Episode 35 – Gateway to Trouble

In which Modulok defects from Snake Mountain.

I genuinely had no idea that He-Man was going to be such a regular presence on She-Ra. I thought he’d only pop up for very special episodes, not every other week like he has done lately. This time, Adam and Cringer visit Etheria simply for the dubious pleasure of seeing Adora, though of course they are quickly called upon to intervene when an evil mastermind sets a cunning plot in motion.

That evil mastermind, unexpectedly, is Skeletor, and his cunning plot is to create an enormous interdimensional rift, and to send the entire Eternian Palace through it to Etheria. His motivation is, apparently, so that he can rid himself of his Eternian nemeses and annoy Hordak at the same time. Assisting him in this noble venture are Modulok, introduced in a few rubbish He-Man episodes, and Tung Lashor, who we last encountered in Book Burning. I have no idea why Tung Lashor would now be working for Skeletor, but let’s not question it.

Gateway 1
Tung Lashor: “It’s a great honour to work for you, Skeletor. Better than my previous boss, anyway.”

Modulok is the brains behind the interdimensional rift, having invented a device called a Gate Maker. For whatever reason, he suddenly takes it into his head to betray Skeletor and to head to Etheria himself, where he offers the Gate Maker to Hordak. Skeletor enters into hot pursuit, arriving on Etheria just before the gateway closes behind him.

Observing Skeletor’s arrival, Adam and Adora transform into He-Man and She-Ra. I know I harp on about this every time it happens, but the way the stock transformation footage is edited together is so incredibly awkward that I think it needs constant mentioning to try to encourage the creators to stop doing it. Admittedly, this would be more effective if I were writing this in 1986 when the cartoon was still in production, but I was barely capable of lucid thought at that time.

Gateway 2
Cringer: “Just hanging out in a bush.”

Anyway, He-Man and She-Ra waste no time in capturing Skeletor and asking him why he’s on Etheria. Skeletor merrily spills the beans, and offers to work with He-Man and She-Ra to prevent Hordak getting his hands on the Gate Maker. This proposal is met with a less than enthusiastic response, but our heroes agree to it and set off.

Weirdly, Skeletor’s first move is to head to Whispering Wood, where he fashions himself a new throne out of rock. He then randomly insults a Twigget before deciding he’s had enough of the truce and clearing off. He reaches the Fright Zone easily, but discovers that Modulok has already passed his Horde entrance exam, and handed over the Gate Maker to Hordak. Skeletor and Hordak have a brief battle, in which Skeletor prevails, and he heads off to find Modulok.

Gateway 3
Modulok: “People say I’m clever, but it’s simply in comparison to Mantenna.”

Unfortunately for him, Modulok has departed the Fright Zone and headed back to Whispering Wood, where he demonstrates the Gate Maker’s power for Hordak and Shadow Weaver. Hordak is about to send a fleet of spaceships through the gateway to invade Eternia, but He-Man and She-Ra re-enter the episode at this point and blow up the Gate Maker. The Sorceress then opens her own gateway back to Eternia for He-Man’s use, and Skeletor seizes the opportunity to head home as well.

 

In today’s adventure…

Loo-Kee was quite nicely visible in the rebels’ camp, just before He-Man and She-Ra learn that Skeletor has done a runner. It’s a possibility that Loo-Kee’s visibility is in direct inverse proportionality to the sanity of his moral lesson, however; this week, he cautions us not to go through any gateways to trouble that we might encounter. I’m not even going to dignify that with a discussion.

Gateway 4
Loo-Kee: “Have you ever stopped to consider why I’m always hiding? It’s because the police want to interview me under caution.”

 

Character checklist

This one has a fairly outre cast list: Adora, She-Ra, Kowl, some Twiggets, Loo-Kee, Hordak, Mantenna, Shadow Weaver, sure, but also Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, the Sorceress, Skeletor, Modulok and Tung Lashor. Oh, and obviously a load of Horde Troopers, but they go without saying really.

 

Excuse given for Adora and Adam’s transformation

Adora transforms into She-Ra twice, and Adam into He-Man once. None of these occasions comes with an excuse, though in fairness, there’s only Cringer and Kowl around at the time.

Gateway 5
Skeletor: “Say, guys, you haven’t seen Adam and Adora around, have you?”

 

Insults

Kowl gets surprisingly aggressive in the early stages of the episode, calling one Horde Trooper a “swamp slug” and addressing another as “rivet head” and “coward”. We are also witness to Modulok calling Tung Lashor the possibly misheard “long lips”. The real delights in store here are, of course, between Skeletor and Hordak; the latter addresses the former as “bonehead” and “bone-faced bog wobbler”, to which Skeletor retaliates with a wonderfully sneering “oversized rust bucket”.

 

Does it have the Power?

I can’t deny I’m pretty happy with this one. As noted above, He-Man’s appearances on Etheria are two-a-penny, but Skeletor showing up is a much rarer treat. It doesn’t hurt that he’s brilliantly written in this episode, with some excellent lines given great life by the voice actor. On the downside, I’d have liked his truce with He-Man and She-Ra to last more than 30 seconds, as it would have been very entertaining to watch him try to work together with them, but at least we did get his very amusing battle with Hordak.

Gateway 6
Skeletor: “This is my favourite moment in the entire series.”

The other elements of the story were good as well; Modulok seemed to fit here better than he did in either of his appearances in He-Man, and he seems to have made the permanent transfer from Skeletor’s crew to the Horde, so I expect we’ll see him again. Tung Lashor’s appearance in Snake Mountain was just random, though; there was no reason for him to be there. I suspect it was a bit of product placement.

Anyway, while this isn’t quite as good as Horde Prime Takes a Holiday – another episode in the same vein – it’s definitely a highlight. Enjoy!

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Episode 18 – Horde Prime Takes a Holiday

In which She-Ra’s arse nearly catches fire.

Hordak’s boss, Horde Prime, has summoned Hordak and Mantenna aboard his flagship, where we learn that they are to be left in charge of the Horde’s most powerful warship while Horde Prime goes on holiday to a planet called Tropica. Since Horde Prime appears to be an amorphous cloud of gas with robotic arms, it seems unlikely that he would particularly enjoy a fortnight on the Costa del Sol, but that’s what’s presented to us.

Horde Prime 1
Hordak: “No, I don’t think I will try a bout of fisticuffs with you, thanks, Horde Prime.”

