Oh shit, has it really been half a year since I did one of these? I can’t imagine why I’d be putting off reviewing this cartoon. It’s a mystery.
Actually, it’s probably because the sixth season of the Fred Wolf produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon is hands down the least remarkable year in the series. There is NOTHING going on in this bundle of 16 episodes. There’s no strong finale, the arc is the worst example of going through the motions, and even the high points aspire to mediocrity amongst dreck.
Luckily, it’s a short season; I think I can knock this one out in three reviews. So let’s get this over with…
“Rock Around the Block” (written by David Wise)
While Shredder hijacks a satellite laser to cut the Technodrome free from its icy prison, Krang equips General Traag with a Rockalyzer ray. Using the ray, Traag builds an army of living rocks that the Turtles will have to defeat before they can get to Shredder.
The season premier is the usual routine; the Technodrome gets itself free for a few glorious seconds only to get trapped someplace else for another season. In this case, the laser cuts it from the ice but ultimately sinks it to the bottom of the ocean.
I kind of liked the circumstances behind that situation, but also sort of hated it. The running theme in the episode sees Donatello trying to master the (made up) art of Wu Wi; doing nothing and letting your opponent’s impatience do the work for you. In the end, the Turtles make it to the satellite launchpad too late and decide to just let the scene play out. Naturally, Bebop and Rocksteady fuck everything up, messing with the laser controls and dunking the Technodrome.
It started out as an interesting idea; the Turtles letting the Shredder win and get exactly what he wants. But the execution sees that once again, even when the Turtles do absolutely NOTHING, the villains are so incompetent they will defeat themselves. Kind of sucks the tension out of any future conflicts, doesn’t it?
The A-plot involving Traag was the better part of the episode. We haven’t seen him in a long time and we haven’t seen him as anything more than a cameo in an even longer time. In fact, this is the first time he’s been featured as the main villain for an episode since the first season. I don’t know if he ever does anything of merit after this again (probably not), but it was good seeing him once more. He puts up a pretty good fight even without the Rockalyzer, though he oddly retreats the moment he’s disarmed, as if he suddenly forgot that he was capable of taking all four Turtles on single-handedly at the start of the episode.
There are some okay gags, such as Vernon studying the art of “Transcendental Procrastination” via self-help tapes hosted by a Jack Nicholson pastiche. I think that bit was intended to show the wrong way of practicing Wu Wi. Also, a ton of skyscrapers get knocked down by the rock monsters. It was a more innocent time.
“Krangenstein Lives!” (written by David Wise)
While tuning up his robot body, Krang accidentally installs a chip from Bebop and Rocksteady’s video game cartridge. The robot body promptly goes berserk and escapes to New York City. Only Michelangelo’s video game prowess can take it down. Also, Shredder gets amnesia? Do we have time for that?
You can always identify a David Wise script, even from a hundred feet away and without binoculars. There’s a reliable aspect to his stories, for better or worse, and he is the signature writer for the Fred Wolf cartoon. “Krangenstein Lives!” is one of the Dave Wise-iest episodes of the series, for certain.
Mainly, it crams in as many subplots as possible, most of which serve no purpose. I’m positive that Wise did this deliberately, like he was challenging himself to see how many arcs he could stuff into 22 minutes before the episode burst at the seams.
In addition to Krang’s robot body going crazy, there’s Bebop and Rocksteady trying to get it under control before Krang finds out they’re the ones who swapped the chips, Shredder getting amnesia and trying to blow up City Hall, Mikey getting obsessed with his Space Trek video game, and Vernon attempting to scoop April by following Shredder all over the city. All the subplots converge in the last 45 seconds of the episode and it does feel like utter madness.
The lack of focus certainly keeps the story feeling spontaneous (in the second act, the amnesiac Shredder gets a job at a fireworks factory just because), but it also serves to mask how thin the main conflict is. Krang’s robot body going bonkers wasn’t nearly enough to fill 22 minutes so we got all this other random bullshit to pad out the running time.
Also, along with “Rock Around the Block”, it’s starting to feel like Wise is getting wistful for the first season of the show. Krang’s body reacquires its ability to change size and transform its hands into various weapons. We hadn’t seen it do much of that, at least not prominently, since the first season.
On a positive note, this one looks to have been done by the unidentified Japanese studio and they do a surprisingly competent job. The transformations of the robot body’s hand-weapons are really smooth and there are some nice flourishes to their moving parts. It’s a noticeable improvement over the season premier, which was dotted with some pretty confounding bloopers.
“Super Irma” (written by David Wise)
Following an accident at Magno-Dyne Labs, Irma gains magnetic superpowers. Now going by Super Irma, she decides to attack the Technodrome directly and defeat Krang once and for all. Unfortunately, her powers wear off and the Turtles have to rescue her.
Hey, so what exactly is keeping the Technodrome from taking over the world? The answer is absolutely nothing.
There isn’t a valid reason why the Technodrome can’t just drive across the ocean floor. What, the fucking thing can’t get WET now? More and more I’m starting to realize that the Technodrome isn’t half the terrifying death-machine it’s been made out to be.
Anyway, the story’s pretty obnoxious, as Irma-centric episodes tend to be. She’s tolerable as a supporting character, but a little Irma goes a long way. It also dabbles in that trope where when a formerly downtrodden character gets super powers or something that elevates them above their peers, they instantaneously become a bullying, condescending jerk. It’s a pretty tiresome cliché, yeah.
But hey, there’s a reference to Bugman, if only to remind us of funnier episodes from past seasons.
