The idea is to eat a ridiculous amount of cake and talk about what makes my favourite TV show so brilliant. What links Ninja Turtles and cake? Nothing. Why does everything always have to make sense? Even looking for pictures that I can use in these articles highlights that no one ever eats cake on the show. What I do is buy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cake and just get on with it, and you can either go with me or call me out on doing something so weird. But then what are we gonna do with all this cake?
This time I thought I might mix things up a bit, though, so I’m using a box of bake your own Ninja Turtles cakes that I got given for Christmas.
Here are five great episodes from season three of Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles along with some guff about making and eating cakes.
Within The Woods
Notable Michelangelo quote: “Maybe he got eaten by a rabid squirrel.”
After the events of the season two finale, the Turtles, April and Casey retreat to a Northampton farmhouse to recover and regroup. With Leonardo seriously hurt and the fate of Splinter unknown, the downtime is much needed. That’s never how it works out though, is it? Raphael goes missing and it seems that there’s something evil lurking within the woods.
The episode opens with April O’Neil writing in her diary, both recapping for anyone who hasn’t been watching and setting up the episode with new information on what state everyone is in. It’s a familiar scene, having featured in both the original comic book series and the 1990 movie. As is always the case with Nickelodeons take on Turtles, this version feels of this series rather than lazily rewarmed from a previous version. It also features some wonderful illustrations and a terrific scene where Michelangelo attempts to embrace farm life only to find chickens to be less friendly than he’d imagined.
After the five minute catch up, we get into our story and, magnificently, it’s a riff on Friday The 13th Part 2. A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode modelled on Friday The 13th, or just with a Jason parallel, would be fun. True to form the team behind Nick Turtles go for a specific, less recognisable reference point. We’re talking bad guy in dungarees with a pitch fork and a bag on his head. Turtles cartoons, starting with the 1987 series, have long been home to horror and B movie references. The whole concept of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is B movie. The Nickelodeon cartoon has made embracing the B movie an art form of its own.
Of course, as is the case with Friday The 13th, the monster is never really slain. In fact, he returns later in the season to, er, take Manhattan. I so hope that in 10 years some of the kids watching this show stumble across the Friday The 13th series and get seriously weirded out.
The world seems to be obsessed with baking at the minute. I think that’s why they’re making fancy baking kits like this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one. People are taking baking seriously and are more interested in the creative side of things than the boring nuts and bolts of putting the ingredients together.
Alright, no. I understand this is a children’s cake mix box. I’m no cook, though, so this was about my level.
I unpacked everything and put together the cake mix. You just add water, then crack an egg and get a bit of shell in the egg, throw that egg away, crack another one more carefully, add it to the mixture and then bring it all together with a whisk. It’s so easy a child could probably do it.
Then I got a responsible adult to preheat the oven for me. I lost one of the cake cases almost immediately and so split the mixture among the 11 I had left. It should make the cakes bigger, right? Well, no. I spilled a lot of cake mix on the tray. I popped the tray in the oven, grumbled about how in the previous articles the cake had been made for me and then sat back down for my next episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The Dream Beavers
Notable Michelangelo quote: “I couldn’t wake him up so I put some dirty underwear on his head.”
Out on the farmhouse life can be quiet. It’s enough to make anyone sleepy. Casey and April head out to the local store to pick up supplies while the Turtles stay home, where their napping is starting to seem a bit odd. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, April and Casey are set upon by a chainsaw wielding maniac while the Turtles are being drained of their life force by a team of rowdy demonic beavers.
This is one of my favourite episodes of the show to date. It is magnificent. It’s one of the most visually inventive episodes, it’s packed full of horror movie references and is very, very funny.
First, the horror stuff. The dream beaver plotline is pure Nightmare On Elm Street. There are four of them; Dark Beaver and Dave Beaver are voiced by John Kassir, who famously voiced the Crypt Keeper in Tales From The Crypt, while Dread Beaver and Dire Beaver are played by Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund.
There are also references to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. The shopkeeper is played by Chainsaw 2’s Choptop, Bill Moseley, and his store sells barbecue, a nod to the first film. The chainsaw he chases April and Casey with features the slogan ‘The Saw is Family’, which was the tagline of TCM 2. Moseley’s shopkeeper Bernie is protecting a device housed within a book which keeps the Dream Beavers in the dream realm. It’s called the Obtiraculum Somniorum and looks like the Necromonicon from The Evil Dead. It’s basically the Technonomicon.