Horde Prime boards his transport ship to Tropica, pausing only to inform Hordak that under no circumstances whatsoever should he actually use the warship for anything. Of course, once Horde Prime has gone, Hordak – being a complete tool – immediately voices an intention to use it to conquer both Etheria and Eternia. Luckily, the Sorceress has got wind of this dastardly notion, and sends He-Man to Etheria to resolve the situation.

Hordak takes the flagship on a very casual fly-by over the heads of some rebels, provoking Adora into turning into She-Ra. He then fires the flagship’s freeze ray at the Whispering Woods, and it’s so powerful that even He-Man and She-Ra combined cannot stop it. It’s fortunate, therefore, that Skeletor shows up at this juncture, and not wanting to be left out of the fun, decides to steal the Horde flagship himself, which rather distracts Hordak from firing the freeze ray.

Horde Prime 2
Skeletor: “I do appreciate the effort gone into drawing me from beneath to make me look imposing… but it does seem to have had the unintended side effect of making my head look really small.”

Skeletor and Hordak engage in a lengthy duel, in which they do a fair amount of cosmetic damage to the flagship whilst shrieking alliterative insults at one another. Skeletor eventually gets the better of Hordak, but in the meantime, He-Man has thrown a grappling hook onto the ship, allowing She-Ra to climb all the way up through the atmosphere, into outer space, and on board. She makes a slight concession to realism by putting on a space helmet to allow herself to breathe, but this just somehow makes the whole thing more ludicrous because she doesn’t consider putting a spacesuit on over her skimpy dress.

She-Ra finds Skeletor merrily chuckling away and crowing “Hail Skeletor!” to himself as he starts the ship’s engines. Down on the surface of Etheria, He-Man is dragged along by the end of the grappling line, until he eventually brings the ship to a halt. Skeletor pumps even more power into the ship’s engine, hoping to drag He-Man up into space, but this proves his undoing; when the moment is right, She-Ra cuts the grappling line, sending the ship flying at full speed into an asteroid.

Horde Prime 3
He-Man: “This will make a lovely shot for my 2019 calendar.”

Horde Prime’s flagship is reduced to rubble, which upsets Skeletor mightily. He’s wise enough to know when he’s beaten though, and when he spots that what remains of the ship is about to explode, he teleports back to Snake Mountain and out of our lives. Notably, he doesn’t attempt to save Hordak, but She-Ra – being completely mental – does.

There’s then an unexpected moment where She-Ra’s arse nearly catches fire as she and Hordak plummet through the atmosphere. This being a cartoon for children, she manages to resist all the obvious puns about having a hot ass, so I’ll let you substitute your own. Even without such jokes, the episode ends on a reasonably funny note as Hordak attempts to explain the destruction of the flagship to Horde Prime.

Horde Prime 4
She-Ra: “Yeah, this is one of those pictures that defies description.”

 

In today’s adventure…

I feel completely cheated this week. Despite me looking really hard for Loo-Kee – especially after I actually found him last time – at the end of the episode, it turns out he wasn’t in it at all! Instead, we get He-Man and She-Ra delivering the moral. If Loo-Kee isn’t going to be there, they need to warn us of that at the start! Otherwise it’s completely unfair! I am literally shaking with rage.

He-Man and She-Ra’s moral is that our bodies are our own, and no one should touch them without our permission. There’s also an unwelcome cameo from Orko, who threatens to punch anyone who touches us. She-Ra recognises that Orko’s contribution is less than helpful, and tells him to shut up, while He-Man points unnervingly at the camera and says that we shouldn’t feel ashamed if someone touches us in a bad way, but should tell someone we trust. He lists some bizarre suggestions of people we might trust: our parents, teachers, doctors, counsellors, ministers or rabbis. These latter two seem to be something of an afterthought, and have the air of an ad-lib, if it were possible for cartoon characters to ad-lib.

Horde Prime 5
She-Ra: “Er, He-Man, you’re coming across a bit strong, what with the finger pointing and all.”

Anyway – great message, and one we haven’t heard before from He-Man, but with zero relevance to the story, unless we’re supposed to consider Horde Prime’s flagship is his body, and Skeletor and Hordak were touching him inappropriately? And also – where the Jesus Christ was Loo-Kee?

 

Character checklist

This fantastic crossover episode features Adora, Spirit, She-Ra, Swift Wind, Prince Adam, He-Man, Bow, Kowl, the Sorceress, Horde Prime, Hordak, Skeletor, Mantenna and a new boy called Multibot. As noted above, there’s also a brief appearance from Orko, though it would have been better had it been even briefer.

 

Excuse given for Adora and Adam’s disappearances

Adam doesn’t give an excuse, being only in the presence of the Sorceress. Adora, on the other hand, gives the plausible explanation that she is going “to find She-Ra”.

Horde Prime 6
Bow: “Jesus, I’m stoned again.”

 

Insults

It’s another of those episodes with a real wealth of stingers. Hordak addresses Horde Prime as “slime”, allegedly accidentally, and Horde Prime surprisingly lets him get away with it. Mantenna is called a “bug-eyed buffoon” by Horde Prime and a “bug-eyed boob” by Hordak, but the real joy is to be found when Hordak and Skeletor start slagging each other off. Hordak tells Skeletor he’s a “treacherous turncoat two-faced traitor”, a “boneface” and a “blasted blue bungler”, while Skeletor counters with “bat-ears”, “blasted Horde bully boy” and the possibly misheard “conniving claim-jumper”.

He-Man refers to Skeletor and Hordak as “evil monsters” and also might call them “a gaggle of evils”, though the sound seemed a bit funny at this point, so it’s quite likely that’s not what he said. Finally, what He-Man/Skeletor showcase would be complete without Skeletor calling He-Man a “pitiful fool”?

Horde Prime 7
Skeletor: “Loving my new wheels.”

 

Oh No, Bow!

Bow has a very minimal contribution to this episode, and that’s observing that the flagship “looks like some sort of spaceship”. Yes, of course it does, Captain Obvious. That’s because it IS a spaceship.

 

Does it have the Power?

This episode is essentially an episode of He-Man and his battle with Skeletor, with She-Ra and Hordak along for the ride – so of course it gets a hearty thumbs-up from me. We’ve seen He-Man often enough in recent episodes that it’s actually not all that special for him to show up, but to see Skeletor again, especially with him being at his most maliciously evil, is an absolute treat. The whole thing is just an excuse for everyone to have a massive barney with each other while hollering insults, and it’s a total romp.

