Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Reviewing childish cartoons etc.


When I'm asked to write a website, loads of blogs or other whopping projects, I like to pace and reward myself along the way. If I'm being good, it might be a chapter of a book after every page. Other times, immature nostalgic abandon. All must be compulsively documented for judgement day. Turtle power!


Key:

The Real Ghostbusters
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Toxic Crusaders

Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars
Space Vets

Watt on Earth




The Real Ghostbusters 1x01 Ghosts R Us ***


They're not 'ghosts,' are they? Maybe they throw in a reference to past lives every once in a while, but these are basically freakish monsters from another realm. There's no problem with that, though my own childhood fiction was certainly coloured by these colourful apparitions, and it took a fair amount of reconditioning to learn that, in real life, ghosts really look like transparent Victorian ladies.

Everything about this cartoon spin-off is higher quality than it deserves to be, the animation in particular. Compared to the clumsy movement (and frequent mistakes) of the Ninja Turtles, not to mention the sheer laziness of Filmation, these sleek, anime-influenced cell motions are remarkable. The story isn't bad either, with surprisingly competent ghost villains embarking on a campaign of character assassination against the 'Busters and large-scale devastation in the finale.

The characters are all introduced/reintroduced quite nicely too. Peter is cool but rude (and not as funny as when he used to be Bill Murray), Egon's smart and cautious, Ray is adorably eager and Winston likes chocolate. There's Slimer too, of course, who's tolerated despite his frequent slip-ups and gets a little arc where he redeems himself.

I may have owned at least one of these class-five full torso apparitions in plastic form. I think it came with Ray. The Ecto 2 copter is also shoehorned into the plot in a way that only feels averagely contrived to sell toys (had one of those too).
"If it goes boo, we know what to do" - Janine Melnitz

The Real Ghostbusters 1x02 Killerwatt ****


These are really pretty good. After the marauding, Lovecraftian monstrosity last time, the sense of gargantuan, elemental threats is continued as the Ghostbusters have to face electricity itself, chasing the 'ghost' (how taut are they going to stretch that term?) into a vast power plant to really hammer home the scale. I don't see how these four dweebs and their pet blob are going to last out the season without meeting their maker, but there's merchandise to sell so they'll always survive somehow. Just ask my parents about that.

One of many aspects of Ghostbusters I loved was how mundane objects could be transformed into frightening monstrosities. I remember being so jealous over my friend's Fearsome Flush toilet monster toy that I couldn't continue with life until I had it, contemptible capitalist brat that I was. There's plenty of that here, as the electricity 'ghost' (did some electricity die?) animates power tools, vacuum cleaners, even Ecto 1, all of which naturally gain expressive faces.

Slimer saves the day as usual, using a favourite TMNT gag and failing to educate kids about electrical safety in the process. You'd think they'd have been required to include at least a semblance of a safety message somewhere in the script. We were sturdier back then.
"Gentlemen, don't take this the wrong way, but in fifty seconds we die" - Egon Spengler

The Real Ghostbusters 1x03 Mrs. Roger's Neighborhood ***


As an adult, I'm able to appreciate the business side of the Ghostbusters' lives, and the pitfalls that can arise from being destructively proficient to the point that they're busting themselves out of business. Fortunately, New York still has plenty of spirits to keep this series syndicated for many years yet, this time taking the deceptive form of a kindly old lady.

It's a classic haunted house tale with hands coming from walls, melting floors and other freaky happenings like Peter getting possessed. A bit more conventional than the previous episodes, and the tropes of Slimer saving the day and the extinguished threat of the containment system opening are getting repetitive already.

Tobin's Spirit Guide is referenced to please fans of the film who are too old to be watching this. I had a pair of those walkie talkies, but they never worked.
"If it goes bump in the night, we'll make it right" - Janine Melnitz

The Real Ghostbusters 1x04 Slimer, Come Home ***


The first of many scripts penned by J. Michael Straczynski, fans of his later Babylon 5 would be forgiven for not spotting any overt similarities in this tale of a gluttonous ghost leaving home and inevitably being forgiven. What would I know? I never did get into B5.

I remember Peter and Slimer's antagonistic relationship from when I was a kid, maybe just because they were the 'funny' characters so they stood out (I didn't appreciate Egon enough). This is a solid episode for them, especially since the other 'Busters seem less concerned with Slimer's feelings and more about him getting absorbed by this week's oversized adversary and making it stronger.
"Even scientists learn from their mistakes" - Peter Venkman

The Real Ghostbusters 1x05 Troll Bridge **


I don't like it when the plots are so lame that I remember I'm watching a children's show.

A prodigal troll discovers the joys of ice cream and breakdancing, and the Ghostbusters help it to break free from its oppressive brood. Do trolls count as ghosts? Why not, electricity counted as a ghost.
"The best way to find a troll is to think like a troll" - Raymond Stantz

The Real Ghostbusters 1x06 The Boogieman Cometh ***


The Ghostbusters are hired by a couple of kids to get rid of a menacing class-7 repeating corporeal entity in their closet, which Egon recognises as the Boogieman that terrorised him in his childhood and inspired him to battle the paranormal in the first place. This is a decent episode for all the characters, who live up to their exaggerated personas when it would be easy to amalgamate them into identical heroes. Give it time, this is still early days.

There's more customary weirdness as we follow the Boogieman into his M.C. Escher-like domain. I really don't think this show's given the credit it deserves for firing up kids' imaginations. Slimer's hardly in this one, which is a nice change, though some kids are instrumental in saving the day, which sort of cancels that out.
"Remind me to pay you some time so I can cut your salary" - Peter Venkman

The Real Ghostbusters 1x07 Mr. Sandman, Dream Me a Dream ****


The Boogieman, now the Sandman. What's next, the Easter Bunny? Oh, there he is.

Stay Puft makes a welcome return too, as figments of peoples' dreams are brought to life by the pointlessly menacing Sandman who's suddenly got sick of bringing people pleasant dreams and decides to terrorise them instead. I'd take his threats more seriously if he didn't have a silly Mighty Boosh style voice.

This is one of the better episodes though, taking full license of the dream conceit to unleash even wilder creatures than usual, several of which inspired toys. It's fun watching the Ghostbusters battle all those beasties like an extended version of the intro, and as they're picked off one by one and put to sleep, it's all down to the unlikely Winston and Janine to save the day, which they do with a little compulsory help from Slimer because kids love that blob.

The opportunity to explore the characters' revealing dreams is sadly exchanged for cheap jokes about giant pizzas and arguments with Einstein, but Peter's need for acceptance is telling. He also seems to have the gift of prophetic dreaming too. Did he ever take that Zener card test himself?
"Let's show this guy that nobody tells us when to go to bed" - Peter Venkman

The Real Ghostbusters 1x08 When Halloween Was Forever ***


This show can make Halloween episodes more relevant than most, though that also means it loses some of its festive impact considering there are wyrd ghouls every week. Still, at least there's historical education clumsily mixed in with author whimsy as the spirit of Samhain bursts out of seventh century Irish ruins and plans to make Halloween last for-ever, ha ha ha ha!

This one's most notable for showing the interior of the containment unit for the first time, which always seemed incredible and eerie as a kid, but really just looks like an old platform game with ledges floating in a void. Slimer also stays loyal to his friends at the risk of his life, or whatever he has.
"Sometimes I think the universe just waits for me to get cocky" - Egon Spengler

The Real Ghostbusters 1x09 Look Homeward, Ray **


Ray gets an episode, but he deserved better. His triumphal homecoming becomes a humiliation as ghosts are set on him that he isn't powerful enough to zap without his friends (teamwork, kids) and he ends up dressed in a pink bunny suit selling shoes, because you apparently need more than just good dialogue to show a character's descent to rock bottom.

Of course, he redeems himself by the end with a little help from his friends. I had that Stay Puft doll, nice bit of shameless product placement.
- "I've got a plan."
- "No electric shock, Egon."
- "I've got another plan" - Egon and Peter

The Real Ghostbusters 1x10 Take Two ***


This unexpectedly meta and cheeky effort from J. Michael Straczynski finally explains the 'Real' Ghostbusters moniker and clarifies the differences between the film version and the cartoon in more detail than is strictly necessary.

The Ghostbusters' remarkable story has been dramatised and turned into a movie, which they attend the production of in Hollywood while dealing with the inevitable movie-themed ghosts and the even greater threat of dickwad producers. I appreciate the dismissive name-checks of the original actors, and their general disappointment at how it turned out.

Now there needs to be an episode where their fictional movie gets a cartoon spin-off in-universe to really screw with kids' heads.
"I have to hand it to you, Peter. I've never seen anyone do that to a man's pants before" - Egon Spengler

The Real Ghostbusters 1x11 Citizen Ghost ***


Hot on the heels of the fourth-wall-breaking 'Take Two' comes this flashback connecting the end of the movie to the beginning of the series as we know it. It deals primarily with the Ghostbusters' adoption of Slimer and less urgently with their adoption of colour-coded uniforms over the plain tan of the silver screen.

There's the usual jeopardy-of-the-week too, as the Ghostbusters' old uniforms are animated with ghost versions of themselves that are, obviously, evil and hell-bent on destruction. Slimer saves the day for the first time, and they gain a new pet.

If you enjoy being strict and anal about these things, you should watch 1984's Ghostbusters between episodes 10 and 11 for the full effect. They really put more thought into bridging this gap we were all basically happy to accept.
"I'm not going to talk to you again for at least a week. It's not good for me" - Egon Spengler

The Real Ghostbusters 1x12 Janine's Genie **


It's nice that Janine gets an episode, but less nice that it has a demeaning message to be happy in your servile role and not bother chasing better things. Especially if you're the woman one.

Janine is kitted out in Ghostbuster gear for toy purposes (I didn't have that one; I was a boy and she was the woman one), and makes a wish on an old lamp because it seems they're running out of ideas already. There's some Janine/Egon (Jangon?) shipping if you're strange and into these things, but it's non-consensual, so if you're into it you're sick.
"You're beautiful when you're sick" - Egon Spengler

The Real Ghostbusters 1x13 Xmas Marks the Spot ****


The first season goes out on a high. They made about 13,000 more episodes after this, some of which were apparently pretty good, but I'll bail out here because otherwise I'd be a 28-year-old man watching an 80s cartoon in its entirety, when I should be making the most of my adulthood watching mature programmes like 80s Doctor Who.

Another story from J. Michael Straczynski that has more thought put into it than it has any right to, this heartwarming Christmas tale sees the Ghostbusters unintentionally visit the events of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol - real historical events in this universe - and screw it up, which has a devastating effect on the Christmas spirit in the future.

Fixing up their botched busting involves action and humour as Egon goes inside the weird dimension of the containment unit (one of the most memorable scenes when I was a kid) while the others try their best to act like the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future respectively before the real ones return and take over to put things right. Ray, Winston and Peter are basically useless in this, Egon is clearly the underappreciated bestest (the Donatello, if you will).

It's sentimental, especially Peter's own Scrooge-like realisation that he should change his ways (wasn't that another Bill Murray film?), but it's very fitting for the season.
"I knew I should have worn my long undies" - Winston Zeddemore




Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1x01 Turtle Tracks ***


Good old TMNT. I was as obsessed with the lean, green fighting machines as any kid born in the 80s, but I was always irritated that this first batch of episodes didn't get a proper airing in the UK, where things started with season two. All we had to go on for the Turtles' origin and their early encounters with the Shredder and co. was a half-arsed omnibus video that mostly drew from a later flashback episode, but like lost Doctor Who serials, at least I had these stories in paperback.

This first episode does what it sets out to do: introduce the Turtles and show them in action through the eyes of our human conduit, the ridiculously proportioned canary-yellow reporter April O'Neil. This starts out as April's story, but only as much as Star Wars is the story of the Droids: once the Turtles are introduced, and Splinter narrates their slightly racist backstory, they announce that the arc of this series is to confront whoever turned their master into a rat and force him to undo it.

And it is an arc. Much unlike the endless serialised adventure that followed in subsequent seasons (I'm really not planning on covering them all), this five-episode mini-series works as a coherent whole, giving the story the breathing room it needs.

Alright, so it's a bit of a daft story, adapted from a parody and made child-friendly with robot villains and new prospective action figures introduced every week, and the plot holes and dialogue errors are already present in episode one, but if you were a fan of the show as a kid and now mainly remember its later food fight excesses, you'll be pleasantly surprised that at the beginning the creators actually cared.
"This is great! I must really be on to something hot if they're trying to kill me" - April O'Neil

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1x02 Enter the Shredder ****


The Turtles' distinct personalities are all established now, as Leonardo clarifies that he's the dorky one by making them practice their ninjitsu skills (they actually used them back then) before diving in to their disgusting breakfasts. They also seem to be setting up an arc about Michelangelo being impatient, but that must have got lost in a re-write. Of the four, he does get the most of what could loosely be called character development in these early days, I guess they assumed he'd be every kid's favourite.

Krang is introduced, who's probably still my favourite character, and he provides all the awkward exposition needed by reminding Shredder who he is and what their respective plans are. Bebop and Rocksteady are mutated into their familiar animalistic selves, and instantly prove themselves hopelessly incompetent, and we even see those annoying little robot things from the video games.

There's the Technodrome too - so many great toys for kids to pressure their parents into buying! I'm so sorry.
"That's quite a brain you've got there, Krang" - The Shredder

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1x03 A Thing About Rats ****


What a classic this one is, introducing the unfamiliarly human Baxter Stockman and his army of Mousers, another one-time robot that had a disproportionate presence in the merchandising.

The serialisation satisfyingly continues. April enjoys some girl time in her apartment before the Turtles pay a visit and trash the place, as well as ultimately leading to the collapse of the entire building. Either she lived all alone in there like J.F. Sebastian in Blade Runner, or we were just privy to a lot of off-screen fatalities.
"It feels so good to be so bad" - The Shredder

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1x04 Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X **


This has always stuck out as the odd one from this first season, which is probably entirely down to it being omitted from the paperback novelisation I owned, which was the only means I had to enjoy these stories back when I was the appropriate age for them.

