Episode 091 – Jacob and the Widgets

In which He-Man demonstrably proves there is no upper limit to his ludicrousness.

Thanks to the corodite mineral mined by the Widgets, Man-at-Arms has created a new rocket booster for the Wind Raider. After Teela successfully tests the rocket booster, she and Adam head for the beach with four Widgets, where we are treated to scenes of beach ball and sandcastle building. It’s nice to see Adam and Teela doing their bit for Care in the Community.

Jacob 1
Adam: “I hate it when the Palace public relations officer says I have to go out and meet the proles.”

I was just about at the end of my tether with the sickeningly sweet music and jolly happy family attitude between Adam, Teela and the Widgets, so it comes as a merciful relief when Mer-Man and Trapjaw show up with a batch of unconvincing mechanical sea monsters. They use these for no evident reason to attack a boat belonging to a fisherman called Jacob, which is the cue for He-Man’s entry.

He-Man rescues Jacob and punches the robots into pieces, then considers the danger over and turns back into Adam. In what I think must be a first, Jacob is not grateful for He-Man’s help, and he frets over his destroyed boat and fishing equipment. Our heroes are distinctly unsympathetic to the loss of his livelihood, and get very huffy. As a punishment for his uncooperativeness, Jacob is sent to live with the Widgets until he can get himself a new boat.

Jacob 2
Jacob: “I’d rather take my chances with Trapjaw and Mer-Man, thanks.”

Mer-Man and Trapjaw have a quick debate over what went wrong, and hilariously conclude that they need to build new mechanical sea monsters using a different material – corodite. I’m pretty sure they won’t get to that stage, but even if they do, I can’t believe they genuinely think that building some corodite sea monsters is the key to defeating He-Man. Anyway, Mer-Man briefly kidnaps one of the Widgets called Biro, finds out from him where the corodite is kept, then lets him go after muttering some vague threats.

Once back at the Widgets’ fort, Jacob persists with being grumpy, until Squinch gives him an old fishing rod, at which point he starts whimpering about how no one’s ever been kind to him before. Before this can go any further, Mer-Man floods the mines, then appears in the fortress, demanding corodite and threatening to flood the entire fort if he doesn’t get it. He is secure enough in this plan to indulge in a fishy kind of laugh.

Luckily, Teela decides to pay a visit to the Widgets to see how Jacob is getting on. On discovering Mer-Man in the fort, Teela immediately gets down in a suggestive all fours pose, which is not the most obvious thing to do, but it works out quite well because Mer-Man is stupid enough to trip over her. Jacob then uses his new fishing rod to catch Mer-Man and tie him up, to general acclaim. However, Mer-Man manages to free himself and heads down into the flooded mines to help himself to corodite.

Jacob 3
Mer-Man: “This is possibly my most embarrassing defeat.”

Realising that Teela and Jacob are completely useless, the Widgets summon He-Man, who shows up in very short order. Learning of the situation, he pops down into the mines and kicks Mer-Man, and that’s the end of that. Unfortunately, the tide is coming in and filling the mines with more water – threatening the entire fort.

He-Man decides that this is the sort of thing that requires immediate and disproportionate action. Rather than blocking the water’s entrance to the mine with a rock like he normally would, his solution today is to take the Wind Raider with its new rocket booster out into space. I need hardly remind you that the Wind Raider is an open-top vehicle, so I suppose we can add “breathing in a vacuum” to He-Man’s list of skills.

Jacob 4
He-Man: “I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve gone mad and all this is some strange delusion.”

There is then a ridiculous shot of He-Man standing on the front of the Wind Raider – out in space – and pushing the moon. This of course has the desired effect of reversing the tide and causing the water to flow back out of the Widgets’ fortress. I expect it also causes floods and tsunamis and all sorts of other havoc all over Eternia, but we don’t dwell on that. Once the flood is resolved, He-Man flies to the other side of the moon and pushes it back into its correct orbit, demonstrating at least some sense of environmental responsibility.

In case you cared, which I certainly didn’t, Jacob’s storyline is concluded by him becoming less grumpy and being elected as the Widgets’ new mayor. Hip hip hooray. You’ll forgive me if I don’t give a monkey’s about this.

