The eleventh reboot of the Scooby-Doo TV series stands out as being the one in the past 20 years that hasn't worn out its welcome after a season. In my review of the first disc of "Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated," I outlined how this show took the Mystery Inc concept, reverted the characters back to their original outfits, but then took the stories to a completely new level. The biggest difference being a return to more realistic explanations for the mysteries, a change in the relationships between the characters, and larger stories that continue over multiple episodes. Initially, I found that giving the viewer more credit to keep up with multiple stories really worked.
The most current DVD release is Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated - Season One, Volume 3. This volume includes episodes 9-12 of the first season. Viewers watching these episodes first would be a little confused at the ongoing mystery that runs through the season as "Mr. E" leaves clues about a dark mystery in Crystal Cove. And the viewer should know that in this incarnation, Velma and Shaggy have a secret relationship and Fred and Daphne have a relationship more in the open but foiled by Fred's love of traps.
"Battle of the Hummongonauts" (ep. 9)
This episode's mystery takes a backseat to the overall plot developments. The giant monsters of the title have a pretty basic guy in suit mystery and solution. If you've watched the previous eight episodes, this episode is the payoff to the secret Velma and Shaggy relationship. Scooby's accidental discovery of Velma kissing Shaggy is almost heartbreaking. Scooby loves Shaggy and doesn't want to share him. The fallout of the argument is that the gang gets the name Mystery Incorporated and I love Shaggy's suggestion of a uniform that look straight out of "Battle of the Planets".
"Howl of the Fright Hound" (ep. 10)
This episode has the best combination of mystery and overarching story. The mistaken identity mystery that puts Scooby in jail is a great touch. We get a good story that pays homage to James Cameron films like "The Terminator" and "Aliens" and solving the mystery helps Shaggy realize how important Scooby is to him. This leads to another heartbreaking moment that few animated shows have - Shaggy breaking up with Velma. Look for a clever Yogi Bear cameo in the asylum.
"The Secret Serum" (ep. 11)
This vampire mystery has some interesting developments for the group. The story feels more like a return to the original mysteries of the show. The gang is split in two for their investigation. But unlike the original mysteries, this is because both of the couples have broken up. They are able to fight through it to capture the vampire, but the team is beyond repair and agrees to break up. Just when things are the darkest for Mystery Inc., the identity of Mr E is revealed to the viewer.
"The Shrieking Madness" (ep 12)
The disc ends on an episode that really gets the plot moving towards the second half of Season One. The gang are trying to start a life outside of the group. The episode revels in the H.P. Lovecraft influence on the series. It's not their first nod to Lovecraft but it's their most obvious. The setting is at a local University (Miskatonic?) that is haunted by Char Char Gothakon (part of the Cthulhu Mythos). Mystery Inc reunites to solve the mystery. The most important thing here is the revelation that the original Mystery Inc might not have disappeared as assumed. Mr E leaves our group a box that reveals many of the mysteries of Crystal Cove. But what it does start to bring together all the random clues that the gang has been previously given. As the mystery of the town comes together, we can only assume so will the relationships of the team.
I really think that this series is exactly what the Scooby-Doo franchise needed. The stories are exactly what older fans expect and the addition of the mythology of the series gives it further appeal to parents and kids. The episodes on this disc are part of the bottoming out of the subplots. They are all a little depressing as all our main characters suffer some heartbreak.
The only problem is the way the series is being presented. After these four episodes, there's some real momentum built in the story that makes the viewer want to see more. It's hard to imagine this momentum carrying over for three or four months until another release. There are no extras on the disc.
Release the Doo, Warner Bros!