Dec. 18 – X-Men – “Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas”

Original air date December 23, 1995.

Today, The Christmas Spot temporarily alters it’s name to The X-Mas Spot. As a sort-of celebration for the animated series X-Men turning 30 this past Halloween we’re going to look at the show’s lone holiday special – “Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas.” The show X-Men was a pretty serious affair as far as kid shows go. It wasn’t very jokey or gimmicky and it technically didn’t even have a tie-in toy line. Sure, ToyBiz had an X-Men line of figures, but it was technically a tie-in with the comic book. The show undoubtedly influenced the line, there was a Morph figure after all, but the point is this wasn’t a show that went for the cheap hits so when a Christmas special was announced during the holiday season of 1995 I was pretty damn surprised.

Why does a show like X-Men then feature a holiday special? As is the answer to most things that seem unexplainable from afar when it comes to television – it was the network. Fox wanted a Christmas special from the show so it delivered one. It’s not a fan favorite and writer/showrunner Eric Lewald basically admits they made it intentionally campy to reflect other cheesy Christmas episodes of popular shows. They even got in a “Not on Christmas!” line into it. The episode is what it is, a shoe-horned concept into a show that probably shouldn’t feature such an episode, but perhaps there is still some value here. Besides, who doesn’t want to spend Christmas with Wolverine?

This is the story of Jubilee’s first X-Mas with the X-Men, which means it probably shouldn’t be assumed that we’ve been watching their lives unfold in a linear fashion or else they’ve had one hell of a year.

The episode begins at the home of the X-Men. Cyclops (Norm Spencer), Rogue (Lenore Zann), and Jubilee (Alyson Court) are decorating a massive tree in the mansion’s foyer. As they do, they’re joyously singing “Deck the Halls” and Cyclops sounds particularly awful, but seemingly intentionally so as he calls attention to his bad singing and suggests the other two carry on without him. Brooding off by the fireplace is old Wolverine (Cal Dodd) who predictably wants nothing to do with the holiday festivities despite the insistence of Jubilee for him to do so. It’s her first Christmas with the X-Men, which would seem all of the events up until now that have occurred in the show have taken place within a year, and she seems a little hurt that Wolverine won’t participate, but Rogue is here to reassure her and even lifts her up to the top of the tree to put the star in place.

Gambit is apparently impervious to boiling water.

Off in the kitchen, Jean (Catherine Disher) is preparing a Christmas dinner, but she has to contend with Gambit (Chris Potter). Despite her being the appointed chef, Gambit is sporting an apron and togue and appears to view himself on equal footing here. He rudely inquires what she’s preparing and Jean angrily retorts “It’s called food, Gambit. Normal, Christmas food.” Gambit, being from Louisiana and a connoisseur of cajun cuisine, seems to disagree strongly with whatever is boiling in a pot. When he goes for some seasoning, Jean uses her telekinetic powers to keep the spice on the counter despite how hard Gambit pulls on it. She also adds “The day that I need your help in the kitchen is the day that I stop cooking!” It’s a fine line, but Wolverine just used a similar one on Jubilee (“The day that I sing “Jingle Bells” is the day pigs fly”) so it’s a little redundant. She releases her psychic hold on the seasoning sending Gambit tumbling into the stove. He falls on his rear and the pot of water that was boiling lands on him, but seemingly does no harm. Jean gets a little laugh out of this while Gambit still insists she knows nothing about cooking a proper Christmas dinner.

In the lab, Beast (George Buza) is suspended from the ceiling mixing something in a beaker. It turns from red to green while Beast recites a poem by a “Sir Walter” that sounds festive enough. I only know the poem’s author because when Beasts tastes his “goo” he declares it worthy of the poem though he’s sure to point out this concoction is non-alcoholic (wouldn’t want the kids to think otherwise). We then cut to Professor X (Cedric Smith) and Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith) watching the goings on via the security monitors. It’s a bit creepy, but I guess someone is always watching these things for security reasons. Xavier notes that Storm seems a little blue and she remarks that seeing Jubilee makes her reflect on her own childhood. She grew up poor on the streets of Cairo, in case you were wondering as they don’t have time to discuss it further since alarms start blaring. Xavier thinks they’re under attack and Storm gets the first very, sweaty, Christmas special line “Could we be under attack – on Christmas Eve?!”

Beast is always so festive.

