We all know the worst Christmas special of all time is the Star Wars Holiday Special, but what's the second worst? The 1985 He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special makes for a strong candidate. Trying to discuss a religious holiday with muscle-bound heathen barbarians from another planet would pose a challenge in the best of times, but it was further complicated by the special's writers, animators and other workers not giving the tiniest shit about what they were doing. The result? The excruciatingly horrible cartoon described in far too much detail below.
The story begins with the heroes of Eternia decorating the palace for Prince Adam and Princess Adora's birthday. Adora's friends in the Great Rebellion are also there, having abandoned Etheria to the machinations of Hordak. Meanwhile, Prince Adam and Man-at-Arms are shirking their decorating duties by examining the SkySpy, a rocket that will somehow show them everything that Skeletor does. After Adam and Man-at-Arms carelessly leave, Orko, the floating Trollan magician with the learning disability, breaks into the rocket, which immediately takes off.
Prince Adam and Man-at-Arms decide to use their "Finder Beam" to see where they SkySpy has gone, begging the question "Why do they need a ship that spies on Skeletor when they already have a beam that can find anything?" While it's searching, Queen Marlena, Adora and Teela burst in to reveal the news that Orko is missing. Everyone feigns concern, although the subtext that no one wants to bring Orko back in thick. Unfortunately, no one is courageous enough to share their feelings out loud.
Meanwhile, Orko lands on what looks like an ice planet but is somehow Earth. I'd like to think that the background artists, knowing that the ship would be landing in the winter, felt the planet had to look like it was completely covered in snow lest the barely functional neurons of children might be blown out like fuses, but more likely they were just fucking lazy. When Orko lands, he comes across two young children, Miguel and Alisha, who are chopping down their own Christmas tree in the forest because their parents hate them (or are at least preposterously negligent).
Alisha reveals the children are lost - as is a possibility when you send small children unsupervised into a forest - and Orko invites the youngsters into his crashed spaceship. The children, remembering the safety lessons taught so regularly in school, follow the stranger into his vehicle without a second thought.
Orko makes the mistake of asking the children why they have a tree, which immediately devolves into one of the most awkward conversations in cartoon history, because the cartoon really, really wants to talk about Jesus, but it also obviously feels it can't (seeing as the shitstorm cartoons based on toys were already getting the ‘80s, I can understand them not wanting to broach the "cartoons based on toys that also proselytize to children" discussion).
Little Alisha explains Christmas is about getting presents. Miguel adds, very vaguely, that it's also a time when people think about peace and "goodwill toward men." Then Alisha mentions angels. Orko is completely confused, forcing Miguel to actually start explaining what the hell Christmas actually is - which the cartoon cuts away from immediately. When the camera comes back to Orko, the children are ending the tale of Christ's birth with "And the three wise men followed the star until they finally reached Bethlehem!" Orko naturally asks about those aforementioned presents, and children reluctantly tell him about Santa. It's worth noting Santa gets his deal explained on camera, but Jesus does not.
Man-at-Arms' "Finder Beam" finds Orko's location; very handily, Man-at-Arms also has a "Transport Beam" that can beam both Orko and the ship back to Eternia - but he needs a Carium water crystal to power it, a item which cannot be found on Eternia. Let me repeat that: Man-at-Arms has built a teleporter that is powered by something which does not exist on his planet. Instead of asking Man-at-Arms why he's fucking insane, Adora decides to check if Etheria has one.
Adora, transformed into She-Ra, asks her pal Mermista (who apparently wasn't invited to the big birthday bash) if she knows where a Carium water crystal might be. Mermista knows, but it's guarded by - and this is what makes me suspect that the writers of this animated special were not quite as invested in Christmas special as the regular cartoon - a "Beast Monster." She-Ra, quickly understanding that a Beast Monster must be worse than a Beast or a Monster individually, has a plan to basically distract the impressively phallic Beast Monster by making it fall down while chasing her (pictured left), while Mermista swims around and finds the crystal.
With the Beast Monster subdued and the crystal in hand, She-Ra is astounded as three giant evil robots burst out of the ground for no fucking reason. These things are the Monstroids, apparently. When they happen to "transform," perhaps like a certain competitor toyline of the same era, Swiftwind cries out, "They're changing into other forms! What evil robots!" She-Ra agrees, as the act of transforming is an abomination on both Eternia and Etheria (although none of the Japanese animators who worked on Transformers needed to be worried for their jobs - the Monstroids transformations are pathetically simple, with one robot simply raising his arms into the air to "change"). They leave for Monstroid Central - seriously - and She-Ra decides to fuck with the giant evil robots later. With the Carium water crystal in hand, Man-at-Arms beams Orko and the children to Eternia, complicating their eventual child abduction charges.
