Heads or Tails (Pilot Episode)
The pilot episode of Sonic the Hedgehog (or SatAM as we’ll be referencing it from now on) is a weird old beast that hasn’t quite established its identity. Still maintaining some of the goofiness of its sister-show Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, SatAM sees Sonic transported to Knothole; a small village hidden in the forests of Mobius. Sonic teams up with a gang of freedom fighters in an effort to thwart Doctor Robotnik who has taken over the capital city of Mobotropolis and is “roboticizing” anyone who dares oppose him. It’s a more dramatic environment for Sonic to inhabit and it often feels very similar to Star Wars, what with the focus on a rebellion fighting a powerful, invading force.
While the setup definitely carries over into the rest of this season, there is a much more light-hearted, adventurous nature at the heart of Heads or Tails. Tails features prominently as a naïve kid who idolises Sonic and Sonic reluctantly allows him to tag along on his adventure into Mobtropolis. There’s a heart-warming kid-brother relationship between the two and it becomes the main focus of this episode.
The reason why Sonic is running head-first into enemy territory is because the freedom fighters are setting up a catapult defence system, but their throwing arms keep breaking due to the wooden cotter pins breaking under heavy loads. The phrase “cotter pins” gets thrown around pretty liberally in this episode and it’s still the only time I’ve ever heard them discussed in conversation. In order to get the catapults to work, the freedom fighters need to source metal cotter pins that will support the load and as all the technology is found in Mobotropolis, it’s up to Sonic and Tails to fetch what they can.
In Mobotropolis Sonic quickly finds what he needs and has a run-in with his pet dog Muttski, who along with Sonic’s Uncle Chuck, went missing when Robotnik came to power. Muttski has now been roboticized and there’s a brief encounter between the two where Sonic manages to throw off the shackles of the brain-washing that occurs after roboticization and there’s a tender moment between the two old friends. Again, it’s interesting to see the show exploring themes of loss so early on and it instantly makes SatAM feel very much like its own beast.
Sonic and Tails then decide to investigate Robotnik’s headquarters and stumble upon a plan that sees a swarm of buzzbombers sending a chemical into Knothole to kill all the trees and uncover the freedom fighters’ hideout. After a brief battle and an escape from Robotnik’s headquarters, it’s back to Knothole to install the cotter pins and launch an attack on the buzzbombers. It’s a simple setup that establishes the main rivalry that will be explored throughout the series.
There are some odd moments in here that are worth mentioning. Princess Sally is introduced early on during the construction of the catapults and we get an early hint at a love triangle between Sonic, Sally and newcomer Antoine, who’s main character trait is sucking up to Sally in order to gain her affections. When Antoine calls Sally a princess, she shrugs it off and says that royalty doesn’t matter anymore since Robotnik’s takeover and that the only royalty left is “Mother Nature”. It’s a painfully cliché line that’s very much a product of 90s children’s television.
Sonic also gets a moment to show his affections towards Sally. In a sequence near the beginning, Sonic shows Rotor a song he’s written to showcase his feelings towards Sally, but Sonic having the ego he does jumps into shot and performs it on an electric guitar. It’s pretty funny to watch and establishes Sonic’s rather forward attitude from the get go.
All in all, this is a fun introduction to the series with some nice humour and a good outline of the main rivalry that all happens within the confines of an active plot. There’s no opening crawl of narrator to fill the audience in here which is incredibly welcome as it shows the strength of the episode’s writing.
Written by Lewis “Sonic Yoda” Clark 6/12/2016