.....At an experimental weapons facility nestled in the California Redwoods, Zartan and the Dreadnoks are looking for something-the Matter Transmuter, and its blueprints. As Buzzer frees the Transmuter, Ripper finds the all-important plans, and the four leave just moments before a guard arrives.
.....Later on, as Copperhead transports Zartan and the Dreadnoks, the mercenary complains endlessly about the apparent lack of speed that Copperhead is producing on his Water Moccasin and decides that it would be far preferable to split up. (The fact that Copperhead is a slow driver doesn't seem to hurt the decision-making process much.....)
"This stolen videotape, Commander, was prepared by the transmuter ray's inventors to demonstrate its capabilities..."
.....At the redwood base, Destro shows Cobra Commander and the Baroness a tape that shows just what the ray can do-it is shown turning a rock into an apple, as well as a safe being altered from steel to mere tissue paper. The Commander shows his natural lack of patience, which is met by Destro's equal need to criticize Zartan's rather inelegant methods. Cobra Commander counters with the very true (and very crankily worded) comment that Zartan is "much more qualified than you in this area" as he and the Baroness leave the room. Frustrated, Destro crushes the remote for the viewer.
.....Elsewhere in the forest, Clutch, Grunt, and Lady Jaye are waiting in an Armadillo along with Steeler (who is further up a hill in his Mauler), who is whining about how the Joe-Cobra conflict is pointless, and how it has cost him a relationship. The others tell Steeler to lay off it, which the Tank Commander does (but not before announcing that their current mission is a wild goose chase. Steeler never gets to complete his thought, though, as he spots two blips on his radar.
.....The two blips are Zartan, who has the Transmuter plans, and Flint, who's following Zartan closely. Zartan fires at Flint, but misses horribly, causing the Joe to taunt the master of disguise and begin firing himself. Zartan glides down into the forest below, and maneuvers through some trees, but Flint gets stuck in the same two trees.
Zartan taunts Flint again, and this time it proves disastrous, as Flint's aim rings true, damaging his foe's Viper Glider and sending him flying through the air uncontrollably.
.....Below, both the Dreadnoks and Joes see Zartan careening through the air, and a chase begins between both parties to arrive where the thief will land. A felled tree stops the Dreadnoks from going further, and Steeler sends them scattering when he crushes their Stinger with his Mauler. The resulting shrapnel causes Zartan to drop the plans, which Clutch catches while falling down, saving the plans from a bath in the riverbed he, Grunt, and Lady Jaye were driving in in their Armadillo.
.....Zartan finally lands, in the middle of the Stinger's wreckage, and is immediately confronted by Steeler, sitting atop the cockpit with the firing controls for the main cannon in his hand.
"Hold it right there, Zartan! I reckon I got ya out gunned...."
Angered, Zartan brandishes the Stinger's still functional missile launcher....
Steeler gets out the Mauler just in time, but is thrown away by the blast.
.....At Cobra's redwood base a panicking Cobra Commander is berated by Destro as Zartan and the Dreadnoks scramble towards the hidden base with the Joes right on their tail. Destro declares that their only choice is to retreat. Once Zartan and the Dreadnoks have entered the "tree", Destro pulls a lever, which reveals the true nature of the redwood base.
The rocket takes off, leaving the Joes stunned and without the Transmuter itself.
.....The next day, Clutch, Grunt, and Steeler are aboard a WHALE playing poker with Footloose, Airtight, and Barbecue, discussing Cobra's reasons for wanting the plans when Steeler announces that the Joe-Cobra War is pointless, and as a result, he's quitting the team. Clutch tries to tell Steeler that his close call with Zartan has spooked him, but Steeler remains adamant.
"Cobra hits us, we hit them. Over and over."
Barbecue agrees with Steeler in that the end seems a long time away, but disagrees strongly when the tank commander replies that there's no point if no one's ever going to win. However, before things get really heated, Cutter interrupts and tells the other Joes that they're nearing the rendezvous point with Flint and Lady Jaye.
.....At the same time, aboard an advanced lab disguised as a train, Flint and Lady Jaye are traveling with Dr. Renault and General Wagstaff en route to their meeting with the WHALE, discussing the nature of the train when Dr. Renault asks for the Transmuter blueprints-which Flint and Lady Jaye neither have, nor should have. Both the general and Dr. Renault tug at their faces, revealing Zartan and the Baroness! The two Cobra agents push Flint and Lady Jaye off the train, and the two end up hanging by a thread on the support beams of the bridge that the is at the appointed rendezvous point.
