everything, but when he’s doing this stupid little dance he doesn’t seem that intimidating.”

This irritating little sequence comes to an end with the beginning of an even more irritating sequence, in which some tiny robots called the Manchines come to the rescue. There are only two things I think I need to say about the Manchines: firstly, they plumb new depths of annoying, and secondly, one of them is called Cutter, which is possibly the most serial-killer name I’ve ever heard. They may seem to be rescuing the kids, but it can only be a matter of time before things turn nasty.

Luckily, He-Man and She-Ra show up to take the children out of Cutter’s hands, but less fortunately, Skeletor does likewise. He manages to get away with Alicia and Miguel, as well as some abomination of nature called Relay, who is a Manchine Puppy. He-Man and She-Ra give chase, but rather half-heartedly, and as a result, Skeletor escapes.

Not for long, of course. No. Now it’s time for Hordak to get involved again. He shoots down Skeletor’s Sky Sled, which crashes to a landing in some snowy mountains. Skeletor is then subjected to his most heinous character assassination since The Greatest Show on Eternia, when Alicia and Miguel tell him all about Christmas being the season of goodwill, and he actually listens. He gives the children nice warm coats and even saves that bloody dog Relay from freezing. In total fairness, this sequence does contain some of the funniest lines in the entire Christmas Special, as Skeletor tries and completely fails to understand how Christmas works.

Skeletor: “Nothing else about this episode works, but at least I remain a creation of comic genius.”

Eventually, the whole sorry situation comes to a head when He-Man, She-Ra, Hordak and Horde Prime all locate Skeletor and the children. There’s an almighty ruckus, the end result of which is that Skeletor takes a stand and saves the children from Horde Prime. He then claims to feel unwell, and unceremoniously exits while He-Man and She-Ra laugh at him. Which is nice of them.

Back at the Palace, Man-at-Arms has recharged the water crystal sufficiently to return the children to Earth. Before they go, Prince Adam dresses up as Father Christmas and gives them some flying belts, which I hope Man-at-Arms didn’t invent, given how often Man-at-Arms’ inventions break. Once they’re gone, Father Christmas Adam saunters up to Adora and says “Ho ho ho!” in a tone that implies he’d like some Christmas sex, immediately. For once, Adora doesn’t seem to be in the mood, but before the situation can turn ugly, Orko appears terrifyingly close to the camera and wishes everyone a merry Christmas. The End.

Adora: “Not tonight, brother, I have a headache.”

In today’s adventure…

Adam and Orko deliver this week’s moral, in which Adam explains that not everyone celebrates Christmas, but the spirit of love, joy and caring is within us all. Orko adds that Christmas is also about peace, happiness, and – most importantly – presents. At this, Adam turns to mug at the camera with one of the weirdest expressions I’ve ever seen him pull. I assume it’s meant to look like mild exasperation with Orko’s obsession with presents, but unfortunately he looks like he’s quite seriously mentally disturbed. Frankly, I’ve never seen an expression that more succinctly conveys the phrase, “I will kill again.”

Prince Adam: “Sleep well, kiddies. Sleep well.”

Character checklist

Oh good god, I don’t feel like I can successfully list all the characters in this car crash. I mean, it definitely includes Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Adora, Spirit, She-Ra, Swift Wind, Man-at-Arms, Orko, Teela, Glimmer, Bow, Kowl, Alicia, Miguel, King Randor, Queen Marlena, Madame Razz, Broom, Stratos, Fisto, Snout Spout, Sy-Klone, Moss Man, Ram Man, Mechaneck, Zodak, Man-e-Faces, Flutterina, Peekablue, Frosta, Castaspella, Queen Angela, Perfuma, Mermista, Sea Hawk, the Twiggets, Dree Elle, Yuckers, the Widgets, Loo-Kee, Skeletor, Hordak, Two Bad, Webstor, Rattlor (who’s working for Skeletor this time, though he only has one line, and it’s not to explain what he’s doing there), Spikor, Catra, Modulok, Multibot, Horde Prime, the Monstroids, the Manchines (including Relay), and Alicia and Miguel’s parents, but for all I know it includes billions of others too.

Skeletor: “I don’t understand why I couldn’t bring my usual henchmen instead of being landed with you lot.”

Excuse given for Adora and Adam’s transformations

Despite numerous transformations, some of which take place in the easily over-looked Palace courtyard, neither Adam nor Adora nor anyone else seek to explain their absence.

Insults

Fittingly for a feature-length episode, we’ve got a feature-sized quantity of insults. We start relatively sedately, with Two-Bad’s purple head calling his blue one a “lamebrain”, and the blue head retaliating with “motormouth”.

Once Two-Bad’s got his little personality disorder out of the way, the majority of the rest of the insults are directed at Skeletor or the Monstroids. Swift Wind refers to the Monstroids as “evil robots”, whereas Hordak considers one of them to be a “bucket of bolts”. He-Man and She-Ra get in on the act with “metal-mouth” and “iron head” respectively. None of these insults is particularly imaginative, but everyone’s just warming up at this stage.

She-Ra: “Oh, Christ, the Monstroids. It seems a bit unfair to go reminding us of Day of the Flowers on Christmas Day.”

 Hordak’s in a foul mood with Skeletor this week, calling him “bone-brain”, “bonehead” and “skull-faced scoundrel” on various occasions. He-Man’s heart doesn’t seem to be in it, but he does at least contrive to join in by calling Skeletor a “bone-face”. Skeletor doesn’t even dignify this with a response, but does tell Hordak that he’s a “miserable excuse for a villain”. He then refers to Alicia and Miguel as “troublesome tots” and to Relay as a “dratted dog”, a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly concur.

