Jinkies! It’s the Original!
And so we reach the end of Scooby-Doocember and the year itself with the original series, Scooby-Doo Where Are You! Now I can’t do this as an ordinary review for a couple of reasons, I mean for one my view on this series is just caked in nostalgia so I can’t even approach a critical analysis of the show (not that I do that much analysis in normal reviews). I’m not blind to it’s faults, I freely admit that the animation is so cheap homeless people give it money out of pity, the characters have as much depth and development as a puddle and the mysteries don’t exactly need Columbo to figure them out.
What I will argue though is that even though the animation is cheap it still has oodles of atmosphere, from the creepy locations and dark colour palette of the backgrounds to some really spooky parts of the soundtrack. This series, more than any other in the Scooby franchise, can do haunted, not scary, but that creepy, spooky vibe of being in some place where the supernatural could be at play. As for the characters, yeah they stick to their archetypes and don’t change in the slightest throughout, but they don’t need to because they have personality. Maybe they’re not relatable people, but they feel genuine, people that you can sit down and have a laugh with. Also I really like the friendship between the five of them and the idea of having this gang of misfits from different walks of life just banding together.
With the mystery element, I have spoken about this before, but they don’t need to be overly complex. This is a show aimed at young children and while I will never condone a show dumbing down for its audience, if you get too complex your going to either lose their attention or become so convoluted it enters the ridiculous, and this is a show with a talking dog, we have enough ridiculous thank you. The mystery just needs to be enough to hook the kids in and then show them by the end that there is an answer and don’t always judge a situation by your first impression, which I think is a good message. Sure sometimes there’s either only one person hanging around that could possibly be the culprit or they pull the guy out of thin air, but that doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t dent the message. It can get very formulaic, but every now and again the show may surprise you with a twist as I hope to show.
Anyway, I went on a bit of a ramble there so back to the point, I said I can’t do this as a normal review and the other reason why is because I’ve kind of just done the review there and it’s only half as long as I normally tend to write these. Due to the lack of depth and the formula there isn’t all that much else to sink my teeth into, so instead I’m going to do my top 5 episodes, now there are plenty of other great episodes that I enjoy watching, but these just edge it for one reason or another.
- Bedlam in the Biptop
Just goes to show that clowns are creepy no matter where they turn up. The design on the Ghost Clown is fantastic and he’s probably one of the more dangerous adversaries that Mystery Incorporated has ever faced. Yeah, they’ve had plenty of guys in masks threatening them or trying to scare them, but this guy genuinely tries to kill them. The plot goes like this, the gang stumble across a circus where a Ghost Clown has been terrorising the acts and scaring them off one by one, the gang decides to investigate, but it turns out that the Ghost Clown has a thing for hypnosis. There isn’t that much on the mystery front for this episode but what follows is several set pieces as the Ghost Clowns hypnotises the gang into performing death-defying stunts. Ever want to see Shaggy the lion tamer? There is a bit of a mystery as we try to figure out how the Ghost Clown disappeared out of a cage.
- The Haunted House Hang-Up
On their way to a rock concert the Mystery Machine breaks down, unfortunately it breaks down outside of a haunted mansion. We’ve got floating candles, a painting that literally loses its head and an ominous banging going on all the time, not to mention the Headless Spectre roaming about the place. This is kind of what I regard as the standard for a Scooby-Doo episode, lots of spooky goings on and clues dotted about the place. What raises this episode above the usual fare though is that it comes with a twist. You see once the Headless Spectre is unmasked, that’s not the end of the mystery. Because if the Headless Spectre wasn’t making that banging noise and the gang weren’t making it, who is?
- Spooky Space Kook
Now as much as I love the abandoned amusement parks and creepy islands, the haunted airfield of this story has to be one of the best locations in Scooby-Doo. Add into that a ghostly spaceship floating around the place, beeping and clicking and the Space Kook himself and spooky is definitely the best word to describe this episode. I love the design on the Space Kook with that big bulky body and the glowing skull in his helmet (I wonder if a certain Mr. Moffat ever saw this before he wrote Silence in the Library?). There’s that laugh too, oh I love that laugh. The visuals and the sound design make this one.
- Jeepers, It’s the Creeper
This episode’s plot is probably the closed to a slasher flick that Scooby-Doo will ever get; it’s also probably one of the most classic episodes. I know that when I think of a Scooby-Doo baddie, the Creeper is one of the first that pops into my head. He has a brilliant design, simple but completely effective and he certainly lives up to his name. There’s something about him shambling towards the gang, repeating his name over and over again with that voice that really sends the chills down my spine. On to the plot, after the gang discover a beaten up car and a barely conscious driver, the gang are handed a blank piece of paper and are told that the flame shall reveal the Creeper. Now for once in their lives the gang don’t pursue this mystery and instead go their school dance, but when the power goes out the students leave to party elsewhere, leaving our heroes alone in the barn. Then the Creeper appears and chases them across the countryside (seriously why am I imaging a dark retelling of this as a teen slasher with Daphne wielding a pitchfork, damn it now I have to write that!).
- A Night of Fright is No Delight
After Scooby saves the life of a wealthy eccentric he’s written into the old man’s will. Now all he has to do to get the money is spend the night in a haunted house! Can our resident scaredy-dog be brave for once? What do you think? This is one where the atmosphere is perfect, from the soundtrack to that beautiful house all alone on an island with lightning flashing through the sky. It’s probably over the top but I love it and my god I love the Phantom Shadow! There design has to be the best of the classic villains, simple but effective and then you add in that spine-chilling laugh and those chains. Also, you don’t get a good look at them at first; they’re just a shadow moving across the wall. Screw the million dollars, you wouldn’t see me for dust. Now I know I’m bigging this episode up way too much, but this is my favourite and what I regard as the classic of classics. Also it has one of Fred’s silliest traps, who wants to see a flying washing machine?
Thank you for staying with me while I’ve gone through this nostalgia binge, I promise we’ll be back to the usual long-winded rants and over-hyped praising that I normally get up to. I hope you’ve enjoyed this and whether you’re a Scooby fan or not I hope you’re curious enough to check something from the franchise out, you never know, you might find something you like.
Now let’s put 2016 behind us and look forward to 2017, it can only be better, right?
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.