Welcome back 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.
Having worked my way through Season One (Part 1 & 2), Season Two (Part 3 & 4), and the majority of Season Three (Part 5 & 6), I’m now into the final six episodes of the third season. And I couldn’t be more excited!
Today I am going to be watching the four-part story, The Dark Phoenix (Saga) – some of my favourite episodes in the entire series.
The Dark Phoenix story covers the first four episodes in today’s viewing session, with two non-Phoenix episodes to round-out the season.
Here we go!
The Dark Phoenix: Part 1: Dazzled
A quick history lesson for those living in the UK. The Dark Phoenix (Saga) marked the point where the BBC began airing X-Men on Sunday mornings via kids TV show, Fully Booked. From this point on the show remained on Sunday mornings.
I told you it was a quick history lesson.
1min – Jean is alive and recovering on Muir Island. There’s not much of an explanation as to how she got there.
2mins 20secs – Dazzler makes her second appearance in X-Men. She previously appeared in the Season Two episode, Mojovision.
3mins 20secs – Donald Pierce of the Hellfire Club/Inner Circle has just appeared…
6mins – …and now Sebastian Shaw and Harry Leland…
6mins 40secs – …followed by Jason Wyngarde and Emma Frost.
8mins – A brief recap of The Phoenix Saga, including an explanation for how Phoenix is alive. Basically, she just turned up on Earth.
15mins – So, in this episode, Jason Wyngarde (aka Mastermind) is using his mutant abilities to create illusions, implanting thoughts into Jean’s mind. It’s never really explained very well in the series, but while Wyngarde appears rather dashing and debonair, he’s really a bit of a dishevelled old lech. He uses his abilities to alter his appearance.
16mins – Jean is now sporting a red costume. Ladies and gentlemen – the Dark Phoenix has arrived.
16mins 45secs – There’s really no point Dazzler being in this episode. Plus, she comes across as a right dick!
19mins – The X-Men vs. the Inner Circle.
20mins 20secs – Jean is wearing her green Phoenix costume again. Was the appearance of the red costume earlier an animation error? Is this costume now the error?
An exciting opener, which introduces new characters and a new enemy in Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix. There is no point including Dazzler in the episode, but I’m going to let it slide because everything else works so well.
The Dark Phoenix: Part 2: The Inner Circle
3mins 30secs – The X-Men have been captured by the Inner Circle. The Inner Circle are using the power-dampening collars, first seen in the Season One episode, Slave Island to keep them subdued.
5mins – The animation in this episode is great and Wolverine is SOOOOO cool. Wolverine gets used way too much in the X-Men (all incarnations of the X-Men franchise) but when he’s good, he’s really good. He’s brilliant in this episode.
11mins – This instalment is mostly concerned with Wyngarde’s continued manipulation of Jean’s mind.
14mins 30secs – All this mind manipulation has sent Jean crazy.
15mins – The X-Men vs. the Inner Circle: Take two.
19mins – Wyngarde’s illusions have failed.
19mins 30secs – The Dark Phoenix has arrived (again).
I must have watched and re-watched this episode countless times when it first aired. What a fantastic way to spend my time.
I was a carefree kid, whose only worry was something getting in the way of me seeing the next episode of X-Men.
Speaking of which…
The Dark Phoenix: Part 3: The Dark Phoenix
2mins 25secs – The title of this chapter in The Dark Phoenix (Saga) is called… The Dark Phoenix. That’s lazy writing.
3mins – Despite the unimaginative title, this is actually one of the best episodes in the entire series.
3mins 30secs – As with the previous episode, the animation in this chapter is great.
4mins 30secs – The X-Men vs. the Dark Phoenix!
5mins – The music in this episode is also really good.
5mins 10secs – The Dark Phoenix has just turned a tree into gold. Now that is a useful ability! Hey, Jean, you want to magic me up one of those gold trees?
6mins 40secs – Cameos for: Doctor Strange, Thor an Uatu (the Watcher).
7mins 10secs – Another cameo, this time for Eternity.
8mins 50secs – The Dark Phoenix has just fed on a star system, destroying it in the process.
9mins – In this take on The Dark Phoenix Saga, the star system was uninhabited, but in the original comic book storyline it was home to an alien race known as the D’Bari.
12mins 30secs – In her emotional (unhinged) state, Jean/Dark Phoenix has returned home to where her parents live.
14mins 15secs – After making at least four mid-air rescues, Rogue comments: “What is this, catch the X-Men day?” This line ALWAYS makes me laugh. I do love Rogue.
14mins 30secs – Wolverine has the opportunity to kill the Dark Phoenix, but he can’t bring himself to do it.
16mins 30secs – Xavier vs. Dark Phoenix! The two characters entire a battle of the mind.
18mins 30secs – Xavier has won; Jean is (sort of) back in control; the X-Men are happy. Whatever could go wrong?
19mins 30secs – The Shi’ar arrive on Earth and demand that the Phoenix be destroyed! Oh dear.
I could easily re-watch that episode again – if it wasn’t for the fact I’ve previously watched it more times than I care to admit. Oh, and I need to move on to the next instalment!
The Dark Phoenix: Part 4: The Fate of the Phoenix
1min 30secs – I’m 43 episodes into this series and I’m still not bored with the opening credits.
2mins 30secs – The X-Men (or rather, Xavier) has challenged the Shi’ar to a battle to the death. He sees this as the only way to save Jean.
