Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars – “The Taking of Pilot Jenny”

img_3765Episode Number:  13

Original Air Date:  December 1, 1991

Directed by:  Karen Peterson

Written by:  Neal Adams, Peter Stone

First Appearance:  Komplex-2-Go, Cousin Jeffrey

After three months of blogging, we have arrived at the final episode of Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars. The show began aggressively, with a three-part story that also bled into several other episodes to follow before transitioning to a format of stand-alone episodes. Those episodes were utilized to flesh out the world and characters in the show, while this finale will largely return to plots from the earlier part of the season. While not every one of those stand-alone episodes felt entirely relevant, it was a solid approach to story-telling for a relatively short season of television. It might seem like nothing, but for children’s programming it’s fairly ambitious. Networks aren’t too fond of such methods. They think it’s easier to just present simple, concise stories. Missing an episode can be a burden on viewers, or so some would think. And if there are production delays on a particular episode that can pose a problem when something has to air out of order. X-Men encountered these problems just a year later allowing the network to mandate future seasons of that show abandon the serialized format of its first season. And while some still hold onto the belief that serialized story-telling does more harm than good, the incredible success of that show makes a case that it’s also what children want.

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Hopefully you remember what this thing is because it’s important to today’s episode.

Unfortunately for Bucky O’Hare, it did few favors here. Whether it hurt or helped is unknown, but what is known is that the show did not continue past this episode. This episode not only serves as a season finale, but also as a series finale. It’s unknown if the writers expected that outcome, but there is at least some finality here. To further add to the episode’s importance, the producers brought out the big guns. Comic artist Neal Adams co-wrote this one with Peter Stone. It’s the only writing credit for Adams on the show, though he probably has had input on it throughout the development process.

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The episode opens with Jenny and Blinky immediately running into trouble. Why isn’t it called “The Taking of Pilot Jenny and AFC Blinky”? Poor Blinky.

The finale begins with Jenny and Blinky piloting the Toad Croaker through an asteroid field. Jenny is making some daring maneuvers that appear to have the android unnerved. She assures him everything is fine, but they’re behind schedule and need to make up for lost time. Blinky isn’t the only nervous one as Bucky O’Hare radios for an update. She advises him to stop worrying as well but they soon run into trouble. Toads up ahead force Jenny to take evasive action. When she wonders why they don’t pursue Blinky points out the reason why. Up ahead are dozens of Double Bubbles waiting for them.

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Willy is met with bad news when he enters the Aniverse.

Willy DuWitt is at home looking rather bored. He says aloud to himself that he hasn’t seen Bucky and the others in days and tries contacting Jenny through the memory stone she gave him. When she doesn’t respond he gets worried and activates his photon accelerator. He enters through his door to find the Righteous Indignation rather quiet. He calls out to the others and eventually runs into Dead-Eye as he climbs down from the cockpit area. When Willy asks what’s going on he tells him “They got Jenny,” but he does it in such a manner that it sounds like he means she’s dead. Willy appears to get the meaning and he heads up to tell Bucky they have to get her back. Bucky agrees and he’s traced the Toads to a specific location:  Warren.

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The captured pilot. Blinky is allowed to just hang around.

The Righteous Indignation approaches the Toad Mothership which is surrounded by the entire Toad fleet. Toadborg speaks on behalf of the Toads to tell them they have their pilot (no one seems to care about Blinky) and he shows the confined Jenny on the video monitor. He threatens to “cybertize” her, or something, and I guess that means they intend to make her a cyborg. Bucky demands her release, but Toadborg wants to make a deal. One pilot for one climate converter. It would seem the Toads have wanted to reclaim the converter they lost to the mammals on Kinnear back in episode 4, but the hares hope to use that to restore the climate on their home planet of Warren which is still under Toad occupation. Willy insists Bucky would never make that trade and the writers use his explanation as a way to remind viewers of what Toadborg is talking about. To Willy’s surprise, Bucky agrees and he orders the ship to head for Kinnear. Willy tries to protest, but Bucky orders him to engineering. Willy tries reasoning with Dead-Eye once the two leave the cockpit area and Dead-Eye has a rather logical explanation for why Bucky is willing to deal:  there are multiple climate converters out there, but only one Jenny.

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Dead-Eye seems rather on edge for being on a friendly planet.

The crew arrive on Kinnear and Bucky heads inside to meet with the hares still there while the others wait on a bridge. While waiting, Bruiser enjoys a large bundle of purple bananas so apparently they grow in other places besides the planet his brother presently calls home. Willy thinks the hares will never agree to give up their lone climate converter, but Bucky emerges from the meeting with them and they’re all in agreement:  Bucky gets the converter. Willy is astounded as everyone heads back to the ship.

