Do you remember the TV show, Captain Planet? It used to air in the 90’s and was about a superhero who was summoned using five magical rings to save the planet. It was meant to teach people about the dangers of environmentalism, but that wasn’t the show’s original intention. The pilot episode was a lot more disturbing. It’s hard to look up information about it on the net because original scriptwriter, K.L. Spiegel and the executive producer are both dead. Most of the animators are also out of work or vanished. Mysteriously.
There was still something very dark about this particular episode of Captain Planet. I initially acquired the VHS tape online through one of those bargain bins. The show always had kind of a cult-like aspect to it, with Gaia giving five children around the world magical rings to give them magical powers and summon captain planet. I decided, after coming home from the mall and slurping the remains of an ice cold Orange Julius, to give the VHS tape a viewing, as I was in the mood for some nostalgic television. Some good clean fun, you know?
The intro is pretty much the same, but Captain Planet looks a lot darker in design. His suit is more black and he has an increasingly disheveled appearance surrounding his eye sockets. It is as though he has dark circles under his eyes. To be honest, he looks more like a villain.
When they summon him, he also doesn’t say or do anything. It’s as though the voice actor isn’t even there. The episode starts with the villains Verminous Skum and Hoggish Greedly talking about their disastrous plan to pollute the earth with the intention of getting rich, because those two things supposedly have some degree of correlation. The weird thing is that you can see outside of the office building in and nobody’s moving. The people are standing still as though time has frozen. Many of them are red shifted in a frozen outline that’s slightly transparent.
The scene then cuts to the children trying to save dolphins or some shit. You know, five rambunctious youths of various ethnicities coming together to summon Captain Planet. I never understood why Captain planet was needed, they easily could’ve used the forces of nature within those rings to kill or destroy anything. Almost as though nature is a destructive force…
Gaia or mother earth shows up as a floating head and orders the Planeteers to stop Hoggish Greedly from polluting the Earth with clean coal and carbon emissions. She’s also concerned the ducks are getting their webbed feet caught in six pack soda nets, though this is the 90’s and those still exist. “Plastic is an aberration of nature.” She says, and her head just floats there. She has no eyes and the screen slowly fades to black.
The kids get into that ship thing they always ride around in and find the two, well, villains. Plotting. “Suck my dick!” Yells Hoggish greedly. The word “dick” was censored, which I have to say was a good thing because my two year old Hispanic daughter was watching the program with me. Instead of Dick, it was duck, so he yelled “Suck my-“ and then a muffled voice that sounds like an intern whispers “duck.” If they were attempting to cover up their own explitive, it kind of made sense, since a few minutes later you do see a couple ducks. Regardless, I spilled my orange Julius all over the couch. The fabric was ruined.
“We all evolved from fish.” Gaia says. “You are the self replicating DNA modules that originally populated the earth as genetic waste. It wasn’t until visible complexity came around and each animal became its own body, teeming with life.” I felt like I was being indoctrinated into a cult. “Let’s summon Captain planet!” Said that little Hispanic boy, concerned the either Gaia or Hoggish Greedly were likely going to attempt to murder them with lightning or hot oil. The five children held up their cultish rings to Mother Gaia, who stared sinister.
“Earth!” “Fire!” “Wind!” “Water!” “OH MY GOD HE SHOT ME!” It was supposed to be heart, as the fifth element, but Hoggish Greedly had produced a fire arm and shot the little Hispanic boy in the chest. As he lay there bleeding, you again here an intern whisper “heart” and then Captain Planet is summoned. It’s long and drawn out, but the water and other elements used to summon him look more like they’re dirty and filled with bacteria. Most disgusting is that many animals get caught in the summon. You see dolphins, trout, baby clams and even a few seals get caught and their organs are crushed as the water turns a red slurry. “With your powers combined, I’m a massive-“ Suddenly the screen flickered. Something was happening to my VCR. It began to spit the tape up, so I ejected it, and rewound it manually using the loving touch that only a former VCR repairman could apply. I lovingly rewound the tape and inserted it at 6:66, the exact time on the VCR that the time had frozen. I’m sure you think that the clock would’ve rolled over at 6:59, to 7:05. Well, there are only two possibilities. I am either an incredibly clever and ingenious pathological liar, or the tape was possessed by a paranormal entity. Occam’s razor says that the latter is true, as it is the simplest of these two explanations.
What proceeded was Captain Planet going on a long tirade about how humans are self replicating DNA molecules that infect planet earth like a disease. He picks up that little Hispanic boy, takes his heart ring and hurls him into the sun before he explodes into a tiny dot of dust in the atmosphere. “Don’t worry! His organs dissolved long before he knew what was happening!” Several of the planeteers began to cry. “For the first four and a half billion years, the earth was populated only by simple bacteria. It formed bodies, created offspring, and eventually developed into mammals with backbones that can walk on land.”
A wildfire had started behind Captain planet that was slowly burning the forest away and killing it. “Everything on this planet wants to kill you. Even the bacteria within your body wants to kill you. Your own genes are even working inversely to kill you!” I was getting a little creeped out by. This. He smiled, revealing tartar and calculus on his dirty blue teeth. “IF YOU DON’T BRUSH, THE BACTERIA IS SLOWLY ATTACKING YOUR TEETH. DO YOU KNOW WHY THAT IS? IT’S BECAUSE THE EASIEST WAY TO KILL A MAMMAL IS BY REMOVING THE TEETH! IT’S HOW MOST OF YOUR ANCESTORS DIED!” He also revealed a herpes sore on his lower lip that was bloody and full of pus.
“99.9999999% of the planet is uninhabitable by humans or any other life. And if you add in the rest of the universe, that number is exponentially trillions upon trillions of times greater. And if you add in all other possible universes, only a single slice of ours out of all possible universes is actually inhabitable. They say it is the mind that makes the matter, but that is a conceit of the mind, its one true conceit. It’s actually the opposite. Nothing.” He opened his hands, and there was silence now, as you could hear a tsunami was slowly rolling toward the beach likely to kill anyone in a three mile radius near the shoreline.
Captain planet appeared to know a lot about genetics, the anthropic principle and Cartesian duality. I sent my daughter out of the room as lava flows slowly erupted and burned the planeteers to skeletal corpses. They were dead now, their bodies sticking out of the solidifying magma, bones curled toward the sky like roasted chickens, the four rings glimmering from their remaining hands.
Throughout the chaos, there was much looting. A few people came by and snatched the rings and other jewelry from the corpses. The camera began to slowly zoom into Captain Planet’s eye. “And everything beneath us is a slowly cooling river of hot magma. The earth is just another star in the sky, hit with a little bit of extra water, but slowly cooling all the same. And long after the sun burns out, the Earth will have cooled, and all the other stars will have cooled as well, and there will be nothing, not a single living cell. Nothing.” You see earthquakes open up and inhale the city as the raging tsunami kills the remaining people on the seashore. The oceans turn red with blood as lightning, thunder and tornadoes rip through the landscape, tearing everything away to nothing. “And you don’t get captain Jupiter, captain Neptune, or captain mars, for if they existed you’d already be dead. I’m letting you live for a second on the geologic calendar. Nothing exists but empty space, cold, cold, empty. Space.”
Captain planet is seen dancing in a club with bipedal dolphins, a seahorse in a tophat and various rocks with monocles on that have formed some sort of golem like structures. The intern whispers “fuck environmentalism” while poor Hoggish Greedwell’s corpse is shown floating among a couple sand dollars while Captain planet dry humps an evergreen tree. I picked up the paper cup that once held my ice cold orange Julius. I could’ve thrown it into the paper recyclables, but I didn’t. I didn’t do that at all.