Hey, welcome to It’s Saturday morning – Do you know what your children are? – a series of posts taking a look back at the Saturday morning cartoon, X-Men (aka X-Men: The Animated Series). Over the course of multiple posts I will be taking a look back at X-Men, through a complete re-watch of all 76 episodes of the show.
These posts will be appearing on a semi-regular basis (not always on a Saturday) and will discuss the episodes as I watch them – usually in a batch of half-a-dozen or more. I’m watching the episodes in standard definition as X-Men: The Animated Series is not currently available on Blu-ray (boo) or in HD.
As this series progresses, I’ll be throwing in little titbits about the show and commenting on the first time these episodes aired in the UK. I may also chuck in a few additional X-Men posts, depending on what comes up during my re-watch.
Anyway, time to get started with Marvel’s merry mutants…
Night of the Sentinels: Part 1
This episode first aired in the US in late 1992. It didn’t air in the UK until I believe 1993, when the show was picked up by SKY (satellite TV).
It was then another year before the show was broadcast on the BBC, via Saturday morning kids show, Live & Kicking (late 1994). At which point, the BBC was able to broadcast Seasons One, Two and some of Three on a weekly basis for 29 consecutive weeks.
It may have taken AGES for the majority of the UK to see X-Men, but once it started it had a decent run (for a while). I’ll explain the erratic schedule in later posts.
1min – The opening credits to X-Men are SO GOOD. They still stand up to this day.
2mins – This episode opens with scenes of mutant/anti-mutant violence.
3mins – The Sentinels are introduced and are one of the best X-Men villains in the entire show. These guys become the villain of the season, ensuring the first 13 episodes of X-Men are pretty damn good (with one exception – see below).
3mins 50secs – Jubilee has just met Storm and Rogue. Rogue has only said one line so far and already she’s a stand-out character.
4mins 20secs – Enter: Gambit.
5mins 40secs – “You’re flying?!”
7mins – So, this opening episode is all about establishing the fear, hatred and bigotry that people have for mutants, while also introducing the team. The way this is achieved is through the character, Jubilee – a young girl who crosses paths with the X-Men.
9mins 50secs – Domino, Cannonball and Magneto just received cameos on a television report. Magneto will make a full appearance in episode three, but Cannonball won’t get a proper introduction until the final season. Domino appears in episode seven (I think), but she’s never named.
11mins – 11 minutes into the first episode and Wolverine makes his debut. Wolverine was – and still is – a fan favourite character, despite his over-exposure in comics/movies.
12mins – The introduction of the Danger Room – a combat room which makes use of high tech holographic images to create training scenarios.
14mins 15secs – “Does your daughter have any mutant friends?”
16mins – This first episode introduces Morph; a character that was pretty much made up for this show. He was loosely based on an existing (very minor) character called Changeling. After the show was produced, Morph did become a character in the comics. Although, he was very different to how he is here.
16mins 15secs – Professor Xavier – founder of the X-Men – explains that his goal is to see the peaceful co-existence between mutants and non-mutants.
16mins 35secs – This episode establishes the conflict between Wolverine and Cyclops. Both are coming across as right dicks.
17mins 30secs – Rogue is explaining her powers. If she makes skin-to-skin contact she will absorb a person’s essence and/or abilities.
18mins – The X-Men are on a mission, to break into a Government building and destroy all records relating to mutants.
20mins 20secs – “You look as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”
21mins – The first episode packs a lot in:
- Introduces all of the X-Men
- Establishes a hatred for mutants
- Demonstrates the X-Men will break the law for the greater good
- Introduces a character who is set to die
A strong first episode, packed full of exposition, but also some action. The animation looks dated as hell (more about this later), but a great starting point for the series.
Right, time for episode two…
Night of the Sentinels: Part 2
2mins 50secs – A brief recap, before we now pick up the cliffhanger.
3mins – The X-Men are about to be outnumbered by Government guards.
