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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Episode Review: #2, "The Raiders" - Sept. 9, 1967

(WARNING: Spoilers!)

Synopsis: Prologue: An alien spaceship cruises the skies of Amzot.

Its crew: two single-eyed androids and a bald-headed, green-skinned creature with large pointed ears, who wears square spectacles with one lens blacked out.  Spotting Zandor flying on Zok's back below, the alien orders the ship be made invisible to escape Zandor's notice. Prologue ends…

"I was almost sure I saw a strange ship in this area," Zandor muses; "I guess I was wrong." He urges Zok to continue their journey. Safe from detection, the alien orders the ship made visible again, and "Eject the decoy smoke". Thick smoke billows from the ship's rocket exhaust, creating a convincing illusion of a spacecraft suffering a mechanical breakdown, as the alien directs the ship to fly to "Zandor's territory".

Tara watches as the ship lands in front of the Herculoids' treehouse, concerned that the occupants might be in trouble. As the alien and his two androids exit the ship, Tara asks, "Are you all right?"

The alien's reply, after ascertaining that Tara is alone in the compound, is to pull a gun on Tara! "Into the ship! With you as my hostage, the riches of this planet will soon be mine!"

Tara calls for help from Gloop; the alien orders his androids to "destroy that creature!" Gloop evades the android's eye-beams, by splitting into multiples of himself.

The alien orders the ship to leave, but Gloop grabs the rocket exhaust tube and attempts to prevent its takeoff. But the application of "magno-power" overcomes Gloop's grip, and the ship breaks free -- but not without damage that forces the ship to land once again, for genuine repairs this time. "You'll never get away with this!" Tara says, but the alien responds, "With you as my hostage, I have nothing to fear!"

Gloop watches the ship land, and bounces off in search of help. He finds Dorno, Igoo, Tundro and Gleep at a swimming hole, where Dorno is being catapulted by Igoo into the water -- "That was great, Iggy! The highest dive yet!" Gloop tells Dorno of his mother's kidnapping, and Dorno summons Zandor on a ram's-horn-like instrument.

Zandor and Zok find the ship's landing place, and survey the scene from hiding. One of the aliens is working on repairs to the ship, while Tara, her hands bound behind her back, sits on a rock with the alien holding a gun on her.

"I've found them! At the base of the White Cliffs!" With Zandor in the lead, the others march to Tara's rescue. Fade to black…

After the break: Zandor outlines his plan to the others: Dorno and Tundro create a diversion, the rest is up to Zandor and the others.

Just as the repairs are finished, Dorno and Gleep, riding on Tundro's back, charge the camp. The alien and his androids fire stun-rays at them, stopping Tundro in his tracks, Dorno flies off Tundro's back, but his fall is cushioned by a pillow-shaped Gleep. Igoo is spotted climbing down the cliff toward the camp, and is fired upon by an android. The robot's beams break Igoo's grip on the rock face, and he falls -- onto the android, crushing it flat. Igoo confronts the alien, who threatens to shoot Tara.

From the top of the cliff behind Tara and her captor, Gloop stretches down to lift Tara up and away from the alien, as Gleep snatches the gun from his hand.

Two androids attack Igoo, who dismantles them with mighty blows of his stone fists. Two more androids attack Tundro, but are dispatched with energy rocks fired from Tundro's horn.

"I can still escape!" cries the alien, beating a hasty retreat to the ship. But once again, the ship will not move because it's being held back -- this time by Igoo, who unfortunately doesn't know when to let go, and is carried aloft when the alien turns on the full power of the engines. Igoo finally falls from the ship, conveniently landing in a mudpit that cushions his landing.

It's now up to Zandor and Zok -- "Don't let him get away!" But the alien has "a special surprise" planned for Zandor. Zok manages to get above the ship, and Zandor urges the dragon to ease in close, but be ready for anything. Good advice: Zok is just inches from the ship's hull when the alien fires a "mega-blast" at Zok's underbelly! Fortunately, the slow-moving beam is easy to avoid, as Zok flies away just in time.

Zandor and Zok try an approach from the rear, but he ship has ray-guns pointed in that direction as well; Zandor's shield deflects the blasts. "Now, Zok!" The dragon fires beams from his eyes at the ship, blasting a hole in its rear hull. Zandor fires an energy rock from his slingshot which damages the forward hull; from the ground, Igoo uses a tree as a catapult (much as he'd done with Dorno earlier) to launch a giant energy rock at the ship, finally knocking it out of the sky to crash behind some distant cliffs -- could the evil alien have survived?

Reunited with her family at last, Tara asks why would someone do such evil things. Zandor muses, "I don't know, Tara. But creatures like that help us to realize that what we have is worth protecting."

Comments: I had to re-watch this episode twice to confirm a suspicion I was having the first time I watched it (that is, the first time after not having seen it for 30-some-odd years): no reason is given for the actions of the villain in this story!

His name is never revealed, although I've seen him referred to as "Enemy One-Eye" on a couple of fan sites, so that's as good a name as any.  But we know he's a villain, 'cause just look at him!  He's ugly, he wears square spectacles with one lens blacked out (the space-age equivalent of pirate eyepatches, I suppose) and he talks in that hoarse, growly voice that always marks a Hanna-Barbera villain.  But what he does that makes him evil, well, that will have to remain forever a mystery.

He knows Zandor, obviously, and has reason to want to hide from him the first time he sees him.  And yet, seconds later, he flies right for "Zandor's territory", fakes mechanical trouble with his ship, and takes Tara hostage in order to... what? Force Zandor to do something?  Prevent Zandor from doing something?  We don't know. His statement about "the planet's riches" being his is too cryptic to be a real explanation.

