Written By Paul Dini - Directed By Marsh Lamore
.....Somewhere in the depths of space, a space ship is trapped in a deadly asteroid shower.
"Mayday! Mayday! Can anyone hear me?"
The pilot: Lt. Marlena Glenn. The vessel: the Valiant, an exploratory ship from the planet Earth. With no one answering her calls, Lt. Glenn takes the only chance she has: a small planet below. Crossing her fingers, the pilot braces for impact as her ship veers wildly towards the planetoid.
The Valiant lands safely, as we see that we have been viewing some form of movie, which is being viewed by Prince Adam.
With him is Cringer and the queen, and the movie is, in fact her own memories, now visible due to Man-At-Arms' newest invention, the Memory Projector. His curiosity raised, Adam asks about Earth.
"Mom, what was Earth like?"
The queen responds,
"I'm afraid you'd find it kind of boring, Adam. There are no giant green tigers, or magical castles."
speaking highly of her home planet while affirming that she is where she
belongs. As Marlena looks out at the palace, Teela appears, looking for
Adam. The queen departs, leaving the captain to speak to her son.
.....Once she walks up to Adam, who is still sitting in the room with the Memory Projector, Teela gives Adam a very sharp piece of her mind.
"And where were you this afternoon?"
The prince has again shirked his responsibilities (or so Teela thinks), and in response to his flippant answer, she shoves the Memory Projector interface onto his head, revealing....
"Aren't you ashamed of yourself?!"
*sigh* "Yeah. I didn't catch a thing."
Now quite satisfied with herself, Teela shoves the interface back at
Adam as she happily informs him that she'll be waiting for him on the
drilling fields, much to the distress of Adam and Cringer.
.....Elsewhere, in a vast workroom filled with technology, Orko is busy creating something using a combination of magically-summoned tools, and pure magic. Satisfied that his creation is almost complete, Orko gives the item a red coat of paint before lifting the item with his magic.
Man-At-Arms then enters, and upon seeing Orko, he approaches the magician, who declares that his.....thing is a surprise for the king and queen. Reminding Orko that his last "surprise" nearly turned the castle into charcoal, Man-At-Arms reluctantly asks what the device does.
"It's a music box, of course," declares Orko, "Just lift the lid, and it plays a beautiful melody." Man-At-Arms does just that, and instead of a melody, there's an ominous ticking sound.
As the two recoil in horror, Man-At-Arms demands to know where Orko got the parts for his music box. Orko points to his left.....
....revealing a silver crate. Shutting the music box, Man-At-Arms declares the purpose of the crate: "That's where we keep the Bomb Parts. This thing's going to explode!" With the panic level rising, Orko disappears as Man-At-Arms picks up the time bomb,
tossing it into tub full of water, and leaping towards cover. The music box floats to the surface.....
.....as it plays the aforementioned beautiful melody.
.....On the other side of the work shop, Orko laughs at his friends' expense.
"Heh-heh-heh, heh......Big explosion."
Now fully enraged, Man-At-Arms grabs at Orko, missing when the court
jester teleports away, and shouting at the top of his lungs. Orko
appears before the tub of water, and levitates the music box away, past
Man-At-Arms, who sits by in surprise as an alarm in the device goes off,
finally causing it to explode.
.....Orko wisely flies off, passing by Teela, who asks her father what is up with the Trollan, to hear yet another complaint about Orko's latest invention. On the mention of the word, Teela brings up the Memory Projector, and the queen, before asking about her birth parents.
"She makes me wonder about my own parents."
Man-At-Arms responds by saying that he has told her about her father, who died in battle. Teela asks about her mother, and receives a cryptic answer:
"That is a secret I've promised never to reveal. Someday, you will learn that secret, but not from me."
Her question unanswered, Teela leaves, as her adopted father looks on.
.....Later, Teela sits with the Memory Projector, going over the only parent she knows, and all he has meant to her. However, this still doesn't answer he questions, frustrating the captain of the royal guard to the point of tears.
Orko floats into the room, and asks if anything is wrong. Teela relates to him her plight, and then has an idea.
"Maybe if I were to ask the Oracle of the Crystal Sea."
Orko immediately tries to dissuade Teela, warning her of the dangers involved.
