Yay, another SWAT Kats review! This time it’s, obviously, the second episode of the show.
“The Giant Bacteria” was the first episode of the show I ever saw, and is what got me hooked on the series so long ago. And speaking of firsts, it was also the first episode of the show that Hanna-Barbera produced, and was also the first of roughly five or six episodes that creators Christian and Yvon Tremblay provided the story for.
In fact, the premise of “The Giant Bacteria” is what they used to sell the show to Hanna-Barbera. Despite being the first one made, it was the second one aired, and although there’s a variety of possibilities for this, I’m unsure why.
“The Giant Bacteria” is an episode that is both better and worse than the preceding one, depending on how you look at it. The story, simplistic though it is, doesn’t have as many plot holes as “The Pastmaster Always Rings Twice”, and actually does a somewhat better job of introducing the main characters and key elements of the show then the “pilot” did. Unfortunately, the animation is complete and utter crap compared to that of “The Pastmaster Always Rings Twice”, done by a Korean company whose name was, I believe, Hanho-Heung-Up or something like that.
It also happens to be, to many, the series’ most dark and horrific episode and, in truth, part of it it actually scared the living daylights out of me the first time I saw it back in 1993.
On with the recap!
This episode starts off with a bang. Literally.
A bayside oil refinery goes kablooey, and we quickly see that it was apparently bombed as a nondescript purple fighter jet comes zooming through the huge column of smoke. It flies off across the bay towards the city (the refinery appears to be on a small penninsula across the bay from Megakat City) with a trio of Enforcer choppers in hot pursuit. How helicopters can keep up with a jet is beyond me, and this is one of the series’ silliest moments.
Later episodes establish that the Enforcers do have fighter jets of their own, so why they didn’t have them use them here is beyond me, but I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s because, since this was the first episode written and produced, they hadn’t yet decided to give the Enforcers aircraft comparable to the Turbokat. Anyway, these three choppers chase the bad guy off across the bay, and the SWAT Kats hurriedly join the pursuit in the Turbokat.
Evidently, this guy has been at this for a while, as T-Bone comments, “Does that crazy megalo think he can blow up every refinery in Megakat City?” Razor responds that it looks like he’s doing a good job, so far, and I’m inclined to agree with him. He’s already completely annihilated one with both the SWAT Kats and the Enforcers completely helpless to stop him. Ahead, those three choppers are doing such a good job of keeping up that the villain’s jet (we don’t know who is in the pilot’s seat yet) turns around and flies straight at them and proceeds to dispose of them by shooting them down with missiles. Oddly, he does this using only two missiles, although it appears as if the third chopper is taken out by one of the other two exploding right alongside it, since they’re flying in a pretty tight formation. The jet then resumes its original course. T-Bone, observing, says, “He shredded those Enforcer choppers like an old scratchin’ post!” and decides that only the SWAT Kats can bring this crazed bomber down!
They hurriedly gain on the other pilot, and now they’re suddenly flying directly over the city. Razor gets a lock on the other jet, and fires an Octopus Missile (which, if you didn’t read the previous review, look like regular missiles until their tips pop apart into a little eight-armed claw). The missile closes on the other jet, which doesn’t make any move that indicates its pilot even knows he’s about to be hit, prompting T-Bone to wryly go, “Sucker doesn’t even see it comin’.” Suddenly, at the last second, the villain banks out of the way and lets the missile slam into a random building. That’s twice so far the Octopus Missiles have been a complete failure; its track record so far isn’t very good.
By the way up until this point, both SWAT Kats have been wearing their oxygen masks, one of the few times in the series they do so. T-Bone rips his off in surprise, demanding to know how “Sure Shot” Razor missed. Equally taken aback, Razor, removing his own breathing mask, cries, “That guy must have eyes in the back of his head!” as T-Bone flips the Turbokat over upside-down for some reason.
We cut ahead to the other jet and get our first look at the bad guy flying it. His name, we’ll soon learn, is Morbulus (voiced by Jim Cummings). He’s a fairly big, beefy cat with a neatly-trimmed beard, and he turns his head to look back at his pursuers, revealing….a second pair of eyes in the back of his head!
He’s even wearing flight goggles with two more lenses in the back for his extra eyes. Of course, this brings up an interesting problem. If he has eyes in the back of his head and can therefore see what’s behind him, why must he turn his head to look back at the SWAT Kats? It’s a fun reveal of the extra eyes until one realizes that they would negate the need for him to look over his shoulder. This character was, also, originally going to be named “Occulus,” a name that would actually make more sense given his, er, “power.” But after they discovered there was already a Marvel villain with that name, they had to change it. He’s also notable for being the first of only two characters in this show to actually have slits for pupils (in all four eyes), most of the time anyway.
The upside-down Turbokat moves over Morbulus’ jet so that they’re cockpit-to-cockpit. T-Bone and Razor look down at Morbulus while Morbulus looks up at them, with his rear set of eyes no less. “Whoa! He does have eyes in the back of his head!” cries Razor. T-Bone, unimpressed, tells Razor that this is still no excuse for him missing, as Morbulus yells up at them “You’ll have to do better than that, SWAT Kats, to catch Morbulus! Or…..die trying!” Laughing evilly, he zooms off between two buildings. T-Bone (in the now all of a sudden rightside-up Turbokat) smirks and says “Four-Eyes” wants to play “canyon tag,” and follows Morbulus as he flies down into the city and zooms under a bridge.
After a brief chase through Megakat City, both jets come out of the buildings and fly, um, back over the bay again. The city’s placement and layout is a little difficult to determine.
