Sunday, January 11, 2015

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Science Fiction Shows that Felt Like Fantasy

It's pretty common in the speculative fiction universe for the worlds of science fiction and fantasy to collide. Sure, there are the purists in the fan community that stomp their feet and insist on strongly demarcated lines between the two and stout defences to enforce that separation, but most of us are willing to accept the crossover as long as the story is good. After all, this kind of cross-pollination has given us Star Wars, Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories, and plenty of others that we could probably name if we wanted to take the time. And when it comes to the broader audience outside of fandom and its consuming of pop culture sf, nobody cares if their chocolate gets mixed with their peanut butter.

So it should come as no surprise that when mainstream production companies were manufacturing science fiction cartoons for kids back in the 80s (and in some cases as early as the 60s), it was pretty common to throw in elements of fantasy. That was just fine with me and my friends, because when we were re-enacting episodes in the school yard, or inventing our own stories based on those cartoons, everyone thought it was entirely appropriate to counter a laser gun with a magic wand.

This week's Saturday morning cartoon rewatch looks at a couple of science fiction-fantasy crossovers that I most enjoyed in the old days:

Thundarr the Barbarian. Set thousands of years in the future, after a cosmic near-miss caused natural disasters that devastated the planet, this show followed the exploits of the titular hero, Thundarr, with his light sabre ripoff sword, princess girlfriend, and wookiee-ripoff sidekick. Think Han Solo (with Luke's light sabre), Leia, and Chewie yanked out of Star Wars and dropped into a Mad Max/Canticle for Leibowitz-style Earth with D&D-style monsters and magic-wielding sorcerers thrown in for good measure. (intro)

Next, we head offworld to join the adventures of Blackstar. A sort of hybrid Flash Gordon-He-Man, Blackstar was about an astronaut who crashes on another planet, falls in with the 7 Dwarfs, er, "tiny Trobbit people", gets his hands on a magic sword, and fights a big bad guy for supremacy. Oh yeah, he's also got a cool reptilian pegasus. (full episode)

We'll finish with The Herculoids. I'm not sure if this one actually had magic in it, but I have a feeling it did, since, like the others, it was a Flash Gordon-esque throw-everything-including-the-kitchen-sink-at-the-story kind of approach to kids' sf. In this show, a futuristic family and their rather unusual pets fight to defend their world from a variety of monsters and maniacs. (intro)

And since you're probably already thinking it: yes, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe would be entirely appropriate for this post, but blondie's already had his day in another edition.

Stay tuned until next week, for another episode of the Saturday morning cartoon rewatch!

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