Masters of the Universe

In which Dave isn’t very good at DIY.

This magnum opus of cinema begins with some helpful narration, which explains the basic concept of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and it remains broadly similar to the premise that we all know and love. On this outing, Castle Grayskull sits at the centre of the universe, and it contains the power needed for someone to become Master of the Universe. The Sorceress of Grayskull guards this power from the forces of evil.

Immediately after the credits, we are introduced to Skeletor. This is no doubt because the filmmakers knew he was far and away the best thing about the film, and was thus needed as soon as possible in order to hold our attention. Skeletor has evidently been watching Star Wars, since he has a huge army of Imperial Storm Troopers, the only difference being that they are dressed in black rather than white. Skeletor is less subtle in his evilness than the Galactic Empire.

Anyway, rather to my surprise, Skeletor has already captured Castle Grayskull, and is lounging about on the throne. The budget evidently didn’t stretch to showing the battle in which he managed to gain access to the castle. Evil-Lyn is present, wearing a bin bag and a tin foil hat, and she reports that He-Man is continuing to lead the resistance. The Sorceress is also present, and is just as given to talking in irritating, unhelpful cryptic hints as she was in the Filmation series.

Skeletor makes a public service announcement to Eternia, informing them that he has taken control of Grayskull. He-Man stands on a hill in order to pose dramatically while Skeletor makes this broadcast, then introduces himself to the audience by having a random fight with some Storm Troopers. Man-at-Arms and Teela appear at this juncture, the latter of whom looking as though she’s escaped from the set of an intergalactic remake of Grease. He-Man gives her a welcoming hug and cops a quick feel of her backside.

Before Man-at-Arms can complain that He-Man hasn’t fondled his rear end too, we are treated to the appearance of a ghastly Orko-substitute called Gwildor. Gwildor is the inventor of a device called the Cosmic Key, which can open a doorway between any two locations. He explains that Evil-Lyn stole the Cosmic Key, and used it to allow Skeletor and his Storm Troopers to enter Grayskull. Once this exciting plot point is established, our heroic party waltzes into Grayskull themselves, and after a less than enlightening conversation with the Sorceress, they are pinned down by Skeletor.

I’d love to say it’s an exciting fight, but unfortunately all I could think of during this scene was that Star Wars does this sort of thing so much better. And frankly, I don’t even like Star Wars. The scene ends with Gwildor using another copy of his stupid Cosmic Key to open a gateway to a random location, through which our heroes escape.

These events cover the first 15 minutes of the film, and it’s all been pretty standard silly Eternian shenanigans up to this point. It’s not been good, as such, but it’s been watchable. Unfortunately, Gwildor’s gateway takes He-Man and his mates to Earth, and so the film now takes an unwelcome left turn into a boring story in which our heroes set to work looking for the second copy of the Cosmic Key, which they have somehow lost. They are pretty sure that it must be somewhere on Earth, so they split up to try to search the entire planet. I’m sure this won’t take long, especially since splitting up seems to mean that He-Man goes one way, while the other three go to a cheap version of KFC and steal some fried chicken.

In this cheap version of KFC, we meet Monica from Friends. She does have another name in this film, but obviously I didn’t listen to it. When we first meet her, it’s the end of her final shift at the knock-off KFC. She therefore changes out of her uniform right behind the counter where all the customers can see her. This seems odd behaviour, but as this film goes on, we’ll learn that Monica is a pretty odd person.

Monica has just broken up with her boyfriend, who is Tom Paris from Star Trek: Voyager. Tom Paris also has another name, but we’re going to call him Tom Paris because I think it’s funny, and there are precious few other laughs in this film. Tom Paris and Monica have broken up for no readily apparent reason, but they still act like they’re together anyway, regularly hugging and kissing throughout the film. “Why?” you ask. “Why not?” the filmmakers reply, shrugging their shoulders.

Monica and Tom Paris go to the local cemetery, where Monica ribbits on about how her parents have recently died in a plane crash, which is tragic, so it’s no surprise that she’s easily distracted when she finds the Cosmic Key. The Cosmic Key looks like a bomb, so Monica eagerly picks it up and beams with demented delight. Tom Paris is no less insane; he decides the Key must be a musical instrument, and laughs merrily as it emits sparks. These two have a complete death wish. If I’d found that thing, I’d be calling the bomb disposal squad, not carrying it round and chuckling like a halfwit.

The next scene confirms that Tom Paris is a complete moron; he takes the Key to his band’s rehearsal space, and plugs it into his amp. Come on, Tom Paris. It doesn’t look like an instrument in the slightest. I’ll admit it makes silly noises, but that’s sheer coincidence. I’m also unconvinced that Gwildor would have installed an Earth-compatible audio jack on the Cosmic Key.

Of course, thanks to Tom Paris’ stupid mucking about, Skeletor and Evil-Lyn are able to lock on to the Key’s current location, and so they send an advance party of baddies through a gateway to recover it and ambush He-Man. The baddies include:

  1. Blade, a dude who wears an eye patch and has a pair of knives strapped to his head.
  2. Saurod, a vaguely reptilian gentleman in a silly black armoured suit. Saurod has the dubious honour of being incinerated by Skeletor in the not-too-distant future.
  3. Beast-Man, who looks like a Poundland version of Chewbacca.
  4. Karg, who looks like a Family Bargains version of Beast-Man.

Hilarious japes ensue when these four bound happily through the gateway and corner Monica in the band’s rehearsal space. I’m sure this scene is great, but I’m watching and writing this on the Southwestern Trains service from Waterloo to Portsmouth, and there’s an enormously stupid woman sat behind me shrieking into her mobile about some horrible house she’s renovating, so I was rather distracted. Listen lady, no one cares about your house. I’m watching He-Man.

Actually, to be honest, I’m not watching He-Man. He-Man has been mysteriously absent from this film for the last quarter of an hour, and instead I’ve been watching a load of really cheap messing about with Monica from Friends crawling around under a table while four individuals – allegedly the best assassins in the galaxy – inexplicably fail to capture her. Come on, He-Man. If you don’t show up soon, I’m going to start randomly skipping ahead.

