By Joshie Jaxon
Hey, look! The Dungeons & Dragons ride! Six children enter. How many leave? None. Because they’re pulled through a portal, and arrive in a strange land, dressed in strange clothes. Before they can figure out where they are, a five-headed dragon (FHD) attacks them. A creepy little toad looking guy tells them not to fear. Ranger, Barbarian, Magician, Thief, Cavalier, and Acrobat. No sooner do try get their power items, but they run face to face with Venger. The FHD tries to blast him, and Venger flees. Toad man tells the group that he is called Dungeon Master, and he will be their guide in the realm of Dungeons & Dragons. That’s a lot to take in during the opening credits. A know I watched this show as a kid, because I remember that opening sequence, but that’s all. I know Venger usually makes the great 80’s villains lists, but he just isn’t ringing any bells. Maybe he’ll win me over as we continue. Knowing nothing of D&D, I don’t know if there are any “in” jokes about or from the game. That being said, I love 80’s toons, so let the geeks begin!
We open on the group climbing a mountain. They have names, but I’m not going to bother learning them, when I can refer to them by their class, like any good republican would. The barbarian encourages the little unicorn, aptly named Uni, to hurry up the mountain. They marvel at the view, and the echoes. Cavalier tells the thief to get control of her brother. She says he isn’t bothering anyone. Cavalier says he’s bothering him, and he’s trying to think of a way home. I wonder if they’ve tried clicking their heels together three times. The barbarian encourages Uni to try the echo. When he/she/it neighs/bleats/whatever, there’s no echo. Uni tries again, but this time we hear the roar of Tiamat the dragon (FHD). The dragon wants to know why they woke her. Barbarian charges at her, as his thief sister tells him that FHD is indestructible. Ranger shoots a magic arrow to knock barbarian out of the way of the fire, lightning, energy blast from three of the heads. Thief lures the dragon back to cave from whence it came, and uses her invisibility cloak to get away. Her barbarian brother knocks a boulder down to block the entrance. Acrobat says she can understand why Venger is afraid of that dragon. You should be too, sweetie. It has five heads.
Dungeon Master appears, and congratulates them. Cavalier is sick of DM’s riddles, and wants a straight answer on how to get home. Patience, all things have a purpose, including their being there. I have a feeling this series is gonna end with them always having the power to return home. Call it a hunch. DM tells the group to go north, to Helix. There, they might, keyword MIGHT find something that will assist them on their way home. Helix was once terrorized by dragons. They were ruled by the face of evil, Venger. You shall know him by his white hair. Um, Venger wears a helmet, we can’t see his hair. Oh well. DM walks behind a rock and disappears. Cavalier hates it when he does that. Didn’t they just get there in the opening credits? How long have these kids been there? Thief is worried. Acrobat says she’s always worried. DM said they should go north, so that’s what they should do. Did I mention Acrobat is a sassy black girl? If I were a different sort of comic, I would call her Afrobat. Alas, I’m not a Lampanelli, a Rivers, or even a Rickles, so I’ll stick with Acrobat. On second thought, it’s too good a name to pass up. Afrobat, ho!
All this time walking is a waste of time. Cavalier would give anything for dad’s limo. Barbarian would give the limo for a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Magician says he’ll make magic burgers. Cavalier says last time they got live turkeys. Hey, he couldn’t help it if the hat thought it was Thanksgiving. He tries for burgers, and gets a live cow. Sassy Afrobat says she likes her burgers more well done than that. None of them has a sword, since we have to think of the children, even though He-Man, Lion-O, Skelletor, Conan, and Voltron all had swords, so the magician tries to get the cow back in his hat. No fresh burgers today. The party passes a sign that says they’re near Merlin’s castle. Then they pass a sign saying it’s the way they came. They can’t figure it out. Afrobat says they forgot to look up. Cue the floating castle in the sky. If only they had a way up. Cue the magical golden ladder. Kids, you’re in a strange land being guided by toady little creep, perhaps you should just think twice about climbing the ladder. They ignore my advice, and climb. They do however think twice about Venger and his white hair. I wonder if that’s about to be important.
Cavalier says they have a place like this in Malibu, and wishes he were there. So do your friends. Ranger suggests he swim across the moat, but cavalier isn’t into skydiving. Afrobat says she can handle it, and uses her staff to jump the sky moat, and lower the draw bridge. They enter the castle and meet Merlin, who not only has white hair, but a white rabbit. Merlin says he can do many things, but he can’t grow hair. He removes his hat, with attached wig to reveal that he’s bald. He guides the children to his cauldron. Warning bells, anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Anyhow, Merlin says he can’t help them home, but he can tell them about where they’re headed. Helix fought against a conqueror, who vowed vengeance upon his defeat. Barbarian says that DM told them this already. Ah, but what he didn’t tell you is one year, Merlin appeared, cast a spell, and used his good magic to banish the evil dragons forever. Anyone else notice that Merlin referred to himself in the third person? Anyone else think that rabbit is a hare? If so, we can still be friends. Cavalier says if Merlin isn’t going to help, then he’s leaving. He opens the door, and is face to faces with FHD.
