We come to the second half of the European Vacation storyline and I haven’t much else to introduce besides that.
So hey, let’s just get down to it…
“The Irish Jig is Up” (written by Carole Mendelsohn and John Fox)
Inspired by the legend of St. Patrick driving all the snakes out of Ireland, Krang decides to do one better and drive out all the people! Using his Rainbow Trans-Charmer, Krang turns all the cute and furry critters of Dublin into snarling monsters. And guess where the Turtles are visiting next?
Part of the attraction to these European Vacation episodes, at least from what I’ve observed so far, is all the landmarks and familiar geographic locales. When the Turtles go to Paris, we see them hit all the highlights of the place. When the Turtles go to Italy, they nail all the major cities and their hotspots.
When they Turtles go to the Republic of Ireland…?
Well, they mostly just run around the countryside, chasing sheep.
This is one of the least visually interesting episodes of the European Vacation arc and just dull in its own right. The first act is spent in the countryside, as the Turtles try to stop a stampede of mutant sheep from driving April off a cliff. The second act is spent at the Dublin Zoo, which as it so happens is also located in the hills just outside the city. And the third act is spent at McGillicuddy Castle, located in the grassy green hills of the Irish countryside.
We see very little of Dublin-the-city. I mean, unless Dublin is nothing but farmland and castles and thatch-roofed villages. I’ve never been there. It’s entirely possible.
During the events of the episode, Bebop and Rocksteady are hit by the rainbow ray and transformed into what all the characters identify as children. Except the animators just drew the mutants as smaller in size, but otherwise looking exactly the same. So there’s this disparity between the script and the visuals, as what the voice actors think they’re describing throughout the episode is not what we’re actually seeing. Beyond that, it’s just annoying, as Barry Gordon and Cam Clarke’s “adorable little kid” voices for the characters will break all the glass in your house.
The finale is alright, if a little bizarre even by this show’s standards. Shredder drives the Turtles into McGillicuddy Castle and then orders Krang to open a portal to Dimension X to suck the whole place in. For the first and only time in the series, the Dimension X portal comes equipped with giant purple tentacles that drag objects into it like a Sarlaac Pit. Everyone acts like it’s always been this way.
“The Irish Jig is Up” is disappointing and doesn’t feel especially “Irish”. It could almost as easily have taken place in the American countryside and nobody would’ve known the difference, thanks in large part to avoiding any Irish landmarks or actually exploiting the Dublin location.
Granted, as I understand it, Dublin wasn’t a very safe place to be in the early ‘90s. Lots of explosions. So maybe the Turtles were keeping to the countryside for their own wellbeing.
“Shredder’s New Sword” (written by Francis Moss and Ted Pederson)
When the Shredder visits London and steals the sword Excalibur, he becomes unstoppable. Unfortunately, the sword, made of a rare metal called derivatum, causes all sorts of time and space-warping side effects. The Turtles team up with Merlin to get the sword back.
You see, now this is more like it.
“Shredder’s New Sword” takes full advantage of its English setting and exploits all the anachronistic stereotypes the American writers can think of. London is shrouded in dense fog (which, historically, was actually smog, and was eliminated in the 1950s thanks to environmental legislature), castles overlook rocky cliff-sides, the Crown Jewels are in peril, the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge are used as notable set pieces, and Camelot was evidently a place.
The episode revels in its Englishness, right down to the Turtles disguising themselves in British punk attire (even including “anarchy” symbols on the leather jackets). If you’re gonna do a European Vacation episode, then just go all out with the European stuff, even if it means resorting to tired stereotypes. Otherwise, why bother?
Along with “The Ninja Sword of Nowhere” and “The Sword of Yurikawa”, “Shredder’s New Sword” forms a nice trilogy of episodes that see the Shredder attempting to steal powerful swords for his own ends. They’re each distinct from one another and each sword featured has its own special set of powers (with Excalibur being the most powerful yet). While “Shredder’s New Sword” isn’t my favorite of the three, it’s a solid-enough episode in its own right and, along with “Artless”, one of the better installments in the European Vacation.
There are some confusing, incompetent moments to the episode, of course. It wouldn’t be the same show if there weren’t. Part of Shredder’s evil scheme to become King includes kidnapping April and forcing her to be his Queen. For all of 5 seconds, anyway. Then the episode forgets about it. It’s the only time in the series Shredder shows any romantic interest in April, too, making it all the more bizarre.
