Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome back to The Phantom Empire! Yes, this is still going on, and yes, we are only halfway through it. After last week’s surprisingly good episode, anything could happen today! The protagonist could even have an emotion! The title is even cool: “From Death to Life.” Maybe Gene will ascend to heaven, but St. Peter will turn him away from the pearly gates because of that time he started the radio show at 2:01.
Last time, the line spacing was all messed up and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, and it might be this way this week as well. No one knows! We shall begin!
“Murania, located thousands of feet below the earth, is rich in radium deposits. Betsy and Frankie learn that Autry is in Murania and start for the secret entrance.” (Gene told them where the secret entrance was last week.)
“Queen Tika, believing Autry executed, dispatches a radium bomb against Betsy and Frankie. Argo, plotting against the Queen, saves Autry hoping to use him in the revolution. Gene Autry, escaping from the conspirators, tries to prevent the radium bomb from being fired.” I think that’s the most new material in the recap sequence so far- only the first sentence was a repeat. That’s what happens when you make a good episode that actually moves the plot forward.
In case you missed it last time, Gene knocked out some Muranians but got knocked out himself when a Muranian bonked him on the head with a pipe. Just in time, he managed to redirect the missile so it’s pointing straight toward Muranian Mountain, and it flies through the empty hole in the mountain and explodes. The Muranians go over to Gene Autry’s body, but we don’t actually see the body, because they clearly exploded the missile in an empty room.
The queen is shocked that Gene Autry is still alive, but since he “still shows a spark of life,” she orders her underlings to take him to the radium reviving chamber. She realizes that there is a traitor in Murania, since Autry didn’t die in the death chamber, and suspects that it is Argo. The guy she is talking to says that he is not the traitor in a voice so suspicious that I would immediately suspect he is the traitor.
The Junior Thunder Riders arrive at Thunder Canyon to start looking for the secret entrance. That’s all we get.
Unconscious Gene is carried to the reviving chamber, and it’s by a cool robot! You would think that with highly advanced radium technology the Muranians would make the robots faster than humans.
The robot trudges so slowly that Argo and his comrades are able to discuss a plan to revolt before the robot makes it to the reviving chamber. They decide to wait since “the atom-smashing machine which destroys all matter” is not yet ready. Argo gets a new character trait here, as he wants to launch the revolution now because he’s worried about getting caught, but he listens to his comrades and backs down. I point this out because it’s rare for anyone to have more than one character trait in this serial. Ultimately, they plan to cut the power to cause chaos and stall for time. Apparently the entire city is powered on pure radium.
The Queen wants to revive Gene Autry, even though she wanted to kill him before? I don’t know. The “radium reviving chamber” is a table with a plastic cover over it, which is raised and lowered by rope.
After a lever is pulled, the table under Gene begins sparking! Gene is revived the second before the rebels cut the power cable. It’s not an exciting scene, because the shots are out of order, but at least when they cut the power cable the wires all start crackling like microwave popcorn.
Gene starts mumbling nonsense, which is apparently “the language of the dead.” In a panic, the queen tries to translate his words. This is a solid episode for the queen, because she gets to show emotions besides “blandly evil”- for the first time, she feels like she has a personal stake in what happens. Unfortunately, this has not been a good episode for anybody or anything else so far.
According to the rope-pulling Muranian, “surface people always return to the dead that way.” Sure! It’s finally explained that the queen wants to revive Autry to question him about who saved him from the death chamber, which actually does make sense. Rope-puller says that they might have to do a brain operation to question him, and the queen is happy to risk anything to find the traitor.
Even though the power cable was clearly cut, I guess the power didn’t go out? Or anything? They said they would cut the power to cause chaos and stall for time, but I guess they’re not doing that anymore.
Argo enters the death chamber and the queen basically asks him “are you a traitor?” He says that he is not. And so we continue!
My confusion around the wire is resolved: when Argo said that the power wire would have to be cut, I assumed it would be similar to an Earth power wire. Since the Muranians are more advanced than us surface people, they might have power wires that are smaller than ours. Instead, the power wire is a foot-thick behemoth that requires an electric chainsaw-flame-hook to cut through. This is why radium-powered lights are not a good idea.
Right before the doctor cuts into Gene’s brain, he begins speaking normal English again for whatever reason. Just as he begins to tell the queen how he escaped from the death chamber, the power finally cuts out! I feel like it would be more dramatic if the power cut out while the doctor was lowering a knife towards his brain, but what do I know? I’ve just watched this thing for seven weeks straight. At least the title of this one is honest, unlike the last few weeks.
By the time the Muranians can get torches (made of radium?), Gene is gone, and the queen sends the royal guard after him. The royal guard walks slowly to the chase.
Apparently, the Muranian army also calls themselves the Thunder Guard, even though episode one said that the kids named them the Thunder Guard. This episode is boring, and I don’t know why!
Gene has been strongarmed away by two rebels, who have to bust down the door to the rebel room. It is an “electric door,” so it will not work without power. The first sliding automatic door was invented in 1954, nineteen years after The Phantom Empire, so I will accept this as the Phantom Empire predicting yet another invention.
While they are cutting through the door, Gene beats everybody up. There’s a good sight gag where somebody throws a dart at him before he runs away.
Gene uses his expert hiding skills again, as he climbs on top of a wall and the Muranians don’t even bother to look up at the wall.
We cut back to the kids! They find a tunnel entrance to Murania, just by sort of trudging around and looking. There’s a lot of trudging in this episode.
When they go down to the tunnel, the scientists are already there, and we hear more exposition! It will take a long time to dig out the radium! The scientists decide to explode the tunnel to get to the radium faster! The kids then restate the exposition to us. The kids used a ladder to climb down the mountain, which I thought was an unimportant detail before, but the scientists have taken away the rope ladder! They’re trapped!
The power is back up, and Autry is caught and chased after! This time, his hiding technique was “hold a big rock in front of his face,” and he would have gotten away with it if he didn’t decide to take the big rock down from his face to look back at some Muranians for no reason.
Unlike Lot’s wife, Gene is not turned into a pillar of salt for looking back, but he is spanked on the bottom by a robot.
We cut to Gene taking the elevator, even though the queen said earlier that she would have the elevator watched. The queen orders the Thunder Guard to take Autry “dead or alive,” even though she said earlier that she wanted him alive. Gene opens the elevator door, sees a horde of angry Muranians waiting for him, closes the elevator door, and goes straight back down. In this scene we see the first close-up we have on him, and there are forty-five seconds left in the episode. He sighs in a way that seems to indicate that he is just kind of annoyed by everything that’s happening. This is the face of a man of action!
The elevator door opens at the bottom. Nobody is at the bottom, despite the queen saying earlier that she would have the elevator door watched carefully. Eventually some Muranians show up, Gene starts sword fighting them, and in under fifteen seconds he falls off a balcony. See you next week!
I wish this one was better. Coming off of last week, it had the chance to be really exciting. Instead, it just kind of existed. I struggled to get excited about anything that was happening, and even though the story was moving forward a little bit, it did mostly feel like wheel-spinning. I know I didn’t get to make as many jokes about what was happening, but that’s because nothing happening was really worthy of jokes; I struggled to stay engaged. Given that it didn’t really do anything wrong, just failed to improve upon previous weeks or have many fun moments to write about, I will give it a Grade: B-
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