If you were going to excise one episode to save space and tighten your plot, it would be this tangential tale of youth cliches that sees the Turtles battle against the weather rather than the usual Foot Soldiers and mutants. The guest characters are very annoying, probably a portent of what's to come when things get serialised.

The honourable Turtles have no qualms about stealing the incarcerated Baxter's equipment, and Donatello modifies the van into another toy for parents to buy, complete with totally unnecessary branding and facial features that would make the mutants a little conspicuous out in public. How did we not question these things the first time around?
"Cool? Daddio, we are frozen!" - Dask

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1x05 Shredder & Splintered ****


The rousing finale to the first season, there's a good chance this is the best episode they ever did. I know, I know, it's not Breaking Bad or Battlestar Galactica, but as far as wrapping up loose threads and leaving things open for a rematch goes, it's about as good as it could possibly be.

Over the course of five days, the Turtles have achieved a mix of notoriety and respect from the ungrateful public they've saved several times over, and they get more neat additions to their gadgetry with the ludicrously conspicuous Turtle Blimp™ and handy Turtlecoms™, both of which would make great toys, right kids?

Shredder's Retro Mutagen Ray is a neat Maguffin that almost brings closure to the Turtles' quest to return their master to human form (we'll get that episode soon enough), and Krang finally gets that body he's been burbling on about, courtesy of a nice Frankenstein homage that I didn't get as a kid and therefore usurped Colin Clive's oft-imitated performance in my personal canon.

Kids are thrilled as the Turtles battle a gigantic Krang, while bigger kids realise the more significant fight is the low-key one with sticks fought between old adversaries Hamato "Splinter" Yoshi and Oroku "Shredder" Saki, which the latter eventually abandons because he's that kind of guy. Fans of the thinking man's Turtle can also be jubilant that Donatello blatantly saves the day. Shut up with your Raphaels! Michelangelo? Are you serious? No one likes Leonardo.
"Tonight I dine on turtle soup!" - The Shredder

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2x01 Return of the Shredder ***


With the series proven a success, season two is a little longer, the animation's a bit more basic and the shades of violence and general darkness have been all but eradicated. This is an interesting transition period that sees this iteration of the franchise stray ever further from its origins, but before it becomes complete syndicated garbage.

The continuity is remarkably preserved too, as Shredder returns from Dimension X and must prove himself to Krang before he's allowed to have his robot soldiers and idiot mutants back. It's great to see Saki under Krang's thumb (or whatever Krang has) before they'd become interchangeable doofus baddies later, and to see Chrome Dome actually proving surprisingly fairly competent, even if convention requires that he always be foiled.

This is a great re-introduction of the series to returning viewers and the poor saps in the UK like me who got to see the 'Hero' Turtles for the first time, albeit in mother hen edited form. They can't have taken too much of the criminal activity out, as growing up with TMHT and The Real Ghostbusters, I always had the impression that New York City would be a nightmarish place to live.
"Sacre bleu! We never had such problems when I ruled France" - Mental patient

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2x02 The Incredible Shrinking Turtles ***


Beginning another multi-episode arc, the likes of which wouldn't be seen again until even I was over the Turtles, I lapped this up as a burgeoning sci-fi fan. I'd already bought the Turtles' nonsense science origins, so I didn't even question why any of this stuff with exploding spaceships and scattered fragments was happening - it was something to keep the Turtles busy on the TV screen for 20 minutes a day.

The bits with the shrunken Turtles feel secondary to their encounter with the Shredder, where he beats them all fair and square and exposes their inexperience. Of course, these guys never seemed less than perfect when I was a kid - yes, even Michelangelo - so I'm grateful there's at least something new to gain out of this now I'm older than the characters are supposed to be themselves.
"Interrupt a commercial? It must be big news" - April O'Neil

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2x03 It Came from Beneath the Sewers ****


This is an extremely haphazard episode and I love it for that. Rather than moving on to the second fragment, like you'd expect in part two of a trilogy, it turns out that Baxter misplaced the first one so they have to track it down again, granting us an extra episode in the process. And thanks to interference from some Dimension X goo, the fragment does different things to last time, so that's an excuse to send a giant plant monster after the Turtles.

They also take any old excuse to set part of the episode in a carnival, and there's a nice running gag about the importance of eating your vegetables that ends up teaching kids that they shouldn't bother if they want to turn out like the Turtles.

How many times does that wall in the lair get broken down and need to be rebuilt? That's at least the third time so far, and we're only on episode eight.
"I'm a ruthless intergalactic evil-doer, not a wet nurse" - Krang

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2x04 The Mean Machines **


Thank lazy animators for goofs like that ^ or there wouldn't be much to enjoy here. The wackiness of the previous episode is completely absent, replaced by a more dully sensible plot about artificial intelligence controlling all the machines in the city. Lifeless machines can't even make lousy wisecracks.

I found this installment of the ongoing fragments story disappointing as a kid, and it's comforting to have my childhood opinions confirmed some 25-or-so years later. April saves the day by pulling out the plug, which is such a good ending they just have to re-use it several times before the series is through.
"WITNESS THE POWER OF OMNUS!" - OMNUS, obviously

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2x05 Curse of the Evil Eye ***


The grand finale of the Eye of Sarnoth arc (however you're spelling it), this is pretty damn strange. The completed eye apparently offers the wearer the ability to "transmute matter" and control the resulting creations, so the Turtles have to fend off a dragon, cement monster and electricity beast before finally getting to their adversary and saving his life.

Even though I saw both of the stories repeatedly as a child, I never noticed before how this plot is exactly the same one used later for the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog's 'Quest for the Chaos Emeralds' arc. But it is, exactly. I don't think I have the stomach to revisit that mental series, I'll stick with the comforting reptiles.

My favourite part was Baxter showing his true colours and betraying the Shredder to establish himself as another major villain for those turtle boys to contend with. Shame they'll piss that potential up a wall in a couple of episodes' time when they turn him into another generic action figure.
"Don't eat the props" - Leonardo

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2x06 The Case of the Killer Pizzas ***


Even now we're in episodic territory, there's still unnecessary but comforting continuity. Bebop and Rocksteady are still trapped in Dimension X and Baxter's still human, so you dare to shuffle this one around in the schedule, networks!

Shredder's crackpot plans get zanier every week. This one involves secreting alien eggs onto pizzas that develop into little beasties when exposed to microwaves, and then grow all big when immersed in water. If things had gone according to plan and the Turtles had received the pizzas intended for them, they could have sorted out those little squirts in one energetic, fanfare-soundtracked scene of minimal ninjitsu, like presumably happened after the tragi-comic ending where Michelangelo irradiates them again. Wah-wah, you just unleashed the life threatening scourge again.

How did the Turtles defeat the monsters the second time around? Why is Baxter still working for Shredder after betraying him last time? Why does pizza always look so unpleasant in this show? How many racist stereotypes can they pile onto that Italian character in his single scene? Did H.R. Giger sue over those Xenomorph designs? Why does any of this matter to a 29-year-old man?
"Shredder is a far more dangerous opponent than a mere washing machine" - Splinter. It made sense in context

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2x07 Enter: The Fly ****


Poor Baxter. This is one of the first episodes I clearly remember watching as a kid, and I always felt sorry for that poor sod. First Krang tries to vaporise him just because he doesn't have any use for him, then he gets mutated with a fly, then he disappears from time altogether. I expected to be cynical about transforming one of the show's few non-one-dimensional characters (he's at least 2D) into another colourful toy, but now I'm looking forward to his inevitable return. Come on, it's a fly in a tank top and bow tie.

This was a wacky episode, crammed with old-school sci-fi gizmos and locations and with a bunch of gratuitous toy cameos even beyond Baxter's makeover. All things considered, it's definitely one of my favourites so far, but that's not to say it isn't stupid.

They use the unreliable Turtle Blimp for the third episode running, for no other reason than to hammer it into the minds of impressionable kids who can pressure their parents to buy one. April is reduced to the damsel-in-distress again as a means to get to the Turtles. Bebop and Rocksteady are brought back into the fold only to reaffirm their incompetence, and you'd think the writers of this show would have been informed that turtles are reptiles, not amphibians. Apart from all that, a classic.
"I forgot to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow" - Baxter Stockman sneaks in a Doctor Who reference

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2x08 Invasion of the Punk Frogs ***


For many people, certain images come to mind when they think of Florida. Old people, oranges, whichever of the Disney resorts is there. For me, the state has always been the home of the Punk Frogs.

The introduction of these four counterparts to the TMNT didn't strike me as shameful toy promotion back in the day, but inspiration is inspiration. Some people got together and committee'd these action figure oriented characters and their weaponry (parents have to buy four!!!!), and that's more thought than would go into most of the later episodes and recycled plots, so really it isn't such a big deal.

Admittedly, much about this episode is recycled. Taking a week off from concocting new barmy schemes, Shredder goes back to the mutagen drawing board. His deception of the innocent frogs is old helmet (Doctor Robotnik would pull the same dupe on Knuckles in the 90s), and he already tried to turn public opinion against the Turtles with stand-ins earlier in the season.

Aside from all that, it's one of the most iconic Turtles episodes from my childhood, so I can't really dislike it. It's a shame we didn't see much more of the frogs after this, nor the Anti Turtle Squad, but when you've seen one over-confident villain toppled you've seen them all.
"My name is Shredder and I love all living things" - The Shredder

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2x09 Splinter No More ****


The Splinter episode. It's another sad one after that Baxter Stockman business, where the sensei temporarily regains his humanity and remembers how people treat each other in the real world, or New York City at least.

That's the main story, but to fill up time and maintain the borderline-violent action quotient, Shredder reads up on arcane texts and tries to open a portal to Dimension X, but gets a freakish alien visitor instead. That creature is truly unpleasant and creeped me out as a kid, from its unblinking eye and dull roar to its re-growing tentacles.

This is one of the better episodes, mixing wyrd mysticism with the usual sci-fi gadgets and set in some atmospheric locations, so I can overlook obvious flaws in the plot, like how the Turtles suddenly have some mutagen left when the original arc of the series was trying to force Shredder to make Splinter human again. And why does Krang's robot body need to take a shower? You just don't scrutinise a show about teenage mutant ninja turtles too closely.
"After seeing how humans treat one another, I prefer being an animal" - Splinter

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2x10 New York's Shiniest ***


And we're back to Shredder's foolishly elaborate schemes! This time, he plans to take control of the city's legion of prototype robot police officers, because last time he messed around with artificial intelligence it ended so well. These are exactly the same as his regular Foot Soldiers, except parents already bought those and they have a new design to sell. I'm not being overly cynical about all the shameless toy promotion, I lived through this!

New York is still presented as a crime hell, with April falling victim to the mullety guys from The Warriors. REX-1 becomes April's personal bodyguard and Irma becomes worryingly infatuated with him, to the point that it actually seems probable that something happened after the end credits. This show doesn't have much in the way of subtle innuendos to offer adult viewers, but there are occasional tidbits.

It's every bit as iconic as the previous few episodes, novelised in the annual and probably adapted for a comic, but I never really warmed to their cute robot characters. You missed a sale there, Playmates Toys, try harder next time!
"Cheese does not compute. I would rather ingest an oil shake" - REX-1

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2x11 Teenagers from Dimension X **


The only episode from this pivotal season that doesn't transport me back to childhood innocence, I don't know if the BBC had a personal grudge against the Neutrinos (it'd be understandable) or if they were worried that kids would feel they missed out on something, as a result of their decision not to air the first season when these characters got their introduction. Maybe I did see it after all and it just left me cold.

The romance between Michelangelo and one of the disconcertingly child-like Neutrinos is foregrounded this time rather than just suggested, but it still ultimately goes nowhere, since smooching isn't what this show's about, at least not for the male characters. April veers from damsel in distress to action heroine every week, and this time it's her turn to save the shellbacks again. They're probably about even now.

Apart from the aborted romance angle, nothing about this episode really stands out, and like the Neutrinos' debut it could be the worst of the season again. They couldn't even come up with an original title, so why should I give it more respect than the writers did?

Donatello invents the Cheapskate skateboard for your Turtle figures, buy it kids! Oh wait, I actually had that one.
"You haven't lost a girlfriend, you've gained an extra portion of pizza" - Raphael

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2x12 The Catwoman from Channel Six ***


There are many ways to make a mutant. Just put a human and an animal together close to something vaguely sciencey and watch the results.

This is a fun episode that gives April something different to do - very different, considering she spends most of it as a cat woman, but still doesn't change out of that jumpsuit. The Turtles are pretty incompetent at tracking her down, interviewing every feline they come across to no avail, and even reveal themselves to Irma for the first time, gaining a new ally there.

Beyond marketing another toy (Cat April was a thing), it actually makes sense to send a cat after Splinter, an animal he has a natural phobia of. It makes less sense that everyone at the Chinese restaurant is skilled at martial arts or is actually wearing their sumo outfit, but this show has never really had a progressive approach to minorities.
"Too much television warps the mind and promotes violence" - Splinter channels killjoy parents

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2x13 Return of the Technodrome ***


The epic season finale, this still all feels watered down compared to the first season when you actually got to see Splinter and Shredder face off for more than a few seconds. They also waste the opportunity to give the Turtles a progressive character arc by proving that they have what it takes to handle this conflict themselves during Splinter's meditation retreat, but then he comes back and helps them out, so no growth here. We'll be in comfortably random syndication soon, don't worry yourself about things like 'growth.'

Krang decides it's time to conquer the Earth and squash these Turtles himself, since Shredder's been so incompetent at it, and he hatches a plan to bring the Technodrome back to Earth by harnessing the power of Niagara Falls. Surprisingly, it actually works... until Donatello does some tech stuff and it drills down to the Earth's core, where it will stay put for a good while.

That scene works as a metaphor for how the series will run itself into the ground now it enters the umpteen episode seasons of syndication and all the lazy plotting and increased animation errors that brings. I should really jump ship here...
"Mondo misery to the max!" - Michelangelo

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x01 Beneath These Streets ***


And so we enter the years of seemingly eternal syndication and even more formulaic plots. Apparently the BBC stopped showing the series after the third season, so at least I don't have too long to go before the nostalgia runs out and I'm justified in stopping.