Then there are animation errors, both large and small. In regards to the latter, all the cars have steering wheels on the left side. In regards to the former, well, there’s the whole fight between Donatello and Bebop on the log spanning Camelot’s moat. Bebop is supposed to be the one cheating to win and his dialogue even sets it up for him to knock the log into the moat and take Donatello out. And yet the animators drew Donatello doing it, making him look like the dishonorable cheater.
Other weirdness includes Michelangelo prominently wielding his nunchakus into battle. From what I’ve read, the English soil their knickers at the very sight of nunchakus (and also at hearing the word “ninja”). As a result, their version of the show, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, had Mikey’s nunchakus edited out of every episode and their irate anti-nunchaku lobbying is what resulted in him switching permanently to the grappling hook in the fourth season. And yet here’s an episode where the Turtles visit London, ostensibly made to appeal to the English viewers, and Mikey’s clutching those offensive sticks and chains throughout the story.
Anyway, despite some lesser elements (Merlin looks like the former mascot for Cookie Crisp), this is a pretty good episode and certainly near the top of the heap in the European Vacation arc.
“The Lost Queen of Atlantis” (written by Michael Edens)
While visiting Athens, Greece, April comes into possession of a necklace that turns her into the vessel for the ancient Queen of Atlantis. Shredder and Krang want the powerful jewel for their own nefarious ends, while an army of Atlanteans want to kidnap April and restore her the throne.
As I mentioned last review, the European Vacation episodes are officially cataloged as season 7 episodes because they aired in the United States around that time (albeit on a different network from the “proper” season 7). So if you take the European Vacation episodes and the CBS episodes together as a complete seventh season, what do you wind up with?
Two episodes focusing on Atlantis in the same season, neither of which are aware of the other, and make no sense when taken together.
“The Lost Queen of Atlantis” and the later episode, “Atlantis Awakes”, offer two completely different and contradictory depictions of the sunken city. The incompatibility isn’t so bad if you watch the European Vacation episodes as part of season 4 and allot yourself a wide gulf of content between them and season 7. However, watch them like this and it’s just strange and confusing.
This first pass at Atlantis hinges entirely on an “April gets kidnapped” scenario and god DAMN aren’t we all just freakin’ sick of that by now? The last act gets a little better, turning into a Clash of the Titans parody (complete with Irma and Vernon as sacrifices to a Kraken), but for the most part it’s a dull episode.
Athens is seen almost entirely as the Acropolis and a street bazar filled with fruit stands. I figured the Greek capital would be a bit more metropolitan than that.
Vernon also shows up for the first time since the opening of the arc. Irma is also back (she was in “Shredder’s New Sword”, too) and that leaves me with another notation to make about these episodes. The Channel Six crew sort of come and go as they please throughout this arc; sometimes they’re with April and sometimes they’re conspicuously absent. Where do they go when they aren’t touring with April on assignment? Back to America, only to be dispatched again by Burne.
That sounds expensive.
“Turtles on the Orient Express” (written by Doug Molitor)
The Turtles and April take a trip on the Orient Express from Paris, France to Istanbul, Turkey. At the same time, the Shredder plots to turn the train into a high-speed bomb that will detonate Europe’s largest oil fields, thus releasing enough energy to open a portal into Dimension X and free the Technodrome.
We get to see a lot of the European countryside in this episode, though we don’t spend much time in any single location. The episode starts out at the famous Gare de Lyon train station in Paris (you’ve probably seen it in a billion movies), passes through parts of Austria and Hungary, and finally reaches the spires of Turkey.
The Turtles get tossed from the train a few times along the way, affording them opportunities to see some of the local color, such as paddling down the blue Danube in a tuba (yeah) and stealing from superstitious Gypsies. In regards to that bit, they take their whole wagon and park it on the train tracks, robbing the already poor transients of every meager possession they have but the sashes on their heads and rings in their ears. Such heroics!
This is a good episode to spotlight on Splinter, who has mostly been sitting the episodes out aside from acting as a tour guide at the beginning and summarizing a lesson at the end. He has a rare showdown with the Shredder (though it only lasts a few seconds) and is ultimately the one to save the day at the end.
While Splinter’s been around in just about every episode so far, it’s always nice to see him do… something. Anything. Vernon and Irma are also present, but I don’t care about them.
“April Gets in Dutch” (written by Misty Taggart)
The Turtles and April arrive in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where the Duchess Diamond is being put on display. Shredder has his sights set on the gem, as it is the only thing capable of powering Krang’s Laser Dimension Blade: An energy knife that can cut through dimensions and bring the Technodrome to Earth! But when two jewel thieves swap the real diamond with a fake, the malfunctioning Laser Blade threatens to destroy both the Earth and Dimension X.
