Beyond the new theme song, season eight of the declining Ninja Turtles series took drastic steps to change its tone. Small design alterations to the Turtles make them look more like their movie counterparts, the Channel 6 news building is blown up, and Shredder now resides inside a rundown building used for a World’s Fair.
With an audience that was either growing older or switching to Power Rangers, the “red sky” episodes of the series were an attempt to keep viewers who were tired of the formulaic approach. Nothing happens during the day in season eight, as each episode takes place at night, where an eerie red sky dominates (hence the naming).
The Turtles no longer eat pizza, and the humor has been significantly toned down. Episodes end on a downer instead of joke. They fight amongst each other, and even break the law to reach their goal. Each episode opens with a brawl. Channel 6 (now being run from inside a rundown building) begins a series on mutants and their menace, a decided change from the otherwise colorful, carefree news of old. Even April O’Neil gets a makeover, dumping the full yellow bodysuit for a leather jacket.
Unfortunately, with few ideas left and no leeway for a total reinvention, the storylines grasped for anything fresh. Random mutants were the typical foe, rather bland designs that do little to involve the viewer. Shredder is more of a side character, and the disposable new mutants simply cannot match up.
The episode “Cyber Turtles” is especially poor, an obvious attempt to mimic Power Rangers with the Turtles gaining control of giant robot suits to fight their foes. Fun for kids at the time, but now feels like a desperate attempt to remain relevant. At the least, none of these new creations were memorable enough to spawn toys, which was the job of the previous season.
Video quality remains in-line with previous efforts. Some aliasing is evident, and compression is notable at all times. The darker tone actually brings out the contrast, more so than previous seasons. Colors are vibrant. Sharpness is typically fair, although nearly every episode contains a moment or two that looks significantly softer.
A standard 2.0 mono mix is acceptable. Effects and dialogue are well mixed so all are distinguishable. Explosions are plentiful, and come through with minimal distortion. The new theme song is certainly grittier, but handled as well as the source will likely allow.