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.

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Episode 125 – Bargain with Evil

In which the Starchild returns, to unpopular acclaim.

In a mysterious castle, a young lady called Arvella casts a spell and summons a dude called Angast, who introduces himself with the title, “King of the Realm of Evil.” It seems that some time ago, Arvella’s father Landros accidentally entered the Realm of Evil and was imprisoned for his troubles. Arvella now requests her father’s return, to which Angast agrees on condition that Arvella bring him the Starchild. (If you don’t remember the Starchild, you can count yourself fortunate. She was the eponymous star of the worst episode of the entire series.)

Allegedly, Angast only wants to look at the Starchild. Arvella isn’t sure about this deal, but Angast assures her that the Starchild will not be harmed. Consequently, Arvella goes out looking for the Starchild, who – as luck would have it – is visiting the Palace, accompanied by her bodyguard, a woman called Moweena who dresses like Robin Hood might do if he was invited to a tarts and vicars party. The Starchild is just as annoying as before, hugging everyone and saying things like, “It’s so good to see you all” in a squeaky cute voice.

Bargain 1
Starchild: “Hands up if you’re pleased to see me again!”

When night falls, Arvella teleports into the Starchild’s bedroom and kidnaps her. Orko quickly raises the alarm and runs into He-Man, who was on his way to pay an ominous nocturnal “visit” to the sleeping Starchild. Learning from Orko that the kidnapper looked like Lady Arvella, He-Man and Moweena decide to go to Castle Landros to learn more. They emphatically tell Orko to stay behind, perhaps because the combination of Orko and the Starchild would be sufficiently infuriating to melt the brain of any sane viewer. Unfortunately, Orko ignores them and comes anyway. I hate my life.

Arriving at Castle Landros, He-Man, Moweena and Orko break in. They are just in time to witness Angast breaking his word and kidnapping the Starchild and Arvella. For good measure, he also kidnaps He-Man, Moweena, Orko and Battle-Cat. The whole sorry lot of them are teleported into a room, at which point Angast puts on a disarmingly mental grin, welcomes them all to the Realm of Evil, and dances around like a maniac.

Bargain 2
Angast: “Check out my funky dance moves.”

The party really gets started when Angast sends a horde of armoured cannon-fodder to try to seize the Starchild, and we are treated to a nice long scene in which He-Man and Moweena dispose of the soldiers in amusing and non-violent ways. The whole thing comes to a sorry conclusion when Orko smashes a pumpkin on Angast’s head, and our heroes run away, rescuing Arvella’s father Landros in the process. The Starchild is then able to use her very strong and not-at-all annoying magic to return everybody to Eternia.

 

In today’s adventure…

He-Man explains that Arvella’s attempts to do a good thing by doing a bad thing didn’t really help. He adds that the way we react to problems can make the difference between solving them and simply making them worse. He optimistically states that he hopes we remember today’s adventure, which is unlikely, unless it’s as “that time they brought the Starchild back for no reason whatsoever”.

Bargain 4
Arvella: “No no no, I will not sell pot. I will urn a living some other way. Okay, okay, not funny.”

 

Character checklist

This week brings to the fore Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Orko, Man-at-Arms, Teela, King Randor, Queen Marlena, the Starchild, Moweena, Arvella, Landros, Angast, and a whole load of Angast’s soldiers.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Adam only transforms into He-Man because the Starchild complains that she hasn’t seen He-Man recently. Talk about abuse of power. At least he has the sense to do it privately, and thus doesn’t need to give an excuse.

Bargain 5
Prince Adam: “Sure, why not, I’ll turn into He-Man on the whim of an infuriating child. That’ll help defend Eternia.”

 

Insults

Moweena refers to Arvella’s servant as a “little man”, perhaps in recognition of his lower class status. Otherwise, the insults only begin to flow thick and fast once our heroes find themselves in the Realm of Evil. Angast calls all of our heroes “fools”, and specifically reserves “foolish woman” for Arvella. Considering they are nameless cannon-fodder, Angast’s soldiers get a surprising degree of abuse, being referred to as “clowns” and “bumblers” by Angast, and the milder “bad guys” by Orko.

