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So this guy is regular Captain Planet villain Duke Nukem or, to give him his full title, The Right Honourable Duke of Nukinghamshire.
The Duke is then joined by Verminous Skumm, a mutant rat guy and okay I should probably explain this. See, rather than showing ordinary human beings as being responsible for pollution, this show instead used supervillains (or “Eco-villains” as they’re called) to represent the various problems facing the environment. So Nukem obviously represents nuclear power, and Verminous represents crime and disease because he’s a rodent and shit, it’s not like we need positive representation or anything. I should also explain that this episode was made in season three when most of the A list talent had realised that there was going to be 113 fucking episodes and they had other shit to do. So while Nukem and Verminous were originally voiced by Dean Stockwell and Jeff…uh,uh…Goldblum? here both characters are voiced by Maurice La Marche, who’s made something of a career out of voicing nefarious rodents.
Anyhew, Nukem is addicted to radiation and Verminous tells him that he’s got three nuclear bombs but that he’s hidden them in three different locations across the globe. Nukem, understandably, is pissed off at this and yells “You moronic Mouse! How am I supposed to get my radiation?”
Verminous says that if his plan works getting radiation won’t be a problem. We then cut to the Planeteers island base where they’re sitting around a TV watching whales. Because of course they are. These guys defy parody. This actually makes me angrier than it should. I mean, how difficult would it be to have them watching…I dunno, a football match. A soap opera. A movie. Something relatable. Something that actually tells us about their likes and dislikes, actually giving us a little smidgen of character but nope. Whales. They’re watching whales and cooing about how awesome they are. Gi asks if everyone knows that whales may be as smart as humans. And no, Gi. We did not know, that. Because it’s not true. Wheeler asks, logically enough, if whales are so smart why haven’t they invented anything? And Gaia answers “Like weapons that could destroy the Earth?”
Damn Wheeler, if you have the Fire Ring how come you’re the one who just got burned? Of course, if whales did have a nuclear deterrent we might have thought twice about hunting them to near extinction. Anyway, Verminous appears onscreen and tells Gaia that he’s going to prove to her that humans are full of petty hatreds and will destroy each other.
Verminous explains that he’s planted the bombs in Belfast, the West Bank and South Africa and given detonators to a Catholic and a Protestant, a Jew and an Arab and a black person and a white person.
Now, all sarcasm aside, that’s actually a pretty compelling scenario right there and in the right hands you could even make something that was both thrilling and had genuinely relevant things to say about the conflicts in those nations. These aren’t the right hands, these aren’t even close to being the right hands, these are mangled stumps but still, the premise definitely has potential so points there. Gaia tells Skumm that he won’t get away with nuclear terrorism and yeah, dude, you are so dead. Every intelligence agency on earth is now gunning for your head on a platter. I hope whatever point you hoped to make was worth it because you are a dead fucking rat walking. Gaia tells the Planeteers that each of these conflicts is a blood feud that has gone on for generations and Kwame says that they must go there and stop all this madness. Oh hallelujah. Our Troubles are at an end. Gaia says that if a nuclear bomb went off, even Captain Planet wouldn’t be able to save them.
The Planeteers volunteer to go with Wheeler saying “You gotta let us try!” and Linka adding “Da!” which made me laugh because I know it’s Russian for “Yes” but it’s sound like she’s saying “Duh! Gaia! You idiot!”
Gaia smiles and says “And Skumm says there’s no hope for humanity.”
So Wheeler gets dropped off in Belfast to find the detonator. Ma-Ti asks him if he wants help and Wheeler says “Are you kidding? Belfast is my kind of town. I feel like a native already.”
So Wheeler ambles through Belfast, here rendered as a few cottages amongst vast piles of rubble with the letters “IRA” scrawled on every available surface beneath a weird green sky (eh, that’s really more Strabane). Wheeler muses aloud if he’s in a Catholic neighbourhood or a Protestant neighbourhood. Now, I’m obviously not from Northern Ireland but I’ve ended up there a few times when I got lost on a moonless midnight road or fell through an eldritch portal and trust me, that is not a question you ever need to ask.