.....The WHALE arrives, and Flint orders Cutter to search for General Wagstaff and Dr. Renault while the other Joes disembark and proceed to help out their allies. Making matters worse is Copperhead, who arrives after Cutter has left in the Water Moccasin with the Matter Transmuter in hand. He grabs onto Steeler's leg, and instinctively, Steeler kicks at Copperhead, striking the Transmuter instead.
The entire bridge is transformed into glass,
which soon collapses under the weight of the train, the Joes, and Copperhead.
For the eight Joes, a mysterious cloud of dust appears, leaving them in a barren wasteland as a result of the disaster.....
.....Sometime later, the Joes wake up, dazed and disoriented, but fine nonetheless. The entire area is totally different than before-on the surface. Structurally, it matches up with the river, forest, and trestle perfectly. Questions abound as they head off in search of civilization. Lady Jaye wonders how long they were knocked out for, while Steeler thinks that it's much more than that, just as a mosquito flies around his head, and bites him on his neck.
"I don't know....But I'm gettin' the feeling that there's something even weirder about this."
Steeler instinctively slaps the bug, and takes a good look at it.
"Don't look like nothin' on Earth I've ever seen....."
.....Before Steeler can show the bizarre insect to the others, the sound of engines fills the air. Footloose tries to take a look at whatever it is flying above them through his binoculars, but the sun is far too bright to make anything out. Within seconds, the objects dive in and begin firing, leaving them scrambling for cover, which is in limited quantity at the moment. Grunt turns and fires at the objects, which are Cobra CLAWs, but also has difficulties due to the bright sun. As Barbecue helps a suddenly weak and sweating Steeler, Clutch attempts to call Joe Headquarters, and gets nothing but static. Not concerned with this oddity, Flint leads the Joes into a small cave, which is filled with, of all things, abandoned Joe equipment.
"Looks like our motor pool after a tornado."
It's another mystery, one which Flint is willing to temporarily ignore as he's more concerned with the AWE Striker in the cave-which still has the keys inside. Once Footloose establishes the fact that it still works, the Joes pile in and head off.
.....Later, Lady Jaye announces that they need to find out where they are, and what exactly is going on, and Flint agrees, but also reminds her that they need to be careful not to draw attention to themselves in the meantime. However, the decrepit AWE Striker finally dies as Footloose tries to drive the vehicle over a hill. Thankfully, they are stranded only a few hundred yards from a small building.
.....Inside the building, which is a store, the Joes find some transportation (in the form of some motorcycles), and get some information from the couple running the place. The barren stretch of land they awoke in is called the Proving Grounds, and is a place where the government performs weapons tests. When Steeler asks what type of weapons, the old man replies with an answer that shocks Grunt.
"Oh, everything from new strains of bacteria to the Weather Dominator, I reckon."
"The Weather Dom-"
Flint wisely orders the Joe team's original infantry soldier to keep quiet by motioning to him.
.....After taking Flint's money, the man gives Flint a painful retina scan, which fails to identify him as a criminal. At this point, the woman tells Flint another shocking revelation about their environment.
"Anyway, to answer your question, there was a rumor that the resistance movement had its headquarters out at the Proving Grounds, and that when G.I. Joe went underground, they hid out there."
Flint is sent into a near state of shock, and quickly hurries out of the building, while the old man scolds his wife. After the Joes speed off, the man runs after them, as their money is completely worthless, due to the fact that the currency is American.
.....Afterwards, a worried Grunt discusses what they have just heard, and says that the old couple made it seem like a lot had happened-a lot more than is possible in a few hours.
"Those old folks made it sound like Snake Breath beat the tar out of Joe and took over a long time ago."
Presented with the possibility that Cobra could have actually defeated G.I. Joe, Clutch, Airtight, and Footloose share a hearty laugh together.
Grunt, who is definitely not laughing, reminds them of an important fact: the US Government doesn't have a Weather Dominator; Destro invented that device in order to defeat G.I. Joe.
"Go ahead, laugh! But Uncle Sam doesn't have a Weather Dominator, remember? That's one of Destro's inventions."