"But...but the Oracle's cave is surrounded by Shadow Beasts and monsters!"
Teela, however, disagrees, and remains resolute.
"I know. I'd risk anything to find the truth."
She departs, leaving Orko to worry for her safety.
.....Later, Adam, who is busy repairing a Sky Sled, watches with Cringer as Teela flies off with not so much as a word. Concerned, the two note that it's not characteristic of the normally responsible captain, as Orko appears, trying to convince them (and himself) that she'll be OK.
"Teela can look out for herself....I hope."
Adam asks Orko if he knows where she's gone, but Orko is firm.....
"I promised not to tell. After all, if Teela wants to go to the running off to the Crystal Sea, that's her business."
.....before blurting out the answer anyways, to the horror of the prince.
"The Crystal Sea?!"
Adam runs outside, but it's too late, as Teela's Wind Raider zooms off into the horizon.
.....After gently chiding Orko, Adam tells Cringer that they need to help, apologizing when his feline friend complains about becoming Battle Cat yet again. He then pulls out his sword.....
"Sorry, old cat, but he could stay on Teela's trail better than you could. By the power of Grayskull!"
.....and the pair transform into He-Man and Battle Cat! Wasting no
time, they rush off towards Teela and the Crystal Sea.
.....Meanwhile, at Snake Mountain, Skeletor and Mer-Man look on as Teela continues her journey to the Crystal Sea.
"The woman, Teela, is off on some mission of her own."
Mer-Man interrupts Skeletor's musings, and demands to deal with her himself.
"I beg you, Skeletor, let me deal with her! Years ago, her guardian, Man-At-Arms, rescued a victim I had chosen for the sea demon. I now demand.....revenge!"
Skeletor agrees, as the perpetual storm surrounding Snake Mountain
reaches a new peak....
.....Later, Teela lands in the Crystal Sea, and begins her search in earnest. Staff in hand, she fails to notice that she is already being watched.
As she continues onwards, Teela hears a shrieking sound, and recognizes it as the cry of a Shadow Beast. Not wanting to encounter the dreaded monsters, she quickens her pace, and yet another of the furry, brown creatures that saw her arrival looks on.
It leaps down, and attacks!
The Shadow Beast cries out, and before she knows it, Teela is cornered by the four of the evil beasts......
.....Still surrounded by the Shadow Beasts, Teela continues swinging her staff in attempt to ward off the creatures, until one grabs it, and breaks the weapon in two. Remembering that the Shadow Beasts are repelled by bright light, Teela produces some beads concealed under a layer of her outfit, and throws them at her foes.
The explosion of light blinds the Shadow Beasts, allowing Teela to
drive them off and continue with her mission.
.....Elsewhere in the Crystal Sea, He-Man and Battle Cat race towards their friend. He-Man fears for Teela's safety, but doesn't miss a beat as the two continue on.
.....Meanwhile, Teela reaches the Oracle, who is aware of why she has come. The Oracle shows her an image of a young man, who Teela recognizes as a younger Man-At-Arms. Continuing, the Oracle tells of how her foster father had been drawn through the Evergreen Forest by a psychic message, when he heard the cry of Zoar the falcon, who was being threatened by Mer-Man.
"Mer-Man and his subjects had come to capture Zoar the falcon. They intended to sacrifice the mystic bird to an evil sea demon."
While she could certainly escape, something in Zoar's nest was keeping
her there, something worth fighting for....
.....Realizing Zoar's plight, Man-At-Arms begins to climb to the bird's nest, but Mer-Man has a boulder thrown down at the young warrior. It misses, and Man-At-Arms produces an arrow that, when it lands on the ledge Mer-Man is standing on, causes the surface to crumble. Angered, Mer-Man swears revenge, while Man-At-Arms reaches the nest.
"The warrior looked into the nest, and saw...."
.....The Oracle abruptly ends his tale,
warning Teela of approaching danger. Turning around, she is immediately
smothered by a Fish Man, and hears a distinctive laugh.....
.....Outside, He-Man and Battle Cat have finally reached Teela's Wind Raider, with the former's feelings of dread increasing as he gets closer. Still, there is no time to waste, and the two keep going.