So that's just 46 more identikit episodes of Shredder being sent to the surface to steal a device they need for the Technodrome; Splinter/April being kidnapped/incapacitated; the Turtles defeating Shredhead, Bebop and Rocksteady easily using handy props, and then one of them making a hilarious pun that doesn't even really work.

This time, the plot repeats itself within the same episode as the Turtles thwart Shredder's theft of a laser only for him to steal the new one made to replace it, which they thwart him making off with again. This could be the most generic TMNT episode ever - maybe intentionally so - but I did quite like the early scenes with the Turtles letting their guard down and getting lazy and fat after their supposed final defeat of Shredder in the last season. Their break doesn't last long.

The lesson is, never take a vacation.
"Somebody ought to make a movie about us" - Raphael

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x02 Turtles on Trial ***


The Turtles' reputation is on the line yet again. Just like the Ghostbusters, they can save New York on a daily basis, but they'll never earn the trust of its mean-spirited, bizarrely forgetful citizens. To preserve their anonymity, April sorts them out with some incognito human face masks that freaked me out a bit as a kid.

Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady are easily defeated using museum props, but almost get the chance to finish off their adversaries this time before Krang overconfidently claims that pleasure for himself, only to be easily defeated himself. I don't know why the Turtles accepted their doomed fate when they just seemed to be standing around with their weapons like they're ready to attack, but if you have to choose between relying on the lazy script or the even lazier animation, best to go with the former.

Irma's still infatuated with the Turtles, I guess she got bored with her sex robot.
"A wise man has nothing to fear from laughter" - Splinter

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x03 Attack of the 50-Foot Irma **


Today's compulsory battle in a public building between the Turtles and the baddies takes place in a planetarium. Today's gadget is an enlarging ray that accidentally blasts Irma instead of its intended Shredder target, and as usual New York reacts to anything different in its midst with military force. It's clearly a scared, frumpy receptionist stomping around, not a Stay Puft. What's wrong with you?

I wonder why I do this to myself.
"It's no biggie" - Michelangelo

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x04 The Maltese Hamster ***


Donatello's film noir narration, the trench coats and mobsters are all tediously cliched, but I was grateful for the first plot of the season that tried to do something even a little different, and it is quite atmospheric. It helped that it was largely a Donatello episode too, as everyone else gets captured and has to rely on Don's ingenuity and ability to jump over lazers to save the day.

Still, it isn't lacking the typically lazy scripting. Shredder's still using bumbling henchmen to search for gadgets to power the Technodrome or something; he has a magnet that can conveniently be "set to antique" that picks up every antique in the city apart from the lightweight one he's after (for an unexplained reason); he has a teleporter but still prefers to travel between the Technodome and the surface by digging holes all the way through the Earth's crust; and the plot reason for the eponymous hamster ending up in April's possession in the first place is that she has "always wanted" a hamster statue. Really, April? I hope the other items on your quirky wish list will be similarly instrumental for future adventures.
"They were given a collective sentence of 843 years for robbery, racketeering and tearing those little tags off of mattresses" - Donatello

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x05 Sky Turtles ***


Another fun but stupid episode.

Any time they dabble in science, it unfortunately brings a load of daftness and contradictions with it. Why does the hyper-gravity field crush metal trucks but merely root soft humans to the spot? Why does it only extend to 12 feet above ground level but still affect the Channel 6 crew up in their high-rise? (A: That line was just a hastily contrived excuse to bring out the Turtle Blimp). Why is Bebop caught in the reverse gravity despite wearing a pair of anti-gravity boots designed precisely to overcome these effects, which they even bother to draw in? Why isn't Shredder killed when struck by the falling Bebop and Rocksteady, and why aren't they? If you tear a building in half but the top half falls back down onto the exact same spot later, is that basically fixed?

But as I said, it's fun.
"The only thing better than maximum power is super maximum power!" - Krang

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x06 The Old Switcheroo *


This was the worst episode yet. They'll use the mixed-up personality gimmick again later in this same season, but all potential for a decent story involving Shredder's consciousness in Splinter's body and vice versa is completely wasted here, as the whole episode is just pointless padding and patronising explanations of what's happened before the process is conveniently reversed at the end.

The story does absolutely nothing beyond introducing the concept of mind transference with a brief demonstration. They didn't even put in some jeopardy or humour by making additional mind swaps at the end. That's the least they could have done! I guess Red Dwarf and Farscape did it better.

The only other notable thing that happens in this episode is that Donatello 'does' a machine that looks like the one in the intro, which would happen every few episodes from now on when they needed to fill a page of script and lacked inspiration. Where does he get all these parts? Since the Turtles don't have jobs and income, theft is the only reasonable answer.
"Slight accidents with funny rays can have serious consequences" - Krang

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x07 Burne's Blues **


This is a fairly insane episode, and not in a fun way. The titular plot concerning Channel 6 boss Burne Thompson seeking out the Turtles to prove they're a menace and that he's still got what it takes sees he and Vernon (Burne and Vern? Who came up with these confusing names?) having a run-in with various mob factions before getting abducted by aliens that are Elvis. It's dumb.

In the main, Turtles-and-Shredder plot that we actually care about, today's convoluted bit of gadgetry involves creating wacky weather. Again. We've arrived at the point where the Turtles prefer a food fight to using their ninjitsu skills, the BBC censors must have been thrilled.

The temperature-based puns around 'hot,' 'cool' and 'chill out' are interminable, and they treat the child audience like idiots by labouring the "mystery" of what the S&K brand could refer to. Why did Shredder go to the trouble of designing that logo and getting it printed on the van, baseball caps and other paraphernalia? Was that essential to his plan?

I like how April's hairdo escapes the video screen when she calls the Turtles. These glaring oversights keep the show entertaining even in its weaker moments.
"Such atrocious dialogue from such a pretty face" - The Shredder

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x08 The Fifth Turtle ***


This is the episode I'm most familiar with, as the first one my parents bought me on subsequently overplayed VHS. I tested myself before watching to see if I could remember every plot point and line of dialogue beat-for-beat, and by the time I got to Shredder stealing the capsidium crystals about five minutes in, I was too bored and just wanted to watch the damn thing.

It's not exactly as a I remembered it, because I'd never seen it without the over-cautious BBC edits before. I grew up with the 'Hero' Turtles branding and have got over it since, but seeing these references to "ninja" and brief shots of Michelangelo's nunchaku reinstated made me realise how ridiculous the whole thing was. We all knew what weapon Michelangelo had, even if we didn't know how to pronounce it ("Michelangelo's chains" was the best my household could manage). Still, to read any forum posts you'd think my generation of British under-10s were somehow to blame for this executive decision made on our behalf.

It's impossible to leave nostalgia aside when discussing the most nostalgic episode of one of the cornerstones of my childhood nostalgia, but objectively this is the first episode of the season so far to actually be any good. The Fifth Turtle himself is a complete Mary Sue character, and he gets them into trouble three times, but as Splinter points out, he is surprisingly bright to track down their lair, and clearly steps ahead of Shredder's bumbling henchmen.

The looming peril of raising the Technodrome helps to graft some semblance of continuity onto this otherwise random episode too, even if that just means making it exactly like a season two episode where pretty much the same thing was happening. Look forward to a season finale later on when the Technodrome briefly returns only to be sent away again to another remote location, and repeat.

I also like that Krang's voice is getting weirder by the day, and it's very creepy that Shredder could obtain the home address of a teenage boy from the police through such simple deception. But even as a kid, I found the mentions of a Teenage Mutant Hero Ninja Turtles fan club distastefully self-promotional, and I was a member.
"The Technodrome will rise, and once it does I shall rule Earth with an iron fist" - Krang

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x09 Enter the Rat King ***


The other episode on my Fifth Turtle tape, I'm also tediously familiar with this one, to the extent that I had the dialogue floating around my head earlier this week when dealing with a rat problem of my own. When I'm on my deathbed and my memories have all but faded, there'll just be the dialogue from those early TMNT and Simpsons tapes left.

I never liked this one quite as much as its predecessor, but it does have a nice eerie atmosphere, and is the first break I think we've ever had from Shredder and his goons. The Rat King steps up as today's villain substitute, and I still can't tell whether he's supposed to be some sort of semi-mutant or just an insane man with a rat fetish and a flute.

I retrospectively noticed more glaring nunchaku edits on the Hero Turtles version, and it makes a lot more sense to hear the Rat King refer to Splinter possessively as "my ninja master" rather than "my master," which sounded like he wanted to be under his power or something. I think there were other weird edits made too, as I don't remember the scene where the rats crawl over his body and he proclaims himself ruler of the ratocracy. Did they take that out in case we started covering our young limbs with rats?

Whaddaya know, Donatello makes a fourth-wall-breaking reference to gravity boots from episode six and gets it almost right. It was episode five, but he's forgiven for the flexible syndication schedule and the fact that he's fictional. Less forgivable is April being incarcerated in a cage that her slinky body should be able to fit through with no trouble, based on previous episodes. Maybe she's starting to love being kidnapped.
"You're quite attractive when you're angry, especially for someone without whiskers" - The Rat King

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x10 Turtles at the Earth's Core ***


I felt a little disappointed by this one as a kid, when the combination of Turtles + dinosaurs should have been a winning formula. Weirdly, I might actually appreciate it more today, now that I recognise the nods to Jules Verne, King Kong and 2001, and this strange subterranean 'prehistoria' does make a nice break from dark city streets and dank sewers. It looks more like Thundercats.

Since the Turtles' desperately exaggerated character traits make them borderline insufferable on occasion, I've mostly been enjoying the more cynical interactions between their adversaries, which are at their best here. Shredder insults Krang, so Krang withholds information that leads to Shredder and his goons falling into a tar pit. There is no friendship or mutual respect between any of them, and that makes for a fun sitcom.

It's syndicated TMNT, so it's still rife with problems of course. Shredder's voice actor changes for one line. I don't mind being left in the dark about why this place exists and what that crystal's all about, but how did Bebop and Rocksteady get the diplodocus up to the Earth's surface, and how did it get back safely? By falling for miles down that gaping, vertical hole?
"To journey without a point is pointless" - Splinter

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x11 April's Fool *


The look of this episode is very off, with exaggerated facial expressions and more fluid animation. I guess they were outsourcing to multiple Asian studios to get these daily syndicated episodes done on time, but the rushed job does show - even more so when characters wielding swords threaten to "open fire." Did no one check these things?

The actual plot is the weakest since the body swap episode, using a similar mistaken identity cliche as April unintentionally switches places with a princess and still ends up getting kidnapped by Shredder because that's her lot in life. Shredder is also trying to steal another shiny crystal to power some system or other in the Technodrome, and he fights the Turtles a bit in a mansion and an art museum in repetitive scenes that try to fool kids into thinking they're original with colourful background details.

How dumb did they think we were? They were correct. We kept buying the merchandise.
"A wise person embraces as many new experiences as possible" - Splinter

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x12 Attack of Big MACC **


I had this one on video too (paired with the dinosaur episode), but was never very taken with MACC, the friendly robot pacifist from the future who struck me as a blatant Johnny Five rip-off even back then. I was always confused as to why he was named after that McDonald's burger I was desperate to try when I was considered big enough. I only noticed one over-sensitive BBC edit, as Donatello's "great ninjas yes, great readers no" was changed to "great turtles yes" on my tape.

I'm getting seriously bored of the repetitive plot formula now, and to their credit they do change things around a little bit. When April reported on a powerful new lazer, it seemed to be the cue for Shredder to arrive and commandeer it, but instead an even more powerful robot appears and Krang wants that instead. I was also going to comment on the absurd plot convenience of Krang having the relevant control device to hand, but then they point it out for me and he admits that it's a way to keep the story moving. I didn't get all of these gags when I was a kid, in fact I'm only now deciphering half of Raphael's cultural references that used to sound like strings of garbled syllables.

What I didn't like is that the Turtles finally enter the Technodrome for the first time this season, then just go away at the end. The bad guys were defeated, you're not going to lead them away in handcuffs and blow the place up? Is victory not honourable or something? I'll just imagine there was a post-denouement discussion in the module and that Raphael explained it's a way to keep the series going.
"Now Krang, you can't have everything you see on TV" - The Shredder

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x13 The Ninja Sword of Nowhere ***


It's National Sensei Appreciation Day (did you forget again?) and the Turtles buy their master an ancient Japanese sword, which turns out to be the powerful object Shredder has his eyes on today as it's made of an alien metal that can cut through dimensions and allow near-instantaneous travel anywhere.

The scenes in limbo are nicely strange, and I'm grateful that when the aliens do show up, they don't look like Elvis this time. This is one of the better episodes from this period, but it still suffers from the usual drawbacks of plot repetition and convenient endings, though the stand-out disappointment has got to be Raphael's voice actor taking the day off and someone who sounds nothing like him standing in. I have a bad feeling this is going to become very common.
"Swords are made of metal" - The Shredder educates us

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x14 20,000 Leaks Under the City **


Krang floods the sewers and the city, because they haven't tried that one yet. Shredder sends a giant squid after the Turtles, which they manage to turn on him and then the water is all pumped away again because the episode had to end.

Donatello's voice actor is replaced this time, and while it's not as glaring as Raphael in the previous episode, there's no way any kids were fooled. For the record, we noticed every time you gave them the wrong mask colour too, did you think we were idiots?

Normally I can overlook or make light of the errors, but this time they're completely ridiculous. There's an ad break where we clearly see Splinter fall off and slide down a waterfall yelling farewells to his students, then when we come back he's still heading toward the edge and Michelangelo saves him before he goes over. So what did we just see, a parallel universe?

