The X-Men Episode Guide 3×17: ‘Orhphan’s End’
The early ’90s were spoiled for choice when it came to comic book adaptations. Not only was Batman: The Animated Series on the air, but X-Men led Marvel’s push to get on the small screen, diving right into the often convoluted continuity of everyone’s favorite mutants, luring in a generation of fans, and paving the way for cartoons to follow. That’s why we’ve set out to review every single episode of the ’90s X-Men animated series. This week, Cyclops finally figures out who his father is, and Storm will meet you... AT THE MONORAIL!
Previously, on X-Men:
In our last episode, the arrival of Iceman and X-Factor, against all sense of reason that I know in this world, produced one of the best episodes of the show that we've seen yet. Seriously, Iceman and X-Factor. Better than the Dark Phoenix Saga. I don't even know what's real anymore.
Anyway, we discovered that the government was starting up its own mutant strike force, which probably shouldn't have come as a shock to a guy who a) has been running a highly trained ideological paramilitary group disguised as a school for the past however many years, and b) can literally read minds. As for what that has to do with this week's episode, I'm guessing not a whole hell of a lot.
In our discussion of other teams that we'd like to see make it into animation, the very first comment on last week's post answered that question pretty thoroughly when Michael Paciocco suggested the Champions of Los Angeles, a short-lived team consisting of two former X-Men, a demon from Hell, a Russian spy and a demigod. They fought zombie hobos (aka zobos) and a Nazi made of bees. It was the best thing ever.
Writer Douglas Booth and producer/director Larry Houston open this episode on an airplane that gets buzzed by a UFO, sending it spiralling momentarily out of control, and this, my friends, is the biggest dick move in the history of animation, but only because I'm watching this on a plane right now and it's making me paranoid. The UFO is, of course, the Starjammer, piloted by the Starjammers, as seen in the Marvel Comics mini-series The Starjammers.
If there is one thing Cyclops inherited from his moustachioed father, it's a knack for branding.
The Starjammer is being pursued by a Shi'ar craft, and after buzzing a yacht and an airport (again, dick move, guys), it takes a hit and heads for a rough landing. From there, we cut back to the Xavier School For Emotionally Repressed Orphans, where star pupils Cyclops and Storm are enjoying a coffee break after their morning workout in the Danger Room. There's an alert coming in, and they don't know who it's from.
Cyclops passive-aggressively whines that "it can't be an X-Man; they're not up this early," and while Storm suggests that it might be Gambit calling from a busy night on the town, rophynol is getting harder and harder to come by in Westchester, so it's probably not him either. Turns out, it's SPACE COP!!!
I'm pretty sure he has an actual name, but I didn't catch it and don't care enough to check, so Space Cop he shall remain. Or possibly Shi'ar Worf. Dude knows how to rock a decorative sash.
He's a member of the Shi'ar Intergalactic Patrol, and he has arrived on earth in pursuit of "a criminal vessel." No other information is offered, including the fact that it's the same criminal vessel that the X-Men were hanging out on when they helped Space Cop's boss retake her throne from her power-mad brother, exiling him into the M'Kraan Crystal and unleashing the Phoenix Force on the Universe, which one would think would still be pretty hot news up in the Imperium, but he doesn't mention it. I'm guessing it's because he read the script, and is following proper (intergalactic) police procedure by not spoiling the big reveal for Cyclops.
Cyclops, meanwhile, reacts to this news of alien criminals and a chase that spans star systems with all the emotion you've come to expect.
Storm's secondary mutation of super-not-giving-a-crap has also kicked in.
To their credit, they do race off dramatically to go find this renegade starship, but they don't really need to go through all the hassle of dramatic exits, since, ten seconds later, the Starjammer literally drops right down in the middle of their back yard. It starts sinking into the lake, leading Cyclops to dive in and rescue the survivors while Storm pitches in with her typically understated dialogue, "A WHIRRRRLWIND SHALL HELP YOU EFFECT A RESCUE!"
It turns out that the space crook everyone's so mad about is none other than Corsair (secretly unknown to Scott Summers, Corsair is secretly his father!), who's on the run and has come to the X-Men for help. Cyclops, sensing that this could be the seed of an adventure that would pit a band of unlikely heroes against a galactic empire, kicking off a thrilling series of events that would entertain and delight anyone who might be watching on an airplane right now, politely declines.
