That Poor, Broken Sword of Omens.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly why Thundercats have had such long-lasting popularity with the kids who grew up watching the show. The other major toons of that era had more episodes, more toys, more publicity, more methods to get your money -- yet still, people reminisce about Panthro and Cheetara like they're faraway favorite cousins.
Maybe we loved it because it doubled as our very first lessons in sexual education. Cheetara was the closest thing to a hot naked chick any six-year-old was going to see without raiding his father's secret closet. Plus, we learned what an erection actually was by watching the Sword of Omens grow three times larger just because Lion-O was heated up. It really covered all the bases.
Personally, I can't let Thundercats make it past a dark horse candidate as my fave cartoon. I've got a memory attached to this show that's just too painful. A long time ago, in a galaxy not-so-far away -- three blocks away in a room at some Protestant church with a lot of bells -- I was a part of our local Cub Scouts group. It was around Christmas, which was when all the assorted groups in the area met up at a grand gala. There was a contest to see which group could come up with the best 'theme' for themselves. Each member of the winning group would receive the ultimate prize: a plastic blue collapsible camping mug.
I really wanted a plastic blue collapsible camping mug.
The den mother gathered up all us young cubs to brainstorm for our theme. After trying to fit the word 'scout' into every television theme song imaginable, we finally nailed the surefire, end-all be-all winner: Thunder...Thunder...THUNDER-SCOUTS - HOOOO! Each of us looked to the other scouts with a sense of superiority and peace...we had this little contest in the bag. Surely, no other scout groups could come up with a theme so catchy and brilliant. Those collapsible mugs went from being a pointless dream to a mere formality, and we anxiously awaiting the gala - it was on this night that we'd show the world exactly why the Cub Scouts needed to add a songwriting badge to their many annuls.
The night of the party arrived, and we all sat at our table, cool and confident as could be. Group by group, other scouts went onto the stage and sang away - some of the themes were decent, some sucked, but none were anywhere near the level of our Thundercats tribute. Except, of course, for the group that came on right before us. They had a pretty decent little theme. In fact, it was the SAME EXACT song we had written ourselves.
Coincidence, conspiracy? Either way, our frantic den mother whipped up another song for us in three seconds flat, and when we went to the stage, all of the scouts and parents were treated to what had to be the worst rendition of a cub scout theme of all time:
Sing along with the Scouts....have some fun with the Scouts! Yes, we dolled up the goddamned SNORKS theme song and muttered our way through it, dodging laughter and tomatoes all the same, praying for a rare northeastern earthquake or at least a nuclear warhead to crash into us. We didn't win the collapsible mug that night, but I gained a new emotional invalidity in Perpetual Stagefright, a little friend that's remained with me to this very day. And, indirectly, I've always held this experience against the Thundercats.
That's not to say the show was terrible - in fact, I think it's one of the best toons ever, of any era. I know, I know - with esteemed competition like The Popples and Jackie Chan Adventures, that's a bold statement. But I'm sticking to my guns here. Today, we're gonna review a T-cats episode and try to unearth some of the mystery and intrigue. Yes, including a download! The episode's name? All That Glitters. The plot? Beats me - apparently something to do with gold and robot-bears who sound like a muffled phone connection. Let's take a look...
It's a rare treat when a TC show kicks off with a scene featuring Panthro in sunglasses. Him and Tigra are testing out one of Third Earth's minerals to see if it's useful in their ongoing efforts to build feline-themed tanks. The substance turns out to be gold, which is entirely useless to Panthro's needs. In fact, he spends the better part of two minutes complaining about how stupid gold is, putting any rumors to rest that he's supposed to be the stereotypical gangsta Thundercat.
Cheetara, on the other hand, decides that gold is really nice and shiny, so she fashions herself a little necklace and prances along as if any of her comrades were more interested in her accessories than her big cat breasts. Come on Cheetara, the only other female on the planet is a flat ten-year-old. You've pretty much cornered the market, save your money.
Elsewhere, Lion-O and Snarf come across the land of 'Giants and Trolls' - a series of caves that either play host to huge bumbling cavemen or small scheming gnomes. They live together in harmony, so we know that on Third Earth, size doesn't matter.
