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.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Episode Review: #8, "Mekkor" - Sept. 30, 1967



Through the quiet skies of Amzot float great numbers of silver spheres, landing on the ground with a weird electronic whine.

One by one, the spheres transform into squat, menacing-looking robots, each equipped with a jetpack and sporting two mechanical arms.

One final sphere, larger than the others, descends into their midst, transforming itself into their master control unit.

Prologue ends…

An antenna extends from the head of the master robot, and an electronic voice issues orders: "Go! And do not return until all opposition is removed!"

Beeping acknowledgement, the jet robots form into groups and depart. The master unit speaks again: "Secure our outposts and prepare for next step to take over this planet!

"Obey only my orders!" Once the robots have left, the master unit plows into the ground below for concealment.

"What's that?" Dorno and Gleep, out for a trek in the jungle, look on as several of the flying robots approach. Sensing danger, Dorno and Gleep duck behind a handy boulder.

"What are they?? I've never seen anything like that!" Gleep gibbers his agreement.

Suddenly the robots stop, and turn. Their "eyes" glow, indicating they've detected Dorno's and Gleep's presence. "It sees us! Look out!"

Dorno leaps out from behind the boulder, followed by Gleep, just before power-beams lance out!

Two of the robots give chase. From behind a tree, Dorno exclaims, "They're after us!"

He and Gleep manage to avoid a deadly beam that dissolves a chunk out of the tree trunk!

"Let's get out of here!"

Dorno and Gleep make a desperate run across the clearing, barely avoiding the deadly energy beams.

The robots receive new orders: "Secure hostages!" The robots take up the pursuit. "We've gotta find Tundro! Or Igoo!" Dorno exclaims.

But Igoo has already been found - by three more robots. His threatening roars do nothing to faze them.

He grabs one in his massive paws; but his grip is broken by a glowing force-field.

Igoo uproots a tree to club the robot to pieces; once again the force-field flares, and the tree bounces out of Igoo's grasp, not even budging the hovering robot.

Igoo tries a huge boulder - it's smashed to pieces against the robot's protective shield. Finally, roaring in frustration, Igoo approaches his strange opponent with fists raised.

The three robots bombard the great rock ape with a fusillade of rays that first paralyze him…

…then encase him in a coating of solid ice!

Another robot has found Tundro, who growls a challenge.

The robot fires a freezing ray, but apparently the power of one robot is sufficient only to form a thin coat of frost on Tundro's head and neck armor.

But the energy rocks Tundro fires are equally ineffective against the robot's force shield. The shield also holds up against Tundro's charges.

Finally, a frustrated Tundro stalks off, followed by his antagonist.

At the treehouse: Tara hears the distressed screeches of an airborne dragon. "What's the matter, Zok?"

She looks down and sees what's the matter: four robots hover near the ground, looking at Tara.

One fires a green beam that strikes Tara in the eyes, rendering her unconscious.

She's carried, stiff and paralyzed, in a force-bubble by two of the robots.

An angry Zok attacks the robots with his eye-beams, but is driven off by the rays of another robot.

Commercial break…

Zok's screeches reach the ears of Zandor, standing on the branch of a tree: "There's trouble!"

Gloop, nearby on the ground, turns and sees a robot hovering behind him.

"Who are you?" Zandor demands of the robot. "What do you want?!"

The robot's response: green rays like the ones that incapacitated Tara!

Paralyzed, Zandor can barely gasp, "Gloop! I… I'm helpless!"

Gloop stretches up and interposes himself between Zandor and the beam.

Zandor begins recovering from the beam's effects: "Thanks. Gloop! Keep that thing busy while I look into this!"

And Zandor bounces away off the vines.

Gloop stretches himself like a cover over the robot, intending to hold against the ground.

The robot strains against Gloop's efforts, finally breaking free and, in the process, breaking Gloop apart into tens of small globs!

The globs re-form into a single Gloop, who then stretches himself to wrap around the robot to crush it!

But the robot breaks this embrace as well, and begins firing power-beams at Gloop.

Apparently, Gloop senses these beams could do him actual harm, so he avoids them by assuming various shapes.

Finally, Gloop sees no alternative but to retreat, with the robot in pursuit.

Zok finds the frozen Igoo, and defrosts him with his tail-beam.

Zandor waves to Zok from a nearby tree-limb; and soon, Zandor is airborne on Zok's neck.

Dorno and Gleep are still being pursued; "They're still after us! We can't shake 'em!"

Gleep stretches himself between two tree trunks, catching the two robots and flinging them away like a giant slingshot; the sound of crashing metal is heard off-camera, signaling the first two robot casualties of this confrontation.

Dorno and Gleep reach a chasm between two cliffs, bridged by a tree-trunk. Dorno acknowledges Gleep's feat: "That was great, Gleep! That slowed 'em down!"

But at the base of the cliffs below them is yet another of the seemingly-ubiquitous robots…

whose power-beams dislodge Drono and Gleep and send them plunging to certain death below.

But Gleep forms a parachute-like shape for Dorno to grab, and like a hot-air balloon floats Dorno gently back up to the top of the cliff. "Thanks, Gleep… you're a life-saver!"

As Tara's captors carry her to their master, they pass the motionless form of Igoo standing against a huge rock pillar, a perfect disguise.

Once they're past, Igoo follows them.

Before they can activate their force-fields, Igoo smashes the two robots against each other, reducing them to junk!

