October 11, 2015

Vytor: The Starfire Champion, episode 4 "Wilderland"

While walking about his homeland, Vytor suddenly runs into an invisible wall. Turning, he finds himself sealed in on all sides in an invisible cell. The cell is hoisted into the air by Dreadlock, who gloats that even the power of Starfire can't break through a barrier created by the Saturn Orb. He drags the cell back to Myzor's citadel.

In the citadel, Myzor's teenage daughter, Pyra, is going through her highly propagandized studies under the guidance of Roo, a wise old kangaroo. He's also been teaching her lessons outside the curriculum on the sly, including how to care for newborn flutterwings (butterflies). She's fascinated by the world outside, but her father forbids her to leave. When she overhears news of the captured Vytor, Myzor tells her he's an enemy from an evil, savage race, but this makes her even more curious.

Vytor is still sealed in the cage when he's confronted by Myzor, who offers him a place in his kingdom, but Vytor's having none of it. Myzor orders the cage to be lowered into a lava pit. Slowly, in case the boy changes his mind. As Myzor leaves, Pyra and Roo sneak in. Pyra's curiosity is quickly deflated as Vytor tells her about her father's evil and how he's the one who collapsed the three kingdoms he's claiming to be protecting. When she runs off, Roo apologizes and reveals himself to have once been an adviser of Vytor's father. Vytor pleads with him to cover the Saturn Orb and break the cage, but Roo is terrified to defy Myzor.

Myzor returns to Vytor just as the cage is entering the lava, offering to make the boy a king. Vytor again refuses. As Myzor orders in a firing squad, Pyra appears, pleading for Vytor to be spared. As she and her father argue, Roo sneaks up to the Saturn Orb, covering it and breaking the spell. Vytor is free and plows through guards as he and Roo race to a hanger and Roo shows the boy how to pilot the Mutoid ships. As Vytor takes off, Roo is captured by Myzor's Shadow Priests and is banished to the Shadow Realm, from which there is no return. Pyra is devastated, screaming at her father for being evil and betraying her. As she runs off, Myzor is stung, but stands firm. In honor of Roo, Pyra sets free her flutterwings. Coming across a hangar where a fresh batch of surveillance pod balloons are being deployed, she climbs into one and is free from the castle for the first time in her life. Which doesn't mean much as she takes in the wastes the world has become.

Vytor crashes the jet, but still makes it to the ground in the wastelands surrounding the citadel. He sees a village and wanders in, coming across a bar. Things don't go well when he doesn't understand the bartender's phrase, "Pick your poison," and he seemingly bonds with a local who demonstrates the Shades of Truth many of the people are wearing, which change color if the person you're looking at lies. When Vytor asks for some fresh water, the entire bar bursts into laughter and they ask where he's from. When he says he's a Terron, the patrons figure he's a Myzor spy and attack, only for Vytor to turn their lasso back on them. They reveal themselves as a gang called Trashers and brand him their latest enemy, but he brushes them off as he leaves.

Having fallen out of the balloon just outside of town, Pyra slips in, watching a group of Trashers argue about Vytor and how they'll "trash him!", as well as making plans to raid a "supercharge" depot. Figuring she stands out too much, she completely redoes her outfit to match theirs, and mimics their speech and temperament as she brazenly walks in. She catches their eye, but just because of her beauty as she quickly finds a place by the fire next to their leader who shares both food and flattery with her, and nicknamers her "Dazzler" after her looks.

They set out the next day for the depot. Along the way, they spot Vytor and the boss wants someone to keep tabs on him so they can give him hell later. Pyra volunteers. The rest of the Trashers hit the depot, sabotaging the main gates and making off with as many sackfuls of the glowing green supercharge as they can get, using their motorized skateboards to quickly flee. One of them is left behind and captured, and to save himself, he sells out info on Vytor.

Skyla and Windchaser have been searching the wastes for Vytor. Spotting him, they reunite, just as Pyra comes up to warn him of the Trasher's plans. Vytor doesn't recognize Pyra in her "Dazzler" disguise, and before she can explain, the Trashers pull up and she passes it off as telling Vytor to get off their land, which the Trashers cheer. Before things can escalate further, hordes of Mutoids pour in from land and air. Our heroes and the Trashers begrudgingly team up and tear the Mutoids to pieces.