The three are quickly silenced, and Lady Jaye states that Joe Headquarters is the only place they can get reliable information.
.....When they arrive at Joe Headquarters, the small group of Joes find their base in ruins, and surrounded by Cobras. Flint then sees a sign that ends any and all doubt on whether or not Cobra has defeated G.I. Joe.
Regardless of the current circumstances, the Joes attempt (and succeed) in re-taking Joe Headquarters as Lady Jaye hurls an incendiary javelin, which promptly causes a fire to start on the moss covering the structure. This is a distraction in favor of the Joes, as they use it to overtake the small enemy force. The Joes blast down the sealed door to the Control Room, which looks so different that Lady Jaye is unable to recognize the base.
.....After tossing the Cobra troops into the brig and re-starting the power generators, Grunt tells Flint that the Joe communications satellite is no longer in orbit. In addition, Clutch has called up the duty roster: of about 50 active Joes, all but six are listed as MIA. Of those six, three were lost.
"Casualties of the last war against Cobra....."
"Hanrahan, Timothy P. Code Name: Blowtorch. Hauser, Conrad S. Code Name: Duke. Katzenbogen, David L. Code Name: Bazooka. Kibbey, Albert L. Code Name: Breaker..."
.....Reading off the list of names belonging to teammates and friends declared Missing In Action, the Joes have no recourse other than to wonder why Duke, Breaker, Doc, and the others died, and how. To his credit, Flint, is determined to get those answers.
.....Later, the group takes a look at the motor pool and hangar, and finds a number of things worth using. Grunt suggests a fresh coat of paint for the ground transports, though, and is ordered to stay behind with Steeler (in an attempt to get the computers running) while the others split up into two groups.
.....Flint heads towards a city with Airtight and Barbecue in a re-painted APC, and the three discover an oddly familiar city, with Cobra running many of the same services the US Government would. They find a newspaper dispenser, from which Barbecue "borrows" a copy of the evening paper. According to it, Cobra Commander is scheduled to give a "State of the Empire" address, tonight.
"Cobra Commander to deliver State of the Empire address-tonight? What in the-!?!"
Before they can read further, a police car pulls up behind the APC. The drivers: Torch, Buzzer, and Ripper.
"The Dreadnoks have become.....cops???"
As the Dreadnoks close in on the APC, Flint, Barbecue, and Airtight speed out of the back of the transport in two Silver Mirage motorcycles, and are soon followed by their nemeses.
.....Elsewhere, Lady Jaye, Footloose, and Clutch are flying in Sky Hawks over some countryside, with completely unsuccessful results when they stumble upon the Mount Rushmore Memorial.
"That....that looks like the Mount Rushmore Memorial."
However, unlike the version they are familiar with, George Washington and Abe Lincoln are joined by Cobra Commander and Destro. Then, Clutch taps into a weather satellite, to find that Cobra Commander has taken Lincoln's place at the Lincoln Memorial.
In addition, the United Nations is now truly united, and not as the Joes would have ever hoped for.
"And it looks like the United Nations have become one nation-under Cobra!"
.....As Lady Jaye's group is discovering the definitive truth about Cobra's status, Flint's group is still being chased across what is apparently Washington, DC as Barbecue states out loud that the changes they're seeing had to have taken years to make. after Flint and Airtight shake the Dreadnoks, Barbecue notices the date: it's the same as when they got zapped by the Matter Transmuter!
"Hello! The date on this paper-it's the same as when we got blitzed by that Transmuter! Which means that our lights couldn't have been out for long!"
The only explanation that Flint can give is that the place they are in is, "Not another time....Then another place, another world, another-" Before Flint's statement is completed the three have to jump from their cycles in order to avoid a collision with a parked HISS. They jump into a garbage bin, and are safe-until they get out, and are surrounded by the Dreadnoks. As they are taken away, Torch brags triumphantly about how they never suspected that Cobra might have bugged Joe Headquarters.
.....At Joe Headquarters, Grunt is repairing the computers when he asks Steeler for a nearby circuit board. Steeler picks it up, and goes nuts, talking about how they're all dead. Grunt bangs his head against the console as Steeler runs off, obviously in a highly delusional and agitated state. Unbeknownst to them, however, is that they are being watched by a female Cobra, who informs the Baroness that she has discovered the Joe named Steeler....
