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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Episode Review: #3, "The Pod Creatures" - Sept. 16, 1967

(Spoilers, spoilers, getcher red hot spoilers rat cheer!)

Prologue: A saucer-shaped space craft enters the atmosphere of Amzot.

"We have reached the jungle planet," intones a mechanically-filtered voice. "Prepare to drop pods. And remember: no life is to survive." Circular ports ringing the bottom edge of the saucer open, and pods like tailless lawn darts drop to the planet's surface.

Cue the title card...

The strange sounds caused by the deployment of the pods do not go unnoticed by Tara and Zandor, though they are puzzled by the cause. Zandor summons Zok from a nearby cave, and they fly off to investigate. "If you find Dorno and Igoo, tell them to stay close to home," asks Tara.

An airborne search proves fruitless for the moment, and Zandor decides to start a ground search, sending Zok to find Dorno and Igoo.

Dorno is apparently having "Iggy" do his chores for him: as the boy relaxes against Gleep, Igoo uproots trees with segmented trunks, and karate-chops them into shorter logs for firewood.

"That's enough firewood, Iggy. Gleep and I are tired just from watching!" But the bucolic moment is cut short by the strange noises again; "Let's go see what it is."

The saucer continues to drop pods, row upon row; conceivably hundreds, if not thousands, have now landed.

Finally the saucer's ports close, as Gleep, Igoo and Dorno (carried in one of Igoo's giant hands) approach. They come upon a patch of pods, which Dorno describes as looking "like some kind of weird vegetable."

A pod opens behind Igoo, revealing a strange creature shaped like a large bullet. "It's alive!" exclaims Dorno.

Pods are suddenly splitting open all around them, the creatures inside extending thin black tentacles toward Dorno and Igoo. "They're after us... head for the caves!"

A tentacle grabs Gleep, but at Dorno's urging the protoploid separates in two, slipping out of the tendril's grasp. The creature's tentacles continue to pursue Gleep, as another creature's tentacles wrap themselves around Igoo. The stone ape breaks their grip, and fights them off with karate-like chops of his hands.

Gleep joins Dorno in the shelter of the cave, as the boy urges Igoo to get to safety as well. But Igoo is surrounded on two sides by pod things, which hover on rocket-like engines. Grabbing the tentacles of one group of pods, Igoo flings them against a cliff face, repeating the stunt with the other group.

A creature flies straight for Igoo, punching him squarely in the midriff... and putting himself right into the ape's mighty grasp. Igoo slams the thing into the ground. Three more creatures launch themselves at Igoo, who catches them, shoves them into the ground, and proceeds to pound them even deeper into dirt like the pegs in a child's workbench toy.


Tara hears Igoo's battle roars, and asks Tundro to call for Zandor; Tundro does so by projecting his growl through his hollow forehead horn. Zandor hears Tundro's summons, and bounces off tightly stretched vines. Zok hears Tundro as well, and joins Zandor, Tundro, Gloop and Tara in a nearby clearing.

Zandor orders Zok and Tundro to follow him to aid Igoo and Dorno, and Gloop to stay behind and guard Tara (which he does by surrounding her with multiples of himself).

Igoo is beset by more pod creatures, whose tentacles are apparently becoming harder to repel. Dorno is grabbed by a creature until Igoo chops its tendrils away and smashes it. Still more pods attack Igoo.

Gleep ties himself into a knot around a pursuing tentacle, causing the hydraulic pressure on either side of the knot to split the tendril apart.

But the creatures press their attack, and their numbers seem endless..

Zandor, Zok and Tundro finally arrive on the scene, to find Dorno and Igoo helplessly bound in tentacles, being dragged toward a group of pod things. Energy rocks fired from Zandor's slingshot and Tundro's horn prove to be very effective weapons against the creatures.

Zok struggles to break free of tentacles; Zandor throws his shield and severs Zok's bonds. Zok destroys several creatures with his eye and tail beams, as Zandor wrecks a few more with another expert throw of his shield, and Tundro makes like a shooting gallery...

Finally, all the pod creatures are destroyed. "But I have an idea that there are a lot more where they came from," Zandor muses. As the saucer rises into the air and fleees the planet, he adds, "I suspect that that spaceship could give us all the answers."

"And our answer to them was our animal army," Dorno replies, as they all return home.

Comments: Remember what I've written, about how some episodes would benefit from being expanded to a half-hour story? "The Pod Creatures" is not one of them.

This episode is about as basic as you can get: a mysterious alien race infiltrates the planet, and the Herculoids drive them off. So bare-bones, in fact, that it wouldn't be surprising to find out that the staff actually had trouble filling nine minutes; there certainly seems to be a lot of reused and repeated footage, especially of Igoo fighting off the tentacles.