Anyway, Wheeler comes across an Irish Catholic called Seán O’Reilly (what, Paddy McIrishname wasn’t available?) who’s in the middle of throwing a petrol bomb at a nearby house. Wheeler blows up the bomb with his fire ring and Seán asks “What’d you do that for?”
Not…y’know…”What’s with the fire powers?” or “Who are you, mysterious stranger?”
No, no. The fact that someone might not be okay with arson with attempt to commit homicide is clearly the mystery that must be resolved first and foremost. Wheeler tells him he might have hurt somebody.
Thanks Wheeler. He probably thought he was helping them with their heating bill. Seán says that he doesn’t care because it’s a Protestant place and OH MY GOD THIS ACCENT. I want to cage it and tour the countryside with it in a carnival, inviting the locals to come and gawp. Now, I’m not unfair. I don’t expect an American cartoon to be able to find someone who could do a flawless Belfast accent (although, for any aspiring voice actors out there the trick is to replace all the vowels with “o”. Bolfost.). But my Christ what the voice actor is doing sounds like the deranged mutant offspring of the Lucky Charms leprechaun, William Wallace and John Lennon. It is almost beautiful in the purity of horror that it evokes. Seán asks Wheeler what his name is and Wheeler introduces himself with a handshake.
Wheeler sees that Seán has one of Skumm’s triggers and tells Seán that he’s here to “Stop the violence”. Seán says that it’s a pity he didn’t get here a year ago before the Protestants burnt down the bakery where he worked and put him out of a job.
Man, I’m so glad I live in the South. Here, relationships between Catholics and Protestants are peaceful and we don’t harbour ridiculous stereotypes about each other. I actually have several Protestant friends, despite the fact that their eyes are too close together and they shit standing up.
Wheeler points out that Seán doesn’t know where the bomb is and that it might go off in a Catholic area, and Seán says that might wake up the rest of the Catholics.
Well, yeah. I imagine a nuclear blast would be rather hard to sleep through. It’s also around this point that the episode breaks my goddamn heart. See, I’d read on TV Tropes that in this episode Seán uses the term “Fenian Prods” and I had an entire rant prepared on how stupid that was (if you don’t know “fenian” is a slur against Catholics and “prod” is a slur against Protestants which would make saying “Fenian Prod” the equivalent of, I dunno, “Darkie Cracker”). It was going to be epic. Seriously. This was going to be my Sistine Chapel of Snark. But having watched the episode he clearly says “FLAMING Prods”. Although actually, that might explain why they burned down Seán’s bakery.
Meanwhile in the West Bank, Gi meets an old Jewish man named Moishe (Kenneth Mars aka King Triton) who also has a trigger. Moishe invites Gi inside while outside, a Palestinian woman named Nahjat throws a rock at Moishe’s window before being stopped by Ma-ti. Something I learned from this episode; Palestinians spend between seventy and eighty per cent of their day throwing rocks. They fucking love that shit. Anyway, the Israeli security forces suddenly show up.
Gi pleads with Moishe to do something and he says “What? I should congratulate her on her aim?” One of the Israeli soldiers says that Nahjat’s brother is “a troublemaker too” and Gi asks Moishe “still want to see her arrested?”
Um…yes? What the fuck difference does that make? Moishe has a change of heart and asks the soldiers to let her go. Gi and Ma-ti explain the situation. Nahjat says that her family home was bulldozed by the Israelis as punishment for her brother’s militant activities and that Skumm gave her the trigger as a way to take revenge on the Israelis. Gi says they have to work together to find the bomb and Moishe and Nahjat are all “Me! Trust an Arab/Jew (delete as appropriate)?!” and Gi says “You’d rather trust a mutant rat?”