Cyclops receives a transmission about the alarm via his usual belt insignia. The “X” on everyone’s belts in this show were like two-way radios. The funny thing here is that Cyclops is not wearing his field uniform so rather than pressing a button on his chest he’s just touching his shirt. The X-Men race to the alarm’s origin which turns out to be Beast’s lab. They bust in only to find Beast in the process of shutting down the alarm. He’s covered in a red sauce and when Cyclops asks if he’s okay he indicates that he is, but his cranberry glaze is not. Wolverine is the last to arrive and he’s disappointed they weren’t under attack. He decides he’s had enough of this Christmas stuff and indicates he intends to go somewhere else for a bit. Jubilee then asks him if he’ll go shopping with her and Storm and Wolverine is right to point out how terrible shopping on Christmas Eve sounds. He makes a lame joke about having better luck fighting Sabretooth, but Jubilee does the whole “Please? For me?” and Wolverine responds with “Turn it off, kid.”

I’m going to have to agree with Wolverine here, the mall on Christmas Eve is something to be avoided.

Despite all of that, Wolverine does indeed accompany Jubilee and Storm to the mall against his better judgement. We see them walking around a department store and Jubilee’s face is hidden by the amount of boxes in her arms. She’s trying to talk to both Storm and Wolverine, but can’t see, and Wolverine kindly removes the top box so she can do so. She thanks him for coming and he gives her a “Don’t mention it,” but also reiterates his desire to leave. Jubilee is pretty amped up for Christmas, but also worried she’s not doing it right as she reminds us again that she’s never had a Christmas with a family before. Storm is reassuring, and as the trio makes their way out Wolverine is accosted by a sales woman pitching cologne. She sprays it in Wolverine’s face and informs him it’s sure to make women act like animals (rather risqué for a kid’s show), but Wolverine informs her he’s about to turn into an animal before Storm intercedes.

I feel like we’re missing a conversation here: How did Jubilee convince Wolverine to go ice skating?

Storm gestures towards freedom and encourages Wolverine to make a break for it. He does looking almost feral in the process. We then shift to an outdoor scene and the crew is doing some ice skating presumably at Rockefeller Center. Storm is watching from a bench as Jubilee and Wolverine skate. Jubilee tries to get Wolverine to cheer up and encourages him to have fun, but he just tells her she wouldn’t want to know what he finds fun. He then hears some sirens and goes on alert, but since Jubilee doesn’t have a super sense of hearing she dismisses him at first until Storm hears them as well.

Ape (left) can basically turn himself or his limbs into whatever he can come up with, but often his imagination seems to be lacking.

An ambulance comes crashing onto the ice and we soon see it’s being driven by Morlocks. Ape (Ross Petty) and Annalee (Kay Tremblay) emerge from the ambulance and start taking supplies from it. Wolverine comes skating up ready for a fight and calls their actions low by their standards. He grabs Ape, who had transformed his hands into paddles that look like duck feet to carry supplies. I feel like he could have morphed them into something far more useful. Anyway, Wolverine is ready for a fight, but Storm arrives and brings a blizzard with her to conceal their actions. Annalee informs her that they’re taking supplies to help Leech, a juvenile Morlock who is apparently very sick. They didn’t know what to do as they already tried a hospital, but they couldn’t care for the mutant boy. She takes this opportunity to also remind Storm that she is the leader of the Morlocks, something established way back in season one of the show, and that she’s never around when they need her. Storm agrees to help them and she uses her powers to thwart the approaching police and to provide cover for their escape. Wolverine indicates he’s not helping sewer rats, while Jubilee is worried about her presents. Storm tells the child to leave them, but she scoops them up anyway before following.

Callisto (left) and Storm have to set aside their differences for poor Leech who is afflicted with a severe case of plot sickness.

We then see the group walking through ankle deep water in the sewer. It would seem Wolverine decided to join them after all while Jubilee is worried that they’re supposed to be home in an hour for Christmas dinner. When they arrive at Leech, Callisto (Susan Roman) is there to “welcome” them. She gives Storm a bunch of sass for not being around when they need her which gets Wolverine riled up, but Storm tells him to back off as she seemingly accepts the criticism. She does inform Callisto that they can settle their differences later, for right now Leech needs their full attention. As for the child, he’s laying on a table under a blanket apparently unconscious. Storm, citing Wolverine’s experience with field medicine, instructs him to prep the child as she wants to take him to Beast. Wolverine walks over and checks the kid’s pulse and just says, “Uh oh…”

I think this is Marianna’s only appearance in the show.

