When I first started doing these reviews I wanted to start out with the kaiju reviews thenÂ after awhile branch out. Well today we’re branching out a little bit and do a seriesÂ retrospective. Now I’m not going to do this often, just when it feels right. And When IÂ think I can do the series in question a little justice. So let’s begin. Strap in to a tripÂ to the late 1980. Before Power Rangers there was another show were a group of heroesÂ transformed into armor to fight the forces of evil. In a future where man fought machine…Â and machine won. No not that movie series. We are in the world of Captain Power and theÂ Soldiers of the Future.
Now jump into your power suit, charge it up and Power On at the jump.
Taking place in the year 2147 fifteen years after the end of the Metal Wars. The world is inÂ ruins and is run by the Bio-Dread Empire. They are of course opposed by various resistantÂ groups, the most notable being the smallÂ forceÂ lead by Captain Power, and by small I meanÂ five people. But they have the advantages of the power suit created by power’s father thatÂ when activated turn each man into, according to the opening, a one man attack force.Now the show was meant as a live action 80s cartoon. I mean look at the title, you can seeÂ that right off the bat. But they also decided to take the story telling one step further andÂ add a level of sophistication that any adults watching might enjoy. And there was some stuffÂ here that adults could sink there teeth into. Before we get into the series any furtherÂ let’s get into our cast of main characters.
Captain Jonathon Power – The leader of this group of rebels. Trained early on to fight theÂ machines Lord Dredd, more on him later. He also has the typical sense of what is right, andÂ a sense of duty to those he considers friends or family. Wearing a power suit of gold armorÂ and blueÂ under suitÂ his weapons include his gun and later an extendable staff. he also has a jet back for extended jumps.
Major Matt “Hawk” Materson – Power’s second in command and friend of his fathers,Â StuartÂ Power. He is theÂ aerialÂ fighter with the silver armor, with the traditional fighter pilotÂ style helmet and wristÂ missiles. Which also fire lasers apparently. Although based on theÂ ranks, when you get older you wonder why a Major is taking orders from a Captain. Oh well,Â it’s kids TV probably best not to over think it.
Lieutenant Micheal “Tank” Materson – TheÂ geneticallyÂ engineered strong man of the team.Â Also theÂ stereotypicalÂ gentle giant in a way, joking about Hawk’s age slowing him down andÂ such. His armor isÂ camouflageÂ brown, what it lacks in mobility it makes up in armor andÂ firepower with a cannon attached to his hip.
Sergeant Robert “Scout” Baker – Stealth fighter, spy and computer expert. Much like Tank heÂ jokes around and pretty lighthearted. Although he does consider Christmas trees to be badÂ luck since he only remember bad things happening the one time he put one up. His armor isÂ all bsilver with red highlights and carries a hand gun. But he has the added ability of a holoÂ generatorÂ in theÂ armor to disguise himself to sneak behind enemy lines while on assignment.
And finally Corporal Jennifer “Pilot” Chase – the… well.. pilot… and mechanic of theÂ team. The youngest member of the group and the potential love interest. She’s also the oneÂ with the more interestingÂ back storyÂ in my eyes since she used to be part of Dread’s youthÂ army. Her armor was silver and had a gun and multi tool. When the show first started sheÂ justÂ hadÂ a visor over her eyes but near the end he got a proper helmet to wear just like theÂ rest of them.
But that’s only the human members of Power’s team. There’s also the A.I program Mentor,Â programmed withÂ StuartÂ Power’s image and voice so Jonathon would never be without him. A bitÂ sweet… in a creepy sort of way. It controls the Power Base’s functions and alerts them toÂ anyÂ transmissionÂ that would need their attention
Of course you can’t have a group of heroes without a bunch of bad guys to fight. Ladies andÂ gentlemen, the Bio-Dread Empire
Lord Dread – A half man, half machine and leader of the Bio-Dread empire. Formally known asÂ Lyman Taggert he wasÂ StuartÂ power’s former co-worker, partner and friend he created theÂ Overmind computer and after using his brain pattern to activate it saw the future where theÂ souls of human inhabited the gleaming metal of machines, virtual immortality. So heÂ conquered the world to make this happen. But one finalÂ confrontationÂ with Stuart left him himÂ in his current cyborg state.
Overmind – aÂ sentientÂ AI that control Dreads base Volcania and reminds him to be more likeÂ the machine and act less like a human when his emotions get the better of him. And whatÂ Taggart used to gain control of the machine soldiers across the world to take it over. ButÂ it also spies on Dread and may have a agenda of it’s own.
Soaron – Dread’a first Bio-Dread and general of his robotic army andÂ aerialÂ unit.Â CompletelyÂ loyal to Dread he hunts down human survivors and digitizes them,Â instantlyÂ turning them intoÂ data to be stored inside Overmind until the day Dread’s vision for the future can come toÂ fruition.Â ArmamentÂ includes the mention digitizer and lasers in his eyes. However there is aÂ line of data in hisÂ programmingÂ that confuses him. Not to be confused with the big bad fromÂ the Lord of the Rings with the same name(different spelling though).