This episode is notable for its demented dream sequences. The Turtles are trapped in nightmarish dreamscapes. It’s of a kind with the season two episode Fungus Humungus; it seems that the team behind the show are allowing themselves one episode a year to put together something that looks cool and trippy.
It’s also tremendously funny stuff. Michelangelo amuses himself drawing on his brothers’ faces as they sleep. His own dreamscape, rather than the burning heavy metal hell that Raphael finds himself in, is a gumdrop fun land and his tormenter, Beaver Dave, just wants to play and have fun.
Ending with a twist that is terrifically funny, this one is an absolute triumph and the pick of the Northampton run. It also features a top notch, Elm Street-influenced score that will have you questioning why there isn’t a soundtrack album available for the show.
Raising The Cakes
Cakes removed from the oven, then left to cool, it was time to get involved in some icing. Again, it’s basically all in the box, so there was very little for me to get wrong.
This is where I ran into trouble, though. I mixed the icing, applied it to the cakes and stuck the little turtle faces on them, then stepped back to admire my handiwork. Only, something wasn’t right. These Turtles weren’t green. The box shows the icing as green, which is in-line with the colour of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and therefore appropriate. These came out a cream, fleshy colour. I found the whole thing to be unnerving. My wife wrote in and complained to the cake company.
The cakes did taste great, though. The incorrectly coloured icing turned out to be apple flavoured and was delicious. Unfortunately, small cakes are made to be shared. I was advised by very many people that “Those are all my cakes! It’s for an article!” is not appropriate behaviour. So I had to share and they just didn’t last very long. That left me with three episodes to cover cakelessly. A dilemma!
The Pig And The Rhino
Notable Michelangelo quote: “You need mutant names and it just so happens that I’m awesome at naming stuff. Umm. How about Pork Rind and Chilli Cheese Fry?”
This is the episode where they introduce Bebop and Rocksteady.
The new versions of Bebop and Rocksteady are fairly different from the original versions of the characters, who were created for the 1980s cartoon series. Bebop is Anton Zeck, a smart mouthed thief with an invisibility device, while Rocksteady is Sterenko, a surly Russian mob boss. I suspect Bebop likely lands more with younger viewers. I find the new version of Rocksteady to be an absolute hoot, though. The dynamic between the two, with a hyperactive Bebop and a more sullen Rocksteady, provides a good deal of fun.
The story finds the Turtles, recently returned to New York, on the hunt for their mutated enemy-turned-ally Karai. Bebop and Rocksteady are dispatched by Shredder with the same objective. It culminates in a thrilling showdown on a rollercoaster at the Coney Island fairground (keep your eyes open for a Warriors reference).
Aside from the successful introduction of two important characters, the episode is worth checking out for the fight on the rollercoaster. With all the fun character work that goes into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles it’d be easy to overlook that they consistently deliver great action sequences. Here, the action is clear, the fighting well choreographed and the character of the participants always present. It also detours into the fairgrounds haunted house, which is creepy and brings more tension into the conflict.
Really though, this one is essential viewing for its successful reintroduction to two iconic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters. This version of Bebop and Rocksteady are immediately established as fun and formidable.Iced to see you, to see you…
Well, well, well. Look who it is.
That’s right. It turns out that this year the Ninja Turtles cake I’ve been buying for these articles for the last few years has been reissued with a Raphael red eye-mask. Obviously I bought it immediately, solving my cake quandary.
So, in the last two articles I learned that it’s not possible to eat a cake like this on your own. However, this article I learned that I hate sharing cake.
I settled on unlearning the first lesson.
The Tale Of Yokai
Notable Michelangelo quote: “Oh, young Oroku Saki is kind of a good guy, huh?”
This episode sees the Turtles transported back in time to witness the pivotal conflict in the relationship between Hamato Yoshi (pre-mutation Splinter) and Oroku Saki (pre-megalomania Shredder). The Turtles must avoid causing disruptions in the past that could impact on the future, but struggle to stand idly by as their father experiences a great tragedy.
Showing a backstory is a risky game, because often an idea and a selection of possibilities is more interesting to a viewer than a defined story. We know, roughly, what happened between Splinter and Shredder. Seeing it play out, in theory, would do little more than fill in a few blanks that we’ve previously been happy to fill in ourselves. It’s likely to do little more than remove mystery. In this instance, it works spectacularly because it hits unexpected emotional notes. It proves to be worth doing because the details aren’t made more important than the feel of what happens. And it feels kind of devastating.