Seated against the wall, Jubilee watches with concern on her face. She soon hears something behind her and it turns out to be a small, Morlock, girl who bares a strong resemblance to Leech. Jubilee greets the little, green, girl who then emerges from the shadows to come sit with Jubilee. Meanwhile, Callisto is frustrated that Wolverine isn’t preparing Leech for transport and grabs Storm insisting she order him to do something. Storm fights back until Wolverine shouts “Shut up!” at both of them. He then delivers the bad news that Leech isn’t going anywhere. His pulse is dropping too fast and there’s no way he would survive the trip back to the mansion. This leaves Jubilee to get another sweaty Christmas special line in of, “No, he can’t! Not today! It’s Christmas Eve!” as she hugs the small girl and we pan to a tiny, Morlock, Christmas tree that basically looks like Charlie Brown’s tree, only the lone ornament is broken.

Wolverine apparently has some PTSD in his past related to trying to heal people with his own blood.

As the adults discuss what to do, it’s Jubilee who says “Please Wolverine! You’re so good at healing yourself, can’t you help Leech?” Storm seems to like this train of thought and inquires with Wolverine about a blood transfusion. He refuses, while the others persist. Storm thinks it’s because Wolverine hates the Morlocks, but he shouts back at her “Don’t you think I want to help the kid?!” He then explains he’s tried it before and it didn’t work. It was a group of 20 individuals and the last one to die was a kid younger than Leech. Still, when Storm initially asked he said “Maybe” to it working and Wolverine explains it did work once and the large group was the second time he attempted the feat. He doesn’t know why it worked once, but not again, and seems reluctant to try it here.

It turns out, Wolverine isn’t racist, he just doesn’t want to see another kid die!

Storm doesn’t really care and asks Ape if he acquired a transfusion kit from the ambulance. He just looks at her in confusion and she tells him to never mind. She finds what she’s looking for amongst the supplies and informs the others that she’ll contact the mansion to have Rogue fly Beast to them. As she does she hands the transfusion kit to Wolverine and tells him he knows what he must do. He angrily responds “You don’t know what you’re asking,” and she snaps back, “I am asking you to show the courage needed to save a child’s life!” “He wouldn’t be dyin’ if you looked after these people!” Woo! There’s some dramatic stuff right here! Wolverine’s words appear to cut Storm deep which calms her down.

The moment Ape has waited his whole life for!

Storm concedes Wolverine’s point, but then calmly tells him that even if the odds are one in a thousand, he needs to try. She tops it off with a “Ask yourself, if he were your child, would you refuse?” Wolverine just looks at the kit in his hands and the scene cuts back to Storm’s face, but it’s clearly just a single cel that they’re holding on and it looks pretty goofy. I wonder if the episode came in short and they had to find cheap ways to extend it? It cuts back to Wolverine who just silently shakes his head indicating that he wouldn’t refuse if the situation was different. Storm just says, “Good,” then tells Ape that Wolverine needs a flat surface beside Leech to lie on. You would think this is a command to get a table or something, but no. Ape walks over and turns himself into a table for Wolverine to lie one! Were they planning to eat Christmas dinner off of the guy too?

All right, I need to know more about larva guy over here. Does he do anything or does he just look like that worm that creates Slurm?

Over by the wall, the little Morlock girl asks Jubilee if Leech will be okay? Jubilee responds with a question of her own and in the process we find out the little girl’s name is Marianna (her voice is uncredited, but it’s presumably from the main cast). She asks her if she believes in miracles, but Marianna has no idea what a miracle is. Jubilee tries to sniff back some tears and holds the girl close telling her “Maybe in a little while, we’ll see.”

Good thing Cyclops is here to use his powers to make sure the stalk of celery Jean threw at Gambit didn’t connect. This is the most danger anyone on the X-Men is put into during this episode. Well, Storm and Jubilee are probably in danger of catching something walking around in a sewer.

At the snowy mansion, Jean and Gambit continue their kitchen feud. Gambit apparently did something to the ham and Jean is not happy. She demands Gambit’s removal from her kitchen and in the process refers to him as a swamp rat. Cyclops thinks they’re both acting like children, but before things can get any worse, Professor X enters to inform them of the emergency in the Morlock tunnels. Lucky for him, Rogue already ditched the holiday attire and is in her normal X-Men uniform and ready for action.

This is basically Charlie Brown’s tree, only it’s one that doesn’t magically become full and beautiful once decorated.

Back in the sewers, the transfusion has begun and the rest can only look on while Wolverine urges Leech to pull through. Marianna is still rather cheerful and asks Jubilee if Leech is better yet. She wants to show Jubilee their Christmas tree and takes her over to the pathetic, little, tree which is using a tin can as a tree stand. She’s proud of it though since Leech found it and Jubilee calls it the most beautiful tree she’s ever seen. Marianna then takes Jubilee to their Christmas feast and wants Jubilee to partake. It’s some kind of stew and probably smells awful. Marianna assures Jubilee she can have some of hers as she really wants Jubilee to share the experience. Storm them enters and Jubilee asks about Leech, but it’s too soon to tell. She then asks Storm how the Morlocks can go on having so little and she gets a little dose of Christmas wisdom. Storm tells her they have each other and that’s all they need to feel loved. She tops it off with another one, “As long as you are part of a caring family, every day is Christmas!”

