Friday, April 18, 2014

X-MEN Episode Forty-Eight - October 21, 1995

Sanctuary (Part One)
Written by Steven Melching & David McDermott

Summary:  Magneto kidnaps a team of Russian astronauts and steals missiles the team was sent to disarm.  Soon, at a UN conference, Magneto enters and announces that all mutants are free to live on his space station, Asteroid M.  Xavier, Beast, and Gambit travel to Africa where the first group of mutants will evacuate Earth.  Magneto and Xavier have a peaceful conversation, and Xavier agrees to see Asteroid M for himself.  During the second evacuation in Genosha, Magistrates attack the mutants seeking sanctuary.  They’re defended by a new team of mutants lead by Fabian Cortez.  Cortez quickly becomes Magneto’s ally.  Soon, however, Magneto discovers Cortez has betrayed him and launched missiles at Earth.  When Magneto confronts Cortez, he charges Magneto’s powers to the point that Magneto appears to fade away.  Cortez then blames the X-Men for the murder.  Gambit stays behind, allowing Xavier and Beast to escape.

Continuity Notes:
  • The X-Men with speaking parts this episode include Xavier, Rogue, Gambit, and Beast.
  • Large sections of this two-parter are based on 1991's X-Men #1-3. Magneto even wears the same white robe he wore in X-Men #1.
  • Cameos include Random, Copycat, Blockbuster and Arclight of the Marauders, along with reused models of the Morlocks and a few random mutants from previous episodes. Black Panther also makes a brief appearance during the scene set in Africa (because apparently Black Panther is active in all of Africa.)
  • Fabian Cortez and the Acolytes debut this episode, although the network censors won’t allow the Acolytes to be called by name.
  • One of the Acolytes, named Byron Kelly (or perhaps “Kali”) is an old friend of Gambit’s that he can’t believe has joined Magneto. For some reason, Byron is taking the place of Frenzy, the Acolyte with a past connection with Gambit in the comics, even though she does appear in the episode.
  • Amelia Voght makes her first full appearance. A flashback containing most of the scenes already shown in “Proteus (Part One)” establishes her as Xavier’s old girlfriend. He’s stunned she’s sided with Magneto after declaring that she didn’t want to draw attention to her mutant powers.
  • During a flashback to one of the original X-Men’s early Danger Room sessions, Jean Grey is incorrectly wearing her current costume for a few seconds. When she next appears in the flashback, she’s wearing her original Marvel Girl costume. Angel also appears as a member again, contradicting the show’s continuity.

“Um, Actually…”:  Beast claims that Xavier lost the use of his legs battling Magneto, which not only contradicts the comics’ continuity, but is a fairly major revelation several years into this show’s run.  The Acolytes are also described by Beast as a “local Genoshan group,” as opposed to the original story that established them as loyal Magneto followers that sought him out as a leader.

Approved By Broadcast Standards:  The original censor notes for this episode have been posted online by one of the writers.

"Actiiing!":  The US representative at the United Nations is an obvious Jack Nicholson parody, for reasons I’ve never understood.  I realize that every comedian is supposed to have a Jack Nicholson impersonation, but was someone so desperate to show his off he chose this role in this cartoon to do it?  Did he think he was auditioning for the role of Shipwreck?

Review:  “Sanctuary” was delayed for almost a year before it finally aired, which is a shame since I think it would’ve been a great follow-up to the original “Phoenix Saga.”  Just imagine a third season of the X-Men that opened with Lady Deathstrike and the Reavers, adapted Phoenix/Dark Phoenix, introduced Iceman and Nightcrawler, and then closed with a faithful retelling of Chris Claremont’s final X-Men story, with a nod to Scott Lobdell’s best Uncanny X-Men issue also thrown in.  Instead, the third season opened strong, relapsed into reruns, and then began airing random episodes at an unusual pace.  At the very least, “Sanctuary” should’ve been the fourth season’s opener, instead of the largely disappointing “One Man’s Worth.” 

Had the show kept the momentum of its previous year, I have a feeling “Sanctuary” would’ve been remembered as one of the series’ highlights.  The nuanced portrayal of Magneto is especially entertaining, as the show pays homage to Claremont’s reinvention of the character and presents him as a complex, passionate defender of all mutants, even the ones he doesn’t particularly like.  Every opportunity the story presents to use him as a villain is ignored, to the point that the astronauts Magneto kidnaps in the opening are honestly treated as “guests” in his home.  The best moments of the final Claremont/Lee X-Men issues are represented, only with more coherent storytelling, so now the diversion into Genosha actually makes sense.  Seeing the Acolytes step into battle against the Genoshan Magistrates, their Appleseed armored guard, and the Sentinels is a lot of fun, and I say this as someone who was consistently bored by the Acolytes of the comics at the time.  Most of the conflicts in the episode are honestly engaging, and the producers have done an admirable job picking and choosing which elements from the early Magneto/Acolytes stories should be adapted.  (Gambit’s story isn’t given a lot of room to draw the audience in, however, and it’s baffling that the producers chose to ignore Frenzy in favor of a generic new character.)  In retrospect, throwing Amelia Voght into X-Men #1-3 makes a lot of sense, especially if you’re ignoring the “Moira experimented on Magneto” plot.  The third season was really missing a solid Magneto story, and it’s a shame that scheduling problems prevented this from airing when originally intended.

Credit to for the screencaps.


Mela said...

For some reason, Byron is taking the place of Frenzy, the Acolyte with a past connection with Gambit in the comics, even though she does appear in the episode.

I wonder if they had to change it because some people (read: BS&P nitwits) were afraid viewers would read Frenzy as Gambit's ex. Whether it's because of not wanting to complicate the plot with a love triangle or BS&P being unable to read a man & woman as platonic friends themselves, I don't know. It's a shame - I don't know if it's because of the recent work done with her, but Frenzy is an interesting character.

arw1985 said...

Man, those censor notes for the episodes are pretty weird and hilarious.

Jeff said...

I hadn't seen this one until recently. X-Men #1-3 were the first X-Men comics I ever read, so I love them despite all of their faults. These episodes took me right back to them. I agree that they are one of the best adaptations the series did behind the Phoenix Saga.

Matt said...

From the S&P notes: "Page 11: Please do not have Cortez accuse the X-Men of "assassinating" Magneto."

Wasn't it just a couple years earlier that Bishop showed up and repeatedly called Gambit an "assassin"? I hate how inconsistent these regulations were.

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