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Frix and Frax get a little taste of what Jenny is capable of.

On the Toad Mothership, Frix and Frax are enjoying taunting Jenny. They question if she actually believes that Toadborg will set her free once they make the trade and laugh at her when she indicates that she does. While the two howl with laughter, Jenny uses her psychic powers to control them. She has one slap the other and then return the gesture until Toadborg enters to break things up.

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Willy with the save!

The Righteous Indignation, along with the climate converter, enters the area and Willy asks Bruiser if he’s concerned about Bucky. It seems the captain hasn’t said a word since they left Kinnear and Willy is worried about him, but Bruiser just encourages him to have faith in their captain. Willy enters the cockpit area and speaks to Toadborg on behalf of the crew demanding the release of Jenny in exchange for the converter. In response, the Mothership fires on the Righteous Indignation striking Dead-Eye’s M.A.S.E.R. canons and knocking the duck from his seat. Willy is there to catch him and Dead-Eye compliments him on his reflexes, and justifiably since he went from the cockpit to the gunner position in seconds. A tractor beem then engulfs the Righteous Indignation and it’s pulled into the Toad Mothership.

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Captured again.

Aboard the Mothership, Bucky and the crew are lead into the same room as Jenny. Bruiser has his hands bound and a sack over his head, though they forgot to illustrate the sack in the establishing shot. Apparently that’s all that needs to happen to calm the other toads in his presence. How they actually got the restraints on him is not explained. As Toadborg celebrates his victory, he’s alerted that another mammal frigate has entered the picture. It’s the Indefatigable, and it has a message for Toadborg and that message comes from Captain Bucky O’Hare! It would seem he switched places with his cousin Jeffrey on Kinnear, which is why Bucky has been mute ever since and he also acquired a snazzy new space suit. They’re taking the fight to Warren, and it’s up to Toadborg to stop them. Toadborg is forced to summon a trio of spider-like androids (Tri-Bots) to serve as guards to watch the prisoners while he confers with Komplex. Before he leaves, Dead-Eye happily taunts Toadborg by relaying their plan to switch the climate converters and restore Warren’s natural climate. He then just runs from Toadborg and the whole sequence is rather amusing.

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Digger McSquint getting in on the action.

Aboard the Indefatigable, Rumble Bee and Digger McSquint get to have some dialogue of their own as they take up arms against the many Double Bubbles surrounding the Mothership. Rumble Bee fires from the customary gunner position while Digger has ports he can apparently shoot a rifle through. Dogstar pilots them to Warren and things get a bit confusing. They land on a climate converter and Bucky takes Dogstar’s crew with him leaving Dogstar aboard his ship. The climate converter appears to be in space, though establishing shots will make it look like it’s still on Warren, and Bucky and them emerge as if they’re floating in space.

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More Toad robots, nothing Jenny can’t handle.

Aboard the Toad Mothership, Bruiser has apparently grown sick of waiting around. He breaks his restraints and removes the bag on his head. He wants to squash toads, but the robots Toadborg left behind aren’t scared of him. They combine into a tower and blast Bruiser knocking him down taking out Dead-Eye and Jeffrey in the process. With those guys distracted, Jenny busts out her powers to destroy the Tri-Bots. She then urges everyone to follow her as they need to get back to the Righteous Indignation and retake the climate converter they launched from Kinnear, but before they can do that they need to sabotage this fleet.

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Even Blinky gets a moment to shine in this one.

They head for the command room and once there Bruiser peels back a piece of paneling and instructs Blinky to do his thing. There’s nothing behind the panel, leaving me to believe there should be circuitry of some kind. Blinky is able to seize control of the Toad Mothership’s many turrets and fires them at the surrounding Double Bubbles. The Toad pilots are shown to be both confused and reluctant to fire on their own Mothership. For some reaosn, the “K” emblem on their helmets has been replaced with a solid black oval. I’m guessing AKOM just got sick of drawing them.

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Komplex has a new trick to show off.

Toadborg is shown conferencing with Komplex. He’s forced to admit to mighty Komplex that he has been tricked by the mammals. He relays the mammal plan of switching the climate converter thus restoring Warren to its natural climate. Perhaps sick of Toad incompetence, Komplex tells Toadborg that it has a special surprise waiting for Bucky O’Hare and not to worry about the rabbit. We’re then shown a monitor aboard the climate converter with the Komplex visage upon it. The monitor removes itself from its housing and gathers up a bunch of stray parts to construct a body:  The Komplex-2-Go.

