Defenders of the Earth

Tagged: TV

US animated tv series (1986-1987). Marvel Productions/King Features Entertainment for the Fox Television Network. Created by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru and John Romita Sr. Produced by John Ahern, Bill Hutten, Tony Love, Don Sheppard, others. Directors included John Gibbs, Ray Lee, and Will Meugniot. Writers included Chris Bunch, Arthur Byron Cover, Mark Edward Edens, Mel Gilden and Mark Zaslove. Cast includes William Calloway, Adam Carl, Ron Feinberg, Buster Jones, Loren Lester, Sara Partridge, Diane Pershing, Hal Rayle, Peter Renaday, Lou Richards, Peter Mark Richman and Dion Williams. Based on characters created by Alex Raymond, Lee Falk, others. 65 30-minute episodes. Colour.

In the year 2015, Flash Gordon (Richards) has escaped the planet Mongo and his long-time enemy Ming the Merciless (Callaway, then Feinberg). Crash-landing near the home of Mandrake the Magician (Renaday), Flash is restored to health by Mandrake and relates that his wife, presumably Dale Arden, has been killed by Ming. The Hypnosis-wielding magician forms the titular superhero team to defeat Ming: further recruits are The Phantom (Richman), Mandrake's long-time friend the martial arts master Lothar (Jones) plus his son Lothar Jr (Williams) alias "L.J.", Mandrake's adopted son Kshin (Carl), and The Phantom's daughter Jedda (Partridge), who has powers of Telekinesis. Travelling to Mongo, they rescue and recruit Flash's son Rick Gordon (Lester), who has transferred his mother's mind into a crystal. Back on Earth, she is Uploaded to the computer Dynak X (Pershing) as a supporting team member. Many adventures follow, involving common sf themes of Space Flight, assorted Monsters, Time Travel and an army of "Ice" Robots used by Ming against Earth. Ming's son Prince Kro-Tan (Rayle) occasionally aids his father. Hal Foster's sword-wielding historical adventurer Prince Valiant guest-stars in episode #26. In the final instalment, Ming secretly travels to Earth, planning to use a volcano's heat to revive thousands of frozen Dinosaurs and other ancient beasts from Suspended Animation in Alaska, and conquer the world with them. The Defenders cause the volcano to erupt, destroying most of the animals and apparently also Ming.

Defenders of the Earth took some liberties with characters, allowing The Phantom to gain temporary superhuman strength by reciting a mystic incantation, and adding the various heroes' children as a sop to younger viewers. Ming was given green skin and sharp, pointed ears to make him appear less Oriental than in past incarnations (see Race in SF; Yellow Peril). Tie merchandise included a 1987 four-issue Comics title from the Marvel Comics imprint Star Comics; Gordon's wife was identified as Dale Arden in issue #2. Galoob Toys produced Toy action figures of the main characters; there were also related Videogames from other companies. [GSt]

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