Beast, I don’t think you’re using that properly.

Over by Leech, Callisto is growing impatient and Wolverine has had enough. He angrily rises from his “table” and rips the IV out of his arm defiantly shouting “I told you it wouldn’t work!” Storm tries to calm him down, but before she can Rogue and Beast arrive. Wolverine tells Beast he’s got to work fast and the blue one heads for the patient. For some reason, Leech is now fully clothed and not under a blanket and apparently the animation budget wasn’t high enough to have Beast check the kid’s vitals in a logical manner so he just starts running a stethoscope over the kid’s jacket. As he does so, he explains that Wolverine’s powers are not something that modern, medical, science understands and he doesn’t know what the end result will be.

This kid probably just thinks Jubilee cries all the time at this point.

As Callisto uselessly demands that Beast “Do something,” he continues to examine the child while Wolverine can’t bare to watch. Leech’s eyes soon flutter though, and we get a shot from his point of view as he focuses on Beast. He lets out a cry of surprise which causes Beast to laugh as he notes he doesn’t have the most reassuring of faces. This whole time, Leech has been depicted with yellow eyes and I have to assume it was an error since we see he has eyelids for his waking up shot. Or, it’s not an error and they just decided to give him eyelids for that one shot to make it more obvious that he was waking up. Jubilee is sobbing with Marianna in her arms and tells the girl that Leech is okay and she just matter-of-factly responds with “Of course he is!”

Leech is all better and seemingly over his fear of Beast. Hooray!

Storm then demands Callisto hand over the ceremonial scepter of power. She’s reluctant to, but Storm asserts her authority as leader of the Morlocks and offers no explanation. She then forces the woman to kneel before her, which she probably enjoys humiliating her one last time before announcing she’s transferring her title as leader back to Callisto. Callisto says nothing but rises and takes the scepter. Wolverine then strolls over to break the ice and asks what a guy’s gotta do to get some orange juice and a cookie around here? Leech (John Stocker), who is seated in the large arm of Beast, then announces he’s hungry too which produces a laugh out of Beast who then prescribes food for the patient. Wolverine then thanks Leech “for making it,” while Storm offers her apologies to Wolverine for not treating him with the same compassion he showed Leech, adding that she should have known better than to question his heart.

She’s just handing over a few gifts, Storm, let’s not turn this into something bigger than it really is.

Callisto announces that all X-Men are welcomed to join them for Christmas dinner, though adding they don’t have much to offer. Jubilee then announces that most of the presents she’s been dragging along contain food and offers those. Storm double-checks that she’s all right with doing so since it meant a lot to her to give these gifts out back at the mansion, but she’s totally cool with it because she learned her important, Christmas, lesson. She then encourages the kids, Leech and Marianna, to help her open them.

All right, I have some questions. Number one, which member of the X-Men was in-line to get a toy plane for Christmas?!

Jubilee then gets the customary “You have done something noble,” from Storm acknowledging her Christmas lesson, even though her act of nobility is just giving stuff away. She lives in a freakin’ mansion, for crying out loud. She gives Wolverine a hug as she says “I learned from the best,” and he gives her a reassuring pat on the back and a “You’re a good kid.” Beast then summarizes the events of today by reminding us this wasn’t the Christmas Jubilee had envisioned, but it will be a memorable one. Rogue gets to have a little chuckle here adding “So will a couple of cooks I know.”

Jean is enjoying this. I’m surprised they can’t still eat some of the dinner since there’s still 4 of them there, but Jean probably refuses and I’m guessing Cyclops is in the doghouse if he partakes in Gambit’s meal. Xavier is wise to stay out of it as well.

We cut back to the mansion where Jean has seemingly ceded control of the kitchen to Gambit who has prepared what he feels is a flawless Christmas dinner. Word comes down that the others are having Christmas dinner with the Morlocks, and Gambit does not take the news well that the whole crew won’t be getting together for Christmas dinner. Jean gets to suggest that they can heat it up tomorrow which just irritates the cook further. Gambit retorts in the third person with “Gambit does not make TV dinners!”

Oh no! He’s melting!

