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.
Right, pay attention this is very important:
These next six episodes are the last really good episodes of X-Men. The first two episodes are good. The next four are BRILLIANT.
After theses six episodes, the remainder of Season Four has some right clunkers. So, if you want to know the point at which the show stopped being must-watch TV, it’s here!
One Man’s Worth: Part 1
1min – This episode opens in 1959, with Bishop, Wolverine and Storm fighting Nimrod. It’s clear that this is a time travel episode.
1min 20secs – Professor Xavier has now appeared. He’s young and walking!
1min 40secs – The story has now jumped to the year 2055 – Bishop’s time.
1min 50secs – And now the story has jumped to the 1990s. This could get confusing.
2mins 55secs – There is a temporal storm and now the timeline has switched to an alternate present day. I told you it would get confusing.
4mins 45secs – In this alternate timeline, mutants and humans are at war. Cities are decimated. The world has gone to crap. However, this is a good opportunity to chuck in cameos for Blink and Wild Child, and show Sabretooth, Colossus and Magneto in new costumes inspired by the comic book tale, Age of Apocalypse.
4mins 50secs – In this episode, Storm sports her ’80s Mohawk haircut that for a while became her signature look in the comics.
5mins 25secs – Nightcrawler gets a cameo.
5mins 50secs – Morph also gets a cameo, as does Mister Sinister and Holocaust.
6mins 20secs – New revelation: In this timeline, Storm and Wolverine are married.
6mins 45secs – A cameo for Giant-Man and the Wasp.
7mins 15secs – Heroes and villains are working together.
7mins 30secs – OK, a recap: Fitzroy (a character who is yet to appear) has gone back in time to 1959 and has killed Xavier. With the Professor dead, the timeline has changed and has basically gone to hell. Bishop and his sister, Shard (who makes her debut in this episode) are travelling through time to fix things.
8mins – This episode is inspired by the Age of Apocalypse storyline – one of the best X-Men stories from the 1990s.
11mins 40secs – Fitzroy makes his debut and two important things are noted here:
- Fitzroy has been working with Master Mold, suggesting the big chief of the Sentinels is STILL alive, despite the events of the episode, Courage.
- Shard has revealed that her future is controlled by Sentinels. It would appear that Bishop’s previous attempts to avert an apocalyptic future have failed.
15mins – This episode is very flashback heavy.
15mins 45secs – An interesting first for X-Men. Now that the mutants have travelled back to 1959, they are facing a different kind of prejudice – racism! The locals are not happy about Wolverine’s relationship with Storm.
19mins – The mutants have failed. Xavier has died. Bugger.
As with all of the Bishop/time-travelling episodes, this is yet another great story. As a rule of thumb, if you’re looking for good X-Men episodes to watch, always plump for the Bishop stories.
One Man’s Worth: Part 2
4mins 45secs – Having failed in their mission, the mutants have travelled back to 2055. This is now an alternate future.
12mins 15secs – Wolverine, Storm and Bishop are travelling back to 1959 to try to avert Xavier’s death (again). Shard and Forge are left behind and are presumably killed by Nimrod.
12mins 30secs – Wolverine: “Here we go again.”
13mins 30secs – Back in 1959, Wolverine, Storm and Bishop are on take II. Will they succeed or will they run into their past selves?
17mins 30secs – Hurrah! This time around, the mission was a success!
18mins – Wolverine: “What now? With him alive we ain’t even supposed to exist?”
18mins 10secs – Wolverine and Storm are now faced with a problem: By saving Xavier, they have altered the future, leaving their fate in the balance.
19mins – Storm: “I love you Logan.”
19mins 15secs – Storm and Wolverine say goodbye as the timeline corrects itself and they cease to exist.
19mins 50secs – Back in the present day, the timeline is back to normal and the original version of Storm and Wolverine have no knowledge of their marriage. Xavier remembers.
As much as I would have loved X-Men to produce a multi-part adaptation of Age of Apocalypse which stuck closely to the source material, One Man’s Worth works fine. The story takes the initial kernel of Age of Apocalypse (Xavier’s death), then creates something new which feels fresh.
The Wolverine/Storm romance comes out of nowhere, as there has been no precursor to this, but it works. Had the series continued beyond Season Five, perhaps this is a story beat that could have been picked up again.
I guess we will never know.
OK, now it’s time for some truly awesome X-Men episodes in the shape of the epic four-part adventure, Beyond Good and Evil.
Beyond Good and Evil: Part 1
By all accounts, Beyond Good and Evil was supposed to be the series finale of the X-Men. The show was to end with one final showdown with Apocalypse, with all of the team (plus other mutants) pitching in to help.
However, plans change and Beyond Good and Evil didn’t become the conclusion to the series. Instead, the show continued on to a fifth season.
In my opinion, Beyond Good and Evil should have been the end. With many of the big storylines ticked off (Wolverine’s past, Scott & Jean’s wedding, Morph’s rehabilitation) and a number of comic book tales adapted (Days of Future Past, Phoenix/Dark Phoenix etc), X-Men could have easily wrapped up without any problems.
I genuinely believe there was life left in the show, but perhaps it was time. In hindsight, knowing how the series ends, I wish this had been the conclusion.
What follows is a high point for X-Men and a genuinely fantastic piece of television. I’m going to make the most of this!
1min 30secs – The episode opens in 3999 – Cable’s future.
