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Thread: "The Great Books Mystery" vintage episode review thread

  1. #1
    Human... Robot... Maniac Spacedust's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    United Kingdom of Eternia

    "The Great Books Mystery" vintage episode review thread

    Get set for another vintage episode review thread. This week it is "The Great Books Mystery", notable for the appearance of one-off Filmation-created villain Batros (who spots a bat motif that has led some to speculate Horde connections).

    Brief plot overview:
    Orko's birthday present for Prince Adam, a book, has disappeared. Many other books are vanishing too, and the King is worried that without the books, Eternia will lose much of its knowledge. As He-Man goes to consult the Sorceress, Teela and Orko follow the trail of a dropped book to the Temple of the Sun, where they find a winged being called Batros is behind all of the book thefts. Skeletor intends to join forces with Batros, knowing that knowledge is power...

    I'd like to hear your comments on this episode.
    And whether you post your thoughts or not, don't forget to rate it in the poll!
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  2. #2
    prince of asgard thor's Avatar
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    Feb 2000
    I liked this episode alot.

    All the insults Skeletor threw at Beastman were just classic.

  3. #3
    80s cartoon guru manny's Avatar
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    Jun 2002
    i thought this was a pretty decent ep we see a new villain team w skeletor however i thought it could of been a bit better i give this ep a 6
    "always believe in yerself"
    dont be someone yer not

  4. #4
    Human... Robot... Maniac Spacedust's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    United Kingdom of Eternia

    "The Great Books Mystery" review

    Catching up with my episode reviews, I've got a bit behind last couple of weeks.

    "The Great Books Mystery" is an intriguing concept second season episode that sadly falls down due to an unfocused plot.

    Professor Smallen, from the first season's "Keeper of the Ancient Ruins", makes a return appearance here, his second and final appearance on the show, although his clothes are coloured differently, and his voice is slightly gruffer. It is nice to see a previous such character make a return appearance, although here he only has a cameo with no real impact on the plot.

    The concept of all of the books going missing is a very interesting one, but does come across as slightly over-preachy, with us being told that books hold "law and knowledge", "science and discoveries", "and stories", and that the loss of them is devastating.

    While He-Man heads off to consult the Sorceress, Teela and Orko follow the trail of a conveniently dropped book on "the South road". This would indicate that Batros, while he does display magical powers later in the story, took all of the books by hand. Just what do those Royal Guards do, they seem to let anyone and everyone stray into the Palace!!

    The thief of all the books has made his base in the Temple of the Sun, in one of its several appearances in the series. The villain of the piece is a bat-like being called Batros. The character has a lot of appeal and potential, and it is easy to see why he became a popular 'one-off' villain amongst fans. As many fans note, he has a bat motif on his chest that is very similar to that worn by the Evil Horde. In reality, at time of this episode's production, the Horde had barely entered on to Filmation's drawing board, so there is probably no deliberate reference - and after all, Batros is a bat, so a bat motif is obvious - but nonetheless, it makes a very interesting point of speculation, for creative fans to fill in their own back story. I know of I've said in many reviews of episodes with such one-off villains, but Batros would have made a wonderful figure (and has had many customs done of him over the years).

    Skeletor and Beast Man are watching the scene at Snake Mountain. Here, the episode comes across as slightly preachy again, with Skeletor stating that "What he (Batros) has taken is more previous than gold or jewels", adding that "Books are the real treasures of the world". I appreciate fully that Filmation were trying to promote to children how important books are, but I did find it all a bit heavy handed. Feeling that Batros could be of great use to him, Skeletor sends Beast Man off to fetch him, telling him to take Trap Jaw with him.

    There is a shot of He-Man and Battle Cat entering Castle Grayskull, where it is suddenly night, despite all surrounding scenes taking place during the day, in what is actually stock footage (originating from "Diamond Ray of Disappearance").

    Meanwhile, Teela and Orko are following the trail through the scorching hot desert (yes, it's suddenly day again). I did wonder why they were walking, as when they left the Palace it seemed indicated that they were taking a Wind Raider. Maybe they found that they could follow the trail better on the ground. The path leads of the Temple of the Sun, and unlike some other occasions, they seem to get inside it very easily.

    One thing that I did get from this episode was that Teela and Orko make a great duo. We often see Orko and Cringer teamed up in the series, but Teela and Orko too make a good pair, with Teela like the teenage girl and Orko as her little brother.

    There is some quite nice animation of Beast Man running away and being hit on the backside but Batros' energy blasts. His conjuring up ghostly snakes that are actually rope to deal with Trap Jaw is also nice, but at this point it starts to become apparent that the plot is becoming unfocused and losing its direction from the main story too much.
    When Batros goes to see Skeletor, returning Beast Man to him, the plot very abruptly morphs into (yet) another 'plan to take over Grayskull' story, and an unfocused one at that.