“Laser Dimension Blade”. Jeez, that is the most anime-sounding weapon name I have ever heard in this strictly American cartoon. Doesn’t that sound like something a freakin’ Gundam would be wielding, or the name of some idiotic special attack a spikey haired character would scream before launching at a bad guy?
But this episode doesn’t take place in Japan. It takes place in Holland. So enjoy the tulips, the windmills and the wooden shoes.
The jewel heist angle would be pretty thin, but the writers jazz it up a bit with the bumbling thieves who complicate the scheme. It stretches the plot out to fill 22 minutes, though I’m not sure if it succeeded in making things more interesting. We once again have to endure the tension of an “April stuck in a death trap” cliffhanger and I believe I already registered my exhaustion with those scenarios. This time, she’s dangling over a vat of boiling hot cheese.
To touch on a subject I mentioned earlier, this time around Splinter is absent from the episode without explanation. So why didn’t he want to visit Amsterdam? He missed out on all the cheese.
It’s a dumb, boring episode. And man, there’s still two more of these things to go.
“Northern Lights Out” (written by Ted Pederson and Francis Moss)
The Turtles head to Oslo, Norway to attend the alternative energy convention. There, they’re attacked by Eric the Red Eye, supposed son of Thor, who steals information on geothermal energy. With it, he intends to melt the polar ice caps so his Viking gang can pillage the whole world by ship.
While it’s nice to get a break from the Shredder after all this time, there’s one problem with Eric the Red Eye: He’s voiced by Jim Cummings. And by that, I mean that Cummings uses the exact same voice for Eric that he’s been using for Shredder in all these European Vacation episodes. So even though Shredder is out of the picture in this episode, it still feels like he’s hanging around. Or sounds like it, anyway.
The episode is actually kind of exciting, with the Vikings making for decent adversaries with all their weird trappings. In the second act, the Turtles face a robotic duplicate of Jormungandr, the mythological Norse sea serpent. There are also closing cliff walls down a narrow strait that reminded me of Jason and the Argonauts (great old Harryhausen flick) and a big finale at a volcano where Don has to find a way to defeat the hammer of Thor (turns out to be a hologram; also, it’s drawn as an axe and not a hammer).
While I don’t think it’s actually all that good of an episode, compared to how boring many of these Vacation episodes have been, it stands out in the crowd.
“Elementary, My Dear Turtle” (written by Dennis O’Flaherty)
While visiting London to see the new Atomic Clock, a malfunction in the device sends the Turtles a hundred years into the past. The clock is stolen by Professor Moriarty and the Turtles must team up with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to get it back.
Does every cartoon have a team-up episode with Sherlock Holmes? It just seems like this happens a lot, but I guess that’s what you get for being in the public domain.
The actual team-up with Holmes is surprisingly short and not the full plot of the episode. As soon as the Turtles meet him, they go off on their own to investigate Moriarty’s machinations in Oxford, which leads to a trip to an alternate future where he rules and then back again. The episode perhaps takes too long to get going and by the time the Turtles have to investigate the villain and travel through time, the episode’s practically out of film.
And it is not a pretty episode. There are animation errors at every turn (from the wrong backgrounds to the same Turtle on screen at once) and a persistent lack of necessary sound effects (a LOT of action sequences are completely quiet, while other sound cues are supposed to instigate jokes but their absence leads to total non sequiturs).
There seems to be missing scenes, too; like they got cut from the script for time but the remaining sequences didn’t get rewritten to account for their omission. So Leonardo references some sort of altercation with Moriarty’s goons on the roof of a train where they all got covered in soot, but such a thing never happens.
This episode’s a mystery, alright.
And that concludes the European Vacation. Not a good stretch of episodes by any degree. The production quality in general is really bad across these 13 installments, with constant animation blunders and a more or less lack of visual coherency overall. On the rare occasions when the artists aren’t screwing up, the animation is still clumsy and listless; there is no single, stand-out “good-looking” episode in the batch. It’s pretty much all ugly.
I’m looking forward to getting back on track with the “proper” season 7 episodes. Next time we’ll see the Triceratons, the Neutrinos, the origin of the Foot Clan, nearly every major TMNT one-shot villain in a single episode, and… We’ll bid a fond farewell to James Avery as the Shredder.