ThunderCats - Episode Guide

Sixth Sense

Written by Peter Lawrence

   

 

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http://thundercats.org/cartoon/cartoonguide/episodeguide/sixthsense/synopsis.jpg A damaged alien spacecraft makes contact with CHEETARA’s Sixth Sense. The effort involved in this telepathic communication drains her strength. She ages rapidly. The THUNDERCATS have to find the crashed spacecraft if they are to save CHEETARA – but the MUTANTS get there first. They are able to understand its strange technology and MONKIAN attacks it, ripping its Control Center (the element with which CHEETARA communicates) from the framework and taking it back to Castle Plun-Darr LION-0, WILYKAT, and WILYKIT break into the Castle to rescue it, while PANTHRO and TYGRA repair the framework of the alien craft. At the climax of the fight between LION-0 and the MUTANTS, the spacecraft itself flies in and drives the MUTANTS out. It is operating under direct control of the now desperately weak CHEETARA. TYGRA and PANTHRO fit the rescued Control Center into the spacecraft and it leaves Third Earth.

 

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Cheetara’s intuition, or Sixth Sense, is focused onto the friendly Delta Spacecraft, which uses her as a means of communicating and seeking help. Though she becomes emotionally drained and even her life is placed in danger, she understands what the Spacecraft is experiencing and vicariously feels and experiences what it is subjected to. She is able to sense what is needed to rescue the craft, even associating with it to the point of functioning as its life-force until its Control Unit is replaced.

In persons, empathy is that quality represented by Cheetara’s experience in this episode. Empathy includes three components: the ability to discriminate and label affective states in others, the ability to assume the role and perspective of others, and the ability to emotionally feel the affective state of the observed person. It is an important quality because it may be an antecedent for the acquisition and development of pro-social behaviors like generosity, altruism, helping, and cooperation. Since it has been shown to have an inverse relationship with aggression, it is viewed as a means of regulating aggressive behavior, because being able to identify with the painful consequences of an aggressive act can inhibit acting aggressively. In general, empathy is easier for children when the observed person is similar to the observer, e.g., boys are more empathic observing boys and girls observing girls (Feshbach, 1978). Efforts to enhance empathic skills by helping children gain the perspective of others, role-play, be sensitive to affective skills, and be emotionally responsive can be important to children in their personal and moral development.

FESHBACH, N. D. (1978). Studies of empathic behavior in children. In B. A. Maher (Ed.). Progress in Experimental Personality Research (Vol. 8). New York: Academic Press.

 

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“Sixth Sense” is an exciting and intriguing episode that adds much to the ThunderCats series on a variety of different levels. As well as sowing the seeds for many plot points used in later episodes, particularly season 2, the episode is a brilliant and inspired showcase for Cheetara, and indeed a good showcase for most of the series’ main characters.

The concept of Cheetara’s sixth sense being something of a double-edged sword was first touched upon in “The Ghost Warrior”, the episode where her psychic abilities are first revealed. At times throughout the remainder of the series, this sixth sense would serve as a highly useful plot device, culminating in the season 2 masterpiece, “The Telepathy Beam”. However, that episode would not work so well without this one having already taken place, for “Sixth Sense” shows Cheetara at the mercy of her abilities, both at her most vulnerable and, in the end, at her strongest.

One of the most commendable things about the character of Cheetara is that at no point in the series is she portrayed as a weak, “damsel-in-distress” female character, instead providing a strong role model for the show’s young female viewers by the writers’ skilfully walking a tightrope of character development, ensuring that Cheetara retains her femininity and yet comes over as a strong, capable woman, more than able to take care of herself in battle. Nonetheless, when compared to a character like Panthro, it is evident that Cheetara, like the Thunderkittens, Snarf, and even Lion-O, is likely to be one of the more vulnerable of the show’s main characters, and as such the challenge would be to find a plot device that would allow this concept to be exploited, without compromising the integrity of the character. This is where Cheetara’s sixth sense can truly be appreciated as a storytelling masterstroke – for, in many ways these psychic abilities are a strength and a power to be utilised (and indeed, they prove to be a central turning point in the ThunderCats’ first encounter with Grune the Destroyer in the aforementioned “Ghost Warrior” episode), yet they also provide Cheetara with her greatest weakness, a susceptibility to outside influences such as the alien spacecraft seen in this episode.

