Before the 90’s animated X-Men TV show, there was a TV pilot called Pryde of the X-Men. The title is a mild pun for the character, Kitty Pryde, who joins the X-Men in the pilot episode. It originally broadcasted in 1989 and while the TV show never continued, the X-Men arcade game was loosely based off it. It’s also been released on VHS, although as far as I can tell, it’s never been released on DVD. That’s a shame, because it could have been an interesting special feature for the 90’s animated series.
This pilot isn’t good, but it’s not terrible either. The main problem is that it feels rushed beyond belief. The story here should have been divided into two episodes, or they should have simplified the story. In 23 minutes, all the X-Men and half of the brotherhood are introduced through narrations, plus you have Kitty growing to accept the X-Men, three fights, and exposition related to Magneto’s plan. That’s way too much for 23 minutes.
As the title suggests, Kitty Pryde is the central character in the pilot. It portrays her first meeting with the X-Men, and her first mission with them. The problem is that she’s almost the complete opposite of her comic counterpart. She’s portrayed as a hapless damsel who wines about everything. Towards the end she matures and helps the X-Men, but even then she’s a little annoying.
While in the comics Kitty Pryde was introduced during the Dark Phoenix Saga, this episode is more influenced by Magneto’s Asteroid M. His plan is to throw a comet at the Earth and, well … that’s the extent of his plan. The pilot makes no mention of bringing any mutants besides his brotherhood onto Asteroid M. This version of Magneto really doesn’t understand how reproduction works, does he? You can’t sustain a species with Emma Frost as your only woman!
I might as well start from the beginning. The theme song is, well … cheesy. There’s some guy narrating like the announcer for The Deadliest Warrior, except he’s the poor man’s version.
“No place to hide (no place to hide),
No place to run (no place to run),
The mutant hate (the mutant hate),
Has now begun.” Yes, those phrases echo. And then the song begins.
Saves the day (saves the day),
Coming your way!” There’s something off about the second line; “Save the day” would sound better, not that it would be any less cheesy. It’s making my spell check go nuts too. “Saves the day” would work for a solo hero, but it’s grammatically awkward for a team.
“Magneto’s hordes are on their way
To pillage, burn and plunder.
But there’s one team that will not yield,
The team that strikes like thunder!” Pillage and plunder? Magneto’s brotherhood never felt like the kind of group that would steal by force. They wouldn’t simply attack a town or village for material gain. Sure Magneto has stolen warheads, but otherwise they generally have all the equipment they need. Magneto himself is a technical genius after all. I’m guessing they just wanted something to rhyme with Thunder.
At this point, the “X-Men saves the day” chorus repeats, then it ends. There’s a good reason why the 90’s X-Men series didn’t have lyrics in their theme song. The X-Men franchise is generally too dark and serious to have cheesy, heroic lyrics on any related material. I’ll give it this much though, it’s not as bad as the 90’s Fantastic Four theme.
After that, we have Stan Lee introducing the show – that’s awesome. He tells us to beware of any mutants around us. Oh great, the show’s breaking the fourth wall now. In all seriousness though, he has a point. That guy across the road with no fingers – there should be no way he can write his name properly. He must have telekinesis. Or how about Romney, he would have never become a presidential candidate without some sort of hypnotic powers.
(Why does Magneto bother breaking out of the force field by force? He could simply tear the equipment apart.)
Next up, we see a captured Magneto being transferred in a prison truck – completely filled with Metal – GENIUS! Makes you wonder how they capture him? The convoy starts panicking as a flying Emma Frost is making them think they’re all sinking. When did Emma Frost get flying powers (ignoring Avengers vs. X-Men)? Also her voice acting is off – she sounds way too old to have blonde hair and no wrinkles on her face. Anyway, Magneto escapes and then we meet Kitty Pryde arriving at the X-Men mansion.
Xavier in this show is the very definition of a creepy old man. Kitty walks into the mansion, and Xavier starts telepathically talking to her before she sees anyone. Keep in mind this is the first time she’s met any of the X-Men (yet Xavier’s letter stated that he knows about her phasing abilities). You know how creepy that would be for a 14-year-old girl? Even before she walked in, her taxi driver sped off saying “this place gives me the creeps.” That’s a great way to leave a first impression.