Ah, here he is. Right on cue, Monica blunders into He-Man while she’s running away from Blade and Skeletor’s other dicks. Unfortunately, that bloody woman’s started up again, so I have more information about her plastering and painting contract with “Dave” than I do about He-Man and Monica. Apparently, Dave isn’t doing his job very well. On the plus side, we’ve just left Clapham Junction and I know for a fact there’s no signal from here until at least Woking, so the beastly fool will shut up soon. On the minus side, Dave and his ineptitude is actually quite a lot more interesting than this film is at the moment.

With the help of his chicken-pilfering colleagues Teela and Man-at-Arms, He-Man repels the attack of Blade and co. as easily as he would in the cartoon. It’s now time to seek some answers from Monica, who is surprisingly not too worried about the appearance of a buff bodybuilder equipped with a sword, a laser pistol, and wearing nothing more than his pants and a red cloak. He-Man laboriously explains the entire plot to her, and she happily accepts it all as if this sort of thing happens all the time. She and Tom Paris are definitely doing some serious hallucinogenic drugs. Loo-Kee would not approve.

Tom Paris teams up with a police inspector and spends some time cruising the streets looking for Monica, while Gwildor nicks a car and takes Team He-Man on a ride looking for Tom Paris. With both sets of characters out looking for each other, it naturally takes a fair while before anything of interest happens, so I have occupied myself in tuning back in to the ongoing saga of Dave the Rubbish Painter. Turns out he’s painted the outside of the house blue, but he was supposed to paint the inside. That is, admittedly, a pretty poor effort, but there’s still no need for the idiot woman to inform the entire train.

Eventually, all our heroes reunite, and are pinned down in a music shop by Evil-Lyn, Blade, Beast-Man and Karg. Saurod is no longer present, owing to the above-mentioned incineration. Gwildor attempts to reactivate the Cosmic Key so they can all go back to Eternia, though I don’t know why they want to go back there. The only reason they’re on Earth in the first place is because they were defeated on Eternia and had to run away. Nothing’s changed, so why bother going back?

This very good question is not answered, because before Gwildor can reactivate the Key, we get a huge case of “what the fuck is wrong with you, Monica?” Basically, Evil-Lyn pretends to be Monica’s dead mother and asks Monica to fetch the Cosmic Key for her, and Monica does so. At this stage in the film, Monica knows the following:

  1. Her mother died in a plane crash.
  2. There is an evil being called Skeletor, who requires something called the Cosmic Key to dominate the entire universe.
  3. The Cosmic Key is currently in Monica’s possession.
  4. Her mother, despite being dead, is currently standing outside a music shop asking Monica to fetch the Cosmic Key, an artefact of great power in which she has heretofore displayed absolutely zero interest.

Knowing all the above, why the Jesus Christ would Monica choose to simply hand over the Cosmic Key? The only plausible answer is that she is completely brain-dead. On reflection, that explains it.

He-Man has again gone AWOL from the film, in favour of endless scenes of the police inspector standing around bellowing that he’s going to arrest everyone. He should start with Dave the Painter, I think, who is clearly dangerously incompetent, given the current thread of that moronic woman’s conversation. Still, once Monica’s done her little Cosmic Key giveaway, He-Man reappears looking mightily fucked off, and he looks even more so when Evil-Lyn opens a gateway to Eternia, from which Skeletor emerges in a massive tank. I didn’t know that was part of the plan, but I’m increasingly getting the impression that the writers have only the vaguest notion of the concept of narrative.

There’s now an interminable sequence involving He-Man flying around on a hoverboard shooting Storm Troopers. If I knew when Back to the Future 2 came out, I might have concluded that Masters of the Universe was ripping that off as well as Star Wars, but since I’m not sure, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. Instead, I’ll settle for commenting that this bit is less than compelling, and has the feel of a bit only inserted at the last minute because the producers suddenly realised they had a bit of cash left over. It’s certainly not relevant to the plot, not that I can really remember what the plot is supposed to be by this stage.

Skeletor, meanwhile, is merrily driving his tank up and down the high street as if he’s part of a Thanksgiving parade. He moves at an infinitesimally slow pace, and yet still manages to capture all of our heroes, with the exception of that dick of a policeman, who has been missing from the film for some time. I’m not sure if this is because he’s going to make a grand re-entry at some stage, or simply because the writers have forgotten about him.

He-Man strikes a bargain with Skeletor, agreeing to return to Eternia as a slave if Skeletor will spare the lives of Man-at-Arms, Teela, etc. As opposed to the Filmation version, this incarnation of Skeletor has some conception of the long game, and actually keeps his word, taking He-Man away but leaving the other goodies alive and at liberty. Unfortunately, Gwildor reveals that the Cosmic Key is now fused or broken or something, which means that they are stranded on Earth.

Already in training for Star Trek: Voyager, Tom Paris is insistent that there must be a deus ex machina available for use at this stage. And thus it proves. Because Tom Paris can remember the sequence of stupid noises the Key made when he thought it was a musical instrument, Gwildor is able to reprogram the Key with Eternia’s coordinates! Hurrah! Despite a last minute reappearance from the stupid policeman, trying to delay proceedings, the gateway is opened, and it’s over to Eternia for all our heroes.

They arrive just in time to miss a serious display of overacting from Skeletor, who has absorbed all the powers of Grayskull, thanks to some bollocks about the moon rising and some magical eye opening. As a result of this, he’s put on a new outfit, which looks considerably tackier than his previous effort. Once Teela etc arrive, there’s an almighty ruckus in Grayskull’s throne room, which comes to an almost satisfactory conclusion when He-Man raises his sword and cries, “I have the Power!” before launching into a Star Wars-aping duel with Skeletor.

Well, of course, He-Man wins, and sends Skeletor plummeting down into a pit. I don’t know why there’s a massive pit in the middle of the throne room, but why the hell not? The film ends with He-Man restoring the Sorceress to power, and for no readily apparent reason she allows the halfwit policeman to go into retirement on Eternia. Gwildor sends Monica and Tom Paris back to Earth, where Monica finds that her parents have been magically and inexplicably restored to life. I cannot express how happy I was at this revelation. If I hadn’t been on the train, I’d have cheered.

And finally – there’s a post-credits sting in which Skeletor pops his head up from beneath some pink liquid and announces to the camera, “I’ll be back.” Unfortunately, this version of Skeletor was never able to come back, due to his subsequent arrest for copyright infringement of Star Wars and the Terminator, and possibly Back to the Future.

