Saturday, 23 July 2016

Super Friends – The Lost Episodes: Terror on the Titanic

I’ve decided that we all need a little more fun at the moment, so instead of looking at Rod Serling’s Patterns like I was going to, I am instead recapping an episode of Super Friends where they fight the Titanic.

Yes. The actual Titanic.

Saturday Morning Cartoons went extinct a couple of years ago. With streaming services allowing parents to curate their kids’ viewing, and 24hr cartoon channels available, the once noble establishment that brought forth everything from The Jetsons to the North American Pokémon craze died a peaceful, largely unnoticed death.

But, for fifty years of broadcast television, it was a coveted block of time carved out for the wild imaginations of kids, and the advertisers trying to target them. A devil’s pact of calculated branding and genuine fun.

The history of Super Friends, in particular, is a mess full of title changes, network changes, syndication deals falling through, and so much behind-the-scenes drama it’d make a hilarious HBO drama set at Hanna-Barbera in the 70’s. You’d never guess how much backstabbing went into producing each seven minute episode about a super hero friendship team.

Centered on the group adventures of DC’s Justice League, the show began in 1973 on ABC, consisting of three seven minute segments creating a half hour show. It was soon cancelled and even sooner revived. The unexpected revival led to a 1977 retooling called The All-New Super Friends Hour, which was indeed an hour long. That’s pushing it for any cartoon, and it was padded with weird extra segments where Green Lantern taught kids first aid, so it was again retooled in 1978.

This second retooling brought about Challenge of the Super Friends, which was then morphed into The World’s Greatest Super Friends, becoming a more reasonable half hour in length. Throughout all of its incarnations, it was made up of various short segments.

By 1983, it was just called Super Friends again, and it was also cancelled. Again. But a syndication package had been worked out, so Hanna-Barbera produced 27 extra episodes that wound up only being broadcast in Australia. They’re known as The Lost Episodes of Super Friends.

This is one of them.

We start with an ocean recovery ship sending two divers into the icy depths of the Atlantic. Despite the fact that the Titanic was sunk by an iceberg, in iceberg waters off the coast of Newfoundland, the divers are wearing short sleeves. This is a cartoon, so there’s literally no reason that has to be the case.

They’re called Pete and Rene. It works well because Pete is super bland and Rene is incredibly French.

Pete thinks that tonight is the night they find the wreck of the Titanic, or at least he hopes so. This is the last dive they’ll be able to get in before the winter storms hit the region. So they really shouldn’t be going with short sleeves.

“Three years we search for the sunken ship!” Rene grumbles, “We should have given up years ago!”

(This episode has a ton of French characters. For most of the 20th century, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Jacques Cousteau, the French were considered the uncontested masters of the deep.)

While Rene is griping that they’ll never find the Titanic, something in the distance catches his eye.

It’s the Titanic!

Just sitting there, totally visible, in all its ruined grandeur. It gives this salvage team all the credibility of somebody looking for a pair of glasses that are on top of their head.

“She’s been down here since she sank in 1912!” Rene lets Pete know, in case he forgot the most famous details of the wreck they’ve been hunting for the last three years.

Pete radios up to Jacques, an assistant aboard their own ship, to let him know to send down the pump hoses so they can raise the wreckage. I’ve never raised a sunken ocean liner, so I’m going to go ahead and accept all of this as proper procedure.

The Titanic sits on the ocean floor, her once elegant façade now caked with blood red rust. The tear in her hull is jagged and menacing, looking distinctly like a maw of sharpened teeth.

Pete and Rene decide to swim inside and have a look around.

These guys are nuts.

As they pass through the opening, the lower section trembles behind them – like a jaw about to snap shut.

“There’s something weird about this place,” says Rene as they swim through the long-abandoned hallways with their seaweed strewn chandeliers. “It gives me the creeps.”

Aw, who could possibly be scared in an underwater death trap haunted by hundreds of steerage passengers and also probably Leonardo DiCaprio? You’re going to be fine, Rene.

They come to the door to the engine room, which Pete is determined to open for some reason, like he thinks if they can get the engines working again the ship will float or something. The door is jammed, but he refuses to give up. He gives it a yank with all of his might, and it blasts the two divers back with a sudden wave and something that might have been a steam cloud, if that’s at all possible?

