"Happy Birthday Roboto"
Synopsis and Review
Details
Cartoon Series: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe - 1983-85
Producer: Filmation
Season: 2
Writer: Larry DiTillio
Year: 1985
Director: Lou Kachivas
Production No: MU113

Synopsis:

Original Airdate: ?/?/1985

He-Man and Man-At-Arms discover an alien space ship inside a sand dune. The pilot, a robot named Roboto, is taken to Duncan's laboratory, where Orko inadvertently revives him. Roboto explains he is a robot explorer from the planet Robotica, where he has thousands of "brothers and sisters." Modulok's spy informs him of Roboto, so Modulok breaks into the laboratory and electrocutes Roboto, brainwashing his mind. Modulok takes the robot to Station Zeta, where the two of them take over the researchers there. He-Man and Man-At-Arms arrive to save the day, but Roboto shocks both of them. Modulok places Man-At-Arms in his brain transfer machine, with which he hopes to transfer Duncan's brainpower to an attachable head for his enrichment. He-Man, trapped in a force field, begs Roboto to fight for his true friends, and Roboto breaks his reprogramming to release He-Man. He-Man liberates Man-At-Arms, and they return to the Palace, where Man-At-Arms is championed as Roboto's "father" on the robot's honorary "birthday."

Synopsis by Zadoc Angell

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User Reviews

MisterClawful

May/18/2015
The episode gets off to a pretty gripping start with He-Man and Man-at-Arms discovering Roboto in his crashed ship. Although there’s a pointless battle involving a Giant Sand Crab thrown in to add exceedingly minor peril for our heroes, it’s fortunately over quite quickly.

Man-at-Arms agrees to take the injured Roboto back to his laboratory to see if he can repair him. Now, the fact that he seems never even to contemplate that there might be risks involved with this perhaps calls his judgement into question. But it’s also at the heart of why I love this plot. Roboto is a clear outsider – he not only comes from another planet but he’s a robot into the bargain. And the story nicely contrasts the different ways that people deal with outsiders. Man-at-Arms repairs Roboto and befriends him, supported by Prince Adam’s curious enthusiasm for a sightseeing tour of Eternia. Modulok, on the other hand, is only interested in how he can use Roboto for his own ends. There’s a good message there that sort of gets picked up in the closing moral, although Teela makes it sound like you should help people out principally because then there’ll help you. Seems a slightly selfish tint to put on it, Teela!

Anyhow, I’m getting ahead of myself. Modulok makes his MOTU cartoon debut here, amusingly letting us know who he is by slipping into talking about himself in the third person. I think he’s excellent in this story though. His plan is not only moderately coherent but actually rather sinister. He kidnaps Roboto, denying him the pleasure of his “nice cup of hot oil”, in order to enslave him by removing his personality and later on tries to absorb Man-at-Arms’s brain in what is one of the darker ideas of the whole series.

Now, point of order – given that Modulok seems to be able to get into the Royal Palace pretty easily, did he really need Roboto’s help to get into the scientific research centre guarded only by two astonishingly cowardly Royal Guards? I mean, even when He-Man and Man-at-Arms arrive as cavalry you don’t see these guys return – they must have run for the hills. But hey ho, I assume perhaps Modulok could’ve broken into the research facility himself and was just using it as a test of Roboto’s reprogramming.

In the final battle, Man-at-Arms manages to undo Modulok’s reprogramming by appealing to Roboto’s inner conscience so he can save the day by rescuing He-Man. Of course, if Roboto is just a big computer then this doesn’t make much sense. But he does show signs throughout of having some kind of emotional awareness, so I’m going to work on the generous assumption that there’s a special chip inside him like Data’s in Star Trek TNG.

The episode finishes with some pretty tame humour about it being Roboto’s birthday, which understandably leaves both him and us confused and a little embarrassed. But the bizarreness of this denouement is not enough to detract from the fact that this is some solidly enjoyable MOTU.

(If you’ve got any comments or thoughts about the review then please do e-mail me on misterclawful@umpire.com).
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