Lion-O’s Anointment Fourth Day:
The Trial of Mind Power
Written by Leonard Starr
OFFICIAL RANKIN/BASS SYNOPSIS
LION-O undergoes the fourth trial in his Anointment Trials, a series of tests every Lord of the THUNDERCATS has had to pass in order to be worthy of the inherited title. This trial is TYGRA’s trial of Mind Power and LION-O’s goal is to reach the Desert of Sinking Sands – not a difficult objective in itself. However, TYGRA uses his mind power to create illusions which distract LION-O: a windy blizzard on a clear day; darkest night when it is daytime; and pathways which lead nowhere. LION-O is forced to decide what is REAL and what is not. The most challenging illusion is TYGRA’s recreation of the destruction of LION-O’s home planet, ThunDERa. LION-O relives the fear he experienced when he was a young boy leaving his doomed planet, ThunDERa. Through this illusion, LION-O confronts and overcomes the greatest fear that has tormented him since he arrived on Third Earth. When LION-O finally succeeds in overcoming TYGRA, and his own fear of being afraid, he discovers that his final trial will match him against MUMM-RA.
MORALS BY DR. ROBERT KUISIS
In his fourth trial, Lion-O learns the powers of concentration and the ability to focus his mind on making judgments. Confronted with Tygra’s ability to create illusions, Lion-O copes by judging correctly what is real and what isn’t. Guided by this power of right judgment, he meets his greatest fear, that he will be afraid again, brought on by the nightmare of Thundera’s destruction. Facing the fear and judging it to be in the past and no longer realistic, he triumphs over both the fear and Tygra in the trial.
Like Lion-O, we must learn to distinguish reality from illusion. The acumen of making right judgments is an important skill to be learned. Our powers of judgment help us know what is a realistic fear and what is an unfounded fear. In learning how to focus our mind and how to make this judgment, we can relate to the world with confidence.
THUNDERCATS.ORG EPISODE REVIEW
After the brief lull of “The Trial of Cunning”, “The Trial of Mind Power” sees Lion-O’s Anointment Trials back to their best with, arguably, not just the strongest installment of the Trials episodes but perhaps one of Leonard Starr’s strongest-ever ThunderCats scripts.
Perhaps the most obvious element to cause this episode to stand out from the pack is how it thrusts the spotlight firmly on Tygra. Arguably the most complex and almost certainly the most enigmatic of the ThunderCats, any episode that heavily features Tygra tends to stand out as one of the series’ most unique and exciting offerings, and those episodes tend also to have a strong flair for the exotic, be they the addiction-fueled “The Garden of Delights” and “Crystal Canyon”, or this episode, which showcases Tygra’s previously undisclosed ability for casting illusions using the power of his mind. While never seen before, these mind powers don’t feel out of place or out of character in the context of Tygra’s cerebral and introspective nature. What’s more, his power of invisibility is itself a kind of illusion, so these powers feel like a natural—if rarely used—extension of the Tygra we already know.
Whatever the whys and wherefores, Tygra’s abilities in this episode make for one of the most unique challenges Lion-O has to face, not just in the Anointment Trials but in the entire ThunderCats series. That Leonard Starr would think to test Lion-O in this way shows just how well considered his writing process for the Anointment Trials was—whilst three of the five Anointment Trials deal primarily with Lion-O’s physical abilities, both “The Trial of Cunning” and this episode would test his mental and emotional fitness.
However, where “The Trial of Cunning” was, at times, a slightly mundane test for Lion-O, this Trial sees him put through arguably the most demanding test of all, with Tygra forcing Lion-O to relive the destruction of Thundera. This one scene alone is perhaps the single most powerful and relevant to Lion-O’s character development throughout the entire series. Lion-O’s devastation at the destruction of his home planet was touched upon beginning in “Exodus”, “The Time Capsule” and “Return to Thundera” explore his homesickness, and “ThunderCats Ho!” later shows us that the nightmares never really ended, even after the Trials. So it’s easy to see why forcing Lion-O to relive Thundera’s destruction would be the ultimate psychological test. In reliving it, Lion-O comes to the realization that his biggest fear in relation to Thundera’s destruction is that he’ll be that afraid again. Though just a small line of dialogue, this reveals so much about how traumatic the destruction of Thundera must have been to the pre-adolescent Lion-O, seeing everything he treasured and relied upon for security ripped away from under him. Once again, little touches like these define the greatness of episodes such as this one.