 

In today’s adventure…

Teela tells us that like Jacob, sometimes we don’t know how much we are loved and needed. She then concludes by asking in a pretty accusatory fashion, “Have you hugged your parents today?”

Jacob 5
Jacob: “I’m so glad that I’m loved and needed by these irritating little morons.”

 

Character checklist

Appearing today for our delight and delectation are Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Teela, Man-at-Arms, Mer-Man, Trapjaw, Jacob, Squinch, Laura, Biro, and the other Widgets, the names of whom temporarily escape me, but who cares, eh? No Orko today, though, so thank the Lord for small mercies.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

We are treated to two transformations from Adam to He-Man this week, but on neither occasion does he bother to excuse himself.

 

Insults

Laura the Widget calls Mer-Man a “fish-face”, which Teela then refines into just plain “fish”. Mer-Man’s insults are reserved for Trapjaw, who he calls a “metal-mouth”, and shortly thereafter states, “You not only look stupid, you are stupid.” Trapjaw is sufficiently stupid to not react in any way to this cutting remark.

Jacob 6
Trapjaw: “Let’s be honest with ourselves, Mer-Man: we both look pretty stupid, don’t we?”

 

Does it have the Power?

This is the sort of episode that should carry a public health warning: “If you think you’ve been driven mental by the events depicted in this programme, call 0800-HELP-ME.” Honestly, He-Man’s moon-related antics this week are not only impossible and insane, but they’re also an unnecessarily convoluted way of solving a very simple problem. It’s as if the writer thought, “Oh Christ, everyone’s going to remember this episode as the boring one with the grumpy fisherman. I’d better do something about that: I’ll make them remember it as the demented one where He-Man breathes in space and pushes the moon around.”

The moon bit aside, it’s a very boring episode. The only bit I liked was the quite realistic bit with Jacob’s worry for his livelihood when he was first rescued, and even this was tempered with the secure prediction that he’d end up apologising for his behaviour. In addition, the inclusion of the hugely irritating Widgets is rarely a good way to get me invested in a plot.

Still, if you want to see an episode which goes completely off its head in the last five minutes, there’s probably no better than this. Otherwise, it’s worth missing.

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Episode 051 – City Beneath the Sea

In which our heroes meet some walking fish.

A shipping merchant arrives at Eternia’s Palace to inform King Randor and Man-at-Arms of the disappearance of six ships over the course of the last month. Before a sensible answer can be given, Prince Adam blunders in, playing blind man’s buff with Cringer and two ladies of easy virtue, both of whom are laughing like rabid hyenas. Adam earns himself a stern telling off, but manages to inveigle himself onto the missing ship investigation.

sea-1
Girl on left: “I am either laughing or having a spasm. Also, please check out my beautiful earmuffs.”

This week, Man-at-Arms’ brand new invention is radar, which in fairness I don’t think we have seen on Eternia before, so he’s clearly getting better at the inventing game. As he, Adam and Cringer sail to the site of the disappearances, the radar picks up an image of an entire subsea city, encased in a protective dome. A whirlpool forms, sucking the ship down to the city, and Adam decides it’s time for a swift transformation.

The next scene finds He-Man, Battle-Cat and Man-at-Arms in a room in the city, concluding that this place must be the legendary underwater city of Aquatica. They are greeted by some walking fish, who whisk them along on a conveyor belt to meet a vaguely less fishy gentleman wearing a conch on his head. This man informs them that the ships have only been attacked in self-defence. The plot thickens.

sea-2
He-Man: “Isn’t it nice on the conveyor belt? I feel like someone’s buying me at Sainsbury’s.”

And then the plot thins again, with the entirely unsurprising entry of Mer-Man. Mer-Man details his plan, which is nicely vague: “I’m going to keep on sinking ships until Eternia is mine.” Er, care to elaborate on the middle step there, Mer-Man? At any rate, He-Man decides that enough is enough and starts attacking the walking fish, which is something he’s been itching to do for the last five minutes, having been making ominous comments like, “We come in peace … for now.”

Once He-Man defeats the fish, Mer-Man reveals his trump card: the Pearl of Power. This little trinket allows him to tie up our heroes in bonds that they cannot break, and that should be the end of that. Unfortunately, Mer-Man makes an amateur error: putting He-Man in an arena, removing his bonds, and making him fight a giant crab. Obviously, He-Man defeats the crab in about 3 and a half seconds, and then does a runner.