(The main X-Men lineup)
Anyway, Xavier introduces her to the X-Men, who are practicing in the Danger room. We’re introduced to Cyclops, Colossus, Dazzler, Nightcrawler, Wolverine and Storm. That’s actually a pretty good line up, at least it should be.
This show’s version of Cyclops is the most boring interpretation I’ve seen. He’s as much of a straight man as you can get and he never shows any kind of emotion. Of course, this episode doesn’t give him enough time to do anything but say “Yes Sir” and bark out orders.
Nightcrawler is a bit more interesting. Just like the comics, he’s very friendly, yet his appearance freaks Kitty out at first. The way he introduces himself to Kitty is a bit creepy, but otherwise he’s alright.
Wolverine is, well … he’s a stereotypical Australian in this show. He’s supposed to be Canadian (his first appearance was as a Canadian Special Agent). It’s interesting though, considering Scott McNeil (voiced Wolverine in X-Men Evolution) and Hugh Jackman are both Australian. Maybe the mutant Destiny helped write this show.
Storm is handled similarly in this to the 90’s show. Her voice even sounds similar, although she doesn’t call out to the weather when she’s using her powers. I like her in this.
Neither Colossus nor Dazzler have enough screen time or dialogue to give any real impression, but at least Colossus sounds Russian.
Anyway, a red alert sends the X-Men away. We soon find out that it was just a diversion so that Magneto and the Juggernaut could invade the mansion. You’re telling me that Xavier is incapable of telepathically calling them back for help, considering the brotherhood attacks the instant the X jets take off? Instead, he casually tells Kitty who Magneto and the Juggernaut are.
(Yeah, Kitty accidentally phases a lot in this show.)
Kitty backs away from the computer screens and phases through the computers that handle the mansions automatic defenses. Xavier yells at her for this, why? The Juggernaut was brushing off the laser blasts like they were snowflakes and Magneto was simply blocking them with force fields, what difference does it make if the guns are disabled?
The Juggernaut crashes through the front door as Xavier gives Kitty Cerebro’s power circuit. She keeps asking questions and screaming. At this point, her voice is starting to grate on me. It’s not that her acting is annoying; it’s that she’s constantly being portrayed as a winy brat. The Kitty of the comics was much more resourceful than this version. She even helped save the X-Men the day she met them. It doesn’t help that she has nearly every other line of dialogue in this TV special. Anyway, Magneto grabs the power circuit and leaves.
Meanwhile at the diversion, the X-Men save some ungrateful humans from the Blob and Pyro. It’s just a random family of three, why should we care? Blob and Pyro soon meet up with Magneto and Juggernaut on Asteroid M. Toad happens to be on the asteroid too, and Lockheed’s randomly there as well (Kitty’s dragon friend from the comics). This version of Toad is even less dignified than in the comics, he’s portrayed as an overgrown child with Down syndrome.
(Notice how Xavier lifts his knee here. Isn’t he supposed to be paralyzed from the waist down?)
The X-Men return to their heavily damaged base and find a barely conscious Xavier. He raises his knee as he recovers, nice goof. By this point, Kitty’s already far more accepting of the X-Men, even Nightcrawler. This heel turn is even more out of nowhere than Anakin in Star Wars episode 3. She also blames herself because she failed to keep the power circuit from Magneto. Really? You’re going to blame yourself for failing to defeat a well-known mutant terrorist when you haven’t had any kind of training? Kitty was never this winy in the comics.
The X-Men soon head into space to stop Magneto, and Kitty sneaks onto the X Jet. The Jet reaches Asteroid M and the X-Men head towards it with their jet propelled space suits. Xavier then talks to Kitty on the Jet and tells her she should have stayed at the Mansion. Kitty is still blaming herself and argues that she has to help, so Xavier lets her go without arguing. Well, that was easy.
(Meh, this fight was more epic in the Uncanny X-Men Fear Itself tie-ins. Seriously, the Uncanny tie-ins were amazing.)
On Asteroid M, the X-Men take on the Brotherhood one at a time. Wouldn’t it be more effective if all of Magneto’s men fought them at once? As each X-Man fights one of Magneto’s followers each, Nightcrawler is the only one who reaches the control room. Before Magneto can zap Nightcrawler, Kitty phases through the floor and grabs his arm. Lockheed also bites Magneto’s leg. Wow, Lockheed connected to Kitty instantly in this episode – yet another instant heel turn. Build up is for snobs. Magneto’s powers are seriously toned down in this fight – it’s hilarious how easily a 14-year-old girl tackles him.
