Now, 25 years after the original series premiered on TV, every single episode is being released on DVD, in an awesome box set shaped like the TurtleVan (aka The Party Wagon).
In honor of one of the greatest cartoons of my generation, I've picked my favorite episode from each season. Sit back, gorge on some pizza, and recollect why you loved "TMNT" in the first place.
Season 1 (1987) -- "Enter The Shredder"
The second episode of the show is a doozy, as we're introduced to evil mastermind Krang and the wandering Technodrome. We also get to see the mysterious Dimension X for the first time. Shredder fiddles around with the mutagen at the Bronx Zoo, and as a result, creates Bebop and Rocksteady -- unfortunately for him, they don't turn out to be the powerful adversaries he'd hoped for.
Season 2 (1988) -- "Invasion Of The Punk Frogs"
Some of the best episodes happen when Shredder's playing around with the mutagen. He does it again here, but as Krang sends the fluid from Dimension X, it gets lost in the shuffle and spills into a swamp in Florida. Four frogs mutate into the Punk Frogs: Attila the Frog, Genghis Frog, Rasputin the Mad Frog, and Napoleon Bonafrog. Despite their ruthless names, they wear Hawaiian shirts and are completely harmless. The Turtles eventually convince them that Shredder is the evil one, and they return to the swamp. (Bonus awesomeness in this episode: it's the first appearance of the Turtle Blimp.)
Season 3 (1989) -- "The Big Blow Out"
In this final episode of the third season, Shredder and Krang steal all of New York City's electricity and channel it into an interdimensional portal, so they can basically suck Earth into Dimension X. Ingenious, really. Best scene: the faces on Mount Rushmore are transformed into Turtle faces. How? I won't spoil it here.
Season 4 (1990) -- "Shredder's Mom"
C'mon, Shredder's mom?? Yes please. Seems like Shredder is a chip off the ol' block, as his mom escapes from the retirement home for felons to come join him in his quest to take over the world. You and I get upset when our mothers call us too often, so imagine what it would be like if, as you're deploying weapons, your mom taps you on the shoulder and tells you you're doing it wrong. Even worse is when she captures the Turtles with ease -- something that Shredder can't seem to do, ever.
Season 5 (1991) -- "Michelangelo Meets Mondo Gecko"
Michelangelo kind of starts to suck by the end of season 4 because his nunchaku are replaced with the lame grappling hook. (OK, so some kids got injured, I get it. But still!) Yet another episode about the mutagen, this one starts off with Michelangelo having bad dreams about a gecko who was trapped in the ooze with the baby Turtles. Plucked from the mutagen by a mysterious man, Mondo Gecko (as he's known) becomes an unlikely ally/friend for Michelangelo. Let's just say his eyes are permanently red ... the animators don't even try to hide it.
Season 6 (1992) -- "Krangenstein Lives!"
Krang's robot body goes out of control because Bebop and Rocksteady accidentally destroy a microchip and replace it with one that doesn't belong. It then goes on a murderous rampage, nearly wrecking the entire city. (I give myself bonus points for hearing and identifying an uncredited Dan Castellaneta -- the voice of Homer Simpson -- as the fireworks factory owner in this episode.) I've also always loved Krang's little steel legs contraption, which he runs around in when he's not in his robot body.
Season 7 (1993) -- "Shredder Triumphant!"
This last episode of the season has the Technodrome returning to the surface of Earth, and Shredder and Krang manage to trap the Turtles and send them back to Dimension X as slaves. The bad guys are winning until, of course, Shredder's ego gets in the way and screws everything up. Eventually the Turtles get back to Earth, but unfortunately for them, Krang, Shredder and the whole gang are also trapped there -- with the Technodrome in Dimension X.
Season 8 (1994) -- "Cry H.A.V.O.C.!"
From season 8 onwards, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" makes some pretty big changes: there's a new theme song, a different title sequence, and many previous characters are gone. Known to fans as the "Red Sky" episodes (the sky is always dark red instead of blue), even the Turtles themselves look darker, especially around their eyes. The tone of the show is melancholic, with an "X-Men" feel: it's more mutants vs. humans rather than the TMNT against evildoers, at least in this episode. A mysterious organization of mutants called H.A.V.O.C. (Highly Advanced Variety Of Creatures) try unsuccessfully to recruit the Turtles, who then take it upon themselves to disband the group before they give mutants a bad name.
Season 9 (1995) -- "Split-Second"
Welcome to season 9, where alien warlord Dregg takes over as the main villain of the show. In this episode we're also introduced to new side-villain Chronos, whose obsession with time allows him to control it. With time gone haywire, New York City descends into chaos, and it's up to the Turtles to make it right. I have to say that seeing April O'Neil without her trademark yellow jumpsuit is a bit jarring. She's "sexed up" in these later episodes, but it doesn't feel like the real April.
Season 10 (1996) -- "Divide And Conquer"
The last episode ever (*sniff*) of the original series gives us little tastes of everything, though we said goodbye to Shredder and Krang in the second-last episode. We get a bit of new sexy April, some meditation with Splinter and some ninja training. There are even some references to "the Net," which is interesting considering the airdate. Though these latter seasons never quite lived up to the glory of the first seven, at least the show lives on in its newest form, providing Turtle Power for generations to come.
The "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" box set is in stores November 13, 2012.
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