He then bends down and tenderly picks up Tara, now freed from her paralysis with the destruction of the robots. "I'm all right, Igoo," Tara reassures Igoo, "but we've got to find Dorno!"

Hidden behind a stand of boulders, Tundro watches the approach of another squad of robots.

He ambushes them with energy rocks before they can raise their shields, destroying four of them before the remaining two realize their danger and take to the sky.

From high above, they try to bombard Tundro with the green paralysis beams. Nearby, Dorno and Gleep have reached Tundro's location.

"Tundro, they're all over the place! We're surrounded!" Indeed they are, for another squad is approaching from the other direction.

Zandor forms a hunch: "Those robots seem to be operating on some hidden power source! You think we can locate it, Zok?" Zok screeches in the affirmative. "All right… let's go!!" Zandor replies.

"Look! They're everywhere!" Dorno says to Tundro, who's still firing energy rocks at any robot he sees. "We don't have a chance!" The situation does indeed look grim; they're surrounded by robots!

Zandor's and Zok's search seems to be paying off: "Could that be it?" Zandor asks Zok, pointing to an antenna poking up from the ground.

"Let's go after it, Zok!"

Igoo, with Tara in his arms, turns to see they're being pursued by still more robots. "They're still after us, Igoo!"

"Tara!" Dorno calls from the dubious shelter of the boulders. "Over here!"

"Dorno! I'm so glad we found you!" Tara exclaims. "It's too late now," Dorno replies, apparently resigned to a horrible fate. "They've surrounded us… and there's no escape."

But high overhead, Zandor raises his shield, and throws it!

The shield skims the ground, neatly slicing off the antenna with which the master unit controls the robots!

The effects are almost immediate: "Something's happened!" exclaims Tara as the robots begin to fall to the ground, smashing to pieces as their controlling force - and apparently their power source as well - has been terminated.

"And just in time, too!" answers Dorno.

Meanwhile, the master unit burrows up out of the ground, trying to escape whatever incapacitated it. "It's coming up, Zok! Blast it!"

The dragon needs no encouragement; his eyes and tail fire powerful beams at the malevolent master unit until it explodes!

Riding Tundro's back, Zandor and his family return home. As they pass the wreckage of their erstwhile attackers, Dorno asks, "What's going to become of all these robots, Zandor?" He replies, "They'll stay where they are, Dorno. Someday, the forest will reclaim them all. Meanwhile, we have peace again."


You could call this "The Pod Creatures 2.0", since the basic plots of the two episodes are so similar*: an unidentified menace deposits multitudes of killer robots onto the surface of Amzot, and the Herculoids have their work cut out for them saving their world. And indeed, I could believe that the same enemy is responsible for both attacks; seeing that the "pod creatures" were ineffective against the Herculoids, they went "back to the drawing board" (so to speak) and created robots that could withstand the powers used against the pods.

And make no mistake: these robots are a formidable force! Their force-shields render them almost invulnerable to Zok's power beams, Tundro's energy rocks, and even Igoo's bludgeons; their jetpacks make them highly maneuverable, and they sport a deadly array of energy weapons themselves. Their long-range sensors could use some improvement, though, since they're caught off-guard so easily. Igoo sneaks up behind Tara's captors and smashes them before they can react, and Tundro is able to ambush them from the cover of boulders.

But with these upgrades in defense and weaponry come a fatal flaw: apparently to keep the individual units small and maneuverable, they can't carry their own power supplies, and must depend on the master unit for power. This creates the chink in the armor: the antenna through which energy is broadcast to the units. Disable or destroy that, and the entire invasion falls apart, literally as well as figuratively.

So the closest we get to an "Oh, Come ON!" moment is actually the climax of the story. Zandor's shield slices off the master unit's antenna, severing the vital connection between master and slaves. That was a little far-fetched for me even as a child: why couldn't the antenna itself either a) have its own force field for protection, or b) be fabricated out of a more sturdy material. I suppose it could be explained that a force shield, or the "wrong" material for the antenna, could interfere with power transmission; but still, it's such an obvious vulnerability that I still can't conceive of a (supposedly) intelligent species such as the creators of this invasion force not addressing it.

Of course, the reason the vulnerability exists is because there's only a short time to tell the story and they needed a quick resolution to a seemingly unsolvable problem.

Now, there are still quite a few "refrigerator moments" in this cartoon: the kind of story holes and inconsistencies that aren't severe enough to take you out of the story to wonder "what the futz were they thinking?", but do sneak up on you at strange times - say, when you're getting a snack out of the refrigerator - and make you go "hey, WAIT a minnit!" For example: we're shown that a single unit is capable of breaking Gloop (the larger protoploid) apart; yet the smaller one, Gleep, is able to withstand the force of two robots in the "slingshot" scene! How does that happen?

Still, "Mekkor" is one of the more memorable episodes, and the little robots are some of the more iconic images of the series, thanks to the fact that several scenes from this episode are used (in somewhat edited and reconfigured forms) during the opening titles of the Herculoids series.

And now, we conclude with your Moment of Zen Tara cheesecake:

* Interesting observation: although the sources I use for original broadcast order and dates show "Mekkor" forming the second half of the September 30, 1967 show, the Warner Archive DVD (production order) pairs "The Pod Creatures" with "Mekkor". These two episodes are so similar that I don't think it's a good idea to watch these back-to-back, as you would if you played through the DVD episodes in their order.

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