.....Meanwhile, Clutch pulls up a picture of the Statue of Liberty, which is now in the image of the Baroness as a sort of Statue of Bondage. Unwilling to accept that this is their world, Lady Jaye postulates that they are, in fact, in a parallel world. Then, a number of large planes closes in on the three Sky Hawks.
They're Rattlers, and they're headed right for them.
"Cobra Rattlers, on an intercept course!"
Now in range, the Rattlers fire the missiles, starting a battle in which the three Joe planes are hopelessly outgunned and outclassed........
"To Be Continued, on tomorrow's G.I. Joe..."
.....A large part of the life blood of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero lies in the series' multi-part episodes, with an emphasis on the two-parters that aired and were produced for the 1985-1986 season. While certainly not the pinnacle of all of these two-parters, "Worlds Without End" has quite a bit to offer.
.....Part I is a bit of an anomaly, as the animation is actually pretty bad in spots, a rarity for episodes in any of Sunbow's multi-part epics. In addition, the traditional format of the G.I. Joe two parters is somewhat broken, as the crisis faced by the Joes (being transported into the alternate reality) is caused by a Joe (Steeler). Finally, the Matter Transmuter (as a plot device) is quite sophisticated, even for Joe, as the classic film noir device, known as a McGuffin Device, is used in making the Transmuter seem like the focus of the episode, and then shifting the focus to an entirely separate plot.
.....To writer Martin Pasko's credit, this first plot is presented in a manner that makes it highly interesting. Seeing Zartan and the Dreadnoks hunt for the Matter Transmuter (and its blueprints) immediately lets the viewer know that the device is highly valuable. We are also given the impression that there's a lot of security surrounding the installation the device is in, given what Zartan is wearing.
"If Cobra is to build more of these devices, we must have the blueprints!"
However, I'd like to know how the Dreadnoks were able to breach security, seeing as how, in addition to their general idiocy, they're not disguised or anything. The really cheesy part of the scene comes, however, when a real guard arrives right after Zartan and the Dreadnoks leave. Michael Bell's voice for the guard is way too much like the one he uses for Duke, which ruins the effectiveness of the guard altogether.
"The Matter Transmuter is gone!"
.....A tell-tale sign that this isn't your average episode occurs when Copperhead makes an appearance. His initial appearance in this episode isn't particularly notable, but it would signal his third (and final) appearance of the series. Of course, when you consider the fact that he screws up royally in each of those appearances, it's no surprise that he hardly appeared (although his vehicle, the Water Moccasin, didn't appear much more than he did).
.....The following scene in the redwood base is great, although I can't believe that the videotape is stolen for one second.
The background is distinctly similar to those used for Cobra Temple in the second G.I. Joe miniseries, The Revenge of Cobra. Furthermore, the scientists in the "dramatization" are apparently Cobra agents, although it's possible that Destro created this mockup himself.
"Imagine vaults or fortresses turned to, let us say, tissue paper."
The outfits worn by the scientists are highly similar to the one worn by the Cobra technician that Lady Jaye steals clothes from in "Where the Reptiles Roam", with the only concession being the size of the Cobra logo, and the general bagginess present in the male versions.
.....The argument between Destro and Cobra Commander (over, as expected, Zartan's involvement in the plan) is heightened by the presence of the Baroness. The Baroness, who more often than not would be defending Destro, doesn't say a single word.
"If I were you, I'd watch that attitude!"
Interestingly, the episode that aired after this two-parter was "Eau de Cobra", an episode famous for the Baroness' chemically-aided seduction of Flint, much to the annoyance of Destro (to say nothing of Cobra Commander's definitive line, "Morons! I have morons on my payroll!"). One has to wonder if this little confrontation with Cobra Commander was still weighing on Destro as he was trying to bash Flint's skull in.
.....The appearances of Clutch, Grunt, and Steeler are further rarity fodder, as the three are minor players (at best) in the cartoon, and were all quickly forgotten by Larry Hama in the comic, which is par for the course for Hama, and a result of the cartoon not becoming a regular series until 1985. Steeler's a lot more pessimistic than in his prior appearances, and is actually discussing leaving the Joes! While he's complaining, we see Lady Jaye waving for no real reason-a sure sign that the animators included it just so that the cartoon would actually be fully animated.
