Monday, March 20, 2017

Villain Retrospect - Emperor Dark

My little brother loved Starcom as a kid and for good reason. The toys were cool as hell, all motorized and magnetized and chock full of action features. So imagine my surprise when I find out it had a cartoon. And my further surprise that it had fantastic animation and was created in collaboration with the Young Astronauts Council to build interest in space with kids so it had a realistic (as far as a cartoon could be) scientific focus. It was awesome! I couldn't wait to see the villain, Emperor Dark, leader of the Shadow Force.

Boy was I disappointed.  Normally when I do a villain retrospect for a cartoon I didn't watch as a kid, I watch the first three episodes of the show and base it off my first impressions.  But that doesn't work because Emperor Dark shows up once in the first three episodes!  The episode he does she up in, he's got two lines and isn't even on screen for one of them!  I ended up watching the entire 13-episode run and every episode I cursed picking this guy for a retrospect - because he does absolutely nothing!  He only appears in about 6 episodes, in the very beginning or end, says a few lines to his henchmen, maybe a veiled threat, and that's it.  The rest of the time he spends doing research, none of which we see the results of. 
None of the heroes ever meet him, or even see him, instead facing off against one or two of his subordinates.  How do you say he's this threat to the galaxy if you utterly fail to represent him that way?

It's a real shame too because the rest of the cartoon is incredibly well-done.  The animation is possibly the best I've seen watching all these shows, the three main characters are interesting and have a great relationship, the rest of the Shadow Force (the organization Emperor Dark supposedly leads) is full of diverse bad guys, and the show is at least a little bit based on real technology.  I just can't believe they dropped the ball on their villain so much.

When I covered Overlord from Spiral Zone, I complained about having to go to Wikipedia to find out the backstory of the show.  Unfortunately, even Wikipedia is mum about the Starcom cartoon and I had to go to the Starcom Wiki to learn more about Dark.  From what little source material has been found, Dark was a lot more powerful than they portrayed him to be.  It won't change the ratings since it was never actually shown to us, but it's still interesting.  He was a scientist that discovered a series of obelisks on Mars.  Tired of dealing with Starcom's bureaucracy, he studied them alone and they exploded, demolishing his lab.  The rest of the scientists escaped, be he was stuck with the obelisk for a long time and absorbed the vast alien knowledge in it.  With his new-found intelligence, he built the Shadow Star and created the Shadow Force to take over the rest of the universe.  And yes, his ship does look like that. Dark never leaves the ship, and it's theorized (either by Starcom or the writer of the wiki article) that he's connected to some massive power source inside, but there's no idea what kind of power it gives him.

Let's rate this guy:
Coolness - 3.   Okay so, there's not much to go on, but I kinda like that this guy never falls for the common villain tropes.  He doesn't raise his voice or his fists at all and even when faced with his troops either going against his orders or outright turning against him, he calmly accepts it.  Maybe that shows him a fool, but I think it gives him this cool demeanor, as if nothing can phase him.  It's different than the slamming fists on a desk, calling his troops idiots kind of villains we've seen on here.  He's voiced by Neil Munro, an actor that hasn't provided vocals to any cartoons in the day which is the case of most of the voice actors in this cartoon.  Neil gives him a calm, smooth voice that reminds me a bit of David Kaye's Megatron in Beast Wars without going over the top.
Effectiveness - ?  I can't even pretend to give him a grade on this.  He doesn't do anything himself and doesn't even command his lackey's much either.  In episode 5 - Fire and Ice, when one of his generals requests permission to take a squad to one of Jupiter's moons, he says flatly, "Do as you wish.  Leave me to my studies." That's some piss-poor leadership if you ask me.  I wonder if Dark would have done more if the show had been able to continue, or would he have stayed the apathetic leader he is here?

Of course, this does ruin my tournament plan.  Anyone got any ideas for another villain?

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