As well as showing Cheetara at her weakest, this episode also serves to show Cheetara at her strongest – for, even though the alien spacecraft and the abuse it is subjected to are constantly draining her strength, pushing Cheetara to the point of near death, at no point does she lose her force of will, pushing herself to the limit by joining Panthro and Tygra to help save the spaceship, and then showing a true command of her mental powers by taking command of the spaceship and using it to defeat the Mutants. This scene alone helps sow the seeds for “The Telepathy Beam”, where Cheetara begins to truly master her abilities, and as such is one of the most defining moments for her character in season 1.

There are lots of other great character moments in this episode as well, not least of all for the Mutants. Although there is a limit to how much development their characters can receive, in this episode the Mutants’ individual personalities greatly enhance the plotline involving the spaceship. When someone encounters something they don’t understand, a relatively natural tendency is to become afraid of that something, and as such the tendency of a more childlike or under-developed mind could be to lash out and attack it – this is the role that Monkian, the least intelligent of the Mutant leaders, fulfils in this episode, whilst Vultureman urges him to view the bigger picture and reacts with consistent exasperation at his comrades’ lack of enthusiasm for scientific discovery. Whilst a relatively small character touch, this nonetheless sows the seeds for storylines in many future episodes, with Vultureman consistently driven to striking out on his own, which culminates in season 2 with his partially deserting the Mutants in favour of an alliance with the Lunataks. Without question, the addition of Vultureman would add a unique dynamic to the Mutants, and this is evident even in this early appearance of his.

Another nice touch is seeing how readily the other ThunderCats accept the concept of Wilykit and Wilykat joining Lion-O in the assault on Castle Plun-Darr – whilst it could be argued that they have no choice, with Cheetara incapacitated and both Tygra and Panthro needed at Cats Lair, nonetheless it is refreshing to see the ‘Kittens regarded as capable and unquestionably worthy of joining Lion-O in such a dangerous mission.

If this episode has one weakness, it would probably be the animation, which is at times quite breathtaking, yet at other times very stylised in its Japanese influence, and thus something of an acquired taste. Whilst it would be unfair to describe it as truly “bad”, for fans of the more traditional style of animation that would be evident throughout much of the ThunderCats series this episode takes a little getting used to. This very minor gripe aside, this episode is easily one of the strongest of season 1, and essential viewing for Cheetara fans. In short, this episode is deserving of the highest compliment I can pay it – that, without it, the ThunderCats series as a whole would be weaker.

Written by Chris (He-Fan)

 

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Notes of Interest button Although never named in the episode itself, the original script for this episode names the alien spacecraft that communicates with Cheetara as “the Delta Spacecraft”. The script also indicates that, when the Mutants first encounter it on Hook Mountain, it has “many triangular holes in the main framework, where Delta Robots have been knocked out.”
Notes of Interest button Interestingly, even though Vultureman has appeared in the series prior to this episode, the original script provides a brief note about him, as well as information about his workshop. The script states that “Vultureman is the Mutants’ equivalent of Panthro the Technocrat”, and also that “in keeping with his name, his workshop is filled with skeletons and the random scavengings of Third Earth: a Warrior Maiden’s bow, a Snowman’s lance, a stuffed Feathered Lizard, etc.”
Notes of Interest button In this episode, two different sequences of animation from previous episodes are reused, both close-up shots of ThunderCat characters – a headshot of Tygra from the episode “The Fireballs of Plun-Darr”, and also a shot of Wilykat from the opening treetop scene in “The Slaves of Castle Plun-Darr”.
Notes of Interest button This episode provides Vultureman with easily his most significant role in the series so far – and, it also marks the first occasion that he is voiced by Earl Hammond, who would voice Vultureman for the entire remainder of the series!
Notes of Interest button Interestingly, the sequence at the episode’s conclusion where the alien spaceship pushes Lion-O onto Cheetara in what many fans regard as a romantic inference was actually not in the original script, and so it may have been added by the animation studio or added by the writers further into production.

 

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