Saturday, August 21, 2010

Top 7 Godzilla: The Series Episodes

In 1998, director Roland Emmerich & producer Dean Devlin wanted to continue the success of reliving old film concepts that they had with Independence Day with their vision of the classic Japanese monster, Godzilla. The marketing for this film was brilliant with signs on buses and billboards talking about the size of various parts of his body (My personal favorite being "His spleen is the size of Mickey Rooney") and wicked teaser trailers (forgive the poor quality). May 20th rolls around and many hardcore Godzilla fans walked away disappointed, if not enraged. A lot of fans would consider Godzilla 98 "Ferris Beuhler's Day Off in Jurassic Park" but this movie is a guilty pleasure of mine. Is the acting bad? Yes. Does the military do an absolutely horrible job in trying to contain and kill the creature? Absolutely. Does Audrey the reporter come off as an annoying whiner and in some scenes warrants a punch in the face? Indeed, but I still like this movie. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a movie about a giant mutated lizard running around in New York City while breeding asexually in Madison Square Garden should hardly be taken seriously. Despite being mostly panned in its theatrical run, this movie did what it was supposed to do in the end: have a theatrical run, make its budget back with a few bucks to spare and entertain some of the audience. I was a part of that some. This movie did also spawn an animated TV series that premiered on Fox Kids on September 12, 1998. Godzilla: The Series picked up where the final scene in the film left off with one of Godzilla's eggs hatching, only this time, Nick Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick's character, voiced by Ian Zierring) is there when it does and the hatchling imprints on him as its mother. This series also carried over elements from some of the old Japanese movies where Godzilla this time was the hero as opposed to the villain, he breathes atomic fire and fights other mutations.

The new Godzilla throwing down against a pair of giant squids.

There were a lot of good episodes to this series and in the end, the animated series received more praise than the film it followed. Sure, some episodes were better than others but this was a good show. Most of the episodes followed the same structure: new mutant attacks, H.E.A.T. (Humanitarian Environmental Analysis Team) goes in to investigate, gets attacked by mutant, Godzilla shows up to protect Nick and either a) scares off new mutation or b) gets his ass kicked by new mutation and runs off, H.E.A.T. spouts off scientific jargon and then translates it into simple English, confront new mutation with new plan and with Godzilla's help, defeats it. There were a few exceptions to this formula, but it was pretty standard throughout the show's two season run but didn't hinder the series any. This was one of my favorite cartoon shows as a young boy and it pains me that the complete series has not been released on DVD yet. In the meantime, you can YouTube many of the episodes and there are three sample DVDs out there that feature three episodes each. Today, we are counting down The Cynic's Top 7 Godzilla: The Series Episodes! NOTE: It has been a long time since I've seen the series so I apologize profusely if I fuck anything up here.

Honorable Mention: S1xE11 - Deadloch

Godzilla with an infant Loch Ness Monster

As a kid, I loved cryptozoology, the study of hidden animals. Of all of the cryptids out there, The Loch Ness Monster, or Nessie, is arguably the most popular, other than perhaps Bigfoot. The first sighting being reported back in the 7th century. The first photograph however was not taken until 1933. Since then, hundreds of sightings have been reported and photographed. The most common theory (other than "It's all a hoax") is Nessie is a Plesiosaur, an aquatic reptile from the Mesozoic era that believed to have died out 65 million years ago with the dinosaurs, yet somehow managed to survive until current times. In GTS, Nessie is actually a Mosasaur, a creature that also lived during the Mesozoic era but looked more like a crocodile with flippers instead of the usual Nessie archetype. In GTS, it looked more like a giant snake with tiny flippers. It attacks a research facility on the shores of the loch and H.E.A.T. goes in to investigate. While Godzilla is chasing Nessie around the loch, it turns out that the head scientist kidnapped Nessie's offspring to sell on the black market, but Nessie and Godzilla actually work together to free her child. As both a cryptid & Godzilla fan, this episode tickled me pink.

#7: S2xE17 - Vision

How'd you like this one coming to your feeder?