.....Inside the Oracle's cave, Mer-Man gloats to Teela, who is more than ready to teach the fishy villain a lesson. However, Mer-Man has other plans for her.....
.....At Castle Grayskull, Orko relates to the Sorceress the story of Teela's departure, and He-Man's pursuit. Believing that something important is afoot, the magician has come to see her. Alarmed, the Sorceress declares that the situation is indeed dire, and transforms into Zoar, leaving Orko no choice but to escape within his hat, which safely falls to the ground as she flies by.
.....He-Man and Battle Cat reach the Oracle, but Teela is nowhere to be found.
The Oracle flashes to attention, briefly upsetting Battle Cat, and
tells them of Mer-Man's doings. Battle Cat picks up the scent, and the
two proceed again on their quest.....
.....Meanwhile, at the center of a huge outdoor temple, Mer-Man has Teela tied up, and explains his intentions, and the object making it all possible: "The Crimson Pearl!"
With it, he can command Bakkull, the deadliest of Eternia's sea demons. However, as Mer-Man relates the tale which Teela has just seen for herself, a complication arrives.
"Hold it, Fish Face!"
Before He-Man can do anything, Mer-Man orders his Fish Men to lower the
temple door, hopefully delaying the hero long enough to summon Bakkull.
.....Rushing to the top of the temple, Mer-Man begins the spell.
"Now, Bakkull, hear my command! Come forth, and serve the master of the Crimson Pearl!"
He-Man and Battle Cat consider their barrier, and the big cat gives his apt opinion.
"I think we could use a tunnel!"
He-Man agrees, and begins hammering through the door with his bare
hands as Mer-Man completes the spell. Lightning strikes the pool inside
the temple, and Mer-Man watches gleefully as He-Man bashes through the
barrier, Fish Men in hand, and the water bubbling up furiously.
.....Tossing aside the Fish Men like rag dolls (who wisely beat feet when looked at), He-Man and Battle Cat watch as a huge figure rises from the water.
Mer-Man orders Bakkull to take his sacrifice, but He-Man tosses his sword, cutting down Teela, who begins to defend herself from the hulking beast with the weapon. Teela escape Bakkull's immediate grasp and joins He-Man as Mer-Man orders his charge to crush them. However, at this point, an orange falcon arrives, stealing Mer-Man's staff, Crimson Pearl and all.
.....Zoar drops the staff, destroying it and the Pearl. With the Pearl gone, Bakkull turns on Mer-Man.
"The Pearl was the only thing controlling Bakkull. Help me, HELP ME!!"
He-Man leaps to the altar, and climbs to the top, grabbing Mer-Man, and tossing him safely away as Teela and Battle Cat look on in awe. Never the grateful one, Mer-Man insults his rescuer before leaving.
"Thanks for the rescue, fool! Now, see if you can save yourself! Bwahahaha!!"
.....With Bakkull bearing down on him, He-Man wedges himself between the altar and a nearby wall, and begins to tip the structure over.
The altar eventually shatters, burying Bakkull in a huge pile of
crystal. Teela expresses amazement that He-Man saved Mer-Man before
defeating Bakkull, but the strong man replies that even evil people are
worth saving, before suggesting they leave. Teela agrees, but not before
she takes care of one final task.....
.....Back at the Oracle's cave, Teela asks for the mystic being to continue his story. Obliging, he reveals what was inside the nest. Namely....
"It was the Sorceress' young daughter."
a baby. The Sorceress, in the form of Zoar, had brought the child to this area to raise her after the death of her husband. However, Mer-Man's attack changed these plans, and Man-At-Arms, taken with deep affection for the child, promised to protect her.
"The young warrior's heart went out to the child, and he promised to care for her, all his days."
The child's identity?
"You are that child, Teela."
"Then that means my mother...."
"....is the Sorceress, of Grayskull."
.....Stunned, Teela walks up to her mother.
The Sorceress affirms her declaration, but as He-Man and Battle Cat exchange a knowing glare, she declares that Teela is not ready for the knowledge she has gained today.
"Yes, you are my own daughter. And someday, you will take my place as the mystic guardian of Grayskull. But for now, you have other deeds to do."
Touching her daughter's forehead, the Sorceress renders Teela unconscious.
"And until that time, when your special destiny calls, you must forget what you have learned today."