4mins – Meanwhile, in Detroit…. Jubilee has been kidnapped, made to feel like she’s a danger to the world and is being asked to rat on the X-Men. She refuses. What a trooper!
5mins 30secs – The plan is to build 100 Sentinels then use them to round-up mutants. Let’s see how that works out, shall we?
7mins 20secs – “Didn’t I tell you? Clear sailing all the way.” #FamousLastWords
7mins 50secs – Morph has just been killed off (off-screen).
9mins – Killing Morph served two purposes:
- The world the X-Men live in is very dangerous
- It establishes that anyone can die in this cartoon (although no one really does)
10mins – As well as Morph’s death, the Beast is also captured. This becomes an important plot point throughout the first season and Beast spends the majority of his time on trial/in jail.
13mins – A female president! HURRAH! We’re more than 25 years on from when this cartoon first aired and… there still hasn’t been a female president. What’s that all about?
15mins – The President doesn’t have a major beef with the X-Men. In fact, she wants the Sentinel programme shut down.
15mins 50secs – “People fear what they don’t understand.”
19mins – The X-Men are rescuing Jubilee.
20mins – Something I didn’t note during episode one, so I’ll note it here: Each episode ends with a little character bio for the core cast, to further explain who each hero is. These end credits aired on SKY, but did not appear when the BBC broadcast the episodes via Live & Kicking.
5secs – Previously on X-Men…
10secs – I love the fact the show has to include a recap and it’s only the third episode! And this is something worth noting. This first season has a story arc which spans 13 episodes, so there needs to be a constant reminder of what’s taken place so viewers can keep up with the serialised nature of the show.
3mins – The Beast is incarcerated.
4mins – Magneto has made his debut. Beast knows who Magneto is, even though he says they have never met. I feel like this is something which is contradicted at some point later in the series. I could be wrong.
5mins – Magneto is offering to break Beast out of his cell, but Beast refuses, pointing out that he would rather await his day in court to prove his innocence. I love the Beast.
6mins – Introducing Magneto helps to demonstrate a different viewpoint to the series. While Xavier and his X-Men believe in mutant/non-mutant co-existence, Magneto feels that mutants should dominate their non-mutant oppressors. This is all in contrast to a growing wave of anti-mutant sentiment, whereby some people feel that mutants should be killed or imprisoned.
6mins 20secs – A flashback explaining Xavier/Magneto’s early years. Here and throughout the series, Xavier refers to Magneto as ‘Magnus’. This is just one of the names that Magneto has gone by in the comics. In the movies, he is known as Eric.
8mins 40secs – Cameron Hodge makes his debut as Beast’s lawyer. Hodge makes additional appearances in the show, becoming a villain in The Phalanx Covenant two-part story.
11mins 30secs – It’s being established that Wolverine and Sabretooth have a history. Wolverine does not like Sabretooth.
17mins – “Better than we die on our feet, than live on our knees.”
Another great episode, which not only further’s the story arc but also introduces one of the all-time great Marvel villains – Magneto!
2mins – Cameos for Deadpool, Maverick, Omega Red and more, as we’re shown a snapshot into the mind of Sabretooth! Oooh…
4mins – Four episodes in and the story here is pretty full-on for a kids TV show, yet it’s rarely played down. Well done.
5mins 20secs – Sabretooth said that he and Wolverine used to be friends, but they fell out. According to Wolverine, Sabretooth “wasted” a couple of his friends. That’s one hell of a disagreement!
5mins 25secs – And yes, Wolverine did say “wasted”. Characters were not allowed to say died/killed. Death was merely implied.
7mins – Magneto is back!
7mins 30secs – “Now we must face, the Master of Magnetism.”
8mins – I love it! Magneto has just made a joke about Xavier’s baldness. This show has occasional moments of humour and they’re great!
8mins 30secs – It’s worth noting, if you watch these episodes via Amazon Prime Video you have access to the ‘X-Ray facility, which provides additional trivia on each episode.