Finally, Hordak says that Alicia and Miguel are “goody-goods” and “little fools”, while She-Ra tells Horde Prime that he is a “troublemaker”. This last is entirely accurate, and I suspect Horde Prime is pleased about it, but I’m pretty sure She-Ra wasn’t trying to be complimentary.

Skeletor: “Oddly, not much in the way of insults from me today.”

Oh No, Bow!

In the scene at the start where our heroes are decorating the Palace, Bow is engrossed in unnecessarily painting a box, which is the most complicated task that anyone dared to assign him. Even so, he’s still got the nerve to tell Peekablue that the stars she’s painting on the wall ought to be purple. Bow is clearly big in the world of interior design, as evidenced by the fact that he lives in a campsite in the woods, and therefore has loads of experience in the subject.

Bow then disappears from the episode, until about halfway through when he pops up again in order to lean against a tree, thrusting his crotch provocatively in the direction of Alicia and Miguel, and to teach them to sing a horrendous song about joy and Christmas spirit. It’s dreadful. Bow’s done some horrific things in the past, but this really does go the extra mile. Go away, Bow. I never want to see you again.

Miguel: “I feel like if I try to leave, these guys are going to get nasty.”

Does it have the Power?

I don’t like being overly negative, especially when it’s plain that the writers and production team have really tried to craft a great Christmas special, but this one has never really done anything for me, and I don’t know why. I think part of the problem is that an awful lot of it comes across as an advert, rather than a story – the Monstroids and the Manchines, in particular, really felt like they were only there to sell toys.

Snout Spout: “Everyone you see in the following panning shot is available to buy.”

Looking back over the episode summary, I’d say that I enjoyed the Special mostly up to the point where Alicia and Miguel arrived on Eternia, after which it goes downhill quite rapidly with the endless capturing and rescuing of the children. As mentioned above, Skeletor has some brilliant lines when he has custody of the children, but this is pretty much the only point in the whole special at which the dialogue really comes to life.

Speaking of Skeletor, I think I’m more open than many He-Man fans when it comes to his character. I know that his crazy desire to bring the circus to Snake Mountain in The Greatest Show on Eternia infuriated many, but I – while not welcoming it with open arms – didn’t particularly mind. However, his behaviour in this episode is perhaps one step too far. I simply cannot believe that Skeletor would ever do anything good, especially not giving up a reward from Horde Prime for capturing the children. It just doesn’t ring true. My impression of Skeletor is that he can be petty and small-minded (as with the circus incident), but he just doesn’t have it in him to do good.

Skeletor: “Somewhere, somehow, something has gone hideously wrong.”

Everything else this time is pretty much by-the-numbers. He-Man, She-Ra and Hordak are all present and correct, as are the lead supporting casts from the respective shows, but no one does anything inspiring. It’s nice to see Man-at-Arms again, though it would have been good if Teela could have had a few more lines. Glimmer gets short shrift, as always, but who cares about her? In summary, I’m afraid I can’t say I loved this episode, but being honest, if you’re a He-Man fan, you’re going to be watching it this Christmas anyway.

Episode 130 – The Cold Zone

In which Kobra Khan forgets to pay the leccy bill.

Adam, Cringer, Man-at-Arms and Orko are out on one of their inexplicable jaunts, doing nothing at all, when they are perturbed by the arrival of Kobra Khan, driving a ridiculous vehicle identified by Orko as a Land Shark. The plot thickens when Kobra Khan asks the assembled multitude where He-Man is, requesting his help. Apparently the Eternal Fire has gone out, which means that Kobra Khan’s people – the Reptons – will go into hibernation forever. I would define hibernation that lasts forever as being dead, but Kobra Khan clearly prefers to dance around that issue.

Cold 1
Cringer: “That vehicle is so stupid, even I’m not intimidated.”

Adam points out that – Kobra Khan himself aside – the Reptons are a peaceful people, and offers to help. After waiting for Kobra Khan to get out of sight, he turns into He-Man, and he and his team set off for the Reptons’ home. The road there involves several boring traps and monsters, and He-Man and Kobra Khan work together to defeat them. Kobra Khan notably saves Man-at-Arms from a falling tree, thus earning his trust – but it is made clear that Kobra Khan is planning a betrayal.

The home of the Reptons turns out to be the same generic cave system that we see every other episode on He-Man, and our merry band troll through it, commenting that it genuinely is quite cold, and exchanging worried remarks about whether relighting the Eternal Fire is possible. Naturally enough, Kobra Khan goes missing, so – without smelling a rat – He-Man and co. continue to explore. They eventually discover the chamber where the Eternal Fire ought to be, and conclude that it definitely isn’t burning any more.

Cold 2
He-Man: “This is the moment to panic more than we’ve ever panicked before.”

As they examine the chamber, they are cornered by lots of Reptons, who accuse them of being responsible for extinguishing the Fire. Taken to King Pythos, He-Man pleads his innocence, and rests his case on Kobra Khan’s ability to vouch for them. When questioned, however, Kobra Khan claims that he saw Team He-Man putting the Fire out. Bet you didn’t see that coming.

