Saturday, 26 March 2016

Dungeons and Dragons 01x01: The Night of No Tomorrow

Today's recap is the first guest post submitted by my friend, Daisy. Daisy is a lifelong SF fan and a big retro cartoon enthusiast, so she's chosen to take a look at some grand old Saturday morning gems with a science fiction or fantasy theme. Everybody be nice and keep your feet off the coffee table.

The first episode of the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon is ‘The Night of No Tomorrow’, and… it is not one of the better ones.  It’s not terrible, either.  But it definitely has some pacing issues, and I do have to wonder about the decision to start the series after the kids have already arrived in the Realm, rather than leading into it with the amusement park ride and giving us a chance to see something of their lives on Earth.  It might have been a better way to get in some establishing character moments and give us an idea of what they’re trying so hard to get home to.

That said, and without further ado, here’s ‘The Night of No Tomorrow’.

We start out with a sequence that will play at the beginning of every episode in the series – at an amusement park, a boy (Bobby) shouts ‘hey, look!  A Dungeons and Dragons ride!’ and we pan over to see six kids getting into a cart for some kind of mixed funhouse/rollercoaster type thing.  Why an amusement park would have a Dungeons and Dragons themed ride is slightly beyond me, but as this show was made during the ‘Dungeons and Dragons is satanic!’ phase of moronic parental watchdog panic attacks, it’s possible that they couldn’t just, you know, have them actually playing Dungeons and Dragons.  As we watch, the kids get sucked via the ride into another dimension, where they all get wardrobe changes and are attacked by a five-headed dragon chasing a baby unicorn.   Then a freaky little gnome dude appears and zaps magical weapons into their hands, while simultaneously bestowing titles upon them – we see Hank, our blond-haired, blue-eyed Team Leader get a magical arrow-making bow and the title of Ranger. Bobby, our resident Kid Appeal character gets a club and the title of Barbarian (along with the baby unicorn, Uni). Presto, the Nerdy One, gets a magical hat and the title of Magician. Sheila, the Chick, gets a cloak and the title of Thief. Eric, The Best One, gets a shield and the title of Cavalier, and Diana, our eighties sports girl, gets a magical extending pole and the title of… Acrobat.


Ranger, Barbarian, Magician, Thief, Cavalier, and… Acrobat.

One of these things is not like the others.

Regardless, it’s a fitting enough name for what Diana generally does, so I guess it works.  The kids use their new weapons to try and escape the gigantic dragon, only to run into…

VENGER!  The Force of Evil!

Venger basically being an enormously tall dude with bat wings and a flying horse.  And a ridiculous hat.  He was rocking that whole ‘pale and nose-free’ look before Voldemort came on the scene, too. 

Venger attacks the kids, only to have Eric use his shield to deflect the attack into the giant dragon (Tiamat) that’s chasing them.  Tiamat retaliates against Venger, and the two of them head off fighting into the distance.  The gnome guy makes a reappearance, and the kids ask ‘who was that?’ about Venger.  Like that would really be their first thought upon suddenly teleporting into another world and nearly getting eaten by a dragon.  Regardless, the shady little gnome guy says ‘that was Venger, the Force of Evil.  I am Dungeon Master, your guide to the world of Dungeons and Dragons.’  (Read: kidnapper.  He is their friendly neighbourhood kidnapper.  I am not joking, this is who he is.)

Cut to the title screen.

We open on a scene of the kids climbing up a mountain to try and get a better view of their new surroundings, and maybe ‘see a way home’.  Well, I’d probably be peering around for any cross-dimensional portals too, so I guess that’s fair enough.  Eric lags near the back of the group.  Probably because he’s the only kid whose costume change involved metal armour, including a nearly-complete suit of chainmail, what appear to be plated boots, and whatever the yellow parts of his outfit are supposed to be made of.  Holy crap, he climbed up a mountain in that?  I’m amazed he can stand up in that.

Anyway, the kids get to the top, and we pan out to see a view of what looks like a vast, rocky desert, with gigantic chunks of floating rock hanging in the sky.  Diana compliments the view, and then for some reason the kids fixate on the echo and not, oh, I don’t know, the anti-gravity boulders floating everywhere or the multitude of suns in the sky.  Bobby starts shouting down the mountainside, which seems like a supremely bad idea in light of their near-miss with the gigantic dragon and the Living Incarnation of All Things Malevolent.  And we get this conversation:

Eric:  “Sheila, can’t you do something about your little brother?”

Sheila:  “He’s not bothering anyone.”

Eric:  “He’s bothering me!  I’m trying to think of a way to get us out of this freaky place and back home!”

Now, I think this scene is supposed to establish that Eric is socially unpleasant while also slipping in the information that Sheila and Bobby are siblings, but I’d probably want Bobby to stop doing that too, so my inclination is more that Eric is the sensible thinker.  Diana laments that there might not be a way home, and Hank reassures them that there must be… hopefully.  Bobby coaxes Uni to start shouting down the mountainside, too, and surprise surprise, all of the racket they’re making attracts the attention of Tiamat again!  Presto points at her and shouts ‘look, there, it’s Tiamat the dragon!’