Deeply saddened, the Sorceress declares, "She will only remember that her mother was a woman who loved her very much."
.....Shedding a single tear, the Sorceress asks wryly if He-Man can keep a secret, to which he replies in the voice of his alter ego, "I've had lots of practice," before she leaves.
Later, after Teela has awakened, He-Man and Battle Cat watch her take off before leaving for home themselves.
"In today's story, I went in search of my mother. I found her, but also
found something else: that the man who had cared for me since I was a
baby, who loved me as he would his own daughter, was just as much my
father as any parent could be. And so, whether they were someone we were
born to, or, whether they chose us to adopt, it doesn't matter. The ones
who protect us, and teach us, and love us, those are the ones we call
mother and father, and they deserve the same kind of love from us. Until
.....After a series has begun, and the
pilot has established the basic tenets of what you've signed up for in
watching, the basic rules of the road, there comes a time when the
viewer must learn to care, and I mean really care, about the
characters, or the show will be doomed to eventual failure, no matter
what the ratings say today or tomorrow or even years into the future.
For Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this comes in the first season
finale, "Prophecy Girl", when Buffy, facing a guaranteed death, breaks
down in tears when she dresses down Giles. For Star Trek, this
came in "The Naked Time", when Spock, and then Kirk, break down in tears
over the self-imposed prisons they have created for themselves. (Crying
has a habit of making viewers care about fictional characters, as you
can see.) For He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, this comes
with "Teela's Quest". Written by a then-unknown Paul Dini, the episode
gives us more biographical data on the Heroic Warriors than half of the
shows' other episodes put together. And, other than Teela's connection
to the Sorceress (which had been kicked around in various forms for over
a year, at that point), they were all concocted for Filmation.
.....The first such revelation, that Adam's mother is really Lt. Marlena Glenn, space explorer from Earth, is laid bare in a deft act of misdirection. Not only does the episode begin with no hint of a flashback, but the music that opens the episode has regular chants of "He-Man!" When we see Marlena at the helm of her ship (referred here as the Valiant, as opposed to its title later on, the Rainbow Explorer), we see that more than a little of the old Marlena has managed to rub off on Teela.
"This is Lt. Marlena Glenn, of the Earth probe Valiant. I've been caught in a cosmic storm and swept off course. Does anyone copy?"
Not only does the young Marlena sound ever-so-slightly like Teela
(obviously because of Linda Gary, but with enough of a difference
between the voices to maintain character consistency, no mean feat at
this point in the series), but she has a lot of the determination,
bravery, and wit that we see in the younger woman.
.....What makes the flashback so successful (and so memorable) is that it's revealed in a surprising fashion. The other flashbacks in He-Man are painfully straight forward, and tend to be used to introduce characters (largely due to an edict by Art Nadel, who believed that it was best to introduce new Heroic Warriors as characters we've simply not seen before, but that they've been around all along). While that method has its uses, the sheer number in this series (a direct result of 130 episodes being produced in such a rapid fashion) tends to dilute the concept. Also of benefit is the bonding between Adam and Marlena. The queen would become sorely underused by many writers before the artists started penning the sorts of episodes they wanted to see. Perhaps the only thing wrong here is the size of the queen's head in relation to her hands in her first present-day close-up of the episode.
".....thanks to Man-At-Arms' Memory Projector."
And even then, I tend to debate it back and forth, so I'm likely
falling victim to some sort of optical illusion or something.
.....Adam's interest in his mother's past is very well-handled, and Linda Gary and John Erwin interact wonderfully here with such sensitive and subtle material (particularly for a kids' cartoon). We immediately get the feeling that while Marlena loves her homeworld, she couldn't bear living without Randor and her son, a credit to the truly nuanced performance here.