 

In today’s adventure…

You know as well as I do that there was no moral segment to this film. A moral segment at least implies a degree of coherent thought about what story the writers were trying to tell, and I don’t think that coherent thought was anywhere near the production of this film. I have therefore taken it upon myself to supply a couple of moral lessons drawn from the film:

  • If you meet a man dressed in nothing more than pants, bra and a red cloak, don’t worry: he’s the Most Powerful Man in the Universe, not a sex pest. Though, worryingly, I suppose he could be both.
  • If you find a mysterious glowing piece of machinery in a crater, it’s probably a special Japanese musical instrument, not a bomb. You should definitely fiddle about with it and press all the buttons.
  • If you’re an American policeman, act like a complete dick throughout any weird proceedings, and you’ll be rewarded by being allowed to retire to Eternia.
  • If your parents have recently died, they will probably reappear later, with zero explanation.
  • If you’re Monica from Friends, don’t worry – no one will remember you appeared in this atrocity of a film. If, on the other hand, you’re Tom Paris, this is probably the pinnacle of your career, and is about twenty times better than Star Trek: Voyager.
  • If you’re redecorating your house, don’t call Dave the Painter.

 

Insults

For the first 45 minutes or thereabouts, the only person doing any insulting is Teela. She calls Gwildor a “worm” and what sounds like a “Fenurrian wombat”. This may not be what she said; Teela doesn’t speak very clearly. Shortly afterwards, she refers to Earth as “a barbaric world”, as part of a bizarre little interlude in which she and Gwildor make an unexpected and somewhat half-hearted case for vegetarianism.

Once Teela’s finished, it’s time for the baddies to take their turn. Blade starts off by calling either Beast-Man or Karg an “animal”. It’s not entirely clear which of them he’s addressing, and they’re both present and would both fit this description. Evil-Lyn shortly thereafter shrieks “fools”, though I don’t know who she was talking about. Frankly, only about half of the sentences uttered in this film seem to have any kind of relevance to the preceding piece of dialogue.

It’s only towards the end that Skeletor gets into his stride, starting off by calling Gwildor a “minute minion”, and then proceeds to describe Earth as a “primitive and tasteless planet”. These barbs are only warm-ups for the main event, which I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for: the high point of the entire film, when Skeletor keeps up the He-Manic tradition of referring to He-Man as a “fool”.

Elsewhere, the police inspector calls Tom Paris a “moron kid”, and finally, the woman behind me on the train referred to Dave the Painter as a “fucking idiot”.

 

Does it have the Power?

Let’s just say it’s easy to see why this didn’t get a sequel, and didn’t go on to spawn the multi-film franchise that it was plainly aiming at. It isn’t a complete disaster, but it is a 90% disaster. I hate deriding things for looking cheap, because obviously there’s only so much money they were given and that’s that, but this film really does look like it was put together in a weekend with whatever materials could be salvaged from the bins behind B&Q.

The lack of budget is obviously the reason for the film primarily being set on Earth; it’s a lot easier to film on streets, fast food restaurants and music shops than it is to build impressive sets for various exotic Eternian locations. The problem is that in a Masters of the Universe film, we want to see Eternia, not Earth. We want to see Snake Mountain, not a KFC knockoff, and we want the Royal Palace, not Monica’s parents’ house.

As far as characters and actors go, it’s difficult to pick a favourite. Skeletor made a reasonably good impression at first, but let himself down with some dreadful acting in the final 15 minutes of the film. It’s not really fair to compare him to Filmation’s Skeletor, who is indisputably the greatest character in the history of television, but I have to conclude that this Skeletor never really cut the mustard. He’s certainly evil, but comes across as rather more doleful than his usual gleeful nature, as if someone’s making him be evil, but he can’t really be bothered.

And speaking of can’t be bothered, I think that description fits a lot of other characters, notably He-Man, Man-at-Arms and the Sorceress. None of them – especially the Sorceress – ever give the impression that they’re involved in this film for anything other than a paltry pay check. Teela, bless her heart, does give it her best effort, but I rather wish she hadn’t been trying so hard. The same can be said for that div of a policeman. I’m not even going to discuss Gwildor.

Monica and Tom Paris do the best they can with some pretty appalling material; Monica gets a rawer deal, given that atrocious scene in the middle where she idiotically gave away the Cosmic Key to Evil-Lyn. It’s a hard sell, having to convincingly behave like a complete moron and then scream “NOOOOO!!!!” when you realise what you’ve done, but Monica just about gets there. All Tom Paris has to do is hang around being a typical American teenager – albeit one who appears to be out of his head on LSD, given his casual acceptance of the bizarre proceedings – and this seems to be within his abilities.

Plotwise, the film is pretty straightforward, and despite my comments above, it’s relatively logical, insofar as He-Man is ever logical. The only confusing bit is the apparent existence of two Cosmic Keys, which has the ring of a last-minute rewrite when someone realised that if Skeletor has nicked the Cosmic Key, how can Gwildor accidentally transport our heroes to Earth? “Quick – make Gwildor have another copy of the Key – that’ll sort it!”

I’m trying, desperately, to think of something nice to say about the film, and thus prove that I’m not a negative person, forever carping on about why things are rubbish. Unfortunately, I’m finding it difficult to come up with anything. I think it’s probably best to quietly draw a veil over this entry, and move on to The New Adventures of He-Man. Surely that must be better than this?

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 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 120 – Monster on the Mountain

In which He-Man deliberately doesn’t do anything to help.

We open this week with a cutesy nice village called Roxtown, where a cutesy nice woman is going about her business, singing inanely and yammering to herself about how cutesy and nice her life is. It therefore comes as something of a relief when she is frightened by a creature known as the Tingler. The Tingler has the same animation as the friendly giant from way back in The Heart of a Giant, and consequently I expect he will follow the same plotline. But we shall see. As it stands, let’s just say how glad I am that the dimwit woman stopped talking and singing.

Monster 1
Stupid woman: “I am going to wind you up for the next 20 minutes without stopping.”

At the Palace, King Randor receives a communication from Roxtown, begging for help against the evil Tingler. Randor obligingly sends Teela, Adam, Cringer and Orko, but not before he says that the inhabitants of Roxtown are a bit “naive” because “they believe in superstitions and such”. On a planet like Eternia, where absolutely anything can happen – no matter how insane – I would simply call this common sense. But if Randor wants to unnecessarily take the piss out of his subjects, who am I to intervene?

