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A Lighthouse in the Sea of Time

Synopsis |  Review by Juan F. Lara |  Review by Todd Jensen


by Guandalug la'Fay


by Leigh Ann Hussey

Act I

Two archaeologists exploring under a hill are drawn, by the unearthly music of a lyre playing by itself, to a chest bearing an inscription in "ancient Celtic". It says, "The seeker of knowledge need fear nothing here; the destroyer, everything." Opening the chest looses a radiance that briefly coalesces into the shape of a bearded old man's face before withdrawing into the chest again. They open the chest to discover The Scrolls of Merlin.

Back in NYC, Lexington tells everyone that the scrolls are being delivered to the Metropolitan Museum for further study. Goliath says that the library downstairs has many books about Merlin, but Broadway has no use for books and Hudson declines to get involved. Elisa tells them all that she and Matt have been assigned to the escort team. The scrolls are rumored to contain spells; Goliath frowns thoughfully at the news.

Cut to: storm at sea. Matt and Elisa come aboard the HMS Churchill, the ship carrying the scrolls into harbor. Almost immediately, the ship is attacked by two VTOL Harrier jets. The gargoyles (minus Bronx) come on the scene -- Goliath suspected that Xanatos would make an attempt on the scrolls. "When real life is this exciting, who needs books?" Broadway asks. The male and female pilots (Fleance and Banquo) land on the Churchill, break onto the bridge and take the two canisters containing the scrolls. They take off and come under attack from the gargoyles. Hudson breaks the glass of one plane and gets one canister, but is tazed off the plane and falls with the canister into the ocean. The planes shake off the other gargoyles except for Broadway, who clings to one as it flies off.

Cut to: a dock in the harbor, where the lady archaeologist is telling a policeman, "Well, who wouldn't want to steal them?" Elisa and Goliath both suspect Xanatos, but without proof, it is up to the gargoyles to recover the scrolls.

Hudson washes up on a beach, sees a house with a wall around it; on the wall are stone gargoyles. He struggles toward it but passes out again.

Meanwhile, the planes land in a hangar under a big castle. Once they're down, Broadway makes off with the remaining canister. "The boss'll have you for dinner with a spoon!" says the woman to her partner.

At Xanatos' complex, Goliath, Lexington and Brooklyn burst in on Owen working alone at his terminal, demanding to know where Xanatos, Hudson and Broadway are. He says, "You know I can't tell you that." They leave to search the complex for themselves. Back at the hanger, the two pilots search for the canister. Broadway breaks free from them and gets outside, only to hear a voice saying (with bagpipes in the background) "That's far enough, my friend." Lightning reveals the speaker: MacBeth.

Act II

MacBeth knocks Broadway out with gas and takes the canister. He translates Merlin's inscription on the scroll. "Sealed by my own hand," he reads, but is angered to discover that it's only the second scroll. "It would be useless, even dangerous, to read them out of order."

Meanwhile, Hudson is discovered on the beach by Jeffrey Robbins, a blind Vietnam vet, who takes him in. While MacBeth and the pilots fly out, with Broadway as their chained prisoner, to search for the first scroll, Robbins tells Hudson that the Purple Heart medal Hudson finds was from 'Nam, where he was blinded. Robbins is confused by Hudson's ignorance of the war, saying "Something about your voice made me think you'd been a soldier once." Hudson diverts the talk to what Robbins does now; he's a novelist, at least when he's not suffering from writers block as he is now. Robbins shows Hudson one of his novels, first one in braille, then the same one in print. "Bumps, scrawls, what's the difference?" says Hudson. "You can't read, can you?" Robbins realizes.

MacBeth, now flying over the beaches, explains to Broadway in glowing language about the history of Merlin and Arthur. Broadway exclaims, "You were there!" MacBeth laughs, "I'm old, but not that old. Obviously, I read about it." "But you describe it like you were there," Broadway objects. Further talk is forestalled by their arrival at Robbins' house.

Back at Xanatos' complex, it's nearing dawn and Goliath and the others return to Owen empty-handed. Owen tells them they should try MacBeth.

Meanwhile, Hudson tells Robbins that he's never told his clan that he can't read. Robbins assures him that there's no shame in being illiterate, only in remaining so. Hudson realizes dawn is coming and excuses himself, turning to stone on Robbins' wall and leaving Robbins confused.

Overhead, MacBeth smiles, saying "Take us down."


