ROCKS 13A: Visionaries: Knights Of The Magical Light establishing episodes

Discussion in 'Other Cartoons & Collectables' started by LiamABC, Nov 5, 2017.

  1. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    A big thanks to everyone that are joining us through all of this.

    This month we're covering another 13 episode show in its entirity, one of the best. Visionaries: Knights Of The Magical Light (or just Visionaries for short).

    We'll be dealing with the episodes in continuity order, which is slightly different from the order they appear in. This will only affect weeks two and three, however. This week we are of course watching the three-part opener. This consists of the following episodes:

    - The Age Of Magic Begins
    - The Dark Hand Of Treachery
    - Quest For The Dragon's Eye

    Just a friendly reminder to everyone that, whilst fans are obviously welcome to passionately discuss and give their views on these episodes, please remember to keep things on a friendly footing and respect your fellow posters.
    Also, please do not post where or how to find the full episode online. And do not post asking others to PM it to you. You are however allowed to watch the show in whatever manner you want.
  2. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    One of the best and most underrated cartoons of the 80's.
    The opening three parter is one of the best examples of how to introduce all the characters and themes of the show. In fact most of it is done in the first episode, everything else in the other two parts just adds to it.
    All the characters are very different to each other and easy enough to tell apart with the different colour schemes, abilities, powers and personalities.
    I rally wish this show had lasted for 65 episodes like most 80's shows...but at least the quality of the 13 episodes were all very good.
    If I had to pick a favourite scenes from these episodes it would be them earning and receiving their animal totem powers from Merklyn based on the natural abilities and characteristics they showed.
    Unlike some shows I like how the whole team have basically the same amount of magic/power and the focus being on the whole team instead of most of the focus being on the heroic leader. And surprisingly that is the same for the villains as well as the heroes.
    LiamABC likes this.
  3. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    Visionaries is one of the best cartoons the 80s produced. If you haven't heard of it, do yourself a favour and look it up.

    It had three great writers - Flint Dille, who wrote this entire pilot and four other episodes, Douglas Booth and Buzz Dixon who wrote three episodes each. It had a great look, you can easily recognise each of the fifteen (!!!) main characters. And it had a fantastic voice cast, very familiar names if you look at the credits of other shows - Neil Ross, Jim Cummings, Chris Latta, Peter Cullen, Michael McConnohie, Jennifer Darling . . . just about the only major name missing from this cast is Frank Welker!

    The Age Of Magic Begins
    In terms of establishing both the setting and the characters, this is one of the best individual first episodes of any 80s cartoon.
    First off, the initial narrative establishes the end of the Age of Science, and the enmity between Leoric and Darkstorm, in the space of about three or four minutes. Incredibly, it doesn't feel like anything has been left out.
    Then we get quickly to Merklynn's challenge, which takes up most of the episode. It is really a showcase for introducing the characters properly, and it does it to perfection. Seven good guys (Spectral Knights) and seven bad guys (Darkling Lords), and of course Merklynn the wizard. That's fifteen main characters to establish in a short space of time, and they are all established well, we know exactly who is who and what their strengths are. Seven very different characters on each side, all with their own personalities. A lot of shows skimp on lots of different personalities for the villains, but not Visionaries! Their armour colour schemes are all different, they are all identified by name at the end of the episode when Merklynn gives them their totems - incidentally, watch that whole sequence when they are getting their totems, it would have been so easy for the animators to goof on who had their totem already and who didn't in the various group shots. But every time they show a mixed group, they got it exactly right.
    And then at the end, Darkstorm's unbelievable proposal, which we quickly find out he doesn't really mean. Leading into the cliffhanger ending taking us into part two . . .

    The Dark Hand Of Treachery
    Again, in establishing episode terms, this is a showcase. Just as episode 1 introduced the setting and the characters, episode 2 shows us what the magic is that they earned, and how it works - the staffs, the totems, the vehicles. And for the most part, it was all done extremely well once again. The way they change into their animal forms, the spells they recite to invoke the magic in their staffs, it's all shown in a way that we can quickly grasp. When the show was released on DVD, the original scripts were included as a bonus feature. Reading them, I saw there was quite a bit cut for time in this episode, but apart from the circumstances that lead to Virulina's departure (and unexplained return in episode 4), they didn't cut anything of importance.
    I was watching these episodes the other day, and it suddenly occurred to me that this opening trilogy is, in terms of structure at least, analogous to the original Star Wars trilogy, this episode is akin to The Empire Strikes Back in that the bad guys pretty much win totally here, hunting down half of the Spectral Knights individually before mounting the mass assault on New Valarak. All the Spectral Knights are captured and placed in Darkstorm's dungeon . . .

