The Pirates of Dark Water
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|The Pirates of Dark Water|
|Created by||David Kirschner|
|Composer(s)||Thomas Chase Jones
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||21|
|Executive producer(s)||David Kirschner
|Running time||30 min.|
|Production company(s)||Hanna-Barbera Productions|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original network||ABC (Season 1)
First-run syndication (Season 2)
|Original release||February 25, 1991 – May 23, 1993|
The Pirates of Dark Water is an American fantasy animated television series produced by Hanna-Barbera and created by David Kirschner and first aired in 1991. It was later aired on Fox Kids and Boomeraction.
The alien world of Mer is being devoured by an evil substance known as Dark Water. Only Ren, a young prince, can stop it by finding the lost Thirteen Treasures of Rule. His loyal crew of misfits that help in his journey are an ecomancer (Tula), a monkey-bird (Niddler), and a treasure-hungry pirate (Ioz). The evil pirate lord, Bloth, will stop at nothing to get the treasures for himself and provides many obstacles for Ren and his crew.
Network television run
The show first premiered on Fox Kids 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. The series was never completed, ending abruptly after 21 episodes with only eight of the thirteen treasures collected.
- Ren (voiced by George Newbern) – The prince of the once-grand kingdom of Octopon and the main protagonist of the series. 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 (originally voiced by Roddy McDowall in the Dark Water miniseries, later voiced by Frank Welker in the TV series) – A monkey-bird who once belonged to Bloth, until he escaped by aiding Ren's own escape from the pirate captain. He hails from the island of Pandawa. He is usually depicted as a little greedy and constantly ravenous for food, his favorite food being minga melons, but he likes Ren, and his ability to fly often comes in handy.
- 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 (originally voiced by Héctor Elizondo in the Miniseries and 1st season, Jim Cummings, later in 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. Ioz also has a younger sister named Solia, who appears in the series. Like Niddler, he originally worked for Bloth, but "it ended ugly" according to him.
- Zoolie (voiced by Richard Gautier) – 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 (voiced by Dan O'Herlihy) – 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.
- Bloth (voiced by Brock Peters) – The ox-sized, humanoid pirate captain of the feared pirate ship Maelstrom and one of the primary antagonists of the series. Bloth is after the Thirteen Treasures of Rule to control all the Dark Water in the world, and in effect, Mer itself. 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. Bloth 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. For a long time, Konk 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) – One of the primary antagonists of the series. The Dark Dweller is a 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 evil master plan 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 (voiced by Andre Stojka) – 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."
- The Wraith – A swift, beautiful ship, originally owned by the pirate Joat, that Ioz steals 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 is 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 is a planet 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 core.
|No.||Title||Written by||Original air date|
|1||"The Quest"||Lane Raichert, Mark Young, Kelly Ward||February 25, 1991|
|Ren discovers that he is the son of a (now deceased) king Primus. He escapes Bloth with a new friend Niddler and they travel to a ship port. There, they befriend a pirate named Ioz and a runaway girl named Tula.|
|2||"Dishonour"||Lane Raichert, Mark Young, Kelly Ward||February 26, 1991|
|With Bloth in hot pursuit, Ren and company seek refuge within the labyrinth of sea caves where the Pale Warriors make their home. Ren discovers that his companions are not what they seem to be, nor are they all entirely trustworthy.|
|3||"Break Up"||Lane Raichert, Bill Matheny||February 27, 1991|
|With both the compass and the first Treasure stolen, Ren and company pursue the thieves to the island of Pandawa, home of the monkey-birds. The island is in the midst of an uprising, as Niddler's people seek to free themselves from the predations of slavers.|
|4||"Betrayal"||Lane Raichert, Bill Matheny||February 28, 1991|
|5||"Victory"||Kristina Luckey, Laren Bright||March 1, 1991|
|6||"Andorus"||Peter Lawrence, Laren Bright, Kristina Luckey||October 19, 1991|
