Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987 Fred Wolf
About 5 years ago I re-watched all of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) cartoon by Fred Wolf and I made notes about it as I watched it and thanks to that I can now post general comments on seasons, episodes, and continuity. Before this marathon I did, I had already watched all of the original toon up to season 4 but not much after that, just a few episodes here and there. As a kid I definitely remember watching the TMNT but maybe I was just too young to remember plots. I still watched enough of the show however since all the voices and songs are instantly recognizable so that’s a bit weird, I guess I did watch it a lot just not of other seasons and not as consistent as other shows plus my young age. It wasn’t until the DVD releases that I got to see many episodes and the whole show later when it was easier to watch. This isn’t a formal review but random questions, observations and thoughts on each season.
Season 1, there is stuff that bothers me like what happened to the other mutant gang members besides Rocksteady and Beebop? They just disappear. I also wonder how exactly Shredder met Krang what happened to the foot clan and why did he decide to follow Hamato to NY…heck Splinter makes a reference that he thought Shredder wasn’t alive anymore, maybe there was some type of battle between Shredder and Hamato before he went to NY? Shredder appeared to die so Hamato was still shunned by the foot clan therefore Shredder has no foot soldiers in the OT since they’re all in Japan thinking Hamato killed Oroku Saki. Just a weird theory I came up with.. The humor is so abstract, I love it, too bad later seasons don’t carry the same humor. I also feel bad for Baxter Stockman, why was he sent to jail? he wasn’t really a bad guy at all here, he was just threatened by the Shredder to do his evil stuff, heck he wasn’t even aware of everything he was doing! He even comments that Shredder must really hate rats to find a logic for his invention he was creating for him. I also really liked how much they fight foot soldiers, they never really use them after this season.
Season 2, Overall this season is pretty strong, the short amount of episodes probably has to do with it. The only episode that feels like “filler” is NY’s Shiniest, and even then that episode isn’t that bad. It starts pretty well with the return of the Shredder and the eye of Sarnath saga gives us some nice continuity for a few episodes. Splinter also gets as much closure as he will in the series with the episode ‘Splinter no more’, it’s kind of weak but it is re-stated in the finale when Splinter mentions “Yoshi is no more, only Splinter” or something along those lines. I never liked the Neutrinos but I do like the romance between Kila and Mikey for some reason. I loved Baxter Stockman as a human and as a fly; Man you feel so bad for him, in this show he has it just as bad as 2k3 Baxter. The anti-turtle squad from the punk frogs episodes is kind of weird, they are actually fairly well trained, it would have been neat to see them again later on but they disappeared after that episode. The Punk frogs could have been a bigger threat but I guess not much was done with them as enemies. The season finale is great with the Technodrome falling into the lava, it would have worked as a series finale as well if you think about it. I like that so far in the series Shredder isn’t that incompetent; Sure he’s run from the turtles and they’ve made him trip or thrown pizza at him but they haven’t been able to defeat him in combat. He actually beats them pretty badly in the eye of Sarnath saga and it’s Splinter both in Season 1 and Season 2 that confronts Shredder and is able to defeat him in the finales. Sadly some of the more abstract humor from Season 1 is gone.
Season 3 has strong episodes which makes it very tolearable; For every few stinkers, you get a few great episodes. Also it is true that many Krang/Shredder episodess are “vhs” classics from the ones they sold or gave away, they’re all mostly from this season. Overall this season has lots of villains introduced and other recurring characters which makes those episodes more memorable. Usagi Yojimbo was made into such a badass in his appearances and it screams spin-off! Odd that none ever came out of it outside the Space Usagi pilot. April is actually called a red head, the neat thing about original toon April is I can totally see her as a red head or brunette or even dirty blonde, since the coloring was so inconsistent. While Shredder was shown as a threat in the previous two seasons it’s in this one where he seems more of a goofy villain. He still doesn’t get defeated by the turtles in a fair fight, but he is now defeated by being thrown trash/paint/pizza/etc which really cheapens him.. I wonder if the episodes with the turtles winter outfits take place at the same time in continuity as the others. The clip show episode shows how different the first season really is from what the show became in Season 3. Season 2 was more of a transitional season but this one is definitely what I and people think about when they think of the original TMNT cartoon. So, Rock Soldiers are mutated rocks? That’s not how mutagen works! But I guess it’s meant to be something else? Krang’s android body moves without him a few times, kinda odd, is it alive? Which reminds me of why did they have to electrocute to get him to work in Season 1 besides the Frankenstein reference.