Anyway, Mobulus is making a beeline straight for “the Megakat Refinery,” one of the oil refineries he hasn’t destroyed yet. Razor suddenly tells T-Bone to fly into a cloud bank, saying he’s got an idea. T-Bone complies, grumbling, “I hope it’s better than your aim.” Jeez, give the guy a break, T-Bone! The fact the villain has eyes in the back of his head should immediately render Razor blameless for missing him.
Morbulus’ jet moves over the refinery. Snickering evilly, he goes, “Scratch one more refinery!” and pulls a lever, causing the bomb bay doors of his jet to open up. A bomb is then lowered down, but for some reason he doesn’t immediately drop it. This buys the SWAT Kats enough time to stop him, of course, as T-Bone, having used the cloud bank as cover, flies the Turbokat up underneath the other jet, where, presumably, Morbulus can’t see them.
“Let’s see if this guy has eyes under his head,” Razor says, then presses a button. We see a display marked “Cookie-Cutter,” and a missile is then launched from the top of the Turbokat.
This is, easily, the episode’s dumbest moment. The Cookie-Cutter Missile is an insanely contrived missile whose tip pops off to allow a big cutting metal circle to unfold. It somehow attaches itself to the bottom of Morbulus’ jet (what is holding it on?). The circle then spins around rapidly, and then the missile falls away, pulling with it the section of the cockpit to which Morbulus’ seat is attached….with Morblus still sitting in it and holding the steering mechanism!
He plummets, and, rather than let him fall to his death, the SWAT Kats grab him out of the air using the Sky Claw, a big claw-like mechanism on the end of a cable that comes out of the bottom of the Turbokat. He also somehow comes unbuckled from his seat during freefall, and the seat, cockpit section, and Cookie-Cutter Missile continue falling down to earth. His pilotless jet, meanwhile, spirals out of control and lands in the bay.
Now hopefully I don’t to explain why him getting cut right out of his jet is so silly, but I also wanna add that when the Sky Claw snags him (by the collar of his flight suit!) it stops his fall so suddenly that it should’ve killed him! Except for one other moment later on in the episode “Night of the Dark Kat” involving a surprisingly non-fatal bazooka blast, this is the most ridiculously cartoonish moment in the entire series.
And it just gets worse. Now that they’ve got Morbulus, they have to decide what to do with him. They can, as T-Bone puts it, “Dunk or deliver.” “Dunk” meaning drop him into the water (from a lower altitude) just for the hell of it, and “deliver” of course meaning holding onto him and handing him over to the Enforcers. Guess which one they pick. Yup. Both T-Bone and Razor give a unanimous thumbs-down and say “Dunk!” and then the Sky Claw releases Morbulus who falls a short distance and splashes into the bay. And even though he lands feet-first, they call it a “Mega bellyflop!” Then, figuring the Enforcers can handle things from here, they fly off and head home.
No sooner have they left than another Enforcer chopper flies onto the scene. Morbulus, or what appears to be Morbulus, is floating face-down in the water, apparently having drowned. A little crane extends from the side of the chopper and fishes the waterlogged villain out using a hook on the end of a cable than snags him by the back of his suit. Um, this sounds like a rather needlessly dangerous way to fish somebody out of the water, but what do I know?
The chopper flies over to the shore near the refinery and sets him down just as Deputy Mayor Callie Briggs drive up in her green civilian car. She gets out and comes over, kneeling down alongside Morbulus’ body to check his vitals. The chopper lands nearby and disgorges Commander Feral who runs over and tells her to keep away from him, as he could still be dangerous. “Yes, he could be,” Callie responds, “if he was here!” She then pulls off Morbulus’ helmet to reveal it’s just his empty clothes! What?!
There’s a couple of problems with this whole part of the episode that drive me batty. For starters, there’s no way that Morbulus could’ve gotten out of his clothes so quickly in the time shown, much less put them all back together so as to make it look like he’s still in them.
Secondly, and a lot more frustrating for me, is that Callie for some unfathomable reason blames Feral for Morbulus’ escape. Look, lady, Commander Feral got there when he could. If the SWAT Kats had held onto the guy and waited to turn him over to the Enforcers instead of dunking him for their own personal amusement, he’d be on his way to jail right now. What’s even more maddening, is that Feral actually tells her this, but she ignores him completely!!!
At this point, a white limousine drives up followed by a couple of TV news vans (one marked “Kat’s Eye News,” the other “Inside Megakat City”). They stop and the chauffeur gets out and opens the back door of the limo, and who should emerge but Mayor Manx. From both vans comes a mob of reporters, who surrounded the Mayor, who doesn’t look at all uncomfortable in front of the TV cameras. One reporter, Ann Gora (Candi Milo), asks Manx is the “Refinery Reign of Terror” is over. Ann is a minor character here but she becomes more important later on in the series. Annoyingly, we aren’t told at all here precisely why Morbulus was blowing up oil refineries.
Manx assures them that the bad guy’s been caught, thoroughly embarrassing himself when Callie steps in and tells him that Morbulus got away. The reporters then turn their attention to Commander Feral, asking him to set the record straight. Feral says that “despite our valiant efforts, the villain known as Morbulus managed to escape, although we believe he may have drowned in the bay.”
We’re immediately shown that this is not the case. Further down the beach, Morbulus comes ashore wearing nothing but a wifebeater and purple (!) boxer shorts. Not looking wet in the least, he climbs up into a big drain pipe that’s emptying sewage into the bay. “No way I’m gonna rot in some Megakat City prison,” he sneers. Suddenly, a pair of glowing yellow eyes appear inside the drain pipe behind him. He flinches fearfully as a spooky voice says that he can find other uses for the defeated villain. Uh-oh.