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 101 – Not So Blind

In which He-Man and Ram-Man take a blind boy to a cave.

Prince Adam overhears an old man in the marketplace telling some children stories about He-Man’s exploits, so he wanders along to join in. One of the children presciently asks why He-Man doesn’t just smash Skeletor into little bones, and Adam explains that He-Man tries not to hurt any living being. He then goes on to lamely explain that Skeletor will be punished for his evil one day, but the children are unconvinced, as was I.

All the children leave, except one boy, who is blind. His name – for no readily apparent reason – is Loose, and he expresses a desire to meet He-Man. Adam offers him the chance to go on an adventure with He-Man, and Loose accepts. First needing to ask permission from his parents, he leads Adam to his home. It is made clear at this juncture that Loose may be blind, but he is perfectly capable of taking care of himself.

Blind 1
Storyteller: “I’ve got the best hat ever, and don’t even try to tell me otherwise.”

Adam evidently decides that he doesn’t like Loose very much, because he next introduces him to Ram-Man, who is definitely not the person I’d most want to meet if I visited Eternia. As Adam pops off to turn into He-Man, Loose feels Ram-Man’s face and asks him various questions like, “Where is your neck?” and “How do you turn your head?” This is all intended to demonstrate that the blind boy can ‘see’ as well as any of us, but it comes perilously close to pointing out just how stupid Ram-Man’s character design is.

He-Man now appears and introduces himself to Loose, then suggests that the three of them go to find the legendary Singing Crystals. This whole sequence feels as if it’s the start of a ride in the He-Man Theme Park; I can just imagine lots of people being packed into a fake Attack Trak, while He-Man and Ram-Man deliver overblown lines about going to find something rare and exciting, just for the fun of it. Maybe it’s a business venture the two of them will take up when they retire.

Blind 2
He-Man: “Loose, I’m sorry I had to involve Ram-Man, but he’s contractually obliged to appear.”

Anyway, the three companions make their way through the wilderness, as Loose explains that he uses his other senses to find his way with ease. This is demonstrated in a few scenes of relative subtlety which show Ram-Man tripping over a rock that Loose had successfully avoided, and Loose concluding how old a bridge is by feeling the rope and listening to the wooden planks.

Finally, they reach the caves of the Singing Crystals, which are bright and shimmery, but more importantly for Loose, they genuinely do sing when they are touched. Unfortunately, one of the Crystals falls and shatters in a bright explosion, and because He-Man and Ram-Man are both stupid enough to look right at it, they are blinded by the flash.

Blind 3
Loose: “There’s just something about this scene that screams 1980s disco.”

Debating what to do, Loose says that he will be able to lead the party home, which he does with considerable ease, until they get to the old bridge. While they are on the bridge, one end collapses and the three of them find themselves hanging on for dear life, and unable to climb up because the boards are loose. He-Man manages to throw a lasso into a nearby tree and hoist the party up, a feat which ordinarily would be second nature for him, but gives him some difficulty while he is unable to see.

The trio navigate a number of other hazards before they successfully return to the Palace, where Man-at-Arms (in his capacity as Palace Optician, to add to his hundreds of other jobs) restores He-Man’s sight. There’s no mention of Ram-Man’s sight being restored, but I think we can take it as a given that this happens too. Loose then relates the story to the other children, who call him a liar until He-Man comes along to give him some street cred.

Blind 4
He-Man: “Ello, ello, ello, what’s all this then?”

 

In today’s adventure…

Would you know it, children that are blind or handicapped are not helpless, and have feelings and desires just like the rest of us. It’s easy for me to poke fun, but actually this moral is well worth the inclusion.

 

Character checklist

It’s one of those rare episodes without a villain, and it’s even rarer in that it’s a good one (see The Starchild and The Remedy, if you can stomach it). That results in a pretty tight cast list, consisting simply of Prince Adam, He-Man, Ram-Man, Loose, the storyteller, a bunch of children, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance from Man-at-Arms.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Adam mutters, “Please excuse me, but, uh, there’s something that I’ve got to do,” just after introducing Loose to Ram-Man. He goes just out of sight – and presumably earshot – to transform, then reappears as He-Man and says, “Adam can’t make it.”

