Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars – “The Search for Bruce”

img_3598Episode Number:  8

Original Air Date:  October 27, 1991

Directed by:  Karen Peterson

Written by:  Richard Merwin

First Appearance:  None

After several episodes that basically exist on their own, we have another episode that refers back to the events of the first one. This was an episode I was waiting for as a kid, though I obviously didn’t know if it would happen or not. Back in episode one, an attack by the Toads caused a malfunction with the proton accelerator of the Righteous Indignation. That malfunction claimed the life of chief engineer Bruce, who we would come to find out is the older brother of Bruiser who would join the crew in the next episode. Bruce’s demise was very much a cartoon one, where rather than actually die he was sucked into the photon accelerator itself. This had been telegraphed by Bruce mentioning the thing partially existed in another dimension. At the time, it was unknown what happened to him. Was he basically sucked into a black hole, which would kill him? Blinky remarked he had either gone off to another dimension or was indeed dead, but answers would have to wait.

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The band is back together in this one. Sort of.

The “death” of Bruce very much caught my attention as a young viewer. Prior to that event I had never seen a character die in a cartoon show. My only experience with death had been Bambi’s mother. Had I been a Transformers fan I probably would have seen the death of Optimus Prime in the Transformers movie, but for whatever reason that franchise never got its claws in me so I didn’t have that shared, traumatic, experience with many of my peers. Instead I had Bruce, and not being accustomed to seeing death in a show I held out hope he’d come back. Him being taken away like that added intrigue to the character. He didn’t really do much in that premiere episode so it wasn’t as if I had any attachment to him. Just the act of him being taken away was enough to create an attachment.

This episode is basically the return of Bruce, but in an unconventional sense. Still, considering this is the first time the baboon brothers will share screen time, this episode has the potential to be the most captivating one yet. This show hasn’t really played up the mushy stuff, as Dead-Eye would call it, and this is a chance to do so. How will Bruiser react to seeing his brother again? And what role will the Toads play in all of it?

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Bucky’s weird sideburns make drawing him at this angle pretty awkward.

The episode opens with the heroes in a familiar situation:  under heavy Toad pursuit. To try and shake the numerous Double Bubbles on their tail, Bucky pulls a Han Solo and steers the Righteous Indignation into an asteroid field. Dead-Eye then, laughing maniacally all the while, makes it tougher on their pursuers by blasting as many asteroids as he can sending debris flying past them. Numerous Toad Double Bubbles meet their end at the hands of the asteroid belt and interestingly not a single ejection is seen. Bucky’s fancy flying is taking a toll on the engines as Blinky gets knocked around, but they still have enough power for a hyper space jump. As they exit the asteroids and ready the warp drive, one of the Double Bubbles fires a tracking device. One of the claws rockets forward and is able to attach itself to the rear of the Righteous Indignation just before it enters hyper space.

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Someone needs to give Blinky a gun.

The crew gathers in the cockpit to celebrate another successful escape from Toad forces. All except Blinky, who is still down in the engine room. Suddenly, a trio of Storm Troopers materialize right inside in the engine room! Blinky tries to run, but ends up in the clutches of the trio as they bang his head against the floor. During which, he adds another new catchphrase to go along with “Calamity and woe,” and that’s “Misery and wretchedness.” He is able to alert the others via what is apparently an intercom system, but I think someone missed the note because it just looks like a wall. The others race down there and Bruiser is particularly agitated to find Toads beating up on his little buddy. The Storm Troopers do what Storm Troopers often do and attempt to flee in panic.

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The Toads actually have a plan for once.

As the Toads back off, they demonstrate what terrible shots they are by failing to hit Bruiser with their gun-fire. As Bruiser closes in, another Toad calls out from above to Bucky. Three more apparently appeared in the cockpit and they have Jenny. One tells Bucky to order Bruiser to back-off, which is when Bruce appears. He’s dressed in some new armor with a primitive do-it-yourself vibe. Most curious though is that he appears to be intangible, real ghost-like. Bucky and Dead-Eye can hardly believe their eyes, but Bruce speaks and tells him not to worry.

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The latest in Toad technology.