Corsair basically shrugs and asks for his dog tags, which came off during the rescue, but when Scott goes to hand them back, he notices that the (tiny, golden) tags are accompanied by a (comically huge) locket, which pops open and shocks everyone, me included:
Guys. Gals. Folks. Can we talk about how Cyclops's mother looks exactly like Jean Grey? Can we talk about how this one shot has made everything that has happened on this show up to now a thousand times creepier, with the exception of Gambit, who is already at Maximum Creep? Can we talk about how Wolverine is old enough to have totally dated Cyclops's mom and would probably be 100% into her?!
Also I would like to speak to someone about the background of that shot. It looks less like a hand and more like a squamous mass of inexplicably shiny flesh the longer I look at it.
Even more amazing than that, Cyclops stares at the picture and the dogtags, which Corsair has already said are his and that they are "all I have left of my family," and this is, I swear to you, how Cyclops responds: "This is a picture of me! My brother! My mother! Where did you get these? These belonged to my father! How did you get them?!" Rest easy, mutants of the world: Detective Cyclops is on the case.
Even when Corsair gives his full name (Major Christopher Summers, for anyone keeping score at home), Cyclops refuses to believe him, but before an explanation can be offered, Space Cop shows up and demands that he turn Corsair over to be arrested for space crime. Corsair, looking to fight his way out of this situation and having just realized that his long-lost son is a complete and utter imbecile, asks where the rest of the X-Men are, and Cyclops, who just talked about how they were all still asleep, claims that they're "off helping someone who isn't wanted throughout the galaxy!"
"Off helping someone." Very good, Scott. Very believable. Details will only get you tripped up down the road.
Corsair, of course, claims to be innocent, but that little debate is tabled when Shi'ar Worf opens fire with a bunch of lasers. The good guys beat feat, and Storm moves to cover their escape, delivering the single greatest line in the history of the show. Sorry, "Check please!," you have now been replaced by the sheer majesty of...
"I SHALL MEET YOU... AT THE MONORAIL!"
I feel like that line was a personal gift to me for making me sit through a Cyclops episode. I want to make it my ringtone and my phone alarm so that it's the first thing I hear every morning.
Also, the X-Men have a secret monorail hidden in Bugs Bunny's house.
On the Secret X-Monorail, Cyclops launches into an amazing monologue about being abandoned as a child that he has clearly been rehearsing for the past 20 years, which I actually, genuinely love. Like, seriously, it is perfectly in character for Cyclops to have an entire prepared speech on the off chance that he is ever reunited with his dead father, and it is delightful, especially when he gets to the sarcastic "Did I imagine the orphanage? Tell me, DAD, AM I MAKING THIS UP?"
As the X-Men head to the hangar to make their escape and determine whether Corsair is a criminal or just a terrible father (spoiler: both), the Shi'ar continue their attack, blasting into the underground tunnels with more of those Warhammer 40,000 robots with the skulls all pried off that we saw a few weeks back out in space:
Both Summers Boys get knocked out, but Storm, amazingly silent throughout this entire scene, drags them onto the Blackbird and they head out, giving Corsair ample time for some flashback exposition.
See, 20 years ago, they were "flying home from a camping trip" (who in the hell flies to a campground?!) in what appears to be a World War II fighter plane...
...when they were suddenly beset by aliens, something that happens with alarming frequency in the Marvel universe. They blast the plane, and as it's going down over the mountains of Alaska -- again, guys, dick move -- Corsair straps his kids into a couple of parachutes and boots them right out into the stratosphere so that he can grow a sick handlebar and rock a headband. In space, the eighties are never over!
Case in point: SPACE JEM.
Who knew the Shi'ar Empire adhered so closely to their four founding principles: Glamour, Glitter, Fashion and Fame.
So yeah. That's actually what happens. I mean, there's some other stuff in there too about how Mrs. Cyclops's Mom was "destroyed before my eyes," which, considering the discussion, is probably the new height of using "destroyed" as a ridiculously dramatic substitute for "killed," but that's basically it. Well, that Corsair telling him that nothing would have stopped him from reuniting with his children if he had known Scott and Alex were still alive, which is weird since it comes right after a flashback where he is pretty sure that they landed okay after the whole plane explosion thing. Not as sure as he was about his chances with a catgirl space pirate, though, you understand.