|After rescuing Teron from the Maelstrom, Ren and the crew stopped to gather supplies, but are interrupted by Bloth and his men. During the pursuit, they wind up in Andorus, where it is revealed that Tula is an ecomancer and they find the place in ruins. Teron and Tula try to use their powers to restore the island, but something evil is around and guarding one of the Treasures.|
|7||"A Drop of Darkness"||Laren Bright, Kristina Luckey||October 26, 1991|
|While running from Bloth, the crew rescues an old woman named Cray who knew Ren's Father Primus and is an alchemist. She saves them, but offers anything for a sample of Dark Water to use in a potion of hers, but Ren refuses. She then uses one of her potions on Tula to force Ren to do her bidding and uses the Dark Water in a potion to make herself young again in an attempt to reclaim her youth.|
|8||"The Beast and the Bell"||Matthew Malach, Bill Matheny||November 2, 1991|
|Ren sees a vision of his father telling him if he rings "The Bell of the First Sound" that all the Dark Water will be gone forever. But when he rings the bell, he finds out that it was all a trick by an imprisoned servant of the evil Dark Dweller, a creature named Keroptus. Ren swears to re-imprison the monster he freed by accident.|
|9||"Panacea"||Sean Roche||November 9, 1991|
|The crew finds another Treasure, but it is guarded by a creature that can only be defeated by feeding it a loac flower(the best cure on Mer for most illnesses). Ren sets off into the swamp guided by creature with a mysterious past given to them by a shady Bio-transmuter.|
|10||"King Niddler"||Glenn Leopold||November 16, 1991|
|Niddler is supposed to be a king to a tribe of non-flying monkey birds. What he doesn't know, however is that he is also the only hope of defeating a giant dangerous creature, which he can't do...|
|11||"The Collection"||David Ehrman||November 23, 1991|
|The crew encounter a wizard who "collects" ships by shrinking them. While trying to save Ioz, they are shrunk as well and left stuck in a glass bottle.|
|12||"The Little Leviathan"||Glenn Leopold, David Ehrman||November 30, 1991|
|Ren saves a baby leviathan and a bond is born. However, both leviathan, Ren and Ioz are taken captives by Bloth.|
|13||"The Dark Dweller"||Sam Graham, Chris Hubbell||December 7, 1991|
|While once again running from Bloth, the crew is forced to leave the Wraith, but Tula falls victim to the Dark Water in the process. Ren is shaken and they are captured by Bloth, but a slight glimmer of hope comes when it seems that Tula may still be alive. Ren then escapes and takes the Treasures and enters the realm of the Dark Dweller to search for his lost friend.|
|14||"The Dark Disciples"||Glenn Leopold||November 8, 1992|
|The Wraith is damaged during yet another escape from Bloth and the only nearby port is Octopon, but it's in ruins and overrun by the servants of the Dark Dweller.|
|15||"The Ghost Pirates"||(Teleplay by Kristina Luckey) (Story by David Ehrman)||November 15, 1992|
|Blinded by greed, Ioz tries to steal a treasure from a seemingly deserted ship. Unfortunately, it appears that the ship is full of ghosts, who want to make Ioz one of them.|
|16||"The Dagron Master"||Michael Maurer||November 22, 1992|
|While washed ashore Ren and Niddler encounter "the Dagron Master". He offers to help them to find one of the Treasures, but in the middle of journey, Ren finds he has been tricked and is turned into one of the reptiles.|
|17||"The Game Players of Undaar"||Brian T. Gaughan, Glenn Leopold||November 29, 1992|
|Two strange creatures in control of a moving island interrupt Bloth just as he is about to capture Ren. They then blackmail Ren and Bloth, chaining the two together and making them play their deadly game while competing with their best warriors while betting on the contest.|
|18||"The Pandawa Plague"||Kristina Luckey (Story by Glenn Leopold, Kristina Luckey)||May 2, 1993|
|When Ren and his crew are taking a break back in Octopon, the Queen of the monkey birds shows up asking Niddler for help. She says that there is a plague on Pandawa and that Niddler needs to protect the egg of the future queen. Ren and Niddler fly ahead, but there may be more to this plague than a simple disease.|
|19||"Sister of the Sword"||Glenn Leopold||May 9, 1993|
|The crew is forced to go to port to buy supplies after Konk destroys what they had gathered. There, Ren bumps into Solia, Ioz's sister, who is a pickpocket with an eye to go hunt a treasure located on Arakna Island, the most dangerous island in Mer. When Ren and Ioz refuse, she steals the crew's gold and the compass and gets Konk to help her while Ren chases after her to retrieve the stolen compass.|
|20||"The Soul Stealer"||Glenn Leopold||May 16, 1993|
