Blackstar Explored – Forgotten Epic Sci-fi Sword & Sorcery Cartoon From ’80s, A True Hidden Gem

    Blackstar, an animated science-fiction series, debuted on television in 1981. It was created by Filmation, a company that had previously worked on The Freedom Force, another fantasy saga. Its production was overseen by Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott.

    The renowned animated programme Thundarr the Barbarian served as a major source of inspiration for the series. It had thirteen episodes before being canceled and replaced with He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, a much more well-liked programme than Blackstar.

    In the Blackstar narrative, John Blackstar was left trapped on a brand-new planet called Sagar that had been taken over by the villainous Overlord. Along the way, he met a lot of friends and decided to rebel against the Overlord. We will discuss the mythology of World Sagar and its inhabitants, John Blackstar’s ancestry, and his exploits on the extraterrestrial planet in this video.

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    What’s The Blackstar Animated Science Fantasy Series All About?

    What’s The Blackstar Animated Science Fantasy Series All About

    John Blackstar, the main character in Blackstar, was once an astronaut. His home planet is implied to be a highly developed one in terms of technology (as evidenced by Blackstar’s photon-based ship that can traverse dimensions). One day, he is sucked into a black hole and imprisoned in planet Sagar’s brand-new world. Soon, he is saved by the Trobbits, a small race of the planet’s natural pinkish-magenta coloured creatures. They guard the Sagar Tree, which is where all of the planet’s white power originates and serves as their home.

    Originally, the Trobbits were supposed to be known as Trollkins and they were meant to be blue in colour. However, on one hand, the blue Smurfs were already popular and on the other hand, Hanna-Barbera had a show called the Trollkins. So Filmation had to give up on making blue Trollkins and changed the concept to the magenta pink Trobbits of Sagar.

    All’s not well in this alien planet though. The Trobbit people are being oppressed by the villain of the story, the cruel Overlord. Blackstar decides to help them in their fight for freedom against the villain.

    The Overlord rules over Sagar with the might of the Powerstar. However, the Powerstar is split into the Starsword and the Power sword. It is only in the sixth episode ‘Spacewrecked’ where we get to see the two legendary swords unite into the Powerstar.

    Blackstar finds himself to be the wielder of the Starsword and it gives him a wide range of abilities. He also allies with an enchantress named Mara, the dragon Warlock, a Klone who is an elvish shapeshifter, and of course, the Trobbits. Meanwhile, the Power sword is wielded by the Overlord.

    Filmation Studios later decided to reuse this concept for He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe. They intended to split the Sword Of Greyskull into two to make He-Man possess one half and Skeletor possess the other. However, the idea was dropped. But Blackstar’s influence was still felt with reference to the plot, especially with He-Man powering up with his magical sword, the engaging action sequences, and a semi-clad man at the forefront of the story.

    Thundarr The Barbarian has a premise similar to Blackstar. Even though it is set on a post-apocalyptic wasteland of an Earth unlike Blackstar, both shows follow plots involving magic and the same magical heroes, sword-wielding protagonist, and friends going against the bad guys formula. In fact, the popularity of Thundarr The Barbarian acted as a catalyst for the conception of Blackstar.

    Screenwriter and artist Robert Lamb was one of the many people who worked on the action adventure story of Blackstar. And he has shared a great deal about its behind the scenes moments. Even though he was not an active participant in the story’s creation, he often touched over some of the storyboard scenes. He also revealed the heavy presence of sci-fi culture throughout his work environment.

    Filmation has previously produced live action shows such as Space Academy and Jason Of Star Command. So science fiction is home for this company. The sets of these shows still stood at the place where the Assisstant Animation Department worked from. There were Star Trek props on set as well.

    Lamb worked on some of the scenes of Blackstar’s last episode – The Zombies Master. The Zombies Master was designed to represent a fusion between the minor Star Wars antagonist Jabba the Hutt and the British actor who inspired the character – Sidney Greenstreet. And interestingly, it was after two years that they got to see how Jabba the Hutt was modelled for Return of the Jedi. Edgar Rice Burrough’s novel John Carter Of Mars and James Clavell’s novel Shogun were other sci-fi stories that acted as inspirations for Blackstar.