Blind 5
Adam: “Maybe if I shrug my shoulders so it looks like I have no neck, I won’t have to go on this stupid expedition with Ram-Man.”

 

Insults

With the possible exception of the other children calling Loose a “liar” at the end of the episode, there are no insults on show today.

 

Does it have the Power?

This is an episode that could have gone one of two ways: either outstandingly good or toe-curlingly bad. I’m happy to report that it is the former. Loose’s blindness is handled with considerable sensitivity, and there are some scenes included that genuinely make you think, especially if you’re four years old. My favourite such scene was on the way to the caves, when He-Man offers to carry Loose over the bridge. Loose responds, “Are you going to carry Ram-Man across?” before requesting to be treated like anybody else. The message is clearly received, without ever descending into patronising drivel.

Blind 6
Loose: “I wonder how anyone managed to construct this ridiculously long and flimsy bridge.”

The conceit of turning He-Man and Ram-Man blind was also good; we’d all seen Loose being capable beforehand, but it really upped the game when our heroes were rendered helpless and had to be led to safety by another character. I also enjoyed the fact that there was no villain in the episode. The only criticism I might level is that I have no idea why Loose has such a stupid name. On the other hand, characters in He-Man are often named after their ability, so I suppose it’s lucky that he didn’t wind up with a tactless name like Blindor or No-Eyes-Man.

In short, this is a surprisingly mature episode, and well worth a watch.

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.

Shadow 2
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.

Shadow 3
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.

Shadow 4
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.

Shadow 5
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.”

Shadow 6
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 054 – Game Plan

In which He-Man plays a computer game.

Happy Boxing Day to you all. I hope you all had a great Christmas. As you sit there finishing off your turkey and stuffing and plum puddings and what have you, spare a thought for me, please, because I’ve had to waste my time watching Game Plan. To make matters worse, it’s not an even slightly Christmas-themed episode. I hope your hearts are bleeding for me.

Anyway, as the episode opens, Adam borrows Man-at-Arms’ new invention – a beam ray – to create a sculpture of Orko. I have no idea why he would want to do this, and clearly the writers don’t either, giving Adam only the excuse that “it’s a surprise”. Naturally, the beam ray can also be used as a weapon, and equally naturally, a loony called Negator wants to nick it.

Game Plan 1.jpg
Orko: “You look a little different from your Tinder profile pic.”

Negator is a computer games obsessive looking for a living subject to insert into his latest game. Concluding that Teela and Man-at-Arms are ideal participants, he doesn’t bother to try to actually put them in his game. Instead, he invites Man-at-Arms to work for him, and then destroys a dam for no readily apparent reason. Luckily, He-Man is on hand to stop the ensuing flood, and Negator disappears, vowing to return. I for one can’t wait.

Once back at the Palace, Negator disguises himself as a guard and knocks on Teela’s door, informing her that Prince Adam wants to meet her out in the desert, and didn’t say why. Teela, being the massive moron that she is, doesn’t think to question this, and trots off, while Negator takes time out to smirk evilly at the camera. Once Teela is safely captured, Negator contacts Man-at-Arms to repeat his employment offer, and this time, Man-at-Arms is forced to accept. He heads out to the desert to meet Negator.

game-plan-2
Man-at-Arms: “All right, Negator, I’ll work for you. But there’d better be an on-site gym and a decent pension plan.”

Quickly deducing there’s something wrong, He-Man decides to go to the desert too, taking Ram-Man with him. Once in the desert, the episode takes a momentary turn for the weird when He-Man allows himself to be eaten by a giant cloud with teeth, which whisks him off to join Teela in Negator’s hideout. Ram-Man and Battle-Cat enter the hideout via more conventional means, using an air vent, which is eminently more sensible.

Teela and Battle-Cat are quickly captured, but He-Man and Ram-Man successfully make their way to Negator’s control centre. Negator, however, finally gets to the point and inserts He-Man and Ram-Man into his computer game. The game is a hugely boring maze, which occupies our heroes for the remaining five minutes of the episode as they navigate its none-too-interesting traps.

game-plan-3
He-Man: “Ram-Man, can you see this thing too, or am I off my tits on LSD again?”

Once they find the exit to the maze, He-Man and Ram-Man emerge back into Negator’s hideout. Unsure of how to wrap the episode up, the writer opts for a slightly deranged conclusion in which He-Man blows up Negator’s computer, Negator converts himself into pink glowing energy and disappears, and Battle-Cat complains that he’s hungry. Genius.

