Spider-Man TV (1981) Solo - Season 1, Episode 6

Background

I can't believe I'm only up to episode #6 of this show. I feel like I've been reviewing this TV series since I was in high school!

This time around, it's “When Magneto Speaks... People Listen”.

OK, Magneto. I'm listening and watching. Show me what you've got!

Story 'When Magneto Speaks... People Listen'

  Spider-Man TV (1981) Solo - Season 1, Episode 6
Summary: Magneto holds the Earth to ransom after stealing all the satellites in orbit.
Executive Producer: David H. DePatie, Lee Gunther
Producer: Art Vitello
Distributor: Marvel Productions, Ltd.
Editor: Robert T. Gillis
Music: John Douglas

On a calm Manhattan night, Lady Liberty receives a visit from her protector, your friendly neighborhood whassisname.

Over-viewing his placid domain, Spidey expresses his expectation of an uneventful night. Things are even quiet over at the New York City Power Company where... oh, wait. Nope. What's this? A mysterious glowing force overcomes the power-doodads and neutralizes the controller thingummies. We're 30 seconds into the episode, and the entire city is... powerless.

Without traffic lights, only Spider-Man can stop everybody from crashing in uncontrolled intersections!

But that's just a sideshow. The real action is taking place over at the Satellite Tracking Station. It hosts the Satellite Tracker, which is a place that... tracks satellites... except it's not.

Yep. The satellites are vanishing off the electronic screen. So while the next day sees a return to normalcy of some kind, it soon becomes clear that not all is well in the world of mass communications. As a crowd watches a giant TV in a shop window, the picture goes wavy...

It this Doctor Doom's work? No... it's... something to do with the antenna which is entirely unrelated and serves only to confuse the viewers as to who did what. Even more bizarrely, Spider-Man restores the picture by... creating a new web-antenna on the edge of the building's roof? An antenna... which isn't even connected to the TV!?

This is a ridiculous, pointless coincidence – made even more stupid since we know that Spidey's webbing supposedly doesn't even conduct electricity, as we saw recently in the Sandman episode. So we have an infeasible intricate ornamental antenna that isn't wired to the TV?

Maybe the antenna really did do nothing? Maybe the TV glitch was just a temporary glitch as Mister M prepares his equipment for the main TV take-over. Ugh. None of this makes any sense.

What also makes no sense is that bio-chemistry university major Peter Parker is late for "Doctor Goddard's lecture in satellites and mass communication."

Then again, in the first episode I recall that he had an assignment on "The Tourist Landmarks of New York". Empire State University really does run the most eclectic college graduate programmes that I've ever heard of.

Back the main plot as the mysterious "Mister M" forces his way onto the airwaves to claim responsibility for the power blackout and the satellite relocation. He has demonstrated his power and control, he can take over whenever he wishes. And what does he want in return for allowing power and communications to continue uninterrupted? Something original? Something more than mere money? Something worthy of his stature as a super-villain?

Nah, not at all.

One hundred million dollars in gold!

Ugh. What a boring disappointment. How painfully uncreative. Mister M has dropped several notches in my estimation.

Well, Mister M gives everybody three days to decide if they're prepared to pay up in order to continue living in the modern world.

Having heard the broadcast, Spider-Man/Peter Parker races off to his lecture, but doesn't quite get there in time. Now, given that he was delayed (by my watch) at most 20 seconds on the way by webbing up a new antenna and watching Mister M's news broadcast, he really has nobody to blame for his atrocious time-management skills.

Furthermore, nothing is said during the lecture which has any relevance to the plot. So this clumsy attempt to turn Peter into a "telecommunications expert" is completely pointless so far. Maybe Doctor Goddard is relevant later. So far, he's been nothing but a misleading distraction.

As a punishment for Peter's shocking unreliability in attending class, Doctor Goddard decides to demonstrate his own poor judgement by entrusting Peter with the transporting of the manuscript for the Doctor's book (the "work of the last twenty years") to the printers. Presumably the only extant copy of said endeavor, right?

Still, I'm sure nothing will go wrong. This is Peter "good luck" Parker we're talking about.

Nah, just kidding. Peter makes it to the printer's office, but on his arrival the overhead fan goes completely hay-wire, scattering the countless pages all about the room. But again, it's not clear how this particular piece cack-handed, juvenile slapstick is relevant to the story-line.

An exhausted Spider-Man/Peter Parker returns home for a quick nap. Aunt May has a message for him.

That nice Doctor Goddard called – he asked me to remind you that the space people are launching a satellite tonight.

I guess that means that Peter managed to sort those 1,000 pages back into the correct order – otherwise the message would have been slightly different.