I'm wondering if this episode, like "The Beaked People", wouldn't have benefitted from being expanded to a half-hour, in order to explore the relationship between Zandor and Enemy One-Eye a little more.  There's obviously bad blood between these two, or at least hard feelings on the part of EOE toward Zandor, and it would have been useful to find out why.  Was Zandor responsible for bringing EOE to justice, and a long stretch in a galactic prison?  (As we'll see in future episodes, it wouldn't be the only time Zandor's done that.)

I love the moiré patterns the last two androids produce when they blow up.

Continuity error: when Gloop comes rushing rushing to the pool, gibbering for the attention of Dorno and the others, Dorno looks toward screen right, the opposite direction from which we see Gloop approaching.

And: from the beginning of the episode, we see EOE accompanied by only two androids. Suddenly, in the big battle with Igoo and Tundro, we see that he apparently had five: one flattened by Igoo's fall, two punched to pieces by Igoo (in a scene that can be seen every week in the show's opening titles), and two destroyed by Tundro.

The "Oh, come ON!" moment: the whole episode is kind of an OCO moment, since the villain's purposes and motivations are never made clear; but if I had to choose one, it would be the "Mega-Blast" weapon. Any other blaster, ray gun or beam weapon would've moved too quickly for Zok to avoid; how conveeeeenient that the Mega-Blast moves as s-l-o-w-l-y as it does.

And, almost any scene in which Gloop or Gleep has to cushion a character's (usually Dorno's) fall from a great height is good for an OCO moment, since the writers and artists couldn't resist having Gloop/Gleep form himself into a pillow, mattress, etc. to do so. And don't get me started about the parachutes...

All in all, a pretty weak episode, and not one I'd recommend to newcomers to the Herculoids.

ADDENDUM: Re-watching a batch of random episodes, including one called "The Return of Sta-Lak". And what do you know? Turns out this unnamed alien, "Enemy One-Eye", actually has a name: Sta-Lak (pronounced "stay lack"). Geez, fellas, thanks a lot for not telling us his name in the episode he's first introduced in!! But although "The Return of Sta-Lak" chronicles his plan for revenge against the Herculoids for the events in this episode, it's still never revealed why he had a beef with the Herculoids in the first place.


  1. Damn, you think that a show would mention the villains name and whole motives right off the bat. Guess that wasn't in the show's budget. ^^;

    Hhmm, Sta-Lak... Kinda works but wouldn't it be better to go with a name that fits his description. At least your Enemy One-Eye works a bit. But that's just me.

    After reading the Herculoid's wiki, I kinda have a theory about this episode and why the Herculoids protect this planet. Perhaps Amzot (still like that name, sort of like Amazon but with an extra-terrestrial twist to it) is an untouched planet and Zandor, Tara, and Dorno are explorers that landed on the planet. They could have come from Earth or an Earth colony (since our planet is almost screwed ecosystem wise) looking for a new home. Rather than doom this planet to having hordes of humans overrun and abuse it, they remain on it and do what they can to keep the planet safe. As for Sta-Lak, he could have been after some sort of mineral(s) on Amzot but he wasn't expecting Zandor, a human that had him arrested for illegal strip-mining, to be there.

    Again, this is just a few theories of mine. I would like to hear your comments on it.

  2. There's a Herculoids wiki? I didn't know that... I can has link please?

    Your theories about the "origins" of the Herculoids make sense. I think I'd posit that Zandor and Tara landed on the planet (or were shipwrecked?), and that Dorno was conceived and born some time after their arrival. An extra-terrestrial (extra-Amzotian?) origin for Zandor, as a member of a technologically-advanced culture of humans, would then explain how someone who live a Tarzan-like existence of little or no technology could still perform feats like piloting a spaceship, as he does in "Sarko the Arkman" and "Attack From Space".

    Sta-Lak's animosity toward Zandor certainly stems from an earlier encounter; that would've been an interesting story.

    I've been giving this stuff a lot of thought. If there's ever a feature-film version of The Herculoids, I'd love to be the one to write it! (You should read the notes I've already written!)

  3. Actually, it was the same wiki link you posted on this blog.


    Wish it had its own unofficial wiki, seen a few like Ben 10 and Doctor Who and they are very impressive.



    Thanks for the comment on my theory. =) Would like to see your version of a Herculoids movie.

  4. I'm guessing that when Sta-Lak and Zandor met the first time, the alien was Enemy TWO Eyes. That would be enough to permanently graft a chip on his shoulder. Is this the only villain to come back for a second try at wiping out the Herculoids? If so, I'm pulling for him as the Big Bad of the Eventual Inevitable Movie Blockbuster. And since he's also a clever roboticist, there's plenty of room for all sorts of really neat, really goofy mechanical menaces under his Sinister Heh Heh Control.

  5. you don't get Sta-Lak's motivation?

    the series came out during a strong Cold War period when comic books and cartoons (and other pop culture fun) often featured villains whose sole motivation was a devout obsession with conquest without any rational reason to conquer, you know, just like the "Nazi Commie Bad Guys" who do "Nazi Commie Bad Guy" things in the name of Der Fatherland/Mother Russia were said to seek conquest without any rational reason or discernible motivation

    so when the series first came on, no one would have wondered why he was trying to take over Amzot by harrassing women as most people accepted that such was simply the sort of thing "Nazi commie bad guy" villains do (maybe he was trying to change its name to Quazar?)

    you need to read some of the original notes about the series (only URL i know is dead, sorry!)---maybe you can find them by periodically searching for the Alex Toth interviews, for example---they are sometimes accompanied by comments about how much of the Herculoids was influenced by Cold War assumptions about motiveless irrational enemies who wanted the good guys Just 'Cause!