On the way to Roxtown, Adam points out Mount Fear, where the Tingler lives. He claims that Mount Fear is the most dangerous mountain in all of Eternia. Er, excuse me, what about Snake Mountain? It seems Adam is getting a bit complacent. Skeletor may be easily defeated every single day, but he’s still at least a bit dangerous. Anyway, our team land on the mountain, where they see the Tingler in silhouette, and He-Man prevents an avalanche.

Monster 2
Prince Adam: “What’s that coming over the hill? Is it a monster? Is it a monstaaaaa?”

After this unnecessary and unexciting diversion, our heroes arrive in Roxtown to find that the inhabitants are an angry mob bent on getting rid of the Tingler. Seemingly forgetting that he’s literally just seen the Tingler on Mount Fear, Adam puts in an impassioned case for the Tingler not actually existing. He is embarrassingly out-argued by the hugely irritating Roxtownians, who in between talking complete drivel, reasonably point out that Adam has seen the Tingler himself.

The episode then meanders around pointlessly for absolutely ages, until it finally gets to the point. The Tingler is, of course, not evil, but just misunderstood. He’s actually a really lovely guy, whose hobby is amateur veterinary medicine, which is handy because Cringer has hurt his leg. Big surprises all round, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Monster 3
The Tingler: “I may look like I’m doing an exceptionally camp dance routine, but I’m actually healing Cringer.”

Unfortunately, the episode doesn’t end there. The villagers decide to head up to Mount Fear and “do something about the Tingler”. They don’t specify what, but that’s possibly because mentioning lynchings on He-Man was frowned upon by the production team. Adam tries to persuade the villagers that listening to rumours is a bad thing, but they already think he’s an idiot because of the earlier “no such thing as the Tingler, even though I’ve seen it” fiasco, so they ignore him.

I think we’re expected to think the lynch mob situation is a problem, but frankly, though the Tingler may not be evil, he is really annoying. Anyone who says things like, “The birdies and the trees are my friends” deserves anything he gets, and his voice is clearly supposed to be endearingly goofy, but it just comes across as incredibly sinister.

Thanks to their own idiocy, the villagers get themselves trapped on a narrow ledge. He-Man shows up and builds them a bridge, but that fucktard woman from the start of the episode is too slow to get on it before the ledge starts crumbling away. He-Man just stands there and maintains he can’t do anything to help, which in his mind evidently means he’s freed from the obligation of even trying. So it’s down to the Tingler to save the woman, and believe it or not, this results in all the villagers no longer being afraid of him. The episode ends with a slightly bizarre moment in which a donkey tries to initiate an interspecies breeding programme with Cringer.

Monster 4
Teela: “This is perhaps the smuggest face ever, with the sole exception of Nigel Farage’s on 23rd June 2016.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Teela and Orko come along to hammer in the message that people like to exaggerate and spread rumours, and therefore we must use our common sense and not believe everything we hear. I suppose, if we are going to be subjected to tripe like this episode, we might as well get some sensible moral lessons from it.

 

Character checklist

Oh, shall I even bother with this? I suppose I better had. It’s Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Teela, Orko, King Randor, the Tingler, the idiot woman, and about 8 billion annoying villagers.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

We get two transformations this week. The first comes at the avalanche stage, after which Teela asks where Adam and Cringer are. He-Man replies, “I think you’ll find them back in the Wind Raider.” This is an unwise comment, since Teela is herself going back to the Wind Raider, which means He-Man has to suspiciously leg it in order to make his transformation before Teela arrives.

Monster 5
He-Man: “Yeah, maybe I should have thought that excuse through a bit more.”

The second transformation comes when the villagers get themselves stuck on the ledge. Adam doesn’t give an excuse, and moreover happily transforms into He-Man in full view of the entire lot of them, not that they seem to notice.

 

Insults

The inhabitants of Roxtown are described as “ninnies” by the miller and “silly villagers” by the Tingler. Both of these comments seem fair enough to me, though I’d probably have gone for something stronger, like “twats”.

Monster 6
Idiot woman: “Welcome to the 25th Annual Moron Convention.”

 

Does it have the Power?

When I was four, my family acquired a BBC computer with a very basic word processor on it. I say “acquired”, which makes it sound like they stole it. Maybe they did, I don’t know, but I imagine they bought it. I could go back and replace “acquired” with “bought”, but I’ve invested too much in this paragraph to want to delete all this hard work now.

Anyway, on this basic word processor, I wrote a He-Man story. I don’t want to brag or anything, but it was very good. It was essentially a list of all the characters I could think of having a massive fight outside Castle Grayskull. The fight was resolved when He-Man took leave of his senses and offered to let Skeletor have the victory if he could successfully answer the sum 18 + 2. Skeletor may be many things, but a mathematical dunce he is not. He correctly answered “18 + 2 = 20” and He-Man was forced to give up the power of Grayskull to him. The story was called SKELEWIN because a file name could only be 8 characters long and had to be in capitals, and I think you’ll agree SKELEWIN pretty much sums up what happens in the story.

Now, this story was, I suspect, influenced by two things. One, that I had recently learned that I could do basic addition, and two, that I had looked all over the keyboard on the BBC computer and was insanely taken with the fact that the + and = symbol were on the same key. I remember loving that key, God knows why, and so I wanted to write a story that involved pressing that key as often as possible. I think we can probably conclude that I was mental.

The point of this anecdote is – and I think you can probably all see where I’m going with this – that SKELEWIN was a much, much better He-Man story than Monster on the Mountain is. Unfortunately, SKELEWIN never made it to screen, but I am confident that anyone in their right mind would prefer to watch an episode about Skeletor and He-Man jointly presenting an arithmetic class than watching Monster on the Mountain. And so it is that I must sadly conclude that Monster on the Mountain does not have the Power.

Episode 117 – Beauty and the Beast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

In today’s adventure…

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

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

 

Character checklist

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

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

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

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

 

Insults

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

Beauty 7
Skeletor: “Selfie!”

 

Does it have the Power?

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

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

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

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

Episode 115 – Time Doesn’t Fly

In which I just don’t know what was going through the writer’s head.