An inhuman hiss echoes through… the water, and we learn that the engine room has been home to a monster this whole time!

And not just any monster, one that kind of looks like what would happen if an octopus was made of hatred and refried beans.

“What is it?!” Rene shouts.

“I don’t know!” Pete replies helpfully.

Super useful dialogue guys. Good work.

Now terrified, Pete and Rene try to flee to safety, but every exit is blocked by the same kind of refried beans that comprise the monster.

Up on the salvage vessel, Jacques watches in horror through a TV screen that was hooked up to a camera somewhere on Pete. (Fine. Whatever. I’m not an underwater video engineer, they can have mini cameras all over them if they want.)

Jacques and a guy in headphones see the Octopus of Beans, moving closer and closer to the camera, its yellow eyes glowing with sinister intentions, and then the picture cuts out.

“Quick!” Jacques orders, “Contact the Super Friends!”

Moments later, at the Hall of Justice…

Aquaman and Black Vulcan are the only superheroes available to take the call. Aquaman is actually a good fit, for once in his life, but Black Vulcan might not be so helpful. Also, put on some pants, man.

Jacques explains on the call screen that they need to save his divers before their air runs out. He neglects to mention the hideous monster trapping them inside the Titanic.

Might want to throw that in, just in case they need special equipment or something.

Aquaman promises they’ll be there as soon as they can.

“The next bolt of lightning you see will be… Black Vulcan!” Black Vulcan shouts dramatically, putting a magic fishbowl over his head and turning his legs to lightning.

Look, I’m not his doctor, I don’t know how it works.

While he’s doing that, Aquaman is rushing down to the basement boat launch thing and jumping onto a giant seahorse to ride like an oceanic desperado.

They both arrive at the location of the Titanic, as quickly as electricity and a seahorse can carry a man, but unbeknownst to them, trouble is brewing below the waves.

The pump hose is caught in those tooth-like jags, and inside the ship, Pete and Rene are being manhandled by the unsettling tentacle arms of the monster.

A-ha! It was growling, and the closed captions just read: “Algae Monster growls.” It’s made of algae! It doesn’t look a damn thing like any kind of algae I’ve ever seen, but that’s what it is.

Black Vulcan and Aquaman hurry through the water to where the pump hose is struggling to free itself from between the demon teeth of the sunken ship.  Suddenly, Aquaman hears a strange, high-pitched ringing noise, and holds his ears in agony.

“My aquatic telepathy is picking up something incredibly dangerous!” He gasps.

Probably the algae monster.

Our two heroes nevertheless speed into the metallic mouth without hesitation. And as they do, we see that an eye is opening on the side of the ship. Like in The Hobbit when Smaug opens his eye to reveal he’s buried in the treasure, but also like total nonsense because this isn’t a dragon, it’s the Titanic.

Black Vulcan notices that the two divers they’re trying to save aren’t anywhere to be found. That’s quitter talk, Black Vulcan, you guys have looked through exactly one hallway of a massive floating luxury hotel.

On cue, he and Aquaman are then attacked by what used to be Pete and Rene. They’ve been overtaken by whatever malevolence possesses the algae monster, and it’s coated them in the goopy brown substance that it uses for everything. They look like evil koalas. Made of refried beans.

One of them jumps on Black Vulcan’s back, and the other gives Aquaman a hug. But I think it’s supposed to be a violent hug of attack. Either way, he’s not respecting Aquaman’s personal boundaries.

Aquaman surmises that some kind of chemical reaction in the cargo hold created the algae monsters; an idea he’s basing on absolutely nothing. First of all, the Titanic wasn’t carrying weird chemicals, she was carrying people. Second of all, Aquaman hasn’t seen the Grand High Algae Monster yet. All he knows is that some bean koalas don’t like them very much.

Black Vulcan does what anyone would do in this situation, and tears off the face of his attacking seaweed monster. But a second face is revealed beneath – that of Rene! It’s a surprise to Black Vulcan, but not to us.

“Great lightning! It’s the divers!” Black Vulcan gasps.