"She got sick of worryin' about me all the time, that's why."
Clutch speaks well for the audience when he dismisses Steeler's complaints, and Lady Jaye's dismissal is even better, as we all know how hard it is for her, juggling a romance with Flint and her career as one of only three full-fledged female members of G.I. Joe.
.....What I don't get, however, is how Flint or Zartan could appear on Steeler's radar, given that they're both traveling in gliders. I think this is a point where having Zartan in a CLAW and Flint in a JUMP would've made more sense. Of course, the gliders work best in the forest as used, so it's not a huge problem-just a plot convenience. Perhaps the truly annoying part of the chase is when Flint shoots Zartan's Viper Glider. I think Zartan is still falling through the air! ;) The chase aspect is done well, and certainly allows the viewer to ignore the fact that Zartan is in virtual limbo or something.
.....The payoff, of course, occurs when Zartan does land.
Yes, it's a shameless plot convenience that Zartan lands in front of the Stinger's missile launcher (which has just somehow avoided being destroyed), but the scene is perfect. Steeler's cockiness is great, and the look of fear when Zartan brandishes the missile launcher is even better. A lot of attention is put into this sequence, as every moment is deliberate and precise. We also get to see Zartan actually pressing the missile launcher's button, which is a huge plot convenience, but adds loads of suspense for the few seconds we see it.
The shot of Steeler running from the Mauler is just as classic as the earlier shot of Flint getting caught in the trees, and it's no surprise that both scenes were used in the first season end credits sequence.
The music is perfect, and I like how the music track stops as Steeler lands on the ground. It's a technique used both in the first episode of the series (when Scarlett's Skystriker is blown up), and in the Movie (when Serpentor stabs Duke), and it's used to equal effect here, as well. The scene also ends with a great reaction shot of Steeler, who's stunned.
"Half a second slower, I'd a been vapors!"
The next scene starts with a shot of Cobra Commander that's a perfect counterpoint to the shot of Steeler, as it's everything that the shot of Steeler is not, showing the complete difference between the two characters at this moment in time.
The cut to Destro's face adds to the humor of the scene, as it's one of the few times Destro openly gloats before the Commander in the series.
.....And why shouldn't he? Destro has proven himself right, as the Dreadnoks are getting hopelessly outclassed by the Joes-again. Also, it's Destro that actually engineers their escape, while Cobra Commander stands there in shock (as usual).
.....The "base as a rocket" idea shown here has the dubious distinction of having been written and produced ahead of its first appearance (in the final episode of The Pyramid of Darkness), but aired far, far after said initial appearance. Of course, given how tacky the rocket plot is used in "Knotting Cobra's Coils", I wouldn't be all that surprised if the idea was stolen from this episode (which was produced and written well before the first season opener), as the rocket-related plot in "Knotting Cobra's Coils" was notoriously added on after Steve Gerber and the other G.I. Joe story editors ruthlessly edited Ron Friedman's scripts for The Pyramid of Darkness. Steeler and Flint's reactions to the rocket are well done, as Steeler's continues the plot, and Flint's is pure disbelief.
.....The next scene begins with the classic way for the Joes to waste free time: playing poker.
Steeler must certainly be upset, then, if he's giving up on his hand. ;) His logic is flawed, though, as not fighting Cobra would only make the problem worse. But it's very disturbing to see a Joe considering quitting the team, particularly an original Joe such as Steeler. Of course, it's also very realistic, as soldiers are exactly like us, with fears, doubts, loves, and hates.
.....The train which is used for research is a unique idea, as it's both high-tech and something out of one of the various spy movies and shows from the period. And, maybe it's just me, but each character that says the name "General Wagstaff" sounds terribly murky when they're saying it. The unmasking of Zartan and the Baroness reveals what is probably the least plausible situation in the series in an unmasking moment, as both Zartan and the Baroness are wearing gas masks.
"This is as far as you go, Joes!"
The problem, quite simply, is that the science behind the masks in the series has always been that the masks are perfectly form fitting (and, therefore, perfectly realistic) until the unmasking occurs. However, in this instance, they're both wearing gas masks, hence the scientific (or, at least, "Joe-scientific") gaffe.
