It's Saturday morning, November 16th... 1996. 10:45 AM. I'd been up for hours - too excited about a new episode of Wing Commander Academy. It's smack in the middle of those thirteen perfect weeks where there was another Wing Commander story every Saturday morning - and then a weekend of talking about it in #Wing-Commander and at the Origin's Official Chat Board. My tape is ready - I've tuned in early so I can't possibly miss anything. I was always nervous when it came to taping things.
Savage Dragon is ending. It's an awful show based on a presumably awful comic book about a guy who turns into a dragon. A savage dragon. Hey, Michael Dorn is playing some sort of viking - that's neat. It's 1996, people still like Star Trek and the world is still pure and clean. It ends, I hit record and then... Mortal Kombat?! What the heck, man?! Mortal Kombat is supposed to be on at 11:30, after Wing Commander. The terrifying possibilities rush through my brain - did WCA get cancelled? Did they air it earlier?! What happened?! I know there's supposed to be an episode today, "Recreation" - the USA Network maintains a remarkably thorough scheduling website (for 1996).
Okay, breath. Watch Mortal Kombat, maybe there'll be a commercial. There is - Wing Commander Academy is next. Whew. That's a load off my mind. I'll tape it then. Who knows why it got switched around - I'll just be more careful in the future. The episode starts... a Kilrathi tug! Awesome awesome awesome. Wing Commander Academy at its finest! Huzzah!.
But wait... it's... Michael Dorn... as a space viking! What the hell?
What the hell indeed. Though I did not know it at the time - and do not understand it to this day - Wing Commander Academy was playing a part in the strangest TV crossover ever imagined. Somehow - and I have in the last eight years seen no commentary on how or why this occured - four separate animation studios agreed to pool their efforts and have Michael Dorn travel as a space viking through their shows. The USA Network further obliged this insane plan by changing the airtimes of the shows so they would follow the story in the proper order - with Street Fighter first and Wing Commander Academy last. And doing nothing else.
If you watch only your show (Street Fighter, Savage Dragon, Mortal Kombat or Wing Commander) you will not know that there is a crossover. Nor was a crossover ever promoted by the network - there were no commercials, no between-show bumpers... nothing to indicate that the fact that Michael Dorn plays a Space Viking in all four shows is anything but the worst kind of coincidence.
The story starts on Street Fighter in "The Warrior King" (Season 2, Episode 9). The show opens with Space Viking ("Warrior King")'s castle under attack by wizards riding dragons. There's some exposition ("If the wizards get the orb, Warrior's World will be lost!"), and then a good wizard opens some sort of space portal and shoves Space Viking and his Magic Orb through. They end up in Street Fighter's version of the Middle East, where the evil army officer guy steals the orb and uses nature to destroy... whatever it is the Street Fighter characters are protecting. The world, I guess. Space Viking teams up with the girl Street Fighter and they save the world. At the end of the episode, the orb and the Space Viking get shoved in another Fry-hole.
... to end up in Savage Dragon! In "Endgame" (Season 2, Episode 8), Savage Dragon and Space Viking team up to rescue the orb again. I haven't actually seen this episode since 1996 - but I'm working on tracking down a copy. They save the orb and end up in another Fry Hole.
Next, Mortal Kombat, "Resurrection" (Season 1, Episode 9). The evil force that fights the Mortal Kombat people winds up with the orb, and uses it to fight the... Mortal Kombat... characters. The Mortal Kombat people recover the orb, and then open their own space-hole at the end of the episode. You see Space Viking for only a second, jumping after the orb as it goes into said hole.
Finally, Wing Commander Academy. "Recreation" (Season 1, Episode 9). There are no amazing space holes - Space Viking is found frozen on a sleeper ship, and escapes at the end in a stolen Scimitar. The Nature Orb Dealy is giving life to a barren planet full of weird aliens, and instead of stealing it to rebuild his planet, Space Viking decides to let it be in the end.
But why? And how? And... all sorts of questions. No one knows. No one I've ever talked to who worked on Wing Commander Academy was even aware that such a crossover existed. It's just... strange in every possible manner.
Why bring it up now? In 1996 I was horrified and wanted to hide it - it was... embarrassing. In my old age, I'm kind of interested in preserving it... and I found out that two of the episodes are available on DVD. You can get Street Fighter's episode on this set (R1, NTSC) and Mortal Kombat's episode here (R0, PAL). I'm working on tracking down a bootleg of the Savage Dragon episode, so people can once again enjoy this strange and pointless piece of Wing Commander history.