.....The appearance of Teela is handled with great smoothness, and is timed in a fashion that allows the segment with Marlena to end peacefully as the more intense exchange heats up. (It should be noted that this episode's director, Marsh Lamore, spent his last years in animation as a timing director for Disney, working on everything from The Rescuers Down Under to Kim Possible. Suffice to say, that skill is on display here in the beginning of this episode.) Teela's rage at Adam is a thread that would be picked up again multiple times, with "Into the Abyss" being the most famous example. Here, in its first use, we are treated to a wickedly funny exchange, as Adam deftly plays the fool while Teela chews him out. (To contrast, Cringer is seen here cowering silently at Adam's feet.) Teela is excellently animated, her rage patently obvious, and wonderfully delicious, as well. There is, however, legitimate fear in Adam's voice when Teela slaps the Memory Projector on his head. After all, what if it reveals Adam as He-Man? Of course, luck (and the device's primary caveat, that memories are ultimately quite subjective) save Adam. This, of course, doesn't save him from his training, much to his consternation.
.....Our first view of Man-At-Arms' work shop establishes the sheer size and grandiosity of the place with an excellent pan shot of the place.
The place is alive with wonder, and not just because Orko is oddly missing from the shot. When we do see the little Trollan, he looks much closer to the model than in "Diamond Ray of Disappearance", which also has the benefit of Orko's personality seeping out as he works on the music box. Perhaps the oddest bit of Orko's display is his glass of orange juice, which empties out in large chunks, instead of slowly like a real liquid.
For any other character, it'd likely appear as an annoying error, but there's a bit of leeway with the little Trollan, who is certainly more than a bit odd, after all. Perhaps the best little bit of animation is when Orko looks up from his project when Man-At-Arms enters.
Much like a character in a Looney Tunes short, Orko freezes in
mid-movement, moving only his head to look at the coming interloper.
Adding the final touch to this is "Orko's Theme", perhaps one of the
most important themes on the show, as it and its many variations were
used in numerous comedic situations. Here, though, it just accentuates
.....When Man-At-Arms enters, we see he is also much improved from the previous episode. Caustic, but without excessive malice, Duncan is much more like a harried parent here than a humorless soldier. He only turns deathly serious when the music box makes its ominous ticking sound, which elicits excellent expressions of terror from both characters.
"Orko's Theme" suddenly ends, replaced with Ray Ellis' superb suspense
cue from Flash Gordon (a key fixture throughout much of He-Man's
first season), which leads to a grand and suspenseful-sounding cue.
Oddly enough, after this episode, it would not be heard until the
second-season She-Ra classic, "Sweet Bee's Home".
.....Speaking of expressions, the surprise on Orko and Man-At-Arms' faces when the music box is priceless.
Also priceless is Man-At-Arms' raving meltdown, which subsides only after another seamless transition into the next block of character development. He's still visibly enraged when Teela arrives, and asks about the situation.
"Mischief, as usual. He almost wrecked the palace with another one of his crazy inventions."
.....The conversation here with Teela is,
as far as I can tell, a major historic landmark for American animation.
While orphans have appeared enough in animation to be a (rather
annoying, truth be told) cliché, no one had ever addressed the issue of
adoptive parents, and the curiosity of the adoptee (in this case, Teela)
about their real parents. Hints at a strong friendship between
Man-At-Arms, the Sorceress, and her unnamed husband are here, as Duncan
speaks with the highest tone of respect about Teela's real father. The
hints were strong enough that O. Sharp, proprietor of one of the web's
original He-Man fan sites, wrote a script and asked Filmation about
submitting it in the '80s. Sadly, the script (which is available online)
was never formally submitted because the series had already completed
production. When fans of a show can write an entire episode based on a
throw-away line in one of your episodes, you know you've got something
good on your hands.
.....In addition to the young Man-At-Arms, Teela sees herself in her memories from the past.
"....teaching me both the skills of a warrior, and the manners of the royal court."
It's extremely interesting to note that as a young girl, Teela looked
very much like a princess, enforcing the perception that Adam and Teela
were raised together. The later image of Teela shows her close to her
current, and wearing a dress. Given Teela's hairstyle and outfit as seen
in the flashback in "Wizard of Stone Mountain" (an episode that Paul
helped to write), the most logical placement for the scene is upon her
return from her studies. The sequence is also one of the few times where
a division between the royal family and Teela, as normally she and her
father are considers members of the family.
