2 April 2003 | Victor Field
One of Filmation's better efforts.
Looking back, the 1980s was not a great time for cartoons, one reason being the stranglehold toy manufacturers had on the genre, with whole armies of corporate creations getting TV shows and not usually to the benefit of viewers; for every show like "Wuzzles" and "Transformers" (which at least had the advantage of being good) there were series like "She-Ra, Princess Of Power" and "Lazer Tag Academy." (Since the latter isn't listed on IMDb, I'll take time out to comment about this - based on the laser gun game, this had heroine and star pupil of the Lazer Tag Academy Jamie Jaren pursue cryogenically-frozen-and-thawed-out villain Draxel Drear and his genetic sidekicks the Skuggs - probably the most useless assistants in TV history - through time, with the help of her modern-day ancestors Tom, Beth and Nicky. It only lasted one season, and was yet another stinker from Ruby-Spears. Enough.)
Of course, there were still plenty of shows that came before the merchandising, and "BraveStarr" was one such; several SF shows have been dubbed Westerns in outer space, but this one took the concept literally, with Frank Becker's title song setting the scene: "In a distant time, and far away place/The planet of New Texas floats deep in space/Sky of three suns, land of precious ore/The kerium rush brought out thugs by the score!" (The lyrics were talked rather than sung, in a manner that really helps you understand why it took so long for Eminem to make his mark.) The thugs were generally led by the evil, wizened Tex Hex, who wanted to take control of New Texas and its kerium.
"Then one day a Marshal appeared/With powers of hawk, wolf, puma and bear..." Enter Marshal BraveStarr and his sidekick, cyberhorse Thirty-Thirty (named in honour of his rifle) - BraveStarr was what we now call a Native American who could call on the eyes of a hawk, the ears of a wolf, the speed of a puma and the strength of a bear. As you may have figured, he had a bit of a mystical bent (the show was also given to "Kung Fu"-type flashbacks to his youth); less positively, it wasn't free of Filmation's typical sledgehammer morals - in one episode, the guest villain even berated a regular villain for his smoking! But the show was several cuts above average for the studio in terms of watchability and entertainment; and it deserves a footnote for what comes next.
"Sherlock Holmes in the 23rd Century" was a two-part story which dispensed with all the characters but BraveStarr, basically dropping him into a plot that had Sherlock fall from Reichenbach Falls just as a time warp opened, carrying him into the time of "BraveStarr." (Moriarty followed, and the deerstalker'd one acquired equivalents for Watson, the Baker Street Irregulars and Lestrade - his female descendant, a much tougher cop than the Inspector.) It's not uncommon for TV shows to work in pilot episodes through the back door - "Star Trek," "Adam 12," "Who's The Boss?," "The Nanny," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "Murder, She Wrote" tried it (only the latter two succeeded in launching "CSI: Miami" and "The Law and Harry McGraw" respectively) - but it's never been as obvious as it was here, and it didn't work... although we did eventually get the unrelated "Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century"!
"BraveStarr" was one of Filmation's last shows, but it was one of their better ones. Maybe if they had had more like that and less like "Filmation's Ghostbusters"...