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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Shadow Raiders: Volume 6

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch a DVD in my collection and blog about it.  We've reached the end of the 1990s animated classic Shadow Raiders.  This is in my notes at February 10, 2019.

Alrighty, folks, for the past few weeks, I've been re-visiting the animated series Shadow Raiders, the late-90s cartoon I thought was so good it was the first complete series I bought on DVD.  This series-ending arc centres around the discovery of a planet called the Prison Planet, and its ramifications on our heroes. 

Divided We Stand - As our heroes journey through space, a rogue planetoid appears in front of them, and it's emitting a signal.  Our heroes go to investigate:  Graveheart and Cryos in one ship, Jade and Femur in another.  Weapons on the planet shoot down our heroes, and they're stranded.  Once on the ground, Cryos recognizes this planetoid as the Prison Planet.  During a period of peace referred to as the Golden Jubilation, a planetoid in their system was developed into a prison, where the worst criminals of the four worlds were banished.  But it mysteriously disappeared....  Graveheart and Cryos are taken in by a faction led by a seductive woman known as Jewelia.  Jade and Femur fall into the camp ruled by by the forceful Sternum.  Femur begins to panic, because he thinks he knows who Sternum is.  Meanwhile, back at the Alliance, Tekla and Pyrus attempt to mount a rescue mission, but the Prison Planet mysteriously vanishes before they can save their friends.

A great introduction to the four-episode arc. 

Nor Iron Bars a Cage - Sternum begins growing quite fond of Jade, as he finds in her a true equal, and she updates Sternum on what's happened to their star system.  Sternum finally has Femur brought before him, and we learn of their relationship:  Sternum is Femur's brother, and the previous emperor of Planet Bone before Femur overthrew him and had him banished to the Prison Planet.  Sternum takes Femur and Jade on a tour of the ruins of the old prison, and shares with Femur how he was mercilessly tortured by the guards.  Sternum eventually led a prison revolt, and in the battle, found the Prison Planet's World Engines.  But the Prison Planet's engines are different...they can teleport the planet.  Hence the mysterious disappearances.  In fact, Sternum teleported the planet once again, and now they are adrift in space.  As Sternum reveals, he never learned how to navigate the Teleport Engines, so their jumps are random.  There's no going home.  As this goes on, Jewelia leads her latest assault on Sternum's forces.  Graveheart goes along to try to rescue Jade, but starts learning that Jewelia may not be the benevolent leader he once though, as she laughs in psychotic glee as she watches her own troops get gunned down. 

Meanwhile, back at the Alliance, the search has to be called off when the Alliance is attacked by a Beast scouting party.  In the battle, all the ships mysteriously power down, and the troops begin getting slaughtered by the Beast forces.  Lord Mantle appears before Pyrus and Tekla and announces that he now controls all the ships in the Alliance.  He'll re-activate the ships and save them...if Tekla and Pyrus cede leadership of the Alliance to him.  Seeing no other way, Tekla and Pyrus cede command, and save their troops.  They begin investigating how Mantle gained the codes, when Tekla recognizes the data crystal that Mantle is using.  It's the one she gave Jade that night in the bar.  Jade had been a double-agent, working for Mantle all along. 

Again, this show is not afraid to have a body count, as we see so many people get gunned down in these wars.  This brings along some great new revelations for one of our beloved heroes, and the care given to introducing Sternum is phenomenal.  

Death of a King - Graveheart and Jewelia regroup.  They need to capture the Teleport Engines from Sternum so they can return home.  In the raid, Graveheart saw no evidence that Jade was alive, and is slowly being consumed with vengeance.  Cryos proposes a two-pronged attack:  Jewelia will launch a full-frontal assault on Sternum's front gates, while Graveheart and Cryos lead a smaller strike force through the old access tunnels.  As Sternum and Jade begin fortifying their defenses, Jade is impresses at how Sternum is willing to work alongside his men.  History (and Femur) portray Sternum as a brutal warlord, but it seems as though his time on the Prison Planet has softened him.  The attack begins.  When the alarms in the tunnels go off, Sternum goes to answer that threat, leaving Jade to command the surface assault.  Down in the tunnels, Sternum and Graveheart finally meet, and begin to throw down. 