Elsewhere, it’s Angast himself who comes under fire, receiving a “Mr Bat Face” from Orko, and “hornhead” and “hornheaded horror” from Moweena. These latter two are a touch odd given Angast doesn’t have horns. Nonetheless, they’re still not as surprising as Orko’s parting shot to Angast, which sounded distinctly like “fat bastard”.

Bargain 6
Angast: “I think this moment may haunt my nightmares hereafter.”

 

Does it have the Power?

I’m in two minds about this one. I remain completely baffled as to why anyone thought that the Starchild was a character in desperate need of revisiting. I’d have thought the writers would just want to draw a line under that particular debacle and pretend it never happened. While this episode is nowhere near as bad as the Starchild’s first episode was, I still can’t see why it was necessary to involve the Starchild at all. With a bit of tweaking, Bargain with Evil could have told the same story without the unneeded baggage of a much-hated character from nearly 100 episodes ago.

Bargain 3
He-Man: “Yes, Starchild, of course I’m really pleased to be talking to you. Tell you what, though, why don’t you just get lost for a little while, like perhaps for the rest of your life?”

On the other hand, most of the bits that didn’t involve the Starchild were pretty decent, for a baddy-of-the-week episode. Angast was relatively competent, and he had a reasonable motive for kidnapping the Starchild (she had powers that could open a gateway to Eternia, in case you wondered). I’m still not sure about the need for the tarty Robin Hood, but maybe the animators had gone mental. I know I would after animating 125 He-Man episodes.

To conclude, I think I’d put this one down under the don’t bother heading. But if you do, you probably won’t regret it too much.

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 121 – The Magic Falls

In which Orko loses his magic, and we’re all expected to give a toss.

Today’s episode opens on Eternia Day, a day of special celebration on which King Randor invites the needy amongst his people into the Palace and does whatever he can do to help them. At Snake Mountain, Skeletor and Evil-Lyn hatch a diabolical plot to steal the Sceptre of Power, an artefact of immense power which is wielded by Randor only on Eternia Day. Evil-Lyn uses her magic to disguise Kobra Khan as a needy citizen of Eternia, and off he pops to the Palace.

Magic Falls 1
King Randor: “Tell me honestly, Adam, is this sceptre a bit tacky?”

This is all well and good and pretty much in line with every other plan Skeletor and Evil-Lyn have ever come up with, but it suddenly varies from the norm when Evil-Lyn claims that Orko will probably be able to see through the disguise. This is despite the fact that Orko has been completely oblivious every single other time one of Skeletor’s cronies has disguised themselves to come into the Palace. This lapse in logic notwithstanding, Skeletor and Evil-Lyn ambush Orko out in the forest, and remove his magic powers.

Magic Falls 2
Skeletor: “We’ve been waiting here hours, Evil-Lyn. Are you sure this is a bus stop?”

Man-at-Arms gleefully claims that he can’t do anything to restore Orko’s powers, but Orko himself suggests that they visit a legendary magic waterfall, the gateway to which is somewhere beneath the surface of Eternia. That’s pretty vague, though Adam optimistically claims it’ll only take a few hours to find. He turns into He-Man, and takes Orko on an expedition to find the falls.

They very quickly find a magic door, which refuses to let them in until they say “please”. Orko manages this simple feat, but He-Man instead succumbs to a fit of temper and tries to wrest the door off its hinges. He is consequently denied entry, and so turns back into Adam to get round the “no He-Man” rule. Once inside, he smugly transforms into He-Man again, flicking Vs at the door as he does so.

Magic Falls 3
He-Man: “Whoa, that was some party last night. Now, where am I?”

The two of them navigate a number of stupid hazards in the caves, eventually meeting a loopy old man who identifies himself as the Gatekeeper. He’s really annoying, so we won’t dwell on him too much, but suffice it to say that he transports He-Man and Orko (after a great deal of time wasting) into another dimension, where they find the magic waterfall. Orko submerges himself in its waters, sadly doesn’t drown in the process, and gets his magic back.

