Mad medicine was everywhere in the 80s and 90s. There were toys and playsets endorsed by mad doctors, for use by kids. Every time you watched cartoons, you saw a skinny dude with crazy hair in a white lab coat, maniacally mixing chemicals and potions for some nefarious purpose. Under the influence of this, I created my own mad medicine man; Dr. Kill-Everybody.
Either the trope became shopworn around 2001, or something happened that discouraged children from playing with chemicals. You don’t see mad doctors and scientists like you used to. Maybe this is a good thing; maybe the concept was subconsciously driving impressionable kids away from lucrative STEM-field careers. I don’t know.
What I do know is this. Mad doctors once flourished in our society, even though they were annoying, and generally sucked.
DR. SCARAB (BIONIC SIX)
Dr. Scarab has the unfortunate honor of being the villain of a mediocre yet well-animated cartoon from 1987. The concept of “bionics” was already long in the tooth as far as TV was concerned, as was die-cast metal, the accompanying toyline’s gimmick. The action figures of the heroes (a bionically-enhanced family) and the badguys (your typical late-80s sci-fi weirdos) had cores of solid metal, with PVC appendages and heads. For the athletic Bennett family (and their trendy adopted black and Japanese sons, “IQ” and “Karate-1”), this wasn’t an issue as far as action figure weight and balance. But Dr. Scarab was very fat. Very, very fat.
I had this little monster. You can see in the above photo that the good doctor’s torso is painted metal. It was like a nugget of iron. You could seriously skull someone with this figure. Plus, whatever they made his extremities out of is insanely durable. He can barely stand up, but nothing breaks off in a fall. Not even his head, or that weird amulet over his stethoscope.
…Why would he have a stethoscope? For appearances? As an indicator of his profession? Since his complexion is a sickly green, he probably has to telegraph his practice.
DR. ARKEVILLE (TRANSFORMERS)
As a kid, I was convinced that this doctor’s surname was a phonetic pronunciation of “arch-evil”. I was surprised when I eventually saw the name in writing, much later; it looks Lovecraftian. Whatever the spelling, Dr. A made a deal with Starscream that ended about as well as they ever do, with Arkeville sporting new and immobile metal legs. Dr. Arkeville ranted in anger, sounding much like famed disc jockey Casey Kasem, before exiting the show more or less for good.
You see, another villain emerged on The Transformers, by the name of Abdul Fakkadi. He was a sheik, and not a nice one, from the obviously not made-up Middle Eastern nation of “Carbombya”.
Casey Kasem enjoyed a long period of cartoon acting, wherein he voiced Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, and many roles in toy shows like Transformers, including Cliffjumper and Dr. Arkeville. He was also Druze Lebanese, and when he caught wind of the Carbombya material, he quit, depriving Cliff and the Doc of their speech for good.
The circumstances regarding Mr. Kasem’s death, and the subsequent adventures of his mortal remains, would definitely have pleased Dr. Arkeville. Casey’s meltdown over a radio dedication is an enduring classic, and makes you wonder about his reaction when he first heard Abdul Fakkadi say “a thousand fleas on your mother’s camels”.
Speaking of social controversies…
DR. BAXTER STOCKMAN (TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES)
This doctor is a racial chameleon. If you got into TMNT with the old comics, Baxter was black. If you started with the 1987 cartoon, Baxter was white, and visibly insane (and part fly). Black Baxter was always a bit more understated in his lunacy.
In the 2016 sequel Out Of The Shadows, Dr. Stockman is black as originally depicted, and played by Tyler Perry. Here’s the thing; Perry does a great job. I mean, he nails it. He doesn’t go overboard with the silly or the crazy. He’s as believable as anything else in the movie (which was better than it got credit for, much like its predecessor).
Tyler Perry’s forte is putting on costumes and performing as outsize characters. I hope there’s a third TMNT, and I hope we get to see Tyler become a bug. The second one had a garbage truck that shot manhole covers out of the front. Why didn’t everyone see it?!?
DR. BADVIBES (COPS)
The tale of Hasbro’s COPS is a sad one. The action figures were glorious, the DC comic book was very decent, and the TV cartoon was a mess. A lot of work was put into creating the cast, only for the cartoon to portray them as generic RoboCop brawlers and crooks.
The toy weapons fired caps.
There was a zoot-suited gangster named Buttons McBoom-Boom. He had a fedora, a machine gun, and a violin (cello, really) case to hide it in. The front of his coat opened, and two cap guns dropped out. BOOM BOOM.