He-Man gets violent at this stage, which results in Kobra Khan using his sleeping gas to knock the entire lot of them out. Kobra Khan then makes an offer to the Reptons: if he is able to restore the Eternal Fire, he will replace Pythos as King. Pythos agrees, and Kobra Khan pops off to call Scottish & Southern Energy and get them to turn the gas back on. Unfortunately, Scottish & Southern tell him that due to unpaid arrears, they can’t restore power. Kobra Khan doesn’t have enough hard cash to make a payment, and he doesn’t have any credit cards either, so we really do have a problem now.

Cold 3
Kobra Khan: “Seems I didn’t think this through.”

Luckily, a nice Repton called Scales quickly discovers Kobra Khan’s treachery, and goes to He-Man’s prison cell forthwith. He details the entire plot for the benefit of the slower viewers, explaining that Kobra Khan engineered the whole situation in order to become King, but now is unable to relight the Fire. He-Man is only too willing to try to get the Fire going again, and asks Man-at-Arms how to do it. Man-at-Arms compiles a lengthy list of necessary mining equipment which they don’t have, so He-Man ignores his contribution and turns the Fire back on by turning himself into a drill and burrowing down to the centre of the planet.

As soon as the Fire is working again, Kobra Khan leaps out of a hiding place and happily crows that he will take the credit. Unfortunately, he’s idiot enough to not check whether King Pythos is standing behind him when he makes this statement – and what do you know, he is. Kobra Khan is led away by the Repton guards, then brought back about 20 seconds later for Scales to throw doughballs at him. This cartoon could be completely mental sometimes.

Cold 4
Kobra Khan: “In some ways, I suppose you could argue I had this coming.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms informs us that we shouldn’t make decisions by jumping to the first or the easiest conclusion, which is what King Pythos did by believing Kobra Khan. This touches on racism – Man-at-Arms explains that Pythos trusted Kobra Khan simply because he was one of the Reptons – and is a pretty good moral.

The only downside to this moral is that Man-at-Arms closes by saying, “See you next time.” Unfortunately, this being the last episode ever, we all know that this is untrue, and so his comment has an unexpected poignancy. I wish they’d carried on making He-Man for ever and ever.

 

Character checklist

The grand finale of He-Man gives us the fairly classic hero line-up of Prince Adam, He-Man, Cringer, Battle-Cat, Man-at-Arms and Orko. The villain is, of course, Kobra Khan, and we also meet Scales, King Pythos, and plenty of other Reptons.

Cold 5
King Pythos: “Imperial robes or dressing gown? You decide.”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Not wishing to go out on a high, Prince Adam doesn’t bother to give an excuse.

 

Insults

It’s not the most bountiful episode for insults, sadly. Battle-Cat implies that Kobra Khan is a “big mouth”, without coming out and actually saying it to his face. Orko calls Kobra Khan a “snake”, but that’s hardly insulting, and the Attack Trak decides to get personal by calling the Land Shark “Smiley”.

 

Does it have the Power?

For the last episode of the series, He-Man goes out with neither a bang nor a whimper. It’s not the show-stopping finale that we were all secretly hoping for, but luckily neither is it on a par with the poor efforts we’ve seen lately. I do appreciate that the writers didn’t know the show was finishing, and so it’s not particularly surprising that we don’t get an amazing last episode, but it does seem a shame that we finish without seeing Skeletor messing with Castle Grayskull one last time.

Cold 6
Prince Adam: “Let’s all look down on Cringer.”

Still, judging this episode without considering its position in the series, it’s all right. It’s quite nice to see where Kobra Khan came from, and the reference to him being the “black snake of the family” was entertaining. It’s easy to see the double-cross coming a mile off, so perhaps it’s fortunate that the writer signposted it by allowing us to hear Kobra Khan’s thoughts from quite early on – that way, we actually had a sense of anticipation building for the inevitable betrayal, instead of the episode expecting us to be surprised when Kobra Khan turns out to be a baddy. I’m happy to say, then, that I recommend the final episode of He-Man.

Episode 124 – The Toy Maker

In which Skeletor begins plans to open a sinister version of Toys R Us.

We open in Snake Mountain, where the eponymous Toy Maker is offering his services to Skeletor. Skeletor, proving that he isn’t completely mad yet, asks why the bloody hell he would be interested in a Toy Maker. The Toy Maker explains that his toys are somewhat out of the ordinary, to the extent of being able to take over a kingdom. Skeletor admits his interest, and instructs the Toy Maker to use his toys to capture Man-at-Arms.

As luck would have it, Man-at-Arms is messing about in the wilderness with one of his new inventions, which I will christen the Amazing Melting Machine. Environmentally responsible as always, he is trying to use the Amazing Melting Machine to melt hills. There follows an extended and irrelevant sequence in which the Amazing Melting Machine goes haywire and has to be stopped by He-Man. I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t point out that during this sequence, He-Man uses the Amazing Melting Machine to melt a cloud, which I do not think is possible.

Toy Maker 2
He-Man: “Right … what physical impossibility shall I try today?”

After this delightful happening, Orko flies off, whinging about how no one likes him. He is correct. I like him still less when, a moment or two later, he bumps into the Toy Maker, who flatters him and then gives him some evil toys – specifically a teddy bear, a toy soldier, and a diplodocus. The Toy Maker even uses the telltale evil phrase, “Now remember, this’ll be our little secret.” Orko doesn’t pick up on this enormous spot-the-baddy hint, and happily takes the magic toys back to the Palace.

Toy Maker 3
Orko: “I’m all for not judging people by appearance, but really, there’s no way you’re not going to turn out to be evil, is there?”