(It’s nice that Lockheed is in this, but he feels really pointless.)
The comet that Magneto shot at Earth somehow reverses course through the X-Men’s actions, even though nobody played around with Magneto’s computers. It’s not the least bit clear what happened, but in order for the comet to keep flying away from Earth, Nightcrawler must hold a circuit that Magneto accidentally blew when Kitty tackled him. Really? Are you saying that the comet’s current direction won’t continue in a frictionless environment if Nightcrawler doesn’t re-channel electricity? Electricity that his space suit wouldn’t be built to withstand?
Anyway, Nightcrawler teleports at the exact right moment. Everyone escapes the asteroid before it’s destroyed by the comet. Lockheed is Kitty’s pet now, and everyone has a happy ending. Stan Lee closes the episode with another narration.
It’s not hard to realize why this pilot failed where the 90’s X-men show succeeded. Kitty Pryde is thrown into the X-Men at full force and is met with obnoxious, creepy adults. Her first time meeting anyone is when she wanders into the school – without her parents. Xavier talks to her telepathically before he does in person – that’s down right frightening. There isn’t any comforting from anyone until after the first fight scene, and the experience would do nothing but traumatize her for life. Towards the end she has a heel turn from being frightened by everyone to joining the fight even when discouraged. How does that happen?
Compare that to Kitty’s introduction in the comics in Uncanny X-Men 129 (which can be found in the Dark Phoenix Saga paperback). A small number of X-Men visit her house to talk about Xavier’s school. She hangs out with Storm and Colossus for a day and they eat ice cream while Xavier talks to her parents. Sure they’re attacked, but the day would have been fine otherwise. She’s comforted by Jean Grey and then finds the courage to help rescue the captured X-Men. It’s a far better way to introduce her than this TV show had. She also took on a demon by herself in Uncanny X-Men 143 (which can be found in the Days of Future Past paperback).
Say what you will about Jubilee in the 90’s show (she’s more annoying than Kitty in POTXM), but she was introduced the right way. She first met the X-Men when they saved her life from a Sentinel. Sure, they did freak her out with their crazy powers. Afterwards though, they actually tried to comfort her and earn her trust. In the 90’s show, it took time and effort to bring her into the X-Men – two episodes to be precise. You could say the same for the X-Men Evolution TV show and all the various teens that join them throughout the first season.
Pride of the X-Men moves so fast that there’s no room for tension or dramatic weight. The dialogue is as abridged as possible, and characters heel turn so much you’ll get whiplash. Any potential conflicts between the X-Men are brushed over before they can develop. Magneto’s brotherhood is defeated so easily that you wonder why a team of X-Men is even needed. Heck, Kitty Pryde beats Magneto in a shoving contest. It tries to do way too much with 23 minutes of runtime.
The voice acting is hit and miss – more often miss. Cyclops and Xavier both feel … off. Nightcrawler and Colossus are both decent. Wolverine , while Australian instead of Canadian, is alright. Dazzler doesn’t talk enough to give any impression. Despite my earlier complaints about Kitty wining too much, she’s not bad. Most of the brotherhood sound like comical villains at best. All three of the lasting X-Men TV shows have better voice acting overall.
(The animation is by far the best part of this show. Look at the lighting in this still.)
I do have to admit though, the animation is very good. The movement is more fluid than the 90’s show, and the still images have more detail as well. The special effects with Magneto’s powers are impressive for the time, and the same goes for Storm. The lighting is fairly complex for a show that likely didn’t have any computers aiding in its animation. Apart from the mistake where Xavier lifts his paralyzed knee, I can’t think of anything bad to say. Visually, Pryde of the X-Men is vastly superior to the 90’s series.
Like I said, it’s not good, but it’s not bad either. At the least, this is an interesting piece of X-Men history, the same way that the Generation X TV movie is. I’d only recommend it to serious fans of the franchise, but it can easily be found online with a Google search. Could it have been a good show if they slowed down after this episode? We’ll never know, but at least we have three good X-Men shows to watch.
And why is Wolverine Australian in this TV show?