One question I have is how does Shredder not know where the turtles lair is? they’ve found it more than a few times whether by Mousers/Lotus or other plans from the Shredders and yet he still can’t find it? It’s not very logical. There are also so many alien species introduced so far. Maybe a bit too many Shredder and Krang episodes but overall Season 3 is pretty fun that has a great ending, I was intimidated by the number of episodes the season had but they are all fairly enjoyable.
Season 4, where some of the worst episodes apparently come from, and the European Vacation episodes that aired in Season 7 actually take place here so I’ll discuss them here which are also supposed to be the worst the series has to offer. Yet, I disagree, I really don’t think it’s that bad. Sure a lot of episodes are lackluster but the whole fact that they weren’t in New York made the episodes much more special. Continuity is a bit weird, the first episode starts by re-telling the events from the previous episode but with some retcons like the prize including 5 tickets instead of 4, some other continuity problems are Shredder isn’t shocked to see the turtles in the first episode in France but is in the second. I guess the episodes could’ve happened concurrently? And maybe they realized they had one more ticket a few seconds later?
I wish they had put more effort in explaining why Shredder/Krang/April kept being at the same place as the turtles; Instead of explaining it in every episode as pure coincidence.. something much simpler could’ve been mentioned in the beginning like April is going on tour and the turtles want to follow her or she’s part of the tour or something, and have Shredder/Krang want something the turtles have or some reason to have them follow them. Some sort of story arc could’ve easily been sneaked into the episodes to make them flow better. Especially since this was a “sideseason” why couldn’t they add some continuity… A finale for the season would’ve also been greatly appreciated but I guess we’ll just assume they returned to New York off screen.
I’m really curious as to why this sideseason was made, it seems pretty clear there was some sort of reason. It almost borderlines as Edutainment, trying to teach you about European culture though not really enough for me to think it’s the reason they made it. It just seems random, not to mention it would also explain why Shredder/Krang were in so many of them, the ones who wanted this season to be produced wanted the main villains in most episodes. Odd that in the age of the internet, we don’t really know why this mini-season was made. I actually really enjoyed some episodes quite a bit, I loved the whole fact that this was in Europe and made this feels more epic than it should be. I really enjoyed the episodes artless, the Atlantis episode, the Thor episode and the first two Paris episodes.
Now onto Season 4, and this season really is one of the worst ones and very little that redeems it. The beginning is full of worthless episodes, in fact I can’t believe that people say the European Episodes are worse, they are far superior and more interesting than half of Season 4. It later does pick up a little towards the second half and there are a few good episodes but very few outstanding episodes. Episodes like ‘Michelangelo Toys around’ just make me wish I knew what they were thinking when they made it. Terrible! Joined by the fact that there is no season finale.. counting how big Season 3 and Season 4 were they could’ve easily cancelled the show after this and ended the show on such a low note, not to mention without a conclusion, glad that wasn’t the case.
I remember the first time I saw Season 4 I enjoyed it but still felt something was lacking, but didn’t think it was that bad counting most people consider it the worst of the series. But re-watching it it’s easily the worst of the series so far and only a true turtle fan could love these episodes for what they are since they lack most elements to make them stand out.
Now to Season 5, Overall I enjoyed it very much, a huge improvement over Season 4. This season actually does what I always wanted the show to do, feature mutants in every other episode and the characters that had toys. And for the most part I was right, this makes the average episode far more interesting and makes this otherwise lacking season entertaining over something like Season 4 that had forgettable villains. On the other hand I also realized something, it really does cheapen the characters and makes it a bit boring and takes away when it’s “oh new episode, new mutant”, so I’m glad they didn’t do it until now, in fact it’s even mentioned tongue in cheek “oh not another mutant episode”. But as I mentioned just seeing your favorite toys featured in an episode could make an average episode stand out.
Some thoughts… so why in ‘Planet of the Turtleoids’ they act like they didn’t already know of Planet of the Turtles, in fact this same season Donatello discovered the Turtle Nebula and I think in that episode Donatello mentions the Planet of the Turtles…Anyways I’m guessing the Turtleoids Planet is on that same Nebula as the Planet of the Turtles?