On a metallic-looking moon not unlike the Toad home world, a strange device is in operation. Toad scientists man the controls while worker toads turn a large device in the center of the room that is apparently generating the power. It’s a transport device, and four more Storm Troopers are being readied in it. Suddenly, Bruce appears and his mere presence causes the Toads present to recoil in fear. He orders the scientists to “rip out them wires,” and they do as they’re told, causing all of the Toad forces on the Righteous Indignation to vanish.

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Fancy seeing you here, Bruce.

Bucky and the others are left puzzled by what just happened, but right now they need to get working on repairs. Jenny calls Willy, and we’re spared a scene of her interrupting him doing something menial in his world. His door just appears immediately and he comes aboard to help out. Meanwhile, the Air Marshall drags some white-coated scientists back to the scene of the ghost baboon demanding they get back to work. Bruce appears and everyone panics once more, including the Air Marshall who hides under a command console. Komplex then appears on a giant monitor and zaps the Air Marshall’s hiding placing with an electric bolt. The Air Marshall stumbles out with tales of ghost baboons and Komplex responds that it’s aware of this supposed ghost before saying there may be a way to utilize this unexpected development to their advantage. Bruce is shown looking on.

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Air Marshall is often incompetent, but at least in this episode his scenes are genuinely amusing.

On the Righteous Indignation, everyone is working on repairs while Jenny pilots the ship. She radios down to Bucky that a priority message from an unknown sender is trying to contact them. He instructs her to accept and heads for a monitor. On the other end is Bruce, only he doesn’t look like a ghost this time. he provides instructions on where he can be found. Bruiser is naturally overjoyed to see his “brudder,” but before they can get too excited the ghost version of Bruce appears once again. He warns them not to follow the instructions they just got, but before he can say more he’s practically mauled by his excited little brother causing both of them to disappear. This just further confuses Bucky, and citing no other lead to go off of, he decides to head to the obvious trap the fake Bruce provided.

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Bucky seems to love traps.

They head for Quadrant 15, and wouldn’t you know, the Righteous Indignation winds up surrounded by Toads. Quadrant 15 happens to be where the moon containing this new Toad device, the matter transporter, is located and for some reason Bucky doesn’t find the giant structure protruding from it curious. On that very moon, the Air Marshall is returning back to the scene of the ghost baboon attack very nervously. There’s no one around and he yells out to any ghost baboons hiding in there that he has Bucky O’Hare in a trap and if he doesn’t want him destroyed he better stop haunting the machinery. Bruce then appears, causing the Air Marshall to freak out and hight-tail it out of there. As he spins and runs, he collides with Bruiser practically knocking himself out. Bruiser and Bruce then agree they need to go help Bucky and the others.

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This episode does drive home how overpowered the berserker baboons are. Bruce can’t even touch them, he’s a living hologram, but that will be enough to get them to flee.

On an airstrip, Bruce and Bruiser spy two patrolmen and a bunch of Double Bubbles. When the patrolmen see the two baboons, they drop their rifles (blue ones instead of the customary hot pink) and run. One trooper basically runs across a Double Bubble so either it was part of the background and they messed up or they actually overlapped the running Toad over the wrong cell when animating it. Anyway, Bruce and Bruiser hop into a Double Bubble and take off.

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Bruce at home on Baboon Heaven.

While traveling to the action, Bruiser asks Bruce where he’s been this whole time. Bruce then explains that the photon accelerator blasted him across the Aniverse to a strange planet he describes as Baboon Heaven. The area appears to be inhabited by small monkeys of normal monkey intelligence. There’s a village though, and Bruce settled there and started working on a matter transmitter of his own. While trying to get it working, the Toads built their own, and in a similar case to what happened with Willy’s photon accelerator the activation of the Toad one somehow interfered with Bruce’s. It warped him to their location, but in this weird ghost-like form. Bruce says he thinks he’s basically trapped between worlds, which only further enrages his little brother.

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They appear to be having some problems.

The two then come upon the Righteous Indignation which is being attacked by free-floating Storm Troopers in space suits. The matter transporter is apparently back up and running as more keep phasing in and out. Some try getting the jump on Bucky in the cockpit, but it doesn’t work too well. The Air Marshall is shown getting angry every time a Storm Trooper gets kicked back to them, and a Toad Tech says the machine is still a work-in-progress, not that Air Marshall cares.