.....Flint deserves some sort of booby prize for actually going to the open door, especially since the train was still moving! (Slowly, but still....) Of course, a sarcastic mind would comment about how this is another sign that Flint is whupped on Lady Jaye, but that person isn't me. ;)
.....The destruction of the bridge is done wonderfully, although the characters seem to follow the needs of the plot just a bit robotically for my taste. The special effects, however, are beautiful. The crystal bridge looks extremely lifelike, especially the tight view of the tracks.
The point of the breakage, though, doesn't make sense to me. Shouldn't it be where Steeler is, since his kicking action likely continued right through the glass structure once the molecular change was completed? Act 1 ends nicely with the mysterious cloud of dust, which completely changes the focus of the story in less than five seconds.
.....The first clues about what is going on are quite interesting, as they point towards Cobra essentially destroying the environment. The long shot of the river bed (or, at any rate, it's barren structure) displays the extent of the environmental decay.
"And yet, it resembles where we were-at least structurally."
The sky is almost totally filled with smog, and all of the vegetation is gone. The birds in the sky are definitely in search of something dead, as they would never be in the forest the Joes were once in. It's as if the entire area has gone through a complete shift in climate.
.....Lady Jaye looks completely off model as she asks about how long the Joes were out of commission.
"Then, how long were we unconscious?"
.....Steeler's getting stung by the bug is done in classic two-parter style, as it's one of the "hints" about what is going to end up happening in the episode, even though it's handled totally in passing. The bug is purely disgusting, and proof that pink actually has a place in G.I. Joe. Yet another change of pace occurs when the CLAWs begin attacking. The script brings up the issue of the environment nicely, as it hints at one of the many questions that the full plot of this two-parter never fully explores.
.....Another glaring error with the character lip synching, as Clutch's lips are animated while Flint (who's off screen) speaks.
"Worry about it later!"
.....Some interesting symbolism occurs when the cave the Joes retreat has an entrance shaped like a snake's mouth, which is similar to their general situation (going from the "normal" world to one ruled by snakes known as Cobra). The cave itself is quite ominous, as there's no obvious reason for the collection of dusty Joe vehicles (which bears some resemblance to my bedroom, actually..... ;)). And, since these are Joe vehicles, leaving the keys in the AWE Striker is an odd sign (and not the normal sign of stupidity that it is when Cobra agents do the same thing), since the Joes waste government money by getting their weapons blown up, not by leaving them to rot in a cave. ;)
.....For what it's worth, Clutch's beard wasn't colored in the shot showing him lounging on the hood of the AWE Striker (which is an automatic suspension killer for the toy, BTW).
"Yeah, but in the meantime, we should call as little attention to ourselves as possible."
.....For some reason, the bargain shack bears a resemblance to a convenience store that was near my home back in Vermont. Of course, the place burned down around the time this episode originally aired (and, in part because of its location and the fact that the building was a total, and I mean total, loss, was never rebuilt), so my memory could be off.
With that said, the inside is like a country store-something that grows on trees in Vermont. I never saw motorcycles for sale inside Dudley's though. ;) (Maybe they were in the back, near the candy-I hardly ever went to that corner of the place, believe it or not. :))
.....Hearing the words "The Weather Dominator" is a great treat continuity-wise as it invokes the memory of one of the series' finest triumphs, The Revenge of Cobra (which is also known as The Weather Dominator in some circles, in honor of the device involved). It's designed to garner a reaction, and it's very nice to see Grunt reacting most visibly, as he had a cameo during the final battle, but not much more, during the classic five-parter. That the government would even consider using the device is preposterous; only Cobra would attempt something like that.
.....Flint's reaction is equally well done, as he calmly shushes Grunt, like the commanding officer he is. He also is the one to be subjugated to the retina scanner, which is a definitive hint to the viewer, since we see a nice Cobra sigil on the back side of the machine.
"Look straight ahead and hold still whiles we scan ya."
Call me a stickler for detail, but I think that there could be any one of a number of consequences of getting scanned by that thing, the least of which is temporary (or perhaps even permanent) blindness. Of course, this could only really be further explored in a continuation of this two-part episode, really.
.....Having the shop owner chase (or attempt to chase) the Joes with their "worthless" money is highly reminiscent of something the new Twilight Zone (or possibly some other 80s program) pulled in a time-travel story to the turn of the last century (as nickels and dimes have changed pretty drastically in the past hundred years). If your eyebrow isn't raised after this scene, you've never watched G.I. Joe in your life.