Horde Prime 8
She-Ra: “This helmet will definitely stop me from freezing to death.”

I was particularly fond of the return to the bizarre and insane feats of strength that featured so often in the He-Man cartoon – He-Man throwing a grappling hook into outer space is mental, as is She-Ra climbing through the atmosphere and through the vacuum of space to reach the ship. The concessions to reality (including She-Ra putting on a space helmet, and her starting to burn up on re-entering the atmosphere) just made the mental bits seem even crazier.

In short, I very much enjoyed this episode, and I’m sure you will too.

Episode 05 – Battle for Bright Moon

In which Skeletor comes up with one last hurrah.

The Eternian royal family are having dinner, telling Adora all about Orko, who I pray to God isn’t in this episode. The one good thing about having Madame Razz around is that presumably we need never see Orko again. Anyway, during the dinner, Skeletor, Beast-Man, Webstor and Kobra Khan bust into the Palace, disguising themselves as chefs. They bring Hordak with them, disguised as a cake. There seems to be no particular reason for these disguises, since they return to their normal appearances as soon as possible. Perhaps Hordak has a weird chef fetish. Nothing would surprise me about him at this point.

Bright Moon 1
Skeletor: “This may be my stupidest disguise yet.”

Anyway, the baddies kidnap Adora and escape, thanks to a singularly poor effort from Man-at-Arms and Teela. Skeletor then betrays Hordak, and sends him back to Etheria without Adora. Skeletor claims that this is because he has better use for the Princess of Eternia than Hordak, but shortly thereafter he reveals that he has absolutely no idea what to do with her, so clearly he’s just backstabbed Hordak for the sheer malevolent hell of it.

Skeletor orders Beast-Man to put Adora in the dungeon, a task which naturally he is incapable of carrying out. Adora quickly evades him and turns into She-Ra, then has an amusing battle with pretty much every single one of Skeletor’s warriors. He-Man, Man-at-Arms and Teela arrive just after She-Ra has finished fighting, and find her draped casually over a pillar. Teela demands to know who the hell this bimbo is, and He-Man introduces her as his “friend, She-Ra.” You can see cold fury in Teela’s eyes as she thinks she’s been jilted.

Bright Moon 2
Teela: “Don’t you know it’s not cool to bring your new girlfriend to meet the ex, He-Man?”

This irrelevant little interlude over, Adora returns to the Palace, where she explains to Randor and Marlena that she feels honour-bound to go back to Etheria and help to free it from the Horde’s oppression. With the help of the Sorceress, she and Spirit are transported back into the Whispering Woods. Adam and Cringer come too, because they know that really, all the viewers want to see is He-Man. Seeing a vast quantity of Horde flyers, they both adopt their alter-egos, in a really awkwardly cut-together sequence of their stock transformation animation.

He-Man and She-Ra find Glimmer, Bow, Queen Angela and Kowl planning to attack Castle Bright Moon, and drive the Horde out. She-Ra demonstrates that she has the power to talk to animals, and so she recruits a bear and some oversized rats to help them. He-Man seems quietly unconvinced about how useful these animals will be, but he stands back and lets Glimmer make an inspirational speech, after which all the rebels throw food in the air, as if they’re politely heckling.

Bright Moon 3
She-Ra: “Ah, he’s cute, guys! Can I keep him?”

The rebels approach Castle Bright Moon and demand its surrender, but naturally Hordak isn’t interested, and unleashes a vast array of robots and machines. These are destroyed by all the members of the Rebellion, in scenes designed to show us what they can do. The only notable talent demonstrated is from She-Ra, who finds that she is capable of healing wounds just by touching them. She’s quite useful to have around, even if she is incredibly patronising.

That evening, the rebels celebrate their successful re-capture of Castle Bright Moon, and reinstall Angela as Queen. He-Man departs for Eternia, but She-Ra is aware that Etheria is still in danger from the Horde, so she determines to stay. She leaps onto Swift Wind, and flies off dramatically. He-Man watches her go, and thinks, “Christ, what a poser.”

Bright Moon 4
She-Ra: “Look at me! EVERYBODY. LOOK AT ME.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Again, we aren’t blessed with any pearls of wisdom, so I’ll substitute my own. It’s a piece of advice aimed at She-Ra’s voice actor: if you go around talking really slowly and deliberately, as if you think children are moronically stupid, then they will hate you. And so will I.

 

Excuse given for Adam and Adora’s disappearances

Adam doesn’t bother with an excuse. On the other hand, He-Man gives She-Ra a lesson in being super-evasive; when Teela asks where Adora is, She-Ra stumbles for an answer. He-Man leaps in with, “Oh, she’s safe,” a statement that She-Ra repeats like an idiot. Bizarrely, Teela accepts this as gospel truth, despite the fact that she’s got absolutely no idea who She-Ra is, and He-Man couldn’t possibly know where Adora is at this stage. Teela is a complete moron.

Bright Moon 6
He-Man: “Now, this is really important, She-Ra. Don’t tell Teela about your secret identity. Just don’t. No reason why not, obviously. But don’t.”

 

Character checklist

I might as well copy out the entire character list from He-Man.org for this one. Let’s see: there’s Adora, She-Ra, Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Spirit, Swift Wind, Teela, Man-at-Arms, the Sorceress, King Randor, Queen Marlena, Glimmer, Bow, Kowl, Queen Angella, Madame Razz, Broom, Hordak, Shadow Weaver, Skeletor, Beast-Man, Tri-Klops, Trapjaw, Kobra Khan, Webstor, some Horde Troopers, some Palace Guards, some random rebels, and the bear and the giant rats. No Orko though, much to my relief.

 

Insults

It’s a pretty vicious script this week. Webstor kicks things off by calling the Eternian Palace Guards “suckers”, and Skeletor follows this up by calling Webstor and Kobra Khan “clods”, “nincompoops” and “beebrains”. The first of these seems particularly unfair, since it comes at a moment they’ve actually done something right. Skeletor also finds time for an old favourite, referring to Beast-Man as “furface”. It’s nice to see that some things never change.

Bright Moon 7
Palace Guard: “I am contractually obliged to order you to stop, even though I know I’m completely useless.”

Adora’s insult for Beast-Man is less effective: “fangs”. While I admit he does have fangs, it’s hardly insulting. She’s going to have to work harder at this, and indeed in her She-Ra guise she manages to summon up the more apposite “bonebrain” for Skeletor. Other characters similarly have harsh words for Skeletor, including “villain” from Man-at-Arms and “traitor” from Hordak.