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There’s a tag team you don’t want to mess with.

Bruiser and Bruce eject from the Double Bubble to go cause some trouble. Bruiser is actually armed this time, but Bruce advises that he not fire at the Righteous Indignation for obvious reasons. Bruce then goes around scaring toads, which is pretty effective, while Bruiser grabs and crushes them. He even squeezes the head of one hard enough to crack his space helmet.

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Even with the ability to appear wherever they want out of nothing, the Air Marshall’s forces still fail over and over.

With his forces driven back, the Air Marshall is shown once again to be quite irritated. Frix and Frax are able to get in some one-liners as the Air Marshall rants and raves about hating losing. Aboard the Righteous Indignation, Bruce directs Bucky to head for that moon as it’s where the matter transporter is operating from. He reasons they need to destroy it to put an end to this madness. Strangely, while they were fighting all around the ship itself no one noticed the tracking device which must be working in tandem with the matter transporter.

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That certainly looks inviting.

Bucky takes the ship down to the moon and the base on it is rather colossal. They land amid heavy fire from Storm Troopers and race inside the factory. There they encounter another old friend, the Void Droid, and the Toads have made one important upgrade. Willy’s water pistol no longer works, and while the others try to think of a way past this thing, Jenny goes off on her own. She drops through a grate in the floor and is able to run under the robot and emerge behind it. From there she jumps on it and uses her psychic powers to destroy it. No one else was able to see her do this and they just think the thing exploded or something.

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Jenny proving to be quite resourceful.

A discouraged Air Marshall is not happy to see the force heading for him on the monitors. Knowing that his Storm Troopers are useless thanks to the presence of the two baboons, he decides it’s time for him to go. As he hops onto the transporter, Frix and Frax go running after him. He tells them to back off as their last minute addition apparently will result in unexpected consequences, but they don’t care as the trio vanish.

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Air Marshall is always willing to run.

With the Void Droid destroyed, Bucky takes the baboons with him into the main room where the matter transporter is operating from. Bruce then instructs Bucky to destroy the matter transporter so that the Toads can no longer make use of it. As he prepares to do so, Bruiser interjects to lodge a protest. He’s apparently not as dim as he appears since he’s able to figure out on his own that it’s the Toad machine keeping Bruce there with him. He doesn’t want to see his brother fade away, but Bruce dismisses his concerns because they need to take it out. Bucky agrees, but before he can do anything stray enemy fire from the corridor hits a pipe above his head causing it to dislodge and come crashing down on Bucky.

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Bruce advising his brother to do the right thing.

With Bucky rendered unconscious, and Bruce intangible, it falls on Bruiser to do the right thing and destroy the matter transporter. He doesn’t want to do it, but relents when Bruce insists. He smashes the thing up quite well and Bruce lavishes praise upon his little brother for doing so. As the two do their little celebratory dance, Bruce starts to fade away. Before he disappears he tells his brother not to be sad and he’ll come back some day. Losing his brother for the second time goes over about as well with the berserker baboon as you would expect. An irate Bruiser stomps off into the corridor after the Storm Troopers firing at them and apparently gets ahold of them off-screen. Helmets and even one Toad jaw come comically flying into view as a now conscious Bucky and Jenny look on, not with a comical reaction, but a more sympathetic one.

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For someone advising another to not be sad, he sure looks sad.

Air Marshall, along with the duo of Frix and Frax, are on some mysterious planet all alone. The twins bemoan the absence of any kind of swamp nearby as the surface of this planet is nothing but red rock. Air Marshall stomps around in a rage that soon turns to tears. He pounds the ground and has himself a good cry. Maybe now he’ll be used to losing.

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Bruiser taking his anger out on some Storm Troopers. That’s either a head or a helmet with an eyeball left behind. No wonder why most of the carnage is off-screen.