I guess Dungeon Master must’ve introduced her off-screen at some point?

Bobby goes rushing at her with his club, and Sheila calls after him to stop, because Tiamat is invincible.  Again, I have no idea how she knows this.   Is it a fact?  Is it hyperbole based on how she nearly handed them their asses before?  Did Dungeon Master tell her that, or did the kids somehow gain some innate knowledge of the Realm when they got dumped into it?

It is a mystery.  It also establishes a trend of the show’s, where a lot of stuff happens off-screen.  Even though some of this stuff seems pretty cool and like something it would be fun to watch. Censors are likely to blame.

So Tiamat tries to crispy-fry Bobby and Hank uses his magical bow to shoot an arrow into Bobby’s club, knocking him out of the way.  It’s a good thing Bobby apparently super-glued his club to his hands, or else Hank would’ve just shot his only weapon out of his grip and left him to get melted.  Point for Hank, I guess.  Sheila runs towards the mouth of a nearby cave and pulls up the hood of her cloak, which turns her invisible.  Here we establish that Tiamat may be tough but she’s probably not that bright, because she goes inside the cave looking for Sheila – who has, of course, run to the side instead – and gets trapped when Bobby knocks a boulder over the entrance.  Luckily Bobby’s aim is pretty good and he doesn’t accidentally crush his invisible sister.  Points for Bobby and Sheila.

Sheila scolds Bobby for running into danger, and we see that keeping Bobby alive is going to be a challenge for the rest of the group.  Diana declares that she doesn’t blame Venger for being scared of a dragon like Tiamat.

Right.  Because any beast that can be fooled by a simple decoy trick should obviously terrify the Evil Overlord of this universe.

Then suddenly, Dungeon Master!

The smug little bastard shows up to compliment the kids on how they handled the dragon.  Presto asks where he came from, and DM answers with ‘somewhere between there and here’.  Eric gets right in his face and tells him he’s had it with the riddles and he wants a straight answer for once.  He is clearly the best one.  He gets a point.

Eric:  “How do we get out of this world?”

DM:  “Patience, Cavalier.  All things have a purpose, including your presence here!”

Eric folds his arms and looks irritated.  Apparently he has a very finite amount of patience for DM’s sense of whimsical douchebaggery.  Man, I wonder why?

So DM tells the kids that they are pretty close to this one village called Helix, which is having a special celebration soon.  He tells them that in the village, they might find a way home.  This is very important.  Remember this.  DM sends the kids to the village with the information that they might find a way home there.  He also explains that the village used to be routinely attacked by evil dragons, before some nebulous ‘good magic’ came along and banished the dragons; an event which inspired the upcoming celebrations.  DM also warns them that on their way, they ‘must fear only the many faces of evil, all known as Venger’.  So either he’s telling them that Venger has multiple disguises, or that all evil in the Realm is Venger, like Venger encompasses the very concept of evil.  This last point gets implied several times later on in the show, but is also discredited somewhat by the fact that there are evil beings like Tiamat and other wizards and whatnot who actively oppose Venger, not to mention a greater evil which Venger ostensibly serves.  Anyway, in this case, DM means the disguise thing, and says that the kids will know Venger by ‘his white hair’ (or at least, that’s what it sounds like.)

Then he walks around the corner and disappears.

“I hate it when he does that!” Eric declares.  This, along with his comments about the riddles, lets us know that is not the first time DM has said something cryptic to the kids and then took off.  In fact he’s probably done it a couple of times by now, given Eric’s tone and word choice.  Usually someone needs to do something at least three times before it’s considered a habit.  I’m not sure why they decided to start off with exasperation over DM’s behaviour, considering this is the first the audience will have seen of it.  I guess maybe they wanted to make sure that the viewers knew that DM was vague and prone to appearing and disappearing at odd intervals, but I’m pretty sure just watching him do it would have been enough.  We didn’t need it explicitly spelled out in the form of Eric’s protests.

Eric continues to react understandably to his ridiculous situation.  Bobby apparently thinks ‘it’s neat’.  I can forgive him his poor grasp of things because he’s obviously just treating it like some cool game.

“I’m worried,” Sheila says.

I’m not sure what about.  Their odds of surviving a desert trek to a location as vague as ‘north’ with nothing but their swanky new outfits?  DM’s sudden disappearance?  Being stranded in an alien world in general?  All of the above?

Diana: “You’re always worried.” 

Granted, Sheila didn’t really specify any particular concern, but it’s not like their situation doesn’t merit a lot of worry.  Don’t minimize people’s concerns, Diana. 

Diana:  “It’s simple.  The man said go North…”

Diana and Sheila (together, for some reason):  “We should go North!”

This is a weird moment.  They lean in close and say it all excitedly, like they’ve just solved some puzzle or come to some remarkable revelation.  Maybe they’re just happy to finally figure something out?

