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The Pirates of Dark Water

The Pirates of Dark Water is a fantasy animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera and Turner Entertainment in the early 1990s. The series followed a group of adventurers on a quest to collect the Thirteen Treasures of Rule, which possessed the combined power to stop an evil substance known as "Dark Water" from consuming the alien world of Mer.

Network television run

The show first premiered in syndication in early 1991 as a five-part mini-series titled Dark Water. Following a number of animation tweaks and other changes by Hanna-Barbera, those episodes were rebroadcast later in 1991 as the first five episodes of the regular series. Most notably, the original mini-series featured the voice of Roddy McDowall as Niddler, whereas in the revised version, the character was voiced by Frank Welker. The first season aired on ABC, while the second season aired in first-run syndication as part of The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera.

Due to expensive production costs and failing to meet the airdates, the series was never completed, ending abruptly after 21 episodes with only eight of the thirteen treasures collected.

The show has not yet been officially released on DVD, although select episodes of the show were released on VHS in NTSC format. Many of the show's fans have been very vocal in their requests for a complete series DVD set, as well as the mini-series version, though as of , an official release is still unavailable.

Characters

The heroes of the story, described by the show's introductory narrative as an "unlikely but loyal crew of misfits," have different backgrounds and are driven by different motives, as do the villains, and they often find themselves working at cross-purposes.

Heroes

  • Ren (voiced by George Newbern): The prince of the once-grand kingdom of Octopon and the main protagonist, Ren was raised by a lighthouse keeper in the outskirts of his homeland, unaware of his destiny and heritage. He wields the broken sword that belonged to his father in its whole form. By the beginning of the second season, he freed one half of the planet from the Dark Water.
  • Niddler: A monkey-bird who once belonged to Bloth, until he escaped by aiding Ren's own escape from the pirate lord. He hails from the island of Pandawa. He is usually depicted as a little greedy and constantly ravenous for food, his favourite food being minga melons, but he likes Ren, and his ability to fly often comes in handy. In the original five-part miniseries Dark Water, Niddler was voiced by Roddy McDowall. Once subsequent episodes began to be produced and the show was renamed The Pirates of Dark Water, Niddler's voice was re-dubbed with the voice of Frank Welker.
  • Tula (voiced by Jodi Benson): She is an ecomancer with the ability to control the elements and biological life, both sentient and non-sentient, as well as a natural affinity towards nature and animals. She is headstrong and often flusters Ioz. She is introduced as being a simple barmaid, but she stows aboard Ren and Ioz's ship, claiming she "wanted to get away from the drudgery of life on land." It's soon revealed that she's a character with many secrets.
  • Ioz (voiced by Hector Elizondo (season 1), Jim Cummings (season 2)): A rogue and pirate, he joins up with Ren initially for the promise of treasure. Throughout the seasons, his character matures and he becomes fond of Ren and his idealism, evolving into a protective brotherly figure to him and often risking his life for Ren and the quest for the Treasures. However, he still continues his attempts at getting rich quickly but is mostly unsuccessful.
  • Zoolie: A jolly, redheaded rogue who runs a gamehouse in Janda-Town. He and Ioz crewed together on Bloth's ship, the Maelstrom. Though not a main character, he does make recurring appearances, by offering advice and assisting Ren and his friends whenever they make port in Janda-Town.
  • Teron: He is a supreme ecomancer who sprouts roots from his body in order to replenish himself from a portable supply of native soil when he is away from his homeland, Andorus. He is first seen in the series as a prisoner on Bloth's ship, and Bloth uses his power for evil, in turn exhausting the local environment and its positive life-energy. Tula has great respect for him as an ecomancer, and she was sent on a mission to bring him back to Andorus to heal the Dark Water-ravaged island.

