Plot: Ren is not a typical prince, but he does plan to continue his father’s legacy, which involves high adventure and a noble cause. The 13 Treasures of Rule were believed to have the power to save the world from the encroaching dark waters, but could also be used for evil, should they fall into the wrong hands. Just as his father worked to keep them out of the clutches of evil, so Ren will embark to hunt down the treasures and save his world, Mer. As ambitious as he is, Ren will need a lot of help to sail the many seas, so he is joined by a colorful, eccentric band of pirates. As if the pressures of finding these treasures wasn’t enough, Ren also has to fend off Lord Bloth and his crew of nefarious henchmen. Bloth would sabotage Ren’s efforts at every turn, so it will not be a simple task to keep Bloth’s forces in check. Despite danger around every corner, Ren and the others will brave any enemies to find the treasures, but with the fate of Mer in the balance, can they do the near impossible?
Entertainment Value: The first season of The Pirates of Dark Water is quite epic, with swashbuckling adventure, beautiful animation, and a cast of colorful characters on a wild quest to save their world. Although this was broadcast in the early 90s, the show had a strong 80s feel, especially in terms of the animation and visual designs. This helped it stand out from the crowd, not to mention lure in viewers who still wanted that 80s kind of animation magic. Those first five episodes, shown as a mini-series, showed so much potential, but the show couldn’t maintain that level of performance. The later episodes were still often fun, but not on the same level as the mini-series. I don’t know for sure, but it looks as if the budget was scaled back, as the animation looks a step or two backward, but the narrative also suffers in the later episodes. That might sound like a negative spin, but in truth, The Pirates of Dark Water is still a solid animated series, make no mistake there. But it winds up fading into the pack somewhat, where it showed that special spark in the first set of episodes. I love the space pirates premise and it is fun to watch throughout the series, which ran for 21 episodes before it was cancelled, never given a proper conclusion.
The abrupt end does dampen the series, as we never get resolution and given the stakes involved, that’s a disappointment. Even so, the story told is a more than capable one and it is always fun to watch the pirates in action. Ren is a solid lead, but it is his colorful crew that stands out, in my opinion. The show’s sci/fi edge allows some unusual type characters, such as aliens, animal hybrids, and more. The sci/fi slant also extends to the tech used in the show and while this always feels like a pirate show, that sci/fi twist makes it feel fresh. The talent involved is pretty impressive too, with the voices of Tim Curry, Hector Elizondo, Rene Auberjonois, Jodi Benson, and yes, voice over legend Frank Welker. I found the performances to be more than solid and that helps the series a lot, especially most of the cast is intact for the entire run. I had a great time revisiting The Pirates of Dark Water, a show I watched as a kid and while its downslide is more obvious now, it is still a fun, well made series. And the five episode mini-series that kicks it off is still a fantastic creation, even if it set expectations a little too high. If you’re a fan of animation/cartoons or just have a nostalgic drive to revisit an old favorite, I think these waters are still worth wading into.