Adam, Teela, Orko and Cringer are out in the forest, playing some sort of stupid game which looks like a form of cricket, except it uses a triangle musical instrument instead of a bat. Teela suddenly realises that though they’ve been playing for what seems like hours, her watch still shows the same time as when they started. Moreover, the sun and the clouds have remained in the same place in the sky. Given these clues and the episode’s title, I am awarding no prizes to those who can guess the plot.

Time 1
Teela: “Orko, I’d rather look at my watch for 10 hours than look at you for 10 seconds.”

Finding a little girl stuck in a pit, Teela idiotically falls in herself while trying to effect a rescue. Sighing heavily at Teela’s ineptitude, Adam turns into He-Man and saves both Teela and the girl, who introduces herself as Princess Cafe, daughter of Emperor Sinbad. There is a chance I have misheard both of these names. He-Man exits stage left, leaving Teela and Adam to escort the Princess back to the Palace.

At the Palace, Cafe tells Randor and Marlena that she is on a mission: she must go to Hourglass Mountain and rescue the Keeper of Time and her father Sinbad from the evil wizard Hexon. Apparently, Hexon has stopped time in a demented attempt to seize control of Sinbad’s kingdom, which he can do if he presents himself to the Council of Seasons before Sinbad does. I don’t know why he has to stop time in order to do this.

Time 2
Hexon: “Eternian fashion is never particularly sane, but I really do take the biscuit outfit-wise.”

Adam asks why, if time has stopped, everyone is still able to move, and Cafe replies, “Sssh, you idiot, this episode’s already stupid enough without me having to add nonsensical explanations of that sort of thing.” Randor sends Teela and Orko off with Princess Cafe to rescue Sinbad and the Keeper of Time, and despatches Adam to the Temple of Seasons to warn the Council about Hexon’s plan.

Adam turns into He-Man and receives some useless advice from the Council, then barrels off to find the others. When he arrives at Hourglass Mountain, He-Man is completely unsurprised to find that Teela, Orko and Cafe have managed to get themselves tied up in some vines without achieving anything. Wondering why he’s the only person on Eternia who can get anything right, He-Man releases his friends, and then rescues Sinbad and the Keeper of Time.

Time 3
Emperor Sinbad: “There’s something about He-Man’s pose here that just screams ‘loony’.”

Unfortunately, Hexon has emptied an hourglass containing the Sands of Time, and mixed them with the sand in the Ranhur Desert. On learning this from the Keeper of Time, He-Man decides to go to the desert and get the sand back. He can tell the difference between the Sands of Time and normal sand because the Sands of Time give off a purple glow. He also tells Teela to take Sinbad to the Council of Seasons, so he can reclaim his throne.

After a brief boring scene at the Council, we cut to the desert, where He-Man is hilariously picking up glowing purple sand grain by grain and putting it back in the hourglass. Understandably, he gets bored of this pretty smartish, so he welcomes the distraction when Hexon appears for a quick and stupid fight. During this fight, Hexon makes the pretty elementary mistake of gathering all the grains of the Sands of Time together into a sandstorm, which Orko lures back into the hourglass.

Time 4
Battle-Cat: “Most powerful man in the universe there, just playing in a sandpit.”

With Hexon under arrest and the Sands back in the hourglass, He-Man smugly returns to Hourglass Mountain, where the Keeper of Time restarts time. He-Man sets Hexon to work setting all of Eternia’s clocks back to their correct time, which is less of a punishment than he seems to think: since time had stopped and so had all the clocks, surely they should still be correct?

 

In today’s adventure…

We fade in on He-Man, who is awkwardly leaning against a wall in the Palace. He has an expression on his face which suggests he’s reciting the moral at gunpoint. This is understandable, since the moral is completely insane: he advises us that if time didn’t move, we wouldn’t be able to develop to our full potential. Essentially, he’s warning us not to invent machines capable of stopping time. This is one of those morals that I think should have gone without saying.

 

Character checklist

Here for our entertainment – or a vague approximation of entertainment – we have Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Teela, Orko, King Randor, Queen Marlena, Princess Cafe, Emperor Sinbad, the Keeper of Time, Hexon, and the Council of Seasons.

Time 6
Battle-Cat: “My client would like to enter a plea of ‘guilty’, your Honour.”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

There are two transformations this week, and on both occasions Adam doesn’t give excuses as such, but stands around making loaded comments instead. The first time, he says, “This is a job for He-Man,” and the second time, he mutters, “We have a job to do.”

 

Insults

Very late in the game, Hexon calls Orko a “magical nuisance”. Otherwise, there’s nothing to report, except for He-Man commenting, “Looks like your garden’s a little overgrown, Teela”, which could be construed as a rather insulting double-entendre if you’re that way inclined.

Time 7
Teela: “You’ve crossed a line this time, He-Man.”

 

Does it have the Power?

It’s drivel. I don’t think I need to elaborate on that particularly, but in case you want further detail, the entire plot doesn’t make sense. Time has stopped, but everyone keeps moving. There was a very cursory attempt at an explanation of this, but it consisted simply of Cafe saying, “Hexon has divided the last second in every hour, then divided it again, and again, and so on,” which I think you’ll all agree doesn’t count as an explanation at all.

Time 5
Cafe: “Stop harrassing me, you weirdo.”

Moreover, I really don’t see why Hexon had to stop time at all. He wanted to be Emperor, and to do this he had to present himself at the Council of Seasons on the first day of spring, and ensure that Sinbad did not do the same. Since he already had Sinbad locked up, he could have done all of this without messing about stopping time in the first place.

In short, this episode was dull and nonsensical, and I hereby issue a hearty recommendation against watching it.

Episode 110 – The Problem with Power

In which King Randor reveals that he thinks Skeletor is subtle.

This magnum opus begins at Snake Mountain, where General Tataran (last seen in the Star Trek rip-off The Arena) has popped by in response to Skeletor’s invitation. Skeletor has a cunning plan to defeat He-Man, which requires the presence of Tataran because as a goblin, he literally doesn’t have a heart – and thus, he doesn’t have a heartbeat. This seems very important to Skeletor, who declares that with this advantage, he can arrange for He-Man to defeat himself.

Problem 1
Skeletor: “Whassat, pal? Startin’ trouble?”