Villains

  • Bloth (voiced by Brock Peters): The ox-sized, humanoid captain of the feared pirate ship Maelstrom, he is after the Thirteen Treasures of Rule. He destroyed Primus's fleet seventeen years prior to the timeline of the show, and captured Primus and his aide Avagon, though the seven captains accompanying Primus were able to escape with the Treasures. Bloth has since been hunting them obsessively, and destroying every remnant of the House of Primus just as obsessively, including killing every heir to the throne of Octopon that he could find and ravaging and pillaging the ailing city. He held Primus captive for seventeen years before the old man escaped back to Octopon and to Ren. Upon learning that Primus has a son, he transferred his fanatical hatred of Primus to Ren, and began to hunt the boy across the twenty seas of Mer, in order to capture the Treasures, and to kill Ren and the house of Primus. In the second season, he makes an uncertain and untrusting alliance with Morpho, a major agent of the Dark Dweller.
  • Mantus (voiced by Peter Cullen): Bloth's second-in-command. He offers his cool and calculating personality as a battle strategist for Bloth's fleet.
  • Konk (voiced by Tim Curry): A short, fat pirate who works for Bloth, he lost his leg thanks to a close encounter with his master's ferocious pet, the Constrictus, and for a long time was the only one to ever survive being thrown to the monster. Although not particularly smart, Konk possesses more bluster than most of Bloth's crew and is always trying to win Bloth's praise.
  • The Lugg Brothers (voiced by Earl Boen and Frank Welker): Two huge, dimwitted siblings who are members of Bloth's crew. They try to assist Konk, but their stupidity makes them more of a hindrance than anything. They only make appearances as main characters in the first five episodes of the show.
  • The Dark Dweller (voiced by Frank Welker): The powerful, evil creature that created the Dark Water. He had the Treasures originally scattered because their power is the only thing capable of opposing him and his mission to swallow Mer in Dark Water.
  • Morpho (voiced by Frank Welker): A servant of the Dark Dweller and the leader of his worshippers, the Dark Disciples. He joins forces with Bloth and serves as the above-water liaison for the Dark Dweller, so that they can aid each other in their mutual goal of killing Ren and his friends, though they have two very different goals for the Compass and Treasures. He was an alchemist who was doing research on the Dark Water when the Dark Dweller captured him and transformed him so that he was no longer fully human, making him into an eternal servant. He possesses a tentacle in place of one arm, and half his body has been reshaped to resemble an amalgam of deep-sea creatures. He refers to himself as a creature of two worlds, Ren's and the Dark Dweller's.
  • Joat: A pirate and the previous owner of the Wraith. His ship was stolen by Ioz. He uses his metal claw, in place of his left hand, mercilessly in battle. Originally slated to have a larger role in the series, his only major appearance was in the Soul Stealer episode.

Ships

  • The Wraith: A swift, beautiful ship, originally owned by the pirate Joat, that Ioz commandeers for Ren from the Janda-Town docks. It has a unique, dynamic mainsail that rotates to slow the ship or act as a parachute. This mainsail can also be detached to become a large glider. The Series Bible written during the initial production of the show says that the Wraith was built with lumber from mystical trees on a remote island, and that the lumber still retains the life-force of those trees, making the ship seem as if it's haunted or has a mind of its own.
  • The Maelstrom: Bloth’s massive and deadly warship. It is built from the bleached carcasses of leviathans, and resembles a gargantuan floating fossil. Below the main deck sits a labyrinth of passageways, sewer lines, holding cells, and slaves’ quarters. The dreaded Constrictus lives in the bowels of this death vessel.

Mer

Mer is a world very different from Earth, with a variety of its own creatures with varying degrees of intelligence, such as the monkey-bird and the leviathan. The world has twenty seas, and most of the crew's stops are made at islands. Parts of Mer are continually in flux, like a river of spiked rocks that rises out of the ocean in the first episode and appears to defy physics (none of the characters are bewildered by the spectacle aside from its danger), but whether this is the Dark Water's doing or just the nature of the geologically hyperactive planet is unknown.

Octopon was once the greatest city on Mer, referred to as "the jewel in the crown of Mer" by Ioz in episode 14, though it lies in ruin until Ren collects the first seven Treasures. It is then partially restored. Octopon seems to have been centuries ahead of the current technological state of Mer, although it is probable that civilization is continually in decline due to the Dark Water oozing from the planet's surface.

Episodes

  1. The Quest
  2. Dishonor
  3. Break Up
  4. Betrayal
  5. Victory
  6. Andorus
  7. A Drop of Darkness
  8. The Beast and the Bell
  9. Panacea
  10. King Niddler
  11. The Collection
  12. The Little Leviathan
  13. The Darkdweller
  14. The Dark Disciples
  15. The Ghost Pirates
  16. The Dagron Master
  17. The Game Players of Undaar
  18. The Pandawa Plague
  19. Sister of the Sword
  20. The Soul Stealer
  21. The Living Treasure

Other media

In November 1991, Marvel Comics produced a comic book series based on the show. Originally intended as a six-part limited series, it was extended to nine issues to include a three part original story.

A series of action figures based on the characters from the show was also produced. The toyline consisted of Ren, Niddler, Ioz, Zoolie, Bloth, Konk, Mantus, Joat, and the Wraith.

Pirates of Dark Water video games were also released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis systems. The Super Nintendo version was a "beat 'em up similar to Final Fight with a slow but strong character (Ioz), a fast but weak character (Tula), and a well-balanced character (Ren). Each character has a life-draining Desperation Attack (spinning kick for Ren, ecomancer energy for Tula, and spinning punch for Ioz) and the ability to block - something not common in games of this genre. The Sega version was a side scrolling platform game with RPG elements.

A PoDW role-playing game was released in the early '90s, but had a limited production run.

Cartoon Network interstitials

  • The Pirates of Dark Water was parodied in one of a series of early interstitials on Cartoon Network. These commercials featured a "viewer's" question & Cartoon Network's comical take on the "answer". In Pirates' case, it was on the "unaired episodes", CN claims to have the episodes on tape & to air them right there, but instead, they show footage of a kitten lapping milk, as to give the idea that someone taped over the only copy of what would have been the nonexistent episodes.

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