Mister T “Cape Kennedy Caper” (part 1 of 7)
Welcome, my friends, to the very, very end. This is it: the last episode of Mister T ever produced. This is the series finale, and you know what that means. All of our questions will finally be answered. Will Robin and Spike be reunited with their parents? Will Kim overcome her eating disorder? Will Mr. T tell Ms. Bisby how he feels in time to stop her from getting on that plane? And will they eventually name their child Master Bisby-T? And what about that black kid? Does he go to law school or whatever the hell he was always talking about?
All of this and more will be answered in the next 24 minutes. Actually, no, it won’t. Nothing will be answered, in any way. However, I can tell you this: Just like the finale of The Fugitive, the bad guy will be caught; like the finale of St. Elsewhere, you’ll be convinced that at least one person is retarded; and like the famed final episode of Battlestar Galactica, you will watch until the last moment, pause, and then say, “What the fuck was that?”
And I’ll make you this promise: During this episode, you will witness the single most astonishingly stupid coincidence in the entire history of animated entertainment.
The last episode of Mister T is called “The Cape Kennedy Caper”. It was first broadcast October 19, 1985. Where was I on October 19, 1985? Well, it was a Saturday and I was in the tenth grade, so I’m going to guess “not having sex”.
The opening credits play for the very last time. Since this is the last episode, all of the clips are from things we’ve already seen, although possibly not believed. T swung that alligator around a long, long time ago.
The live action frame opens in a nondescript park. A small group of 10 or 11 year-old children are gathered around as Mr. T pushes one of them on a swing. The ride comes to an end and Mr. T asks, “Who’s next?” All the kids raise their hands, but Mr. T puts a 10 year-old named Mike on the park’s one and only swing.
I have a child. And I push him when he’s on a swing. You know why? Because he’s three. If I didn’t push him, he’d just sit there. When I tell him to kick his legs, he moves both feet like he’s swimming, and the swing goes nowhere.
That’s something you don’t learn until you’re a parent. Small children are actually too dumb to swing. By the age of 10, however, they’ve pretty much mastered it. I’m not sure why Mr. T doesn’t know this. Possibly, it’s because every child who’s ever liked him has been paid to do so.
The action shifts over to a mousy little girl who appears to have come directly from the set of Les Miz. She bends down near some of the kids’ stuff. For reasons known only to the writers, this sets off Mr. T’s spider sense, or whatever his pretend superpower is. He abandons Mike on the swing and steps towards the girl. “Hey,” he yells, “Is that your bag?” I’m more worried about how Mike will negotiate the swing without Mr. T. I hope he doesn’t fall to his death.
The orphan from the road production of Annie stands there, appropriately chastised. T asks/reprimands/segues, “You know better than to look into other people’s things, don’t you?” Then he starts reading to her from his dream journal. “Woody learned that lesson when we were on a special tour of the space center. Robin got permission to take pictures for a school project.”
What the hell? I swear this is the first time it’s ever been mentioned that the gymnasts are receiving any type of education whatsoever, let alone that they actually attend a school where they do projects. You can’t just drop a fact like that in at the last minute. It would be like pretending that Alex had a best friend named Greg even though we had never seen or heard of him before. And then telling us that Greg just died in a car accident. Seriously, what was with that episode?
Mr. T is still telling Little Miss Marker about Robin’s imaginary photo project. “Before it was over…” And then he forgets the girl, turns to face the camera, and talks directly to us. I hate when he does that. It means I’m going to get pointed at. “…We were in the middle of the Cape Kennedy Caper.” And the way he slows down to enunciate “Cape… Kennedy… Caper” makes it clear that this was somewhere between take #60 and take #70. I wish to God this show had a gag reel.
The series finale was penned by Janis Diamond. She wrote about a half a dozen Mister T episodes, and other cartoon nonsense throughout the ‘80s. But she eventually got a real job, writing 17 episodes of Law & Order. She wrote the one about the old woman who was going to testify against the Nazi. I loved that one. It had William Atherton in it.