If there was one element of this episode that didn’t quite ring true, it would be how much perverse pleasure Tygra seems to take at certain points during Lion-O’s trial. Whilst some of the other ThunderCats would tackle the act of trying to better Lion-O in the Trials in a businesslike fashion, at one point Tygra actually taunts the young lord – after subjecting him to a particularly arduous early illusion, Tygra tells him, “So much for the warm-up – now for the game!” It could be argued that Tygra’s taunting is designed to further push Lion-O’s psychological boundaries and get inside his head, yet somehow it feels strange that Tygra should address Lion-O in such a mocking fashion – and, perhaps even more strange that Lion-O doesn’t react to it! Something else that reinforces the theory that perhaps Tygra’s goading of Lion-O is all part of the Trial is how Tygra instinctively uses his mental powers to protect Lion-O when he is at the mercy of S-S-Slithe’s Skycutter, somewhat negating any potential theory of underlying emotions on Tygra’s part, yet somehow his behaviour in this episode still feels mildly erratic.
If this episode had a weakness, it would probably be that the animation does not match up to the quality of the Anointment Trials that precede it. However, for an episode of so high a caliber, this is forgivable. With so much else to recommend it, this episode is a complete gem and deserves to be seen by all ThunderCats fans!
Written by Chris (He-Fan)
Chris rightly points out the power in that one line of dialogue, “My biggest fear is that I’ll be afraid again.” On first listen, this sounds ridiculous—fear of fear feels like a cop-out. Why can’t Lion-O have a more straightforward fear to conquer, like bats or his reflection? But what Lion-O is realizing, and what Leonard Starr is conveying in that one line, is that the long-term effects of trauma aren’t rational. When something traumatic happens to you, even if it’s unlikely to happen again, the emotions associated with its memory can be overwhelming. Lion-O isn’t afraid that Third Earth is going to blow up too. He’s afraid of how the memory makes him feel—the emotional shockwave that recalling Thundera’s destruction kicks up.
Robert Kuisis points out that Lion-O is finally able to see Thundera’s destruction as an event in the past that can’t reasonably hurt him anymore—he’s in control of his thoughts and feelings, and he can choose to leave the events of the past behind him. Whether that’s healthy or not, or a sensible model for kids at home who may themselves have experience trauma, I don’t know—I’ll leave that question to the child psychologists. For Lion-O, though, the nightmares don’t really end, and his guilt over leaving people behind will drive his actions down the road. But at least he now sees it for the trauma that it was.
Written by Zack (thezaxfactor)
NOTES OF INTEREST
|This episode marks the second occasion that Panthro speaks the line “Always those blasted Mutants!”, the first time being in “Exodus”. Notably, both episodes were written by Leonard Starr!.|
|Tygra power to cast illusions using the power of his mind is unique to episode. A line of dialogue from Panthro reveals that this is a gift possessed by all of the Tygra clan of ThunderCats, but that it requires significant energy and preparation. Panthro’s line is also the only time we hear the word “clan” used to describe groups of ThunderCats, and the clan’s name—Tygra—is the same as its ThunderCat’s!|
|In a rare costume variation, this episode marks the only time Lion-O is seen with his belt removed!|
|This episode is unique in that it features an appearance by Snowmeow without his master, the Snowman of Hook Mountain, or his saddle.|
|In many US broadcasts, the Anointment Trials episodes were spaced apart, as they were in production order. In the UK, where episodes aired once a week on the BBC, they were broadcast in order over five consecutive weeks.|
|The Anointment Trials were not broadcast in the UK until September 1990, kicking off a new series (season) of ThunderCats—the new season in question simply being the latter half of Season One! Interestingly, even though the Anointment Trials episodes had not been broadcast in the UK until that time, several episodes that appear after them in both production and US airdate order had been broadcast on the BBC several years earlier.|