AD BREAK

But in any case, Spider-Man reasons thusly:

If our mysterious Mister M is gonna stop all communications, he'll have to hijack this rocket.

That is, of course, utter rubbish. Mister M already hijacked all of the existing satellites while they floated around in geo-stationary orbit. There's no reason at all for him to interfere with the rocket launch. Why should he? How does the proverb go... "A hijacked satellite in space is worth two on the ground."


Spider-Man prowls around the rocket site anyhow, webbing up the occasional well-meaning but misguided security guard. The wall-crawler eventually tracks down Magneto (not yet named, but visible now in his bright red helmet) as he monitors events from a handy hut.

In the best manner of super-villains everywhere, Magneto soliloquizes his stratagems out loud:

With my magnetic magnifier, I can multiple my magnetic powers a thousand times!

Spider-Man first sets his camera in place, then (in a glorious piece of pointless show-boating) webs-up and pulls-off the front from the entire hut where Magneto is working. But that's about all the use his webbing is good for. Dodging Magneto's "magnetic suspension beam", Spidey fires back with a classic web wrap-up.

Unfortunately, it seems that Magneto's powers work just fine on Spidey's webbing. What the heck is it made of?! Iron filings and rubber cement?! Well, OK then. It's official. As of Episode 6, Spider-Man's webbing is now officially conducting and magnetic. Brilliant. Noted. Let's move on.

The villain easily frees himself with a mental magnet blast. A follow-up blast sends a pile of furniture hurtling towards our hero. Looks like Spider-Man is going to get his living room rearranged!

Now to use my magnetic powers to stop that rocket!

But the webbed-wonder isn't so easy to knock out of the picture. Returning to the fray, Spidey challenges Magneto to a tug-of-war battled over the "magnetic magnifier". In a scene that redeems the entire episode, Spidey launches the classic schoolyard stunt in such cases. Waiting until Magneto exerts his full power to attract the magnifier, then suddenly releases the webbing.

The magnifier crashes into Magneto, launching a KO!

Oops. I spoke too soon. Magneto was only playing possum. He leaps up and wraps Spider-Man up by magnetizing some of the web-slinger's own left-over webbing. This round goes to Magento, as he successfully activates his magnifier and uses his enhanced powers to hold the blasting rocket hard against the launch pad.

Another twist! Spidey gets an arm free enough to web up to magnifer. The rocket takes off at last.

BUT we're not done! Magneto, his plans temporarily foiled, wraps Spider-Man in a magnetic bubble and shoots him up into space to join the recently departed rocket. Spidey's in Space!

AD BREAK

Still encased in the transparent magnetic bubble clamped to the rocket, Spider-Man manages to free himself as the second stage separates fires and separates from the first. But things are not looking good for our hero.

It's not high enough!

...yells one of the ground team.

It'll burn up on entry!

...calls another.

They blame the "extra weight" of Spider-Man. But I personally would be more inclined to pin responsibility on the wasted ten seconds of burn time lost on the ground while Magneto was holding it down by brute magnetic force.

Examining a computer punched tape, another expert declares that the satellite will crash back to earth within five minutes. Magneto watches the unfolding disaster with joyful approval, as dawn breaks across the launch site.

But Spidey isn't defeated yet. Fortunately the magnetic bubble that was strong enough to protect him during take-off and sufficiently impervious to hold in a breathable atmosphere will allow webbing to squirt outwards! This is due to the well-establish principle of deus ex nonsensica).

Employing this principle, Spider-Man web-spins a stabilizing tail for the satellite, and follows up with a web-parachute for reduced speed, and a web-based heat-shield to protect him as he enters the lower atmosphere. All of these work like magic.

And now for a little maneuvering control, and I'll be able to glide it in like the space shuttle.

Don't the guys at NASA feel foolish now, with all their wasted "science" and "design"! Who needs an engineering laboratory? Just send up your space shuttles with a guy and a glue-gun. SPLURT! Instant spacecraft!

But wait! There's one more piece of self-contradicting silliness! Opening up the satellite's access hatch, Spider-Man extracts the nifty portable "magnetic tracking device" that he knows all satellites contain.

All satellites are controlled by a magnetic tracking device.

This is of course a handy little fact that he "learned during Doctor Goddard's class." You remember. The classes that Peter Parker got in trouble for NOT ACTUALLY ATTENDING!

Spider-Man points this device in the general direction of planet earth and waits until it shows "GREEN". Because GREEN on a satellite navigation system means "the location of Magneto". Probably another thing he learned from the classes that he didn't actually turn up for.

The newspaper boy announces that the government needs more time to come up with the gold. Mind you, it's not exactly clear which government is responsible for paying. Just "the" government.