“They must have been taken over by some mutated form of thinking algae!”

Aquaman, quit guessing. Just deal with the situation at hand and figure it all out later. Just because you’re in the ocean doesn’t mean you have to be the expert.

Black Vulcan decides that the best thing to do is put the divers out of commission until they can find some way to help them, so he shoots a bolt of lightning towards Pete. Pete dodges, and the blast of electricity hits one of the interior walls.

It was supposed to be set on stun or whatever, but it’s enough of a jolt to…


The ship snarls, her wild purple eyes crazed with hunger, her jaws finally snapping shut on the pump hose.

Inside, the walls of the hallways heave and pulse like lungs, as the blast of air from the pump hose begins to push the water out.

“Aquaman! This ship is alive!” Black Vulcan cries, still struggling in combat with Rene.

“Something’s forcing the water out,” Aquaman replies, held in a full nelson by what was once Pete. “It must be trying to raise itself!”

Who are you, the Titanic’s psychologist? Stop guessing about everything, Aquaman.

The vortex created by the pump hose traps all four guys in a crazy whirlwind that somehow shoots them out of the dilapidated smoke stacks and back into the open ocean.

The Titanic roars like Godzilla, and slowly begins to float to the surface.

Onboard the salvage ship, Jacques frantically tries to radio Black Vulcan, to no avail. He looks out the porthole beside him, and sees the roiling bubbles that herald the surfacing of the now-possessed ocean liner.

“No! It can’t be!” He shouts, just before actually seeing what’s going on.

And then, the Titanic is once again afloat somehow. Alien magic or a chemical reaction or something. It doesn’t matter. Aquaman probably has a guess or two, though.

At least four times as large as the salvage vessel, and attached to her by the pump hose, the Titanic stares down her prey with crazed hunger. She glides along the top of the water, straight for Jacques and his ship, and snap! She bites!

That’s right. The Titanic is a cannibal monster ship, and only the Super Friends can stop it.

“The Titanic!” Jacques cries, as the Titanic takes dainty nibbles out of his vessel, “It’s devouring my ship!” (All boats are girls, Jacques, you should know that, you’re French.)

Once she’s finished the appetizer, the Titanic heads off to see what else she can find to snack on.
Watching from below the water, Aquaman and Black Vulcan are shocked to see her shadow passing overhead.

“How can it be leaving under its own power?” Aquaman wonders, like the fact that she’s a ship with teeth and she’s eating other ships is totally normal, but running without engines? Whaaaat?!

Black Vulcan reminds him that they’ve got more pressing things to deal with, namely Pete and Renee being covered in the peanut butter of the sea and trying to kill them. But it’s cool, because he has a plan.

And that plan is handcuffs made of kelp.

With Pete and Rene caught by the easiest thing to break out of ever, Aquaman and Black Vulcan make to return them to their ship – only to find that the salvage vessel is sinking!

That’s not much of a problem, because Black Vulcan uses his lightning power to weld the hull back together and the ship stays afloat. It’s about as plausible as anything else that’s happening.

Once everyone is safely onboard, the algae is removed from Pete and Rene, and they go back to their old selves. Completely unaware of what they had done while possessed.

Black Vulcan tells them he’ll get the coast guard or somebody to come pick them up.

“But first, we’ve got to find the Titanic,” Aquaman says dramatically, looking into the distance like a man with a vendetta. “Before it finds anyone else!”

Later, off the coast of Cape Race in Newfoundland…

An old fisherman is sat at the end of the dock, casting his line from a lawn chair and whittling a stick while he waits for a bite. It’s the middle of the night, which is actually a great time to go fishing.

He hears a strange growling noise coming from the open water.

“Ahoy! Who’s out there?” He calls.

Chances are good he wasn’t expecting a possessed version of the Titanic with a mouth and eyes to spring up from the water and roar at him, but that’s what he gets for calling out to the terrors of the deep.

He instantly recognizes what he’s looking at, which is kind of impressive, and starts shouting for everyone to get off the docks.

There’s only one other guy, a young sailor who probably hangs around just to make sure the old man doesn’t fall in the water or something, but the two of them run like crazy. The Titanic bites through the deck, just behind them, taking out the chair and the fishing pole. They barely make it to dry land.
I feel like this sequence needs fog, just to kind of hide how stupid the Titanic looks. Then it would be more effective.

