Thursday, October 10, 2013

X-MEN Episode Thirty-Two - September 8, 1994

Phoenix Saga (Part 4): The Starjammers
Written by Mark Edward Edens

Summary:  Phoenix uses her new powers to transport the X-Men to Lilandra’s ship, where she’s hidden the M’Kraan Crystal.  The ship is soon attacked by the Starjammers, who steal the Crystal and kidnap Cyclops.  Their leader, Corsair, explains that he’s using the Crystal as bait to get close to D’Ken.  Cyclops will act as his assassin.  D’Ken outsmarts their plan, however, and manages to steal the M’Kraan Crystal.

Continuity Notes:  
  • This episode and the next adapt Uncanny X-Men #107-108.
  • The Imperial Guard and the Starjammers debut this episode.  Corsair’s relationship with Cyclops isn’t kept a secret for long, as Phoenix looks inside his mind during their first meeting and sees Cyclops and Havok as children.  Just to make it clear to the audience, Phoenix later explicitly says Corsair is Cyclops’ father aloud to herself.
  • Captain Britain, the Inner Circle, and Dr. Strange all make cameos as Phoenix transports the X-Men away from Earth.

Saban Quality:  Wolverine’s glove has four housings on it instead of three in one scene.

Approved By Broadcast Standards:  Corsair heavily implies that D’Ken killed his wife, without actually using the words.

Review:  After three episodes of teasing, the team finally comes into contact with the M’Kraan Crystal, and the villainous (and rather generic) D’Ken.  Even if the storyline is only broadly following the succession of events from the original stories, it’s still hitting all of the high notes, which as a fan I appreciate.  You don’t necessarily have to use the M’Kraan Crystal when doing the Phoenix story, but it’s a nice touch for anyone familiar with the source material.  (Considering that the Crystal was ignored in the comics from 1977 to 1994, I also have to wonder if Bob Harras’ role on the show as consultant influenced its return in the comics during the build-up to “Age of Apocalypse.”)  

As an action-heavy episode, the plot certainly isn’t playing to Akom’s strengths, although I still think the character designs look nice.  The designs for the newly introduced Starjammer and Imperial Guard characters (apparently designed by Frank Brunner) are a very impressive blend of the original Dave Cockrum look and the early ‘90s Jim Lee update.  And Edens does work in a moral dilemma for Cyclops that a network cartoon would ordinarily avoid.  Even if he is ultimately duped by a D’Ken imposter, it’s clear that Cyclops really is willing to kill D’Ken…and he doesn’t even know D’Ken killed his mother yet!

Credit to for the screencaps.


cyke68 said...

And for me, this ep was the high point of the Phoenix Saga. What can I say, I was a sucker for those scenes where the entire team beats up a bunch of people while the theme music plays that seemed to be contractually obligated at least twice per season. There was even a little wink and nod to this effect with Wolverine saying something like, "Start the ball, Cajun!" while the "band" tuned up. That always stuck with me as a clever bit of self-awareness the show could get away with indulging in by this point.

The episode actually finds some redeeming value in Claremont's inane "Scott's dad is a random space pirate!" development. Cyclops hesitates when presented before D'Ken; we never know what choice he ultimately would have made since Jean and friends conveniently arrive to save the day. Had he known that D'Ken murdered his mother--and for that matter--had Corsair known that Scott was his son, we'd be looking at a much different story. Does Corsair try to exploit Scott's loss to his advantage, never revealing the whole truth? If so, is he conflicted over his duplicity? Is Scott so enraged that he turns D'Ken into a shadow on the wall at his first opportunity? Or, does Corsair abandon the plan entirely and try for a reconciliation instead? It's compelling unexplored territory and a wonderful use of dramatic irony. This twist is handled _better_ than the comics! And they don't hammer you over the head with it, like I did here! Subtlety? This show?

See, sometimes it CAN be Shakespeare! (OK, I'll stop.)

Jason said...

"(Considering that the Crystal was ignored in the comics from 1977 to 1994, "

Um, actually ... :)

The Mkraan Crystal is a central part of the plot in Uncanny X-Men 203, published in 1985. (Cover date: March, 1986)

Teebore said...

I also have to wonder if Bob Harras’ role on the show as consultant influenced its return in the comics during the build-up to “Age of Apocalypse.”

Rightly or wrongly, I've always credited the show's use of the crystal (if not Harras' direct involvement) to its return for "Age of Apocalypse". It just always seemed like one of those things where the show helped it return to the zeitgeist of the audience, leading to it being featured in the comic for the first time in nearly a decade.

cyke68 said...

It's certainly plausible that the show paved the way for its role in AoA. We know Bob Harras often cherrypicked elements from TAS to incorporate into the books. After all, AoA did originate as a plot for the show (eventually surfacing as the "One Man's Worth" 2-parter)

Total speculation on my part, but I feel like Harras must have genuinely enjoyed his role as story consultant on TAS. It provided him an outlet to fulfill his specific vision of what the X-Men were supposed to be about - filtered through '90s sensibilities and aesthetics, of course! The comics themselves -- weighed down by obligations to 30 years worth of continuity, shared universe concerns, and the marketing-driven publishing model itself -- only allowed for so much. The show was environment where he wasn't working primarily in the capacity of "the boss," but it seems like that would have been much more satisfying, creatively.

And it doesn't get much more zeitgeist-y than Jon Stewart mentioning the M'Kraan Crystal on the Daily Show a couple years ago.

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