Warner Bros. changed its release plans halfway through putting Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated on DVD. While the first 12 episodes came out on individual discs, sold separately with four episodes per disc, this volume, labeled “Season 1 Part 2″, has the remaining 14 episodes in a two-disc set.
Personally, I enjoy the longer packages, since watching more episodes in a bunch means I pick up on more of the details. Even though there is no “Season 1 Part 1″, I hope there will be in the future, combining the previous volume-numbered discs in one package.
I’ve talked about the appeal of the show previously, when I reviewed some of the individual discs, so please read those for the basic details. There are no extras or special features on this set.
This set opens with the 13th episode, which originally aired October 2010. “When the Cicada Calls” features insect attacks. Is there anything creepier than a menacing swarm of bugs? Especially when it’s shown in such a visually interesting way, resembling at times living static. This show can be funny, but in episodes like this, it can also be pretty scary.
One of the group’s professors (Dave “Gruber” Allen), who *really* loves his bugs, is a suspect, as well as making Fred jealous of Daphne’s fondness for him. During the classroom scenes, we see that Scooby goes to class with the other kids, sitting in his own desk. I love id’ing the creative examples of voice casting; for example, in this episode, Marion Ross plays Grandma Moonbeam, a natural snack spokeswoman with a secret. You can hear her briefly in this clip:
That episode is kind of a one-off, without the allusions to other genre works I most appreciate about this show, but the next, 14th episode (which marked the show’s return in May 2011) is one of the series’ high points. In “Mystery Solvers Club State Finals”, guest stars include Speed Buggy, Jabberjaw, Captain Caveman, and the Funky Phantom, plus their respective teen teams. All these Hanna-Barbera groups had the same basic premise as Scooby-Doo, mystery teen solvers with some weird mascot: dog, car, shark, ghost, etc. Here, they assemble for a competition, only for all the teens to get kidnapped, leaving the sidekicks to save the day.
Best of all, much of this episode is animated in the classic Scooby style. I love the revamp redesign, but it’s also a nostalgic kick to see the old-school approach. With all the details and gags, this is definitely an episode best watched on video, with the pause button handy. I thought it was wonderful hearing Speed Buggy’s putt-putt voice again, especially when Angel Dynamite (Vivica A. Fox) drove him up to the school’s roof.
“The Wild Brood” is another evocative blast from the past, only this time, it mashes up motorcycle movie The Wild One with monsters — well-spoken orc bikers, specifically. This episode also features the return of the season-spanning Mr. E (Lewis Black) mystery.
A love spell takes over the town (masterminded by a character played by Tricia Helfer) in “Where Walks Aphrodite”, featuring the return of the parrot Professor Pericles. “Escape from Mystery Manor” really ramps up the season-spanning secret quest, as the gang attempts to find out what happened to the previous version of Mystery Incorporated while investigating the disappearance of the Darrows and their (now booby-trapped) mansion 75 years ago. It also features one of my favorite Scooby lines: “Why does he think I’m a bird?”
An exchange student comes to town in “The Dragon’s Secret”, which opens with a sequence reminiscent of Gremlins and guest-stars George Takei. The student, Mai Le (Stephanie Sheh), and Shaggy hit it off surprisingly well, which is convenient when a wizard (James Hong) comes after her, in a battle that reminded me of Big Trouble in Little China, with plenty of eye-catching electrical effects.
Shaggy and Scooby talk to Vincent Van Ghoul
Vincent Van Ghoul (from The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, but voiced this time by Maurice LaMarche, excellently) returns in “Nightfright”, which also references a number of Vincent Price movies. Shaggy and Scooby win an essay contest to have dinner with the famous horror movie star, only to be attacked by a monster. Very funny, especially in the details, such as how Vincent sets his home alarm: by playing a pipe organ. Another one of the show’s top episodes.
Disc two begins with “The Siren’s Song”, in which aquatic demons attack. Velma investigates on her own, since she’s feeling lonely, what with Fred and Daphne dating and Scooby and Shaggy gorging at a restaurant’s all-you-can-eat night. Soon, though, her friends get involved in fighting the “fish freaks” as well. There’s a cameo appearance by Flim Flam (also from The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo), who’s revealed as a teenage con artist, as well as an even more famous former Scooby supporting cast member. Plus, we learn Angel Dynamite’s backstory.
Mr. E and the original Mystery Incorporated
Revelations continue in “Menace of the Manticore”, as the local carnival is terrorized, with the identity of Mr. E shown to the viewer. Favorite cameos this episode include Dylan and Brenda, returning from the first episode, and voice actress Linda Cardellini, who played Velma in the live-action movies.
“Attack of the Headless Horror” brings an Indiana Jones/Allan Quartermain-type explorer (James Patrick Stuart) to Crystal Cove, where he’s teaching school in order to give his wife (Julie Bowen) a rest from the jungle. Typical of this series, it’s a cock-eyed take on a familiar genre, one that wonders just how everyone around the super-adventurer feels about his self-centered activities. That’s what gives Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated a layer that appeals to adults, not just kids.
Dr. Spartan and the Scooby gang
Things move quickly through the final four episodes of the first season. “A Haunting in Crystal Cove” attacks Fred’s dad, the Mayor (Gary Cole), leading us to ask “if Fred is an only child, why does he have bunk beds?” Vincent Van Ghoul cameos, and this episode has my favorite monster: Evil Pizza, a possessed pie. There’s a former sheriff’s ghost in “Dead Justice” who looks like Jonah Hex, only with screaming bullets, and he’s out to force the retirement of the current Sheriff Stone (Patrick Warburton). This felt like something of a filler episode to me, since I was interested in finding out more about the modern-day mystery involving the town, but I suspect if you like Westerns or horses, you’ll enjoy it more.
“Pawn of Shadows” finally reveals the fate of the prior Mystery Incorporated group, with the assistance of H.P. Hatecraft (Jeffrey Combs), who’s trying to write a teen vampire novel, because his style of horror story is no longer in fashion. There’s a cameo by the Jonny Quest gang and a callback to episode six. The season ends with “All Fear the Freak”, which wraps up the mystery — for now — with the revelation of Fred’s secret family history. It’s something of a down note, with the group going their separate ways temporarily, but I presume they’ll be reunited for the second season of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, due to return in May.