.....The high water mark for the extended sequence of character-building is the use of Orko in his conversation with Teela. Orko is often criticized for the same reasons that other sidekicks in cartoons are, and not without merit, to be sure. But to see him, at this very early stage, providing emotional support to Teela, is a sign that maybe he's a little different than those other sidekick-types. After all, the sidekicks that score the most derision tend to be attention hogs (Scrappy Doo, anyone?), and the only emotional support doled out is toward the sidekick (who inevitably feel unwanted or otherwise insufficient, usually at the most inopportune time, and with stunning frequency). Of course, when you consider what Teela is upset about, you can't help but wonder: This is a cartoon?
.....The rougher-looking Orko, which was ever-so-briefly seen during his previous scene, makes a wild comeback when Orko tries to dissuade Teela.
"You can't go alone!"
Enhancing the image is the way Orko's robes appear to almost pulse,
instead of flow (accentuated by animation that appears to have been done
on twos, or animation where each frame is photographed twice, to cut
down on the workload). However, from this point on, any inconsistency in
Orko's appearance would appear in a vestigial fashion, as some stock
shots (mostly close-ups) reflect this early period of He-Man history.
.....As with "The Dragon Invasion", this episode appears to have been considered for conversion to three acts. The fade to black and subsequent scene scream "third act". This brief flirtation is rather odd, given that Filmation's only real use of the three-act structure was for their earliest, DC Comics-based shows, and those featured one complete story per act (which was the industry standard at that time). All other shows, even in the '80s (when most studios began to follow the three-act structure, following the lead of Sunbow's Jay Bacal, who was behind the format that gained acceptance on G.I. Joe), adhere to the two-act structure. Unfortunately, the switch of the entire TV industry definitively to the three-act structure has made re-running shows like He-Man (assuming, of course, that the soulless holding company that owns the Filmation library dug through its material to find proper NTSC-format masters) pretty much impossible without screwing with the dramatic flow.
.....As produced, however, the fade-out gives excellent emphasis on Teela's departure, and the change sequence. Granted, we had seen the sequence before, but here we see it as conceived, and with the proper emphasis and music playing. In fact, the storyboard for this scene, created by the great Bob Kline, was copied and pasted as necessary in future storyboards, marking this episode's change sequence as the definitive change. One change, though, from the norm, is the use of the emotionally charged part of the theme as He-Man shouts, "I have the power!", emphasizing the concern for Teela in this key moment.
.....Not to be undone is the superb scene that follows at Snake Mountain.
Beginning with a condensed version of the opening shots from the previous episode, the scene fully utilizes one of the pieces of music that was heard briefly in "Diamond Ray of Disappearance" for the first time, allowing it to play out as fully as it normally would in such scenes (though, occasionally, we would hear the latter portions of this great track). For the first time, Alan Oppenheimer gets to carry a scene of He-Man by himself, and he succeeds. Skeletor is at his creepiest here, watching over his foes in the table viewscreen, another first for the series.
"She seems to be headed for the Crystal Sea...."
.....A great reason why this scene works are the wonderfully-animated expressions on Mer-Man's face, made possible by his segmented facial design, which allow the animators to exert more effort on wide shots, as so little of him is in motion, and what is moving is subject to the stock system. The pattern continues throughout the entire episode, resulting in a very strong-looking villain. Also, the last bit with Skeletor is wonderfully planned, utilizing two stock animations (that of Skeletor, and the lightning) to marvelous effect.
The use of the extremely familiar lightning effect from the show intro
as a transition point works superbly, and was conceived at the
storyboard level, as the scene ends in Paul Dini's script with Skeletor
using the Havoc Staff to make Mer-Man disappear. The finished product,
in this instance, outstrips the script in every way.
.....One of the most horrendous bits of stock footage in the entire series makes its first appearance as Teela leaps out of her Wind Raider.
"But I didn't exactly come here for a vacation."
Sure, the stock movement works for He-Man himself, but that's because
his infamous furry underwear doesn't show every last detail of his rear
end! After the first season ended, the Filmation artists concocted, as a
gag, the "Filmation Worst Awards", and it's no surprise that this was
one of the nominees for "Worst Stock"-as the first one listed! Suffice
to say, this bit of stock was not Bob Arkwright's finest moment as an
.....The ending of Act 1 is a great bit of suspense-building, as the Shadow Beasts sneak up on Teela before attacking. Surprisingly, this marks the only time He-Man came back from the commercial break with the same shot, but we see just why, as Teela immediately thinks of the solution, which in true He-Man fashion, is hidden under a layer of her clothes.
