We open in an old, spooky graveyard located outside of Megakat City. A sign informs us that it’s a historical site and is off-limits to civilians. However, that doesn’t seem to bother the grave robbers who are digging around. The bigger of the two, Jack (Earl Boen), whines that the old cemetary is “cursed,” and that they shouldn’t be there. His partner, Tom (Charlie Adler, who also voices T-Bone), calls him a “scaredy-cat” and says that if they find anything valuable, “the museum’ll pay big bucks for it!”
Suddenly Tom’s pickaxe hits something, and he sees that he’s found an old chest of some sort. He and Jack dig the thing up, and then Tom uses Jack’s shovel to pry the lid off, saying that there’s probably buried treasure inside. When the lid finally comes off, light comes from within, nearly blinding the grave robbers. When it finally dissipates, they look inside and discover a small, red skeleton wearing purple robes and clutching a gold pocketwatch. “Ugliest treasure I’ve ever seen,” grumbles Jack.
Tom pries it open, only to find a small red skeleton in purple robes and clutching a gold pocket watch.
Tom however says that the watch might be worth something. But as he reaches for it, the skeleton’s eye pops open and the figure springs to life, leaping out of the chest.
The grave robbers back away fearfully, Jack asking the skeleton who he is. He announces himself as the Pastmaster (the late Keene Curtis), then points at the chest and says he was imprisoned within it for 800 years. Jack moans that the place is cursed again before the Pastmaster declares, “At last I’m finally free!” and runs off to find his “book of spells.”
Jack, wisely, suggests they leave. Tom won’t listen, and says they can sell “that old gnome” to the museum, then grabs his pickaxe and advances on the diminutive wizard, who is now digging around in a cubbyhole at the base of what seems to be an old church clocktower, muttering things like “curse the council” and “my book isn’t where I hid it!” Don’t worry yourselves wondering about “the council,” because we’ll never learn who they are. Jack, apparently for lack of anything better to do, grabs his shovel and follows suit.
The grave robbers approach, with Tom declaring, “You’re comin’ with us, Pastmaster!” Calling them “foolish mortals,” the Pastmaster holds out his pocketwatch and uses it to zap some scattered bones with a beam of energy, causing them to reassemble into two cat skeletons. The skeletons advance on Jack and Tom, who try to fight them with their digging tools. The skeletons rip the tools from their hands, so the two crooks turn and run away, vaulting over the graveyard fence. The Pastmaster says to let them go, then orders the skeletons to start digging around for his book.
The skeletons are just barely getting to work when a helicopter bearing the Enforcer icon (a big, gold “M”) comes flying over the graveyard.
Its spotlight falls upon the skeletons, and the pilot orders them to “put down those shovels” because they’re under arrest. Now hiding behind a tree and looking on, the Pastmaster declares that those “modern fools” with their “infernal machine” can’t stop him, and tells the skeletons to attack the chopper.
They do so by walking right up to the aircraft, which is now hovering just about six feet off the ground, and start banging on it with the pick and shovel (!!). Inside, the pilot and co-pilot have seemingly realized for the first time that their suspects aren’t exactly alive; “Do we read these things their rights?” asks the co-pilot, puzzled. The pilot declares over the loudspeaker that the skeletons “have the right to remain buried,” and fires on them with the chopper’s twin chain guns.
"These bones ain't movin' now."
The gunfire rips the skeletons apart, needless to say. The chopper lands and the co-pilot gets out, walking up to the pile of bones. Kicking away a skull, he says, “These bones ain’t movin’ now.”
Then he spots the old chest that Jack and Tom dug up, and asks the pilot what they should do with it. The pilot reponds by saing “headquarters” wants them to take it to the museum. Wow, headquarters sure works fast, giving their officers orders before they even found the thing. As the two Enforcers begin loading the chest into a cargo net, the Pastmaster, still hiding behind that tree, watches them. “Perhaps this ‘museum’ has my book,” he reasons.
A short while later, the Enforcer chopper is flying over Megakat City, which looks like every other big metropolitan cityscape in every other action cartoon. The chest is hanging in the cargo net, suspended below the chopper, and the Pastmaster is hitching a ride by holding onto the chopper’s landing gear. He looks down, marveling at the modern city (amongst other things, we see a huge billboard avertising “Kitty Cola”). Although he is impressed with what’s been accomplished in 800 years, he wants “the Dark Ages” back, and vows to arrange that once he finds his book, which we learn here is called the Tome of Time.
Now, we cut to the secret, underground base of the SWAT Kats, where we find T-Bone and Razor testing their resistance to G-forces in a centrifuge. Just like that.
No real lead-in that properly introduces these two, the two most important characters in the entire freakin’ series. T-Bone is the pilot between the two, the one who flies the Turbokat, a big, burly feline with yellow fur ‘n’ stripes on his arms, while Razor is smaller, skinnier, and has light brown fur; he’s the “brains” of the SWAT Kats and invents all their weaponry, and is also the gunner of the jet. None of which is established here at all, really.
Anyways, here we get the first indication that although T-Bone and Razor are partners and close friends, they are extremely competitive with one another. Here, for instance, their being in the centrifuge isn’t so much about testing their G-force tolerance, but more to see who can go the longest without losing consciousness. Huh, sounds kind dangerous to me. T-Bone wins holding out for 10 seconds at Mach 5, a fact he seems to really enjoy rubbing in the face of poor Razor, who couldn’t handle the pressure and blacked out.
