Weirdest Captain Planet and the Planeteers Episodes - VRGyani News and Media

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Weirdest Captain Planet and the Planeteers Episodes

It's hard to think of an environmentally-focused kids show that’s as well known or as bizarre as Captain Planet. First airing in 1990, Captain Planet enjoyed a six-season run. The show is almost painfully of its time, from the character designs, to the cheesy wordplay, to the clumsy and awkward way serious topics were handled. The series would expand to sustainably-made recycled and recyclable toys, a few video games, a collection of home media, and a Marvel comic series.

But today, Captain Planet isn’t remembered as much for its nostalgia, its franchise extensions, or its environmental messages. It’s remembered for its sheer weirdness. From AIDS to drugs to overpopulation, Captain Planet tried to tackle a surprising amount of contemporary and challenging subjects... with varying degrees of success. Today, we’re diving into ten of the most bizarre Captain Planet episodes ever produced. So suit up, strap in, and remember -The power is yours!

10.) Season 1 Episode 14: “Meltdown Syndrome”

Two mainstay villains, Duke Nukem and his lackey Leadsuit, break into a leaking nuclear power plant to wreak havoc. The Planeteers summon Captain Planet, who incapacitates Nukem. However, a cloud of radioactive steam bursts from the broken cooling tower and heads towards the city. Thinking quickly, Captain Planet picks up a cement truck, uses it to form a vortex to capture the steam, and hurls it into the sun. Nukem escapes and causes a meltdown, so Captain Planet must save the day once again, this time by hurling almost the entire nuclear power plant into the sun - all while espousing an almost criminal amount of puns. When asked what they’ll do for power, Gi suggests geothermal power sources rather than nuclear fuel. Captain Planet drills a hole down to the molten layer of the Earth’s core, on which the scientist builds a successful geothermal power plant. The episode ends with a short PSA to conserve energy.

This episode makes the list solely for the sheer absurdity of Captain Planet solving all of his problems by throwing them into the sun. Nothing will prepare you for watching our beloved Captain lift up a chunk of earth housing a nuclear power plant and carry it into space to incinerate it while delivering one-liners. The whole drilling-a-giant-hole-into-the-earth is also a strange side point, and the puns, though common in any episode, are so prevalent in this one it's almost overwhelming.

9.) Season 1 Episode 20: “The Ultimate Pollution”

In this episode, a wealthy businessman named Looten Plunder is selling weapons to both sides of a village war in the Middle East. Plunder continues to spur the villagers into a hurriedly intensifying arms race that ultimately boils over into a tank battle. The Planeteers summon Captain Planet, only for him to be taken out by a missile filled with toxic waste. The war is ended, Captain Planet is revived, and the episode's baddies are dumped in Antarctica. To finish it off, the tanks are refitted as tractors and well diggers for the villagers to use.

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Made during the Gulf War, this episode has disconcerting ties to our present: namely, Western war profiteers, the desire of outsiders to take sacred artifacts out of the Middle East, and the destruction of culturally important locations by war. You don’t expect a 30 year old cartoon to hit so close to contemporary issues, let alone one starring a blue recycling superhero with a green mullet. There’s also a multiple near-crushing of children with tanks, so that’s got to count for something.

8.) Season 5 Episode 11: “Numbers Game”

It's Wheeler's birthday, and a trip to Coney Island is canceled when the Planeteers have to save a highly populated South American city from a mudslide. Instead of Coney Island, the Planeteers go to a new environmental theme park. Wheeler and Linka get onto the Tunnel of Love, which leads to an extended dream sequence in which they get married and have eight kids, with a ninth on the way. Kwame and Ma-Ti arrive and demand that Wheeler stop having so many children, pointing out that he’s consuming too much. But in truth, all of the Planeteers are overconsuming, with Gaia and even Captain Planet tired of the Planeteers’ ways. When disaster strikes and Captain Planet is put out of commission, the others blame Wheeler and his large family. The dream ends, and Wheeler asks Linka that, if they ever get married, they don’t have a lot of kids. The episode ends with a PSA about reducing consumption and having a small family.

Of all of the plots that a kid’s cartoon could tackle, the crushing financial and mental weight of having a large family is probably one of the more unexpected. The indirect message for kids to remember to wrap it up and not have a bunch of kids when they get married is enough to get a laugh, as is the wild escalation and hypocrisy of the imagined future Planeteers. Gaia and Captain Planet’s newfound bitterness also gives a welcome bit of dark comedy to the second half of the episode.