MacBeth lands. Alerted by his dog, Robbins investigates. MacBeth introduces himself as Lennox MacDuff, a friend of Hudson's. Robbins says, "You just missed him," and MacBeth replies, "Then I won't trouble you further." And on his way back to his plane, MacBeth slides the canister out of Hudson's stone hand.

Night falls; Hudson wakes and misses the canister. He asks Robbins if he found it, and Robbins suggests that Lennox MacDuff might have found it. Hudson says he doesn't know the name; Robbins isn't surprised, it sounded phony. The name is made up of two characters from Shakespeare's MacBeth. That is a name Hudson recognizes, and he makes to charge off, but realizes he doesn't know where he's going. Robbins hauls out the phone book -- Lennox MacDuff is listed, with an address. "Hm! Magic book!" Hudson remarks. "Aren't they all?" says Robbins.

Back at MacBeth's, he is cooking up a method to open the scrolls, preparatory to using some of Merlin's spells on Broadway, who is chained up nearby. The gargoyles assemble, and Hudson joins them. While MacBeth gets the scrolls unsealed, the gargoyles dodge laser cannons trying to free Broadway. Goliath disables one cannon, Hudson knocks the other loose from its moorings and it falls, knocking MacBeth over. Nothing daunted, MacBeth begins to read -- Merlin's diary.

Confused as he is, he is unprepared for Goliath's attack, and Goliath gets the scrolls. Goliath demands that MacBeth release Broadway, or he'll burn the scrolls. "Go ahead," says MacBeth. "They're worthless, no magic at all."

Broadway shouts, "NO! They are magic, but you can't burn them, Goliath. It's Merlin's life, in his own words. When you read them, they take you there. It is magic, Goliath, precious magic." Hudson adds, "Aye, lad, it would be the greatest shame to lose them." MacBeth, with a thoughtful look, takes a remote control out of his pocket, saying "You are all trespassing. Now take the scrolls and go." Clicking the remote, he releases Broadway.

On the way home, Goliath offers to read the scrolls to them all before he gives them Elisa -- Hudson demurs, saying "We'll read them ourselves, as soon as we learn how."

Robbins, in his den, remarks to his dog how the fuss over the scrolls has given him an idea for a new book. Speaking into his tape machine, he dictates the forward for "The Sword and the Staff: A Book of Merlin".

"The written word is all that stands between memory and oblivion. Without books as our anchors, we are cast adrift, neither teaching nor learning. They are windows on the past, mirrors on the present, and prisms reflecting all possible futures. Books are lighthouses, erected in the dark sea of time."

Outside the window, Hudson listens, smiling.


by Juan F. Lara

An O.K. episode that focused on Hudson

Good Points

Hudson and Jeffrey Robbins had good chemistry. I liked how they could find a common bond in their backgrounds as soldiers. Hudson's sense of shame in his illiteracy and Robbins's concern for him were very touching. I was concerned that Hudson would be stuck only watching TV. But if the creators do have Robbins teaching Hudson how to read in upcoming episodes that can be a very compelling plotline.

Burnett has some fun at the Gargoyles expense. I don't remember him smiling in any previous episode. :-)

MacBeth demonstrated his personal code of honor in his behavior. He passed up a chance at destroying Hudson and Broadway while they were stone, keeping the continuity of "Enter MacBeth". In Act II he apparently showed strong feelings for the achievements of Arthur and Merlin. Therefore one could understand his allowing the Gargoyles to leave with the diary.

Speaking of which, I didn't expect the twist at the end concerning the scrolls. Of course, the scrolls might've had spells written later on...:-)

Bad Points

The first act - I didn't find the fighting between MacBeth's cronies and the Gargoyles very interesting. The story didn't really get going until Robbins discovered Hudson in Act II. Also, I thought the Merlin face looked hokey.

Lucky break for Hudson that a BLIND man found him, wasn't it? :-)

Broadway's part was underdevelopped. The only time when he felt the impact of knowing how to read was when MacBeth recited that brief history of Merlin in Act II. But all of the sudden in Act III he's begging Goliath to understand the value of the diaries, with lines that I thought were stilted ("When you read them, they take you there.")

MacBeth said that he sealed the scrolls himself way back when. But he didn't know what they were about, and he said that he wasn't around when Merlin and Arthur were actually alive. So then much later on someone gave the scrolls to MacBeth for him to seal, but without him reading them?