Hordak opts for the tired old “fool” when insulting Queen Angela, and He-Man achieves the surprising “jarhead” for Hordak. The award for oddest insult, though, has to go to Skeletor, who spends some time trying to get through to King Randor on the wireless radio, seemingly only in order to call him a “royal boob”.

Bright Moon 8

 

Oh No, Bow!

Towards the end of the episode, Bow rescues Madame Razz and a weird green thing from a Horde Trooper. This in itself is a sufficiently stupid action to warrant an inclusion in this category, but after he does so, he stands on a very tall pillar and leaps off. We never see him again in the episode after that. I know that he landed safely, as all Filmation characters who leap from tall objects do, but I prefer to imagine that he landed in a mangled heap and had to be carted off to A & E.

 

Does it have the Power?

Because I’m feeling generous today, and also because Hordak didn’t make any snorting noises, then I’ll say that yes it does. It’s really nice to see a good send-off for Skeletor and co., something which you’ll recall we were largely robbed of in the He-Man series. The bit with the chef disguises was a suitable reminder of all the demented schemes Skeletor has come up with over the years, and I loved the wonderfully in-character moment when Skeletor betrayed Hordak.

Bright Moon 5
Skeletor: “Am I really being retired in favour of that idiot Hordak?”

Taken as a whole, these five episodes have been an effective introduction to She-Ra, especially the character of its eponymous heroine. We’ve seen her go from evil Horde member to hero of the Rebellion, which is quite a character arc. She is voiced by an incredibly irritating woman though, so I hope some improvements are made there.

So we understand the series set-up and its villains quite well. Hordak and Shadow Weaver get a showing today, though neither distinguishes themselves particularly. At least they aren’t annoying. We have also had a short introduction to the series heroes, but I feel there’s room to grow here. For a film essentially acting as a series pilot, what we’ve seen has focussed far more on the heroic characters we already know, rather than the new ones we’ll be spending time with for the next 88 episodes.

Bright Moon 9
Glimmer: “Do you think we’ll get any development in this series?”

But perhaps I’m crazy for wanting to spend more time with Bow, Glimmer and Madame Razz. I expect this time next week I’ll be pining to see Man-at-Arms and Teela again.

Episode 04 – Reunions

In which Glimmer, Madame Razz and Broom unleash the full extent of their infuriating natures.

Hurrah! We finally get the full introduction sequence. Adora approaches the camera, introduces herself, and explains how she becomes She-Ra (by drawing her sword and crying, “For the Honour of Grayskull!”, in case you’ve forgotten). She also reminds us that Spirit becomes Swift Wind, and informs us that her secret is shared by Kowl, a glowing mass of energy called Light Hope, and that bloody Madame Razz. Hordak, Shadow Weaver, Mantenna and Leech are shown to us to represent the Horde, and we are reminded that they are evil. All of this information is dispensed in an enormously patronising tone, and thus I much preferred it when there was no introduction.

After a lengthy recap of last week’s events, we open with He-Man and She-Ra hanging out in a clearing in Whispering Woods. Evidently not being quite sure whether he believes She-Ra’s claim that she is his twin sister, He-Man uses She-Ra’s sword to contact the Sorceress, who confirms that it is true, and moreover embarks on a flashback to fill He-Man in on the story.

Reunions 1
She-Ra: “Listen, He-Man, have you ever seen Blood Brothers? It’s basically like that.”

Adam and Adora were born to Queen Marlena and King Randor, but soon after their births, the Palace of Eternia came under attack from an evil force from another dimension – the Horde. Hordak was their leader even then, and Skeletor was his subordinate and favourite pupil. Knowing Adam and Adora were destined for greatness, Hordak and Skeletor crept into the Palace to kidnap them. Interrupted mid-kidnap, Hordak escaped with Adora, abandoning Skeletor to the tender mercies of the royal family and Man-at-Arms. Despite a lengthy search, Hordak and Adora could not be found.

Reunions 3
Hordak: “It’s always embarrassing looking back at old photos and seeing the dorky fashions you used to think were cool.”

Once all this backstory has been related, He-Man asks She-Ra for a big hug. I’ve often found He-Man a little creepy, and never more so than now. Once that’s over with, they turn back into Adam and Adora and return to the rebel camp. With Adam vouching for her, the rebels are easily persuaded that Adora is now on their side.

With this resolved, we move on to a short subplot: Queen Angela of Bright Moon, where Glimmer comes from, disappeared during a major battle with the Horde, and it has been determined that she is now a slave to an individual called Hunger, the queen of the Harpies of Talon Mountain, or some such. Glimmer, who is Angela’s daughter, wants to rescue her, and Adora and Adam offer to do so. They turn back into their alter egos, and fly off on Swift Wind.

Despite a great deal of footage featuring Hunger and the other Harpies screeching their idiot heads off, He-Man and She-Ra have very little difficulty in carrying out their rescue mission. Returning to Whispering Woods, Angela and Glimmer have as touching a reunion as is possible when you’re both voiced by massively irritating actresses. Despite the high level of fury Glimmer and Angela inspired in me at this point, they are still upstaged by Madame Razz, who weeps buckets for no reason.

Reunions 2
Queen Angela: “Why don’t you have wings like me, Glimmer?”

Touched by the mother-and-daughter reunion, Adora decides that now would be a good time to visit Eternia and meet her own parents. She, Adam, Spirit and Cringer all return to Eternia through the Sorceress’ gateway, where Adora is introduced to her parents – as well as Man-at-Arms and Teela – and they all weep so much that it looks like their eyes have been replaced with taps. Randor even tells Adam that he’s really pleased with him for bringing Adora home, which has to be a first.

Reunions 4
King Randor: “Hurrah! A child who might not be as useless as Adam.”

Unbeknownst to them, Hordak has opted to come through the gateway as well. Once on Eternia, he makes his way to Snake Mountain, where he has a slanging match with Skeletor, followed by a short battle. Finally, the two agree to work together to recapture Adora, after which Hordak promises to leave Skeletor in peace. He also snorts like a demented pig for our delight and delectation, as the words ‘To be continued’ flash across our screen.

 

In today’s adventure…

I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise, but there is no moral again. I, however, did pick up a few helpful life hints from the episode, chief among them being that if I go through an interdimensional portal, I should always check behind me in case my mortal enemy has come too.

