Episode 080 – The Shadow of Skeletor

In which King Randor does some moonlighting as a scientist.

The episode opens with Ram-Man again proving his “moron” credentials: he walks into the Palace theatre, sees Man-e-Faces with his monster face on, and decides that he must be a monster. He attacks Man-e-Faces and accidentally destroys the theatre scenery, then gets really defensive about it. This is all despite the fact that he definitely knows who Man-e-Faces is; Prince Adam says they are friends. Ram-Man must therefore know about Man-e-Faces’ ability, and consequently it really is massively stupid of him to not be able to figure out that the monster dressed as Man-e-Faces is not in fact a monster.

Shadow 1
Man-e-Faces: “Jesus, Ram-Man, could you be more of an idiot?”

This demented quarrel is interrupted by the only person on Eternia thicker than Ram-Man: Beast-Man, who has contrived to lose control of his stupid flying machine and head straight for the Palace dome. He-Man decides to intervene by spinning round on the spot really quickly, until he takes off and flies through the sky as a whirlwind, sucking in the flying machine and depositing it a safe distance away. Well done, He-Man. Now that you’ve proved you can fly, that means Stratos and Buzz-Off need never appear again.

He-Man turns back into Adam and leads an expedition to check out the flying machine. When Skeletor gets on the radio demanding a progress report, Man-e-Faces imitates Beast-Man’s voice, but doesn’t manage to learn any information about what Skeletor is hoping Beast-Man will achieve. Despite this, Adam claims Man-e-Faces has done good work, in the sort of patronising tone used to encourage very stupid children.

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Adam: “Well DONE, Man-e-Faces! I’ll write your name down in the Good Effort Book today!”

Man-at-Arms repairs the auto-pilot on the flying machine, while Man-e-Faces creates a whole body Beast-Man disguise. The auto-pilot takes the ship right through the atmosphere, to the Moon of Darkness, where a photon blaster fires at Eternia’s other moon, referred to as the Bright Moon. Man-at-Arms points out that the blaster might have hit the moon colony, so everyone except Man-e-Faces boards a shuttle to go and check if the colony has survived.

On arrival at the Bright Moon, our heroes meet Professor O’Ryan, who looks suspiciously similar to King Randor. It’s almost as if Filmation reused the animation and thought pedantic people like me wouldn’t notice – but surely they wouldn’t do that? Anyway, a transmission comes in from King Barble of the Dark Moon, who accuses the inhabitants of the Bright Moon of attacking them and declares the Treaty of Friendship over.

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Professor O’Ryan: “What? No, of course I haven’t got a crown on underneath this silly hat.”

Our heroes quickly deduce that Skeletor must be behind the mysterious attacks that are being blamed on the Bright Moon. They are quite right: Man-e-Faces – in his Beast-Man outfit – has met up with Evil-Lyn, Mer-Man, Trapjaw and Whiplash, and they all crowd round while Skeletor gets on Skype to reveal the full plan, which boils down to “try to cause a war by being unpleasant”. I really don’t know what Skeletor stands to gain by having the Dark and Bright Moons go to war, and I suspect he doesn’t either.

Adam and Ram-Man take a shuttle across to the Dark Moon, where they arrive just in time for Skeletor and the real Beast-Man to show up and unmask Man-e-Faces’ disguise. Adam changes into He-Man, and he and Ram-Man save Man-e-Faces; this is achieved by Ram-Man ramming Whiplash and Evil-Lyn back through space to Eternia. Even a child would debate the sanity of this method, but at least it leads to Man-e-Faces and Ram-Man making friends again, which I’m sure you cared about. He-Man then destroys the photon blaster, renegotiates the treaty between the Dark and Bright Moons, and finds time to throw Skeletor and Trapjaw into a pond.

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Trapjaw: “There’s a sort of weary inevitability about this turn of events.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Ram-Man and Man-e-Faces appear to deliver the fairly predictable moral lesson that if you get into an argument, you should be careful to not lose your temper and say things you might regret later. This is all very well, but there’s then a slightly unexpected turn of events where Ram-Man says, “Now we’re better friends than ever” and appears to put his hand on Man-e-Faces’ arse.

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Man-e-Faces: “Our relationship shall be explored more thoroughly in fan-fic.”

