Monday, November 25, 2013

X-MEN Episode Thirty-Eight - September 10, 1994

Savage Land, Strange Heart (Part One)
Written by Robert N. Skir & Marty Isenberg

Summary:  A weakened Sauron is rescued from Ka-Zar by Zaladane.  After he transforms into Karl Lykos, Zaladane gives him a Garokk medallion and sends him away from the Savage Land in one of Magneto’s abandoned aircraft.  He arrives in New York and succumbs to his urges to feed off humans.  He inadvertently selects Wolverine as a target, which places him in conflict with the X-Men and causes his Sauron persona to return.  Sauron hypnotizes Storm and takes her back to the Savage Land.  The X-Men follow, and soon discover that Storm’s powers are out of control.  Zaladane boasts that this will awaken Garokk.

Miscellaneous Note:  Wiki and a few other online resources list the title of this two-parter as “Savage Land, Savage Heart,” as opposed to “Savage Land, Strange Heart,” which is how the title is listed on the DVD.  I’m not sure which title was used in the original broadcast, since there are some instances of on-screen cyrons being changed on the DVDs.

Continuity Notes:  
  • The X-Men team in this episode consists of Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Beast, and Jubilee.
  • Zaladane and Garokk make their animated debuts this episode.  They’re probably most famous for their appearances during the Savage Land arc during the Claremont/Byrne Uncanny X-Men run.
  • According to Ka-Zar, Sauron rebuilt Sinister’s citadel using brainwashed members of the Fall People.  
  • The aircraft Magneto left behind has a list of pre-set destinations.  One of them is Asteroid M, which is the first reference to his orbital base in the cartoon.
  • Wolverine comments that Professor X and Moira MacTaggert are “studying Jeannie like a lab rat” on Muir Island.  Based on broadcast order, Jean is supposedly dead at this point.  Even though this aired as episode thirty-four, it was produced as the thirty-eighth.  (More info here: )

“Um, Actually…”:  Karl Lykos blames the creation of Sauron on Mr. Sinister’s experiments, which contradicts his comic book origin (which involved getting bitten by radioactive pterodactyls, as I recall…).

Saban Quality:  There are numerous examples of characters speaking without their lips moving, or the wrong voice coming out of a character’s mouth during the episode.

Review:  And this is where the production order vs. broadcast order confusion begins.  There’s no real defense for this to be the first episode aired after “The Phoenix Saga,” outside of it being the one that happened to be ready to air.  The next chronological episode is actually "No Mutant Is an Island,” which will not air until literally two years later due to numerous production delays.  Without "No Mutant Is an Island,” you’re left with no mourning for Jean, and more glaringly, no explanation as to how Jean is still alive.  That’s jarring, to say the least.

Ignoring the continuity bewilderment, the episode is fairly generic superhero material.  The episodes of the show that don’t hinge on a character conflict, or the larger issues of prejudice and isolation, are rarely memorable.  I imagine the series is returning to Savage Land again so quickly because the producers feel that kids like dinosaurs, and that’s kind of the Savage Land’s thing, so here we are.  I remember reading those Zaladane/Garokk issues as a kid in Classic X-Men, so there was some novelty to seeing the villains animated for the first time when the episodes aired, but there’s really nothing in the story that holds my attention today.

Credit to for the screencaps.


Matt said...

I'm pretty sure this originally aired as "Savage Land, Savage Heart", simply because that's the only name I've ever known it by. I had never, ever heard or seen "Savage Land, Strange Heart" until reading this post today.

Also, the broadcast order of season 3 was a huge clusterfudge. The delay of "No Mutant is an Island" is especially inexcusible.

G. Kendall said...

"Savage Land, Strange Heart" really is a terrible name for the episode. What's a "strange heart" and who even has one in the story?
I'm assuming that "Strange" was a typo, but I guess it's kind of official now thanks to the DVD release.

cyke68 said...

I don't remember what the title was for the original broadcast, but I know I saw "Strange Heart" at some point and thought that I surely must have misread it. It said "Savage Heart," right? Apparently not. I guess it's just as likely I was "correcting" the original title from day one, but who knows. Definitely seems like an officially adopted error.

I can't say I was too bothered by the omission of "No Mutant Is an Island." While we do miss out on Jean's "funeral," the actual return doesn't occur until like the last minute of the episode. And even at that, it's just mentioned by the characters rather than seen. Wolverine's reference to Jean on Muir Island was a little confusing, but I knew the Dark Phoenix Saga was on the way and figured that would bring us up to speed. It didn't occur to me that anything was airing out of sequence. I was more thrown by "No Mutant" finally surfacing some two years later.

Still, it's a shame that production delays resulted in a truncated season. This season is still longer than the previous two, but I remember reading that the plan was for something like 26 episodes! A handful of those would be used to beef up the fifth season, including "No Mutant Is An Island."

Dan said...

I'm sure I remember it being "Savage Land, Strange Heart" originally. Somewhere I've got VHS tapes that would confirm.

I think this is the episode that had transformation sequences for Storm and Sauron. It was like something they tried once and then decided against.

Teebore said...

I remember reading those Zaladane/Garokk issues as a kid in Classic X-Men, so there was some novelty to seeing the villains animated for the first time when the episodes aired, but there’s really nothing in the story that holds my attention today.

That's pretty much my take on this two-parter. As much as I love dinosaurs, the Savage Land has never done much for me, especially on this show.

Like you said, unless there was a strong character conflict, a tie-in to the prejudice theme or a straight up adaptation of significant story, it was hard to get too worked about this more filler episodes.

Jon T said...

Was waiting for you to get to this one, mainly due to the line about Jean being on Muir Island! On later runs in the UK, the series was broadcast in production order, so we had "No Mutant is an Island" before the "Savage Land, Strange Heart" two-parter.

However, other than indicating she is alive at the very end of the episode, the events of "No Mutant" do not feature the explicit re-introduction of Jean Grey/Phoenix to the storyline.

The line in "Savage Land, Strange Heart", and the first episode of the forthcoming "Dark Phoenix" four-parter really rather strongly imply that there was originally supposed to be another episode planned that came after "No Mutant" that explicitly showed the return of Jean from apparent 'death', and her subsequent transfer to Muir Island.

I've never really found out the whole story on this, but otherwise, the throwaway line here and recap at the start of "Dark Phoenix" are quite sudden and out-of-context, as looks like there was a chapter missing that was never animated, and otherwise the series tried to be moderately tight on continuity. That key events involving a major character/storyline were simply skipped always seemed odd to me.

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