In the meantime, Kobra Khan has assumed his disguise, and barged his way to the front of the queue of the needy people of Eternia. The Eternia Day ceremony begins, and Kobra Khan is just about to do something nefarious, when Orko arrives and immediately unmasks the villain. The episode ends with Kobra Khan being sent off to the tender mercies of the Gatekeeper, which I think is a far worse fate than he deserves.

Magic Falls 4
Kobra Khan: “Let’s not overreact, Orko.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms and Orko conclude that they learned all about cooperation today. This is largely due to a very short scene in which Adam and Orko had to work together to defeat some tentacles. We’ve had this lesson eight billion times before, so it doesn’t really seem necessary. My pick for moral would have been the importance of persistence: there was a point in the episode when Orko despaired of ever getting his magic back, and had to be persuaded not to give up. I don’t recall that theme ever being discussed in the morals before.

 

Character checklist

A nice wide-ranging cast today brings us Prince Adam, He-Man, Orko, Man-at-Arms, King Randor, Queen Marlena, Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, Kobra Khan, Beast-Man, Trapjaw, the Gatekeeper, and some random unnamed Eternian citizens.

Magic Falls 5
He-Man: “Gotta say, I’m not a massive fan of this latest addition to the National Portrait Gallery.”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Despite two transformations, we aren’t lucky enough to get an excuse for either.

 

Insults

It’s fairly thin on the ground today, the only offerings being “cowards” from Kobra Khan to Beast-Man and Trapjaw, and a gratuitous “meddling fool” from Skeletor in reference to Orko.

 

Egg on your face?

I didn’t think we’d get anything in this category, but suddenly – in the moral segment, no less – we were treated to the familiar and hilarious sight of Orko accidentally throwing an egg into Man-at-Arms’ face. It was no more and no less amusing than usual.

Magic Falls 6
Orko: “Laugh, go on. You know it’s funny.”

 

Does it have the Power?

It must have been getting very difficult for the writers at this stage in the series. After 120 episodes of He-Man, they were clearly running out of possible storylines, and were forced to borrow from everything that had gone before. This one helps itself liberally to Orko’s Missing Magic and The Shaping Staff, and I’m pretty confident we’ve had one previously that contained a concept similar to the Gatekeeper as well. This repetition is understandable, but it does give episodes such as The Magic Falls an air of tiredness. It’s perhaps unfair, but if this episode had come a lot earlier in the show’s run, it would have been much more enjoyable. As it is, it’s fine, but not a must-see.

Episode 118 – Orko’s Return

In which Beast-Man and Trapjaw make the elementary mistake of kidnapping Orko.

Well, it’s nice to know that Orko will be making a return, after his really, really long absence. This episode starts out in the wilderness, where Trapjaw and Beast-Man, somewhat surprisingly, are planting some crops. This is no ordinary plant, however – it grows within seconds into an enormous orange crystal mountain. Beast-Man mysteriously claims that it will show King Randor who’s boss, which might be true if King Randor is interested in a bollock-kicking contest over who’s got the biggest orange mountain. I suspect he isn’t.

Return 1
Trapjaw: “Beast-Man, you’ve been shopping at Claire’s Accessories again, right?”

The next scene shows Orko in the Palace, performing magic tricks which are actually working for once. The assembled crowd are amazed at this display of competence, especially Prince Adam, who is for some reason animated with his jaw hanging open like a first-class moron. The animators have also seen fit to give him a quite stunning hunchback. When Orko disappears, the court assumes it’s part of his magic show – but in reality, he has been magicked away by Beast-Man and Trapjaw.

Beast-Man and Trapjaw instantly send a message to King Randor, demanding to be addressed in future as Mr Beast-Man and Mr Trapjaw. They’ve evidently been watching Reservoir Dogs again. Randor isn’t at all interested, until these two clowns reveal that they’ve kidnapped Orko, at which point Randor becomes only marginally more interested. Beast-Man demands all the photanium in Eternia in exchange for Orko’s release, but Teela points out that this would leave the Palace defenceless, as if she thinks this isn’t Beast-Man’s intention. In any case, Teela seems to think that photanium is more useful than He-Man in terms of defending the Palace.

Return 2
King Randor: “Not a massive fan of this new bubble mixture.”