Hank:  “Diana’s right.  It’s the only clue we have to a way home.  We have to try it.”

Well, fine.  Although how they even know which direction is actually north in this crazy place is anyone’s guess.

We change scenes to see the kids walking across the desert/wasteland underneath the glare of two hot suns.  Yikes.  Eric is holding his shield up over his head to try and shade himself and griping about how all this walking around is pointless, and he’d give anything for his dad’s limo.  We establish that Eric is rich, and I boggle at his ability to walk across a desert in a suit of armour under the glaring heat of multiple suns.  Bobby and Sheila complain that they’re hungry.

Presto:  “Leave it to me!  I’ll produce some magic burgers!”

The group stops to gather around him as he takes off his hat.

Eric:  “The last time you tried this we wound up with live turkey.”

Presto:  “Can I help it if my hat thought it was thanksgiving?”

Ha ha, it’s funny because the kids haven’t adjusted enough to their situation enough to hunt and butcher their own meat!  (Don’t worry, they will.  No, seriously, they will.)  Presto mutters some nonsense words and a bad rhyme and reaches into his hat, and I think that thing just wants to punish him for the rhyming, because he pulls out a live cow instead of a platter of Big Macs or something.  The other kids laugh (all of them, Hank included.)  A whole cow is still pretty impressive in my books.

Diana:  “Gee Presto, I kind of like my burgers a little more well-done than that!”

They might not have food, but looking on the bright side that broke up the tension so I’d still call it a sort of success.  Presto seems pretty dejected, though.  Cheer up, kid.  At least you’ve got something to trade when you get to that village now.  Hank tells them to get moving again – I guess there’s a limit on how many things Presto can try and pull out of the hat at a time? – and they keep walking.  We change scenes to see Hank reading a very short sign.  The cow seems to have disappeared.

Hank:  “According to this, we’re somewhere near Merlin’s castle.”

Merlin?  Like, as in Arthurian Legend Merlin?  Wait, isn’t he from our world?  And… he has his own castle?  What?

Diana seems excited about it, and apparently no one is wondering how a legendary wizard from our world got to this one, which – okay, he’s a wizard, so I guess making a few assumptions about his world-hopping capabilities isn’t too crazy in light of the situation.  The kids decide that Merlin can probably get them home, which, again, fair enough, although their reasoning for this just seems to be weirdly excessive praise of his magical skills and not, like, ‘oh hey if he’s here and we’ve heard of him then maybe he knows a way back to our world’, which is what I’d go with.

They keep walking and come to another sign, again pointing the way to Merlin’s castle, but this time facing back the way they came.  The kids scratch their heads and look around, trying to figure out how they missed a castle in the middle of nowhere.  My first guess is some kind of illusion, but then Diana looks up and apparently Merlin’s castle is floating in the sky.

Sure.  Why not.  Merlin and his famous floating castle.

A glowing golden rope ladder lowers itself down.  Hank and Bobby start to climb it.

Eric:  “Finally, we’re gonna meet a real wizard!”

Considering that he is (probably) still hungry and, again, covered in metal in the sweltering heat, I am not at all surprised that his bitchiness has manifested.  Presto looks dejected and makes some self-deprecating comments, which are pretty unmerited considering he just manifested a cow out of thin air.  Yeah, it wasn’t burgers, but still, going from ‘nothing’ to ‘cow’ when you’ve only been at it for a little while seems pretty impressive to me, even with an enchanted hat to help.  Technically a cow can become burgers; it’s just missing a few extra steps.

So Uni can’t climb up that ladder and has to wait at the bottom, and frankly I am glad.  She looks cute and all, but whoever decided that she should make obnoxious bleating sheep noises should be taken out back and shot.  The kids walk around on some surprisingly stable clouds and gawk admiringly at the giant castle for a couple minutes.

Eric:  “My folks have a place just like this in the mountains.  Wish I was there.”

Presto:  “Sometimes we wish you were there too, Eric.”

Annnnd Presto zings Eric back for the wizard comment he made earlier.  Nice.

Hank:  “Remember what the Dungeon Master said about Venger.”

Sheila:  “We should recognize him by his white hair.”

Uh… what?  Okay.  Well, that was random.  The kids walk across the clouds towards the castle, but the drawbridge is up.  Huh.  I’d assumed that when the ladder lowered itself down, it was because somebody up top knew they were there and was welcoming them to the castle, but apparently not.

Eric:  “Can’t you just swim across the moat?”

Hank waves Eric over to see that the ‘moat’ is just a gap in the clouds that drops straight down.

Hank:  “Maybe you’d like to try?”

Eric:  “Oh.  Heh.  No thanks, I’ve never cared much for skydiving.”

Wow, Eric, that was a surprisingly good-natured response considering that Hank was being kind of a dick about your totally fair and legitimate question.  Diana solves the problem by using her magical pole to vault fearlessly across the gap.  Whoo! Point for Diana.  We cut to a shot of Sheila’s admiring face as she enthuses about Diana’s successful jump.  I ship it.  Diana lowers the bridge, and the kids enter the castle.