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Man-at-Arms: “Once He-Man’s finished with this dude, I’ll take him to Loch Fyne.”

Our heroes shortly thereafter find themselves surrounded by walking fish, but are rescued by the man with the conch on his head. He helps them onto a shark-shaped submarine, where he reveals that Aquatica’s true ruler is Princess Nami, who has been captured by Mer-Man and hidden in the Coral Caverns. Mer-Man has blamed her disappearance on the surface-dwellers of Eternia, and the Aquaticans have needed little prompting to go on the offensive.

If you guessed that He-Man now goes to the Coral Caverns and rescues the princess, you’d be absolutely right. If you also guessed that this involves a tedious fight with a boring monster, it’s a relatively clear indication that you’re as familiar with this cartoon as I am. And if you further guessed that He-Man puts Mer-Man out of action and everything is set to rights with the return of Princess Nami to Aquatica, then well done. I’m proud of you. However, if you also guessed that He-Man concludes matters by making the whirlpool explode, then I must conclude that you’ve seen this episode before.

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The episode’s writer: “I don’t know how to finish this episode, so I’ll just make a whirlpool explode. That can happen, right?”

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms draws the sensible conclusion this week that we shouldn’t judge people by appearances, which is allegedly what the Aquaticans did. These morals have been quite sensible of late, rather disappointingly.

 

Character checklist

Contrary to last week, there’s a very large cast list. We’ve obviously got Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man and Battle-Cat. Then of course there’s Man-at-Arms and King Randor, and Orko’s around for the moral. Mer-Man is also present, and one-shot characters include Princess Nami, the man with the conch on his head, the fishy guards, and Prince Adam’s floozies.

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Mer-Man: “I have this feeling it’s not going to work out for me.”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Yet again, nothing.

 

Insults

Early on, Adam calls Cringer a “big coward”, though I don’t think it’s meant unkindly. We then get nothing else until right at the end, when He-Man unimaginatively refers to Mer-Man as “Fishface”.

 

Does it have the Power?

I enjoyed this episode, though it’s no classic. The early mystery behind the missing ships was well-drawn, and I liked that it was only gradually revealed who was really behind it: at first, it’s the Aquaticans who are the baddies, then we finally learn that Mer-Man has been the puppet master. I think I like Mer-Man episodes more than they really deserve, because I can still remember as a child seeing his face in the opening sequence every week, always wondering whether he’d be in the actual story, and he never seemed to be – so it still feels like a bit of a treat when he does show up. But anyway, this episode is well-constructed and pretty sane, as far as these things go. I’d recommend it, so long as you don’t go in expecting amazingness.

Episode 032 – Search for the VHO

In which Prince Adam uses Orko as a kite, for no particular reason.

We open at Selkie Island, where Hovar the Royal Historian and his son Justin are in a research lab under siege by a Pick ‘n’ Mix of stock monsters that we’ve seen before on He-Man. They are attempting to reach Man-at-Arms via radio to request help, but though the Palace can receive their request, they are unable to send a response back.

Instead of sending He-Man along to deal with the monsters in the interim, Man-at-Arms and Teela waste time trying to create a high-tech dog whistle called a VHO which – when complete – will repel all the monsters from Selkie Island. Teela tests the VHO on Cringer and when he runs off, pronounces it a success. Since Cringer runs away from absolutely everything, I wouldn’t be so confident.

VHO 2

Hovar gets on Skype again to point out that the force field is failing and the monsters are getting in, so some help at some point in the not too distant future would be appreciated. Still Man-at-Arms doesn’t seem to consider the situation that urgent, eventually getting around to suggesting that Teela and Adam could go on the newest ship in the Eternian navy to take the VHO to Selkie Island.

For some reason, Adam decides to mess about putting on a sailor’s cap and pretending to work on the ship. He also sees fit to indulge in a goofy grin and wink directly at the camera, as if he’s sharing some hilarious joke, which he isn’t.

VHO

But of course, it’s not all fun and games and dressing up as sailors today. Mer-Man has hatched a cunning plot to get hold of the VHO, so that he can control every animal on Eternia. You know, like Beast-Man already does, and look at all the good it does him. This isn’t really a talent that Skeletor’s crew need to add to their skill set.