Reunions 5
Skeletor: “Check out my big stupid stick, Hordak.”

 

Character checklist

Everyone and his mother is invited to this party. We’ve got Adora, She-Ra, Spirit, Swift Wind, Bow, Glimmer, Queen Angela, Madame Razz, Broom, Kowl, Prince Adam, He-Man, Cringer, Teela, Man-at-Arms, King Randor, Queen Marlena, the Sorceress, Hordak, Shadow Weaver, Hunger the Harpy, Skeletor, and loads of Horde Troopers, rebels, etc. I may well have forgotten someone from this list, but it’s probably the largest cast in any episode so far.

 

Excuse given for Adam and Adora’s disappearances

Adora and Adam happily turn into She-Ra and He-Man and back again repeatedly in this episode, but only in each other’s company, and mostly offscreen, luckily. They therefore don’t give any excuses. Still, the subject is touched upon shortly before they go to Eternia, when Adam explains that Adora mustn’t tell Randor and Marlena about her secret identity, or that of He-Man. Instead of saying, “Well, why the bloody hell not?”, Adora simply agrees. That’s a missed opportunity for the writers to explain that one. Unless, of course, the writers can’t explain that one.

Reunions 6
The Sorceress: “No, I will not explain why your identities have to be secret. There definitely is a reason though.”

 

Insults

The Sorceress kicks things off by referring to Hordak as a “vicious tyrant”. The next insults come with Bow and Glimmer each calling each other a “fool”, and Queen Angela calls the Harpies “vile minions”. Hunger is the most prolific insulter of the episode, given she shouts at her Harpies when they fail, calling them “blunderers” and “birdbrains”, then turns her attention to He-Man and She-Ra with “fools” and “dolts”. In his final scene, Hordak calls Skeletor a “traitor to the Horde”, and refers to Adam and Adora as “Eternian fools”. It’s good to see that this cartoon is going to continue the obsession with fools.

 

Oh No, Bow!

In his only scene, Bow doesn’t want to rescue Queen Angela because he thinks the rebels aren’t strong enough to defeat the Harpies. He’s completely wrong, of course, given He-Man and She-Ra manage it within three minutes.

Reunions 7
Bow: “Don’t undermine me, Kowl.”

 

Does it have the Power?

It’s nice to get the full story behind the Horde’s kidnapping of Adora, and particularly fun to see a vague origin for Skeletor – who’d have thought he was a former pupil of Hordak? It’s a great decision for Skeletor and Hordak to now hate each other; it would have been rather too neat if they’d been allies, and it’s far more in character for Skeletor to refuse to share power with anyone.

I’m not quite sure why the Queen Angela bit was here, as it didn’t feel relevant to the rest of the episode’s story. Still, as part of a complete film, it possibly makes more sense. We’ll have to find out next week. As it stands, it’s simply another demonstration of how annoying Glimmer and Madame Razz are.

And speaking of annoying, Hordak’s pig noises are really beginning to get on my tits now. His habit of transforming himself into machinery (in this episode, he becomes a rocket, a drill, and uses his stupid arm cannon again) is also not as funny as the writers evidently think it is. I feel that this cartoon could be a really long slog if Hordak doesn’t get a better voice and character soon.

Season 2 Summary

And here we are, having reviewed every episode of the finest cartoon series in history. (That is my personal opinion, but I’m pretty sure there’d be support for having it settled as an undisputed fact.) 130 episodes is a vast number of episodes to make, and I’m pleased to say that on balance, I think the writers did a fine job. That being said, Season 2 has struggled – especially in its latter half – to match the highs of Season 1.

 

Highlights

Happy 1
He-Man: “Very proud of these ones, thanks.”

Nonetheless, there have been some real triumphs this season. As with Season 1, I have selected my top five episodes for your reading pleasure:

5. Here, There, Skeletors Everywhere – Utterly and completely barking mad. As if having hordes of miniature Skeletors running around wasn’t enough, the writers also saw fit to include three anthropomorphic teddy bears facing starvation because they could no longer become invisible. Watch this one for a troubling insight into what being mental is like.

4. The Rainbow Warrior – Hilarious dialogue from Skeletor is always a good start, but here we also have him actually succeeding in capturing everyone except Queen Marlena, into whom we get great character exploration, and who is the one who saves the day. While that doesn’t sound great, it’s a genuinely exciting episode.

3. Into the Abyss – Another one that doesn’t sound that great, this episode features Teela falling down an abyss, and He-Man rescuing her. It’s a surprisingly subtle exploration of what makes Adam, He-Man and Teela tick, and it’s fascinating for a Saturday morning cartoon.

2. To Save Skeletor – It’s essentially Evilseed from Season 1 done all over again, but who cares? He-Man and Skeletor being forced to work together to defeat a greater evil is a winning formula, and this one has moments of great humour and surprising darkness.

1. The Problem with Power – But if you’re into surprisingly dark episodes, you won’t find a better one than this. Skeletor tricks He-Man into believing he’s killed a man, and we see the resulting moral quandary that He-Man goes through. It’s an outstanding exploration of ethical dilemmas, and features brilliant writing.

Contrary to customarily accepted He-Man wisdom, I do not consider Origin of the Sorceress to be a very good episode, which is why it’s not on the list. So don’t go emailing me claiming I forgot about it. I didn’t. Sorry and all. On the other hand, I very much wanted to include The Cat and the Spider, Not so Blind and Journey to Stone City, but there wasn’t quite room.

 

Lowlights

Angry 1
He-Man: “These ones, on the other hand, were poor.”

There have been surprisingly few of these, actually. I thought I’d be able to find plenty of candidates for this list, but it seems that most of Season 2 has been content to wallow in anonymous mediocrity rather than going for broke with outright dreadfulness. Still, there were some episodes that seemed to be really trying to achieve notoriety:

5. The Bitter Rose – In fairness, this one isn’t absolutely appalling, but I needed an episode to fill the bottom space on this list, and I think this is probably an appropriate fit. It features Orko nicking a rare flower, He-Man occupying himself playing baseball with rocks for ages, and the sudden and random appearance of a half-woman, half-flower thing at the end. It’s thus boring for the most part, and mental when it’s not being boring.