    Another notable inspiration was Princess Ariel, the sorceress from Thundarr The Barbarian who influenced Blackstar’s ally Mara, an enchantress with magical powers.

    Which brings us to one of the most important parts of Blackstar. The characters that play a central role in the story. Of course, many characters have appeared throughout the course of all thirteen episodes. But let’s go over the ones who have been more recurring in the show.

    At the forefront we have our titular hero, John Blackstar, who is more than just his brawns. He is very intelligent and prefers to outwit his opponents instead of relying on brute strength.

    Next we have the enchantress Mara, who is a few centuries old but definitely does not look her age. She is capable of telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation, and magic blasts. She can also create illusions, project forcefields, and levitate.

    There are also the Trobbits a.k.a. the Tree Hobbits who are native to Planet Sagar. Initially, only three Trobbits were supposed to be present but that idea was later dropped. The show decided to go with seven trobbits instead, which was probably inspired by Snow White And The Seven Dwarves.

    Blackstar is also on excellent terms with a winged creature called the Warlock. It is a dragon-horse and often acts as Blackstar’s ride. The elf-like shapeshifter called Klone also assists Blackstar in his adventures.

    One of the most important characters of the show is obviously, Overlord. His plan is to rule over the entire planet with the might of the Powerstar. As the wielder of the Powersword, he is on the lookout for Starsword, which makes him Blackstar’s primary enemy.

    He also has a right-hand man called Vizier who excels at conjuring and controlling minds.

    To get a better overview of the story, it is best to go over some of its opening and closing episodes.

    In the first episode, titled ‘City Of The Ancient Ones’, Overlord awakens a sorceress known as Amber. She is hypnotized to make enemies out of Blackstar and her once close friend Mara.

    Overlord’s quest in this episode is to go to the City of the Ancient Ones, which is also known as Tamborian. This city is home to the Sanctum Of Wisdom. He seeks to learn the secret powers wielded by the Ancients from the secret scrolls that are stored in the Sanctum, and for this, he needs Amber’s help.

    Mara is aware of Amber’s true, friendly nature and wishes to save her friend and stop the Overlord alongside Blackstar. When the Trobbits try to help by going against the enemy, they get captured in a hypnotized Amber’s power ring.

    In the end, Mara and Blackstar fight a giant robot guardian and Mara’s conscience is restored. The Trobbits are freed as well and Overland’s plans are foiled. However, this episode gives rise to several burning questions.

    During one instance, Mara says that, “I wonder if the planet will ever get back to the peacefulness of ancient times”. Sagar comes off as a barbaric planet which makes us think about how a planet with secret scrolls about secret powers at the Sanctum of Wisom ended up as a barbaric place. And this is how the premise sets up the future episodes.

    The second episode is called ‘Search for the Starsword’. We have previously spoken about the whole thing with the swords wielded by Blackstar and Overlord. This episode opens with a volcanic eruption that has a great impact of the planet. And from this eruption emerges new enemies – Overlord’s minions known as the Lavaloks. They are tasked with retrieving the Starsword for Overlord and this plan foils a picnic that Blackstar was enjoying with Mara, Klone, and the Trobbits.

    Overlord is revealed to be the power that rules over planet Sagar and Blackstar is the one who opposes him tooth and nail. The Lavalocks retrieve the Starsword from the Trobbits to help Overlord in uniting it with his Power Sword.

    However, these plans are once again foiled by Blackstar and his allies.

    In the third episode ‘The Lord of Time’, the Trobbits are attacked by Overlord’s other subordinate, the Time Lord (with BBC broadcasting Dr. Who since 1963, this could very well be a Dr. Who reference).