This episode is actually pretty typical of one type of Herculoids story: the mysterious extraterrestrial invasion force. An unnamed alien culture comes to Amzot and drops warriors, machines or creatures onto the surface to conquer, colonize, and/or "cleanse" the planet of its existing life (as in this case). And it's up to Zandor and co. to save the planet from the threat of annihilation or conquest.

I believe that's Paul Frees doing the voice of the saucer.

The "Oh, Come ON!" Moment: This episode didn't really have a notable OCO, at least not one which took me out of the story or made me wonder about the intelligence and/or competence of the character(s) involved. There are a few scenes that get me scratching my head, though:
  • Isn't it convenient that the tree Igoo is chopping up grows a segmented trunk that separates easily into equal-sized logs? I'm not saying that couldn't happen…

  • Why doesn't Zok use his power beams on the pod things holding him captive? Why does Zandor have to free him first, using a shield that is apparently razor edged?

  • I guess the closest to an OCO we have in this episode is that Zandor's shield returns unerringly to him, no matter how many objects it's struck in its trajectory. But I have that same gripe about Captain America's shield, so it's not like Zandor is unique in that regard. (It's certain that Cap was the inspiration for this "boomerang shield" thing in the first place.)

  • And: why is Zandor so nonchalant about the departing spacecraft that tried to wipe out all life on Amzot (once again unnamed, referred to only as "the jungle planet")? I think I would've jumped on Zok's back and pursued that thing, to at least find out what section of space it probably came from. (And they could've pursued it quite a distance, even into interplanetary space, as we'll see in the next episode.)

This is the first episode that shows what would become a recurring image in future cartoons: Zandor bouncing between tightly-stretched vines. The purpose, I'm guessing, is to build up speed to be "launched" at… what, exactly? After Zandor flies away from the final vine, we're never shown where he lands! Is this to get him on Zok's back? There have to be easier ways, like maybe Zok kneeling down so his rider can climb onto his shoulder? This has always been the most mystifying aspect of the series, because there's simply no need for this elaborate procedure.

This is also the first occurrence we see of what becomes (for me, anyway) a rather annoying habit of Zandor's: his insistence that Tara stay behind, and that Gloop (or sometimes Gleep) guard her while the rest of the crew go off to face the latest danger to their existence. I understand the impulse; hey, I'd want my wife to stay safe if I think I'm about to face danger, but -- Zandor's taking his son (who looks to be anywhere from ten to thirteen years old) with him! Besides, we've already seen what a great shot Tara is with the family weapon (the slingshot), and that she's capable of great courage, so it seems to me that she'd be an asset on any mission they'd undertake. But the pop culture of the time still wasn't quite comfortable with the idea of a truly heroic female (with the exception of Wonder Woman, perhaps), so stay behind like a good little wifey she does. (If there's one thing that I think the Space Stars revival did better than the original series, it was to give Tara a bigger role in their adventures.)

It's fortunate that the pod creatures are, individually, easy to destroy. It's the sheer number of them that make them a formidable foe. I also wonder, too, why is a fleet of creatures whose purpose is the destruction of all life on a planet not equipped with a broader array of weapons? Tentacles? that's a "capture and hold" weapon, not a "destroy everything that lives" weapon.

So one wonders how the Herculoids would fare against an invasion force whose numbers are as great as the pod creatures', but one in which each individual unit is practically invincible? …yes, if you remember the show, or have watched it recently, you know which episode I'm referring to. And it'll be coming up for review in just a few weeks.

Finally: another shot of Tara, just because I like her…

…and the dirty old man in me wishes that Tara hadn't been left behind, and had fallen victim to the pod things herself…


  1. I can understand your minor complaint's on the OCO moments. Particularly Zandor's whole vine/sling shot act, it looks cool but we never got to see how he landed.

    Wish they could have delve more into the pod creatures. I like the design of them but they could use some upgrades in the weapons department. Like pump high voltage out of their tentacles to subdue the more powerful opponents. Also, seeing the main baddie behind these monsters would have been nice. Either someone (or something) totally new or could have been one of the few reoccurring villains in the show. Could say Sta-Lak may be behind them but that's my theory. Who would see behind the Pod Creatures?

    And yes, the whole "Tara stays at home while the MEN handle the hard work" shtick is old on so many levels. I'm pretty damn sure Tara could handle herself against a bunch of metal lawn darts.

    Finally, fantastic job on the Tara vs the Pod Creatures pin-up. Nice to see Tara bringing some guns to the battle if you can read between the lines. ;)

  2. Allow me to offer a "get out of jail free card" as to why Tara stayed behind. In the event that Zandor was captured or incapacitated, Tara would be left in charge to defend and/or organize Zandor's rescue. (What do you think? Does this fly?)