4. Monster on the Mountain – There’s a vast chasm separating this one from The Bitter Rose in the rankings table. I wouldn’t mind watching The Bitter Rose again one day, after sufficient therapy, but everything else on this list needs to be consigned to hell. Monster on the Mountain is preachy, obvious, and dull. Need I say more?

3. The Greatest Show on Eternia – This episode has a reputation for being the absolute worst that He-Man has to offer, largely because of the enormous character assassination it performs on Skeletor. Skeletor has never been the most convincing baddy, but his evil plot to spoil the circus in this episode is perhaps as ridiculous as he ever got. Add to that a deeply infuriating double act from Crackers the Clown and Orko, and you’ve got an incredibly unlikeable episode.

2. Time Doesn’t Fly – Bad as The Greatest Show on Eternia was, it was at least a vaguely entertaining train wreck. Time Doesn’t Fly, on the other hand, was boring, didn’t make any sense whatsoever, and the moral lesson was deranged, featuring He-Man warning us not to stop time, as if we could if we wanted to.

1. The Rarest Gift of All – But the absolute lowest point of Season 2 came quite early on, with The Rarest Gift of All. Orko spoils everyone’s day, then runs away weeping about how everyone hates him, and everyone has to reassure him. It’s sickening and utterly pointless, and I regard it as perhaps the worst thing ever to have been on television.

 

Favourite character

Yes, obviously, it’s still Skeletor. It doesn’t matter that he became more for comic relief this year, he’s still the best baddy in the history of television.

Skeletor 1
Skeletor: “Yes! I won again.”

 

Where next?

With He-Man over, the first and largest part of my mammoth undertaking is complete. Luckily, I have it on good authority that He-Man and Skeletor make regular guest appearances on She-Ra, which will probably be a good way of easing me out of my serious He-Man addiction. So, next week, we’ll be beginning the first season of She-Ra: Princess of Power!

Episode 129 – To Save the Creatures

In which Skeletor tries to ruin King Randor’s birthday party.

It’s King Randor’s birthday, and to celebrate, Randor is preparing to give an award to the owners of an animal sanctuary. The son of the owners, a boy called Ricky, claims not to care, but nonetheless agrees to give Adam, Teela and Orko a tour of the sanctuary. Once there, the owner reveals that Ricky is very good with animals, and asks him to take Adam, Teela and Orko to Blue Valley to check up on some long-toothed furlongs, or some such ludicrous animal.

Creatures 1
Teela: “Do we really have to have another episode involving an infuriating child?”

Meanwhile, Skeletor has employed a sleazy scientist called Maddock to create an “anger ray”, which will be used on the animals, with the express purpose of ruining King Randor’s party. Do you remember when Skeletor had grander ambitions, like conquering the universe? Anyway, Maddock has also invented an “animal digitiser”, which is basically a teleporter, and he uses it to kidnap the furlongs right in front of Adam, Teela, Orko and Ricky.

Realising that the kidnap has been spotted by our heroes, Skeletor frets about what to do now. The obvious solution – using his great big teleporter to kidnap Adam and co. as well – does not spring to mind, and so instead Maddock uses his anger ray to infuriate some other silly animals, these ones called chimperillas. He-Man appears and quickly puts an end to this nonsense, which irritates Skeletor so much that he asks Maddock to send some more stupid animals to delay He-Man.

Creatures 2
He-Man: “Hey look, an irritating little monkey … and a chimperilla.”

Things get a little more exciting when Skeletor teleports the angry furlongs into the middle of King Randor’s party, prompting scenes of crowd panic. Normally on He-Man, crowd panic scenes simply involve a few humans running around, but Randor seems to have invited a diverse range of people to his party, and we are treated to the sight of an alien with an enormous head, a bear in dungarees, a Viking, and a weird yellow man. Randor has some odd friends.

Creatures 3
Randor: “I’m willing to bet my life that you guys are recycled animation from previous episodes, though I’m damned if I can remember which ones.”

Much of the rest of the episode consists of He-Man defeating various animals, using Ricky’s extensive zoological knowledge to react in the most appropriate manner. There are also endless scenes of Ricky saying “thank you” to He-Man, and He-Man saying, “no, thank you” to Ricky. Finally, our heroes get down to the serious business of stopping Skeletor, which is achieved with the surprising help of Beast-Man, who is annoyed that Maddock’s inventions have rendered him obsolete.

We close with Ricky oddly commenting that all the stupid animals we’ve seen today are part of his family, to which He-Man even more oddly responds, “You know something, Ricky? We’re all part of one big family.” He’s clearly been at the Advocaat again, because he’s talking absolute rubbish.

Creatures 4
Teela: “He-Man, sometimes you need to think before you speak.”

 

In today’s adventure…

He-Man comes on to say that we should all feel really sorry for Beast-Man, whose plight in this episode is quite plainly a subtle commentary on the mechanisation of labour. He-Man goes on to explain that when machines are invented that can do the work of a human, it often leads to people losing their jobs and being unable to live. He concludes, however, that this is the price of progress.

Not really. Instead, we get some confused gibberish about how animals aren’t usually angry, doing things requires hard work, and that growing up isn’t easy, all of which is less than enlightening.

 

Character checklist

This week, our heroes are Prince Adam, He-Man, Teela, Orko, King Randor, Ricky, the animal sanctuary owners, and Randor’s weird collection of guests. Our villains are Skeletor, Beast-Man, Maddock and Evil-Lyn.

Creatures 6
Beast-Man: “Bet He-Man won’t see me here … oh.”

 

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

“I’ll try and work my way around the rocks and see if there’s a safe way out,” says Adam, when they come under attack by chimperillas. This is a long and boring sentence, so he can be pretty confident that Teela will have stopped paying attention by the end of it.

 

Insults

Skeletor’s ire is reserved entirely for Maddock this week, who must suffer the stinging abuse of “ninny”, “fool”, and the enigmatic “broken-down genius”.

Creatures 5
Maddock: “And here’s my state-of-the-art computer. Not enormously portable, I’ll admit.”

 

Does it have the Power?

It’s a pretty reasonable offering. Skeletor hasn’t often used animals for his evil plans, despite Beast-Man’s powers, so the plotline doesn’t feel too recycled. It might have been nice if Skeletor had tried to use the animals to break into Castle Grayskull, rather than the more pointlessly spiteful aim of disrupting the birthday party, but I shouldn’t complain too much. It seems like it might have benefitted from slightly tighter script editing – the grand finale with He-Man facing Skeletor comes before a damp squib of an ending involving Ricky whistling at some elephants, and I feel that these scenes should have been the other way around – but again, I’m just picking holes here. My final verdict is that it’s a decent but not classic episode.

