Opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of the author, David C. Matthews (unless otherwise indicated). Images used are copyrighted by their respective owners, and appear under the "fair use" provisions of the copyright laws.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Episode Review: #4, "Sarko the Arkman" - Sept. 16, 1967

(WARNING: Spoilers. Sorry I couldn't find a more creative way of saying it this time…)


A mysterious spacecraft plies the skies of the jungle planet.

It lands in a clearing; a large hatch opens in the side, and something shoots along an energy beam that issues out of the hatch.

Title card:

From behind a bush, a short, frog-faced alien watches as Igoo approaches. "Good! A perfect specimen for my experiments!" Bad luck for Igoo: he's standing directly over the "trap area".

The alien punches a button on his remote-control device…

and the ground falls out from beneath Igoo's feet. Igoo falls into the pit…

...only to rise a moment later, encased in a bell-jar-like container.

Igoo's roars of distress draw the attention of Zandor, who commences his bouncing-between-the-vines-stunt, and Dorno, riding atop Tundro accompanied by Gleep.

Another press of a button on the remote control opens the hatch in the spaceship's side, from which levitation beams appear to pull Igoo's trap into the interior. "That was even easier than I expected," gloats the alien.

"But you didn't expect me, did you, Arko?"

Arko turns to face Zandor. "Yes, I did, Zandor. You warned me never to return to this planet, so…"

A button-press opens a small hatch in the ship's side; Zandor is overcome by a burst of sleep-gas, and falls unconscious at Arko's feet. "Yes, Zandor, you warned me," laughs Arko.

The growls of the charging Tundro attract Arko's attention. Tundro comes to a stop - atop another of Arko's traps, as it turns out…

...and he, with Dorno and Gleep still on his back, ends up encased in a trap as well. "Gleep! Go get help!" orders Dorno.

Gleep separates into several small copies of himself, escapes through the ventilation holes ringing the bottom of the cage, and reassembles, bouncing off to summon aid.

That aid comes in the form of Tara, to whom the wildly-gibbering Gleep tells of the events of the past few minutes. Zok flies Tara, Gleep and Gloop to the scene of the trouble.

They find Zandor just regaining consciousness - but no sign of the spacecraft. "Arko must have used some kind of sleep mist on me," Zandor explains.

"Arko!" exclaims Tara. "Then that means they must have been taken to the planet Zodan!"

Zok screeches; "That's my feeling, too, Zok." Zandor resolves to go after Arko, and rescue Tundro, Igoo and Dorno. "Gleep, you know what to do." Indeed he does: surround Tara with multiple Gleeps for protection, as Zandor, Gloop and Zok take to the sky.

Commercial time-out…

On the planet Zodan: a rocky hillside, into which huge cages for Arko's newest "acquisitions" have been hollowed.

From his hovercraft, Arko delights in Igoos' and Tundro's futile attempts to break down the metal bars over the caves' openings: "It is useless! You have great strength; but my bars are stronger!"

He then flies up to the cage holding his third trophy: Dorno, whose cage is suspended several yards over the ground. "The animals I can use; but for you, son of Zandor, I have no use… except to control Zandor!"

"Who by now is on his way!" challenges Dorno. "And I will be ready for him," Arko gloats as he flies over to a small building from which protrude two deadly-looking ray cannon.

As Zandor, Zok and Gloop appears in the skies over Zodan, Arko unleashes a barrage of energy bolts at them.

One especially powerful bolt, even though deflected by Zandor's shield, still carries enough kick to knock Zandor and Gloop off the dragon's back!

Dorno cam only watch helplessly as Zandor plunges to certain doom -

- until Gloop forms himself into a parachute to lower Zandor gently to the ground.

Zok attacks the bars of Igoo's and Tundro's cages with eye- and tail-beams, weakening the metal enough to allow the mighty creatures to break the bars down. Safely on the ground, Zandor and Gloop watch as Igoo and Tundro charge toward Arko's fortification. "So… the creatures are loose. Which means their finish!" he says as he aims the ray cannons at the approaching Herculoids.

But Zandor pitches his shield, severing the electrodes and causing an energy backup which destroys the cannon.

Energy rocks fired from Tundro's horn batter the sturdy metal door leading to Arko's control room…

…Igoo pushes the door in, and they both charge down the corridor. But a quick press of a button on Arko's console drops three more doors into the hallway, separating Tundro and Igoo from their target.

Between Tundro's energy rocks and Igoo's brute strength, however, the doors are soon dealt with, and Arko finds himself confronted by his two erstwhile victims, and Zandor, slingshot at the ready, demanding his surrender.

"You win, Zandor… and you lose! With this switch, I release the cage containing your son!" Zandor launches an energy rock at Arko just as Arko pulls the lever; the control room is destroyed in a mighty explosion...

