Written by Stephen Perry
|SAFARI JOE, an intergalactic Big Game Hunter, arrives on Third Earth to hunt the THUNDERCATS. Using his Multi-Barreled Gattling rifle, he captures each of the THUNDERCATS and imprisons them in cages of Thundraniun, which drain them of their strength. JAGA appears and tells LION-0 of the THUNDERCATS’ capture, warning him of SAFARI JOE’s powers. LION-0 falls into the hunter’s camouflaged pit, but uses the Claw Shield as a decoy and escapes. LION-0 and SAFARI JOE make a pact: LION-0 must fight him without the Sword of Omens and he will release the THUNDERCATS. LION-0 cleverly lures SAFARI JOE to the Cats’ Lair basement where he and SNARF spook SAFARI JOE into a cowardly surrender. PANTHRO reprograms MULE, SAFARI JOE’s robot, giving him a positive work directive.|
Safari Joe, who covers up his insecurity and cowardice with a false bravado, is exposed as dishonest and dishonorable when he changes from being the hunter to being the hunted. He cannot admit to himself and others the truth about himself. In this episode, it is shown that even the ThunderCats have strengths and weaknesses, just like we do. Being honest with ourselves about our abilities and accurately appraising them allows us to be open, honest and truthful in our representing ourselves to others. Friends respect one another more when each is truthful and realistic in one’s self-appraisal. Having a weakness is not cause to cover up and be deceitful in relating to others. No one is perfect and we all have both strengths and weaknesses.
After a while of watching ThunderCats, it can become easy to forget the more feline attributes of the ThunderCat characters and instead come to think of them merely as super-agile, physically above-average humanoid warriors rather than as what they are – essentially an amalgamation of cat and human, with a lot of their appearance heavily emphasising their cat-like traits. However, an episode like “Safari Joe” brings back to the audience’s attention our heroes’ feline attributes, when the intergalactic big game hunter this episode is named after attacks the ThunderCats, not because of a grudge or a lust for power, but because they are the only type of cat he has yet to hunt. Not only is this a clever premise, but it also provides the series with one of its most memorable episodes.
In many ways, this episode is something of a statement from the writer Stephen Perry on the subject of big game hunting. With several animals in the past having been hunted to the point of extinction, Safari Joe is in many ways a caricature of the way many people would visualise a big game hunter. A greedy, selfish and boastful character, this episode makes it clear that Safari Joe, whilst ostensibly hunting under the banner of sport and because of his desire for a challenge, is actually a bully who delights in hunting because of the feeling of superiority it fills him with. Although it could be argued that, by stereotyping hunters in such a way, this is actually a slightly risky plot by the writer, nonetheless it fulfils the objective of making Safari Joe a thoroughly dislikeable villain that embodies everything the ThunderCats (and thus a large percentage of their audience) would hate.
This episode is also a great showcase for Lion-O, for many reasons. As well as being revered by Safari Joe and Mule as the most obviously dangerous of the ThunderCats, this episode shows Lion-O triumphing even without the Sword of Omens, instead using his intelligence and cunning to outwit and ultimately intimidate the hunter. Calling on the wisdom we’ve seen him fast acquire throughout the course of the series, Lion-O successfully fathoms that at the heart of most bullies lies a coward, and that the bullying aspect of Safari Joe’s nature is as much to cover his own inner cowardice. That Lion-O should lure the hunter into his own territory of Cats Lair shows a guile and cunning that amply displays how smart and battle-savvy the young lord has become, and one of this episode’s main themes, that of focussing the audience’s attention back on the ThunderCats’ cat-like attributes, is again touched upon when Lion-O lets loose several bestial roars to intimidate Safari Joe. Indeed, another of these roars is used as Lion-O leaps out of the trap that Safari Joe laid for him outside of Cats Lair, a lovely little touch that again accentuates the dynamic of big game hunter versus humanoid, cat-like prey.
There is a great deal to love about this episode, which I personally consider to be one of the most flawless examples of storytelling seen within the ThunderCats series. The storyline is engaging and suspenseful, Safari Joe himself feels like a legitimate threat with an element of complexity to his character, the visuals are striking, the dialogue is snappy, memorable and feels natural, and the episode is a great showcase for all of the ThunderCat characters, albeit a rather unflattering one for all but Lion-O! Even though this episode is completely devoid of the usual threat of Mumm-Ra and the Mutants, in actual fact this is barely noticeable, such is the sense of threat posed by Safari Joe. In short, this episode is a true classic, and a deserved fan favourite!
Written by Chris (He-Fan)
|A large portion of the sequence of animation featuring Safari Joe capturing the Thunderkittens would be reused as part of the season 1 finale episode “Fond Memories”.|
|In the scene where Safari Joe captures the Thunderkittens, Wilykat comments that he is “finally getting the hang” of piloting his spaceboard, whilst Safari Joe comments that the Thunderkittens’ spaceboards are “fixed”. These references would indicate that this episode takes place very soon after “The Time Capsule”, even though in reality several episodes have transpired since that time, and Wilykat has been seen easily piloting his spaceboard on more than one occasion!|
|In this episode it is shown that Tygra cannot swim, yet in “The Fireballs of Plun-Darr” a few episodes earlier, Tygra is seen swimming perfectly! The explanation given for this within the episode is that Tygra is not able to swim unless he is invisible, thus explaining why he was able to swim through Castle Plun-Darr’s moat in the aforementioned earlier episode. However, no explanation is given as to why his visibility or lack of same should affect Tygra’s ability to swim! In this episode it is shown that Tygra cannot swim, yet in “The Fireballs of Plun-Darr” a few episodes earlier, Tygra is seen swimming perfectly! The explanation given for this within the episode is that Tygra is not able to swim unless he is invisible, thus explaining why he was able to swim through Castle Plun-Darr’s moat in the aforementioned earlier episode. However, no explanation is given as to why his visibility or lack of same should affect Tygra’s ability to swim!|
|When this episode was adapted by Marvel Comics for publication in an issue of their ThunderCats comic series, their UK branch provided an arguably more plausible explanation for Tygra’s swimming by publishing the adaptation of “Safari Joe” before “The Fireballs of Plun-Darr” – in fact, Marvel UK’s adaptation of the latter episode even adds a line of dialogue, whereby Tygra explains to a surprised Willa that he was motivated to learn how to swim after his run-in with Safari Joe!|
|Interestingly, an early copy of the script for this episode shows Safari Joe’s name spelt as “Safari Jo”, both as the episode title and throughout the script itself – this is a strange variation on the hunter’s name, given that in many cases, the spelling “Jo” is actually the feminine version of the name! This spelling even made its way into Marvel Comics’ adaptation of the episode, both the US printing and the UK reprint!|
|The original script for this episode reveals that Safari Joe was originally planned to be shown wearing a hat!
|In the original script for this episode, following Jaga’s revelation to Lion-O of Safari Joe’s identy and Lion-O’s statement to Snarf that they now know more than they did, an amusing line of dialogue cut from the final episode has Snarf telling Lion-O that he is “still the under-CAT in this contest!”|
|In this episode it is revealed that Panthro is afraid of bats, a phobia that would be utilised as a weakness for Panthro several times throughout the remainder of the series.|