At the Palace, Adam, Man-at-Arms, Teela and Orko all watch the toys as they magically strut about on a table. The four of them are ridiculously entranced, as if they’ve never heard of clockwork. Man-at-Arms suggests that the King and Queen would like to see the toys as well, because he evidently considers the King and Queen to be equally mentally deficient. Unfortunately, things never get to that stage, since once everyone else has gone to bed, the toys increase dramatically in size, and advance on Man-at-Arms and take him prisoner, in a surprisingly creepy sequence.

In the morning, Adam, Randor, Teela and Orko discover what has happened. When it emerges that the Toy Maker is actually a dangerous criminal and not a friendly if secretive wizard, Orko utters his favourite phrase: “Oh no! It’s all my fault.” Instead of agreeing with him, Adam just tells him not to blame himself, and pops off to turn into He-Man.

Teela and Orko are examining the tracks left by the toys, when Ram-Man unexpectedly shows up, offering his services. There is a noticeable lack of enthusiasm displayed at his arrival. Everyone is much more pleased when seconds later, He-Man and Battle-Cat appear. It is quickly determined that the tracks lead through the Valley of Echoes, which is allegedly very dangerous, but frankly in the extended sequence that follows, I think “boring” would be a more accurate description.

Toy Maker 4
He-Man: “The Beeb didn’t mention fog in today’s forecast. They never bloody get it right.”

It’s now time for a fight with the toys, which luckily doesn’t last too long, and ends with Orko acquiring magical mastery of the toys, for some reason. He-Man then considers it the height of hilarity to defeat Skeletor using the toy diplodocus. Once he’s finished messing around thus, Teela rescues Man-at-Arms, and He-Man takes the Toy Maker into custody. He also randomly decides to arrest Beast-Man and Trapjaw, which seems a little unfair, since they haven’t done anything wrong (at least, not this week).

Toy Maker 5
Teela: “I am for some reason suddenly sexually interested in Orko.”

 

In today’s adventure…

King Randor stands in the Palace courtyard, looking incredibly solemn. And with good reason: today’s moral is the very important lesson that you mustn’t take presents from strangers. Then Orko shows up, and adds that he ought to have known something was afoot when the Toy Maker asked him to keep secrets from He-Man. King Randor agrees with this piece of advice, and says, “Friends don’t have to keep secrets from each other.” He then closes with the by now traditional sign-off, “Till next time.” Unfortunately, he slurs these sentences together, making it sound as if he’s saying, “Friends don’t have to keep secrets from each other till next time,” implying that after the next episode of He-Man, you’ll have an absolutely massive secret to keep from your friends.

 

Character checklist

A pretty classic line-up greets us today, with Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Man-at-Arms, Orko, Teela, Ram-Man, King Randor, Skeletor, Beast-Man, Trapjaw and Whiplash. The only newbie on the table is the Toy Maker.

Toy Maker 1
Man-at-Arms: “Hey Orko, check out these awesome earmuffs I got from Primark!”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

When the Amazing Melting Machine goes mental, Adam comments, “Let’s go, Cringer, we’re needed.” This is at a juncture when no one is paying any attention to him anyway, so it’s unnecessary, but appreciated. Later on, he offers, “I’ll go for help”, when it becomes clear that He-Man is going to be called upon to do battle with a giant toy teddy bear.

 

Insults

Skeletor is less interested in insults than normal, rather surprisingly referring to everybody as his “friend”. It may be sarcastic, but it doesn’t sound it. Even when he does get insulting, his heart isn’t really in it, offering only “little man” to the Toy Maker. The only other insult in the episode isn’t much better, consisting as it does of Orko referring to the Toy Maker as a “bad Toy Maker”.

Toy Maker 6
Toy Maker: “I can’t begin to tell you how upset I am over what Orko said to me.”

 

Does it have the Power?

It’s good fun, an original idea for an episode, and a relevant moral – all things that have been sorely lacking in He-Man recently. The Amazing Melting Machine sequence is completely irrelevant, and the bit in the Valley of Echoes is fairly dull, but otherwise, it gets a lot right. The Toy Maker is a credible baddy, and his toys achieve a few moments of genuine creepiness. Skeletor’s plans are all over the place as usual – God knows why he wants to capture Man-at-Arms – but who cares about that? All in all, this is an unexpectedly good episode, though once again, you won’t find it on my Top 10 list.

Episode 114 – Battle of the Dragons

In which a war between dragons is somehow boring.

This week, we are introduced to a very evil-looking dragon called Morningstar, who has hatched a plan to rule Eternia. This plan hinges on the acquisition of the Ice Crystal, which will allow Morningstar to put out the fire from which Granamyr draws his powers, after which he plans to depose Granamyr and start a war with the humans.

With the Crystal in his possession, Morningstar heads straight for Darksmoke and uses it to put out Granamyr’s fire. When Granamyr kicks off about it, Morningstar claims that the fire was extinguished by humans. It’s unfortunate, therefore, that He-Man, Man-at-Arms and Orko are even now arriving for a visit to Darksmoke to celebrate the anniversary of the treaty between dragons and humans. Overriding Granamyr’s concerns, Morningstar sends a squadron of dragons who force the Wind Raider to crash land.

Battle 1
He-Man: “Typical Easyjet.”

Morningstar persuades most of the dragons to prepare for war, but Granamyr refuses to join them. When He-Man’s party finally arrives at Darksmoke, Granamyr fills them in on the situation. Though he believes Morningstar that some humans put out his fire, he does not wish for war over it – but without his magic, he cannot prevent the other dragons. He then casually mentions that his fire can only be re-lit with flames from the Pit of Shadows, in the same sort of fashion that a child might just happen to mention they’d like a new bike or something in the run-up to Christmas.