When I got to the Lex 1 episode I immediately thought “man this is the same episode as Season 2. I was glad that Rex showed up so it made the episode seem not such a big rehash of the first one. It was neat seeing the Polarium aliens again and in fact that episode had a few plots points from previous episodes including Sky Turtles, it felt like a nice throwback intentional or not. Which brings me to my next point, why were these two Season 2/3 one shot characters who had no figures and probably not fan popular or even remembered by the average person brought back? I actually enjoyed both episodes but it still seemed odd to not bring back say Metal Head or Monalisa or some other one shot character that is widely more popular..
Overall the Turtleoids episode is kind of weak, I didn’t care much for Groudchuck and Dirtbag but I did think Chrome Dome was awesome, a bit too big for my tastes. Not to mention, didn’t Shredder learn from “Foot Soldiers revolt” that your creations turn on you? but oh well. I mean it’s not a bad two parter but it’s also not amazing like some fans make it out to be, in fact I think I’d rather have had a Turtleoids one parter and one episode that dealt with Chrome Dome as the main villain instead this way he didn’t get much screen time.
I really liked the episode ‘Leonardo Renaissance’ where finally Leonardo feels relevant in the show and redeems his character somewhat. Didn’t like the Baxter Stockman episode too much yet I still really liked it but it was not as good as all the previous Baxter episodes which have always been some of my favorites. I liked his skill of controlling flies but what happened to his computer friend and how did he get out of the portal? Other Baxter episodes always had some sort of explanation. Overall I thought Season 5 was very good.
Season 6, and well I was a bit disappointed by it. It’s not bad and it’s definitely not as bad as Season 4. Heck, maybe it was better written than Season 5 but Season 5 had much more memorable episodes even if it was just because they had more mutants. I’m glad it wasn’t another mutant fest since that would’ve gotten old but it still felt lacking and behind only to Season 4. I don’t like how the Technodrome changes location in just any regular episode, I wonder why they did away with season finales. Also watched the Turtle Tips, man those are awesome, I wish they were included on the DVDs, in fact all of them together are about the same length as an episode and I found them far more entertaining than many regular episodes, same animation and the Voice Actors no reason to not include them all in a future release.
Season 7, I have mixed feelings about it even though I did like it, at first I was a bit disappointed since I had very high expectations and it wasn’t delivering because I had heard so much praise towards this season through out the years and it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Some episodes just aren’t as memorable even though they are all clearly much better written than previous seasons, but it does pick up.
One thing I noticed even since Season 6 is that they’ve made Shredder a threat again. What I liked in early seasons was no matter what. Shredder was always a threat and better than the turtles in hand to hand combat, but in Season 4 and even in some of the third it’s when he gets defeated by getting a Pizza thrown at him or throwing barrels etc. Though technically he wasn’t defeated in hand to hand combat either it still cheapened him as a villain. I also liked that he had a lot of solo missions with no Krang or little Krang involvement. To be honest after all his defeats and whining it’s still hard to take him 100% serious but they did a great job.
The episode with Dirk Savage was neat though what a goofy name he had, which in the OT would fit him perfectly but not so much with the more serious tone they were going for this season. It reminded me of the “Mutant Police” that appeared only in one episode in Season 2, I would’ve liked to have seen that mutant police being used again. So, I liked how they retconned that now there’s a bunch of mutants, which is neat, though instead of seeing generic mutants it would’ve been better to see some of the mutants we knew and loved cameo in the cages instead of new generic ones, heck even ones that never appeared. I did like Tokka and Rahzar, they were handled well and could’ve made interesting antagonists. The Triceratons were cool, and man did Rocksteady and Beebop really outsmart Vernon? Wow! Speaking of Vernon, what a dick he is, he isn’t just a coward two face person but an actual dick. Also about Krang’s body, it’s never explicitly stated by him he was a reptile, it’s just a theory by Donatello, which could be wrong since his cleaning just may have been altered by some variable, so the theory of Krang being only an alien brain can still hold as his references of having a body can still be interpreted as an android body. I just like the idea of imagining Krang really being an Utrom in the orginal toon. Not to mention he calls the turtles reptiles in diminishing way which he wouldn’t if he really was a reptile. I also really enjoyed seeing the turtles use guns, it was refreshing to see it.