There's also gratuitous product placement of another Turtles toy at the beginning, an inflatable raft that would certainly come in handy once the city gets flooded... but nope, we never see it again, they just make the Turtle Van float instead. They shoved in a blatant toy commercial and didn't even follow up on it, even though the plot was right there! This show is absolute garbage! Still, only 33 more episodes to go till season's end. It'll fly by.
"I squid you not!" - The Shredder makes a funny

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x15 Take Me to Your Leader ****


I was always fond of this episode as a kid, largely because I had the book (inexplicably re-titled 'Follow My Leader') and enjoyed comparing the typically inaccurate illustrations to the equivalent scenes on TV, since it seemed to air as frequently as the one with the Punk Frogs did. Why did every merchandise artist colour in Shredder's mask? Did they abhor white spaces?

It's one of the better stories too - definitely season two quality - and a rare example at this point of a story focusing on a single character, even if Leonardo's insecure moping means he's out of the action for most of it, giving the other three the chance to play leader. This serves to remind us that, while Leo is undoubtedly the most tedious Turtle, he at least plays a vital role.

Today's jeopardy involves Krang and Shredder messing with the weather (again, again) as they steal energy from the sun. It's their most selfish and destructive plan yet, but luckily the Turtles reunite just in time and stop the machine or something probably. It ended and went to credits at some point.
"He who would be a boulder on the path of life must first be a pebble... perhaps it loses something in translation" - Splinter

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x16 Four Musketurtles ***


The second Leonardo-based episode in a row, they make up for his lack of personality by giving him a bump on the head that makes him think he's D'Artagnan, the other Turtles are his Musketeers and other characters are rendered accordingly. Cam Clarke speaks in a posh British accent, because as Captain Jean-Luc Picard taught us, that's what French people sound like.

Leonardo's delusion and the Turtles playing along is what the episode's really about, but as ever there's a plot about Shredder trying to steal an alien artefact to power the Technodrome, so they all have something to do. Even Shredder's getting sick of these formulaic plots now, and in a very welcome change he betrays Krang and tries to steal the jewel for himself.

The ending is smarter than I would have given it credit for, as Shredder steals a forcefield generator calibrated for Krang's body size and becomes squashed and useless. Unfortunately, there's also some glaring discontinuity as we're shown a flashback of Krang's former life that both forgets he was a warlord and not a scientist, and depicts his people as all being brains in robot bodies, when his whole arc in season one was about his embarrassment at being torn from his (never seen) organic body. But considering the errors I'm accustomed to in these hastily churned episodes, it's no big deal.
"I can't go racing to the surface every time you want some silly bauble" - The Shredder

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x17 Turtles, Turtles, Everywhere ***


Another fun and weird episode that goes overboard on the self-aware meta jokes but is tempered with responsible anti-littering and conservation messages.

April reports on a fleet of robot garbage trucks being launched in the city, which Shredder inevitably hijacks and perverts for his own ends. Reprogramming the trucks to collect turtles (basically like the Mousers in season one), he forgets to specify the 'ninja' variety (maybe he was influenced by the BBC censors?), so ends up knee-deep in pets and endangered species.

This could have been one of the better episodes if it hadn't fallen back on repetitive cliches for no reason. There's a lot of Bebop and Rocksteady bumbling shenanigans seemingly just to fill up time, and April gets captured even though the jeopardy has already been established. I guess it's just a stipulation of her contract.
"We're heroes in a half-shell, remember the theme song?" - Donatello

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x18 Cowabunga Shredhead ****


This is one of the classics. If someone who grew up on the later TMNT series wanted to check out what this daft older incarnation was like, this would be the perfect example of its sense of humour.

We've already had a body swap episode between Shredder and Splinter, but this one is handled so much better. Shredder is blasted with the personality of Michelangelo, which is a lot more fun as they're two of the most contrasting characters, and James Avery does a great impression of Shredder doing Michelangelo. There's lots of back-and-forth switching, a smart finale and an ironic showdown that sees the Turtles almost getting turned into pizzas.

When I was a kid, I didn't even question the absurdity of a restaurant making its pizzas using conveyor belts and robot arms, but every other episode has to have conveyor belt jeopardy. I'll even allow Splinter's mind control abilities to vary as the plots require them. This will probably be my favourite of the season.
"I hunger for cowabunga!" - Shredder/Michelangelo

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x19 Invasion of the Turtle Snatchers ***


Is this season still going? How did they get away with reusing the same plot over and over and over again? Did we really not care? This is the one where Krang sends Shredder on an errand to steal an alien energy source so they can use it to raise the Technodrome, but he ends up being foiled by the Turtles. Oh, that one.

Mercifully, the usual formula is shuffled around a little bit, as Donatello and Rocksteady reluctantly join forces when they're captured by aliens - a different set to all the other aliens we've seen so far, let's not have any consistency or arcs please - before the rest of the characters end up on the UFO at various points.

April still gets tied up, and in a worthless B-plot we're supposed to care about the future of her career. I wonder if the writers will ever realise how uninteresting the whole Channel 6 bunch are to their audience. Did they even sell Vernon and Burne Thompson action figures? Who would buy those?
"Your mother wears high heel shoes!" - Rocksteady

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x20 Camera Bugged **


Here's another benevolent alien randomly visiting Earth, or at least an unintentionally destructive one. In the thoughtful plotting we've come to expect from this desperately churned out season, the alien doesn't seem to understand how his own camera works when he falls for Shredder's ruse and poses for a photo, only to be trapped inside. DID HE NOT KNOW THAT WOULD HAPPEN?

April is similarly moronic in not noticing she's taken a world-stealing alien camera back to the office rather than her standard issue video camera, but any potential respect we might have had for April vanished long ago.

There were opportunities for psychedelic mayhem once the Turtles and Shredder got trapped in the camera realm and duked it out, but this is largely wasted in favour of everyday city streets. Does that mean all those streets and entire blocks were temporarily ripped from the face of New York too, not just the landmarks? There was sky and clouds in there too... maybe I even saw the sun... HOLY SHIT!
"They have much courage, but not the best of table manners" - Splinter

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x21 Green with Jealousy **


Krang has finally flipped, sending Bebop and Rocksteady to dose the Turtles' pizzas with a love potion so they'll all become infatuated and too distracted to notice that he's draining power from a nuclear submarine to charge the Technodrome. And it actually works for a while, making this technically one of his most successful schemes.

It goes without saying that it's a bad episode, and the use and abuse of Irma's feelings, all the way to her wedding dress despair, is pretty heartless. Even more irresponsibly, one of the gifts she receives from her temporary, doped admirers is a real live puppy. I hope you kids are taking notes.

April gets tied up again, this time not as an object to lure the Turtles, but because Rocksteady wants to have his way with her. Is that a step up or down in her status?
"Boi-oi-oing!" - Michelangelo makes an erection innuendo on kid's TV

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x22 Return of the Fly ***


This is a busy episode, seeing the return of the seething, vengeful but still depressingly gullible Baxter Stockman as well as the Rat King, who helps out the Turtles to add the only shade of grey this show has ever seen.

Shredder seems more exasperated than usual with his bumbling henchmen, and I like him like this. Bebop and Rocksteady take a self-improvement course that results in some slapstick scenes and really brings out their mutual loathing.

April is kidnapped (sigh) and Donatello invents another toy that the writers once again don't even bother to work into the actual plot. The Retro Catapult™ just shows up. I was left with these fragments rather than a sense of a coherent plot, but time passed, we saw some familiar faces and flashing colours, then the ending theme played, so I guess it's another job well done.
"I look upon you as a son... an extremely weird looking son" - The Shredder

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x23 Casey Jones – Outlaw Hero ***


The secondary cast is really filling out now. I like this incarnation of the masked vigilante more than his dopey film counterpart, largely because of his lunatic demeanour (noted by the Turtles even after they join forces) and because there's clearly a stipulation that the character is not allowed to be depicted without his literally trademarked mask and quiver of sporting equipment. This will actually become a running joke in the long stretch of season that still lies ahead. Nearly half way now.

Because there needs to be some semblance of a plot to hinge this character's introduction around, Krang unleashes some robot bugs that make all machines go haywire exactly like they did back in season two. He also goes on a destructive rampage inside a big machine again again, before the power of punching brings an end to his brief reign of terror and the baddies all skulk off home again. It's a fun episode with some funny dialogue, but it's not like it's actually any good or anything.
"Nobody likes a wise guy appliance" - Raphael

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x24 Mutagen Monster **


Krang is getting as tired of Bebop and Rocksteady's incompetence as I am, but his plan to obtain more mutagen to create a new batch of mutant thugs is hindered by their incompetence once again, when they cause the trains carrying the required chemicals to collide and it all goes to waste.

Of course, every child knows that green chemical + yellow chemical = purple chemical (if it didn't, that would be quite the animation oversight) and some mutagen is formed after all, which proceeds to turn a bunch of cows into a huge, spike-covered, two-hoofed juggernaut of a beast capable of splitting in two like Station from Bill & Ted. I guess the rules of mutagen changed.

The Mutagen Monster is a little disturbing by this series' usual tame standards, though we're not in The Real Ghostbusters territory or anything, but the story plays out more like a contemporary video game. The only part that actually entertained me was the Turtles hesitating over whether to save Vernon from mutagen contamination or to let it happen and see whether the resulting mutant was an improvement. Sadly, they decided to be heroes after all, meaning we have to endure more years of Vernon and they didn't even get to hawk a new action figure. Talk about lose-lose.
"Cow-abunga!" - Michelangelo makes a funny

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x25 Corporate Raiders from Dimension X ***


The series at its daft best. When influential businessmen start disappearing, the Turtles enlist the help of the only human male they know, the reliably deranged Casey Jones, to infiltrate the corporate world and find out what's going down.

I love that Casey never removes his mask or his bag of clubs, even when suited up, and that the characters around him behave as unrealistically as the plot requires by giving him a promotion when he batters up the office.

By this point, it seems the only violence in the series is directed towards inanimate desks and vending machines, as the Turtles save the day with the power of water. The Retro-Catapult toy makes another pointless promotional appearance and the animation is even worse than usual, if that's possible, but at least April gets a week off being kidnapped.
"I feel an overwhelming need to break something" - Casey Jones

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x26 Pizza by the Shred ***


Another farcical episode featuring lots of toy cameos, this is another fine example of what sets the late 80s/early 90s incarnation of TMNT apart from its forebear and successors, which I'm led to believe feature a lot fewer pizzas splatting on heads.

Shredder hatches a logical scheme to track the Turtles to their lair by setting up a pizza parlour they can't resist, and he would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for that pesky Rat King, showing up for this third appearance for no significant reason.

Shredder's lucky the Turtles are so dumb that they don't recognise his distinctive spiked gauntlets that he recklessly included in his TV ad when he could have just not done that, and neither he nor Michelangelo recognise each other's voices when the Turtle coincidentally signs up to be his delivery boy.

The Neutrino car makes its third or fourth appearance, along with the return of the Foot Ski (had it; the toy looked just like that) and the Retro-Catapult, which Raphael uses to fire a trash can just like on the packaging.
"A turtle's sewer is his castle" - Michelangelo

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x27 Super Bebop & Mighty Rocksteady **


The bendy animation style makes a welcome return, I prefer it to the extremely dull, sepia style they use most of the time. That's about the only real positive I have for this episode though, which mainly seems to be an advertisement for robot Rocksteady and Bebop action figures.

When those bumbling henchmen screw up for the umpteenth time, Krang (still lacking a mutagen supply if we're going to credit this series with continuity) creates "cybernetic clones" of them, which he promises will be "ten times as strong and ten times as smart." Unfortunately, an IQ of 1 multipled by 10 is still 1.

Meanwhile, all adult humans in (the Channel 6 building? New York City? The world?) are temporarily turned into children, then dogs, then apes. They got better. Except for Vernon, but no one cares about him.
"Stomp toitles! Stomp toitles!" - Super Rocksteady and Mighty Bebop (yeah, the title mixed their names up because quality control is non-existent)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x28 Beware the Lotus ***


This show doesn't do romance too often. I guess that's because its target market of five-year-old boys would rather see the Heroes in a Half Shell™ clashing swords and throwing food at Shredder and his goons than pining after racist Japanese stereotypes, but I appreciate the change of pace.

The status quo is temporarily upset as Krang fires Shredder in favour of Lotus, a more adept ninja and scientific genius who's nevertheless dumb enough to live right next to the flower market where she buys her distinctive calling cards. Lotus immediately proves herself more capable than Shredder ever was by tracking down the Turtles' lair (only a thirteen-year-old boy managed that previously), but thanks to Shredder's conniving, things are back to normal by the end of the episode and the Turtles have another recurring ally/enemy to add to the growing roster.

I never like the Channel 6 News stuff, but it is quite funny how every attempt to cover a romantic story ends up being hijacked by violence. I also enjoyed Shredder asking for a single hotel room for himself, Bebop and Rocksteady to clean themselves off and recuperate. Maybe there was some romance between scenes after all.
"I'm an equal opportunity tyrant" - Krang

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x29 Blast from the Past **


I have a strong memory of this episode from childhood, as it was the first chance terrestrial British viewers had to see the Turtles' origin story and early adventures. To give the lazy clip show credit, almost half of it is new material, albeit extremely poor and rather badly animated material, something that's especially obvious when interspersed with the higher quality scenes from the first season - specifically episodes one, two and five.

We got to see other snippets of season one in the very shoddily produced 'How It All Began' VHS tape, which used much of this episode's flashback rather than bothering to edit down the original episodes again, including scenes of Leonardo narrating to the dazed Splinter and Michelangelo referencing the out-of-action Raphael, things that would have made no sense if you hadn't seen this episode already. Fortunately I had, and gained early insight into just how shoddy TV production could be. True to form, they edited out Mikey's nunchaku scenes, leaving his introduction insultingly sparse at just a head shot and name check, but they kept the out-of-context thing in Raphael's when that would have been a more logical edit. It's almost like no one gave a shit.

There is a bit of a plot. Shredder wants to get his hands on an enchanted Foot Clan scroll, he knocks out Splinter who gets amnesia but then gets his memory back just in time to stop Shredder and the baddies go away. If that was the entire episode it would be completely abysmal, but it's always nice to go through those old episodes again.
"Are you sure this is really the time for us to be telling our life story?" - Donatello

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x30 Leatherhead: Terror of the Swamp ***


I don't remember Leatherhead much outside of the Hyperstone Heist video game where he was a particularly annoying boss, but he's one of the more distinctive bad guys in his fisherman get-up and Cajun accent. Combining his origin with that of the Punk Frogs is a nice touch too, and offers another refreshing break from city streets and sewers that's always appreciated.