Episode 128 – The Games

In which He-Man takes micro-management to a whole new level.

Adam, Man-at-Arms, Fisto, Orko and Cringer are hanging out at the Palace, playing stupid games to see which of them can remain motionless the longest. This is as tedious as it sounds, despite Fisto trying to make out that it’s an “excellent” game. The whole sorry bunch of them are interrupted by a flying saucer, which hovers above the Palace and transmits a radio message.

Games 1
Prince Adam: “If I stand behind Fisto and glare at him, he won’t be able to see how much I loathe him.”

The saucer contains an alien race called the Bendari, the self-proclaimed seekers of truth. Allegedly, on their world, the concepts of good and evil are non-existent, so they have come to Eternia to try to gain an understanding. This understanding will apparently be reached by asking representatives of the diametric forces of good and evil to compete in some games.

Fisto stands around whinging that he is unlikely to be selected as the champion of good, since the Bendari will undoubtedly choose He-Man instead. Over in Snake Mountain, Skeletor has come to the same conclusion, and furthermore has realised that he is likely to be chosen as the champion of evil. For some reason, he is not keen to go up against He-Man in any kind of contest, and therefore puts his henchman Spikor through a machine called an Evilgizer to make him more evil.

Games 2
Spikor: “The Hacienda is a little lower budget these days, but still pretty rave-tastic.”

When the Bendari come to choose their champions, Teela has delayed Adam by forcing him to take part in sword fighting lessons. Consequently, He-Man is nowhere in sight, and the Bendari choose Fisto instead to represent good. In accordance with Skeletor’s plan, they select Spikor to represent evil, and transport the competitors to the Eternian forest. The Bendari then explain the game, which is basically a glorified Easter Egg Hunt, and they specify that good is bound by its own rules, while evil is not required to follow any rules.

Spikor takes an early lead, thanks to the efforts of Beast-Man and Mer-Man, who help him to reach the Easter Eggs. Skeletor, on the other hand, rather oddly chooses to spend his time burrowing around under the surface driving a giant drill, for no evident purpose. Once Spikor is 2000 points ahead, Adam decides that enough is enough, transforms into He-Man, and replaces Fisto in the game. Way to undermine Fisto’s confidence, He-Man.

Games 3
He-Man: “I’ll take it from here, you useless waste of space.”

He-Man quickly finds a special Easter Egg worth 2000 points, which equalises the gap between him and Spikor. Skeletor, still merrily drilling away, is livid, and orders Spikor that he must find the final Egg and win. Both He-Man and Spikor locate the Egg at the top of a very tall tree, and prepare to start climbing. Spikor prepares by doing a stupid dance and chanting, “Spikor is strongest, Spikor will win!”, a little display of lunacy which He-Man ignores, instead heading up into the tree.

Games 4
Spikor: “Form an orderly queue, ladies.”

Predictably, whilst climbing, Spikor runs into difficulty and it becomes necessary for He-Man to rescue him. Equally predictably, Spikor proceeds to respond by knocking He-Man out of the tree, and almost reaching the final Easter Egg himself. He-Man then does what he should have done in the first place, and shakes the tree so violently that the Egg falls out, into his waiting hands.

The Bendari proclaim He-Man the winner, and thank the participants, announcing that they now understand that good is greater than evil. He-Man stands around smugly in the Palace courtyard, ignoring Fisto’s cold glare, while over in Snake Mountain, Skeletor shrieks that he hates losing. Well, Skeletor, just a thought, but perhaps you wouldn’t have lost if you had done something constructive rather than pissing about in your drill.

Games 5
Skeletor: “Surely the random and pointless use of this giant drill should have led me to victory?”

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms decides that the best lesson from today’s little fable is that we should never stop trying, even when the task seems hard, or when other people aren’t playing fair. This is nothing we’ve not heard before, so I might suggest that a more interesting moral – albeit one more tailored towards staff managers than five year olds – is that He-Man’s behaviour towards Fisto was inappropriate in the extreme. If you act like He-Man and micro-manage your team, and undermine them when they are doing their jobs, you’ll end up with dissatisfied staff and a loss of productivity in your team.

 

Character checklist

Ooh, wow, it’s rare appearances from Fisto and Spikor! That’s the sort of thing that really draws in the crowds. If these two no-hopers don’t float your boat, though, we’ve also got Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Orko, Teela, Skeletor, Beast-Man and Mer-Man. There’s the Bendari too, but we only see their spaceship, not them in person.

Games 7
Beast-Man: “Christ, Skeletor, we didn’t need to see your re-interpretation of Equus.”

 

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

He doesn’t give one at the time of the actual transformation. However, early on, he tries to make an exit by claiming he’s got stuff to do, but Teela won’t have it, and forces him to stay, which was a pretty amusing scene.

 

Insults

Skeletor calls Fisto a “goody-goody”, and tells Spikor he’s a “fool” twice. Otherwise, there’s nothing to report here.

 

Does it have the Power?

It’s a bit of a rehash of The Arena, which was definitely a superior episode, but it’s by no means a failure. It’s a fairly snappy script, and though it’s clearly geared towards selling Fisto and Spikor action figures, it’s a lot more subtle in this aim than other similar efforts, such as Happy Birthday Roboto. Spikor seems to be in serious need of psychiatric help, taking in consideration his loopy little dances and his voice, which sounds like he’s one step away from complete mental collapse. Fisto, though he doesn’t come across as a nutjob, doesn’t fare much better in that he achieves precisely nothing before being replaced by He-Man.

Games 6
Fisto: “Got the time, Spikor?”

However, the oddest thing in this episode has to be Skeletor’s behaviour. For a start, he seems unusually invested in winning the game, especially given the Bendari make no mention of a prize. In addition, there’s no particular reason why he doesn’t want to compete in person, though it’s not difficult to imagine that he simply is fed up of facing He-Man. It’s harder to come up with a plausible explanation for all the drilling, which is genuinely completely purposeless.

And finally, I think the whole thing would have had more impact if Spikor had actually managed to reach the final Easter Egg and win the game. The Bendari could have concluded that He-Man’s moral action in saving Spikor meant that good was the winner anyway, and it would have showed viewers that the most important thing isn’t winning, but doing the right thing. It would have also been interesting in that it would have been the only He-Man episode in which the baddies win, and considering who won the game didn’t make any difference to Eternia, it’s the sort of situation when it would have been okay for Skeletor to have a victory. Just a thought.

