Scooby-Doo doesn’t die. That Great Dane has appeared on television or in film all but 11 years since it was created in 1969. You can mock the laugh track or the premise or the fact that Shaggy is obviously high all the time, but the fact is, people love the characters, that’s why they keep coming back. Sure, they’ve changed over time: Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, The New Scooby-Doo Movies, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!, etc. They’ve added characters, then removed them, then added them back. They’ve changed premises. They’ve had the cast as kids. They’ve done it all.
But, in Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated, as opposed to they writers asking “what if we set it in space” or “what if it takes place in the future,” apparently they asked a different question: WHAT IF WE MADE THE SHOW AWESOME? And they did.
This series isn’t corny. It isn’t hackneyed. It isn’t pointlessly goofy. The villains in this one become willing to flat-out kill the main characters (at the beginning it’s with complicated death-traps, but by the end, it’s just pulling out a gun and opening fire). The series even has a fairly high body-count for recurring characters, and none of the deaths are taken lightly. It’s a well-written mystery-horror-comedy that manages to be inventive while still being a perfect tribute to the original show.
Unlike almost all of the other series, it’s not episodic: It’s a serial. It’s all part of one large plot-line that builds slowly until it’s revealed to be so much bigger in scope than anyone could have imagined. The ending literally explains all of the other Scooby-Doo series, including why Scooby can talk and why people in their universe like dressing up in monster costumes to commit crimes. It has the entire original team, too: Fred, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy, and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker, Mindy Cohn, Grey DeLisle, Matthew Lillard, and Welker again).
What’s even better is that they worked thematic episodes into the overarching plot. There were episodes that paid tribute to the classic Hanna-Barbera Saturday Morning Cartoons, to the film The Wild One, even to Saw (yes, in Scooby-Doo, they had an episode about a serial murder who builds elaborate death traps, and it was awesome). And then, there was this episode.
Some of you have probably heard of this guy called “Batman.” He was kind of a big deal for a while. In fact, he appeared multiple times with Scooby-Doo during the 70s, when Batman was goofy and played by Adam West. What you might also remember is that one of the biggest comics Batman ever appeared in was the famously dark “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.” This episode is that comic. Except with a twist.
In the 1970s, Hanna-Barbera had a cartoon called Dynomutt, Dog Wonder. Dynomutt was a goofy robot dog who was the sidekick to a Batman-esque superhero called “The Blue Falcon.” They frequently interacted with Scooby-Doo, but got cancelled relatively quickly. However, apparently, they made enough of an impact for the writers of this episode to go “Hey, what if we took the same goofy Dynomutt, but paired him with the super-intense and violent Batman from ‘The Dark Knight Returns’?” My only hope is that after that sentence was first uttered, the clouds parted and pure golden light shone down upon the crew.
The episode starts years before, at the laboratory of Dr. Benton Quest of Johnny Quest fame. A robotic dragon attacks the building, injuring Security Guard Radley Crowne’s dog Reggie. Quest vows to save the dog’s life.
Cut to the present. Fred, having recently had to turn on his evil parents, is living in a van down by the river (AND YES, THEY REFERENCE THE FARLEY SNL ROUTINE). Velma summons the rest of the gang to city hall, where they discover an attack on the archives by the dragon robot.
The Blue Falcon and Dynomutt intervene, making multiple references to both their goofy show, and also to the gritty Dark Knight Returns. It’s a work of art to see these two styles juxtaposed and interacting. It’d be like watching the 1989 Batman pull out a can of Bat Shark Repellant. Or, if you have watched the Lego Batman movie, it’s like that: Pure, concentrated, awesome.
Blue Falcon explains that they’ve been tracking the robot for years, but Velma points out that Crystal Cove (the show’s setting) is the turf of Mystery, Inc., so they’re tagging along. Falcon agrees, and delivers one of my favorite lines:
“Very well, but you should know that if I need to sacrifice any of you to get my prey, I’ll gladly do it.”
To which Dynomutt, cheerfully responds, giggling: “Oh, B.F. (to Mystery, Inc., deadly serious) He’s not kidding.”
The teams work together to track down the dragon robot. They break into the headquarters of the evil corporation “Destroido,” where Blue Falcon brutally dispatches the guards… with intermixed cartoon sound effects and music. Again, the juxtaposition just makes it amazing.
They confront the company’s head, recurring Scooby-Doo villain Mr. E (Lewis F*cking Black), who refuses to talk. However, the dragon attacks the facility at that moment. They discover the dragon is downloading files from the corporate mainframe, when a voice comes out of the dragon, belonging to none other than Dr. Zin, the Villain from Johnny Quest, who has been searching for Quest’s amazing power source, which apparently is in Dynomutt. Unfortunately, Zin tells the dragon to take the dog and Blue Falcon, which leads the dragon to take Scooby-Doo by mistake.
The gang, along with Dynomutt, travel to a volcano lair to rescue Blue Falcon and Scooby. Zin tries to shoot them down, but they’re saved by Shaggy accidentally crashing the plane they were in. The gang and Blue Falcon take down Zin’s henchmen (because the Gang have all been learning to fight over this series, it actually seems reasonable). They find Zin crying over his dragon, revealed to contain his daughter, who has been trapped in the suit since the night that it first attacked Quest Industries. The suit won’t release her without an external power source, which Dynomutt provides from his battery.
Zin, getting his daughter back, remarks that his quest for power has blinded him to the beauty of a simple act of selfless kindness… before setting the volcano layer to self-destruct and abandoning them. The group escapes in the nick of time.
One of the best parts of this episode is that it mashes up all of the different styles that have come out since Scooby-Doo first began. Batman, SNL, E.T., Johnny Quest, James Bond, all of them are referenced throughout the episode, and they all work. It’s a postmodernist episode of Scooby-Doo, which is my new favorite sentence.
Zin himself is a perfect enemy in this episode, because he was both a Hanna-Barbera enemy, a Bond-esque Supervillain, and, in this episode, is mildly tweaked to resemble Ra’s Al Ghul from Batman, all at the same time.
It’s just a great half-hour of television within a great TV Show. I’ve always loved Scooby-Doo, so I know I’m biased, but Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated really was the first time that the characters were really used to their full potential. I recommend watching it, whether you loved the cartoon or not. It really just was that good of a show.
I’m also looking forward to the Supernatural/Scooby-Doo crossover coming soon.