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 001 – The Cosmic Comet

In which Skeletor tries to persuade a sentient comet to attack Castle Grayskull.

Welcome to the first of hopefully 130 look-backs at He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. This being the first episode, we’ll take a moment or two to examine the opening sequence, seen at the start of every episode. If you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume that you have some degree of familiarity with – possibly even affection for – He-Man, but for the benefit of those who have stumbled in here accidentally and have been captivated by my eloquent prose, I can here reveal that the opening sequence is an excellent introduction to the world of He-Man.

Cosmic Comet 1

A slightly stern but kind-looking fellow in a white shirt and a fairly camp pink jacket appears out of the murk, and intones that he is Adam, Prince of Eternia and defender of the secrets of Castle Grayskull. He introduces us to his fearless friend, Cringer (who is a cowering green and yellow tiger), and then explains that one day, apparently just for the hell of it, he held aloft his magic sword and said, “By the Power of Grayskull!”

This turns out to be a complete game-changer. Prince Adam disappears in a flash of white light and is replaced by a version of himself with a much better tan, much bigger muscles, much neon-oranger hair and far fewer clothes. This, it transpires, is He-Man, the Most Powerful Man in the Universe®! Being honest, it’s not a great disguise, He-Man looking much the same as Prince Adam aside from the above-mentioned changes, but it seems to be good enough for the halfwits that inhabit Eternia, so that’s all we ask, I suppose. Incidentally, Cringer becomes Battle-Cat in this transformation, which essentially equates to putting some red armour on.

Cosmic Comet 2

The opening sequence concludes with the information that some individuals called the Sorceress, Man-at-Arms and Orko are aware of He-Man’s secret identity, and that together they defend Castle Grayskull from the evil forces of Skeletor, who is He-Man’s arch-nemesis and possibly the finest villain in television’s history. Crucially, we are not told what the secrets of Castle Grayskull are, nor why the evil forces of Skeletor want them. This information is hinted at throughout the series, in a masterful display of the art of the slow reveal, until it all finally clicks together in what has to be one of the greatest series finales in the history of television. (Not really. We never find out, and the series finale is rubbish, even by He-Man’s standards.)

I have now used up nearly half my word count describing the opening sequence, leaving me much less room to discuss the plot. Don’t worry – the plot is hardly complex. We open with two of Skeletor’s cronies, Evil-Lyn and Beast-Man, trying to break into Castle Grayskull. Surprisingly, due to something called the Cosmic Comet, they actually manage to open the door, but perhaps less surprisingly, He-Man is directly inside. He dispatches both villains in short order, throwing them into a puddle of mud, where Beast-Man sits up and says something that is probably “Yuck!” but sounds very much like something less suitable for a Saturday morning cartoon.

He-Man and Man-at-Arms receive a telepathic communication from the Sorceress, who warns them that Skeletor intends to use the Cosmic Comet to destroy Grayskull, or Eternia, I can’t remember which. It tends to amount to one and the same. The Sorceress can’t be bothered to tell them any more though, instead directing them to Zagrez, the Wizard of Zagrez Mountain and the keeper of the Cosmic Comet.

Cosmic Comet 6

We cut to Eternia’s Palace, where King Randor implies that Prince Adam is a waste of space. He gives Adam, Cringer and Man-at-Arms permission to go to Zagrez Mountain, and sends a dreadful flying magician called Orko, and the Captain of the Guard, Teela, with them. At the mountain, they meet Zagrez, who has a really annoying voice. Zagrez explains that he accidentally killed another comet which was the Cosmic Comet’s friend, and this turned the Cosmic Comet evil. This makes sense in He-Man, and frankly we’ll be asked to swallow greater implausibilities than this, so if you’re having trouble with this, you’d possibly better accept that this series is not for you.

Cosmic Comet 3

Meanwhile, at Snake Mountain, we are introduced to Skeletor, who immediately uses his whinging nasal voice to explain for the more brain-dead viewers that he and his pals are evil. He, Beast-Man and Evil-Lyn cast a spell to capture the Cosmic Comet, after which they decide to deal with Zagrez before assaulting Eternia. This proves to be a mistake, since it simply prompts He-Man to get involved, in a long and boring sequence which demonstrates He-Man’s ability to defeat rock monsters.

Cosmic Comet 4

At Castle Grayskull, Zagrez has come up with an idea. It has to be said, it doesn’t sound like a very good idea, but at least he’s trying. He suggests that the best thing to do is to make a new Cosmic Comet and fill its heart with good. This is achieved surprisingly easily. As the evil Cosmic Comet approaches Castle Grayskull and Skeletor prepares to have a jolly good cackle, He-Man tells Zagrez to forget his previous mistake and get on with it so the episode can finish and He-Man can go down to Wetherspoons.

Thanks to everyone having faith in Zagrez, he is able to send the new good Cosmic Comet into the sky, where it crashes into the evil Cosmic Comet and shows it the error of its ways. Both Cosmic Comets say thanks to our heroes, then fly off, rather pointedly putting Skeletor’s stupid airship into a tailspin as they do so. Hurrah! There’s a closing scene at the Palace, involving a stupid magic trick, but since we see enough of those over the series, I see no reason to dwell on this one.

Cosmic Comet 5 

In today’s adventure…

The moral segment tells us that Zagrez was afraid to try something because he’d failed once before, and thus didn’t have faith in his abilities. If you’ll believe it, it’s not a good thing to give up if you fail. Who’d have thought it? The ironic thing is that the moral segment is delivered by Man-at-Arms, who doesn’t have any abilities to lose faith in.

 

Excuse given for Prince Adam’s disappearance

“Don’t worry, he’s safe.” Yes, because that’s not in the least evasive. Come on, He-Man, give us something more plausible like “He’s gone back to the Palace” or “He’s nipped to Tesco to get some Advocaat.”

 

Insults

In this section, I shall keep track of the insults dished out by characters, so you can use them in your everyday lives. This week, everyone is relatively polite to each other, except for He-Man calling Beast-Man “Furface”, which admittedly doesn’t sound too insulting, but for whatever reason it does cut Beast-Man to the quick.

 

Does it have the Power?

Well, in short, no. It’s a perfectly average episode of He-Man without any particularly distinguishing features. There’s little entertaining banter between He-Man and his nemeses, no ludicrous displays of ridiculous abilities on anyone’s part, and too much time-wasting fighting rock monsters (the latter of which is, admittedly, a fault with a good 50% of He-Man episodes). Zagrez is also really annoying. I wouldn’t bother with this one.