Monday, April 10, 2017

Villain Retrospect - General Plague

The writers of Sky Commanders had an impossible task: take a toyline centered on a single action feature, in this case, ziplines, and build a cartoon around it. They failed miserably.

The Sky Commanders are a highly-skilled group of mountaineers tasked with exploring a new continent that has erupted in the south Pacific and brought a new, powerful element to the surface - Phaeta Seven.  The element is so devastating that anyone who controls it can take over the world.  And General Plague intends to be that man, leading his group of imagination-devoid Raiders to get it.  

Because the terrain of this new continent is ever-changing, it requires specialized equipment to traverse it, namely Laser Cables and Battle Tracks. Laser Cables were shot from each persons backpack and upon hitting a solid surface, they changed to a line
that the backpack could slide on. They do have jets and hovercrafts, but for some reason this is the most reliable way to get around, even though the tethers snap easily or the grapple point breaks almost every time they use it.  It's a flimsy excuse, and in one episode when a new recruit asks why not just use jets all the time, the writers had to avoid the subject with a conveniently-timed earthquake.

The cartoon does everything it can to make the zip-lining backpacks cool, but jumping from one line to the other and "Hot-wiring," which electrically propels them across the line doesn't do much to make up for every other scene being someone plummeting into lava or fog.  The characters themselves are all pretty flat besides the big Eskimo, Kodiak, who speaks with a Russian-sounding accent.

General Plague suffers from this as well, of course.  His name doesn't make sense since he doesn't have any biological weapons.  I sometimes think they switched this guy's name and Overlord from Spiral Zone - Plague name sounds much more fitting for that cartoon.  He's limited to the same travel as everyone else and doesn't even get his own dedicated vehicle like General Summit, the leader of the good guys.  He just flies around on his Deception Raider (really hard not to type out Decepticon) with its voice-activated missiles.

It's not until the fifth episode where Plague gets a chance to really shine.  For most of the episode, he plays cat-and-mouse with summit, constantly upstaging him and getting him stuck in perilous situations.  It's a pretty cool episode and a good display of Plague's abilities.  up until the part where one of his goons is about to throw him in lava - suddenly Plague says to stop and instead uses him as bait for the rest of the Sky Commanders.  What the hell, dude?  You could have killed him and then you set up an obvious ambush against your forces!

Let's rate this guy:
Coolness - 4.  General Plague isn't a bad villain by any means.  He's got the villain color scheme down and while wearing his backpack, he looks a lot cooler than any of the Sky Commanders.  He's got the usual villain eye scar (same eye as Dr. Scarab even).  His voice is provided by Bernard Erhard, who also played another Hanna-Barbara villain, Cy-Kill.  While it sounds a lot like the Go-Bot, the more human touch comes across as a precursor to Clancy Brown's Lex Luthor, which is pretty cool.  A few times I forgot it wasn't him.
Effectiveness - 2.  No one seems to take him too seriously - in one episode, he randomly attacks the Sky Commander base before leaving.  Summit muses, "Why's he giving up so easily?  Who cares."  I feel the same way.  General Plague is a terrible excuse for a leader, and most of the bad guy screen time goes to his lackey Rath.   If it weren't for the first half of the episode mentioned above, he'd a get a zero.

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