After regaining consciousness, he accuses T-Bone of cheating: “How do I know you made 10 seconds? I mean, you could’ve passed out, too, and just made it up to yank my tail!” T-Bone is naturally none too happy about being called a cheater, and challenges Razor to a second contest, “two outta three!” Then it’s back in the centrifuge for the two of them, T-Bone telling Razor to just admit that he can last longer than him. Razor retorts that he’ll believe it when he sees it. Can’t ya just feel the love…?
We then cut to the Megakat City Museum of History, where Deputy Mayor Calico “Callie” Briggs (Tress MacNeille) is visiting Dr. Abby Sinian (Linda Gary).
First off, lemme say that I don’t like Callie Briggs at all. I’ve explained why so many times I don’t really feel like doing it here, so I’ll just say that I think she’s incredibly self-rightious and hypocritcal, although there’s not too much evidence of it in this episode (the next two, “The Giant Bacteria” and “The Wrath of Dark Kat”, provide better examples of this).
She and Dr. Sinian here are our first two examples of what the characters sometimes call “she-kats,” that is, female “kats.” Pretty much all the female cats in this show resemble human females with cat ears and noses stuck on, a tactic/style choice that I find intensely annoying. Anyways, Callie’s your typical blonde bombshell, and she has weird, “uni-lens” glasses.
Dr. Abby Sinian, meanwhile, is the curator of the museum, a somewhat older brunette “she-kat,” and she’s in the middle of telling Callie about some upcoming exhibits. Apparently, the museum is closed for repairs or something.
And why is Callie, the Deputy Mayor, down at the museum jotting down notes about exhibits? For “the Mayor’s press release.”
This is, of course, just an excuse for Callie to be present so she can summon the SWAT Kats when that dastardly Pastmaster shows up and then be endangered (which is pretty much her whole purpose in the series, aside from letting everyone know how great the SWAT Kats are).
All throughout Callie’s little Q&A session with Dr. Sinian, the chest that the Enforcer pilots brought in has been sitting on an examination table, and Callie, noticing it, asks if it’ll be in the exhibit. The exhibit, by the way, is supposed to be about the history of Megakat City. What, they’re only now doing an exhibit about the history of the very city they’re based in?!
Dr. Sinian responds that it “just came in,” but it’s definitely a part of Megakat City’s darker history. She tells Callie that the runes on the chest date back to the Dark Ages, and theorizes that there were likely jewels buried inside. “Who knows what our ancestors might have buried in here?” she rhetorically asks. Oh, I dunno… some evil midget with a magic pocketwatch?
The Pastmaster, meanwhile, has slipped inside the museum and is walking the halls. He mutters that “here, the past is dead” and that “I prefer my past alive.” He’s accosted by a uniformed security guard, who tells him that the museum’s closed.
“And I say it is open!” the Pastmaster says, scaring the guard by pulling back his hood to reveal his hideous, skeletal visage (curiously though, he still has ears and short, white hair).
He then turns and zaps a stuffed display of a saber-toothed tiger (yes, apparently there are/were normal felines in this universe alongside the anthropomorphic ones, although this is the only example we’ll see) with the watch, like he did with the skeletons in the graveyard. The display comes alive and attacks the guard, who backpeddles right into a large dinosaur skeleton, bringing the entire thing crashing down on him. The Pastmaster tells the tiger to make sure no one else disturbs him while he looks for his book, then wanders off.
Hearing the noise, Callie and Dr. Sinian come running. Sinian observes that “one of the exhibits has fallen” and then the saber-toothed tiger appears. “One of the exhibits is alive!” gasps Callie. It chases them from the hall.
The Pastmaster has gone into the room where the chest is, and is just indiscriminately smashing stuff and complaining aloud about how he can’t find the damn book. He finds Callie’s purse and digs through it, tossing the contents out onto the floor. In what is likely my favorite bit of the episode, he eats Callie’s tube of lipstick! Among the items that the Pastmaster discards is a little triangular device, which acts as a communicator and allows Callie to contact the SWAT Kats.
In tossing the communicator to the floor the Pastmaster somehow activates it, causing an alarm to go off back at the SWAT Kats’ hangar, where T-Bone and Razor are still going at it in the centrifuge. T-Bone stops the machine and goes to answer the call, pausing to boast at Razor (once again unconscious) that he went “11 seconds at Mach 5.”
He then picks up an ordinary telephone (!!) and asks “Miss Briggs” what the problem is. Naturally, he gets no answer, whilst back at the museum the saber-toothed tiger has stopped chasing Callie and Dr. Sinian long enough to come into the room and bite the communicator, terminating the call.
Realizing this means “big trouble,” T-Bone wakes Razor up by throwing a bucket of ice water on him, and then the SWAT Kats are jumping into the Turbokat and soaring off down a tunnel, shooting out through a hidden opening somewhere in the city scrapyard (more on this to come in my review of “The Giant Bacteria”).
The communicator apparently also gives off a signal, which Razor can now follow with the Turbokat’s onboard computer, and– Hey, wait a minute! The communicator was destroyed!!! What “signal” is Razor following? Does Callie have a microchip implanted in her or something?!