Meanwhile, back at the Alliance, Lord Mantle reveals his plans.  Mantle figures, under his leadership, a full-frontal assault on the Beast Planet, led by Planet Rock's Battle Moons, will easily defeat the planet.  Pyrus is opposed, as the people of Planet Fire live on the Battle Moons, and such an assault could be genocide.  The assault goes ahead, but this leaves Planet Rock undefended, and Planet Rock is soon overwhelmed by Beast forces.  Realizing the folly of his ways, Lord Mantle recalls the Battle Moons, but it's too late, as Blokk and his forces take Mantle's throne room.  Blokk and Lord Mantle throw down, but Lord Mantle is on the ropes.  With his dying breath, Mantle destroys the data crystal with complete access to every Alliance ship so it doesn't fall into Blokk's hands.  Lord Mantle is dead.  Planet Rock has fallen to the Beast Planet.

Again, just a really great episode, as we ramp up the action and the stakes, as we lead to our final episode. 

The Long Road Home - Graveheart and Sternum continue duking it out.  In their battle, Sternum reveals that Jade is still alive, and she and him have grown...quite close.  Graveheart's vengeful rage turns into a jealous rage.  Graveheart gains the upper hand, but he lets Sternum live.  Jade is alive.  Sternum has more then enough reasons to kill Femur, but Sternum let Femur live.  Seeing Sternum's kindness compared to Jewelia's insanity has shown Graveheart that Jewelia is the true enemy.  Sternum, Graveheart, and Cryos make it to the Teleport Engines, just as Graveheart and Cryos receive a telepathic message from Zuma and the Sand People.  The telepathic message is a beacon, guiding them home.  As they get ready to teleport home, they get the message from Jewelia:  she has captured Jade.  Turn over control of the Teleport Engines, and she'll let Jade live.  Graveheart and Sternum mount the rescue mission.  Jade is saved and assures Graveheart it's always been him.  Jewelia is in shackles, and Sternum activates the Teleport Engines to send them home. 

Meanwhile, back at the Alliance, the populace of Planet Rock are being rounded up by the Beast forces as they prepare the planet for consumption by the Beast Planet.  Pyrus and Tekla manage to escape, but the Beast Planet is too close.  There's no where to escape to or evacuate the populace.  But then, the Prison Planet appears between the Beast Planet and Planet Rock.  The populace of the Prison Planet is teleported to Planet Rock.  As the world-devouring claw of the Beast Planet wraps around the Prison Planet, Sternum activates the Teleport Engines, sending the Beast Planet to an unknown corner of the galaxy.  It appears as though our heroes have won the war, but Sternum sheds a tear for his fallen kingdom. 

And thus ends the saga of the Prison Planet.  Watching it again, I just loved how they raise the stakes and ramp up the tension.  The being said, a lot of the Prison Planet stuff does get kind of slow and talky, as it is mostly just character-building for Sternum and Jewelia.  But still, great stuff.  And the series isn't over yet!

Ascension - We open on Planet Rock, at the state funeral for Lord Mantle.  Once that's done, Pyrus and Tekla are eager to bring Jade to justice for selling out the Alliance to Mantle.  Jade, however, is unapologetic, saying it was the only way to get Planet Rock into the Alliance.  Graveheart reveals that Jade confessed the whole thing to him as soon as they got back and learned what transpired, and Graveheart has already forgiven her.  Cryos goes one step further, showing admiration for Jade, saying it's the mark of a great leader to not only make the tough calls, but stand by them when the shit hits the fan.  Which is why they nominate Jade to be the new ruler of Planet Rock.  Jade says Graveheart would make a much better choice, but the rest of the Alliance agrees:  Graveheart is too busy leading the Alliance.  As Jade still carries a great deal of respect among the populace of Rock, she's the perfect choice.  Jade undergoes the trials, which is a lot of trippy stuff where she quite literally confronts her inner demons about the choice she had to make.  But, she passes, and is proclaimed the new ruler of Planet Rock.

Meanwhile, Blokk is still on the loose on Planet Rock.  He takes control of the World Engines, and sets Planet Rock on a collision course with the nearest star.  He demands Graveheart's head.  Graveheart obliges, and these two have their final battle.  Greavheart emerges victorious.  The series ends with Jade's coronation, and as her fist official act as ruler of Rock, restores Greaveheart's citizenship and welcomes him home.  Graveheart declares the war over, but, it ends on an ominous note, as in a distant corner of the galaxy, we see the Beast Planet prepare to devour Planet Reptizar. 

I once read there's a special term for a season finale that ties up 99% of your loose ends so it can serve as a series finale if need be.  That's definitely what "Ascension" feels like.  I mean, there's still some doubt over Sternum and whether he's going to try to reclaim the throne of Planet Bone.  It's unknown if things are truly cool now between Jade and the Alliance over how she sold them out.  But, this is a very satisfying conclusion to the series. 

And that's the end of Shadow Raiders.  I still dig it after all these years.  Like a lot of forgotten cartoons, I see it's all over YouTube now, so feel free to give it a binge. 

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