Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Beyond the Known Universe

5 out of 5

While I think one of the biggest problems with the new Nick version of Turtles is the way they refuse to really stick by any big-ass character changes for longer than 5 minutes – sure, April has powers and Karai’s a mutant, but these feel more like boons than limitations – watching chunks of the seasons back-to-back really shows how good they’ve been with kicking around an ongoing storyline.  The episodes on Beyond the Known Universe – the first half of season 4 – are especially tightly knit, with the group focused on gathering and destroying the Triceratons’ Black Hole Generator before it can be used to destroy Earth (…an event which was undone 5 minutes after-the-fact thanks to time travel, although at least they let a season cliffhanger pass before doing so).  Pretty much every episode connects to that main thread, whether it’s gathering resources for that mission or exploring a potential new location only to be waylaid by some random alien, and though Lord Dregg is never really a truly threatening villain-replacement for Shredder, as voiced by Peter Stormare, he’s campy fun.  More threatening – and entertaining – is Ron Pearlman’s Armaggon Shark assassin, who has several thrilling showdowns with the group.

The cast really does shine here.  I liked season 3’s Northampton horror stories quite a bit, but the one-off nature of those episodes did get a little repetitive after a while.  Here, anchored by a fantastically funny performance as space guide Fugitoid by David Tennant, the “space season” establishes just enough characters to allow them to be shuffled around episodes; we get plenty of room for them as well as story, and space to effectively thread the two together.

The animation also feels like it gets bumped up yet another notch, with backgrounds very detailed (Journey to the Center of Mikey’s Mind being a highlight) and scenes full of character interactions besides just the central focus.  And it might just be how I watch these on TV, but when I view them “live” the music seems mixed way up, which made these episodes rather obnoxiously loud.  The DVD mix feels appropriate, which allowed me to appreciate the humor and character work instead of turning down the volume like the old man I am.

I normally give these collections good reviews for getting the job done, but this gets the extra 5 star nod due to having an actual full-on extra with ‘Kicking Shell and Taking Names,’ which has interviews with two of the head Nick TMNT guys and goes over all the major characters and the story up until now.  It’s definitely above and beyond what you normally find on these types of DVDs.