 

Character checklist

This episode features a pretty sizeable number of Eternia’s inhabitants: Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Orko, Teela, Man-at-Arms, Ram-Man, Man-e-Faces, King Randor, Professor O’Ryan, King Barble, Skeletor, Beast-Man, Trapjaw, Evil-Lyn, Mer-Man and Whiplash. I probably forgot someone in that lot, and if so, you can tell me all about it in the comments below.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Despite two transformations, there are no excuses. On the other hand, the episode does contain an absolutely brilliant sequence in which Adam thinks he will have to turn into He-Man in front of Teela, Ram-Man and Man-e-Faces, and he gets as far as “By the …” before the crisis is averted. He hilariously concludes, “By the way, Teela, remind me to show you my new jacket when we get home.”

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Adam: “Oh no! I left my copy of Eternian E-Turn-Ons on the bed, and Mother’s heading for my room!”

 

Insults

Skeletor calls Beast-Man a “fool”, but he doesn’t sound like his heart is really in it. He also calls Adam a “troublemaker”, sounding similarly uninterested. Evil-Lyn, on the other hand, sounds hugely invested in calling King Barble a “dope”.

 

Does it have the Power?

I don’t know quite why, but unfortunately this one doesn’t really work for me. It’s nice to see Skeletor with one of his stupid plots, and all his henchmen happily getting involved, but there just doesn’t seem to be any point to him trying to cause a war between the two moons. As far as I could tell from the episode, neither moon had anything to do with Castle Grayskull or the Royal Palace, which seem to be the two targets Skeletor tends to go for. He just seems to be causing mischief for no apparent gain and a rather substantial cost. He’d have been better advised to just shoot his photon blaster at the Palace.

I don’t have a lot of time for Man-e-Faces, because I think his face-changing ability is just plain stupid, and I don’t have any time at all for Ram-Man, because he’s really irritating. Therefore, the plot concerning them falling out and making friends was unlikely to capture my interest, and sure enough, it didn’t. In short, I’d say the only real reason to watch this episode is the – admittedly brilliant – moment where Adam nearly betrays his He-Manic identity.

Episode 043 – The Mystery of Man-e-Faces

In which a man with loads of faces justifiably tries to kill the Widgets.

At the preparations for Queen Marlena’s birthday party, Prince Adam decides to scare the living bejesus out of Orko and Cringer by introducing them to a gentleman dressed in a blue and orange robotic kind of suit who can change his face, demonstrating a green scary monster, a robot, Skeletor, Beast-Man and a “normal” face, which consists of orange skin and red diagonal sunglasses. His name is Man-e-Faces, and with a name like that, what ability did you expect him to have?

Man-e-Faces 1

As Man-e-Faces trundles off to prepare himself to entertain the guests at the party, Adam indulges in a flashback, which comprises the rest of the episode. Some time ago, the Widgets (last seen in Evil-Lyn’s Plot) were being terrorised by Man-e-Faces, whose motivation for this behaviour remains unclear.

His actions catch the attention of Skeletor, who notes that with most of his allies in jail, Man-e-Faces would be a welcome addition to his ranks. Luckily, the Sorceress has also spotted the appearance of Man-e-Faces, and asks Adam to become He-Man and head to the Widgets’ aid. Teela and Orko pop along for the expedition too, because the episode wasn’t annoying enough with just the Widgets.

Meanwhile, Man-e-Faces has installed himself on a chair at the Widgets’ castle and is demanding his dinner. This guy is hardly an evil mastermind, if the best plot he can come up with is asking some midgets for food. But still, everyone seems to take him seriously, so I suppose I should at least try to do the same. Luckily, before Man-e-Faces can have more than a mouthful of some miserable soup, He-Man shows up to ruin his fun.

Man-e-Faces 2

Man-e-Faces decides to switch from his sunglasses face to his green monster face, in the vain hope that this will help him to defeat He-Man. It doesn’t. He-Man knocks him over easily, and all seems to be concluded when suddenly Skeletor intervenes, teleporting Man-e-Faces aboard his ship. Man-e-Faces responds to this change in his fortunes by squatting in an uncomfortable and inexplicable position, but otherwise does nothing except gape foolishly.

The Sorceress shows up at the Widgets’ fortress to inform He-Man that Man-e-Faces isn’t really evil, but is just alone and afraid. She also reveals that Skeletor is on his way to Castle Grayskull to attack it, so He-Man, Battle-Cat, Teela and Orko barrel off to stop him. The Widgets offer to come too, but He-Man declines, barely repressing a shudder as he does so.

Man-e-Faces 3

Skeletor tries to persuade Man-e-Faces to work with him in the conquest of Eternia, but Man-e-Faces refuses, so Skeletor stops playing nice and orders Beast-Man to use his animal-controlling powers. Presumably because Man-e-Faces is currently in his green monster format, this works, and Skeletor and Beast-Man indulge in about 20 seconds of evil laughter.

