Today I will start the first in what I hope to be a series of reviews of Thundercats, an after-school cartoon which premiered in 1985.
On the bridge of a spaceship, several anthropomorphic felines discuss an impending important event.
Jaga, Panthro, Cheetara, Tigra, Wilykit, and Wilykat discuss whether Lion-O should be awakened, balancing his youth versus his need to be prepared for leadership. Jaga makes the call and dispatches Cheetara to wake him up.
Cheetara goes to wake the young Lion-O up, immediately raising the question: is she naked, or what? There aren’t any lines indicating clothing anywhere between her neck and her belt, so she’s at least topless. Presumably her fur is concealing the bits that wouldn’t be considered appropriate for the target audience. Puzzlingly, she has lines on her thighs indicating that she might be wearing a bikini bottom or something, but unless it’s an exact match to her natural coloring that doesn’t seem to be the case. So what’s up with those lines on her thighs? Regardless, she wakes Lion-O up, which upsets Snarf who serves as Lion-O’s overprotective nanny.
Snarf is a more traditionally sized and shaped feline compared to the anthropomorphic ones we’ve seen so far, but he has a thick, prehensile tail. He also uses a whiny-voiced “snarf” as a sort of verbal tick to indicate grumbling. So I guess he’s kind of like Gollum in that respect.
On the bridge, Jaga tells Lion-O to watch the viewscreen as a planet explodes.
Jaga explains that the planet in question was Thundera, their former home. Lion-O seems shocked by this, which seems odd. It doesn’t seem like this spaceship escape is a spur of the moment thing, so why has Lion-O been kept in the dark about this whole “planet exploding” thing until now? (And why didn’t anybody say to Thundera, “just because Krypton’s doing it, it doesn’t mean you have to, too”? Planets are really susceptible to peer pressure.)
Jaga explains, however, that the explosion of a planet doesn’t mean that the Code of Thundera will be lost. And what is that code, you may ask? Justice, Truth, Honor, Loyalty. As codes go, it’s not the best. Frankly, I think both Hammurabi and Sumuel F. B. Morse have them beat. In any event, Jaga explains that the nobles with them, Panthro, Cheetara, Tigra, Wilykat, and Wilykit (although he only includes the last two grudgingly) will teach him how to rule wisely and well. It is not lost on Snarf that he was just totally snubbed.
With the tedious business of his subjects finished, Jaga moves on to the most important part of Lion-O’s heritage, the mystic Sword of Omens, and the source of the Thundercats’ powers, the Eye of Thundera.
(What “powers” it’s the source of is left somewhat vague). When Lion-O picks it up, the sword embiggens itself. This seems to surprise and annoy Lion-O, who complains about holes in the hilt, and his inability to see any eye in the sword. (Psst, Lion-O, it’s that red thing that looks like a cat’s eye…)
Rather than point out how dense Lion-O is, Jaga instead opts to explain that they eye “sleeps until needed” (much like a cat, I suppose), and that the much-maligned holes in the hilt are actually magic apertures, which can give you sight beyond sight. Lion-O is too much of a wuss to even lift the sword he’s been complaining about, but Jaga assures him he’ll grow into it. Jaga dispatches Snarf, who has wandered into the Sword Chamber, to fetch the other Thundercats.
Jaga explains that, on their own planet, they needed no protective clothing or special weaponry (so I guess those belts are just uselss affectations?), but that they don’t know what they’ll be facing in their new home. He throws some red glowy stuff at them, explaining that they are “raiments and weapons” that will protect them.
We only see Cheetara, Tigra, and Panthro get their goodies, however. I’m detecting a certain stratification in Thundercat society, if you see what I mean, and I’m sure Wilykit and Wilykat do.
With incredible dramatic timing, the ship is rocked by an explosion. They’re under attack! Jaga commands Lion-O to stay in the Sword Chamber while the non-useless members of the team go off to deal with the crisis.