I swear to God. This whole family.
After not actually getting around to explaining why he's wanted for murder and therefore seeming sketchier by the minute, Corsair flies Cyclops and Storm into a jungle, crashing another plane in the process (SERIOUSLY YOU GUYS!) and leaving Space Cop to do the talking for him. It seems that Corsair has kidnapped someone who knows the whereabouts of "the emperor's hoarded treasure," a line that is very, very easy to mishear the first time you go through this, making you think that this episode is about to take an entirely different direction.
The problem with this plot point is that the kidnappee, Chandra, is nowhere to be seen, which makes Corsair almost as bad at kidnapping as he is at raising children. He admits that he's after money to maintain the Starjammer ("Fusion fuel doesn't come cheap!"), but Cyclops has had it, and sends Storm out to keep Chandra away from both parties until they can sort this whole mess of nonsense out while he takes Corsair prisoner.
For a moment, I was about to talk about how I didn't think Cyclops, who has the power to shoot force beams out of his face, really needed a gun to hold someone prisoner, but then I remembered that they actually do follow the whole rule about mutant energy powers not affecting close relatives. I won't be so quick to judge this show next time!
Haha, just kidding. I'm going to judge it like hell.
Cyclops turns Corsair over to the Space Cops, but hangs around to see how it all plays out. Storm heads off looking for the kidnapped Chandra, and although she finds her trail, she ends up doing some erotic wrestling with Hepzibah:
Yeesh. Who storyboarded this, Milo Manara?
Hepzibah is only the tip of the iceberg, as the rest of the Starjammers show up. You know, Dollar Store Abomination and Robot Fencer? Those guys. They've been on Earth all this time -- a plot development that makes NO SENSE AT ALL -- hiding the person that Corsair kidnapped. Or should I say rescued?!
Yes, in the least surprising plot twist since... well, since ten minutes ago when Cyclops puzzled out that this older man who resembles him and has his father's name and pictures of his mother, brother and self might actually be his father, it turns out Space Cop has been Space Dirty Cop all along! He locks Cyclops in a force field to keep him from taking any decisive action that would foil his evil plans (because he clearly has never watched an episode of this show and doesn't know that's the last thing Cyclops would do)...
...and reveals that he's been doing the Lord Chamberlain's bidding all this time, trying to "dispose of the witness" to... man, I have no idea. Some space crime. I honestly don't think it has been brought up before now.
Back on the ground, the Starjammers are pretty upset about Cylops betraying their captain, so they've taken Storm prisoner and are taking her to Chandra so they can give her the full story. Coincidentally, Cyclops is also getting the full story at the exact same time, from a helpful member of Space Cop's crew who frees him from the force field and sits him down to watch some exciting faked video footage about Chandra being killed in an accident two days from now. Something about this whole thing where there's existing footage of a murder that hasn't happened yet doesn't sit well with Detective Cyclops, who declares "This faked sequence was programmed in advance to cover up what was really going to be a murder!"
Good work, gumshoes!
This, at last, is what makes Cyclops decide that he probably shouldn't just hang out in his Members Only jacket while his father is getting space tortured, so he and the helpful crewmate bust in with guns and faces blazing to rescue Corsair and make their escape.
The Shi'ar cops give chase, but the good guys (relatively speaking) get some help in the form of code phrases from Storm and the Starjammers that direct them to lead the cops into a trap. It's a very clever trap, too: They have a giant laser gun pointed at the sky and when the ship flies close enough, they shoot it.
"Clever" might not be the right word.
Either way, that's the end of that. The helpful crewmate takes command of the ship and she promises to turn Shi'ar Worf over to the proper authorities, and Cyclops and Corsair finally get to have their father-son chat. A chat, I should note, where Corsair talks about how much Jean reminds him of Scott's mother, because apparently things just weren't creepy enough around here.
Discussion Question: Cyclops definitely missed his calling as a private investigator, folks. Why, with deductive skills like the ones he has on display in this episode, there's no case he couldn't crack! So I ask you, friends and neighbors, what other mysteries should Detective Cyclops take a shot at solving? Could he, perhaps, determine who keeps leaving all this blue fur in Beast's science lab where Beast works on Beast's experiments? Careful, Scott! It's a real puzzler!
Next Week: The Juggernaut returns in "The Juggernaut Returns!" Funny how that works out.