Broadway: Why stare at marks on a page when you can rent the video?

Brooklyn: Ignorance is bliss. Right, Hudson?
Hudson: You leave me out of this! It's time for "Celebrity Hockey".

Robbins: Funny. Something about your voice made me think you were a soldier once?
Hudson: Aye. Still am, I suppose.

Hudson: Magic book!
Robbins: Aren't they all?

Robbins: The written word is all that stands between memory and oblivion. Without books as our anchors, we are cast adrift, neither teaching, nor learning. They are windows on the past, mirrors on the present, and prisms reflecting all possible futures. Books are lighthouses erected in the dark sea of time.


This episode seems to have been shown out of continuity. The Gargoyles knew where to find MacBeth. (but Hudson didn't. Hmm.) I think that MacBeth will be reintroduced in another episode.

I don't know if this means anything, but MacBeth used a different means of opening each scroll: He dissolved one seal with a mist, but the other with a solvent that he painted on.

Paul Winfeld plays Robbins. He was the Magic Mirror in "The Charmings" (Anybody remember that? :-) Frank Welker played MacBeth's crony Banquo, and Gilgamesh the seeing-eye dog, while B.J. Ward played the other crony, Fleance, and Duayne the archaeologist.

I believe that Merlin's diary is taken from T.H. White's "The Once and Future King", and those lines might have also opened "The Sword in the Stone".

So the episode was good, but it didn't have anything that really grabbed me.


by Todd Jensen

Arthurian episodes are a dime a dozen in animated television; if an animated series lasts long enough and has a compatible subject matter, one can be certain that it will, at some point, include a story in some way involving or alluding to King Arthur, the knights of the Round Table, Merlin, and other elements of the Matter of Britain. "Gargoyles" was no exception when it came out with "A Lighthouse in the Sea of Time", involving the gargoyles and Macbeth over the Scrolls of Merlin. What made this episode stand out was the role that Merlin played in the story through his contested scrolls, becoming more than just another medieval magician.

Like "Deadly Force", "Lighthouse" has a fairly obvious moral, in this case, the value of literacy. But, also like "Deadly Force", it avoids preachiness, by placing the focus on characterization. In a particular master-stroke, the story provides a strong contrast between the two illiterate gargoyles (Broadway and Hudson) and their status as being unable to read. Broadway merely takes the attitude that he doesn't need to know how to read, shrugging off Lexington and Brooklyn's remarks with a tone of "I'm not missing anything". Hudson, on the other hand, is aware that he ought to know how to read, and quietly ashamed of his ignorance, but fears that he's too old to start and so has made no efforts to learn. He won't even let the other gargoyles know that he can't read.

The adventure involving the Scrolls quickly becomes the instrument to change these two's minds. While Broadway in the early stages of the story continues to hold his original attitude (commenting at one point, "When your life is this exciting, who needs books?"), he changes his mind after hearing Macbeth describe King Arthur's reign so eloquently, to the point where the portly gargoyle initially believes that Macbeth must have lived during it, and when he discovers that the mysterious Scotsman had gained his knowledge of it through his reading, begins to seriously reconsider his original stance. Hudson's own change comes after he meets and befriends the blind novelist Jeffrey Robbins, who gently explains to the old gargoyle that "it's not a shame to be illiterate, only to stay that way".

The true nature of the Scrolls of Merlin tie in with this element all the more. In a master-stroke, it turns out that their contents are, not a collection of the old wizard's spells, as both the gargoyles and Macbeth had assumed them to be, but his life-story, with the extract that Macbeth reads from dealing with Merlin's tutoring the young Arthur and his initial impressions of the boy who would someday be king. As Broadway and Hudson correctly point out, this makes the Scrolls far more valuable than if they were just another spell book like the Grimorum, providing an eyewitness account of Arthurian Britain by Merlin himself! (And indeed, such a work would be extremely valuable - and if authenticated, would have had a dramatic impact on Arthurian scholarship.) But it goes beyond that. By making the Scrolls Merlin's memoirs (alongside Macbeth's account of Arthur and Merlin's achievements), the episode focuses on Merlin, not as just an old wizard, but as Arthur's mentor and advisor. And indeed, Merlin is clearly continuing his role as teacher even centuries after his original career, with his Scrolls serving as the vehicle to make Broadway and Hudson aware of the value of reading.