Blastar – Dread second Bio-Dread General and created shortly after the show started. GroundÂ unit with a extendable shield built into his arm Â and laser cannons in his fingers as wellÂ as the digitizer on his arm. A ground unit withÂ retractableÂ treads on his feet and a has aÂ bit of a rivalry with Soaron.
The BioMechs – Dread’s robotic army, aka theÂ cannonÂ fodder. Mindless drone, although aÂ couple here and there seem to have a moreÂ advancedÂ AI and give orders to the rest of theÂ Units. They carry your basic armaments.
Then there’s the humans in Dreads army. The ones who believe in Dread’s vision of the futureÂ and will hunt down those who don’t or try to stop it. This includes the “Dread youth”, muchÂ like the Hitler youth, they are trained at a young age to be totally devoted to dread’sÂ future. There’s no realÂ regularÂ character here just a revolving spot when they’re on theÂ screen.
If those character descriptions don’t sound like a 80s cartoon I don’t know what does. IÂ should probably explain the power suit a bit. When not activated the suits are just theÂ under suits worn under Power’s and crew clothing, activated by hitting the phoenix symbol onÂ their chest and saying “Power on!”. Not only protecting them against enemy fire, it also protects them fromÂ digitization (all these digis you think there be a mon showing up somewhere). But activatingÂ the suits doesn’t make them invincible. the suit needs to charge, usually at the power base.Â And the charge depleats, especially after taking enemy fire and damage. Once the charge isÂ gone the suit disappears and they’reÂ vulnerableÂ as any other human.
But like I said there was some meat on these bones. With some themes that they got as deepÂ as they could take them considering the standards of children programming of the day. EarlyÂ on in the series we see an army unit who’s commander is waiting for a call from a governmentÂ and president that’s no longer there. And this commander may be slightly insane. Going on toÂ “kill” one of his men as a traitor when he tries to send aÂ transmissionÂ for help. I sayÂ “kill” because while see him point the gun at him they never show him pulling the trigger,Â but they refer to him in past tense for the rest of the episode. And a couple of episodesÂ where Pilot’s past catches upÂ toÂ her. One where she dons her old uniform and sneaks into aÂ Dread base to get medication to help a group of survivors and runs into what was a youngerÂ version of what she used to be in the process. And one where she’s in another town seekingÂ aid for Power but is recognized from her days as one of Dread’s Youth and put on trial for an attack on their city back then. And one wanted to kill her on the spot before theyÂ decided on the trial.
And Dread’s not just your basic Saturday morningÂ villainÂ either. He had someÂ depthÂ of hisÂ own. Like his regret this artist he really admired got blinded by Soaron in the early daysÂ of the Metal Wars. Or the fact his human feelings were still there despite the fact hisÂ claim that he was of the machine. Best highlighted at the end of a two part story whereÂ Power went on his yearly visit to his father’s grave and Dread had him in his sights, butÂ let Power go and left the last thingsÂ StuartÂ ever gave him in friendship on the grave as oneÂ last good-bye as his own. But he had his traditional evil moments too, like when he undigitized a captive inside Overmind, being digitized and undigitized isÂ extremelyÂ painful,Â had threatened to repeat the process repeatedly until he broke.
Of course there’s the usual plots for this type of show, like theÂ impostorÂ Captain Power andÂ the double agent episode. But there was also the season long Project New Order plot withÂ it’s various stages. Such as toxin stage, a highlight of this being Hawk coming across aÂ boy created in a Dread lab designed to carry aÂ pathogenÂ designed toÂ paralyzeÂ a human forÂ days at a time, long enough for Soaron to fly in and digitize them. As well as an orbitalÂ platform where he could digitized huge amount of humans at a time. But thereÂ wasÂ also someÂ seeds being placed for futureÂ seasons, the previous line of data inside Soaron I mentionedÂ earlier and Eden 2, a virtualÂ paradiseÂ where tired soldiers and other survivors tried toÂ find to get away from the war.
But there was someÂ hookyÂ stuffÂ too. Main thing that pops into mind where Power went into aÂ back alley “cyber” playground so he could inside the net and try and find information on aÂ particular part of Project New Order and the virtual fight with Dread. Who was only defeatedÂ when what was left of humanity showed up in virtual form. And Tank’s fight with anotherÂ genetically engineered soldier and got smashed in the head with a “cinder block”. A sceneÂ where Power is surrounded but at least 40 BioMechs and they Â shot the crap out of him forÂ like 30 seconds, suit doesn’t disappear and he then goes on to kick their collective metalÂ cans. Granted he took a direct charge off a power line to power up the suit, but still. And my personalÂ favorite, aÂ womanÂ when we first see her is wearing a form fitting helmet. Then she takes itÂ off and there’s huge head of hair that shouldn’t have fit under that helmet.
Of course I can’t do this retrospective without mentioning the show’s gimmick. It wasÂ interactive with certain toys you bought, like the jet. Various non human objects had thisÂ red light on it that was encoded to register a hit with the toy jet. And the show couldÂ “shoot back” lowering your point score. according to the creator of the show this wasÂ something that was forced on them by Mattel since they just got this technology and wanted toÂ use it. In fact the head guy, one Gary Goddard, had to write in a opening action shot andÂ ending shot so the toys can be used and keep Mattel happy. But that angered his writers atÂ the same time.