But Magneto isn't particularly inclined to grant more time, so he decides to activate his long-distance magnet ray and... you know... magnetize some stuff. He grabs a bunch of army jeeps and tanks and drops them into the New York Central Zoo.

In fact, he drops them right next to the exit of the Lizard's secret lair as shown in Spider-Man TV (1981) Solo - Season 1, Episode 3. I presume that's just somebody trying to save money by re-using the existing backdrop art.

Then Magneto turns his attention to a more irritating problem. His handy-dandy, auto-targeting, show-you-what-you-need-to-see display screen shows Spider-Man "flying" down in his jury-rigged, home-web-built pseudo space shuttle. Quite extra-ordinary what you can do with webbing and a slightly-used communications satellite!

With callous disregard for all decent laws of aerodynamics, Spider-Man has navigated his way from the edge of the atmosphere over the east coast of the U.S.A. to La isla de Pascua (aka "Easter Island") in the Southern Pacific Ocean – a distance of some 8,000 kilometres. Pretty good gliding for a non-powered craft, really. And pretty good oxygen breathing time for an 3 metre diameter sphere.

Landing like a feather in the middle of a circle of Easter Island giant stone heads, Spider-Man hops out to meet the unwelcoming committee arranged by Mysterio – the giant stone heads moving in to attack!

AD BREAK

The heads attack. Immeasurable cultural damage is caused. Webbing is applied generously. With the help of a convenient satellite dish, Spider-Man reflects Magneto's magnetic beams back onto itself, causing great destruction.

You've interfered with my plans for the last time, you... you... insect!

Ah, you can't beat the classics.

Spidey enters Magneto's lair, and an an enraged villain starts magno-hurling everything in sight at the web-crawler, including several of his own valuable pieces of equipment.

But Spidey has a finishing move that is literally incredible. He pulls out a magic gizmo which locks Magneto in a bubble.

[I have] just turned your own evil force back on yourself. While I was gliding the satellite down to your island, I modified this miniature microwave relay. It amplifies magnetic radiation and aims it back at the source.

Magneto locked in a magnetic bubble (oh no, magnetism is the one thing against which Magneto is helpless). Then Spidey activates the magnetic magnifier and blasts magnetism into space, which will (so he assures us)...

...return every satellite to its proper orbit...

...just like setting fire to a kitchen will cook every recipe in the book.

The satellites are returned from the far side of the moon, where Magneto had hidden them. Unfortunately, Spider-Man is so busy playing with the magic satellite-replacing robot that he fails to notice Magneto's exit through a handy self-closing door. Oh well, Spidey will get him next time.

Peter Parker drops in at the printers to pick up his professor's new textbook. Now he returns to class with the books just in time for the mandatory closing joke. Which goes like this. Follow me carefully here.

J. Jonah Jameson has given Doctor Goddard some pictures of Spider-Man in graceful action. Doctor Goddard is showing them to his students in his "satellite" lecture. Peter Parker enters (late again) with a stack of the the new textbooks, but slips over and drops them all just as Doctor Goddard is praising Spider-Man's grace.

General Comments

When TV was first invented, social commentators imagined that it would be a tool to educate children about science.

Unfortunately, the Spider-Man cartoons are a perfect example of the shocking reality – television exists to misinform and confuse our vulnerable youth about physics, chemistry, biology, space, international relations, educational institutions, military structure, journalism, fine art, banking processes, manufacturing... everything really.

Basically, if you see something in Spidey – it's not how it works. That's not how any of this works.

Overall Rating

Rating these shows is impossible. How does a recovering alcoholic rate cheap whisky.

Oh, Spider-Man 1981 TV Cartoon, I love you, I hate you. ¡Lo nuestro no puede ser!

Two webs. No, four webs. Five! One!

Dammit. Three webs.

Footnote

Web-Wonders: Web-antenna. Web-rudder. Web-heat-shield. Web-parachute. The web-antenna was incredibly intricate, and fully-functional (inexplicably so, given that it wasn't connected to the television). But a fully-functional space shuttle capable of gliding 8,000 km and landing on a 10m runway with no landing gear, that has to be our web-wonder-winner!

Now, in terms of the most implausible piece of bullshit... that's a tough call. There is the magic "miniature Magneto-molesting microwave relay" that Spidey invented and built while simultaneously landing a webbed-up brick with no instrumentation.

But I think that the most impressive piece of shenanigans has to be the overnight book-publishing service.

Peter dropped off the loose-leaf manuscript at the printers after his lecture. That night he went into space, flew around the world, landed on Easter Island, defeated Magneto, then raced back just in time to pick up the textbooks at noon. Impressive service for editing, proof-reading, type-setting, illustrating, printing and binding the book!

Hol' Up! How the hell did Spider-Man get back from Easter Island?