Of all people, it’s Orko who picks up on this subtle hint, and promises to retrieve the flames for Granamyr. Of course, he’s accompanied by He-Man and Man-at-Arms, and the three of them manage to get hold of some of the flames with no trouble. They return to Granamyr and relight his fire, after which Granamyr persuades the majority of the dragons to call off their attacks on human villages.

Battle 2
Man-at-Arms: “Pretty sure Take That did a song based on the plot to this episode.”

Naturally, Morningstar doesn’t listen to Granamyr, and so the two of them breathe fire at each other for a while. Granamyr wins, as you may well have predicted, then shows mercy, and there’s time enough for a return visit to Darksmoke and a less-than-amusing joke to finish the episode. Despite it not being at all funny, we are treated to at least 30 seconds’ worth of Man-at-Arms, He-Man and Granamyr laughing like hysterical hyenas.

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms draws inspiration from Granamyr and Morningstar’s fire-breathing competition, at the end of which Granamyr did not press the matter further. Man-at-Arms tells us that winning is no excuse for bad manners, and reminds us that being a good winner is as important as being a good loser. It’s tempting to say Man-at-Arms is a loser, but he’s too easy a target, so I won’t.

 

Character checklist

It’s not big on the regulars, limiting itself to Prince Adam, He-Man, Man-at-Arms and Orko, but it makes up for that with a reasonably hefty guest cast, consisting of Granamyr, Morningstar, a dude called Targon, and a whole load of dragons and some human villagers.

Battle 3
Granamyr: “Orko, you can either get off my head voluntarily or as a result of some serious violence.”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s transformation

As usual these days, Adam transforms with only Man-at-Arms around, and thus doesn’t bother with the tired excuses.

 

Insults

It’s the first time in quite a while, but no one insults anyone else today. Unless of course I missed it, because this episode was pretty boring and I wouldn’t mind betting I zoned out quite often while it was on.

Battle 4
Morningstar: “Check out my new bling.”

 

Does it have the Power?

This is a disappointing episode, all the more so because I have really enjoyed the other three episodes involving Granamyr, so I was rather looking forward to this one. It’s all the more tragic given this is most likely Granamyr’s last appearance (there’s only 16 episodes left, folks, and it’s unlikely he’ll be showing up again), so it’s a shame he goes out on a damp squib.

I understand what they were aiming at with this episode, but it all came across as quite stunningly mediocre. There was never a sense of threat or peril, and frankly Orko got far too much screen time, while He-Man and Man-at-Arms seemed to be sleepwalking through the story and didn’t really do anything. I somehow just didn’t care about Morningstar and his plot, and Granamyr seemed far too vulnerable as compared to his previous appearances.

There were two points I really liked though, one at the start and one at the end. We first meet Morningstar when he’s talking to a dude named Targon, who has brought him the Ice Crystal. This scene is cleverly constructed, giving Targon his own motivations and schemes (he’s plainly intending to double-cross Morningstar at some point), to the extent that the viewer thinks Targon is the episode’s main baddy. Then Morningstar simply freezes him with the Ice Crystal, and we never see him again! It’s a great subversion of the viewer’s expectations.

Battle 5
Targon: “I’m suddenly a bit concerned about my long-term prospects.”

The other moment comes at the end of the episode, just as Granamyr and He-Man are wrapping things up at Darksmoke. Over the course of the episode, the dragons have destroyed a human village. Normally, in this cartoon, we’d see the villagers standing round laughing their heads off at the end of the episode, forgetting the fact that they now have no homes. Here, Granamyr actually promises to rebuild the village. It’s a very nice touch of realism rarely seen in He-Man World.

These two immensely positive points, however, don’t really redeem the dull 18 minutes that they bookend. If I were you, I’d ignore this episode and pretend that Granamyr’s story finished with Disappearing Dragons.

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.

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 108 – Teela’s Triumph

In which I finally realise that Man-at-Arms is wearing an all-in-one bodysuit.

In Castle Grayskull, the Sorceress has been joined for a friendly chitchat by a freaky floating pink head. The two of them watch Man-at-Arms and Teela on a magic mirror, idly conversing about how awesome Teela is and how much the Sorceress is looking forward to the day she can reveal that she is Teela’s mother. Suddenly, the Sorceress decides she can wait no longer, so she turns into her falcon form and flies off to tell Teela all about it.

Triumph 1
The Sorceress: “This pink head thing could just be the result of too much cheese before bedtime.”

Unfortunately, the Sorceress’ route takes her past Snake Mountain, where Skeletor is messing about with inter-dimensional weapons again. To demonstrate his new gun to Evil-Lyn and Trapjaw, he shoots Zoar and sends her to another world. Zoar appears in a landscape of volcanoes and raining lava, and indulges in a monologue about how hopeless her situation is, and how even He-Man will be unable to find her. It seems to go without saying that her super duper daughter Teela will be similarly unable.

Luckily, the freaky pink head appears to Adam, Cringer, Teela and Man-at-Arms to inform them that the Sorceress has vanished. Man-at-Arms tells Adam to find He-Man, and the pink head tells Teela that she must replace the Sorceress at Castle Grayskull. Teela presciently asks why, but the pink head dodges the question with, “I can’t tell you.” This seems to be adequate for Teela, but let’s not forget she is the least perceptive person on an entire planet of people with eyes closed to the obvious.

Triumph 2
Teela: “No need to question too much as to why I’ve got to be the Sorceress. I’m sure it all makes sense.”

