I was never a big fan of Scooby-Doo back in the old days, but the current incarnation, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, is a fun revisionist/deconstructionist take, with at once a more satirical and a more fully drawn portrayal of the characters, and often a very quirky sense of humor. But this week’s episode, “The Shrieking Madness” by Adam Beechen, is the most outrageous and awesome Scooby-Doo story ever told.
It’s set at Darrow University, whose professor H. P. Hatecraft is known for writing horror novels that he claims are based on true visions from other dimensions, mainly revolving around “Char Gar Gothakon, The Terror that Hath No Name” (and the fact that it’s named in the title is alluded to). Naturally, the fake monster of the week is Char Gar Gothakon, and it’s basically Cthulhu. Scooby-Doo and the gang are taking on Cthulhu! It boggles the mind.
Appropriately, Hatecraft is played by the redoubtable Jeffrey Combs, who played the Lovecraft character Herbert West in the Re-Animator films. What’s more, the story features a guest appearance by Harlan Ellison as himself! He doesn’t really serve any purpose in the story other than to be his usual acerbic self and to be attacked by the monster; he’s actually more upset by Shaggy’s abuse of the word “like” than he is by the attack.
On top of everything else, the story involves the high-schooler characters getting their first taste of college life, and Daphne gets caught up with a bunch of college protestors (the kind who’ll protest whatever’s available) led by a very familiar-looking guy in a red beret and goatee… named Ernesto. That’s right… this one episode features Harlan Ellison, Cthulhu, and Che. And to think, Scooby-Doo teamups used to involve the Three Stooges and Batman.
Another thing that’s impressive about the story is that the team actually does something heroic for once rather than just running from the “monster” and then catching it in a trap. When the fake Cthulhu hurls Hatecraft off the roof, Scooby actually dives forward to save him, and the rest of the team pulls them to safety. One reason I’m not a big fan is that I get tired of Scooby & Shaggy’s cowardice schtick. There’s generally not much about the team that’s heroic. So that was a nice moment.
One thing threw me off, though it’s a minor nitpick amid all this awesomeness. A subplot involves Scooby & Shaggy visiting a legendary campus burger joint and being dismayed to discover it’s gone vegan. Which is weird in light of past continuity, since for quite a while, when Casey Kasem was still playing Shaggy, he insisted that the character (and Scooby as well) be, like him, a vegetarian. Now, I know this show is revisionist and presumably not in continuity with those other incarnations, but it’s a bit weird to see Shaggy portrayed as someone who hates vegetarian food — especially when such a fundamental part of his and Scooby’s schtick has always been that they’d eat anything. What also makes it weird is that Kasem was actually in this episode, as Shaggy’s father. (Matthew Lillard is now playing Shaggy, reprising his role from the live-action movies.)
This was episode 12 of the season, so presumably next week will be the season finale. I can’t imagine they’ll be able to top the sheer wildness of this one, though.