 

In today’s adventure…

Not unexpectedly, today’s moral is all about games, and how it’s natural to want to win. I thought that this would be a sensible point about not being a sore loser, or not cheating, both of which are things that Negator did. Instead, He-Man advises us not to be so eager to win that we injure ourselves, which is a rather strange direction for this moral to take.

 

Character checklist

I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise to you to learn that this week’s offering grants us sight of Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Teela, Man-at-Arms, Orko, Ram-Man and Negator. There’s also a pair of weird hooded beings, in case you’re interested.

game-plan-4
Negator: “Right, time to relax and watch Homes Under the Hammer. Oh, Christ, what’s Man-at-Arms doing on Homes Under the Hammer? Where’s the remote?”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

He-Man shows up while Adam is trapped in a tunnel, courtesy of Negator. Consequently, the excuse is readily to hand: “Don’t worry, he got out the other end of the tunnel,” He-Man explains to the credulous Teela.

 

Insults

Eager to remind us not to ram things with our heads like Ram-Man does, the writer has Battle-Cat call Ram-Man “dumb” after he rams the air vent open. Elsewhere, He-Man informs Negator that he is going to be “the big loser”, which is probably fighting talk rather than an actual insult. Meanwhile, Negator very oddly calls He-Man and Ram-Man “pigeons”, which just seems odd.

game-plan-5
He-Man: “Even if I stand around gormlessly with my mouth hanging open, I still look at least five times more intelligent than Ram-Man.”

 

Does it have the Power?

This episode is all over the shop. Inserting living participants into a computer game is an interesting idea, and one that I suspect seemed very up-to-date in 1983, but the impression I get is that the writer didn’t know how to make this concept last the full 20 minutes, thus leading to the completely gratuitous scene at the start with the dam being destroyed, and to the 10 minutes worth of messing around capturing Teela, Man-at-Arms and Battle-Cat, until eventually Negator decides to get down to business and actually play the game with He-Man and Ram-Man in it. On the one hand, I should be grateful for this, because when they are actually in the game, the episode is really dull – but on the other, it’s equally dull before the game starts. In short, this is best described as a reasonable idea put into very poor practice, and I suggest you don’t concern yourselves with it.

Episode 041 – House of Shokoti, Part 2

In which He-Man and Ram-Man get tied onto a bondage table.

Since this episode doesn’t make any attempt to recap last week’s Part 1, I shan’t either, and I’ll just assume you know what I’m talking about. Melaktha explains that an outer wall has been built around the pyramid, probably to keep something evil inside. His immediate instinct is to remove the outer wall, which Cringer thinks is a bad idea, and I’m inclined to agree.

Shokoti 7

Disregarding his own – admittedly moronic – advice from last week, Ram-Man rams the wall down, revealing a door with an evil laughing face on it. Melaktha instantly recognises the face as Shokoti and advises that they must not enter the pyramid until morning, as Shokoti was an evil sorceress from many years ago. Why this means no messing with the pyramid until after sunrise is for now left unexplained.

Back at the camp, Stanlin is told the pyramid is too dangerous for him and that he will be going back to the Palace in the morning. He throws a major temper over this, and in a twist that no one could possibly foresee, heads out in the middle of the night to enter the pyramid. As soon as he reaches the door, however, he is entrapped by some black tentacles that erupt from the afore-mentioned laughing face and sucked into the pyramid.

Shokoti 8

Once inside, Stanlin has a pretty miserable time, finding himself chased down a load of corridors by a giant mutant rat. Things don’t really pick up for him when he runs into the clearly evil but undeniably foxy Shokoti, with her sexy black and purple leotard and red cloak. She takes Stanlin to a black pool, where she reveals her plan to wake the Sleeping Beast and allow the Living Darkness to cover the world, and then Stanlin gets tied up by three horrible pulsating green tentacley things.

Adam and Cringer witness Stanlin being sucked inside, and transform into He-Man and Battle-Cat. They break the door down and enter the pyramid, with Ram-Man bouncing merrily along behind them. They enjoy a little perambulation through a variety of entertaining illusions before arriving at the black pool, where they are quickly overcome by Shokoti’s dark magic and tied to a stone table, then put into an unnatural sleep.