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Not wanting to be out done, Toadborg has a new trick as well.

Jenny leads the crew to the Righteous Indignation, Toadborg sees them and pursues. Jenny fires up the controls and the ship takes off, and so does Toadborg. Apparently he’s got some rockets of his own that we haven’t seen before and he blasts off after them. Frix and Frax see the mammal frigate heading for the exit and, fearing what Toadborg will do to them should they escape, they begin the door close sequence. Jenny calls down to Willy that she needs more power and he does as commanded. The ship barely squeaks by, but Toadborg gets caught in the closing doors. Frix and Frax are left to ponder if Toadborg knows it was them that closed the doors as he shouts to be set free. They decide to chance it that he did not, and leave him there. Jenny pilots the ship to the other climate converter and informs the others they need to get to Warren on the double – Bucky’s waiting for them!

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Time for Komplex to introduce itself to Bucky and…Dead-Eye?…Dogstar? Come on, AKOM…

Bucky leads Rumble Bee, Digger, and Wolf to the main hub of the climate converter. They intend to steal it, but will have an adversary they did not anticipate. As they get to work launching the converter from Warren, a gurney lifts up with Komplex-2-Go aboard it. It must have been waiting awhile for Bucky and decided to take a nap or something. The heroes are surprised to see this creation and are quick to take up arms against it. Komplex fires some missiles at Digger which destroy his gun and leave him looking comically charred. Komplex then targets Rumble Bee apparently damaging the android in the process. Wolf, climbing a tower-like structure, decides he’ll need to “take a hand.” He grabs some hanging wire and swings like a pirate calling out to Komplex a command to “Catch!” He tosses a spherical grenade which Komplex does indeed catch, only to have its arm blown off. Komplex then gives us the line of the season, “The filthy mammals blew off my arm!” The line reminds me of the famous Jack Nicholson line from Batman, “He took my balloons!” which amuses me since that film just turned 30.

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Wolf swinging into action!

It’s going to take more than that to take down Komplex. Bucky regroups with Digger and Rumble Bee and tells them they need more fire power. Rumble Bee agrees and changes modes in which he basically transforms into a turret. One blast from Rumble Bee like this is enough to knock Komplex down. Bucky then heads for the climate converter controls, which can be piloted like a ship. Bucky regains control of the converter, which has been flying around aimlessly since they launched it. He orders the other three to return to the Indefatigable. They try to talk him out of it but he says he needs to take this thing and destroy it. They then head out leaving Bucky to pilot the converter alone.

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And Komplex missing its arm.

The Indefatigable returns to the other climate converter where Jenny and the others await their arrival. Jenny has taken the pilot’s chair and orders Willy to join Dead-Eye below to learn how the thing functions. Bucky then appears in the stolen climate converter from Warren. As the two approach each other, Komplex begins to stir behind Bucky. Apparently it can self-repair, and as Bucky pilots the converter Komplex simply walks up behind him and blasts him. Unconscious, Komplex flings Bucky aside where he collapses in a heap.

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Dogstar and company have arrived. Nice to see Digger recovered.

Komplex uses the climate converter to shoot lightning bolts at the one piloted by the mammals. Under fire, Rumble Bee figures that Komplex must have taken out Bucky and retaken the converter in order for it to fire upon them. Jenny calls down to Willy that they need to return fire, but Willy claims he still needs a few minutes to figure things out. This is basically the first time Willy hasn’t been an instant genius with something. Since they don’t have two minutes, Jenny decides to take matters into her own hands. Commanding Dogstar to take over, she demonstrates another one of her special powers.

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It seems everyone has some new ability they want to show off today.

Jenny astral projects herself to the other converter. There she finds an unconscious Bucky. Initially, she tries to nudge him awake then admonishes herself for being a silly cat, she can’t touch anything in this ghost-like form. She then flits her fingers about and little colored lights flicker around them. I don’t know what they do, but it works and Bucky regains consciousness.

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Whatever Jenny did apparently worked.

Komplex turns around to regard the meddlesome mammal and fires away. Bucky admonishes Komplex for being too slow and bounds over it. From behind, Bucky can see a giant power supply feeding into Komplex via a simple wire. It didn’t appear to be in the machine prior to this moment, so this is quite convenient. Bucky simply rips the plug out and Komplex collapses.

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“I wonder what this will do?”