.....I can't help but laugh with Clutch, Airtight, and Footloose as the idea of Cobra taking out G.I. Joe, and having done this quite some time ago (even in relation to the time the Joes are now seemingly in), is absolutely hilarious. It's even funnier at this stage of the season, as each of the Cobra agents (save Zartan, it seems) has acted like a total clown or coward at least once, to say nothing about the generic Cobras, Cobra Officers, Crimson Guardsmen, Tele-Vipers, and other miscellaneous Cobra personnel.
.....Of course, the idea is quickly given merit when they arrive at Joe Headquarters.
With the exception of The Pyramid of Darkness (and possibly "The Pit of Vipers"), the place has never looked so trashed. Of course, it's partly because the place is dilapidated due to disrepair, and not necessarily attack.
.....In a series first, the Tele-Vipers communicate via the readouts on their visors, although the one whose visor flashes "FIRE" actually speaks for once, saying precisely what his visor is flashing.
It's a complete irony, given that these guys should be the most talkative Cobras of the lot, but yet they hardly talk, with most of it coming seemingly in "Arise, Serpentor, Arise!" Some scenes with these guys are purely amazing, especially when multiple Tele-Vipers are present, just because of the storyboarding skill needed to make it work.
.....Lady Jaye's admission that she doesn't recognize the base is both haunting, and a show of good continuity (as Joe Headquarters has a habit of evolving as the episodes wear on). The way things look both inside and outside of the base, it's difficult to believe that anyone ever used the base at all.
.....Act 2 ends with the haymaker of haymakers, as Grunt, Clutch, and Lady Jaye tell Flint that, for all intents and purposes, the other Joes are all dead. The names start showing, obviously in the middle of the MIA roll call, as it begins with Short-Fuze (incorrectly spelled as "Short Fuse"), whose real last name is Freistadt (again correctly misspelled, this time as "Freid Stadt", which is likely why one needs to use slow motion on the ol' VCR to catch the real name), going on to Flash's name (Anthony S. Gambello), skipping Grunt (Robert W. Graves), and moving onto Doc (Carl W. Greer).
"Of roughly fifty active Joes, all but six are listed as 'Missing In Action'."
It's extremely frightening, as the Joes are heroes, both to the citizenry of their animated America, and to the audience that was raised on this series. Act 3 is even more disturbing, as Clutch reads the names off like a funeral call. A major error occurs, as (in addition to Lady Jaye, whose real name, Alison R. Hart-Burnett, falls just before Duke's real name in the alphabetical roll call) Wild Bill (William S. Hardy), Spirit (Charlie Iron-Knife), Quick Kick (MacArthur S. Ito), and Barbecue (Gabriel A. Kelly) are all omitted for whatever reason, which causes more concern, as any one of the omitted names could be the dead Joes.
.....Flint's resolve is great, although you can't blame him for doubting the usefulness of the vehicles, as some of the Skyhawks and Skystrikers shown look like crap. Amazingly, however, the Joe vehicles seen from this point on look fine (although the APC is painted blue).
.....The city Flint, Airtight, and Barbecue go to is filled with interesting signs of Cobra world domination.
You now have to accept Cobra leadership, but hey, you've still got the Post Office! A pattern seems to form at this point, as most things seem the same, but freedom (among other uniquely American concepts) is quite forfeit.
.....The evening paper (which, ironically, has all but died in our real world of the early 21st Century) is another thing still present, and Cobra Commander is even doing a normal Presidential duty, the State of the Union Address. In fact, one can assume without any chance of inaccuracy that Cobra Commander loves perverting American tradition in the ways the Cobra Empire seems to be doing in this world.
.....The changes take a decidedly funny tone when it's revealed that the Dreadnoks are now the police, which is the most absurd thing imaginable. Of course, it also doubles as some excellent social commentary, comparing the Dreadnoks to the police (for which there would prove to be no difference in LA, where most of the Sunbow writers lived and worked, in the early 1990s). This is especially so when you consider the fact that Larry Hama had it so that the Dreadnoks loved chocolate donuts. Also of note is that Buzzer calls the Joes "bleeders" as they speed off in Silver Mirage motorcycles, which is a euphemism for pussies (as they, well.....you get the idea).