Shortly thereafter, word reaches the Palace that Skeletor has enslaved a village by the Crystal Sea and is forcing the inhabitants to build a giant construction. King Randor is worried, claiming that “it’s not like Skeletor to be so obvious in his actions.” Who the hell are you kidding, Randor? Skeletor is the very definition of obvious. His picture is next to the word ‘obvious’ in the OED. Despite his new-found and demented belief in Skeletor’s grasp of subtleties, Randor sends Adam, Man-at-Arms and Orko to investigate.

Arriving to find that Skeletor’s new structure is an enormous dimensional gate, Adam notices that one of the support beams looks weak, and opts to transform into He-Man – presumably in order to offer his services to Skeletor as a skilled construction worker. While He-Man is transforming, Skeletor occupies himself in disguising General Tataran as a human worker, equipping him with a forcefield to protect him from harm, and instructing him to stand near the weak support beam.

Problem 2
Skeletor: “Oh, is that the time? Got to dash, I’m late for my lunch date with Evil-Lyn.”

He-Man approaches Skeletor and trades the usual pleasantries, until Skeletor shoots at Orko, thus provoking He-Man into attacking. Skeletor dodges round the weak support, dishing out taunts mercilessly until He-Man punches the support beam in frustration. The disguised Tataran activates his protective forcefield and allows himself to be crushed by a huge falling rock.

He-Man unearths Tataran and checks for a heartbeat, but of course cannot find one, and concludes that he is dead. Skeletor – now disguised as another villager – claims that Tataran was his brother, and denounces He-Man as an irresponsible killer. The rest of the villagers join in, and turn their backs on He-Man, who walks sadly away.

Problem 3
He-Man: “This situation is actually a bit more serious than a facepalm, but there we go.”

Orko tries to persuade He-Man that it was an accident and that such things happen. He-Man, however, is utterly devastated: he believes that because he acted unthinkingly, a man has died. This is a violation of a promise he made when he first became He-Man: to do the right thing and to protect the innocent. He sends Orko away, and mooches off to Castle Grayskull, where he stands on the topmost tower and concludes that, having broken his promise, he is unworthy of wielding his power. He draws the power sword, turns back into Prince Adam, and drops the sword into the abyss surrounding the castle.

Problem 4
He-Man: “Every other piece of work about this episode includes this picture, so who am I to argue with tradition?”

Some time goes by – exactly how much is unclear – and word reaches the Palace that Skeletor has rebuilt the dimensional gate, big enough to bring an army of goblins through. Randor suggests calling on He-Man for help, but Man-at-Arms explains that He-Man is not available. An all-out assault by the Palace Guard is ruled out, in favour of Teela going on a stealth suicide mission with a mesotronic bomb to destroy the gate. As he watches his friend go, Adam realises the full ramifications of his rejection of He-Man’s power.

Meanwhile, Orko has discovered the truth about Skeletor’s deception, but on his way to inform He-Man, he is captured and taken to Snake Mountain. Finally escaping, he returns to the Palace and tells Adam. Adam flies straight to Grayskull, retrieves the sword from the abyss, makes his transformation and finds time for a barney with a giant spider. He then heads to the dimensional gate, arriving just in time to save Teela from the mesotronic bomb blast, and then carry her off into the sunset.

Problem 5
He-Man: “I have definitely earned this dramatic end of the episode.”

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms thinks that the most relevant take-home from today’s adventure is that we should always wear a seatbelt when we’re in a car, and we should never play with matches because we might destroy our toys, our home, our family and ourselves. Really and truly? After this downright excellent episode teaching us the importance of using power responsibly, the writers felt that wittering on about seatbelts and matches was the point to hammer in? I despair sometimes.

 

Character checklist

The stars of today’s outing are Prince Adam, He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Teela, Orko, the Sorceress, King Randor, Queen Marlena, Skeletor, General Tataran, Trapjaw, some other goblins, a load of villagers, and a giant spider.

Problem 6
Trapjaw: “Hey, Skeletor, check this guy’s funky dance moves.”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

On the first occasion, Adam evidently feels that because only Man-at-Arms and Orko are in immediate proximity to him, he doesn’t need to offer an excuse. He seems to be overlooking the fact that he makes his transformation while standing on a ridge in full view of the entire village and – more importantly – Skeletor. Even so, he gets away with it.

On the second occasion, Adam is alone in the abyss with the giant spider, so I think we’ll forgive him for not offering an excuse in this scenario.

 

Insults

Not only is this a fantastic episode for its story and its message, it’s also brilliant if you hate Orko’s guts and want to see Skeletor ripping him to shreds with such cutting remarks as “little vermin”, “worthless wizard” and “foolish Orko”. He also finds time to call He-Man a “fool”, all the goblins “cowards”, and sneeringly address Man-at-Arms as “tin-hat”, while positioning his clawed blue hand in the campest possible pose.

Despite only appearing in one scene, Trapjaw manages to antagonise General Tataran to the extent that he is addressed as a “walking can-opener” and described as “not too bright”. Skeletor himself is the recipient of a number of unkind comments, including “evil creep” from Orko and the slightly odder “evil face” from Teela. Orko also says that Skeletor is “silly-looking”. Advice to cartoon producers: it’s best not to draw attention to this sort of thing.

Problem 7
Skeletor: “Silly-looking? Takes one to know one, Orko.”

 

Does it have the Power?

I’m not sure if it’s possible to be intimidated by a He-Man episode, especially if you’re 34 years old and reasonably sane, as I consider myself to be. Nonetheless, if such intimidation were possible, it’s definitely how I felt as I approached this episode. It has a staggeringly high regard among the dedicated fans of the show, and if that weren’t enough, it’s the only episode of the original Filmation He-Man series that I’d never seen before. High stakes indeed.

I’m happy to report that it’s absolutely superb, aside from the very minor quibble about the completely off-topic moral. This is the sort of story that could only be produced in the 80s, with a hero who is so completely heroic. Most fictional characters now have greater shades of grey, and heroes have dark sides. A modern day He-Man would probably have considered Tataran’s death to be an acceptable loss; he’d have felt bad, but wouldn’t have been so completely destroyed as He-Man is in this episode. It’s interesting that a story with such a moral quandary actually only works with a hero who is so black-and-white.

Problem 8
Prince Adam: “This is more of a double-facepalm situation. That seems about proportionate.”

