We’ve reached the end of season 6 of the Fred Wolf produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Like season 4, this one doesn’t offer any sort of finale. It just ends on a typical, unassuming episode. So far, season 6 has been mostly bad and the remaining episodes won’t do much to upgrade my appraisal.
It’s a pretty dire stretch of content. We’ll be saying goodbye to Pinky McFingers, the last of the generic mobster villains who’d been so prominent in this show since season 3. We’ll also be saying goodbye to Agatha Marbles, who never should’ve existed in the first place.
“Leonardo is Missing” (written by David Wise)
Shredder and Krang plot to capture a new energy source and use it to power mega thrusters which will blast the Earth off its axis, thus moving it closer to the sun and melting the polar icecaps, thereby freeing the Technodrome. That’s a lotta steps. Meanwhile, Leonardo goes missing while investigating a distress call and the other Turtles must find him. Also, Shredder disguises Bebop as Leonardo to turn the public against the Turtles. And then the dinosaur-people show up.
Okay, let’s get one thing out of the way, here. The Technodrome is shown still stuck in the arctic, trapped in ice. That means this is actually an episode that takes place in season 5. So what the heck happened? How did a season 5 episode wind up near the end of season 6?
Even stranger, the WAY the Technodrome is shown trapped in ice doesn’t match how it appeared last season (where it was shown stuck in a canyon). In the establishing shot, it looks to be crammed sideways into the tip of an iceberg. My theory is that this was a leftover script from last season that got pushed through during the production of this season and no one during the process noticed or cared that the Technodrome was stuck in ice.
Knowing this show, that’s not too much of a leap in logic.
All that being said, how’s the episode? I have to admit, these David Wise overstuffed plots are starting to grow on me. It IS kind of impressive just HOW MUCH he shoves into 22 minutes. The plots are bewildering and spontaneous and never rationally developed, but I’ll confess that they’re rarely boring. His episodes appeal to the ADHD in us all, I guess.
What I thought was the funniest part of the story was just how many steps Shredder and Krang needed to accomplish before they could conquer Earth with this scheme. First they needed the energy source. Then they needed to attach it to some mega thrusters Krang had built. Then they needed to blow the Earth off its axis. Then they needed to wait for the polar icecaps to melt and free the Technodrome. THEN they needed to conquer Earth with the Technodrome.
They got through Step 1 of that scheme, but never made it past Step 2. These guys…
The dinosaur-people show up near the end of the last act and explain where the mysterious energy source came from (their ship) and where the distress signal came from (their ship got stuck). In a surprising nod to continuity, the dinosaur-people who have come from the center of the Earth are actually a callback to the season 3 episode “Turtles at the Earth’s Core”. In that episode, it was shown that the Earth’s core is populated with dinosaurs (albeit not anthropomorphic dinosaurs, but whatever).
Anyway, this probably isn’t a very good episode, but after 100+ half hours of this show, I’m beginning to go numb to all the lunacy and nonsense. Like I said, the episode is stupid but it isn’t BORING and that counts for more than you might think.
“Snakes Alive!” (written by David Wise)
Pinky McFingers and mutant snake-man Cobrato join forces to steal scientific equipment with an army of mind-controlled snakes. This is bad news for Leonardo, who happens to have a paralyzing fear of serpents.
It’s weird that this episode (aired October, 1992) didn’t feature action figure villain Scale Tail, who was released in the 1992 wave of the TMNT toyline. The whole thing with Cobrato being a mutant cobra seemed like it was building up to another toy-friendly promotion and then… nah. Not Scale Tail.
Ah well. He’s close enough.
Anyhow, “Snakes Alive!” is sort of a corny episode about overcoming your fears and all that jazz (there’s even a grating moment where three adorable kids help Leo find his courage), but the plot is focused and holds up pretty well. Kinda weird coming right after “Leonardo is Missing”, another David Wise episode but also one with four different plots and no focus.
Pinky McFingers makes his final appearance, oddly working as a henchman for Cobrato. What exactly he gets out of Cobrato’s scheme to turn New York City into a tropical haven for snakes is never elaborated upon. He’s just taking orders from a snake-guy. And his voice sounds different yet again. Peter Renaday returns to the character after Cam Clarke voiced him last time, but Renaday doesn’t do the Edward G. Robinson impression he did when he originated the role. Instead, he sounds like he’s doing an impression of Cam Clarke’s generic thug voice. It’s… strange. But who cares, we’ll never see him again.
Speaking of Clarke, this was a good episode for voice acting on his part. I like the TMNT episodes that take Leo out of his comfort zone, as it gives the character an opportunity to say and do things that aren’t in-line with his milquetoast “I’m the leader” characterization. Clarke plays up Leo’s cowardice and seems to be having more fun than usual. At times, Leo’s whining and whimpering makes him sound like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo.
