Alright, we’re down to the bottom of season 5 of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon produced by Fred Wolf. There are some interesting episodes in this batch, featuring the one and only appearance of Wingnut and Screwloose in this show, as well as the unrequested second appearance of Fripp the Polarisoid. More importantly, we’ve finally made it to the primetime special: “Planet of the Turtleoids”.
And man, you have no idea how eager I’ve been to get to that one. I recall loving it as a kid, so let’s see if it withstands the test of time…
Zach and the Alien Invaders (written by Francis Moss and Ted Pederson)
When Zach lets his imagination get the better of him and begins seeing alien invaders everywhere, his parents send him to military school. Unfortunately, the school is being run by Wingnut and Screwloose, aliens who plan to brainwash the students into an army. Zach will have to convince the Turtles to come to his rescue.
So, it’s Zach again. I wouldn’t say he’s growing on me, because he’s still a heinous little shit, but I guess I’m developing a callus to his existence. His older brother Walt also makes a reappearance, but mercifully it’s just a cameo.
The real draw to this episode is that it features Wingnut and Screwloose, characters who were very prominent in the Archie TMNT Adventures comics (as members of the Mighty Mutanimals) and were also available as action figures in the Playmates toyline. Heck, Wingnut even got some bonus coverage in the Super Nintendo version of TMNT Tournament Fighters and, uh, the pack-in comics that came with TMNT Cereal. Hey, these characters got around.
But like most of the merchandising characters who appeared in this show, they bear little to no resemblance to their toyline and comic book counterparts. Wingnut and Screwloose are cast as rather generic villains in this story with an improbable plot to conquer the world using brainwashed children and robot cockroaches or something. Highly improbable, indeed.
It’s actually not that bad of an episode, though. It begins as a dull “boy who cried wolf” parable, as Zach inaccurately sees aliens so many times that no one believes him when he at last encounters Wingnut and Screwloose. That’s only for the first act, though, and for the last two thirds of the episode, it’s just a lot of joking around and weird action. It’s really illogical and random, but I kind of enjoy the stupidity for some reason.
Moss and Pederson take a page from the book of David Wise and cram a few too many subplots into the story. They break up the cast and have them all go about their separate business and it winds up feeling really fractured. There’s Zach dealing with Wingnut and Screwloose, April and Irma chased the robot roaches, Donatello and Michelangelo trying to break into the military school, and Leonardo and Raphael… floating around in the Turtle Blimp and accomplishing zilch. It pulls in too many directions and by the end, April, Irma, Leo and Raph just sort of sit around doing nothing.
Welcome Back Polarisoids (written by Misty Taggart)
When Krang tricks Fripp the Polarisoid into returning to Earth, he has Shredder steal his alien camcorder and make some adjustments. Now, instead of pulling people into the video, it releases all the deadly aliens it ever recorded. While the Turtles try to get the camera back, Michelangelo has to babysit Fripp’s two bratty kids.
“Camera Bugged” was a surprisingly decent episode from a season or two ago, though I can’t say it left me hankering for a comeback from Fripp. His camera gimmick was neat and his Ed Wynn impression was kind of funny, but only enough for one episode.
This time around, they try to reverse the shtick with his camera and give Fripp a wife and some offspring to pad things out. His two rotten kids, Saycheese and F-Stop, are exactly what I said: padding. Their subplot with Michelangelo serves no purpose and feels really half-baked; like Mikey was supposed to teach them how to behave, but we never got that scene. So they just go from brats to angels while nobody’s looking.
The majority of the episode isn’t too bad, though. It’s really brainless stuff, as the Turtles drive the Party Wagon around town, avoiding the various alien monsters and obstacles the Shredder unleashes with the camcorder. Along the way, Krang takes control of all the computers in the city and makes things even more difficult/entertaining. There’s even an inexplicable callback to the season 3 episode “Turtles, Turtles, Everywhere”, as the robot garbage trucks from that episode make a return. When this show decides to have continuity, it really comes out of left field.
Michalangelo, the Sacred Turtle (written by Dennis O’Flaherty)
When the mad Professor Pifflecoot steals the Turtle’s Eye ruby from the sarcophagus of Amon Turt-El, he plans to use it to give himself super powers (and inadvertently cause a comet to crash into Earth). Meanwhile, Michelangelo is mistaken for “the Sacred Turtle” by a trio of followers and he must lead them to defeat Pifflecoot.
Wow. A spelling error in the fucking title. We’re getting off to a great start.
This is one of those episodes with fuckups in every step of production, not just typing, so it makes for a decent game of “spot who didn’t do their job.” We’re treated to another example of what happens when different people do the storyboards for different acts… and no supervising director bothers to check them before shipping them overseas to be animated.
So, when Act 1 cuts to commercial, Michelangelo is wearing this disguise:
And when Act 2 begins following the break, Michelangelo is now clad in this getup:
And not just for a brief scene, but for the whole sequence. Obviously, the boarders weren’t on the same page as to what disguise Michelangelo was wearing, each boarded him in a different outfit, and then nobody making this show gave enough of a shit to give the boards so much as a cursory glance. “It’s Korea’s problem, now!”
Parts of the story don’t hold together, either. During Act 3, Mikey and his followers plummet into a booby trapped room where the walls close in on them. They escape and the walls reset, but before they can climb out, the other Turtles tumble down the same trap door and they all end up in the room again. Except this time, the walls don’t automatically close in. Why? Because I guess that would be boring.