    The Sagar Tree (which happens to be the home of the Trobbits) is turned into an acorn by Kadray’s (that is the Time Lord’s) time scepter that can age or de-age anything. Blackstar’s goal here is to prevent the Lord of Time from getting this acorn. As it is, the Trobbits will be done for without the Sagar Tree so Blackstar must act immediately.

    With these three episodes, we are completely exposed to everything that makes Planet Sagar the place it is. We learn about the main heroes, the villains, its decline as a planet, and finally, we get to know about the Sagar Tree which is the source of the planet’s white magic. So let’s jump to the last three episodes to see how the story is brought to an end.

    The eleventh episode ‘The Overlord’s Big Spell’ shows Overlord conjuring an ancient spell which drains all the magic away from the planet and concentrates them in his ice palace. This means that Mara, whose life force is sustained by magic, begins to vanish little by little. The Overlord also summons a devil called the Brilerand but this demon is so evil that he is out of Overlord’s control as well.

    Powerless to deal with this unprecedented situation, Overlord is forced to join hands with Blackstar to defeat Brilerand. He is pained to work alongside the Trobbits but their goals are momentarily compatible and ultimately, Brilerand is defeated and Mara is saved.

    In the penultimate episode ‘The Crown Of The Sorceress, the beautiful Taleena is attacked by a monstrous man named Thorg. Blackstar and Warlock arrive to help her and ultimately, she promises to ally with them if she is taken back home safely.

    However, things are never as they seem and Taleena is actually an evil witch who is the high priestess of the Demonlands. She controls the powerful crown of Karn and has enslaved Thorg’s people. Her goal now is to make Blackstar her slave as well. Oh did we mention how she is a minion of Overlord?

    Blackstar is brainwashed by Taleena. Meanwhile, his allies come to save him and now, they must go against Taleena’s demon fire.

    Mara returns Blackstar to his original self and Taleena fights back with several of her summonings. But our heroes attain the final victory.

    The last episode, ‘The Zombie Masters’, brings the series to an end. Blackstar and his allies come across the flying city of Marakon. This city is a city of zombies. Blackstar and co. were on their way to visit the royal family of Gandar to secure their help in their rebellion. However, Marakon lays waste on Gandar and their evil wizard Shaldamar turns Gandar’s princess and Mara into mindless zombies.

    Blackstar makes a new ally out of the prince of Gandar as they wish to save Mara, the princess, and all the slaves.

    Ultimately, Blackstar’s Star Sword is used to destroy the City of Zombies, which is quite the brutal method for the hero of a children’s cartoon to adopt.

    Unfortunately, episode 11 was the last time we got to see the Overlord and it would’ve been cooler to have a conclusion with the primary antagonist present.

    What brings an animation to life apart from its imagery is often the performance of the voice actors.

    Blackstar was voiced by George DiCenzo, who has previously appeared in movies such as the 1985 classic Back To The Future, the 1989 movie Sing, and the 1990 horror Exorcist III. He has also voiced Earnest Kelly in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

    Linda Gary voiced Mara who has appeared in a movie called Cruising in 1980 alongside the legend that is Al Pacino.

    Alan Oppenheimer voiced the Overlord as well the carpenter Trobbit called Carpo. He has also appeared in the Star Trek series.

    Finally, Klone was voiced by Patrick Pinney who has voiced several characters throughout his career such as Painty the Pirate from Spongebob Squarepants’ opening theme and several characters from Robot Chicken.

    John Blackstar – An Astronaut From Earth

    John Blackstar - An Astronaut From Earth

    Blackstar hails from a very technologically advanced futuristic Earth. Not much is alluded to it but we can assume this from his photon based ship and his girlfriend Katana’s fusion drive timeship since both ships are capable of travelling across dimensions. However, he does not bear any insignia or title that can help us determine Blackstar’s affiliations on Earth. So our exposure to him as a person and his ideals are purely dependent on his actions that take place in Planet Sagar.

    In this planet, the Trobbits tap into the magical forcefield behind the Sagar Tree. In fact, the sorcerers of the planet often draw magical energy from a mysterious parallel plane. On the other hand, Blackstar does not possess any magical capabilities, since he is not from this planet. However, that is not to say that he is not skilled. As an astronaut, it is obvious that he has undergone rigorous training in several fields and also happens to be quite intelligent.