The Ninja Turtles and Punk Frogs reunite and come across several wilderness cliches like quicksand, a fountain of youth and Voodoo magic.

April wears a bikini in the same canary yellow hue as her regular jumpsuit, which she brought on holiday too.

The voice actors have been taking turns to have days off all season, but this time it's especially notable with the guys who do Shredder and Donatello/Bebop being replaced by understudies.

I still can't tell the difference between the Punk Frogs. They don't even carry weapons any more.
"For a murderous, stealin' cheatin' double-crosser, he sure is nice" - Whichever one of the Punk Frogs that was

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x31 Michelangelo's Birthday **


I can see Michelangelo being the most popular Turtle in general, or at least assumed so by the writers, so it's not surprising that he gets more centric episodes than his brothers/friends (just one continuity confusion the episode offers).

Mikey and Shredder go one-on-one again, following 'Cowabunga Shredhead' and 'Pizza By the Shred,' and this is by far the least entertaining of the three. It's filled with cliches, most painfully the other Turtles' backfiring gag when they pretend to forget Michelangelo's birthday only to end with the surprise party scene, and the reverse mutagen device has been done before too. Extremely recently if you count its reappearance in the flashback episode.

The denouement is one of the weirdest and most shockingly lazy of the whole series. Leonardo, Donatello and Raphael are turned into giant, floating, seemingly mindless creatures and Splinter cures them with the power of belief. I don't specifically remember this one from childhood, but I can imagine being a bit disturbed by their dead-eyed stares.
"He must have seen this episode before" - Rocksteady

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x32 Usagi Yojimbo ***


The Turtles gain a new ally in the form of a samurai rabbit who they keep reminding us isn't a mutant but a being from a dimension where "animals became the dominant species" rather than humans. That's good, 'animal' have always been my favourite species.

In contrast to the last episode that was basically mental, this one actually has some adherence to established continuity. General Traag reappears and even the bloody Neutrinos are mentioned, but thankfully don't return again again.

Usagi Yojimbo himself is a decent enough character, though his scene with Splinter and Splinter's Japanese friend do get a bit suffocating in their breathy fake accents. I especially like Usagi slicing a Foot Soldier in half before he even learns that they're robots. I'd be careful around this one.

I was amused by Raphael's outfit temporarily turning princess pink (80s parents wouldn't have stood for that in a boys' show), and he also has the honour of delivering what may be the only line in the series to genuinely make me laugh out loud:
"He's not only from medieval Japan but also from an alternate universe, so naturally he speaks English" - Raphael

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x33 Case of the Hot Kimono **


We get a break from Shredder & Co. this week, but sadly they're replaced by Don Turtelli & the mob. This series has so many colourful villains to choose from, why does this guy get a second outing? Just as bad is the introduction of April's Holmesian aunt aiding the heroes with her sleuth skills, who I get the bad feeling is going to return several times in the future. Good thing I'm quitting after this excruciatingly extended season.

They try to go for another comic crime caper, but it isn't as good as the earlier one with Donatello. Why does Splinter's kimono have a map to buried treasure stitched into it anyway? I think the prospect of the Turtles ever using their ninja skills again is now dead and buried, as their response to criminal activity is to hurl pizzas.

The voice-swapping animation errors reach a new low as Leonardo speaks his lines and then continues to speak in Raphael's voice in the same shot. There's also an irrelevant freeze frame of Raphael in another scene when other characters are speaking, which I can only put down to a desperate excuse to avoid having to animate another two seconds of footage.
"Not Mister, please. Just call me Master" - Splinter

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x34 Usagi Come Home **


What's this, a direct continuation of episode 32? Why isn't it episode 33 then?

Usagi's first appearance was fairly enjoyable, but here the character is basically abused and shamed, as Shredder tricks him into losing a sword fight and Usagi's moronic code of honour means he's now obligated to follow his instructions and destroy the Turtles, even though that's clearly the wrong thing to do. Just more confirmation that I would have made a terrible samurai.

We still don't get to see a whole lot of fighting, as the Turtles merely defend themselves. The New Yorkers are so used to zany stuff happening in their city by now, they don't bat an eyelid when a rabbit goes tearing through a department store with a sword pursued by four mutant turtles. Meanwhile, Bebop and Rocksteady tediously fill up time and gratuitously kidnap April for not much reason.

With all the censorship this show received, overseas and at home, I'm surprised the finale in an exploding fireworks factory made the cut. Surely that's a bit more potentially dangerous to the audience than Michelangelo holding some nunchaku?
"You are a bad person" - Usagi Yojimbo

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x35 The Making of Metalhead ***


Meet a new toy! Metalhead is an 'evil' robot turtle infused with the brain patterns of the four TMNT, and just like whenever that happens in any story, it isn't long before the tin turtle switches sides.

They've done buddy robots a few times before (REX-1, MACC), but this one feels the best suited to a recurring role, and considering the Turtles seem to keep Metalhead as a Jetsons-style robot maid slave, he could show up again any time they can be bothered to animate him.

This is just about the most average, archetypal adventure episode they could have made, so it's reasonably entertaining by default. Krang hatches a scheme, Shredder and his goons bungle it and the Turtles emerge victorious. I don't think April was even kidnapped this week, though she still gets tied up for a bit. The lazy script contains far too many puns that aren't puns, which basically consist of substituting 'turtle' into various animal proverbs.
"Run like heck!" - April O'Neil

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x36 Leatherhead Meets the Rat King ***


I always welcome a change in the format, and pitting two villains against each other is a freath of bresh air until the Turtles inevitably interrupt the fighting to save the day. I doubt they'd have been allowed to get away with a true Turtle-lite episode, and with the Channel 6 crew thrown into the mix, it does feel a little too crowded.

Outside of the Technodrome and Baxter Stockman, Leatherhead and the Rat King are two of the best-realised villains of the series, and their character traits and personality disorders are suitably exaggerated for effect. The Rat King now wants to rule the world; Leatherhead now spouts even more Louisiana gumbo jive. It's probably my favourite one since Leatherhead's last appearance.

Vernon and Irma get captured, which is another welcome change of pace. But then April gets captured too and we snap right back to the formula.
"This feller be a few shrimp shy of a boatload" - Leatherhead

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x37 The Turtle Terminator **


Krang makes another evil robot, because when has that ever gone wrong apart from two episodes ago and all those other times? Irma is selected as the hostage and template for the robot duplicate in another example of this show's progressive attitude towards women, and the robot impressively duplicates her physical image to perfection but somehow can't get over that staccato robot voice.

The more expressive, elastic animation style is back, which I'm quite fond of. At least it's less lazy and static than usual. The voice actors for Donatello/Bebop and Raphael both took a break this time, so only half the Turtles have their actual voices, it's quite jarring.
"Zap turtles" - The Turtle Terminator

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x38 The Great Boldini *


Zach makes a not-especially-welcome return, and some girl is tagging along who wants to be like April when she grows up because getting tied up every other day of the week is something to aspire to. This show wasn't really aimed at girls, was it?

Bloody Don Turtelli shows up again, and the Rat King makes a surprise cameo but is less entertaining than usual. I like that they don't have to use Shredder every time, but after introducing a raft of new adversaries over the previous umpteen episodes, this one feels wanting.

There are lots of things I don't like about this one really, from Michelangelo's sudden passion for conjuring (never seen before or since) to the stupid internal weather and the racist stereotype Irish cop who thinks the Turtles are leprechauns because he's Irish so of course he would. A particular nadir for me.
"Begorrah!" - Michelangelo

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x39 The Missing Map ***


Zach's in it again, and brings his formerly adversarial older brother with him. Surprisingly, I liked this one quite a bit, and having a jealous child put the Turtles and Splinter in jeopardy was more convincingly gripping than pretty much anything they've thrown out all season. So these crappy Mary Sue audience substitutes actually worked on me. I'm ashamed.

Zach is unusually competent behind the controls of the Technodrome, so at least he does deserve his ceremonial Fifth Turtle title to an extent (much more so than his dimwit brother). I like how we get to explore the Technodrome and the sewer in some detail rather than generic city streets and warehouses, and the episode even seems to be impressively free of the infamous colouring errors until Leonardo turns orange.

I assume the Techno Rover™ was another toy. All these vehicles look like they were toy designs first and animations later. Because I'm pointlessly pedantic, the Turtles' scrapbook present a major continuity problem of who exactly took all those photos, particularly the one of the pre-mutated Turtles hanging out. Did Splinter take them on a day trip out of the sewer some time between their arrival and their transformation? There's no way this could be from their fish bowl days. What's that? You have a job and kids and bills to pay and I should get some perspective in life?
"I have more important things to do than extract information from boys" - Krang

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x40 The Gang's All Here ***


Why don't the Turtles recognise the 'old lady' as Bebop in a terrible, lazy disguise?

Why don't any of the gang members recognise April O'Neil of Channel 6 News? (Maybe it's a crappy cable network after all).

Why doesn't April recognise Michelangelo's voice?

Why does the anti-mutagen remove the Turtles' ninja 'powers?' Didn't they train for those skills?

Why is there an exact double of the human Michelangelo walking around wearing the same clothes?

When he changes back for good, why do Michelangelo's clothes and sneakers disappear?

Why do the Turtles even carry weapons any more?
"Violence! Crime! Brutality! All the elements of great family viewing" - Burne Thompson

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x41 The Grybyx **


With that strange title and menacing portal in the sky, I was slightly disappointed that this became a cute critter episode, one that very quickly revealed itself to be a shameless rip-off/parody (there's no time to quibble with this rushed syndication schedule) of Gremlins, possibly crossed with a Snork.

To make things worse, the titular Grybyx turns out to be the pet of the even more irritating Neutrinos, who are tied with Don Turtelli for my least favourite recurring characters that inexplicably show up more often than the good ones like Baxter.

In sunnier news, the Turtles actually use their weapons and have a proper fight this time - at least Leonardo clashes blades with Shredder while his brothers dispatch typically useless Foot Soldiers. The Turtle Blimp makes a comeback - that thing was in every single episode for a while - and Krang is still trying to raise the Technodrome to the surface, 41 episodes into the year. How long is that going to be dragged out? There isn't long to go.
"The world's greatest ninja does not run from someone's fluffy little pet" - The Shredder

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x42 Mister Ogg Goes to Town *


This is basically the same episode as the last one, but the Gremlin has been swapped for an even more annoying wisecracking imp, and telekinesis has been exchanged for the ability to transform everyday objects into foodstuffs. The previous episode wasn't a classic, but it was ten times better than this.

If Mister Ogg wasn't so damned irritating, I'd feel bad for him getting bossed around and hoodwinked by both sides. By the end, it's not even clear if he is an actual threat or just a nuisance, as the Turtles don't seem too fazed that their efforts to get rid of him didn't work.

Krang states that liquid hydrogen is the element they need to power the Technodrome and achieve ever-elusive world domination, so what were all those crystals and alien artefacts about in countless earlier episodes? Is there any kind of writer's bible for this series? I'm getting bored of nostalgia now.
"I will destroy that midget!" - The Shredder

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x43 Shredderville ****


Very few episodes from this recent run have rung bells, but I remember this one very clearly - a 'What If?' fable set in a world where the Turtles never existed, Shredder rules [New York? The world? Is there a difference in this show?] and any speculation about the responsibilities of the scantily clad April and Irma beyond peeling grapes is best avoided.

In spite of a cop-out ending that's as bad as something Star Trek: Voyager would do, this is probably my favourite episode of the season. It doesn't have much competition, admittedly, but the dystopian setting complete with North Korea style mandatory leader-glorifying and references to continuity make it very satisfying.

I wouldn't have expected the writers to even remember Bebop and Rocksteady used to be humans, and it's interesting seeing Krang totally abandoned by Shredder when he doesn't need his technology any more. I'll let them get away with the infant Shredder still wearing the helmet.
"I'm mad as heck and I'm not gonna take it any more!" - Leonardo

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x44 Bye, Bye, Fly ***


Long time no see for one of the show's original baddies. I can see why they don't bring Baxter back more often, as his vengeful machinations do get repetitive, but I'm happy to spend time with a character I actually remember from childhood, rather than the more frequent mobsters and dimension-hopping aliens-of-the-week.

This time, Baxter teams up with an ancient alien spaceship (as usual, the images are better than the words) and obtains a ray gun that turns living beings into a select assortment of predetermined animals and insects. It's the most amusingly ludicrous gadget since that magnet with the 'antiques' setting.

Shredder gets turned into a fly, which is poetic justice for Baxter who's forgotten that it was Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady who were really to blame for his transformation, but as he admits elsewhere in the episode that his reasoning is hindered by having a half-fly brain, I'll let it pass.

Michelangelo gets turned into a gerbil too. There's no poetry or justice there, the writers just like to turn Michelangelo into stuff.
"I never look a gift horse-fly in the mouth" - Krang

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x45 The Big Rip Off **


All through this long, long season I've been excited at the prospect of this concluding 'trilogy.' I shouldn't have got my hopes up.

While the status quo isn't exactly reset at the end - the Technodrome is apparently all powered up and ready to take over the world, but the Turtles can still go out on a lame joke - this was otherwise exactly the same as the majority of previous episodes where Bebop and Rocksteady bungle a plan to steal a power source. Michelangelo even directly comments as much, making for my favourite bit of fourth wall breaking in the series.

Shredder is less idiotic than usual, as he successfully fools the Turtles into following a red herring before they inevitably save the day, which includes rescuing April from suffocation in a sealed vault. Bloody April - as a kid I just ignored her, but for a character who's in virtually every episode, not to mention the only regular female and token non-evil human, did they have to make her so terrible?
"At least we stopped them from consummating whatever nefarious scheme they were attempting" - Michelangelo

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x46 The Big Break In ***


FINALLY - and you really do need to have sat through the previous 45 episodes to appreciate how long-awaited this was - the plot moves forward and the bad guys are actually threatening again. All year long, we've been watching Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady get defeated in their petty scavenger hunts to steal the power needed to get their battle machine up and running, and right at the end we actually get to see them doing some damage. Or at least shrinking things. It's been done.

