What are we talking about?

It's been brought to my attention that several Turtle fans who want to participate haven't seen The Next Mutation.  I'm sorry to neglect you all, I wasn't really expecting much interest from people who didn't know who Venus was! Anyway, here is an overview of just what Saban's show was all about..  I tried to make it short, but... I tend to be long-winded.  Sorry.  J

 

The show starts in Shanghai, where a Shinobi shaman named Chung I watches a magic mirror hanging on his wall. His adopted daughter, Mei Pieh Chi (who is shrouded in a cloak), enters and fusses over him, because he's been spending the last several days just sitting there guarding the mirror, not eating or sleeping. We learn that this mirror holds captive a large band of dragons, led by the evil Dragon Lord. They were trapped there many years ago by the Shinobi, who were and are artisans of ancient Chinese magic. He says the barrier is becoming unstable.

We check in on the gang in Manhattan. In an unprecedented move of carelessness, Raphael has just lead several members of the Foot to the subway lair. The Turtles quickly defeat them, but they get away. The Turtles are understandably upset, as the Foot clan now knows where they live.  (I'm not going over every scene in this multi-part pilot episode.  There was some fighting with the Foot, Splinter playing chess in the park with a blind friend, sensing Raph's in trouble, goes to help him out and then whack him over the head with his walking stick for provoking a fight, some stuff with the other guys finding him with the help of Don's computer: none of this really is vital to the story, so I'm leaving it out.)

Back in China, Chung I begins to meditate, and we see that he can dream-walk, and he meets Splinter there! He's known Splinter for many years, apparently, and they talk familiarly. Suddenly, somehow, the Dragon Lord uses Chung I's thoughts to enter the Realm of Dreams, and takes Splinter's spirit captive, preventing him from waking up! Chung I confronts him through the mirror, but the Dragon Lord breathes fire on him (the mirror is unstable enough that he can do that, even though he can't leave it himself), fatally wounding him. (I think it was originally written to be much more violent [and credible] than that, but the final cut was toned down quite a bit.) He's dying, and he calls his daughter to him. He tells her to go to America, to New York City, and find Splinter, and free him. She agrees. It's then that she removes her hood, and we see that she's a mutant Turtle!

In Manhattan again, Mich(a)elangelo's just discovered that Splinter won't wake up. The guys stand in the main room together, discussing the problem worriedly. Then we see a little globe fly through the air and hit the power switch of the subway station, turning it off. There's sounds of a scuffle. Then we see a green hand, much more slender than the guys', turn the switch back on. We see that the guys are bound by their feet, hanging from the ceiling! Someone in a cloak stands before them, and turns to walk toward Splinter. Leo, alarmed, threatens the person, telling them to leave Splinter alone, "He's sick!" The female voice replies that Splinter isn't sick, he's been kidnapped by scheming dragons and held in the Realm of Dreams. Then she lowers her hood, and the guys find themselves talking to a female mutant Turtle. They're understandably shocked. Mike laughs in disbelief. "Thank you!" he says to some higher power. "Dreams do come true!"

The scene changes, and we find Mei Pieh Chi talking with the guys. They tell her their story, she tells them hers. Seventeen years ago, Chung I found her floating in a drain in Chinatown, and took her with him back home to Shanghai.  It becomes obvious to all of them that she was in the jar with the four males, and Splinter missed her somehow when he was gathering the others, and she was washed downstream to be found by Chung I.  In China, he raised her as his daughter, and taught her the ways of Shinobi. She was to take on his task of guarding the mirror when he died. This is all moot now, since the Dragon Lord had found his way into the Realm of Dreams. She can't get Splinter out by herself; she needs to take the guys with her. Unfortunately, ninja can't usually dream walk, except for the most enlightened (masters such as Splinter), and they don't know how. They are forced to put aside Splinter's rescue for the moment, to their chagrin.

I can't remember where exactly this scene takes place, but I think it's some time between Venus's arrival and the attack on Foot headquarters mentioned below. We see her and Leonardo on a rooftop, talking. She admits that she misses her father terribly, and he sympathizes. She says she will try her best to help him and his brothers free their master. He awkwardly interrupts, explaining that they're not actually brothers. "Then I am not your sister?" she asks candidly. "No," he replies, "You and I are just mutant boy and mutant girl." (I don't write this stuff, I'm just telling you what the story said J) "No relation." There is a momentary silence as they look shyly at each other. Fans everywhere (well, me, at least) scream in horror. I've since gotten over the shock. I think I was more upset that they claimed the guys weren't related, than I was that she wasn't related to them. Still, in my mind, they were all blood siblings, Venus included. Now, the temptation of having a love story (hopeless romantic, here, I try not to let it get out of hand J) has made me unsure of her relation to them (that, and Donatello's speculations in his first letter on the archives page). I'll let you guys vote it out.

