Eureeka’s Castle (yes, there are two ‘E’s in Eureeka – more on that later) was a children’s television show that aired on Nickelodeon from 1989 to 1995. I remember it fondly – the anticipation as I heard the plinking music come out of my family’s wooden console tv set, the joy of watching the Jim Henson puppets sing and dance, the satisfaction of quality Nickelodeon programming.
Looking back on it, however, I realize it was a dangerous, horrifying Steampunk nightmare show.
Let’s take the opening:
We start with a giant. This giant is walking through the countryside, which in itself is a frightening thought to any sane bucolic denizen. But the camera pulls back even more to show that this giant has his nose stuck in a book!
What?! So not only is he traipsing through these rollings fields and hills, but he’s not even watching where he’s going?? How many innocent farmers and shepherds died in the wake of this giant’s carelessness? How much blood covers the bottom of those ginormous shoes?
Moving on – the giant notices a castle nestled in these hills and puts down his book (I’m not even going to talk about how he apparently just tosses the book aside, no doubt crushing several loyal serfs of the castle into jelly).
The castle has a huge hand-crank on the side. What kind of castle has a huge hand-crank on the side, you ask?? A Steampunk castle has a huge hand-crank on the side! As the giant proceeds to engage the device, we are shown flashes of what lurks inside the walls:
With one turn of the crank, we see algae-covered gears rotating, their teeth interlocking with vicious force. With another, we’re shown various figures that come to life – monsters covered in fur, talking mice, dragons, bats, fish made out of stone, and a couple of humanoids who don’t look quite human enough to me.
Now, if the entire castle is mechanical, and needs to be “turned on” with the turn of a crank, then we can assume that these creatures that spring to life are also subject to the turning of the crank as well. So these beasts are really not alive at all, but some sort of automaton army with artificial intelligence! That’s beyond frightening!
Why does this giant have this castle filled with AI automatons? Well, he was reading a book when we first saw him and he said it was “very interesting reading.” Might it have been Sun Tzu’s THE ART OF WAR? Is this giant planning a full-scale war against humanity using his mechanical army of creatures? Are there other castles strategically placed throughout the world, ready and waiting for him simply to come over and turn the key? Might this be the end of human-kind, leaving the world to be run by this maniacal giant and his army of mechanical creatures?? This does not bode well…
The creatures themselves are – of course – terrifying:
– There’s the kamikaze bat who could easily be outfitted with a bomb and sent out to a major metropolis. He’d find a building to crash into in no time, taking hundreds or thousands of lives with him. He also has a pet spider, who could also be outfitted with a bomb set to blow as soon as he’s scurried into a small space that only a spider can get to.
– There’s the dragon whose tail does not obey him. Even if you could get the dragon to change sides in the great war against humanity, his tail would still act of its own accord. Also, the dragon’s sneezes are big enough to shake the entire castle. All the giant would have to do is to plant the guy in the middle of Grand Central Station, give him a sniff of pepper, and the whole place would come tumbling down!
– The talking fish fountain has to be spitting out acid. No normal fountain that spits out water could talk and sing in harmony.
– The two monsters who live in the sewers of the castle will forever haunt my dreams. The giant could set them loose in the water lines and they could enter your homes! Their crazy long limbs would grab you before you ever knew they were there.
– The guy named Mr. Knack is interesting. He seems to be a handyman of sorts, and he pushes around the cart filled with seemingly useless junk. Perhaps this is the automaton programmed for internal repairs. It’s genius – if the giant has multitudes of castles around the world, he would not be able to service them all in a timely fashion should one of the parts go out of whack. So what he has done is to install a mechanical repairman to wander around with his little tinker cart, taking care of anything that needs his attention. Genius. Super evil genius.
– Finally, Eureeka. What exactly IS Eureeka? First off, let’s take her name: There are two “E”s, creating “reek” in the middle of what was once a normal word used for illumination and creation. So obviously something has gone awry here. We know she can’t be exactly human because she has those horns coming out of her head. Some sort of mechanical troll, then. And she claims to be a wizard-in-training. Like Harry Potter? But who is teaching her? The giant?
Perhaps we will never fully understand the reasoning behind Eureeka’s presence in the giant’s diabolical Army of Death castle, but let us be wary of her anyway. I trust nothing that outwardly perky that has horns and is probably an automaton.
The mechanical creatures are terrifying, yes, and their predilection for human bodily harm is evident in the examination above, but I would like to add one more layer of horror on top of the already steaming pile of nightmares:
These automatons are trained in psychological warfare, as well. They have been programmed by the evil giant to confuse and confound the human race, thereby making it easier for them to attack us.
Just look at the words to their marching death-chant:
You, Me, You, Who?
You we you see you we who?
Don’t you see?
Gee what a wonderful place to be
Castle, pastle, hassle, tassle!
You, us, they, we,
You we you me one two three!
If that’s not enough to singe off your brain stem then I don’t know what is.
In conclusion, what may seem at first like an innocent, enjoyable children’s television program is actually a blood-curdling, terrifying, Steampunk nightmare from which you can never awaken, because it will end with the annihilation of all humanity, leaving the world to be run by the evil giant and his army of automatons.
And that’s just the opening… What other horrors lie in store in Eureeka’s Castle? And when will Wes Craven make a film version?