This whole episode (and its follow-up) is pretty much a retread of 'Return of the Technodrome' that concluded season two, though the more exciting world domination and battle stuff is saved for the finale. We do at least get to see Krang in the field, kitted out with robot weapon arms while April narrowly escapes a merciful squashing in her overturned van.

I liked seeing inside the Technodrome again, but it's more amusing how this thing changes size dramatically in every episode. When we last saw it in 'Shredderville' it looked no bigger than an average sized building; here it's like the final stage on a Sega Mega-Drive game.
"The Technodrome will squash them in their shells like bugs!" - The Shredder

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3x47 The Big Blow Out ****


The bar had been set so low, this was always going to be a spectacular finale, even if like last time it's basically 'Return of the Technodrome' turned up to eleven. The Technodrome causes wilful destruction, Krang drains the Earth of power and sets it on course to Dimension X, and April and Vernon bicker over who gets to present the news. Someone should re-edit this series with every shred of the Channel 6 guys excised.

Splinter gets active again, but after setting up the finality of the upcoming events in grand movie trailer mode, his 'final' Obi Wan/Darth Vader confrontation with Shredder is even more of a let down than their previous tangles.

The Turtles still barely use their weapons, preferring to fight their battles with technology and hoses, but they're treated to a triumphal Ghostbusters-style finale that should finally secure their reputations as the good guys to the cynical New Yorkers. Let's assume so anyway - after struggling through that mostly mediocre 47-episode season, I don't have the stomach to face another seven. I said that after season two, but I mean it this time.

Sayonara.
"Now let us finish this fight once and for all..." - Splinter




Toxic Crusaders 1: The Making of Toxie ***


Another colourful cartoon that seemed to mainly exist to shill action figures but that my immature mind appreciated regardless, the child-friendly-ish spin-off from Troma's much bloodier The Toxic Avenger didn't make it to syndication after this initial 13-episode run, so my childhood was robbed of those hundreds of repetitive, increasingly stale plots.

Just like Bucky O'Hare, it was a show I really could have done with more of, which instantly won me over with its creative character designs and silly humour. Comics, toys - I was a dedicated fan and collected pretty much everything they put out before the property was deemed financially untenable. Why did some of these toons fail while lesser ones succeeded? The show's frequent stabs at heartless corporations might not have helped, but at least its heavy-handed eco lectures were funnier than Captain Planet.

There's a lot to like about this show, from the aforementioned colourful toys to the hard rock intro, sardonic tone and bizarre innuendos (what does Melvin mean when he says he likes to "wax his chicken" before bedtime?) It's pretty damn heartless too, mutating teenagers into hideously deformed creatures of superhuman size and strength at the drop of a hat, but it's quite touching just how Toxie takes it all in his stride.
"Look on the bright side: how many people have a home that glows in the dark?" - Toxie

Toxic Crusaders 2: This Spud's for You ***


They're gradually introducing these new toys every week to help the child audience get acquainted without overpowering their developing senses, it's appreciated. As a fully grown man, I naturally hadn't watched this cartoon since it aired about 25 years ago, but I still remember these character designs intimately, thanks to poring over the comics and other merchandise during that crucial phase of mental development. Like it or not, they're a core part of my childhood and will be there among my final memories when I die. I do quite like it.

The running gags and repetition are getting annoying already, but they do have the characters comment on this. And for all the fourth-wall-breaking meta stuff, these ridiculous 20-minute toy commercials do still have genuine lessons at their heart, teaching kids about the food production chain, the necessity of an income stream and the cold machinations of big business. I can sort of see why this show didn't make it to syndication - the Ninja Turtles were never quite this disrespectful to The Man.
"I hope I don't get hurt!" - Toxie's battle cry

Toxic Crusaders 3: Club Fred ***


Did they use that title just so they could make the 'Club Dead' joke? There's a recurring theme of cruelty to old folks in this series, which is presumably hilarious to kids who have yet to encounter the unpluggable trickle of time.

The idiocy of the Toxic Crusaders is reaffirmed as they are easily lured to their enemies' base by a holiday promotion and fail to recognise the highly distinctive villains they fight every week when they're dressed in drag. But as usual, they have luck and heroic invincibility on their side to defend them against the Wile E. Coyote level of scheming, as well as assistance in the form of newest recruit Junkyard, who brings ALL the dog puns with him.

I think the action figures are all together now. Time to introduce more vehicles and accessories, don't you think?
"I remember how easy it was to throw my own dear mother out of the house. She weighed practically nothing" - Mayor Grody

Toxic Crusaders 4: Tree Trouble ***


Now the characters and premise have been adequately established, each episode can involve a new spin on the Smogulans' thwarted invasions of New Jersey before their lease expires. This time, (Doctor) Killemoff surprises his enemies by turning over a new leaf, cleaning up the city and building an impenetrable dome over the top, before pumping the smog back out and revealing that he did stay evil after all.

They go plenty overboard with fourth-wall-breaking, to the extent that Mop saves the day by reading the script and Major Disaster's powers over nature extend to the recycling plant because it's a 'plant.' I wonder how they justify that when the show's translated into other languages where the wordplay salvation doesn't apply.

Somehow the characters are all genius inventors now too. Good job they have such distinctive appearances, or I wouldn't be able to tell them apart.
"It's clean-up time! Hey, there's a battle cry we can use for the rest of the series" - Toxie

Toxic Crusaders 5: Pollution Solution ***


Major Disaster gets to hook up while the bad guys concoct a plan to reverse photosynthesis that actually has educational value. Imagine that!

The show cynically merchandises itself in-universe with bubblegum trading cards and a catchy anthem, and there's a specific reference to their Ninja Turtle rivals as they take a shortcut through a sewer.
"We're young, we're free and we're radioactive - who can ask for anything more?" - Toxie

Toxic Crusaders 6: A Sight for Sore Eyes **


The unpleasant, downtrodden Mayor Grody gets a chance to shine as he wheels and deals to keep the Crusaders out of their waste dump home so (Doctor) Killemoff can turn it into a smog plant or something. The bad guys' schemes are all basically variations on a theme.

No-Zone gets a temporary love interest, which unfortunately for him is just Psycho in drag (again). For some reason, the Smogulan leader can breathe fine in Earth's atmosphere even though (Doctor) Killemoff needs that breathing apparatus. He's also a lot smaller than the Doctor and can float in the air, but for some reason that seemed like less of a contradiction.

The Toxic Crusaders don't really use any of their super powers, which must have been a bit disappointing for kids. Their preferred methods of dealing with their enemies are staging protests and amplifying sound, which I guess is at least more responsible than violence.
"The way to a man's heart is through his lower intestine" - Yvonne

Toxic Crusaders 7: Mr. Earth - Superhero ***


These plots are formulaic even for an early 90s toy-shilling Saturday morning cartoon. Today's nefarious, doomed scheme involves using Tromaville's consumerism against it by sneaking smog-producing thingummies into every home, but this ends up being abandoned in favour of sending a giant boot to crush the mall and breaking out the Radiation Rangers again.

The difference this time is that the Toxic Crusaders are temporarily joined by self-styled superhero Mr. Earth, who isn't deformed and doesn't have any powers apart from being able to recite the alphabet backwards (like no one else can), and ends up causing more problems than he solves. Even when he inevitably saves the day and redeems himself, on balance the destruction of the mall would have been preferable to the widespread chaos.

I did like No-Zone pointing out that Yvonne's rousing theme song is technically inaccurate, and insisting on correcting this inaccuracy each time like a pedantic child.
"Tried a couple of others: Dirt Guy, Ground Guy, World Person, but nope, just liked Mr. Earth the best" - Mr. Earth

Toxic Crusaders 8: Toxie Ties the Knot ***


Guest villain this week is Czar Zosta's irritating daughter, whose obsessive hunt for any available husband of any species or mutation adds another non-progressive layer to this show's generally fantastic presentation of women.

As usual, the show ignores its own concept by showing that all Smogulans apart from Doctor Killemoff can breathe Earth's non-polluted atmosphere just fine. No one really cares. They nicked the flying alien hot rod from the Turtles too.
"You're not losing a daughter, you're gaining a mop-wielding, toxically-disfigured, tutu-wearing mutant" - Doctor Killemoff

Toxic Crusaders 9: Invasion of the Biddy Snatchers ***


The jokes at the expense of fogeys continue in earnest, as Tromaville's mature population (just the women?) is replaced with Smogulan clones (they can do that now?) identifiable only by their tell-tale extra arms.

Toxie's repetitively aware of the fourth wall again, and for want of an original ending they all battle against a batch of laser-blasting Radiation Rangers and win easily. The story has quite a nice mother's day message, but the ultimate message is still 'have you bought these toys yet?'
"I don't know, but I have a feeling it has something to do with the main plot of this story" - Toxie

Toxic Crusaders 10: The Snail Must Go Through ****


This is probably the best episode, in that the jokes work a little better and there's a little more originality to the plot, even if that mainly involves the villains' dastardly plan to pollute the city taking place underwater rather than on land. I'll take what I can get.

The guest hero of the week is more impressive than the earlier Mr. Earth too, since he's another hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength, and thus a prospective action figure. Snail Man is the result of a racing driver falling into some snails and... something magic and counter-educational happening. Don't play in toxic waste, kids. Seriously.

I don't know if Snail Man or the painfully inserted Toxic Wing glider did have toys, but if not, I don't know why they would exist.
"Let's escar-go!" - Snail Man

Toxic Crusaders 11: Nab That Toxie Cab **


The heroes and the villains both make use of cars to further their respective ends. For the bad guys, a monster truck is apparently a sure-fire way to kill the meddling Toxic Crusaders by... squashing them or something? For the Crusaders themselves, they use their cobbled-together sentient restoration as an unhygienic taxi service to help out the community. They're really nice guys, and they teach us the perils of second hand smoke too.

Yvonne gets heartbroken for a bit when she thinks her disgusting, mutant boyfriend is cheating on her, but it turns out it was just the car all along.
"I thought this sort of thing only happened in cartoons" - Doctor Killemoff

Toxic Crusaders 12: Still Crazy After All These Shears ***


Mayor Grody surprises everyone by turning over a green leaf and distributing seeds to homes around the city, despite having previously pretended to be a goodie in a recent episode already. I guess the people of Tromaville are just depressingly stupid, which might be a side-effect of all that toxic waste nearby. That could also be to blame for the full beards sported by Lloyd's wife and kids.

It turns out that the seeds contained sotophynthesis plants that do 'the reverse' of regular photosynthesis, even though the reverse of photosynthesis is not growing killer vines at a rapid rate that later combine to form a rampaging three-headed monster. This stuff pretty much happened to the Turtles too.

There's another action figure/villain-of-the-week in the form of Mower Man, who's like a crude Edward Scissorhands and really shouldn't have been hired by the bad guys to help out in their plot that relied on plants not being mowed. Like I said, it's all that radiation.
"Everyone has the right to his, her or its opinion. Even an overweight, basically corrupt mayor" - Toxie

Toxic Crusaders 13: That's No Villain, That's My Mom ***


Bender invents a mind-swapping machine to finally escape his acquired conjoined twin Fender, but of course it ends up in enemy hands, and when Doctor Killemoff hires Toxie's Mom as his secretary, their distinctive personalities are exchanged with predictable consequences.

This wasn't intended to be the final episode produced before the show failed to be picked up for any more, but there are at least some signs of progression from episode one. Czar Zosta is fed up with Doctor Killemoff's incompetence, though inevitably fails to distinguish himself yet again, and the good Doctor finally shuts Psycho up before he can predict the events of the plot with uncanny accuracy. If only he'd listened to the guy in the first place, he would have been rid of those meddling, hideously deformed creatures of superhuman size and strength a long time ago.
"Why doesn't anyone ever listen?" - Psycho




Bucky O'Hare 1: War of the Warts ***


I had to choose something uncomplicated and lightweight after ploughing through nine seasons of The X-Files, and this largely forgotten, inconsequential space cartoon about anthropomorphised toads fighting anthropomorphised mammals (plus a duck) seemed like a good idea at the time. I say forgotten and inconsequential, but this show came along at exactly the right time in my development to be an integral part of my childhood nostalgia. 28 years old I was (actually, I would have been about 7).

I remember feeling with some certainty, as those fantastic opening titles began, that this would probably be my new favourite show, usurping the Ninja Turtles and even Count Duckula. Then the intro was over and the episode didn't really live up to it, then it was cancelled after one series. I still kinda liked it.

This originated in a comic (I had the first issue this episode was adapted from) and it doubtless works a lot better in that format. The character and spaceship designs are the best thing about it, spawning a line of toys whose popularity seemed to greatly exceed that of the show itself, at my school at least, but the quality of the animation doesn't live up to it. The plot itself pays homage to (i.e. lazily reuses) a load of sci-fi action cliches - a needlessly villainous warlord, his noble antagonist the hero, galactic politics, occupied worlds, asteroids, boarding parties and Bucky's crew of the wild card gunner, the engineer, the muscle and the girl one, who also has psychic powers and we're presumably supposed to find sexy. But this cat's no Cheetara, that would just be sick.

There's also a secondary plot involving child prodigy Willy Duwitt, who's tormented in his own world by unrealistic bullies who are irritated that the boy genius is setting math standards too high. I always 'got' the joke in his name, but never understood what 'it' it referred to - if it's asking "will he switch on a photon accelerator for his science project and get transported into a parallel universe populated by sentient space animals" the answer is, yes he will.

