Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons - The Complete Series

While fighting off a cold, I spent some time looking back at some 80s Saturday morning cartoons. I watched Dungeons & Dragons when it originally aired, but hadn't given it much thought since. I had picked up the complete set on DVD a few years back and it had just been sitting on my shelf. It seemed like the perfect time to jump back in, and what surprised me the most is how well the cartoon has held up after more than three decades.

The opening sequence to each episode sets up the basic premise of the show: Six adolescents taking a ride on a roller coaster are magically transported to the realm of Dungeons & Dragons where they will spend 27 episodes attempting to find their way home. Armed with magical items that each fit a certain D&D class, the characters are befriended by Dungeon Master (Sidney Miller) who shows up to provide information about their latest quest (often speaking in riddles). Dungeon Master's advice isn't always easy to follow, but inevitably the information he provides the group will lead them several small victories (although not the road home).

The group consists of the leader Hank the Ranger (Willie Aames) armed with an energy bow, the youngest member Bobby the Barbarian (Teddy Field III) armed with a magic club, the nerdy Presto the Magician (Adam Rich) armed with a magic hat that rarely provides what is asked (but often offers what is needed), the quiet Sheila the Thief (Katie Leigh) armed with a cloak of invisibility, the douche bag of the group Eric the Cavalier (Don Most) armed with a magic shield, and the athletic Diana the Acrobat (Tonia Gayle Smith) armed with a staff. Bobby also adopts a baby unicorn he calls Uni (Frank Welker) who rounds out the group.

Most episodes follow the basic formula of the young heroes attempting to make their way home through a portal, spell, or use of some mystical artifact, only to choose a heroic sacrifice to stay together in the realm rather than leave friends behind at the mercy of the evil Venger (Peter Cullen), the group's main antagonist. In one episode the group even contemplates killing Venger, who has continually thwarted their attempts to make it home and has harmed countless locals in his quest for power.

The show has been released on DVD several times over the years. Most collections include only a portion or all of the show's episodes (although there is an out-of-print special edition that does include more extras including a radio play of the show's next episode which would have confirmed the relationship between Venger and Dungeon Master).

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