Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Swashathon - Pirates of Dark Water

When I saw Movies Silently was running a pirate-themed Swashathon, my mind went immediately to the Pirates of Dark Water.  I've never been a huge fan of pirate stories, but one set in such a fantastical world is right up my alley. 


Pirates of Dark Water is set on the alien planet of Mer, a world besieged by a thick black ooze that is spreading over the oceans and threatening to devour everything.  Only bringing together the Thirteen Treasures of Rule could destroy the plague, but they have been spread to the far reaches of the globe by King Primus.  Just before his death, he tells his son Ren to collect them, but the pirate overlord Bloth is after them as well.  Ren enlists the help of Ioz, one of Bloth's former minions; Tula, an ecomancer; and Niddler, a monkey-bird with a ravenous appetite.
 
The story had it all, with Ren and his companions racing across the seas, searching for each treasure aboard the Wrath, pursued the whole time by Bloth's Maelstrom, a ship so huge it's a sailing fortress with its own dungeon.  The history and breadth of the world is massive with many fantastical creatures, including the aforementioned monkey-birds, dagrons (that's not a typo), and a massive, multi-mouthed worm-like serpent in Bloth's dungeon called the Constrictus.  People have incredible and varied powers, like Bloth's super-human strength and Tula's elemental powers and animal telepathy.  It even has some of the best curses in it with original language, particularly Ioz's "Noy Jitat." (I can't find a reliable spelling of the quote unfortunately) 

The character and ship designs are creative, the wide sails on Ren's ship allowing for short burst of flight while Bloth's Maelstrom and it's smaller ships all looking like they're assembled from of leviathan skeletons.  And in the middle of it all, the living ooze Dark Water, which engulfs anything it touches.  I loved every aspect of the world of Mer.

Behind the scenes, the show was just as impressive with a fantastic cast including George Newburn (Batman: The Animated Series), Jodi Benson (The Little Mermaid), Brock Peters (Galtar and the Golden Lance). Tim Curry (Gargoyles)and Roddy McDowall as Niddler (later replaced by Frank Welker).  The cartoon had an ongoing storyline, unlike most episodic cartoons at the time, who maintained a status quo.  Ioz slowly grew to like the idealistic Ren, while Tula discovered her magic abilities. The storyline was also dark and bleak, and it had some of the only cartoon deaths at the time - a guard died by being devoured by Dark Water and a witch aging quickly by a misfired spell until she withered away. 


Unfortunately, as with many of the best cartoons, the show had its problems.  The original 5-episode miniseries, called Dark Water was bleaker than most and the rest of the series, under the full Pirates name, lightened its tone a bit.  It might not have been enough though, because the show only lasted twenty-one episodes, ending abruptly before the Thirteen Treasures of Rule could be gathered.  It's been said that the cancelation was a result of animation problems making the final four episodes miss its scheduled airdates.  They were shown six months later, but most of the crew had already moved on, so the show never continued.  It's such a shame, because Pirates of Dark Water had so much promise and will always be remembered fondly.


This post was made as part of Movies Silently's Swashathon.  Make sure to check out the rest of the swash-buckling, booty-plundering posts there.

8 comments:

  1. Your article makes this series/film sound incredibly imaginative and creative. I will certainly seek this out to sample what is, and what might have been.

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    1. You won't regret it. Well, until you get to the end of the series.

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  2. I remember this one from when I was a kid! I think I caught it in reruns. Such an interesting concept, a shame it ended the way that it did. Thanks so much for joining in!

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    1. Thanks for letting me join in the fun!

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  3. This sounds like an interesting premise. Too bad it was cancelled without a chance to have a real conclusion. It looks like bits of this show are on YouTube, so a newcomer (like me) can check it out there. Thanks for the introduction to this series!

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    1. IT's s shame the whole series isn't on YouTube, but at least you can buy it online. Makes me wonder if the entire series is on DVD or just the 21 episodes they aired originally.

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  4. I was in my 30's when this came out, but I watched it religiously (who says cartoons are only for kids...) Nice review.

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    1. I was still a teen when it came out, but that hasn't stopped me from watching the new stuff as it comes out 20-some years later.

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