ThunderCats - Episode Guide

Sword in a Hole

Written by William Overgard

   

 

ThunderCats - Episode Guide - Official Rankin-Bass Synopsis header

http://thundercats.org/cartoon/cartoonguide/episodeguide/swordinahole/synopsis.jpg An S.O.S. from the edge of a Black Hole in deep space sends LION-0, SNARF and CHEETARA out in the Feliner. CAPTAIN SHINER, a Prussian space mercenary working for MUMM-RA, captures LION-0 and SNARF. The Sword of Omens is seized and MUMM-RA appears. He hurls the Sword into the Black Hole. CHEETARA returns to the Lair to get help. She and PANTHRO eventually seize CAPTAIN SHINER’s ship and head for the Black Hole, which, it turns out, is no more than a “clean-up space device” devised by Venusians many light centuries ago. They rescue the Sword and CAPTAIN SHINER appears to go down with the ship in the aftermath of the adventure. In the closing seconds, however, he is seen sailing his ship into deep space.

 

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Mumm-Ra’s complicated attempt to destroy the Sword of Omens is foiled by the extraordinary teamwork displayed by the ThunderCats. Each uses his unique abilities in cooperation with the others for the common good. Panthro, using his courage and knowledge of scientific theory, shows no fear of the unknown in leading their commandeered ship into the Black Hole. And he calls upon his technological knowledge to power them out. Lion-O displays his belief in Jaga and the Sword’s powers and uses his will power to summon the Sword. Cheetara shows her determination and perseverance in not giving up on them when they vanish into the Black Hole. And even the mercenary Shiner, who was originally in conflict with the ThunderCats, acts on their behalf and his own with his spacemanship when they encounter the space debris. As a result of the cooperation, the Sword is rescued and the ThunderCats are able to return home.

Cooperation is a basic and necessary requirement for maintaining the welfare and stability of society. A norm of reciprocity governs our interactions and is universally found in all moral codes. People help those who help them and do not injure those who have helped them (Gouldner, 1960). Moreover, when two or more groups in society are in conflict, in the face of compelling goals which are appealing to both groups and need the energies of both groups to be achieved, conflict is reduced and cooperation established (Sherif, 1958). We have much to gain when we seek to work in cooperation with the groups we contact in our daily lives. We should seek to make our interactions cooperative not only when faced by a super ordinate goal or crisis, but in the normal course of events. In doing so, both we as individuals and society as a whole benefit.

OULDNER, A. W. (1960). The Norm of Reciprocity: A Preliminary Statement. American Sociological Review, 25, 161-179.

 

ThunderCats - Episode Guide - ThunderCats Lair Official Episode Review header

As has been stated before, William Overgard is widely regarded by ThunderCats fans as one of the weakest writers ever to work on the show. In fairness to this point of view, most of his output in the series’ second season would be some of the most bizarre material ever to appear in ThunderCats – however, where this is unfortunate is that it overshadows several of the excellent episodes that Overgard contributed to season 1, including this outstanding effort.

It’s worth pointing out that villains in animated series from this period tended to be very one-dimensional – most would be just blatantly evil, some only a couple of grades up from simplistic cartoon villains such as Hanna-Barbara’s Dick Dastardly, whilst others would be misguided souls who would, by the episode’s resolution, have completely seen the error of their ways and sworn off evil. In this episode we are introduced to Captain Shiner, a character who, unusually, fits into none of those moulds. Neither pure evil nor pure good, Shiner is, simply, a mercenary, a character with few enough morals that he is happy to work for Mumm-Ra for the right price – however, at the episode’s conclusion, Shiner is shown to be both brave and to have a twisted sense of honour, going down with his ship after ordering the ThunderCats to save themselves. Although he is not given a great deal of substantial material in this episode, nonetheless Captain Shiner is easily one of the most interesting and unique of the ThunderCats’ foes – in fact, it is almost a shame that he returned, for in his next appearance, in the five-part “ThunderCats Ho!” at the start of season 2, Shiner was played much more as a straight villain rather than as the intriguing mercenary that he is in this episode.