So here we have He-Man being provoked into angry destructive rage, and – to all intents and purposes – killing someone. (The fact that he actually didn’t is, I think, immaterial – it’s eminently plausible that he could have, and in fact, apparently early versions of the script specified that he did.) Was He-Man’s response proportionate? He considers himself a failure for having caused one death – but in rejecting his powers, he was likely to cause many more. It’s actually a He-Man episode for which you can debate morality, and presents the conundrum remarkably well.

I genuinely wonder what I would have thought of this if I’d seen it as a child. As an adult, all I can say is that this has to be the best episode of He-Man ever produced. Incredible stuff.

Episode 108 – Teela’s Triumph

In which I finally realise that Man-at-Arms is wearing an all-in-one bodysuit.

In Castle Grayskull, the Sorceress has been joined for a friendly chitchat by a freaky floating pink head. The two of them watch Man-at-Arms and Teela on a magic mirror, idly conversing about how awesome Teela is and how much the Sorceress is looking forward to the day she can reveal that she is Teela’s mother. Suddenly, the Sorceress decides she can wait no longer, so she turns into her falcon form and flies off to tell Teela all about it.

Triumph 1
The Sorceress: “This pink head thing could just be the result of too much cheese before bedtime.”

Unfortunately, the Sorceress’ route takes her past Snake Mountain, where Skeletor is messing about with inter-dimensional weapons again. To demonstrate his new gun to Evil-Lyn and Trapjaw, he shoots Zoar and sends her to another world. Zoar appears in a landscape of volcanoes and raining lava, and indulges in a monologue about how hopeless her situation is, and how even He-Man will be unable to find her. It seems to go without saying that her super duper daughter Teela will be similarly unable.

Luckily, the freaky pink head appears to Adam, Cringer, Teela and Man-at-Arms to inform them that the Sorceress has vanished. Man-at-Arms tells Adam to find He-Man, and the pink head tells Teela that she must replace the Sorceress at Castle Grayskull. Teela presciently asks why, but the pink head dodges the question with, “I can’t tell you.” This seems to be adequate for Teela, but let’s not forget she is the least perceptive person on an entire planet of people with eyes closed to the obvious.

Triumph 2
Teela: “No need to question too much as to why I’ve got to be the Sorceress. I’m sure it all makes sense.”

Teela arrives at Castle Grayskull, where – to the beat of an outstandingly trippy 80s soundtrack – the pink head guides her through the lessons she must learn to become the new Sorceress. These lessons do not include the knowledge concerning He-Man’s secret identity, which I would argue is hands down the most important thing for the Sorceress. How else will she call for help when she inevitably gets into some stupid form of trouble?

Meanwhile, in an effort to find out where the Sorceress is, He-Man goes to Snake Mountain to have a heart-to-heart with Skeletor, which proves to be a surprisingly subtle fencing match of a conversation. It ends, however, with He-Man being blasted with the Dimension Gun and sent to the volcano planet, after which Skeletor abandons all pretence at subtlety and shrieks, “That’s the end of He-Man!” while happily waving his arms around.

Triumph 3
He-Man: “Hmm. Skeletor’s version of Butlin’s leaves something to be desired.”

Skeletor’s next move is to leap on the Grayskull Express train, and arrives at the castle gates pronto, with his usual intent to unlock the secrets. Teela, who isn’t doing very well in her training course run by the floating pink head, decides to disguise herself as the Sorceress, which she does very badly. To his eternal credit, Skeletor sees through this deception, so Teela has no choice but to fight.

Back on Volcano World, the Sorceress has opted to lurk inside a cave full of lava, which is as sensible as it sounds. It’s not terribly surprising, therefore, that she gets trapped inside, which means He-Man has to turn himself into a drill and dig her out. Once this implausible feat is achieved, the Sorceress is able to use He-Man’s sword to return them to Eternia.

Triumph 4
He-Man: “So that’s how many times this week I’ve had to rescue you, Sorceress? I ought to be charging a finder’s fee.”

They arrive to find Teela has tied Evil-Lyn up with more ropes than looks strictly necessary, but hasn’t bothered to do anything about Skeletor – presumably because Skeletor equally hasn’t bothered to do anything except lounge about on Castle Grayskull’s throne. The appearance of the Sorceress and He-Man spooks Skeletor so much that he simply runs away. There’s just enough time for the Sorceress to tell Teela that her mother would be very proud of her, and for Teela to reciprocate that she wishes her mother was just like the Sorceress. There is also enough time for me to vomit copiously into a bucket.

 

In today’s adventure…

We’re treated to a pretty muddled moral this week, delivered by Man-at-Arms, who tells us that we have to try to do difficult things and must always do our best. There’s really not a lot I can say about that, so instead I’d like to focus on a question about Man-at-Arms that has bothered me for a while. You know how he wears green, with yellow armour on top? It really bothers me that he has green hands too. They’re not gloves, because they blend seamlessly with his green sleeves. The only explanation is that he’s wearing a green all-in-one latex bodysuit, which is a horrible thought.

Triumph 5
Man-at-Arms: “Loving my green body stocking.”

 

Character checklist

It’s a relatively tight cast today, featuring Prince Adam, Cringer, He-Man, Battle-Cat, Teela, Man-at-Arms, the Sorceress, Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, Trapjaw and the giant pink head. It’s also a special occasion, since there’s no sign of Orko.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

No excuse as such, but Man-at-Arms does pointedly say that Adam had better find He-Man. And what do you know, he does!

 

Insults

It’s a relatively imaginative selection today, what with Evil-Lyn calling Battle-Cat “mangy”, though notably not to his face. Teela comments, “You don’t have a mind” to Trapjaw, which seems fair enough. Skeletor lowers the standard, though, by offering the dull “fool” to Evil-Lyn.

Triumph 6
Evil-Lyn: “I’ll grant you, it was fairly foolish of me to let this happen.”

 

Does it have the Power?

There’s quite a bit to like about this one, though I’d hesitate to describe it as a classic. Skeletor – as usual – has some sparkling dialogue, and his scene with He-Man in the middle of the episode, in which they each try to learn from the other where the Sorceress is, is definitely a highlight. The Volcano Planet is beautifully animated, and there’s a great atmosphere of desolation in those scenes, conveying nicely – without ever saying it – that this is a dead world, with no inhabitants and no hope.