This one was a pretty cool episode because the villain was a pack of mutated hummingbirds. When you first hear it, it sounds absolutely ludicrous, but then again, look at the title character of the series. It turns out the hummingbirds have fed on plants that have been contaminated by a local nuclear facility and caused them to grow to enormous size, developing a taste for aircraft fuel. This is a very enjoyable episode because not only do you get some great action scenes with Godzilla facing off against these blurs in the air but there's an interesting side plot where Randy Hernandes (a new character for the series, voiced by Rino Romano) hacks into Dr. Mendel Craven's (Malcolm Danare reprising his role from the film) email account and sees an email that makes Randy believe that Craven is dying. Since they usually pick on each other a lot, it's kind of nice to see how well they work together as a team without the bantering and they create a giant set of goggles to help Godzilla see the birds clearly so he knows where to strike.

#6: S1xE7 - What Dreams May Come

Anger Management exists for a reason, people!

This was a bizarre episode. A creature with an electricity based anatomy begins attacking random places and disappears just as quickly. The attacks appear to be random until it turns out that they are connected to a man named Sydney Walker, who is currently comatose in a sleep experiment, but somehow the electric currents running through his brain combine with his suppressed rage create this creature that Mendel dubs "The Crackler," and it begins tearing up New York. Godzilla tries breathing his radioactive breath on it to destroy it, but the power in his flames makes The Crackler stronger. Randy and Elsie Chapman (another character from the film, voiced by Charity James) confront Walker in his room and make him snap and unleash his anger, weakening The Crackler enough for Godzilla to overload its system with his radioactive fire.

#5: S1xE19 - An Early Frost

Godzilla facing off against a genetically engineered clone dubbed The Chameleon.

It just seems like New York can't catch a break. One year after the first Godzilla threw havoc at New York City, a new one appears and repeats the rampage. A DNA scan is done on a flesh sample found at the scene and it matches 95% with Godzilla's. Nick isn't fully convinced that their Godzilla is responsible for it and it turns out, he's right. The creature framing Godzilla is The Chameleon, a clone engineered by Cameron Winter, Nick's old college rival who tried to have Godzilla killed in the earlier episode, The Winter Of Our Discontent. This episode also brought back Agent Phillippe Roache from the film, this time voiced by Keith Szarabajka, as he tells Series exclusive character Monique Dupre (voiced by Brigitte Bako) that he believes Nick's experiment has run its course and has her subordinate, she is obligated to take him to Godzilla's lair to kill the creature. The Chameleon proves to be near indestructible by the military's weapons and almost kills Godzilla, but Phillippe realizes that Godzilla was not responsible for the rampage and shoots a weapon at the Chameleon that dissolves its DNA into powder.

#4: S1xE12 to S1xE14- The Monster Wars


This three-part story is GTS' answer to the classic Toho film, Destroy All Monsters. This film continues the story from an earlier episode called Leviathan where an alien ship is discovered and the inhabitants have sinister plans for the Earth. In this episode, the alien technology is salvaged from the bottom of the ocean and the two surviving doctors from the Leviathan episode are possessed by the alien spirits and are using their technology to gain control of the Earth's monsters. They do manage to take control of creatures from previous episodes as well as a giant bat captured from Nigeria. To boot, the aliens have turned the first Godzilla from the film into the cyborg pictured above. That's right, folks. Mecha-Godzilla, one of the best of the classic Toho villains, was in the series. And much like in the film this three-parter was based on, the aliens take control of the current Godzilla and they deploy the monsters all over the world to deplete the military's munitions so that when the alien forces arrive, Earth's overtaking will be so much simpler. The H.E.A.T. team watch the world get decimated but manage to get the alien technology offline, which makes the monsters territorial and attack the alien forces. The episode ends with Godzilla facing off against Mecha-Godzilla and then the aliens are driven back and their island headquarters is turned into Monster Island, a scientific facility that studies Earth's mutations.

#3: S1xe15 - Competition

This may just be fan art, but the King Cobra looked exactly like this.