Perhaps because it’s a story we’re so familiar with, that we’ve come to take for granted, that it’s surprising and upsetting to see it humanised. To see the Turtles, particularly the more child-like Michelangelo, afforded a brief opportunity to interact with Tang Shen, essentially their mother, is to see them forming a doomed bond. The most difficult moment finds the Turtles watching their father go through the defining tragedy of his life, one that they know will haunt him for years to come, and not even being able to comfort him. It’s rough going.
It is an utterly wonderful episode.
Oof. My cake tolerance has not improved.
Notable Michelangelo quote: “I used to think dinosaurs were cool.”
A hyper-militant army of dinosaur space warriors called the Triceratons track down the Kraang aliens on Earth and set about destroying the planet. The Turtles will need the help of every ally they’ve ever had, and perhaps even their enemies, if they’re going to save the world.
It’s technically cheating to include Annhiliation: Earth as it’s two episodes. I’m not worried about that, though. I can cheat all I want because it’s my article and these are my rules. Why am I setting rules that I won’t even adhere to? Because I have a rebellious spirit and I really like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
This episode is steeped in TMNT history. The Triceratons, the character Bishop (introduced in the 2003 animated series) and the Utroms are all brought into the action here, and they show that three seasons in, the team behind Nickelodeon’s Turtles are still finding ways to do new things with old characters. There’s even a plot about the Technodrome being stuck underwater in need of a source of power; pure 80s cartoon, yet unexpected and executed as new.
It features almost everyone from the Nickelodeon Turtles in it, which is lovely because it places both the scale of the conflict and the stakes of investment for viewers. The fight needs everyone, so everyone you’ve invested in throughout the previous 76 episodes is at risk. The cast of characters are great, too, so it’s exciting to see them all return, from Muckman to Mondo Gecko. If you had a weird Ninja Turtles action figure as a kid, chances are there’s an awesome Nick Turtles version of that character. In Annhilation: Earth, that character is in danger.
As always, it’s easy to point to series highlight Michelangelo when discussing episodes. Here, he stands out in a scene where the Triceratons capture him and set about using a weapon to extract information from his mind, a process that will destroy his brain and one that’s usually reserved for war criminals. Except, of course, it doesn’t work on Michelangelo’s unique brain. After enjoying a rainbow trip-out he begs for another go, leaving his captors baffled.
The best character work is saved for Leonardo and Shredder. I think Leonardo is the most difficult Ninja Turtle to get right. The authority figure among the rebellious Turtles, he’s essentially charged with having the least amount of fun. In Annihilation: Earth, Leo gets a moment. The Turtles are captured on a Triceraton ship, facing certain doom and about to watch Earth be destroyed. Leonardo turns into Luke Skywalker at the beginning of Return Of The Jedi and threatens the Triceratons; “Let the Earth survive or be destroyed” he says, cool as you like. It’s a character moment that evokes all of the growth that its equivalent moment in the Star Wars films does. Leonardo is no longer a trainee, he’s a master.
Then there’s Shredder, who approaches redemption. His relationship with Karai, his sort-of daughter, has done a lot to humanise his character, albeit as an angry, particularly unpleasant human. In the middle of the big battle sequence, and just as we get to the save the world moment, the rug is pulled out from under our feet. It’s the defining moment; his actions in this moment are entirely who he is as a character. All that humanising the character has done has led us to an expectation that he might have a good turn in him yet, and with that expectation set up, it’s subverted. Oroku Saki is revealed as being too far gone.
From this action, which comes with emotionally gutting consequences, the series ends on an exciting, energising moment. “My name is Professor Zaton Honeycutt” explains the Fugitoid, arriving in the nick of time to beckon the Turtles onto his space ship and into season 4, “and you, my friends, are about to embark on a wondrous adventure.”
Before I move onto cake, I’m going to sneak this request in here. Can we please have the show on Blu-ray? And the score? I would pay a fair price, and I mean that in the context of how I spend money on Ninja Turtles stuff, which is recklessly and idiotically.
I felt so energised when I started in on the big Raphael cake and it tricked me into thinking I wasn’t overdoing it. That was an error. I ate a load more cake and soon found myself slumped over in a cake stupor gazing off into space, thinking about mutant reptiles kung-fu kicking insectoid alien crime lords in the face. It’s nice to have a hobby.
Look, I get that the cake thing has run its course. But the fact is, if I see a Donatello cake next year I’m buying it and writing a best of season 4 article while I eat it.
Nickelodeon are currently running through every episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with episodes showing every night on Nicktoons at 8pm.