Mer-Man sends a Kraken and a couple of robotic Razorfin fish to sink the newest ship in the Eternian navy, which they actually accomplish. I think you should know that the Razorfins are capable of roaring underwater, which certainly adds drama, if not realism, to this scene. On noticing that in the course of the wreck, Teela and the VHO have gone missing, He-Man turns down a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get in a lifeboat with four miserable sailors and swims off to look for her.

VHO 3

He-Man destroys one of the robot fish and finds a convenient homing beacon inside one of them, which he uses to find the way to a cave in which Mer-Man has trapped Teela in a glass case. He-Man proposes to Mer-Man that they engage in a bout of single combat, the prize being Teela. Mer-Man takes leave of his senses and replies that he accepts, since he cannot possibly lose. He’s clearly been at Skeletor’s stash of mind-altering drugs again, because he’s got literally nothing up his sleeve here, except the stolen VHO, which only works on animals. Sure enough, it takes He-Man less than 4 seconds to claim the victory.

Once released, Teela and He-Man recover the VHO and then swim for the surface, where they encounter Mer-Man again, riding the Kraken. He-Man uses the VHO to scare the Kraken away, then swims off after it and gratuitously picks it up and throws it. While he’s been doing this, Teela reveals that she’s been doing nothing but treading water and moronically dropping the VHO into the depths of the ocean. He-Man is obliged to swim down and get it back, after which he and Teela deliver and install the VHO at Hovar’s lab.

VHO 4

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms completely misses the point of a moral segment this week, by telling us all about how throughout history, explorers have always been willing to face danger to find new things. He utterly fails to link this in any way to a viewer’s life, not even suggesting that maybe the viewer could go and find out about these explorers. He also bizarrely claims that explorers are unsung heroes, though I’d argue that names like Columbus, Cook, Magellan, etc are all very well known. So that’s brilliant, Man-at-Arms. Keep it to yourself next time, please.

 

Characters appearing

As usual, there’s Prince Adam, He-Man, Cringer, Teela, Orko and Man-at-Arms. Mer-Man is a less common participant, and unless I’m very much mistaken, we’ll never see Hovar, Justin, or the four sailors ever again.

VHO 5

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance:

Adam doesn’t offer an excuse, and when he disappears and presumably drowns in the sinking ship, Teela doesn’t even ask He-Man about it. She does, on the other hand, get noticeably upset when He-Man vanishes and Adam reappears, which I think tells us all we need to know about Teela’s opinion of Adam as opposed to He-Man.

 

Insults

For the first time in a while, we have an episode devoid of the usual cutting remarks. No one can even muster up the traditional half-hearted “fool” this week.

 

Does it have the Power?

It’s a pretty entertaining episode, this one. It’s nice to have a change of setting, and as most of the action here takes place underwater, it’s a very different location. Mer-Man’s desire for the VHO seemed a touch strange, though he did claim at one point – optimistically, I think – that he might be able to use it to control Beast-Man and Skeletor, so I suppose that’s enough of a motive. I also rather enjoyed the opening scene in which Adam is lounging about, using Orko as a kite, but perhaps that’s because I’ve always thought Orko needed to be strung up. So yes, I’m happy to issue a recommendation for this one.

Episode 006 – Teela’s Quest

In which the writers make an unexpected attempt at deep and meaningful characterisation.

A rather surprising revelation greets us in the opening scene of this episode: Queen Marlena is actually from Earth. She was an astronaut whose ship got caught in a cosmic storm and was forced to crash land on Eternia. Though she misses Earth, she says she has come to think of Eternia as home. Teela comes prancing in and concludes that the Queen is amazing, so she goes off to ask Man-at-Arms about her own parents.

Teela Quest 1

Now, up to this point in the series, Teela has been referring to Man-at-Arms as “Father”. It thus gave me quite a surprise when Man-at-Arms began describing Teela’s father as one of the bravest men on Eternia. There’s nothing wrong with a little self-confidence, but this seemed extreme. All becomes clear a moment later though, when Man-at-Arms explains he adopted Teela. He also says that the identity of Teela’s mother is a secret, that one day Teela will learn.