Also, April gets kidnapped. We’re doing that again, are we?
Planet of the Turtleoids: Part 1 (written by David Wise)
Kerma the Turtleoid kidnaps the Turtles and Shredder’s two new mutant henchmen, Dirtbag and Groundchuck, and whisks them away to his homeworld: Shellri-La. He hopes that the Turtles will be able to save his people from the dragon known as Herman the Horrible. Meanwhile, the Shredder uses the absence of his foes to create Chromedome, the ultimate Foot Soldier.
“Planet of the Turtleoids” is an episode I remember quite well. It was actually a primetime hour-long TV special (broken up into a 2-parter for rebroadcasts) and for a six year-old knee-deep in Turtlemania, that was a big fucking deal. It’s extremely uncommon now ‘n days, but back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, Saturday morning cartoons often received primetime specials on the basic networks like ABC, CBS and Fox. Usually, they were holiday tie-ins like the Real Ghostbusters Halloween special or six million hours of Christmas related bullshit, but on occasion we got a special for special’s sake.
“Planet of the Turtleoids” was one of those surprise specials, aired during the summer and not tied into any holiday. It came out of nowhere and was a real event for a TV-swilling elementary schooler. In reality, it was actually the most audacious toy commercial the Fred Wolf TMNT cartoon ever pulled off; this thing is positively drowning in Playmates product placement.
The special begins with an appearance from the sumo wrestler Tattoo, who in this universe is a mutant gerbil. Yeah, that’s how this special gets started. Tattoo is restored to normal very quickly, existing only long enough to advertise his action figure, but we soon segue into the zoo and Shredder’s newest mutant henchmen: Dirtbag (the mole miner) and Groundchuck (the cyborg bull). Like most of Shredder’s mutant henchmen who aren’t Bebop and Rocksteady, they rebel against their master and go freelance. So that’s 3 mutant henchman/action figures introduced in the first 15 minutes, all of whom ditch Shredder at the first opportunity. If this were baseball, he’d have struck out.
But that doesn’t stop him and so he begins his next scheme: Chromedome, a super robot to command all the Foot Soldiers. There’ll be more production placement in the next episode/second half of the special, but thus far we’ve got 4 new action figures to worry about buying. This special is just relentless in all the new toys it puts out there. The regular series was pretty frugal when it came to including or introducing action figures and it feels like this special is just blowing its load all at once. We’ll get more toyline tie-ins in future seasons, but never anything on this level.
Anyway, because this was written as an hour-long special, it doesn’t break into 2 parts especially well. The cliffhanger is kind of sudden and as a kid watching this in repeats, the rhythm throws you off and you’re surprised that you have to wait another day or week to see the rest. Everything in the first half is, of course, introductory and it’s the second half that really has the meat. Luckily, we live in the DVD age, so we can just go right on ahead and watch the second half…
Planet of the Turtleoids: Part 2 (written by David Wise)
While the Turtles take down Herman the Horrible, Dirtbag and Groundchuck on Shellri-La, they have another problem waiting for them back home. Shredder, Krang and Chromedome have succeeded in constructing the Technodrome Mark II in the middle of the city and intend to use it to conquer Earth.
Now, there’s a lot I like about “Planet of the Turtleoids”. In addition to all the nostalgia I get from re-watching it, it actually has some pretty slick animation. Presumably, because of its more prestigious status as a primetime special, it got a boost in the budget. While nothing spectacular, it looks better than most of the episodes surrounding it and the action sequences have some nice flourish.
But, there are problems. First of all, if much of this seems familiar to you, it’s because writer David Wise basically took an older script, “Planet of the Turtles”, and recycled it for this special. I mean, he barely even changed the fucking title. But, of course, the Turtles have no memory of that OTHER time they visited a completely different planet of anthropomorphic turtles and react with awe and wonder when they see Shellri-La. For anybody with an attention span, it’s pretty obvious and maybe a little boring.
Secondly, all the stuff with the Technodrome Mark II, as exciting as it was to see those toys advertised when I was six… yeah, it is positively tacked on and pointless. As the title indicates, the majority of this episode revolves around saving the planet of the Turtleoids. The TMNT get back to Earth with precious minutes of runtime to spare and positively eradicate the Technodrome Mark II and Chromedome with ease. The Mark II especially comes up short, as the Turtles explode it within seconds of the thing switching on. Chromedome gets a few licks in, but his built-in weakpoint sees him finished after a minute of bluster at best. This subplot is utterly superfluous to the main plot (which was recycled from an earlier episode) and exists for no other purpose than to advertise the new toys.
So under scrutiny, yeah, “Planet of the Turtleoids” ain’t that great. But dammit, if I can’t be a hypocrite and love it anyway.
The official episode listing from the old Ninja Turtles.com site considers this to be the season finale. A little odd, considering it ran in primetime at the start of the season and was rebroadcast in Saturday mornings in the middle of the season; it NEVER aired as the season finale in any circumstance. Regardless, hey, it DOES function as a pretty epic season finale, whether it was intended to be or not. It certainly beats the finale from last season, anyway, with its mutant vegetables and effeminate cowboys.
Alright, next up is season 6. It’s a short season and it isn’t very good. There are a few gems hidden in there, so I’ll try to pick those out and suffer the rest. Next time, we’ll see General Traag’s long-awaited return to relevance as well as the return of, sigh, Mad Dog McMutt. Also some shit where Irma gets super powers. Wonderful.