The recipe for a good episode of television is a tricky one to define, until by the purest chance, we happened across it on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season Four DVD. (Guess it had to be somewhere, right?) Now we have experienced the dizzying heights of octogenarian supervillains, environmentally aware turtles and scantily-clad April O’Neils, every other show has been exposed for the hollow sham it really is.
Our ascent into televisual Valhalla begins in the sewers, to show that there’s nowhere to go but up. The Turtles want to watch “Bad- Tempered Vegetables From Mars” on TV (clearly a before-its-time jab at Biker Mice From Mars, which came out several years later), but Splinter crankily tells them to shove it. April’s got a live report coming up on the news, and he doesn’t want to miss it. Here comes the first of many strokes of genius this episode’s got up its sleeve.
Global. Warming. Expose. Heavy stuff, kids. April and the weird-looking, sweaty professor keep it brief, but we get the message. Global Warming = Bad. If you’re doing something that’s causing it, cut it the hell out, like right now. No slideshows, no bar graphs; Al Gore could really learn a few things on cinematic technique from these two.
But before we can even sit back and think about what horrible damage human civilisation has inflicted upon this planet, the scene, tone and subject matter of the episode undergo their first of many violent and random shifts. Observe the terrifying visage of Shredder, and tremble at his pronouncements of doom.
Seems the Man in the Iron Mask wants to hold the Earth to ransom once again, siphoning off our energy for his own nefarious purposes. Why he doesn’t just pay his power bill is anyone’s guess. He assures us the cheque is in the mail, but really, can you trust a man with a face like this? (A face, one might say, only a mother could love. Foreshadowing?)
This time Shredder’s threat directly involves the discussion he just interrupted: he’s going to subject the Globe to a sudden Warmening. He likes his apocalypse medium- to well-done, baby.
Agressive scene shift the second. Observe: The Fort Lauderdale Home For Retired Villains. Wow. Yes. So. Anyway. Within, we find the geriatric nogoodniks and ne’er-do wells o’ yesteryear engrossed in the unfolding broadcast. An elderly woman of roughly Japanese appearance leaps to her feet and begins loudly shouting and gesticulating at the screen, as all people begin doing after their 60th birthday. She does mention, however, that the spiked gentleman gracing the screen is her son, and that if he’s going to take over the world, she wants a piece of that action.
“Not cool, Zeus!” exclaims the Home’s security gorilla, “You ain’t goin’ no place.” Like any good grandmother, Mom replies with a polite Judo Flip, and exits stage right.
Shredder continues to laugh for some time.
Meanwhile, in Dimension X, Shredder has apparently gotten Krang out of bed to slap together his latest hodgepodge scheme. He intends to use a gigantic mirror (stay with us) IN SPACE! to reflect light from Dimension X’s conveniently placed sun through a conveniently placed portal into our own conveniently placed Dimension. With luck, and a little bit of that Christmas Magic™, it will strike our flimsy planet Earth, heating it terribly. Bet you didn’t see that one coming, Mr. Vice President.
The beam strikes the Earth, melting mountains, ice-creams. Women remove clothes, men watch.
April O’Neil, the only journalist in existence, is reporting from the scene. The Turtle watch on TV from some hastily constructed ice-seats, some enjoying it more than others. (And just where did all the water come from to make that ice? They do live in a sewer.) Luckily April remembers to point out that the heat is coming out from a conveniently placed portal to Dimension X, which means that the Turtles can actually do something useful to fight the global warming beyond switching the TV off at the power point instead of leaving it on standby.
“Is this the threat Shredder promised?” April asks rhetorically. Shredder, proving that he both lacks a sense of irony and has nothing better to do than sit around all day watching TV with Krang, chimes in at exactly this moment with “You bet your blue suede shoes, Miss O’ Neil, and that costume change suits you. Oh, and I demand that the world’s leaders meet with me in one hour. Krang, how do I turn this thing-”
The practical upshot of all this malarkey: it’s time for our heroes to leap into action, much as a Ninja Frog (one might say “Battletoad”) would. But where will Shredder go to meet the world leaders and deliver his demands? Where else but “The place where world leaders hang out, the United World Building!.
Shredder disembarks from the dimensional portal and calmly steps up to the, uh, steps of the United World (groan) Building to deliver his ultimatum. The leader of the free world, Colonel Sanders, shoots him down. I’m talkin’ down-town kinda down. “YOU WHAT?” Shredder fires back. You can practically hear his panic. This isn’t going at all as he expected. “Oh shit, I have no plan B,” his eyes moan. “Maybe Bebop and Rocksteady can distract them with impromptu street theatre while I cheese it back through the portal. Man, Krang’s gonna be pissed…”
Just as things seem like they couldn’t possibly get any worse for the Shred-Head, here comes Gran’ma Saki!
Shredder. Flips. Out.
Seems he’s not a huge fan of his old mom, being the villainous sort he is. She’s interrupted his fifteen minutes of fame, embarrassed him in front of his friends, and then proceeds to drag him back to Dimension X. By his ear.
The Turtles arrive just too late, keeping their presence quiet by their usual method of driving around in a large heavily-armoured van emblazoned with their logo. Things seem like they’ve ground to a halt, but luckily April is able to drive the narrative forward by her hitherto unmentioned friendship with someone “in the space-travel business.” Didn’t realise that was how NASA was spinning their PR these days, but she’s a reporter, so she’d know. Let’s roll.
An alarmingly short time later, our half-shelled heroes are at the space port, meeting April’s “friend”, General Yogurt. It’s difficult to put one’s finger on exactly what’s off about Yogurt. We nominate his unnatural physical similarity to Launchpad McQuack from Ducktales and Darkwing Duck. The Turtles seem able to shrug it off, though, and make ready to board the shuttle.
Splinter sidles out from behind the van and accosts Donatello, thrusting an abacus into his bewildered face and rambling about fleas, how the old ways always prevail, and how when his hip hurts it means it’s going to rain. Don humours his senile mentor once more and accepts the abacus, the fourth one today, and hopefully the last. “Where does he keep getting these things?” he thinks, sadly.
But Senile Splinter is a burden Donatello has chosen to carry alone. His naive brothers ruin the moment with their cheering, for it is (ACTUAL FREAKING QUOTE) “astro-surfing time!”
As we know, amphibian skin is immune to the vacuum of space, which is why the Turtles are wearing nothing but large buckets over their heads.
Back in the Technodrome, Shredder brings his mother home to meet his cackling, pink roommate. Mom decides that the lair needs a woman’s touch. Krang, who’s been saying this for years, takes an instant shine to the raving old crone.
Shredder seems abashed.
Back on the good ship Lollipop, things aren’t going too swell. See, when they set course for the giant space portal spewing a terrifying, planet-devastating heat beam, they hadn’t counted on just how god-damn hot it was actually going to be. Guess they didn’t really think this one through, huh? Their computers are shutting down and Launchpad General Yogurt is afraid he’ll have to resort to manual control, and the Danger Meter is getting alarmingly, nay, dangerously high. This is a dilemma that can only be solved by Maths.
If only there remained some sort of functional calculation device on board…
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