This, of course, would become the fodder of collegiate drinking games,
as most characters on the side of good would eventually pull out some
useful object from underneath some strange portion of their clothing,
usually near an inappropriate body part (or two).
.....The flares used here result in at least one humorous bit of animation.
Truth be told, Teela looks a bit like a Rockette with her high-kicking
.....The scene ends extremely abruptly, switching over to the brief look-in at He-Man and Battle Cat, which kills the pacing, especially since the next scene features Teela at the mouth of the Oracle's Cave. This oddity leads to the introduction of the Oracle, who looks sort of like the late Tony Jay, only with a full head of hair, and drawn as being not evil (quite the feat given that Jay spent most of his work-on camera looking like the most evil thing on the planet). And without a body.
"I know why you are here."
In another cross-polination between Filmation and Marvel, the sound we
hear as the Oracle appears is the same one Sheila's Cloak of
Invisibility makes when activated on Dungeons & Dragons.
Also, John Erwin gives the Oracle the most soothing voice possible,
which frames the tale of Teela's past perfectly.
.....The decision to have the flashback sequence play without dialogue is a nice touch, and gives the scene the feel of being like an old news clip. Perhaps the most effective shot under this style is the one of Mer-Man screaming furiously.
".....but he swore to someday get even...."
The angry stock animation, coupled with the calm narration, conveys the message in a much more original manner than by just having a traditional flashback (like the one that opened the episode). The most effective shot, here, however, is of the Fish Man that grabs Teela.
.....The short scene with He-Man at Teela's Wind Raider is much better, as we know for a fact that she's in trouble. Of course, Teela then proceeds to show that it's the element of surprise that's the only thing keeping her from beating him down herself, as Linda Gary's acting makes it crystal clear: don't fuck with Teela.
"If it's a rematch you want, Toad-Face, cut me loose! I'll give you one you won't forget!"
This is followed by some supreme foreshadowing in the dialogue by Mer-Man.
"Ahaaa.....I have other plans for you, girl. A very special destiny for you to fulfill!"
Also, the Fish Men make the familiar sound of Star Trek's
Tribbles cooing-a sound that Filmation had had access to since Trek's
.....A surprise comes after the transition when we see the exterior of Castle Grayskull (and a version that would become one of the lesser-used title card backgrounds for the series, starting with "Song of Celice" and vanishing by the end of the season.
"So, when He-Man and Battle Cat ran off to find Teela....."
While Orko's explains his reasons for seeing the Sorceress, the logic
seems to be missing. Sure, Teela's in trouble, but why go to the
Sorceress? Given the closing of the episode, I do have to wonder if
Orko's perception was influenced, so as to protect Teela. But even then,
it seems more like I'm grasping at straws than anything else. The brief
scene concludes with the Sorceress' first onscreen transformation into
Zoar, and a neat little bit with Orko, which would be repeated with
virtually no change at the end of "The Time Corridor".
.....Much more satisfying are the following scenes. First He-Man and Battle Cat encounter the Oracle, and in a nice touch, Battle Cat flips out when the Oracle awakes.
"Easy, easy, great cat, easy....the Oracle means us no harm."
These scenes of He-Man chasing after Teela end up working nicely as a whole, as they do, in the end, break up the action of the main plot. Next is Mer-Man's expository speech to Teela, which introduces the Crimson Pearl, and gives Bakkull a really solid backstory. However, it's not the handling of all this exposition that makes the scene good, it's the animation of Mer-Man.
"Twenty years ago, your father rescued a victim I had selected. How fitting, that you should take her place. Let us summon, Bakkull!"
He has a range of expressions here that, quite simply, no other
characters on the show have, and this bit is probably the most fluid,
and most expressive of he entire series for Mer-Man.