Beast-Man then uses an amulet called the Amber Crystal of Mallarka on Orko, locking his magic so he can only use it for the express purposes defined by Beast-Man and Trapjaw. This is an outstandingly bad idea, since Orko develops a “hilarious” habit of wilfully misinterpreting said express purposes, and the rest of the episode is filled with intermittent scenes of Orko’s magic doing increasingly stupid things to Beast-Man and Trapjaw.

He-Man and Man-at-Arms soon find the orange mountain, where Beast-Man shoots a volley of energy bolts at them, and then treats them to a huge holographic projection of his face, welcoming them to the Amber Fortress. He then proceeds to laugh like a complete lunatic, while He-Man and Man-at-Arms decide to pop off to Castle Grayskull to ask advice. The Sorceress reveals that the Amber Crystal was created in ancient times by an insectoid race called the Polteeth, so He-Man’s next move is to visit them.

Return 3
He-Man: “This episode is like Pol-ing-teeth. Geddit? Oh fine, suit yourselves.”

The Sorceress had said that the Polteeth are now peaceful, but when He-Man and Man-at-Arms arrive, the Polteeth surround them, point spears, and take them captive. He-Man glances at Man-at-Arms, as if to say, “Thanks for the up-to-date intel, Sorceress.” Refusing to help our heroes, the Polteeth queen orders them off her territory. With suspiciously convenient timing, He-Man then rescues one of the Polteeth from falling off a cliff, and the queen changes her mind and agrees to help. I wouldn’t mind betting He-Man engineered the whole cliff danger business.

Using an Amulet Nullifier given to him by the Polteeth queen, He-Man returns to the Amber Fortress and successfully gets inside. He finds the Amber Crystal and destroys it, which makes the entire fortress disappear. He also discovers that Orko has irritated Beast-Man and Trapjaw so extensively that they are only too pleased to hand him over. This makes He-Man, Man-at-Arms and Orko laugh as if they’re demented.

Return 4
He-Man: “I haven’t laughed this much since I watched On The Buses last week.”

 

In today’s adventure…

The moral today would appear to be that if you get taken hostage, you should make every effort to infuriate your captors. This seems a trifle unwise. Instead, Orko shows up to suggest that we shouldn’t play tricks on our friends, because people might get hurt. This pearl of wisdom is followed by a repeat performance of that animation of Adam with his mouth hanging open. I don’t know why.

 

Character checklist

This one’s got a pretty standard cast list – Prince Adam, He-Man, Orko, Man-at-Arms, Teela, the Sorceress, King Randor, Queen Marlena, Beast-Man and Trapjaw. The only characters out of the ordinary are the multitudes of Polteeth.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

It’s getting very tedious to report, but once again, Adam doesn’t give an excuse because the only person present at transformation time is Man-at-Arms.

 

Insults

Orko calls Beast-Man a “fuzzball”, and Beast-Man tells He-Man and Man-at-Arms that they are “fools”. Not terribly exciting, really.

Return 5
Beast-Man: “Got a killer three-piece suite at DFS this weekend.”

 

Does it have the Power?

I may be getting a bit jaded, but despite there being nothing much wrong with it, this episode doesn’t really seem like a winner, aside from the delightfully mental Mr Beast-Man and Mr Trapjaw business. At this point in the series, it’s getting a bit tedious to see the kidnap and ransom plot wheeled out yet again. In case you haven’t detected it, I’ve never been a fan of Orko’s persistent stupid magic tricks, and so watching him playing silly jokes on Beast-Man and Trapjaw for most of the episode wasn’t a lot of fun. The business with the Polteeth seemed like time-wasting too. As I say, there’s nothing terrible about the episode, but neither is it all that exciting. It’s probably worth a watch, but don’t look forward to it or anything.

Episode 117 – Beauty and the Beast

In which we witness a fairly pointless retelling of a certain fairytale.

This week, we find Prince Adam, Teela, Orko and Sy-Klone listening to an old man telling the story of Beauty and the Beast. Just as he finishes, a squadron of Skeletor’s robot fighter ships arrives, followed by Skeletor himself. Not surprisingly, He-Man very quickly appears, and he and Sy-Klone dispose of a vast quantity of robots while making stupid quips.