Hank:  “Hello?  Is anyone here?”

‘Merlin’:  “I am here.  Tell me, Ranger, what brings you here?”

So, uh, so Merlin is… well, the freakish golden eyes might not be so weird, but… he just walks out of the shadows, with this weirdly mismatched white and grey hair and his… pet rabbit?

Oh hey.  He has white hair.

Oh hey.  He’s also holding a white rabbit.  You know what another name for a rabbit is?  A hare.

Why hello there VENGER!  The Force of Evil!

Hank seems surprised that ‘Merlin’ knows him.  Except that he just called him ‘Ranger’, not ‘Hank’, and any passing idiot with a casual knowledge RPGs might have made the same guess.

Presto:  “He’s Merlin.  He knows everything.”

Or we could go with that, I guess.  Geez these kids have a high opinion of Merlin.  It’s like the Merlin fanclub all up in here.  So Hank starts blabbing on about their plans because he’s friendlier than he is insightful, while Sheila leans over and whispers to Diana that Merlin has white hair.  My estimation of Sheila is growing as rapidly as my fondness for her bond with Diana.  Point for Sheila.  Then we get this gem:

Venger:  “Would that I did, my dear.  I am a great magician, but the one thing I cannot do – is grow hair.”

‘Merlin’ takes off his blue hood to reveal that his weird white hair is sewn into it and he’s actually bald.

Hank:  “Sorry, Merlin.  We were warned that an enemy of ours-”

Eric:  “Just ask him about getting us home!”

Oh thank god somebody interrupted that.  Good job, Eric.  Point for you.  Although it does beg a few questions. Like, does Venger know the kids will be looking for someone with white hair? Why make his Merlin disguise have white hair at all, then, and not grey or something instead? Did he not know? In which case, did he just decide to make his disguise bald, and then chat about it when he noticed the girls discussing his hair? Is this like when cosplayers are super proud of their costume details and want to enthuse about them? Was he hoping they would ask how he sewed that fake hair so neatly into the lining?

Tell me, dammit!

…Anyway. Venger says that he already knows they’re seeking a way back to their ‘birth world’, and tells them to follow him further into the castle.  Where there’s surely a portal!  And candy!  And ice-cream and video games!  Naturally the kids go with him, and we get a brief scene where Merlin uses both arms to open a large pair of a double-doors, while his inexplicable and hilarious pet hare just sort of floats at his arm.  Hooray for animation goofs!  He leads the kids towards a bubbling cauldron, nattering on about how great spells have been cast in this hall, and then says that he can’t grant them the way back.

Eric is noticeably annoyed by this.

So instead of opening a portal back to the kids’ world and telling them to head on through, just leave your magical weapons with good old Uncle Merlin, mwahaha, Venger decides to exposit a little bit more about this village they’re supposed to be going to.  He starts talking about the dragons and Bobby complains that DM already told them this stuff before Sheila shushes him.

Venger:  “Yes.  But he did not tell you that one year, Merlin appeared, cast a spell, and his good magic drove out evil.  The dragons were gone forever.”

…Wow.  Just.  Wow.  He even refers to Merlin in the third person.  Smooth, man.  Unfortunately none of the kids catch it, possibly because they’re distracted by the pretty pictures he conjures in his cauldron, or maybe because they all have heatstroke from trekking through the desert.  Also, DM did kind of tell them that part of the story, too.  Well, he mentioned the good magic, just not the guy who cast it.  Presumably this is some sort of elitist bitchiness between rival wizards at play.

Eric:  “Oh, brother.  Hey, great story there, you know, but I didn’t come here to listen to fairytales.  Now if you’re not gonna help us get home I’m leaving.”

Yeah, man, I’d get pretty annoyed with being dragged into some old guy’s house under the pretense of going home only to be stuck listening to him ramble on about past glories too.  Eric marches off to make good on his word, opens the huge double-doors again, and…

Suddenly, Tiamat.

Yes.  Seriously.  The gigantic five-headed dragon has somehow randomly appeared in Merlin’s castle.  This is never questioned or explained; she’s just there, like some creepy, ginormous stalker.  Guess we know why all the doors needed to be so big.

In the face of a malevolent and potentially-invincible dragon, Eric sensibly retreats, aaand Bobby charges forward to try and get himself killed again.

Instead of getting shot sideways by one of Hank’s magic arrows, this time Bobby gets rescued by ‘Merlin’, who basically picks him up with some weird glowy light and yanks him back.  While Presto holds his bunny for him.  Thus marking the first time Venger has saved one of the kids’ lives (second, if you count the opening sequence, which is more debatable).  Presto is incredibly impressed with this simple levitation spell, even though I still think magically corporializing a cow out of thin air is cooler.  Tiamat charges, and we zoom out to see something interesting.