Barbarian charges at her. Merlin uses magic to get him to safety. He tells the kids they must leave. Ranger offers to distract it while the others get away. Afrobat, and not Merlin, whose castle this allegedly is, directs them out the door. They close the door, and reinforce it with a wooden beam. Yeah, a gigantic, not to mention fire-breathing, dragon is gonna be stopped by a door. Then again a door held Hurt, Tennant, and Smith in the Tower of London, so why not. Merlin says there’s no escape from the dungeon. Wait, they wanna trap a dragon in the dungeon. Isn’t that a little, I dunno, majorly obvious? Magician conjures a carpet to cover the entrance, while Afrobat lures FHD over. The dragon falls for the trap, cause not one of it’s five heads had a brain. Merlin and the others use another wooden post to hold the wooden dungeon entrance closed. They never learn. Thief gives Merlin back his bunny, but he corrects her that it’s a hare. Merlin thanks them for saving his life. Life? They thought he was supposed to live forever. Oh, goodness no, he’s only seventy. He’s at that age where he wants to pass on his magical secrets, perhaps to magician? Only if he stays for the rest of his life. The group says that magician would never leave them. Wait for it, he’s leaving them to become Merlin’s apprentice.
The party leaves, heading for Helix. Meanwhile, Merlin says they’ll have to deal with the dragon in the dungeon. How? Merlin says his spell book has the answers to all questions, and with that dangling carrot, he orders his new apprentice to stir the cauldron until he returns. Magician can’t resist, and ignores the cauldron to read. We know time passed based on the candle burning down. Thinking he’s found the right one, he raids the pantry for ingredients, and adds them to the cauldron. After the last one is added, smoke starts to rise, and takes the shape of a dragon. Uh oh. This won’t get him home. Yes, that was his first concern, before calling for help. He tracks down Merlin, who knows exactly what he did. Mainly because he switched the spells. Only good magic could undo Merlin’s spell. Wait a sec, there’s that third person speak again. You’re Merlin, aren’t you? The magician finally asks. Merlin says that Merlin has been dead a thousand years; he’s better known as Venger! He takes magician’s hat, and goes after Helix.
Town of Helix, festival celebrating the defeat of the dragons. Ranger says he’s looking for a way home. Barbarian and Uni are busy hitting rocks with his club. Thief and Afrobat are at a fortune teller. She looks in the crystal, telling them she sees fortune for them. A second later, she’s saying the dragons will return. Ranger tells the mayor that he’s not sure why they’re there, but at least he got to meet Merlin. The mayor says that’s impossible, as he’s been dead a thousand years. He passed shortly after casting the spell that defeated Venger’s dragons. Um, Venger is over a thousand? Clearly he’s already got power and longevity. Why is he targeting Earth kids? Oh, that’s right, the Deus ex machina. Fortune teller runs to the mayor, saying the dragons are back. Thief and Afrobat say they need to go get Merlin. Ranger says it wasn’t Merlin. Afrobat says they saw him, he was there, stroking his white rabbit. No, ranger corrects her, it was his hare; his WHITE HARE! Afrobat says they thought they meant hair on your head, not hare. And with that, she loses a few points, and so do children everywhere collectively, since they didn’t have to figure it out on their own. They need to get magician away from Venger. They’ll need horses. Check the stables.
The dragons start to destroy Helix. The mayor says it’s not the worst of it. Legend says the final assault will come soon, and the town will be completely destroyed. Wait, what legend? This is the first we’re hearing about a legend. Sigh. Ranger says Venger must have reversed Merlin’s spell. The one that kept the dragons away. Yes, thief, good girl. Double sigh. They reach Merlin’s castle, and luckily this is the 80’s, and Venger didn’t bother to pull the ladder up to prevent intruders. The group rushes upstairs, to discover magician playing with the hare. Not tied up. Not locked up. Free to come and go if he pleases. Ranger tells him that he needs to cast Merlin’s spell again. Venger says he won’t be casting any more spells tonight. He has the wizard hat, and now he wants the other objects of power too. Barbarian clubs the ground until books rain down on Venger. Ranger tells the group to keep him busy, while he and magician cast Merlin’s spell. Cavalier asks if they’re supposed to tell Venger jokes. Thief has an idea.
In the cauldron room, magician is saying he can’t do this, as ranger gives him a pep talk. Venger enters the chamber and says it’s over. Meanwhile, thief asks the group what’s the one thing Venger fears? FHD! They’re gonna let the dragon loose? Don’t they have enough problems? Venger continues to menace the others, saying he’ll add all their powers to his own. Cue FHD through the wall. Venger turns his attention to the immediate threat, and blasts at it, before fleeing, saying he’ll win in the end. FHD follows him through another wall.
Time to see if magician can save the day, er, night. In the name of Merlin! In the time of sorrow! Banish winged demons! Let there be tomorrow! The dragons in Helix disappear, and the group celebrates back on the ground. The ladder and the castle disappear, and magician says now he’ll never get his hat back. Well, maybe you should’ve looked for it before leaving, genius. DM appears, and gives him back his hat. Cavalier says why can’t he return them home, but DM is already gone. Ranger tells magician that in Helix, he’s a hero. They all decide to ride there. Cavalier says he won’t share a horse. Magician conjures up the cow from earlier. Credits
Not a bad premier. I got a better idea of the kids’ personalities and motivations than I did Venger’s. It left a lot of questions unanswered. Why does Venger love his hare? Did Glenn Close get one in the past? Is that why he’s called “Venger”, cause he’s avenging his old fluffy friend? Why would Venger leave his hare with magician? Why are the kids going along with DM’s orders? The most important question though is, how did FHD get through the castle undetected the first time, since she clearly doesn’t use doors? I’ll leave you to ponder that. Until next time, stay geeky, and keep gabbing!