“Polly Wanna Pizza” (written by Jack Mendelsohn)
Due to a mix-up at the pet store, Michelangelo accidentally walks away with Ditto, a parrot belonging to master thief Mugsy MacGuffin. Mugsy wants Ditto back, mainly because the parrot has a key around its neck that can get him access to a vault containing the Galubi ruby.
This is one of those episodes where the author had a bunch of ideas for a plot, but wasn’t entirely sure how to sew them all together. Mendelsohn wanted to get April, Michelangelo, the other Turtles, and Mugsy to coalesce into a story, but how? So in the end, their disparate threads all sort of unite by either accident or idiotic contrivance. Sometimes both, thus negating each other.
For example, all the characters need to reach the “Berring Arms Hotel” at the end of the episode for the big finale (it’s where the ruby is being kept and also where Michelangelo becomes trapped minutes before demolition). So how do the other Turtles learn they need to go there? Well, Donatello uses a “key spectrum analyzer” to determine the source of the key around Ditto’s neck. That’s some bullshit, but this episode features a guy with the last name “MacGuffin”, so we can let it slide. But right after Donatello figures that out, Ditto just straight up TELLS them “Berring Arms Hotel”, because parrots can talk, so what was the point of the machine?
And then there’s Mugsy, who wants to get the key back. How does he? Well, he just happens to be driving his limo behind the Turtle Van as they race to the hotel and by coincidence sees Ditto. So that worked out nicely.
Yet, Jack Mendelsohn manages to work in a reference to “Raphael Verses the Volcano”, an episode his wife Carole wrote in season 5. No time to edit the script for a coherent second draft, but thank god he got that reference to Raph’s Green Avengers costume in there.
It’s not that the episode has a terribly bad plot in summary, it’s just that the whole thing is assembled very sloppily. There’s also a subplot about Vernon trying to scoop April that amounts to absolutely nothing, but Vernon subplots tend to do that.
“Mr. Nice Guy” (written by Steve Granat and Cydne Clark)
When Raphael gets zapped by Donatello’s personality alterator, he becomes an obnoxiously nice guy. This gives the renegade psychiatrist Professor Von Shrink ideas, as he uses the device to turn all the cops in New York too nice to arrest anyone.
This episode’s sort of a sequel to “Leonardo Cuts Loose”, bringing back Donatello’s personality alterator gun but using it on a different character. Might’ve been neat if we’d gotten episodes dedicated to all four Turtles getting zapped and becoming their polar opposites, but then again, maybe twice was enough.
“Mr. Nice Guy” isn’t a very well-paced episode (Von Shrink doesn’t show up until the halfway point and his crime spree doesn’t start until the last five minutes), but it’s full of some great gags. There’s a bit where the Turtles have to chase after some carjackers in a tour bus while narrating the sights for the tourists; I got a chuckle out of that. Von Shrink also runs an automated psychiatry clinic that’s staffed by robots who all talk in soothing psychobabble.
Funniest bit of all was Von Shrink’s voice. It’s a Howard Cosell impression and for the life of me I don’t know why. Nothing about his design or his personality or his scheme intimates a sportscaster, and yet… it’s a Howard Cosell impression. It’s incredibly random, but it’s also really funny. It gives a generic mad scientist villain a little spunk where he’d otherwise be more dull and forgettable.
“Mr. Nice Guy” is a mediocre episode, admittedly, but compared to the rest of these episodes it’s probably the best among them.
“Sleuth on the Loose” (written by Matt Uitz)
The evil Professor Von Volt is stealing scientific equipment to build a doomsday device. To get to the bottom of how he’s committing the crimes and where he’s taking the loot, the Turtles once again enlist the help of April’s sleuthing aunt, Agatha Marbles.
I don’t know who out there was clamoring for Agatha Marbles to make a comeback, but you got your wish.
The real folly of this episode isn’t the lame recurring guest star, but just how boring it is. Agatha plays Sherlock while Raphael plays Watson and the audience follows her around as she makes stupid deductions and Raph gasps in awe and reverence. There aren’t any good jokes, there’s little in the way of action and the mystery and clues are all silly and obvious/random. There’s just no draw.
And then in the final act, Agatha gets in a lightsaber duel with one of the henchmen. Why lightsabers? I don’t know. It can’t be because swords were considered too violent for a Saturday morning cartoon; Leo uses swords all the time. It was just dumb, like everything else in this episode.
What a way to end a season. The good news is that this will be the last time we get a non-finale at the end of a season; every one after this will have a proper “big” sendoff. Be that as it may, the episode blows.
Season 6 for the most part was pretty lousy. “Donatello Trashes Slash” was probably my favorite episode with “Sword of Yurikawa” being another standout. The rest range from average to awful and it’s just a very disappointing run. Shredder and Krang only feature in 7 of the 16 episodes, so the focus on the Technodrome arc is limited (and one of those episodes is a holdover from season 5). The majority of the season is lame guest star villains and it really, really feels like the show is running on empty.
Well, with season 6 concluded, now we can finally move on. Next up: Season 4! Wait, what?