Teela arrives at Castle Grayskull, where – to the beat of an outstandingly trippy 80s soundtrack – the pink head guides her through the lessons she must learn to become the new Sorceress. These lessons do not include the knowledge concerning He-Man’s secret identity, which I would argue is hands down the most important thing for the Sorceress. How else will she call for help when she inevitably gets into some stupid form of trouble?

Meanwhile, in an effort to find out where the Sorceress is, He-Man goes to Snake Mountain to have a heart-to-heart with Skeletor, which proves to be a surprisingly subtle fencing match of a conversation. It ends, however, with He-Man being blasted with the Dimension Gun and sent to the volcano planet, after which Skeletor abandons all pretence at subtlety and shrieks, “That’s the end of He-Man!” while happily waving his arms around.

Triumph 3
He-Man: “Hmm. Skeletor’s version of Butlin’s leaves something to be desired.”

Skeletor’s next move is to leap on the Grayskull Express train, and arrives at the castle gates pronto, with his usual intent to unlock the secrets. Teela, who isn’t doing very well in her training course run by the floating pink head, decides to disguise herself as the Sorceress, which she does very badly. To his eternal credit, Skeletor sees through this deception, so Teela has no choice but to fight.

Back on Volcano World, the Sorceress has opted to lurk inside a cave full of lava, which is as sensible as it sounds. It’s not terribly surprising, therefore, that she gets trapped inside, which means He-Man has to turn himself into a drill and dig her out. Once this implausible feat is achieved, the Sorceress is able to use He-Man’s sword to return them to Eternia.

Triumph 4
He-Man: “So that’s how many times this week I’ve had to rescue you, Sorceress? I ought to be charging a finder’s fee.”

They arrive to find Teela has tied Evil-Lyn up with more ropes than looks strictly necessary, but hasn’t bothered to do anything about Skeletor – presumably because Skeletor equally hasn’t bothered to do anything except lounge about on Castle Grayskull’s throne. The appearance of the Sorceress and He-Man spooks Skeletor so much that he simply runs away. There’s just enough time for the Sorceress to tell Teela that her mother would be very proud of her, and for Teela to reciprocate that she wishes her mother was just like the Sorceress. There is also enough time for me to vomit copiously into a bucket.

 

In today’s adventure…

We’re treated to a pretty muddled moral this week, delivered by Man-at-Arms, who tells us that we have to try to do difficult things and must always do our best. There’s really not a lot I can say about that, so instead I’d like to focus on a question about Man-at-Arms that has bothered me for a while. You know how he wears green, with yellow armour on top? It really bothers me that he has green hands too. They’re not gloves, because they blend seamlessly with his green sleeves. The only explanation is that he’s wearing a green all-in-one latex bodysuit, which is a horrible thought.

Triumph 5
Man-at-Arms: “Loving my green body stocking.”

 

Character checklist

It’s a relatively tight cast today, featuring Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Teela, Man-at-Arms, the Sorceress, Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, Trapjaw and the giant pink head. It’s also a special occasion, since there’s no sign of Orko.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

No excuse as such, but Man-at-Arms does pointedly say that Adam had better find He-Man. And what do you know, he does!

 

Insults

It’s a relatively imaginative selection today, what with Evil-Lyn calling Battle-Cat “mangy”, though notably not to his face. Teela comments, “You don’t have a mind” to Trapjaw, which seems fair enough. Skeletor lowers the standard, though, by offering the dull “fool” to Evil-Lyn.

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Evil-Lyn: “I’ll grant you, it was fairly foolish of me to let this happen.”

 

Does it have the Power?

There’s quite a bit to like about this one, though I’d hesitate to describe it as a classic. Skeletor – as usual – has some sparkling dialogue, and his scene with He-Man in the middle of the episode, in which they each try to learn from the other where the Sorceress is, is definitely a highlight. The Volcano Planet is beautifully animated, and there’s a great atmosphere of desolation in those scenes, conveying nicely – without ever saying it – that this is a dead world, with no inhabitants and no hope.

That being said, the Sorceress is useless as ever, simply cowering in a cave until He-Man shows up, and being honest, their method of returning to Eternia is as deus ex machina as they come. I also have very little time for Teela, so the scenes of her learning to be the Sorceress – and being too monumentally stupid to work out why she’s been selected for this honour – did not interest me. In addition, I have very little conception as to why the Sorceress can’t tell Teela who her mother is; it feels like an arbitrary rule made up just for the hell of it.

Still, this all sounds like I didn’t like this episode, which isn’t the case at all. It’s well worth a watch.

Episode 106 – The Bitter Rose

In which Orko reveals that his sexual predilections go beyond vanilla.

This week’s episode seems to have a missing opening scene or something, because with no explanation whatsoever, Orko’s girlfriend Dree Elle is hanging out at the Palace, and she’s massively depressed for no apparent reason. Orko resolves to do something nice to snap her out of this unexplained downer.

Man-at-Arms (in his unlikely capacity as Eternia’s foremost embroiderer) reveals a tapestry of the legendary Bitter Rose, and tells the story of the Rose’s origins (in summary, a woman was really upset and cried every day, then turned into a rose, or something insane like that). Orko decides that this mythical flower would make the perfect gift, so heads off to Rose Mountain and successfully picks the Bitter Rose.

Bitter 1.jpg
Man-at-Arms: “Yes, yes, I embroidered this myself. Definitely didn’t nick it from someone who can actually embroider. No.”