Episode 126 – Capture the Comet Keeper

In which He-Man indulges himself in a good old-fashioned break-in to Snake Mountain.

Adam, Teela and Orko are visiting Zagrez, the Wizard of Zagrez Mountain, who is the Comet Keeper of the episode’s title. If you are sufficiently sad, you may recall that Zagrez was featured in The Cosmic Comet, the very first episode of He-Man. If so, you will also recall that he was very annoying, and might thus wonder why the writers have seen fit to bring him back. You will get no arguments from me on that score.

Comet Keeper 1
Zagrez: “Look everyone, it’s me and my giant bits of popcorn. Sorry, comets.”

Anyway, it seems that Zagrez runs some kind of school for comets, where he trains them to be good comets. This is admittedly a demented concept, but don’t blame me. Zagrez introduces Adam, Teela and Orko to Doodles, a comet who has a good heart but doesn’t always do what he’s told. This is also mental, but I feel I’m going to have to just get past the whole “comets have personalities” thing in order to write this review.

Watching on his spyglobe, Skeletor decides to use the comets to capture Castle Grayskull, despite Two-Bad pointing out that this plan has not led to great success in the past. Skeletor despatches Two-Bad to kidnap Zagrez, which he achieves with surprising competence. Once Zagrez is in Snake Mountain, he warns Skeletor that left unattended, his comets will wreak havoc, but Skeletor simply orders him to use the comets to defeat He-Man – or face the dungeons.

Comet Keeper 2
Zagrez: “Yeah, I’ll probably take the dungeons option. He-Man will be here to pick me up within about 20 seconds.”

At the Palace, Man-at-Arms notices that Zagrez’s comets are flying all over Eternia, causing various natural disasters with their gravitational effects. Man-at-Arms and Adam watch casually as tidal waves, avalanches and sandstorms rip across Eternia’s surface, then suddenly decide to act when a comet starts heading for the Palace. Adam becomes He-Man, and despite pissing about in the Wind Raider for ages, completely fails to stop the comet destroying one of the Palace’s towers. Muttering crossly, “I’ll have to fix this later,” He-Man heads for Zagrez Mountain, taking Teela with him.

He-Man is plainly flirting with the notion of incompetence this week; when they arrive at the Mountain, he nearly crashes the Wind Raider into it, prompting him to utter an inarticulate noise which sounds as though he’s skidded on a banana skin. Quickly determining Zagrez is absent, He-Man is just wondering what to do next, when Skeletor appears and tells him the entire plan, which is mighty helpful.

Comet Keeper 3
Skeletor: “Hi, He-Man! I’m obviously going to be defeated as usual, so I thought I might as well speed the process up.”

He-Man and Teela take the hint and troll over to Snake Mountain, where they throw Two-Bad into a mud puddle, and then break in. Skeletor is cornered in his throne room, and when he refuses to let Zagrez go, He-Man subjects him to a lecture about the futility of fighting. Skeletor doesn’t listen, naturally enough, but receives a firsthand demonstration when he attempts to fight He-Man.

This less-than-epic fight is interrupted when Doodles the Naughty Comet starts heading straight for Snake Mountain. Skeletor attempts to stop Doodles, but – as with everything else this week – he completely fails. He-Man releases Zagrez, and they all stand around laughing as Doodles chases Skeletor into the mud puddle. Notably, Two-Bad is still there, despite it having been a good five minutes at least since he was thrown in. No one ever said Two-Bad was that bright, but if he’s unable to figure out how to get out of that puddle, I think he genuinely might need professional help.

Comet Keeper 4
Skeletor: “You weren’t around at the time, Two-Bad, but at the start of the series He-Man used to throw me into mud puddles all the time, so this is kind of nostalgic.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Teela comes along and tells us that fighting doesn’t solve problems, but only makes more. For some reason, as she’s talking, we are treated to animation of Skeletor cackling his moronic head off, and can hear his laughter in the background, which makes it seem like he is heckling Teela. And why not, I suppose.

 

Character checklist

Today’s foray to Eternia treats us to appearances from Prince Adam, He-Man, Teela, Man-at-Arms, Orko, Zagrez, Skeletor and Two-Bad. I refuse to acknowledge the various comets as characters.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

I’ve never heard Man-at-Arms sound so panicked as when he tells Adam to transform into He-Man. He genuinely sounds frightened out of his wits. That’s presumably why he doesn’t appear in the rest of the episode: he’s had to go and lie down in a dark room. But anyway, my point is that since it’s only him and Adam around, there’s no excuse needed or offered.

Comet Keeper 5
Man-at-Arms: “Uh oh, I’m freaking out!”

 

Insults

The villains take to insulting the comets at various points, Two-Bad referring to them as “goody-goody comets”, and Skeletor addressing Doodles as a “renegade rock”. Skeletor returns to an old favourite theme by calling He-Man a “muscle-head” and a “meddlesome muscle-man”, and he refers to all of our heroes as “goody-goody fools”. He also has a few choice remarks reserved for Two-Bad, calling him a “fangface”, and taking time out to turn directly to camera and comment, “They say two heads are better than one, but I think they’re wrong.”

 

Does it have the Power?

I’d forgotten how good episodes like this are. It seems like a genuine throwback to the early days of the first season (partly, admittedly, because it’s a shameless recycling of the plot of The Cosmic Comet), with Skeletor hatching one of his loopy plans and taking a pretty hands-on role in following through with it. Even when he’s featured lately, he’s taken more of a back seat in getting others to do things for him, so it’s a joy to see him getting his hands dirty again.

Comet Keeper 6
He-Man: “Shall I lead?”

Something about the writing, directing and performances all combine to give this episode an air of early He-Man – I think it’s largely that it feels very fresh somehow, making me realise how tired a lot of the recent offerings have been. Zagrez is just as annoying as he was on his first appearance, but I can forgive even that. This episode probably doesn’t compare to the episodes from the early first season, but coming now in late Season Two, it’s almost a classic.

I’ll leave you with some of the most sparkling dialogue we’ve heard in ages: when He-Man arrives in Snake Mountain’s throne room, Skeletor says, “He-Man! Who let you in? I locked the door.” He-Man replies, “We let ourselves in, and you need a new door.” Who needs Breaking Bad?

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.