Tigra identifies their attackers as originating from planet Plundarr, leading Panthro to exclaim, “Mutants! Always those blasted mutants!”, a phrase which has become all too common in recent years. When are those fatcats down in Washington going to take care of this mutant problem!? Sorry, went off on a little rant, there…
The mutants destroy the convoy that the Thundercats have been leading (which might have been more dramatic if the convoy had been, you know, established before now), but are not attacking the flagship that the main characters are on. Jaga deduces that the mutants must be after the Eye of Thundera. Indeed, the mutants deploy grappling rays to pull the flagship in, and extend some type of tube to board the ship.
Although not really explained fully in the show at this point, I need to digress slightly to talk about names so I can properly describe the action. Later in the series it is explained that Snarf, Tigra, Cheetara, and Panthro are not the actual personal names of these characters, but are the names of their breed (clan? species?). As the leaders of their respective groups, their group name is used in place of their personal name. The mutants sort of use a similar system. There are three varieties of mutant involved in this attack. There are reptilian mutants, led by Slythe. He also appears to be the overall leader of the mutants, or at least this particular group of mutants. It isn’t entirely clear why he is referred to by name, since he is a Reptilian. There are also Monkians (monkey-looking dudes), led by Monkian, and Jackalmen, led by Jackalman.
Tigra and Cheetara rush off to repel the borders, with Cheetara showing off some preternatural speed in the process. Using the “run around in a circle” technique that’s so popular with speedsters, Cheetara manages to tie up some Reptilians.
Tigra inexplicably becomes invisible, and gets the drop on some Monkians. (Later in the series it will be established that Tigra uses his whip to become invisible, but here he just fades out without any whip-based assistance.)
Panthro uses his prodigious strength, and not-so-prodigious quips, to lay the smack down on some Jackalmen.
Wilykit and Wilykat use a flash capsule to escape from some Reptilians. Um, guys, I’m not trying to be overly critical, but the other Thundercats actually beat their Mutants up. I’m starting to see why you’re second class citizens. “Wiliness” is not an excuse to slack off on the mutant-smacking front.
Meanwhile, Slthye and Jackalman are hunting for the Eye. Slythe tells Jackalman that he has seen the Eye before, although he declines the describe it for his colleague. However, they immediately stumble into the Sword Chamber, and spot the object of their search, the Eye of Thundera, embedded in the Sword of Omens! (Said sword, currently in embiggened form, being held by Lion-O).
Snarf tries to take them down, but is quickly foiled when Jackalman nabs him with the net-gun he’s been toting! (Why has he been toting a net-gun that’s only suitable for capturing things the size of Snarf when there’s only one of those on the ship, and it appears that the mutants weren’t even aware there were any before they ran into him? Don’t ask me)
Slythe and Jackalman move in to take the sword, but the Eye of Thundera springs to life! It turns Lion-O’s eyes yellow, and projects a big Thundercats symbol into the air.
This freaks the mutants out, and rather than snatching the sword immediately, they decide to back off. It also seems to have given Lion-O enhanced strength, as he’s now able to wield the sword even though he could barely hold it before. This causes Slythe and Jackalman to flee in terror. (See, Jackalman, this is what you get when you bring a net-gun to a sword fight!). In fact, they’re so terrified that they order a general retreat, and all of the mutants bug out.
Most of the rest of the Thundercats joing Lion-O in the Sword Chamber, and have a pleasant chuckle about how Lion-O is only capable of being useful with sword-induced superpowers.
Unfortunately, when they return to the bridge, they learn from Panthro that the navigational system is shot. This means that they won’t be able to get to the galaxy they were originally headed for. It turns out they they’ll need to go to a different galaxy, a smaller galaxy, which inexplicably annoys Wilykat. Maybe they ought to stop off at Dagobah to brush up on that whole “judge me by my size, do you?” thing. Panthro, however, has located a puny star in this dinky galaxy. The third planet from this star has an atmospheric compatibility of 96%.