Teela decides that today is that day, and resolves to ask the Oracle of the Crystal Sea who her mother was. Orko tries to dissuade her, warning her of the shadowbeasts and monsters that surround the Oracle’s cave, but Teela is dead set. Orko promises not to tell anyone where she’s going, then immediately goes and tells Adam, who feels that it’s time for He-Man to put in an appearance.

Teela Quest 2

Teela finds her way through the perils of the Crystal Sea without any help from He-Man. Reaching the Oracle’s cave, she finds a crystal ball, in which the head of an old man tells the story of Teela’s origins. When Man-at-Arms was young, but still had a predilection for really stupid helmets, he came across Mer-Man trying to capture Zoar, who is the Sorceress in eagle form. Zoar could easily have flown away, but in her nest was something she was trying to protect. Man-at-Arms and Zoar defeated Mer-Man, who swore revenge. And in the nest was –

Teela Quest 3

At this point, the Oracle senses evil and stops recounting the story, though I’m sure anyone with half a brain can work out what was in the nest. The evil in question turns out to be Mer-Man and a few weird sea creatures. Unfortunately, my dodgy eBay-bought DVD started stuttering at this juncture, and so whatever these great adversaries had to say to each other is lost to posterity.

Orko has floated off to Castle Grayskull to tell the Sorceress that Teela has gone to see the Oracle. This is fairly random behaviour, even for Orko, but it does help to keep the plot moving, so I suppose we can forgive it. The Sorceress transforms into Zoar and flies off to help.

In a scene clearly stolen from Greek mythology, Mer-Man has chained Teela up on a rock, and explains in his stupid blubbery voice that she will be sacrificed to Bakul, the mightiest of sea demons, and that Bakul will be under Mer-Man’s command once he has eaten Teela. Needless to say, this doesn’t happen. While Mer-Man does succeed in raising Bakul – who reminded me inexplicably of a giant red version of that cowardly tortoise thing from Disney’s Robin Hood – He-Man and Zoar show up at precisely the right moment to prevent things going any further.

Teela Quest 4

Back at the Oracle, Teela learns that yes, there was a baby in Zoar’s nest. For whatever demented reason, the Sorceress had decided that a nest at the top of a pinnacle of rock was a good place to raise a child, as opposed to Castle Grayskull. Again, my DVD stuttered, but the end result of this scene was Man-at-Arms carrying Teela off, promising to care for her till the end of his days. This tale gives me a lump in my throat.

Then comes a Reset Button worthy of Star Trek: Voyager. The Sorceress reveals that one day Teela will become the mystic guardian of Grayskull, but until that point, she must forget the entire story, and wipes her memory. And then they all go home.

 

In today’s adventure…

Teela gives a quite sane little lecture on parenthood, explaining that no matter who your biological parents are, it’s those who love, protect and care for you that can be called Mother and Father. It’s actually quite sensitive and intelligent, and moreover actually ties into the theme of the episode.

 

Characters appearing

This week features Prince Adam, He-Man, Cringer, Battle-Cat, the Sorceress, Teela, Man-at-Arms, Skeletor, Mer-Man, Queen Marlena, Orko, the Oracle, and Bakul the big red demon.

 

Insults

He-Man interrupts an important demon-raising ceremony in order to call Mer-Man “Fish-face”.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance:

I may have to retire this section if people don’t start giving stupid excuses soon. Once again, no one even tries to explain.

 

Egg on your face?

No, none of this either. In fact, from next week, this section is only going to appear if I have something relevant to say in it.

Teela Quest 5

 

Does it have the Power?

It’s a valiant attempt to give some back story to these characters, but to be honest, the problem is that I don’t watch He-Man for its depth of characterisation. I watch it to see Skeletor get his ass whooped good. That doesn’t happen this week, what with Skeletor only appearing briefly to have a chat with Mer-Man. I didn’t mind the bit at the beginning where we learn about Marlena’s past, but the whole thing with Teela, Man-at-Arms and the Sorceress just seems pointless, especially since Teela doesn’t even remember it, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be relevant again. In addition, Bakul’s brief appearance is blatantly only here to give He-Man something to do while Teela messes about with the Oracle. Bottom line is, if you’re watching He-Man for a good fun Saturday morning cartoon, then this one’s not for you. If, on the other hand, you’re being a bit more obsessive about it and want to know character background, then this is probably the best the series has to offer.