Losers: “Turtles in Space — Part Five: Triceraton Wars”

“I’m afraid the only sensible solution is to blast me into scrap metal right now.” Professor Honeycutt, the Fugitoid


Written by: Marty Isenberg
Original Air Date: December 6, 2003
Recap Narrator: Donatello
Characters and Concepts Introduced: Zog (Unnamed)
Gargoyles episode I could make a forced comparison to:Awakening, Part Two

[Content Note: Suicide, Euthanasia]

The Beats

  • The turtles and Honeycutt,  with the kidnapped Zanramon in tow, make their way to the Fugitoid’s lab, which they seal while they collect all the necessary Teleportal parts.
  • After Honeycutt expresses doubts about the prospect of building his transport system / superweapon, and the turtles argue  that it may be the only real solution, since building it, in addition to sending the turtles home, affords him an opportunity to escape along with the machine.  Conversely, not building it does not guarantee his safety, what with the plans being contained in what is essentially a very accessible hard drive.
  • Acknowledging the truth behind this, Honeycutt decides that the only true solution is for him to be destroyed. The turtles convince Honeycutt not to commit suicide, but only after they (reluctantly) promising that they will destroy him if circumstances demand it.
  • The turtles ask Zanramon where they can get a ship to take them off-world.  Zanramon gives them an answer, which he also secretly relays to his forces.
  • The parts for the Teleportal collected, the turtles make their way to the hangar bay, where Triceraton forces lie in wait.  A shoot-out ensues, which results in the Triceratons recovering Zanramon.
  • The turtles and Honeycutt escape the Triceraton asteroid on Zanramon’s personal cruiser, only to find themselves facing the rest of their fleet. Outnumbered, the turtles rush towards an asteroid field to try to lose their pursuers, shooting down or outmaneuvering as many fighters as they can.  Just as it seems like they’re out of the woods, they are spotted by the Federation Fleet, just exiting hyperspace.
  • The turtles turn back towards the asteroid fleet, successfully leading their Federation pursuers to the Triceratons.  As the two enemy fleets battle each other, the boys in green escape to a planetoid, where they will attempt to construct the Teleportal.
  • After some posturing, both the Triceratons and the Federation discover the turtles’ location.  As both fleets approach the planetoid, Leonardo and Michelangelo attempt to stall them by opening sham negotiations with both parties for the Fugitoid.  While these break down rather quickly, it becomes rather moot, as both commanders have ordered their ships to attack.
  • As both Triceraton and Federation forces make landfall and begin shooting, the turtles retreat to the Teleportal.  They activate it, only to find that it doesn’t work.  Worse still, Zanramon’s cruiser is destroyed, cutting off any means of escape.
  • Penned in by the crossfire, Honeycutt asks the turtles to activate an E.M.P. wave that will erase his memory core, essentially killing him.  The turtles hesitate, despite the fact that they’d promised and have no more cards left to play.  Just as they’re about to press the button, they, and the surrounding forces, are hit by a gigantic, and familiar, blue beam, which transports them out of the planet.

Continuity and Mythology Notes

And so it ends.  Five episodes of turtles in space, and what have we accomplished?  Almost nothing.  The status quo set up by the arc’s second episode–the Triceratons and Federati want the Teleportal they believe Professor Honeycutt can build, and are willing to do anything to get it–is still the status quo by the end.  It’s less a conclusion than it is a pause button, setting aside this particular plot until the beginning of season 3.  This means that, given how much time has been spent, this episode can’t help but come as something of a disappointment, as it ends not with a bang but with the turtles being saved by a deus ex machina, a resolution which the show will rely on quite a bit.

And yet, I can’t help but admire this story, a bit, not only because an outer space adventure adds some much-needed spice to the series, but because this is a story that again subverts expectations and remind us that this is not a super-hero show, and that victory is not assured.  Sometimes, coming up with a brilliant last-minute plan is just not in the cards, and the only thing left to do is cut your losses by doing away with the macguffin.  It helps that their defeat isn’t something they brought upon themselves–one of the more glaring flaws of the current show–but is something that happened even though the turtles were doing pretty much everything right.

