Strange Times & Places: Future Tense

Welcome back to Strange Times & Places, where this week we’re watching the best cartoon of the 1990s, Gargoyles, one and only venture into the genre of possible futures – season two, episode forty-three, “Future Tense”.

How’s It Different?

It’s a For Want of a Nail possible future, a cyberpunk dystopia with a heaping helping of Imaginary Story in the final act

What’s The Story?

Xanatos’ Cyborg Clone Soldiers

Goliath, leader of the eponymous Gargoyles, is still mystically traveling the world on the Avalon World Tour alongside his love interest, daughter, and dog. It appears their party has finally returned home to Manhattan, but it’s forty years after they left and things have gone to crap. His nemesis, Xanatos, has conquered the island and declared a sovereign nation. He controls it from his massive fortress with an army of cyborgs, clones, and mutates, ineffectually pestered by the remaining few remaining Gargoyles and their allies. Goliath’s band of travelers will need to join the resistance’s last, desperate push to prevent Xanatos from extending his reach over the entire globe…but not everything is as it seems.

Best of Differences

  • The bleak future is so VERY 1990s cyberpunk featuring no shortage of cyborgs, brain uploading, and an elaborate battle in cyberspace worthy of Marvel 2099.
  • In his few minutes of screen time, Xanatos’ rebellious son proves to be a really awesome character.

    Alexander Fox Xanatos, whose only flaw is that mullet.

  • Goliath’s surviving family and allies look far more worse for wear than you’d expect a Disney show to allow: one’s had his eyes plucked out, another’s wings have been removed, another is mostly cybernetic (though that could easily be personal choice, given that it’s the team’s tech guy…), but since it all happened off-screen and is long since healed it gets a pass.
  • That the resistance gets slaughtered, onscreen, Days of Future Past style is more headscratching. Standards & Practices must have had a “All Just A Dream” episode exception.
  • The final battle with Xanatos takes place in cyberspace and the narrative uses that fact to the hero’s advantage.

    That spinning ring is the remains of Goliath’s digital body.

Worst of Differences

Nothing that’s not fixed by it being all just a dream…or is it?

It totally is, as series producer Greg Weisman (also responsible for the Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice cartoons, as well as a co-plotter on the fantastic Captain Atom comic series of the late 80s) has made public his plans for a spin-off set in a more distant future influenced by but decidedly less bleak than this episode.

Come back next week for the latest installment of Tokusatsu Gesundheit!

About Chris Walker

Chris Walker (@back2past) is affectionately referred to as Back to the Past's social media lackey. He's all over finding nuggets of pop culture news, wherever they may be hiding!

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