Captain Power was also the first TV show to heavily feature CGI characters, this was in 1987Â so this was a big deal. Both Blastar and Soaron whereÂ completelyÂ CG. ButÂ unfortunatelyÂ theÂ price for CG back than was rather expensive so their movement and shots had to be plannedÂ out in advanced. And like traditional animation several shots were reused to save money. InÂ theÂ initialÂ planning stages Dread was supposed to have a CGI bird that would be on hisÂ shoulder, taking off and landing when needed. Now a days that wouldn’t be a big deal andÂ easily done, back then the CG animators basically told the producers, “Are you nuts? WeÂ can’t do that!” Also in the nearly promotional material there was supposed to be anotherÂ Soldier of the Future, a man nicknamed Stingray and was supposed to be an underwaterÂ character but the underwater scenes would have been too expensive to film so the characterÂ was scraped.
But as good as the plots where the show did have things going against it. Mattel demandingÂ the interactive shots in the show. Goodard has said that if they had their way those redÂ targets would have been everywhere. They had to teach an Canadian film crew how to do shotsÂ and set ups for this type of show. And the regular special effects cost money too. AndÂ everything was filmed in an old bus terminal that they refitted for the sets, green screensÂ and flying rig for Hawk. And there where model sets of Volcania and various destroyedÂ cities. And the setting was dark and depressing enough that the actress who played PilotÂ didn’t renew her contract for a second year, causing them to kill off her character in whatÂ ended up being the series finale.
And the show did end after one season. The Toys weren’t selling so Mattel pulled out. RatingÂ weren’t all that great in some area, and some of the area aired the show early in theÂ morning. And when parent groups back then warred againstÂ TV/ToyÂ violenceÂ this show was inÂ theirÂ cross hairsÂ a lot. And the TV/Toy gimmickÂ didn’tÂ really work that well. So the plug wasÂ pulled and we only have what might have been.
And fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, thanks to variousÂ interviews with the writers and producers of the show we know what might have been. ThereÂ were going to beÂ multipleÂ episode arc in season two. There would be new characters,Â including a new female Soldiers of the Future who would have been a love interest for Tank.
Hawk would have been in charge for the first coupleÂ ofÂ episodes because Captain Power was inÂ full revenge mode looking for the guy who sold them out and ultimately caused Pilot’s death.Â There was going to be a new Bio-Dread who was supposed to be really powerful. Dread wasÂ going to have a new fully cybernetic body, but retain a human eye. But I don’t know if heÂ was going to be another CG character or a guy in a suit like the BioMech soldiers. And weÂ were going to see Power’s mother, whoÂ apparentlyÂ was in a cybernetic body of her own andÂ siding with Dread. And what was being called the first ever “cybersex” scene. PersonallyÂ part of me kinda wants to see how they would have pulled it off to get it past the sensors.Â On the other hand, I don’t even want to think how they would have pulled it off to beginÂ with.
They were also going to find A new Power Base and discover the location of Eden 2. AlthoughÂ it might not be theÂ paradiseÂ people on the outsideÂ thoughtÂ it was going to be. AndÂ apparently for season 3 we were going to find out that line if data inside Soaron was goingÂ to be an order to kill Dread once he went against the plan. Meaning Overmind’s plan since heÂ had his own, which was that it was going to delete all the humans in his database once theyÂ were all collect since he felt these perfect machines he was creating shouldn’t be sulliedÂ buy human minds and emotions. This would have caused Dread and Power to join forces to stopÂ him. What might have been if the money was still there.
But there was some good things to come out of the ending of the show as well. Micheal J.Â Straczynski, the head writer for the series, first toyed with the idea a TV show could haveÂ a logical beginning, middle and end. In fact he has said he first got the story seeds forÂ what would becomeÂ BabylonÂ 5 while working on this show. There was a TV movie that aired inÂ Europe, although that consisted of various clips from the show and nothing original outside
of a reworked scene here and there, more than likely a scene shotÂ originallyÂ filmed butÂ decided not to use and reshot it aÂ differentÂ way. And the show had enough of a cult followingÂ over the years that it recently wasÂ releasedÂ officially on DVD.
Which brings us to the future. Gary Goddard has gone on record saying he’s trying to bringÂ the show back. This time as an one hour drama titledÂ PhoenixÂ Rising. Â As of this writingÂ there no word outside of we’re trying to get this going. But there is a story bible and aÂ script for the pilot. In fact Tim Dunigan, who played Captain Power, has said he’s read theÂ script and it is amazing. So hopefully this will find a home in the near future.
While the show had it flaws, the story telling was amazing. The mixture of practical andÂ early CG effects really made it stand out to those who watched it. The fact it still has aÂ following to this day says something about the product itself. As a rating I give it 4.5 outÂ of 5.
[Note from Keith Justice]
Just wanted to add this right here.. the greatest toy commercial of all freaking time. As a kid this commercial blew my freaking mind! 😀