That being said, the Sorceress is useless as ever, simply cowering in a cave until He-Man shows up, and being honest, their method of returning to Eternia is as deus ex machina as they come. I also have very little time for Teela, so the scenes of her learning to be the Sorceress – and being too monumentally stupid to work out why she’s been selected for this honour – did not interest me. In addition, I have very little conception as to why the Sorceress can’t tell Teela who her mother is; it feels like an arbitrary rule made up just for the hell of it.

Still, this all sounds like I didn’t like this episode, which isn’t the case at all. It’s well worth a watch.

Episode 105 – No Job too Small

In which Panthor learns that Prince Adam and He-Man are one and the same.

In Snake Mountain, Evil-Lyn, Beast-Man and Whiplash are gathered miserably round the spyglobe. Skeletor has gone away for a weekend break in Skegness, but before going, he has instructed his employees not to do anything to aggravate He-Man. However, on learning from the spyglobe that King Randor is sending Prince Adam to Phantos (last seen in the early disappointing effort She-Demon of Phantos), Evil-Lyn decides to disregard Skeletor’s orders, and forms an ill-advised plan to kidnap Adam.

Small 1
Prince Adam: “My gearstick is absolutely enormous, Teela.”

Arriving on Phantos, Adam, Man-at-Arms, Teela and Orko indulge in a spot of sightseeing in the Phantosian desert. After talking in a ridiculously high-pitched voice for no apparent reason, Adam decides to make things easier for his kidnappers by wandering out of sight of his friends. Evil-Lyn doesn’t capitalise on this opportunity though, instead choosing to wake some dinosaurs up, who chase our heroes around for a while, until He-Man shows up to deal with them.

With He-Man occupied with the dinosaurs, Evil-Lyn, Beast-Man and Whiplash successfully kidnap Man-at-Arms, Teela and Orko and take them back to Snake Mountain. Once there, Evil-Lyn makes the unexpected decision to use her new invention – the Reducto Ray – to shrink our heroes so they’re only about a foot high. She offers absolutely no explanation for this behaviour, though in fairness He-Man breaks into Snake Mountain and interrupts before she can finish gloating.

Small 2
Teela: “There’s got to be some pun here about being too big for your boots.”

Evil-Lyn somehow has time to set up an elaborate trap, involving boulders, the Reducto Ray and a cage containing the miniature heroes. She and Beast-Man then proudly explain how the trap works, in the belief that it leaves He-Man completely unable to save his friends. Evil-Lyn offers to release her prisoners in exchange for the surrender of Eternia, so He-Man is sent off to check whether this would be acceptable to King Randor. Knowing King Randor’s usual idiocy, he’ll probably agree.

Once He-Man has gone, Evil-Lyn, Beast-Man and Whiplash stand around laughing evilly for ages, then go off to have a party to celebrate the imminent surrender of Eternia. They’ll be waiting a while though: instead of going to Randor, He-Man has nipped behind a rock, turned back into Adam, and re-entered Snake Mountain. His reasoning is that for this conundrum, he needs brains rather than muscles. I have to say that He-Man – despite looking like a complete moron – has in the past demonstrated some reasonable degree of brainpower. Moreover, Adam’s allegedly “brainy” solution to the problem is to use the Reducto Ray on himself so that he is also tiny.

Small 3
Prince Adam: “This escapade will guarantee me a guest spot in Honey I Shrunk the Kids.”

Once he has conferred this dubious benefit on himself, Adam manages to release his friends from the cage. He then successfully restores them all to their original size, and quickly ushers his friends out of the room, with the vague promise that he’ll catch up later. He then transforms back into He-Man, with no evident purpose other than to use the Reducto Ray on Panthor, Beast-Man and Whiplash and to taunt Evil-Lyn.

 

In today’s adventure…

Man-at-Arms explains that muscle power is all very well, but imagination and inventiveness are much better. He advises us to exercise our bodies to become strong, but also to exercise our minds by reading books and doing our homework. And, presumably, by not watching cartoons like this one.

 

Character checklist

On Team Goody, we’ve got Prince Adam, He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Teela, Orko, King Randor, and a big guy called Mishy or something similar. On Team Baddy, there’s Evil-Lyn, Beast-Man, Whiplash and Panthor.

Small 4.jpg
Prince Adam: “No, Mishy, you may not have any lines.”

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

He-Man can’t be bothered to offer an excuse this week, and leaves it to Man-at-Arms, who manages the pathetic, “Don’t worry, Teela, I’m sure he’s okay.”

 

Insults

Evil-Lyn gets the obligatory “fool” out of the way early on, addressing Beast-Man. Beast-Man retaliates with “foolish witch”, and then refers to He-Man as “that cursed He-Man”, and I must say it was quite a surprise to discover that his vocabulary stretches that far. Evil-Lyn mockingly calls Orko “little one” twice, and He-Man refers to Skeletor as Evil-Lyn’s “misguided master”, which was a quite pleasing use of alliteration. A less pleasing alliterative insult from He-Man to Beast-Man was “beast-brain”, which is not particularly original by this stage of the series. Finally, Teela calls Orko a “silly little thing”, which was plainly meant to be affectionate, but I prefer to interpret it as vicious.

 

Does it have the Power?

I really enjoyed this episode. Evil-Lyn has rarely been better: she’s intelligent and very unpleasant, and her voice work and animation combined to portray her as a purring, seductive villainess. Her one error was her odd decision to leave her prisoners unguarded while she went off to have a party; overconfidence is always the downfall of Eternian baddies.

Small 5.jpg
Evil-Lyn: “I’m going to have a party. And no, He-Man, you’re not invited.”

The notion of a perfectly balanced trap that could not be solved with muscle power was a good idea; lately, there have been quite a few episodes that have tried to mess with the formula by making He-Man helpless one way or another (in Hunt for He-Man, he was poisoned and in need of medicine, and in Not So Blind, he was struck blind), which suggests the writers were getting bored of a hero who can defeat everything easily. This week’s move in that direction was particularly inventive. My quibble is – as mentioned above – He-Man has just as many brains as Adam, so it wasn’t really necessary for him to turn back, and it actually led to some clunky dialogue later as Adam tried to explain the constant interchange between himself and He-Man.

One final point – Adam transforms into He-Man right in front of Panthor this week. Since Panthor can’t speak, it must be hugely frustrating for him to know this secret and not be able to tell Skeletor! So that’s something on which to ponder as you enjoy this instalment.