...but not in time to prevent the bottom from dropping out of Dorno's cage!

Quick action by Gloop, forming himself into a mattress, saves Dorno from a deadly fall.

Arko's spaceship once again leaves Zodan; but this time it's Zandor at the controls, as Zandor, Dorno, Gloop, Igoo and Tundro fly home.

"Are they all strapped in?" Zandor asks. "All but Zok," answers Dorno. "He's flying escort!"

Comments: So why is the episode titled "Sarko the Arkman" when the character is referred to throughout the show as "Arko"? The most likely explanation: the character's name was changed sometime during the cartoon's production, but after the vocal tracks were recorded, and rerecording those lines was not possible for some reason. Perhaps the actors were unavailable at the time, perhaps the budget and/or schedule wouldn't allow for the corrections to be made.

But I think I can guess why the change was made: someone in a position of authority didn't like the redundancy of the title "Arko the Arkman", and I can't say I blame them. The name "Sarko" is actually pretty cool; it's a name I wish I'd come up with.

I am absolutely certain this time that that's Paul Frees giving voice to (S)Arko. Frees is one of my favorite voice actors, and I've heard him use that voice, or something similar, for other characters. If you're not familiar with Paul Frees, I know you've heard his voice before: he's the "Ghost Host" for the Disney Parks' Haunted Mansion attractions; he's the voice of Disney's Ludwig von Drake, of the aliens from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, of Ben "The Thing" Grimm and the Watcher from Hanna-Barbera's version of Fantastic Four (which also debuted in 1967, the same year as The Herculoids) and… of the Pillsbury Doughboy(!) Frees didn't do a lot of work for H-B, but he was the narrator of the opening titles for Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles, as well as the voice of Fluid-Man in that same show. (You can find the theme here at Toon Tracker in RealAudio; scroll down about a quarter of the page.)

I think this cartoon was just about the right length for the story being told. But the story I would have liked to see done as a single half-hour episode was the first encounter between (S)Arko and the Herculoids. It's obvious this is not (S)Arko's first visit to Amzot; Zandor has warned him never to return, and even Tara knew, not only his name, but his planet of origin (Zodan). PIty they never told that story…

So Zandor, Zok and Gloop travel through interplanetary space to reach Zodan without the protection of pressurized craft or even space suits. That might have thrown me for a loop, even at the age I watched this show originally, had I not been watching Space Ghost the year before. With Space Ghost, Jan, Jace and Blip traveling the spaceways sans space suits as a matter of course, the viewer comes to accept that, for whatever reason, the Hanna-Barbera version of space is not an airless vacuum against which elaborate precautions must be taken, lest our heroes die a painful death upon leaving their planetary atmosphere for the first time.

OR, maybe Space Ghost's power bands, and Jace, Jan and Blip's inviso-power belts generate a force field that protect them from the airless vacuum of space. And just maybe Zok generates a similar force-field to insulate himself and his passengers from hard vacuum. Tundro, Igoo and Dorno have to use (S)Arko's spaceship to travel back to Amzot because Zok can't fit everybody on his back!

The ease with which Zandor pilots (S)Arko's ship tells me that there's a lot more to this man than just a Tarzan-like figure who lives in the wild with his family and a cadre of super-animals. Zandor has dealt extensively with technology in the past, but chooses to live a primitive existence for whatever reason. Wouldn't the reasons behind that make an interesting story!

Speaking of Space Ghost (we were, weren't we?): the next episode review will be of a Space Ghost episode! Why, you ask (as if you didn't know, or couldn't guess, the answer)? Because it's the occasion of the first Space Ghost/Herculoids crossover!


  1. And once again, Tara is left behind to "make a sandwich" for Zandor once he gets back. =P If this wasn't made back in a time where most female heroines were seen as damsels in distress, Tara would have shown Sarko that you do not go unpunished for threatening her son's life.

    I'm surprised there wasn't a OCO moment in this one (must be one of the rare moments). Still, the unanswered past of Zandor and his family is one story I would like to see explained.

    Thanks for another great insight into the forth episode of the Herculoids. I never knew who the voice behind Ludwig Von Drake (one of my favorite Disney characters growing up) until now. Thanks again, David. Can't wait to see the Space Ghost/Herculoids crossover.

  2. Well, the times when Igoo and Tundro just happen to be standing over "trap areas" so conveniently come close to OCO moments. I do wonder when (S)Arko had time to dig those traps and put in the machinery necessary for the capture of their victims.

    But an "Oh, Come ON!" moment has to be egregious enough to take me right out of the story, and there wasn't really one in this show. Some scenes came close, though... (I did get a comment over at my deviantART site that thought I was being a little too hard on the shows, so I'm trying to scale back at least some of the overt criticism.)

  3. I've considered writing a fanfic that recounts the true back stories of both Sarko and Queen Skorra.