Unfortunately, since it’s so far away, they’ll need to make the trip in suspension capsules. Jaga wants the rest of the Thundercats to get into the capsules while he pilots the ship. The rest of the Thundercats, however, are concerned that this would mean that Jaga would die before reaching their final destination (I think it goes without saying that they’re a little uneasy about Lion-O being in charge). Panthro thinks that they can use robot-pilot (that’s fancy Thundercat-talk for autopilot). However, given the ship’s damaged condition, Jaga feels that manual control will be necessary for as long as possible. Furthermore, Jaga explains that the capsules slow down aging but don’t stop it completely, and that he’ll die on the journey whether he gets in the capsule or not, so he might as well die at the wheel. The Thundercats get into their suspension capsules.
Jaga, looking old and tired, can’t go on. With the immortal last words, “I pray the robot-pilot can take it… from here…”, he pulls an Obi-Wan Kenobi and disappears, his clothes dropping where he was.
The robot-pilot does indeed get the ship to its destination planet, but that robot-pilot? Not so good with the landings.
During the crash the suspension pods are thrown clear. Snarf wakes up, and immediately sets out to find Lion-O. It turns out, however, that Lion-O has grown considerably, due to that whole “slows down but does not stop the aging process” thing that Jaga mentioned.
Snarf, not processing that Lion-O has grown up, has retrieved a teddy bear for Lion-O to play with. They are quickly surprised, however, by the return of the mutants’ ship. The mutants teleport down to the surface with the ship’s teleporter beam.
It turns out that Lion-O is having memory problems, and doesn’t remember the mutants. Luckily for him, Snarf explains that they’re “real bad”. Snarf also stumbles over the Sword of Omens. He tries to give it to Lion-O, but Lion-O thinks that Snarf is trying to give him another toy, and brushes him off.
The mutants find the rest of the Thundercats still locked in their suspension capsules, and prepare to finish them off. Lion-O, however, starts up some rocking fight music and charges to the rescue. He’s not doing too badly, considering how ridiculously outnumbered he is, but Snarf jumps on Monkian’s head and throws the Sword of Omens into Lion-O’s hand. Some kind of static discharge from the sword begins to jog Lion-O’s memory, but he’s not quite getting it, so Jaga steals another page from Obi-Wan’s playbook and shows up in blue ghost form.
This triggers the rest of Lion-O’s memory, and he decides that now (with lots of mutants around, presumably locked in deadly combat with Snarf) is the perfect time to call upon the power of sight beyond sight. The sword provides him with close-ups of the various Thundercats in their capsules. This prompts Lion-O to say, “thunder, thunder, thunder, thundercats! HO!” while slashing the sword around, and holding it aloft for the “HO!” part, whereupon it projects a giant Thundercats symbol into the air.
(And I promise I won’t make any “Thundercats’ ho” jokes about Cheetara. Well, any more “Thundercats’ ho” jokes.) The appearance of the giant Thundercats symbol causes the rest of the Thundercats to wake up, have their eyes flash yellow, and burst out of their suspension capsules.
Monkian notes that the Thundercats are loose, which serves as a handy segue to the Thundercats theme music, “Thundercats are on the move, Thundercats are loose!” The Thundercats smack the mutants around for a bit, until Slythe orders them to teleport back to their ship in retreat.
The other Thundercats note that Lion-O has grown up, and did pretty well for himself in the fight. Snarf, however, is understandably upset that his essential contributions have been completely glossed over, as usual. Panthro notes that they’ll need to find out if they can even survive in this place (Panthro really likes to emphasize certain words when he speaks). Lion-O responds “We will survive, and create a mighty new empire! I, Lion-O, Lord of the Thundercats, proclaim it!” Then the rest of them laugh at him for being an overly dramatic goof. Honestly, I think he’s getting a little ahead of himself on this empire thing. As far as we know there are a total of seven Thundercats, if you count Snarf, and only two of them are female, and it’s unclear if the different types can even interbreed. Presumably Wilykit and Wilykat can, but that’s a pretty slim gene pool to be basing an empire on.
And thus we end our first episode!