With Komplex dealt with, all that’s left is for Bucky to destroy the converter still laden with Toad programming. Willy helped get a start on that by getting the other converter to fire upon it and also create some sort of solar wind storm while Komplex still had control of it. Bucky places a detonator on the main console, then fastening on his space helmet, he takes off. As the device explodes, Bucky out runs the flames to safely arrive in space where the others can pick him up.

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Time for the heroic run away from disaster shot.

The new climate converter is then placed on Warren. As it’s being activated, there’s still the matter of the Toads on Warren to deal with. Harking back to “On the Blink,” the crew uses Bruiser once again to broadcast a message of violence towards the Toads. It gets picked up by the various monitors likely constantly tuned to Toad TV and has the desired effect. The Storm Toads flee the planet in terror leaving it once again toad free.

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It should be noted that Bucky never apologizes for keeping Willy in the dark.

Once reunited, it’s revealed to Willy that the whole thing was a setup. Jenny wanted to get captured so that they could switch out the climate converter on Kinnear with the one on Warren and restore the planet’s natural climate. They basically explained they knew they could outsmart the Toads. When Willy asks why they didn’t let him in on it, Bucky explains because the plan was already well underway when he arrived. They felt his sincerity would be an asset in getting the Toads to go along with the scheme so they ran with it. Willy is apparently fine with this, though I wouldn’t have blamed him for getting mad.

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Check out the happy rabbit family.

On Warren, the climate is restored thanks to the climate converter reprogrammed by the hares on Kinnear. The hare population is shown returning and a small family emerges from their spaceship for a look around. A little kid asks his dad if they can finally return home and his dad says they sure can, thanks to the members of S.P.A.C.E. and Captain Bucky O’Hare! We then get our requisite shot of the Righteous Indignation making a dramatic fly over and cut to the entire crew onboard with Bucky giving a wave to close out the series.

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And there goes the Righteous Indignation speeding out of my childhood.

And that’s how Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars ends. It’s a fitting and satisfying way to close out the season as it harkens back to the start. Bucky’s homeworld, Warren, is taken over and converted into a swamp by the Toads. The hares are then enslaved and put to work making another climate converter which Bucky is able to liberate. The hare scientists then convert the converter to their specifications, get rid of any pesky Komplex presence on it, and are able to use that to restore their planet by season’s end. It’s a nice through-line and makes me wonder if another one would have been established for a season two, but that was not to be.

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There’s some pretty odd visual blunders in this one. Someone obviously thought Digger was supposed to be Dead-Eye, even though a couple of arms are missing.

That may be a satisfying way for the season to be approached, though the episode itself is not without its problems. Willy is a bit annoying as he constantly questions Bucky throughout the episode. I think the audience is supposed to agree with his line of questioning, but I didn’t feel it. There’s some animation blunders as well, which we’ve come to expect from this show. In one shot aboard the climate converter, Digger McSquint is colored like Dead-Eye and then in another he is Dead-Eye. Dogstar also appears alongside that crew more than once further muddying things. It’s mostly par for the course, but I was hopeful the finale would be a little more polished.

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This ended up being the last shot of Toadborg in the series. How fitting.

A lot of the plot points in this episode are also quite convenient. Jenny has a power she’s never used which can awaken Bucky, and Komplex was felled by a simple power cord. Wouldn’t they have noticed that during the initial confrontation? Maybe they would have had it actually been drawn into any of those frames as opposed to just magically appearing when Bucky needed it to. Toadborg was also ultimately felled by a door, but also by Toad incompetence on the part of Frix and Frax. Though after the events of episode 3, you would think the Toads would know to keep their doors closed or maybe just empty the captured Righteous Indignation of fuel or whatever powers it. Toad Air Marshall is also no where to be found which is rather curious. I don’t know that I missed him, more just that I was surprised by his absence. Also absent is Pit Stop Pete who isn’t shown aboard the Indefatigable at all. And it would have been nice if the plan included the Screaming Mimi as well, just to get all three ships together for the first time.

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There’s still a lot to like about this one as a season finale. It brought together most of the show’s characters and even brought back Warren and the climate converter.

All in all though, this is a suitable way for the season to end. Had it been written as a series finale there may have been more finality to it. I don’t think we’re supposed to think Komplex has finally been defeated or anything, and obviously Toadborg will be just fine. Instead it was just an important, major, victory for the mammals and Bucky can rest easy knowing his home is back the way it used to be. It has imperfections as an episode (or should I say warts?), but they all do. I wanted this to be the best episode of the series, and it’s not, but it’s one of the better ones. I’ll reserve my final thoughts on the series for a follow-up post next week, but right now I mostly feel content with how the series ended.

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