Back at the lair (or maybe they were still at the lair, if this is before the rooftop scene with Leo. Like I said, I can't remember), Mei disappears suddenly, as she goes to Central Park to think in relative quiet, away from these new, loud teenage boy Turtles she's been stuck with. While she is there, she is ambushed by Foot soldiers, who probably followed her away from the subway lair. Raphael soon shows up to help; he left as soon as the guys noticed she'd disappeared on them. When the Foot are defeated, Mei extracts information from the mind of an unconscious ninja. She finds that the Foot are planning to attack the Turtles' lair en force that night!

Raph and Mei return. She is holding the head of a statue of an angel that she particularly liked, from the park; the Foot knocked it over and broke it in their ambush. Mike sees her and makes a frame with his hands, proclaiming, "I call it: Venus de Milo with Dead Angel". Raph nods. "Venus de Milo, I like it." The name sticks. (Major continuity error: Leonardo calls her 'Venus' just seconds before this scene!)

She reveals the Foot's plot to attack, and they collectively decide to take the fight to the Foot instead. Somehow they find Foot headquarters (in a warehouse. Why are bad guys always in warehouses? I'm sure there's a quote from Raphael in the original animated series about that, but I can't remember it. Something about 'because they can never find any old, abandoned luxury condos' ;)), and manage to infiltrate from the roof level, sneaking onto a catwalk above the huge space where the ninjas are being rallied up by the Shredder! None of the Turtles show surprise, so it's assumed that he's been around for a while. Although The Next Mutation is supposedly a continuation of the movies (he does actually mention Splinter's sliced ear, and the Turtles are living in the subway station), there is no explanation as to why the Shredder's still alive, why he's still around, and why he's a normal human again (never mind the drastic difference in the Turtles' and Splinter's look between the two works :p).

Unfortunately, the wooden catwalk turns out to be unable to hold the weight of five mutant Turtles, and breaks, leaving them to plunge down onto the stage where the Shredder stands. Venus, however, manages to catch a rope first, so she hangs suspended from the ceiling, unseen by the Foot below. She watches as the guys, stunned by the fall, try to scramble to their feet as they are surrounded by Foot. She needs to help the guys, and the only way is down, so she lets go of the rope, but not before calling "Oroku Saki!" challengingly. The Shredder is astonished to hear his given name spoken; it seems that  no one has called him that for a very long time. She lands hard on the dais/stage he's standing on, and tries her best to push herself up into a sitting position. The Shredder is obviously surprised to see another Turtle, and a female at that. He threatens her, but she is unafraid. She tells him she found his real name in his angry thoughts. She says (think Darth Vader, here) that Oroku Saki has buried himself behind a facade of hate as the Shredder, and she begins using her power to draw Saki out of it. He screams, falls to his knees, and overall looks like he's not having a very good time. Venus's eyes glow, and electric-looking arcs of power surround the Shredder, culminating in a final burst that leaves him crumpled on the stage. The mental attack leaves her very weak, and she slumps over. Leo runs over to her and gathers her in his arms, trying to wake her up. ('Awwww,' I said, despite my dismay at the relations thing; like I said, I'm a hopeless romantic, I like sap even if I don't really like the concept behind it J). Weakly, she tells him to talk to the ninja below, because they don't know what to do. He tells them it's over, effectively disbanding them.

After going back to the subway lair and resting for a while, Venus realizes that when they're fighting, the guys become extremely focused mentally, and she finds a way to channel that mental strength and bring them with her into the Realm of Dreams. They quickly find Splinter, and flee with him back to the physical world. Unfortunately, the Dragon Lord "hitches a ride" and comes into the physical realm also! Once there, he can bring his army in after him. Unbeknownst to the Turtles, the dragons are now in Manhattan!

Dragon Lord, through a few encounters with the Turtles, reasons that whatever the magic was that was powerful enough to turn ordinary animals into such mutants, could make him nearly invincible if he had access to it! He decides that eating the Turtles would be a good way to get the magic in their blood into his system, and devises many ways to capture them. He especially focuses on capturing Venus, because she continually gets in the way of his conquest by using her Shinobi powers. He tries many things, mostly mystical in nature, but Venus counters all of them, often with help from her more physically-oriented new family.