Beauty 1
Prince Adam: “Teela may be the beauty, but which of us is the beast?”

While He-Man is thus occupied, Skeletor nips into the Palace and kidnaps Teela and Orko. He freezes them, seals them into two coffin-like pods, and blasts them off to an undisclosed location. He then crows that in order to get them back, Randor will have to negotiate. Skeletor seems to be overlooking the fact that Randor probably doesn’t particularly want them back. I certainly don’t.

The pods land in a room containing a table piled high with food, mostly croissants, presumably because they are easy to animate. Teela and Orko unfreeze and emerge from the pods, and instantly help themselves to the feast. They are interrupted by a huge dude with bat-wings instead of ears, who mumbles something about being the Monster of Morigor. He’s very indistinct and difficult to understand, but I think we can safely assume that this guy is the Beast and Teela is Beauty.

Beauty 2
The Monster: “Can I interest you people in some of these fine wares?”

After demolishing a ridiculously huge pile of robot fighter ships, He-Man finally realises that he’s being distracted, and zooms off to find Teela and Orko are missing. He sets off to Snake Mountain, where he has a little discussion with Skeletor – or rather, a holographic projection of Skeletor, who has presumably got fed up of being defeated in person. Skeletor offers to return Teela and Orko in return for the entire kingdom of Eternia, terms which He-Man rejects as being a bit silly.

He-Man then heads to Castle Grayskull to ask the Sorceress where Teela and Orko are. For no particular reason, he decides to change back into Adam before he does so; I suspect this is purely so he can kill thirty seconds later in the episode when he turns back into He-Man. The Sorceress informs Adam that Teela and Orko are being held by the Monster of Morigor, and issues some dire but boring warnings about how dangerous the road to the Monster’s castle is.

Beauty 3
The Sorceress: “Just thought you’d appreciate a brief scene of time-wasting.”

Sure enough, Adam turns back into He-Man, and sets off to Morigor. Observing him on the spyglobe, Skeletor gets in touch with the Monster to warn him of He-Man’s impending arrival. During the course of this conversation, it emerges that Skeletor is responsible for the Monster’s beastly appearance, and that he has threatened to put the same curse on all the people of Morigor if the Monster refuses to serve him.

When He-Man arrives, the Monster unleashes a really big, really boring robot, which naturally does not slow He-Man down for more than a second. He-Man then happily occupies himself running through a stupid maze, while the Monster discusses the situation with Teela, apologising for his behaviour but claiming he has no choice and blaming his ugly appearance.

Beauty 5
Teela: “I’m not sure which person in this room has the worst fashion sense. But for once, it’s not me.”

Teela persuades him that his appearance doesn’t matter, and that ugly actions are worse than an ugly face. When Skeletor shows up to oversee matters, the Monster refuses to obey him, which is great but Skeletor doesn’t really seem to care. He-Man then arrives and waves his sword around for a bit until Skeletor and his minions run away. Finally, Teela kisses the Monster – fairly chastely, since she knows He-Man’s looking on – and he recovers his former, allegedly handsome, appearance. His handsome appearance is not entirely dissimilar to that of a 1970s Blue Peter presenter, so it’s not that appealing.

 

In today’s adventure…

The moral is nicely integrated into the story for a change; instead of directly addressing the viewer in the usual patronising manner, we get a little bonus scene in which He-Man, Teela and the former Monster discuss the beauty and ugliness of actions. As they do so, the Monster grins as if he’s demonically possessed. It’s a smile that will haunt my dreams.

Beauty 6
The Monster: “I’m not sure exactly why I’m smiling like a sexual predator.”

 

Character checklist

This episode offers a nice day out for Prince Adam, He-Man, Cringer, Battle-Cat, Teela, Orko, Sy-Klone, the Sorceress, the Monster, the storyteller, Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, Beast-Man, Whiplash, and a few of the Monster’s mates.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

In the first scene, when the robots attack, Adam gets Teela out of the way by saying to her, “You’d better check the perimeter.” While Teela does run off to do just that, Sy-Klone and – more importantly – Skeletor are still there to witness Adam transforming into He-Man in the middle of the courtyard.

