Friday, January 31, 2014

X-MEN Episode Sixty-One - June 11, 1995

Weapon X, Lies, and Videotape
Written by David McDermott & Steven Melching

Summary:  Wolverine receives a postcard that unleashes hidden memories of his past.  He travels to the abandoned Weapon X facility for answers.  The Beast insists on joining him.  Other test subjects of the project soon appear -- Sabretooth, Maverick, and Silver Fox.  Silver Fox reveals she sent the postcard in order to draw the four of them together so that their handprints could unlock a hidden room.  Inside the room is the robot Talos, which is programmed to kill all surviving Weapon X agents.  With Beast’s help, Talos is contained and the Weapon X facility self-destructs.  Wolverine tries to convince Silver Fox that their relationship was real, but she refuses to believe him.

Continuity Notes:  
  • After years of cameos, Maverick finally makes his first real appearance on the show.  Silver Fox also makes her debut.  The flashback of Sabretooth attacking Silver Fox on Wolverine’s birthday is taken from Wolverine #10.
  • One of Wolverine’s flashbacks to the Weapon X days is clearly inspired by the flashbacks in X-Men #5-7.  He’s seen fighting Omega Red again, although now he’s wearing his proper Team X uniform, as opposed to his X-Men uniform.
  • The dates on Professor Thorton’s videos of the Weapon X agents are 10-17-73 and 11-3-73.  I believe Barry Windsor-Smith has said the Weapon X serial was intended to be set during the Vietnam era, which might’ve been why the producers chose those dates.

“Um, Actually…”:  One of Professor Thorton’s videos describes Wolverine and Sabretooth’s healing factors.  For some reason, this power is visualized by having Sabretooth morph into this furry early ‘90s costume!  Later, when he takes his glove off, we see his skin is the same beige color as his costume.  Amazingly, the animators  seem to think Sabretooth’s skin is brown and beige, even though in the same episode we see him out-of-costume in normal clothes, pasty skin visible.

Saban Quality:  Wolverine and Sabretooth’s lip synch is briefly switched during one scene.  Cyclops’ headgear is also mis-colored twice during his brief appearance in the episode’s opening.  I will say, however, that overall the animation continues to improve.  When the episode briefly flashes back to Season Two’s “Repo Man,” it’s obvious that the newer episodes are more polished.

Approved By Broadcast Standards:  Shiva from the comics has been renamed Talos, in an effort not to offend Hindus.  Also, Wolverine remarks that he was trained to “take people out” by the Weapon X project.  Sometimes the word “kill” is okay and other times it isn’t, I guess.  More censor notes can be found here:

Review:  I believe this was another episode that aired in prime time, indicating that FOX seemed to think pretty highly of it.  You might assume FOX withheld some episodes for prime time because the content wasn’t suitable for Saturday Morning, and the issues this episode adapts certainly have some adult themes, but this episode turns out to be fairly tame.  The title might be the only thing remotely objectionable about it, assuming you even get the reference.  

The hook of the story, obviously, is that you’re getting answers about Wolverine’s past.  If you’re only familiar with the cartoons this is exciting new information for you, and if you’ve read the comics you get the satisfaction of seeing more obscure characters and plot points adapted for the series.  If you’ve read any of Larry Hama’s Wolverine run from around issues #48-68, much of this will be very familiar to you, right down to Wolverine’s Lotus Seven and his keychain.  Unfortunately, Larry Hama was never asked to write for the show, which means much of the political intrigue and emotional weight from those old stories is gone.  

As a character study of Wolverine, this feels a bit empty.  The episode addresses his frustration with his memory gaps and touches upon his feelings for Silver Fox, but even with Cal Dodd’s consistently strong portrayal of the character, Wolverine rarely feels sympathetic during the story.  Heck, Wolverine was more interesting even in the previous episode, and that was largely a vehicle to introduce Nightcrawler.  Casting Beast as Wolverine’s companion is also a strange decision, given that the two barely have a history together.  I understand that he serves a plot function as the one who figures out much of the Weapon X facility’s technology, but his connection to Wolverine is so meager he just feels out-of-place for most of the episode.  I barely noticed any of this when the episode first aired, however.  It’s a story about Wolverine’s past, and that was still pretty exciting in 1995.  Knowing that virtually all of this episode was coming straight from the comics, as garbled as the translation might be at times, also helped to make this one of my favorites.  In retrospect, however, “Repo Man” would seem to be the superior Wolverine story from the show’s run.

Credit to for the screencaps.


cyke68 said...

This definitely aired in primetime, I want to say on a Sunday. It was paired with the first season finale of Spider-Man - an episode that has since been edited to the point of incomprehensibility. Funnily enough, it wasn't due to anything that otherwise would have been objectionable in the Saturday morning rotation. There was a sequence with a helicopter slamming into the World Trade Center or something, so that's obviously out post-9/11.

Anyway, "Weapon X, Lies..." is bothersome for a couple of reasons. Silver Fox is now part of Wolverine's backstory after Yuriko was already introduced at the start of the season to serve the same role. The two histories really aren't compatible, so... which great love is Logan supposed to think was real? If he's convinced that he and Silver Fox shared something, memory implants be damned, was his life with Yuriko immediately preceding the Weapon X project the fabrication? Yuriko certainly didn't seem to think so. As presented, there was no motive in her targeting Logan beyond revenge.

Seeing the same adamantium bonding flashback play out for a THIRD time also felt like a waste of airtime. This episode was planned for the fourth season, but with less original material, I guess I can see why it was ready early. Although the season being bookended by Wolverine "origin" episodes was a nice bit of symmetry I suppose.

I love how all of the censor notes begin with "Please do not..." As if they are requests. Some of them are truly baffling.

Matt said...

Network censor notes never cease to confound me. I understand it to some extent -- they want to be sure no kids emulate objectionable behavior. But at the same time, many of these episodes were adapting material that had already been produced for the consumption of kids via the comics!

Plus -- and this is my own opinion, nothing more -- if a kid sees Wolverine punch someone on TV and then goes out and punches another kid on the playground because Wolverine did the same thing, I would argue that the fault lies with the child and/or his parents, not with the cartoon.

G. Kendall said...

FOX gave the show more leeway in the earlier episodes, but after parents groups waged a campaign against Power Rangers, the censors began to take a harder look at all of their shows. One reason the later episodes of this show seems so bland, I'm now convinced after reading those censor notes, is due to the hypersensitive restrictions on violence and language. Sabretooth can't even say "skirt?"

cyke68 said...

I'm inclined to agree, G. I read all of the scrip notes from that link you posted, and without getting ahead of the reviews, it's unbelievable how watered down the subsequent episodes become. Restrictions on certain words are easy enough to get around, but then you have things like...

Pages 1 and 13 (flashback): Silver Fox may be in jeopardy, but she should not be lying on the floor injured.

Pages 3-5: Please do not have Wolverine intentionally slash the support for the lights so they strike Cyclops, and do not have Cyclops seriously hurt or knocked unconscious. Cyclops and Xavier should not require hospitalization or monitoring afterwards.

Page 20: Please limit the shots fired in the "Andre" scene. Each person should fire no more than one blast.

Um, what? Who in the world is keeping a scorecard over this kind of shit? Slippery slope and all that, but we're not talking about Wolverine running around lopping people's heads off. It's sad to think that anyone so fanatical would have any credible influence in their objections, but such is life I guess.

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