One thing I noticed and kind of saddened me was the mood of Season 7, it seems they were trying to go for a darker route like Batman The Animated Series and Gargoyles. However the two styles didn’t mesh very well, you had the turtles acting a bit more serious with the still goofy dialog and/or plots, their reactions just seem off and the whole show seems to be having an identity crisis and it is not sure of what exactly it wants to be. It was also sad to see how the turtles we loved were slowly not being them anymore, not the ones we knew and almost as if they were trying too hard to fit with the cartoons at the time. Great season, but very different from the firs and I wouldn’t compare it to it, just another evolution that the show went through. Glad that there was a finale again and it was quite enjoyable..wait was it explained why Irma became such a badass that last episode? that was out of character but I don’t think I saw anyone mention it or even make a comment about it.
Season 8, Overall I love the darker tone but it was still bitter sweet, as this doesn’t feel like the show I grew to love and hate anymore. I can definitely see why people hated the “red sky” seasons, It’s no longer the same show and it shows. It can easily be seen as a jump the shark moment if you don’t come with an open mind. I embrace a darker take on the turtles so this was fun even if it was still sad. Some of the dialog especially Mikey’s or when Raph breaks the fourth wall sound so awkward and like they shouldn’t be there but I’m glad it was in there since it shows they didn’t abandon it completely. Didn’t really care for HAVOC and many of the villains are a bit generic but it’s a nice change of pace.
I love the new character designs and overall the show feels like it was a new version of the original show like The New Adventures of He-Man or something, I use that as a vague example because I never really saw either He-Man show but it definitely feels like a different show using the same characters. I definitely have mixed feelings on somethings, like people hating the turtles and it is just way too much “hey we’re like X-Men/Spiderman/Batman too!” with the whole mutant hate. Characters also feel out of character at times as I’ve mentioned. They definitely turned it up to 11 for the season and it totally reeks of the 90’s and feels like a 90’s cartoon, personally I love it but I can see people disliking it for that very reason. It was still sad realizing I was seeing the last episode with Irma/Rocksteady/Beebop and even the rock soldiers who finally seemed like a threat again in this season.
Season 9 , most of my feelings from Season 8 continue but this time in a bad way. I was really looking forward to reaching these seasons, and the last season was very enjoyable even if it was sad to see my old friends go. I found Lord Dregg to be very boring, I was happy to see Shredder take a break however even with me wishing they’d use Shredder less in earlier seasons not when he’s replaced with someone so generic… His plots were generic and there is really nothing to him that makes me find him interesting. You’d think with him replacing Shredder and Krang, two iconic villains, they would’ve tried better. Then again last season we also got Titanus who was another villain without much thought that I hated as well. I remember liking Carter but this season made me feel the opposite about him. I like his character design, but what’s up with his mutant form? How did they think that was cool or marketable? Also his ninja skills seem a bit forced, why not just have him be a fighter, I guess it’d be more difficult to integrate him to the team but it feels forced.
Most of the episodes aren’t bad but they can get a bit boring, I liked the Krono’s episode because it was something different even if he wasn’t that great of a character, but even then they felt the need to force Dregg into the equation at the end, not even Shredder appeared in 8 episodes in a row in earlier seasons. I didn’t totally hate Dregg but I was very disappointing and found him terribly generic most of the time. The last episode was defintiely interesting, I didn’t like that a new villain came but overall I felt the last 7 episodes of Dregg were somewhat redeemed with the finale even if it was a somewhat weak way of getting rid of him, I also liked the ending that could’ve worked even if it left the second mutations open ended.
Now as far as the second mutations I didn’t like them a lot, they also felt forced and they weren’t great additions to the plots for the most part. I’m not against the idea but they weren’t implemented very well. I didn’t feel April had that much of a smaller role, it was about the same even with Carter now in the mix. When exactly did she quit/get fired from Chanel 6? and what happened to it? Why is she now an independent reporter? It’s never explained and Channel 6 was still operating well after all the bad stuff that happened to them in the last season so it’s sad to see them gone, especially when replaced by a generic new television station. Though the new “boss” did grow on me and I imagine him to be the one April has in the first movie.
The new animation is definitely a step down from last season as are the character designs but I still like them, I also really love April’s design, she looks 90’s and no longer so 80’s with her new hair. While the jokes and mood of the earlier seasons is still severely lacking here, at least when they try to implement the humor from earlier seasons it seems to fit much better and it’s done, without it sounding out of place unlike many times last season and even in Season 7. Overall a step down from last season but it’s still notable and enjoyable.
Season 10, and wow what a great season, it makes a huge difference the way episodes are written. Unlike last season I actually enjoyed every episode. I still think Dregg is a generic character but him being better written made him so much more interesting. All his appearances here were great, I also liked how you saw through out it, that he felt like Shredder did by being beaten over and over again by the turtles and how he basically goes mad because of it. Same with Carter, I liked him so much more, he was much more interesting just by adding a little more layer to his character, too bad he is written out as soon as he starts becoming interesting though in hindsight it was good since he got some closure.