Shokoti 9

Luckily, Stanlin escapes the defeat at the pool, but isn’t sure what he can do about the situation. The Sorceress contacts him telepathically, offering no more than her usual vague hints, telling Stanlin the key to defeating Shokoti is to not be afraid. Somehow, Stanlin manages to free He-Man and co. despite this unhelpful advice, leaving He-Man in a position to battle the Sleeping Beast, which is now more of a Waking Green Unconvincing Beast.

He-Man achieves the victory simply by pushing an idol of Shokoti into the dark pool, which results in the pool becoming filled with normal water and Shokoti herself fading out of existence. Once outside, Stanlin apologises for going into the pyramid without permission. Then Ram-Man makes a joke, and Prince Adam laughs more than I’ve ever seen anyone laugh, even at things that are actually funny. He laughs so much I swear he needs locking up.

Shokoti 10

 

In today’s adventure …

Adam pops up to explain that going into old dark buildings or caves can be very dangerous, even though there are no demons or monsters in our world. To be honest, pretty much any moral would be acceptable after last week’s excursion into insanity, but even so, I can’t help but feel the real lesson in this episode was that you needn’t be afraid of the dark. After all, Shokoti’s power was Living Darkness, wasn’t it? And Stanlin somehow defeated her by not being afraid? Am I the only one to connect the dots here?

 

Characters appearing

We are treated to appearances from Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Ram-Man, Melaktha, Stanlin, the Sorceress and Shokoti.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

He-Man skirts the issue this week, offering only a terse, “No time to talk.”

Shokoti 11

 

Insults

Not a lot going on, except Shokoti calling Ram-Man a “fool!” pretty vehemently, and he deserves it. He’s more than usually annoying this week.

 

Does it have the Power?

As predicted last week, there was absolutely no need for this to be a two-parter, but assessing the episode on its own strengths, it’s pretty good. Shokoti herself is probably the scariest baddy we’ve seen on He-Man yet – her laugh echoing out of nowhere is on a few occasions genuinely creepy, and her ability to actually put He-Man out of action for some time elevates her to a position occupied by very few.

Shokoti 12

On the downside, the resolution seems a little easy, and there’s no explanation for why the Shokoti idol led to her downfall. I was expecting her to be defeated by sunrise, which would have fit the episode’s light versus dark theme rather well. It was also a bit of a shame that the rather interesting Melaktha character departed the story in the first three minutes, not to reappear. And finally, I have to take exception to the running “joke” of Ram-Man being unable to pronounce Shokoti correctly, which is as amusing as it sounds.

Still, these are minor quibbles, and I’d be happy to recommend both parts of this story as decent examples of He-Manity. Still, where’s Skeletor got off to?

Episode 040 – House of Shokoti, Part 1

In which Ram-Man dispenses his infamously demented moral.

The Sorceress summons He-Man and Battle-Cat to Castle Grayskull, with disturbing news. Apparently, a merchant reported that a pyramid has risen out of the desert near the Fortress of the Sands, but when men from the Fortress went to investigate, there was no pyramid there. The Sorceress feels that this is due to some ancient evil, discounting the possibility that it’s due to an idiot merchant playing a none-too-amusing joke.

He-Man and Battle-Cat head off to check out this mysterious pyramid, taking with them Orko and Ram-Man, who are most definitely the B-team: Man-at-Arms and Teela are allegedly off chasing space pirates, so they’re not available. Arriving at the Fortress of the Sands, our intrepid heroes find that it is under attack by giant metal spiders, which He-Man recognises as being Trapjaw’s inventions.

Shokoti 1

Getting involved, He-Man defeats one of the spiders, while Ram-Man surprisingly takes out the other two. Trapjaw watches on a screen, getting told off by a mysterious figure in a brown outfit, referred to by Trapjaw as Mask. He-Man salvages a control box from one of the spiders and sets the homing beacon, leading him straight to Trapjaw’s lair.

After eavesdropping for a time and learning that Mask is working for a mistress whose aim is to awaken a Sleeping Beast, He-Man intervenes. Once again, it’s Ram-Man who claims the victory, incapacitating Trapjaw with a well-timed ramming of a spider. On the other hand, Mask escapes, and He-Man doesn’t bother to interrogate Trapjaw, instead opting to turn back into Adam and head back to the Royal Palace to pick up the royal archaeologist Melaktha and his apprentice, Stanlin.