Unfortunately, Ms. Diamond seemed neither to know nor care a damn thing about manned space travel. She gets so many details wrong in this episode that it almost seems like she wrote it on a dare. Amazingly, even the title contains a mistake. The problem with “The Cape Kennedy Caper” is this: there is no Cape Kennedy. There hasn’t been since 1973, when Florida voted to change the name. It’s the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. If you’re keeping track, this is mistake number one.
You know what? Best not to keep track. Mistakes #2 through #806 all happen within the next ten seconds. After that, you’d need a scientific calculator with a graphing function.
The animated portion starts with a shot of the earth from space. We pan over to the surface of the moon and a lunar lander. Five astronauts are digging in the ground by the lander, and I assume that there are two other landers parked nearby. Either that, or the timetable for the Orion program was pushed up by 30 years. Suddenly, the astronauts see half a dozen meteors heading their way. The lead astronaut yells, “Meteorites! Get out of the way!” All five astronauts jump and avoid getting hit.
That lead astronaut sounds suspiciously like Mr. T. I, for one, am glad. It’s about time he stopped being awesome only on one planet, and shared it with the rest of the galaxy. I hope they somehow find a Stargate, so he can be awesome on Chulak as well.
Then we see Robin, in plain clothes, snapping pictures. This whole thing is taking place on a sound stage. Mr. T, Woody, Jeff, Kim and Spike are the astronauts, and they all take off their helmets. And Kim is really short here. She‘s got maybe half an inch on Spike, at most. Some random NASA official congratulates them, saying, “You all passed the moonwalk test with flying colors!”
That’s it. I’m out of here. Why does NASA, in 1985, even have a moonwalk test? They don’t even have a moonwalk program. Why aren’t the astronauts in the Peter Pan rigs to simulate one-sixth gravity? And why do they have spacesuits in child and teen sizes, when the youngest astronaut ever was 32? And what kind of meteorites travel so slowly that people have time to jump out of the way?
Also, since we just saw the earth in full daylight, that means the astronauts are facing directly towards the earth. It also means the earth is facing directly towards the sun. So Mr. T should have been in complete darkness instead of daylight. The entire mass of the moon was between him and the sun. If you ever want to kill Phil Plait, show him this episode.
One of the guys, let’s say Jeff, wants to know if there’s still time to try out the g-force simulator before the shuttle launch. An extremely helpful announcement declares that the countdown is at T-minus two hours, 30 minutes.
Wait a minute. All of this is supposedly taking place at the Kennedy Space Center on launch day? Okay, first of all, you know how much astronaut training gets done at the Kennedy Space Center? Almost none. All of that g-force simulator crap is at the Johnson Space Center, roughly a thousand miles away.
Also, do you know what the staff at Kennedy does on launch day? They launch the space shuttle. That’s all they do. They don’t give tours. They don’t let people futz with their space stuff. They just launch the shuttle. Even the people who have nothing to do with the shuttle launch the shuttle. The accountants don’t do any accounting. They stand around waiting, just in case the mission commander declares a J-171-B Estate and Gift Tax emergency.
The next shot shows Woody, back in plain clothes, reaching into Robin’s bag and taking out her camera. Robin immediately runs up and grabs it back from him. She yells, “How dare you rifle through my things!” Geez, that was a touch severe. Aren’t they on the same gymnastics team? Living in close quarters, in and out of hotels? Doesn’t that lend itself to a little bit of communism, at least when it comes to personal items?
Mr. T doesn’t think so. He steps in and further reprimands him with, “Robin’s right, Woody.” Woody is speechless. And so am I.
The announcer breaks in to advise us that it is now “T-minus two hours and 59 minutes and still counting.” What the hell? Wasn’t it just T-minus two hours 30 minutes? Yes. Yes, it was. Holy crap, NASA is counting backwards! At this rate, they’ll never launch the shuttle. And they’ll have to rescue Apollo 13 all over again!
Okay, so at this point in the writing, Janis Diamond realized that her story timeline needed three hours. I respect that. But then why didn’t she go back and revise her script to change the first announcement? She had it right there on her first-generation Apple Macintosh.
And BT-dubs, if this camera borrowing has anything whatsoever to do with the plot, I am going to be very, very disappointed.