7.) Season 2 Episode 22: “Scorched Earth”

In this episode, an environmentalist protest against a ruthless dictator causes the dictator to angrily spill oil into the sea. Captain Planet is summoned and stops the leak. The dictator implements a “scorched earth” policy, demanding his general set the oil slick ablaze. The Planeteers are captured, and they learn that this dictator is being possessed by Zarm, one of the show’s recurring villains. Zarm then reveals that, in one way or another, he’s been behind every dictator in human history. The general, realizing what he’s done, saves the Planeteers. In turn, they once again call on Captain Planet. He sorts out the oil problem, Zarm escapes to possess another dictator, and the man he’d been inhabiting spends the rest of his days in an underground emergency bunker. Today’s PSA is about developing alternative fuel sources and conserving our current resources.

If Zarm is confirmed to be behind literally every dictator in history, and we know that Hitler exists in the Captain Planet universe (see below), then logically that would mean Hitler was possessed by Zarm. What other real life dictators might Zarm have influenced? Was this spandex-wearing Masters Of The Universe rip-off behind cartoon Stalin? Cartoon Mussolini? Was this underwear-clad spikeball with a Wolverine haircut controlling Kim Jung-Un? I think I need to lay down.

6.) Season 1 Episode 21: “Population Bomb”

In a crowded, noisy city, Captain Planet prevents a building from falling apart, then warns the Planeteers of the dangers of overpopulation. However, Wheeler is determined that no one is going to tell him how many kids he can have. Later, Wheeler ends up on a severely overpopulated island of miniature mouse people. The mouse military are alerted to Wheeler’s presence and, upon seeing how large he is, decide to use him as both a source of labor and food. When Wheeler escapes, the starving mouse citizens riot in the streets. To stop the arriving Planeteers and the rioters, the mouse military turns a powerful sonic missile onto both of them. However, the first time the missile is used, it causes an earthquake that sinks the island. The episode then pulls a "but it was all just a dream" twist and Wheeler wakes up, having reconsidered his stance on overpopulation. The episode ends with a short PSA to keep your future family small and to conserve what you can.

For whatever reason, Wheeler is determined to have as many kids as he physically can. Though the previous overpopulation episode was somewhat more grounded in reality and had some dark humor to it, the unusual setting and strange threats against humanity make this episode a little more bizarre. The attempted use of military force against starving rioters, the silencing of intellectuals by an anti-science government, and a plot to use humans as a food source make this episode less of a dark comedy and more of a bonechilling thriller.

5.) Season 3 Episode 11: “A Formula For Hate”

Verminous Skumm breaks into a doctor’s office to spread evidence that Todd, a popular high school basketball player, is HIV positive. Todd contracted the virus from an untested blood transfusion he’d received years ago, and the news is devastating. At the same time, Skumm is spreading rumors that Todd has AIDS, as well as misinformation about the virus itself. The rumors destroy Todd’s friendships and his reputation in the town, and after his family’s business is destroyed, Todd runs away. The Planeteers bring him back with the help of Captain Planet. Captain Planet and Todd’s basketball coach then give a lecture on how AIDS actually spreads, while dispelling myths about it. They’re able to rally everyone back around Todd, he plays in the state championships and wins, and Skumm and his lackey are arrested. This episode ends with a PSA about AIDS, recommending kids talk to their parents, teachers, and nurses about it.

In Captain Planet’s attempts to tackle contemporary issues facing kids in the 90s, they decided to be really bold and cover a subject that remains controversial even today: misinformation about HIV and AIDS, and the repercussions that misinformation can have for people infected by the virus. Now, just because something is shocking or controversial doesn’t mean that media aimed at children shouldn’t cover it - a lot of children learn about challenging topics through things like Sesame Street, for example - but in typical Captain Planet fashion, the execution is almost comically tone deaf. For instance, when Todd learns he is HIV positive, he shouts, “Who cares how I got it, it stinks!” The cartoonish way the subject is handled (and nearly bungled) brings this episode from unusual to downright bizarre.

4.) Season 6 Episode 5: “A Good Bomb Is Hard To Find”

Dr. Blight teams up with her future self to travel back in time and sell atomic bombs to the highest bidder. They escape to World War II and try to sell bombs to Hitler, who is all too eager to buy. Back in the present, the Planeteers make their way to Blight’s crashed ship in Vietnam. Unfortunately, mines left over from the Vietnam War surround the ship, and the group is nearly blown sky-high. Fortunately, a local named Tai-Lee, who lost her leg to a leftover mine, is there to help guide them. They make it to the time machine inside and are transported to the past just in time to stop Hitler from buying the bomb. In the ensuing scuffle, the Blights accidentally arm the atom bomb. Captain Planet is summoned, and he throws the armed atom bomb deep into space. Everyone heads back to the future, but not before Blight drops her atomic weapons journal, which the American military collects for future use. Tai-Lee also gives a soldier a letter to her grandparents that warns them of the local minefield, thereby creating time shenanigans that allow her to regain her lost leg. This episode’s closing PSA is about respecting others and solving conflict through communication.