While Skeletor flies around shooting at Castle Grayskull, Beast-Man and Man-e-Faces are set to work with the age-old trick of pulling the jawbridge down with a grappling hook. As usual, this tactic is interrupted by He-Man, who gets into a brief barney with Man-e-Faces until the Sorceress releases him from Beast-Man’s control, whereupon Man-e-Faces and He-Man join forces to defeat Beast-Man and Skeletor.

Man-e-Faces 4

At the debriefing session, Man-e-Faces explains that people used to think he was a monster, so he started acting like one, but now he knows what it’s like to be pushed around and bullied, and promises not to do it again. He-Man asks what his name is – since he’s been referred to as “the stranger” up to this point – and Man-e-Faces responds that he’s never had one. He-Man offers to give him a name, at which point Orko comes up with Man-e-Faces, as if it’s a clever pun.

As the episode ends, we return to the birthday party, where we learn that Man-e-Faces has now learned to put his face-changing talent to good use, and has become Eternia’s foremost freak show centrepiece. Sorry, I mean Eternia’s foremost actor. Obviously.

 

In today’s adventure …

Man-e-Faces explains to Orko that the best way to remember something is to say it over and over again. This is extremely tenuously linked into the episode by way of Man-e-Faces being an actor who has to remember his lines. It’s not exactly a moral lesson, frankly, and there were a couple of more obvious messages from this episode to learn: don’t judge people by their appearance might have been appropriate, as might don’t bully people.

 

Character checklist

Today, we are treated to appearances from Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Teela, Orko, Man-at-Arms, Man-e-Faces, the Sorceress, Skeletor, Beast-Man, and the billions of Widgets, the names of whom I don’t know and don’t want to know. There are also non-speaking roles for King Randor, Queen Marlena, Stratos and Ram-Man.

Man-e-Faces 5

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

There’s no excuse because Adam becomes He-Man in his bedroom, when there’s no one else there. I’d have liked to see the scene where He-Man came sneaking out of Adam’s bedroom in the middle of the night, hoping to avoid being spotted, but for some reason they didn’t show us that bit.

 

Insults

Fittingly for Skeletor’s first appearance in God knows how long, abuse abounds between our characters this week. Man-e-Faces comes in for a fair proportion of the insults, being called a “creepy creature” and a “creep” by Squinch the Widget, while Laura the Widget considers him a “funny-faced weirdo”. He also is called a “fool” twice and a “dolt” once by Skeletor.

Meanwhile, no one seems to have much love for the Widgets either, an attitude I certainly share. Man-e-Faces calls them “little worms”, while Orko considers them to be “little squirts”. You can leave it to Skeletor to really spell things out though, and he obliges with “miserable Widgets”.

Man-e-Faces 6

And finally, where would we be without He-Man dishing out some tongue lashing? It’s fairly standard stuff though – just a “fuzz-face” for Beast-Man and an “old bonehead” for Skeletor.

 

Egg on your face?

It’s been so long since we had an entry for this category that I’d almost forgotten it existed. So it is with great pleasure that I can report that in the opening scene, Orko manages to arrange for a massive birthday cake to be upended on Cringer’s head.

 

Does it have the Power?

This is one of those episodes that is blatantly contrived in order to sell an action figure, specifically an action figure that no one in their right mind would buy otherwise. The problem with Man-e-Faces is that he’s obviously intended to be a master of disguise, and I can imagine that at an early stage of character design, he was supposed to be able to change his entire appearance. But then some bright spark will have pointed out, “But if his appearance changes all the time, what will his action figure look like?”

The solution to this problem is to make his face change, but his body always remains the same, which I think you’ll agree gives rise to a new problem: his disguises cease to be effective, even among Eternia’s customary dimwits. “Hmm,” says Skeletor, “there’s Beast-Man over there. Oh, hang on, Beast-Man’s wearing the same outfit that Man-e-Faces normally does. Could it be that this is actually Man-e-Faces in disguise? No, can’t be!”

Man-e-Faces 7

Leaving this aside, the episode is quite fun, and it’s nice to see someone being a baddy but then changing sides to join the heroes; it’s a refreshing reminder that sometimes good and evil aren’t as black and white as all that, and might have helped children to realise that bullies at school aren’t necessarily evil.

On the other hand, I can’t issue a complete recommendation for this episode, largely because there are two scenes depicting the Widgets laughing, but they sound more like a troupe of discordant monkeys screeching. No wonder people keep trying to kill them.

And that’s that for a few weeks, as I’m going on holiday. Check back towards the end of October for the next exciting instalment!