Unfortunately, this triggers an avalanche, which is bad news for a bunch of butterfly men who appear to live inside the mountain. Their first reaction is to call a meeting, despite the fact that holding a meeting inside a collapsing mountain is about as stupid as you can get. The only butterfly man with an ounce of brains is Garth (first seen in Eye of the Beholder many episodes ago), who heads to the Palace to ask for help.

At the Palace, Man-at-Arms is demonstrating his new invention. It’s called a Matchorator, but despite a reasonable chunk of screen time devoted to Man-at-Arms explaining it, I can’t figure out what it’s meant to do. However, Man-at-Arms does say that the Matchorator still has a few flaws, so he wouldn’t like to try it on a unique specimen. I am pretty sure, therefore, that very soon he’s going to have to try it on the unique Bitter Rose.

Once this piece of either blatant scene-setting or random irrelevance is over, Garth arrives at the Palace to report that Orko has nicked the Bitter Rose and caused Rose Mountain to start collapsing. He-Man heads straight for the Mountain, where he spends a fair chunk of the episode’s run time in building a wall to prevent rocks hitting the butterfly men’s village. He and Teela then waste further time playing baseball with falling rocks. This was truly riveting entertainment.

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Battle-Cat: “He-Man, why are you dancing with that log?”

Luckily, Skeletor enters the episode to inject a bit of random animosity to proceedings. Getting wind of the fact that Orko has acquired the Bitter Rose, Skeletor – with no evident purpose – decides that he’d like the Rose for himself. He sends Beast-Man and Trapjaw off to get it, which rather surprisingly results in Orko’s speedy capture. There’s then a (potentially unintended) hilarious bit where Beast-Man makes a rubbish joke, and Trapjaw just looks at him, leaves a pause just long enough to imply that he thinks Beast-Man is mental, and then changes the subject.

He-Man decides that he will spend the rest of the episode hoofing boulders about, and thus it is left to Garth to rescue Orko from Snake Mountain. Orko appears vaguely apologetic for causing this trouble, and agrees to head back to Rose Mountain to replant the stolen flower. Unfortunately, Beast-Man and Trapjaw are in hot pursuit, and they accidentally shoot and kill the Bitter Rose. They then return to Snake Mountain and make a replica of the Rose, in a futile effort to deceive Skeletor.

Bitter 3
Skeletor: “This is going to be the picture on my new range of Valentine’s Day merchandise.”

Meanwhile, Man-at-Arms – not entirely unexpectedly – decides to take the Rose to his lab and use the Matchorator on it. The Matchorator doesn’t work, so Orko and Dree Elle do some mumbo jumbo about having good intentions and love and ra ra ra, which makes the Rose come back to life. The whole crowd of them return to Rose Mountain and replant the Rose.

The Bitter Rose then transforms into the woman who was mentioned when Man-at-Arms unveiled his stupid tapestry. Orko develops a really weird hunchback and begs the woman to punish him, but she informs him she’s not into that sort of freaky business. Speaking as if she’s drugged up to the eyeballs on Valium, she ponderously yammers on about the power of love, then disappears. Praise be. Also: what the hell?

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Dree Elle: “Jesus, Orko, what the hell is wrong with you now?”

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms tries to tell us that Orko nearly caused disaster today by doing something that he knew was wrong. I’m usually the first in line to criticise Orko, but frankly all he thought he was doing today was picking a flower. Yes, a rare and special flower, but he was fully intending to replant it when he got it to the Palace anyway – he even said as much. One could even argue that he was attempting to preserve a one-of-a-kind species by taking it to a more secure environment. That might be going a touch far in Orko’s defence, but still, it’s a bit excessive to make out that he was deliberately doing something wrong.

 

Character checklist

Populating this excitingly deranged dribble of an episode are Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Man-at-Arms, Teela, Orko, Dree Elle, King Randor, Queen Marlena, Skeletor, Beast-Man, Trapjaw, Garth, loads of butterfly people, and the weird rose woman.

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Rose woman: “Dree Elle, if I give you this rose, please will you make sure your creepy boyfriend stays away from me?”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

“Come on, Cringer, let’s find He-Man,” says Adam, and walks into a very small bush in the Palace courtyard. He then emerges seconds later as He-Man. Dree Elle and Teela are watching, and even if they are so monumentally thick that they don’t work out the dual identity thing, they must at the very least wonder why He-Man is skulking about in a shrubbery.

 

Insults

Although Trapjaw does take the time to call Beast-Man a “fur-brain”, it should come as no surprise when I reveal that Skeletor is responsible for most of this week’s vitriol. He calls Orko a “little menace”, then turns on Beast-Man and Trapjaw, who he refers to as “dolts” and then, rather unexpectedly, “meatheads”. The episode ends with him shrieking at them, “You no-good rotten excuses for …” before being too overcome with rage to speak properly.

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Trapjaw: “Beast-Man, there’s no need to look so incredibly put out. This is no stupider than what we normally do.”

 

Does it have the Power?

This cartoon is customarily insane, but sometimes it really surpasses itself. This week was one of those occasions. I would like to know why Dree Elle was present, why she was so bloody miserable, why Skeletor decided to get involved, why it was deemed necessary for He-Man to spend the entire episode pushing rocks about, and why the writers thought that the episode would be best served with a grand finale featuring a sexualised half-woman-half-rose thing talking dopily about peace and love, man. So basically, no, I don’t believe it does have the Power.

Episode 098 – Search for the Past

In which Prince Adam leaps out of a moving Wind Raider for no reason whatsoever.

