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Underneath that hat, he's really a beautiful woman. The Masters of the Universe Chronicles:
Episode IX: Orko's Return

Matt - 4.02.02




Yesterday, we took a look at My Little Pony, so today we've gotta run back to He-Man to ensure sex equality. I haven't done a MOTU Chronicle since July, so if you're new to the site, here's the deal: He-Man cartoons were a big part of a lot of our childhoods, but retrospectively, nearly every episode doubled as an unintentional comedy because the plots and dialogue are so asinine that you completely overlook the fact that fishmen and people with skull heads shouldn't make much sense anyway. Counting Secret of the Sword, this is the tenth episode I've reviewed, and no matter how many times I try to convince myself that we've hit the plateau and things can't get any more ridiculous, I find one like this: Orko's Return, a throwaway show that forces He-Man to save the house pets of giant insectoid robots so they'll grant him access to a mega-weapon he doesn't need.

Fortunately for all involved, intelligence and logic wasn't the charm of Masters of the Universe. Today's toons can be divided into two categories: funny toons, and serious toons that try to be hip. It gets so tedious that we're willing to go back in time to find something different, even if that something is a bit crappy and uses the same animation patterns 40x per show. Even if that something almost always utilizes narrative dialogue by the participants in a fight sequence. Even if that something's main stars all wear underwear outside of their pants. Friends, that something is He-Man.


The Masters of the Universe Chronicles
Episode IX: Orko's Return


This is one of those off episodes where Skeletor didn't appear - I can only assume Alan Oppenheimer didn't want to develop throat cancer voicing that guy for thirteen episodes straight per season, and requested some time off here and there. Instead, our villainous foils today come in the form of Beast-Man and Trap-Jaw, because hyphens equal power and Hordak wasn't even in production sketches yet. The deal here is that these two morons decided it was high time that they went into business for themselves. Why, you ask? I'm not really sure. None of the villains were ever after money, and these two never showed even a remote interest in the secrets of Greyskull. So whatever 'business' it is they're looking to go into, it's obviously not the same as Skeletor's. Perhaps they want to run a knish stand on the skirts of Eternia's desert. An evil knish stand.

Whatever their plans may be, they've decided they need ultimate power to accomplish them. So they steal the elusive and almighty Amber Amulet from Evil-Lyn, make a giant fortress, and kidnap Orko. And with that, they've already run the gamut of chapters 1-6 of Be Your Own Boss: A Manual For Self-Propietorship. If they keep this up, they'll have the most successful evil knish stand ever.


A flying crystal ball with Beast-Man's head in it ends up in King Randor's throne room in Eternia, and the bad guys demand a ransom. The cool part of this scene is when, with a completely straight face and totally devoid of irony, Randor identifies the object as a 'Floating Communications Orb.' They've got it all in Eternia - everything except pants.

Of course, the heroes totally disregard Beast-Man's cryptic message...until they mention that they've kidnapped Orko. And I guess Orko has a pretty intense political standing in Eternia because the entire throne room freaks out like they're about to be forced to give up their entire fortune to get him back. Here's an idea, Randor: let them keep him. There's other bumbling magicians around that'll do an even better job at pissing Man-At-Arms off, and they won't cost you the Eternian riches.

Still, they're supposed to be the good guys, so the logical step (mourning the loss for a minute and moving on) is skipped and, instead, Prince Adam and Man-At-Arms take off to rescue him. Another point of interest: when Beast-Man was reading his ransom lines off, Teela showed absolutely no concern whatsoever till they put out their asking price. I guess Orkomania is an acquired taste.


Meanwhile, the villains explain to Orko that he's now their slave, and they're his masters. It seems like every 80s cartoon bad guy's greatest dream in life is to have manslaves. It's a good thing the PTC wasn't around back then. Beast-Man uses the amulet to do a little modifications on Orko's magic powers: now he can only use them to serve his new ugly masters. If he uses them for any other reason, he'll immediately pop back into the clear window box prison.

