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Slick’s Nit-Picks: ThunderCats, Episode 109 – “Berbils”

Panthro & Robear Bill charge into battle
Never get tired of seeing the Tank in action

Just from the title you can tell this episode is for the hardcore fans of the show. I could have sworn that the creators said at the SDCC panel that there would be no Berbils, but it would not be the first time that someone lied to throw the fans off. I think most of the hate for the Berbils stems from their slight resemblance to the Ewoks of Star Wars fame. The little guys were far from useless to the ThunderCats; in the original show they helped build Cats’ Lair, provided the ThunderCats with food  and even helped beat Mumm-Ra and the Mutants once or twice. To me, it only made sense to have them return. Love them or hate them, the little Stephen Hawking sounding Teddy Ruxpins are back.

Panthro's peeps

NEW ALLIES Despite it’s age, the ThunderTank is a marvelous piece of technology and Panthro could probably keep it running very smoothly if all the parts he needed were not in Mumm-Ra’s pyramid. Thanks to that little snag, the ThunderCats are caught in a rain storm without food or shelter. Mysteriously, their food and shelter problems are solved while they are asleep. Panthro then catches the Berbils in the act of fixing the ThunderTank. The Berbils express a desire to help the ThunderCats and immediately a new friendship is formed. Everything seems to be perfect until a slave trader shows up. He makes most of his money selling Berbils and the ThunderCats have to save their new allies from their captor.

The furball transformation is a nice touch

BERBILS, ROLL OUT! I thought the Berbils had gone mostly unchanged other than the facelift they had received. The original Berbils all look the same, save color variations in their fur and metal. The new Berbils are different sizes and shapes and transform into furballs to move about quickly. I would also say that the original Berbils are more brave and prideful than their newer counterparts. If you want a look at the original builders of the Cats’ Lair, check out one of the links on this Google search. The new episode has many similarities to the original which has the same title, it even features almost all the same characters. Check out both versions and decide which Berbils you like better, or at the very least, which Berbils are less annoying. I vote for the newer ones.

Someone get Lion-O an instruction manual or something

COME TO MY HAND ALREADY! Watching the old Berbils episode, I realized more than ever how different the new show is from the old. Granted, there is a lot more character development in the new show, but the old opening theme has ten times more action than the average new episode. I would really like for that to change. A big part of that is in the underuse of the Sword of Omens’ abilities. Take the Duelist and the Drifter episode, for example. Lion-O lost the sword. Now he did do the honorable thing and win it back in fair combat, but he could have just as easily said those seven magical words: “Sword of Omens, come to my hand!” That would have taken care of that problem. The old Berbils episode was the first time Lion-O said that and it was also the first time he used the shield power of the sword, another thing the new Lion-O has still not done. I get that there is the search for the other three war stones to add to the claw shield, but those are not going to add to the abilities of the sword. Thus far into the story, the Eye of Thundera looks a little lame, as it has been outshined by a book and some gems.The sword is the very symbol of the ThunderCats and the source of their power; it needs to be a bit more “powerful,” considering what the gem in the center is capable of.

Snow Meow
I ain't heard this big boy "meow" even once

A FROSTY FUTURE? The Conquedor was selling more than just the Berbils. His first captive was a giant blue cat that ‘80s fans will recognize as Snow Meow, the partner of the Snowman of Hook Mountain. Hopefully this cameo will mean that the ThunderCats will end up running into him. If the writers follow the old story, the mountain has a huge supply of Thundrillium, so there would definitely be reason for the ThunderCats to go there. Also, a mountain that is prone to avalanches would be a perfect opportunity to introduce the “come to my hand” ability of the sword. The Snowman was one of Lion-O’s more powerful allies and the story of how they came to trust one another was definitely one of the better episodes in the early series, so I really hope there is a Hook Mountain adventure in the future.

gimme some!
Sprinkle some candyfruit on 'em

CRACKED-OUT KITTENS I don’t care what anyone says, the best part of this episode was the “excitement” in the eyes of the ThunderKittens whenever they ate candyfruit. The most popular crop from the Berbil village, it also played its role in the old stories. There was a story where Mumm-Ra disguised himself as a fairy and used candryfruit  to drug and control Tygra. He went on to capture the whole team with Tygra’s help. That episode was kinda weird to be honest. It was usually Snarf that went nuts for the fruit, but not because of a sugar high; Snarf was just a greedy little bastard. To see the ‘Kittens’ eyes bug out and tails fuzz up like they were on some kind of “ThunderCatnip” was hysterical. It was like when Popeye used to eat spinach, only spinach did not make him look and act insane.

Lion-O's green in the face
jealous much?

This episode was another clear homage to the ealier series and was meant to be fun for original fans while introducing newer ones to the first friends the ThunderCats ever made (originally). So much was taken from that episode that it kind of feels like the writers phoned it in. Even the scene Lion-O messes up the Berbil name and says “urbil derbily berbil erbil” is from the old show, almost word for word. There is good and bad in this. The bad is that with the current storyline of the ThunderCats neediing to ally themselves with the animal races, this episode feels like filler. The Berbils were not one of the enslaved races and the adventure brought them no closer to any of the missing war stones. This episode should have definitely aired before “Legacy.” On the good side, ThunderCats as a show, had a tendency to lighten up once in a while just to remind that the show is for children too. The new Panthro really needed to lighten up; the old Panthro used to laugh all the time and this one seems like he’s mad at the world or something. Having the Berbils take to him more than any of the others forced him to smile a bit. Overall, episodes like this need to be peppered in once in a while so that the series does not take itself too seriously.