Apparently Eric has impressively organized thinking in a crisis, because he has had the sense to overturn a large table to try and make a barricade against the dragon.  Ultimately it’s useless, because it’s only one table, but that’s still more than the others thought to do.  Point Eric. This is just a minor piece in the shot, but the tiny stuff in this show is often the most interesting.

Venger says that they have to flee, and Hank rushes forward to provide a distraction for the others by shooting at Tiamat.  Point Hank.  Diana finds the nearest doorway and gestures the others through.  Point Diana.  Hank dodges around the room, fires off a couple of shots, and then follows after them.  Once he’s through the doorway, Diana and Presto close it, and Eric bars it shut.  So, points for all of them.  They keep running while Tiamat smashes through the door behind them.

The group races through the hallways, and I curse whatever ungodly whim inspired the castle’s original owners to construct all of the doorways and halls so they were big enough to accommodate a dragon.  Eventually they come to a dead end, probably because Venger doesn’t actually live there and has no clue where they’re going.  Hank finds a massive trap door and asks where it leads to.

Venger:  “The dungeon.  No escape.”

…Pssst.  Venger.  You’re pretending to be a good guy.  Good guys don’t usually keep inescapable dungeons in their castles.  Just FYI.

Anyway, Hank gets everyone to help open the trap door, and then asks Presto to conjure up a carpet.  I guess his hero-worship for Merlin doesn’t extend to confidence in the department of conjurations.  Presto manages to get a massive enough carpet on the first try, so point for Presto, and again, it is way more impressive than anything ‘Merlin’ has done yet.  He hands the bunny over to Sheila while he does it, and I dearly wish I could tell you that the stupid thing is going to transform into a monster or turn out to be the real Merlin trapped in animal form or something in order to justify its inclusion here beyond giving meaning to DM’s vague rambling, but I can’t.  It’s just a hare.  Apparently Venger keeps pets?

The kids roll the carpet over the opening to the dungeons, and Diana taunts Tiamat into following her and then vaults across their brand new floor trap.  Point Diana.  Tiamat falls down it, and the kids close the trap door on her.  For some reason, this works better than any of the other doors so far, even though it looks to be made out of the same wood as the rest of them and Tiamat can fly.  But whatever.  Maybe it’s dungeon magic.  The dragon’s trapped anyway and the kids get to pat one another the back for pulling a fast one on her again.

Five heads.  No brains.

Hank wants to evacuate the castle, which seems sensible.  Sheila goes to give Venger his bunny back.

Sheila:  “Oh Merlin, here’s your rabbit.”

Venger:  “Thank you, my child.  But it’s not a rabbit.  It’s a hare.  A white hare.”

Whew.  Wow.  Good thing Eric stopped Hank from giving away DM’s warning earlier, because with Venger saying it like that, there’s no way the kids’ll miss this clue now.  I mean he pretty much just spelled it out for them in giant flashing letters.  If Hank had given it away, he would’ve definitely known not to do that.  But now we’ll see the truth.

Venger:  “You’ve saved an old magician’s life.”

Bobby:  “Saved your life?  I thought you were supposed to live forever!”

Venger:  “No, no.  I’m seventy years young, my lad.  The age where I begin searching for one to teach my secrets to.”

Okay, wait, stop, no.  No, no, no, no.  That’s Venger.  He has a white hare.  He’s trying to claim that Merlin is seventy years old to a group of kids who seem to be gigantic Merlin fans for some reason, which would plausibly mean that at least one of them would know that he is from way further back in history than that.  Not to mention that whole thing with the village, which was implied to have happened a long time ago.  Why would he even try to claim to be seventy?  Why not just go with ‘immortal unless killed’ and then say ‘oh btw I am looking for an apprentice though’?  I think Venger needed to research his role a little better.

So while I busily smash my head against the desk in frustration, Venger says he’d like to take Presto on as his apprentice.  Eric expresses incredulity at this idea.  I’m not surprised, but then, I know it’s a trap.  Also Presto is awesome.  ‘Merlin’ tells Presto that he can teach him all of his magic… but Presto will have to stay in the castle for the rest of his life.  Which will presumably be short, because eventually the giant dragon is going to break out of the dungeon, right?  Well, or, more likely, Venger will just kill him.  Presto looks enthralled with the idea of becoming Merlin’s apprentice.

We cut to a scene of the other kids standing on the drawbridge.

Eric:  “Let’s face it, if Merlin’s not gonna help us get home, I say we shove off for that Helix place.”

Hank:  “Eric, we have to wait for Presto!”

Sheila:  “You don’t think Presto would stay with Merlin, do you?”

Diana:  “No way!  Presto would never leave us!”

Venger (walks out with Presto):  “Farewell!  Your friend has decided to stay and become my apprentice!”

Me:  *snorts into water bottle*

Okay, so, the other kids are understandably surprised, but after double-checking to make sure Presto wants to stay with the strange old man in the dragon-infested castle, they set off without him.  We change scenes, back to crossing the stupid desert again, and damn, Venger didn’t even offer them food or a bed for the night or nothing.  That’s cold, man.  At least the suns are setting in the background.  Not that nighttime in this place is likely to be a picnic either.