Man-at-Arms and Orko go shopping down at the market. You might think that the episode can’t get any more exciting than that, but it does. At one trader’s stall, Man-at-Arms spots a golden bracelet which used to belong to King Randor’s father, King Miro, and demands to know where he found it. On learning that it came from the Swamps of Enchantment, Man-at-Arms takes the bracelet to Randor, and the two of them decide to go to the Swamps to find Miro.

Search 1
King Randor: “You’re nicked.”

Concerned for her husband, Queen Marlena asks Adam and Cringer to go to the Swamps as well. She is right to be worried: Man-at-Arms’ stupendous incompetence has already led to Randor being kidnapped by the Enchantress, a sexy sorceress who was responsible for Miro’s disappearance many years ago.

Adam and Cringer fly to the Swamps in the Wind Raider. Once they get there they decide not to land the Wind Raider like normal, but instead jump out and float down using parachutes, leaving the Wind Raider to land itself. This is bizarre behaviour, the only reason for which Adam gives is the non sequitur phrase, “In that spinach?” Adam is mental.

Search 2
Cringer: “This sequence must have been a devil of a job for the animators.”

They quickly locate Man-at-Arms, and decide to turn into He-Man and Battle-Cat for good measure. They soon decide that Randor must be being held in Lost Mountain, which is a mountain hovering in mid-air directly above the Swamps. Unsure of how to get up to the mountain, He-Man comments that it would be good to have a Wind Raider. There is no hint in his voice that it’s his own bloody insane fault that they don’t.

Without a Wind Raider available, He-Man instead catapults himself onto the mountain using a bent tree, and sets off to find the missing royals. He finds King Miro first, who is in a rock cabin at the very top of a mountain spire, and he reveals that Randor is probably being held in Castle Fear, back on solid ground. They set off together, awarding themselves a fight with a stupid monster en route.

Search 3
King Miro: “Thank goodness you’re not my grandson Adam. I’d do my nut if he dyed his hair neon orange.”

He-Man and Miro parachute off Lost Mountain and head for Castle Fear, picking up Man-at-Arms and Battle-Cat as they go. The Enchantress tries to defeat the assembled party with various stupid monsters and magic tricks, but fails entirely. Once she’s dealt with, Randor offers Miro his throne back, but Miro declines, opting instead to roam Eternia and learn about its people anew. I predict that after two weeks of learning about imbeciles like Ram-Man and Buzz-Off, Miro will be back at the Palace, begging to live with Randor and Adam, who are at least borderline sane.

 

In today’s adventure…

Orko gives us two morals for the price of one this week:

  • You can’t do bad things without being punished for them.
  • If you have a grandmother or grandfather, you are really lucky.

The first of these wasn’t exactly demonstrated; Orko tries to make out that the Enchantress got punished, but she didn’t really – she just got carried off camera by a giant slug (sorry, I didn’t mention that in the synopsis). What happened to her thereafter is anyone’s guess. The second wasn’t really demonstrated either: having a grandfather in this episode led to He-Man having to mess about catapulting himself onto floating mountains and other such rubbish, which I’d hesitate to describe as lucky. My guess is that the writers knew each of these lessons singularly was too weak to carry the episode, so they thought that if they mashed them together, that would be good enough.

Search 4
The Enchantress: “I wonder why so many female magicians on Eternia wear birds on their heads.”

 

Character checklist

This week’s effort treats us to Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, King Randor, Queen Marlena, King Miro, Man-at-Arms, Orko, the Enchantress, the marketplace trader, and the massive slug.

 

Insults

The Enchantress does a lot of insulting this week, but her voice is really soft so I couldn’t tell what she was saying a lot of the time. It’s a definite fact that she refers to her sluggy servant thing as a “bothersome insect”, a “slimy slug”, a “fool”, and “sludge”. She also calls Miro a “royal buffoon” and might call Randor a “fool”, but her soft voice lets her down here. He-Man refers to one of the stupid monsters as an “ugly snowball”, and two more as “mudballs”, which suggests He-Man has acquired a sudden and unexpected obsession with balls.

Search 5
Stupid monster: “Smugger than Nigel Farage on 24th June 2016.”

 

Egg on your face?

It barely qualifies, but since this category has been quiet lately, I should report that Orko’s stupid clumsiness brings a huge pile of oranges down on his head.

 

Does it have the Power?

There’s an inherent problem with episodes like this one. From the moment the prospect arises that King Miro might be alive, we know he will be, because Filmation doesn’t do tragic. We also know, however, that even though he’s alive, he’s not going to take his throne back from Randor. Further to that, we’re pretty confident that we’ll never see him again. Consequently, it’s really difficult to get invested in the plotline, because it’s not going to have any long-term impact. And yes, I know that every episode restores matters to the status quo at the end, but most of them don’t offer potentially huge changes as a consequence of the episode’s events, like this one does.

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King Miro: “I’m leaving now, Adam. There’s no need to ever mention me again.”

It doesn’t help, I suppose, that the Enchantress is a boring and utterly motiveless baddy, and that Randor and Miro don’t really seem to care when they are reunited. Adam makes a valiant attempt to convince us that he’s pleased to meet his grandfather, but while we’re on the subject of Adam, his behaviour with the Wind Raider this week was so far outside the realms of logic that I’m tempted to conclude he’s cracked under the pressure and gone completely insane.

So, unfortunately, I wasn’t a fan of this one. I recommend missing it.

That’s the last review for a couple of weeks now. Should be back around about 4th November. Don’t miss me too much.