Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Thundarr the Barbarian (1980 - 1982): "Prophecy of Peril"

In “Prophecy of Evil,” Thundarr, Ookla and Ariel are locked in combat with a powerful wizard named Vashtar at his futuristic castle.  The heroes have captured a special crystal that Vashtar believes holds the key to his defeat.

In particular, the crystal, when activated, will reveal a prophecy that dooms the sorcerer.  When this comes to pass, both Thundarr and Vashtar learn the truth.  The prophecy state that Vashtar will be defeated by three women working together.  The women are named Valerie Storm, Maya, and Cynda

Suddenly, the fierce battle becomes a race against time as Thundarr attempts to recruit these three women, and Vashtar attempts to kill them. 

Vashtar travels back in time to the late 20th century and captures Valerie while Thundarr awakens a Mayan mummy, who becomes the beautiful Maya. Later, he successfully recruits Cynda, a warrior and misanthrope.

Together, the three women join forces with Thundarr to end the reign of Vashtar, but after the battle is won at the castle, all three women are zapped back to the 20th century.

In some way, the final episode of Thundarr the Barbarian (1980 – 1982) feels more like a back-door pilot for a new Saturday morning series -- one featuring a team of Charlie’s Angels-like women warriors of various powers and abilities -- than it does a closing chapter for the actual program.

No matter, “Prophecy of Peril” is fast paced, entertaining, and filled with dynamic female characters and a great villain, Vashtar.  The story works, and the visuals -- from the castle and the crystal, to Vashtar’s air ship - are as dazzling as we have come to expect from this imaginative series.

Still, I’m sad to see the series end with no resolution or change in format. It might have been cool for the program’s creators to pull a “Conan” here and end the series with Thundarr accepting the throne of a kingdom in need, for example.  

Also, there’s still a lot about this post-apocalyptic world -- and Thundarr, himself -- that it would be nice to explore.  The series never depicted any stories about the hero’s span in captivity, as a slave.  We know almost nothing about his family. 

The same is true of Ariel. 

In short, the series could have easily run for two or three more seasons assuming that it kept charging on with the inventive (and occasionally subversive…) visuals.

Re-visiting Thundarr the Barbarian in 2014, I can say that I have come to appreciate the visuals very much.  I love the series’ tactile sense of place, and its steadfast focus on revealing detailed, post-apocalyptic landscapes such as those in London, Manhattan, and Beverly Hills.  I have also enjoyed how the series plays lightly (and humorously) with these settings, and makes commentary about them that is couched in a future world yet relevant to our own.

If you’re endeavoring to undertake a mini-Thundarr retrospective, the episodes that I enjoyed the most – and which seem to best express the values I enumerate above -- are “Stalker from the Stars,” “Valley of the Man Apes,” “Den of the Sleeping Demon” (the playground of death!) and  “Trial By Terror.”


  1. Anonymous9:08 AM

    Unfortunately, this episode was the most underwhelming one of the entire "Thundarr" series, in my personal opinion anyway. Among other things, it lacked the evocative, post-apocalyptic backgrounds you highlighted so well throughout your enjoyable "Thundarr" retrospective. (And didn't the wizard have a ship with his face on it, like a giant hood ornament?) The plot was, if memory serves, a rushed, ham-fisted adaptation of Shakespeare, too.

    I haven't watched these episodes in many, many years. (Maybe 15 or 20 years, when they aired late nite on Cartoon Network in America.) But the episodes I'd most like to re-watch today would be "Mindok the Mind Menace" and "Fortress of Fear" and "Stalker From the Stars."

    My impression, from distant memory, of the episodes I'd be least inclined to sit through again today would be "Prophecy of Peril" and "Den of the Sleeping Demon" and "Trial By Terror" and "Island of the Body Snatchers." That being said, your enthusiastic posts about "Sleeping Demon" and "Body Snatchers" have rekindled my (previously non-existent) interest in those particular episodes.

    Thanks again for this very enjoyable retrospective on "Thundarr." (Though I suppose I'll hold out some home that, next Saturday, you might still profile the only episodes of the series that you haven't yet covered: "Fortress of Fear.")

    1. I have appreciated your comments so much on these Thundarr retrospectives. I've managed to mislay my disc with "Fortress of Fear" on it, but I will re-double my efforts to locate it, and review it for next week. It's got to be around here somewhere...:)

    2. Anonymous5:18 PM

      Fantastic! Thank you very much for the extra effort! I hope you're able to find that missing disc because I'd really enjoy reading your take on that episode as well.

  2. Thunder the Barbarian, and Pirates of Dark Water are my two favorite cartoon series that I re-watch annually on dvd. I think I like them both because the world building in each are so impressive, and the series feels abruptly ended without resolution of some sort.
    As a comic fan too, I always have a little hope a comic company will pick up the rights to either and continue telling the stories. Dynamite and IDW are two comic publishers in particular who deal mostly with licensed properties and create impressive comics that feel much like their source material. I'm just a dreamer though.

    Im so glad others remember Thunder and are fond of it as well. The 80s was a big moment for science-fantasy cartoons (for a lack of a better genre title) with Masters of The Universe also airing around the same time. It seems to overshadow people's memories of cartoons and Thundarr and other shows like Blackstar seem to get forgotten.


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