Diana:  “I can’t believe it!”

Sheila:  “It’s our fault, you know.  Always making fun of him when his magic tricks backfire.”

Yeah, probably.  You guys can be real dicks sometimes.

Back at the castle, ‘Merlin’ calls Presto into the room, where he’s stirring a ginormous cauldron again.

Venger:  “Later, we shall have to deal with the dragon locked in the dungeon.”

Presto:  “Deal with the dragon?  How?”

It’s not like you can just leave her there, Presto.  She’s going to get out sooner or later.  Personally I’d just write the whole castle off, maybe go find a nice new place that doesn’t have doorways big enough to accommodate massive reptiles, but hey, that’s me.  Venger tells him that all of the answers to everything are in this gigantic book he’s got.  Then he gathers up his pet bunny and tells Presto to stir the cauldron until he comes back.  And don’t you touch anything, Presto, especially not the giant book with all the answers in it, wink wink.

Naturally, Presto falls for the obvious bait fast and hard.  He flips through the book until he finds a spell to get everyone home, and then starts gathering ingredients for it.  Why he’s not suspicious of the fact that the ‘benevolent Merlin’ possesses such a spell but still claimed he didn’t earlier on is anyone’s guess.  He mixes everything together, and, surprise!  Instead of opening a way home, the cauldron starts spitting out evil dragons.  Miraculously, the dragons don’t eat Presto right away, and he’s able to go racing down the hall, calling for help.  He finds ‘Merlin’ reading a book in another room in the castle, and repentantly explains what’s happened.

Of course, Venger stares at him all creepily, and then walks onto a nearby balcony and explains that it was a trick; the spell in the book wasn’t a spell for going home at all, but rather the spell to release the evil dragons.  Only good magic could undo Merlin’s spell.  Shock!  Gasp!  It turns out Merlin hasn’t lived for a thousand years, and… I’m really starting to suspect that the Realm’s Merlin is just another wizard with the same name.  But I digress.  Venger reveals himself and turns back into his true form, and takes Presto’s hat while the poor kid’s busy wetting himself.


That’s it.

He just takes his hat.

Well, and he says something about the dragons destroying Helix, but surprisingly he doesn’t attempt to throw Presto off the balcony or even lock him up or anything.  I guess having his trap work out has put him in a good mood.

We cut back to the others to find that night has fallen, and they’ve arrived in Helix.  Which is about to be destroyed by dragons.  Yikes.  Helix appears to be populated by dwarves or possibly gnomes – some kind of short bearded people, anyway.  I’m going with dwarves just because they seem to be common in the Realm.  Hank is talking with the mayor, explaining that he and his friends have come looking for a clue to lead them home.  It doesn’t seem like the dwarves know about anything like that, but hey, there’s a party going on, so at least… you know… fun stuff?

We see Bobby and Uni playing an improvised game of baseball with Bobby’s magical club and some of the local children.  Diana and Sheila are in a fortune teller’s hut, getting their fortunes told.  I assume Eric is off somewhere quietly weeping at the lack of magical portals in this town.  Or maybe he just stripped off his armour and lay down somewhere to die.  The fortune teller starts reading Diana and Sheila’s fortunes when she gets interrupted by a terrible vision.  Oh no!  There are dragons coming to attack the village again!

Back to Hank and the mayor:

Hank:  “I still don’t know why we were sent here, Mayor.  But at least we got to meet Merlin on the way.”

Why the hell would you consider that a bonus, Hank?  He stole one of your party members!

Mayor:  “How could you?  Merlin died a thousand years ago, soon after casting a spell that vanquished Venger’s flying dragons!”

Hank:  “Merlin died?  But we met him!  And he said he was only seventy!”

Thank god you’re pretty.  Although I really can’t blame you, considering none of the others figured out anything either.  So the fortune teller comes running up with Sheila and Diana and shouts that she’s seen them!  The dragons are coming!  At first I assume she means in her crystal ball, but then she points at the sky and there’s this gigantic conga line of dragons spiralling down from the moon, which makes me wonder why everyone else in town isn’t already fleeing in panic.  The mayor and the fortune teller rush off to sound the alarm and get their people into shelter.

Diana:  “We have to go back and get Merlin!”

Hank:  “I don’t think that was Merlin!”

Diana:  “But he looked like Merlin, standing there stroking his white rabbit.”

Yes.  Because that’s the iconic image of Merlin, isn’t it?  A bald dude with freakish glowing eyes stroking a pet bunny.  That must be why Venger was carting that thing around with him everywhere.  Nobody would have bought him as Merlin if he didn’t have Merlin’s famous white rabbit with him.

Also ‘stroking his white rabbit’ sounds like a filthy euphemism for something.

Hank:  “Not his rabbit!  His hare!”

Hank, Diana, and Sheila together:  “His white hare!”

FINALLY.  Nobody gets any points because that took way too long.