Meanwhile in Soweto, Kwame and Linka meet a black South African named Marcie who tells Linka to get lost because whites recently attacked a local funeral. Before Linka can finish her “#notallwhitepeople” speech three masked white guys with guns show up and threaten them. The leader, Peter, then tries to kidnap Linka, saying “White girls shouldn’t mess with kaffirs!”. Linka wrestles with him, pulling off his mask in a scene that probably wasn’t meant to look like they’re just one second away from passionate hate boning.
Linka asks him what his name is and he says that it’s Peter, and weirdly, he says it with a better Northern Irish accent than Seán. Was there just a mixup at the casting agency? Anyway, now it’s time for a commercial break. Huh. Neat. I never get to take a break when I’m reviewing movies. Imma get me a sammich.
Mmm…that was some good cheese in that cheese sandwich. Alright, where were we?
In Northern Ireland, Seán has found the bomb and it’s in a Protestant neighbourhood. Meanwhile, Wheeler goes looking for him while shouting Seán’s name which attracts the attention of some local Protestant thugs and HAAA AHAHHHHHAA HAAAAA ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?! THESE ARE YOUR “PROTESTANTS”?
Their eyes are nowhere near close enough together! And I’ve never seen a protestant with less than seven fingers on each hand. And where, pray, are the secondary ears and the teeth marks from where they’ve been gnawed by nuns? Fucking amateur hour. They don’t even look like they shit standing up.
Anyway. these so-called “Protestants” advance on Wheeler looking to beat the snot out of him. Wheeler puts his hands in the air and says “Guys! It’s okay! I’m an American!”
Wheeler runs away and collides with Seán and the leader of the “protestants” introduces himself as “Stuart Cooper” which Seán sneers is a “Protestant name if ever I heard one”.
They grab the two but they don’t kill Wheeler which means I’m out fifty big ones, dammit. Stuart accuses Seán of burning Protestant homes and Seán yells “You Prods took our land and our jobs!”
That’s…um…actually a halfway insightful observation.
See, there tends to be two viewpoints of the conflict in Northern Ireland in American media and they’re both wrong. First is framing the Troubles as an Irish-English conflict and completely disregarding the Unionist element. In this view, Northern Ireland is inhabited by people who want to be part of Ireland but the dastardly English won’t let them and so they have to wage a guerilla war to gain their freedom. You hear this version in a lot of Irish American circles and it’s bollocks. The vast majority of English people would be only too happy to see Ireland reunified and to wash their hands of the place as it’s a security and financial black hole, even post-conflict. What this reading overlooks is that a majority (a slim one sure, but still a majority) of people in Northern Ireland identify as British and want to remain within the United Kingdom. That’s the first view.
The second recognises the existence of Unionists but still frames the conflict as a religious/ethnic one between Irish identifying Catholics and British identifying Protestants. That’s more accurate but still misses the major point. The source of the Troubles is economic and always has been. One group had access to jobs and political power and the other was excluded from same. That’s what it was about. Religion and flags and marches and language were never the game, they were just the team colours. A way of keeping the sides straight. Hell even in the very beginning. The Protestant settlers who were massacred in 1641 weren’t killed over a dispute over the authority of the pope or the nature of the Eucharist. They were killed by Catholics who had been driven off their land. Land, money, power, opportunity. That’s what it was about. And, weirdly, one of the American depictions to actually get that right was fucking Captain Planet. So. Yeah. Kudos.
Meanwhile, in South Africa Kwame uses his earth powers to rescue Linka from Peter and his thugs. Marcie grabs one of their guns and is about to shoot them but Kwame stops her, saying: “If you shoot them, you’re as racist as they are!”
Marcie then says that she doesn’t need a gun and that she’s going to use the trigger to blow up Johannesburg which’ll sure show the…13% of the city’s population that’s white. Kwame then asks Peter if he’ll help them find the bomb but he refuses.
