Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Shadow Raiders: Volume 5

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  Watching DVDs and blogging about them as it gives some sense of structure to my life.  I'm continuing my dive thought Shadow Raiders as we get to volume 5.  This is in my notes at February 9, 2019.

Continuing revisiting this forgotten classic of late-1990s animation, Shadow Raiders.  I've likened season 2 to being a bit of an homage to Battlestar: Gallactica, as our heroes' home planets are turned into giant spaceships, and they travel through space with the hostile Beast Planet hot on their tail.  It's most obvious in this stretch of episodes, as they begin encountering new worlds and warning them of the advancing Beast Planet. 

Sandstorm - Traveling through space, our heroes discover Planet Sand.  Graveheart, Jade, Cryos, and Zira lead a delegation to warn Planet Sand of the Beast Planet, help them find their World Engines, and maybe offer them a spot in the Alliance.  Planet Sand is governed by two races:  The Sun People and the Sand People.  The Sun People are somewhat foppish and primitive, scoffing at the idea of off-worlders and believing the Beast Planet has no threat.  A Beast scouting party soon convinces them otherwise.  The Sand People -- looking like a cross between cats and gorillas -- are even more primitive, dismissed as mindless animals that the Sun People have domesticated as servants.  But Zira takes her father's advice to heart -- not to jump to conclusions -- as something about the Sand People doesn't sit right with her.  Zira soon uncovers the truth:  the Sand People are mystics...very powerful telepaths.  Impressed by how the Alliance has fought to save their home, the Sand People decide to make their true power known, help Zira reach the World Engines, and Planet Sand is moved to safety.  Planet Sand and the Sand People join the Alliance, with a thoroughly gob-smacked Sun people in tow. 

No wonder people get frustrated with how the series ended.  Planet Sand is a tantalizing new locale that would have been a delight to explore in future episodes...especially the relationship between the Sun People and the Sand People, especially once the Sand People rise up and make their true power known.  Sadly, this is all we ever see of Planet Sand...save for Zuma, the representative of Planet Sand, who joins our heroes on many missions for the rest of the series. 

Girls Night Out - The Alliance has been pushing themselves hard lately, and tempers are starting to flare...especially Jade's.  Graveheart orders Jade, Tekla, Zira and Zuma to take the night off and blow off some steam.  Jade decides to take the ladies to her favourite watering hole...a rough and tumble bar on one of Rock's Battle Moons called Moon Over Mayhem.  While Zira and Zuma hit the pool room, Tekla sits down with Jade and goes, "Out with it.  Why do you hate me?"  And Jade goes, "Well, the first time we met, you tried to kill me, and then there was that whole thing where you helped Planet Bone steal the Battle Moons.  I just don't trust you."   And Tekla goes, "OK, that first thing, I was possessed by Lamprey.  That wasn't me.  And the whole Battle Moon thing...yeah, that one's on me.  Sorry about that."  So, to win back Jade's trust, Tekla gives Jade a gift:  the access codes to every ship in the Alliance.  With this, Jade can take command of the entire fleet and organize a massive strike.  Tekla and the rest of the Alliance leadership had been talking about it for a while, and with this gift, Jade is officially made second-in-command of the Alliance.  Jade is truly humbled by this gift, and finally starts warming up to Tekla.  Then Lamprey and some Beast drones show up, a massive bar fight breaks out, and our heroines emerge victorious. 

This is a great character-building episode.  And, I hesitate to say too much, but it does have dire consequences later down the line.  And a great piece of technology is introduced.  Tekla invents a special personal containment field.  See, the Beast drones are made of "null matter," basically a sci-fi bastardization of anti-mater that makes whatever a Beast drone touches explode.  This personal containment field protects from a Beast drone's touch...with the added benefit that hand-to-hand combat with the Beast's generals is now possible.  As we get to experience when Jade lays a beating on Lamprey. 

Timebomb - The Alliance happens upon a planet that's teeming with plant life, has a World Engine, and is completely uninhabited.  Our heroes are about to move on, when Emperor Femur proposes a plan:  since it's uninhabited, why not rig the World Engines to explode and turn it into a bomb against the Beast Planet?  They decide to do that, and touch down on Planet Jungle.  But, there's strange things in that Jungle, and our heroes efforts seem to be sabotaged.  Thanks to Zuma's telepathy, they eventually figure out what's going on.  It turns out that the plants are sentient.  This throws the whole plan into disarray.  Tekla finds the World Engines, but they've long been destroyed by the Jungle's extensive root system.  Knowing that there is no hope for them, Planet Jungle volunteers to be sacrificed to try to stop the Beast.  But, before our heroes leave, they Jungle gives Emperor Femur a gift:  a single flower.  Thanks to the hive mind of the Jungle, they're able to evacuate the planet through this single flower.  Our heroes evacuate, the bomb detonates as the Beast swallows it, but it hardly makes a dent.  Our heroes feel sadness as Planet Jungle's sacrifice was in vane, but the usually cynical Femur remarks, "As long as there's life, there's hope," and begins to nurse the sole survivor of Planet Jungle.

A great little piece of sci-fi.  I was watching a YouTube retrospective on the series, where they pointed out that, in any other series, a character such as Femur would have been the villain.  But as we see here, as he becomes the caretaker of Planet Jungle, and with his apology to Pyrus in Period of Adjustment, it's almost as though they were starting to build a redemption arc for Femur.  No doubt, again, why some were frustrated that the show only ran two seasons. 

Embers of the Past - Prince Pyrus is feeling down.  With the people of Planet Fire now living as refugees on the Battle Moons, the people of Planet Fire are starting to feel like the second-class citizens of the Alliance.  The Alliance comes across a nebula.  Thanks to some modifications to their sensors, the Alliance will be able to navigate through the nebula, but the Beast Planet cannot.  Cutting through the nebula would put considerable distance between the Alliance and the Beast.  But, there's something approaching behind them.  The look, and it appears to be...Planet Fire.  The Alliance decides to take a moment to investigate.  Graveheart and Pyrus touch down, to find Planet Fire in ruins.  They visit the World Engines, and to their surprise, find the Vizier, very much alive.  The Vizier tells them that, when he rammed the Beast Planet, the World Engines were re-activated, so he was able to achieve maximum speed and had been trying to catch up to the Alliance for months.  Now, the people of Planet Fire can return home.  But something about the whole thing just doesn't sit right with Pyrus.  He soon feels betrayed by his Vizier when Vizier starts negotiating with Lord Mantle to have the people of Fire re-settled back to Planet Fire.  When Pyrus confronts the Vizier, he learns the truth.  This entire thing is a construct of the Beast Planet, designed to lure in the people of Planet Fire so the Beast could finish what it started.  As the planet prepares to implode, Pyrus gets a last-minute rescue from Graveheart.  Finally able to let go of the past, Pyrus stands proud, knowing he has to lead his people to a better tomorrow. 

Again, another great character episode, this time for Prince Pyrus.  He finally gets some closure following the destruction of his  homeworld, as he prepares to embrace his destiny.  Just good stuff.

Well, one more DVD and five episodes remain.  Come back next time for the saga of the Prison Planet!

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