Everybody’s clued in now, and Hank and the girls are appropriately alarmed by the fact that they left Presto alone with VENGER!  The Force of Evil!  The dragons start ransacking the village, while the mayor tries to get his people to safety.  Hank runs up to him and says he might know a way to stop the dragons (what?  When did that happen?) but they need horses.  The mayor tells them to take some from the stables, and they’re off!  Sheila does an impressive running mount onto the back of Hank’s horse, which… wow.  Point Sheila.  Eric rides standing up, I’m guessing because those chainmail pants of his chafe like a bitch in a saddle.  They take off towards the desert again, while the dragons soar up to the moon and the mayor shouts something about them preparing for their final assault.

Hank:  “Venger must’ve reversed Merlin’s spell!”

Sheila:  “The one that kept the dragons away!”

Hank:  “Yeah!  And we’ve got to put that spell back!”

Okay, let’s not count our chickens before they hatch here, buddy.  As far as you know Presto is lying on some castle floor with his throat cut, and last time I checked none of the rest of you knew how to do any magic.

They get to the castle and rush inside, remarking upon the gigantic dragon-shaped hole in the wall.  Meanwhile, we cut to the Presto, suffering the dire fate of… sitting.  Quietly.  And stroking Venger’s pet bunny, which is still just a regular bunny what the hell.

Presto:  “I really blew it.  Some wizard.”

Presto, I love you, but accidentally releasing a flock of malevolent dragons onto an innocent village is usually cause for more than just career-oriented concerns.  Also, you’re a fine wizard; you successfully reversed a thousand-year-old spell.  If you were actually a lousy wizard, it wouldn’t have worked, and we wouldn’t be in this mess.

The other kids find Presto and Presto tells them what’s happened, and that Venger has his hat and ‘all of his magic’ which… I guess that happened off-screen?  Or Presto thinks the hat is all of his magic?  I’m fuzzy on the details with that one, but either way, Hank explains that the dragons are attacking Helix and Presto needs to recast Merlin’s spell to banish them.

Presto:  “Me?  I’m no Merlin.”

Venger:  “And you will not cast another spell tonight!”

Awww, but Mooommm, can’t we do just one more?

Venger:  “I have the wizard’s hat. Hand them over; the rest of your objects of power.”

Okay, time-out.  He seriously says ‘you will not cast another spell tonight’.  Like maybe Presto will get to cast some spells tomorrow if he behaves himself and remembers to feed Mr. Rabbit.  I dunno, I guess maybe he did such a good job with the carpet and the reversal spell that Venger was planning on keeping him?

Well, either way, Venger shoots an energy blast at Diana and Diana jumps over it like the laws of physics are her bitch, so point Diana.  Hank refuses to hand over the weapons and tells Bobby to use his club – too vague, Hank, no points for you.  Bobby smashes the floor a couple of times and some books fall out of their shelves and onto Venger.  So not points for Bobby, either, but… apparently this works?  Hank says something about it ‘not holding him for long’ but seriously, how did it hold him at all?  Okay, fine, I guess Bobby can get a point for it, as unlikely as it seems.  The kids flee into the castle.

Hank:  “Try to keep away from Venger while Presto works on Merlin’s spell!”

Um.  Shouldn’t that be ‘try to keep Venger away from Presto while he works on Merlin’s spell’?  Especially since Presto is weaponless and also your only hope of getting rid of those dragons?

Nevermind.  The kids enter a corridor that’s brightly lit with torches, and Diana throws her pole and manages to bounce it off of the walls to extinguish the torches.  Physics bows before Diana.  That’s another point for her.  We cut to Hank smiling warmly at her for some reason, so I guess violating the laws of the universe really does it for him.

That explains a lot, actually.

With the torches out the only light is the constant zappy-beams that Venger keeps firing off from his hands while he bellows ‘you cannot escape!’, which is supremely goofy.  Venger is not a subtle man.

Presto:  “Wait!  I know where Merlin’s spellbook is!”

Ah, yes.  Merlin’s incredibly reliable and in no way tampered-with spellbook.  Good thinking, Presto.  Hank bravely volunteers to go with Presto to the study while the other kids keep Venger busy.

Hank, you have a bow.  That shoots light arrows.  You should be on the distraction team.  Maybe send Sheila, who has an item that turns people invisible, to go with Presto?  Or Eric, who can actually, you know, defend against attacks and protect weaker team members?  Good lord.  Minus one point Hank for poor delegation.

Eric:  “Keep him busy?  What are we supposed to do, tell him jokes?”

Maybe try it Eric.  Between the pet bunny and the random magical blasts he seems to be in a whimsical mood today.

Sheila gets an idea and hollers at Eric and Diana to go with her.  Yes.  Let’s leave Bobby to his own devices, that always works out well.  Eric says it better be a terrific idea, but given that Venger just got thwarted by books, he may be overestimating their opponent.  We see Venger spying on the kids as they run down a nearby corridor, and he smiles, like it’s a particularly fun game of hide-and-seek.  Venger’s a really sporting bad guy.  Then we cut over to Hank and Presto standing around the giant cauldron.