.....Again, the music is dominated by tracks that would disappear quickly from the show, but they work here. Particularly effective is the theme played earlier in Man-At-Arms' workshop, which ratchets up the tension deftly. During this bit, the Fish Men, when foisted by He-Man,
make the sound the Tribbles did when in the presence of someone they
didn't like-a sound Filmation didn't have access to during the
production of the animated Star Trek (also absent in that
series, but present in He-Man, is the photon torpedo sound
effect). However, what most viewers take for granted is likely the most
important moment musically: the playing of the theme song during the key
action sequence. The concept, which was seen in its infancy in "Diamond
Ray of Disappearance", is fully formed here, and it drives the action
just as well as it does in the other episodes that use it. Also debuting
is He-Man's belief in saving his foes' lives, a concept best seen in
"Dawn of Dragoon", where the act of compassion actually changes a
villain's life. Here, it just gives Mer-Man a great exit.
.....Bakkull's appearance is a bit of a mystery. In the script, he is described a tentacled, Lovecraftian sea demon. (In other words, Dini is beating fellow Filmation staff member Michael Reaves to the punch by a good three years, and including Cthulhu in a kids' cartoon.) In the final episode, he appears as a maroon, man-like beast, and his design implies that he has fur. Only in one brief moment does he look like a fish:
Granted, Bakkull is ultimately a very memorable design, but when given
a little more information, it makes you wonder what could have been.
.....Bakkull's final fate is a bit more brutal than the norm. If not for the dialogue (which appears to have been added to the script at a very late date-namely, July 12th, 1983, a mere eleven weeks before the episode aired), one would assume that, based on the animation, Bakkull was killed rather than knocked out.
"Well.....Let's hope this will hold Bakkull for another 20 years."
The dialogue seems to be as much an apology to the audience as it is to
Bakkull, almost if someone up high realized it would be unfeasible to
reconceive the scene, and wanted to say: We're better than this. This
would be borne out by the following scene, which is the reason why
people remember "Teela's Quest".
.....The revelation that Teela is the Sorceress' daughter, while not an out-and-out shocker, is still a surprise, and it gives the Sorceress the depth that would allow us to tolerate, and to some degree even look forward to, appearances where she would essentially just be providing expositional dialogue. It is, however, Linda Gary who deserves the most credit for making this work. And, given the way the word "is" is spoken in the pivotal line(s) of dialogue, the late Ms. Gary performed all of her lines in the same take. In the end, it is one of the saddest scenes ever in animation: Teela desperately wants to know who her mother is, and the Sorceress wants to be there for her daughter, but if Teela knew, she would instantly be a target of Skeletor's machinations. It's not like He-Man, because when you get down to it, the people he cares about are already targets. Adam keeps that secret because he would be the target, and not necessarily as He-Man. With Teela, she is going to be the next Sorceress. And if Teelana ages at the same rate as the king, queen, and Duncan (whom she seems to be in the same age group as), she realistically has maybe twenty years left in that role. Twenty years that Skeletor certainly has to spare. Taking out Teela would, to put it mildly, screw over the entire universe.
.....Not to be discounted here are He-Man and Battle Cat. The look the two share is wonderfully subtle (though handled much better for Battle Cat, as his larger eyes allow for them to narrow in emphasis), and having He-Man reply in Adam's voice refers to the dual role of Adam in a very unique way. The ending, with He-Man and Battle Cat silently watching Teela depart before leaving is simple and straightforward, concluding on a neutral moment (even if the normally triumphant theme song plays) when a funny or a happy scene would have been totally inappropriate.
....."Teela's Quest" is a superlative half hour of television, and is the lynch pin episode of the series. Without it, "Teela's Triumph", "Into the Abyss", "The Rainbow Warrior", and "Visitors From Earth" are either not possible without this episode, or greatly enhanced because of its existence. Furthermore, many, many episodes wouldn't have been written had Paul Dini (the first season's strongest writer, by far) raised the bar at such an early date. Using that logic, "Teela's Quest" is also responsible for: "The Dragon's Gift", "Double Edged Sword", "The House of Shokoti" Part II, "The Heart of A Giant", "Evilseed", "The Arena", "Not So Blind", and "The Problem With Power". (I've omitted Dini's other episodes for obvious reasons.) Throw in She-Ra episodes like "The Price of Freedom" and "Sweet Bee's Home", and you have an episode that changed everything for a series of action figures. After this episode, it became a little less possible to think of He-Man as a commercial, or a simple cartoon from a now-closed animation studio that is still being derided by critics two decades after its closure. All in all, "Teela's Quest" is a triumph of animation, and of storytelling, and cannot be more strongly recommended.