Thoughts on “The New Adventures of He-Man”

So along with the original series of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and the 2002 version, I also have a few disks that contain the “best” 20 episodes of “The New Adventures of He-Man”, which was supposedly a continuation of the original series that had completely new character designs, jettisoned pretty much all of the Masters and the villains, and even set it in a far off, completely different future. It pretty much only keeps He-Man and Skeletor, although they are completely different as well. While it isn’t really fair to review a series based on 20 episodes — they made 65 — I think it worth looking at it because they’re doing a reboot of She-Ra for a modern audience so it might be worth looking to see where this show went wrong.

Because, boy, did it really go wrong.

The first big mistake is setting it in the far future, because that doesn’t in fact actually add anything to the show, nor does it really add new plotlines or things to explore. The problem is that while the original series seemed to be set in a medieval fantasy setting, it was a medieval fantasy setting that had high technology and so was very technologically advanced. In short, the show itself was already futuristic, so you aren’t bringing someone who was unused to their technology into a world with more technology. All of their technology could have existed in He-Man’s original time, and so He-Man can easily understand and use all of it. This still could have been interesting if the future planet had been radically different from Eternia, like, say, being more of a Coruscant-type planet-city instead of the more open world of Eternia. Except Primus, the future planet that may or may not be Eternia, is pretty much the same sort of planet as Eternia was. So we don’t even get to see He-Man adjusting to a new environment. So … what was the point of flinging him into the far future? You could have had the same story set in the present, even if you wanted to have He-Man separated from the other Masters. All you’d need to do is have He-Man go to a far off planet that’s hard to get to to defend them from mutant attacks — and have Skeletor follow — and you’re done.

And setting it in the far future causes issues, especially since they insist on keeping Adam in the story and not changing his character model. Now, there’s no real reason that He-Man can’t stay He-Man all of the time; as far as I remember they never claimed that in the first series. For the most part, the dual identities exist because their other identities are too important to simply disappear or be killed off. Adam is the heir to the throne, which would cause a lot of issues if he suddenly disappeared and became He-Man all of the time. Adora technically could simply be killed off or disappear, but aside from her being an heir to the Eternian throne the conversion of one of Hordak’s most trusted lieutenants to a resistance fighter arguably can do more to convert people to the cause than all of She-Ra’s victories. Both of them, then, are important figures that it would be inconvenient to have simply vanish or “die”, thus mandating the dual role. Adam, as a completely newcomer to the future, doesn’t have that. So why can’t he simply be He-Man all of the time? You can argue that that would allow the villains to find him and so they’d be constantly attacking him to try to kill him … but they’re doing that as much as they can anyway, and Adam was often targeted in the original series just for being Adam, so that’s not as good a reason.

Especially since it raises an issue for the show: since Skeletor, presumably, is not an idiot and has seen Adam on multiple occasions in the original series and in this show, why doesn’t he get suspicious that Adam and He-Man are the same person? If the show was set on a distant planet, then having Adam and He-Man arrive is suspicious but can be explained directly as both of them being sent to help that planet out. But Adam is not presented as Adam, but as a new person who happens to look exactly like Adam — I think he might even keep the name — who appears at the exact same time as He-Man does. Sure, that can happen, but it’s not very plausible. And, in fact, at one point Skeletor builds a machine to track He-Man’s brain waves, notes that they are coming from a group that includes Adam, and never stops to think that maybe it is Adam. That’s a bit too much contrivance to take.

That being said, Skeletor is also downgraded in this series. In the original, he was menacing and manipulative, but also could be humorous and goofy at times. Here, he’s pretty much just goofy. He’s not even the leader of the enemy forces, but wrangles his way into being an adviser to them, which isn’t implausible and might even be something that it would be interesting to explore, except that he’s clearly significantly smarter than them and so is in general the only credible threat. He ends the series in the subordinate role, despite the fact that he would have clearly trying to take over and, in fact, is skilled and smart enough to do so, so it’s hard to see why he’d stay in that role. And his voice is far more standard and loses the unique menace that it had in the original series (and which they brought back for the 2002 series).

Also, there is no real Evil-Lyn analogue in this series. There is a female character who sides with Skeletor, but it is presented as her doing that because she loves him and not because it is in her interest to, which is how Evil-Lyn is presented. The “love” angle is far less interesting and makes her far less of an equal to Skeletor than the common interests angle does. Also, they had a couple of interesting female characters on the hero side, but as far as I can see minimized one and turned the other from a more academically-oriented character to an action character by the end, which wastes the potential of that character, especially since she was seemingly a love interest for He-Man as well. Pairing him with someone who was smarter and didn’t fight was something to explore, as would setting up a Betty and Veronica type situation where he has to choose between someone more practical and someone more intellectual, but neither were done as far as far as I can see and so it was just a waste.

Also, the new Masters and new villains aren’t all that interesting. The original series based their personalities around specific quirks, which gave them some character, which is mostly lacking in the new characters, so they come across as standard heroic sidekicks and villain minions.

Now, some of these things might have gotten some development or explanation in other episodes, and so it might not be fair to judge the series based only on those 20 episodes. Then again, these were the ones voted the best by the fans of the series, and none of them were very good. Since She-Ra seems to be radically altering the premise of the original She-Ra series, it would be good for them to at least note that if you’re going to change things, at least make certain that you make use of them and don’t let them walk you into new issues, like “The New Adventures of He-Man” had in spades.

2 Responses to “Thoughts on “The New Adventures of He-Man””

  1. Thoughts on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002) | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] I just finished watching the 2002 reboot of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Like with “The New Adventures of He-Man”, it’s interesting to look at this in the context of the new She-Ra series to see if any […]

  2. Thoughts on “She-Ra: Princess of Power” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] as a follow-up to watching the three He-Man series, I sat down to watch “She-Ra: Princess of Power”, to remind myself that the push […]

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