One of the cool things about the Thundercats series was that it all took place on an alien planet, where the writers were free to introduce weird, foreign characters without having to spend ten minutes explaining how they got that way. On G.I. Joe or even the earlier Transformers episodes, if anyone showed up who wasn't human, we'd have to waste half the episode learning their secret origins so we could better accept their ability to fly or their skin being bright fuschia. On this show, we just take everything at face value, and the flow of the story really becomes stronger because of it.
And now that I've said that, I can tell you that neither the giants or the gnomes play any real part whatsoever in this episode, and for all intents, this could've very well been The Land of Goat-Faced Cheese-Thieves without messing with the story at all.
They meet up with one of the trolls, named Gregory. Lion-O gushes over this little guy to no end, cracking up at everything he says and stopping at one level before confiding love. Turns out the troll needs some help with something - apparently some thieves stole something of great value from him. You know this guy's setting up Lion-O because there's no way our hero should be acting that friendly towards anyone, much less a useless dwarf.
By the way, when they're meeting up, Lion-O introduces Snarf as his 'loyal companion.' That's a seriously respectable lot in life you've got there, Snarfy. The loyal companion. Take a lesson from Andy Richter and wiggle your way into your own successes - this guy's just drowning you in his catlike ability to seem more important than anybody else.
When Lion-O goes into the cave to confront his new pal's enemies, he strikes out immediately before realizing that it's Tigra on the opposing side. Now what's Tigra doing all alone in a dark cave with nobody around, you ask? I think the possible answers, while varied, all point directly to one of two things: secret spot where Tigra contemplates life, or the place he goes when he wants to jerk off. It's an embarrassing situation no matter how you look at it - but it begs the question: just what was Greg the Troll talking about?! There's no thieves here...just cats!
Methinks Greg the Troll isn't exactly who he says. Or maybe Tigra likes to spend his free time bullying around dwarves in the Land of Giants and Trolls. I think I'll cast my vote with Option #1.
Indeed, Greg the Troll was Mumm-Ra in a brilliant disguise. He sure tricked them! Course, neither of our heroes are too sure why he'd go through all this trouble just to get them to take one swing at each other, but Mumm-Ra's intentions were always vague-by-design. Maybe he had to be at a sleepover party at 7 PM sharp but didn't want to let the whole day go to waste by not doing one single evil thing.
While Lion-O considers the possibilities, Tigra explains the true reason he hangs out alone in caves: the limited light allows for great practice sessions in shadow puppetry.
S-S-S-S-S-SSS-XYX-Slithe asks Mumm-Ra about his plot back at the tomb, and then it's revealed: when Lion-O used the Sword of Omens against a fellow Thundercat, he put a curse on himself that renders the sword's powers useless and puts his entire team in a situation of peril. Funny how Mumm-Ra has the inside scoop on all of the Thundercats' long-forgotten rules and regulations. That's why you should never overlook sideshow psychics...never know what they'll pull out their ass if you pay them high enough.
Much like He-Man's sword, or She-Ra's sword, or Rodimus' Matrix, or Luke's lightsaber, or Ross' spider-monkey, the Sword of Omens is the ultimate power against evil. Without it, Lion-O and the Thundercats at large are sitting ducks, waiting for the next Mumm-Ra attack to do them in. This is serious stuff. I'd be crying if I wasn't entirely uninterested.
Sure enough, the Sword of Omens is broken in half, prompting a rare appearance by Jaga-Wan Kenobi, who quite literally tears Lion-O a new daffodil cat asshole for being so hasty in swinging the sword and putting his friends in this terrible position. If you've yet to see Jaga angry, it's a sight to behold. You really feel for Lion-O because he really can't refute anything the big blue ghost says - when Jaga speaks, you're supposed to just stand there, nodding like some Harlem Globetrotters head-bopping dashboard figure.
Jaga explains that the only way to restore the sword is by going to a conveniently located volcano nearby. Turns out a small star landed in there and the intense heat is great enough to reforge the blade. Man, is Jaga a walking encyclopedia or what? He's got the answer for everything. I'd hate to be on the opposing side of his team during a round of Thundercats Trivial Pursuit. Not because he's so smart - but because I don't want to get caught laughing when his ghostly hands go right through the plastic orange pie pieces. I don't think it'd go over all that well.