Shokoti 2

Arriving in the desert village of Kalysh, our heroes hire a guide, who is of course Mask in disguise. Overnight, Mask sabotages the party’s vehicles and makes arrangements with a bunch of humanoid lizards to capture the group on the following evening. Naturally, this plot doesn’t go down quite as planned, with He-Man quickly putting in an appearance and despatching the lizards.

Unfortunately, the lizard attack has served one purpose: acting as a distraction while Mask stands there waving his hands around, raising the pyramid from the sands. Orko tries to stop him, seizing the mask from his face, which gives Orko a bad case of glowing yellow outline disease. He-Man gets involved again and cuts Mask’s mask in half, leading Mask to shrivel and dissolve like the Lord of the Nazgul.

Shokoti 3

In the morning, Orko is sent back to the Sorceress to be healed, hopefully meaning his part in this story is over. Melaktha happily proclaims that with Mask gone, the pyramid should be safe to explore, to which Adam ominously replies, “I hope you’re right…” Given there’s a Part 2, I think we can safely conclude that Melaktha is not right.

 

In today’s adventure …

I don’t quite know what to say about this. I understand that this being Part 1 of an adventure, it may be difficult to really work in some kind of moral lesson into the episode without giving the end away … but still, I’m sure they could have done better than having Ram-Man show up to say, and I quote, “Ramming things may look like fun, but it really isn’t. It’s not only dangerous, it’s dumb.”

Shokoti 4

Well, Ram-Man, I have news for you. Ramming things does not look like fun. It never looked like fun, even when I was the target audience at the tender age of 4. This is because I didn’t want to be Ram-Man. No one wants to be Ram-Man. They want to be He-Man. And He-Man does not ram things with his head. So, thanks for the advice, but frankly, even 2 year olds have this one down.

I am convinced the writers must have been taking the piss. If they weren’t, I’m genuinely worried for them.

 

Characters appearing

We are graced with a large number of characters this week – Prince Adam, He-Man, Cringer, Battle-Cat, Orko, Ram-Man, Melaktha, Stanlin, the Sorceress, Mask and Trapjaw. You can also count a very brief, cliff-hangery appearance from the eponymous Shokoti, if you like.

 

Excuse for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Adam undergoes the transformation into He-Man three times in the course of this episode (though thankfully twice off-screen, so we only have to sit through the stock animation once), but not once does he try to explain himself. In fairness, each He-Man appearance is so brief that it is believable that Adam is simply cowering inside the tent.

Shokoti 5

 

Insults

Insults abound this week, most of them aimed at Trapjaw, who is referred to as an “incompetent fool” by Mask, and as “Metal-mouth” by He-Man. He-Man also calls him “Trappy”, and while this sounds more like a pet name, I’ve never spotted any particular affection between He-Man and Trapjaw, so we’ll chalk it up as an insult.

Elsewhere, Orko tells Adam that Cringer is a “dumb kitty”, to which Cringer responds with equal vehemence that Orko is “dumb” and so is his magic hoop. He-Man calls one of the humanoid lizards a “Scale-face”, and Orko puts in a poor effort by saying Mask has a “funny face”.

Shokoti 6

 

Does it have the Power?

Without having watched Part 2 yet, I’m happy to give this episode a cautious thumbs-up. There’s a few bits that could have been better thought out, such as why Mask bothers sabotaging the expedition’s vehicle when he actively wants them to reach the pyramid so he can give them to his mistress, and obviously the moral should never have made it past the first draft. I’m also rather suspicious that the episode doesn’t actually need to be a two-parter: I very much doubt we were given any information this week that will be relevant next time.

On the good side, Mask was quite an interesting villain, and possibly unique in He-Man for actually being killed. Melaktha comments that he was more of a “shadow of evil” than a person, but I don’t imagine that excuse would stand up in court. I enjoyed Trapjaw’s appearance as a sort of evil-inventor-for-hire, and I am happy to eat my words from a few weeks back and report that Melaktha is a positive black role model.

So join me next week for the no-doubt thrilling conclusion – unless of course you spend the week ramming things with your head.