“Adventures in Turtle-Sitting” (written by Jack Mendelsohn and Carole Mendelsohn)
After a mishap with his revivafier ray, Donatello transforms himself, Raphael and Leonardo into toddlers. Michelangelo has his hands full trying to turn the other Turtles back to normal, but he also has to deal with Krang and Shredder’s plan to eliminate all of New York’s mob bosses, thus establishing themselves as the undisputed kingpins of crime.
What, THIS again?
We already did the “Turtles turn into toddlers” thing back in Season 4 with the episode “Back to the Egg”. We’re recycling that plot already? Aw man, this show really IS out of ideas.
So while it was just Michelangelo and Leonardo who got turned into kids last time, for this go around it’s everyone BUT Michelangelo. Oh yeah, totally different scenario. The impetus for the de-aging is the revivafier ray, Donatello’s attempt at solving world hunger by creating a device that turns spoiled food fresh again. In the final act, it turns out that salt water counters the effect, which is convenient, since the final act takes place on an island.
More troubling is perhaps the fact that Don dismantles the machine during the epilogue. But… why? The machine WORKED! He solved world hunger! Just keep the revivified food away from salt water and everything’s fine! But naw, he dismantles it anyway. What a dick.
I think what really bugs me about this episode is that behind the rehashed idea of the Turtles getting turned into kids again is a much more interesting story. Krang builds a fake island and distributes a phony treasure map to lure all of the recurring mobster characters to one location so he can destroy them in a single go. Big Louie, Pinky McFingers and Mad Dog McMutt all show up to the island (leaving Don Turtelli as the only recurring mob boss character not included). While I was never a fan of the mobster villains (they were all pretty interchangeable), seeing them all interact and team up to fight the Turtles, or to be saved by the Turtles and fight against Krang, could have been really interesting.
Instead, they play second fiddle to a lot of annoying crap, like Irma having to babysit the toddler Turtles, or the brats taunting and teasing Bebop and Rocksteady and all that predictable junk. None of it is very clever and much of it is everything we went through last time the Turtles got kiddified.
Also, when the island begins to sink at the end and the Turtles and April escape, April calls the Coast Guard to come pick up the “survivors”. She uses that word, specifically. So… who died, exactly? Considering we never see Mad Dog McMutt again, I guess he didn’t make it.
“Sword of Yurikawa” (written by Marc Handler)
The Turtles, the Shredder, a weapons collector named Lafayette LeDrone and a mystery ninja all compete to take possession of the Sword of Yurikawa, a powerful blade that once belonged to Splinter’s ninja master. Meanwhile, Krang plans to use toxic waste to create an army of mind-controlled mud mutants.
Now this wasn’t such a bad episode. The plot is a little familiar, as there are several episodes that deal with the Shredder trying to steal a sword (“The Ninja Sword of Nowhere”, “Shredder’s New Sword”), but all the Shredder-wants-a-sword episodes are distinct enough from one another so as to not feel like serious retreads.
In this instance, the Sword of Yurikawa has the power to change into other weapons at the will of the user. The four-way competition to acquire the sword is pretty fun for the first two and a half acts, as the various competitors knock each other out of the race or team up to better their odds. Ultimately, the stuff with the mud-mutants amounts to nothing and the episode wouldn’t have been any worse if it had been excluded entirely.
The mystery ninja is revealed to be Splinter at the end (obvious to the viewers), trying to test his pupils as to “the true ninja spirit” (whatever THAT is). Splinter doesn’t get out much in this show, so it’s refreshing to see him take a proactive role in this episode.
Lafayette LeDrone isn’t a very strong guest villain, though I guess they needed a fourth faction to compete for the sword and he was as good as any nobody. You’ll forget he ever existed before the credits get to the glowing red W.
All in all, this has been the best episode of season 6 so far. Man, what a relief.
“Return of the Turtleoid” (written by David Wise)
Kerma the Turtleoid returns to Earth to ask the Turtles for help. Apparently, due to a clerical error, a hyper-violent law enforcement robot named Destructor-X is after him. At the same time, Big Louie plots to steal a sonic disintegrator device.
As a sequel to “Planet of the Tutleoids”, this episode lacks the pomp of that primetime special and is just another average story. There’ll be another sequel next season, “Escape from the Planet of the Turtleoids”, and I think it’s quite a bit better than this one.
Still, this one isn’t too bad. The Terminator-style robot, Destructor-X, has a pretty cool design that makes me think a Robot Master from Mega Man. The showdown between Splinter, April and Destructor-X, as they try every trick in the book to stop the robot from reaching the unconscious Kerma, is some pretty decent tension for this show. It’s made only more remarkable because they ultimately fail and have to resort to trying to tackle the unstoppable killing machine, which of course amounts to nothing (don’t worry, the Turtles show up in the nick of time to save Kerma).
I think this is the final appearance of Big Louie, too. Can’t say he left much of an impression on me, at least not any more than the other mobster bad guys. Of them all, I suppose I liked Big Louie the most, since he had a more menacing character design and a gruffer voice that made him at least appear more threatening than the guy with the tickle fetish, the guy with the dog fetish and the guy with the Edward G. Robinson fetish.
So that’s it for this batch. Not a particularly good run, no. I will say that I was surprised at how much I enjoyed “Sword of Yurikawa” while “Return of the Turtleoid” and “Rock Around the Block” were average to alright. The others I could have done without.
Next time will see the return of nobody’s favorite mad scientist villain, Professor Sopho, the return of everybody’s favorite Evil Turtle from Dimension X, Slash, and yet another Phantom of the Opera parody (we did that already!). I’ll try to get it to you within six months.