If there’s something especially noteworthy in this episode, it’s the final scene where the Honeycutt makes his plea that the turtles kill him.  Not only is it original to the show–the comic book has the turtles be whisked away by Transmat just after they lose Zanramon–it’s an uncommonly dark dramatic beat for a western cartoon to play straight; the only other instance I can recall prior to this one  occurs in Gargoyles, where Goliath asks the Magus to cast his stone-by-night spell on him during the show’s second episode, which would, as far as the gargoyle knew, mean the equivalent of death.   Even then, that moment is underplayed enough so that the implications aren’t immediately apparent, which is not the case here.  What’s more, while the turtles don’t get a chance to make a final decision here–they’re rescued before they press the button–the moment serves as a nice preview of the moral dilemmas to come, as the turtles are eventually forced to grapple with this same question twice: can they kill their friends, if it means saving the world?  Heavy stuff, and the answer, fittingly, is not limited to a simple “yes” or “no”.

Random Thoughts:

  • It’s worth noting that Honeycutt’s position shifts, slightly from the beginning of the episode to the end.  When he first realizes that refusing to build the Teleportal won’t be enough, he takes a blaster and points it at his head.  However, when he offers the E.M.P. pulse, he begs the turtles to make good on their promise, apparently not considering that he can press the button himself.  I’m not exactly sure what that means, other than being a sign that when all is said and done, he really doesn’t want to die, but it’s an interesting detail.  Would he have done it anyway, if the turtles refused to?
  • The Teleportal’s malfunction is a small touch I really like, not only because it makes for a good false climax–at least for those who weren’t aware of the comic–but because it adds a nice touch of realism where it’s rarely found.  An untested machine, built under circumstances in which working quickly was far more important than working carefully, and under enemy fire?  Yeah, that was never going to work.
  • Speaking of the Teleportal, I never really noticed until now that while we’re told that the turtles collected the necessary components from the lab, we never actually see them.  When the turtles arrive at the hangar bay on a hover platform, it’s empty save for the characters.
  • The fact that Rez and Zad continue commenting on Zanramon’s kidnapping as if it were a normal part of the proceedings  is one of the better humorous bits in this episode.  Consummate professionals those two.
  • While things don’t go well for Lonae this episode, her final fate is left somewhat ambiguous.  Was she executed?  Was she “just” incarcerated?  Was she freed after Blanque is eventually deposed?  There really isn’t a chance to revisit her, which is a minor shame, as I feel she still had some stories left in her.
  • In this episode, we see several Triceratons and Federations ships either be shot down or crash.  We are explicitly shown that these are manned ships.  The series is getting more comfortable showing the turtles as people who kill.
  • The teaser for this episode is rather awesome in its ability to recap a ridiculous amount of information in one minute.  Not only does it cover this arc, it makes nods to “The Search for Splinter”, a bit of “Return to New York”, and even the origin as seen in “Attack of the Mousers”.
  • ETA: One thing this episode does is blur the line between suicide and a heroic sacrifice, two related actions that are nevertheless thought of in dramatically different terms.  Suicide, to many people, is something to be prevented at all costs.  Heroic sacrifices–giving up one’s life for the sake of another–on the other hand, is considered, if not desirable, heroic–hence the name.   Very rarely are they considered the same thing.  While one could argue that Honeycutt’s attempts to kill himself were inherently heroic in nature–he was doing it to save the universe–the execution here doesn’t really fit the traditional conception of Heroic Sacrifice–for one, killing himself without building the Teleportal would doom the turtles.  On the other hand, suicide usually implies a desire to die, which is not quite what Honeycutt appears to be feeling here.  He feels that he needs to die, but that doesn’t mean he wants it.

6 Responses to Losers: “Turtles in Space — Part Five: Triceraton Wars”

  1. Garfield says:

    I remember reading the Mirage TMNT comics in Graphic novel format many times as a kid in the 90’s. I remember reading about their time in the Triceraton Homeworld and the whole thing with Prof Honeycutt/Fugitiod. Was pretty neat to see it in an animated adaptation. Today marks the 10 year anniversary of this episode. Wild stuff huh!

  2. Ian says:

    Hello, Garfield. : ) Ten years…wild stuff indeed. Back then I was still in my first semester in college, and was just beginning to learn about the Mirage Universe via this cartoon and the internet. It’d be years before I’d read the original version of this story, when Dan Berger, I think, scanned the comic book and placed it in the official TMNT website. Good times.

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