The criminal “Big Boss” was a fat chunk of white plastic that looked like the Kingpin, or Dr. Scarab after losing his shingle. I also had Louie the Plumber; literally a muscular dude in a cap and wifebeater. Just some mug, that looked right at home next to my banned “Steve the Tramp” figure from Dick Tracy! I LOVED THESE TOYS! AND THEY FIRED CAPS!!!
Anyway, since I know you’re totally interested, the good guys (“COPS”) were kind of on the boring side, by comparison. Much as this article is, to my earlier stuff when I was much less burned out. Mostly, COPS were big versions of G.I.Joe figures, with gigantic guns and a futuristic police theme. The best one was “Bulletproof” Vess, a Carl Weathers lookalike whose body was 75% (depending on whom you ask) destroyed by gangster gunfire, leaving him to be rebuilt almost exactly like RoboCop. Folks; there was a RoboCop character on Disney’s DuckTales around this time. That’s how awesome it was to be alive in 1987.
Anyway, “Bulletproof” Vess (Y’GET IT???) concealed his metallic corpus within a beige trenchcoat, which his toy came sheathed in. Even though it kind of sucked in execution, a snazzy coat on an action figure was a desirable innovation. Plus; his gun was absolutely nuts, and he had a suitcase that opened, and could handcuff to his wrist. Even if you had no knowledge of the franchise or its fiction, this was a super cool toy. The details in the sculpting (both mechanical and fabric texture) are incredible.
And how mad is the doctor? HIS BRAIN IS VISIBLE UNDER A CLEAR DOME.
Look, I’m as much of a mad doctor enthusiast as the next man, but I have to point out the lack of sense displayed here. As soon as Dr. Badvibes goes out in the sunshine, his brain is going to poach like an egg. I think the matter was even addressed in the comic book. Exposing your hippocampus to the sun’s rays seems like a painful and dangerous idea. It’s all I can think about now. It’s making my brain hurt.
I mean… a mad doctor in league with a criminal kingpin? Even in “a future time”, does that make any sense? Did the concept of COPS itself make any sense, when the idea is that the bad guys must eventually be defeated and punished? What happens then, are new criminals introduced, to avoid the implication that crime has no punishment? What messages are being sent by this franchise, to children?
NOBODY CARES. NOBODY CARES! NO ONE IS READING THIS!!!
DR. HISS (BOTS MASTER)
No, not “Dr. Hess”! Why would you make that connection?! What’s wrong with you?
Why, that’s like saying that the “Jungle Fiver” combiner robot is a hidden reference to “jungle fever”! Who would even think that?!? Next you’re going to say something foul about “Ninjzz”, aren’t you? You’re disgusting!
I had one Bots Master toy. A “P.P.B.” I got cheap at Kay-Bee. That’s how long ago we’re talking. I renamed the robot “Ultimatum”. Awesome, right? RIGHT?
I bought him partly for the special glasses he came with, that made part of the show “3-D”. This was all a diabolical scheme to make you watch the show. No one would otherwise.
- The lead human is forgettably generic-looking. His name sounds like “Zoolander”.
- The music is like a ketamine rave nightmare.
- The show is ground zero for “robots talking street”. If you found Skids and Mudflap the slightest bit offensive in Revenge of the Fallen, the “Boyzz” (sic) will make you shit your pants in vexation.
- Three words: Radical Rapping Robots.
Just watch the opening, for now. See if you can take even that much. Do you even believe what you just saw? Can your mind even process it? You didn’t actually see a robot covered in spaghetti, rapping that “you are what you eat”, did you? What fevered mind could evoke such a horror? It’s madness! MADNESS!!!
It’s also horribly catchy, so beware. The stupid robots possess a modicum of skill on the mic, which only makes matters worse. Intermittently during Bots Master’s runtime, you hear “RAPRAPRAPRAPRAP”, and it makes you remember that horrible rap song on Ministry’s A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste. The cooler-looking robots never got toys that transformed into anything decent. Sitting through more than five episodes is roughly as easy as consuming the heart of an ape you killed with your bare hands. It might have been a plot to stitch information on the retinas of schoolchildren and bored stoners through coded TV signals and special glasses. It sounds like a bus full of hyperactive kids stuck on a turnpike.
Something a mad doctor might cause, I dunno. They’re annoying, and they generally suck.