Tuesday, January 21, 2014

X-MEN Episode Forty - November 12, 1994

The Dark Phoenix Saga (Part 1): Dazzled
Written by Jan Strnad

Summary:  While Xavier and Moira MacTaggert continue to study the Phoenix entity inhabiting Jean, Cyclops discovers a neophyte mutant named Dazzler at a nightclub.  Jean returns to the mansion for more therapy, and under the influence of Phoenix, grows irrationally jealous of Cyclops’ interest in Dazzler.  When the Inner Circle later attempts to kidnap Dazzler, she’s rescued by Cyclops.  The Inner Circle then turns its focus on Phoenix.  The White Queen and Mastermind combine their powers to convince Phoenix that she’s in love with Mastermind.  She leaves the mansion, and the X -Men soon track Phoenix to the Circle Club.  There, they discover she’s “married” Mastermind and now fights alongside the Inner Circle.

Continuity Notes:  
  • A flashback reveals that after taking the M’Kraan Crystal into the sun, Jean returned to Earth.  For reasons unknown to Xavier, she’s still possessed by the Phoenix entity.
  • Dazzler and the Hellfire Club debut this episode, even if the Hellfire Club is never called that name.  The Inner Circle of the club consists of Sebastian Shaw (Black King), Emma Frost (White Queen), Donald Pierce (White Bishop), and Harry Leland (Black Bishop).  The chess titles from the comics aren’t actually used in the storyline.  The closest we get is when Phoenix is declared “the new queen.”
  • The events of this story arc follow many of the details of Uncanny X-Men #129-137.
  • Emma Frost claims that she gained access to Xavier’s computer records during his recent mental troubles (caused by the Spirit Drinker arriving on Earth, and Lilandra’s mind touching his from across space).  Xavier dropped his guard, enabling her to access his files and learn of the Phoenix.  In the comics, the Hellfire Club used Warhawk to plant a bug on the X-Men’s computer system.

“Um, Actually…”:  The Dazzler has brown hair instead of blonde, her standard look in the comics.  This might have been done to differentiate her from the Dazzler lookalike that appeared in Mojoworld during last season’s “Mojovision” episode.

Approved By Broadcast Standards:  The Hellfire Club has been renamed the Circle Club, which I guess means “hell” can only be used when quoting Emily Dickinson poems.  Emma Frost’s corset has also been made a bit more modest.

Production Note:  Chris Claremont gets a “Based on Stories By” credit during this multi-parter.  He said in an interview at the time that he suggested the producers also contact John Byrne, which they apparently did not do.

Review:  It was only a matter of time before the show got to “Dark Phoenix,” but it’s surprisingly only three episodes after ending the original Phoenix storyline.  “Dark Phoenix Saga” probably would’ve worked best as the fourth season premiere, with the episodes in the meantime following the comics’ path and setting up the Hellfire Club’s scheme to recruit Phoenix as a slow-burning subplot.  Many of the non-Phoenix episodes in the third season aren’t particularly great, so a scandalous subplot brewing in the background could’ve done a lot to ease the boredom.  

Instead, the first half of the comic’s storyline is condensed into one episode, along with a quickie resurrection for the believed-dead Jean Grey (in a flashback…narrated by Emma Frost!)  Consequently, the opening of the story just doesn’t have the impact it did in the comics.  The basics are there, including Jean’s fantasies as a Victorian-era maiden betrothed to Mastermind, but there’s not a lot of time spent building up the Inner Circle as a significant threat.  Scott and Jean’s relationship also doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.  Some lip service is paid, but I think more time is needed to express Scott’s conflicted feelings over Jean’s return.  If you don’t buy the romance between Scott and Jean, then the heart of the story is missing.  And, of course, any fanboy has to complain about Kitty Pryde being omitted, along with the X-Men going undercover at the Hellfire Club’s big gala.  Regardless, what is there does the basic job of setting the story up.  The execution might seem somewhat superficial to anyone familiar with the source material, but I’m betting the majority of the audience was intrigued enough to check out the next episode.

Credit to http://marvel.toonzone.net/xmen/ for the screencaps.


wwk5d said...

Yeah, it does sound like this story may have benefited from having a longer build-up, instead of just rushing straight into the story so quickly.

Matt said...

Knowing Byrne's preference for fanatical devotion to the source material, he was probably pleased that this adaptation did not actually carry his name in the credits.

Austin 'Teebore' Gorton said...

Someday I'd love the watch this series in production order, rather than airdate order, just to see how the transistion from one Phoenix saga to another would have gone.

I know there's at least one episode that airs later in the season which explicitly deals with the aftermath of "The Phoenix Saga", but the series still lacks any of the subtle build-up to the Hellfire Club that made the original story so good.

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