Since Orko's magic almost never works for it's intended purpose, I leave it as an exercise to you to figure out why Beast-Man wants those powers for himself. Clearly, he's a self-depreciating baddie hell-bent on causing his own downfall out of feelings of low self-worth and loathing. If you look hard enough, Masters of the Universe was a really deep show. Either way, with magic on their side, their knish stand looks like it's gonna be a cinch. Maybe they can have Orko whip up some magical condiments. You know what that 'O' on his shirt stands for? 'Oh my this mustard is FANTASTIC!' Beast-Man knows what he's doing.


...or maybe not. They choose to utilize the insurmountable powers at hand to force Orko to make them food. After the feast materializes, Trap-Jaw insists that Orko makes sure they don't get fat, in his infinite wisdom. So when they go for a bite, the food disappears. He-Man Hilarity ensues. This quickly becomes the episode's running gag: Orko misconstruing his orders to make his cruel masters look like buffoons. A snafu in the knish plan? Perhaps - but don't forget, even though Orko is fucking with them, Beast-Man still has that Amber Amulet.


The amulet is so powerful, even He-Man can't penetrate through their fortress, which is about as creative in design as you'd expect. Hey Beast-Man, next time, think pastels. Oh, by the way, we've touched on this many times before, but I've got something new to add to the Prince Adam/He-Man phenomenon. My belief is that, though unsaid, everyone in Eternia really does know the deal. They just keep their mouths shut about it. Don't ask don't tell. The same policy goes for the stack of Playgirls in Randor's bathroom. I think that, secretly, He-Man wanted everyone to know who he was.

So why'd he clue Man-At-Arms in? He's the only one in the whole kingdom stupid enough not to pick up on it on his own. Let's face it - Duncan might be a good friend and a loyal ally, but he's not they guy you want on your team in a Trivial Pursuit competition. Unless it's the Esoteric Headgear Edition. Then it's all good.


Anyway, after they fail at getting in Beast-Man's fortress, they receive a message from him, basically reiterating the point that he's a god and that he wants his ransom. So our heroes consult the Sorceress, who uses her always-convenient psychic prowess to figure out that they've got the rare Amber Amulet's power on their side. She goes on to explain that even He-Man doesn't stand a chance against it, news that I'm sure bruised his frail ego to no end.

The Sorceress, omnipotent as she is, goes on to explain that the amulet has it's origins with a race of insectoid robots, who though peaceful now, used to be quite warlike. You know what this means, right? We get to meet them! He-Man and Man-At-Arms rush off to Bugland in the hopes of finding an antidote to Beast-Man's newfound power. It's pretty neat how these people can indulge in interstellar travel whenever they want. Must be great for crooked Eternian nuclear reactor plants who want to get rid of their toxic waste.


The Insectoid people immediately arrest He-Man and Man-At-Arms for trespassing, but they're not evil - they just don't know any better. Turns out they're not very trusting since Evil Lyn tricked them and stole their magic amulet. A race of robotic bugs with trust issues - this sounds like one of those really bad 2nd season ST: TNG episodes where someone gets killed by a guy covered in tar.

Our heroes go along with their captors for now, not all that concerned because it's quite evident that He-Man can kick the shit out of their entire species if he was in a rush. Apparently Orko being kidnapped isn't one of those high-duress situations - they can take their time. It's like their own little mini-vacation, only instead of sunny shores, they get re-re robots with four arms. The great cosmic balance of the universe marches on...


The queen of these insect people is some fat robot who lies flat on her belly and stutters through her sentences with a drowsy look on her face and a pretty tiara on her head. Queen Buglady has bad news: she won't help He-Man. There's just no way to figure out if he's telling the truth. Hey lady, if they've got Floating Communication Orbs, they've probably got Floating Instant Lie Detectors too. Check out your Artillery & Surplus catalog. He-Man doesn't press the issue since he's a nice guy, and he an ol' bowlhead leave the hive.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Beast-Man and Trap-Jaw manage to get into more trouble with Orko's magic: by this point, they're locked in the glass prison, being chased by a bunch of enchanted hairbrushes. Why hairbrushes? Beast-Man commanded Orko to make him magical ones to keep his fur nice and groomed...all the time. No, I'm not making that up. I wish I was that funny.