Through Merlin's involvement, we also get a brief look into the Arthurian world, the first (but not the last) that would take place in "Gargoyles". Macbeth's speech about King Arthur and Merlin to Broadway stands out in particular as perhaps the most moving treatment of the Arthurian cycle ever shown on broadcast animated television, focusing so strongly on their achievement, and yet also alluding briefly to its tragic downfall at the end. Macbeth comments, "Merlin's magic was stronger than everything except the human heart" - a reference to the passions (particularly the love affair of Lancelot and Guinevere) that destroyed Camelot. It is a powerful moment indeed.

But Macbeth's speech serves another purpose, in illuminating his character and preparing us for what is to come in later episodes. Once again he serves as the antagonist, stealing the Scrolls, taking Broadway prisoner, and even being ready to use him as a guinea pig. But the very way that he describes Arthur's reign shows that there is a nobler figure buried beneath these acts, seeking to return to the surface. What he dwells on is that Arthur "ruled with justice and compassion" and that his kingdom was one of "beauty and civilization". A man who values such things, who chooses to focus on them over the mere strength and armed might of the legendary king and his knights, is clearly no mere villain, but is capable of greater things. His words help to pave the way for the revelations concerning him in "City of Stone".

Xanatos serves only as a red herring in this episode (he's not even on stage this time), but Owen once again displays, in his cameo, his delightfulness as he interacts with Goliath:

GOLIATH (bursting into the castle): Xanatos! Hudson! Broadway! Where are they?
OWEN: I suppose they could be anywhere.
GOLIATH: Take us to them!
OWEN (smiling amusedly): You should know that I can't do that.

It's not difficult to tell from this why Owen intrigued so many "Gargoyles" fans, even long before they discovered his true identity in "The Gathering".

"A Lighthouse in the Sea of Time" remains one of my favorite episodes in the early part of Season Two of "Gargoyles", and not just for its Arthurian content. It delivers a strong message about the value of reading without turning into a dull sermon, and it develops further one of the most intriguing of the supporting antagonists. This is one episode that I can highly recommend.


Macbeth's two henchmen, introduced in this story (they would reappear in "The Price", "Pendragon", and "The Journey"), are never named in the dialogue, but the ending credits list them as "Banquo" and "Fleance". Both names are taken from Shakespeare's Macbeth, of course; in the play, Banquo is a leading Scottish nobleman and Fleance his son. After Macbeth learns from the three Witches that Banquo's descendants will someday rule Scotland, though Banquo himself never will, he moves against his former friend, having him murdered; Fleance escapes, however, and his descendants indeed come to rule Scotland in the form of the Stuart dynasty (among whose members was James VI of Scotland and I of England, under whose reign Shakespeare wrote Macbeth).

Macbeth provides another Shakespearean link directly in the dialogue when he goes by the alias of "Lennox Macduff". As Jeffrey Robbins explains to Hudson, Lennox and Macduff are two characters from Shakespeare's Macbeth: Lennox plays only a small part as one of several Scottish thanes, but Macduff occupies a more prominent position as the man who will slay Macbeth at the end. (Lennox and Macduff both enter together in Act II, scene iii, directly after the Porter scene - and providing the knocking at the door that the Porter was answering.)

When Goliath mentions that the public library adjacent to the clock tower contains several books on Merlin, it was originally planned that he would list a few of these, such as Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave. However, the production team was unable to secure legal permission to name these books, and so dropped the list.

Gillie, Jeffrey's seeing-eye dog, was named after Gilgamesh, a legendary king in ancient Sumer (oddly enough, Gillie is referred to in the dialogue as female). Greg Weisman has indicated that Gilgamesh was the subject of one of Jeffrey Robbins' past novels, and that Gillie's name was a reference to or hint of this.

One line connected to the Scrolls of Merlin has generated a small amount of "fan-confusion". The inscription on the bound Scrolls that Macbeth reads aloud begins, "The Scrolls of Merlin, sealed by my own hand". The "by my own hand" portion alludes to Merlin, but some viewers, led astray by the fact that Macbeth is reading these words, mistakenly assumed that Macbeth had been the one to seal them.

The archaeologists Lydia Duane and Arthur Morwood-Smythe who discover the Scrolls at the beginning were named after no less than four "Gargoyles" writers: Lydia Marano, Diane Duane, Arthur Byron Cover, and Peter Morwood. They would reappear (in a far less Arthurian context) in "Sentinel".

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