With their shared enemy gone, Vytor and the Trashers once again clash over who saved who. Pyra gives Vytor a quick kiss before leaving with the Trashers, saying they're not really that bad of guys. Vytor still doesn't recognize her though and, confused, flies off with Skyra.

Back in Pyra's room, Myzor mourns the loss of his daughter. As he marches back to sit again on his throne, he starts to blame Vytor for this and renews his vow to destroy the boy.


Every time I thought I had a handle on this episode, it seemed to veer off in a new direction. It opens strong with the story of sheltered Princess Pyra having to confront the reality of her father's evil when she encounters a captured Vytor in Myzor's torture chambers. This is good stuff, as we finally get a face-to-face confrontation between our primary opponents, while Vytor is completely helpless and Myzor has one hell of an upper hand. Pyra, while typical, is a nice presence as she's not played as a damsel or a dimwit, just naive, and once she gets over the shock of her discovery, she's quick-witted and brave. I like that Myzor has taught her lies about the lush world on the outside which is countered by her flying over lands he left in waste. I even like the kangaroo ("brilliantly" named Roo), a former adviser of Trion who now serves as Pyra's tutor. The scene where he sacrifices himself and is cast away by Myzor and these freaky priest dudes to a shadow dimension of no return is chilling.

On its own, this would make for a compelling episode, and it ends on the great scene of a lamenting and freshly enraged Myzor, a moment that finally (albeit too late) makes him an interesting villain. However, over half the episode instead goes off and focuses on the Trashers. They're an interesting bunch of raiders and rabble-rousers, who aren't exactly bad guys as they're fending for themselves in whatever way they can, to the point of brazenly laughing at the mere concept of fresh drinking water, but they're also not exactly sweethearts as they catcall, pick fights for giggles, and have no issue leaving their own friends behind. Not much really comes of this plot in terms of them because they go from hating Vytor and suspecting him as a spy to just plain hating him. They're more a background presence for Pyra's arc.

I was really impressed with how Pyra responded when she first came across the Trashers, proving a resourceful quick-study, modifying every aspect of her outfit, her voice, how she carried herself as she slid into their town. She definitely drew attention to herself, but more of the horny douchebags variety than in not blending in. I paid careful attention because I was curious how she'd slip past their goggles which shift color when looking at a liar, and she was very good at not answering any questions where she'd have to lie. I really like how this starts out, how she plays the Trashers while helping out Vytor, how when she's caught, she spins it to look like she's threatening Vytor. I even like how they make an interesting romantic triangle with her, Vytor, and Skyla. When Skyla introduced herself as "Princess of Aerion, sworn enemy of Myzor," I half expected Pyra to throw back "Princess of [volcano place whose name I haven't caught], sworn enemy of Altair!" Instead, Pyra's response is a sad, deflating, "Oh," as this further cements how hated her father is in this world.

What does confuse me is why Pyra decides to stay with the Trashers at the end of the episode, when I'd much rather have her stick with the main cast. Yeah, they'd probably go a catty route with her and Skyla, which would get old quick, but I could also see them forming a nice team. Vytor is pure instinct, the one you want when you're in a fight. Skyla is the mechanical genius who can crack any code and do hilarious things to Mutoids. Pyra is the people person, the political strategist, able to read people and slip into crowds to work out conflicts from within. I would really love to see how they could develop these dynamics, even when they're at loggerheads.

Alas, this is where we end things. It's not a great episode, a little uneven in parts and it ends on a weird note, but I do enjoy it. Pyra makes for a great character intro, and both her exploration and the taste of threads they could continue to explore down the road had this gone to series made for the most intriguing episode yet. I could do without all the bonk noises, though. What was up with that.