As noted above, there’s a bizarre moment in the middle of the episode in which He-Man turns back into Adam for a visit to Grayskull, then back into He-Man again. There’s no reason for this, and we don’t get a second excuse.

 

Insults

All quiet on the Western Front today, with Skeletor offering only “fool” to Whiplash, and a collective “fools” to encompass Evil-Lyn, Beast-Man and Whiplash.

Beauty 7
Skeletor: “Selfie!”

 

Does it have the Power?

All in all, it’s a pretty average affair, being noteworthy for nothing particularly good or bad. Skeletor’s plan was uninspired this week; though he managed to cause a great deal of havoc with his hundreds of robot fighter ships, the best he could subsequently manage was kidnapping Teela and Orko, which he’s done billions of times before. His decision to then put them in the guard of one of his least committed servants was bordering on idiotic.

He-Man didn’t do much better, limiting himself this week to blowing up robots and finding his way through tedious mazes while Teela got on with the actual plot. I didn’t really care about the Monster, partly because I couldn’t understand a word he said, and partly because I knew exactly where the story was going from the moment the storyteller at the beginning of the episode related Beauty and the Beast.

Beauty 4
Teela: “He-Man, I’ve got to say, you look a little bit special.”

This episode won’t win any converts to He-Man, but I suppose it’s a relatively pleasant way to pass 20 minutes. That’s the best I can say, I’m afraid.

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 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 109 – Orko’s New Friend

In which we meet another of Orko’s nice friends, which as usual is a real treat.

The episode gets off to a very unpromising start, with Adam, Teela and Orko waiting in the Palace courtyard to greet Squanch, who is an old friend of Orko’s from Trolla. Orko warns Adam and Teela that Squanch has an “active imagination”, which is duly interpreted as “a compulsive liar”. Sure enough, Squanch embarks on a blatantly fictitious story – but is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of the Intergalactic Police.

I had hoped that the Intergalactic Police might arrest Squanch (and possibly Orko too, if it’s a really good day), but sadly, they’re only there to deliver a warning to Prince Adam: two criminals called the Slavemaster and the Jawbreaker have been tracked to Eternia. They proceed to give a detailed description of what these two lowlifes do, but since it’s fairly evident from their names, I shan’t bore you by spelling it out.

New Friend 1
Policeman: “The only reason I haven’t arrested you yet, Orko, is because I can’t bear the thought of having to take you away in my spaceship.”

Adam and Teela pop off to tell King Randor about the Slavemaster and the Jawbreaker, while Orko and Squanch have an argument about Squanch’s perpetual lies. They patch things up, however, when they discover the Slavemaster’s ship parked in the forest. Unbelievably, they decide to try to capture the Slavemaster themselves, rather than fetching He-Man, which all too quickly results in Orko’s capture.

Squanch escapes and flies straight back to the Palace, but Adam, Teela and Man-at-Arms don’t believe his story. They are eventually persuaded to check, but when Squanch leads them back to the forest, the Slavemaster’s ship is gone. Adam and Teela are just gearing up to savage Squanch with some barbed remarks about lying, but Man-at-Arms discovers some evidence that Squanch is telling the truth.

Reasoning that the Slavemaster will want to capture powerful slaves, Man-at-Arms arranges a fairground show at which He-Man is the prize exhibit. He-Man demonstrates his strength to the awed crowd by lifting an enormous pair of concrete weights, over which Teela has artfully draped herself. By showing off thus, He-Man and Man-at-Arms hope to lure the Slavemaster into attempting to capture He-Man, and even if it doesn’t work, it’s certainly given the moronic inhabitants of Eternia a nice day out. It also helps to fill some time in this episode, which is proving quite devoid of substance.

New Friend 2
Teela: “He-Man’s out picking up women again.”

The Jawbreaker shows up at the fair and He-Man allows himself to be captured. He is taken down to the Slavemaster’s mines, where he joins Orko and a variety of other interestingly-animated slaves (an elephant wearing a nappy, in particular, drew my attention). Once there, He-Man runs riot and frees all the slaves, then captures the Slavemaster and the Jawbreaker, and they are despatched to their home planet to stand trial.

New Friend 3
Elephant: “I have escaped from a website catering to people with a very specialist interest.”

