Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future The Complete Series (Mania.com)
By:Robert T. Trate
Review Date: Friday, December 09, 2011
“Earth, 2147. The legacy of the Metal Wars, when man fought machine and machines won. Bio-Dreads, monstrous creations that hunt down human survivors and digitize them. Volcania, center of the Bio-Dread Empire, stronghold and fortress of Lord Dread, feared ruler of this new order. But from the fires of the Metal Wars arose a new breed of warrior, born and trained to bring down Lord Dread and his Bio-Dread empire. They were soldiers of the future, mankind's last hope”. Words that spun you into another time where man was the run from the machines he created. Much like the future envisioned by James Cameron, Captain Power and his Soldiers of the Future fought against the tyranny of the machines. Armed with their incredible Power Suits and a determinable human spirit, Captain Power fought the good fight every week in syndication.
One of the most unique shows to come out of the late eighties was Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. Not only was it a syndicated half hour show (unheard of at the time), it also featured full fledged CGI characters and an interactive toy. Yet, this wasn’t a 30 minute commercial for toys by Mattel. No, writers Gary Goddard, J. Michael Straczynski, and Lawrence G. DiTillio told a longer story over a 22 episode arch (also unheard of) to make sure adults would be fully entertained as well. The series opens without an origin story. We meet Captain Power (Tim Dunigan) on a mission to save an old friend in the ruins of San Francisco. She was a leader of the resistance who was long believed to be dead. Here in “Shattered” we learn of not only the bleak world our heroes live in but what humanity has come to do to survive. Episode writer Lawrence G. DiTillio starts off with the horror of the machines and immediately sews the seeds of season one’s principle story arch “Project New Order”.
What is amazing is that the Captain Power series takes small moments from every episode and uses them for character building. There is “this week’s mission” and an adventure to be had except each character gets something to build on. All of these “moments” pay off in some small way. There are many story threads left open for the second season, but the “Project New Order” story arch does come to a conclusion. This is astounding as there is less than 30 minutes to tell the story at hand let alone develop full characters that we come to care for. Each character has that tie to his/her own story and humanity. “Hawk” (Peter MacNeill) has a son who he lost during the war, yet hopes everyone he saves will bring him one closer to finding him. “Tank” (Sven-Ole Thorsen) is a man engineered for war who is always trying to hold on to his humanity among the chaos. “Pilot” (Jessica Steen) was a member of the Dread youth who is just discovering her humanity as she fights for everyone else’s. Captain Power is man who fights on after losing his father and becomes a father in his own right to this band of heroes. Sadly the only character that isn’t really developed, emotionally, is “Scout” (Maurice Dean Wint). Some of his back story is drawn upon in what would be the series finale but Wint never fails in bringing something to the role every episode. Without any of these emotional ties or character traits the “Soldiers of the Future” would be living cartoons and not a TV series which still has a fan base over 25 years later.
This complete DVD series has been long in coming. For years fans were left with worn out licensed VHS tapes, YouTube downloads and pirated copies. This collection is fully endorsed by its creators. The complete series of 22 episodes has been salvaged from old reels making the quality of some the episodes not the greatest. Every once in a while a VHS tape wave flickers across the screen. True fans of the series will not care as this is something they have grown accustomed to. What the die hard fan will relish in are the special features. There are at least 2 commentary tracks per disc featuring writers and actors of the series. “Out of the Ashes: The Making of Captain Power…” is a plethora of Captain Power history as it features new interviews with the majority of the cast, the series creator, former Mattel executives, and above all the writers. Unearthed for this DVD was an original “behind the scenes” for the show filmed during the first season. Here for the first time we see a young Tim Dunigan discuss his experience with fans, taking on the role, and what he hopes to bring to the series. Early interviews with series creator Gary Goddard are paralleled with recent interviews and we hear how the series could have survived if a certain studio would have picked up the show. Any and all questions about the series are answered here in this 94 minute documentary.
There is a look at what might have been in season 2 if Mattel would not have pulled the plug. Babylon 5 scribe J. Michael Straczynski immediately relays that he wasn’t interested in it yet reveals all the big plans he envisioned for the series. What is so incredibly enticing is the double agent half female half cyborg (with CGI) character that was planned. There was also going to be Lord Dread’s struggle with losing his humanity and his eventual betrayal to Overmind (Tedd Dillon). Plus, Goddard planned on having a new group of heroes called the Archers protecting humanity’s last forest, which would have been Captain Power’s new base. There were even hints at what lay ahead in season 3.
Many TV shows fade into the night and become forgotten. A show such as Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future endured because of the acting and writing involved. Here were characters that we could identify with and find compassion for, yet their story was set far into our future. Not bad for a syndicated series that featured interactive toys, killer robots, and a post apocalyptic nightmare.
Robert Trate writes two weekly columns for Mania the DVD Shopping Bag and the Toy Maniac. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.
Mania Grade: A+
DVD: Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future The Complete Series
Rated: Not Rated
Starring: Tim Dunigan, Peter MacNeill, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Maurice Dean Wint, Jessica Steen, David Hemblen, Bruce Gray
Written By: Tony Christopher, Gary Goddard, J. Michael Straczynski, Lawrence G. DiTillio
Directed By: Otta Hanus, Jorge Montesi
Distributor: Music Video Dist
Original Year of Release: 1987
Extras: Making of, Documentary, Multiple Commentary Tracks, Original Trailer, Concept Art, Original TV Movie