Lion-O starts climbing up the volcano, and suddenly it hits me: this isn't Third Earth, it's our Earth, and if we look on the other side of that mountain, I'm 100% sure we'll see the Autobot ark's hull sticking out of it. Maybe the writers built a time machine to go into the future so they could steal Larry DiTillio's storyboards for Beast Wars. Picture Lion-O walking around the Ark, pissing all over the comatose Autobots just because they smell like a different cat.
Sorry, I've been on this strange cat-humor kick all week. I'm now living with three of the little beasts, and it takes a lot of getting used to. Slowly though, I've learned how to catproof our apartment. I've learned the intricacies of making sure anything that could possibly be knocked down gets put away immediately, otherwise the damn animals will undoubtedly find a way to topple it -- even if they have to build a little catapult out of popsicle sticks so they can shoot their balls of cat crap at it. Cats are real vindictive like that. But they eat any spiders that get in here, so we've got something of a mutually beneficial deal going on.
Tygra tells the other cats about what's going on, so they all pile into the Thundertank to make sure he doesn't kill himself trying to rock climb into an active volcano. For some reason, one of the damn Berbils is with 'em. Berbils are a colony of bear-like robots Lion-O stumbled upon in an earlier episode - and as much as I'd like to make fun of them, I've always loved the little guys. Who comes up with this stuff? Robot bears who gather bamboo shoots and sound like they're underwater? Sounds suspiciously like one of those slumberparty games where you have to pass the story on to another kid and keep repeating the process till nothing makes any sense.
Berbils are also great because, if you remove the ears, their heads double as ultra-durable soccer balls.
The cats come across a once-powerful giant who's now a withered, smoldering toad. He explains that GOLD is the only way to save the Sword of Omens. I'm not sure if that's *exactly* what was said, but at this point in the review, everything seems serviceable. Panthro pouts because he threw all the gold into a bottomless pit earlier, thinking it was useless. God Panthro, do you do that with everything you find that ya don't need? I mean, that's taking organizational skills a tad too far.
Fortunately, Bedazzled Cheetara liked the gold so much that she saved a truckload of it. They return with piles of it, only to find that they've been tricked again!
The little toad turns back into his majestic devil god self with the help of the gold, but he's no peaceful god: he's a vengeful fool determined to throw lots of fireballs at the Thundercats. For whatever reason, he also forged the Sword of Omens back to normal, I guess out of spite.
Lion-O won't give up, though -- despite being a good 300' away from the sword, he's able to call upon it's powers. In moments, the creature pretty much explodes and the sword is back in the hands of the good guys. I guess that monster will think twice before putting the only weapon that could hurt him back together for no readily apparent reason.
The Sword of Omens is good as new, and Lion-O's learned an important lesson about knowing all the facts before making a move. I guess Jaga's off somewhere being proud, but I'm not really sure: he was really pissy in this episode. Cats have their off-days too.
Everyone celebrates back at the Cat's Lair - Tigra and Panthro thank Lion-O for saving the sword, prompting Lion-O to thank Cheetara for saving the gold, prompting Cheetara to thank Lion-O for being so brave, prompting the Berbil to thank the Academy, prompting Mumm-Ra to thank Vultureman for being a friend. Basically a lot of thank-yous in this particular episode. Manners are an important lesson, too.
Overall: Not bad. Guest appearances by Berbils are always a plus, and this is a rare episode that didn't feature Mumm-Ra screeching after seeing his damn reflection. We're thankful for that. On a scale from 1 to 10, I'll give it a 7. Would've been higher if Jaga appeared not as a ghastly apparition, but as a ghastly apparition in the midst of eating chicken.
Download: Okay guys and gals - the quality of this episode isn't terrific. Picturewise it's fine, but the sound is real iffy and, at times, you're going to wonder why Panthro sounds like Cheetara. I did the best I could, so if you're a diehard fan who needs to watch this show even if the sound's a bit muffled, click here to download it!
Thanks and goodnight - I'm off to read some erotic Thundercats fan-fiction. Found a great story featuring Tigra using each of the five sides of a dried-out novelty starfish to make Cheetara reach orgasm. Best part? When they finish - Panthro eats the starfish! Why couldn't they make an episode out of that?
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