Presto:  “I don’t know if I can do this, Hank.  I mess up every magic trick I try.”

That’s not true!  You cast that anti-dragon reversal spell perfectly, you just didn’t know that that was what you were casting at the time.

For some reason Hank doesn’t go with this line of encouragement, and instead decides to emphasize how important it is that everyone in Helix not die.  Venger barges in right at that moment and decides the fun and games are over and it’s murder time now, so, great job Distraction Team.  Woo.

Speaking of the Distraction Team, we cut to them.  They’ve got Bobby with them, even though Sheila only asked for Eric and Diana.  I guess she just figured it would go without saying that Bobby should come too?  Regardless, as they run down the corridor Sheila reveals her brilliant plan:

They’re going to let Tiamat out.

Eric seems to think that adding another rampaging dragon into this mix might be counterproductive for some reason.  I can’t imagine why.  Diana basically tells him to shut up and help open the trap door.  They get it open, and then they hide behind it as Tiamat crawls back out looking pissed.  Fortunately for them she doesn’t think to turn any of her heads around and check behind herself, so… I guess Sheila gets a point.

Meanwhile Venger has Hank and Presto cornered and is about to take them out of the equation, when suddenly, Tiamat!  The two bust out into another slap fight, and Venger runs away, shouting about how even though he’s getting his butt kicked right now he’ll still win in the end!  Hank and Presto hide behind the giant cauldron.  When Tiamat has gone, they pop back out again, and Hank reminds Presto that, y’know, village, burning, etc.

Presto:  “Okay.  In the name of Merlin!  In the Time of Sorrow!  Banish Winged Demons!  Let there be tomorrow!”

You know, it occurs to me that Merlin died shortly after casting this spell.  Ostensibly, anyway.  How do they know it’s not one of those spells that’s so powerful that it kills the caster or something?

Well, luckily, it isn’t.  Either that or Presto is more powerful than Merlin, which, hey, maybe.  The cauldron explodes in a shower of light.  At first Presto thinks he’s failed, but then in the cauldron they see the dragons disappearing, and realize that it worked.  Point for Presto.  He is understandably elated at no longer being complicit to mass-murd… oh wait, no, he’s just happy he cast the spell right.  Priorities, Presto.  Maybe reorder them a little bit.

We come to the end of the episode now.  Presto explains that he only stayed behind because he thought he could find a way home.  I’m still not sure why he thought Merlin was both trustworthy and withholding aid.  Or why he didn’t just ask for a minute to say goodbye to his friends and then explain his plan to them, so they could be close at hand in case he succeeded.  A portal in Merlin’s castle wouldn’t have been much use to anyone but him if the others were in Helix.  Although…



Were you planning on going home alone?

For shame.

The ladder disappears and Merlin’s castle floats away – with Presto’s magic hat still inside it.  But oh!  Look!  Here’s Dungeon Master, conveniently with Presto’s hat!  Presto celebrates being back in the magic business (was he out of it?  He cast that other spell without the hat at all…) and Eric tries to get DM’s attention to ask some questions, only to find he’s gone and disappeared again.  Point for Eric’s priorities.  Presto muses that he’ll probably never be good enough to teleport like that (he’s wrong), and the group says that hey, they think he’s a pretty great wizard, and the town of Helix thinks he’s as good as Merlin himself.

Probably because they don’t know he let the dragons loose in the first place.

But wait, hold up.  Remember earlier, when Dungeon Master said that they might find a way home in Helix?



So what the hell was that, huh?  There was no way home in Helix.  There wasn’t even a way home in Merlin’s castle, that was just Venger being a clever bastard.  Why did Dungeon Master even send them there?  If he hadn’t, then they never would have found Merlin’s castle, and Presto never would have released the dragons and had to re-seal them anyway.  Seems like there would have been less property damage and suffering all around.  Only… don’t tell me he did all of this as a confidence building exercise for Presto? 

Holy crap. 


That is messed up.

And the worst part is, nobody says a single word about it.

Presto climbs onto Eric’s horse and tells Eric to hop aboard, and Eric insists that he needs his own horse.  He does this in a pretty snotty way, but I will point out again that Eric is in full armour (minus a helmet) and that stuff is heavy.  He actually should have his own horse, or at least share with someone really light, like Bobby.  Hank asks Presto if he can conjure something for Eric to ride on, and Presto… pulls a cow out of his hat again.  Everybody but Eric bursts out laughing, and then they start to ride off, leaving Eric with the cow.

In the desert.

Covered in armour.

And thus we conclude our first episode on an establishing note – the kids have learned not to mock Presto for his bad spells anymore.  Instead they’re going to reserve their insults and mockery for Eric, the practical guy with the enchanted shield that protects them all.

Well, great.

Points So Far:

Eric - 5
Sheila - 4
Diana - 6
Hank - 1
Presto - 3
Bobby - 2
Uni – 0

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