    This is where Blackstar strays away from the norm. Generally, the heroes of an action adventure story tend to be the muscular guy who is reckless and all brawns. Meanwhile, John is the type of a person who would much rather outsmart his opponents that use physical force. Not that he is lacking in the latter department since being in constant contact with the Starsword amplifies his physical abilities to a huge extent.

    Throughout the course of the series, Blackstar goes against Overlord and in the process, comes across several allies and enemies in various places throughout the mystical planet. He also fights for the freedom of the enslaved Trobbits who had saved him.

    Blackstar wields his legendary weapon, the indestructible Starsword, which can absorb external energy, store it, and reflect it back to destroy its target. The aura generated by the weapon powers Blackstar up to superhuman levels. He gains super strength, speed, agility, reflexes, endurance, and becomes somewhat invulnerable to attacks or extreme temperatures. With the Overlord wielding the other hard of the PowerStar, that is the Power Sword, he is granted the same power amps as Blackstar.

    In the sixth episode of the show, ‘Spacewrecked’, we get an idea about John Blackstar’s fate towards the end. His girlfriend from Earth, Lieutenant Katana, traces the photonic particle residue left by Blackstar’s photon based ship to locate him and finds herself in Sagar. However, having gotten entangled with the Overlord, she is forced to leave the planet without rescuing Blackstar. She never reappeared in any other episode but, towards the end of that particular episode, Katana asks one of her superiors for permission to organize an armed rescue mission to retrieve John Blackstar. So that is probably how our hero will get to go back home.

    Blackstar: The Future Of The Franchise

    Blackstar The Future Of The Franchise

    The first episode of the Blackstar animated series premiered on September 12, 1981. The show went on till December but any ideas for a second season were scrapped. Following the major success of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Blackstar has aired once again from 1983 to 1984.

    A sister line of Blackstar action figures was launched in 1984. This line, known as the Infaceables, followed a design similar to what you find on the beings on Planet Sagar.

    Even though the show did not come up with more episodes despite its more than favorable ratings in the second run, its saga as a franchise was not over yet. In 2006, a DVD set for the series was put into circulation by BCI Eclipse LLC. Unlike the show that originally aired, the DVD version was remastered and restored with better audio and video quality. There was uncut footage alongside additional previously unseen scenes.

    UK’s Boulevard Entertainment published their Blackstar DVDs the very next year in 2007 with three pal format DVDs which had two episodes each.

    But in present day and present time, there’s absolutely nothing that is taking place in this department. No one is talking about restarting the series but that is fine. It is okay for stories to be short and not last for ages.

    Having released in the 1980s, the popularity of Blackstar has been sandwiched by other iconic cartoons such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Duck Tales, and Thundercats that have redefined Western animation and pop culture.

    During this time, the entire concept of a hero on an alien planet goes on adventures with his powerful sword and magical friends had grown exceedingly popular. This is obviously evident from the premises of Blackstar, Thundarr The Barbarian, and He-Man Masters Of The Universe. And the market wasn’t saturated at all. Nowadays, if a fad grows super popular, social media can make it extremely oversaturated. If you squeeze a lime too much it gets bitter.

    However, we are talking about the 80s when social media was not a thing. You’d have to wait for a whole day or a whole week for the next 20 minutes of your favorite cartoon. To a huge extent, this helped in keeping up the novelty of certain concepts and shows. And with Blackstar’s popular premise format, it fell into the ‘much-awaited’ category instead of the ‘oh, there are about a 100 similar shows on air’ category.

    Air whales, dragons, shapeshifters, sorcerers, and magic created the perfect mix for a perfect show. Combined with a semi-naked sword-wielding hero who weighs his brains over his brawns, Blackstar melded into the popular trend that people wanted while simultaneously being able to stand out from the crowd. Two birds, one stone.

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