Somewhere else in the galaxy, Horde Prime - the boss of Hordak and, for purposes of the Christmas special, Skeletor - is displeased. "There is a great disturbance! A new spirit of… goodness!" it exclaims. The… the holy spirit?! Is Horde Prime worried that Miguel and Alisha will use their arrival on Eternia to proselytize to the easily beguiled Masters of the Universe? Does Horde Prime foresee a dark future where King Randor has declared Christianity the sole religion of Eternia, and Buzz-Off has been elected pontifex? No, apparently it's the Christmas spirit he's worried about, although he never clarifies it. He tells Hordak and Skeletor the first person to bring him the two, unsupervised children will get a reward, which is just as creepy as it sounds.
As the Carium water crystal needs to "recharge," Man-at-Arms cannot send Miguel and Alisha back to Earth for a few days; the children are worried they'll miss Christmas, and obviously risk damning their eternal souls by failing to celebrate the birth of Jesus properly. Queen Marlena co-opts Adam and Adora's birthday for a Christmas party. The kids hang out with Perfuma and Bow; Perfuma uses her pagan magic to make the flowers bloom as if it were spring. while Bow leads them in the worst fucking Christmas song of all time. Sample lyrics included:
Love and caring
Joys of sharing
When the song is over, everyone laughs insanely until Hordak uses a tractor beam to abduct Orko and the two children in what will be a recurring motif for the special. Adam, Adora and the others worry where Hordak may have taken the kids, and decide to ask Adora's peacock-tailed friend Peekablue to see if she can use her magic scrying powers to locate them COMPLETELY IGNORING THE FACT THEY HAVE FULLY FUNCTIONAL FINDER BEAM THEY USED NOT THREE HOURS AGO.
Let me try and sum up the next part a bit:
• The Monstroids steal the children from Hordak for no discernible reason.
• The Manchines (pictured) - either a horrible little abortion of a failed cute robot toyline, or a savage parody of more popular cute mascots in boys toylines - rescue the kids.
• The kids are instantly captured by the Monstroids again.
• He-Man and She-Ra arrive to fight the Monstroids.
• Skeletor kidnaps the kids while no one is paying attention, along with a Manchine puppy.
As Skeletor tries to take the kids to Horde Prime, Hordak manages to crash Skeletor's ship in the snow. Showing a strength of character that he rarely shows in the regular episodes, Skeletor orders the children to march in the snow. The children bitch and moan and explain Christmas to the man who's head is nothing but a skull until Skeletor magically makes them winter coats and agrees to carry the Manchine puppy. Then this happens:
Then Skeletor, in his own Grinch's-heart-grew-three-sizes-that-day moment except infinitely shittier, says: "What's coming over me?! Whatever it is, I don't like it! Stop licking my face, you dratted dog! Get away from me! You're drowning me!" All while whatever voice actor playing the dog licking is face is clearly trying to give the microphone a blowjob. I feel this goes a long way to explaining why The He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special is not a beloved family tradition that Americans watch every year. Is there a word that means "emasculates" but for evil? Because that's what the Christmas special, and the dog-licking-face scene in particular, does to Skeletor. It absolutely annihilates the tiny shred of credibility had as villain. They didn't even soften the blow with a "dogs like bones" joke.
Eventually, Hordak, Horde Prime and He-Man and She-Ra each come to abduct the children. The children, when trying to escape the battle, immediately run towards Horde Prime's ship because they are morons. Of course, the Christmas spirit-infused Skeletor saves the children from being kidnapped for the 18 millionth time, and the kids hug him, and it's just the worst.
Later at the Eternia Christmas party, Adam, dressed as one of the universe's skeeviest Santas, give Miguel and Alisha flying belts before Man-at-Arms teleports them home. Miguel and Alisha's parents are pleased to see them, although not quite as pleased as one might expect after their children had seemingly been lost in the woods in the middle of winter for several days. In fact, there's only time for a brief hug before Ma and Pa tell them to get in bed, no doubt so they can think up the next scheme to somehow "accidentally" get rid of their brats.
The end - except for the moral at the end, which the special has just like the regular episodes. He-Man explains that, while they weren't mentioned or acknowledged even once during the special itself, some people celebrate holidays other than Christmas, but everyone has the spirit of the Christmas season inside of us, so people who don't celebrate Christmas are essentially lying to themselves and will burn in hell for all eternity.
So what does The He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special teach us?
• If your birthday is near Christmas, you're only getting one party and one set of presents, even if you're born on a completely pagan planet like Eternia.
• If you're a kid and your parents allow you to go into the woods, unsupervised, to cut down your own Christmas tree, it's because they hate you.
• Getting into a stranger's van? Bad. Getting into a stranger's spaceship? Totally fine.
• Alien cultures are probably not going to be that excited to hear about Jesus.
• If there's a creature called a Beast Monster on your planet, it's because someone, somewhere, did not give a shit.
• Transformers are the toys of Satan. Buy only Masters of the Universe action figures from Mattel, kids!
• Do not let foreign people compose Christmas songs. It never ends well.
• You will do a lot of unusual things if someone is licking you.
• Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, you still have the Christmas spirit in you, TAKE THAT, JEWS.
• The fact that the original draft of this review was 3000 words means that I care far, far more about the He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special than any sane person ever should.