Aboard the Righteous Indignation, a sullen Bruiser is seated beside Blinky. Blinky tries to cheer up the baboon with a video he was able to capture of Bruce’s goodbye to his brother. It does help some, and Bruiser thanks him while hoping his brother is okay. On the planet dubbed Baboon Heaven, Bruce is indeed fine as a little monkey brings him some more purple bananas. He insists they taste great despite the odd color and resumes work on his own matter transporter. He’s optimistic that he’ll one day have it working. Back on the Righteous Indignation, everyone resumes assuring Bruiser that everything will be okay. He’s receptive to their words while remarking his mother would be so proud of Bruce, and Bucky reminds him she’d think the same of him. Dead-Eye then chimes in from his guns in a defeated tone. He wants to know when they can cut out this mushy stuff and go back to croaking toads taking us out on a bit of a joke.

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Blinky managed to capture a Kodak moment for Bruiser.

“The Search for Bruce” is a satisfying follow-up to the very first episode. Bruce’s reappearance is a bit confusing, but a lot of the lore in this show is. It’s not too foreign a concept for kids raised on comic books though and it wasn’t surprising to find out that Bruce is indeed all right following the events of the first episode. I suppose the show leaves open though what did happen to him. After all, Bruce does refer to his new home as Baboon Heaven. Maybe he is dead and found a way to return to the world of the living briefly? I don’t think that’s the intent, but it is an interesting thing to ponder.

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Bruce, back to work with purple banana in hand.

Putting the focus of the episode on the relationship of the baboon brothers is fitting and the right choice. Perhaps fearing it would get too heavy, a lot of the sequences involving the Toads are played for laughs leading up to the climax. Both Bruiser and Bruce are voiced by Dale Wilson and they essentially sound the same. Their tendency to refer to each other simply as “brother” certainly conjured memories of 80s wrestling promos for me, particularly Hogan and the Macho Man. They both have a tendency to say “banana oil” when irritated by something, and they basically relate everything back to bananas. It gets a little annoying by the episode’s end.

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It’s rather sweet seeing everyone try to cheer up old Bruiser.

The emotional hook is handled pretty well. It’s assumed that something will happen to keep Bruce away in the end, and putting his dismissal in the hands of his brother works well to add drama to the scene. If Bucky did it then it would seem less heart-breaking. Bucky and Jenny looking on with sadness as Bruiser rampages is a simple way to convey the emotion of the scene, and the episode left enough time at the end to let it all sink in with the characters and the viewer. Dead-Eye’s closing remarks are basically an acknowledgement that shows with this target audience don’t often stick with the “mushy stuff” this long and is an appropriate way to try to sneak in a quick moment of levity to close things out.

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And lets not forget about what happened to these three. Maybe Komplex will leave them there awhile.

Visually, this episode is a disappointment. It almost seems like another team at AKOM worked on it because both Jenny and Dead-Eye sport different guns than we’re used to seeing. They’re very generic and plain looking. There’s also the color switch on the Toad weaponry from pink to blue. In general, the animation is also exceptionally poor. It’s very jittery and looks like they were trying to save money by reducing the amount of frames they typically illustrate. Some of the infiltration sequence is downright ugly as is Bruiser and Bruce’s attack on the Toads who were pestering the Righteous Indignation. There are some nice lighting effects with the teleportation animation and the matter transporter itself, but all in all this might be the worst looking episode so far. Hopefully it’s not indicative of what’s to come. There are some loose ends created by the plot too as they never address the Toad tracking device affixed to the Righteous Indignation nor is it explained how Komplex was able to create a “Bruce” for the fake video. There’s a lot to cram into this episode so I guess they just didn’t have the time for any of that, not that it’s an excuse.

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It was nice seeing these two get to pair-up. Had this show continued, I’m sure we would have seen more from Bruce.

“The Search for Bruce” is the most emotionally ambitious episode of the show thus far, and likely will remain that way given the subject matter. We won’t hear from Bruce again, which isn’t a surprise considering the short season. Had there been another season I’m guessing Bruce would have returned in some form. This episode is actually pretty well-written with Bucky getting some clever lines and good comedy writing with the Air Marshall. The emotional stuff is also handled well and I genuinely felt sympathy for Bruiser. It probably won’t make you cry or anything, but I found it actually more effective than the death of Morph from X-Men. If it weren’t for the mostly horrendous animation here, this might have been the best episode yet, but instead it may have to settle for second or third best when all is said and done.

 


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