    Outside Castle Grayskull, Skeletor plans his unclear, unfocused assault with Batros, and out of nowhere, Tri-Klops and Mer Man suddenly appear to boot (Tri-Klops being particularly of note, as he was seldom used in the series).

    Something that did strike me about this episode is that line-up wise, it has a very first season cast, with not a single second season added character appearing.

    Soon enough, He-Man has foiled the unclear and strange attempt on Grayskull, and throws Batros "Back to the Dark Side of Eternia". The 'Dark Side' was sometimes mentioned in literature and early publicity, but was never overplayed in the series. Obviously Snake Mountain is on the Dark Side, and this statement by He-Man might suggest that all (or most) of the villainous creatures of Eternia come from the Dark Side of the planet.

    But that's not all - now the plot makes another abrupt move as the focus shifts back to Snake Mountain, where Skeletor has (suddenly) hidden all of the books that were in the Tempe of the Sun.

    As He-Man and Battle Cat enter Snake Mountain, He-Man looks towards the camera and says "Do you have the feeling we're being watched?". This is one of the moments I remember most vividly from watching the series as a young boy. I could be taken that a) he is commenting to the viewer that he feels Skeletor is watching their movements (as a few moments later they fall into his trap), or b) he is commenting to Battle Cat that he feels someone (us, the viewer) is watching him. ...I dunno, it just kind of stuck with me.

    Anyway, He-Man and 'Cat fall into Skeletor's 'trap', but soon escape it, and the books are retrieved.

    Finally, Prince Adam gets to celebrate his birthday, complete with cake with 19 candles on. As the DVD notes comment, this would indicate that Adam has been 18 previously in the series (maybe even 17 in the early episodes), but who knows - while Filmation could add a lot of detail at times, on other occasions they could just put things in without really thinking about it, so it's debatable. It would seem to tally with the age Adam (and Teela) are portrayed in the series though.
    And Orko finally gets to give Adam the unicorn book. It's nice to see that, with all the strange creatures and happenings on Eternia, Adam still finds delight in a simple book. He does, however, hold the book up the wrong way (the spine is on the wrong side).

    So all is well again, and we get the predictable closing moral about how important books are to us all.

    This is a real toughie to rate. I really like the concept of the episode, and Batros is one of the most interesting one-off Filmation-created villains of the shows run. Sadly, a way into the story, it really loses its focus, with all kinds of ideas coming out of nowhere (the sudden attempt on Grayskull, the sudden shift back to Snake Mountain), totally losing it's original interesting plot and becoming all over the place, and very 'bitty'. This is one of writer Harvey Brenner's two scripts for the show (the other being "Jacob and the Widgets" later in the season; as well as "Play It Again, Bow" for 'She-Ra: Princess of Power'), and maybe his lack of real understanding of the series compared to some of the more regular writers comes across.
    I really want to like this episode and feel that it had so much potential (and love the character of Batros), but think that the unfocused plot knocks it down to an average (but still watchable) 7 out of 10.
    Last edited by Spacedust; May 14, 2007 at 11:00am. Reason: typo
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  5. #5 Brian Ozone's Avatar
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    Jan 2004
    This is my favorite episode ever because it introduces BATROS!
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  6. #6
    Heroic Warrior Blue's Avatar
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    Apr 2001
    By the side of the Sorceress
    I liked Batros as a character. It would have been really cool to see him updated in MYP.

    This episode is ok, but tends to drive the "importance of reading" theme a little too heavily for me. Due to that fact, the ep feels more kid-ish than most other MOTU stories. I get the same feeling from "Dree-Elle's Return" when I watch that ep as well.

    I also have a hard time seeing Skeletor buy into the "books are so important" motif. If anything, it feels out of character for him. I wanted old bone face to be more like "Who cares about old pages anyhow!" It would have been cooler if there was one particular book he wanted for some reason.

    This ep also sticks out to me because of the lame reason the writers give for keeping the Sorceress out of the action at Grayskull. They throw in a lousy line of her watching Beastman's squad in the back. LAME! We don't even get to see a little snippet of anything happening out there so He-Man is left alone to fight all the bad guys. For that reason alone, this ep goes down on my meter-of-Motu-enjoyment.
    RIP Andy Conrad.

  7. #7
    I think this episode is pretty good. Although the story is all over the place, it's like the story ended after 15 minutes and the writer had to fill in the last 5minutes with pointless chasing of the books and Skeletor, out of the blue, wanting to take over grayskull?! The script isn't very well written and the story is unconsistent. Skeletor is however very good in this episode and I love Batros. 7 out of 10

  8. #8
    MOTUC fan! Evil_Horde's Avatar
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    Apr 2009
    I like this episode and the role of Skeletor! Voted 9!

  9. #9
    Heroic Italian Warrior PaoloKr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    The Ionian Sea
    Not one of my favorite episodes. Just 7.
    The gleam of the Power Sword lights your way as you enter the fantastic world of Eternia...

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