Finally, Squanch has a heart-to-heart with all of our heroes about his lying addiction, and admits that he just wants everyone to like him. I wish, just for once, He-Man would say, “Well, no chance of that, you div,” and stalk off. But no, as usual, He-Man reassures him that everyone does like him, just for being himself. He-Man is wrong. I can think of one person who actively despises Squanch.

 

In today’s adventure…

Orko reminds us that this episode has been a rubbish version of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, in case any of the stupider viewers hadn’t grasped the subtle complexities in the story. What did surprise me was the curious reluctance of the writers to use the word “lie”; Squanch is always “telling stories”, except right at the end when he admits he’s been “lying”. I assume the writers felt that it would emphasise the difference between stories and lies, but all it did was make me wonder why they were going to such lengths to dance around the word “lie”.

 

Character checklist

This claptrap subjects us to outings for Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Orko, Teela, Man-at-Arms, the Sorceress, Squanch, the Slavemaster, the Jawbreaker, the Intergalactic Police, and loads of background characters including the other slaves and some general inhabitants of Eternia.

New Friend 4
Slavemaster: “Remind me again, what’s the point of this episode?”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

We don’t even see Adam transform into He-Man today; he’s there in one scene and then it’s He-Man in the next. The best excuse we get is Adam’s musing comment, “This might be a job for He-Man.”

 

Insults

The Slavemaster kicks things off by calling his slaves collectively “fools”, a theme on which the Jawbreaker elaborates by calling Man-at-Arms an “old fool”. He-Man gets involved by referring to the Jawbreaker as a “metal-brain”, and the Jawbreaker retaliates with the unusual “flesh-face”. I’m pretty sure we’ve heard this odd turn of phrase before, but I can’t remember where and I certainly can’t be bothered to look it up.

New Friend 5
Squanch: “Here’s another insult: I’m a complete waste of space.”

 

Does it have the Power?

There are numerous things wrong with this episode:

  1. The title. Orko doesn’t have a new friend at all. He’s got an old friend. Both would be equally annoying, but they might as well have been accurate.
  2. The Jawbreaker. His dialogue makes him sound thick as bricks (“Right you are, boss – huh huh huh,” he says, in one memorable sequence), and his voice is a really odd and distracting blend of He-Man and Beast-Man’s usual voices.
  3. Everything else. God, it was rubbish.

Episode 107 – The Gambler

In which He-Man prevents Eternia’s version of Chernobyl.

At a fair arranged by the Widgets to celebrate the opening of their new corodite reactor, Adam, Man-at-Arms, Teela, Orko and a Widget named Smudge meet a conjuror called Melbrag. I like to think that this is the stage name of the esteemed South Bank Show presenter Melvin Bragg, but I may be some distance off the mark here. Anyway, Smudge wins a small diamond from Melbrag, after which Teela lets slip that Smudge is the chief guard of the corodite reactor. This is information in which Melbrag seems a little too interested, not that our moronic heroes notice.

Gambler 1
Man-at-Arms: “God, the budget for Glastonbury has really plummetted.”

This pleasant scene comes to an abrupt halt when Man-at-Arms reveals that some of the corodite in the mine has been contaminated with selenium. He-Man sounds just a bit impatient when he says, “But what does that mean?” He seems quite keen to get to the bit where he can hit someone, and he doesn’t think he’ll get there by talking about contaminated rocks. Man-at-Arms explains that the corodite is now useless, and He-Man suggests dumping it somewhere safe. You know, like nuclear waste disposal.

Smudge has been hanging out with Melbrag, gambling for bigger and bigger stakes. He has won a huge pile of diamonds, after which Melbrag puts up his Wind Raider as a stake, and requests that Smudge bet some corodite against it. Despite his misgivings, Smudge agrees on the basis that he’s thus far won every time. Can you say “set-up”? Smudge can’t. To my distinct lack of surprise, Smudge loses, and Melbrag takes a fairly modest lump of corodite.

Gambler 2
Melbrag: “I may have a stupid outfit, but at least I have a better dress sense than Prince Adam.”

