Film Advent Calendar – Day 4: He-Man & She-Ra – A Christmas Special (1985)

While it’s was fairly customary for sitcoms and other live action shows to have a Christmas episode, it always was incredibly unusual for a mainstream cartoon to have one. I guess it still is today – although I generally don’t watch kids’ TV these days (except the wonderful Creeped Out – seriously, check it out on Netflix or iPlayer if you can). However, in December 1985, hot on the heels of She-Ra’s first (and He-Man’s second and final) season we did actually get one. A completely batshit crazy one, but its definitely A Christmas Special.

“Now what has a cartoon about a pair of superhero siblings who fight ‘roided-out villains on an alien world got to do with Christmas?” I hear you ask. And that is indeed a valid question! However, if you know your He-Man lore, then you know that King Randor’s wife, Marlena, was originally an Earth astronaut who conveniently crash-landed on a planet populated (mostly) by humans who also spoke perfect English. In the opening moments of the film, the palace is getting ready to celebrate Adam and Adora’s first birthday together since she stopped being evil (as seen in The Secret Of The Sword). “The preparations have been going on for days”, the King assures us and Queen Marlena is reminded of how she used to decorate her house on Earth for the festive season.

So we think Marlena is going to introduce Christmas to Eternia. But that’s not how it goes at all. That little idiot, Orko, gets into a spot of bother while (as usual) pissing around with Man-At-Arms’ latest experimental military hardware – the Sky Spy, a satellite designed to collect data on Skeletor’s movements from space (I’m guessing Eternia doesn’t have GDPR laws or that would be the end of that). The Sky Spy, instead of doing what it was supposed to (i.e. maintain a geostationary orbit over Snake Mountain and video tape Skeletor’s antics) somehow takes Orko to Earth instead, coincidentally, two days before Christmas, where it crashes and endangers the lives of two children. Orko, of course, saves them and in return, they tell him all about Christmas, leading to one of the worst renditions of Jingle Bells you are likely to hear (including the one about Batman).

Back on Eternia, everyone is wondering where Orko is and when they work out he’s buggered off to Earth, Man-At-Arms suggests using his matter transporter to get him back. But there’s a problem. It needs a Kerrium Water Crystal to work and there aren’t any on Eternia. Seriously. Why/how did he even invent it if the materials to make it work don’t even exist?

Luckily (there’s a lot of “luckily…” in this film) they do exist on Etheria, so He-Man and She-Ra hop over there (we’re not shown how, but they seem to get there instantly), to ask her friend Mermista where one can be found (because “Water Crystal”) and she tells them that it is guarded by a legendary creature, unheard of except in tales of terror which She-Ra believes to be but a fable, which is called…

Wait for it…

The Beast Monster.

I’ll say that again.

The Beast Monster.

And this is one of the less ridiculous moments of the film. Needless to say, they get their crystal, Orko is transported home and, foreshadowing events from the movie, some two years off, two Earth children are accidentally transported to Eternia too, culminating in a spike in Christmas spirit there, in turn leading Skeletor and Hordak’s master to start quoting Star Wars:

There is a great disturbance…

The prize for the greatest quote of the film though goes to Swiftwind, She-Ra’s flying unicorn Pegasus thing. When He-Man and She-Ra come up against obvious Transformers rip-offs, the Monstroids (I think they might need Cisco Ramon on their team to give the monsters better names), Swifty, utterly shocked at their dastardly ways (all they’ve done at this point is changed from giant robots into vehicles), utters:

They’re changing into different forms! What evil robots!

Bloody foreign robots, coming over here, transforming into vehicles…

Those despicable bastards.

As if She-Ra knew that the bad guys were quoting Star Wars, she joins the fun but defeating them by tying a rope around their legs. And of course, we get to meet the Manchines.

The Manchines.

Part man (sexist), part machine. Robocop, they ain’t. Dear God, if you thought T-Bob from MASK or Wheelie from Transformers: The Movie were annoying, then this is probably where you want to stop watching. Quickly. However, this does immediately lead into the most famous, meme-creating (and best) section of the film. Skeletor kidnaps the children, intending on handing them over to Horde Prime for a nice reward, but is overcome with Christmas Spirit and instead saves them, much to the children’s delight (and He-Man’s annoyance).

I  am not nice!

I’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t go back and watch your old childhood favourite shows because you’ll just come away terribly disappointed. And if you go into A Christmas Special, expecting a rollicking feature-length action spectacular to rival its progenitors greatest episodes, then you will be. But if you, like me, get in the Christmas Spirit (known in my house tonight as Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold) and prepare yourself for a silly, camp (so much camp), festive adventure with buckets of heart and a decent message (it is Filmation after all) then you’ll have a blast.

A few more notable moments…

  • In honour of learning about Christmas, Bow writes what is possibly the worst Christmas song in the world. It even makes Mr Blobby and all those X-Factor ones sound good.
  • Hordak must have a massive superiority complex because he drives a plane with his own face plastered all over the front of it. Also, his helicopter looks like a gigantic “erotic toy”.
  • Earth parents aren’t particularly bothered when their children go missing for days on end.
  • Mermaids on Etheria are apparently French.
  • Humorously named fan favourite Fisto is in the film for all of one second. However, in that second we get to see how big his mighty hand is, and how small it makes a cupcake look. Goodness knows how he does everyday things that require a feather-light touch, like brush his teeth or play Buckaroo.

Paul Childs

As well as writing for Den of Geek and Your Truth, Paul also runs Badgers Crossing, a site for ghost stories. He loves the 1980s and thanks to a keen interest in Public Information Films he has never been electrocuted or set himself on fire.