|Bloth comes up with a new plan after talking to a soothsaying creature who says that Ren is the only one destined to collect the treasures. He decides to become Ren by swapping bodies with him using a potion made by Morpho. He manages to catch Ren, but not without Niddler who he makes Konk swap bodies with to avoid suspicion. The potion has a drawback that any mirror will show their true identities. Ren and Niddler (now in Bloth and Konk's bodies) steal Morpho's potion and escape The Maelstrom to try to get their original bodies back. Things get a bit more complicated when Joat shows up to get revenge on Ren(Bloth) and Ioz for stealing The Wraith.|
|21||"The Living Treasure"||Kim Costalupes, Mark Kavanaugh, Glenn Leopold||May 23, 1993|
|Ioz and Tula are arguing yet again and Ren is trying to be the peacemaker as they chase down another Treasure. Niddler has gotten separated from the group having gone to raid a nearby freighter for food. The Monkey bird falls asleep and narrowly escapes when the freighter is attacked while passing a strange island and winds up there. The Wraith is not far behind it's the same island where the next Treasure is located. Niddler meets a strange but cute little creature while the others run into the Amazon like warriors who live there and are soon captured. The warriors see the creature as a pest, but Tula knows what it truly is and tricks the warriors into thinking she has joined them so she can stay free, rescue Ren and Ioz and save the little creature.|
- Jodi Benson – Tula
- Earl Boen – Lugg Brother #1
- Peter Cullen – Mantus
- Tim Curry – Konk
- Héctor Elizondo – Ioz
- Roddy McDowall – Niddler ("Dark Water" miniseries)
- George Newbern – Ren
- Brock Peters – Bloth
- Frank Welker – Niddler, Lugg Brother #2, Dark Dweller
- René Auberjonois –
- Michael Bell –
- Hamilton Camp – Panacea (in "The Roulette")
- Darleen Carr –
- Philip L. Clarke –
- Regis Cordic –
- Jim Cummings – Scorian (in "The Collection")
- Keene Curtis – Garen (in "The Collection")
- Barry Dennen –
- Harlan Ellison –
- Richard Erdman –
- Robert Foxworth –
- Linda Gary – Jenna
- Richard Gautier –
- Ed Gilbert –
- Stacy Keach, Sr. –
- Paul Lukather –
- Allan Lurie –
- Tress MacNeille –
- Kenneth Mars –
- Julie McWhirter –
- Candi Milo – Solia (in "Sister of the Sword")
- Dan O'Herlihy – Teron
- Philip Proctor –
- Jan Rabson –
- Peter Renaday –
- John Rhys-Davies – Game Players of Undaar (in "The Game Players of Undaar")
- Neil Ross – Ratmore (in "The Collection")
- Michael Rye –
- Pepe Serna –
- Mark Silverman –
- Andre Stojka – Joat (in "The Soul Stealer"), Slagon (in "The Roulette")
- Les Tremayne –
- Jessica Walter –
- B.J. Ward – Cray (in "A Drop of Darkness")
- Paul Williams –
- Gordon Hunt – Recording Director
Home Media releases
On August 31, 2010, Warner Archive released The Pirates of Dark Water: The Complete Series on DVD in region 1 as part of their Hanna–Barbera Classics Collection. This is a Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) release, available exclusively through Warner's online store and Amazon.com.
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 NES and Sega Genesis platforms, both published by Sunsoft. The Super NES version is a side-scrolling "beat 'em up, co-developed by Japanese and American staff members, where players can choose to play as Ren, Tula or Ioz and proceed to fight Bloth's gang. Up to two players can play simultaneously. 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 Genesis version, developed by Team Iguana (later known as Acclaim Studios Austin), is a side scrolling platform game with RPG elements. A Pirates of Dark Water role-playing game was released in 1994, but had a limited production run.
Cartoon Network interstitials
- The show 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". Cartoon Network claimed to have the episodes on tape and promised to air them, instead showing footage of a kitten lapping milk, suggesting that someone taped over the only copy of what would have been the nonexistent episodes.
The Pirates of Dark Water was reviewed favorably in The Scarecrow Video Movie Guide, which contrasted it with other cartoons from the same period, noting that it was "...serious, well-written, and had a certain amount of craft in its character animation and watercolor backgrounds."
- "The Pirates of Dark Water: The Complete Series : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Dvdtalk.com. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
- Brennan, Patricia (February 24, 1991). "Fox Broadcasting's `Dark Water';A Swashbuckling Sea Story From an Imaginative Boy;". Washington Post.
- "Pirates of Darkwater DVD news: Announcement for Pirates of Darkwater – The Complete Series". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
- The Scarecrow Video Movie Guide. Sasquatch Books. 2004. p. 526. ISBN 1-57061-415-6.