To replace the corodite taken by Melbrag, Smudge nips into the mine, takes a lump of the selenium-soiled corodite and puts it in the reactor. Rather surprisingly, he then immediately confesses to He-Man that he’s given some corodite to Melbrag, and He-Man heads off, eagerly anticipating the moment he can smash Melbrag’s face in.

He-Man and Smudge find Melbrag leaning casually against his ship. He reveals that he is intending to sell the corodite to Skeletor, and traps the pair of them in a forcefield while he trots off to seal the deal. Skeletor doesn’t show up in person: he sends his new sidekick Spikor to get the corodite. However, Spikor disappears from the episode as quickly and inauspiciously as he entered it when He-Man punches his vehicle.

Gambler 3
He-Man: “Oh, hello, Spikor. Did you know you’re the most irritating of Skeletor’s team, bar none?”

It’s at about this point that Smudge tells He-Man about the contaminated corodite that he’s put in the reactor, a revelation that doesn’t please He-Man one bit. Nonetheless, he still takes time out to vandalise Melbrag’s ship before heading back to the reactor, which is perhaps why he isn’t in time to stop King Randor flicking the switch to turn the reactor on. The reactor starts to explode, so He-Man lifts the entire thing up and throws it into space. Everybody cheers, and while I agree it’s good that there was no explosion, no one seems too upset that this new reactor – the pride of Eternia – has been destroyed. In particular, I’d expect Man-at-Arms, who’s spent some time inventing the thing, to be a bit upset.

Gambler 4
Man-at-Arms: “Er, He-Man, what’s wrong with your face?”

 

In today’s adventure…

Adam tells us about the need to respect other people’s property, like Smudge didn’t when he gambled with the corodite. Adam’s advice essentially boils down to “don’t nick things”, but he doesn’t seem to want to come right out and use any of the relevant words, like “steal”, “thief”, “burglar”, “petty larceny” or “kleptomania”.

Other interesting morals which could have been used for this episode include the predictable “don’t get into gambling, because it’s hard to stop” and the rather more surprising “you have to dispose of contaminated nuclear material safely”.

 

Character checklist

This exciting excursion to Eternia features Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Teela, Orko, King Randor, Smudge, Melbrag and Spikor. Melbrag also has a pair of guards, whose names either weren’t mentioned or weren’t sufficiently interesting for me to pay attention. And, of course, there’s loads of Widgets, but the less said about them, the better.

Gambler 5
He-Man: “As you know, I generally abhor violence, but a crowd of numpties like this is pushing me to my limits.”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Adam is disinclined to explain himself today. There’s a brief return to the theme of King Randor being irritated that Adam is missing though, which is always nice to see.

 

Insults

The episode goes a long way before starting on insults, and even when it gets going, they’re not all that good. Smudge is called a “silly Widget” by Melbrag, and a “shrimp” by one of Melbrag’s guards. Smudge retaliates by calling Melbrag’s guards “small and foolish”, while Melbrag is a little more vicious with them by calling them “bunglers” and “fools”. And finally, Smudge dishes out an insult which would have made me cry when I was little: he says to Melbrag, “You’re a really bad person.” Ouch.

 

Egg on your face?

In an early trick performed by Melbrag, Orko recommends that Man-at-Arms takes the sphere on the right. Foolishly heeding this advice, Man-at-Arms does so and receives a face full of water for his troubles. During this sequence, Adam is rather oddly animated in the background of the shot, looking at Orko with an expression somewhere between mild antipathy and complete loathing.

Gambler 6
Prince Adam: “Orko, has anyone ever mentioned to you how utterly repulsive you are?”

 

Does it have the Power?

It’s not a highlight. As always, the Widgets are really annoying, though on this occasion it’s only Smudge who actually speaks, so it could be worse. There’s rather too much messing about in the middle, with Melbrag capturing, losing, and recapturing He-Man, and the plot doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself, veering from a rabid diatribe against the dangers of gambling to the unexpected theme of safe nuclear waste disposal.

In addition, though I’m always keen to see new baddies, Spikor’s appearance came across as nothing more than a five second advertisement for his action figure. In further addition, he has an absolutely infuriating voice, so I hope we don’t see him too much in the future. In short, I’d be happy to never watch this one again.