Archives on TV: The Smurfs, "Archives of Evil"
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
As I've reminded myself constantly, there are just some things you can't unsee. It goes double for me because my brain likes to absorb visuals and details, especially where media is concerned, and just holds on to it for a long time. It's helpful when writing these articles because I don't necessarily need to watch something multiple times to understand it, but the drawback is it gets to live in my head, rent free, for a while.
Such is the case with "Archives of Evil," an episode of The Smurfs that originally aired on September 10th, 1988. I assume that my child self probably watched this episode at some point, but revisiting any cartoon from the 60s to the early 90s is a lesson in the dangers of rose-tinted nostalgia. Nothing is ever as good as you thought it was - except the Chuck Jones era of Looney Tunes - and watching what passed for entertainment when you were four really drives home the point that animation only ever needed to accomplish the bare minimum to make it on television, and even then that proved difficult.
Welcome to my elder millennial rant about how kids these days have a greater abundance of beautifully animated and better written cartoons than I did. Yes, I had Batman: The Animated Series, Animaniacs, X-Men, and Darkwing Duck, but have you ever sat through a whole twenty-two minutes of one of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episodes? Have you? It's not great no matter how much I adore Rob Paulsen as Raphael.
Anyway, the episode itself contains what might be considered an A and B plot that eventually intersect, but I'm being a bit generous. Essentially, Brainy Smurf is trying to lend a helping hand around the village, which results in him damaging Papa Smurf's spell book. He then employs Clockwork, a robot smurf made of wood (don't ask), to rewrite the book from his dictation. Unfortunately, Brainy confused the spell book with Greedy's cookbook (a common mistake), which causes some "hilarious" spell testing in the woods. Elsewhere, Papa Smurf travels to the Wizards Library where an enemy who isn't Gargamel infiltrates the library in order to gain access to the Archives of Evil.
That's it, it's literally called the Archives of Evil and everyone understands that it contains forbidden and malicious magic. So, when the seemingly evil-looking, dark-robed, hiccuping figure calling himself Nemesis enters the institution, no one so much bats an eye at him until he scares the only working - librarian, I want to say, but she seems more like a receptionist - into unconsciousness, takes the key, and enters the archives. A whole room of wizards who walked into the library chanting "Knowledge, Knowledge!" and not one of them deduced this obvious bad guy with a skull ring might be harboring ill intentions.
The Archives itself is, typically, in the basement of the library. Access to the archives is only attainable by unlocking a gate and descending the staircase into a level that is barely distinguishable from the floor above. One might posit that the writers obviously didn't understand the difference between a library and an archives. One might also posit that the animation budget of the 80s meant backgrounds were reused in order to save money.
And that's about it. The archives factors very little into the episode despite what the title might imply. Shocking, I know. The Smurfs best Nemesis because reasons and everything is as it was before; no change, no growth, on to the next episode as is the custom.