Yes, this is the Hitler episode. Even though the German dictator’s mustache is less “Charlie Chaplin” and more “Hulk Hogan,” it’s still unmistakeably him. Again, there is nothing wrong with children’s media tackling real life subjects but.... the time travel. The mine fields. Captain Planet fighting Hitler. A "who created the atomic bomb?" paradox. All of this is gracelessly chucked at the viewer, who is expected to just roll with it. There was also a hilarious moment when Captain Planet is briefly crippled when he first sees Hitler because “[he] wasn’t prepared for the level of hatred radiating from that monster.” All I’m wondering is if this episode counts as a villain team up episode, because as the show has established, Zarm is probably controlling Hitler during all of this.

3.) Season 6 Episode 13: “101 Mutations”

Wheeler's cousin Joey discovers that his recently deceased puppy came from a puppy mill run by Dr. Blight, who is using the mill to breed dogs for her experiments. So, he gets a bus to Dr. Blight’s facility and is immediately captured. The Doctor attempts to feed him to her starving guard dogs. But Joey has snacks, and manages to win over both the guard dogs, one of whom he names Lady. The Planeteers show up, but Dr. Blight attempts to set the mill on fire to destroy the evidence - meaning the dogs. Captain Planet and Lady save both the dogs and Joey, and Dr. Blight is presumably mauled by her guard dogs. The episode finishes with a PSA about adopting pets from shelters rather than buying them from pet stores.

You know what’s just weirder than the Planeteers dealing with Hitler? The Planeteers dealing with puppy mills. When an entire episode centers around the chillingly realistic depiction of animal abuse, it hits a little differently. You probably never expected to see terrified and emaciated dogs in a Captain Planet adventure, and rightfully so. While the Planeteers are less jokey and more somber, the flamboyantly cruel tone of Dr. Blight derails the otherwise straight-faced narrative.

2.) Season 4 Episode 22: “‘Teers In The ‘Hood”

A high school student named Ronnie is caught in the middle of a gang shootout, only to be rescued by his teacher, who is shot in the process.Wheeler grew up around gang violence and understands the mentality behind it, but when he attempts to explain this to Gi, she reacts with anger, thinking he’s trying to justify it. While the Planeteers infiltrate the gangs, Ronnie reveals that he knows who shot his teacher. To keep him from squealing, the shooter captures Ma-Ti and Ronnie and ties them up in a burning house. Gi nearly drowns the shooter, Captain Planet is summoned, and Ma-Ti and Ronnie are rescued. A bizarre montage of civil rights images, Martin Luther King Jr.’s "I Have A Dream" speech, a civil rights rap song, and gunfire plays before the gangs come to a truce. The episode ends with the teacher pulling through, and a PSA about gun violence.

Another topical Captain Planet episode, this one attempts to tackle gang violence in a baffling way. Weirdly dramatic saxophone music, constant strobing, images of civil rights leaders, and strange camera angles make this episode one of the weirdest in terms of cinematography and visual style. Perhaps the most disorienting part is the montage at the end, which feels like it crosses the line from "artistic and impactful" to "haphazard and chaotic." The heavy-handed gang and gun violence message in this episode is completely overshadowed by the question of how it ever aired on TV.

1.) Season 2 Episode 1: “Mind Pollution”

Verminous Skumm is selling a new designer drug known as ‘Bliss’ on the streets of Washington DC, and Boris, Linka's cousin, is addicted. Bedraggled and in pain, Boris returns to Skumm after Linka accidentally destroys his supply. He offers Linka’s Planeteer ring in exchange for more drugs, and to get it, Boris spikes Linka’s food, hooking her on Bliss. The Planeteers rescue her, only to realize that all those who remain in the city are now addicts, and that withdrawal from Bliss is agonizing. Skumm sends his Bliss-heads after the Planeteers, chasing them to the top of the Capitol building where Boris overdoses and dies. Linka, realizing what happened, manages to escape the temptation of another hit and they summon Captain Planet, who defeats Skumm. In the end, all those addicted, including Linka, receive medical attention and treatment for their withdrawal symptoms, while Skumm accidentally doses himself with Bliss. A PSA at the end of the episode warns about the dangers of recreational drugs and urges those addicted to seek help.

This subtle episode on the dangers of drug use features blood, death, addiction, and the pains of withdrawal. You’ll watch Boris throw himself through a window and start bleeding out on the floor of the Capitol building. You will see a statue of George Washington being destroyed by a mob of addicts in a painfully blatant visual metaphor for how drugs are destroying the country. This episode is the ultimate topical Captain Planet adventure: ham-fisted morals, cartoonishly over-the-top villains, tone-deaf portrayals of serious issues, surprisingly graphic violence, and cheesy puns. Everything is here, and it’s a mess. You’ll come out of this episode feeling like you just watched the weirdest 20-minute drug PSA you’ve ever seen - and honestly, that feeling is extremely accurate.

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