Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: The Herculoids: "Sarko the Arkman"

“Sarko the Arkman” is another episode of The 1960s Hanna-Barbera animated series The Herculoids that reveals the series’ basis for storytelling: the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, particularly the Tarzan stories.

In this tale, an alien scientist called Sarko lands on unspoiled Azmot and captures the powerful primate creature Igoo, as well as Tundro, and Zandor’s son, Dorno.  Almost immediately, Zandor responds, taking the dragon Zok to the stars to retrieve the abducted Herculoids from the planet Zodan.

Like the pirate villains featured in last week’s opening episode, Sarko (or “Arko” as all the characters call him) boasts some undisclosed previous relationship with Zandor.  He notes, for example, that he has been warned never to return to Azmot.  The precise nature of their relationship, is, however, left unexplored.  Were they enemies in a galactic war?  Allies?

This week’s episode contains two specific moments which recall the adventures of Tarzan.  In the first, Zandor bounces from one jungle vine to the other, recalling the trademark image of Tarzan swinging from such vines since time immemorial.  No animal yell, alas, is evident.

The second Tarzan-inspired image is of a technologically-advanced non-native traveling to a wild ecosphere (think of an American zoo-keeper or hunter on safari in Africa) to capture and bring the wildlife back to his own world.

Sarko is a plunderer of the natural environment, and again, is contextualized in terms of his technology.  He has the power to immobilize the local wild-life, as well as the interplanetary transportation to bring them back to his civilization.  Late in the program, we see what happens to “animals” such as Igoo and Tundro when taken out of their natural habitat and made slaves in the “first world:” they are put in cages for display.

Basically, “Sarko the Arkman” re-states The Herculoids’ thesis, which is that Azmot should remain free and unspoiled for those who live there, while those living in the galaxy’s technological space age must stay away, or risk Zandor’s mighty wrath. 

Uniquely, Zandor is fully capable of piloting a starship, as we see this week when he commandeers Sarko’s Ark.  It would have been nice to see some of the character’s background information filled in a little bit.  Where did he learn this skill?  Why did he forsake all aspects of technology for a life on Azmot?

Again, it would be incredibly cool if a screenwriter wrote a Herculoids movie that filled in all these details, and remembered to glean inspiration and metaphors from the works of Burroughs.

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