Before they head back to Eternia, He-Man decides to help one of the idiot insects save his fallen house pet, of equal idiocy. I think they could've saved this episode right here had they made He-Man hold the pet ransom till the robots helped him out. A ransom running gag would've been a lot cooler than Orko's magic mishaps. Besides, the dialogue would've been fantastic...

He-Man: Okay insect people, here's the deal. I've got one of your cherished Ithorian house pets. I'm holding him hostage until you do exactly as I say.
Man-At-Arms: Yeah!
He-Man: Bring us a weapon that will counter the effects of the ancient Amber Amulet.
Man-At-Arms: And a donut!
He-Man: ....
Man-At-Arms: ....
He-Man: And two donuts.


As it turns out, this act of compassion is exactly what the queen needed to gain some trust in He-Man. Now she'll help him. He-Man's soliloquy about all life being equal and worth saving, including house pets, is something you need to hear at least once before you die. She gives them some sort of weird ray or device - I dunno what it is, it's metal and it has a meter, and for a short amount of time, it'll break down the forcefield around Beast-Man's fortress. He-Man graciously accepts the gift by bowing and telling the queen that she's 'one of his dawgs'.

The robots, who previously showed about as much emotion and personality as a sock, turn into a bunch of clapping metal maniacs at the sight of this - deep down they really wanted He-Man to walk off with one of their ancient weapons. Eccentricities aren't limited to those of us with hearts and blood. Even robots can act like kooky bastards once in awhile.


He-Man and Man-At-Arms use the device to break into the fortress, and a bunch of android tentacles attack our hero, prompting him to scream, and I swear on my future grave I'm not making this up: 'SQUID!!!' Well, he did have his back turned when the tentacles attacked. It could've been a squid. An air-breathing squid with metal tentacles. Jeez, He-Man's really off his kilter when he forgets to drink coffee before mastering the universe.

Beast-Man, Trap-Jaw, and Orko all end up imprisoned simultaneously, while the Amber Amulet falls to the floor below them. He-Man casually wanders up to see this, cursing himself for forgetting the camera. I mean this is a serious photo opportunity right here. I'd make that shot the cover to my Christmas cards for the next ten years.


He-Man crushes the amulet in his hands while Man-At-Arms, unknowing to this outside, freaks out thinking that their safe-time is wearing out. It's pretty funny to watch Man-At-Arms go ballistic when He-Man's already won the battle.

Anyway, this is like the 80th weapon of doom I've seen He-Man destroy using this hand-crushing method. I swear the poor guy's gonna end up with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome someday. Once He-Man destroys the amulet, the fortress and all it's goodies disappear, and everything is restored to normal - or at least, however normal everything was before Beast-Man decided to go into the knish biz.


Our happy heroes laugh as the villains run away, scared to death of spending another moment with Orko's magic powers. And I mean - they really laugh. It's hard to tell if they're cracking up watching Trap-Jaw flee away or if they've got tiny headphones wired to a Carrot Top routine. In either case, seeing He-Man get a case of the funnies makes me want to go running scared too. He looks like he's about to pass Spikor out his ass.

And they live happily ever after - till next week.

Overall: Bleh. The episodes of He-Man that really interest me are the ones where they introduce characters of whom there's action figures made after. The others ones are, mostly, take 'em or leave 'em. Me, I'll take them all, but for you sporadic He-Man enthusiasts, there's better crap out there. Check the upper right side of the page for links to past MOTU Chronicles I've done here on X-E. Goodnight from Snake Mountain...

- Matt
matt@x-entertainment.com
AIM: xecharchar

Linkage: Fark - EHOWA - Slush

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