Welcome to the Mos Eisley Cantina: “Turtles In Space, Part Two: The Trouble With Triceratons”
18 February 2013 4 Comments
” The Federation shall FALL! We shall hatch our broods in the ruins of their cities!— Commander Mozar
Written by: Erik Luke
Original Air Date: November 15, 2003
Recap Narrator: Michelangelo
Characters and Concepts Introduced: N/A
Gargoyles episode I could make a forced comparison to: N/A
- Still hunted by the Federation, the turtles and Professor Honeycutt decide that the only way to safety is to leave the planet, and that the only way to do that, is to hire a smuggler.
- With the Federation having posted images of the turtles and Honeycutt all over the city, the quintet dons disguises before heading inside a seedy inn in order to look for aid. Unfortunately, Michelangelo does a bad job of remaining disguised, and so their presence is reported to General Blanque.
- Federation forces break into the inn and begin shooting. Not long after that, the Triceratons enter the fray (Lonae has been keeping them informed of the turtles’ movements as the Federation learns them). Eventually, the Triceratons take Honeycutt.
- The turtles manage to escape the inn and steal an aircar in order to pursue the fleeing Triceratons. Outgunned and outmaneuvered, they are eventually shot down. Not everything is lost, however, as Donatello had the foresight to place a tracker on The Fugitoid, allowing them to follow the robot on foot.
- The turtles eventually follow the signal to Triceraton bunker just as the dino-aliens are attempting to defend it against Federation forces led by General Blanque. Despite all the shooting, the turtles make it into the bunker, only to realize that it’s not a building at all: it’s a ship.
- The Triceraton ship escapes, using its ion burn to bypass the Federation blockade in orbit around D’Hoonib. Unfortunately, the ship is stupid, and the maneuver ends up breaching the hull, sucking out all the air out of the hangar where the turtles are currently located.
- This episode is based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Vol. 1) #5. It continues directly from “The Fugitoid“.
As one may assume from the rather breezy recap above, this isn’t a terribly weighty episode: its “meat”, if you can call it that, consists of a trio of set pieces which allow the players to move from point A to B. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing–when you’ve got 26 episodes to spend, you can afford to spend some of them at more leisurely pace–it means that success depends a lot on execution.
So instead of talking about that just now, though, I want to first talk a bit about the IDW Comics. Right now, the books are in the middle of their own “turtles in space” arc, which combines original comic elements like The Fugitoid with some from the original Fred Wolf-produced cartoon, such as the Neutrinos and Krang. From a story perspective, it’s pretty standard. From a world-building perspective, it doesn’t really work.
Now, as a fan of the Neutrinos, I can understand why somebody would like to bring them back. I don’t understand why they’d be brought back in a story that tries to play them as serious characters. Having them be involved in a ostensibly serious conflict with ostensibly serious consequences just makes me wonder why these ostensibly serious characters are sporting anime hair that never gets mussed. The answer is, of course, that giving the characters hair that would better reflect their situation would make them Neutrinos in name only, which in itself makes it obvious that the reason they’re back is to indulge in nostalgia. Which fine, there’s no crime in doing so. However, in following this approach, the writers strip the characters of any sort of…well, characters, and turns them into mere husks, reliant on familiarity to strike any sort of chord at all with the audience.
More importantly, reading that story, it strikes me that any differences that exist between Neutrino in that universe and D’Hoonib here are purely cosmetic. Despite ostensibly being completely different planets, you could transfer the characters from one to the other without trouble. In the end, they both take cues from Star Wars, which itself takes cues from westerns and samurai films. Where’s the creativity?
The cartoon’s version of D’Hoonib, at least, has the excuse of being a pretty direct translation of an existing comic book story by Eastman and Laird, who were not at this point the type to ever settle down and think deeply about what they were creating. Still, it feels like a missed opportunity. While Star Wars and TMNT do share similar souls–there’s a similar “mix familiar tropes and see what sticks” ethos to both of them–this feels too literal. Why not take the opportunity to make it memorable? Granted, it’s only there for two episodes, but still, I can’t shake the feeling that something could have been done. It doesn’t have to be big–I’m not suggesting they give the planet a hat–but even something like the Battle Nexus quirk of having the natives not having actual names would have helped. As is, there’s a lack of spark that really kills most of this episode, and while there are some bright spots–the air car chase is pretty cool–they don’t save the episode from being almost completely unremarkable.
- As uninspired as the urban parts of D’Hoonib can be–the city, by the way, is called in the original book–the planet at least has other ecosystems suggesting that well, it’s an actual habitable planet. Last episode had the swamps, and this one has forest of what look like giant mushrooms (they’re not, but they look like they could be). While not a lot is done with it, it still adds some nice variety to the planet.
- I’ve never been able to decide whether the episode’s Han Solo / Chewbacca gag is brilliant or too on the nose. Yes, I had in fact been thinking of the similarities between the episode’s setting and Mos Eisley, so seeing that the writers thought so to still makes me smile, but still: it’s sort of a tacit admission of laziness rather than anything actually creative or funny.
- I am, however, rather sure that I no longer care for the episode’s crossdressing jokes. While they’re never great, the context here doesn’t help with the worldbuilding. It’s an alien planet: why the heck would dress conform to Earth standards? And while harassment would likely be something that translates to other cultures, it again feels too literal. Not enough is really done with it to make it worthwhile–they’re doing it because they think it’s funny, rather than because they have something to say.
- One of the main differences between the comic book and cartoon versions of this story is that the original had lots more of the turtles simply shooting at their enemies with stolen guns, while this one…doesn’t. We’re still at the point in the cartoon where mooks can’t be visibly killed, and while it’s not too bothersome here, it’ll become a right pain in the ass once “City at War” rolls around.
- I still really don’t understand the scene at the end. I mean, I can sort off get how a ship’s integrity can be damaged in such a way to make it susceptible to damage via aggressive overclocking; I don’t get how it doesn’t have back-up measures to seal that breach right back up. And it’s not something from the comics, either. While the do eventually end up without oxygen there, no reason is given, and the implication is that the lack of breathable air is due to the different makeup of the Triceraton atmosphere.