9mins – The first reference to Storm’s claustrophobia!
10mins 50secs – Rogue has accidentally absorbed Cyclops’ powers. This highlights Rogue’s strength in battle, but also her weakness.
15mins – Senator Kelly has just declared his candidacy for the role of US President. He’s making it clear that should he win, mutants will be sent to internment camps. Heavy stuff for a cartoon, but also a reflection on opinions that still exist today.
17mins 45secs – “You egg-sucking piece of gutter trash.” A quality insult from Wolverine.
Four episodes in and this show continues to demonstrate it is a cut above the rest. The only other cartoon series that was similar in tone to this one was Batman: The Animated Series, which started airing in 1992, via Saturday morning kids show, Whats Up Doc?.
2mins – Jean is pretty pathetic at this stage in the show.
2mins 35secs – Xavier reminds everyone about Morph’s death. Cheers Chuck, I’m sure that’s what your team wants to be reminded of.
3mins – This episode is about Storm establishing herself as a leader.
3mins 30secs – A reminder of Storm’s claustrophobia.
5mins – Although both Magneto and the Sentinels sit this episode out, they can both be seen on a newspaper report, reminding viewers of their importance in the overall season.
5mins 25secs – The sewer-dwelling mutants known as the Morlocks make their debut in this episode.
8mins – A number of Morlocks are introduced in this episode, including Leech – a mutant with the ability to supress mutant abilities…
8mins 45secs – …and Callisto – the leader of the Morlocks.
13mins – Cyclops is supposedly dead.
13mins 40secs – It’s a ruse.
16mins 30secs – “Let’s bust out of this puke hole.” Yet more great dialogue from Wolverine.
17mins – A new story beat is being developed further here – the idea that Wolverine has a thing for Jean.
17mins 50secs – Storm and Callisto have entered into a leadership battle over the Morlocks.
17mins 55secs – Did X-Men introduce the double-ended lightsabre before The Phantom Menace?
Definitely getting Phantom Menace vibes.
18mins 30secs – Storm is pretty bad-ass in this episode.
19mins – This episode establishes Storm as leader of the Morlocks, but with Callisto in charge in her absence. While the Morlocks only make a few appearances in the series, it is noted again that Storm is their leader, so it is nice that this story beat is maintained.
20mins – Continuing the serialised nature of the show, the episode ends on a minor cliffhanger. Wolverine has left the X-Mansion!
It’s five for five with this show – five great episodes in a row!
I really like Captive Hearts as it put the focus on Storm, while balancing additional story beats (the Jean-Cyclops-Wolverine triangle, the growing hatred of mutants etc).
Surely with the show being THIS good, nothing can throw a spanner in the works now?
1min – I’ll say this right off the bat – I dislike this episode. It’s the only dud of the first season.
3mins 50secs – The story sees Wolverine going toe-to-toe with Sabretooth, while on a journey to find himself (or something like that).
6mins – This episode also sets up the storyline for the next episode, which involves the island of Genosha (more about that next time).
9mins – Wolverine comes across as a right dick in this episode.
12mins – I swear this whole story is just an opportunity for Wolverine & Sabretooth to out act each other. They’re such divas!
15mins 55secs – What do you mean there are occasional errors in the animation?
17mins 40secs – “MY EYES!” The over acting continues.
19mins 30secs – This episode has a great cliffhanger. Gambit, Storm and Jubilee are attacked whilst on Genosha. This whole end sequence (which lasts about a minute) is better than anything else in the episode.
A rubbish episode, but it doesn’t tarnish what is a FANTASTIC series! This show really helped make a name for the X-Men, paving the way for the live-action movie series that would follow in the ’00s.
Right, that’s it for today. I shall be back with more episodes and more discussions in a future post.
If you want to talk about these episodes, share your thoughts or have a general discussion about the X-Men, then head to the comments section and start the conversation.