Okay, I KNOW that someone fucked up with the episode guide on this one, because I remember very clearly that this episode premiered LONG before the Monster Wars trilogy aired. Anyway, this episode took Godzilla back to his roots and is actually referred to by his true name, Gojira. Hikers are disappearing on Mt. Fuji and H.E.A.T. is sent in to investigate. While hunting for clues, they are attacked by a Giant Yeti that Godzilla then combats. Godzilla melts the creature's skin and it turns out to be a Robot. The robot is being controlled by a Japanese monster hunting team that believes Godzilla (or Gojira, whichever name you prefer) is responsible for the missing hikers, but then they are ambushed by the mutant King Cobra. The hikers are found (very few people actually die in this series) to be okay and the episode ends with Godzilla and the Robo-Yeti fighting in the heart of downtown Tokyo. This was an episode that made any old-school Godzilla fan grin. This was what it was all about...

#2: S1xE10 - Bird Of Paradise

Godzilla vs Quetzalcoatl: Science vs Mythology. HOLY SHIT, THIS IS AWESOME!

When an ornithologist named Lawerence Cohen is exploring an old Aztec pyramid, he triggers some mechanism that opens up and unleashes a giant flying reptile upon the skies of Mexico. Villages are being attacked but nobody is being hurt or taken by the creature, so H.E.A.T. is called by Lawerence and Elsie is a little hesitant to work with him because they used to be engaged but he became obsessed with his work. Lawerence believes that the creature flying around is in fact the winged serpent of Aztec mythology, Quetzalcoatl. In an attempt to catch the creature, they ambush it with tranquilizer guns but it's no use. The creature then attacks another village and when Elsie is taken by the creature, Lawerence realizes that Q has been taking material to build a nest and that Elsie will be the hatchling's first meal. The H.E.A.T. team go to the volcano where Q is nesting and it attacks the group, only to be intercepted by Godzilla. Godzilla knocks Q and her offspring into the volcano and uses his breath to seal the rim after Lawerence rescues Elsie. I really liked this episode because Q reminds me a lot of the old Toho monster Rodan and I mean, Godzilla is fighting a GOD! Where can you go wrong?!

And #1: S2xE1 - Future Shock

This is the end of everything you know and love.

This episode is one that I hold in a very high regard because A) I didn't get around to getting this episode on tape because the syndication fucked me over and B) Holy crap, this episode is dark. This is GTS' answer to the Terminator series. While chasing Godzilla who's chasing a mutation, Nick, Randy, Elsie & Monique get caught up in a terrible electrical storm that somehow transports them 23 years into the future (Craven stayed behind in the office because he was too sick to join them). When they return to H.E.A.T. headquarters, everything inside as well as the entire city has been decimated and destroyed. While exploring, they get attacked by the creature you see above, only to be saved by a 12 year old child who leads them to safety through the sewer system. It turns out that in 2002, a scientist bred the perfect killing machine to bring humanity away from the age of technology in an effort to save the Earth, but naturally, as with most evil geniuses, his plan totally backfired and he got eaten for his troubles. So did the vast majority of the human population. The D.R.A.G.M.A., an acronym for Democratic Resurgence Against Global Mechanized Armageddon, have super regenerative abilities with nearly impenetrable skin, they're highly adaptable and took over the world with ease. Where's Godzilla? Dead. D.R.A.G.M.A. food. Any surviving mutation on Monster Island after the Monster Wars Trilogy? Same. Characters from the film are mentioned but are done so in the past tense, so they're dead. H.E.A.T. reunites with Mendel Craven, who has a scar running down the right side of his face and has turned his fat into muscle. After trying to plan what to do while fighting off D.R.A.G.M.A., the rest of the H.E.A.T. team manage to escape back to the present and they stop the scientist from making the D.R.A.G.M.A.s too strong with Godzilla's aid. This episode was pretty screwed up but at the same time was so intriguing to see an episode with a threat that showed that there was actually a threat that Godzilla COULDN'T overcome. It's a very chilling episode and can be watched on YouTube. I suggest that you do so. Right now.

Why hasn't this series been put onto DVD in full seasons yet? Someone at Sony & Columbia/Tristar needs to get off their asses and make this happen. Seriously. This is The Cynic signing off.

-The Cynic

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