Extra thoughts:
  • Writer Marc Handler (also credited here as story editor) was one of the regulars at World Event Productions, scripting episodes of Denver the Last Dinosaur as well as localization scripts for Voltron and Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs. He's continued on with various Voltron incarnations, and continues working on English dubs of anime, like Metropolis, Steamboy, Naruto, the "Unicron Trilogy" of Transformers, and Code Geas.
  • I actually kinda love how undramatic Vytor's capture is, that he's just casually walking along when Dreadlock drops a glass cage over him.
  • In previous episodes, Vytor's used the trimerang as a long range weapon, and the Starfire Ring can fire energy beams. Here, his main attack of choice is an energy beam fired from the Shield.
  • Between the accents of the Trashers and a kangaroo named Roo, someone was really on an Aussie kick when they put this episode together.
  • It's ridiculous, but I love the little leap Vytor does as he catches the lasso.
  • As much as I love Pyra's improvised change into Trasher duds, where did she suddenly get the goggles and fitted red tassel gloves?
  • What exactly is supercharge? Fuel? Drugs?
  • It wasn't until my second viewing for the synopsis that I picked up on Vytor not recognizing Pyra for the entire second half of the episode. It's a strange element, especially since they leave it hanging unresolved in the end with him still not having a clue who this woman is who said a couple cryptic things and kissed him before riding off.
  • In all four of these episodes, did I miss it or have they really never once named Myzor's land/kingdom? Granted, given these writers, it would probably be Myzoria or something. Or Sadnionia. Or Eviland. Or Minneapolis.

(additional stills)


There are still moments of profound stupidity in this final (thank you, God!) episode of Vytor, but it must be said that it also finally begins to show a few faint signs of life. Too little and too late, but at least it ends things on a high note, relatively speaking. Let's see why.

Introducing Lyria certainly helps to put some much needed focus on the heretofore absentee "villain" Myzor. Very little is explained - why Myzor looks like a giant demon and Lyria like Pat Benatar, for instance - but it's clear they intended a slow reveal of their backgrounds and that this was merely the setup. I have a sneaking suspicion that Mrs. Myzor's identity, withheld here, was meant to be a bombshell in a future episode. Most interesting of all, in an age when good was good and bad was bad, humanizing Myzor (so to speak) is sort of refreshing. He genuinely loves his daughter and seems intent to shield her from his activities. Not because he believes them unjust, but more the type of necessary evil any actual tyrant throughout history has. That's certainly more depth and shading than you got in any episode of Masters of the Universe.

Like the previous episode, we get to explore this world a bit more here, eventually meeting the motley Trashers. My feelings about them are a bit mixed. On the one hand, they're colorful and lively, bringing a nice energy to a show for which lethargy is a natural state. On the other hand, they push the Aussie biker gang thing a bit far, stopping just short of having them throw shrimp on the barbie or boxing kangaroos. I did like that the long sheltered Lyria got mixed up with them, though how she came by the name Desla I'm not quite sure. I don't remember her calling herself that. One of the Trashers just starts referring to her that way. In any other show I might venture back to see if I simply missed the explanation, but here I just assume it's the result of the aforementioned profound stupidity.

Lyria, or Desla, turned out to be a much stronger character than I initially thought. Though her father had kept her locked away and sheltered, giving her an understandable naiveté, she's not presented as dumb or skittish. On the contrary, she shows herself to be both brave and resourceful in infiltrating the Trashers. I never did warm to Skyla, who didn't show any of the growth you'd expect considering what she'd been through, and I think Lyria would've made for a much stronger and far more interesting female lead. The end of the episode suggests they were setting up a love triangle between Skyla, Lyria, and Vytor, which may or may not have worked, but I certainly know who I would've been rooting for.

As a character, Vytor continues to be dead wood. At no point in this episode - or this series - does he ever interact with anyone less interesting than him. I get that heroes in these sorts of shows tend to be rather vanilla, but still, that's not a good sign. It might not have been so obvious had they surrounded him with a few colorful sidekicks, but, like totally vapid valley girl Skyla and her worrywart computer friend don't qualify.

This isn't a traditional series capper, nothing is tied up and we don't get any sort of closure on things. It feels like any other episode, setting up adventures that would ultimately never come except in Vytor fan fiction.

Just kidding. No one writes Vytor fan fiction.

Whether that's a good thing or not we'll never know.


NoelCT said...


though how she came by the name Desla I'm not quite sure

Desla is Australian for Dazzler, in reference to her looks. :P

Tony Williams said...

I had a suspicion you'd know that.