Although the “ThunderCats in space” concept had been tackled earlier in the series (most notably, in fact, in the episode “Mandora and the Pirates”, which, like this episode, was penned by William Overgard), this episode marks the first proper foray into a new type of ThunderCats adventure, thanks to the first proper outing for the ThunderCats’ new craft, the Feliner. The introduction of the Feliner to the series was a clever one, enabling stories such as this one to evolve easily and without having to incorporate additional guest characters in order to make it plausible – for example, prior to the introduction of the Feliner, an episode like this would have required either the presence of a guest character such as Mandora the Evil Chaser, or would have required screen time to be spent having Shiner’s ship land on Third Earth in order to somehow take the ThunderCats back out into space, whereas with the Feliner established as a regular ThunderCat vehicle the space-based action of this episode is able to begin straight away.

As for the story itself, again this manages to be both innovative and entertaining, as well as acting as a nice continuation from the events of previous episodes. In the series’ earliest episodes, Mumm-Ra’s primary goal was to possess the Eye of Thundera for himself, a goal which motivated him to form an alliance with the Mutants – however, following his unsuccessful attempt to take command of the Eye of Thundera in “The Garden of Delights”, Mumm-Ra would subsequently be shown to wish the Eye destroyed more than anything else, and this is very much underlined by this episode. Perhaps one of the greatest achievements of this episode is that it actually feels as though Mumm-Ra has succeeded in his goal, for it is hard for the audience to imagine how someone could retrieve an object as relatively small as a sword from within a black hole, itself the epitome of mystery and a worthy parable for hopelessness. The explanation given in this episode for what is inside a black hole and why it exists may seem like a throwback to 1950s science fiction, yet somehow in the context of this episode it is strangely effective and helps to give this episode its unique and memorable flavour.

That’s not to say that this episode is without flaws, because there are certainly a couple of minor elements in the script that could have been tightened up for the sake of realism (or at least, comparative realism), the most obvious of these being the concept of the ThunderCats being able to breathe in space. Whilst it’s not the only time that this would be seen, the concept of characters from a series like ThunderCats being able to breathe in space is a matter of much derision from even the series’ most diehard fans – whereas a lot of apparent plot holes can be explained away by creative thinking, there are but a limited number of theories to explain how humanoid flesh-and-blood beings such as the ThunderCats would be able to survive in an atmosphere with no oxygen, particularly when, in the pilot episode “Exodus”, head writer Leonard Starr had already drawn the audience’s attention to the necessity for Third Earth to be atmospherically compatible for the ThunderCats. Another minor touch that doesn’t ring true is Lion-O’s immediate recognition of coffee when aboard the Vertis (Captain Shiner’s ship) – whilst this might be something that would be taken for granted, it’s worth noting that, even though Third Earth may be a post-apocalyptic version of “our” Earth, the beverage of coffee was never mentioned at any point in the series prior to this episode, and it somehow feels unusual for Lion-O to have encountered it before.

These gripes aside, this is actually a very unique and memorable episode that perhaps deserves more plaudits than the writer credit on the title card will allow it to accrue. Cursed with a couple of very minor flaws, it’s important that these things do not overshadow what is, otherwise, an extremely memorable, unique, entertaining and well thought-out episode.

Written by Chris (He-Fan)

 

ThunderCats - Episode Guide - Notes of Interest header

Notes of Interest button In this episode we get to see the Feliner in action for the very first time, even though when viewing the episodes in Production Order the construction of the Feliner won’t be completed until the next episode!
Notes of Interest button This episode marks the first appearance of Captain Shiner, and his only appearance in season 1. Although the concluding events of this episode would indicate that his ship was destroyed, both he and his ship would return in the “ThunderCats Ho!” five-part episode at the start of season 2.
Notes of Interest button When performing the ceremony of expulsion to cast the Eye of Thundera into a black hole, Mumm-Ra’s incantation references three beings from genuine Egyptian mythology, those being the water goddess Anqet, the jackal-god of mummification Anubis, and Apophis, the ancient Egyptian demon of chaos.
Notes of Interest button This episode is notable for showing the ThunderCats appearing to breathe normally in deep space, an ability that might explain how so many Thunderians were able to survive and return to repopulate New Thundera in ThunderCats‘ second season!
Notes of Interest button This episode offers a highly unique theory on the creation and existence of black holes!

 

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