Things aren’t going so well in the West Bank (most redundant sentence ever) as Moishe and Nahjat are at each other’s throats too. Hmmm…you know what this situation needs? Some way to open up their hearts. Say, Ma-Ti! You have a heart ring! This would be a perfect time for you to use your…
Ma-Ti uses the heart ring to contact Gaia (brilliant, he has the power of a phone) and ask her what they should do. Gaia, of course, is a spirit, and deal with the problem the way spirits always do, by showing them all a vision of the future after the bombs have gone off. Now ten years in the future, Moishe and Nahjat walk through a devastated Jerusalem, and Nahjat breaks down in tears when she sees that the Dome of the Rock has been destroyed. As Nahjat laments the loss of the rock where Muhammad ascended into Heaven, Moishe sadly notes that it was also the rock where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac. This leads to probably the stupidest line in the entire episode, (which puts it high in the running for stupidest worldwide) when Nahjat asks Moishe “You know of Abraham?”
Yes Nahjat. I think he has. I just have a hunch. Also? Christians have heard of this “Jesus” guy.
Meanwhile, Stewart, Wheeler and Seán look in horror at a devastated, lifeless wasteland.
So our three pairs all realise that they have to work together and find the bombs. Skumm and Nukem aren’t happy about this so they fly in Skumm’s Skumm-O’Copter (Jesus) to South Africa. Nukem starts blasting at them from the air, yelling at Skumm “Hold it still, you Mazerunner!”
How dare you…
HOW FUCKING DARE YOU!? YOU DO NOT GET TO USE THAT WORD! THAT IS A VICIOUS, HATEFUL SLUR AND ITS USE IS NEVER EVER JUSTIFIABLE!
Ma-Ti senses that it’s time for
deus ex machina teamwork and orders the Planeteers to aim their rings at the sun. The beams meet and Captain Planet is summoned into outer space.
He picks up the South African bomb as well as Skumm and the fucking racist whose name I’m not even going to type and then flies to the West Bank with them saying “Combining trips saves energy! Hahahahaha!”
My God. He’s not even punning any more. He’s just saying shit and laughing.
Oh, and then he plants Skumm and the fucking racist on top of a satellite tower. I think they’re supposed to be hanging from their clothes but honestly it looks he’s impaled them like a fucking shrike.
Captain Planet then flings all three nuclear bombs into the sun and says “Huh. Maybe I should try out for the Olympics.”
Maybe you should SHUT THE FUCK UP!
The episode now gets a weird little coda where the Planeteers break the fourth wall and tells us what happened to the people they met. Seán and Stewart opened a bakery together to provide an example to their community and we’re told that Marcie and Peter still have their differences but will keep their battles to the political arena.
The subject of race definitively dealt with they then move on to deal with people from different cultures (you can be friends with them) and different religions (again, friendship is permitted) before finally expanding to anyone who’s different from you in any way.
Finally seeing this episode, what I found weirdest is that the treatment of the Troubles is probably the most on-point thing in the whole episode. I mean, there’s still head-bangers left right and centre but it does actually get some important details right. As a whole, this episode was the greatest thing I have ever seen in my life. My God this was fun to review! This thing is a banquet of stupid lines, awful accents and so many other thinks to snark at. I feasted like a goddamned Hutt. Is it terrible? Yes. Do I hate it? I WANT TO WATCH THIS EVERY DAY. I MAY HAVE A PROBLEM.
On a more serious note, I think it’s fascinating to consider, almost a quarter of a century after this episode aired, how things have changed and how they have stayed the same in the three regions depicted. The situation in the West Bank has, perhaps unimaginably, gotten even worse and peace there seems even more distant now than it did in 1992. But there is still cause for hope. Just look at South Africa, where, two short years after this episode aired, the apartheid regime was finally defeated by the wisdom and courage of one of the greatest men who ever lived.
And lastly, on my home island, where a new generation of leaders were able to overcome the hatreds and mistrusts of one of the longest ongoing conflicts in human history, and a peace to Northern Island that remains strong and stable to this very…oh Christ are you kidding me?!
Well. I guess some grudges just can’t be forgiven so easily. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some business to attend to.