In time, we discover that one of the dragons is only pretending loyalty to the Dragon Lord, in an effort to overthrow him someday. He saves Mei Pieh Chi when he and another are sent to ambush her, and they talk. He explains that dragons were once benevolent towards mankind, and lived in harmony with them, even protected them. It was the Dragon Lord who came into power through treachery, and turned the dragons against the humans, which resulted in their imprisonment in the magic mirror. There are several other dragons who are against the Dragon Lord, and were left behind in the magic mirror when the rest of the army came into the physical world. He is gruff, and clearly wants Venus to leave him alone, but she is very gentle toward him, and finally, he gives in to her friendship. (Most of us had the impression that she was attracted to him; Raphael virtually accused her of it [He was out with Venus, and lost track of her after the dragon attack. He finds her again in the back alley talking with the dragon. She explains the dragon is not an enemy, and he retorts, "What did you do? Kiss him?" It sounded sarcastic, but you never know with Raph...], and she wanted very much for the dragon to stay with her and her family, and sure touched his arm an awful lot. Hmm. J) I'll have to watch the episode again to remember why, but for some reason the dragon has to reveal himself as a traitor to the Dragon Lord, and purposefully exiles himself back into the mirror (which the Dragon Lord has somehow brought to Manhattan), vowing to return with the others to overthrow him.

Some of the other characters:

  • a not-quite-sane poacher named Simon Bonesteel, who tries to capture the Turtles for taxidermy (I'm pretty much convinced he's based on the hunter that was after Leatherhead in the comics and FoxBox's "Hunted". It's one thing to name your weapons, quite another to talk to them. Both characters do. Both characters are obsessed with capturing the mutated animals they've discovered, and killing them. You would think that they'd rather sell them to a research facility or something, but neither can see past their 'big game hunter' mentality).
  • a very strange scientist named Doctor Quease, who's wired his brain directly into a computer (with internet access), and is obsessed with mutation. He reminds me a bit of Doctor Feral, who was profiled in Palladium's (Mirage-based) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness. He and Don had a strange relationship, as he alternately wanted to study the mutant, and gain assistance and insight from his brilliant mind. It was actually very poignant to watch, as Donatello once had to destroy a bunch of research that he had worked on for weeks with the doctor, choosing between his love of knowledge and his love for his family, and I really think they could have been great friends. (Hey, Donatello's my favorite [even if he is far too egotistical in Next Mutation], it makes me sniffle. ;))
  • There was a multi-part episode about a strange herb that Venus had brought with her in her supplies from Chung I's house, only to find later that it was the heart of a vampire (ew!) that Chung I had defeated. Her name was Vam Mi, and I thought she was a lot of fun, although her sidekicks Chi Chu (she looked like a little girl, and had a terribly irritating, high-pitched voice) and Bing (who looked like a little boy, but spoke with a deep base voice, LOL) were rather annoying. She died in the end, awww.
  • a being named Silver, the last of a race of sentient apes from the Himalayas (although he himself is distinctly American). Unfortunately, he and his cohorts are also extremely annoying. If you mention "Silver" and "banana" in the same sentence, I may have to hurt you. ;) (as I know from experience, even if you have seen all the episodes, you may have blocked this one out. ;) I did until I watched my videos again last year to brush up on Venus's story. Trust me, you're not missing anything. :p)
  • Saki makes a brief return. Way back when (when he killed Yoshi, I think), he stole an artifact that belonged to Splinter's Master Yoshi, called the Golden Shuriken. Dragon Lord has discovered a way to use its power to take over the world and all that, so he sends a band of dragons out to attack Saki and take the Shuriken from him. The Turtles rescue him, as he appears to be simply a random homeless man (yes, he's far gone at this point). When they realize who he is, it is Splinter who decides they should take him in, enemy or not. I think Saki is secretly appreciative of their help, but can't come to terms with the fact that it is his enemies who are helping him. Basically, the dragon's don't get the Shuriken, Saki runs away with it, giving the Turtles and Splinter a very ambiguous farewell; it almost sounds as though he and Splinter have developed a grudging camaraderie. We never learn what's so special about the Golden Shuriken, where it came from, or how or why Yoshi had it.
  • Splinter had a blind friend that he played chess with in the park; I can't remember his name. I think he was based on "Mrs. M" from the comics (and now the new show), because at one point he is evicted from his apartment and has to stay with the Turtles. By foiling someone's plot (can't remember who, *sigh*) they got a briefcase full of money, and gave it to him so he could have his apartment back.

The show ended before any of the storylines were resolved. The letters on the official site, however, offered a very satisfying conclusion to the Dragon Lord's end of the story (see the letters for March of 1999). To my personal disappointment, though, it never told what happened to the rebel dragons that were in the mirror, especially the one Venus seemed so fond of. I can daydream that she released them from the mirror, and they returned to China to live peacefully, but there's no official word.

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