5mins – Cable is trying to kill Apocalypse, but once again is failing.
6mins – Apocalypse has disappeared, but he has a plan.
6mins 30secs – The story jumps back in time to 1959, to the final moments of One Man’s Worth: Part 2.
7mins 30secs – Bishop travels back to his time of 2055… but gets trapped in time.
8mins – Apocalypse is travelling through time and this has caused Bishop to veer off course.
10mins – And now the episode has jumped back to the 1990s and the wedding of Cyclops and Jean Grey. This is the second wedding for Cyke and Jean. The first one took place in the Season Two episode, Til Death Do Us Part: Part 1.
10mins – According to Xavier, Cyclops and Jean were the first two members of the X-Men. This contradicts the Season Three episode, Cold Comfort, which stated that Iceman was the second member of the team.
12mins – It wouldn’t be an X-Men wedding without a little drama and here come the Nasty Boys to mess up the big day.
13mins – The Nasty Boys have kidnapped Jean.
15mins 20secs – Mister Sinister has infiltrated the X-Mansion. He has his sights set on Xavier.
16mins 45secs – Shard has travelled back to the ’90s to look for Bishop and has stumbled across Mister Sinister.
19mins 30secs – With help from Shard, Sinister failed to kidnap Xavier, but Jean is gone. As the episode ends it is revealed that Sinister is working for Apocalypse and Jean is his prisoner.
A brilliant opening episode filled with action and drama. There’s a lot going on in this chapter.
The inclusion of Cable, Bishop, Shard, Mister Sinister, the Nasty Boys and Apocalypse, make it clear that something big is on the horizon for this story. Speaking of which…
Beyond Good and Evil: Part 2
4mins 15secs – This episode opens in space, with a civil war raging within the Shi’ar empire. Deathbird is leading the charge, with her eyes on taking the throne from Lilandra.
4mins 20secs – Apocalypse appears.
4mins 45secs – Deathbird was under the impression that Apocalypse was going to help her take the throne. However, Apocalypse has an ulterior motive – to kidnap the Shi’ar psychic, Oracle.
9mins – Meanwhile, in England… Psylocke makes her debut and Archangel makes a return appearance.
11mins 55secs – Psylocke’s car number plate reads: THX 1138. This is the name of a 1971 George Lucas movie. I guess one of the animators of this episode is a fan.
12mins 30secs – According to Shard, Archangel is destined to join the X-Men.
14mins – Sabretooth and Mystique have just turned up.
15mins 40secs – And now Magneto arrives!
16mins 50secs – Magneto has kidnapped Psylocke.
18mins 20secs – Magneto is working for Apocalypse.
When I watched this episode back in the late ’90s I had no idea how many chapters were in this particular storyline. I didn’t have access to the internet, so for all I knew this could have been a two-part story.
When I reached the end of the episode and ‘To be continued‘ popped up on screen, I was so happy. I was transfixed by the story that was unfolding and I wanted it to run for many chapters.
Bishop, Cable, Shard, Archangel, Psylocke, Lilandra, Deathbird, Apocalypse, Mister Sinister, Magneto, Sabretooth, the Nasty Boys and Mystique all appear in this episode. This was an epic line up of characters and one of the largest cast ensembles in the entire series.
Beyond Good and Evil: Part 3
8mins – Cable has travelled through time and has arrived in the 1990s.
9mins – It’s great to see Archangel in the X-Mansion, working alongside the X-Men. He seems less of a dick than usual too.
10mins – Cable has a plan to travel back in time and destroy Apocalypse’s life support system – the Lazarus Chamber. Without a way to rejuvenate himself, he will eventually die.
14mins – Xavier, Storm, Cable, Beast, Cyclops, Archangel, Gambit and Wolverine have travelled through time.
15mins 30secs – The X-Men vs. the original Four Horsemen.
19mins 30secs – Apocalypse has ambushed the X-Men and has kidnapped Xavier.
Another fantastic episode. The action and tension builds with each chapter.
Beyond Good and Evil: Part 4
4mins 30secs – In addition to Jean, Oracle, Psylocke and Xavier, Apocalypse has kidnapped a lot of Marvel characters including Stryfe, Emma Frost and Rachel Summers.
7mins 30secs – Apocalypse’s plan is revealed. He wants to stop time! He then wants to reboot the universe with himself in charge.
8mins 30secs – Mystique and Magneto have turned on Apocalypse.
12mins – And now it’s time to enter the endgame. Apocalypse has put his plan in motion and time is being effected. People – including the X-Men – are fading out of existence.
13mins – This storyline would make for a great movie.
15mins 40secs – Wolverine, Bishop and Cable have thrown a spanner in the works. Time has been restored.
19mins 30secs – The X-Men have saved the day. Apocalypse is supposedly dead… but in truth his story isn’t over just yet.
A brilliant end to the story. Apocalypse is gone, Cable, Bishop and Shard can return to their respective futures, and Psylocke and Archangel are at the X-Mansion.
Is this the beginning of a new X-team? Nope. Sadly Archangel and Psylocke do not join the team.
As mentioned above, this would have been a good place to stop the series, but instead X-Men continues with another 17 episodes. Many of these are bad.
I’ll discuss some of these episodes in the next chapter. But until then, feel free to sound off in the comments section regarding your thoughts/memories of X-Men.