3mins 36secs – The X-Men are in an arena in space. In the crowd are various alien lifeforms, including a red Xenomorph from the Alien series. I’ve never noticed this before.
4mins 25secs – The Kree Supreme Intelligence and the Empress of the Skrulls have just made a brief appearance. I think this is their only appearance in X-Men.
7mins – As the X-Men prepare for the end, Jean switches from her Phoenix outfit to her Marvel Girl suit. She mentions that this is her old outfit.
7mins 30secs – Jean has visions of a possible feature in which she destroys the Earth. Bugger.
10mins – For the next few minutes a battle between the X-Men and the Imperial Guard plays out. It’s great.
13mins – The X-Men have been defeated.
14mins – With Cyclops hurt, Jean instinctively switches back to the Dark Phoenix, demonstrating why she will always remain a threat. However way you look at it, Jean can no longer be the Phoenix.
15mins 40secs – The X-Men have been revived and have made the decision to take down the Dark Phoenix. Cyclops uses his optic blast to attempt to crush Dark Phoenix under some rocks. It doesn’t work.
16mins – Jean: “I can’t fight it. Not every second of every day, never slipping, not even for an instant.”
16mins 10secs – Jean begs for Cyclops to kill her, but he says he can’t. This is a bit confusing as only 30 seconds ago he attempted to kill her! MAKE UP YOUR MIND!
16mins 40secs – Realising none of her friends will kill her, Jean decides to kill herself.
17mins 50secs – Jean is dead, but the essence of the Phoenix lives on. It informs the X-Men that the only way for Jean to be revived is for someone else to give up their life.
18mins – Wolverine and Cyclops argue about who will give up their life, before the Phoenix informs them that each member of the team can give up a small portion of their life force to bring her back.
*Wipes tear from eye*
Of course, they all accept.
19mins – Jean lives! The Phoenix storyline is over. This means Jean can go back to being… a fairly boring character.
The Dark Phoenix (Saga) is simply superb and one of the best storylines in X-Men. I’ve watched this four-part story countless times over the past 20+ years and I never grow tired of it.
OK, so with the Phoenix story now done and dusted there’s just a couple of little story threads that need to be addressed before this season comes to an end.
Here’s the first…
2mins – This episode focuses on the return of the Starjammers, who were last seen helping the X-Men during The Phoenix Saga.
3mins – Storm is wearing her hair in a ponytail. This is the first time her hair has been styled any other way than just loose and free-flowing. I like it.
4mins – Corsair has crash landed his ship within the grounds of the X-Mansion. The Starjammers are not with him at this point in the episode.
5mins – And now the big reveal – Cyclops has learned that Corsair is his father. This is something that Jean discovered earlier in the season. I appreciate that she’s been through a lot lately, what with dying and such, but I’m pretty sure she should have said something by now.
7mins – Cyclops is angry and makes reference to his time spent in various orphanages – something noted in the Season 3 episode, No Mutant is an Island. He is under the belief that Corsair abandoned him.
10mins – Corsair explains why he left Cyclops behind. It seems legit.
13mins – Enter: The Starjammers!
13mins 30secs – Going slightly off topic, I really hope that at some point in the not-too distant future, now that Disney (and therefore Marvel Studios) is getting the rights back to the X-Men, we will see a Starjammers movie. Corsair could be the next Han Solo!
17mins – This is an action packed episode and I love seeing Corsair. It’s a shame that this is his final appearance in the series.
An enjoyable episode that puts more emphasis on action than story, but that’s not a bad thing. Corsair should have been given more episodes in X-Men, because he’s a pretty cool character with a lot of potential, but at least his swansong allows for more screen time.
And now just one more episode to go…
The Juggernaut Returns
3mins – Earlier in the season, Juggernaut fought Gladiator and was tossed into the ocean. This episode explains what happened to him following that encounter.
6mins – Juggernaut is at the X-Mansion ready for a fight.
7mins – A Hulk cameo…
7mins 10secs – Sadly, it’s not the real Hulk – just a Danger Room simulation.
8mins – The Juggernaut has just lost his powers.
10mins – Storm gets a snazzy outfit in this episode.
11mins – The Juggernaut’s powers have been transferred to someone else.
12mins 30secs – A flashback offers an insight into Xavier’s past and his difficult relationship with his stepbrother.
15mins 45secs – A little Power Rangers reference…
19mins – The Juggernaut gets his powers back and then walks away from the X-Mansion, opting not to fight the X-Men. If my memory serves me correctly, this is the final appearance of the Juggernaut.
Not a great episode and certainly not the best way to finish the season. The insights into the Xavier/Juggernaut relationship are welcome, but personally I feel as if this episode should have appeared earlier in the season.
And that wraps up Season Three!
Overall, another great season and one which boasts some of the best episodes in the entire run of the X-Men. The story arc is handled slightly differently than it is in Season One & Two (it’s a little all over the place), but in large part it works.
When It’s Saturday morning – Do you know what your children are? returns I will be diving straight into the fourth season. As I’m watching this season via Amazon Prime Video, there are 25 episodes to work my way through.
Some of these episodes are good. Some are excellent. Some are bad. But I’ll talk about that next time.
For now, feel free to sound off in the comments section about X-Men. Which is your favourite season? Who deserved more screen time? What are your memories of watching this show during the 1990s?
Until next time…