Watching I also realized how many of these episodes could’ve easily been TMNT 2k3 episodes, the mood of both shows are not that different anymore. Same with the turtles, it’s funny how by the end of both shows run you can easily see either of the turtles interacting in the other universe without there being a lot of difference as say if 2k3 Leo showed up in Season 2. I especially loved Raph’s sarcasm/angry side here and it’s so far my favorite interpretation of him, he is still angry with attitude but not overboard like all other TMNT media makes him out to be. The only awkward one is Mikey since his dialog just doesn’t fit and neither does his voice in the more serious tone, it just seems out of character when he is too serious as well. I guess this is also why they went the opposite and made him totally goofy in 2k3, since this toning down Mikey in the red sky seasons didn’t help him seem any more mature. Hopefully Mikey can find a nice balance in the future. Also this season while it continues the more mature take, it also is very reminiscent of the first seasons with the dialog and situations, this season just “gets it”, and it feels like it’s the exact same universe from earlier seasons while having a more mature take on it. I mean the Globfather seemed straight out of the first seasons and yet fit perfectly here.
I knew Shredder/Krang returned for this season, but I was surprised when I saw the episode didn’t end and it was a two parter, and then a three parter. Shredder and Krang were so badass in this while not making Dregg seem any weaker either. Totally redeemed both characters as actual threats. The only bad thing is they don’t really get any real closure, they are just “sent back to Dimmension X” a bit lame but I guess they couldn’t do much more if they wanted to be able to bring them back again. Still counting they were the main villains for 150+ episodes they deserved better. Now going back to the Technodrome for the last episode was awesome, seeing the destroyed Technodrome gave you chills and even some closure that it was indeed gone. Even if we never got a great final battle with it. Which really the last one we got was in Season 3 sadly. In fact it was a missed opportunity when they went to get their past selves to show a different Technodrome fight instead of the one from Season 8 since it really wasn’t that epic to be the final fight in the Technodrome and they had already established in this season that 2 years had passed since an event from Season 8 so easily another Technodrome fight with a more epic battle could’ve happened. But yeah awesome seeing Shredder/Krang again for what basically was half the season.
I didn’t mind April’s smaller role in the last season because it wasn’t that much different from her role in earlier seasons, just giving bad news to the turtles, in fact I loved when Raph sarcastically mentions what basically comes down to “April is calling, oh great she has another problem we have to solve”, hilarious but I really did like how she became an important character again once Carter left. The mutation saga in the beginning was handled so much better than in the last season. Now the season finale was a great way to end Dregg, even if we don’t see exactly what happens to him I guess in case they got renewed they could brought him back easily but it still works, it’s only Shredder that didn’t get one. Splinter telling them they are his equal didn’t feel as nice as I thought it would, it felt very rushed and you’d think he would have said that to him after a fight with the Shredder or heck a fight where they actually used their Ninja skills, which wasn’t really the case in the final battle to an extent, I did love that it ended with some humor, while it could’ve been better I was happy with how it went they tried to wrap things up while leaving it open ended, which is what some past seasons did as well. Overall the season was great and a last great hoorah to the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, not a bad way to go. Random thoughts.., I thought the Turtle Van was destroyed last season so they could introduce a new vehicle like in the Batman movies, wasted opportunity.
I thought Id post my complete thoughts now that I watched through out the whole series. I really enjoyed the show and its interesting how much it changed over the years and evolved over time, I give the show a lot of props for that. Even Season 4 which is easily the worst is not that bad and when the show starts getting darker it was definitely nice to have so many episodes of their goofier antics. Talking about the darker seasons, the red sky seasons are very enjoyable I would’ve loved to have seen them as a child, the show feels different but its also nice seeing the turtles act more mature, I like to think that they learned from their crossover with 2k3 in Turtles Forever to not be so goofy, just a theory anyways.
It would’ve been nice to have some characters appear more and most of them get some kind of send off or get closure but counting what era the show is from I feel we got plenty of awesome season finales and arcs to make it be a real complain, most shows didn’t get this at that time. Great show and very different from other Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shows so its definitely worth checking out, its not for everyone if you expect only action and intense story lines but if you like having some humor you cant go wrong with it.