    Quest For The Dragon's Eye
    And the final part of this opening story, concludes with a similar structure to Return Of The Jedi - the jam they were in at the end of the last part is resolved fairly smoothly, before the setup to something else. We learn here the limits of the magic Merklynn gave them, and his reasons for doing so. He said in the first episode that he would be calling upon them to do occasional tasks, fetching the Dragon's Eye is the first example of this. It's also still fairly even-handed in giving lots of characters their moment to shine. Leoric and Arzon make the first move to escape and bust the others out of the cell, Ectar warns them about the ambush, and Witterquick gets the Dragon's Eye. On the Darkling Lords side, Darkstorm has his moments, along with Reekon who makes the first stand against him at the start of the episode, Cravex, who saves them all from the technodragon, and Cindarr, who catches the wizard at the end. Speaking of whom, this episode also introduces us to the character of Falkhama, who appears in a couple more episodes down the line. Everything is concluded very nicely, and set up for the rest of the series.

    I'm trying to imagine how it would have panned out if this had been a 5-parter for a 65-episode run. Probably the establishing story would have been technically the same but with a bit more fleshing out of things:

    Part 1 would have shown the age of science for a little longer, and illustrated the initial struggle of adapting in the new age, probably would have ended with Merklynn issuing the challenge
    Part 2 would have been the challenges in perhaps a shade more detail
    Part 3 would have been pretty much the same as the middle segment was in actuality, might have ended with the initial sequence of Leoric & co landing in the dungeon
    Part 4 would have started with Darkstorm addressing the crowd, and finished with the ambush on the way to Iron Mountain
    Part 5 would have been the search for the Dragon's Eye in more detail

    That's my guess anyway.

    But in short, watch this show. You won't be disappointed!
  4. Wilycub

    Wilycub Staff Writer and Artist Staff

    At the moment I only managed to watch the first episode of "Visionaries" so thought I'd share my opinion about it only. I hope to watch the other episodes later on.

    First off, I confess that despite being a big fan of 80s animation in general, I had never heard of "Visionaries" before nor had I ever even seen any glimpses of the show. Right off the bat I thought that the animation was brilliant. It wasn't one of those cheap, choppy stuff that sadly plagued a lot of cartoons from the 80s. I did see quite a bit of influence from "MASK" and "The Centurions" cartoons as far as the designs of the characters is concerned (don't know if this was intentional or coincidental). Even the voice of Leoric was provided by the same guy who voiced Ace McCloud on "The Centurions" :). The theme song was pretty catchy as well.

    The plot actually felt very maturely handled. Explanations were given for why and how things were happening. Most 80s animation writer rarely bothered with such things e.g. I don't recall any episode of "He-Man and Masters of the Universe" ever explaining where the Power Sword came from, how Prince Adam got it etc. We just have to accept it at face value without any exposition.

    One thing I did find a bit odd was Merklynn. It's obvious that the character is inspired form Merlin the legendary wizard. Normally such powerful, old and wise characters serve as mentors to the heroes to guide and advise them throughout the series (Jaga et al). What confuses me is that here Merklynn clearly does not have any affiliation with the good side. He first goes to Darkstorm to offer his magical services and gets rejected in "DuckTales" fashion. :biggrin Then he organizes the competition and without any hesitation gives magical powers to seven guys who are clearly the baddies. Maybe I missed something or it's explained in future episodes but I don't see how Merklynn improved the situation on Prysmos by actually imbuing 7 bad guys with magical powers.
    Mark M and LiamABC like this.
  5. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    Hey Wilycub! Glad to see you back on here! Glad too that you're enjoying Visionaries.

    Yes, Visionaries has a great establishing story. I think the 80s was the point where establishing episodes became a serious deal. Thundercats, Defenders Of The Earth, Transformers, Visionaries, DuckTales all have proper establishing episodes. OK, so there were plenty of shows that didn't - Pole Position, MASK, He-Man etc - but those shows were a year or two earlier I think. By about 1985-6, the makers were realising that the kids wanted to know the backstories behind the characters and how it all came together.

    Merklynn's motives are explained in episode 3 btw. You got a taster of how the totems and staffs work in episode 1, but they are showcased properly in episode 2.
    Wilycub and Mark M like this.
  6. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    Great to see you back Wilycub.
    As Liam said your questions about Merklyn will be answered in the next episode.
    I think you will really like this series. There are some amazing episodes.
    BTW since you mentioned Centurions I actually used to use my Visionaries figures as Centurions. Ectar as Ace, Feryl as Jake and Leoric as Max Ray and Cravex as Doc Terror. Back then I didn't know there was any actual Centurions toys.
    Wilycub likes this.
  7. Wilycub