By the fire, we see Xavier taking a phone call from Jubilee who is concerned that he’d feel hurt that they’re not spending Christmas together. Xavier assures her that’s not the case, and while their presence will be missed, he’s proud of their actions today. He even refers to her action as a “generous sacrifice,” which seems to be quite the exaggeration here! He tacks on a whole thing about how she’s giving him the best gift of all by acting like a true X-Man in recognizing that she is where she’s needed most. We pan outside the mansion to the giant tree out front where the camera holds and the message “Merry Christmas from all the X-Men” appears to announce that this one is over.

Wolverine wished me a merry Christmas, you guys!

In the intro, I mentioned how out of place it felt for a show like X-Men to do a Christmas special. Now that it’s over, I don’t feel any different, but I do have to commend the show for just going for it. It’s a very dramatic show with a lot of heavy-handed line readings and this episode is no different. Except that this one gets to play with the overly dramatic Christmas special motif we’ve seen in other shows. It almost feels like an episode of Full House as a result, only with mutants, and it takes place mostly in a sewer. It has all of the usual holiday staples though in that we have a character excited for Christmas and the pageantry that accompanies it. Jubilee isn’t portrayed as a selfish child, but she is consumed by the act of Christmas and not its message, but it comes from a healthy place as she reminds us more than once she’s never really had a traditional, Christmas, experience. And she’s forced to adjust on the fly to her first Christmas with a family changing its setting, and even some of its participants.

Wolverine’s heart grew three sizes that day…

We also get the tried and true “some kid is sick at Christmas and needs a Christmas miracle to survive” via the Leech plot. Wolverine, who naturally functions as a Christmas antagonist of sorts, is brought into the story that way and it makes sense that the show would want to involve its most popular character in the plot. It finds a role for him, and we get the added drama of Wolverine being sort of racist against the Morlocks, but forced to save one. That angle isn’t really played up though. Wolverine just assumes the worst of the group, and he’s not entirely unjustified in doing so based on their prior interactions, and also gets in some cheap insults before they come upon Leech. It’s enough for Storm to assume the worst though and adds to the drama. Her and Wolverine’s argument is definitely the height of the special as far as the drama is concerned and the line readings from Sealy-Smith and Dodd are very much over-the-top, but in an earnest way.

Fans of the show probably weren’t asking to spend Christmas with the Morlocks, but the fact that they’re a poor family does lend itself well to a Christmas story.

And then, of course, we get the comedic B plot at the mansion involving Jean and Gambit. I feel like we actually could have used one more scene between the two as clearly Jean just gave up on preparing her idea of Christmas dinner at some point to let Gambit go full steam ahead with his oyster loaf and other foods. It’s fine and we actually get to see a different side of Jean in these scenes, who is normally rather buttoned-up and, frankly, boring. It also allows the whole team to get some presence in this one which is probably an important thing since Christmas is traditionally about family and it’s not like the show was planning on ever doing another Christmas episode.

At least we get to see how the X-Men decorate for Christmas. And they certainly go big.

As an episode of X-Men, this one is a bit of a failure. It’s plot feels out of place and the corny Christmas lines stand out far too much. It also doesn’t get to redeem itself with any special production values. The Christmas décor looks fine, and some of the characters are in outfits we’re not accustomed to seeing, but that’s about it. As a Christmas special though, it’s not that bad. Admittedly, there’s a ton of terrible Christmas specials out there so the bar isn’t exactly high. The messaging in this one is fairly simple and it really doesn’t beat you over the head with it since it’s largely contained to the show’s final minute. Xavier lays it on a bit thick right before the credits roll, but that’s hardly unusual for a Christmas special. It gets bonus points for having actual stakes, and while Leech is basically afflicted with “plot sickness,” the miraculous capabilities of Wolverine’s healing powers mean he could have legitimately been sick with something awful and Wolverine’s powers are just that good. There’s no Santa or anything like that, but it does have a human mutant story at its heart so that helps give it a solid foundation. Plus, it features the X-Men and you don’t get that too often in a Christmas story.

“Have Yourself a Morlock Little Christmas” gets a tepid recommendation from me. I suppose you have to be a fan of X-Men to get the most out of it, but at the same time, hardcore fans are possibly more likely to have a strong negative reaction to this one since it feels a bit silly to see the characters in this setting. This one is basically searching for the overlap on the Venn diagram of X-Men fans and fans of corny Christmas fair. At the end of the day, it’s only 23 minutes so you’re not sacrificing much to give it a look. And it’s fairly easy to find since the whole show is streaming on Disney+. It’s also available on DVD if physical media is still your thing. At worst, maybe you’ll be inspired to try some new dishes at your own Christmas dinner?

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

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