It's a kid's show and this is the opening set-up. I didn't expect it to be brilliant or anything. But there's enough theft from 'real' sci-fi to keep me watching and they occasionally throw in something that makes me laugh, like the relentless animal rights activism of Willy's parents and the tendency to repeat Bucky O'Hare's name and the name of his crappy ship the Righteous Indignation to drill it into impressionable childrens' heads in time for their Christmas lists. I was always jealous that I didn't have the toys. I liked Blinky best.
"No fly-sucking, slimy crooking piece of sludge toad is taking over my
planet!" - Bucky O'Hare

Bucky O'Hare 2: A Fistful of Simoleans **


The story continues as we're vicariously told all about the history of the toads under control of the genuinely creepy KOMPLEX computer and visit Bucky's home world Warren under toad occupation. Nothing in this show is remarkably original - apart from maybe some of the character designs, which as I said last time are the best thing about it by miles - but this was one of my earliest introductions to science fiction and at the very least taught me words like 'mothership' and 'photon.'

A few new action figures I mean characters debut in this middle section of the trilogy, including Toad Borg, Captain Dogstar and Al Negator - another rubbish, irrelevant pun name like Willy Duwitt. At least they're consistent. I think you could buy the Toad Croaker shuttle too.

Do I really have to watch all of these? A pointless commitment's still a commitment.
"Once the toads were a harmless race with a passion for accumulating shoddily made consumer goods at inflated prices" - Narrator

Bucky O'Hare 3: The Good, the Bad and the Warty ***


The action-packed third part of this opening trilogy is admittedly pretty fun and again chock full of cliches that kids won't realise are cliches, unless they've seen the Star Wars films that are dipped in and out of as reference points.

Nearly all the characters are given something to do that demonstrates their worth, from Willy's computer skills to Deadeye's piloting, Bruiser's mindless violence, Bucky's laser blasting and absurd putdowns (threatening to turn Toad Borg into "smorgasbord") and Jenny's psychic abilities and breast swells that are featured a little too prominently if you ask me. Seriously, she's a cat. And a drawing. Stop it.

Only Blinky doesn't really do anything, and with Deadeye around he can't reasonably claim lack of depth perception as an excuse. Willy returns home to his humdrum life where he isn't shot at, imprisoned and faced with certain death every three minutes. He'll be back.
"I want all your willies!" - Al Negator

Bucky O'Hare 4: Home, Swampy, Home **


This series is still following a serialised plot, even as episodes start to stand alone. That's nice for consistency and a little unexpected, and doubtless would have gone to hell if this show had been a greater success, expanded to 100 daily episodes in its second season and pulled every cliche it could out of the bag until kids forgot there had originally been quite a coherent plot (see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Thundercats and doubtless plenty of other syndicated cartoons from around this time).

In this episode, Bucky busts his bunny brethren out of prison after consulting with his mentor in a cave on a swamp planet who definitely wasn't inspired by Yoda and with the aid of a bizarrely convincing old man disguise consisting of a cloak, beard and eyepatch. He's a green rabbit.

A potential love interest shows up in the form of Captain LaFloo, who's literally a fox so they make the "foxy" "joke" at least three times, the guy who puts on a distinctive voice for Deadeye Duck puts on the same distinctive voice for a random toad soldier proving that there's no quality control whatsoever and the whole thing is drenched in a mind-numbing synthesised soundtrack ripped straight from a contemporary Sega CD game. You could say the novelty of re-watching this show more than 20 years down the line has worn off already.
"May humble android ask name of new starship?" - Blinky forgets he used to know grammar

Bucky O'Hare 5: On the Blink ***


A few more unoriginal sci-fi cliches were presumably introduced to me by this episode as a kid, from lazy reliance on the Rigel star system whenever a writer needs an alien-sounding planet to androids being reprogrammed and ships being sent on a collision course with the sun. Actually, I might have seen that on Thunderbirds first.

Blinky finally gets to do something useful as he's sent to hack into systems aboard a toad ship, only to be immediately captured by the far superior (and disproportionately larger) Toad Borg. He's the best villain of the series, setting genuinely smart plans in motion that actually rely on the ineptitude of the Air Marshall and his lackeys - the Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady of this universe. I'd say that makes Toad Borg the Krang, but Krang was pretty ridiculous too.

Bucky's crew continues to call on the services of a vulnerable child when they need some engineering to be done in the midst of a life-and-death battle and the child gets repeatedly shot at again. This would be really irresponsible if the toads weren't such reliably poor shots.
"I found him smacked off his gyroscope" - Bruiser

Bucky O'Hare 6: Kreation Konspiracy **


This series has taken a turn for the boring. I guess it's still pretty good sci-fi by kid standards, revealing more about the creation of Komplex and its rebellion against its creators and introducing some wacky gadgets like the matter transmuter that can turn anything into anything else, but there was a lot less mindless blasting and clobbering this time, apart from in the opening titles that are still the best part.

Willy's dragged out of his comfortable high school life and drafted into a dangerous situation again for little to no reason, useless Blinky gets captured again and there's an octopus with the least octopus-like voice I've ever heard. I know octopuses don't actually have voices, but you know what I mean. They didn't even try.
"Calamity and woe!" - Blinky

Bucky O'Hare 7: The Komplex Caper **


These stories are starting to get repetitive now. It's almost as if they're not as concerned with crafting a genre-defining children's action sci-fi series as covertly marketing a load of poorly selling toys or something.

After the last episode revealed the origins of the Komplex computer, this one threatens to see its demise. Except that would mean the end of the series, so they just switch it off for a week. The repetition of themes and ideas at least makes for some consistent plotting, as Komplex makes the logical leap of extending his power over the toads to all species in the Aniverse, through a process I can just about get my head around as a sci-fi-hardened 28-year-old but that would have gone completely over my head as a child. As Komplex explains in layman's terms, a reconnaissance satellite has been modified to piggyback TV signals on accelerated photons to drain the brain waves of viewers and alter their signals to instil obedience. Couldn't they have just said "brainwashing?"

Thankfully, they make up for the technobabble by having Bucky fly around the satellite zapping robots, so you can pretend you're watching an extended version of the ace opening titles with duller music. This whole series has a self-destructive anti-TV message in general.
"I intend to penetrate Komplex and I need your help" - Bucky O'Hare

Bucky O'Hare 8: The Search for Bruce **


The crew is visited by an apparition of Bruiser's brother Bruce, who vanished back in the first episode when the photon accelerator was damaged and Willy showed up. This is some surprising continuity for such an action figure oriented show - it seems like they were really trying at times. Either that or they're already completely out of fresh ideas and scouring through their own limited back catalogue for inspiration.

Another week, another deadly Toad machine that has to be destroyed at all costs. Jenny's integral to their escape a second time but has to hide her powers from her crewmates as usual, so she doesn't get the credit she deserves and remains just the girl one. At least they've stopped fixating on her breasts now.
"O, misery and wretchedness!" - Blinky

Bucky O'Hare 9: Corsair Canards **


That's nice, we've started branching out from plots involving the toads and their xenophobic digital overlord to instead explore the background of other characters - this time Deadeye Duck with the appearance of other four-armed pirate ducks. I have a bad feeling this means Jenny will get her own episode soon.

Hanging out with these pirates gives us a chance to see a different side of the aniverse, and they even mix in some cons-piracy with a weird tacked-on sub-plot about a newt controlling a walrus. I guess the story came in a few minutes under time.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans should enjoy the familiar effect of some of the ducks randomly changing colour as the artists forget what they're doing, and apparently Willy Duwitt now has superhuman hand-eye coordination and is great with a frisbee. Where did that come from?
"Maybe it is time I changed my ways" - Corsair Canard's realistic dialogue

Bucky O'Hare 10: The Artificers of Aldebaran ***


The inevitable Jenny episode threatened to be a new low point for the series, which hasn't exactly been stellar so far. But as it turned into a high-concept space fantasy, this ended up being more entertaining than the average toad-croaking antics.

When Willy unintentionally learns about the magic of Jenny's people, he tags along as Jenny speeds to the rescue of an Aldebaran princess who's gone on an irresponsibly high-stakes quest to prove herself inside the dramatically named Dark Heart Nebula. Unfortunately, the toads coincidentally learn about the powerful nebula at this exact moment (the aniverse isn't a big place, evidently) and Toad Borg flies into it to sap its power, awaken the Ancient Father of All Quarks and not shoot anyone or really be any kind of threat aside from his meddling. He's lost it.

There's plenty of Trek-style technobabble to go over kid's heads, from ionic disturbances to mazer cannons, whatever the hell they are. The strangest part is when Jenny arbitrarily decides the situation is too dangerous for Willy and wants to send him back home, despite being the one who summoned him repeatedly in their times of greatest danger. Bloody cats.
"I will drink the power of the stars themselves!" - Toad Borg

Bucky O'Hare 11: The Warriors **


Samurai salamanders and ninja ducks feature in this episode, which means exaggerated Japanese accents and tired debates about honour. The salamanders all wear exactly the same outfit for ease of action figure translation and the ninja duck is like something ripped straight out of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the difference being they're actually allowed to show him using nunchaku, whereas Michelangelo had to rely on projectile food once the censors disapproved of weaponry.

Deadeye also does a load of shooting without actually hitting anyone, because that would be murder. He's basically revealed to be massively incompetent when he's not shooting at spaceships. Must be the lack of depth perception.

There's a significant shift in the status quo as the Toad Air Marshall is relieved of his rank... only to be reinstated before the end when his replacements turn out to be even more incompetent. Willy DuWitt is kidnapped again, but he brings it on himself really.
"Honour is for fools" - Sly Leezard

Bucky O'Hare 12: Bye Bye Berserker Baboon **


As we work our way through the ethnic backgrounds of each of Bucky's crew, it's time for a more in-depth look at Bruiser and Bruce's people, the Berserker Baboons. They're not much of a surprise after spending time with Bruiser, especially considering most of them have his exact same voice (maybe they all come from a very tight-knit family, it would explain a lot), but at least we get some pleasant jungle scenery to break up the starscapes and motherships.

Komplex and Toad Borg again demonstrate their capacity for smart, reasoned thinking as they solve the problem of toads panicking in the presence of baboons with some magic goggles. As ever, this non-foolproof plan is foiled by their foolish minions. Komplex really should have chosen someone other than the toads to be his obedient slave race.

Meanwhile, Willy becomes hot when he stands up for himself. They're still persevering with the rubbish Earth high school bits, can anyone be watching for that? Let's hook him up with a cat or something.
"A-yoooo-gaaaa" - Willy DuWitt

Bucky O'Hare 13: The Taking of Pilot Jenny ***


It's the end of the season and the series, so time to face the final boss as Komplex builds himself a suit and waddles clumsily around for a while before inevitably exploding. What was the point?

Bucky and crew concoct a fiendish plan to get one over on the toads and free Warren, but intentionally keep Willy in the dark and fearing for his life and the fate of the Aniverse because his realistic tears would be more convincing. There have been hints before, but this is all the evidence needed to build a strong case of child abuse on their part.

No one gives a hoot about Blinky either, who's captured along with Jenny but doesn't get a name check from anyone. Poor metal sod, at least he was put out of his misery when the series wasn't renewed. Fin.
"Creating chaos is normally inefficient, but not this time" - Blinky




SpaceVets 2x09 The Shrunken Brain **


It stands to reason that I would have enjoyed this Junior Red Dwarf when I watched it as a kid (7-9), but never all that much really. It was no Watt on Earth. It can't have helped that I was already watching Real Red Dwarf at the same time, thanks to excellent bad parenting, and I probably found the minor gag thefts annoying even then.

The last time I sought out SpaceVets to destroy more of my childhood nostalgia, I couldn't find it online. Since that time, a helpful YouTuber has diligently pointed a camera at his TV and uploaded the sole VHS compilation they released. The episodes aren't in any meaningful order and the quality's appalling. Let's dive in!

This wasn't the strongest episode to start on. The premise is similar to all those Red Dwarfs where Kryten makes a thing and it puts them in deadly peril with hilarious consequences. Namely, the teenage captain makes a shrinking ray and gets eaten by a puppet space dog that's hilariously called a "Bulgogi." I can't argue with the logic that the names of Korean dishes would sound suitably extraterrestrial to a '90s British child.

These are only about 12 minutes long, so there's not a lot else to it. The puppet work is quite nice, but I hope I get to see more of those model shots in the coming installments. I'm looking forward to the possibility of recognising an actual episode too.
"How was I supposed to know the captain was going to make himself snack-sized?" - Dogsbody

SpaceVets 2x03 Riddle of the Sands ***


This two-part story is a better example of the show at its (presumed) peak, and more like the sort of thing you'd preserve for posterity on your sole video release than that mediocre shrinking one.

Responding to an urgent plague outbreak, the SpaceVets are actually doing their jobs this time. At least they are for a few seconds, before Two looks out of the window and crashes them into a wasteland.

This is a good episode for the Rik Mayall-faced Rimmer stand-in, who's shown to be spiteful, greedy and selfish even when his friends are in mortal peril (to be fair, in the last episode he didn't even try to hide his delight at the captain's imminent death and the prospect of his promotion). He doesn't even really learn a lesson in the next part, only doing his job and helping the injured when it serves his interest.

Speaking of which, this is one twisted situation they've found themselves in. It seems like parties unknown have maimed a bunch of innocent Winnypigs (sp?) to put their visitors through a nonsensical Crystal Maze type challenge. Hopefully it'll all make sense in the end...
"We are stuck underground, we have no water, and if we don't die of thirst it'll only be because we starved to death first" - Number Two

SpaceVets 2x04 Caves of Doom **


It didn't make a lot of sense, really. It's not a bad joke ending, but I don't understand why the SpaceVets are only mildly cheesed off. They should be infuriated at these sickos, keeping a perpetual supply of injured Wynnypygs (sp?) on standby on the off chance someone crashes into this exact part of their barren planet where this pointless enterprise has been set up.

And what about the other Winhyephygges (sp?) that needed those emergency supplies to fight off that plague all those hours ago? How many have died through Dogsbody's error?

Never mind all that, there's loads of green poo and squelchy farts! HAHAHAHA!!!! I think this is one of the ones that works better when you're eight.
- "What's that?"
- "It's a big pile of poo, sir" - Pubble and Mona

SpaceVets 2x10 Menace of the Machines ***


The vets are replaced one by one with inept robot duplicates. It was bound to happen sooner or later, and even though the child audience probably weren't sick to death of the trope yet, they still play it for laughs. Or maybe they're just making patronisingly sure you know what's going on.

