Episode 095 – A Bird in the Hand

In which Orko causes a right load of trouble, again.

Orko begins the episode by deciding to irritatingly insert himself into an unsuspecting victim’s life, and selects for this honour Stanlin, Melaktha’s apprentice. He tries to use magic to help Stanlin dust some archaeological artefacts, but of course it goes wrong, and a statue of a wolf ends up smashed. All is not lost, however; in the remains of the statue, Orko and Stanlin discover a map written in an unknown language. They show it to Adam, who suggests asking the Sorceress to decipher it.

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Stanlin: “Piss off, Orko. Go on. Go away.”

Adam, Cringer, Orko and Stanlin take a Wind Raider to Grayskull, Stanlin worrying all the way about what Melaktha will say when he finds the statue is broken. As it happens, Teela quickly fills Melaktha in on the events, and they decide to follow the others to Grayskull. Skeletor, Beast-Man and Trapjaw are also flying around, seemingly with no purpose other than vaguely looking for trouble, and conclude that they might as well go to Grayskull too.

On arrival, Beast-Man sends a small purple beast called a Hollywag into the castle, to listen in on all the conversations taking place inside. This is precisely the sort of thing that would drive me nuts, since all he’s going to hear is Orko’s usual deranged gibber, the Sorceress being unable to do anything, Adam not saying anything useful, and Cringer whining about being tired/hungry/frightened.

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The Sorceress: “I really do wish I owned a pair of trousers.”

The Sorceress soon deduces that the map leads through the Caves of the Wind to the Temple of the Wolf, in which can be found the Ancients’ Book of Spells. The Hollywag relays this information to Beast-Man, and Skeletor decides that the Ancients’ Book of Spells would be pretty handy. His next step is therefore to try to shoot down the Wind Raider, which seems completely crazy, since the Hollywag has already told him how to get to the Temple, so all he needs to do is go there and get the Book first.

Flying the Wind Raider, Adam manages to evade Skeletor, so Skeletor opts to head for the Caves of the Wind and wait for our heroes there. Somehow, Melaktha and Teela arrive at the Caves before Adam’s party does, and they are immediately captured in a net by Skeletor, who then implies that Stanlin has told him about the Ancients’ Book of Spells. Melaktha is very quick to believe the worst of Stanlin, but Teela is less certain.

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Melaktha: “No, I wanted to see Teela in her fishnets, not this type of net.”

It’s at about this point that – with a distinct lack of provocation – Adam decides that enough is enough and that it’s time for He-Man to show up. Even with He-Man on the scene, however, Skeletor proves himself capable of stealing the map and kidnapping Stanlin. As he leaves, he causes a cave-in, but He-Man isn’t in the mood for such tomfoolery and turns himself into a drill to deal with it. He then meets up with Melaktha and Teela, and they all head off to the Temple.

Once at the Temple, Skeletor dimwittedly manages to conjure up a wolf, which chases him and Beast-Man away. Stanlin is left to retrieve the Book, but as soon as he does so, Skeletor reappears and tries to seize it from him. Luckily, He-Man and his party show up, He-Man throws some rocks around, and Melaktha is convinced that Stanlin isn’t a traitor after all. The episode ends with a very prescient comment from Stanlin: “I shouldn’t have let Orko help me in the first place.” This is a lesson for us all.

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Orko: “Such a hilarious moment.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Teela says that anyone who jumps to conclusions will usually find that the conclusion is wrong, as Melaktha did when he listened to Skeletor saying that Stanlin is a traitor. Warning against jumping to conclusions is all well and good, but this episode really demonstrates that you shouldn’t listen to inexplicably muscle-y blue skeletons.

 

Character checklist

For the most part, there’s nothing out of the ordinary here: Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Orko, Teela, the Sorceress, Skeletor, Beast-Man and Trapjaw. Melaktha and Stanlin are the only particularly noteworthy characters.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

Adam’s transformation comes pretty much out of the blue, as if the writer suddenly realised, “Oh Christ, we’re halfway through this episode and He-Man hasn’t shown up yet.” There’s no very good reason offered for the transformation, and no one comments on it.

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Adam: “You know what, Cringer? I’m just going to turn into He-Man and wrap this one up early.”

 

Insults

There’s a lot of insults this week, but they’re pretty much all Skeletor telling someone or another that they’re a “fool”. Trapjaw is the recipient of this treatment once, while Stanlin earns the title twice. Skeletor also refers to Beast-Man as “Furface” and a “clumsy oaf”, and Trapjaw as an “incompetent pile of scrap metal”. Beast-Man calls the Hollywag “lizard-lips” and a “stupid Hollywag”, while He-Man makes the understatement of the century when he comments, “Skeletor is not the most honest man on Eternia.”

 

Does it have the Power?

It didn’t exactly blow me away as a work of staggering genius, but neither was it rubbish. The idea of the Hollywag spying on our heroes was a good one, but as usual Skeletor completely failed to capitalise on his advantage. He could have been at the Temple a long time earlier, and if he hadn’t messed about creating wolves, the Book would have been his. I really wonder sometimes if Skeletor doesn’t actually want to win.

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He-Man: “Don’t mess with me, wolf. I eat bigger things than you for breakfast.”

The one bit of the episode that I really felt didn’t work was Melaktha’s eagerness to believe that Stanlin was a traitor. Stanlin has been working with Melaktha for a long time – his last appearance was about 50 episodes ago – so you would think that Melaktha would have got to know him by now. The sequence in which Melaktha believes Stanlin has betrayed them doesn’t really go anywhere either, so it’s plainly just there to set up the moral.

As a side-note, the first time I wrote “Stanlin” in this review, Microsoft Word auto-corrected it to “Stalin”, and I must say that if the episode had featured He-Man hanging out with a cartoon Stalin, it would have been absolutely amazing, if somewhat unlikely in 1980s America. If anyone fancies messing about with the master tape to replace Stanlin with Stalin for this episode, I will buy them a cookie.

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Cringer: “Er, Adam, are you aware that one of the most infamous dictators of the 20th century is sat next to you in the Wind Raider?”

Anyway, as a pretty standard He-Man-by-numbers, I’d expect you’ll enjoy this one, but it’s not possessed of anything that raises it above the average.

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.

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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.