    Wilycub Staff Writer and Artist Staff

    Thank you Liam and Mark for the warm welcome and for the info that Merklynn's true motives are explained in the following episodes. I was beginning to think that maybe in my haste to watch the episode I might have missed something. I'm now even more curious to watch the next two episodes! :)

    Mark that's a cool childhood story, thanks for sharing. When I first saw Leoric the first thing that came to my mind was Max Ray! And then when started talking I said, "That's Ace McCloud!" So it's two Centurions in one! :biggrin

    I'll try my best to watch the remaining eps ASAP and also to participate more in the discussions here. :thumbsup
    LiamABC and Mark M like this.
  8. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    I'll hold back posting the next set of ROCKS/Movie Club threads until this weekend to give you more time :)
    Wilycub likes this.
  9. Wilycub

    Wilycub Staff Writer and Artist Staff

    Thanks Liam! :thumbsup I managed to binge watch the remaining two episodes today and here are my views

    The second episode's focus mainly on the villains reminded me of ThunderCats' second episode "The Unholy Alliance" which also followed a similar pattern. The first episode also mirrored a bit of "Exodus" in that the heroes' home planet undergoes global devastation. At least here it wasn't completely destroyed. The writers did a good job of re-introducing technology via magic-powered vehicles ("Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors" anyone?) ;). Otherwise the series would have seemed to "primitive" if it relied only on magic.

    The fight scenes were very energetic. Again, something which wasn't too common in the 80s cartoons (which usually relied on wrestling like moves of holding and throwing rather than actual punching bashing)

    Another good thing is that neither the heroes nor the villains have too much power. The recharging of the Power Staffs is a necessary concept to prevent the "deus ex machina" scenario that we've encountered so often in ThunderCats and He-Man. It also means that the wielders of the Staff have to be cautious when using them. Naturally the struggle to get them charged again is a tension-building sub-plot on its own. And Merklynn is one wily operator! He is more of a puppet-master whose true intentions I am eager to learn a bout!

    @Mark M I bet you too must have thought of "Bravestarr" when you saw the "animalistic powers" of the Visionaries. :) Unless you were introduced to Visionaries first in which case it's the opposite. :biggrin
    Mark M and LiamABC like this.
  10. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    Yes, the fact that the staffs need recharging is interesting - and occasionally does have significance in the plot. Also, there's a couple of episodes where one character uses another character's staff.

    On the toy boxes, it gives poems for the vehicle drivers, but these were never used in either the series or the comic. Incidentally, the staffs didn't need recharging in the comics. Actually, the one thing that bothered me is the way the heroes' vehicles were just lying about in the Darkling Lords' courtyard. Presumably Reekon and Mortdredd had found them and driven them there at some point, but it was never shown. OK, so the Dagger Assault appeared out of nowhere in the middle of episode 2, but that did have an introductory scene scripted and cut for time. Plus, it worked better from a shock point of view to suddenly see that huge vehicle advancing towards us from Cryotek & Galadria's perspective.

    Merklynn stayed quite mysterious, such was a necessity when you think about it, but we do get to see his mindset in later episodes. (Although he's absent for two of the next three, and only a very minor character in the third.)

    It has occurred to me also that the narration at the start of episode 1 is comparable to the opening episode of Transformers - that was able to give explanations at the start by a narrative rather than just showing the characters straight away and having everything explained in due course. I suppose there it was more necessary as both the heroes and villains were all robots!
    Wilycub likes this.
  11. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    @Wilycub I am pretty sure was introduced to Visionaries around the same time. Although I never really thought of them as being similar as Bravestarr called on animal powers where as the Visionaries actually transformed into the animals. Although I do recall being a little disappointed that Bravestarr didn't actually change into he animal.
    Actually @LiamABC and I have discussed Visionaries quite a bit and I think one of the biggest problems the toyline had was the fact that aside from the holographic stickers there was no real way to replicate their animal powers. It would have been cool if the figures could have transformed or came with a plastic toy of their animal form.

    There are plenty of energetic fight/action scenes in this series. As you watch more of the series you will see Leoric is easily the best and coolest male character to use a whip as his weapon.
    Wilycub likes this.
  12. Wilycub

    Wilycub Staff Writer and Artist Staff

    Even cooler than Indiana Jones? ;)
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  13. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    BraveStarr's animal powers were more akin to The Phantom in Defenders Of The Earth calling on the power of Ten Tigers. Btw @Wilycub you should definitely watch more of Defenders Of The Earth - at the very least, the Prince Kro-Tan 5-part "movie" is a must.

    But back to Visionaries - yes, Leoric is very capable with his whip, and the next three episodes in particular have a few good scenes showcasing this.
    Mark M likes this.
  14. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    Good point. Leoric was the coolest animated male character to use the whip as his weapon.
    Catwoman was the coolest female character live action and animated to use a whip.

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