The best thing about this one is the creative puppets. I assumed The Miasma (dun, dun, dun) and her pessimistic Scouse lizard sidekick thing were the series' main antagonists when they showed up. But no, they're just the baddies of the week, given way more attention to detail than one-off characters in most grown-up shows. It's borderline Farscape.
"This is slightly annoying. This is slightly annoying" - Robot Two

SpaceVets 2x06 Sunday Rotten Sunday ***


Thus ends my brief VHS-filmed-off-of-a-TV-screen reacquaintance with Junior Red Dwarf, and you know what? It wasn't bad at all. And not that much like Red Dwarf either. It knocks the measly Watt on Earth into a deerstalker-covering-its-backwards/green-ears hat.

There isn't much intergalactic veterinary practice on show as the crew takes some time off, but things are still exciting thanks to an attack by a slightly sexy space pirate queen and a time travel watch that Dogsbody rather conveniently picks up at a jumble sale. What, does the kid have to invent everything? Just go with it.
"Right, wrong, who's to say? Is that the only reason you can come up with?" - Dogsbody



Watt on Earth 1x01 **


Wow, Pip and Jane Baker! Infamously the worst writers of that long-running sci-fi series your channel recently killed off for another decade or so. It's nice that the BBC sometimes gives things a chance, even if their decisions don't always make sense.

I actually have fond memories of this (though mainly from the second series), but even through the rose-hued fog of innocence, I didn't expect it to be good or anything. I'm hoping it gets a bit scary at least, though at the moment Jemadah's just giving me warm nostalgia. All baddies should be accompanied by a theme song that reminds you of their name in every scene.

The titular alien is called Watt, and he's literally on Earth. If you don't get it yet, Pip & Jane rub their brilliant pun in your face until you do. Watt can transanimateobjectify into any object, but he always gets things slightly wrong. Like the backwards ears that prevent him from going out in public. Can't he just make a bandana like Spock?
"Don't germs taste nice?" - Watt

Watt on Earth 1x02 **


The episode begins with an unexciting car/bicycle chase that ends abruptly when Jemadah gets stuck in mild traffic. I could keep mentioning the sinister paedophilia parallels as an old man stalks a child relentlessly, but let's take that as read from now on.

Unperturbed by the out-of-this-world activity he's been reluctantly mixed up in, Sean continues to run trivial errands for his family. I have a feeling this is going to be less gripping than I remembered.
"I've transanimateobjectified too often too quickly" - Watt

Watt on Earth 1x03 **


We slowly start to piece together Watt's background, but the episode is mainly concerned with infantile-alien-prince-out-of-water gags as Watt needs to find something palatable to give him the energy to transanimateobjectify. I have a vicarious Proustian memory of him eating the dog food and squirty cream bap.
"You have my assurance, Regent Protector, before this Earth day is out, your nephew will be destroyed!" - Jemadah

Watt on Earth 1x04 ***


This is where things start to get scary. If you're six, anyway.

Watt learns about the threat to his life, and deduces what happened to his parents. More pressingly, Sean's family is now in danger too, thanks to the intruder they're unknowingly sheltering, and we get our first worthwhile cliffhanger as they're gassed to... well, presumably not death. But what if you didn't catch the next one?

There are some lessons for kids in there too: don't trust smoke alarms or salesmen educated in Latin.
"Black holes and quasars!" - Watt

Watt on Earth 1x05 *


Having narrowly escaped being burned alive, Watt hides in his child friend's bedroom, takes all his clothes off and makes a secret den overlooking his bed.

Meanwhile, Jemadah dresses up as a clown and uses a false identity to sneak his way behind-the-scenes at a pre-teen princess pageant.

I said I was going to stop it, but not until Pip & Jane do.
"If they had a chart for pests, you'd be number one" - Sean Ruddock

Watt on Earth 1x06 **


That farty synth soundtrack is starting to get on my nerves now. I understand why these were limited to 15 minutes a piece. Oh look, it's turned into a prescient X-Files-esque whistle now. This must be where Chris Carter got all his ideas from.

You can tell I didn't have much to say about this installment initially, though it gets interesting when we learn that Jemadah can transanimatepersonify, and is much more skilled at mimicry than Watt. But that's not saying much. Then there's an unbearably tense cliffhanger as Watt's Amulet of Vitalis is sent on a little jaunt and has to be retrieved in less than an hour before he DIES!
"You've never heard of Vanilla Ice?!" - Zoe Ruddock

Watt on Earth 1x07 **


Sean's cocky plan hits a puncture. He eventually succeeds in luring Jemadah away for the foreseeable future, but only after Watt nearly DIES. He got better.

And now the baddie's out of the picture, are we just going to have episode after episode of daft-alien-trying-to-understand-Earthlings gags now?

Yes.
"Being boiled alive isn't exactly my idea of an adventure" - Watt

Watt on Earth 1x08 **


Watt transanimateobjectifies into a bank card and commits fraud to save the Ruddock family paper. Fortunately for compliance, Sean explains how money works and Watt returns it. And the family ends up benefiting from his misdeed anyway, but then donate their reward to charity, so Watt's mischief ended up with the bank helping out the hospital. Look kids, crime's ace.

If only the Ruddocks knew the truth about the strange man sleeping in their son's bedroom, who was responsible for them getting asphyxiated that time, what a story they'd have then, ha ha ha!
"You, Watt, are a bank robber" - Sean Ruddock

Watt on Earth 1x09 *


Watt goes to his first football match, with hilarious consequences. Sean continues to teach the 300-year-old child to be responsible, and he finally learns his lesson when he's nearly baked alive.

I wish Jemadah would get back from Newcastle, this is just Mike & Angelo now.
"What's this? A teenage mutant football boot?" - Zoe Ruddock

Watt on Earth 1x10 **


Watt reads Sherlock Holmes and roleplays. Didn't this used to have a plot?

Mercifully, an interplanetary slip-up at the end means the J-Man is back on his case. This thing really didn't need to run to 12 parts.
"Watson? I haven't got a son" - Watt

Watt on Earth 1x11 **


The evil Jemadah is on his way, and 'coincidentally,' a self-appointed poltergeist buster arrives at the Ruddock household and is oddly insistent on searching it for paranormal signs. He's even more eager to do a bit of impromptu carpentry when he spots a faulty stool that just happens to be Watt in disguise.

I mean, it seems obvious that he's Jemadah, but why is he beating around the bush so ridiculously? Why doesn't he just gas them all again? Or just shoot them? I can't see any problems arising from that.
"Anything you'd like to say to it before the amputation?" - Zoe Ruddock

Watt on Earth 1x12 ***


When another suspicious character shows up, it dawns on Watt and Sean that anyone could be the chameleonic Jemadah and they should trust no one. More evidence that The X-Files was basically an exact remake of this.

It's an impressive development, it's just a shame that it took until the cliffhanger-end of the series for Pip & Jane to start treating their young sci-fi viewers with respect. Apart from the bit where Jemadah effortlessly crushes metal with her bare hands but then can't kick down a wooden door.
"I've done it! I've done it! I've got through!" - Watt

Watt on Earth 2x01 **


I have stronger memories of the pink tracksuit series - I think because I saw it repeated more often, rather than it just being one year less distant. At the time, I interpreted Watt's comment about his green ears to mean that his outfit had ended up flesh coloured, but now I realise that's ridiculous.

This is also how I remember Jemadah - an unsettling, amorphous presence only visible below the wrist like Dr. Claw in Inspector Gadget, keeping us guessing as he body-snatches the unsuspecting village folk. I hope he sticks around for more of it this time and we don't return to hilarious low-key shenanigans.
"What on Earth?" - Sean Ruddock

Watt on Earth 2x02 ***


The insatiable Watt applies for the position of waiter at the bakery, but his wily pursuer has beaten him to it and adopted the form of its eccentric owner. He'll soon regret not killing and burying the original, but Children's BBC might have had something to say about that.

It only took 14 episodes and over a year, but the two aliens finally meet face-to-face in a tense stand-off... before Jemadah is abruptly transported away again, even further than last time. So I guess we're in for more comedy filler episodes until he makes his way back from Australia for another disappointing round. Black holes and quasars!
"Oh, that's great, that is. My only friend on Earth thinks my enemy is 'brilliant'" - Watt

Watt on Earth 2x03 **


From Jemadah trying to kill Watt and taking Sean hostage, we lower our peril threshold to a pair of overconfident con artists duping old ladies out of their antiques. Watt plays Sherlock again. Cumberbatch has nothing to worry about.
"Almost like a creature from outer space. Quite a sense of humour, whoever made this" - Raymond Drabble

Watt on Earth 2x04 **


Wow, you're really continuing the antique crooks plot? Okay, I guess there are 12 episodes to fill. It's at least pleasant to see Watt interacting more in the real world now, always with the deerstalker hiding his atypical ears of course. You know how prejudiced village folk are.
"Mmm, corned beef. And honey" - Watt

Watt on Earth 2x05 **


Sean's friend is sleeping over, which means Watt has to stay extra quiet as he lurks in the cupboard above the two pre-adolescent boys. Before you can dwell on this too much, Jemadah arrives back in town and it becomes a paranoid witch hunt again, training us to be suspicious of every unfamiliar child's nonconformist habits.

There's an amusing moral lesson as Sean tries to persuade his friend not to thoughtlessly blast aliens on the Sega MegaDrive just because they're different, but Oliver remains staunchly xenomorphophobic. Are you sure Carl Sagan didn't write this?
"My flabber's completely ghasted" - Sean Ruddock

Watt on Earth 2x06 ***


Sean's probing inquisition seems to prove that his buddy is not an evil shapeshifting alien, so that must be one of the other kids who've spent the day putting together the newspaper's youth supplement under the tutelage of the ceaselessly annoying Zoe. I'll say this for Jemadah, he's patient. Pointlessly so, you might say.

Sean's solution to sniff out the intruder is commendably smart, but does rely on your memory stretching back to a throwaway scene in one of the early episodes from more than a year ago. Luckily I've been binge-watching. I'm sure the kids were fine.

Then Watt finds himself at the mercy of Jemadah and has to prove whether he's a hero or a coward in the best cliffhanger yet. I wish they were all like this, but the seven-year-old me would probably have had a nervous breakdown.
"My blundering idiot of a nephew is making fools of us both" - Regent Protector

Watt on Earth 2x07 **


As luck would have it, Jemadah doesn't just want to kill Watt any more (or never did, if you don't mind discontinuity). He specifically needs his life-sustaining amulet, which means he's safe as long as he doesn't revert to his human form. Which is nothing like his true form, so why does he only wear it when... forget it, if it didn't bother me in 1992, I can let it go now.

Less forgivable is a boy calling Sonic the Hedgehog one of "the latest video games" in 1992. You wouldn't get away with that kind of lax attention to detail nowadays. I've forgotten entire characters and story arcs from this series, but even decades later I could have told you with absolute certainty that there was a scene featuring Green Hill Zone Act 1, it was quite exciting for a Sonic obsessive.

I like how whoever was in charge of recording that footage didn't even bother to make it part way into the level before hitting record. Just let the demo run and get it over with, a few of the kids won't notice.
"You cause enough havoc on land without letting you loose on water" - Sean Ruddock

Watt on Earth 2x08 ***


A bracing day out by the sea is spoiled slightly when Jemadah freezes the Ruddocks in time, but they get better and no one notices. Meanwhile, Watt has adventures with RC helicopters, trains and automobiles, and to top it all, his cover's finally blown. This was a fun one.
"I'll find you, my royal prince, harboured on false hopes. You'll have made a mistake, whatever form you've transanimateobjectified into" - Jemadah

Watt on Earth 2x09 **


Watt's nocturnal appearance is chalked up to an ordinary ghost, so that's fine then. Zoe tries a little busting with a tape recorder, but that's easily foiled. Four episodes from the end, and that character still hasn't had a break. The actress was probably a bit frustrated.

Jemadah pulls the wool over everyone's eyes again with his latest cunning disguise, including me. But to be fair, I didn't suspect that was him in the earlier scenes because it's hard to understand why he does anything he does. He had ample opportunity to kill Watt or steal his bracelet, but he just messed around with a tape measure instead. This had better be building to something good.
"Civil war is inevitable" - Regent Protector

Watt on Earth 2x10 ***


It didn't. Jemadah pays for concocting a crackpot, convoluted scheme by losing his amulet and dying a slow, painful-looking death. That'll teach him, when he inevitably recovers next time.
"Every squeak, every rattle, every creak of the stairs. Will it be Sean returning with a lemon curd and pickle sandwich? Or will it be him - Jemadah!" - Sean Ruddock

Watt on Earth 2x11 **


The civil war apparently erupting off-world on Watt's homeworld is a bit hard to connect with, much like the rest of Watt's background. Maybe the whole thing is just Sean's overactive imagination after all. The series would be considerably more interesting if that was a real possibility, but I thought about it for a second and there's just too much evidence that Watt really is on Earth. It's just cheaper to set your programme in a child's bedroom rather than on the battlefields of light beings overlooked by a black hole.

Surprise surprise, it turns out Jemadah inexplicably isn't dead and is besieging Watt inside the Ruddock home, unable to change his form, ready for the final showdown. Let's get it over with.
"Jemadah's bombarding the house with anti-neutrons! I'm trapped!" - Watt

Watt on Earth 2x12 ***


Prepare yourself for another bicycle vs limo chase, even less exciting than the last one, as Jemadah sticks to the speed limit and Sean and Watt dismount for the no-cycling footpaths.

They get away eventually, and Watt yellows up as a disguise, which was apparently still okay in 1992. Zoe spoils things when she alerts Jemadah to their whereabouts - no last-minute redemption for that character then - but Watt is the ultimate victor and finally has a word with his parent-butchering uncle too.

Oh... this is Hamlet, isn't it? Only with more Frumdecker Pie.
"Standing up to him is my only chance" - Watt

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