.....The changes that Lady Jaye, Clutch, and Footloose see are even crazier, as Cobra has re-made Mount Rushmore and the Lincoln Memorial to suit their needs. Personally, I'm surprised that Washington and Lincoln would even remain on the monument (even if they're in the wrong places), given the presence of Zartan and the Baroness (who for all rights should share the new Mount Rushmore with Destro and Cobra Commander). The scene, however, is forever famous for Lady Jaye's reaction to the Cobra Commander Memorial.
"The Lincoln Memorial's become....a Cobra Commander Memorial!?!"
It's not so much because of the animation, or the line, but Mary Lewis' delivery. Her voice gets totally squeaky, to the point that it's almost funny. This isn't to say that a broad reaction isn't desired, just that the overexcited timbre of Lady Jaye's voice invites the type of speculation that I've been slowly altering in my episode reviews.
.....Once we get back to Flint and his party, we see what has to be the biggest work of Cobra graffiti, as the Capitol Building now sports a Cobra-shaped top.
"I still can't believe any of this!"
While the identifying of the city as Washington, D.C. is done a bit sloppily, you can't help but admire the originality of some of these changes, and help but think that Martin Pasko had some hidden reference in mind for each (which I sadly am unable to identify in many cases). The shock is immense as we hear that the date has not changed! If you hate sci-fi in G.I. Joe, then this episode decidedly takes a most unwelcome turn for you. But for those of us who actually understand the link to science fiction that has been present since Day One, you can't help but be amazed. An alternate reality makes a world of sense in a universe populated by such things as the MASS Device, the Weather Dominator, the ancient Egyptian gods, and Synthoids (to say nothing of Synergy, the Inhumanoids, and the Transformers). It's part of the genius of this episode, as the storytelling opportunities are limitless.
.....Chris Latta (as Steeler) and Dan Roth (voice of Grunt) start to take over the two-parter with their great scenes together as we see Steeler begin to fall into a delusional state. Ironically, however, this scene has both one of the funniest bits of animation, and the worst. The funny part is how Grunt bonks his head on the control panel once Steeler starts to run off.
The topper is how Grunt looks dazed for the brief moment after the collision. The expression on his face is hilarious!
.....The wide shot of Steeler running away, however, looks atrocious. If not for the botched cel photography in "Primordial Plot", it'd be the worst footage of the entire series.
The running looks considerably better as the scene shifts to the Cobra base, although it's not likely what a number of parents noticed when this episode aired.
The female Cobra (revealed in Part II as Layla) has some serious leg showing, emphasizing the G-string she's wearing. It seems quite likely to me that both the animators and designers had their heads in the gutter here, especially when you consider that the dark blue parts of the outfit are the essentially a bikini. The Baroness' appearance at this point is very intriguing, as she has no grievance with Steeler that we know of.
.....The final scene begins with one of the funniest connotations of the series, as the Baroness has replaced Lady Liberty.
"No, Clutch, that's not New York! Not the one we know, anyway."
The entire reference is pretty subversive, seeing that the Statue of Liberty can now be called the Statue of Bondage-a sure S&M reference if I ever saw one (and, surprisingly, quite rare for the Baroness, as well).
.....Lady Jaye's ascertain that they aren't on their world is far too much of a plot convenience, particularly during the last couple of minutes of the episode. Of all the convenient things in this episode, this is the one that gets me, as it's not necessary. The cliffhanger is still just as great if Lady Jaye's group doesn't know that they're in another world. Also, they can certainly find out the date or some other sure sign besides excessive amounts of Cobra graffiti.
.....The end of this episode has a bit of a history of being re-touched. First off, it was one of the few two-part episodes I know of that was adapted for the Sgt. Slaughter host segments in 1987 (which seriously limited what episodes were rerun until the DIC era). Second off, Rhino's VHS release pulled a minor alteration to the Sarge version, as they muted Jackson Beck's customary two-parter tag line.
.....The first part of "Worlds Without End" is a solidly entertaining episode, although it's loaded with plot holes and some shoddy animation, which keeps it from being truly classic. However, it's consistently enjoyable, and one has to give Martin Pasko credit for thinking up such a unique idea, and implementing it as well as he did, plot contrivances aside. An enjoyable half hour, with enough to make you want to see the next part, but don't expect to be dazzled by the animation, or totally blown away by the story-yet.
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