Meanwhile, over by the lighthouse, some guy who looks like Ray Dorset from Mungo Jerry has been enjoying the totally advisable and safe pleasures of cruising around on a speedboat alone at night. The only trouble is, the speedboat’s engine is having problems and won’t start.

And now the Titanic is going to eat him.

He looks over his shoulder in terror as the Titanic edges closer and closer, with her teeth open and ready. He frantically turns the key to no avail, but just as the monster ship chomps, the speedboat starts! Phew!

Enraged, the Titanic goes for the next nearest target: the Cape Race lighthouse.

She takes a chunk out of the side nearest to the water, and the whole structure shakes like mad. Inside, the lighthouse keeper struggles to keep his balance as the building tilts to one side. I don’t know how lightning or being able to talk to fish is going to help here, but let’s find out.

“Oh no! The Titanic’s destroying that seaport town!” Back Vulcan shouts, landing on a nearby outcropping of rock.

Learn the names of Canadian towns, Black Vulcan. Seriously.

He radios Aquaman on a walkie-talkie neither of them had before… I don’t want to know where they’ve been keeping those. They don’t exactly have utility belts. Or pockets.

 Atop his pink seahorse, chilling in an underwater cavern full of beautiful glacial ice, Aquaman responds with the good news that he has a plan to stop the Titanic from eating anymore boats or towns or lighthouses or whatever.

I kind of thought that the reason the Titanic was trying to eat ships was because she wanted to sink them and tear up their hulls as vengeance for what happened to her in 1912. But now she’s trying to eat a town, and I realize that it was wrong to try and attribute any sort of motivation to her.

“Lead it 45 degrees northeast!” Aquaman tells Black Vulcan over the radio.

(Am I the only person who knows ships are girls?)

Black Vulcan zooms over to the side of the lighthouse and hits it with lightning, which apparently does something to stabilize it? I guess he welded some rebars or… charged up the girders? It still looks really, really unsafe.

“Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?!” Black Vulcan taunts the Titanic, bafflingly. That lighthouse was way closer to being the same size as the ship. Black Vulcan is, you know, dude-sized.

Regardless, he manages to lure the Titanic away from the town.

The old lighthouse keeper goes onto the balcony to celebrate. It does not seem like a good idea.

“The Super Friends have saved Cape Race!” He calls out.

The Super Friends didn’t do anything, old man. This is 100% Black Vulcan. Don’t go putting this one on Superman’s résumé, he’s not even here.

The whole town cheers, throwing their bucket hats and captain caps into the air in celebration.

(“Thanks, Superman! Hooray for Superman! We’ll never forget the day Superman saved us! Let’s build him a statue!”)

Black Vulcan, barely ahead of the Titanic’s terrifying mouth, leads her towards an iceberg where Aquaman waits nervously.

“I hope this works!” He mumbles to himself, before diving back into the water.

Wait… no… that’s not seriously your plan, Aquaman?

Good god.

Well, as we all know, icebergs are the Titanic’s natural enemy. Like snakes and frogs. They want nothing more than to destroy her, and she’s powerless to stop them.

Black Vulcan easily goads her into ramming herself right into the waiting ice blades jutting forth from the iceberg. The hull beneath the original breach is torn open, the ship makes a farting noise like a deflating balloon and sinks. A classy end to a classy lady.

Over on a neighbouring iceberg, Aquaman and Black Vulcan watch as she goes under.

“Isn’t it strange,” Black Vulcan says, with unexpected poignancy, “to think the Titanic was sunk on this same spot 70 years ago? And by an iceberg, too!”

Pretty sure that’s how Aquaman came up with his plan. He was just thinking: “How did they stop it the first time?”

“Who says lightning never strikes twice in the same spot?” Aquaman muses, looking over the now calm waters.

And that’s the end. There’s no resolution to the algae monster, there’s nothing to prevent the Titanic from biding her time and trying to eat Cape Race again one day.

Just another Band-Aid solution from THE SUPER FRIENDS!

Bonus Images:

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